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September 10, 2015

Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash in Boston

Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash in Boston

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

The US federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday concluded a “series of errors” by flight crew caused a business jet crash near Boston, Massachusetts last year. Seven were killed when the Gulfstream IV overran a runway.

Cquote1.svg I can’t stop it Cquote2.svg

—Pilot de Vries, seconds from impact

The NTSB found the pilots failed to conduct preflight checks, mistakenly took off with flight control systems locked in position, and then failed to abort takeoff until too late. Manufacturer Gulfstream was criticised for an inadequate safety system; the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was accused of failing to properly check the system before certifying the aircraft.

On the evening of May 31 the passengers and crew were returning from Hanscom Field to Atlanta International Airport. Pilot Bauke “Mike” de Vries and co-pilot James McDowell each had thousands of hours’ experience, and had flown together for years. They skipped over preflight checks; the NTSB found this was routine for the pair.

The plane set off with the gust lock engaged. This system, which is intended to be disconnected before engine startup, locks various flight control surfaces in position on the ground. Unable to takeoff, it overshot the runway, crashing through airport equipment and a fence, before landing in a watery ravine and bursting into flames. Nobody survived.

A US Government Gulstream IV, from file.
Image: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

De Vries says several times “lock is on” on the voice recording, adding “I can’t stop it” moments before the crash. Gulfstream had installed a mechanism to prevent the throttle fully moving when gust lock was engaged, to give pilots a clear early warning something was amiss.

The NTSB found the throttle could still be pushed far enough to reach takeoff speed. The FAA had certified the system based on technical drawings. The NTSB said the FAA process was “inadequate” because there were no “engineering certification tests or analysis[…] to verify that the system had met its regulatory requirements.” Gulfstream say they are working with the FAA to rectify the issue.

The NTSB says it took ten seconds from noticing the problem before the crew began braking and another four seconds to power down the engines. The NTSB believes doing both within eleven seconds would have brought the flight to a halt on the runway.

The lock was applied upon landing six hours earlier. The flight was carrying four passengers, including entrepreneur and philanthropist Lewis Katz, back from a fundraiser. The seventh fatality was a flight attendant. Katz had co-engineered an $88 million takeover deal for the Philadelphia Inquirer four days earlier.

The Katz family later sold his stake in the paper to a business partner. Katz had hoped to boost the paper’s reputation.

“Complacency does not have a place in the cockpit of any aircraft”, NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said. The probe found skipped checks on 98% of the prior 175 flights the pilots undertook together. “If you’re acting that way, you are just fooling yourself,” said NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, who has 32 years of commercial flight experience.


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Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash near Boston

Investigators blame pilot error for deadly jet crash near Boston

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

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The US federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday concluded a “series of errors” by flight crew caused a business jet crash near Boston, Massachusetts last year. Seven were killed when the Gulfstream IV overran a runway.

Cquote1.svg I can’t stop it Cquote2.svg

—Pilot de Vries, seconds from impact

The NTSB found the pilots failed to conduct preflight checks, mistakenly took off with flight control systems locked in position, and then failed to abort takeoff until too late. Manufacturer Gulfstream was criticised for an inadequate safety system; the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was accused of failing to properly check the system before certifying the aircraft.

On the evening of May 31 the passengers and crew were returning from Hanscom Field to Atlanta International Airport. Pilot Bauke “Mike” de Vries and co-pilot James McDowell each had thousands of hours’ experience, and had flown together for years. They skipped over preflight checks; the NTSB found this was routine for the pair.

The plane set off with the gust lock engaged. This system, which is intended to be disconnected before engine startup, locks various flight control surfaces in position on the ground. Unable to takeoff, it overshot the runway, crashing through airport equipment and a fence, before landing in a watery ravine and bursting into flames. Nobody survived.

A US Government Gulstream IV, from file.
Image: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

De Vries says several times “lock is on” on the voice recording, adding “I can’t stop it” moments before the crash. Gulfstream had installed a mechanism to prevent the throttle fully moving when gust lock was engaged, to give pilots a clear early warning something was amiss.

