Rest in peace
September 15, 2019

Ric Ocasek, the lead singer of the new wave band The Cars, died Sunday in New York City. He was 75.

Ocasek was found unconscious and unresponsive in his Manhattan home late Sunday afternoon, and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. He appears to have died of natural causes, people with knowledge of the situation told Page Six, and was discovered by his estranged wife, model Paulina Porizkova.

The Cars, known for their hits "Drive," "Just What I Needed," and "It's All I Can Do," were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Ocasek was also a successful producer, working with everyone from Weezer to No Doubt to Bad Brains. Catherine Garcia

September 11, 2019

Daniel Johnston, a cult singer-songwriter who inspired Kurt Cobain, Tom Waits, and Jeff Tweedy, died on Wednesday, his family confirmed. He was 58.

Johnston died of natural causes in his home near Houston. In a statement, Johnston's family said he was a "friend to all" and "although he struggled with mental health issues for much of his adult life, Daniel triumphed over his illness through his prolific output of art and songs."

Johnston's first album, Songs of Pain, came out in 1980, and his most famous songs include "True Love Will Find You in the End," "Walking the Cow," and "Life in Vain." Cobain called him one of the "greatest" songwriters, and his songs have been covered by Beck, Lana Del Rey, Bright Eyes, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Flaming Lips. In 2005, a documentary about Johnston was released, called The Devil and Daniel Johnston, and another movie about his life, Hi, How Are You: A Short Film, was made in 2015.

Johnston was also an artist, and his pieces have appeared in galleries around the world, but his most beloved work is the "Hi, How Are You" mural in Austin, Texas. Johnston's brother, Dick, told Rolling Stone on Wednesday that after their father died two years ago, he found boxes filled with his brother's unreleased recordings and documents. "We'll be spending a long time sorting out what he's left behind," he said. "We have lots more to share." Catherine Garcia

August 27, 2019

Fashion designer Isabel Toledo, the creator of former first lady Michelle Obama's 2009 inaugural parade outfit, died Monday in Manhattan. She was 59.

Her husband, artist Ruben Toledo, said she died of breast cancer. Toledo was known for focusing on the construction of her garments; she said she engineered her clothes. She started sewing at age 8, the same time her family moved to the United States from Cuba, and she launched her own line in 1984 after interning for Diana Vreeland at the Costume Institution of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Toledo was later creative director for Anne Klein from 2006 to 2007 and collaborated with Lane Bryant. She received many accolades, including a National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt museum in 2005 and a Tony nomination in 2014 for her costume work on After Midnight.

The spotlight shone brightest on Toledo in 2009, when Obama wore her design to walk in the inaugural parade. In an email to The New York Times, Obama said she requested "something that would not only live up to the moment, but would also stand up to the freezing cold of that January day. With her incredible creativity and masterful talent, Isabel designed a beautiful lemongrass outfit that I just loved. She more than met the moment — for that day and for all of history." Catherine Garcia

August 5, 2019

Police in Dayton, Ohio, have identified the nine people killed early Sunday outside a popular bar, Ned Peppers, and profiles are emerging of the 20 confirmed casualties from the mass shooting 13 hours earlier at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

Police shot and killed the Dayton gunman, identified as 24-year-old Connor Betts, and one of his first victims was his 22-year-old sister, Megan Betts. Also killed in Dayton were Lois Oglesby, 27; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Thomas "Teejay" McNichols, 25; Beatrice Warren-Curtis, 36; Saeed Saleh, 38; Derrick Fudge, 57; Logan Turner, 30; and Monica Brickhouse, 39. Six of the victims were black, but "we have no evidence to suggest that there's a bias motive to this crime," said Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl. But police, he added, are still trying to answer "the question that everyone wants to know: Why?”

Federal prosecutors say they are investigating the El Paso shooting as "domestic terrorism" and possible hate crime, given evidence of the suspected shooter's racial animus against Latinos. Five of those killed in the El Paso shooting were identified as Mexican citizens — Sara Esther Regalado, Adolfo Cerros Hernández, Jorge Calvillo García, Elsa Mendoza de la Mora, and Gloria Irma Márquez — and among his other victims were Jordan and Andre Anchondo. Jordan Achondo, 24, appears to have died shielding their 2-month-old son, Paul, said a cousin, Monique Terry. They had two other children. The infant, who survived, was grazed by a bullet and suffered two broken fingers, probably from when his mother's body fell on him, she added. Dayton victim Oglesby had also recently given birth, relatives said.

Nicholas Cumer, slain in the Dayton shooting, was a graduate student earning his master of cancer care at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, and had been interning at a cancer care facility in Dayton. Arturo Benavides, a 60-year-old Army vet, was killed in El Paso while shopping with his wife, The New York Times reports. Peter Weber

August 1, 2019

Saoirse Kennedy Hill, the 22-year-old granddaughter of Robert F. and Ethel Kennedy, died Thursday at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, of an apparent overdose, two people close to the family told The New York Times.

