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1. Will Smith is set to produce the film 'Brilliance'. The 53-year-old star is involved in the adaptation of the novel that will mark the directorial debut of two-time Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. The plot centers on Nick Cooper, a federal agent who works for the Department of Analysis and Response and is tasked with tracking down the one per cent of the population deemed "abnorms" or "Brilliants.” Nick is a parent of a "Brilliant" daughter and is also an "abnorm" himself as he has the ability to see the future and ultimately attempts to prevent a civil war.
2. Ciara has teamed up with Summer Walker on the forthcoming collaboration, 'Better Thangs.’
3. Erica Banks is currently facing major backlash for sharing the type of physical requirements she sets for friends she chooses to go out with. The rapper has responded to the recent uproar. The “Buss It” rapper is under fire for comments she made about women’s bodies. She said she refuses to go to nightclubs women who don’t have a particular look.
4. Robert Sarver will give up both the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury after the NBA found he did use the n-word multiple times during his tenure as an owner in the leagues. In addition to using the racial epithet on at least five different occasions, the NBA also said Sarver made inappropriate comments towards women, and didn't treat his employees fairly or equally.
SHADOWY: (SLUSH FUNDS, ESPIONAGE & ORGANIZATIONS!)
Room 39 (officially Central Committee Bureau 39 of the Workers' Party of Korea, also referred to as Bureau 39, Division 39, or Office 39 is a secretive North Korean party and criminal organization that seeks ways to maintain the foreign currency slush fund for the country's leaders.
The organization is estimated to bring in between $500 million and $1 billion per year or more and is involved in illegal activities, such as counterfeiting $100 bills, producing controlled substances (including the synthesis of methamphetamine and the conversion of morphine-containing opium into more potent opiates like heroin), and international insurance fraud.
Room 39 is also involved in the management of foreign currency earnings from foreigners' hotels in Pyongyang, gold and zinc mining, and agricultural and fisheries exports. They are believed to run networks of illegal and legal companies that often change names. The number of companies believed to be controlled by Room 39 - reportedly up to 120 in number at one point - include Zokwang Trading and Taesong Bank. Many of the $500 million worth of textiles North Korea exports each year have phony "made in China" labels attached to them and the wages of the estimated 50,000 North Korean workers sent abroad to work are reported to have added between $500 million and $2 billion a year to Room 39's income.
A 2007 report published by the Millennium Project of the World Federation of United Nations Associations said North Korea makes an estimated $500 million to $1 billion annually from illegal enterprises. Criminal operations reported to be run by Room 39 include trafficking fake US dollars, peddling bogus Viagra, exporting the recreational drug N-methylamphetamine and obtaining Russian oil using dealers in Singapore. At some point, transactions and trade by Office 39 reached 25 to 50% of the total of North Korea.
Room 39 is also believed to be operating the overseas North Korean restaurant chain called Pyongyang.
In 2015, the European Union placed the Korea National Insurance Corporation (KNIC) under sanctions and added that the KNIC had links to Office 39.
A black budget or covert appropriation is a government budget that is allocated for classified or other secret operations of a nation. The black budget is an account expenses and spending related to military research and covert operations.
The black budget is mostly classified because of security reasons. The black budget can be complicated to calculate, but in the United States it has been estimated to be over US$50 billion a year, taking up approximately 7 percent of the US$700 billion American defense budget.
The United States has a black budget it uses to fund black projects—expenditures that it does not want to disclose publicly.
The black budget has been known to hide multiple types of projects from elected officials. With secret code names and hidden figures, the details of the black budget are revealed only to certain people of Congress, if at all.
In 2018, some newspapers reported that the Trump administration asked for $81.1 billion for the 2019 black budget.
ODESSA is an American codename (from the German: Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, meaning: Organization of Former SS Members) coined in 1946 to cover Nazi underground escape plans at the end of World War II by a group of SS officers with the aim of facilitating secret escape routes, and any directly ensuing arrangements. Nazi’s were also given money to obtain new identities and start new lives.
The routes are also called ratlines. Known goals included allowing the SS members to escape to Argentina or the Middle East under false passports.
An unknown number of wanted Nazis and war criminals did in fact escape Germany, and often Europe under the guise of Odessa.
About 300 Nazis did find their way to Argentina with support from Juan Perón after he came to power in Argentina in 1946.
A writer stated that the operation stretched from Scandinavia to Italy, aiding war criminals and bringing in gold that the Croatian treasury allegedly had stolen.
