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Thomas Menino, Boston’s Longest-Serving Mayor, Dies at 71

Thomas Menino, whose folksy manner and verbal gaffes belied his shrewd political tactics to govern as Boston’s longest-serving mayor and one of its most beloved, died Thursday. He was 71.

Spokeswoman Dot Joyce said in a statement that Menino died in the company of his family and friends. He was diagnosed with advanced cancer in February 2014, shortly after leaving office, and announced Oct. 23 he was suspending treatment and a book tour so he could spend more time with family and friends.

Menino was first elected in 1993 and built a formidable political machine that ended decades of Irish domination of city politics, at least temporarily. He won re-election four times. He was the city’s first Italian-American mayor and served in the office for more than 20 years before a series of health problems forced him, reluctantly, to eschew a bid for a sixth term.

“I can run, I can win and I can lead, but not in the neighborhoods all the time as I like,” Menino, a Democrat, told an overflow crowd at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall on March 28, 2013.

Less than three weeks after that announcement, two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260. Menino, who had undergone surgery on a broken leg just two days earlier, checked himself out of a hospital to help lead his shaken city through the crisis.

At an interfaith service three days after the bombings, Menino, in a symbolic act of personal defiance, painfully pulled himself to his feet from his wheelchair to declare that no act of violence could break Boston’s spirit.

He was in an SUV in nearby Watertown, Massachusetts, at the end of a daylong manhunt when Police Commissioner Edward Davis informed him that the surviving bombing suspect had been captured. Menino’s Tweet: “We got him.”

President Barack Obama hailed Menino as “bold, big-hearted, and Boston strong.” Reaction poured in from leaders around the country, including Secretary of State John Kerry, a longtime U.S. senator from Massachusetts, who said: “Tom Menino was Boston.”

Gov. Deval Patrick ordered flags lowered to half-staff at the Statehouse and all other state buildings in Boston until further notice.

Menino was anything but a smooth public speaker and was prone to verbal gaffes. He was widely quoted describing Boston’s notorious parking shortage as “an Alcatraz” around his neck, rather than an albatross.

He often mangled or mixed up the names of Boston sports heroes – once famously confusing former New England Patriots kicker and Super Bowl hero Adam Vinatieri with ex-Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. But while such mistakes might sink other politicians in a sports-crazed city, they only seemed to reinforce his affable personality and ability to connect with the residents he served.

“I’m Tom Menino. I’m not a fancy talker, but I get things done,” he said in his first TV ad.

In an interview with The Associated Press in March, Menino said he “loved every minute” of being mayor, even during the city’s darkest days. He credited his staff and others, downplaying his own role.

“I just did my job – nothing special,” he said.

Thomas Michael Menino was born on Dec. 27, 1942, in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood. A former insurance salesman, he caught the political bug while working as a legislative aide to state Sen. Joseph Timilty. He first earned elective office as a district city councilor in 1984.

Menino became the council’s president in 1993 and was automatically elevated to mayor when then-Mayor Raymond Flynn was named U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. While that prompted some to initially chide Menino as an “accidental mayor,” he quickly proved his own political mettle, winning a four-year term later that year.

He never sought nor showed interest in running for higher office. Mayor, it seemed, was the only political job to which he aspired.

His tireless public schedule amazed and exhausted many of his closest aides. In his new memoir, Mayor For A New America, he made clear that was his greatest legacy.

“I paid attention to the fundamentals of urban life – clean streets, public safety, good schools, neighborhood commerce,” Menino wrote in the memoir, released in October 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “Call my City Hall and you never got an answering machine. People trusted government because it heard them. Because they could talk to it. Because it kept its word.”

Menino’s health was often a concern, and he was admitted to the hospital several times while in office.

In 2003, he underwent surgery to remove a rare sarcoma on his back. The following year, his doctors confirmed he has been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease.

He spent six weeks in the hospital in 2012 for a series of ailments, including a respiratory infection. While he was in the hospital, he suffered a compression fracture in his spine and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

In May 2013, he was back in the hospital for surgery for an enlarged prostate.

Menino left City Hall on his final day in office Jan. 6 to thunderous applause from city workers. Later, he Tweeted: “Thank you Boston. It has been the honor and thrill of a lifetime to be your Mayor. Be as good to each other as you have been to me.”

In March 2014, Menino revealed in an interview with The Boston Globe he was battling an advanced form of cancer that had spread to his liver and lymph nodes. Doctors said they were unable to pinpoint where the cancer originated.

In a statement announcing he was stopping treatment to devote himself to his loved ones, Menino said he was “hopeful and optimistic that one day the talented researchers, doctors and medical professionals in this city will find a cure for this awful disease.”

