At the time, it seemed like a joke. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared last month that if one of the world's best-known Frenchmen, actor Gerard Depardieu, really wanted to renounce his French citizenship, he would find the doors to Russia wide open -- with a residency permit and Russian citizenship his for the asking. But on Thursday, the Kremlin announced that Putin had kept his promise and had signed a decree making Depardieu a citizen of Russia.
A Putin spokesman said Depardieu had applied for citizenship, and that it was granted in honor of his cultural achievements. In a letter to Russia's Channel One TV station, Depardieu, 64, confirmed that he applied for Russian citizenship and said he was "happy" the request was granted. "I adore your country, Russia, your people, your history and your writers," he wrote, adding that his father was a Communist who listened to Moscow radio. He promised to study Russian and said he wanted to live in a village because Moscow was too big of a city. He said he had told French President Francois Hollande of his decision and also said, "I love your president, Vladimir Putin, very much and it's mutual."
The former Oscar nominee opposes Hollande's plans to raise the tax on earned income above 1 million euro to 75 percent from 41 percent. Russia has a flat 13-percent tax rate. A representative for Depardieu declined to say whether he had accepted the offer.Rare Stephen King book sold
A signed copy of a rare Stephen King book is up for auction at a Maine bookstore, with proceeds going to a homeless shelter's emergency home heating fund. The copy of "The Regulators," written by the Maine native under the name Richard Bachman, was donated by a customer of Scottie's Bookhouse in Hancock. Owner Michael Riggs says there are only 550 copies of the book in a special collector's box. Bids for the book are being accepted by e-mail, phone and in person until Jan. 31.
FROM CURRENT TO AL-JAZEERA: With its $500 million purchase of left-leaning Current TV, the Pan-Arab news channel Al-Jazeera will soon be seen in tens of millions of U.S. homes. It's a steep price, but the acquisition helps the network in its aim to quickly spread its message to more Americans. The purchase will create a news channel called Al-Jazeera America, coming to U.S. homes 90 days from now with a distinctly non-U.S. view of the world. The deal already had its first casualty. The nation's second-largest TV operator, Time Warner Cable Inc., dropped Current after the deal was confirmed, saying the network didn't have enough viewers. It amounts to a hefty payday for former Vice President Al Gore and co-founder Joel Hyatt, each of whom had 20 percent stakes in Current. Comcast had less than a 10 percent stake. Another major investor was supermarket magnate Ron Burkle.