FEMA’s under-the-radar nature was originally a feature, not a bug. During the past seven decades, the agency has evolved from a top-secret series of bunkers designed to protect US officials in case of a terror attack to a sprawling bureaucratic agency tasked with mobilizing help in the midst of disaster.
Inside those bunkers during the 1970s, the nation’s emergency managers invented the first online chat program—the forerunner to Slack, Facebook Messenger, and AIM, which have together transformed modern life.
In fact, FEMA has always been an odd beast inside the government—an agency that has existed far from the spotlight except for the occasional high-stakes appearance during moments of critical need. It can disappear from the headlines for years in between a large hurricane or series of tornadoes.
The cornerstone of FEMA’s secret world is a bunker in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains that has served as the civilian government’s primary emergency hideaway since the 1950s. Mount Weather’s name comes from its use as a research station and observatory for the Weather Bureau dating back to the 1890s. At the turn of the 20th century, the observatory was known for its pioneering science, using elaborate balloons and box kites to study the atmosphere at a time when meteorology was in its infancy. The nascent Weather Bureau, the forerunner of the National Weather Service, picked the isolated site because it was far away from that era’s cutting-edge technology—electrical trolley lines, whose troublesome electric currents could throw off magnetic observations. “We are looking to the future needs of a rapidly developing and intensely interesting branch of science,” the observatory director explained, “and are trying to build the very best observatory possible.” Using motor-operated rotating steel drums lined with as much as 40,000 feet of piano wire, Mount Weather’s kite team broke its own world altitude record in 1910, flying a kite 23,826 feet into the air and recording the lowest temperature ever (29 degrees Fahrenheit below zero) using a kite-launched instrument.
As meteorology advanced and better technologies arrived, the Weather Bureau handed off the majority of the 100-acre facility to the Army for use as a World War I–era artillery range. The government then spent the better part of the 1920s trying without success to get rid of the property.
A large specially built bubble-shaped pod inside Mount Weather’s East Tunnel contained several advanced computers, which were disconnected from the network at 9 pm each night so that teams could conduct classified research and computations until 8:30 am the next day. Inside the pod, the room-sized UNIVAC 1108 supercomputer, which retailed for about $1.6 million, represented the cutting-edge technology of multiprocessors, allowing the computer to do multiple functions at once.
Today, conspiracy theorists fear that FEMA is setting up concentration camps to house political dissidents (Google “FEMA camps” if you want to lose an hour or two in a rabbit hole). The truth is a bit stranger: FEMA, as it turns out, doesn’t construct camps for political dissidents—but it started by taking one over.
By: Elias Leight
When Mary J. Blige was 23, she released her incredibly vulnerable magnum opus My Life. But the pain she carried in her voice wasn’t just her own.
A 6-year-old Blige living in the Schlobohm housing projects of Yonkers with her sister and mother was very attuned to hearing and seeing women in the neighborhood being physically and verbally abused by men, sometimes even her own mother.
Some artists struggle to determine which of their releases is the most vital — it’s like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. But Mary J. Blige has no such hang-ups.
After working with a grab-bag of big names — including Devante Swing of Jodeci and the rappers Busta Rhymes and Grand Puba — on her debut, What’s the 411?, Blige narrowed her focus for its follow-up, working almost exclusively with P. Diddy and the rising producer Chucky Thompson. 1994 was a breakout year for Thompson, a multi-instrumentalist from D.C. who had played with the famous Go-Go pioneer Chuck Brown. Not only did the young beat-maker serve as a crucial behind-the-scenes presence during the making of My Life, blending rich Seventies soul with radio-ready hip-hop, Thompson also created “Big Poppa” and “Me & My B*tch” for a fresh-faced New York rapper by the name of the Notorious B.I.G.
How did you first connect with Blige?
Chuck Thompson: I was seeking management at that time, and it was between two people, Hiram Hicks or Puffy.
Hiram could get me to TLC; Puffy could get me to Mary. At that time, I was doing a lot of merging of hip-hop with live instruments, because I played eight different instruments. So when I heard that What’s the 411? album, I’m like, “this is out of what I’m thinking.”
I already had a lot of the My Life album done before I met Puff. The songs I was sending him to give him an idea of me as a producer, he ended up using them for the album. I sent “Think of You” as a record for Mary, but Puff ended up using that for Usher.
One song in particular got everything started: “Be With You.” I wasn’t even supposed to send that song — it was actually for a group in DC. But the song got sent to Puff, and then Mary heard it. She was picking through like a thousand tapes and she hated everything. This one song comes up that she’s not supposed to have, and she loved it. I wasn’t initially scheduled to do shit else but that one song.
