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Posts Tagged ‘NATIONAL ENQUIRER’

CELEBRITIES AND TRAGEDY–GENUINE AND SELF-INFLICTED

In Entertainment, History, Medical, Social commentary on May 10, 2018 at 12:18 am

Whtney Houston drowned in her bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 11, 2012. 

The cause of death: Coronary artery disease—and cocaine use.  She was 48.

Ever since, reporters and commentators have repeatedly used the word “tragedy” to describe her fate. 

But there are tragedies that are brought on by events beyond human control—and tragedies that are self-inflicted.

Consider:

Julie Andrews: Whose four-octave soprano voice has delighted audiences for decades on Broadway (Camelot, My Fair Lady) and movies (Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music). 

In 1964, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress (for Mary Poppins).

Her performance in The Sound of Music made it the highest-grossing film of 1965—and won her a second Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.

Julie Andrews, in her best-loved role as “Mary Poppins”

In 1997, she underwent surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center to remove non-cancerous nodules in her throat. The nodules were removed—but so was her ability to sing.

Her husband, Blake Edwards, was widely quoted as saying that Andrews’ voice hds been all but ruined: ”If you heard it, you’d weep.”

Whitney Houston: Blessed with beauty, charm and a golden, intense singing voice that can turn even the almost-unsingable “Star Spangled Banner” into a rousing anthem.

As a beloved, internationally-recognized vocalist, she enjoyed even greater fame and wealth as a movie star (The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale).

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Whitney Houston

Meanwhile, she took on increasingly deadly habits. She chain-smoked cigarettes. And marijuana—“a lot.” She dove into alcohol, pills, cocaine.

During a 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, she denied using crack. Not because it’s lethal, or because it would destroy The Voice that she believed was God’s gift to her.

No, it was because “I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight. OK? We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is whack.”

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Crack cocaine

In 2006, the National Enquirer ran an interview with her sister-in-law, Tina, who charged that Houston spent her days locked in her bedroom “smoking crack, using sex toys to satisfy herself and ignoring personal hygiene.”

Then, in 2009, appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s season premiere, Houston finally admitted that she used drugs with her ex-husband, Bobby Brown, who “laced marijuana with rock cocaine.” 

In other words, crack. 

So, apparently, crack wasn’t whack.

Over time, the once-magnificent instrument that was your voice started to change noticeably. She could no longer hit high notes, or hold one the way she did in her immortal hit, “I Will Always Love You.”

Her voice now sounded hoarse, raspy.

In 2010, she embarked on a “Nothing But Love World Tour.” It was a disaster. In Brisbane, she paused during singing to take a drink of water.

A critic said her performance in London was marked by a strained voice filled with coughs and wheezes.

Fans felt cheated—especially after paying $165 for a ticket—and reacted with jeers and boos.  Some walked out in mid-concert.

On the night before her death, Houston become belligerent and almost duked it out with singer Stacy Francis at the Tru Hollywood nightclub. Her boyfriend, Ray J, had to step in to prevent a fistfight.

Houston was seen leaving the club drunk, with scratches and blood-stains on her legs.

* * * * *

Whose tragedy was genuine—and which was self-inflicted?

The ugly truth is that Whitney Houston’s singing career ended long before her life did.

When people remember her monumental hits like “I Will Always Love You,” they’re recalling a time more than 20 years ago.

Another ugly truth is that each of us is responsible for our own actions.

Attorney and talk-show host Nancy Grace blamed Houston’s doctors for her death. She argued that they had kept writing prescriptions for “America’s songbird” when they knew she was an addict.

But Houston was the one who requested that they write those prescriptions. And she was the one who administered them.

The same chain of events occurred in the Michael Jackson case.

Jackson wanted his drug-of-choice: propofol, a hypnotic sedative used for general anesthesia.  And he got it.

He paid his private doctor, Conrad Murray, $150,000—a-month. For a salary that large, Jackson clearly expected to get more than the standard: “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”

So he got what he wanted—and it killed him.

Houston, for all her charm, was also used to getting her own way.  Once. on an airplane, she tried to light up in the bathroom.  When the pilot warned that she could be fined $2,000, she offered to write out a check that moment if she could have her smoke. The pilot refused.

