Saturday, March 31, 2018

Reputed Philadelphia Cosa Nostra Organized Crime Boss Joseph Merlino To Plea Deal In Federal Racketeering Case

The Sun-Sentinel in Boca Raton, Florida offers a piece on reputed Philadelphia Cosa Nostra organized crime boss Joseph Merlino’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino — the reputed Philadelphia mob boss who moved to Boca Raton — has inked a plea deal just weeks after his racketeering trial ended with a hung jury.

Merlino, 55, who relocated to South Florida years ago, has insisted he quit his life of crime. He spent time at a Boca restaurant that bore his family name: Merlino’s.

But things took a turn in 2016, when he was arrested on health care fraud charges. After the case ended in a mistrial in February, Merlino’s lawyers and prosecutors have reached a plea agreement, according to a court document filed late Wednesday.

The terms of the agreement aren’t yet available. Merlino’s change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for April 27.

Reputed Mafia boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino moved to Boca Raton when he was released from federal prison in 2011 after serving most of a 14-year sentence for racketeering, extortion and illegal gambling. Here are images of him when he went on trial in Manhattan Federal Court this January on health care fraud charges.

Prosecutors had alleged that instead of retiring, Merlino muscled his way into gambling and health insurance schemes run by crime families on the East Coast. The court case began when the feds arrested 46 men up and down the East Coast on charges they said read like “an old-school Mafia novel.”

The men were accused of being part of an organized crime network that involved the Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Bonanno and Philadelphia major crime families. Their business included gambling, selling tax-free cigarettes and collecting illegal debts, the feds said.

On Feb. 20, after three days of deliberations in Merlino’s case, the jury wrote the judge a note stating, “We the juror(s) have continued deliberating and are at a continued impasse. … Unfortunately, we will be unable to come to a consensus on any of the four counts.”

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

Say Hello to The Easter Bunny And Ursula Andress, The First Bond Girl

Friday, March 30, 2018

Tapes & Drugs: Mob Talk 15 Discusses Fed Take Down Of Suspected Philadelphia/South Jersey Cosa Nostra Drug Dealers

Veteran organized crime reporters George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser discuss mob news in Mob Talk 15.  

A new FBI cooperator wears a wire on the Philly Mob for three years.  

Who's on tape and who's not.  

Did the participants in a big Mob backed drug operation let down their guard and put other wiseguys in jeopardy.

It's a potential bombshell case that could have widespread impact. 

Did higher ups in the underworld get money “kicked up to them,” at least one guy knows. 

He's under pressure and in the spotlight as the case starts to go public.  

Mob experts George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser have the latest on this unfolding investigation.

You can watch the video via the below link:

Hollywood Gets A Few Lessons In Storytelling

Wesley Pruden at the Washington Times offers a piece on the return of Roseanne and faith-based films geared towards the grassroots . 

The grassroots keep sending messages to Hollywood, but usually nobody’s home. Oblivious to real lives outside the California bubble, the masters of the fanciful, the absurd and the bizarre wouldn’t read the message, anyway.

But the town that tinsel made is agog, if only temporarily agog, by the triumphant return of “Roseanne,” the ancient television comedy that went off the air 21 years ago. The first revival episode drew more viewers than its farewell finale two decades ago.

“While nostalgia was expected to bring in eyeballs,” Deadline Hollywood, an aggregator of entertainment news, breathlessly reported on the morning after, “no one predicted such a huge amount on premiere night for a blue-collar family sitcom with a Donald Trump-supporting protagonist, especially among the younger generation demographic. But then, few predicted Trump would become the Republican nominee and would win the presidential election when he first announced his candidacy.”

In fact, Hollywood and many correct-thinking Democrats still prefer not to believe it. The premiere of the resurrection of Roseanne Barr of “Roseanne” delivered its highest ratings in Tulsa, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Detroit, Buffalo, St. Louis and Indianapolis — just those places in flyover country where Hillary Clinton, Hollywood’s gift of the magi, lost the 2016 election.

Bicoastalism survived as expected. Neither of the two top markets gave “Roseanne” much of a look. New York was not in the top 20, and Los Angeles did not make it to even to the top 30. These markets were left looking from afar on the working-class audience that both Hollywood (and the Democrats) crave.