Once she’s actually in the studio recording this one song, I meet her. I know her energy at that time was everybody was coming at her — she’s this new young hip-hop phenomenon, and everyone wanted a piece of her. I just did the opposite, stood back, respected her space. She ended up walking up talking to me — “yo, this is one of my favorite records!”
Did you two have a vision for how you wanted the album to sound?
At that particular time in music, you look at what we were doing with [the Notorious] B.I.G., you look at what was happening with Snoop [Dogg], you look at what Jermaine Dupri was doing, it was a soul and Seventies funk thing happening.
I’m from D.C., where we have a thing called Quiet Storm on the radio. Me talking to her, our real connection came from that: She knew a lot of the records I knew growing up. She’s going through a situation; I’m bringing Curtis Mayfield to the table. That’s the tissue you need to dry your tears. I used to hear her tell stories of what was going on, but I wasn’t really involved in that. I used to look at her like a sister: Where are these guys, let’s go whoop their ass! She started drying her tears on these songs.
All this East Coast vs. West Coast stuff was BS.
We were listening to [Snoop Dogg’s] Doggystyle when we made [the Notorious B.I.G.’s] Ready to Die. That time was full of soul kitchen type of shit. Mary wanted to do that Curtis Mayfield song [“Give Me Your Love”] — Snoop used a little bit of it in his album [on the Doggystyle track “Bathtub”].
And back then in New York, at the parties, they’d be playing a lot of the original soul records. Puff and Mary are the most New York-ity people you can ever be around.
Several people talk about how they felt a lot of pressure to top the success of What’s the 411?
This was an important record for her. There’s the sophomore jinx that happens. The mission for me was to change a lot of the negative press that was happening with her because she was this new thing that people didn’t understand. People took jabs at that. I was trying to flip the bullshit image, whether it bothered her or not.
I didn’t like people throwing stones at something they didn’t understand. So I was like, on this record, people are gonna know you’re a singer. You’re the real deal.
What type of stuff was the press saying at that time?
Just because she was wearing boots, she wasn’t dressed as a traditional female singer. Hip-hop style was different. People that don’t necessarily live that life or understand, the first thing they’re gonna do is say something bad about it. I took offense to that.
Blige talks a lot about how much she was struggling mentally she was in while recording the album. Was it challenging to be creative while facing depression?
You can feel the energy when she walks in the room: Something’s bothering her, there’s something she’s trying to deal with. I’m a Cancer — we’re emotional already. But even when she’s coming in with a lot of emotion, there’s always a soundtrack for that. For me, the soundtrack for that was coming from soul or gospel. There was a real strong gospel presence around Bad Boy Records — Faith Evans, Jodeci. Those melodies helped her sing what she was feeling about. She was crying in the studio. She would wipe away those tears and keep going.
As a producer, what did you like about mixing Seventies soul hits with contemporary hip-hop?
We’re grabbing and taking from history. You’re grabbing something that’s been classic for twenty years and then put it with a young perspective. I look at what we did with her as almost the same thing that Quincy Jones did with Michael Jackson. You got Quincy who’s seasoned, older, and Michael is younger. Those two energies together are the reason you can play a song like “Beat It,” a record that came out in the 1980s, to kids today, and they’ll jump around like that shit is brand new.
You remember those hearing tests we used to take back in high school? That first tone, everybody can hear that shit. It starts going up higher, and old dudes start dropping off. Hitting that first tone is why I feel like My Life still has stamina. I feel the same with B.I.G.’s albums. We were using older samples, but B.I.G. had a fresh perspective. So older people can hear it, younger people can hear it.
The title track to My Life sampled Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.”
I thought about doing the Roy Ayers record, but the way a Go-go band would do it. My whole background is D.C. and Go-go. Back then you either hired a band or a DJ. When they came with the crossfader for DJs, they could play one record and slide right into the next to keep people on the dancefloor longer. [The Go-go act] Chuck Brown said, “man, I’m losing business.” I played congas with Chuck. He decided, “I’ll put a percussion break in between songs.” So we would finish a song, then I’d do a percussion break, and I’d do a call and response — ask the crowd, “y’all tired yet?” That’s part of what started Go-go.
I didn’t want to do the Ayers record with the congas and all that, but with that musicianship, that pocket from Go-go. I made sure that shit had a feel to it. I played it in a house in Scarsdale, and Puff ran all the way from the other side of the house. Then Mary hears it and starts to write these lyrics where she’s having a conversation with herself. I’m listening like, “that’s a hell of a conversation.”
