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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"IN THE past fortnight, Bashar Assad’s regime has become both lonelier and bloodier. As the isolation of the president and his country have become more stark, you would think that he would become keener to negotiate his way out of his murderous impasse. Yet he seems to be doing the precise opposite. After the Arab League’s offer to mediate, his security forces have sharply increased their rate of killing. Rather than engage seriously with the democratic opposition, Mr Assad seems ever more determined to crush it. As a result, the league took the dramatic step, on November 12th, of suspending Syria from membership. Unless Mr Assad changes course, he risks ending up like Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Yet even at this late hour it is still worth trying to make him see sense (see article). As peaceful protests against Mr Assad’s regime gathered steam, he had reckoned that Syria’s pivotal place in the Arab world would dissuade his fellow Arabs, as well as Turks and Persians, from turning against him. Instead the pace at which he is running out of friends seems to be quickening. Turkey, his biggest neighbour to the north, and the region’s emerging power, has abandoned hope that he can reform his country or save his regime. Turkey now plays host to Syria’s political opposition. The king of Jordan, to the south, hitherto cautiously neutral, has bluntly told Mr Assad to go. Most of Mr Assad’s counterparts in the Gulf, after initially hedging their bets, are now spurning him. Iraq’s Shia-led government, which used to fear the prospect of a Sunni regime displacing Mr Assad and his Alawites, has become chillier. Even Iran, his strongest local backer, betrays doubts over whether to stick with him for ever." (TheEconomist)



"We are on the 56th floor, with breathtaking views of the harbour. Lunch has taken months to set up because the two men are rarely in the same place at the same time. (Henry) Kravis lives in New York, and (George) Roberts on the US west coast. When they are together they dine out, accompanied by their wives. They like to be incognito, exploring local, sometimes fairly downmarket, restaurants. (I had run into both couples two days before our lunch. All four were casually dressed and on their way to a low-key Sichuanese restaurant.) Kravis says he has chosen our food, telling me that he and his wife love India and its cuisine. 'Marie-Josée and I like to go to India for Christmas but this time I will be there on January 6 for my birthday. We go to temples even Indians have never heard of.' Kravis and Roberts founded KKR in 1976. Their co-founder was an older man, Jerome Kohlberg, whose name has stuck but who left Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in 1987, the year before the audacious $25bn RJR Nabisco buy-out deal that made the company famous. It’s a tale told in the bestselling – and still thrilling – 1990 book, Barbarians at the Gate (extract below). It captures the cut-throat world of 1980s Wall Street, a time when anything could, and did, happen as the traditional way of doing business was turned on its head by upstarts such as KKR. Both Kravis and Roberts had originally worked for Kohlberg at the scrappy, aggressive investment group Bear Stearns in New York, Kravis joining to replace his cousin who had gone back to live in California. At KKR, the three men set up leveraged buy-outs of the kind they had pioneered at Bear Stearns. The separation from Kohlberg in 1987 was – and remains – painful. It was caused, in part, by differences between the hard-driving business style of the young cousins and the quieter approach of their former mentor; and partly by disagreements over money." (LunchwiththeFT)


"Oh sure, you’re too cool (or too male) for the Twilight Saga global phenom. But Summit Entertainment’s Breaking Dawn Part 1 is shattering the four-month-old North American box office slump today and shooting the overall moviegoing weekend up +11% from last year’s total. Hollywood should be grateful to females young and old for keeping the business buoyed this weekend. (Seriously, give thanks early.) Sources are giving me this Top 10 rundown. Full analysis later: 1. Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Summit) NEW [4,061 Theaters]Friday $73.5M (including $30.2M midnights), Estimated Weekend $139MYowza! Summit Entertainment is cautiously optimistic now that this fourth Twilight Saga installment Breaking Dawn Part 1 will match or beat the biggest one-day and Friday opening in the franchise’s history. It’s also looking like the #2 best-ever Single day opening, behind only Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2‘s $91M." (NikkiFinke)


"In the spirit of looking at what the media is, we talked about positions held by reporters who've been arrested around the country at Occupy Wall Street. I started doing this because I had a suspicion that some media trends were probably evident: were they all interns? Were they all unpaid? Freelancers? All men? Who were they? The most notable things (to me) that we found were that a majority were non-staff reporters, they were from a wide cross-section of outfits (independent outlets, news wires, student papers) and that one staff reporter had already been laid off since his on-the-job arrest. I tried to be pretty careful that this wasn't to suggest that any of them weren't "real reporters." (One of those arrested in New York (who informed police he was a reporter), Jared Malsin, working for The Local East Village, was even deported from Israel last year for his reporting there.) Then last night the mayor's spokesman sent out a memo, citing our little exploration, and going further—cross-referencing the arrested reporters with holders of NYPD press passes. He was doing this to assert that the NYPD wasn't arresting reporters. He wrote: "We found that only five of the 26 arrested reporters actually have valid NYPD-issued press credentials." Which, well, is basically an admission of arresting five NYPD-credentialed reporters? Or he was doing this to assert that they weren't arresting real reporters. Well, we're pretty much all real reporters now. I don't think the NYPD are monsters; I also don't think Bloomberg's office is evil. Nor are either of these organizations uniform in their thinking about Occupy Wall Street. I even think they're in a tricky position—I don't know how I'd deal with a large protest movement gathering in the City over the course of two months, especially one that's trying to keep a permanent encampment in a park. But I do think the City itself and even Bloomberg—despite some of his excellent qualities!—brought Occupy Wall Street on themselves. Throughout his unnecessarily extended tenure, he's always been quick to give up income to benefit the banks. He's done nothing truly effective about job creation, despite his small programs for helping startups and entrepreneurs, and the small creation of affordable housing. For example, everyone knew that Goldman Sachs' 'threat' to move to midtown was a bluff; they would never pay those rates, and that the state and the City went nuts on concessions for their new headquarters is still a crime. (Particularly when Goldman spit in their faces at the same time, moving more of their headcount to New Jersey anyway.)  The banks and New York City have always been intimately entwined throughout their history—probably, in the past, in far more unseemly ways than they are now." (ChoireSicha)


