Hans Beck, the designer of the ubiquitous Playmobil figures -- little plastic people who can fit into a child's fist -- died on Jan. 30 in a German hospital after a long illness. He was 79.

Beck was the original designer and, for 24 years until he retired in 1998, head of research and development for Playmobil (pronounced playmoBEEL).

At precisely 2.9 inches high, the figures have moveable arms and legs, bendable waists and hands that can grasp a pirate's sword, a carpenter's saw or a firefighter's hose. Approximately 2.2 billion Playmobil figures have been sold worldwide since they were introduced in 1974.

Beck was born in Thuringia, Germany, on May 6, 1929, the eldest of nine children. He worked as a cabinetmaker before becoming a toymaker.

Blossom Dearie, the jazz pixie with a little-girl voice and pageboy haircut who was a fixture in New York and London nightclubs for decades, died on Saturday at her apartment in Greenwich Village. She was 82.

She died in her sleep of natural causes, said her manager. Her last public appearances, in 2006, were at her regular Midtown Manhattan stomping ground, the now defunct Danny's Skylight Room.

A singer, pianist and songwriter with an independent spirit who zealously guarded her privacy, Dearie pursued a singular career that blurred the line between jazz and cabaret. An interpretive minimalist with caviar taste in songs and musicians, she was a genre unto herself. Her cheery style influenced many younger jazz and cabaret singers.

Xiangzhong (Jerry) Yang, a stem cell scientist who successfully cloned the first farm animal in the United States, died Thursday. He was 49.

Yang, director of the Center for Regenerative Biology at the University of Connecticut, died in Boston after a long battle with cancer.

In 1999, Yang put UConn on the world's scientific map when a Holstein named Amy was born in Storrs. She was the first U.S. cloned farm animal. The world's first cloned animal was Dolly the sheep, born in 1996 in Scotland.

Milton Parker, 90, longtime owner of New York's famous Carnegie Deli, died Friday of respiratory problems.

His family says nothing will change at the legendary Theater District deli where Woody Allen filmed scenes for "Broadway Danny Rose."