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In passing

Ann Cottrell Free, 88, White House reporter

Washington Journalist Ann Cottrell Free, who spent her early career covering Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House and later became known as a defender of wildlife and the environment, died Saturday of pneumonia at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, said her daughter, Elissa Blake Free. She was 88.

After a stint at Newsweek’s New York headquarters, where her job was to clip newspapers for the magazine, Free was sent unexpectedly to Washington to join the newsmagazine’s bureau as its only female reporter.

She arrived in Washington at the beginning of the 1940s, eight years into Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency, and was assigned to cover the first lady. Free later worked for the Chicago Tribune and the New York Herald Tribune.

While she focused on Eleanor Roosevelt, Free also reported from the capital on the impact of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the declaration of World War II, military and home front mobilization, women in the armed forces and war factory production.

After the war, Free reported from overseas on special assignments for the United Nations and the Marshall Plan and with newspapers.

One of those assignments in the 1960s brought Free an interview with environmental writer Rachel Carson while she was writing her major work, “Silent Spring.” They became friends, and after Carson’s death, Free initiated in a national magazine a campaign for the establishment of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine.

Free wrote three books on preservation of the environment and wildlife and was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Medal, the Rachel Carson Legacy Award and other honors.

Richard Ragsdale, 69, abortion provider

Rockford, Ill. Dr. Richard Ragsdale, a well-known abortion provider who in the 1980s successfully challenged Illinois abortion laws that limited women’s access to the procedure, died Oct. 23 after a short illness, SwedishAmerican Hospital officials said. He was 69.

He spent more than three decades at the Northern Illinois Women’s Center, where he was the only abortion provider in the Rockford area. That position made him the target of many protests, and while he worried about his and his family’s safety, people who knew him said he wanted to keep the clinic open.

Because of his stance on abortion, protesters became a common sight at SwedishAmerican Hospital, where he had been an obstetrician and gynecologist on staff since 1987. His clinic was firebombed at least once.

In the 1980s, Ragsdale filed a lawsuit that claimed Illinois’ detailed abortion laws required doctors performing abortions to conduct their practices in buildings that in effect were hospitals.

A settlement established separate rules for two different kinds of abortion facilities. For women fewer than 18 weeks pregnant, abortions can be performed in clinics; those beyond that term require full-service surgical facilities.

Bill Liebowitz, 63, comic book seller

Los Angeles Bill Liebowitz, founder of a comic book store that has become a Los Angeles institution called Golden Apple Comics, died Wednesday, his wife said. He was 63.

Liebowitz spent his final days “watching his DVDs, the ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, and surrounded by his comics and music,” his wife said.

Liebowitz developed a love for pop culture while growing up in Brooklyn, New York. His hobbies included listening to doo-wop music and yo-yoing, which led to his winning the state yo-yo championship.

As an adult, Liebowitz worked as a certified public accountant and then went into real estate. He had been vice president of U.S. operations for Trizec Corp., a Canadian-based commercial real estate company, but walked away from the job when the pressure and taxing workdays didn’t fit his personality.

Liebowitz opened the offbeat Golden Apple store on Melrose Avenue in 1979 and profited from the comic boom of the next decade.

He often invited rock stars, wrestlers, adult film stars and comic book creators to in-store events that sometimes drew crowds of more than 1,000 people. When yo-yoing became popular again in the 1990s, he formed the Golden Apple Yo-Yo Corps and offered classes and exhibitions that brought in more foot traffic.

He opened a second store in the Northridge section of Los Angeles.


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Zimbabwe leader calls assassination attempt ‘cowardly act’

UPDATED: 8:14 p.m.

Zimbabwe’s president was unscathed Saturday by an explosion at a campaign rally that state media called an attempt to assassinate him, later visiting his two injured vice presidents and declaring the “cowardly act” will not disrupt next month’s historic elections.