Monday, December 18, 2017

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit is a Revealing Portrait of #RFK from @HardballChris

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, is a revealing new portrait of Robert F. Kennedy that gets closer to the man than any book before, by bestselling author Chris Matthews, an esteemed Kennedy expert and anchor of MSNBC’s Hardball.

With his bestselling biography Jack Kennedy, Chris Matthews shared a new look of one of America’s most beloved Presidents and the patriotic spirit that defined him. Now, with Bobby Kennedy, Matthews returns with a gripping, in-depth, behind-the-scenes portrait of one of the great figures of the American twentieth century.

Overlooked by his father, and overshadowed by his war-hero brother, Bobby Kennedy was the perpetual underdog. When he had the chance to become a naval officer like Jack, Bobby turned it down, choosing instead to join the Navy as a common sailor. It was a life changing experience that led him to connect with voters from all walks of life: young or old, black or white, rich or poor. They were the people who turned out for him in his 1968 campaign. RFK would prove himself to be the rarest of politicians—both a pragmatist who knew how to get the job done and an unwavering idealist who could inspire millions.

Drawing on extensive research and interviews, Matthews pulls back the curtain on the public and private worlds of Robert Francis Kennedy. He shines a light on all the important moments of his life, from his early years and his start in politics to his crucial role as attorney general in his brother’s administration and his tragic run for president. This definitive book brings Bobby Kennedy to life like never before and is destined to become a political classic.

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit.

Friday, December 15, 2017

"Where's the Beef? History Tour at the @ChicagoMuseum

Get to know the history of meatpacking in Chicago with volunteer gallery interpreter Mike Johnson on this 30-minute tour of the Chicago History Museum's permanent exhibition Chicago: Crossroads of America.

Chicago History Highlights Tour:
"Where's the Beef?"
Monday, December 18 | 1:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend

At the height of Prohibition, Al Capone loomed large as Public Enemy Number One: his multimillion-dollar Chicago Outfit dominated organized crime, and law enforcement was powerless to stop him. But then came the fall: a legal noose tightened by the FBI, a conviction on tax evasion, a stint in Alcatraz. After his release, he returned to his family in Miami a much diminished man, living quietly until the ravages of his neurosyphilis took their final toll.

Our shared fascination with Capone endures in countless novels and movies, but the man behind the legend has remained a mystery. Now, through rigorous research and exclusive access to Capone’s family, National Book Award–winning biographer Deirdre Bair cuts through the mythology, uncovering a complex character who was flawed and cruel but also capable of nobility. At once intimate and iconoclastic, Al Capone gives us the definitive account of a quintessentially American figure.

Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Price of Politics - See how and why Washington is not functioning

Based on 18 months of reporting, Bob Woodward's 17th book The Price of Politics, is an intimate, documented examination of how President Obama and the highest profile Republican and Democratic leaders in the United States Congress attempted to restore the American economy and improve the federal government’s fiscal condition over three and one half years.

Drawn from memos, contemporaneous meeting notes, emails, and in-depth interviews with the central players, The Price of Politics, addresses the key issue of the presidential and congressional campaigns: the condition of the American economy and how and why we got there. Providing verbatim, day-by-day, even hour-by-hour accounts, the book shows what really happened, what drove the debates, negotiations, and struggles that define, and will continue to define, the American future.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Brian Joyce, Former State Senator, Arrested and Charged in Federal Indictment on Racketeering, Extortion, and Other Charges

Brian Augustine Joyce, a former Massachusetts State Senator, was arrested by federal authorities for allegedly using his state senate office for private gain.

Joyce, 55, of Westport, Mass., was charged in a federal indictment unsealed with racketeering, extortion, honest services fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, and other charges.  The indictment alleges that Joyce secretly profited from his position as state senator by accepting a stream of concealed bribes and kickbacks in exchange for his official action on matters before the state legislature and for exerting pressure on and advising state and municipal officials to take official action on government matters.  The indictment further alleges that Joyce employed sophisticated methods to conceal his corrupt acts, including using a shell company and other entities to launder proceeds from his bribery and kickback schemes and to conceal his ongoing criminal activities.

