Tag Archive: alex shuster


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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing recently on the series of bizarre, unexplained health problems suffered by U.S. diplomats in Cuba. Officials originally said the health problems were caused by a likely “sonic attack” however a new FBI report says there’s no evidence of sonic waves being used in an attack in Havana. At the Senate committee hearing, officials suggested the unexplained health problems might have been caused by an intentionally deployed virus. The Cuban government has denied any involvement in the alleged attack and says it’s helping to investigate the incidents.

U.S. experts are still investigation what was behind the mysterious illnesses that began occurring in late 2016.  They have seen no evidence it was an episode of mass hysteria among the 24 affected U.S. personnel and family members, a senior State Department medical officer told a Senate hearing.  State Department officials testified that it was “incomprehensible” Cuba’s Communist government would not have been aware of what happened or who was responsible, though they stopped short of assigning direct blame to Havana.

Todd Brown, diplomatic security assistant director at the State Department, said that as well as the possibility of an acoustic or sonic attack, U.S investigators were considering whether people might have been deliberately exposed to a virus but he did not offer details or evidence of that.  “I do know other type of attacks are being considered in a connection with this,” he said. “There’s viral, there is ultrasound, there’s a range of things that the technical experts are looking at.”

Some experts have argued that an acoustic attack seems implausible, given that it likely would have caused an extremely loud noise in the area, which was not the case.  Lawmakers asked whether rogue elements of the Cuban government or security services or a third party such as Russia might have been involved. The State Department officials said they could not address or speculate on such matters in a public hearing.

The United States pulled out more than half of its personnel out of Havana in September and U.S. officials say the government will not send staff back to the U.S. Embassy in Havana yet.  Canada has said several Canadians reported symptoms similar to the U.S. diplomats but it has not publicly ordered any evacuation of embassy staff in Havana.  Symptoms suffered by the diplomats have included hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo, headaches and fatigue, a pattern consistent with “mild traumatic brain injury,” said Charles Rosenfarb, director of the State Department’s Bureau of Medical Services.

Medical testing revealed that both the US and Canadian embassy workers developed changes to the white matter tracts in the brain.  These regions act like information highways between brain cells letting different parts of the brain communicate.   Doctors still don’t know how victims ended up with the white matter changes, nor how exactly those changes might relate to their symptoms.

 

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A fire at an underground electrical facility caused an 11 hour blackout that brought the world’s busiest airport to a standstill.  The blackout at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport led to the cancellation of more than 1,500 flights and stranding tens of thousands of people in darkened terminals or on the tarmac, where some passengers sat for more than five hours on grounded planes.

The power outage began shortly after 1 p.m. leaving passengers in dim and overcrowded terminals as afternoon turned to evening.  Frustrated travelers lighted their way through smoky corridors with cellphones.  On Twitter, passengers reported waiting on the tarmac for more than five hours as the lack of power at the terminals made it hard to de-plane.  Getting out of the terminals quickly became difficult as traffic snarled access roads and MARTA trains ran at capacity to downtown.

The train between terminals was shut down and elevators, escalators, automatic doors and baggage carousels stood still.   Screens went black and the intercom for flight updates was silent.  No one could get reliable phone or internet service to access texts, email, flight apps or social media.  With a lack of information, travelers were too nervous to leave their spots, fearing the power might soon return at any moment and they’d lose their place in the line they were in.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed later said the fire was so intense that it damaged two substations serving the airport, including the airport’s back-up power system and prevented emergency crews from accessing the site for two to three hours.  Paul Bowers, Georgia Power’s president and CEO said there was a failure in the switchgear that caused the fire and the fire was contained by 3:30pm.  An estimated 30,000 people were affected by the power outage.

Delta bore the brunt of the impact, cancelling approximately 900 flights and diverting 48 more. The carrier said about 300 flights would also be cancelled on Monday, as the chaos spilled into one of the busiest air travel weeks of the year.  The blackout led the Federal Aviation Administration to declare a ground stop at the airport, preventing Atlanta-bound flights in other airports from taking off and causing inbound flights to be diverted. The ground stop in Atlanta disrupted air travel across the United States.

