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Monday, April 16, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"It has been extremely gratifying to watch the swift reaction to the coup perpetrated last month against President Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali, a democratically elected figure who had planned to step down after an upcoming election. After barely more than a week, Ecowas, the West African regional organization, closed all borders with Mali, froze the flow of currency, and imposed travel bans on the junior officers who had led the coup. The United States, France, and other Western nations issued sanctions of their own. Angry crowds protested the coup in the streets of Bamako, Mali's capital. And after less than three weeks in power, the junta agreed to disband in favor of an interim civilian government. Hooray for democracy! I have a soft spot for Mali. When I spent time there in 2007, I was struck by the peaceable atmosphere of Bamako, at least compared to other African capitals I knew. People spoke of cousinage, a sense of consanguinity which promoted an easy familiarity across ethnic lines. Malians seemed disinclined to fight one another; the traffic circles featured statues of animals rather than soldiers. And, for what it's worth, Mali makes beautiful music and lovely textiles. At the time, the country was hosting the biannual meeting of the Community of Democracies; poor as it is, Mali had been holding free and more or less fair elections since 1991. Mali was then, and suddenly has become once again, a reassuring symbol of Africa's commitment to democracy. But then why the coup?" (James Traub)


"The class of freshman Republicans that swept into the House of Representatives at the start of 2011 followed a decisive shift of voter sentiment over Barack Obama’s seeming failure to master the economic crisis he inherited. Ever since, it has typically been portrayed as a disciplined force of Tea Party ideologues sworn to resist any compromise acceptable to the tax-and-spend liberal, or leftist, or socialist—the epithets tended to escalate—illegitimately occupying the White House. Now, as the eighty-seven freshmen Republicans—who account for more than one third of their party’s 242 seats in the House—prepare to face the voters in November, bearing both the advantages and burdens of incumbency, the picture of intransigence they’ve drawn of themselves will present no problem for those in right-leaning districts; in other words, most of them. But in a campaign that still has seven months to run, just enough seats will be up for grabs to make the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s rosy claim that the party is edging into a position to take back the House appear wishful, dubious, but not altogether outside the realm of the possible.*" (NYRB)
"Audiences made The Hunger Games the first film since Avatar to hold the number one spot for four consecutive frames as the runaway smash hit fended off competition from a trio of new releases. The Lionsgate pic held up incredibly well dropping only 35% to an estimated $21.5M which was enough to lead the box office field. The decline was its smallest yet and especially impressive since it was coming off of the Easter holiday session. Hunger Games has now amassed a stunning $337.1M in only 24 days of release shooting it up to number 22 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just ahead of the $336.5M of 2007's Spider Man 3. The Katniss sensation is now on course to outgross every Harry Potter and Twilight film in North America, even the final Hogwarts pic which was helped by 3D surcharges. Overseas, the blockbuster continued to fade away dropping around 40% to an estimated $15M from 60 territories upping the overseas total to $194M and the worldwide haul to $531.1M. At its current pace, Hunger Games may reach $390M or more from North America and over $650M worldwide, not bad for a film that cost $75M to produce. All eyes now shift to Zac Efron who aims to topple the four-time champ next weekend with his romance The Lucky One which has been gaining traction." (BoxOfficeGuru)

image via NYSD via Target Press/Barcroft Media

"Spain is rife these days with economic and labor problems. This is not easy for anyone; and there are massive demonstrations across the country. The pressure on both the government and the people is very great. For King Juan Carlos it must have seemed like a perfect time for a little getaway to Botswana. For? Hunting elephant. On a very expensive safari. Said to be one of the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom, already an endangered specie, the elephant remain a challenge for this royal hunter. Besides, kings are, come to think of it, endangered too. 200 years ago the world was loaded with them. Today there are maybe a dozen ... Is it karma or is it the moon? As you may have read here a couple of weeks ago, things have not been going well for the Spanish Royal Family. The source of their problems are, admittedly, the source of everybody’s problems — the economy of the world. There are also financial scandals of the king’s son-in-law which have even touched the Crown Princess. Someone with a title could maybe end up in jail. And then, as if that weren’t enough, last week the king’s 13-year-old grandson (son of the Crown Prince Felipe of Asturias) shot himself. In the foot. Not in Botswana hunting elephant, thank God.Guns and King Juan Carlos are historically an uneasy combination." (NYSocialDiary)

"Monaco’s royal family is clearly not enjoying the coverage of the 'Battle Royal' brawl that landed Pierre Casiraghi (Grace Kelly’s princely grandson) in the hospital with a broken jaw. We’re told that lawyers for the royals are firing off legal letters to media in France and Germany who picked up The Post’s exclusive story on the Feb 12 brawl at Meatpacking club Double Seven. Amazingly, they claim the fight is a 'private matter' despite businessman Adam Hock’s arrest and court proceedings. Hock has rejected a plea deal, with lawyer Joseph Tacopina insisting his client was the victim and alleging Casiraghi and crew including Stavros Niarchos were 'habitual bar brawlers.' They’re back in court May 23." (PageSix)



"You would never take a second glance at 716 Jackson Place if you were strolling through the neighborhood around the White House and Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. But the unmarked, four-story, white-painted townhouse with brown sandstone steps is easily the most exclusive club on the planet. You have to call the White House for reservations — and at the moment, only four men are eligible to use it. This is the home of the Presidents club, a building that the government acquired in the late 1950s but Richard Nixon reassigned in 1969 for the sole use of former Presidents when they came back to town. At the time, Nixon was concerned mainly with keeping his restless predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, happy; Johnson left office knowing a great many secrets about Nixon, which Nixon naturally preferred remain classified. But in the end, Johnson never had occasion to stay there. Gerald Ford first used the clubhouse, and since then it has served as a discreet Washington hideaway when former Leaders of the Free World come to town. George Herbert Walker Bush used to stay there when Bill Clinton was in the White House; but his wife Barbara didn't love the place. At the time, the quarters were decidedly spartan: a couple of bedrooms, a parlor, some pictures on the wall. But under President George W. Bush, the townhouse was extensively renovated using private funds, and it's now an elegant sanctuary less than a minute's walk from the White House gate. Everything inside is new, polished, freshly painted, done up in tastefully muted greens, browns and creams. On the floor near the entrance is a modest blue rug, bearing the presidential seal. On the walls of the first floor parlor are framed prints from 150-year old-magazines, ancient maps of the federal city — along with framed pictures of the last four Presidents — and the current commander in chief. The rooms are immaculate; the spaces are quiet; and the building feels secure." (Time)

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