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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Media-Whore D'oeuvres


"Saudi police have reportedly opened gunfire on and launched stun grenades at several hundred protesters March 10 rallying in the heavily Shiite-populated city of Qatif in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. The decision to employ violence in this latest crackdown comes a day before Friday prayers, after which various Saudi opposition groups were planning to rally in the streets. Unrest has been simmering in the Saudi kingdom over the past couple weeks, with mostly Sunni youth, human rights activists and intellectuals in Riyadh and Jeddah campaigning for greater political freedoms, including the call for a constitutional monarchy. A so-called 'Day of Rage' of protests across the country has been called for March 11 by Facebook groups Hanyn (Nostalgia) Revolution and the Free Youth Coalition following Friday prayers. What is most critical to Saudi Arabia, however, is Shiite-driven unrest in the country’s Eastern Province." (STRATFOR)


"Eddie Huang, the outspoken chef behind Taiwanese bun shop Baohaus on the Lower East Side, may have a law degree, but that doesn't stop him from breaking the rules. Huang's second restaurant, Xiao Ye, closed in November following a Four Loko raid, and like fellow kitchen rebel (Anthony) Bourdain, who's frank about his past drug use, Huang isn't shy when disclosing his herb preferences. 'When we first opened Baohaus, some friends and I rolled in after a party at 1 a.m.,' Huang says. 'We were like, Yo, customers! If you're down, we're going to smoke weed in here." The customers were, indeed, down. "We locked the door and hot-boxed it.'" (NYPost)



"Last night at the Hammerstein Ballroom, a mixed bag of celebrities gathered to roast Donald Trump for a Comedy Central special to air March 15. Mr. Trump, who had said on the red carpet that he did the roast in order to get paid and funnel that money to charity, sat rather gamely on a stage bedecked with ersatz gold buildings and the Trump logo-even after Seth MacFarlane, roast master, said that his 'resting face is who farted?' Mr. Trump exaggerated his pout immediately. The Observer wondered: had Mr. MacFarlane ever stayed at a Trump property? 'No, and I don't think I will—after this, I might get a room wired up to explode.' Mr. Trump, at least, knew how to make an entrance, had arrived onstage in a tricked-out golf cart that spewed one-dollar bills (though much fewer bills, surely, than Kanye threw at Fashion Week). Predictably, attendees leapt out of their seats to grab the money." (Observer)


"Donald Trump has what every presidential wannabe craves: very deep pockets, universal name recognition and a ready-made campaign slogan. Imagine Trump telling President Obama, 'You're Fired!' In recent weeks the brash businessman has made all the moves of someone mulling a White House run, from granting interviews to the political press to giving a red-meat speech in Washington. On Monday, Trump even dispatched an aide to huddle with the state Republican chairman in the presidential proving ground of Iowa. So, will the leader of the Trump Empire really try to become the leader of the Free World? 'He's one of the great hucksters, and I say that admiringly. He's using this idea of running, milking it, for all it's worth -- and it's worth a lot,' said former New York City mayor Ed Koch." (ABCNews)


(image via NYSD)

"Last night was Mario Buatta’s night in New York. If you don’t know Mario, let me tell you that in a certain world, and actually a rather wide one, everybody knows who you mean if you just say 'Mario.' Like Garbo. Or Elvis. Or Pavarotti. Or Pagliacci himself. For Mario is a great character, a mobile mise en scene. He’s comedic and he’s a prince. Prince of Chintz. Now do you know who I mean? Mario Buatta is one of the most famous American interior decorators of his time – which is now and also reaching back years, like maybe fifty or so. Hard to believe but true. Last night there was a tribute to him at a dinner at the Metropolitan Club. The evening began at the AVENUE Antiques and Art at the Armory Show at the Park Avenue Armory, with an invitation-only cocktail benefit for the New York School of Interior Design in honor of the Principe de Chintza (if you’ll pardon the translation). After cocktails, the crowd moved on to the Metropolitan Club to join a few hundred others who’d come for the dinner part of the benefit for the NYSID, which is the country’s leading educational institution for interior design." (NYSocialDiary)