Some power was restored just before midnight but stranded travelers were still sleeping on the floor the day after the outage.  Long ticket and security lines were moving slowly as normalcy began returning to the airport Monday.  Volunteers in shirts that said, “Ask Me,” tried to allay concerns and passed out doughnuts to those in line, many of whom shared horror stories about the night before.

Some travelers said airline and airport employees did their best to take care of stranded passengers, handing out blankets, beverages, even slices of pizza.  Others reported a lack of communication, widespread rumors, the strong smell of fire near baggage claim and a taxi line that amounted to “pandemonium.”  While some fortunate passengers were able to board the flights departing Atlanta the day after the outage, other passengers were being told they’d have to wait hours or days.  One airline was telling passengers it would be five days before they could get a flight out.

New York Bombing Attack

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New York City police have identified the suspect in the bombing attack in a Midtown Manhattan subway station that took place during the busy Monday morning commute.  The accused attacker was identified as 27-year-old Brooklyn resident and Bangladeshi immigrant Akayed Ullah.  Ullah was carrying a pipe bomb strapped to his body with Velcro and zip ties whe he detonated it in a tunnel connecting the busy Port Authority and Times Square terminals.   Five people were treated for minor injuries at area hospitals, while the suspect was said to be seriously injured.

Investigators have been pouring over surveillance footage of the area.  Ullah was first spotted on a security camera as he climbed the subway station stairs to the 18th Avenue F. train platform in Brooklyn at 6:25 a.m.  He then switched to the A train at Jay St./MetroTech stop in Brooklyn before exiting the train at the Port Authority Bus Terminal stop in Manhattan.

The blast detonated around 7:20 a.m. in an underground walkway connecting two subway lines beneath the Port Authority Bus Terminal, near Times Square, which accommodates 220,000 passenger trips a day.  Surveillance footage shows commuters walking through a tunnel when a burst of smoke erupts into the hallway, quickly filling it.  Commuters flinch and take cover, and when the smoke clears, an injured man, Ullah, can be seen lying on the ground in the hallway.

Law enforcement officials say Ullah was inspired to set off a bomb in retaliation for U.S. attacks against ISIS in Syria.  He faces five federal terrorism-related charges and three state terrorism-related charges after he allegedly detonated the homemade device made of a battery, wires, metal screws and a Christmas tree lightbulb during the busy morning commute.  According to Department of Homeland Security, Ullah is a Bangladeshi immigrant who has been living in the United States since 2011 on an F43 family immigrant visa.  He is a legal permanent resident living in Brooklyn and has no criminal record in the United States.

According to a federal complaint, Ullah admitted to investigators that he built and detonated the device and said he was inspired to do so by ISIS.  He said that he was prepared to die and told investigators he was motivated in part by pro-ISIS Christmas attack propaganda circulated about a month ago online with an image of Santa Claus over Times Square.  Investigators recovered a passport in his name with a handwritten message: “O America, die in your rage.”  Investigators say Ullah’s ISIS radicalization began in 2014 and he began researching how to build improvised explosive devices about a year ago.  He began collecting the necessary items to make the device two to three weeks ago, and built the bomb in his home a week ago.

According to law enforcement officials, Ullah had two homemade devices with him but they did not elaborate on the second device.  Andrew Cuomo said in an interview that the device was an amateur, “effectively low-tech device” that partially detonated.  The explosive chemical ignited, but the pipe itself did not explode, lessening its impact.  Cuomo added “Fortunately for us, the bomb partially detonated, he did detonate it, but it did not fully have the effect that he was hoping for.”

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An investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico has revealed that nearly 1,000 more people died in the 40-day period after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico compared to that same time period last year. These findings sharply contradict the storm’s “official” death toll of 62.   The government allowed 911 bodies to be cremated without being physically examined by a government medical officer to determine if they should be included in the official death toll from the storm.  Each cause of death was listed as being of “natural causes.”

The revelation of the new data also coincides with accounts from relatives’ reports of victims that point to problems with essential health services such as dialysis, ventilators, oxygen, and other critical circumstances caused by the lack of electricity in homes and hospitals throughout Puerto Rico.

