Friday, August 28, 2015

The Coming Yakuza War In Japan

Jake Adelstein, the author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter On the Police Beat in Japan, offers a piece at the Daily Beast on the yakuza crime war coming to Japan.

TOKYO — This year should have been a good one for Japan’s largest organized crime organization, the Yamaguchi-gumi, the one yakuza group that just about ruled them all. But as it marks its 100th year in business, internal squabbles may split the organization apart; it could also result in the kind of large-scale gang warfare that hasn’t been seen in decades.
The Japanese police are on full alert. Thursday (Japan time), the sprawling Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe was besieged by a fleet of black Mercedes-Benzes and high-end Toyota Lexuses, transporting the top dogs of the Yamaguchi-gumi, dressed in their finest black suits, for emergency meetings.
The Yamaguchi-gumi is expected to splinter into factions with some gangs supporting current top boss Kenichi Shinoda aka Shinobu Tsukasa, 73, and others supporting a rival group, primarily based in western Japan, that opposes him and his parent faction, the Kodo-kai.
Japan’s organized crime groups, known collectively as the “yakuza,” i.e., “Losers,” or “Gokudo” (the ultimate path), are different from the mafias we know about in the West. They are treated as if they were some sort of controlled substance, dangerous but accepted within certain parameters.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Tokyo Vice via the below link:

Reviving Jack Carter, London’s Toughest Pulp Hero

Kevin Canfield at the Daily Beast offers a piece on the revival of Ted Lewis' gangster character,

In the 1970s, an Englishman named Ted Lewis published three rowdy yarns about a brutal Briton working as an enforcer for a gangland “firm.” The first of these inspired a suitably gritty crime film recalled as one of the era’s best. The next two books weren’t so successful. But now, 32 years after Lewis’ death, his Jack Carter novels are getting a second life here in the States.
Fans of Get Carter, Mike Hodges’ 1971 movie, surely remember the exploits of the unflappable brute. As played by a young and rugged Michael Caine, Carter was a bitters-drinking, blade-wielding get-even artist who managed to make the act of eating soup on a moving train look menacing. Yet readers coming to the novels fresh won’t quite know what Lewis’ leading man is all about. So before we get to the enterprising small publisher responsible for reviving the books, and the brief but artistically fertile life of the man who penned them, let’s (re)acquaint ourselves with Carter’s CV. 
It’s probably best to start with an explanation of how he became the top organized-crime fixer in the city he calls “the smoke” (i.e. London). As he puts in Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon, the series’ third novel, “it hasn’t exactly been unknown for me, as a matter of policy as far as the firm’s concerned, to see to transgressors from members of the opposition on a more or less permanent basis, the more or less depending on the degree to which your religious beliefs extends.” A history of violence and a gift for understatement—that’s Carter, a remorseless pulp fiction killer.  
... On the whole, though, the novels are a welcome surprise to those of us whose only knowledge of Carter came via the big screen. The reissues are the first from Syndicate Books, an imprint that says it plans to put out up to 10 titles a year, mainly “out-of-print or neglected mystery and crime fiction of merit.” Syndicate was founded by Paul Oliver, the director of marketing and publicity for Soho Crime. In partnership with Penguin Random House, Soho will promote and sell the Carter books and future Syndicate titles. Until they were revived by Syndicate, the first two novels in the series were out of print in the U.S. for 40 years, and the third had never been published here at all.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cooking The Books: Spies Say Obama's Brass Pressured Them To Downplay ISIS Threat

Shane Harris and Nancy Ybussef at the Daily Beast offer a piece on the intelligence analysts who claim senior officials have pressured them to cook the books on the ISIS threat.

Senior military and intelligence officials have inappropriately pressured U.S. terrorism analysts to alter their assessments about the strength of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, three sources familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast. Analysts have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is, according to these sources, and to paint an overly rosy picture about how well the U.S.-led effort to defeat the group is going.
Reports that have been deemed too pessimistic about the efficacy of the American-led campaign, or that have questioned whether a U.S.-trained Iraqi military can ultimately defeat ISIS, have been sent back down through the chain of command or haven’t been shared with senior policymakers, several analysts alleged.
In other instances, authors of such reports said they understood that their conclusions should fall within a certain spectrum. As a result, they self-censored their own views, they said, because they felt pressure to not reach conclusions far outside what those above them apparently believed.
“The phrase I use is the politicization of the intelligence community,” retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, (seen in the above photo) the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told The Daily Beast when describing what he sees as a concerted push in government over the past several months to find information that tells a preferred story about efforts to defeat ISIS and other extremist groups, including al Qaeda. “That’s here. And it’s dangerous,” Flynn said. 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

ISIL And Antiquities Trafficking: FBI Warns Dealers, Collectors About Terrorist Loot

The FBI website offers a report on the terrorist organization ISIL trafficking in antiquities.

