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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"One of the most improbable of the big energy stories of 2010 has been the role of oil trading in the fall of governments, specifically those of Kyrgyzstan, the hub for U.S. jet fuel powering the air war in Afghanistan. In April, the second Kyrgyz president in five years collapsed in a maelstrom of accusations of high-level corruption involving an American contractor, billions of dollars in fuel contracts, rapacity and bribery. Today, the ballyhoo continues to threaten the crucial U.S. Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, and the incredibly lucrative business of Mina Corp., a U.S.-owned company that over the last seven years has received some $2 billion in exclusive contracts to buy fuel in Russia, and sell it both to Manas and the key U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan. This is because the current Kyrgyz government accuses Mina of enriching Kyrgyzstan's former regimes in order to maintain the fuel trade, and the U.S. government of abetting the whole scheme. Both the Obama Administration and Mina are howling that they are terribly misunderstood, and pleading for another chance. Given the opacity of this story, I asked some old acquaintances – current and former oil traders – to guide me through the opaque thicket of oil trading in the world's war zones." (ForeignPolicy)


"Kanye West's latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, only officially came out Nov. 22, but in what was one of the longest and arguably most successful rollouts of 2010, you couldn't turn on a television set, your computer or a smart phone these past six months without seeing his name. Kanye's year started off slowly -- and relatively quietly -- having put his 2009 scandals (namely the one involving Taylor Swift) behind him, but once the promotional campaign kicked off with his G.O.O.D. Friday giveaways on Aug. 20 (he released a new track every week), it was on. Here, 10 key moments in what was yet another year of Ye." (HollywoodReporter)

"Do you remember this moment ten years ago? Here in Washington it was unseasonably mild. A few days before New Year’s Eve my 9-year-old son and I had a picnic on the banks of the Potomac River, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, where a massive stage set had been built for President Bill Clinton's planned televised national Millennium extravaganza. For the big night, Spencer and I went to Rappahannock County, Va., to the secluded farm of friends Leslie and Andrew Cockburn and their son, Charlie Cockburn. The theme was 'Y2K.' Remember Y2K? It was primarily a sensational digital computer issue but got hyped by the media into possible Armageddon. Oh, the innocence, when the focus of our fears was whether the computers might crash. A few dozen of their hipster friends, and their children, flocked to the Cockburns dressed in ironic camo-chic, which, without two wars going on, was actually amusing. We danced to hits from many decades and at midnight gathered at a hilltop for fireworks and a monster bonfire. The party rocked till dawn. Back in Washington they rolled till near dawn at the White House, where the Clintons hosted a free-wheeling, star-studded and festive bash after the Lincoln Memorial show. In his toast that night, the President said, 'We end this century and the millennium with soaring optimism. Never before has our Nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity, social progress, and national self-confidence, with so little internal crisis or external threat.'" (WashingtonSocialDiary)



"It has almost become an article of faith in some international circles (as well as in Washington and New York) that America will, as it should, reduce its global footprint. Except, we can't afford to; it would make us poorer and less influential. Furthermore, the world will surely become a much darker place if the vacuum we leave behind is either filled by amoral, bottom-line-oriented superpowers like China, or -- even worse -- if no leadership replaces ours, leaving behind the kind of chaos only global terrorists can love." (NYPost)

"When Baudouine Kinalinjenga was just 12 years old, Joseph Kony's soldiers came for her. Six men from his Lord's Resistance Army emerged from the forest with machetes and Kalashnikovs and entered her remote hut in the night. She was held for five months of daily beatings and regular rape at the hands of a rebel commander nearly four times her age. At one point, she was led into the darkness, given a club and a flashlight, and told to crush the skull of a man unfortunate enough to have stumbled across the rebels in the bush. 'They said to do whatever I was told or the same would be done to me,' the Congo native recalls now.  For the last two decades, Kony, a former altar boy who claims he follows the commands of spirits he alone can hear, has led a campaign of unfathomable brutality, massacring civilians and slicing the lips and ears off of women in a twisted effort to show the Ugandan government's inability to protect its people." (ForeignPolicy)

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