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Meredith Dobes

Van Cliburn, famous Cold War pianist, dies at 78

Van Cliburn, 78, died this morning in his home in Fort Worth, Texas, most likely of causes related to his battle with bone cancer.

Cliburn was an American pianist who achieved overnight success after winning the 1958 Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow. Cliburn’s success at the competition was seen by many Americans and Russians as a major win over the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Cliburn achieved celebrity status because of his musicianship. He was trained at Julliard and won the Leventritt Foundation Award in 1954, which helped him earn performances with major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic. His signature piece was “Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concert No. 1,” which ultimately helped him get a recording contract with Columbia Artists.

Some believed that the Russians’ adoration of Cliburn signified that they also embraced and felt affection for America.

In a 2008 interview with the New York Times, Cliburn remembered the Russians as being similar to Texans.

In the same interview, Cliburn admitted that the pressure of his early fame got to him, as he played less and less by the 1960s until his retirement in 1978.

Cliburn began studying piano when he was 3 years old and was playing in recitals by the age of 4. After learning from his mother for many years, Cliburn accepted a scholarship to Julliard when he was 17, where he studied with Russian-born teacher Rosina Lhevinne.

Over the years, Cliburn performed at many competitions and concerts, taking his fame with him when he toured.

Cliburn lived a discreet homosexual life and was involved with Thomas Zaremba for 17 years. Cliburn is survived by Thomas Smith, whom he shared a home with before his death.

Cliburn’s last public appearance was in September when he spoke at a concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Van Cliburn Foundation.

Adam Strange killed by New Zealand shark attack

Adam Strange, a 46-year-old Australian filmmaker, was killed today when attacked by a shark about 650 feet from shore on a New Zealand beach. The original attack attracted the attention of at least three other sharks, and the animals had to be shot at multiple times to recover Strange’s body.

The Associated Press reports that Strange’s attack is one of a dozen shark attacks in New Zealand over the past 180 years.

Upon realizing that Strange was being attacked, police traveled to him in inflatable lifeboats and shot at the shark attacking Strange. Police estimate the shark was about 14 feet long.

Police Inspector Shawn Rutene said the shark disappeared after being shot at, and it is unclear whether the shark was killed or not.

Though the species of the sharks involved in the attack have not been released, it is reported that New Zealand is a habitat for great white sharks, though attacks are rare.

Strange’s family requested privacy during the time of their mourning, expressing their shock at the attack. At the time of Strange’s death, about 200 people were at the beach. The beach in question, Muriwai, and other nearby beaches are temporarily closed.

Shark attacks are reported to be rare occurrences. According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, 80 humans were attacked by sharks last year.

A witness, Pio Mose, told reporters he tried to help Strange and told Strange to swim to nearby rocks.

“All of a sudden there was blood everywhere,” he said. “I was shaking, scare, panicked. The water was red.”

Mose said he wanted to jump in to save Strange but was afraid he would be attacked, too.

'Cannibal cop' wrote about kidnapping, raping, cooking and eating women

“Cannibal cop” Gilberto Valle, a New York City police officer, is accused of plotting to kidnap, rape, kill and eat women he knew by talking with others on Internet chat rooms.

Valle, 28, talked with Aly Khan, a butcher in India, about his desires, saying he longed to commit these acts on females most of all. Khan offered Valle a place to take and kill women in Pakistan.

Valle is also charged with illegally accessing a government database to hunt for women to kill. Though no women were injured by Valle, he could face life in prison if he is convicted of the crimes he is charged with.

Valle wrote about his then-fiancé to Khan, saying he would offer her to Khan and that they could string her upside down, rape, torture and kill her.

The “cannibal cop” case did not seem to faze jurors, as reported by Mercury News. They sat stone-faced through the reading of the details Valle included in emails and instant messages expressing desire to use a victim’s severed head as a table centerpiece and wanting to eat a female human’s body parts.

Valle’s wife, Kathleen Mangan-Valle, fled the couple’s home in September after discovering that Valle spent hours on sexually violent websites dedicated to cannibalism and asphyxiation.

Women Valle targeted in his fantasies were called to testify at his trial and most had nothing bad to say about him, saying they never felt threatened by him during the times they knew him.

The alleged “cannibal cop’s” defense is mainly that the descriptions were just fantasy and were not actual conspiracy.

Simon Gagne traded back to Philadelphia Flyers

Simon Gagne, left wing, was traded by the Los Angeles Kings back to his former team, the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday for a conditional draft choice. This means the Kings will receive a third-round pick from the Flyers if the Flyers make playoffs or a fourth-round pick if they do not.

