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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi met for the second time in two days on Friday, displaying what the traveling press corps declared an 'obvious closeness' as the two pledged to work together to promote democratic reforms in the isolated Southeast Asian nation. 'If we go forward together I’m confident there will be no turning back from the road to democracy,' Suu Kyi told reporters after the pair's formal meeting. 'We are not on that road yet, but we hope to get there as soon as possible with our friends.' Clinton also announced $1.2 million in new aid for the nation, mostly to civil groups that provide health care and microlending. But the big takeaway for many of the U.S. reporters who had followed Clinton on her historic trip was the budding friendship between two of the most recognizeable female political figures in the world." (Slate)


"May 14, 2011, was a horrendous day for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then head of the International Monetary Fund and leading contender to unseat Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France in the April 2012 elections. Waking up in the presidential suite of the Sofitel New York hotel that morning, he was supposed to be soon enroute to Paris and then to Berlin where he had a meeting the following day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He could not have known that by late afternoon he would, instead, be imprisoned in New York on a charge of sexual assault. He would then be indicted by a grand jury on seven counts of attempted rape, sexual assault, and unlawful imprisonment, placed under house arrest for over a month, and, two weeks before all the charges were dismissed by the prosecutor on August 23, 2011, sued for sexual abuse by the alleged victim.He knew he had a serious problem with one of his BlackBerry cell phones—which he called his IMF BlackBerry. This was the phone he used to send and receive texts and e-mails—including for both personal and IMF business. According to several sources who are close to DSK, he had received a text message that morning from Paris from a woman friend temporarily working as a researcher at the Paris offices of the UMP, Sarkozy’s center-right political party. She warned DSK, who was then pulling ahead of Sarkozy in the polls, that at least one private e-mail he had recently sent from his BlackBerry to his wife, Anne Sinclair, had been read at the UMP offices in Paris.1 It is unclear how the UMP offices might have received this e-mail, but if it had come from his IMF BlackBerry, he had reason to suspect he might be under electronic surveillance in New York." (NYRB)

"The great experiment has begun. In recent days, Arab publics have gone to the polls in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt, and to no one's surprise, Islamist parties have come out on top in each case. Does this mean that Islamists have 'hijacked' the revolution? Or that the Arab Spring will become, as Newt Gingrich put it in the Republicans' foreign-policy debate, an 'anti-Christian spring'? The one-word answer is "no." The three-word answer is 'I hope not.' Tunisia's al-Nahda party, Morocco's Justice and Development Party, and Egypt's Freedom and Justice Party (the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood) are not secular, but they are democratic -- or at the very least, they have earned the right to have their democratic bona fides tested in the real world of political practice. They won pluralities because they were the best-organized parties in each country, but also because in the years before the populist upheaval they had come to be seen as forces for social justice in the face of autocratic rule. They've earned their place; but what now? The most pressing question is not about their intentions, pious or otherwise, but about whether they will be permitted to rule at all. In Tunisia, where there is no entrenched rival force, the answer is almost certainly yes." (James Traub)

"On the fourth floor of the market is the Rose Bakery, a muesli-and-sandals establishment – is it ironic? – offering wholesome refreshment for foot-weary shoppers. This is where my guest Lady Amanda Harlech has chosen to have lunch, and she comes in just a few minutes late, apologising profusely, straight off the red-eye from New York. I am sipping on a mineral water, she impressively orders a green tea and an espresso, a thrillingly weird aperitif combo that I can imagine becoming a shoppers’ cult ('Wake up and zip those oxidants! All at once!')  Harlech, 52, is a taste-maker. Not one of those whose name is plastered over clothes or perfume bottles, but a behind-the-scenes player whose views are lavishly respected. She is routinely described as a 'muse', lending her evidently unerring eye for fashion success first to John Galliano, whom she met early in his career, and latterly to another industry supremo, Karl Lagerfeld, who directs operations at Chanel and Fendi. Her surname and title comes from her 12-year marriage to Francis Ormsby-Gore, 6th Baron Harlech, which ended in a messy divorce in the late 1990s. Other than the inevitably gossipy coverage that was prompted by that break-up, she prefers to keep a low-ish profile. Today she is wearing a checked shirt with its collars turned up, which I thought had gone out in the 1980s, but what do I know, and a long, dark red velvet skirt. A looped earring on the upper part of her right ear gives a refreshing hint of unconventionality. She says she likes the restaurant not because of its chic environs but because its food resembles home cooking. 'It is organic, and cooked with care. Things need to be cooked with love, and also harvested in a nice way. I’m sorry, I’m going all ... ' She waves her hands around and moves her head from side to side. Mystical, I say. 'I used to be a waitress,' she continues, undeterred by her funny moment. 'I was one of the bunny girls at Browns in Oxford.'" (FT)

"After emceeing a memorial for Elaine Kaufman this week, Dick Cavett, who’s featured in PBS’s Woody Allen documentary, recalled some favorite anecdotes. He said Norman Mailer once arrived at Elaine’s with a woman 'of dubious virtue' who unscrewed a light bulb above their table without Elaine’s permission not once, but twice. 'Elaine’s great tolerance only lasted for someone who did something twice,' Cavett said. Kaufman, after sticking out her arm and 'accidentally' grazing the woman’s face, pointed at Mailer and told his friend, 'Him I have to take it from, but no half-hooker’s gonna come in here and [bleep] with my light bulb.'" (PageSix)