Were you pleased with the reception to My Life?
My Life got nominated for Best R&B Album, but it didn’t have any promotion behind it. We went up against [TLC’s] CrazySexyCool. The first single was fucking “Creep.” That shit is crazy. The second single was “Red Light Special;” that shit is sexy as shit. Then the last fucking single, which took them to eleven million in sales, was “Waterfalls,” the coolest shit you could think of. I thought that was a pop album though. But the way the whole Grammy thing works a lot of time is based on popularity. Not to say that CrazySexyCool wasn’t a great album. I just looked at it in a pop lane.
But I was determined that [Blige] would have the status she was deserving of. That became my mission. And you can line her up with any of the greatest singers.
This jacked comment (above) includes negative allegations regarding Tory Lanez.
Fashion designers continue to diversify.
Yves St. Laurent has a cigarette brand (above) and Ralph Lauren has a chain of Polo Bar establishments (below) in NYC and Chicago and he's also launched Ralph's Coffee (below).
by: Jane Singer
The Polo Bar, owned by Ralph Lauren, is a club-like, well-reviewed restaurant featuring Ralph’s personal “Madeline” memory from his childhood in the Bronx, the Reuben sandwich, corned beef on rye with melted Swiss cheese and coleslaw, along with a menu full of comfort food, in what is called the “best lit” room in New York.
The restaurant is frequented by celebrities and A-list socialites.
The Polo Bar is difficult to get into, guarded on the outside by well-dressed attendants armed with iPads displaying a list of those well connected enough to have a reservation that evening.
But 17 blocks north, anyone can have a delicious cup of coffee at Ralph’s coffee house smack in the middle of the “Mansion,” the Ralph Lauren edifice that houses women’s clothing, accessories and home furnishings on Madison Avenue and 72nd Street. A big green cup of coffee with the Ralph’s logo is now affixed to the sidewalk of the 72nd Street entrance.
Ralph’s Coffee was seen for a while in the Polo store on Fifth Avenue.
Ralph’s Coffee with its bright green logo, green and white tiled floors and color scheme, also shows up in Ralph’s Coffee shops Hong Kong, Tokyo, the Flatiron District and at Rockefeller Center in a 1943 green Citroen truck. The patio area, adjacent to the truck, where you can enjoy Ralph’s cold brew, espresso, cappuccino or lemonade, along with muffins and chocolate chip cookies, is outfitted with chairs and umbrellas, a respite in the middle of midtown Manhattan.
Ralph’s Coffee made a promotional appearance offering hot chocolate in Bloomingdale’s last Christmas in the men’s Polo Shop with direct street access to 59th street. At the time, the men’s shopping area included an ice-skating rink complete with rental skates and the aforesaid hot chocolate, in case you needed a break or a boost while purchasing polo shirts, corduroys and cashmere sweaters. All retail theater and staging that is crucial to the Ralph Lauren brand.
GRISLY: (2 STORIES!)
by: David Lohr
After Grant Hayes (local singer) and Amanda Hayes (aspiring actress-2nd pic) killed Laura Ackerson (1st pic), cut her body into pieces and attempted to dissolve the remains in acid, they threw her dismembered remains into an alligator-infested creek to get rid of the evidence.
Those are the grim details of Ackerson’s murder that a Texas jury heard this month before convicting Amanda Hayes of tampering with evidence. That same day, Aug. 21, Fort Bend County District Judge Maggie Jaramillo sentenced the 46-year-old to 20 years in prison.
Raleigh, North Carolina, is where authorities say Grant and Amanda Hayes killed his ex-wife and the mother of his two young sons after she declined a payment of $25,000 for both boys.
Ackerson was reported missing from Kinston, North Carolina, after she’d been gone about three days. The 27-year-old, an entrepreneur and graphic artist who had divorced Grant Hayes, was last known to be traveling to the Hayeses’ Raleigh apartment. Ackerson and her ex-husband, then 32, had 2-and 3-year-old sons together, and authorities believe she was going to pick them up when she disappeared.
Ackerson’s car was found parked at a northwest Raleigh apartment complex. The location, according to police, was less than a quarter-mile from the Hayeses’ apartment.
Investigators learned Grant Hayes, a budding area musician, had recently married actress Amanda Hayes. According to “Inside Edition,” her screen credits include appearing in “The Sopranos” and portraying a robotic wife in the remake of “The Stepford Wives.”