No matter how famous, talented, beautiful and/or wealthy you might be, in the end, you remain a mere mortal. Even if you are allowed to flout the laws of man, you will be held accountable by your own body for bouts of deadly excess.

That, in the end, is the real legacy of Whitney Houston. And Michael Jackson. And Elvis Presley.  And Marilyn Monroe. And a great many other now-dead celebrities.

Sadly, it is a truth that both celebrities and their worshipers must re-learn—over and over.

COPING EFFECTIVELY WITH BLACKMAIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 3, 2017 at 12:10 am

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary FBI director, was notorious in his own lifetime as a blackmailer.

“Boy, the dirt he has on those Senators,” President John F. Kennedy told his friend, Benjamin C. Bradlee, who was then head of Newsweek’s Washington bureau.

As President, Kennedy could call on Hoover to give him limited access to the private files the FBI director kept on real and potential enemies. But Kennedy had known about Hoover’s incriminating dossiers long before he reached the White House.

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J. Edgar Hoover

During 1941-42, he had enjoyed a delicious affair with Inga Arvad, a Danish journalist and notorious fan of Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.

Suspected of being a Nazi spy, “Inga Binga,” as JFK jokingly referred to her, came under heavy FBI surveillance—including phone taps and room bugs. These picked up Kennedy’s trysts with her.

When the Kennedy patriarch, Joseph P., learned of the affair, he demanded that his son break it off. He had political ambitious for all his sons, and he didn’t want them spoiled by Jack’s owing to an uncontrollable libido.

Richard Nixon—Kennedy’s future rival for the White House—felt the same way about Hoover: “He’s got files on everybody.” 

And this was virtually true—even if those files didn’t hold secretly-obtained information. Nixon learned this as President when he wanted “dirt” on Senator Edward M. Kennedy. In this case, the “file” turned out to be nothing more than newspaper clippings.

As William C. Sullivan, the onetime director of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division, revealed after Hoover’s death in 1972:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator, he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“‘But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.” 

There is a lesson to be learned here: Giving in to blackmail only empowers the blackmailer even more.

The only effective way to handle blackmail was demonstrated by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” a weekday news and talk show.

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Mika Brzezinski

Both have been highly critical of President Donald Trump since he took office on January 20. And Trump—through his friendship with David Pecker, the publisher of the tabloid, The National Enquirer—thought he had the ideal way of shutting them up.

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Joe Scarborough

On the June 30 edition of “Morning Joe,” Scarborough and Brezezinski offered their version of events.

Scarborough: “We got a call: ‘Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys, and Donald is friends with …the president is friends with the guy that runs National Enquirer.’ And they said: ‘If you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story.’ 

“I had, I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me. The calls kept coming, and kept coming, and they were like: ‘Come on, Joe, just pick up the phone and call him.’”

Donald Trump

One of the callers was reportedly Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. 

In short: Grovel before the dictator and he will bestow clemency on you. 

Trump denied being a party to blackmail, but he confirmed that there had been calls between the TV journalists and members of his staff.  In a June 30 tweet, Trump wrote: “He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show”.

Scarborough and Brzezinski provided further details in a June 30 Washington Post column: “This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.” 

The story, which appeared on June 5, alleged that the two, previously married, had cheated on their former spouses. The story was entitled: “Joe & Mika: TV Couple’s Sleazy Cheating Scandal: ‘Morning’ lovebirds vow to make it legal. THE ENQUIRER asks questions!” 

By rejecting Trump’s blackmail threat, Scarborough and Brzezinski accomplished what they could not have by groveling: 

First, they put Trump on notice that they can’t be cowed. This can only encourage future targets of such blackmail to stand up against abuse. 

Second, they deprived him of a potent weapon. Had they caved in to his demand for an unearned apology, they would have made themselves targets for future blackmail. 

Third, they turned the tables by making Trump the target of ugly publicity. Blackmailers are universally reviled, and branding Trump as one detracts from his dignity and influence as President.

Fourth, they forced Trump and the Enquirer on the defensive—with both denying that they ever tried to blackmail Scarborough and Brzezinski.

Considering Trump’s well-earned reputation for lying and vindictiveness, Scarborough and Brzezinski are certain to be more widely believed than the President.

