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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Cairo on the morning of January 25 felt like something of a ghost town. Few civilians were to be found on the streets, most stores were shuttered, and the typically heaving downtown was deserted. It was a national holiday, and in the central town square, named Tahrir, or Liberation, even cars were scarce, and parking spaces—always sparse—were in abundance. The only conspicuous presence was that of Egypt’s police and state security. Rows of their box-shaped olive-green trucks lined thoroughfares and narrow side-streets, in some cases blocking them off for miles. Beside them were battered cobalt blue trucks—the ones used to whisk away prisoners and detainees. Throughout the downtown area and in neighboring districts, police and informants (easily identified by their loitering presence, darting eyes, and frequent two-second phone calls) were gathered around the otherwise empty major arteries of the city. Hundreds of them. Many wore black cargo pants, bush jackets and clunky army boots. Many more were in plain clothes—standing on street corners, at calculated intervals on sidewalks, in building entrances, on bridges, and in the few cafes open on a day when almost everything was closed ... We stayed for a few minutes, watching the crowd gathering, spotting CNN’s Ben Wedeman and an entourage of foreign press. But tweets and text messages were coming through about escalating tensions in Shubra—a working class district in the center of the city known as a stronghold of the Coptic Christian community. The neighborhood was still reeling from the New Year’s eve attack on a church in Alexandria, to which it had close ties. My friend called another friend, Mohamed Waked, an anthropologist and seasoned activist. He would join us, along with his brother, Amr, an actor who appeared in the film Syriana." (NYRB)



"Adam Dell has gone to court to fight Padma Lakshmi for custody of their 11- month-old baby, Krishna, with sources claiming he now gets just seven hours with his daughter a week. Dell, 41, brother of billionaire Dell Inc. founder Michael Dell, last night filed a suit in Manhattan Supreme Court asking for full custody of Krishna, born last Feb. 20. Venture capitalist Dell is frustrated the 'Top Chef' host, 40, has allegedly failed to respond to his pleas for more time with Krishna. His lawyer, Bill Zabel, confirmed the filing and told us in a statement: 'Adam Dell, above all else, wants to have an active and substantial role in the upbringing of his daughter with Padma Lakshmi. Unfortunately, Ms. Lakshmi has severely limited his time with their daughter and has refused to negotiate a reasonable co-parenting agreement. Mr. Dell has tried his best to avoid going to court, but Ms. Lakshmi has given him no other choice at this time.'" (PageSix)


"On July 17, 2009, the American Ambassador in Tunisia, Robert F. Godec, dined at the beachfront mansion of Mohamed Sakher El Materi, a member of the country’s ruling family. The home displayed Roman columns, frescoes, and a stone lion’s head spouting water into an infinity pool. A live caged tiger on the grounds 'consumes four chickens a day,' Godec noted, in a secret cable to Washington. His host’s pet reminded him 'of Uday Hussein’s lion cage in Baghdad.' WikiLeaks published Godec’s report early last December, alongside other acid accounts from the U.S. Embassy about the abuse of power in the court of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the leader of Tunisia for more than two decades. 'Whether it’s cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali’s family is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants,' Godec wrote. 'Corruption . . . is the problem everyone knows about, but no one can publicly acknowledge.'" (The NewYorker)


"With the release of Mark Wahlberg's The Fighter, a little redheaded boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, named Micky Ward has returned from the backs of our minds, has surfaced out of our memory banks. Back in 2004, I played exactly three holes of golf with Ward and Arturo Gatti, the two lionhearts having become great friends and golfing buddies after their trilogy of epic, brutal fights, culminating with a punishing ten-rounder that retired Ward on June 7, 2003. The night before our golf date, we'd gone out for dinner at an Italian restaurant in Vero Beach, Florida, where Gatti had set up his latest fight camp. Ward had flown in for a visit. They were great company, funny and profane and monstrous. They shoveled back pasta and laughed while they catalogued the scars they had given each other. 'I call it my Micky Ward lump,' Gatti said, lifting his shirt to reveal the knot of tissue just under his rib cage that was a souvenir from his first fight with Ward. There aren't many men who can punch another man hard enough to make a cyst." (Esquire)



"Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, did not take kindly to Vanity Fair’s report yesterday that he allegedly tried to link the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi with an end to former prisoners in Scottish jails being able to sue his government for damages because they had been forced to 'slop out'—to use buckets in their cells instead of toilets. These lawsuits—which the U.K. government did indeed agree to limit some months after Mr. Salmond spoke to U.K. justice secretary Jack Straw—had already cost many millions of pounds. American reaction was more supportive. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who last year led an investigation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee into al-Megrahi’s release, called the Vanity Fair article a 'blockbuster,' adding: 'The Scottish government’s repeated denials, even when confronted by specific and compelling evidence, get more ludicrous by the day. It is time that they and the other governments involved adopt the recommendations laid out in our Senate report, launch independent investigations into the matter and put the wheels in motion to return al-Megrahi to prison.' Our reporting about the slopping-out linkage was derived from interviews with a senior U.K. official who had direct knowledge of phone conversations between Messrs. Straw and Salmond." (Vanity Fair)



"It’s day two at Sundance and we have another round of films that OWN should be all over, as they were all fronted by strong female performances. Most importantly, I was FINALLY able to screen the films of V Magazine’s 'Discovery' talents (featured in the Spring Preview Issue 69, currently on stands) and they made us proud! Elizabeth Olsen has inherited this year’s ‘it girl’ status, a crown bestowed upon cover girl Gabby Sidibe, Jennifer Lawrence and Carey Mulligan in recent years, while Ezra Miller stole the spotlight from a starry cast that featured Ellen Barkin, Kate Bosworth, and Demi Moore." (Vmagazine)


 
"An emergency fund is the answer to the euro's missing element, said billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros in a interview Wednesday on CNBC television from Davos, Switzerland. What had been the missing ingredient to the euro's success was a common Treasury, Soros said, which is the role the emergency fund essentially has come to play. Now the unsolved issue remains a 'two-speed' Europe, where the economic development of its nations is occurring at very different speeds, he said. In the U.S., Soros said once the Federal Reserve ends its quantitative easing program, interest rates will rise and should choke off the nation's path toward recovery. The U.S. municipal bond market has come under strain recently as investors question state and local governments' financial health. 'I would be very careful with muni bonds,' Soros said. As for his own involvement in the markets, Soros said he has retired and is no longer investing.." (WSJ)


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