Specifically, the indictment alleges that Joyce agreed to use his official position to exert pressure on and advise Town Administrators to use a particular energy broker in return for kickbacks in the form of commissions to a shell company, which Joyce controlled.  It is further alleged that Joyce used his official position to pressure and advise members of the Milton Planning Board to approve a property subdivision waiver that a developer sought, in exchange for a kickback.  Joyce allegedly concealed the kickback by, among other things, falsely telling a Milton Planning Board member that he had not been paid by the developer, and by accepting payment from the developer in the form of a Jeep from one of the developer’s car dealerships.

In addition, it is alleged that Joyce took official action, or pressured others to take official action, on behalf of a coffee-business franchise owner in exchange for hundreds of pounds of free coffee.  Joyce took steps to conceal this by submitting backdated checks to the State Ethics Commission and instructed the franchise owner and his relative to falsely represent to the Ethics Commission that they had agreed to provide Joyce coffee in exchange for legal services.

According to the indictment, Joyce also exerted pressure on and advised officials at the Massachusetts Division of Insurance to take official action on matters in favor of an Energy Insurance Brokerage Company (EIB), who paid Joyce in exchange for his official assistance in promoting, sponsoring, and filing legislation that would benefit the EIB.  The indictment also alleges that Joyce attempted to use his official position as state senator to collect money for “legal work” from representatives of a Philadelphia solar company who sought Joyce’s assistance with local permitting and pending legislation.

Joyce is also charged with conspiring to defraud the IRS in connection with his purchase of more than $470,000 in common stock from the EIB Company and falsely reporting the stock purchase as a tax-exempt retirement account rollover in his personal tax return.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Biopic #Gotti, Starring John Travolta and Directed by @MrKevinConnolly, Gearing Up for Huge,Wide Release & Awards in 2018

Producers of John Travolta’s “Gotti” have bought back the movie from Lionsgate, which had planned to release the mob biopic on Dec. 15 through its Lionsgate Premiere specialty division.

Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films is expected to begin meeting with other distributors about “Gotti.” The company, which produced the film with Highland Film Group and Fiore Films, exercised a provision in its deal allowing it to buy back the movie from Lionsgate in the hope of getting “Gotti” a wide theatrical release. The Lionsgate Premiere release would have been day-and-date for theatrical, VOD and streaming.

“Gotti” is directed by “Entourage” star Kevin Connolly from a script by Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi. “Gotti” also stars Travolta’s wife Kelly Prestor, their daughter Ella Bleu Travolta, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Stacy Keach, Chris Mulkey, Lydia Hull and Spencer Lofranco.

Travolta portrays John Gotti, the flaboyant head of the Gambino crime family who spent the last decade of his life in prison before dying of throat cancer in 2002. Preston is starring as his wife Victoria Gotti. Keach is portraying Aniello Dellacroce, the underboss of the Gambino crime family who mentored Gotti. Taylor Vince plays Angelo Ruggiero, a friend of Gotti and caporegime in the Gambino crime family.

Lofranco is portraying John Gotti, Jr., Gotti’s son and eventual caporegime and acting boss of the Gambino crime family before leaving the mobster life behind.

One of the film's executive producers, Keya Morgan, told TMZ the "Gotti" project was originally supposed to be distributed by Lionsgate Premiere ... a branch of the company that handles smaller, niche releases. Morgan says his team believes the movie could do gangbusters in wide release and he even believes Travolta could end up with some hardware on his mantle.

The original distro contract featured a buyback clause, so Morgan and others wired $10 million to prove to LGP they meant business and the company forked over the release rights. Morgan says LGP will profit big-time when the movie comes out.

Travolta's flick was scheduled to hit the screens next week, but Morgan says the new plan is to take it to Cannes or Venice first and then release it in at least 1,000 theaters. The release date is uncertain.

Larcenous Romani crime boss Rita Marks Unleashed on #ShutEye

Isabella Rossellini’s TV alter ego, brooding, larcenous Romani crime boss Rita Marks, paced around “Shut Eye” last season like a caged tiger waiting to strike — and now she’s been unleashed.

