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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"ANY mere mortal might have reacted with dismay, even anger, if a group of brash newcomers threatened to undo the accomplishments of a lifetime. But from his Olympian heights as Japan’s most revered elder statesman, Yasuhiro Nakasone, the former prime minister, at first watched with sphinx-like calm as an inexperienced, left-leaning government swept to power, challenging Japan’s postwar political order and its close relationship with the United States ... But his most important message is for the new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, who came to power with promises to create a more equal relationship with the United States. It is possible, he says, for Japan to act more independently without alienating Washington, its protector and proven friend. Mr. Nakasone also cautions against blowing the current disagreements with Washington out of proportion. When he was prime minister, in the mid-1980s, the strains on the relationship — from an undervalued yen and a string of trade disputes, to fears that Japan would buy up the American economy, to criticism of Tokyo’s anemic defense spending — were actually much more threatening than those of today, he said." (NYTimes)



"It's not exactly a loss for Jesse James—and it's not what you'd call a massive win for his porn-star ex-wife, Janine Lindemulder, either. At a hearing today in the contentious custody battle between Sandra Bullock's current hubby and his former missus, a judge ordered that Lindemulder be allowed to make daily phone calls to her 6-year-old daughter, Sunny, who currently resides full-time with the famous couple. 'No visitation rights were granted at this point,' Orange County Superior Court spokeswoman Carol Levitzky told E! News. James and Lindemulder, currently serving a four-month stint in a halfway house for violating her parole in a tax-evasion case, were both present for the proceedings; Bullock was not." (E!Online)



"I am about to board my flight back to Los Angeles, following a week of the fledgling haute couture tradition, which seems to be an excuse to party and sell major fashion. The annual closing event of couture is the SidAction gala, which I managed to conquer in my exhausted state. Everyone seemed to be there for the cocktail party and seated dinner. I was especially happy to catch up with one of my favorite designers, Rick Owens, and his wife. Michelle Lamy, with whom I have many happy memories of hanging out in L.A. at Les Deux Cafe in the late ‘90s. Peter Copping and Utah-born model on the rise Hannah Holman looked fantastic in Copping's Nina Ricci putty lace cocktail dress. Naomi Campbell and L'Wren Scott chatted to my left ... Christian Louboutin and I took pictures of our similar black silver spike shoes he designed--they're an apparent airport 'no-no' since he told me the TSA has tried to confiscate his! As the clock struck midnight, I noticed the fashion boys in skinny sparking leggings and droopy tees heading to late-night dancing at Club Sandwich. In a bid to escape before turning into a pumpkin, I hitched a ride home with Robert Forrest, who also kindly dropped off Georgina Brandolini and my date, Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, on the way. We tried to fit Ozwald Boateng in the car, too, but there was only room for one 6'3' tuxed man--I grabbed that seat." (Cameron Silver/Fashionweekdaily)



"Since the end of the cold war, discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos have followed a reliable pattern. Everybody agreed that globalisation was a jolly good thing – but it was the delegates from the US and Europe who shaped the debate. It was informally accepted that the flow of ideas – as well as investment and jobs – was from west to east. The global financial crisis has changed all that. At this year’s Davos, the western delegates seemed depressed, defensive or even mildly deranged in the case of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president. After listening to Mr Sarkozy’s passionate attack on financial capitalism, one Russian participant was overheard saying that he had found the experience pleasantly nostalgic. He remembered hearing many similar speeches in the Soviet Union. That is unfair on the French president, who was careful to argue that he was trying to rescue capitalism from its own excesses. But Mr Sarkozy’s keynote address did reflect the ideological confusion among western leaders. Struggling with bulging deficits and high unemployment – and uneasily conscious of a shift of power to the east – western leaders are questioning many of the ideas that underpinned the old Davos consensus. These days, it is the Asian nations and the big emerging economies that are most comfortable with globalisation – and it is they that are urging the westerners not to give up on free trade." (Gideon Rachman/FT)



"When South African President Thabo Mbeki stepped down from power just over a year ago, it seemed like his political career was kaput. His decade-long administration, beginning triumphantly in 1999, was ending in shame and failure. His administration was rocked by scandal after scandal, to the point that his party, the African National Congress (ANC), lost faith in Mbeki and finally forced him to hand over the reins to an interim president, Kgalema Motlanthe. Abroad, the news was also rough. Toward the end of his term, Mbeki had worked to broker a power-sharing agreement in next-door Zimbabwe. But he failed by all accounts, and today Zimbabwe's government coalition is still perilously frayed. Mbeki, it seemed, was simply too close to Zimbabwe's strongman, President Robert Mugabe, to stand up to him. But now just a year after his political exit, Mbeki is back on the diplomatic circuit, working for the African Union (AU) as head of a panel on Sudan. The man who failed in Zimbabwe, who couldn't even keep his own party from ousting him, is now supposedly fixing things in Darfur." (ForeignPolicy)



"U2's The Edge dining with supermodel Helena Christensen and three others at Morandi." (PageSix)



