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Monday, March 07, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"So vast is the Pentagon’s budget – one in five government dollars goes on defence – that the impact of any cuts will reverberate around the world, influencing everything from a possible pull-out of US troops from Europe to the response to China’s rise and whether to invest in 20th-century equipment such as aircraft carriers or 21st-century cyberwar technology. More profoundly, the debate over the military is a symbol of the evolving new world order, in which US power is enfeebled at home by deficits and checked abroad by rising rivals. Two decades after historian Paul Kennedy coined the phrase 'imperial overstretch' to describe a superpower committed beyond its means, the theory is fast approaching reality. 'In 2000, we were responsible for one-third of the global economy and one-third of defence spending. Now, we have a quarter of global GDP [gross domestic product] and 46 per cent of defence spending,' says Loren Thompson, of the Lexington Institute, a Washington think-tank. US defence spending has almost doubled since the attacks of September 11 2001 and the invasions of Afgh-anistan then Iraq – even as the budget deficit rose under President George W. Bush then soared in the wake of the financial crisis. The Pentagon is seeking $540bn in the still-unresolved budget for the current fiscal year, in addition to $159bn on the two wars and the $7bn being spent by the Department of Energy on nuclear weapons. The Pentagon’s spending on health alone, which rose from $19bn in 2001 to a budgeted $53bn for 2012, amounts to the sixth-largest military budget in the world, just behind Russia and ahead of Germany. But rather than take on the system, Mr Obama has entrenched it, spending more on defence than Mr Bush did." (FT)


"The wholly unexpected and unprecedented winds of change blowing through the Arab world in the past month have overturned decades of expert assumptions and careful alliances. But this political transformation may yet be dwarfed this year by even more significant shifts in the tectonic plates of the global economy. The nature and dynamics of globalization are in the process of being transformed by underlying pressures that have been building for years, but are just not bursting to the surface. Here are a few key events to keep an eye on in the months to come: OPEC meetings are always prominent makers in the calendar of events for the global economy. But the upcoming June 11 summit in Vienna has already been preempted by the rise of oil prices in the wake of the revolution in Libya. Of course, Saudi Arabia has assured the world that they will pump more oil to offset any lost Libyan production. Nevertheless, the sudden price spike underlined the potential for another oil crisis. Coming in conjunction with a global rise in food and other commodity prices, it also signaled generally increasing inflation driven by short supplies as well as strong demand from the rapidly growing emerging market economies. This poses a particularly difficult problem for Europe and the United States, whose economies are still in a fragile stage of recovery from the Great Recession and whose central banks have been keeping interest rates low to help stimulate the recovery. Should they now raise rates to deal with inflation despite the risk of sliding back into recession? And if they do, will the export-led high growth economies be able to sustain that growth in the face of slowing export markets and rising domestic inflation? Those will be the key questions facing the World Bank/IMF meetings in Washington this April." (Clyde Prestowitz)


"As mass protests continued to rage in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen last week, all was serene in New Haven, Connecticut, where a dozen men (and a few women) sat around a table at Yale University, talking about how to build new governments in the Middle East. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair presided over the international group. This was not the usual assemblage of diplomats and policymakers, however. These were theologians... How, and to what extent, should diplomats and envoys from the secular, liberal West reach out to religious leaders and groups in places, like Iran, Libya, and Yemen, where such leaders have enormous influence and where the separation of church and state is neither established nor universally regarded as desirable? In the session at Yale, (Tony) Blair spoke provocatively of the need to use Scriptural arguments—as so many of America’s founders did—to bolster the case for establishing liberal democracies in the Middle East. (In the Middle East, of course, such arguments would come from the Koran.) In other words, Blair believes that for democracy to thrive in the Arab world, its founders must believe, on some level, that democratic government jibes with their understanding of what God wants. 'An understanding of democracy,' he says, derives in part from “an understanding of religion that is in itself open-minded.'" (TheDailyBeast)

"Part of the fun of having all those faux-friendships on Facebook is that you can constantly tell people stuff like, 'My friend Rihanna said...' Naturally, you don't add that you've never actually met the woman! So here's my query: Do you have any famous FB friends, and did you go after them or did they stalk you? And I'm not just talking about the fan pages, I mean the actual person! I'm proud to say I'm extremely close pals--practically siblings--with Joe Dallesandro, Bruce Vilanch, Carol Channing, Pat Cleveland, Renee Taylor, Judith Regan, Denny Dillon, Butch Patrick, and Scott Thompson, so nyah." (Michael Musto)



"Food shortages in eastern Libya, the largest rebel-controlled area, have reached dire levels. Fighting has left food stocks depleted and food supply chains in shambles. Around Benghazi, food prices have reportedly risen by 50 to 75 percent. Due to its poor suitability for agriculture, Libya imports the majority of its food, which has become largely impossible since fighting broke out. The United Nations-run World Food Program is attempting to alleviate the food shortage, but so far with little success. Last Thursday, a ship that the World Food Program had chartered to carry 1,000 tons of flour to Benghazi, the provisional capitol of the rebel leadership, abandoned the trip after reports of attacks by pro-Qaddafi aircraft in the area. As food runs out and the conflict drags on, eastern Libya's food crisis will only get worse. Qaddafi appears willing to use the shortage as a weapon against the rebels, reportedly blocking food from reaching the besieged rebel-held town of Zawiya. It still appears unlikely that Qaddafi will step down on his own accord. If the rebels are to free Libya, it will probably mean taking Tripoli by force and toppling Qaddafi outright. Currently, rebels in eastern Libya are mustering an army -- mostly raw recruits and seized weapons -- which they may use to do just that. But Benghazi is just over 1,000 km, about 630 miles, from Tripoli. Defeating Gadaffi would require this irregular force to travel hundreds of miles across the Mediterranean coast, all the while supplying itself through what would likely be a series of battles along the Gulf of Sidra, Sirte, and then in Tripoli itself." (TheAtlantic)

"Coincidentally, the subject of today’s Diary is another former prosecutor who worked on one of the most famous cases of the last fifty years in America: the death of Marilyn Monroe on August 5, 1962. John Miner, a former prosecutor in Los Angeles died at the end of last month in Los Angeles at the age of 92. Miner investigated the mysterious death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 and concluded that the star had been murdered in what he considered the most bizarre case in American history. At the time of her death, we were told it was a case of an overdose of barbituates. The American public’s image of Marilyn was already that of a beautiful, funny, sexy, sad actress who had been born out of wedlock and spent her childhood in foster homes. This emotional history ironically garnished the brilliance of her comedic performance beautifully. A sorrowful clown in the guise of a goddess." (NYSocialDiary)


"When I began attending TED it was a private, closed, intellectually intense week of presentations and conversations. It was a conversation, not a community. But then, in 2006 - Chris Anderson, TED's curator, made the decision to put the TED Talks online. It was a huge gamble. For attendees, known as TEDsters, there was fear that the specialness of the event would somehow evaporate. And for TED itself, there was no evidence that the still small web video audience would watch the videos, or that sponsors would support the cost of encoding, hosting, and streaming the files. Today - all of that is history. TED Talks have been viewed more than four hundred million times on line. And sharing these talks has had a major impact on TED itself. But, rather than diminish the specialness of the event, it has amplified it tremendously. TED isn't any longer a week, or a place, or a limited group of people. What's interesting of course is that TED has gone 'open' as the world has opened up. Bandwidth is ubiquitous. Content creation and consumption tools are now in more and more hands. And video itself is evolving from a passive entertainment medium to a powerful, global teaching tool." (Steve Rosenbaum/HuffPo)

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