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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"STRATFOR has gone through three phases in its evaluation of the possibility of war. The first, which was in place until July 2009, held that while Iran was working toward a nuclear weapon, its progress could not be judged by its accumulation of enriched uranium. While that would give you an underground explosion, the creation of a weapon required sophisticated technologies for ruggedizing and miniaturizing the device, along with a very reliable delivery system. In our view, Iran might be nearing a testable device but it was far from a deliverable weapon. Therefore, we dismissed war talk and argued that there was no meaningful pressure for an attack on Iran. We modified this view somewhat in July 2009, after the Iranian elections and the demonstrations. While we dismissed the significance of the demonstrations, we noted close collaboration developing between Russia and Iran. That meant there could be no effective sanctions against Iran, so stalling for time in order for sanctions to work had no value. Therefore, the possibility of a strike increased. But then Russian support stalled as well, and we turned back to our analysis, adding to it an evaluation of potential Iranian responses to any air attack. We noted three potential counters: activating Shiite militant groups (most notably Hezbollah), creating chaos in Iraq and blocking the Strait of Hormuz, through which 45 percent of global oil exports travel. Of the three Iranian counters, the last was the real 'nuclear option.' Interfering with the supply of oil from the Persian Gulf would raise oil prices stunningly and would certainly abort the tepid global economic recovery. Iran would have the option of plunging the world into a global recession or worse." (STRATFOR)



"Among the reading, the Telegraph of London had an obituary of an English aristocrat who made a name for himself by following a typically British aristocratic path – to the tropics. Colin Tennant, the 3rd Lord Glenconner is a name only vaguely familiar to Americans. He was, however, famous in his native land as a member of a famous British industrial family and fortune created by his grandfather at the end of the 19th century, and for his relationship with the Queen’s late sister, Princess Margaret. It could be argued that the British aristos have a greater talent for enjoying their inheritances than their American counterparts, mainly because they often spend it pursuing their interests and/or bliss Lord Glenconner was decidedly one of those. He was 32 when he took a chunk of his fortune and bought the island of Mustique, 1400 acres of barren rock in the Grenadines with a local population of 100 who survived off the sea." (NYSocialDiary)



"Anyone who doubts the potential of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo need look no further than how the half year earnings of Bertselmann and its Random House division were positively impacted by the sales of the Millennium novel trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson. Bertelsmann issued its half year report this morning, and cited the performance by Random House as a big reason for its own record half-year results. According to a letter sent company-wide by Random House chairman/CEO Markus Dohle, the publisher’s sales were up nearly 8%, and profit doubled to around $50 million on revenues close to $1 billion, despite a shaky economy." (Deadline)



"'When Richard Mortimer throws a party, there is no choice—you just have to come, don't you?' said Erdem Moralioglu. Most of his London designer comrades—and a generous helping of club kids of all persuasions—certainly think so. Mortimer is something of a legend in the local club scene for his dearly departed Boombox party, of course. Those days have come and gone, but Mortimer's second act, as editor of the online fashion mag Ponystep, fortuitously comes with ample opportunities for revelry. Ponystep's parties tend to take place in Paris, but for one night, Mortimer repatriated them—to the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen in East London, the old stomping grounds of Boombox, no less—for a very special event: his 30th birthday. Holly Fulton, Louise Gray, Kinder Aggugini, and Sophia Kokosalaki were among the designers who stopped by to wish the birthday boy well (and to blow off a little steam before London fashion week). Gareth Pugh and Jefferson Hack alternated sets on the decks, and the winsome Florrie Arnold—face of Nina Ricci's relaunched L'Elixir—performed a few songs, too." (Style)



"When Barack Obama was elected president, Beijing thought that he would be tough on human rights and trade, but not on national security. A year and a half later, Mr Obama’s policy could hardly be more different. Instead of pressing China hard on its poor rights record, Mr Obama has put the issue to the back burner. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed as much on the eve of her visit to China in February 2009. To avoid antagonising Chinese leaders before his own visit to Beijing in November last year, Mr Obama even postponed a private meeting with the Dalai Lama. On the whole, his administration has done precious little on the issue. The story on trade is much the same. Despite mounting congressional pressure on China’s de facto dollar-peg, Mr Obama has refused to label China a 'currency manipulator.' Indeed, except for imposing a few modest anti-dumping penalties, his trade policy is indistinguishable from that of President George W. Bush. However, on national security, the Obama administration has shown a surprisingly hard edge, particularly in the past few months. Against Beijing’s protestations, Washington dispatched a large naval force to conduct joint military exercises with the South Korean navy in the Sea of Japan, as deterrence against Pyongyang. To counter China’s growing influence in Southeast Asia, the US has also resumed its aid to the Indonesian military, and recently sent a carrier battle group in an unprecedented joint naval exercise with Vietnam." (FT)



"9:30 p.m. Elisabeth Moss keeps telling reporters that she’s wearing 'Herv Leggers.' No one is correcting her. Finally, we ask, 'Do you mean HervĂ© Leger?' She laughs at herself and says, 'Oh my god, have I been mispronouncing it? Is that how you say it?' 9:32 p.m. Moss talks chirpily about everything but the dissolution of her marriage with Fred Armisen, which is, of course, what every reporter wants to know about." (NYMag/Emmys)



"President Obama is hosting a dinner for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sept. 1, in order to kick off the new round of direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. As regular readers know, I don't think this effort will go anywhere, because the two sides are too far apart and because the Obama administration won't have the political will to push them towards the necessary compromises. Furthermore, there are now a few hints that the Obama administration is about to repeat the same mistakes that doomed the Clinton administration's own Middle East peacemaking efforts and the Bush administration's even more half-hearted attempts (i.e., the 'Road Map' and the stillborn Annapolis summit). Last week, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth provided a summary of a conference call between Obama Middle East advisors Dennis Ross, Dan Shapiro, and David Hale and the leaders of a number of influential American Jewish organizations. According to the article (whose accuracy I cannot vouch for), the goal of the direct talks will be a 'framework agreement' between the two sides that would then be implemented over a period of up to ten years. Excuse me, but haven't we seen this movie before, and isn't the last reel a bummer? This idea sounds a lot like the Oslo Accords, which also laid out a "framework" for peace, but deferred the hard issues to the end and repeatedly missed key deadlines. Or maybe it's another version of the Road Map/Annapolis summit, which offered deadlines and bold talk and led precisely nowhere." (ForeignPolicy)

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