"Over its first weeks, (Elizabeth) Warren’s campaign raised an impressive $3.15 million, about 70 percent of which came from out of state and 96 percent from donors giving $100 or less. That last metric is crucial, because a consumer advocate who recently said, 'The people on Wall Street broke this country,' is not likely to enjoy big-ticket backing from the financial sector. By late October, three of her biggest primary challengers had dropped out. Even though she’s running for the Senate and not for the presidency, the early devotion to Warren recalls the ardor once felt by many for Obama. On its face, this is odd: Warren is not a world-class orator, she is not young or shiny or new, she doesn’t fizz with the promise of American possibility that made the Obama campaign pop. Instead, she’s a mild-mannered Harvard bankruptcy-law professor and a grandmother of three, a member of the older-white-lady demographic (she’s 62) that was written off in 2008 as being the antimatter of hope and change. And yet, on a deeper level, her popularity makes perfect sense. Embracing Warren as the next 'one' is, in part, a way of getting over Obama; she provides an optimistic distraction from the fact that under our current president, too little has changed, for reasons having to do both with the limitations of the political system and the limitations of the man. She makes people forget that estimations of him were too overheated, trust in his powers too fervid. As the feminist philanthropist Barbara Lee told me of Warren, 'This moment of disillusion is why people find her so compelling, because she brings forth the best in people and she brings back that excitement.'” (NYTimes)


"To many the American hipster represents more than ironic graphic T's and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. 'I like to believe there's something smarter lurking within our romance with hip ... an idea of enlightenment and awareness," says John Leland, a New York Times reporter and author of the 2004 book Hip: The History. America does have a long love affair with being hip — not only up to date and au courant, but ahead of the curve. The Urban Dictionary defines hipsters as 'a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s who value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.' The greatest concentrations of hipsters, the hiptionary definition continues, 'can be found living in the Williamsburg, Wicker Park and Mission District neighborhoods of major cosmopolitan centers such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco respectively.'  Sure enough, just a couple of years ago everyone was writing about discrete hipster enclaves. A 2009 essay in Time magazine focused on the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, noting that because of a lagging economy and neighborhood gentrification, 'Hipsterdom's largest natural habitat, it seems, is under threat.'" (NPR)


"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are ready to tango once again on spending cuts and taxes but this time the balance of power favors Reid.Democrats say Boehner and his GOP colleagues lack the leverage they had earlier this year, when congressional inaction would have resulted in a government shutdown or default. Reid’s party is more willing to accept the consequences of a deadlock this time than Republicans, several of whom have already vowed to attempt to repeal $500 billion in automatic cuts to the defense department. 'Sequestration is worse for Republicans, you don’t see Democrats talking about trying to reverse it,' said a senior Democratic aide. 'The Republicans don’t have a gun to our head like they did earlier this year.'A senior GOP aide scoffed at the notion of a Reid advantage as 'untethered from reality,' but a shift can be observed in Reid’s rhetoric. When circumstances gave Boehner more leverage earlier this year, Reid buttered up his negotiating partner in public." (TheHill)



"The storied Frank Gehry-designed Condé cafeteria officially has some culinary competition, and it isn’t Hearst’s lunchtime spread or a local 4 Times Square EIC haunt (Lambs Club, we’re looking at you). Last night, Bon Appetit’s EIC Adam Rapoport got cooking with a little help from his famous friends to christen the BA Kitchen. The crack team of consultants for the project? From some of the city’s finest kitchens, Eric Ripert, Tom Colicchio, and Marcus Samuelsson emerged to offer their sage insights for the handsome AvroKO-designed space. The latter two were on hand for the evening’s delicious festivities, as were Solange Knowles, Olivia Munn, Wyatt Cenac, Zoe Kravitz, plus a duo of dashing blokes in off-duty chapeaux—Ryan Phillippe (baseball cap) and Penn Bagdley (newsboy number). Now, onto the food and bevs, of course! The Roots’ Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson provided more than just rhythmic accouterments for the evening, less than 48 hours after he sent ripples through the Twittersphere by breaking news of Monday night's police raid at Zuccotti Park, earning the moniker of 'Paul Revere for the Occupy Wall Street movement.' He also devised the 'Love’s Drumstick' for the BA Kitchen's debut: poultry battered in buttermilk, doused in Creole seasoning, and adorned with a flourish of freshly-made crimson origami. What a week for The Roots’ renaissance man!" (Fashionweekdaily)

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