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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"In 2009, the deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Baku, Donald Lu, sent a cable to the State Department's headquarters in Foggy Bottom titled 'Azerbaijan's discreet symbiosis with Israel.' The memo, later released by WikiLeaks, quotes Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev as describing his country's relationship with the Jewish state as an iceberg: 'nine-tenths of it is below the surface.'Why does it matter? Because Azerbaijan is strategically located on Iran's northern border and, according to several high-level sources I've spoken with inside the U.S. government, Obama administration officials now believe that the 'submerged' aspect of the Israeli-Azerbaijani alliance -- the security cooperation between the two countries -- is heightening the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran. In particular, four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran's northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear. 'The Israelis have bought an airfield,' a senior administration official told me in early February, "and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.' Senior U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Israel's military expansion into Azerbaijan complicates U.S. efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions, according to the sources. Military planners, I was told, must now plan not only for a war scenario that includes the Persian Gulf -- but one that could include the Caucasus. The burgeoning Israel-Azerbaijan relationship has also become a flashpoint in both countries' relationship with Turkey, a regional heavyweight that fears the economic and political fallout of a war with Iran. Turkey's most senior government officials have raised their concerns with their U.S. counterparts, as well as with the Azeris, the sources said. The Israeli embassy in Washington, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency, were all contacted for comment on this story but did not respond." (ForeignPolicy)

"Based on the most recent polling results, which show a near tie on the generic ballot and a net presidential approval (approval minus disapproval) of close to zero, the House forecasting model predicts a very small Democratic seat gain (2-3 seats) in the House but not nearly the 25 seats Democrats would need to take back control of the House. On the other hand, the Senate forecasting model gives Republicans a good chance to regain control of the Senate with an expected pickup of 6-7 seats. That is due almost entirely to the fact that Republicans are defending only 10 Senate seats this year while Democrats are defending 23 seats. The Senate forecast especially should be interpreted cautiously because the Senate model has a fairly large error term due to the small number of seats in each election. And of course, it is still early and both the generic ballot and the presidential approval variables could change over the next few months. However, both have been fairly stable in recent weeks. Based on these results, it would be surprising if Republicans did not hold onto their majority in the House in 2012 and gain at least a few Senate seats." (CenterforPolitics)

"The battle for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination looks as if it’s almost over, but the quest for the support of white blue-collar voters in November is just beginning. Some Republican strategists fear that Mitt Romney could be poorly positioned to win the strong backing that recent GOP presidential candidates have received from this group. His repeated and awkward references to his vast wealth, together with a more generally maladroit personal style, have exacerbated doubts that were never far from the surface. At the same time, however, President Obama had significant difficulties winning over working-class white voters during his own epic 2008 primary contest with Hillary Clinton. During that campaign, his unguarded reference to small-town voters who 'cling to guns or religion' became emblematic of what critics viewed as a patronizing attitude toward blue-collar people.  On Election Day 2008, Obama’s near-landslide win over John McCain came despite losing the votes of whites without a college education by 18 percentage points. Put it all together, and it looks as if the election will be fought between two candidates who are particularly ill-suited to appeal to a large segment of the electorate. In 2008, whites without a college education cast 39 percent of the total votes in the presidential election. 'I don’t know where they’ll go,' Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine who has written extensively about class-based issues, said of white working-class voters."  (TheHill)

image via michaelsrestaurant

"The schools, public and private, are all out for the Spring holiday now. I went down to Michael’s for the Wednesday lunch and although there wasn’t the usual Wednesday clatter and din, it was full up. First face I spotted entering was Diane (Brenda Starr) Clehane who covers this beat for mediabistro.com. Diane was hosting film producer (“God Save My Shoes”) Thierry Dahler, and the film’s publicist Miriam Driot. I was lunching with my old friend Charles Stevenson who was in from Sun Valley for a couple of days. Right around the corner Harvey Weinstein, the Oscar winning producer/mogul was lunching with Matt Blank and Aryeh Bourkoff of UBS. Jacqui Safra was right next door lunching with the beautiful Tiffany Dubin. Henry Schlieff, Andrew Fox; Steve Swid; Francine LeFrak; Stan Shuman. Da Boyz, Dr. Gerry Imber, Jerry della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, playwright Michael Kramer; but no Andrew Bergman." (NYSoialDiary)


"Chris Rock's newest project is a half-hour weekly series for FX premiering this August, starring comedian W. Kamau Bell. Based on Bell's one-man show The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour, the show will feature Bell riffing on current events and pop culture in a late-night format that should involve other comedians as well. According to Bell, Rock slipped backstage after watching Bell Curve and started giving him career advice while 'dressed in all black like he was in the Matrix," which is a story almost as wonderful as this news.'" (Splitsider)


"Festivities for Valentino’s 50th anniversary raged on last night, with a trifecta of shiny new U.S. flagships providing the latest fodder for celebration. First up: Rodeo Drive, with chicettes gathering in the Sir David Chipperfield-designed space for the occasion, On hostessing duty for the evening? Maria Bell, Gia Coppola, Nicky Hilton, Helen Kinnear, Nathalie Love, Minnie Mortimer, Shannon Rotenberg, and Julia Sorkin, along with Valentino’s creative directors, Maria Grazia Chirui and Pierpaolo Piccioli. The Valentino-clad masses mainly stuck to shades of black, white, and red all over. To wit: Zoe in a zebra shift from Valentino’s 50th anniversary capsule collection, reveling at Sims’ very pregnant, Valentino black lace-clad belly. Also donning the brand of the evening (or year...): the likes of Ellie Kemper, Rose McGowan, and Teresa Palmer donned crimson confections (adorned in rosettes for the latter two), and Minka Kelly turned up in nude lace. Meanwhile, Rachel Roy made for a great, flour-bomb-free date for Kim 'no interviews' Kardashian. While not everyone had the option of a Kardashian as arm candy, there were more than enough of those fetching Valentino clutches on the premises. Plenty of PYT’s filled the premises from various walks of entertainment fame. See: Jessica Szohr, Ciara, Jessica Stroup, Monet Mazur, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jaime King, Cat Deeley, and Louise Roe. Hunger Games darling Isabelle Fuhrman was also on hand, taking a brief break from the grueling premiere circuit." (FashionweekDaily)

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