Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown's Funky Drummer, Dies At 73

Clyde Stubblefield, seen here January 14 onstage at The Novo in Los Angeles, has died at the age of 73.

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Clyde Stubblefield, the funk drummer whose work with James Brown made him one of the most sampled musicians in history, died Saturday morning in Madison, Wisc., his publicist confirmed. He was 73. His publicist did not provide a cause of death.

For most of his career, Stubblefield was better known in sound than in name. He joined James Brown’s backing band in 1965, one of countless musicians on an ever rotating roster. As he told NPR in 2015, the ensemble seemed to have more than enough drummers already when he showed to audition. “I went on stage and there was five drum sets up there,” he explained. “And I’m going, ‘Wow, what do you need me for?'”

Still, his recordings with Brown managed to rise above the competition: Songs like “Cold Sweat,” “Say It Loud — I’m Black And I’m Proud” and “Mother Popcorn” are now revered as a gold standard for funk drumming. A generation later, he would have an even bigger impact on hip-hop, as the pattern he’d played on 1970’s “Funky Drummer” proved irresistible to producers. The track’s distinctive break, a sixteenth beat punctuated by deft, delicate snare hits, has been sampled on hundreds of songs.

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Perhaps most notably, Public Enemy’s production crew The Bomb Squad made “Funky Drummer” the backbone of 1989’s “Fight the Power.” That song in turn became the unofficial theme music of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, echoing through the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant and foreshadowing the fiery confrontation in the film’s climax.

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Sampling was still a legal gray area in the late ’80s, and Stubblefield’s contributions to hip-hop’s evolving sound went largely unrecognized, and uncompensated, for decades. In 2009, a PBS documentary called Copyright Criminals aimed to bring the legacy of Stubblefield and other sampled musicians to light. Two years later, the drummer joined Public Enemy’s Chuck D and The Roots on the stage of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon — where, at long last, he performed his part of “Fight the Power” in the flesh.

Stubblefield made news last year when he revealed that Prince donated $90,000 to help him pay his hospital bills, after the drummer developed bladder cancer in the early 2000s.

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Texas lawmaker wants to end emoji mix-ups with Chilean flag

By Jon Herskovitz| AUSTIN, Texas

A state lawmaker filed a resolution this week urging people to think before they text and stop using an emoji of the Chilean flag, which resembles the Lone Star State flag, as a symbol of Texas pride.

State Representative Tom Oliverson described the resolution as a light-hearted but serious civics lesson for the social media age. More than a few people have garnished their tweets and text messages about Texas with a Chilean flag, he said.

“I designed it be educational, kind of like a public service announcement,” Oliverson, a Republican, told Reuters on Saturday.

His resolution does not carry the force of law.

It calls on lawmakers: “to reject the notion that the Chilean flag, although it is a nice flag, can in any way compare to or be substituted for the official state flag of Texas and urge all Texans not to use the Republic of Chile flag emoji in digital forums when referring to the Lone Star Flag of the great State of Texas.”

The Chilean flag is available on the standard set of emojis while the Texas flag is not.

Both flags have a single white star on a blue field on the left with a horizontal white stripe on top of a red stripe. On the Texas flag, the blue goes from top to bottom while on the Chilean flag, the red horizontal stripe stretches across the bottom.

The resolution generated statewide news on Friday with many offering their views on Twitter.

“For Pete’s sake, let the #txlege freshman pass his adorable little flag emoji bill,” political analyst Harold Cook tweeted.

Oliverson said the message to prevent flag confusion had been received.

“Even if the legislature decides not to hear it, we have achieved our objective,” he said.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Tom Brown)

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Dubai police summon Russian model who dangled from skyscraper: newspaper

Dubai police have summoned a Russian model who posed for a video while dangling from a skyscraper to sign a pledge not to put her life in danger again, a local newspaper reported on Saturday.

A video of the model, identified by local media as 23-year-old Viktoria Odintcova, went viral after she posted it on her Instagram account earlier in the week.

It shows her stepping off a girder at the top of Dubai’s 73-storey Cayan Tower and dangling in the void, held only by a man gripping her hand.

Major-General Khalil Ibrahim al-Mansouri, an assistant to the chief of police in Dubai, was quoted by the Arabic-language al-Ittihad newspaper as saying that Odintcova “had been summoned to sign an undertaking not to repeat any dangerous moves that could endanger her life in Dubai.”

“What the young Russian woman had done represents a danger to her life,” the newspaper quoted Mansouri as saying.

He said it was important for residents in the Gulf Arab city to avoid practicing dangerous hobbies without taking necessary precautions or obtaining prior permission from authorities, the newspaper said.

