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RFK Jr's custody fight blamed for wife's death

RFK Jr is taking a savage beating in the press following the suicide of his estranged wife Mary Richardson, 52, last Wednesday. The 58-year-old environmental activist, who has been dating actress Cheryl Hines since he filed for divorce from his wife of 16 years in May 2010, was, according to court records, in the final stages of building a case gathering evidence about Mary's well-documented drug and alcohol abuse in a bid to win custody of the couple's four children -- a move many now blame as the trigger for last week's tragic events.

Relations between the Kennedy and Richardson families became so volatile that, last Thursday, Mary's brother filed an injunction to prevent his sister's body being released to RFK Jr. A Westchester judge ruled in favour of Kennedy -- who was Mary's legal next of kin at the time of her death -- just hours before a wake took place on Friday night at the Bedford, New York, estate where her body was found by a housekeeper.

According to Kerry Kennedy, who introduced her childhood friend to her brother more than 30 years ago, Mary had been sober for five months, but was battling depression. "She fought with every ounce of her mission to overcome that horrible disease," she told The New York Times.

Other friends are telling a darker story about a woman who felt discarded and fell deep into despair, reportedly threatening suicide so often that her family staged an intervention.

"There were times when she had to be taken to the hospital when she would be acting irrationally and threatening to hurt herself," a source told The New York Post.

"Mary was terrified that Robert was going to take the kids from her. She was convinced he was building a case against her as an unfit mother and that he would be pursuing full custody," reported Radaronline, quoting another insider who added: "Not only would she lose her children, she would also lose a huge chunk of money each month and her financial problems were deep enough as it was. This really was her worst nightmare come true."

Revelations that American Express filed a civil suit against Mary on April 16 shocked many who assumed she had access to the Kennedy trust fund. "He was kicking her while she was down, all alone," a friend complained to the Post. "In the end, everything was just too much."

The Richardson family, who did attend yesterday's funeral organised by the Kennedy clan, will hold their own memorial for Mary tomorrow night at the Standard Hotel in Manhattan.

Biog's claims on Kennedy 'fiction'

MICHELLE Obama may have rubbed up against the wrong woman if biographer Edward Klein has his story straight. Klein, whose super-nasty new book about the first couple, The Amateur, was published last week (he is also responsible for unauthorised/unflattering bestsellers on Hillary Clinton and Jackie O), claims one-time fervent Obama supporter Caroline Kennedy is falling out with the president, in part because of his weak stance on issues such as raising taxes, but more due to a series of snubs said to have incensed the former first daughter.

"Through these [spies that the Kennedy family has in the Obama administration] and other people, Caroline heard back that there was a lot of nasty s**t being said about the Kennedys by the president and Michelle," Klein writes, quoting an unnamed Kennedy family member describing the kind of behaviour that drove Caroline nuts. "There were catty remarks about how badly the Kennedy women dressed, and how their houses were shabby and threadbare. Caroline got the impression that most of this negativity was coming from Michelle, who didn't want the Kennedys to be part of the administration, for fear that they would have too much influence over the president."

Klein further quotes the source: "Unlike Jackie, who was completely apolitical, Caroline is a liberal with a capital L. When Obama didn't raise taxes to balance the budget, Caroline marked him down. In her eyes, he's a mess because he doesn't follow the liberal bible on politics. More important, Caroline discovered that the Obamas didn't give a damn about her support."

The money quote, however, comes from a source outside the K-clan. "It really annoyed Caroline when comparisons were made by the media between Michelle and Jackie. Caroline had a word for such comparisons; she called them 'odious'. She really got annoyed," writes Klein. "And when she began to fall out of love with the Obamas, love was replaced by outright scorn. Now she says things about Obama like, 'I can't stand to hear his voice any more. He's a liar and worse.'"

To top it all, Klein reports, Caroline believes "that as a loyal Democrat, she has nowhere to go, no one else to possibly support except Obama. The Obamas know that she has nowhere else to go, so they see no point in being nice to her", a situation that "really pisses her off".

Surprisingly, the White House reacted to Klein's claims. Unsurprisingly, it dismissed his book as a work of fiction. "Ed Klein has a proven history of reckless fabrication in order to sell books," said presidential mouthpiece Eric Schultz. "Nobody in their right mind would believe the nonsense in this one."

Caroline Kennedy, whose support of Obama has been conspicuously absent of late, declined to comment.

Klein's book chews the fat

IT'S hard to tell whether Oprah is laughing or crying about Klein's book -- specifically the chapter (literally) that picks apart her relationship with the first couple which, as the author tells it, cracked after Michelle decided the queen of daytime TV was usurping her power with the president.

"Oprah isn't a snob, but she doesn't like having to put up with mid-level clerks," Klein claims an executive at Harpo studios, Oprah's production company, told him about an episode when the woman whose endorsement is widely credited with deciding the 2008 primary was told a middle man would have to vet her interview questions for POTUS.

"These guys were $75,000-a-year men. Oprah was like, 'Hello, what is this shit!' But she did it; she went to Washington with Gayle [King, editor at large for O magazine and co-anchor for the CBS network's This Morning show] and met with both Doebler [White House ceremonies co-ordinator] and Stephens [a deputy speech writer at the White House] to hash out the details. I was surprised she went there, hat in hand."

The executive also describes how, during the same trip, "Michelle mentioned that the White House cooks made the best pie in the world. But she didn't offer Oprah or Gayle any. It was almost an act of cruelty. Instead, she served them almonds, not an Oprah fave."

The purported feud between two of the most powerful women in the world, as boiled down by Klein, spins on a weighty issue. "Michelle hates fat people and doesn't want me waddling around the White House!" Klein claims Oprah complained to her staff.

Klein also reports that on receiving an invite to discuss the issue of childhood obesity on Oprah's show, Mrs Obama told her staff: "Oprah, with her yo-yo dieting and huge girth, is a terrible role model. Kids will look at Oprah, who's rich and famous and huge, and figure it's OK to be fat."

See Schultz's quote above.

Zuckerberg faces down style critics

Facebook boy genius Mark Zuckerberg may have become the 29th richest person on Earth after the social networking company sold 421.2 million shares at $38 each (his shares are now valued at a cool $19.1 bn, making him even wealthier than Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index) but that doesn't mean everybody "likes" the way the 28-year-old does business.

Following the recent brouhaha over Zuckerberg's informal boardroom attire, the scribes at Women's Wear Daily gave the geek-gazillionaire a D+ in their "Man of the Week" column last Thursday, criticising his penchant for sweatshirts and jeans. "Sometimes in life, you just have to move on," snipped the influential style publication. "Let go of the hoodie, wear an unconstructed cashmere blazer." (As if.)

But Zuckerberg may finally be able to move on from the stinging portrayal of him in David Fincher's movie The Social Network. Facebook's 51st employee, Katherine Losse, has written a memoir about her five-year stint as Zuckerberg's PA -- a position she exited "on friendly terms".

Contrary to rumours that the book (The Boy Kings: A Journey Into the Heart of the Social Network) might be a Devil Wears Prada-style hatchet job, publisher Simon &Schuster says the tone is more focused on setting the record straight, instead describing "the vision, culture, and tactics of the hackers, venture capitalists, and Ivy League grads who took Facebook from campus curiosity to worldwide phenomenon". Sounds like payback time for the Winklevoss twins.

Sunday Independent