Gagne was not fitting in properly with the Kings, according to General Manager Dean Lombardi.

“That said, this is an NHL player that’s proven to play on a good team,” he said. “You don’t want to do this unless you feel fairly comfortable on what you have coming through the minors.”

The Kings didn’t play Gagne for four games straight. Gagne had no goals and five assists in 11 games, according to Yahoo! Sports. He had not played since Feb. 17 in Chicago.

“I’m happy to get that chance,” Gagne told RDS Network. “It was tough not to play. I’m going to a place I know well.”

Gagne, 32, did not play many games during his time with the Kings because of a concussion and injuries. During the height of his career, 10 seasons of which he spent with the Flyers, Gagne scored 47 goals with 32 assists in 72 games.

To get Gagne back, the Flyers had to give up a fourth-round pick, meaning his value has decreased over time.

Some fans believe it may help Gagne’s game for him to return to the team he spent most of his career with and that the Flyers will not be greatly affected by him rejoining the team.

Titanic II will aim to recreate original experience

The Titanic II will set sail in 2016, as plans were unveiled yesterday by Clive Palmer and the Blue Star Line, and it aims to give passengers the full original Titanic experience.

Palmer is dedicated to making the Titanic II an exact replica of the original Titanic, and the ship will make the same voyage as the original Titanic, from Southampton, England to New York. The Titanic II has the capacity for 2,600 passengers in 850 cabins and 900 crew members. It will have 18 lifeboats.

Palmer said the ship will be separated by first, second and third class. First class passengers will not be allowed to mingle with second and third class passengers and will have a gym, Turkish baths, a squash court, a grand staircase and swimming pools to their availability.

Included in the ticket fee are 1920s-era clothes meant to make passengers feel as though they are aboard the original ship or a part of the movie.

Palmer said he has already received offers up to $1 million from people wanting to be on the Titanic II’s first voyage. Ticket prices have not yet been announced.

Features of the Titanic II that were not quite part of the original ship will be: a modern hospital, a helicopter landing pad, air-conditioning, Internet access and thoroughly improved lifeboats at a quantity large enough to fit all of the ship’s passengers.

Palmer did not release what the cost of constructing and operating the Titanic II would be, saying that he could cover the cost and is focused on recreating the original ship to commemorate it.

Melissa King, Miss Delaware Teen USA, resigns in response to porn scandal

Melissa King, crowned Miss Delaware Teen USA in November, resigned her title yesterday after facing accusations that she appeared in a porn video released on an online website.

The website in question, which Gawker reports as GirlsDoPorn.com, claims Melissa King is the woman in the video and posted King’s Miss Delaware Teen USA picture next to the video. The woman in the video reportedly sounds and looks like King.

King, 18, repeatedly denied the claims in interviews, admitting that the woman in the video looks like her but is not her.

“There are comments saying this, however, it’s not comments that are true,” King told Delaware Online.

King’s attorney, J. Gregory Hannigan, said in an email to Delaware Online, “A statement will be issued, but not today. Thank you for your interest in Ms. King’s wellbeing.”

In the interview portion of the video, the woman said she has participated in beauty pageants, turned 18 in March, which is the month of King’s birthday, and wanted to make the video because it would be fun and a way to make money.

In the video, the man’s face is never shown.

The Miss Teen USA pageant is a part of the Miss Universe pageant, which has seen many sex scandals before. According to Delaware Online, in 2005, Miss Delaware USA, Sheena Benton, was allowed to keep her title after a record of her guilty plea for drunk driving in 2004 surfaced.

Miss Delaware Teen USA runner-up Hailey Lawler will take over King’s title in lieu of the resignation.

Oscar Pistorius released on bail after charged with premeditated murder

Oscar Pistorius, the London Olympic and Paralympic runner accused of premeditated murder for the Feb. 14 shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, was released on bail today.

Pistorius claims that he shot Steenkamp on accident because he believed she was an intruder in his home. He fired a shot into the bathroom stall adjacent to his bedroom before realizing Steenkamp was inside.

Prosecutors claim Pistorius shot Steenkamp in anger after an argument witnesses say the couple had. However, holes in their evidence involving ballistics results, cell phone records and fact checking led the judge to believe there was insufficient evidence to deny Pistorius bail.

For instance, prosecutors failed to contact Interpol about Pistorius’s flight risk. Also, police may have contaminated the crime scene, as they did not wear protective shoe coverings. The prosecution also said a substance in Pistorius’s home was testosterone, though it is still undergoing tests. They claimed Pistorius has a violent nature, but the judge was unconvinced by the incidences they cited, an accidental firing of a gun and alleged violent threats.

