February 8th, 2008

Chris Keeley

Report: FBI Deputizes 23,000 Business Leaders

Report: FBI Deputizes 23,000 Business Leaders

The Progressive Magazine is reporting that more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The business leaders form a group known as InfraGard that receives warnings of terrorist threats directly from the FBI before the public does. According to one whistleblower the FBI has given members of InfraGard permission to shoot to kill in the event of martial law.

Chris Keeley

They included the Gambino family’s acting boss, John D’Amico, 73, who is known as Jackie the Nose, a

They included the Gambino family’s acting boss, John D’Amico, 73, who is known as Jackie the Nose, and underboss, Domenico Cefalu, 61, who is known as Greaseball, and the consigliere, Joseph Corozzo, who is known as JoJo, the officials said.

Mr. D’Amico, Mr. Cefalu and Mr. Corozzo were all charged in federal court with racketeering conspiracy and extortion and, if convicted, face up to 20 years in prison on multiple counts.

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Chris Keeley

Amy Winehouse will not be in Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards on Sunday, but she may be seen via sa

THE biggest question hovering over Sunday’s Grammy Awards was answered yesterday when it was announced that Amy Winehouse, the troubled British pop star and tabloid fixture, would not be able to attend. Ms. Winehouse, who was expected to be the dominant figure at the 50th annual awards ceremony, has been denied a visa to enter the United States.

Grammy producers said, however, that they planned for Ms. Winehouse, who had recently entered a rehabilitation clinic, to appear, probably via satellite, during the program, which will be televised live from the Staples Center here at 8 p.m. Eastern time on CBS.

“You will see Amy Winehouse on the Grammys,” said Ken Ehrlich, the longtime producer of the show. “I’m very happy.”

Michael Dalder/Reuters

Ms. Winehouse’s music and image are a bridge between 1960s girl-group pop and modern-day hip-hop, and her addition to the show’s lineup would fill a stylistic void as Grammy organizers strain to honor 50 years of musical history while staking a claim to post- MySpace relevance. But there may be some awkward moments if Ms. Winehouse, who has six nominations — for her album “Back to Black” (Universal), her self-referential single “Rehab” and herself, as best new artist — is a big winner. Only Kanye West has more nominations.

In announcing that Ms. Winehouse’s efforts to obtain a visa had been rejected by the United States Embassy in London, a statement released by her British publicity company, the Outside Organization, said, “Amy has been progressing well since entering a rehabilitation clinic two weeks ago and although disappointed with the decision has accepted the ruling and will be concentrating on her recovery.”

This is not the first time visa troubles have derailed a planned television appearance by an emerging British star. The pop singer Lily Allen sought entry to the United States last August to perform at the MTV Video Music Awards, but American immigration officials revoked her visa. The official reason was never disclosed, but her manager said it might have been tied to a squabble with photographers in London after which she was detained by the police.

Last-minute Grammy production changes continued even as advance promotion for the event intensified, with the takeoff on Thursday morning of a Grammy-branded 757 jetliner for Los Angeles carrying contest winners who watched John Legend perform an in-flight concert.

Chris Keeley

Basquiat’s 1982 “Palm Springs Jump” sold for $12.7 million.

Basquiat’s 1982 “Palm Springs Jump” sold for $12.7 million. 

A detail from Jawlensky’s “Schokko With Wide-Brimmed Hat” (1910). 

So there was considerable relief when a Francis Bacon triptych fetched $51.6 million or when, after frenzied bidding, a landscape by the German Expressionist painter Franz Marc made $24.3 million — a record for the artist at auction — or when an 1874 Renoir that sold for $12.1 million in 1989 was snapped up for $14.6 million

One of her clients paid $18.6 million for Jawlensky’s “Schokko With Wide-Brimmed Hat,” a colorful 1910 portrait of a young German village girl. The price was more than double the previous auction record for the artist, set at Sotheby’s in New York in 2003. 

and a Klimt drawing for $451,000.
Chris Keeley

Brad Renfro’s death saddened those who knew him, but did not surprise them. Many in Hollywood had tr

Brad Renfro’s death saddened those who knew him, but did not surprise them. Many in Hollywood had tried to help him, but his addiction torpedeoed relationships and his career.

Death spiral

Actor Brad Renfro's sad death, despite efforts to lift him from substance abuse, was saddening but not surprising in a town that calls to the troubled as well as the talented.
By Rachel Abramowitz
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 10, 2008

BRAD RENFRO had insisted over the phone that he was clean. That's what the teen actor, hot from his performances as a troubled youth with sad eyes in such films as "The Client" and "Sleepers," told director Larry Clark. Clark, one of America's foremost chroniclers of teenage desperation, had just cast Renfro as the lead in "Bully," his true-life tale of a bunch of pot-smoking Florida teenagers who murder the local bully.

But then Clark met his 18-year-old star.

Assistance offered

The director, who'd once battled heroin addiction himself, stopped by Renfro's Knoxville, Tenn., home on the way to the film's Florida location. It was the summer of 2000, and Renfro emerged from the house that he shared with his grandmother with blood streaming down his arms. He was bloated and looked 35. And so continued a painful, downward spiral -- one of the most excruciating Hollywood has seen of late.

"I said, 'What the [hell] are you doing?' " recalls Clark. "He'd been banging coke. He has tracks running down both arms. He looks horrible. I just saw the whole movie going down the drain." (Financing was contingent on Renfro's participation.)

Clark spent the next three days with Renfro. They talked. The young actor cried a lot, and continued to shoot up cocaine. Clark hatched a plan to get him clean for production.

"I kidnapped him," says the director. The pair jumped in the car one day, on the director's pretense of going somewhere, and Clark just "gunned it" for Florida. "He kicked in the car. He had a seizure. There's nothing you can do. It doesn't last that long."

In Florida, the production hired a trainer and a minder for Renfro. Clark took Renfro to 12-step meetings. Still, in the evenings, Renfro would manage to finagle alcohol.

Clark adds, "I've been around a lot of addicts and alcoholics, and I remember thinking at the time, this is one of the worst cases I've ever seen."

Brad Renfro died Jan. 15, 2008. He was 25.

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Chris Keeley

William Pfaff--"Nato's Fatal Flaw"--2/7/08

NATO's Fatal Flaw

William Pfaff

Paris, February 7, 2008 – These are difficult days for NATO, for reasons few are prepared to admit. The difficulty is finding combat troops for Afghanistan. This is treated by Washington as a failure of political courage due to misinformed public opinion in Europe, potentially correctable if sufficient pressure is applied. It is no such thing.

Washington wants more European NATO troops in active combat roles. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, after an undiplomatic disparagement of the professional competence of NATO troops already engaged in southern Afghanistan (Americans know better how to do these things...), says he fears that NATO is "evolving into a two-tiered alliance in which you have some allies ready to fight and die in order to protect people's security and others who are not."

The ones who are not, according to Gates, are notably the Germans, who are performing the training and reconstruction duties they signed up for in the north of Afghanistan, but whose government has refused to move them into a combat role in the south against the Taliban, who are retaking the territory lost during the first American intervention into their country in 2001.

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