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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"France took the lead in the EU approval of the latest round of Iranian sanctions. The move is a low-cost strategy for France, which, in light of the European financial crisis, needs to reassert itself alongside Germany as Europe's co-leader ... The European Union agreed Jan. 23 to implement a new round of sanctions against Iran, including an unprecedented embargo on Iranian crude oil. In the past, Europe generally has acted in concert with U.S. punitive measures against Iran -- with varying degrees of enthusiasm. While most EU member states have publicly supported the latest round of sanctions since talk of such measures resumed in November, France has been the most vocal proponent -- a move in keeping with Paris' perceived foreign policy leadership role in the European Union. Indeed, Paris has several political and geopolitical reasons for supporting the sanctions.Ever since Germany emerged from reunification as a major political and economic player, France has tried to manage Europe based on a perception of Franco-German parity. France understands it cannot surpass Germany as an economic leader, so Paris often has assumed the role of Europe's unofficial diplomatic leader. Indeed, Paris in many instances has served as Europe's diplomatic hub, serving as the Continent's primary point of contact for other states that interact with Europe collectively. Berlin acquiesces to this perception so that it can take a less prominent role in international affairs. This suits the rest of Europe, which is still wary of a Germany with unchecked power. Thus, France and Germany benefit from the arrangement." (STRATFOR)

"As the Sabbath evening approached on Jan. 13, Ehud Barak paced the wide living-room floor of his home high above a street in north Tel Aviv, its walls lined with thousands of books on subjects ranging from philosophy and poetry to military strategy. Barak, the Israeli defense minister, is the most decorated soldier in the country’s history and one of its most experienced and controversial politicians. He has served as chief of the general staff for the Israel Defense Forces, interior minister, foreign minister and prime minister. He now faces, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and 12 other members of Israel’s inner security cabinet, the most important decision of his life — whether to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iran. We met in the late afternoon, and our conversation — the first of several over the next week — lasted for two and a half hours, long past nightfall. 'This is not about some abstract concept,' Barak said as he gazed out at the lights of Tel Aviv, 'but a genuine concern. The Iranians are, after all, a nation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel off the map.'  When I mentioned to Barak the opinion voiced by the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and the former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi — that the Iranian threat was not as imminent as he and Netanyahu have suggested and that a military strike would be catastrophic (and that they, Barak and Netanyahu, were cynically looking to score populist points at the expense of national security), Barak reacted with uncharacteristic anger. He and Netanyahu, he said, are responsible 'in a very direct and concrete way for the existence of the State of Israel — indeed, for the future of the Jewish people.'" (NYTimes)


"Bin Laden raid heroes SEAL Team Six pulled off a dramatic hostage rescuethis week in Somalia, putting special operations forces back in the news. (Not to mention the major attention they received in the president's State of the Union address.) With stabilization and counterinsurgency now out of favor, the White House and Panetta are counting on special operations forces to hunt terrorists and assist in suppressing threats posed by weapons of mass destruction. Less discussed, but a large part of Panetta's strategy, will be the use of special forces and other adviser teams to maintain training programs that build the military capacity of allies in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, areas that have been downgraded by the new strategy ... Electronic warfare, drones, and cyber operations. Panetta repeatedly emphasized the need for the U.S. military to maintain its technological superiority, to compensate for its reduced numbers and stretched geographical responsibilities. Even after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end, the Pentagon intends to keep its ability to maintain continuous drone surveillance over 65 spots on the globe, with the capability to surge that to 85 if necessary. Advanced radar and electronic jamming are high priorities. Generous new funding for cyber operations reflects the Pentagon's concerns about the vulnerability of its networks and its interest in offensive cyber capabilities in the post-Stuxnet era." (ForeignPolicy)

"STRAIGHT actors who wanted to pay for sex in the 1990s had Heidi Fleiss. Gay ones during the late 1940s and beyond apparently had Scotty Bowers.  His story has floated through moviedom’s clubby senior ranks for years: Back in a more golden age of Hollywood, a guy named Scotty, a former Marine, was said to have run a type of prostitution ring for gay and bisexual men in the film industry, including A-listers like Cary Grant, George Cukor and Rock Hudson, and even arranged sexual liaisons for actresses like Vivien Leigh and Katharine Hepburn. 'Old Hollywood people who have, shall we say, known him would tell me stories,' said Matt Tyrnauer, a writer for Vanity Fair and the director of the 2008 documentary 'Valentino: The Last Emperor.' 'But whenever I followed up on what would obviously be a great story, I was told, ‘Oh, he’ll never talk.’Now, he’s talking.  Mr. Bowers, 88, recalls his highly unorthodox life in a ribald memoir scheduled to be published by Grove Press on Feb. 14, 'Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars.' Written with Lionel Friedberg, an award-winning producer of documentaries, it is a lurid, no-detail-too-excruciating account of a sexual Zelig who (if you believe him) trawled an X-rated underworld for over three decades without getting caught. 'I’ve kept silent all these years because I didn’t want to hurt any of these people,' Mr. Bowers said recently over lemonade on his patio in the Hollywood Hills, where he lives in a cluttered bungalow with his wife of 27 years, Lois.'And I never saw the fascination. So they liked sex how they liked it. Who cares?' He paused for a moment to scratch his collie, Baby, behind the ears. 'I don’t need the money,' he continued. 'I finally said yes because I’m not getting any younger and all of my famous tricks are dead by now. The truth can’t hurt them anymore.'" (NYTimes)       


"I went over to the Park Avenue Armory for the Young Collectors Night which also benefits The East Side House Settlement. I wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about leaving the house – the weather and all. But it has been such a quiet January (a 'dreary January' wrote one friend in an email today). I agreed. It has seemed especially quiet this year on the social calendar. Someone suggested it was because more and more people go to Florida and stay there for weeks (even months). I thought about that; maybe. The younger people are all in town. We’re just not the younger ... I did see a number of people I knew but it was interesting to see how this younger crowd were checking out the booths, which are full of treasures. I had gone through the aisles last Thursday night when it opened, so this time I tried to concentrate on things that looked especially to interesting to me. On prominent display at Kenneth Rendell (one of my favorite spots in New York for window shopping) was a page from Ayn Rand’s original handwritten manuscript of 'Atlas Shrugged.' A lot of crossing-outs on this page, number 394. She wrote it by hand!  I asked the price and learned that it was still part of the entire manuscript! But, I was told, a page like this by an author of that rank/popularity/history, etc. usually starts at about $20,000." (NYSocialDiary)

"The most important moment in what may prove the most important debate of the Republican presidential nomination fight came right after the first commercial break, when Newt Gingrich went after the only opponent he detests more than Mitt Romney: whoever is the moderator. In Jacksonville, Florida, Thursday night, that man happened to be Wolf Blitzer, who asked Gingrich whether he was 'satisfied right now with the level of transparency as far as [Romney’s] personal finances.” Gingrich, eyes gleaming, shot back at Blitzer, 'This is a nonsense question,' to hoots and hollers from the audience. 'Look, how about if the four of us agree for the rest of the evening, we’ll actually talk about issues that relate to governing America?' The MSNBC host Alex Wagner has likened Gingrich to an angry teddy bear, but in this case of ursid-on-canid action, the wolf got the better of the scrap. Instead of backing down, Blitzer calmly pointed out that Gingrich himself had made an issue of Romney’s Swiss and Cayman Islands bank accounts. Gingrich tried once again to intimidate Blitzer, but the moderator stood firm—and when Gingrich then sought to squirm away, Romney dove in for the kill, challenging him to put up or shut up. The crowd turned on Gingrich, laughing and jeering; for the rest of the night, he behaved more like an overfed, declawed, zoo-dwelling panda than a ferocious wild grizzly. Although Gingrich’s attack-the-moderator gambit did not work out so well in Jacksonville, it’s easy enough to understand why he tried it. Time and again, his mau-mauing of the media has earned him big points, and not just from the GOP base but the press corps itself. Just a week earlier, Gingrich’s deboning of Blitzer’s CNN colleague John King had been praised to the skies by the commentariat as a brilliant display of headline-stealing strength—as well as Meryl Streep–level thespianship and Al Pacino–esque scenery-chewing. And among the assembled journalists in Jacksonville, there was palpable disappointment at Gingrich’s failure to pull off a similarly galvanizing performance. All of which highlights a larger dynamic that’s at once curious, ironic, and of no small long-term import: that the very 'liberal media' that Gingrich delights in excoriating are, in fact, in his corner in his battle with Romney." (NYMag)