The Season 2 premiere of Hulu’s quirky drama, premiering Wednesday, finds Rita dealing with a murder rap and the possibility of turning against her vengeful family — as we finally learn what’s been fueling her simmering fury and how it will impact everyone in her orbit.

“Rita is an interesting character,” says Rossellini, 65. “We’ve developed more of her background [this season] and we show where she comes from and why she became that way.” The season opener focuses on Rita’s history back in her native Yugoslavia (now Serbia) vis a vis the violence and harshness that accompanied her Romani upbringing — and how that shaped her character. “I always knew who she was. She’s very cold and calculating,” Rossellini says. “But Rita has bloomed much more this season.”

For the uninitiated, “Shut Eye” revolves around Charlie Haverford (Jeffrey Donovan) and his wife Linda (KaDee Strickland), Vegas-trained con artists who work for an insular Romani crime syndicate run by Rita and her volatile son, Fonso (Angus Sampson). They oversee an empire of shady fortune-teller franchises in LA with one goal in mind: swindling their wealthy clients. At the end of Season One, Charlie, plagued by psychic visions (turns out he really can see the future), stole nearly $2 million from his employers in a bid to start a new life, leading to a murder implicating Rita — and setting her on a path of revenge.

“In the series we’re Romani, or gypsies, but they don’t like to be called ‘gypsies,’” says Rossellini. “But it could be the story of any ethnicity. What amuses me the most about going back to the ‘old country’ [with Rita’s back story] is that women do have power, but it’s not overt or declared. In Italy, where I come from, it’s the land of machismo and men, but women run it — everyone is terrified of the grandmother, the mother, the wife. If they speak, they speak with a very soft voice.

“And that’s the part I love the most about Rita,” she says. “She’s the boss of an organized crime family but she’s not hot-headed. To me, she’s completely ruthless and immoral and a criminal … but she’s also a grandmother [to Fonso’s teenage daughter, Drina, played by Havana Guppy]. I think that makes her much more interesting. She really loves her family and protects them. She’s dedicated and attentive and tender and warm and that makes it more difficult because she’s a criminal.”

“Shut Eye” marks Rossellini’s first regular TV role after years of guest spots on shows including “30 Rock,” “Treme” and “The Blacklist.” (She snared a 1994 Emmy nomination for her guest-starring role on “Chicago Hope.”) She says she’s avoided being a series regular for several specific reasons. “It’s partially because it’s a very big commitment,” she says. “It’s five-to-six months a year and when my kids were small and I was offered a series it was not often that it was shot in New York City where we live. I didn’t accept [the roles] because I didn’t want to be separated from my family for six months at a time. “But now my kids are grown up — one is 24 (son Roberto) and one is 34 (daughter Elettra) — and they’re happy that I’m out of the house,” she says. “I’m kidding, but they don’t need me on a daily basis.”

Thanks to Michael Starr.

American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia - A Quality Work by @NateHendley

From the James gang to Nicky Barnes to John Gotti, the American gangster has become an iconic outsized American archetype, with the real criminals sometimes rivaling their fictional counterparts—like the Corleones and the Sopranos—for their ability to captivate the public and attain genuine folk antihero status.

A detailed compendium of American gangsters and gangs from the end of the Civil War to the present day.

American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia, ranges from Western outlaws revered as Robin Hoods to the Depression’s flamboyant bootleggers and bank robbers to the late 20th century’s drug kingpins and “Dapper Dons.” It is the first comprehensive resource on the gangster’s historical evolution and unshakable grip on the American imagination.

American Gangsters, Then and Now: An Encyclopedia, tells the stories of a number of famous gangsters and gangs—Jesse James and Billy the Kid, the Black Hand, Al Capone, Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels, the Mafia, Crips and Bloods, and more. Avoiding sensationalism, the straightforward entries include biographical portraits and historical background for each subject, as well as accounts of infamous robberies, killings, and other events, all well documented with both archival newspapers and extensive research into the files of the FBI. Readers will understand the families, the places, and the times that produced these monumental criminals, as well as the public mindset that often found them sympathetic and heroic.

