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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"So what did I make of this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos? It felt like sitting at the bedside of somebody who had survived a heart attack but was unsure how long it would take to recover full vigour, if, indeed, he would at all. The mood of 'Davos men' (yes, they mostly still are) was, as my colleague, Gideon Rachman, has pointed out, one of anxiety. Meanwhile, the participants in a still predominantly western meeting looked at the youthful vigour of emerging economies with admiration, envy and even fear. For me, the highlight of the programme was the economic outlook session on Saturday. This is not only because I was moderator. The starting point for the discussion was an obvious one: the policy interventions of late 2008 and 2009 have been a resounding success. The outcome has been a far briefer and shallower recession than most participants imagined a year ago. That is obvious from the successive consensus of forecasts for 2010. For almost every significant economy, the forecast for growth this year is higher than it was a year or even six months ago. The world economy survived the heart attack in the financial system." (Martin Wolf/FT)



"Los Angeles County officials Tuesday rebuffed demands from an AIDS activist group that the county immediately require performers in porn films to use condoms. County officials said the California Legislature would need to approve legislation requiring condom use for pornography shoots. They said it would be difficult to try to regulate the porn industry through the county's Public Health Department. 'It is very, very difficult to implement. There are roughly 200 production companies with about . . . 1,200 actors,' said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's public health chief. 'All you need is a room and a camera and a bed, basically, to do this kind of shoot, and we have no ability to police this.'" (LATimes)



"In a business where release dates shift for multiple years before an LP actually drops, it’s tough to really get excited for an artist’s new album. But we’re starting the new year off with an optimistic attitude—2010 is gonna be filled with some fuckin’ amazing albums. Halfway through January, we’ve already seen a few solid releases (Vampire Weekend’s Contra and Kanye’s Storytellers), but the best is yet to come. To let you know what’s in store for 2010, we rounded up all the albums we’re expecting this year (key word being expecting—forget pipe-dream releases like Detox), including everything from the psychedelic indie rock of Yeasayer to Drake’s long-awaited debut. See who made the cut with Complex’s 25 Most Anticipated Albums of 2010 .." (Complex)



"Joan Rivers hosted a reception at her sumptuous East Side duplex for her daughter Melissa Rivers and Melissa’s new book: Red Carpet Ready: Secrets for Making the Most of Any Moment You’re in the Spotlight (Crown Publishers), which she wrote with Tim Vandehey ...Joan’s apartment was packed when I arrived. Several waiters were passing the hors d’oeuvres and the champagne, white wine and sparkling water. Joan was making her way around the room looking very glamorous in diamonds and pearls and black pailetted pajamas, seeing that guests were meeting each other. I found myself watching Wendy Williams, as bubbly as a glass of champagne herself – a big, tall, commanding presence with a warm smile for everyone. Rosanna Scotto and she were having a catch-up. Rosanna’s digital was busy too. Wendy’s husband was nearby on the sofa (but he’s not into being photographed and leaves that department to his wife). Commissioner Bill Bratton and Nikki Kleiman were there, having recently arrived back in New York to live fulltime after seven years in Los Angeles – their house in Beechwood Canyon’s 'on the market.' They’re glad to be back: Nikki likes the New York walking." (NYSocialDiary)



"U.S. President Barack Obama has spent much of the last 12 months emphasizing the 'mutual interests' that Washington shares with Beijing and the "mutual respect" they feel toward one another, despite inevitable disputes. Democratic members of Congress have held their tongues as Obama does his wooing; Republicans have seethed at the soft approach. Yet valiant though his attempts may have been to convince the Chinese (and himself) that power is not a zero-sum game, 2009 proved the opposite. Last year, Obama was ignored, rebuffed, and even humiliated by Beijing. And now the grievances on both sides are piling up: U.S. tariffs on Chinese tires, China's currency manipulation, Chinese hacking of Google, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. The gloves have come off. Expect 2010 to be the year that Obama gets tough and relations with Beijing get nasty." (ForeignPolicy)



"My father [gave me] my name because he always admired Jesus Christ as the most philosophical mind of all time. So, when he named me, in his heart and his head, he made a deal, like, I’m going to name you Jesus so everything good in life is going to come to you because they’re going to make the homage to Jesus. It’s a very special name. My name is 'Luz,' too, which means 'light.' So I feel like if I have this name that’s so special, I should attract good energy." (DJ Jesus Luz/Interviewmagazine)



"In what may be the final dramatic twist for Miramax, the Weinstein brothers are circling their old studio with an eye to buying it back from the Walt Disney Company. Two hedge funds have approached brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein about teaming up to buy the studio, according to an individual with knowledge of the plan. Such a deal would make some sense. The studio has gone into decline since the Weinsteins parted ways with Disney in 2005, and the parent company has shown little enthusiasm or acumen for capturing the magic that brought indelible films like 'The English Patient,' 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Shakespeare in Love' to American culture. The Weinstein brothers founded Miramax in 1979 and sold it to Disney in 1993. They parted ways in 2005 and have since formed the Weinstein Company, an independent studio that has struggled financially but garnered 13 Oscar nominations on Tuesday for movies including 'Inglourious Basterds' and 'Nine.' The names of the hedge funds were not available." (Sharon Waxman/TheWrap)



