News & Current Affairs

June 26, 2009

Tributes paid to Michael Jackson

Tributes paid to Michael Jackson

Family, friends, colleagues and admirers have been paying tribute to Michael Jackson, following the announcement of the star’s death at the age of 50.

JERMAINE JACKSON, BROTHER

“My brother, the legendary King of Pop, Michael Jackson passed away on Thursday June 25th, 2009 at 2.26pm. It is believed he suffered cardiac arrest in his home.

“Our family requests that the media please respects our privacy at this tough time.

“And may Allah be with you Michael, always. Love you.”

MADONNA, SINGER

“I can’t stop crying over the sad news. I’ve always admired Michael Jackson – the world has lost one of its greats, but his music will live on forever.

“My heart goes out to his three children and other members of his family. God bless.”

BEYONCE KNOWLES, SINGER

“The incomparable Michael Jackson has made a bigger impact on music than any other artist in the history of music. He was magic. He was what we all strive to be. … I love you Michael.”

CELINE DION, SINGER

“I am shocked. I am overwhelmed by this tragedy. Michael Jackson has been an idol for me all my life.

“He was not only a talented person, but he was unique – a genius. It’s such a loss. It feels like when Kennedy died, when Elvis died. My sympathy goes to the family. It’s a big loss and it’s not even sinking in right now.”

URI GELLER, FRIEND

“I’m just devastated, very, very sad. I pray that his soul is up there now. I’m still trying to hold on to the glimmer that it is not true. It is too surreal for me to absorb that Michael is no longer with us.

“Michael was in good shape because he was practising, he was training, he was rehearsing for the shows. Michael was careful with what he ate, he was just fine. Last time I heard of what he was doing, he was in great shape. And this is why I’m so absolutely shocked by this news.”

CHER, SINGER

“I’m having a million different reactions I didn’t expect I would feel.

“He was a great singer – God gives you certain gifts, and this child was just an extraordinary child touched by this ability. He could sing like nobody else and he was able to connect with people.”

QUINCY JONES, MUSIC PRODUCER

“I’m absolutely devastated at this news. I just don’t have the words. Divinity brought our souls together and allowed us to do what we could do through the 80s.

“To this day that music is played in every corner of the world, and the reason is because he had it all – talent, grace and professionalism. I’ve lost my little brother today and part of my soul has gone with him.”

LISA MARIE PRESLEY, JACKSON’S EX-WIFE

“I am so very sad and confused with every emotion possible.

I am heartbroken for his children, who I know were everything to him, and for his family.

This is such a massive loss on so many levels, words fail me.”

LENNY KRAVITZ, SINGER

Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz has worked with Jackson

“There will never be another talent like Michael Jackson.

“He was the first live performer I ever saw. I got to see him at Madison Square Garden when I was eight. If not for him, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.

“He gave me joy as a child and showed me the way to go. He was music. Period.

May you rest in peace sweet Michael. You gave us all you had to give.”

JOHN LANDIS, THRILLER VIDEO DIRECTOR

I was lucky enough to know and work with Michael Jackson in his prime. Michael was an extraordinary talent and a truly great international star. He had a troubled and complicated life and despite his gifts, remains a tragic figure.”

REV AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER

“As a friend of Michael’s for the past 35 years, I call on people from around the world to pray for him and his family.”

P DIDDY, SINGER

“Michael Jackson showed me that you can actually see the beat. He made the music come to life. He made me believe in magic. I will miss him.”

JANE FONDA, ACTRESS

“I am stunned. My friend, Michael Jackson, is dead. He lived with me for a week on the ‘Golden Pond’ set after Thriller.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR

“He was one of the most influential and iconic figures in the music industry.

“Our hearts go out to the Jackson family, Michael’s children and to his fans worldwide.”

USHER, SINGER

“My heart goes out to the King of Pop and his family.”

