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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"... Saudi Arabia and the United States have been at odds for much of the last decade, over not just Palestine but also terrorism, energy policy, and the Iraq war. The question is whether repeated strains in the relationship starting even before the 9/11 attacks are leading toward a substantive shift in the kingdom's attitude toward its main foreign protector for the past seven decades. This is a question of major strategic importance for the United States given the kingdom's role as the world's top oil producer in terms of capacity (12.5 million barrels a day) and its No. 4 ranking in foreign exchange holdings ($540 billion). The Saudis continue to hold out against demands from some other oil producers for payment in currency other than the U.S. dollar, partly or totally. What would be the consequences if they agreed to a change in this policy? Is Obama willing to find out? The United States and Saudi Arabia have always had trouble describing how they relate to each other. For decades, the core of the relationship was summed up in the cryptic description of 'oil for security,' meaning assured Saudi oil supplies at reasonable prices in return for assured U.S. security of the kingdom against its external enemies, be it Iraq, Iran, or al Qaeda. In the early 1970s, the two countries coined the term 'special relationship,' even while Saudi Arabia steadfastly refused to become a 'non-NATO ally' of the United States, like Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan, or sign any formal defense agreements. After 9/11, neither side spoke any longer about a 'special relationship.' It took four years to adopt the term 'strategic dialogue,' the same used to describe U.S. engagement with China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia." (ForeignPolicy)



"It has been a busy time for Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the independent court set up in the Hague almost a decade ago to investigate genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity ... It has yet to secure a single conviction. And so far it has yet to open a single case outside Africa. This has fed the perception among Africans that it is being used as a political whip in western hands to beat the continent with ...  An outsized ego may be an additional complicating factor for the ICC’s chief prosecutor. His supposedly overbearing management style has led to resignations by senior lawyers on his team, some of whom have expressed discomfort privately at his readiness to leap into the public spotlight before all his legal ducks are in a row. He shrugs this off too. The hirsute Moreno-Ocampo evidently enjoys holding centre stage. And in his presence I am soon reminded of a joke Chileans tell at the expense of their Latin neighbours: why do Argentines run outside in thunder and lightning? Because they think God is taking their picture. As we begin eating hamachi with fennel and east Indian cress he reaches for a quick anecdote about how he defended an FT colleague who was under fire in Argentina for exposing bribery .." (FT)



"My sources say Sony’s newcomer Moneyball has been rising as the night goes on for maybe the best baseball-themed opening ever. It’s definitely No. 1 Friday with approximately $6.8M from 2,993 theaters. (As a Sony exec told me, '$6 million would be great. $7 million amazing. $8 million would be a triumph.') With a healthy adult bump tomorrow, it’s looking at a $21M weekend. That solid number helps keep Brad Pitt’s star wattage shining and his awards chances climbing because of this well-reviewed male-centric sports movie. Audiences really liked this pic: it received all A’s — male, female, young, old — from CinemaScore. But a rival studio exec points out, 'The audience is very old – almost 60% of audience over 50.' 2. Even Disney is surprised that its Lion King 3D is in 2nd place tonight from 2,330 theaters which sold mostly higher priced tickets. But rival studios tell me it got a boost today from the rain back East for a $6.2M Friday, or an excellent holding -31% from its opening a week ago. With the normal kiddie matinee bump, that’s a $21M weekend as well. This re-release is projected to hit a cume of $60M by Monday. Here’s my question: why is it that in all the promotional hype I’ve been sent by the studio about this pic, no one at Disney is thanking Jeffrey Katzenberg for micro-managing the original? C’mon, Mouse House, give credit where credit is due. Even if Jeffrey is a big pain in everyone’s ass." (Deadline)


"Luxry line Pirelli kicked off Fashion Week in Milan this week with the opening of their first flagship store, Pirelli Corso Venezia, and the launch of their PZero Fashion Collection. Originally launched in 2002, PZero has evolved into a collection of clothing and goods, overseen by creative director Renato Montagner and his design team. Supermodel Naomi Campbell, a long time Pirelli fan and calendar girl, hosted the event in a sparkling Dolce and Gabbana mini dress, which showed off her impossibly long legs. Also on hand were supermodel Eva Herzigova, model Valeria Mazza, model Bianca Balti .." (Papermag)



