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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Since the first few Julian Assange-saturated months of 2011, the U.S. media have largely moved on to Arab revolutions and other sex scandals. But WikiLeaks has continued releasing embassy cables -- fewer than 16,000 of the more than 250,000 have been published so far. In contrast to its early, now-frayed partnerships with the Guardian and the New York Times, WikiLeaks is now working with local papers in countries like Peru, Haiti, and Ireland to release cables of national interest. Here are a few of the highlights ... Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is already facing a long series of corruption allegations that have prompted street protests and calls for his resignation, and the soft-spoken economist took another hit in March when the Hindu obtained a U.S. Embassy cable from WikiLeaks detailing corruption in its most blatant form. The cable, dated July 17, 2008, describes a meeting between the embassy political counselor and Satish Sharma, a high-ranking Congress Party MP, in the run-up to a parliamentary confidence vote on a U.S.-India nuclear deal, which was expected to be close. Sharma told the embassy official that the Congress Party was working hard to ensure the Parliament's support for the deal and as proof, showed him 'two chests containing cash and said that around Rupees 50-60 crore (about $25 million) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs.' Another Congress official at the meeting mentioned that about $2.5 million had been paid to four MPs to ensure their support for the agreement, considered one of the Bush administration's signature foreign-policy achievements." (ForeignPolicy)


"Hollywood arrived at the annual Allen & Co investment conference in Sun Valley today -- but I don't know why. It'll be a showbiz snorefest. Because only 'A Conversation With Oprah Winfrey' is scheduled and no one is interested unless she comes clean about how much money she's caused Discovery's David Zaslav to piss away. That's a departure from last year when showbiz came back into favor at Camp Allen because of an 'Entertainment Panel' consisting of Barry Diller, Peter Chernin, Jeff Katzenberg, and Bobby Kotick (the CEO/president of Activision Blizzard). The YouTube/Twitter types will participate in 'The New Breed' panel. And Bill Gates interviews Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Otherwise, there's an emphasis on overseas: 'Building A Business In China' confab, 'Mexico Today', 'The Middle East', a sit-down with Jordan's King Abdullah II (who just endorsed a Cabinet reshuffle on Saturday in the wake of scandals and resignations), a confab about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a how-to panel on 'Managing Global Enterprises in Turbulent Times' ...  Gawd, Camp Allen isn't worth covering anymore." (Nikki Finke)


"When affluent families come together to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend, fights invariably break out over long-standing, emotional sensitivities. Relatives who are free to avoid each other for most of the year suddenly square off and spar, hoping to gain an advantage in long-term internecine struggles. What’s unusual about many of these battles is that instead of lining up properly and exchanging direct blows, well-fixed family members often clash by proxy—staging high-stakes competitions between members of their respective staffs. On such special occasions, when all branches of the family congregate at the patriarch’s (or matriarch’s) summer compound, it is customary for individuals to travel with their own service attendants—private chefs, nannies, and housekeepers—and, on the contested playing field of the elder’s estate, to attempt to obtain the upper hand by showcasing the superior domestic skills of their help. The hope is that these hostile progeny will weaken rivals while increasing their own comparative appeal in the eyes of the family’s principal asset holder. Private chefs are directed to upstage their colleagues in the kitchen. Nannies must do their absolute, high-profile best at rearing young children, without making any conspicuous mistakes. In dynastic situations, where everyone wants to be in good favor with the king, having your chef pull through with just the right recipe for a family meal can be a game changer. It’s considered an honor in such clans to have the patriarch or matriarch recognize the talents of one extraordinary employee, for example, by publicly choosing one nanny over the rest to assist in an outing that features grandchildren. Such honors can have real consequences in the petty feuds that persist among the well-positioned offspring." (Jamie Johnson)


"President Barack Obama swept into office as the anti-Bill Clinton, even saying at one point that he wasn’t sent to Washington to 'do school uniforms' — political shorthand for the former president’s downsized ambitions against a Republican Congress. But confronted with similar limitations, Obama is looking a little more like Clinton in the second half of his first term, pushing modest jobs proposals and a diet of bite-size policy talkers: a new fatherhood pledge, graphic tobacco warnings, updated sunscreen requirements, an anti-bullying summit and entertainment discounts for fathers to spend more time with their kids. The slimmed-down agenda is the consequence of a resistant Congress and no money to spend, but it also aims to address a political problem for the president headed into a tough reelection fight. Just like Clinton, Obama is attempting to show voters that, at a time of Washington gridlock, he can still work to solve people’s problems, no matter how small they may be ... Obama’s embrace of the softer powers of the presidency — most conspicuously, the bullying summit in March — has been 'a source of some amusement' to former Clinton aides who cringed at the mocking of their boss’s legacy, one Clinton veteran said ... Beyond that, the White House isn’t going big anymore. Immigration, education, climate change and clean energy bills remain on the wish list, but Obama has devoted equal time to promoting piecemeal economic ideas that don’t require congressional approval. Aides say the more modest approach is part of a natural evolution for any presidency." (Politico)