Emergency responders were called to the property in the afternoon, and Kennedy Hill, the daughter of Courtney Kennedy Hill, was pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital, the Times reports. "Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse," the Kennedy family said in a statement. "Her life was filled with hope, promise, and love." Ethel Kennedy, who lives at the compound, was also quoted as saying the world "is a little less beautiful today."

Kennedy Hill was studying communications at Boston College, and wrote about her struggles with depression and mental illness. Catherine Garcia

June 4, 2019

Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall said Monday that a transgender woman was pulled from a local lake on Saturday with "obvious signs of homicidal violence," and with four unsolved homicides of trans women dating back to 2015, Dallas police are seeking federal help. "The Dallas Police Department has reached out to the FBI because as we know, this is the second individual who is transgender, who is deceased in our community," Hall said. "We are concerned, we are actively and aggressively investigating this case."

The discovery of 26-year-old Chynal Lindsey's body followed the May fatal shooting of 23-year-old Muhlaysia Booker, the October 2018 fatal shooting of 29-year-old Brittany White, and the near-fatal stabbing of another transgender woman in April. All four slain trans women and were black, as is the stabbing victim. Police say they don't yet have evidence linking the crimes. An FBI spokeswoman said the bureau is "committed to investigating all federal crimes and providing assistance to our local partners when asked," and if "information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to assist."

At least 136 transgender people have been killed since 2013, most of them black transgender women, the Human Rights Campaign says, and the actual number is probably much higher due to misreporting of gender or transphobia. Before she was shot dead, Booker gained national attention due to a video of her being brutally beaten by several men in a parking lot, with a cheering crowd egging the attackers on. "This has been a rough week for myself, the transgender community, and also the city of Dallas," Booker said at a press conference in April. "This time, I can stand before you ... whereas in other scenarios, we are at a memorial." Peter Weber

March 6, 2019

Jerry Merryman, one of three men credited with inventing the handheld calculator, died on Feb. 27 from complications of heart and kidney failure, The Associated Press reports. He was 86.

Between 1965 and a final patent application in 1974, Merryman worked with James Van Tassel under the direction of Jack Kilby (pictured, left) at Texas Instruments to develop the first portable calculator. Kilby won a Nobel Prize in 2000 for inventing the integrated circuit in 1958, paving the way for modern computers. The prototype of their calculator is in the Smithsonian.

Merryman joined Texas Instruments in 1963, at age 30, after a few years at Texas A&M University and various jobs, including measuring hurricane winds on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. "Jerry did the circuit design on this thing in three days, and if he was ever around, he'd lean over and say, 'and nights,'" former TI colleague and friend Ed Millis told AP. Another former colleague, Vernon Porter, called Merryman "absolutely, outstandingly brilliant," adding: "I have a Ph.D. in material science, and I've known hundreds of scientists, professors, Nobel prize-winners, and so on. Jerry Merryman was the most brilliant man that I've ever met. Period."

Merryman explained the genesis of their calculator to NPR in 2013: "It was late 1965 and Jack Kilby, my boss, presented the idea of a calculator. He called some people in his office. He says, we'd like to have some sort of computing device, perhaps to replace the slide rule. It would be nice if it were as small as this little book that I have in my hand. ... Silly me, I thought we were just making a calculator, but we were creating an electronic revolution." He retired from Texas Instruments in 1994. Peter Weber

February 14, 2019

Lyndon LaRouche Jr., a candidate for president every election from 1976 to 2004 — including one run from inside jail, in 1992 — died Tuesday, his political action committee confirmed Wednesday. He was 96. LaRouche was a “philosopher, scientist, poet, statesman," the PAC said in a statement, and "those who knew and loved Lyndon LaRouche know that humanity has suffered a great loss, and today we dedicate ourselves anew to bring to reality the big ideas for which history will honor him."

LaRouche's politics were hard to define — he began as a member of the Socialist Workers Party in the late 1940s and 1950s, ran for president first as a U.S. Labor Party candidate and then an independent or independent Democrat, and he called himself heir to the proto-Republican Whigs in 1986 — but he was best known for his enduring conspiratorial theories.

LaRouche, for exampled, maintained that the queen of England was involved in drug trafficking and the International Monetary Fund was "engaged in mass murder" by spreading AIDS, a disease he promoted other conspiracy theories about. He said the Holocaust was "mythical," The Associated Press notes, and called Zionism "cult nonsense." He claimed that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and 1984 Democratic presidential nominee Walt Mondale were Soviet "agents of influence" and more, as in this 1984 campaign ad.

In 1988, LaRouche was convicted of tax fraud and mail fraud, serving about nine years of his 15-year sentence. His followers, who solicited money and passed out leaflets at airports and other public places while he was in prison, were so devoted that loved ones reportedly hired "deprogrammers" to abduct them. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads