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Friday, September 04, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"About a tenth of the 50 wealthiest lawmakers were either voted in during the election last November or appointed during early 2009. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), as well as appointed Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), are among the newcomers with pockets deep enough to make it on to The Hill’s Rich List. The richest lawmaker is Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a veteran senator and 2004 presidential nominee, who has a net worth of at least $167.8 million, thanks to his wife’s fortune. Some of the members well known for their wealth, such as Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.), are also on the Rich List, with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Kerry and Harman have seen their fortunes decrease by millions of dollars compared to their reported wealth in previous years. Harman’s headline worth fell by more than $100 million from her 2007 estimate. Kerry saw a decline of more than $70 million. Issa, however, got richer. His wealth increased by at least $4 million, compared to reports from last year." (TheHill)



"Everybody at The Washington Post—this really may be everybody, from janitors and pressmen to reporters and ad salespeople—loves their owners, the Graham family. They love them even when they are being fired by them (or being encouraged to take buyouts). They love them even if, arguably, they’ve devolved from heralded heights to mere ordinariness, if not haplessness. They love them even when they’re being embarrassed by them. That would be the 'salons'—an embarrassing name in itself—organized at the home of Post publisher Katharine Weymouth, the granddaughter of Katharine Graham. With a little critical interpretation, you can look at the salons as a kind of homage to her grandmother, who was beloved not just by her employees but also by the Washington elite for, among other things, her invitations. If you were invited, that meant you were powerful. The current Katharine has two difficult if not impossible imperatives: to measure up to her family’s stature in Washington and to find new sources of income to make their newspaper viable again. She decided to combine these two goals in what must have seemed like a clever updating of her grandmother’s hospitality—she’d charge $25,000 to $250,000 to have corporations sponsor tête-à-têtes with Post reporters in her living room—but was instead perceived as selling out the stature her grandmother had achieved. Sort of like Bill Clinton and the Lincoln Bedroom." (VanityFair)



"MADONNA traveled light to Israel. Just took 11 suites plus 25 rooms plus her own Royal Suite plus her own Italian chef plus her own exercise equipment, which came in on a private plane, plus her five children. The fifth being that nice underemployed Brazilian young boy Jesus she schleps around. Unclear exactly what line of work he's out of, but it's definitely clear what kind of work he's into. Adjacent to her suite, the Dan Tel Aviv set up a private kitchen on the fifth floor where all her meals were served, including a traditional Shabat dinner presided over by the Kabbalah's Rabbi Berg. And for those daily pilates and stretches, the hotel also turned their King Solomon Ballroom -- often the site of bar mitzvahs and weddings -- into her personal gymnasium. Nobody carried on this way even when Sadat came for a visit." (PageSix)



"Last Friday, Mohammed ElBaradei, director generalof the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), issued a fourth report on the agency’s investigation into Syria’s attempts to construct a covert nuclear program with the help of North Korea. The report shows that two years after their suspected reactor was destroyed, Damascus continues to stonewall the IAEA. It also illustrates the agency’s limitations in detecting and investigating clandestine activities. The reactor may no longer exist, but Syria’s past pursuits and North Korea’s dangerous role are still causes for concern -- as is the IAEA’s inability to do anything about them. Syria’s rogue nuclear program was shrouded in secrecy from the beginning. The reactor was constructed in a remote desert canyon, its resemblance to a North Korean reactor disguised with false walls and a false ceiling, and its cooling pipes buried underground. Syria did not notify the IAEA of the reactor’s construction, thereby violating its Safeguards Agreement, a standard agreement meant to allow the IAEA to verify the peaceful use of nuclear material. After an Israeli airstrike in September 2007 destroyed the reactor, Syria went to great lengths to cover up its violation. President Bashar al-Assad denied that the destroyed facility housed a reactor, and North Korea refused to acknowledge its involvement. Incriminating components were hauled away, the facility remains were further destroyed, much of a surrounding hill was bulldozed over the site, and a new building was quickly erected on top." (ForeignPolicy)