The NTSB found the throttle could still be pushed far enough to reach takeoff speed. The FAA had certified the system based on technical drawings. The NTSB said the FAA process was “inadequate” because there were no “engineering certification tests or analysis[…] to verify that the system had met its regulatory requirements.” Gulfstream say they are working with the FAA to rectify the issue.

The NTSB says it took ten seconds from noticing the problem before the crew began braking and another four seconds to power down the engines. The NTSB believes doing both within eleven seconds would have brought the flight to a halt on the runway.

The lock was applied upon landing six hours earlier. The flight was carrying four passengers, including entrepreneur and philanthropist Lewis Katz, back from a fundraiser. The seventh fatality was a flight attendant. Katz had co-engineered an $88 million takeover deal for the Philadelphia Inquirer four days earlier.

The Katz family later sold his stake in the paper to a business partner. Katz had hoped to boost the paper’s reputation.

“Complacency does not have a place in the cockpit of any aircraft”, NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said. The probe found skipped checks on 98% of the prior 175 flights the pilots undertook together. “If you’re acting that way, you are just fooling yourself,” said NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, who has 32 years of commercial flight experience.


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April 9, 2015

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev found guilty in Boston Marathon bombing trial

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev found guilty in Boston Marathon bombing trial

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

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The aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Image: Aaron Tang.

Jurors in the US federal criminal trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev found him guilty yesterday of all 30 charges for the bombing of the Boston Marathon which occurred on April 15, 2013. The bombings killed three people and injured a further 264 people. Tsarnaev was also found guilty of shooting dead Sean Collier, an MIT police officer. The jury took eleven hours across two days to find Tsarnaev guilty.

During the fifteen days of the trial, the prosecutors called 92 witnesses to testify as to the chaotic scenes following the bombing. The father of Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy killed in the bombing, said he had to make the difficult choice to leave his wounded son to die so he could get help for his six-year-old daughter whose leg had been destroyed in the blast. Footage presented in court showed Tsarnaev placing a backpack containing the bomb close to the location of Martin Richard.

Tsarnaev was represented by Judy Clarke, a death penalty specialist who previously represented Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber”. The defence focused on averting the death penalty, and called only four witnesses, seeking to present Tsarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan as the guiding force in the attack. They said that Tamerlan searched online for terms like “detonator” and that while Tamerlan’s fingerprints were found on the bombs, Dzhokhar’s were not.

Though Massachusetts does not have the death penalty, as the case is being heard in federal court the prosecutors are able to seek the death penalty. The second phase of the trial is to decide whether or not Tsarnaev will be executed or sentenced to life in prison.



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January 2, 2014

Early reports indicate massive blizzard to strike northeastern portions of US late Thursday

Early reports indicate massive blizzard to strike northeastern portions of US late Thursday

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

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File photo of a commuter train in Boston during a snow storm.

Early media reports today indicate experts are predicting a massive blizzard to hit the northeastern United States late this evening. Such storms, coloquially called “Nor’easters“, often wreak havoc across cities and smaller towns. The storm itself may ultimately stretch across 22 states, potentially effecting about one-third of the country’s population.

The city of New York came under a winter storm warning late yesterday evening, with nine inches of snow predicted to fall. Sources also indicate Long Island may experience wind chills as severe as 10 below zero Fahrenheit (about 23 below zero Celsius). Boston schools were reportedly closed for tomorrow, though the press secretary for Boston’s mayor had earlier, regarding braving cold weather, described New Englanders as “hardy”.

By 2pm today Chicago O’Hare airport had experienced 592 flight cancellations. Many homeless shelters across the Northeast region are expected to be filled to capacity or beyond. Weather officials have speculated that next week, parts of Wisconsin could experience the coldest temperatures in nearly seventeen years, since February 1996.