Features

  • Comprises 50 alphabetically organized entries on American gangsters and gangs from the post-Civil War era to the present
  • Offers a wealth of primary sources, including newspaper articles dating back to the 1880s and FBI files obtained by the author
  • Includes photographs of prominent American gangsters and the aftermaths of their crimes
  • Presents a glossary of gangster slang, past and present
  • Provides a comprehensive index

Highlights

  • Spans the whole history of the gangster in the United States, from the post-Civil War era to the present
  • Features the insights and writing skills of an accomplished author of crime books
  • Makes the connection between gangsters from different eras
  • Dispels a number of misconceptions about gangsters and the destruction they cause

Nate Hendley is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Canada. His published works include Greenwood's Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography, Crystal Meth: North America's #1 Drug Problem, Al Capone: Chicago's King of Crime, Dutch Schultz: The Brazen Beer Baron of New York, and Edwin Alonzo Boyd: Life and Crimes of Canada's Master Bank Robber.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Two Brooklyn Men Charged in Violent Extortion Scheme

A criminal complaint was unsealed in federal court in the Eastern District of New York charging Ruslan Reizin and Mark Krivoi with extortion conspiracy.  The charges stem from the defendants’ alleged extortion and violent assault of a teenage victim who started an awning-cleaning business in Brooklyn that competed with a similar business operated by Reizin.

Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), Leon Hayward, Acting Director, New York Field Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and James P. O’Neill, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the charges.

 “As alleged, the defendants sought to eliminate a business competitor by beating and intimidating him; they also lined their pockets with thousands of dollars in extortionate payments,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde.  “This is no way to ensure a competitive edge.  We will not abide this method of trying to assure a competitive edge.”

“This case illustrates a text book extortion, the suspects allegedly threatening violence because the victim decided to open his own business,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “Our country thrives on a free market, and the ability of people to go out and start their own company is part of the American dream.  The FBI and our law enforcement partners will always pursue those who think to bully others into submission, and threaten free commerce.”

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection is proud of the expertise we provide in support of investigations that result in the takedown of criminal enterprises,” said CBP Acting Director Hayward.  “It is through interagency partnerships and collaborative efforts, like the one leading to today’s arrests, that law enforcement successfully combats today’s criminal organizations.”

According to the criminal complaint and other court filings, in May 2017, Reizin learned that the victim—who formerly worked for Reizin’s awning-cleaning company—had started a similar business in Brooklyn.  Reizin and Krivoi brought the victim to a secluded location in Sheepshead Bay where Reizin allegedly grabbed the victim by the throat, brandished a knife and gave him the choice of having his ear cut off or his throat slashed.  Krivoi allegedly suggested that they should kill the victim.  Reizin then demanded that the victim shut down his business and pay $10,000 to Reizin and a local motorcycle club to which Reizin belongs, and which Reizin claimed supported the extortion.  When the victim replied that he could not afford to pay, Reizin instructed Krivoi to hit the victim, which Krivoi did, repeatedly.  Reizin then offered the victim a “discount,” requiring him to pay $5,000 in monthly installments.  Reizin also told the victim that he and his family would suffer if the victim reported the assault to law enforcement.  Over the next several months, the victim made regular payments to Reizin.  During that period, in a recorded call with the victim, Reizin spoke about “cut[ting] out” the ear of one of the victim’s family members and “forc[ing him] to chew and swallow it.”

Monday, December 04, 2017

Irish Godfather, "Dapper Dan" Hogan, killed by car bomb #OnThisDay

“Dapper Dan” Hogan, a St. Paul, Minnesota saloonkeeper and mob boss, is killed on this day in 1928 when someone plants a car bomb under the floorboards of his new Paige coupe. Doctors worked all day to save him–according to the Morning Tribune, “racketeers, police characters, and business men” queued up at the hospital to donate blood to their ailing friend–but Hogan slipped into a coma and died at around 9 p.m. His murder is still unsolved.

