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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Well, he should have. The parliamentary elections in Egypt, which, despite widespread expectations, have been almost perfectly peaceful, have put that country's military rulers on the defensive in a way that the demonstrations in Tahrir Square have not. And, even more remarkably, the elections in Russia, which the ruling party managed to win through transparent fraud, have galvanized the public against their cynical and contemptuous rulers in a way no one could have predicted. Elections matter quite independently of who wins them. Elections don't make a democracy, but they can make a democratic citizenry.Why did tens of thousands of people flood the streets of Moscow in the aftermath of Sunday's election? Because, as Foreign Policy's Julia Ioffe has written, they were insulted. The primary insult, as Ioffe notes, may not have been the brazen ballot-stuffing, but the nonchalant announcement six weeks earlier that Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev would be switching jobs, with the former becoming president once again and the latter, prime minister. That announcement provoked disgust, but it was the election -- by offering vivid and dramatic proof that Russia's leaders consider their own people irrelevant -- that brought people into the streets." (James Traub/ForeignPolicy)

"Tens of millions of dollars in diamond profits — perhaps more — are being secretly extracted from state-owned mines in eastern Zimbabwe, bypassing the nation’s treasury and raising fears that President Robert Mugabe is amassing wealth to help extend his 31-year reign, according to monitoring groups, diplomats, lawmakers and analysts.  Even if Mr. Mugabe’s allies in the mining ministry are telling the truth about the number of diamonds produced, the treasury was still shortchanged by at least $60 million last year, according to a budget report by the finance minister, one of the president’s chief opponents. But the amount of money being withheld from the nation’s coffers may be much larger than that. Experts, and even some members of Mr. Mugabe’s own party, say the president’s allies are lowballing the nation’s diamond figures by millions of dollars, hoping to hide the fact that profits are being diverted for personal and political ends." (NYTimes)     
      

"We are meeting at Caffè Caldesi, a bar-restaurant just off the High Street that offers an efficient, metropolitan take on Italian regional fare. I arrive 15 minutes early, so I am led upstairs and seated at a window beside an illustrated map of Italy’s regional specialities. Daunt walks in moments later – he seems slightly surprised, a man used to arriving first – and we begin our conversation in an empty room, the waiting staff rolling on the balls of their feet as they wait for the lunchtime rush to begin.(James) Daunt, 48, is tall and professorial, smart but unaffectedly so in his white check shirt, blue check tie and well-worn dark jacket. I ask what he can recommend on the menu, assuming that he is a regular, but it turns out he has been here just a few times before and has little recollection of what he ate. The restaurant’s significance lies rather in the fact that it was the one place in the area he could think of. Marylebone does not seem short of restaurants to me; Terence Conran’s Orrery is just up the road, for a start. But Daunt seems to be a man whose mind is on higher things. 'Maybe I should have chosen somewhere really outrageous,' he reflects." (FT)

"Getting fired for making drunken anti-Semitic remarks in February may have been the best thing that could have happened to fashion designer John Galliano. The 51-year-old, who lost his own couture line as well as control over the Christian Dior brand, went into rehab in Arizona and emerged a new man. 'He’s been spotted around Paris a lot lately — at a nail bar getting a manicure, and cafés in his neighborhood in the Marais,' one Parisian told Flash. 'Friends report that he is in fine form and relieved and thankful to be sober.' During his 15 years as Dior’s designer, Galliano lived in a cocoon, surrounded by assistants and cut off from the real word. Said our source, 'He told one friend, ‘Why was I driven around Paris in a black-window car for 15 years? I missed so much.’ Not simply due to the black windows either.' If Galliano needs encouragement to abstain, he can always watch the video taken 10 months ago by a tourist at La Perle café, Galliano’s favorite watering hole, in which he calls a woman 'a dirty Jew' and adds, 'I love Hitler.' The rant was especially bizarre because, when he was sober, Galliano often spoke of his own Jewish ancestry. After rehab, Galliano continued his recovery by gardening at his country home in central France." (TheDaily)
"Candace Bushnell turned on the glamour at George Farias, Jay McInerney and Anne Hearst’s annual Christmas party at ‘21’ on Thursday night. The author, in a shimmering gold dress, stepped out for the first time at a big social event after filing for divorce from her ballet-star husband of nine years, Charles Askegard, alleging in court papers he had an affair with a ballerina. Bushnell assured fellow guests, 'I am doing really well,' before dashing out for a meeting with writers turning her novel 'The Carrie Diaries' into a CW series. Other guests included Amanda Hearst, Nicole Miller, Jean Shafiroff, Douglas Hannant, Robert Zimmerman, Donna Tartt, Hunt Slonem, David Koch, Janna Bullock, Frances Hayward, R. Couri Hay and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia. After drama at the hosts’ party last year when a guest’s fur caught fire from a candle in the centerpiece, they opted instead for a safer gingerbread house with candy Christmas lights for the table." (PageSix)

"Is it possible that the Chinese love affair with first growth Bordeaux and Chateau Lafite in particular, is on the rocks? Recent auction results suggest that this may be the case, and that the Lafite phenom was something of a speculative bubble. Not as extreme a bubble as, say Dublin real estate in the oughts or Dot.com stocks in the nineties. But, the market is definitely cooling. At an Acker Merrall &Condit auction in Hong Kong this past weekend, more than 50 lots of Lafite went unsold, including prime vintages such as 1986, 1996 and 2005. Many lots of Mouton Rothschild also went unsold. A year ago this would have been inconceivable." (WSJ)

"For more than 10 years, Japan has had a robust reggae industry with its own dedicated clubs, festivals, magazines, and television shows. Today, there are more than 300 sound systems (or 'sounds' for short) active in Japan—higher than the number in reggae's home turf of Jamaica. And Japanese groups have dominated at international soundclashes, or DJ battles, since 1999, when the Mighty Crown, Japan's undisputed number one crew, became the first non-Jamaican sound to win a World Clash, the predecessor to Global Clash. For the Japanese sounds, a stay in New York doubles as a rite of passage ... 'When I get back to Japan, I want to play every place. I want to bust down the place. That's why me dere in Brooklyn,' says Macky Jam, the sound's MC. For the past year, Macky has been living in East Flatbush and making ends meet by busing tables at a West Indian restaurant. He struggles to communicate in English, but when a local crowd starts rolling in around 2 a.m., he easily rattles off greetings in Jamaican patois. Shortly after, it's his turn to get on the mic. He lets the record play just long enough to get heads bopping before stopping it to fire off some hype lines in the deep baritone of a Caribbean radio jockey. 'Big up all a di Jamaican inna di building! Everybody gwan enjoy themselves tonight!'" (VillageVoice)

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