It’s an audience with the bucks by which Hollywood measures everything. Art is nice, but not necessary. Junk and trash, with spaceships and lasers and bombs and bullets spraying blood all over the screen, always sells, particularly to the children demographic to whom Hollywood aims its art. Hollywood is only capable of being agog about one thing at a time, but some of the wiser heads have noticed the remarkable growth in the size of the audience for “faith-based films.”

The surprise this year is “I Can Only Imagine,” a story about an abused child, surviving a violent, drunken father and who grew up to write the hit song of the title and reconciled with his abusive father after he had a dramatic conversion to repentance and a new life in Christ. The movie was aimed not at Sunday school but at the wider audience, without giving short shrift to the power of authentic faith.

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

National Vietnam War Veterans Day 2018

On Yankee Station: A Look Back At The Aircraft Carrier USS Kitty Hawk During The Vietnam War, 1970-1971

With the celebration of Vietnam Veterans Day, I’d like to offer a look back at the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk on ‘Yankee Station’ off the coast of North Vietnam in 1970-1971.

My role in the Vietnam War was a minor one. I served as an 18-year-old seaman on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.

The Kitty Hawk performed combat operations on "Yankee Station" off the coast of Vietnam in 1970 and 1971. During the Kitty Hawk's Vietnam deployment, the carrier's aircraft dropped a record 22, 540, 051 tons of ordnance on the enemy.

We brought it to the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong positions, military installations and supply routes in support of American and South Vietnamese troops.

Air combat operations are fast-paced and precarious as the carrier launches and recovers aircraft around the clock. With vast amounts of jet fuel, bombs, missiles and rockets on board, an accident or a fire on a carrier can be a truly deadly affair.

Although we put in hard, long and dangerous hours, we knew our constant pounding of the communists kept our brothers "in-country" alive. And thanks in part to naval air power, we never lost a battle over company strength during the entire course of the war.

Below are some photos of the USS Kitty Hawk's air operations. The pages are from my 1970-1971 cruise book:



I'm proud of the small role I played on this great warship.

The USS Kitty Hawk retired from active duty on January 31, 2009.

You can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Vietnam War via the below link:

Note: You can click on the above photos to enlarge.

On This Day In History The Last American Combat Troops Left Vietnam And American POWs Were Released

On this day in 1973 the last of America’s combat troops left South Vietnam and the Communists released American POWs held in North Vietnam.

It should be noted that when South Vietnam finally fell to the Communists in April of 1975, the North Vietnamese did not face American troops. They defeated the South Vietnamese.

For a look back at the Vietnam War, you can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece via the below link:

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

U.S. Defense Department To Commemorate 1st Anniversary Of National Vietnam War Veterans Day

The U.S. Defense Department released the below information:

WASHINGTON – The Department of Defense today announced it will conduct a wreath laying ceremony with the Department of Veterans Affairs at The Vietnam War Memorial March 29, 2018. President Trump recently signed into law The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, establishing The National Vietnam War Veterans Day that will, henceforth, be celebrated each year on March 29.

This is the first anniversary of that special day. DOD will also support hundreds of events in many states across the nation to recognize, honor and thank U.S. Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifices.

Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick M. Shanahan, will host the ceremony at the “The Wall” to continue the department’s contribution to the commemoration. He will be joined by Veteran’s Affairs Secretary, Dr. David Shulkin.

“We are proud to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs in this endeavor,” said Shanahan. “Today is an opportunity to honor all Vietnam veterans who served, and to recognize the families that stood alongside them.”

The DOD, along with more than 11,000 organizations across the country, is joined by the Department of Veterans Affairs, one of its key Commemorative Partners, to help Americans honor our nation’s Vietnam veterans.

Authorized by Congress, established under the Secretary of Defense, and launched by the President in May 2012, the Vietnam War Commemoration recognizes all men and women who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975. Nine million Americans, approximately 7 million living today, served during that period, and the commemoration makes no distinction between veterans who served in-county, in-theater, or were stationed elsewhere during those 20 years. All answered the call of duty.