The majority of the deaths were men and women over 50 who died in hospitals and nursing homes from conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, hypertension, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. When compared to the same time period from 2016, there was a significant increase in deaths, especially in hospitals and nursing homes.

Some have said they considered heart attacks and people who died of lack of oxygen because of lack of power as hurricane-related deaths, while others said they considered those “natural causes.”  Accurate information about the death toll is important because it allows victims’ families to claim federal relief aid.  It has also been used as a measure of how effective relief efforts have been.  The official death toll likely fails to take account of all those who died as a result of the deadly hurricane.

Demographer José A. López, the only person at the registry in charge of analyzing this data, has said that the increase in deaths in the first two post-Maria months is significant and the government’s inability to link more deaths to the hurricane shows that the current process of documenting causes of death in a disaster is not working and must be reformed.  López and the Department of Health appeared before Puerto Rico’s Senate to request that a dialogue begin about the issue and that they lead to changing the system.

Currently, linking a death to a disaster depends almost exclusively on a physician making an annotation related to the hurricane in the death certificate and listing the clinical cause of death, but both doctors and hospitals maintain that their responsibility and knowledge are strictly tied to the clinical cause of death.  In most cases, the doctor who certifies the death may not be the same doctor who was in charge of the patient.   Because of this, most death certificates do not include additional information about the other circumstances that could lead to death — such as the stress caused by an emergency; lack of power, transportation services or medications; lack of access to health services; changes in diet; and increases in ambient temperatures, among others.

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Authorities say a shooting rampage in California that left 5 people dead and injuring at least 10 others could have been much worse.  The gunman, Kevin Janson Neal, 43, shot randomly at people and homes as he drove toward Rancho Tehama School in the town of Corning, 130 miles north of Sacramento.  Teachers heard gunfire and ordered a lock down shortly before the gunman rammed a fence with a pickup truck and entered the grounds with a semi-automatic rifle.  He roamed the grounds for about 6 minutes and shot out windows but left, apparently frustrated, after he was unable to access classrooms.  Police say he fired shots in at least seven locations before he was killed by police.

Police believe the motive was a bizarre revenge plot against his neighbors following a dispute in January.  At a news conference, Tehama County, California, Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said Neal’s wife had been found dead in their home on Tuesday night.  Authorities suspect she was fatally shot on Monday, after which Neal hid her body under the floor.  Police had been at the home earlier that day in response to a domestic violence call.

The shooting spree began on Tuesday at about 8 a.m. in Neal’s neighborhood.  Both neighbors who filed charges against him —a man and a woman—were killed at the start of Tuesday’s rampage.  Police say after Neal shot his neighbors, he stole the unidentified male neighbor’s white pickup truck and drove it through town, doing several random drive-by shootings of residences in the community of about 1,500 people.  Authorities say a 6-year-old boy was shot in the chest and foot at the school and is in stable condition.  Other students were injured by glass from the windows but no students or teachers were killed because of the quick thinking staff at the school.

Rancho Tehama resident Salvador Tello, who was taking his three children to school, described seeing the gunman open fire, killing a woman.  Tello said he saw bullets strike the truck in front of him and he put his children down to protect them and put his truck in reverse to get away.  As he left, he saw a woman lying dead in the street and her wounded husband next to her.  At one point, the shooter crashed the truck and carjacked a driver for his small sedan. The suspect then drove past a woman taking her children to school and fired gunshots ‘without provocation’ into their truck.  The woman and her son were injured and both are recovering.

Neal was being prosecuted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon that occurred in January.  Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen said “Neal had a long-running dispute with his neighbors and during the January incident, he allegedly shot through a wooden fence at two female neighbors as they walked along the fence. Neal then jumped the fence, confronted the women, stabbed one and took a cellphone from the other.”  Neal was also involved in an assault on a male neighbor in February.