"This aside, the LSE is not the only institution to totally make a fool of itself by taking Gaddafi blood money. The press has been full of reports about the Rothschild and Mandelson connection to the ghastly Saif, but it was Fiat, the Italian automaker, which first brought his father in from the cold back in 1976. I remember being on Gianni Agnelli’s boat off Corfu sometime in May or June of that year when the deal was finalized: 5% of Fiat for 400 million greenbacks. The 5% was bought back after a while, but Gaddafi still owns 7.5% of Juventus, the Torino football giant, and I’d hate to think what else in Italy. Uncle Sam, who pretends to be appalled by European greed in cozying up to the bloody dictator, speaks with forked tongue. The heads of multi-billion-dollar investment funds Blackstone and Carlyle—Stephen Schwarzman and David Rubenstein, respectively—attended the wedding of Mustafa Zarti, a close friend of Saif’s and the real power behind Libya’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and its $70-billion assets. What I find bizarre is how amateurish and unprofessional the Libyan fund is, with a lack of investment expertise and bureaucratic inertia ruling the day." (TakiMag)


"Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) was moved to tears today at Peter King's hearings on radicalization in the American Muslim community, when telling the story a Muslim first responder who lost his life on September 11th, 2001. Ellison, who is Muslim, has been opposed to the hearings' focus on Muslims, and told TPM in December that it's 'legitimate' to have broad hearings on radicalization, but 'just a bash session about 'Muslims are the problem' is not helpful.'" (TalkingPointsMemo)



"'We are in the midst of a turning point in German economic history,' writes Andreas Rees, economist at Unicredit in Munich, southern Germany, somewhat grandly, in a research note issued on Thursday. On his calculations, German companies shipped more to China in December than to the US. The rising relative importance of China as an export destination for Europe’s largest economy has been one of the features of the post-Lehman world. By the end of last year, China (including Hong Kong) was Germany’s third biggest export market after France and the Netherlands, according to Unicredit. It helps explains why German managed to stage such a strong economic recovery over the past year; among western economies it was best placed to take advantage of fast-growth in the emerging world." (FT)


"Last week, President Barack Obama tried to make some news on the healthcare issue. Unfortunately for him, the story was all but swallowed by bigger news (Libya, the budget fight, Charlie Sheen...). But this is a story which deserves some attention, because it might prove to be the answer to the endless bickering on Capitol Hill on what to do about the newly-passed healthcare law. Obama, by backing a bill put forth by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Republican Senator Scott Brown, has essentially tossed a gauntlet down in front of the Republican Party. The heart of Obama's challenge: "You think you can do healthcare reform better in your states? Fine. Go ahead and do it better.'" (Chris Weigant)


"As you know, we love saying that two things are a trend here on PAPERMAG. (See basically any blogs Alexis (Swerdloff) or I write here.) But if 'two's a trend,' then bands with the word 'shit' in them are the best new thing since sliced shit! (Sorry, we had to.) A quick gander of the SXSW music schedule shows a whopping X bands with the S-word in ther names, including Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!, Shit Horse, Shit and Shine and Shit Robot. Move over Fuck Buttons and Holy Fuck, you've got company." (Papermag)


"Ever since those first cables from Tunis leaked on Dec. 7, 2010, informing the world that Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's extended family was a 'quasi-mafia' and that his son-in-law's 'over the top' mansion housed not only an infinity pool but also a tiger who fed on 'four chickens a day,' WikiLeaks has been intimately bound up with the revolutions. Indeed, the Tunisian uprising began only 10 days later, and its shock waves have spread across the Arab world. If it's too much of a leap to say that the cables gave rise to the protests, they certainly provided a lens through which the Arab public could, finally, get a candid glimpse as to how Washington saw their leaders: Omar Suleiman's brief tenure as vice president of Egypt was illuminated by a few cables discussing his toadying relationships with Israel, the CIA, and President Hosni Mubarak. And embattled Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's image in the Western world took on a lurid spin after the leak of an early cable about his "personal proclivities.' Not only did WikiLeaks reveal his voluptuous Ukrainian nurse to the world, it encapsulated his decades of rule: 'While it is tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability,' read the cable, 'Qadhafi is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for forty years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitik methods.' Now that the revolutions are entering their fourth month, however, with two governments overthrown and others tottering on the brink, are the WikiLeaks cables merely reporting from a world that doesn't exist anymore?" (ForeignPolicy)


