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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres
"Another carcass has been found. On the Kuku Group Ranch, one of the sectors allotted to the once nomadic Maasai that surround Amboseli National Park, in southern Kenya. Amboseli is home to some 1,200 elephants who regularly wander into the group ranches, these being part of their original, natural habitat. More than 7,000 Maasai live in scattered fenced-in compounds called bomas with their extended families and their cattle on Kuku’s 280,000 acres. Traditionally, the Maasai coexisted with their wildlife. They rarely killed elephants, because they revered them and regarded them as almost human, as having souls like us. Neighboring tribespeople believe that elephants were once people who were turned into animals because of their vanity and given beautiful, flashy white tusks, which condemned them, in the strangely truthful logic of myth, to be forever hunted and killed in the name of human vanity. And Maasai believe when a young woman is getting married and her groom comes to get her from her village she musn’t look back or she will become an elephant. 'But in the last few years, everything has changed,' a member of the tribe told me. 'The need for money has changed the hearts of the Maasai.' In 2008, post-election ethnic violence followed by the global recession halved tourism to Kenya, making the wildlife in the parks even harder to protect. Then, in 2009, one of the worst droughts in living memory hit much of the country. More than 400 elephants in Amboseli died. The Maasai lost many of their cows and are still struggling, while the price of ivory is higher than ever, so increasing numbers of them are risking the misfortune that killing an elephant could bring on their families, according to their traditional thinking, and are getting into poaching. There are brokers just across the Tanzania border who are paying cash—around $20 a pound—for raw ivory and selling it to the Chinese." (VanityFair)
"Before hopping a plane to Sudan tonight, the Christian leader and son of iconic Evangelical Billy Graham talked to Foreign Policy about his work in the African nation, why the American Evangelical community is so passionate about it, and what he plans to tell President Omar al-Bashir when he meets with him ... FP: It is one of the foreign policy issues that has really resonated with the Evangelical community. How come? Graham: I don't think it's just Evangelicals. I think it was Christians in Europe and around the world that saw where Islam was trying to annihilate the Christians in the south. It was Arab against black, for the most part. But I try to make friends on both sides. Our hospital in Lui [in South Sudan]was bombed on seven separate occasions by the government in the north. I finally went to see President Bashir and I asked him personally if he would stop bombing our hospital. And he did. I since have had a number of meetings with him. And these meetings have always been productive. I found Bashir to be somebody you could speak with, could negotiate with. You know, he signed the comprehensive peace agreement. He's a key player to the peace program. I find that you have to talk to both sides if you want to have peace. FP: You plan on meeting with him again this trip. He's a leader who has been indicted on war crimes by the International Criminal Court. What do you plan on saying to him? Graham: History can remember him as a criminal or they can remember him as a man who tried to repair the damage that was done by maintaining peace. There's fighting right now. Some of the churches we rebuilt have already been burned. He can uphold the peace agreement. He can be known as a man of peace in history. I don't think it's too late for Bashir. But time is running out." (ForeignPolicy)


"It was March 2003, and Rebekah Wade, then the editor of The Sun newspaper, was being interrogated by the House of Commons select committee on culture and the media. The topic: dubious tabloid practices. Asked whether she had ever paid the police for information, Ms. Wade, a supremely confident and striking figure with her shock of wild red hair, looked unabashed and unperturbed. 'We have paid the police for information in the past,' she declared.  She was, in fact, admitting to breaking the law, which was pointed out to her soon afterward. But Ms. Wade backtracked as fluently as she had come forward, declaring that she could not remember any examples and then proceeding, it seemed, to brush off the whole thing as another cheeky, walking-the-line incident in a career full of them.  Now 43 and known by her new married name of Rebekah Brooks, she has used a winning combination of charm, effrontery, audacity and tenacity to thrive in the brutal, male-dominated world of the British tabloids. She has risen to become chief executive of News International, Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper subsidiary.  Her closeness to Mr. Murdoch, who is said to regard her as a kind of favorite daughter (although he has four actual daughters), has protected her during the recent scandal engulfing the company, even as parliamentarians called on her to resign. The long-running saga reached new heights this week when British news reports revealed that the phone of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl murdered in 2002, was hacked by The News of the World after she went missing but before her body was found, hampering the police investigation and adding to the distress of her parents. Ms. Brooks was editor of The News of the World at the time; she has condemned the hacking and said she knew nothing about it. She declined a request to be interviewed for this article." (NYTimes)     