PAUL GAMBACCINI, MUSIC JOURNALIST

“Definitely one of the greatest stars of recorded music. There is no doubt of that. He would be in the top 10 of all time, regardless of who the other nine people were.

“But you also have to remember that he went through different stages and owed some of his popularity to collaborators – Quincy Jones, with whom he did the great trilogy of albums: Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad.”

BRITNEY SPEARS, SINGER

“I was so excited to see his tour in London. We were going to be on tour in Europe at the same time and I was going to fly into see him.

“He’s been an inspiration throughout my entire life and I’m devastated that he’s gone.”

DIONNE WARWICK, SINGER

“We have lost an icon in our industry and my heartfelt condolences go out to his family and children in this hour of sorrow.

“He will live on in my memory, and most definitely through the music he shared with so many.”

WYCLEF JEAN, SINGER

“Michael Jackson was my musical god. He made me believe that all things are possible, through real and positive music.

“He can live forever. I love Michael Jackson. God bless him.”

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, SINGER

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake has been compared to Michael Jackson

“We have lost a genius and a true ambassador of not only pop music, but of all music. I can’t find the words right now to express how deeply saddened I am by Michael’s passing.

“He has been an inspiration to multiple generations, and I will always cherish the moments I shared with him onstage and all of the things I learned about music from him, and the time we spent together.

“My heart goes out to his family and loved ones.”

DONNA SUMMER, SINGER

“I’ve known Michael for many years and we’ve done many different things together over the years.

“I know his family and it’s just a total shock. I don’t even have words to say. I mean I’ll miss Michael, the world will miss Michael and I’m sure the world is in a state of grief right now.

“I will personally miss him, I will miss his light, I will miss his star, I will miss who he has caused other people to become because of his greatness. He upped the standard.”

MARIAH CAREY, SINGER

“I am heart broken. My prayers go out to the Jackson family, and my heart goes out to his children. Let us remember him for his unparalleled contribution to the world of music, his generosity of spirit in his quest to heal the world, and the joy he brought to is millions of devoted fans throughout the world.

“I feel blessed to have performed with him several times and to call him my friend. No artist will ever take his place. His star will shine forever.”

NE-YO, SINGER

“Michael Jackson will live forever through the thing that he put all of his life energy into: his music.

“Long live Michael Jackson.”

MC HAMMER, RAPPER

“I will be mourning my friend, brother, mentor and inspiration. He gave me and my family hope. I would never have been me without him.”

LL COOL J, RAPPER

“He was one of my childhood idols. I salute you King of Pop. You made the whole world moonwalk together.”

RUSSELL SIMMONS, FOUNDER OF DEF-JAM RECORDS

“Michael Jackson was my generation’s most iconic cultural hero. Courageous, unique and incredibly talented. He’ll be missed greatly.”

BERRY GORDY, US RECORD PRODUCER

“I am shocked beyond words. It’s like a dream, a bad dream. This cannot be. How can Michael Jackson not be here?

“As a kid, Michael was always beyond his years. He had a knowingness about him that was incredible.

“Michael was and will remain one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived.

“He was exceptional, artistic and original. He gave the world his heart and soul through his music.

MATT FIDDES, FORMER BODYGUARD

“He’s the most misunderstood man in world. Everyone thought he was this weird freak but when you’re with him he’s as normal as everyone else. I don’t think he felt he was as famous as everyone else thought, he didn’t know any different.

“He was a very caring guy who would go out of his way to help the sick. One night in London he wanted to see some homeless people. He sent them loads of pizzas in secret. The guy had a good heart.

“We used to dress him up and sneak out of hotel room and do normal things in shops. People wouldn’t know who he was but we wanted to give him a taste of the real life.”

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June 20, 2009

Schwarzenegger in LA plane drama

Schwarzenegger in LA plane drama

Arnold Schwarzenegger, file image

The governor seemed unfazed by the landing

A plane carrying California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has made an emergency landing in Los Angeles because of smoke in the cockpit.