"One morning after waking up on a friend's couch following a night of plentiful wine, I was sharing breakfast with my host and his 4-year-old son, who broke the silence by asking—or, as it seemed to me, shrieking—'Dad, is there anybody who doesn't like bacon?' 'That's a good question,' replied the father thoughtfully, pronging another strip of the good stuff. I've subsequently recalled this moment many times when enjoying a glass of Côte-Rôtie, which almost inevitably evokes bacon, and even its boon companion, coffee. I suppose it's possible some might not like this Northern Rhône Syrah, just as some may be immune to the charms of bacon, but I can't help feeling a little sorry for anyone afflicted with these particular forms of anhedonia. Sure, Côte-Rôtie has its sensitive, vegan, botanical side—raspberry fruit, herbal and floral notes—but a really good one inevitably has me repeating the bacon-bacon-bacon mantra, like the dog in that ad for Beggin' Strips. Located just across the Rhône River from the ancient Roman city of Viennes, Côte-Rôtie is believed by some historians to be the site where the vine was first cultivated in Gaul." (Jay McInreney)

"Lancôme and W had canceled their party in the parking garage on account of wind, and so Elettra Wiedemann, who'd flown down for it, found herself toasting Ever Manifesto at the Webster instead. Gucci bankrolled the eco-oriented style publication's latest issue, which is ad-free, and Stefano Tonchi came on as guest editor. The theme this time is bamboo, with which editor Alexia Niedzielski declared herself and co-founders Elizabeth von Guttman and Charlotte Casiraghi 'obsessed.' Elsewhere, the wild and woolly revels included Art Basel Miami Beach's 10th anniversary bash at the New World Symphony, which made use of live alligators, and Vito Schnabel, Stavros Niarchos, and Alex Dellal's party with Dom Pérignon at Wall. Filmmaker Harmony Korine was playing it comparatively low-key at the Mondrian, where he screened Caput, a reinterpretation of the observatory fight scene from Rebel Without a Cause. (Picture female BMX gangs duking it out in the buff with machetes.) The six-minute film is part of the blockbuster exhibition James Franco is organizing at L.A.'s MOCA in May." (Style)


"A Delhi-based men's lifestyle magazine dropped a bombshell today that recalls the controversy back in April over Turkish Cosmo running a photo of the Armenian-American television star Kim Kardashian without her permission. The story begins this morning, when FHM India fired off a barrage of tweets on an upcoming cover featuring Pakistani actress Veena Malik, fully nude and sporting an ISI tattoo in reference to Pakistan's controversial spy agency. 'Pakistani W.M.D. Veena Malik on Asif, burqas, and work visas,' the magazine promised around Malik's midsection. It wasn't shy about promoting the exclusive on Twitter, either. 'ISI + Counter Terrorism + Hot Naked Chick = THE HOTTEST WINTER EVER!!' the magazine crowed. Naturally, mayhem ensued. The Pakistani Twitterverse exploded with commentary and screenshots. FHM India's site temporarily crashed. Malik denied posing nude, claimed the picture had been 'morphed,' and threatened legal action (the magazine has been accused of altering pictures in the past). FHM India retorted that it had a video of the photo shoot and an email from the actress to prove the image's authenticity. A frenzied back-and-forth is taking place among Twitter users in Pakistan and India as well. Some are debating whether the image was Photoshopped while others are dismissing the cover as yet another publicity stunt by Malik. The Express Tribune's Saba Imtiaz -- a frequent FP contributor -- suggests Malik be appointed ISI chief for her bold statement, but MTV India isn't so sure. 'Veena Malik would make a terrible ISI agent considering how much she reveals,' the channel quips. Still others are tired of all the talk. 'A heartbeat away from 2012 and the image of a naked woman disturbs more Pakistanis than images of dismembered limbs and headless corpses,' Pakistani journalist Faiza Khan complains." (ForeignPolicy)


"With the publication of Condoleezza Rice’s bulky account of her experience as George W. Bush’s closest adviser on foreign policy, the memoirs of the major figures involved in the muddled, fateful decision to invade Iraq almost nine years ago are now nearly all in. We’ve heard from the President himself, his vice-president, defense secretary, CIA chief, and, indirectly, from his first secretary of state. (Colin Powell decided it was the better part of valor to let a sympathetic biographer give his version of how he was circumvented and, finally, sidelined.1) Added together, these several thousand pages tell us remarkably little that we hadn’t already learned from the better journalism of the period, including the Bob Woodward trilogy that gave the policymakers their first shots at self-justification and mutual recrimination (all unattributed, of course). Rice—Bush’s second secretary of state after having served as national security adviser in his first term—mostly seeks, as she did in office, to reconcile dissonant, sometimes irreconcilable viewpoints. Occasionally she acknowledges that this was a strain. How much of a strain we finally discover when we work our way through to the point, midway in the second term, at which the President tells her he’s thinking of replacing Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon with Robert Gates. 'I could barely contain my joy,' Rice writes. She takes pains not to hail this switch as a personal victory. There was 'nothing personal,' she insists, in her differences with 'Don.' (All the policymakers below the President and vice-president are on a deceptively chummy first-name basis in her recounting: Don, Colin, George, Dave, Mike, Tommy, Jerry, Karl, and Al. Often she feels no need to mention the surnames: Rumsfeld, Powell, Tenet, Hayden, Franks, Bremer, Rove, and Gonzales.) She tactfully doesn’t touch on what she obviously knows—since the Bush and Cheney memoirs both say so—that the vice-president had opposed Rumsfeld’s ouster. That makes Don’s departure all the more of a victory. For the final two years of the Bush administration, hers will be its strongest foreign policy voice." (NYRB)

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