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Friday, January 07, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Europe is living in denial. Even after the economic crisis exposed the eurozone's troubled future, its leaders are struggling to sustain the status quo. At this point, several European countries will likely be forced to abandon the euro within the next year or two. European leaders tell us that this is impossible. There is no legal mechanism, they say, for exiting the euro. But the collapse of the euro is simple arithmetic: Once a country's debt-to-GDP ratio gets high enough, it becomes impossible for it to generate enough future taxes to repay its existing debt and interest costs. This week, Portugal became the latest country to threaten the integrity of the eurozone when it saw the yield on its Treasury bills soar, based on investors' fears that it would be unable to pay its debt. The only way out of this conundrum is for countries with insurmountable debt burdens to default on their euro-denominated debts and exit the eurozone so that they can finance their continuing fiscal deficits by printing their own currency. Here's a hint for Europe's politicians: If the math says one thing and the law says something different, it will be the law that ends up changing." (ForeignPolicy)


"Cold yesterday in New York, and looking like snow with a single flurry here and there. Walking along Fifth Avenue about 53rd Street, I passed this woman quickly although I noticed the sign and the dogs right away. It was very cold on the avenue and I was looking forward to getting to my destination so that I could warm up. But thinking about the woman – '7 months PREG-nant' the sign said, and the miniature schnzuzers – on the pavement at this temperature, I turned back. Pulling a twenty out of my pocket, I thought of what I could say and the little I could do except giving her the money and talking to her." (NYSocialDiary)



"Say 'Toronto' or 'Ontario' and the immediate thought associations are with a somewhat blander version of North America: a United States with a welfare regime and a more polite street etiquette, and the additionally reassuring visage of Queen Elizabeth on the currency. But this part of Canada also has its quixotic and romantic dimension. It was to here that the Tory loyalists fled the American Revolution. In the village of Deptford, Ontario, on the banks of the local river Thames, the great Canadian novelist Robertson Davies cast and situated a trilogy variously composed of the elements of magic and exile. One of his chief characters, Percy 'Boy' Staunton, gives up much of his life and energy to the cause of the Prince of Wales, a once dashing and promising young blade who shatters and demoralizes his admirers by falling under the thrall of a designing woman and abdicating the throne without a fight. As I was led past a phalanx of guards to be admitted to Tony Blair's hotel suite overlooking Toronto and Lake Ontario, I was mentally running through our previous meetings. The first had been in the room of the leader of the opposition in the House of Commons shortly after he had been elected to head the Labour Party and to re-brand—or should I say re-baptize?—it as 'New Labour.' Then I had seen him in the private office of the prime minister in Downing Street, just before he became eligible to celebrate an entire decade in the job, almost eclipsing Margaret Thatcher and setting an indoor record for any Labour politician. Most recently he had slipped downstairs to say hello while he was on a private visit to the British Embassy residence in Washington. The surroundings were still grand, but by then he had abdicated and was being forced to watch his disliked and inferior successor throw away an election he knew in his heart he himself could have won." (Christopher Hitchens/Vanity fair)


"In Southern Sudan, the open palm symbol of secession is splattered across billboards and T-shirts as the region prepares to vote in a referendum that may divide sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil producer. About 3.9 million voters start a week of balloting on Jan. 9 on whether to remain part of Sudan or form the world’s newest nation, 54 years after Africa’s biggest country by area gained independence from the U.K. A majority and a 60 percent turnout are required for a valid result, which is scheduled to be announced on Feb. 1. A vote for independence will give the south control of about 80 percent of Sudan’s current oil production of 490,000 barrels a day, pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp. and Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. Sudan’s output is close to a quarter of the volume produced by Nigeria, Africa’s top producer. Independence would be declared on July 9. 'The balance of resources and power will shift overnight,' Andrew Natsios, George W. Bush’s former special envoy to Sudan and now a professor at Georgetown University, said in a telephone interview from Washington." (Bloomberg)


"Former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld has started scheduling his book tour for his memoir 'Known and Unknown' — set to appear on ABC’s 'World News,' 'Good Morning America,' and 'Nightline.' Diane Sawyer‘s interview of the former secretary of defense will air on “World News” starting Feb. 7 — with portions of the interview airing on 'Good Morning America,' and 'Nightline' — marking Rumsfeld’s first interview since he left public service in November 2006. Then, George Stephanopoulos will interview Rumsfeld in his first live television interview February 8. Rumsfeld’s memoir, published by Penguin Books division Sentinel HC, hits bookshelves the same week as the ABC smorgasbord." (TVNewser)


"Six hours into the New Year, and already there was trouble. My own bash to welcome 2011 with fifty of my nearest and dearest finished around 5 a.m., so I rolled down toward the Palace hotel still looking for some action. I had a very pretty German girl in tow, my son’s friend Fiona, so I swept into the lobby in style. Then it happened. I saw the vision to end all visions and a desperate, sensuous pain, the type that can make a grown man cry out, hit me like never before. This is the curse upon those who follow the supreme Beauty—that is to say, the Beauty that belongs not to ideas and ideals, but to living forms. Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder, but I say that’s all crap. Real Beauty is rare and extremely precious. It means torment and despair, and it leaves a man enchanted and trembling. This one was the real thing. And she came up and started chatting." (Takimag)


"The whole affair would never have achieved such stunning impact without The Guardian, a left-leaning, 200-year-old bastion of old-media values and enterprise. It was The Guardian that initially brokered a deal with Assange and gave him the platform and the credibility he needed. The arrangement was a collaboration of opposites, held together mainly by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, whose reporters tracked down the elusive Assange last June after hearing about the cache of cables and e-mails he had in his custody. From there, Rusbridger and his lieutenants worked out the basic arrangement, brought in The New York Times as a partner, and displayed deft diplomatic skills in the face of sporadic tantrums and double-dealing on the part of (Julian Assange). At one point, when he learned that someone from WikiLeaks itself had given additional documents to The Guardian, he stormed into Rusbridger’s office and threatened to sue the paper. Assange had become 'the victim of his own methods,' Ellison writes, and was 'enraged that he had lost control.' It was an ironic twist: 'An unwavering advocate of full, unfettered disclosure of primary-source material, Assange was now seeking to keep highly sensitive information from reaching a broader audience.'" (Graydon Carter/ VF)


"In several experiments, researchers found that men who sniffed drops of women’s emotional tears became less sexually aroused than when they sniffed a neutral saline solution that had been dribbled down women’s cheeks. While the studies were not large, the findings showed up in a variety of ways, including testosterone levels, skin responses, brain imaging and the men’s descriptions of their arousal. 'Chemical signaling is a form of language,' said one of the researchers, Dr. Noam Sobel, a professor of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. 'Basically what we’ve found is the chemo-signaling word for ‘no’ — or at least ‘not now.’The researchers are currently studying men’s emotional tears, so the scientific implications of, say, the weeping of the new House speaker, John A. Boehner, remain an open question." (NYTimes)

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