The video registered more than half a million viewings after it was posted on Odintcova’s Instagram account.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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Omar Abdel-Rahman, Radical Cleric Connected To 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, Dies

Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman sits and prays inside an iron cage at the opening of a court session in Cairo in 1989.

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Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the radical Muslim cleric with ties to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, died early morning Saturday at a federal prison complex in Butner, N.C.

According to Kenneth McKoy, the facility’s acting executive assistant, Abdel-Rahman, 78, died after a long struggle with coronary artery disease and diabetes.

Born in Egypt, Abdel-Rahman, also known as “the blind sheikh,” came to the U.S. in the early 1990s. Preaching in New York and New Jersey, he spread his radical vision of Islam, decried U.S. support for Israel and built a network of devoted followers.

While Abdel-Rahman was never convicted of playing a direct role in the February 1993 truck bombing that killed six people and injured more than 1,000 at the World Trade Center, he had connections to those who did and had been actively plotting a wave of terrorist attacks against New York City targets.

In 1995, Abdel-Rahman and nine of his followers were convicted of conspiring to wage “a war of urban terrorism against the United States,” according to the indictment, planning attacks on New York landmarks, including the George Washington Bridge, United Nations’ headquarters and the Lincoln Tunnel.

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Norma McCorvey, Roe Of Landmark 'Roe V. Wade' Ruling On Abortion, Dies At 69

Norma McCorvey, who adopted the pseudonym “Jane Roe” in the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, is seen in 1990.

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Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET

Many only know Norma McCorvey by a name that’s not hers.

Under the pseudonym Jane Roe, McCorvey became the central figure of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. But in the decades that followed, the complex woman came to serve as a champion at times for both sides of the deep divide over abortion rights.

McCorvey died Saturday of heart failure at the age of 69, according to her daughter Melissa, and Joshua Prager, a journalist who is writing a book about the court case, says McCorvey died in Katy, Texas.

How McCorvey became Roe

It was her third pregnancy — after Melissa, her eldest, and another child McCorvey gave up for adoption — that brought McCorvey to the attention of the lawyers who would eventually take up her case. The 22-year-old McCorvey, who was then unmarried, had been seeking an abortion but could not find a doctor in Texas who would perform the procedure, which was then illegal except when the life of the mother was endangered.

Attorneys Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee took up McCorvey’s case, and in 1970, they filed the lawsuit that — after several twists and turns — would ultimately wind up at the Supreme Court. By the time the ruling was finally passed down in 1973, however, McCorvey had already carried her pregnancy to term, and had given the child up for adoption.

Though Roe v. Wade may not have changed McCorvey’s particular circumstances, the landmark Supreme Court ruling had a massive effect on the cultural and political landscape of the United States. The 7-2 decision, which legalized abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, may not have started the long-simmering dispute over the procedure, but it came to be its central flashpoint in the decades that followed.

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McCorvey after the decision

As Julie Rovner reported for NPR in 2013 — the decision’s 40th anniversary — opinions on the ruling remained as deeply entrenched as the year it was handed down.

“Over the past two decades, opinion on whether or not Roe should be overturned has barely changed,” Rovner reported at the time, citing a Pew Research Center poll. “In 1992, 60 percent of those asked said the court should not overturn the ruling. Today that’s up to 63 percent.”

The case had no less of an impact later on McCorvey, who was still just 25 when it ended. She maintained her anonymity for more than a decade, until setting it aside in the 1980s. At that point, she remained a staunch defender of abortion rights, “working for a time at a Dallas women’s clinic where abortions were performed,” according to The Associated Press.

Yet in the mid-1990s, after the publication of her first memoir, McCorvey underwent a dramatic conversion — announcing that she had become a born-again Christian. What’s more, she went to work for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, from which position she then championed against the abortion rights granted by the case that bears her pseudonym.

“I’ll be serving the Lord and helping women save their babies. I will hold a pro-life position for the rest of my life,” McCorvey once said, explaining her conversion. “I think I’ve always been pro-life. I just didn’t know it.”

In an interview with Fresh Air in the ’90s, McCorvey looked back on her experience as Jane Roe.

“I feel like a role model in one sense of the word,” McCorvey said.

“But when people really stop and really sit down and think about Jane Roe or Norma McCorvey, I feel like any woman who’s ever been denied anything in her whole life is a Jane Roe. Because no woman should have to suffer all the pain and humiliations and indignities that I’ve had to face.”

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Have Spare Time? Try To Discover A Planet

Artist conception of undiscovered planet, dubbed Planet 9.


