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Oliver Sacks, neurologist and popular author, dies at 82

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Oliver Sacks , the eminent neurologist and writer, has died at his home in New York City. He was 82.

The cause of death was cancer, Kate Edgar, his longtime personal assistant, told the New York Times, which had published an essay by Sacks in February revealing that an earlier melanoma in his eye had spread to his liver and that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer.

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The London-born academic, whose book Awakenings inspired the Oscar-nominated film of the same name, wrote: “A month ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out – a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver.”

Sacks was the author of several books about unusual medical conditions, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat and The Island of the Colourblind. Awakenings was based on his work with patients treated with a drug that woke them up after years in a catatonic state. The 1990 film version, starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, was nominated for three Oscars including best picture.

A figure of the arts as much as the sciences, Sacks counted among his friends WH Auden, Thom Gunn and Jonathan Miller. As tributes were paid, Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times writer, praised his ability to make connections across the disciplines.

She wrote: “[He] was a polymath and an ardent humanist, and whether he was writing about his patients, or his love of chemistry or the power of music, he leapfrogged among disciplines, shedding light on the strange and wonderful interconnectedness of life – the connections between science and art, physiology and psychology, the beauty and economy of the natural world and the magic of the human imagination.”

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Writing in the Guardian in May, author Lisa Appignanesi spoke of Sacks’s ability to transform his subjects into grand characters.

“For all their lacks and losses, or what the medics call ‘deficits’, Sacks’s subjects have a capacious 19th-century humanity, “ she wrote. “No mere objects of hasty clinical notes, or articles in professional journals, his “patients” are transformed by his interest, sympathetic gaze and ability to convey optimism in tragedy into grand characters who can transcend their conditions. They emerge as the very types of our neuroscientific age.”

Sacks was an avid chronicler of his own life. In his memoir, Uncle Tungsten, he wrote about his early boyhood, his medical family, and the chemical passions that fostered his love of science.

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He was sent away from London during wartime bombing and endured bullying at boarding school. Feeling “imprisoned and powerless”, he developed a passion for horses, skiing and motorbikes. He got his first motorbike when he was 18. On the Move, the second instalment in his memoir, pictured a youthful, leather-and-jean-clad Sacks astride a large motorbike, not unlike Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones.

Growing up, he witnessed the growing torment of his schizophrenic brother and his treatment with drugs. Appignanesi said the seeds of Sacks’s later affinity with patients undoubtedly in part lies in that experience.

The memoirs reveal that his mother said: “I wish you had never been born”, when she learned about his homosexuality. He writes of a few love affairs, his road trips and obsessional bodybuilding.

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Sacks had nearly 1,000 journals and more letters and clinical notes upon which to draw for his autobiography.

When he revealed that he had terminal cancer, Sacks quoted one of his favourite philosophers, David Hume. On discovering that he was mortally ill at 65, Hume wrote: “I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution. I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company.

“I am … a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.”

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WATCH: Boris Johnson booed off the stage in Luxembourg while trying to talk about Brexit

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was scheduled to hold a press conference in Luxembourg after talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

But according to Business Insider, Johnson was forced to scrap the press conference when he was greeted with a giant mass of booing protestors. Some of the demonstrators played Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," — a symbol of the European Union — and others shouted "We are the smiling piccaninnies of Luxembourg," referencing Johnson's racist remarks about black Africans.

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Justin Amash rips Trump for taking ‘orders’ from Saudi Arabia

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Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) blasted President Donald Trump for taking "orders" from Saudi Arabia as he threatened a military strike against Iran.

The Republican-turned-independent lawmaker called on Congress to determine what response was necessary to an alleged attack on oil production facilities in the Saudi Arabia, after the president warned the U.S. military was "locked and loaded" and awaiting further instruction from the kingdom.

"Under our Constitution, the power to commence war lies with Congress, not the president and certainly not Saudi Arabia," Amash tweeted. "We don’t take orders from foreign powers."

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Trump is all for preventing unintentional suicides — but not intentional homicides of Americans

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How revealing that just six deaths from vaping prompted Donald Trump to move Wednesday against e-cigarettes, while at least 276 deaths in massacres since he took office haven’t prompted any presidential move against assault rifles and other guns.

Even applying the twisted logic of the Second Amendment absolutists, Trump’s action is surprising since e-cigarettes don’t kill, people who vape kill.

Vapers kill only themselves, while people firing military-style assault rifles and other guns massacre innocents—school children, people at prayer in houses of worship, shoppers in malls and concert-goers.

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