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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa has carried out a string of slayings, bombings and other lethal attacks against Westerners and African security forces in recent weeks that have raised fears the terrorist group may be turning a more deadly corner. American and European security counterterrorism officials say that the attacks may signal the return of foreign fighters from the battlefields of Iraq, where they honed their bomb-making skills. The attacks also reflect Al Qaeda’s growing tentacles in the northern tier of Africa, outside the group’s main sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal areas, the officials say. In just the past month, the group has claimed credit for killing a kidnapped British hostage in Mali, killing an American aid worker in Mauritania, murdering a senior Malian army officer in his home and ambushing a convoy of nearly two dozen Algerian paramilitary forces. Last weekend, fighters from the Algeria-based affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ambushed a Malian army patrol in Mali’s northern desert, killing nearly a dozen soldiers and capturing several others, American military officials said. Several militants were also killed. Assessing the militant threat in North Africa is complicated." (NYTimes)

"In a potentially alarming trend for the White House, independent voters are deserting President Barack Obama nationally and especially in key swing states, recent polls suggest. Obama’s job approval rating hit a — still healthy — low of 56 percent in the Gallup Poll on Wednesday. And pollsters are debating whether Obama’s expansive and expensive policy proposals or the ground-level realities of a still-faltering economy are driving the falling numbers. But a source of the shift appears to be independent voters, who seem to be responding to Republican complaints of excessive spending and government control. 'This is a huge sea change that is playing itself out in American politics,' said Democratic pollster Doug Schoen. 'Independents who had become effectively operational Democrats in 2006 and 2008 are now up for grabs and are trending Republican.'" (Politico)



"David Beckham and Tom Cruise are going to be besties for life. In 'The Beckham Experiment,' Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl devotes nearly an entire chapter to the bromance between the soccer stud and A-list actor. To hear Becks tell it, Cruise has influenced every major decision he has made since the two met in 2003. Both David and his wife, Victoria, who celebrated their 10th anniversary on Saturday, shared the 'Mission: Impossible' actor's rep, Creative Artists Agency, and at Cruise's urging, also hired his L.A.-based PR firm, Rogers & Cowan. When the couple relocated to L.A., they moved - where else? - just five minutes from Cruise's home with Katie Holmes on San Ysidro Drive in Beverly Hills. TomKat even hosted the Beckhams' 'Welcome to L.A.' party, with Cruise making the haul from Germany, where he had been filming 'Valkyrie.' In addition, Beckham says he talks to his best mate most days of the week and takes his advice on nearly everything. Tom was influential in Becks' decision to take a job with the L.A. Galaxy. He also recommended Beckham's physical therapist and introduced him to another superstar pal, Will Smith." (DailyNews)



"As my friend and I drove to Santa Monica to attend the SoBe Lifewater 4th of July Party sponsored by Belvedere at the Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica hosted by Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Rashida Jones, I couldn’t help day-dreaming ... As I stood in the catering corner nibbling on tropical fruit salad, ogling my fellow party-goers, I mentally prepared myself for the crush of people I would have to maneuver though to properly investigate the party. But no sooner than I had started, I stopped. I spotted by good friend Neal Brennan (co-creator of The Chappelle Show) and made my way over for a quick hello. As my attention was on Brennan, I didn’t realize that the event's hosts were seated next to him and was introduced. And as Andy’s hand reached out to shake mine, I did what any girl would do... I gave him a fist pound. 'I wasn’t expecting a fist pound from the girl in the white summer dress.' What can I say Andy, Prada can play tricks on you that way." (Papermag)



(image via vator.tv)

"News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch said the media company will wait until the economy recovers before considering acquisitions, preserving its more than $6 billion in cash in the recession. 'I don’t see an end to the downturn, and I can’t predict when we’ll start to see a rebound,' Murdoch said in an interview yesterday at the Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. 'It’s better to hold onto what we’ve got until it’s clearer when there’s an end.' News Corp., the owner of the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, built up its holdings of cash and equivalents during the worst recession since World War II to $6.05 billion as of March 31 from $3.24 billion a year earlier, according to regulatory filings. TV stations and newspapers have been hit by an advertising slump, leading the company to forecast a 30 percent decline in operating income for the fiscal year ended June 30. Murdoch said in a separate interview that he isn’t interested in buying Twitter Inc., the San Francisco-based short-form Web messaging service." (Bloomberg)



"Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley, Idaho, media fest got off to a gloomy start Wednesday, with downbeat panel discussions on the economy (getting worse) and the digital future (looking murky). Erin Burnett of CNBC opened the conference by moderating a discussion between investor Wilbur Ross, MIT professor Simon Johnson and American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault. The prognosis for the economy from the experts was bearish, according to members of the audience. 'It was interesting but gloomy,' said Ken Auletta, the New Yorker writer who attended the meeting, closed to press." (WSJ)

"The Wednesday-it’s-Michael’s Lunch. ShowBiz/MediaBiz with a little tycoonery thrown in with the tomfoolery. The players: Bob Barnett, the Washington lawyer who doubles as a literary agent and got those multi-million dollar books for people like Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, among others; producer Jean Doumanian, tycoon Ron Perelman, MoMA director and philanthropist, Marie-Josee Kravis .." (NYSocialDiary)



"Thanks to the mammoth opening of 3-D toon 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,' 20th Century Fox has become the first studio of the year to cross the $1 billion mark in foreign box office revenues. But Paramount had its own benchmark to tout: It's the first studio this year to jump the $1 billion mark domestically, fueled by 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,' which has reached $300 million faster than any film save 'The Dark Knight.' The 'Transformers' sequel, which opened June 24, has also quickly become the most successful film of the year at the global box office. Sony's 'Angels and Demons,' however, remains the top foreign grosser of the year at $344 million, although 'Revenge of the Fallen' is quickly catching up." (Variety)



"French haute couture was in the Paris spotlight yesterday, but American designers were the men of the hour at a pair of parties. Oscar de la Renta breezed into town from the English countryside for a fête at L'Eclaireur hosted by his consultant and jewelry collaborator Loulou de la Falaise Klossowski ... Later, Calvin Klein creative directors Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli threw a dinner at Apicius, a stunning restaurant in Paris' seventh arrondissement that boasts a candle-filled garden under a canopy of green. 'Isn't this heaven?' Thandie Newton asked as she made her way down the drive to join the likes of Claire Danes, Olivier Theyskens, and Astrid Muñoz." (Style)



"I don’t want to get into this too much, by the way. I don’t want to talk about Angie." (Jon Voigt on Angelina Jolie/TheWrap)



"Once Citi received bailout money, the Weill experiment was supposed to be over. The supermarket was dead and would be disbanded, finally, by its current CEO Vikram Pandit. Prodding the company along in this direction was its new owner, the federal government. All those billions came with a price; though the feds are Citigroup’s single largest shareholders, and they were said to want the company broken up into its more profitable pieces, something investors had been demanding for years. Now comes word from sources close to the bank that the government—namely the Federal Reserve and Treasury, which basically run the bank after bailing it out—isn’t looking to put Citigroup out of its misery as some investors and even FDIC chief Sheila Bair had hoped. According to these people, the plan is to let Citigroup linger, half-dead and half-alive because in its current, near-vegetative state as its stock price falls below $3 a share and it‘s trading and investment-banking departments fall far behind Wall Street rivals, Citigroup propped up by guarantees and bailout money can’t do much harm." (TheDailyBeast)

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