PUTIN OUT THE HITS?: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on September 15, 2016 at 12:10 am

Right-wing websites and networks are gleefully buzzing with theories about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health.

The former First Lady, New York U.S. Senator and Secretary of State collapsed after briefly attending a memorial ceremony on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The unsubstantiated theories include stroke, brain damage, Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.  

But there’s one theory Right-wingers scrupulously refuse to offer: That Clinton might be a victim of poisoning by Donald Trump’s well-known admirer, Vladimir Putin.

It’s a theory that has been offered by no less than Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, the Nigerian-American physician, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who was the first to discover and publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy  (CTE) in American football players. 

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Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu

His struggle to alert the National Football League to that danger met with hostility and derision. Finally, amid growing scrutiny from Congress, the NFL was forced to take the concussion issue more seriously.

NFL owners banned players from striking opponents with the crowns of their helmets.  Meanwhile, the NFL is facing concussion lawsuits from nearly 4,000 former players.  

On September 11, a Clinton rep stated that she was suffering from pneumonia–and Omalu warned on Twitter: “I must advice the Clinton campaign to perform toxicologic analysis of Mrs. Clinton’s blood. It is possible she is being poisoned.”  

And he followed this up with a second tweet: “I do not trust Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump.  With those two all things are possible.”  

At this point, there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton is the victim of KGB “wet” methods.  And it would take lengthy, sophisticated toxicology tests to hopefully learn the truth.  

But there is plenty of evidence that Vladimir Putin has used murder–especially poison–to eliminate his opponents.

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Vladimir Putin

Putin came to power in 2000. Since then, at least 34 journalists have been murdered in Russia, according to the Moscow-based Glasnost Defense Foundation. Many of the suspected killers are military officials, government officials or political groups.

Being a political opponent of Vladimir Putin can also be dangerous.  Among the casualties:

Viktor Yushchenko: In 2004, he was running for president of the Ukraine against Putin’s chosen candidate, Victor Yanukovych.

As the campaign neared its climax, Yushchenko suddenly fell ill–with dioxin poisoning. Flown to Vienna’s Rudolfinerhaus clinic for treatment, he survived, but his face was left greatly disfigured. He went on to win the election, serving as Ukraine’s president from 2005 to 2010.

Aleksandr Litvinenko: A former KGB officer, he had accused Putin of wholesale corruption. Even worse, he charged that–as a pretext for a second war with Chechnya–Putin ordered the bombings of Moscow apartment buildings, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people.  

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Aleksandr Litvinenko  

Litvinenko died on November 23, 2006 in London from a dose of Polonium-210 in his tea. At the time, he was meeting with two Moscow agents, one of whom is now a member of the State Duma. 

Boris Nemtsov: An official with a liberal opposition group, he had been arrested several times for speaking against Putin’s government.

Nemtsov had been scheduled to lead an opposition rally in Moscow. But on February 27, 2015, two days before the event, he was shot dead as he walked home from dinner. The killing happened a short distance from the Kremlin.

If Hillary Clinton proved to have a serious medical condition such as Parkinson’s or Multiple sclerosis, the results would be tragic but strictly national.

Mounting pressure within and outside the Democratic party would force her to drop out of the race. 

There would be a brief, furious struggle within the Democratic party for the nomination–most likely between Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Tim Kaine, Clinton’s choice for Vice President. The winner would face Donald Trump in the coming debates and fall election. 

And the Clintons–a force in American politics since 1992–would finally leave the national stage.

But if Hillary is a victim of a KGB assassination attempt, as Dr. Bennet Omalu suspects, then the consequences would be national and international.  

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Hillary Clinton

Nationally, such a discovery would almost certainly generate huge sympathy for Clinton–a woman singularly unable to arouse sympathy among voters. That alone could ensure her election as President.  

And even Americans who hate Clinton would never forgive Russia for daring to interfere with an American Presidential election. They would demand severe retaliation–even all-out war.

For Trump, it would prove a nightmare. He’s made too many admiring statements about Putin to disavow them now and be believed.  

National outrage followed in July when Trump invited Putin to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” on the private server that Clinton used as Secretary of State.

If Clinton died–or was simply injured–because of a KGB plot, few would believe Trump wasn’t a party to it.

