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6 Gangsters Who Earned Their Names

A thug, is a thug, is a thug. But would a thug by any other moniker still be as dangerous? We're guessing "yes."

1. Frank "the Dasher" Abbandando (1910"“1942)

Abbandando was one killer who was fast on his feet. A hit man for the New York mob's Murder, Inc., an organization of contract killers, Abbandando may have killed as many as 50 people. In one case, he walked up to a guy and pulled the trigger only to have the gun misfire. With his armed victim in pursuit, Frank "the Dasher" ran so fast around the block that he came up behind his quarry and coolly shot him in the back. Hence his nickname. But even Abbandando couldn't outrun a stool pigeon inside Murder, Inc. Convicted of a single murder, the speedy criminal was awarded a speedy trial, followed by a speedy execution via electric chair.

2. Albert "Lord High Executioner" Anastasia (1903"“1957)

Brutal dogs, ants and one serious weasel all after the jump...

anastasia.jpg Also dubbed "the Mad Hatter" for his love of fancy fedoras, the dapper "Lord High Executioner," was not a man to be messed with. In the early 1920s, Anastasia was sentenced to death for killing a fellow longshoreman. But he was granted a retrial and the conviction was reversed when four of the witnesses "disappeared." And that was just at the start of his career. After helping to kill crime boss Joe Masseria, Anastasia was made head of Murder, Inc. by new boss Lucky Luciano, and was dubbed the mob's "Lord High Executioner" by the press. And while the name stuck, his position didn't, as Anastasia eventually fell out with the other bosses. On October 25, 1957, Anastasia was shot six times while getting a haircut. As one New York paper put it the next day: "He Died in the Chair After All."

3. Lester "Baby Face Nelson" Gillis (1908"“1934)

101.jpgHe wanted to be called "Big George," but at 5 feet 4 inches and with the visage of a choirboy, Lester Gillis was stuck with "Baby Face." No matter. Starting as a pickpocket, Lester put an even better face on things by graduating to enforcer (for Al Capone), bank robber, and psychopathic killer, sometimes shooting people for no reason mid-heist. By 1934, Baby Face was the FBI's Public Enemy No. 1. But on November 27 of that year, he went out with a bang. A lot of bangs, actually. In a gun battle with two FBI agents, Nelson killed both Feds, but not before they put 17 slugs in him. Amazingly, Nelson walked back to his getaway car and escaped. Of course, the 17 shots ended up doing the trick. Lester's body was found in a ditch the next day.

4. Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll (1908"“1932)

Picture 13.pngHis first nickname, "the Mick," was relatively harmless, since he hailed from Ireland and all. But his second one proved to be a keeper. The criminal with an ominous moniker, and a rep to boot, was a top mob enforcer for New York bootlegger Dutch Schultz. And among his many talents, the versatile Coll specialized in kidnapping and extortion. In fact, he had no qualms about torturing his victims. After falling out with Schultz, Coll touched off a gang war in which at least 20 people were killed. One was a five-year-old boy caught in a crossfire. Coll was charged with the shooting, and though he was acquitted, his days on the street were numbered. Mob bosses put a price on Coll's head, and on February 8, 1932, he was shot more than a dozen times while placing a call in a telephone booth.

5. Tony "the Ant" Spilotro (1938"“1986)

1155530835.jpgFor the 15 years after he first hit Las Vegas in 1971 to the day he died, the mob's chief Vegas enforcer, Tony Spilotro, never spent a day in jail. Not bad for a guy who was implicated in at least 24 murders. In one case, he was even said to have squeezed a victim's head in a vise until his eyes popped out (a scene you might remember from Casino). Ugh. As for "the Ant" bit, little Tony hated the nickname, which was a reference to his diminutive stature (he was 5'5"). What he didn't hate, however, was the limelight, and it proved to be his undoing. Tony's bosses in Chicago figured he was getting a little too much press, so they came up with a quick remedy: Tony and his brother were beaten up, then buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. As for the slick lawyer who kept the Ant out of jail all that time? His name was Oscar Goodman, and he was elected Vegas's mayor in 1999, then reelected in 2003.

6. Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno (1914"“1993)

Picture 21.png"When the boss tells you to do something," Fratianno told a reporter in 1987, "you do it. You don't do it, they kill you." That's how he explained taking part in 11 murders. Of course, it didn't explain why he became a government witness in 1977 after 32 years in the mob. Fratianno, who got his nickname after speedily fleeing a crime scene as a kid, explained that he began ratting on his colleagues because they had a contract on his life. Fratianno spent 10 years in the Federal Witness Protection Program before being kicked out because he was costing taxpayers too much. Amazingly, he died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 79. Not bad for a weasel.

For more lists like these, be sure to pick up a copy of Forbidden Knowledge.

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A New Law Could Make It Harder to Access Your Favorite Florida Beaches
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Florida boasts roughly 8500 miles of coastline—the most of any state in the lower 48 [PDF]—but some of those sunny beaches could soon get a lot harder to access. As Coastal Living reports, a state law passed in 2018 gives private landowners the right to close almost the entirety of their beaches off to the public.

Florida law once required the state to "ensure the public's right to reasonable access to beaches." That policy left the state free to sell miles of coastal land to big tax generators like condos and hotels, while still keeping the waterfront accessible to local beach lovers and the millions of tourists who visit the state each year.

Sixty percent of Florida beaches are now privately owned. Under the new law, tides will turn in favor of those private landowners, allowing them to restrict access to any part of the beach above the high tide line. Starting July 1, they will be able to decide who does and doesn't get to set foot on their oceanfront property.

An online petition campaigning to keep those beaches open to all has already garnered more than 52,000 signatures. If that effort doesn't succeed, local governments will still have the power to remove restrictions from privately owned beaches, but they will need to petition a judge to do so. Any city ordinances about beach access passed prior to 2016 will also stay in effect.

Florida isn't the only coastal state where the question of who owns the beaches is up for debate. Wealthy homeowners in California have been known to hire security guards to remove people from the beaches in front of their houses, despite the fact that beaches in the state are public property. The courts have largely sided with the masses, though: In 2017, a billionaire landowner in northern California was ordered by a state court to restore public access to the beach in front of his property, which he had previously closed off with a locked gate.

Even with the new law, the portion of Florida shoreline that falls within the tide will always belong to the state. But that may not help anyone who has to traverse private property to get there.

[h/t Coastal Living]

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Some of Your Favorite Movies, Books, and Music Are About to Enter the Public Domain
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In America, copyright terms have serious staying power. Thanks to several laws involving, in part, Mickey Mouse, the U.S. government has extended copyright protections for decades past what other countries require, effectively keeping any work published after 1922 firmly out of the public domain to this day. That means you can’t legally use images and artistic works without permission from (and probably payment to) the owner of the copyright. But soon, a new batch of work is set to enter the public domain, marking the first time that has happened in decades, according to The Atlantic. That means you’ll be able to use, remix, and even sell those works without getting into legal trouble.

In most other countries, literature, art, films, music, and certain other creative works are under copyright for the life of their author plus some number of years (in many places, it’s 50 or 70 years). For instance, people in Canada and New Zealand became able to use the works of artists like Woody Guthrie without worrying about copyright infringement in 2018.

But Americans are still waiting to use works published in the 1920s. In the U.S., a 1976 law extended copyright protections on everything created between 1923 and 1977 (and beyond) to 75 years, putting work published in 1922 into the public domain in 1998. Then, a 1998 law extended those copyright terms further to 95 years after first publication, protecting anything made after 1922. So copyrighted work from 1923 on wouldn’t enter the public domain until 2019 or later.

All this has kept archival resources like the Internet Archive and Google Books from releasing digital versions of old books, kept TV shows from freely using common songs (like, until recently, “Happy Birthday”), and otherwise stifled cheap and easy access to older works of art and culture.

The time has finally come for works from 1923 to enter the public domain in the U.S. This will include books like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street and Robert Frost’s New Hampshire, which includes the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”—a poem that, despite its popularity, has been strictly controlled by his estate up to this point. Other books from authors like Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence, e.e. cummings, and H.G. Wells will also be released into the public domain, as will plenty of films and sheet music. Considering that It’s a Wonderful Life only became a holiday classic when it entered into the public domain due to a clerical error, plenty of other forgotten works might become classics once they are released for royalty-free use next year.

In the meantime, check out some films that are already in the public domain, like Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush. And mark your calendar: Mickey Mouse could be headed to the public domain as early as 2024.

[h/t The Atlantic]

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