Neal’s mother says she posted his $160,000 bail after the January assault charge.   She said her son was a marijuana farmer and was in a dispute with neighbors he believed were cooking methamphetamine. She says when she spoke to him Monday and he said he felt like he was on a “cliff” and people were trying to “execute” him. She says he told her “Mom, it’s all over now. I have done everything I could do and I am fighting against everyone who lives in this area.”  Neal’s sister described him as becoming extremely paranoid, spending hours on the phone with his mother who try to calm him down.

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A gunman in Texas opened fire Sunday morning church service in the small town of Sutherland Springs, killing 26 people and wounding at least 20 others. Witnesses say a man dressed in black wearing tactical gear and a ballistic vest began firing outside the church before entering the building, shooting dozens of people inside.  The suspected shooter has been identified as a 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley from New Braunfels, Texas.  Kelley was found dead in his car shortly after the shooting.

Survivors of the attack said they heard what sounded like firecrackers outside the church and realized someone was shooting at the tiny wood-frame building.  Congregants began screaming and dropped to the floor after getting hit.  The gunman then entered the church and shot the people in charge of the camera and audio of the service.  He quickly moved down the center aisle shooting congregants.  The shooting stopped, leaving worshippers to think it was over but the gunman entered the church again yelling “Everybody die!” as he checked each aisle for more victims, including babies who cried out amid the chaos, shooting helpless families at point blank range.

Stephen Willeford, who had run out of his house near the church barefoot, shot at Kelley, hitting him twice and forcing him to flee.  Willeford, ran toward a truck that was stopped at the stop sign outside the church and quickly told the driver, Johnnie Langendorff what had transpired.  The two followed Kelley in the truck for 11 miles at speeds reaching 90 mph before Kelley lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a ditch.  Willeford and Langendorff kept a safe distance while Willeford aimed his rifle at Kelley’s car and Langendorff directed the police to the location of the shooter.  Authorities believe Kelley shot himself in the head shortly after the crash.  Authorities also said Kelley appears to have carried out the massacre because of a domestic dispute he had with a former mother-in-law, who was a member of the First Baptist Church but was not present on Sunday.

Kelley enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 2010 but was court-martialed for assaulting his then wife, Tessa and his stepson-who suffered a fractured skull during the assault.  Kelley was demoted and underwent a year-long imprisonment where he once escaped from a psychiatric hospital, threatened to kill his superiors in the U.S. Air Force and tried to smuggle firearms onto his base.  His first wife divorced him during his confinement and he received a “bad conduct” discharge in 2014, a dismissal that usually precludes ex-servicemen from buying firearms.   The Air Force has admitted it failed to report Kelley’s domestic violence court-martial to a federal database, which would have prohibited Kelley from legally buying the rifle that he used in the shooting.

Kelley married his second wife, Danielle Shields in 2014 but they became estranged sometime in 2016. Kelley had sent threatening text messages to Shields mother, Michelle who was a member of the church but was not present during the shooting.  Authorities say nearly half of those shot in the church were children and many were from the same families.  Those killed in the shooting were Michelle Shields mother, Lula Woicinski White, 71; Robert Scott Marshall and his wife, Karen, both 56, Peggy Lynn Warden, 56; Keith Allen Braden, 62; Robert and Shani Corrigan, both 51; Dennis Johnson, 77 and his wife Sara, 68; Haley Krueger, 16, Tara McNulty, 33; Ricardo Rodriguez, 64, and his wife Therese, 66; Annabelle Pomeroy, 14; Joann Ward, 30; Emily Ward, 7; Brooke Ward, 5; Bryan Holcombe, 60; Karla Holcombe, 58; Marc Daniel Holcombe, 36; Noah Holcombe, 17 months; Greg Holcombe, 13; Emily Holcomb, 11; Megan Holcombe, 9; Crystal Holcombe, 36 and her unborn child Carlin.

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President Trump has declared the opioid crisis- which killed 64,000 Americans last year- a public health emergency.  The order will last 90 days and can be renewed every 90 days until the President believes it is no longer needed.  President Donald Trump said “Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States by far. More people are dying from drug overdoses today than from gun homicides and motor vehicles combined.”

The administration will work with Congress to fund the Public Health Emergency fund and to increase federal funding in year-end budget deals currently being negotiated in Congress.  Trump has directed agency and department heads to use all appropriate emergency authorities to reduce the number of deaths caused by the opioid crisis.  The administration will also launch an ad campaign so that young people can see the devastation that drugs cause on people and their lives.