No-one was hurt after a “quick, steep, but safe” landing, his office said.

The former film star was so calm about the incident that he immediately logged on to social networking website Twitter to share his experience.

“A little adventure just now when my plane made an emergency landing. All’s ok, though,” his message said.

The pilot diverted the jet to the Van Nuys airport 10 minutes before it was due to land at Santa Monica, spokesman Aaron McLear said in a statement.

Fire crews met the jet on the runway.

“Upon landing the governor exited the jet and travelled to his house,” Mr McLear said.

He added that the crew had done an “outstanding job” and that “everyone aboard landed safely and unharmed”.

November 5, 2008

Obama wins historic US election

Democratic Senator Barack Obama has been elected the first black president of the United States.

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight… change has come to America,” the president-elect told a jubilant crowd at a park in Chicago.

His rival John McCain accepted defeat, saying “I deeply admire and commend” Mr Obama. He called on his supporters to lend the next president their goodwill.

The BBC’s Justin Webb said the result would have a profound impact on the US.

“On every level America will be changed by this result… [it] will never be the same,” he said.

Mr Obama appeared with his family, and his running mate Joe Biden, before a crowd of tens of thousands in Grant Park, Chicago.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” he said.

He said he had received an “extraordinarily gracious” call from Mr McCain.

He praised the former Vietnam prisoner of war as a “brave and selfless leader”.

“He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine,” the victor said.

He had warm words for his family, announcing to his daughters: “Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.”

Congratulations… You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life
President George W Bush

But he added: “Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep… But America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.”

From red to blue

Mr Obama captured the key battleground states of Pennsylvania and Ohio, before breaking through the winning threshold of 270 electoral college votes at 0400 GMT, when projections showed he had also taken California and a slew of other states.

HAVE YOUR SAY

I find myself strangely emotional about this. I want to go wake up my neighbours and hug them

Amy Scullane, Boston

Then came the news that he had also seized Florida, Virginia and Colorado – all of which voted Republican in 2004 – turning swathes of the map from red to blue.

Several other key swing states are hanging in the balance.

In Indiana and North Carolina, with most of the vote counted, there was less than 0.5% between the two candidates.

However, the popular vote remains close. At 0600 GMT it stood at 51.3% for the Democratic Senator from Illinois, against 47.4% for Arizona Senator McCain.

The main developments include:

  • Mr Obama is projected to have seized Ohio, New Mexico, Iowa, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Nevada – all Republican wins in 2004.
  • He is also projected to have won: Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Delaware, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Rhode Island, California, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon.
  • Mr McCain is projected to have won: Kentucky, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, North Dakota, Wyoming, Georgia, Louisiana, West Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota.
  • Turnout was reported to be extremely high – in some places “unprecedented”.
  • The Democrats made gains in the Senate race, seizing seats from the Republicans in Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Colorado. They also increased their majority of the House of Representatives.
  • Exit polls suggest the economy was the major deciding factor for six out of 10 voters.
  • Nine out of 10 said the candidates’ race was not important to their vote, the Associated Press reported. Almost as many said age did not matter.

LOSSES AND GAINS
Key states
Projected gains for Obama in former Republican states of Ohio, New Mexico, Iowa, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Nevada
Senate seats
Virginia: Democrat Mark Warner replaces retiring Republican John Warner
New Hampshire: Democrat Jeanne Shaheen unseats Republican John Sununu
North Carolina: Democrat Kay Hagan replaces Republican Elizabeth Dole
New Mexico: Democrat Tom Udall replaces retiring Republican Pete Domenici

Several states reported very high turnout. It was predicted 130 million Americans, or more, would vote – more than for any election since 1960.

Many people said they felt they had voted in a historic election – and for many African-Americans the moment was especially poignant.