"Karl Lagerfeld understands decor as well as he knows fashion. The premises for his new signature collection Karl are an opulently minimal series of salons in an hôtel particulier on the Left Bank, so it made sense that the food for the dinner party he hosted on Wednesday night to launch the line should also focus on the bare opulent essentials: caviar, foie gras, and lobster, with a logo-fied iPad as a takeaway. One of the T-shirts in his Karl range features a fanciful self-portrait with the handwritten message 'I Love Gossip.' Plenty of that in a room full of fashion people, though I spent much of the night talking about obscure Eastern European films with the encyclopedically informed Anja Rubik. How often do you get the chance to have a real talk with anyone about Dusan Makavejev's scatological Sweet Movie? Especially while chunks of foie gras are drifting back and forth under your nose." (Style)


"We meet at Teatro Goldoni, one of Washington’s best Italian restaurants, located on the infamous K Street, home to many of the town’s lobbying groups. It is also a block from the Center for Strategic International Studies, one of DC’s biggest think-tanks, where (Zbigniew) Brzezinski, national security adviser to Carter from 1977 to 1981, is a trustee. I get there a few minutes early to fiddle with my tape recorder. Brzezinski strides in on the dot of our agreed time and grips my hand firmly. Dressed in a low-key suit and tie, Brzezinski is leathered and lean and still has almost a full head of hair. He talks in paragraphs, virtually without pause. Though I have known Brzezinski for years – and received news tips from him by email and fax – I still feel unsettled by his piercing gaze. Many of his Soviet interlocutors and White House colleagues were reportedly kept off balance by his hawkish manner ... When talking about the state of the world, Brzezinski, who still has traces of a Polish accent, chooses his language more forensically. His father was a Polish diplomat and Brzezinski, who was educated at a British prep school in Montreal during the second world war, had spent most of his first decade at diplomatic compounds in France and Hitler’s Berlin. Brzezinski Sr must have done something very right, or very wrong, to get posted to Canada after that. “In those days, the British still referred to it as BNA,' Brzezinski says. 'British North America.' Brzezinski attributes his verbal skills to his prep school. 'I entered the school not knowing a word of English and at the end of the first year in June I picked up a prize for literature,' he says. It must also have been there that he acquired his knowledge of food, I think to myself. I spent the previous night reading through Brzezinski’s new book – Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power. 'That must have been a sad evening,' says Brzezinski, chuckling. I had no difficulty staying awake, I reply. The book offers a bracing portrait of a “receding west” with one half, Europe, turning into a 'comfortable retirement home', and the other, the US, beset by relative economic decline and a dysfunctional politics. In this rapidly changing new world, America’s growing 'strategic isolation' is matched only by China’s 'strategic patience' in a challenge likely to strain the electoral horizons of US policymakers." (FT)



"No one can put a precise date on when ABC News started. But it was in 1962 that the network established an assignment desk and newsgathering capabilities: the guts of a TV news organization. And so today, ABCNewsers celebrated 50 years of providing news and information to American homes (and now workplaces and mobile devices). Employees packed ABC’s TV Studios 1 (former home of “'Who Wants to Be Millionaire' and 2 (current home of 'The Chew') which were festooned with images of ABC News anchors and reporters past and present. In addition to hundreds who packed the studio, employees from bureaus around the country and the world were patched in for the celebration. ABC News president Ben Sherwood was the emcee and was joined by two former ABC News presidents: Bill Sheehan (1974-1977) in Washington, DC and David Westin (1997-2010) in New York. Kaycee Freed Jennings, widow of Peter Jennings, also attended.The celebration included a video lookback, as well as the first (and probably last) Meatball Awards, presented by Lara Spencer. (The award for tightest t-shirt worn during a natural disaster was a three-way tie going to David Muir, Jeffrey Kofman and Matt Gutman.)" (TVNewser)

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