The administration’s opioid plan will allow expanded access to telemedicine services, giving doctors the ability to prescribe medications to treat addiction to those in remote locations.  It also speeds the hiring process for medical professionals working on opioids and allows funds in programs for dislocated workers and people with HIV/AIDS to be used to treat their addictions.  The designation gives the administration access to the Public Health Emergency Fund, but that fund is nearly empty.

In August, Trump said that he would declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency but later said the White House had determined that declaring a public health emergency was more appropriate than a national emergency.  Many have criticized the decision to declare a public health emergency rather than a national emergency as not enough.  A commission created by the administration and headed by Gov. Chris Christie called on the president to declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act. Doing so, the commission said, could free up funds for treatment, ensure wider access to the anti-overdose drug naloxone and improve monitoring of opioid prescriptions to prevent abuse.

Congress is currently spending $500 million a year on addiction treatment programs, but that money runs out next year. The administration says it will work with Congress in the budgeting process to find new money to fund addiction treatment programs. A group of senators introduced a bill that would provide more than $45 billion for opioid abuse prevention, surveillance and treatment.

From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 people died of drug overdoses, and opioids account for the majority of those. Recently released numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that around 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016.  More than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Roughly 80 percent of the world’s opioids are consumed in the US.  A report published earlier this year found that 94 percent of heroin entering the United States came from Mexico.  A large portion of the country’s fentanyl – a prescribed painkiller thought by many to be driving the opioid epidemic – derives from China and arrives in the States through US mail.

 

 

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In California, the death toll from unprecedented wildfires has risen to at least 42, with over 400 more missing, as firefighters continue to battle 15 major blazes across the state.   At least 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate, with about 75,000 people still displaced.  Some area residents only had a brief window to escape as the fire quickly spread through neighborhoods with 20 mph winds and 40 mph wind gusts.  Search teams are using drones with three-dimensional cameras and search dogs in an effort to locate missing people in neighborhoods that have been reduced entirely to ash and rubble. The death toll has risen daily as search teams gain access to previously unreachable areas.

The state’s insurance commissioner says the unprecedented wildfires have caused over $1 billion in insured losses. The wildfires have scorched more than 200,000 acres—roughly the size of New York City.   The fires have destroyed over 8,000 homes and businesses and are now the deadliest in California since record keeping began.

The fires started Oct. 8 and 9 and steadily burning through forests, neighborhoods, farms, wineries and other infrastructure—including cell phone towers used by the state’s emergency services.  High winds and dry weather statewide have hampered efforts to contain the multiple blazes-making them the most destructive wildfires in California’s history.

Firefighters have continuously fought to contain the series of fires using air tankers, helicopters and more than 1,000 fire engines.  Hundreds of firefighters poured in to California as crews arrived from Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon and Arizona. Other teams came from Canada and Australia. Crews were using 840 fire engines from across California and another 170 sent from around the country.

The fires have been particularly bad in Sonoma County, where 30 marijuana farms and three marijuana manufacturers have lost everything to the blazes. Cannabis cultivators cannot insure their businesses since federal law prohibits banks and financial institutions from participating in the marijuana industry, even in the eight states where recreational pot is legal, because marijuana is illegal according to federal law.  Twenty-seven wineries have reportedly suffered damaged.  Many wineries have reported either complete losses or significant damage.

California governor Jerry Brown has remained in state capital Sacramento this week, issuing emergency declarations and securing federal disaster relief.  “This is truly one of the greatest tragedies that California has ever faced,” Brown said. “The devastation is just unbelievable. It is a horror that no one could have imagined.”

 

 

 

Harvey Weinstein Scandal

 

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An investigation by The New York Times exposed allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact by Harvey Weinstein that stretched nearly three decades.  The scandal was uncovered through interviews with current or former employees and film industry workers as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.  Among other victims, the Times piece revealed that Rose McGowan had reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein after an encounter in a hotel room during Sundance Film Festival in 1997.  Later, the actress revealed Weinstein had raped her.