"Philip Falcone took his share of knocks playing hockey for Harvard and later as a pro in Sweden. Yet the athlete-turned-hedge fund billionaire has never faced a defensive line like the one standing in the way of his new telecom venture, LightSquared. Critics include the U.S. military, General Motors (GM), FedEx (FDX), major U.S. airlines, and some lawmakers. Falcone wants to exploit airwaves used mainly by satellites to build a $14 billion nationwide mobile network to rival those ofAT&T (T) and Verizon Wireless (VZ). LightSquared would act as a wholesaler, allowing partners, including Best Buy (BBY), to sell smartphones and laptops under their own brands. The New York financier says LightSquared will revolutionize communications—not to mention further the Obama Administration’s goal of finding more spectrum for data-hungry devices straining the nation’s wireless ecosystem. There’s just one hitch. LightSquared’s more powerful signal may drown out the faint beams of satellites that support the global-positioning system, critics contend. 'Sort of like running a lawnmower in a library where people whisper,' is how Philip Straub, a vice-president for navigation gear maker Garmin (GRMN), described it in congressional testimony in June. Opponents, including companies that have banded together into the Coalition to Save our GPS, say Falcone’s network could hinder hurricane tracking, lead customers of GM’s OnStar service astray, and cause 794 additional deaths in plane crashes over a decade. Anyone who uses a GPS-connected device, such as an iPhone, may also be affected." (Businessweek)



"Downstairs in the kitchen, the designer Gilles Mendel and Rick and Kathy Hilton watched Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin prepare food. Wearing a medallion as big as Flavor Flav’s clock, Andrew Crisford, guild master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, had flown in from England as a sort of horological ambassador. People were staring at his chest. 'Now I know how you women feel,' he said.  Upstairs, we said hello to Waris Ahluwalia, the designer and maven of the downtown scene, who was perhaps somewhat out of place. 'I’m Uptown Waris, you must have me confused with someone else,' he said. Downtown Waris, he said, wasn’t allowed north of 23rd Street. Later, we wandered the mansion’s art collection and snapped photographs of him as he petted a taxidermy leopard.  At dinner, we sat next to Jay McInerney, who every few minutes lamented that Nocturnalist’s column would be all about him. Mr. McInerney’s name had featured prominently on an e-mail invitation we had received, we told him, to his surprise." (NYTimes)



"Gala premieres at Lincoln Center tend to generate more murmurs than roars. But things were buzzing more than usual last night at New York City Ballet's Ocean's Kingdom. The camera phones were out, the dolled-up spectators on seat's edge. There was, as musical director Fayçal Karoui announced during the orchestral warm-up, 'a whole different level of excitement.' That's because the composer of the season opener, an old-fashioned fairy tale about star-crossed lovers from land and sea, was a guy named Paul McCartney. His daughter, Stella, did the costumes, and between the two of them, they brought in more than the usual crowd of benefactors." (Style)



"Former President Bill Clinton is offering up a plan to fix the economy and push the United States into the future in a new book to be published in November by Knopf.  In the book, titled 'Back to Work,' Mr. Clinton will make the case for why government matters, explaining his ideas on energy, job creation and financial responsibility, his publisher said Thursday. 'I wrote this book because I love my country and I’m concerned about our future,' Mr. Clinton said in a statement. 'As I often said when I first ran for president in 1992, America at its core is an idea — the idea that no matter who you are or where you’re from, if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll have the freedom and opportunity to pursue your own dreams and leave your kids a country where they can chase theirs.' The book’s timing will create an unusual tableau: Mr. Clinton on a national book tour this fall, espousing his economic remedies, at the same time that President Obama will be presenting his own plans to the public." (NYTimes)



"Post-blackness entails a different perspective from earlier generations’, one that takes for granted what they fought for: equal rights, integration, middle-class status, affirmative action and political power. While rooted in blackness, it is not restricted by it, as Michael Eric Dyson says in the book’s foreword; it is an enormously complex and malleable state, Touré says, 'a completely liquid shape-shifter that can take any form.' With so many ways of performing blackness, there is now no consensus about what it is or should be. One of his goals, Touré writes in 'Who’s Afraid of Post-­Blackness? What It Means to Be Black Now,' is 'to attack and destroy the idea that there is a correct or legitimate way of doing blackness.' Post-blackness has no patience with 'self-appointed identity cops' and their 'cultural bullying.'" (NYTBR)       

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