"Those who stayed in Washington during the long holiday weekend have a secret: it was a great place to be away from it all. Apart from the hordes massed on the Mall for the annual July 4th celebration and fireworks, everywhere else was quiet. Believe it or not it’s possible to live in Washington and ignore Congress and the White House – that is unless it’s your livelihood. Otherwise summer can be a sweet time to disengage from the 'official' city. The politics of the budget notwithstanding, there’s a lot less going on... A few days earlier we were also on Maine Avenue, but this time on the water, aboard “Sea Loafers,” the handsome 112-foot motor yacht owned by Jeff Pfeifle. Jeff and Adam Mahr hosted a party for their Washington friends as the boat made its way from its winter home in Florida to Sag Harbor, where it will spend the summer, serving, as usual, as Jeff’s home away from home when he’s not in Manhattan." (WashingtonSocialDiary)




"In its first season, 'Breaking Bad' seemed like the story of the nuttiest midlife crisis ever, told with elements that felt vaguely familiar. The structure — felonious dad copes with stress of work and family; complications ensue — owed an obvious debt to 'The Sopranos,' and the collision of regular people and colorfully violent thugs nodded to Tarantino. The story and setting were an update of the spaghetti Western, minus the cowboys and set in the present. But it was soon clear that 'Breaking Bad' was something much more satisfying and complex: a revolutionary take on the serial drama. What sets the show apart from its small-screen peers is a subtle metaphysical layer all its own. As Walter inches toward damnation, Gilligan and his writers have posed some large questions about good and evil, questions with implications for every kind of malefactor you can imagine, from Ponzi schemers to terrorists. Questions like: Do we live in a world where terrible people go unpunished for their misdeeds? Or do the wicked ultimately suffer for their sins?" (NYTimes)



"Tina and Sir Harry, Ken and Binky, Nan and Gay — the long-standing Old Guard of media couples are well known. But who else is at the top of the love-in-journalism field? We’ve compiled a primer. And what of the next generation of ink-stained hot-and-heavies? We’ve also included the next generation of media power couples. (Be prepared to feel old, underachieving and poorly dressed.) As we all know, love in the media world is a many-splendored, competitive and often transient thing: we can only vouch for these relationships at the time of publication. Is there anyone we left sitting on the bench?" (Observer)
 

"Peru's 2011 election, in which leftist former army officer and one-time coup leader Ollanta Humala defeated Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's jailed former president, may be the first time WikiLeaks revelations have had a major role in determining the outcome of an election. The newspaper El Comercio obtained access to the cables and published reports throughout the election with new revelations about Keiko who had been leading in the polls up until election day. In one 2006 cable, U.S. officials recounted a meeting with Keiko and several other prominent Fujimoristas in which they suggest they might cut political deals with the government in order to end the 'persecution' of Alberto, then imprisoned in neighboring Chile. For those wary of the Fujimoris, the cable reinforced the perception that Keiko was running simply to restore the political reputation of her family .." (ForeignPolicy)


"Prince William has a plastic surgeon reserved for his upcoming visit to Southern California — but, no, he’s not getting any work done. Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Toby Mayer will be on standby at the charity polo match Prince William will participate in Saturday afternoon at the Santa Barbara Polo Club. Mayer’s job? Making sure that if the Duke gets hurt he’s quickly taken care of. Mayer, a polo player himself, said he was pleased that Buckingham Palace had asked him to help. 'I’m very happy,' he said. 'But I’ve been doing this for 30-some years, so I’ve sewn up the great and the near-great.' Should an injury happen, Mayer said, it would most likely be a laceration — a stray ball or mallet can often swipe a player in the face. Though broken bones and concussions are par for the course at polo matches, Mayer said he doesn’t anticipate this happening at a charity event with royalty present. 'With the prince around, I think most people will be on their best behavior,' Mayer said. It’s not common to have a plastic surgeon on site during polo matches, but Mayer said he helps evaluate injuries and can treat some — stitching up wounds or setting broken noses, for example — in locker rooms, often saving players a trip to the hospital and the team from forfeiting a match." (Los Angeles Times)

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