"In his dispatch from the 2009 Venice Film Festival, which kicked off Wedesday, Shane Danielsen notes that 'the competition this year looks, on paper at least, to be back to fighting-strength - a thrilling mixture of cultures and generations, with capital-A arthouse titans (Jacques Rivette, Claire Denis, Yonfan) pitted against smart genre technicians (Romero, Tsukamoto, Soi Cheang), plus some interesting debutantes (former Gucci creative director Tom Ford, Israel’s Samuel Maoz). Plus Michael Moore.' Danielsen comes down hard on the fest’s opener though, Giuseppe Tornatore’s 'Baarìa' which he calls 'crass, hectoring and buffoonish.' Roderick Conway Morris at the New York Times has assessments of a couple of the festival’s most anticipated films: Todd Solondz’s 'Life During Wartime,' a quasi-sequel to 'Happiness,' and John Hillcoat’s 'The Road,' an adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel starring Viggo Mortensen. Morris calls 'Happiness' 'a serious film about guilt and forgiveness, about pedophilia and how the paranoia it inspires has come to poison normal human relations and innocent displays of affection — but it is told in Mr. Solondz’s often very funny, deadpan, surreal manner' and writes that The Road is a 'menacing, bleak, suspenseful drama shot with an almost monochrome, austere beauty, with impressive performances from both Mr. Mortensen and Smit-McPhee.' The trades are equally enthusiastic about Solondz’s film." (IndieWIRE)



"The Obamas had just returned from a 'date night' in Georgetown. It was a strikingly public affair, with everything from cocktail choices to accessories reported in excruciating detail, and footage from the post-dinner promenade quickly going global on YouTube. Yet the event was not the highest profile instance of public romancing by the presidential lovebirds. That honor goes to their New York date a few weeks later, which sparked national debate over the propriety of the president firing up Air Force One to take his wife to dinner and a show in the thick of a recession. There have also been smaller moments, like the scene in NBC’s 'Inside the Obama White House' where Michelle and First Dog Bo, cruising the corridors with anchor Brian Williams, crossed paths with the president, prompting a kissy-voiced greeting from her and a quick smooch from him. Or recall Michelle’s welcoming remarks at an event preceding the White House luau, during which she broke into a hip-wiggling mini-hula that spurred her man, brows shooting skyward, to do a grinning double take and tease, 'Try that again?' Which she did. The barriers between public and private have long been eroding, and every modern president has had to deal with the resulting overexposure. Something, however, feels different this time around. While previous First Couples have accepted intrusions into their personal lives, they have appeared to do so reluctantly, and only at the prodding of a relentless media. The Obamas, by contrast, seem almost eager to make their private life, especially the romantic bits, part of the national conversation. It’s unquestionably entertaining. But is it a good idea?" (TNR)



"Sunset Tower Hotel Terrace Room hosted L.A.'s most stylish set late into the wee hours Wednesday night at the Who What Wear Celebrity and Runway Style for Real Life book launch party, co-hosted by Maybelline New York ColorSensational. Toasting Who What Wear co-founders and authors Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power (clad in a fitted Hervé Léger dress), V.I.P. guests including Jessica Alba, Kate Mara, Emma Roberts, Jessica Lowndes, Taryn Manning, Joyce Azria, Lauren Conrad, Carlos Lopez, Merritt Loughran and Kelly Sawyer enjoyed a celebratory dinner al fresco consisting of organic greens, grilled salmon, chicken paillard and warm chocolate cake before taking to the dance floor for the rest of the evening. DJ Samantha Ronson played a unanimously crowd-pleasing mix of danceable old-school-cum-modern upbeat tracks that got everyone on their feet, including Brent Bolthouse and Benji Madden." (Fashionweekdaily)



"To most metropolitan Americans, the Falun Gong are the yellow-shirt-wearing adherents of a Chinese religious sect who hand out flyers on street corners. Those flyers describe the group’s struggle against the Chinese government, which has banned the Falun Gong and subjected its members to organ-harvesting, electroshock therapy, and gulags. But, as the Chinese have escalated their efforts to stamp out the Falun Gong, the group has grown ever savvier in outwitting its oppressors. And it was the protestors in Iran who benefited from this savvy. As the streets of Tehran erupted in the days following Mir Hossein Mousavi’s bizarrely lopsided defeat, the regime’s repressive apparatus kicked into full gear. Among its top priorities: shutting down access to the Internet. But, at this critical moment in the Islamic Republic’s history, some of the government’s Internet filters failed. Indeed, the most utopian proponents of the Internet’s liberating powers seemed vindicated--as social-networking sites organized mass demonstrations and YouTube videos documented the brutal truncheons of the basij and the making of martyrs. When these dissident Iranians chatted with each other and the outside world, they likely had no idea that many of their missives were being guided and guarded by 50 Falun Gong programmers spread out across the United States. These programmers, who almost all have day jobs, have created programs called Freegate and Ultrasurf that allow users to fake out Internet censors." (TNR)



"Aren't these amazing? Our friend Marc Schiller (of The Wooster Collective) just posted these paintings that artist David Hockney created with his iPhone ...." (woostercollective via papermag)

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