Menino leaves behind his wife Angela, his children Susan and Thomas Jr., a Boston police officer, and six grandchildren.

See how his fellow politicians and Boston-born celebrities (like the men of New Kids on the Block) are remembering the iconic mayor on Twitter:

Source: Thomas Menino, Boston’s Longest-Serving Mayor, Dies at 71

Brittany Maynard Realizes a Final Wish, Visits Grand Canyon

Terminally Ill Brittany Maynard Visits Grand Canyon, Realizes a Final Wish

Brittany Maynard (third from left) and her family at the Grand Canyon

Courtesy Brittany Maynard

10/24/2014 AT 03:30 PM EDT

After being told she had about six months to live in April, Brittany Maynard, who has terminal brain cancer, has been quietly checking off items on her bucket list.

She and her husband, Dan Diaz, travelled to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming; she kayaked up to the glaciers in Alaska with her best friend, then met her mother, Debbie Ziegler, in Juneau, where they took “a spectacular boat trip,” Maynard, 29, says in a video posted online on Oct. 6.

“Before I pass, I’m hoping to make it to the Grand Canyon ’cause I’ve never been,” she says in the video, which she used to launch her campaign with Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life advocacy organization, to get Death with Dignity laws passed nationwide.

“It’s her last hurrah,” Ziegler, 56, told PEOPLE in a recent interview.

Brittany Maynard Realizes a Final Wish, Visits Grand Canyon| Health, Real People Stories

Brittany Maynard (left) with mom Debbie Ziegler

Courtesy Brittany Maynard

Earlier this week, that dream became a reality, Maynard said in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE.

“This week my family and I travelled to the Grand Canyon, thanks to the kindness of Americans around the country who came forward to make my ‘bucket list’ dream come true,” she wrote.

“The Canyon was breathtakingly beautiful and I was able to enjoy my time with the two things I love most: my family and nature,” she wrote.

Brittany Maynard Realizes a Final Wish, Visits Grand Canyon| Health, Real People Stories

Brittany Maynard with husband Dan Diaz

Courtesy Brittany Maynard

“Sadly, it is impossible to forget my cancer,” she wrote. “Severe headaches and neck pain are never far away, and unfortunately the next morning I had my worst seizure thus far. My speech was paralyzed for quite a while after I regained consciousness and the feeling of fatigue continued for the rest of the day.

“The seizure was a harsh reminder that my symptoms continue to worsen as the tumor runs its course,” she said in the statement.

“However, I find meaning and take pride that the Compassion & Choices movement is accelerating rapidly, thanks to supporters like you,” she continued.

“I ask that you please continue to support C&C’s state-by-state efforts to make death with dignity laws available to all Americans,” she wrote. “My dream is that every terminally ill American have access to the choice to die on their own terms with dignity.

“Please take an active role to make this a reality,” she wrote. “The person you’re helping may be someone you love, or even in the future, yourself.”

Maynard and her husband, mother and stepfather, Gary Holmes, moved to Oregon in June so she could get access to the state’s Death with Dignity Act.

She said she plans to end her own life on Nov. 1 if her suffering becomes too great.

Source: Brittany Maynard Realizes a Final Wish, Visits Grand Canyon

Brittany Maynard to Dr. Ira Byock: Quit Talking About Me

Brittany Maynard, death with dignity, Ira Byock

Brittany Maynard with her Great Dane, Charley

Courtesy Dan Diaz

10/23/2014 AT 07:05 PM EDT

Brittany Maynard is firing back at Dr. Ira Byock, a top palliative care physician and vocal opponent of right-to-die laws, for making public comments about her that she says are untrue.

“As a terminally ill patient, I find it disrespectful and disturbing when people discuss my personal health with details that are not accurate to push an agenda,” she wrote in a comment on the website for the Diane Rehm radio show, where Byock was scheduled to speak Thursday.

“I am Brittany Maynard and it concerns me that Dr. Ira Byock will speak on my ‘behalf’ at all again,” she wrote. “I watched a special on PBS where this same individual spoke about my case as though he knew personal details about me, saying some things that were quite frankly not true.”

On Oct. 6, Maynard launched a national online video campaign with Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life advocacy group, to fight for expanding Death with Dignity laws nationwide.

And in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, she said she planned to end her life on Nov. 1, due to her rapidly deteriorating health.

In the wake of all the publicity about her decision, Byock, chief medical officer of the Providence Institute for Human Caring in Torrance, California, has been making the rounds of various national television and radio shows.

“My heart goes out to Brittany Maynard,” Byock said on the PBS Newshour on Oct. 14. “But I want to assure people watching that she could get excellent whole-person care and be assured of dying gently in her bed surrounded by her family.” Not so, says Maynard.