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January 14, 2013

Healthcare workers, public officials struggle to address Influenza outbreak across much of U.S.

Healthcare workers, public officials struggle to address influenza outbreak across much of U.S.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

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The influenza virus under an electron microscope.
Image: CDC.

Physicians and others are struggling to address a growing outbreak of influenza affecting a large portion of the United States. Earlier this week, the Mayor of Boston declared a “flu emergency” for the city, as 700 cases of the virus were reported.

Public officials in Texas have urged citizens to receive a flu shot. The state’s public health Commissioner said in a press release, “The best thing people can do to protect themselves is to get a dose of flu vaccine now.” Doctors are telling citizens to wash their hands, get a flu shot and avoid sick people if possible to lessen chances of catching the virus. However, a report released on Friday noted that 7.3% of deaths last week were a result of pneumonia and the flu.

A total of 20 children in the United States have died during this flu season from flu-related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control reports nine out of 10 regions in the United States had “elevated” flu activity. These data indicate that seasonal flu has spread and reached high levels several weeks before the usual time of late January or February. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state-wide public health emergency on Saturday. He also issued an executive order which allows pharmacists to administer flu vaccinations to patients between six months and 18 years of age.



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January 13, 2013

FAA orders review of Boeing 787 Dreamliners following week of incidents

FAA orders review of Boeing 787 Dreamliners following week of incidents

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

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A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner sits idle on the tarmac at Boston’s Logan International Airport following a electrical fire on board.
Image: Patrick Mannion.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered a review Friday into the design and manufacture of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, following five incidents in five days involving the aircraft and two Japanese airlines.

On Monday, an electrical fire broke out aboard a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston’s Logan International Airport, when a battery pack which powers the auxiliary power unit, for when the plane is on the ground, caught fire. The fire was discovered by maintenance workers after passengers and crew disembarked following their flight from Tokyo’s Narita Airport.

The next day, a separate Japan Airlines 787, also at Logan International Airport, heading to Tokyo, suffered a fuel leak that spilled around 40 gallons, which was spotted by the crew of the aircraft taxiing behind them. “That Japan Air may know it, but they’ve got fuel or something spilling out the outboard left wing. Quite a bit,” said the pilot of aircraft behind them on local air traffic control frequencies.

Wednesday, in Japan, an All Nippon Airways 787, the launch customer for the aircraft, cancelled a flight after a brake problem was reported.

Earlier Friday, two All Nippon Airways suffered separate incidents in Japan. An oil leak was noticed in the engine after one aircraft had landed in Miyazaki, coming from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Another flight, flying between Haneda Airport and Matsuyama said the pilot’s side window in the cockpit suffered a crack.

The FAA in a statement said “In light of a series of recent events, the FAA will conduct a comprehensive review of the Boeing 787 critical systems, including the design, manufacture and assembly.” Further adding, “The purpose of the review is to validate the work conducted during the certification process and further ensure that the aircraft meets the FAA’s high level of safety.”

According to the statement, “The review will also examine how the electrical and mechanical systems interact with each other.” The Boeing 787 relies more on electrical, as opposed to mechanical, systems than past aircraft from the manufacturer including having electronics operate hydraulic pumps and using electric brakes. Large portions of the plane’s structure use lightweight carbon fiber composite instead of more traditional metal airframe.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “The safety of the traveling public is our top priority […] This review will help us look at the root causes and do everything we can to safeguard against similar events in the future.”

“We are confident that the aircraft is safe. But we need to have a complete understanding of what is happening,” said newly sworn-in FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. “We are conducting the review to further ensure that the aircraft meets our high safety standards.”

Boeing released a statement saying, “[The company] is confident in the design and performance of the 787. It is a safe and efficient airplane. The airplane has logged 50,000 hours of flight and there are more than 150 flights occurring daily.”