Shortly after, The New Yorker published another expose that alleges the producer raped three women.  The New Yorker article contains on-the-record accounts from 13 actresses who reported Weinstein forcibly received or performed sexual acts on the women.  A slew of women have sine come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape.  Among his accusers are some of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, Kate Beckinsale and Heather Graham.

Many of the instances occurred during meetings that agents, studios and assistants set up for Weinstein under the guise of a potential movie role.  The common theme in the accusations is that the harassment took place early in their careers and they kept quiet out of fear that they would destroy their budding careers.  Other lesser known actresses and models have come forward as well.  Weinstein’s lewd behavior seemed to be an open secret in Hollywood for decades.  Fear of Harvey Weinstein’s influence helped keep his treatment of women shrouded for years with a network of aggressive publicists and lawyers helping.

New revelations have surfaced showing his studio, Weinstein Company, knew for at least two years that he had been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Weinstein was fired from the company shortly after the New York Times article was published.   Police in the US and outside the country are investigating allegations of sexual assault involving Harvey Weinstein as the scandal surrounding the disgraced Hollywood movie mogul mounts.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein denied the rape allegations in a statement.  “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” the statement read. “Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”  Weinstein sent an official statement to The New York Time in response to the accusations saying “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.  Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment.”

Shortly after The New Yorker piece came out, Harvey Weinstein’s wife of a decade, Georgina Chapman, announced she was She said in a statement, “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” the statement read. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”

 

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Playboy founder and icon Hugh Hefner died on Wednesday evening at the age of 91.  Hefner passed of natural causes at his home, the famed Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, surrounded by loved ones.  Playboy began on Hefner’s kitchen table 64 years ago and spawned an empire that encompasses print and digital publications, merchandise and other portfolio companies.  After leaving his job as a copywriter for Esquire magazine, Hefner put up his furniture as collateral for a loan, raising money from various investors and borrowing the rest from family and friends.  He published the very first issue of Playboy in December of 1953 which featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover.

For decades, Playboy was the most successful men’s magazine in the world and the company branched into movie, cable and digital production, sold its own line of clothing and jewelry, and opened clubs, resorts and casinos.  Playboy Enterprises’ chief executive, Scott Flanders, acknowledged that the internet had overrun the magazine’s province causing the brand to fade over the years with its magazine’s circulation declining to less than a million.

In 2012, Hefner announced that his youngest son, Cooper, would likely succeed him as the public face of Playboy.  Mr. Hefner remained editor in chief but in 2016, he handed over creative control of Playboy to his son Cooper Hefner.

Hefner is survived by his wife Crystal, and four grown children from his two previous marriages.  Over the years, Hefner became known and highly criticized for moving an ever-changing group of young women into the Playboy Mansion.  His reputation was highly criticized and overshadowed the fact that he staunchly advocated freedom of speech in all its aspects, for which he won civil liberties awards. He supported progressive social causes and lost some sponsors by inviting African-American guests to his televised parties at a time when much of the nation still had Jim Crow laws.

In 1966, during the civil rights era, Hefner sent African-American journalist Alex Haley to interview George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party-who has been described as the “American Hitler”.   Rockwell agreed to meet with Haley only after gaining assurance from the writer that he was not Jewish though Rockwell kept a handgun on the table throughout the interview.

Hefner was also a philanthropist who donated $100,000 to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts to create a course called “Censorship in Cinema”, and $2 million to endow a chair for the study of American film.  Through his charitable foundation, Hefner contributed to many charities and threw multiple fundraiser events for Much Love Animal Rescue. In 1978, he helped organize and raise funds for the restoration of the Hollywood sign and in 2010, Hefner donated the last $900,000 sought by a conservation group for a land purchase needed to stop the development of the famed vista of the Hollywood Sign.  Children of the Night founder and president Dr. Lois Lee presented Hefner with the organization’s first-ever Founder’s Hero of the Heart Award in appreciation for his unwavering dedication, commitment and generosity. He also supported legalizing same-sex marriage, and he stated that a fight for gay marriage was a fight for all our rights.