John Lewis, an activist in the civil rights era who was left beaten on an Alabama bridge 40 years ago, told Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church: “This is a great night. It is an unbelievable night. It is a night of thanksgiving.”

Besides winning the presidency, the Democrats tightened their grip on Congress.

The entire US House of Representatives and a third of US Senate seats were up for grabs.

Democrats won several Senate seats from the Republicans, but seemed unlikely to to gain the nine extra they wanted to reach the 60-seat “super-majority”, that could prevent Republicans blocking legislation.

October 3, 2008

Remains found in Fossett’s plane

Remains found in Fossett’s plane

US investigators say they have found what they believe may be human remains amid the wreckage of adventurer Steve Fossett’s plane in eastern California.

The remains, although minimal, are said to be enough to provide a DNA sample for identification testing.

The 63-year-old millionaire disappeared a year ago while on a solo flight from a ranch in neighboring Nevada.

His plane was finally located on Wednesday after a hiker handed items belonging to Mr Fossett to police.

‘Bone fragment’

The wreckage was found during a subsequent aerial search of a remote stretch of the Sierra Nevada mountains west of the town of Mammoth Lakes, at an altitude of around 10,000ft (3,048m).

A ground team flown into the area by helicopter later confirmed the identity of the plane, a single-engine Bellanca Super Decathlon, which officials said seemed to have struck the mountainside head-on.

“It was a hard-impact crash, and he would’ve died instantly,” said Jeff Page, emergency management co-ordinator for Lyon County, Nevada, who assisted in the search.

Most of the fuselage had disintegrated, with engine parts scattered over a debris field stretching about 150ft (46m) by 400ft (122m).

Search teams combing the site found more personal effects and what they described as a bone fragment, measuring 2 inches (5cm) by 1.5 inches (2.5cm).

SOME OF FOSSETT’S RECORDS
Steve Fossett climbs out of his cockpit after his record-breaking flight around the world in 2005
1998/2002: Long-distance for solo ballooning
2001/2002: Duration for solo ballooning
2002: First solo round-the-world balloon flight
First balloon crossings of Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, South Atlantic, South Pacific, Indian Oceans
Seven fastest speed sailing titles
13 World Sailing Speed Record Council titles
2001: Fastest transatlantic sailing
2004: Fastest round-the-world sailing
Round-the-world titles for medium airplanes
US transcontinental titles for non-military aircraft

“We found human remains, but there’s very little,” said Mark Rosenker, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “Given the length of time the wreckage has been out there, it’s not surprising there’s not very much.”

DNA tests would be performed on the material on a lab in California, he said.

Earlier, Madera County Sheriff John Anderson confirmed the find but injected a note of caution. “We don’t know if it’s human. It certainly could be,” he said.

Officials now plan to remove the wreckage of the plane for reassembly and examination, and search for further human remains. But snow is expected over the weekend, which could potentially hamper the investigation.

Steve Fossett became the first person to circle the globe solo in a balloon in 2002 and had about 100 other world records to his name.

He vanished in September 2007 after taking off from a Nevada ranch for a solo flight.

For more than a year there was no trace of him, despite an intensive search.

But on Monday the hiker found identification documents belonging to him in undergrowth about 0.25 miles (0.4km) from the crash site, triggering an aerial search of a new area.

“The uncertainty surrounding my husband’s death over this past year has created a very difficult situation for me,” Mr Fossett’s widow, Peggy, said in a statement. “I hope now to be able to bring to closure a very painful chapter in my life.

“I prefer to think about Steve’s life rather than his death and celebrate his many extraordinary accomplishments.”

British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson also paid tribute to his friend and fellow adventurer.

“He led an extraordinary, absolutely remarkable life, and now we can remember him for what he was and move on,” he said.

Map

September 19, 2008

LA train crash prompts phone ban

LA train crash prompts phone ban

File photo of Robert Sanchez

Train operator Robert Sanchez died in the crash along with 24 others

Train drivers in California are to be banned from using mobile phones on duty after a crash in Los Angeles last week that killed 25 people.