And several of Trump’s closest associates have had ties to Putin, such as his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Even many Republicans have already declared they can’t support Trump in abandoning NATO–much less his clear admiration for Putin, a dictator who got his start as a KGB agent. 

At his first press conference upon becoming President, Ronald Reagan harshly denounced Soviet leaders: “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

A KGB plot against Hillary Clinton would convince many Americans that Republican leaders have become as corrupt as those in the Kremlin.

PUTIN OUT THE HITS?: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on September 14, 2016 at 12:09 am

September 11 marked the 15th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history.

The date when, in 2001, two highjacked, fuel-laden jetliners slammed into the “twin towers” of the World Trade Center in New York City and a third crashed into the Pentagon in  Washington, D.C. 

A fourth, intended for the White House or Capitol Building, was prevented from doing so by the heroic resistance of its passengers. The highjackers crashed it into a field in Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

For Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State, and now the Democratic party’s Presidential nominee, this was to be a day of memorial events.

Instead, it turned out to be her worst nightmare as a Presidential candidate.

Scheduled to attend a 9/11 ceremony in New York City, she cut short her appearance around 9:30 a.m. because she felt “overheated,” according to campaign spokesman Nick Merrill.

Amateur video captured Clinton struggling to stand and needing help to enter her Secret Service van. A woman held Clinton’s left arm as the van approached. Then two men grabbed both of her arms as her knees buckled.

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Hillary Clinton being helped into her van

Shortly before noon, Clinton left the apartment of her daughter, Chelsea. Wearing sunglasses, she waved to diners at a nearby restaurant.

“I’m feeling great, it’s a beautiful day in New York,” she said. Then she headed to her home in Chappaqua.

The official statement given by her campaign went:

“Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for just an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen. During the ceremony, she felt overheated so departed to go to her daughter’s apartment, and is feeling much better.”

Several hours later, her doctor announced that Clinton was suffering from pneumonia.

Throughout the campaign, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has attacked her mental and physical and fitness to be President.

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Donald Trump

The 9/11 incident has hugely amplified those questions–and concerns. She not only abruptly left the ceremony, but nobody in her campaign told reporters traveling with her about her condition or whereabouts for 90 minutes after she left the ceremony. 

In 2015, Clinton, then 67, released a two-page letter from her doctor stating that she was in good health despite a blood clot and a 2012 concussion. 

But that hasn’t prevented conspiracy theorists from flooding the Internet that she is stricken with a vast array of unsubstantiated ailments, such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Brain damage
  • Stroke
  • Brain cancer
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome

The Right has salivated over the prospect of its longtime rival being yanked off the political stage, as it were, by a shepherd’s crook of deteriorating health. 

Among these celebrations:

The National Enquirer: “Failing health and a deadly thirst for power are driving Hillary Clinton to an early grave.” The article–dated September 30, 2015–claimed she would be dead in six months.

Fox & Friends: Hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy claimed that Clinton’s glasses proved “a sign of brain damage and other things.” 

InfoWars: “Coughing can be a symptom of so many different illnesses…it is interesting to note that it happens to be one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.”

Hannity: Fox News Medical Correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel said that a video showing Clinton laughing with reporters suggested that she might be having a “mini-seizure.” Siegel added that Clinton might still suffer from “post-concussion syndrome”–after a 2012 concussion–which could affect balance, impair memory and cause dizziness.

Yet there is one conspiracy theory that is conspicuously absent from Right-wing websites and networks.  

And this is because it points to a connection that Republicans–and especially Donald Trump–want to ignore.

The ties between Trump and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  

Vladimir Putin

Putin’s admiration for Trump is no secret.  

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race. 

“He is saying that he wants to move to a different level of relations with Russia, to a closer, deeper one. How can we not welcome that?  Of course, we welcome that.”

Nor is Trump’s admiration for Putin. 

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”  

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said of Putin: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.” 

When Trump praised Putin as a leader–“unlike what we have in this country”–he meant President Barack Obama. 

But Putin may have serious reasons for flattering Trump.  

Trump believes the United States is paying too much of the money needed to maintain the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. He wants other members to contribute far more. He has said that, unless they do, under a Trump Presidency, they would be on their own if attacked by Russia. 

The withdrawal of the United States from NATO would instantly render that alliance kaput.

For Putin, this clearly signals a reason to prefer Trump to Clinton. 

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