President Trump, in his presidential proclamation, stated: “During this Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, we embrace our responsibility to help our Vietnam veterans and their families heal from the heavy toll of war. We remember the more than 58,000 whose names are memorialized on a black granite wall in our Nation’s capital for having borne the heaviest cost of war.”

By presidential proclamation issued on May 25, 2012, the commemoration extends from its inaugural event on Memorial Day 2012 through Veterans Day 2025.

Commemorative partners – local, state and national organizations, businesses, corporations and governmental agencies – have committed to publicly thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families on behalf of the nation and have pledged to host a minimum of two events annually. 

Ten Wyatt Earp Vendetta Ride Myths

I've long been a fan of Western dramas about frontier deputy marshal Wyatt Earp, going back to my childhood when Hugh O'Brian (seen in the below photo) portrayed Earp on TV.

I later watched old movies on TV, such as John Ford's My Darling Clementine with Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp (director Ford met the aging Wyatt Earp in Los Angeles) and later still I went to the theater and saw movies about Earp, such as John Sturges' Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with Burt Lancaster as Earp, and another John Sturges film about Wyatt Earp, The Hour of the Gun, with James Garner this time as Earp (seen in the below photo).

Good films all, and I've watched them time and again over the years, but as I began to read history I discovered that the TV series and the films were all historically inaccurate, with The Hour of the Gun  being the closest of those early films to the real story.

George P. Cosmatos' 1993 film Tombstone, with Kurt Russell as Earp (seen in the top and below photos), is perhaps overall the closest to being historically accurate, but even that film fictionalized events, such as the gunfight between Doc Holiday and Johnny Ringo, which never happened, and got things wrong, such as they Vendetta Ride.

Peter Brand at True West offers a piece that points out 10 myths about Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Ride, which occurred after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral (which actually happened on the lot behind the O.K. Corral).

You can read the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times review of Tom Clavin's outstanding book about Earp and other Western legends in Dodge City via the below link:   

And if you would like to read a good biography of Wyatt Earp, I'd recommend Casey Tofertiller's  Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

My Washington Times Review Of 'The Quantum Spy'

The Washington Times ran my review of David Ignatius’ The Quantum Spy.

Although my knowledge of computers is somewhat limited, I was able to follow the computer science backdrop to “The Quantum Spy,” as author David Ignatius did a fine job of explaining the basic technology involved in quantum computing and why it is vital that the United States builds a quantum computer before China, America’s adversary, builds one.

Quantum computing, Mr. Ignatius‘ fictional CIA director explains, is a paradigm shift. It’s like Galileo and Newton. It will change everything. “A Quantum computer would simultaneously explore every answer to a problem, creating a tool of immense, almost infinite computational power,” Mr. Ignatius writes.

The novel opens with John Vandal, the CIA Deputy Director for Operations, paying a visit to Jason Schmidt, an electronics engineer who operated QED, a small, privately-owned computer company in Seattle, Washington. The CIA official was responding to a letter the engineer wrote to his cousin, a CIA officer, that stated he had made a breakthrough in building a quantum computer.

 “I’ve solved the puzzle,” the engineer wrote.

“You understand what a big deal this is, Mr. Schmidt? We’re spending billions on quantum research. This is a race. The White House pounds on me every week wanting to know where the Chinese are, and we say relax: It’ll be ten years before anyone builds a machine, probably twenty, and we’re way ahead,” John Vandal said. “And now you say bang, you’ve done it.”

The CIA official explained that the issue was no much that the breakthrough, but rather that someone wanted to steal it. He was referring to what he called a “bell-ringer” in the letter, which was the engineer informing his cousin that he received an offer by a company to buy control of QED. The company, John Vandal told the engineer, was Chinese.

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

You can also read my interview with David Ignatius (seen in the above photo) via the below link:

Saturday, March 24, 2018

My Piece On Cosa Nostra: The Threat Of Organized Crime In America

Counterterrorism magazine published my piece on Cosa Nostra and the threat of organized crime today.

You can read the piece below:

The Quantum Spy: My Q&A With Spy Novelist And Washington Post Columnist David Ignatius

Counterterrorism magazine published my Q&A with David Ignatius, the Washington Post columnist and author of the thriller The Quantum Spy.

You can read the interview below:

  Note: My review of David Ignatius’s The Quantum Spy will soon appear in the Washington Times