"In January, Fox News had the top 13 cable news programs in both total viewers and the demo starting with Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck in the three spots. It's the first time in 5 years they've had the top 13 in the A25-54 demo." (TVNewser)



"For its third issue, glossy biannual LOVE Magazine is releasing eight covers - all photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott - and each featuring a different supermodel completely naked, posing with exercise cables. That's 16 boobs, 24 strategically places bars and, well, you get the picture. LOVE Magazine are celebrating the theme of fashion icons, and the models featured are: Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Amber Valletta, Lara Stone, Natalia Vodianova, Daria Werbowy, Jeneil Williams and Kristen McMenamy. All look wonderfully athletic and gazelle-like, of course, and are making us woefully pinch the extra inches on our bellies. 'For this issue of LOVE, we took eight women who are generally acknowledged as the most beautiful in the world, got them to show off their bodies - widely regarded as the most beautiful in the world - and photographed them all in exactly the same position for the cover,' says LOVE's editor-in-chief, Katie Grand." (Stylelist)



"Howard (Stern) played a clip from Monday night’s 'Chuck Zito’s View' in which Chuck confessed to using 'deca' (a slang term for the anabolic steroid, Nandrolone) during his stint on HBO's 'Oz' and denying he'd ever felt bad about beating someone up: 'I never hit a guy who didn't deserve it so I've never felt bad after a fight.'" (HowardStern/Rundown)



"For the third year in a row, the cover of this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, along with the identity of the 2010 cover model, will be revealed on the Late Show with David Letterman on Monday, Feb. 8 (11:35 p.m. ET). The cover girl will visit the broadcast on Tuesday, Feb. 9 ... Entertainment Tonight reports that in addition to hitting newsstands on Feb. 10, the 2010 Sports Illustrated issue will also launch online and on your iPhone. And on Feb. 11, the cover will be celebrated at a party in Vegas." (USAToday)



"TunedIn is cheaper and appears to be more robust (in terms of connections) than WunderRadio, with the same menu of 30,000 terrestrial stations worldwide. And great sound quality. Two: re, cloud vs. ownership: I've been thinking about this ever since voice mail came on the scene, and my initial, instinctive reaction was: I don't want my messages living in someone else's building, I want them on a machine I own, on my property. I've relented only to the extent that the iPhone allows only voice mail. It seems to me advocates of the cloud--and, if music, then books and everything else, ultimately--are ignoring a strong streak in this country, at least--fear of, and resistance to, anything that smacks of strong centralized control. Do you trust that your books and music can never be 'accidentally' wiped off the cloud? Will most Americans? I wonder." (Harry Shearer/LefetzLetter)



"As wary as I am of any events lasting longer than three hours, exceptions can be made. Such was the case for last week's book launch of Preston Bailey's Celebrations (Rizzoli). For those of you who aren't a sheikh or a sultan -- or Oprah Winfrey, Uma Thurman, Donna Karan or Donald Trump -- Preston Bailey is the celebrity event designer known for his sumptuous, theatrical soirees, most of which are never seen by the public. That night, Bailey transformed the Armory on Lexington Avenue into a rose-strewn runway, thanks to a series of overhead light projectors. The evening also featured special performances by Gloria Gaynor and Martha Wash, and Leblon Cachaca hand-muddled drinks by the Liquid Chef team. Among the attendees were Joan Rivers, Clay Walker, Katie Lee Joel, and One Life to Live's Daphnee Duplaix and Brett Claywell." (Papermag)



"Alexis Neiers told cops that she and Nick Prugo had been drinking at Beso, a trendy bar-restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, when Prugo got a call from Rachel Lee telling him to come and meet her. It was July 13, 2009. Neiers said she knew that Prugo and Lee—both 19 and former classmates at Indian Hills, an alternative high school in Agoura Hills, an affluent suburb of Los Angeles—had been burglarizing the homes of celebrities. This 'included Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, Audrina Patridge, and others she was not sure about,' according to the L.A.P.D.’s report. Neiers, 18, said that she was drunk and 'not sure what was going on' as Prugo parked his white Toyota on the road by a house in the Hollywood Hills. Later, she said, she would find out that it was the home of Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom. Her friends knew that Bloom was in New York shooting a movie; they researched this kind of information on celebrity Web sites like TMZ. They discovered the locations of stars’ homes on Google Maps and celebrityaddressaerial.com. Neiers said that Lee and another girl, Diana Tamayo, 19, got out of Lee’s white Audi A4, and the four kids walked uphill to Bloom’s residence, a stark, black mansion. Neiers didn’t want to go inside, she said, but still she followed. She told police that Prugo, Lee, and Tamayo seemed to be covering their faces with their hoodies, apparently in order to hide from security cameras. Lee cut a section out of the chain-link fence surrounding the property, Neiers said, and the kids crawled through it." (Nancy Jo Sales/VanityFair)