The state’s rail regulators said the emergency ruling was a first step to improving railroad safety.

The move comes a day after it emerged the driver of the Metrolink train had used his phone on the day of the crash.

Many rail firms – including Metrolink – prohibit staff from using mobiles on duty, but the rules are often ignored.

There is currently no federal law banning train drivers from using mobile phones at work.

Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said the action would “protect the public”.

“What we’re doing… is just a modest first step in a much larger effort to improve railroad safety.”

The use of mobile phones by train drivers is thought to have been a factor in two rail accidents earlier in the year, the commission said.

Anyone found guilty of violating the new order could now be fined up to $20,000 (£11,000).

Phone records

The Metrolink passenger train was carrying 222 passengers between Los Angeles and Moorpark, north-west of the city, when the crash happened a week ago.

Investigators assess train crash in Los Angeles on 16/09/08

Investigators are trying to find out the exact cause of the crash

Rail investigators have concluded that driver Robert Sanchez failed to apply the brakes before a red light – and ploughed into an oncoming freight train.

The force of the impact drove the passenger train’s engine back inside the first carriage.

Mr Sanchez was among 25 people killed and more than 130 injured – the deadliest train accident in the US in 15 years.

The US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB), investigating the crash, has confirmed Mr Sanchez sent and received text messages on his mobile phone at work, but are still determining whether he was doing so at the time of the crash.

They have requested mobile phone records after two teenage train enthusiasts who befriended the driver told a local TV station they received a text message from Mr Sanchez just before the crash.

Investigators have warned it is too early to conclude exactly what caused the crash.

Other causes being studied include possible equipment failure or the chance that the driver was suddenly incapacitated.

September 14, 2008

Human error suspected in LA crash

Human error suspected in LA crash

Human error is being blamed for a train collision on the outskirts of Los Angeles, California, which has claimed the lives of at least 24 people.

The driver of a train with 222 passengers aboard apparently ignored a red signal, causing it to hit a freight train head on, the rail company says.

The passenger train hit the freight train with such force, its engine was shoved back inside the first carriage.

Officials say the chances of finding any further survivors are very remote.

Firefighters have cut through the roof of the train, which is a double-decker, removing chunks of metal piece by piece.

Sniffer dogs have been brought in to try to detect any signs of life.

A spokeswoman for the rail company Metrolink, Denise Tyrrell, told reporters:

“At this moment we must acknowledge that it was a Metrolink engineer that made the error that caused yesterday’s accident.”

It was not immediately clear whether the driver had survived.

The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are uncovered. More than 80 people are in hospital.

Commuter train

The worst rail crash in the US for 15 years happened at 1632 local time (2332 GMT) on Friday, at a time when the passenger train was carrying 222 people, most of them commuters.

I heard a loud crash and I saw black smoke… some people were mangled pretty bad
Phil Thiele, Metrolink passenger

The passenger train was travelling from Los Angeles to Moorpark, north-west of the city.

It collided with a Union Pacific freight train on a curving stretch of track in Chatsworth, in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles county.

The front coach of the Metrolink passenger train derailed and was crushed by the engine after the collision. Two other coaches of the train remained upright.

Aerial images of the crash scene showed teams of rescuers using ladders to reach injured people inside the mangled front coach.

The Union Pacific freight train was badly damaged in the accident. Officials say two people – the driver and the conductor – were on board the train.

“I heard a loud crash and I saw black smoke… some people were mangled pretty bad,” Phil Thiele, one of the passengers in the front coach, told the Los Angeles Times.

He said he tried to help one man who was pinned between seats: “I tried my damnedest to get him out but I just couldn’t.”


Were you affected by the crash? You can share your experience

September 13, 2008

Deadly train crash in Los Angeles

Deadly train crash in Los Angeles

At least two people have died and more than 20 are feared hurt in a collision between a passenger train and a freight train in California, officials say.

