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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"On Oct. 27, a Katyusha rocket was fired from Lebanon and struck down in an open area outside the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmone. This was the ninth such rocket strike since the end of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but smaller Palestinian groups hoping to spark another round of fighting are the most likely suspect. Hezbollah, despite its extreme anti-Israel politics, did not join the fight, even after Israeli counterstrikes. The 'Blue Line' separating Israel from Lebanon is one of the most volatile borders in the world. But predicting when this area, and other tense regions throughout the world, will erupt into violence often appears to be little more than guesswork. How can policymakers overcome their own biases and limited information to anticipate if an incident like the recent rocket strike on Israel will spark a larger conflict, like the 2006 war, or fizzle out? Increasingly, the answer is: Develop a computer model from historical data. The University of Maryland's Laboratory for Computational Cultural Dynamics (LCCD) constructed one such model that predicted this period of quiet along the Israeli-Lebanese border, and also provides insight into Hezbollah's priorities." (Foreignpolicy)



"It's the Madonna and child. Madonna introduced her 12-year-old daughter Lourdes to the delights of the red carpet at the New York opening of the film Nine, nominated for five Golden Globes." (Thisislondon)



"In Hollywood, revenue rarely tells the whole story -- as Disney proved this year. Based on ticket sales alone, the studio has had a pretty solid 2009, with about $2.8 billion in worldwide box office through the end of November. It's already up about 16 percent over its 2008 global total. And while it only ranks fifth among the majors in domestic box office, it already has eclipsed $1 billion in North American theatrical revenue for the fourth consecutive year -- a first for the studio. But there isn't much end-of-year cheer over these figures. The Mouse House is just beginning to settle its ranks following the abrupt replacement in September of longtime studio chief Dick Cook by former Disney Channel president Rich Ross. 'The disappointment stems from the fact that we didn’t make money on some of these movies because they cost too much,' admitted one studio official. 'We want to make great movies, but for a price that will give us a return on our investment.' The main issue: production and marketing costs on 3D features were simply too high in 2009." (TheWrap)



"The Obama administration is talking tough but acting tame with respect to Wall Street. But a pair of senators is coming out swinging. Today, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and John McCain (R-AZ) are taking a step towards proactive reconstruction of the banking sector by introducing the Banking Integrity Act of 2009. The bill would reinstate provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, the New Deal-era law that built a wall between commercial banks and risky investment banking.'Federally insured deposits must not be used as fuel for the fire of speculative trading at the expense of lending or investing,' Cantwell told me Tuesday. The Washington state Democrat has been particularly focused on banks’ excessive use of capital for derivatives transactions and is working hard to reduce the risky nature of today’s derivatives environment. 'Exactly how much capital that could be used for solid investing has been shifted towards derivatives instead?' Cantwell asks, going straight at one of the most complex issues with the current banking landscape." (TheDailyBeast)



"This weekend, as Los Angeles hid from the pelting rain, we drove to San Diego for the final leg of the W WonderLust Live concert series, hosted by Bryan Michael Cox and featuring the ferociously cool Gossip. Upon arriving, we settled in at the open bar by the makeshift stage in the ultra-swanky W hotel's living room. After a few fidgety moments, PAPER favorite Beth Ditto roared onstage like a scalded pixie, all orange bowl cut, skintight dress and some serious pipes. Ditto is not only a divine performer, but her sweet-as-pie Southern accent coats her trucker-mouthed crowd banter with such hospitality that even the few conservative-looking hotel guests who had wandered in by mistake seemed charmed." (Papermag)



"After a major contraction following the September 2008 market crash, art prices in most categories have found their level. The bellwether fall auctions in New York did decently, with some record prices set, like the $43.7 million (including fees) paid for Andy Warhol's '200 One Dollar Bills' (1962) at Sotheby's. that's not as much as the $71.7 million Warhol's 'Green Car Crash' brought at Christie's in 2007, but a strong price. This year, the art market will be driven by non-American buyers." (Forbes)



"NBC and MSNBC had an interesting cost-cutting measure at their joint Christmas party. We're told that on-air network talent served as guest bartenders during the fete, held this year in the same studio 'Saturday Night Live' uses. '[NBC foreign correspondent] Richard Engel manned the early shift with MSBC's Courtney Hazelett,' says a spy. 'He handed out maybe three beers and spent the rest of the time chatting.' Also putting in time behind the bar were 'Today' correspondent Jenna Wolfe, 'Today' host Hoda Kotb and NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander." (PageSix)



"Meanwhile, walking up Madison Avenue after lunch, in the low 60s, I ran into Mai Harrison looking very chic. I first noticed her in the crowd precisely because of that. She was on her way up to 64th Street to a friend’s apartment. When we got there, I complimented her on the way she looked and she told me it was a Trigere." (NYSocialDiary)

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