"Billionaire high-stakes poker fan Andrew Beal 'lost up to $50 million' in recent months in a series of games where players put up a $1 million buy-in, a source tells us. The Texas-based mogul, who made his fortune in banking and real estate, suffered a series of huge losses in at least three games, according to the source, who also said the games involved 'Spider-Man' star Tobey Maguire and billionaire private equity investor Alec Gores. While Beal, the richest man in Dallas worth $6.6 billion, strongly denies losing so much cash, he's famed for his love of high-stakes poker and is said to have once won more in a single day than any other known player -- $11.7 million at the Bellagio in Vegas, in 2004. In 2006, he famously lost $16.6 million in days. A source told Page Six Beal participated in three games this year -- one around the Super Bowl, one four months ago and another a few weeks ago. 'All the players had a $1 million buy-in,' the source said. 'Each time Beal lost big time, with a total loss of around $50 million.' The source said Maguire and some pro players were involved, and the games were legal because the house didn't take a cut. Dad-of-six Beal's quest for the highest-stakes poker match ever is described in the 2005 book 'The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time,' by Michael Craig. It ends when Beal loses $16 million ... Maguire was recently slapped with a lawsuit after being linked to an A-list gambling ring. But he denied any wrongdoing when he collected $300,000 from poker matches that were organized in Beverly Hills by a convicted investment scammer .." (PageSix)

"Down at Swifty’s, where it was sunny and cool, they packed them in at a birthday luncheon that Palm Beach based interior designer Scott Snyder gave for his friend Audrey Gruss. Mrs. Gruss is always one of the best-dressed women in New York, so you can be sure the ladies and the gents attending came looking the part ... There were twenty including the host and his honored guest plus Kitty McKnight, Sharon Handler, Carole Guest, Bennett Liefer, Margo Langenberg, Muffie Miller, Christopher Mason, Ellen Graham, Hunt Slonem, Cornelia Bregman, Dane Bailey, Karen LeFrak, Sharon King Hoge, George Lewis, Victoria Wyman, Richard Zieglasch, Kim Heirston, and Jose Carlinos." (NYSocialDiary)



"For Rupert Murdoch it’s contrition time. In a statement on Wednesday, the media mogul said behavior of staff at his British tabloid, the News of the World, had been “deplorable and unacceptable.” Police could expect full co-operation in their inquiries into the phone-hacking scandal that’s rocked his British operation, News International, and 'important steps' had been taken to ensure that illegal practices were never repeated. A powerful player in British politics for more than 40 years, Murdoch knows that a recognition of wrongdoing is now vital. But the harm is done. One glance at the British press suggests a deepening outrage that apologies won’t satisfy. Among the latest crop of allegations: hackers paid by the News of the World tapped into the phones of the relatives of servicemen killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the families of victims of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London. (The timing of the revelation is especially unfortunate: Thursday marks the sixth anniversary of the attack). Already, the paper stands accused of intercepting messages left on the voicemail of a murdered schoolgirl in 2002. Barely less damaging, it’s now claimed that the News of the World illegally paid police officers for information. Reflecting the national mood, Prime Minister David Cameron denounced the behavior of the News of the World as 'absolutely disgusting' on Wednesday. The fallout will be widespread and unpredictable. According to the Times of London, the Murdoch flagship daily, which ran four pages of coverage of the affair in Thursday’s edition, the arrest of five journalists and newspaper executives was likely 'within days.' That could be just the start. In parliament on Wednesday, Cameron promised a wide-ranging inquiry into media standards once the police investigation were completed." (TheDailyBeast)



"When Mark Zuckerberg really wants to hire you, he takes you on a walk from the company's headquarters through the woods to a scenic overlook of Palo Alto, reports Nick Bilton at the New York Times. Once Zuckerberg reaches the scenic overlook he makes his big pitch. Here's how one person described what happens to Bilton: 'He pointed out Apple’s headquarters, then Hewlett-Packard and a number of other big tech companies ... Then he pointed to Facebook and said that it would eventually be bigger than all of the companies he had just mentioned, and that if I joined the company, I could be apart of it all.' Another person who was courted says he visited Facebook's HQ after getting an email from Zuckerberg. ('I opened my e-mail one morning and there was a message from Mark Zuckerberg. I almost choked on my coffee.') As soon as he arrived they took off on a walk." (Businessinsider via NYT)



"What is there to say about Hemingway that hasn’t already been said or written? He was the first literary pop star before the p-word was invented. He wrote about the beautiful active life, the tranquil exhilaration of fishing, but also about the brutality of big-game hunting, bullfighting, and war. He resolved this dissonance in art by turning writing into marvelous prose. His masculine prose had the effect of the utmost subtlety. It was the hardest way to write because it seemed so easy and natural. Literary types called it non-literary and vulgar—in the beginning. But Papa was following his idol, a certain Mark Twain, who was never one to follow literary conventions. After The Sun Also Rises became a great hit, men started to talk the way he wrote. 'Have a drink' became a watchword. Heroic dissipation turned into a lifestyle for romantic wannabes. Hem was criticized for glorifying and making martyrs of bullfighters—Edmund Wilson, a Papa fan, called it neurotic and drunken—but Papa gave back as good as he got: 'Bull fighting is not a sport. It was never supposed to be. It is a tragedy. A very great tragedy. The tragedy is the death of the bull. It is played in three definite acts.'" (Takimag)

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