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Bangladesh's figurehead president dies at 84

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 12:21 a.m.
FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2009 file photo, Bangladesh's President Zillur Rahman gives an honorary doctorate of Law to visiting Turkish President Abdullah Gul, unseen, during a special convocation at Dhaka University in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Bangladesh's figurehead president has died at a hospital in Singapore. He was 84. The office of President Zillur Rahman says he died late Wednesday afternoon, March 20, 2013 Bangladesh time. (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman, File)

Zillur Rahman

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh's figurehead president, Zillur Rahman, died on Wednesday in a hospital in Singapore. He was 84.

Rahman was a top leader of the ruling Awami League party before Parliament elected him president in 2009.

He was flown to Singapore's Mt. Elizabeth Hospital on March 10 for treatment of respiratory problems. His body will be flown back to Dhaka on Thursday, the president's office said.

The government declared three days of mourning starting on Thursday.

Rahman's death does not affect the government since Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy, with the prime minister holding executive powers.

The president's office said parliamentary speaker Abdul Hamid will be acting president until the legislature elects a president.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina offered her condolences and described Rahman as a patriotic leader.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the late president “made important contributions to the country's democratic transition throughout his political life,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

James Herbert

LONDON — He was a “Grand Master” of horror, and rats were one of his specialties.

British horror writer James Herbert, whose best-selling spine-tinglers included “The Rats” and “The Fog,” has died at 69.

Herbert's publisher, Pan Macmillan, said he passed away on Wednesday in his home in Sussex, southern England. It did not disclose the cause.

His first novel, “The Rats” — which depicted London being overrun by mutant flesh-eating rodents — took 10 months to complete and was published in 1974. It sold 100,000 copies in three weeks and was turned into a film.

He went on to write 23 novels, selling 54 million copies around the world.

Most recent bestsellers included “Nobody True” and “The Secret of Crickley Hall,” which was turned into a three-part series for BBC television that aired in December.

Jeremy Trevathan, Herbert's editor for 10 years at Macmillan, said Herbert had the “rare distinction” of seeing his novels deemed classics of the horror genre within his lifetime.

“It's a true testament to his writing and his enduring creativity that his books continued to be huge bestsellers right up until his death,” Trevathan said in a statement. “His death marks the passing of one of the giants of popular fiction in the 20th century.”

In 2010, Herbert was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE, by Queen Elizabeth II and “Grand Master of Horror” by the World of Horror Convention.

Helen Kutsher

MONTICELLO, N.Y. — Helen Kutsher, matriarch of the family that ran one of the last of the big resorts in upstate New York's “Borscht Belt,” has died at 89.

Family members say Kutsher passed away on Tuesday of natural causes in a hospital in Philadelphia, where she lived for several years.

Kutsher's was one of the most famous big hotels in the Catskills in the days when the region attracted largely Jewish families who drove north from New York City to escape the summer heat.

In its heyday, Kutsher's was known for serving up big meals and attracting entertainers such as Mel Brooks and Milton Berle. It was the sort of big, bustling resort portrayed in the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing.”

— From wire reports

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