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August 1, 2012

Restaurant chain Chick-Fil-A criticized for political and religious views, supporters of chain fight back

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Supporters in Port Charlotte, Florida participating in Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day

After coming under fire from LGBT organizations and supporters of gay rights, and being threatened with bans in the major U.S. cities of San Fransisco, Chicago, and Boston, supporters of the chain are making it a point to patronize the company today, August 1st, to show their support. Many Chick-Fil-A restaurants around the nation are crowded with lines circling the building at stand alone locations, and filling food courts at mall locations. Customers at Chick-Fil-A restaurants are waiting in lines for about an hour, or longer at some locations, just to show their support.

Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day was invented by Mike Huckabee to “affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we (conservative Christians) espouse.” In addition to support from the religious right, the company is also being supported by supporters of free speech, liberal pendants, and legal experts. The ACLU calls the company’s opposition to gay marriage “bigoted,” but opposes cities’ refusal to grant building permits to the company on the basis of the company’s views, calling such a refusal a violation of the first ammendment. The LA Times says “We disagree heartily with Cathy, but are far more troubled by the reaction of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who vowed to block Chick-fil-A’s effort to open an outlet in that city.” New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg has also expressed his disagreement with the other cities’ mayors refusal to permit Chick-Fil-A restaurants to be built in their cities.

Of course, it’s not just supporters gathering at the restaurants today; protesters have also gathered at the restaurants holding signs to show their opposition to the company’s position. The opposition to Chick-Fil-A is a result of the company’s supporting of organizations such as the WinShape Foundation and the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which oppose gay marriage, and are considered by some to be homophobic, and statements made to The Baptist Press by the company’s CEO, Dan Cathy. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” said Mr. Cathy. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.” Student groups at some universities have formed grassroots movements to boycott Chick-Fil-A for their opposition to gay marriage. The manufacturer of the company’s kids’ meal toys severed it’s relationship with the company in light of the company’s position on gay marriage.

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May 18, 2012

Disco diva Donna Summer dies at 63

Disco diva Donna Summer dies at 63 – Wikinews, the free news source

Disco diva Donna Summer dies at 63

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Friday, May 18, 2012

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Donna Summer performing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2009.
Image: Harry Wad.

US disco singer Donna Summer died Thursday aged 63 in Key West, Florida, following a struggle with lung cancer. During her career, Summer won five Grammy Awards and had nineteen number one singles in the US charts.

Summer’s family gave the following statement: “Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.”

Her first hit was the 1975 track Love To Love You Baby, which was banned by the BBC.

The 1977 Giorgio Moroder-produced single I Feel Love pioneered the use of synthesisers. Brian Eno told David Bowie upon hearing the song, “I’ve heard the sound of the future”.

After disco’s popularity wound down, Summer moved across genres, with the 1979 song Hot Stuff earning her a Grammy Award for best rock vocal performance. She said of this: “I am actually the first woman — not black woman — but woman, period, to get a rock-and-roll Grammy”.

Donna Summer also appeared in the 1979 movie Thank God It’s Friday, and her performance of the song Last Dance earned her an Academy Award for best song.

Her popularity in the gay community was threatened in the 1980s after it was reported that she had made anti-gay remarks at a concert, specifically that “AIDS is the result of your sins”. In 1989, she told the gay magazine The Advocate that she did not make the statements she was reported to have made, and expressed regret at the loss of friends to AIDS: “I never said, ‘If you are gay, God hates you.’ Come on. Be real. I don’t understand that. Anybody who really knows me knows I wouldn’t say that.”

Summer was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1948 as LaDonna Adrian Gaines. She learned she could sing in her church’s gospel choir and then in musicals. In 1973, she married an actor she had met in Austria, Helmuth Sommer, from whom she gets the name “Summer”. Before her divorce in 1975, Summer gave birth to Mimi Summer. Five years later, she remarried to Bruce Sudano, a musician, who fathered two daughters, Brooklyn and Amanda.