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Astronomers are offering the general public a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the chance to discover a new planet in our solar system.

Many astronomers now think there may be a massive, undiscovered planet lurking in the far reaches of our solar system. Right now, however, the existence of this planet is theoretical. So the hunt is on to actually capture an image of it.

The obvious way to look for the new planet is to point large telescopes at the patch of sky where theory says it ought to be.

But there’s another way: scour images of the sky that have already been taken, hoping one of those images contains the planet.

Astronomer Adam Schneider of Arizona State University is trying the latter approach. He’s new to planet hunting: “I’m more of a brown dwarf person myself, brown dwarf and low mass stars,” he says. But brown dwarfs and low mass stars have something in common with the putative planet … they give off infrared light. And NASA’s WISE telescope views the sky at infrared wavelengths. WISE has taken a trove of pictures of the sky.

“We have the entire sky to go through,” says Schneider. That’s both good and bad news. “It’s a bonus, in that we have the whole sky, so we’re not going to miss anything,” he says. “But it’s also why we need citizen scientists because it’s just too much to look at for one scientist or even a group of scientists.”

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By citizen scientists, Schneider means anyone — no special skills required. You just go to a website called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, sign up, and start scanning the WISE images.

The images are presented like a flip-book. You see four images of the same patch of sky, taken at different times. Because they’re so far away, the bright stars in the image appear to remain in the same place from one picture to the next. But a closer moving object such as a planet or a wandering brown dwarf will appear to move against the starry backdrop.

Now you may be wondering, why do they need people to search for moving objects? Can’t a computer do this?

“Computer algorithms are not very good, the more and more stars that get involved,” says Jacqueline Faherty, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History and another member of the citizen science project. “The human eye helps tremendously. It’s much faster, it can be very trustworthy,” more than a computer algorithm, she says.

That doesn’t mean spotting moving items is easy. I went to the website and tried. I was terrible at it. Faherty told me not to feel bad.

“To be honest I’m really bad at it as well,” she says. “But I want people with good eyes to do it, because when they’re good at it, they’re really good at it.”

Even if you correctly spot something moving in the images, in might not be the undiscovered planet. It could be a brown dwarf star or some other faint object fairly close to the sun.

But Adam Schneider says you could hit the jackpot.

“Literally anyone — you, me, anyone you talk to — can potentially log on and make that discovery,” he says.

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'Shining City' Is Packed With Timely Thrills

Shining City

At a time when much of the country says it hates Washington D.C., politics, power brokers, spin doctors, and compromise — not to mention the press — the executive director of the American Press Institute has written a novel that combines all of those features into a thriller. Oh, there’s the tiniest bit of sex, too.

Shining City is the first novel from Tom Rosenstiel, who tells NPR’s Scott Simon that he really can’t explain how he arranged for the book — which revolves around the nomination of a Supreme Court justice — to come out at such a relevant moment. “It’s classified,” he jokes. “It’ll be leaked to The New York Times, however.”


Interview Highlights

On his fictional nominee

The president in the story, a guy named Jim Nash, believes that everything about the judiciary is off the rails, and that the court has become politicized, and that it’s eroded faith in the country and the idea of a country of laws and not men. And so he decides he’s going to try and set the ball in the other direction by picking an iconoclast, someone who supports some conservative positions and someone who supports some liberal positions, he’s not really beloved by any faction. This president thinks this is close to what the Founders had in mind, but he also knows that a nominee like that is going to have very soft support from anybody.

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On making a political fixer the hero of the novel

Actually, that was one of the first things that set in my mind. I thought the irony of having someone who’s derided because they lack ideology as the hero, even before I realized that I wanted to tell a story about a Supreme Court nomination, I knew that the hero was going to be somebody who in the public eye is often viewed as amoral, or immoral.

On writing novels as a journalist

If a journalist writes a novel, there’s a couple of itches that you’re trying to scratch. One of them, I think, is to tell the truth about things that’s very hard to get at as a journalist. As journalists we live in the world of evidence and proof — you write what you can prove, but you can’t write everything you believe. So the hidden motivations of people are very hard to get at, and if you’re trying to tell the story of “Why does our politics not work?” you need to be in the hearts of people who are talented and make decisions that turn out badly. These are not evil people who populate our city, they’re people who’ve found themselves in a situation where doing what they think is right keeps ending up in the wrong place.

I think I also felt like there was a part of me that, as journalism has changed and become disrupted, you don’t have the ability to go out and tell stories contemplatively, with enough time to get into character. Things move very swiftly. So I think the speed of journalism actually pushed me to a, shall we say, a much older medium.

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