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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"When President Obama unexpectedly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, one predecessor was quick to applaud his selection for the award. What does the crisis in Egypt mean for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? 'I could not have thought of any other person that is more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama,' Mohamed ElBaradei, then the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a videotaped statement. He went on to praise Mr. Obama’s commitment 'to restore moral decency' to the lives of people around the world. But this week, Mr. ElBaradei, now a prominent face of the opposition on the streets of Cairo, was sounding a different tune. 'The American government cannot ask the Egyptian people to believe that a dictator who has been in power for 30 years will be the one to implement democracy,' Mr. ElBaradei told CBS’s 'Face the Nation.' He called the United States’ refusal to openly abandon President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt 'a farce.' Mr. ElBaradei, 68, had a fractious relationship with the Bush administration, one so hostile that Bush officials tried to get him removed from his post at the atomic watchdog agency. But as Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition on the streets of Cairo have increasingly coalesced around Mr. ElBaradei to negotiate on their behalf, the Obama administration is scrambling to figure out whether he is someone with whom the United States can deal." (NYTimes)


"Shortly after my book Oprah: A Biography was published last April, one of Oprah Winfrey’s open-minded fans wrote to her website saying she wanted to read the book. Oprah’s message-board moderator hurled a thunderbolt in response: 'This book is an unauthorized biography.' The word unauthorized clanged on the screen like a burglar alarm. Suddenly I heard the rumble of thousands of Oprah book buyers charging out of Barnes & Noble—empty-handed. Days before this exchange, I had felt the chill of media disdain when my publisher began booking my promotion tour. Larry King barred the door to his CNN talk show because, he said, he didn’t want to offend Oprah. Barbara Walters did the same thing, proclaiming on The View that the only reason people wrote unauthorized biographies was to dig 'dirt.' There was no room for me at Charlie Rose’s roundtable and no comfy seat next to David Letterman. The late-night comic had recently reconciled with Oprah after a 16-year rift and did not want to risk another. On my 10-city tour I made few, if any, appearances on ABC-owned-and-operated stations because most of the stations that broadcast The Oprah Winfrey Show are owned by ABC or its affiliates. No one wanted to displease the diva of daytime television. Although they had not read the book prior to publication, they assumed, given the author and the subject, that my unauthorized biography would be a blistering takedown of a beloved icon."(NYSocialDiary)


"For the March issue of Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis traveled to Ireland for the third leg of his Euro DisasterLand adventure (preceded by Greece and Iceland). In Iceland, Lewis found that the country was brought down by Icelandic Alpha males who wanted to be investment bankers; in Greece, he found that the country was brought down by spectacularly generous social services coupled with rampant tax evasion; in Ireland, Lewis finds a housing bubble the likes of which even we Americans struggle to fathom. “In an era when capitalists went out of their way to destroy capitalism,' he writes, 'the Irish bankers set some kind of record for destruction.' These hapless bankers loaned billions of dollars seemingly to any property developer who walked in the door. The result: one particularly hapless Irish bank, Anglo Irish, reported losses of €34 billion (a figure that, accounting for population and exchange rates, is more like $3.4 trillion to American ears)." (VanityFair)


"Lady Catarina Pietra Toumei — a woman who attempted to swindle the Bushes and the Guggenheims out of billions in cash, bonds and goods — is not the first to don a fake title to climb the social ladder. Rather, she's just the latest to practice the great American tradition of aristocratic fabulism, a Old World-inspired combination of reinvention, deceit, and a maniacal pursuit of money that's been practiced here for centuries. Or, rather, she would have been that tradition's successor — if her plan had succeeded. Yesterday, a Manhattan federal court unsealed a complaint that accused Lady Toumei, a fake countess from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., of collaborating with a Brooklyn man and a Queens man, both of whom falsely adopted the surname 'Guggenheim,' in a clearly botched seizure of Great American Family bank accounts. At a certain point in the effort, the tripartite team of impostors set its sights on President George W. Bush and President George H. W. Bush. 'The Bush family is always invited to Manhattan, where they will be a guest of the Guggenheims, at any time,' Lady Toumei wrote to an adviser of the elder Bush leader." (Observer)


"Oprah Winfrey's upstart cable network OWN continued its aggressive buying at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival by acquiring North American rights to Crime After Crime, the Yoav Potash-directed documentary. I'm told the deal was six figures, and that OWN will afford the film a qualifying Oscar run before it airs on Oprah's new network. OWN chief creative officer Lisa Erspamer made the deal with Submarine's Josh Braun and David Koh. The doc is about Deborah Peagler, an abused woman who struck back at the boyfriend who beat her. She was sentenced to 25 years to life for his murder. Some 20 years into her sentence, California passed a law permitting domestic violence survivors to have their case reopened. A pair of real estate lawyers took on Peagler's case, and what seemed an easy effort turned into a politically-driven nightmare to free her. The film debuted January 23 at the Temple Theatre, and I'd heard this was an emotionally wrenching tear-jerker." (Deadline)


"Ari Shapiro recently took a break from his beat as NPR's White House correspondent to do a Morning Edition story about Portlandia, the new IFC sketch-comedy show that stars Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen and pokes fun at the achingly crunchy Northwestern city. If you haven't heard the Morning Edition piece, you're in for a treat -- Shapiro, a Portland native, visits a few quintessentially "Portland" locations with Brownstein, including a feminist bookstore that sells a zine called Moldy Soy. In town to moderate a talk between Armisen and Brownstein at the Apple SoHo store tonight, Shapiro swung by the PAPER offices for a chat about the accuracy of the show, his side-gig singing with Pink Martini and what it's like going to work in the White House." (Papermag)



"Lost among the high-profile shakeups going on in the Middle East -- Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan -- is a little development 2,500 miles away in the petrostate of Kazakhstan. President Nursultan Nazarbayev yesterday discarded intricately laid plans for a 10-year extension of his rule. If enacted, the plans would 'set the wrong guidelines for further generations of politicians,' he said. Nazarbayev is right, but what about his substitute for the extension - a snap election in a few months that will add five years to his already-two decades in office? We've been discussing how far the ripples of the turmoil in Egypt might be felt. Until now, only Middle East dictatorships have appeared to be at risk. But it's early -- it look awhile in the late 1980s before the Gorbachev-era democracy wave took hold, and longstanding political and commercial walls fell from Latin America, to Asia, to Europe. Over the weekend, Russell Zanca argued on this blog that the former Soviet Union in particular feels impervious. To that list one might add Iran. When such uprisings have occurred in their midst in recent years, Russia and Iran have demonized their participants as stooges of western-inspired 'velvet revolutions.' Imaginative U.S. diplomats assigned to these countries themselves have conjured up an inflated role in events. The Middle East turmoil therefore ought to put the kabbosh on such thinking: Assassinations and military coups can be organized from the outside, but successful popular uprisings arise from within." (ForeignPolicy)

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