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March 25, 2012

Web startup Sqoot loses sponsorship after failed advert deemed sexist by social media

Web startup Sqoot loses sponsorship after failed advert deemed sexist by social media

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

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An excerpt of the advertisement tweeted by Sqoot. Red circles added for emphasis.

Within 24-hours of posting a web advertisement for an upcoming hackathon in Boston, Massachusetts, web startup Sqoot has lost four sponsors for the event, in what has been described as the “worst startup PR crisis in recent history.” This caused them to postpone the event and apologize in response to thousands of tweets that opposed the advert and found its content sexist.

On March 20, Sqoot, an API provider that delivers daily deals like Groupon and Gilt City, posted an online advert for their upcoming Boston API Jam. The advert promoted various perks for the event, including an in-house DJ, cocktails, food trucks and access to women: women specifically there to serve beer to attendees. As soon as the ad was posted to Eventbrite, many on Twitter expressed concern. Over 3,000 tweets later, the advert was deemed sexist by many and Twitter users both condemned Sqoot and contacted the sponsors of the event. The ad, which Alex Williams of SiliconANGLE described as “bizarre” and “misogynist,” was quietly changed on Eventbrite by Sqoot, removing the mention of women as beer peddlers.

In a matter of hours, four sponsors had pulled out from the Boston event: CloudMine, Apigee, Heroku, and MongoHQ. Shortly thereafter, Sqoot offered two apologies: a brief apology which was then followed by a more detailed apology stating that they desired to have a “good party” that was not a standard hackathon experience of pizza and keynote speakers. Sqoot stated that they “aimed to call attention to the male-dominated tech world through humor and intended to be inclusive, the gravity of our wording was just the opposite. Our words completely undermined our intentions and went further to harm the world we’re trying to have a positive impact on.” Other sponsors such as Constant Contact and Simple Relevance remained as sponsors.

Shanley Kane, director of product management at Basho Technologies, supported the sponsor withdrawal and didn’t just consider the advertisement sexist, but also homophobic by ostracizing gay men by promoting a seemingly “straight” agenda for the event. Kane also believed that Sqoot had the “false assumption that women would not attend the event at all,” by promoting it with a male targeted spin. In an industry that is dominated by men, it can be assumed that more men would attend the hackathon than women, but, the advertisement ostracized women even more from attending. And this wasn’t Sqoot’s first foray into straight male targeted marketing. Blog posts like “Sqoot Makes You Yelp!” featuring the Yelp logo on a woman’s backside and “Sqoot Goes Topless” featuring an image of a topless woman, are meant to promote the opening of Yelp’s API and company transparency.

Alex Williams believes that the Sqoot situation shows that sexism within the tech industry is broad and growing. “Women are marginalized and treated more as objects than as colleagues. The trend is a disturbing one and poses a serious threat to the health and diversity of the tech sector.” Techli’s Kathryn Hough chocked it up to immaturity, “Someone needs to tell young founders that frat house behavior is not acceptable in the business world. If Sqoot’s business collapses for a few sentences of sexist copy, I hope that other young founders get to see the wreckage before following them off the plank.”

Lukas Blakk, a release engineer and advisory board member for The Ada Initiative, a non-profit that tries to increase female participation in technology and open source, believes that having a code of conduct in place is a necessity for businesses, and for those businesses who don’t “you’ve got a ticking time bomb in your organization’s future.” Social media is giving businesses a new challenge when it comes to marketing. When it comes to the criticism fielded by the public towards businesses regarding sexist content, fellow Ada Initiative board member and database analyst Selena Deckelmann agrees that businesses need to step up to the challenge and respond appropriately. “…companies need to develop the skills necessary to respond with grace and understanding, even when under intense, negative scrutiny. Silencing, gas-lighting and ignoring the messenger tactics no longer work when a social network quickly spreads information, and occasionally, outrage.”

Is there a future for Sqoot? Mike Maney believes Sqoot can recover. Maney, head of influencer management for Alcatel-Lucent, acknowledges that Sqoot will have a long way to go to regain their credibility amongst the tech industry and the clientele they serve, “But, the work they’ll have to do to undo the self-inflicted damage […] is going to require a massive effort.”