"Islam is not an enemy, and the 'global war on terror' does not define the United States' current role in the world. The United States will be a fair-minded and assertive mediator when it comes to attaining lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. The United States ought to pursue serious negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, as well as other issues. The counterinsurgency campaign in the Taliban-controlled parts of Afghanistan should be part of a larger political undertaking, rather than a predominantly military one. The United States should respect Latin America's cultural and historical sensitivities and expand its contacts with Cuba. The United States ought to energize its commitment to significantly reducing its nuclear arsenal and embrace the eventual goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. In coping with global problems, China should be treated not only as an economic partner but also as a geopolitical one. Improving U.S.-Russian relations is in the obvious interest of both sides, although this must be done in a manner that accepts, rather than seeks to undo, post-Cold War geopolitical realities. And a truly collegial transatlantic partnership should be given deeper meaning, particularly in order to heal the rifts caused by the destructive controversies of the past few years.(ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI/Foreign Affairs)



"There was an interesting piece in the New York Times asking whether it was more important to win a Grammy or appear on the telecast. In other words, do you remember who won Album of the Year or do you remember Pink flying high in the sky? For those expressing displeasure with the Grammy telecast, I remind you that we no longer live in a monoculture. It was a very brief period, two decades at most, when mainstream and alternative merged, when MTV dictated the hits and radio fell in line behind. But now, you get to choose what you want to listen to from a plethora of choices. So if you tune in a telecast like this you're dumbfounded. Who are these people? Does anybody really care? Beyonce prancing. Black Eyed Peas marching. Eminem and two guys you've never heard of ranting. Is this music? What kind of hole have we fallen down? Relax. To say the Grammys are a reflection of music today is akin to saying what airs on NBC defines America. It doesn't. People have more passion for niche channels like Discovery than those trying to appeal to everybody networks. But there's a limited channel universe. And the networks bought up the niche channels. What's going on in the music business? Chaos. What's ironic is that NARAS was the ultimate niche operation. What I mean by this was there was a category for every genre, it delved deep into music some were passionate about, but few cared about, which is exactly what's happening today." (LefetzLetter)



"On a dark November night in 1978, 18 Chinese peasants from Xiaogang village in Anhui province secretly divided communal land to be farmed by individual families, who would keep what was left over after meeting state quotas. Such a division was illegal and highly dangerous, but the peasants felt the risks were worth it. The timing is significant for our story. The peasants took action one month before the 'reform' congress of the party was announced. Thus, without fanfare, began economic reform, as spontaneous land division spread to other villages. One farmer said, “When one family’s chicken catches the pest, the whole village catches it. When one village has it, the whole county will be infected.' Ten years later, in August of 1988, Mikhail Gorbachev lifted his nation’s 50-year-old prohibition against private farming, offering 50-year leases to farm families who would subsequently work off of contracts with the state. Few accepted the offer; Russian farmers were too accustomed to the dreary but steady life on the state or collective farm. Thus began reform of agriculture in Soviet Russia. The results in each country could not have been more different. Chronically depressed Chinese agriculture began to blossom, not only for grain but for all crops. As farmers brought their crops to the city by bicycle or bus, long food lines began to dwindle and then disappear. The state grocery monopoly ended in less than one year. Soviet Russian agriculture continued to stagnate despite massive state subsidies. Citizens of a superpower again had to bear the indignity of sugar rations. These two examples point to the proper narrative of reform in Gorbachev’s Russia and Deng Xiaoping’s China." (PolicyReview)



"Today is the 87th birthday of the Grand Dame of Dish, Miz Liz Smith. The number is correct but the concept has wandered so far from reality for her that actually it’s funny -- she’s younger today than I was at 40, or even 30 and hipper than any 20-year-old I’ve ever met. The little girl from Texas who stepped off the bus here in Manhattan in 1949 after graduating from the University of Texas journalism school, has seen it all, done it all, written about it all and lived (to tell about it all, etc.) As I wrote on these pages last week when I lunched with her and Charlotte and Anne Ford at the Four Seasons, she’s the most fun date in town. Here’s the Grand Dame of Dish’s version of that lunch which ran yesterday in her column on www.wowowow.com. I hear that tonight Liz is spending the evening with the entire wowowow gang at the CafĂ© Carlyle taking in the peerless performance of a Liz friend, Elaine Stritch, who is also celebrating her birthday on this day. Elaine’s just a kid, however; she’s 84." (NYSD)



"Some 55.2% of TheStreet readers who took the company's survey say Sirius XM can continue successfully without shock jock Howard Stern, though it might take a small hit at the beginning. However, 44.8% of the poll takers say that Stern is the face of Sirius XM, and helped make Sirius XM what it is today -- and that the company should keep him around." (Mediapost)



"Swiss banks are discovering that the biggest threat to client privacy is their own workers. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday her government may buy stolen data on Swiss bank accounts as French authorities comb information acquired from an employee of HSBC Holdings Plc’s private bank in Geneva. The cases come two years after Germany paid 5 million euros ($7 million) for details filched from LGT Group in neighboring Liechtenstein. 'This is a kind of business war against Switzerland in which practices which were completely illegal have become acceptable,' says Daniel Fischer, founder of Zurich-based Fischer & Partner law firm who specializes in banking law and fraud. 'It’s a huge danger for Swiss banks.' The willingness of governments to pay for stolen data is fanning tensions with France and Germany as Switzerland seeks to negotiate treaties implementing its commitment to cooperate with international tax probes. The Swiss government said last month it will draft a law barring officials from assisting foreign countries in cases involving theft of client details." (Bloomberg)

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