Ackerson and her ex-husband reportedly had a tumultuous relationship and were involved in an ongoing custody dispute over their sons. The couple had been scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 15.
Grant and Amanda Hayes, police discovered, had traveled to Richmond, Texas. About 60 miles south of Houston, was home to Amanda Hayes’ sister. Five days after the couple’s arrival, body parts were found scattered in Oyster Creek, roughly 100 yards from the sister’s house.
The head had been severed from the torso, which was found in two pieces, and the arms and legs had been cut from the body, police said. Various body parts continued to surface for several weeks.
Investigators identified the remains as those of Ackerson and arrested Grant and Amanda Hayes.
The sister did not face charges, according to Texas authorities, who said there was no indication she had any knowledge of what happened.
Given the condition of Ackerson’s body, the North Carolina chief medical examiner was unable to determine how she died and ruled her death a result of “undetermined homicidal violence.”
Investigators later said evidence collected in the case suggested Ackerson was killed and dismembered in North Carolina.
It’s believed her body parts were stuffed in ice chests and hauled about 1,200 miles to Texas for disposal.
Once in Richmond, the Hayeses, authorities said, attempted to use muriatic acid to destroy Ackerson’s body parts.
When that didn’t work, “they took a boat onto Oyster Creek and dumped Laura’s body parts into the water with hopes that alligators would eat her remains,” the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office said.
One of the strongest pieces of evidence was a song Hayes recorded, in which he sang about killing his “babies’ mama.” The lyrics read, in part:
“My babies’mama, don’t talk to me. Don’t want your drama. I got two kids by you. I can’t take any more from you … I put a price tag on your head. You must have told your attorney I got intentions on killing you.”
Jurors found Hayes guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his ex-wife.
He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Two months after Amanda Hayes was sentenced, six guards at the Wake County Jail lost their jobs after they were accused of inappropriate relationships with inmates, including Amanda Hayes. No criminal charges were filed against the guards.
That same month, a Texas grand jury indicted Amanda Hayes on charges of dumping Ackerson’s remains in Richmond, the case that brought this month’s conviction. At her second trial, she again denied involvement in the murder and claimed fear drove her to help dispose of the body parts.
The 20-year sentence that Jaramillo handed down ensures Hayes will not get out of jail anytime soon. Jaramillo ordered the sentence to run consecutive to Hayes’ North Carolina sentence, meaning she won’t be credited for any of her Texas time until she serves her North Carolina sentence and is brought back to Texas and incarcerated.
Should Amanda Hayes serve the entirety of both sentences and live to see the day she’s released, she’ll be 82 years old.
Ramón Bojórquez Salcido (b. March 6, 1961) is a Mexican convicted mass murderer who is currently on death row in California's San Quentin State Prison. He was convicted for the 1989 murders of six female family members and one male supervisor at his workplace. His victims included his wife and two of his daughters, four-year-old Sofía and 22-month-old Teresa. A third daughter, three-year-old Carmina, was left lying in a field beside the bodies of her sisters for thirty-six hours after being slashed across the throat by her father but was eventually rescued.
Salcido's victims were killed in the cities of Sonomaand Cotati, California. Maria, Marion, and Ruth Richards were killed at a house at Lakewood Drive in Cotati, and Salcido's relatives and Toovey were killed in Sonoma.
On April 14, 1989, after a night of drinking and snorting cocaine, Ramon Salcido drove his three young daughters to a county dump, slashed their throats, and threw them into a ditch, killing Sofia and Teresa; Carmina survived.
Salcido then drove to Cotati, California, where he killed his mother-in-law and her two daughters. He then returned to his home in Boyes Hot Springs, where he shot his wife, Angela Salcido. He then went to the Grand Cru winery, his place of employment, where he killed a co-worker, Tracey Toovey.
Salcido fled after the killings to Mexico via Calexico.
He was arrested in Guasave, Mexico, on April 19, 1989. When arrested, Salcido told police that he committed the murders because he suspected his wife was having an affair with a coworker.
Salcido's trial had been moved out of Sonoma County due to extensive news coverage of the case. On October 30, 1990, Salcido was found guilty by a jury of six counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, and two counts of attempted murder. On November 16, 1990, Salcido was sentenced by a jury to the death penalty.
Marteen Miller, Salcido's attorney, contended that his client was under the influence of cocaine and alcohol during the slayings. The defense had sought a verdict of second-degree murder or manslaughter under the circumstance that the drugs had put Mr. Salcido in a state of psychotic depression when the rampage began.