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June 21, 2011

Soviet human rights activist Yelena Bonner dies aged 88

Soviet human rights activist Yelena Bonner dies aged 88

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

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Yelena Bonner (left), Andrei Sakharov and Sofiya Kalistratova in Moscow, 1977.

Soviet human rights activist Yelena Bonner died of heart failure in Boston, Massachusetts on Saturday at the age of 88, her daughter Tatiana Yankelevich said in a statement. She had been hospitalized since February 21.

Bonner gained fame by smuggling the papers of her late husband, the nuclear physicist and Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov, out of Siberia and was prominent in her own right for her human rights activism.

Leaders and politicians paid Bonner tribute. “The world has lost one of the most inspiring and dedicated human rights defenders,” said Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament.

Cquote1.svg The world has lost one of the most inspiring and dedicated human rights defenders. Cquote2.svg

Jerzy Buzek, President European Parliament

Bonner was born in Turkmenistan February 15, 1923 to a family of Communist Party officials; her father was later killed and her mother sent to a gulag in Joseph Stalin‘s purges of the late 1930s.

In 1941, she became a nurse for the Soviet military on the front during World War II. She suffered a severe wound to the chest, and serious head injuries in 1943 from which she nearly lost her sight, and received decorations for valor. Bonner returned to the front in 1945, advancing with the army to Potsdam. While studying medicine when the war was over, she married a fellow student, Ivan Semyonov and they had a son and a daughter. But as she became increasingly politically active, they lost their common interests and divorced in 1965.

She was an active Soviet dissident in the 1970s, and a leader of a group that monitored Soviet compliance with the Helsinki Accords. The Washington Post describes her at this time as “[h]eadstrong and sharp-tongued with a no-nonsense voice deepened by years of chain-smoking acrid Russian cigarettes”.

Bonner married Sakharov in 1972, whom she had met through her political activities. He was also fierce critic of the lack of civil liberties and human rights in the Soviet Union, and their tiny Moscow apartment became the meeting place for the Soviet dissident movement in the 1970s. They traveled around Russia together visiting imprisoned dissidents and working for their legal rights.

When Sakharov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, she traveled to Oslo to receive it on his behalf as Soviet authorities refused to allow her husband to leave the country.

Cquote1.svg We note with profound sadness the death of Yelena Bonner, an extraordinary voice among human rights defenders in the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. Cquote2.svg

—Victoria Nuland, U.S. State Department

Sakharove was arrested in 1980 and exiled to Siberia, and Bonner, Sakharove’s sole contact with the outside world, smuggled his writings to Moscow and ensured that they were published. Soviet authorities conducted campaigns of personal attacks against her, accusing her of being a foreign agent who turned Sakharove against his country. In 1984 she was convicted of “anti-Soviet agitation” and was exiled to Siberia with her husband, both continually harassed by authorities. She published her memoir in 1986 of the years in exile, described by the Washington Post as partly “a love story of mutual sacrifice.”

In 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the Sakharoves to return to Moscow where they continued to agitate for human rights and were constantly harassed for their activities.

When the Soviet Union collapsed two years after Sakharov’s death in 1989, Bonner continued her human rights and political activities. She initially supported President Boris Yeltsin‘s government and served on his state human rights commission, but became critical of his government at the beginning of the war in Chechnya. She was also critical of Yeltin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, and was the first person to sign a petition against him in March 2010.

As her health deteriorated, she became less active, and she moved to the United States to be with her daughter.

Bonner received the Rafto Prize in 1991 for her promotion of human rights in the former Soviet Union and in contemporary Russia. She published at least four books and edited her husband’s memoirs which were published in 1997.

U.S. State Department‘s spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a statement: “We note with profound sadness the death of Yelena Bonner, an extraordinary voice among human rights defenders in the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.”



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