The FBI is alerting art collectors and dealers to be particularly careful trading Near Eastern antiquities, warning that artifacts plundered by terrorist organizations such as ISIL are entering the marketplace.
“We now have credible reports that U.S. persons have been offered cultural property that appears to have been removed from Syria and Iraq recently,” said Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, manager of the FBI’s Art Theft Program.
The Bureau is asking U.S. art and antiquities market leaders to spread the word that preventing illegally obtained artifacts from reaching the market helps stem the transfer of funds to terrorists.
In a single-page document titled ISIL Antiquities Trafficking, the FBI asks leaders in the field to disseminate the following message:
  • Please be cautious when purchasing items from this region. Keep in mind that antiquities from Iraq remain subject to Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions under the Iraq Stabilization and Insurgency Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR part 576).
  • Purchasing an object looted and/or sold by the Islamic State may provide financial support to a terrorist organization and could be prosecuted under 18 USC 233A.
  • Robust due diligence is necessary when purchasing any Syrian or Iraqi antiquities or other cultural property in the U.S. or when purchasing elsewhere using U.S. funds.
In February, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2199, which obligates member states to take steps to prevent terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria from receiving donations and from benefiting from trade in oil, antiquities, and hostages. 

You can read the rest of the report via the below link:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nearly 200 Retired Generals And Admirals Urge Congress To Reject Iran Nuclear Deal

Carol Morello at the Washington Post offers a piece on the nearly 200 retired generals and admirals (which includes retired LTG William Boykin, who appears in the above photo) who have sent a letter to Congress urging the lawmakers to reject Obama's Iran deal.

A group of nearly 200 retired generals and admirals sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday urging lawmakers to reject the Iran nuclear agreement, which they say threatens national security.
The letter is the latest in a blizzard of missives petitioning Congress either to support or oppose the agreement with Iran, which would lift sanctions if Iran pared back its nuclear program. Letters have come from ad hoc groupings of rabbis, nuclear scientists, arms-control and nonproliferation experts — and now, retired senior military officers, many of whom have worked in the White House during various administrations dating to the 1980s.
The letter, addressed to Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and the House, is a response to one sent last week by three dozen retired senior military officers who support the nuclear deal.
“The agreement will enable Iran to become far more dangerous, render the Mideast still more unstable and introduce new threats to American interests as well as our allies,” the letter states.  

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my interview with retired LTG William Boykin, a former Delta Force Commander, via the below link:

Former FBI Agent Zip Connelly Always Wanted To Have A Movie Made About Himself, But 'Black Mass' Is About The Mobster And Serial Killer Who Owned Him

Veteran journalist and author Howie Carr offers a column in the Boston Herald about former FBI agent 'Zip' Connelly and Boston mobster 'Whitey' Bulger.

Zip Connolly always dreamed of watching a Hollywood movie about himself, and now his wish is about to come true.
Alas, this screen gem is not about the heroism of the “decorated hero fed,” as the bent cop always so modestly described himself. It’s about the serial killer who owned him — Whitey Bulger. Tough break for Zip, who in his prime made a training video advising young G-men in training at Quantico, “Never try to out-gangster a gangster.”
Now, in his dotage, doing life in the Florida Panhandle for one of 
Whitey’s contract hits, Zip tries to out-lawyer the lawyers.
And the hero G-man is having every bit as much success in his later endeavor as he did in 
the former.
“Black Mass” screens nationwide next month. Think of this as Zip’s part in the prerelease publicity campaign. Johnny Depp, in the role of Zip’s paymaster, won’t be available for interviews until the actual premiere. In the meantime, Connolly garners a few headlines for the biopic about his capo di tutti capi. 

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

You can also read my interview with Dick Lehr, the co-author of Black Mass and Whitey via the below link:  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Happy 85th Birthday To Sean Connery

Happy 85th birthday to one of my favorite actors, Sean Connery.

Not only was he great as Ian Fleming's iconic James Bond character in Dr No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice (and two poor Bond films, Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again), he was also great in The Man Who Would Be King, Robin and Marion, The Untouchables, The Hill, and other unforgettable films.

You can read about Connery's life and watch an hour-long TV-bio via the below link to