Hogan was a pillar of the Twin Cities underworld. His downtown saloon, the Green Lantern, catered to (and laundered the money of) bank robbers, bootleggers, safecrackers and all-around thugs. He was an expert at defusing petty arguments, keeping feuds from getting out of hand, and (the paper said) “keep[ing] the heat out of town,” which made him a friend to many lawbreakers and a valuable asset to people (like the crooked-but-well-meaning police chief) who were trying to keep Minneapolis and St. Paul from becoming as bloody and dangerous as Chicago.

Hogan and the police both worked to make sure that gangsters would be safe in the Twin Cities as long as they committed their most egregious crimes outside the city limits. If this position made him more friends than enemies–“his word was said to have been ‘as good as a gold bond,'” the paper said, and “to numbers of persons he was something of a Robin Hood”–it also angered many mobsters who resented his stranglehold on the city’s rackets. Police speculated that some of his own associates might have been responsible for his murder.

As the newspaper reported the day after Hogan died, car bombs were “the newest form of bomb killing,” a murderous technology perfected by New York gangsters and bootleggers. In fact, Hogan was one of the first people to die in a car bomb explosion. The police investigation revealed that two men had entered Dapper Dan’s garage early in the morning of December 4, planted a nitroglycerine explosive in the car’s undercarriage, and wired it to the starter. When Hogan pressed his foot to that pedal, the bomb went off, nearly severing his right leg. He died from blood loss.

The first real car bomb–or, in this case, horse-drawn-wagon bomb–exploded on September 16, 1920 outside the J.P. Morgan Company’s offices in New York City’s financial district. Italian anarchist Mario Buda had planted it there, hoping to kill Morgan himself; as it happened, the robber baron was out of town, but 40 other people died (and about 200 were wounded) in the blast. There were occasional car-bomb attacks after that–most notably in Saigon in 1952, Algiers in 1962, and Palermo in 1963–but vehicle weapons remained relatively uncommon until the 1970s and 80s, when they became the terrifying trademark of groups like the Irish Republican Army and Hezbollah. In 1995, right-wing terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols used a bomb hidden in a Ryder truck to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Mob Fest '29: The True Story Behind the Birth of Organized Crime

Bill Tonelli arrives on the scene with his brilliantly subversive Byliner Mob Fest ’29: The True Story Behind the Birth of Organized Crime. Tonelli investigates the long-standing myth of the mob’s founding—a legendary week in May 1929 in which a who’s who of American crime (Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Frank Costello, among many others) were said to have assembled in Atlantic City, the hedonistic Playground of America, to make peace and divvy up the country’s illegal enterprises. But what really happened that criminally star-studded week on the Jersey Shore?

At this informal summit, mobster bosses allegedly gathered to invent the concept of “organized crime” in America. Prohibition had transformed all of them from two-bit thugs into underworld bigwigs, and they had a vested interest in keeping illicit booze flowing easily across state lines. In Atlantic City, these hoods played as hard as they worked—if indeed they worked at all. “As legend has it,” writes Tonelli, “as many as thirty top gangsters [enjoyed] wild parties and heroic feasts, with fancy ladies provided for any who hadn’t brought his own. In short, this was nothing like the office meetings you and I have been made to attend.”

How many of these accounts are actually true, and why do they vary wildly in their retelling? Did the mobsters really wheel around the Boardwalk in rolling chairs, smoking cigars and cutting deals? Did they threaten one another in swank conference rooms in the Ritz-Carlton? Did they force Al Capone, fresh from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, to turn himself in to the cops in order to take the heat off everyone else? And what about the infamous photo of Nucky Johnson—“the benevolent but undisputed king” of Atlantic City, better known as Nucky Thompson on Boardwalk Empire—strolling the boards arm in arm with Capone? Was this a staged shoot caught by early paparazzi or a Prohibition-era Photoshop job designed to ignite conspiracy theories that would thrive for years to come?

At a time when the early mob days are all the rage, Tonelli sifts the facts from the malarkey and in so doing shows that when it comes to the birth of organized crime, a good lie is hard to beat.

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