“He said that a gentle death would be available to me easily through hospice,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, that would be after a great length of time, with lots of suffering (physical and emotional), and loss for my young body.”

And then there was this.

“Unfortunately, while not being coerced, she is being exploited by Compassion & Choices,” he said. “And I think that’s a tragedy. I worry what will happen if her life still feels worth living on Nov. 1. Will she then feel compelled to end her life in order to meet the public’s expectations?”

Maynard furiously denied she feels compelled to die now “based on public expectations.”

“I DO NOT,” she wrote. “This MY choice. I am not that weak. The day is my choice. I have the right to change my mind at any time. It is my right. I am very confident about this.”

Nor is she being exploited by Compassion & Choices, she says.

“I had gone through the entire process of moving, physician approval for DWD, and filled my prescription before I EVER even spoke to anyone at Compassion & Choices about volunteering and decided to share my story.”

Furthermore, “I am not depressed or suicidal or on a ‘slippery slope,’ ” she wrote. “I have been in charge of this choice, gaining control of a terrifying terminal disease through the application of my own humane logic.”

Byock did not respond to a request for comment but did address Maynard’s comments when asked about them by Diane Rehm.

“It’s personally hard for me to hear that I’ve caused this young woman more distress,” he said. But “I do in fact disagree with a number of the things she said.”

“One of the things I disagree with is that Brittany Maynard has just said again that she thinks it’s her personal choice,” he said. “But physician-assisted suicide is not a personal act. It’s a social act.”

Source: Brittany Maynard to Dr. Ira Byock: Quit Talking About Me

The Voice Battle Rounds: Alicia Keys a Puts Soul Spin on ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’

10/14/2014 AT 07:35 AM EDT

At first, Texas singer Luke Wade and his duet partner, known simply as Griffin, from Nashville, were having an awkward time rehearsing the Paul McCartney and Wings hit “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

But then their coach Pharrell Williams, with guidance from his team mentor Alicia Keys, lit an Aretha-inspired soul fire under the rock song, leading to an epic, competitive moment on The Voice as the Season 7 battle rounds kicked off Monday.

With each singer taking a verse, Wade went raw and bluesy, and then Griffin, a Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra fan, smoothed it on out. Their harmonies took on a spirit-filled revival tone that had Williams shaking his head at their power – and his tough choice.

Adam Levine and Blake Shelton were also blown away by the talent in both singers.

“I think Luke is the best singer in the competition. You have everything,” Levine praised, calling out Wade’s rasp and range. Noted Shelton: “Definitely one of the greatest battles we’ve ever had on this show.”

In the end, Williams kept Wade on his team, but not before noting that the runner-up would definitely be stolen. Quickly, Gwen Stefani hit her red button, followed soon by Shelton, as Griffin got a new life on the show.

Blake’s bid to steal Griffin seemed the most authentic, as he recalled Griffin’s performance of a Michael Bublé song during the blind auditions. “You occupy a space that nobody occupies on this show,” Shelton said. “I occupy my own space on this show. I think we have a connection.”

In the end, Griffin headed off to Team Blake. But Stefani was not outdone, surprising the other coaches as she stole veteran Nashville country singer Craig Wayne Boyd. He earned praise for his natural stage style after losing a sing-off on Pat Green’s 2003 hit “Wave on Wave” to more traditionalist country singer James David Carter.

“Craig, you’re so comfortable on stage. It’s not like you’re in a contest. You’re performing,” Stefani told Boyd, who came alive in his music.

The show opened strong with Elyjuh René offering up a magnificent version of Keys’s “If I Ain’t Got You” alongside veteran soul singer and Yale grad Maiya Sykes.

Both from Los Angeles, they each mined energetic, nuanced and stratospheric vocal runs that had the audience and judges rapt and a pleased Williams declaring that “my team is magical.”

“That was unbelievable,” noted Stefani, who described the pair’s vocal connection as “like LEGO.”

In the end, Williams chose René, the braces-wearing teen, who cried at his big win. “You just have this ethereal quality that I want to know more about,” Levine told him.

Shelton offered high praise to both singers: “I felt like I had a front-row seat at some awesome Grammy moment watching you perform that. It was great.”

Also moving on in the battle rounds were Chris Jamison for Team Adam and Taylor John Williams and Sugar Joans for Team Gwen.

Team Pharrell beat out Levine to pick up Joans’s battle-round competitor, Jean Kelley of Atlanta, whose sing-off was among the tightest contests of the night. He called her singing on Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” “really special.”

The battle rounds continue Tuesday at 8/7c on NBC.

Source: The Voice Battle Rounds: Alicia Keys a Puts Soul Spin on ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’