Several coaches were derailed, and rescuers are scouring the scene in the Chatsworth area, north of Los Angeles.

“I’m sure there are a lot of injuries,” Ron Haralson from the Los Angeles County Fire Department was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known.

Dozens of firefighters rushed to the scene of the accident, which happened at 1632 local time on Friday (2332 GMT), US officials said.

They battled a fire raging under one of the derailed carriages.

The Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department told AP at least two people had died.

More than 20 people are feared to have been injured, 10 of them seriously, officials say.

Aerial images of the crash scene showed several teams of rescuers using ladders to reach inside the Metrolink passenger train to pull the injured people.

A number of injured people were treated near the scene, while some were airlifted to hospital, and there are fears that the death toll will rise further.

The passenger train was traveling from Los Angeles to Moorpark, north-west of the city, a Metrolink spokeswoman said.

Up to 350 people could have been on the train, she said.

September 7, 2008

New charges for actor accused in stabbing

New charges for actor accused in stabbing

VISTA, California (AP) — Prosecutors have brought additional charges against a Hollywood actor accused of stabbing his ex-girlfriend 20 times.

Shelley Malil portrayed the character Haziz in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

Shelley Malil portrayed the character Haziz in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

Shelley Malil, 43, who played a supporting role in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” was charged Friday with residential burglary and assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly attacking a man who with Malil’s ex-girlfriend, Kendra Beebe, on August 10.

Prosecutors say that was the day Malil stabbed Beebe with two knives while chasing her in and around her San Marcos home as her two children slept.

A man who was with Beebe at the time grabbed one knife, but Malil found another and continued the attack until a neighbor disarmed him, prosecutors said.

Malil previously pleaded not guilty to one count of attempted murder with a special circumstance of premeditation and one count of personal use of a knife and inflicting great bodily injury. He faces life in prison if convicted.

During a Superior Court hearing Friday, a judge reduced his bail from $10 million to $3 million. Malil’s attorney, Steve Meiser, argued that the higher figure was unreasonable and that his Indian-born client was not a flight risk.

Malil has been jailed since August 11.

Beebe, 35, suffered deep wounds to her lungs and throat, but prosecutors said she was expected to recover.

Malil played a co-worker, Haziz, to comedian Steve Carell’s title character in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” He has appeared on dozens of TV shows, including “NYPD Blue” and “Scrubs.”

September 6, 2008

Popular comic strip ignites controversy

Popular comic strip ignites controversy

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — For most of our lives cartoonist Lynn Johnston has had us hanging on every plot twist and complication she could pack into 29 years of “For Better or For Worse.”

Lynn Johnston ended the original run of "For Better or For Worse" Sunday, but is now returning to the past.

Lynn Johnston ended the original run of “For Better or For Worse” Sunday, but is now returning to the past.

Take one of the biggest, longest-running ones: Would Elizabeth, seriously challenged in picking men, finally dump that silly helicopter flyboy boyfriend of hers and just marry Anthony, for God’s sake? He’d been her sweetheart off and on since their grade-school days and had rescued her from the crazy would-be rapist she once worked with. So forget that the mustache Anthony grew in recent years made him look so much like a dork that even other comic strips began making fun of it. Life is, as Johnston would say, for better or for worse.

But then the cartoonist pulled the rug completely out from under us Sunday with a plot twist that made even the heartbreaking death of the Patterson family dog Farley (as he saved little April from drowning) seem pale in comparison. Even the comic strip that outraged readers by the thousands in 1993 when Lawrence acknowledged he was gay couldn’t top this.

There it was in full color in the big Sunday strip: As Elizabeth’s parents are dancing at her wedding (to Anthony, thank God) Johnston herself enters the strip in cartoon form and tells us that starting the next day “For Better or For Worse” will rocket back almost 30 years in time to soon after it began.