"The blue pill or the red pill? Neither, for Bradley Cooper in the new movie Limitless, in which his character develops a habit for a transparent little tablet that temporarily gives him a four-digit IQ. Before he knows it, Cooper's struggling writer is a Wall Street superstar who's ten steps ahead of humanity in the areas of flirting, foreign languages, and just about everything else. Unfortunately, the wonder drug comes with some side effects. 'Besides being fun, it's a parking-lot conversation afterwards,' Cooper said of the film at last night's premiere. 'It definitely opens into a lot of questions.' Among them: how best to put superhuman mental capabilities to use in real life? Cooper's co-star Abbie Cornish said she'd promote animal rights, while Alyssa Milano kept her ambitions modest: 'The New York Times crossword puzzle.' As for Sir Richard Branson, who recently expanded his Virgin empire into the production of films, including this one—well, some people would say he's running on a few extra cylinders already. At the after-party at Buddakan, baggies containing clear capsules (ginger candies, actually) were set out on tables, while waiters served the dubious performance-enhancers Red Bull and DeLeĆ³n tequila." (Style)


"The idea, according to the invitation, was for Mitt Romney to 'discuss his plans for the 2012 elections' at a 'regional organizational meeting' of 'the Romney Leadership Team' on Wednesday at the home of a major donor in Florida. 'In addition to hearing from Governor Romney,' the invitation promised that members of his staff would deliver a 'political briefing' including a discussion of 'polling numbers, media appearances and other political activities.' A presidential campaign getting off the ground? A candidate preparing to announce another run at the White House? Of course not! Why would you think that? 'The purpose of his remarks on 2012 was the need to turn around the United States by building on Republican gains from the 2010 midterms,' Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said when asked what his boss was up to. (See: Romney inches closer) So it goes in the Kabuki theater phase of campaign 2012 in which none of the leading candidates will admit they’re candidates, their donor pitches and stump speeches are couched – sometimes barely – in the conditional, credulity straining denials such as Fehrnstrom’s are part of the press secretary’s vernacular, and an innocuous-sounding phrase such as 'testing the waters' has far-reaching legal implications." (Politico)


"In the early-morning hours of December 11, 2010, Stephanie Madoff was just waking up at her hotel in Orlando, Fla. It was a balmy 68 degrees, and the daughter-in-law of Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff had spent the past few days on a whirlwind Disney World excursion with her 4-year-old daughter, Audrey, and her mother, Pinks London. They were scheduled to fly back to Manhattan the following day. The mother-daughter trip was intended to make for happier memories than the date it coincided with: the two-year anniversary of Madoff's arrest for bilking investors out of $65 billion. It was sometime after 6 a.m. when Stephanie checked her phone for messages. She saw an e-mail from her husband, Mark, the elder of Bernie Madoff's two sons. 'Send someone to take care of Nick,' he'd written. The urgent tone put Stephanie on edge. She was due back the next day—why would she need to send someone to look after their 2-year-old son? Then she saw a second message from Mark. The subject line read 'I Love You.' Inside, the message was blank. Stephanie panicked. She immediately dispatched her stepfather, lawyer Martin London, to her family's apartment on Mercer Street in Soho. At 7:27 a.m., he found Mark, clad in khakis, a blue shirt and white socks, dangling from a black dog leash fashioned into a noose, attached to a beam in the living room ceiling. At the age of 46, he was dead. Little Nick was still slumbering peacefully in a nearby bedroom. Mark had left no suicide note behind. 'I Love You' and a blank e-mail was all Stephanie had left." (PageSixMagazine)


"Jennifer Hudson stunned the lunch crowd at Buddha Bar in DC when she broke into her Weight Watchers theme song, 'Feeling Good.' In skinny jeans, black pumps and a black blazer, the svelte songstress grabbed the microphone after doing a radio interview. 'The room didn't really know what to do,' a spy said. 'But finally everyone stood up and applauded'. Hudson, who's shed 80 pounds, told Essence magazine's April issue, 'I didn't realize that so many people were watching me or that so many people were interested. Now people come up to me saying, 'You've inspired me,' and I'm like, wow.'" (PageSix)


"Legendary rapper and founder of Roc-A-Fella records! One of the two wealthiest hip-hop artists in the world! Minority owner of the Nets! Beyonce's husband! If given the opportunity, we wouldn't blink an eye at the chance to hang out with Jay-Z. And if we had $20,000 or so available, we'd be able to do it very soon. Despite his Nets allegiances (which maybe won't come into full-effect until the team moves to Brooklyn in a few years), Jay-Z is auctioning off two courtside seats to an upcoming Knicks game. You'll get to watch Stat, Melo, and Mr. Big Shot wheel-and-deal in action with the man who wrote, no, lived '99 Problems.' The proceeds from the package (valued at $20,000) will benefit NYC's Stephen Gaynor School, which helps kids with learning disabilities reach their academic potential." (Gothamist -- make your bids here)

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