"Yesterday, a mix of both downtown and uptown's best sat for the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's Associates Council luncheon at the Plaza. Allison Aston, Alexandra Kotur, Charlotte Ronson (bravely taking time out of Fashion Week prep!), Fabiola Beracasa, Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss, Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Dani Stahl, Natalie Leeds Leventhal, Ferebee Bishop Taube, Lisa Selby and Suzie Kovner sat beneath the ornate chandeliers with simple settings of classic white china set against the dark wood and colorful flower centerpieces. This second annual event honored Dr. Michael La Quaglia (one of the only men in the room), for his contributions to patient care, research and education; with proceeds supporting the new campaign for a Pediatric Family Housing Endowment." (Guestofaguest)



"In a compelling fictional narrative, there are villains, victims, and heroes. One can give a compelling account of the financial crisis of 2008 that contains such characters, but it would be fictional: A true villain has to be aware of his villainous deeds. Instead, the primary candidates for the role of villain in the 2008 emergency — the executives of banks, Wall Street firms, and insurance companies — made out too poorly in the end to suggest willfulness. If these companies had done nothing but deliberately foist risks on others, they themselves would have survived. The fact that Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and other companies took such large losses is indicative of self-deception. Executives had too much confidence in their risk management strategies. Regulators, too, had excessive confidence in the measures that they had in place to ensure safety and soundness of banks and other regulated institutions. The crisis was both a market failure and a government failure. In fact, some of the most important financial instruments implicated in the crisis, including mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps, owed their existence to regulatory anomalies. In the way that they specified capital requirements, regulators gave their implicit blessing to risky mortgages laundered through securitization and to treating a broad portfolio of risky assets as if it were a safe asset. Simply put, there was a widespread gap between what people thought they knew to be true and what was actually true." (PolicyReview)



"A politically diverse group of bloggers, commentators, techies and politicos on Wednesday will launch an online campaign, Demand Question Time, urging President Barack Obama and GOP congressional leaders to hold regular, televised conversations like the extraordinary exchange in Baltimore on Friday. Supporters include Grover Norquist, Joe Trippi, Mark McKinnon, Ed Morrissey, Ari Melber, Katrina vanden Heuvel and David Corn ... POLITICO asked White House senior adviser David Axelrod about the possibility of regular question time on Monday, before the online campaign was announced, and he said the president's aides were more likely to look for one-shot opportunities for Obama to engage with Republicans. 'The thing that made Friday interesting . was the spontaneity,' Axelrod said." (Politico)



"I n his June 4, 2009 speech at Cairo University, President Barack Obama dramatically raised expectations for U.S. policy in the Middle East, among Americans and Muslims both. "Whatever we think of the past," Obama said, "We must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared." It was a historic address, as the President threatened to do precisely what many progressives had long hoped for: reorient American foreign policy away from the sometimes tragic mistakes of the past, whether the Iraq war or even the still-resonant 1953 coup in Iran. And it seemed only natural that Egypt, a land of great potential but deep social and political problems, would be Obama’s testing ground. In Egypt and across the region, Americans reported receiving smiles and salutes, something that has a whiff of fantasy to those of us who lived in the Middle East during the Bush era. A range of politicians and activists from across the region lauded the speech. Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, praised Obama for offering 'a new vision of rapprochement,' while Jordanian analyst Fahd al-Khaytan spoke of a 'historic change in U.S. political discourse.' Thorbjorn Jagland, the chairman of the Nobel Committee that awarded the Peace Prize to Obama, has cited the President’s Cairo address as a major factor in the committee’s decision. In the months since, however, the meaning of the address has become clouded by the realities of a region known for its stubborn resistance to change. With Afghanistan, Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sucking most of Washington’s limited attention, Egypt has faded into the background." (DemocracyJournal)



"The director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, paid secret visits to Cairo and Jerusalem Thursday, Jan. 28, to prepare the ground for expanding US military intervention in Yemen against al Qaeda strongholds, thereby opening a fresh front in the war on Islamist terror organization. In Cairo, he met Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, defense minister Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman. They discussed an Egyptian expeditionary force for Yemen to fight al Qaeda combatants alongside US special forces. Panetta requested for the use of Egyptian military airfields as jumping-off bases for US air strikes against the terrorist strongholds. In Jerusalem, the CIA chief exchanged evaluations on the Yemen front with Israel's intelligence leaders. debkafile's intelligence sources report that the American military intervention in Yemen is already substantially broader than admitted. US special operations members of the CIA's combat units and drones armed with missiles, operated from Langley, Washington, are already installed at a big American base under construction near the Yemeni Red Sea port of Hodeira." (DebkaFile)

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