Elizabeth, now 27, would be a baby again. Michael, who loved to taunt his sister, calling her “Lizard Breath” when they were growing up, would be about grade-school age. On the positive side, family patriarch John Patterson would shed that pot belly he’d been growing in recent years and his wife, Elly, could finally put away all those anti-wrinkle products she’d been obsessing over for about the last decade.

And readers of some 2,000 newspaper comic sections would be left to scratch their heads and mutter, “What the … ”

“Interesting idea and it may very well work with the fan base that she’s got,” says Dave Strickler, a comic-strip fanatic who runs the Web site comicsaccess.com and has compiled a list of every comic strip syndicated in the United States from 1924 to 1995.

Strickler, like other fans of the strip, complains that it has gotten a little too sentimental in recent years, with Johnston concentrating too much on the philosophical musings she is famous for saving until the final panel and not enough on the story line.

At the same time, he says, the strip has grown to include so many characters that it was getting hard to tell them apart. He would sometimes mistake Elizabeth for her younger sister, April, or even her mother, Elly. (Those anti-wrinkle products must really be working!)

“If she goes back to the original art and carries on with the wit she’s capable of, there’s no reason to believe current fans won’t be loyal and new fans won’t enjoy it as well,” he said of the change.

For the time being, fans are left to try to figure out what would have happened to the gang had they kept on aging.

Johnston did tie up some loose ends in that last strip, explaining that Michael, who nearly died a few years ago when he ran into a burning apartment to save the manuscript of his Great Canadian Novel (the comic strip is set in Johnston’s native Canada) has gone on to publish four books and sign a movie deal.

Ailing Grandpa Jim, she said, would live long enough to hold Elizabeth’s first baby before dying at age 89.

Barely able to speak after suffering a stroke, Jim still managed to think one of the strip’s better quips last month when, after seeing the bride and groom rush into his hospital room straight from their wedding, he declared their act “a classic case of hitch and run.”

Whether editors will embrace the strip or cut and run remains to be seen.

About 2 percent of the 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada that carry “For Better or For Worse,” canceled when Johnston changed things from a real-time serial to a daily comic set in a fixed time, Universal Press Syndicate spokeswoman Kathie Kerr said Wednesday.

For some of the newspapers that did, reaction was swift.

Kathy Lu, features editor at The Roanoke (Virginia) Times said about 100 people e-mailed or phoned over the next two days, most of them unhappy.

“It felt like we were just going to be doing the same thing over again, even though she said she was going to be drawing some new stories,” Lu said of deciding not to continue the strip.

It was an argument die-hard fans weren’t buying.

Although Johnston has said that from this point the strips will be about a 50-50 mix of “classic” repeats and what she calls “new-runs” that will be drawn in the old style and set in the previous time but involve new stories, one man told Lu he wouldn’t care if every strip was old.

“He said, ‘It’s like watching ‘(The) Andy Griffith (Show),’ ” she said of the 1960s sitcom still in reruns. “He said, ‘I watch that show over and over again.’ ”

In an interview she recently posted on YouTube, Johnston said she was aware of fans’ concerns and hoped they would “hang in there with me and see what I do because it’s never been done before.”

In recent years, she has talked of simply ending the strip when the time came or of handing it off to someone else. She indicated in the YouTube interview that splitting with her husband of more than 30 years last year prompted her to abandon those plans.

“I never thought I’d be single at this time in my life,” the 61-year-old artist said. “And with that in mind, I still want to work. I still want to keep my hand in it.”

Minor quake jolts Oakland, California

Minor quake jolts Oakland, California

SAN FRANCISCO, California (Expressyoureself) — A magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck east of Oakland, California, at around 9 p.m. ET Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The quake’s epicenter was about 10 miles (16 kilometers) below the surface, the USGS reported.

Residents said they felt a sharp jolt, saw plants sway and dishes rattle.

There were no initial reports of damage or injuries.

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