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McCartney asks Putin to act

Paul McCartney cited the lyrics of “Back in the U.S.S.R.” on Thursday as he urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to release 30 people arrested during a Greenpeace protest at an Arctic oil rig almost two months ago.

In a letter, the former Beatle told Putin that he wrote his playful homage to the former Soviet Union in 1968, “back when it wasn’t fashionable for English people to say nice things about your country.”

Quoting the song’s line “Gee it’s good to be back home,” McCartney asked: “Could you make that come true for the Greenpeace prisoners?”

The 28 protesters, as well as a photographer and a videographer working for Greenpeace, were detained aboard their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, on Sept. 18 after staging a protest at an oil rig owned by Russia’s Gazprom state energy giant.

“I understand, of course, that the Russian courts and the Russian presidency are separate,” McCartney wrote. “Nevertheless I wonder if you may be able to use whatever influence you have to reunite the detainees with their families?”

PBS renews Smiley show

Tavis Smiley, who has brought rare diversity to late-night TV for a decade on PBS, will add another two years to his run.

The “Tavis Smiley” show has been renewed through 2015, PBS said Thursday.

“The highlight for me is surviving,” Smiley said, noting the growing competitiveness in the late-night talk show realm.

He said he’s unfazed by the coming shake-up that will see Jay Leno step down (again) as host of NBC’s “Tonight,” with the venerable show heading East as Jimmy Fallon takes over in February.

“For us, it’s the same old, same old – another white guy joins the lineup,” Smiley said. “In some ways, it might benefit us because ‘Tonight’ is moving to New York. So that’s one less option that guests in L.A. have to be booked on.

“I love Jay, but I was teasing him the other day that we actually benefit by him going off the air,” Smiley said.

Walmart, which has funded the show since its start, will continue to support it, PBS said.

DeCurtis penning Reed bio

Longtime music writer and Rolling Stone critic Anthony DeCurtis is writing a biography of Lou Reed.

Little, Brown and Co. announced Thursday that it had acquired a book by DeCurtis. The writer interviewed Reed numerous times and wrote the liner notes for an anthology of songs by the group Reed led in the 1960s, the Velvet Underground.

Little, Brown bills the biography as offering “the inside story” of the brilliant and contentious artist. The book is currently untitled and doesn’t yet have a release date. Also on Thursday, fans of the late musician danced to Reed’s music at a public memorial in New York City. Lincoln Center played Reed’s music, as well as the music of the Velvet Underground, for three hours.

Reed, one of the most influential musicians of the past 50 years, died Oct. 27 at age 71. He was known for such songs as “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Heroin” and “Pale Blue Eyes.”