However, the judge recognized that Pistorius’s account of events is improbable and that more complete evidence needs to be presented.

Pistorius will need to pay a total of 1 million Rand for his bail, 100,000 of it was due at the time of his departure.

Steenkamp’s friend Vanessa Haywood told CNN of South Africa and Pistorius, “It’s not the safest place in the world. My own home is like a prison. His version of events isn’t as far-fetched as people think it is.”

Is ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, the world’s most powerful drug cartel leader, dead?

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the leader of Mexico’s largest drug cartel, was expected to be dead earlier today, as a body with a face similar to “El Chapo” Guzman’s was reported to be found after a shootout in Guatemala’s rural north.

After further investigation, Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla announced that soldiers and police responding to the accounts of citizens near the Mexican border could not find any sign of confrontation or of “El Chapo” Guzman.

The Associated Press also found no sign of a shootout or “El Chapo” Guzman but did find a military checkpoint in the area, known to be the territory of a rival cartel of Guzman’s, Mexico’s Zetas cartel.

“El Chapo” Guzman is reported to be in hiding since his 2001 escape from a Mexican prison. Guzman runs Mexico’s most powerful cartel, the Sinaloa cartel, and is one of the world’s most wanted fugitives.

Government officials gave conflicting reports to media networks, saying that two people had been killed in the reported conflict and then that there were no confirmed deaths. Government spokesman Francisco Cuevas has not stated why the government was led to believe a man killed was “El Chapo” Guzman.

“El Chapo” Guzman’s estimated worth is over $1 billion. He was named by Forbes as the 63rd most powerful person in the world. He is widely considered more powerful and dangerous than Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, who was shot by Medellin security forces in 1992.

“El Chapo” Guzman’s nickname means “shorty,” for his height. Chicago named Guzman public enemy number one.

National Margarita Day is no occasion to get salty

National Margarita Day, a holiday entirely devoted to America’s most popular cocktail, is today. Margaritas, drinks made of three simple ingredients: tequila, triple sec and lime juice, have been served since the 1940s.

National Margarita Day can be celebrated by purchasing the cheapest available ingredients, but there are a variety of pricier, more creative ways to spice the margarita up. In fact, mixologists suggest that the more expensive the brands, the better the margarita.

There are three different types of tequila: blanco, reposado and anejo. Blanco is referred to as silver tequila and is not aged. Reposado is aged in wood barrels for between two months and one year. Anejo has been aged for at least one year in oak barrels.

Each type of tequila offers its own unique flavor. The best brands of triple sec are advised as Cointreau and Grand Marnier. Mixologists suggest using fresh squeezed lime juice, as well.

If you are looking for a different way to celebrate National Margarita Day than just the basics, consider some recipes with different ingredients and flavors involved.

Depending on the flavor you want your margarita to take on, you can add strawberries, pineapple, jalapenos, orange juice (instead of lime juice), watermelon, mint, lemon or even beer.

However, for National Margarita Day celebrations on a budget, it might be best to stick to frozen lime juice, cheap tequila and bargain brand triple sec. And don’t forget the salt.

Drew Peterson convicted of first-degree murder, sentenced to 38 years

Drew Peterson, the high-profile ex-police officer from Illinois, was charged with firs-degree murder in his third and former wife Kathleen Savio’s 2004 drowning death. He was sentenced to 38 years in prison yesterday and was transferred this morning from the Will County jail to Stateville Correctional Center.

Peterson was the target of much media attention since the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, in 2007. Peterson was arrested in 2009 and held in solitary confinement due to his case’s high-profile nature.

During his last chance to speak before being sentenced, Peterson yelled to the courtroom, “I did not kill Kathleen!” upsetting Savio’s sister, Sue Doman, who yelled back, “Yes, you did!”

Doman was removed from the courtroom following her response, but Will County Circuit Judge Edward Burmila advised Peterson to refrain from saying things meant to directly agitate the victim’s family.

Peterson claimed that he was framed for Savio’s death and claimed that witnesses, prosecutors, police, Savio’s family, attorneys and the media all had it out for him.

“The state took an accident and staged a homicide,” he said.

Peterson said he believes he will die in prison. If he is not given a chance to appeal, he will be 93 years old before he can be released.

Defending his media appearances, Peterson said he responded to the situation he found himself in with humor. Peterson went on to directly address Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, asking him to look at his face and remember it for what Glasgow has done.

Glasgow responded to reporters later, saying that that was the first time he looked at Peterson or acknowledged his existence and thought, “You’re a cold-blooded murderer, and I’ll stare you down ‘til I die.”