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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, took what our President calls a shellacking on Sunday night. Sarkozy is running for reëlection, and in the first round of voting, he came in second place to the Socialist Party candidate, François Hollande, who has been heavily favored to beat him, and is even more heavily favored to do so again when the two men go head-to-head in a runoff vote, two weeks from now. Never before in the history of the Fifth Republic (as French broadcasters repeatedly intoned while the votes were being counted) has an incumbent of the Elysée Palace failed to win the first round. But it’s not news that the French are sick of Sarkozy; and they don’t much like Hollande, either, except in so far as he is the anti-Sarkozy. To many French voters, the choice this year is so depressing that it feels like whoever wins, France loses. On Sunday, however, the turnout at the polls was much higher than expected, and the really big loser was Europe. Combined, Hollande and Sarkozy claimed only about fifty-five per cent of the vote; the rest went to seven other candidates—mostly to Marine Le Pen, of the far-right National Front (18.2 per cent), and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of the far-left Parti de Gauche (11.1 per cent). Le Pen is seen as the heir to French fascism, and Mélenchon as the last gasp of French communism, but, as the saying goes, 'les extremes se touchent': both are anti-globalization nationalists who call for protectionist policies that amount to rejection of European integration and the European Union. Le Pen stands for withdrawal from the euro and the E.U., and Mélenchon stands for policies that would necessitate such a withdrawal. Support for the far right and far left in France is usually described as a protest vote. But in this election, voting for Hollande is a protest vote, too; and while Hollande supports and defends the E.U. and France’s part in it, he originally called for throwing out the compact by which the E.U. is contending with its dire financial crisis—and he now calls for renegotiating it in a way that is bound to put France at odds with Germany and weaken its standing as a leader of the Continent." (NewYorker)


"Time rolled out the red carpet for its annual Top 100 bash at Jazz at Lincoln Center at the Time Warner Building last night, and Media Ink had an exclusive look at who the weekly deemed to be the most influential people in the world this year — and who showed up to share the spotlight. Although there are 33 tables in all, there are a few power tables that generated the most sparks ... The megawatt tables appeared to be 7, 8 and 9 in the second tier, with 9 actually looking like the top spot — where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin were chatting it up with the newly minted Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Time’s top editor, Rick Stengel ... Clinton was introduced by Stengel, who made the comment that she could be elected president of any country that she visited. Clinton replied, 'Welcome to my announcement to run for president — of Malta.' She added, 'Aside from the dictators — and I’m not just talking about my friend Harvey (Weinstein) — this is truly an inspired list.' A close second in the mega-wattage department was Table 8, where Stephen Colbert, who delivered zingers to some of the honorees, and NBC News anchor Brian Williams were breaking bread with Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief John Huey. Colbert joked about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown coed who complained that she could not get her birth control paid for under her health insurance; Colbert likened it to Dolan not having his Viagra covered. Realizing he might have gone to far with the joke, he said, 'It’s OK, I’m Catholic. I can always go to confession.' Colbert also singled out influential conservative Republican businessman David Koch, up at third-tier Table 15: 'If David Koch likes his waiter tonight, he will be your next congressman.' Colbert also quipped, 'Given the state of the publishing industry, this might be the only way to sell 100 copies of any magazine.'" (KeithKelly)

"When Glencore, the world's biggest commodities brokerage firm, went public in May 2011, the initial public offering (IPO) on the London and Hong Kong stock exchanges made headlines for weeks in the Financial Times and the trade-industry press, which devoted endless columns to the company's astonishing valuation of nearly $60 billion -- higher than Boeing or Ford Motor Co. The massive new wealth turned nearly 500 employees into overnight multimillionaires and made billionaires of at least five senior executives, including CEO Ivan Glasenberg. 'We are not going to change the way we operate," vowed Glasenberg, who had started as a lowly coal trader for the Swiss firm nearly three decades earlier and, with the IPO, immediately became one of Europe's richest men. "Being public will have absolutely no effect on the business.' And what a business it is. The firm was forced to pull back the curtain on its famously secretive doings to go public, and what it revealed shocked even seasoned commodities traders. Glencore, which Reuters once called 'the biggest company you never heard of,' turned out to be far more globally dominant than analysts had realized. According to its 1,637-page IPO prospectus, the company controlled more than half the international tradable market in zinc and copper and about a third of the world's seaborne coal; was one of the world's largest grain exporters, with about 9 percent of the global market; and handled 3 percent of daily global oil consumption for customers ranging from state-owned energy companies in Brazil and India to American multinationals like ExxonMobil and Chevron. All of which, the prospectus said, helped the firm post revenues of $186 billion in 2011 and employ some 55,000 people in at least 40 countries, generating an average return on equity of 38 percent, about three times higher than that of the gold-standard investment bank Goldman Sachs in 2010. Since then, the company has only gotten vaster in scale.? (ForeignPolicy)


"A 'polite' crew from the District Attorney’s office served Fox Mole Joe Muto with a search warrant at 6:30 this morning, Mr. Muto said on Twitter. Officers took his iPhone, laptop and old notebooks, he wrote, adding that, according to the warrant, he is being investigated for charges including grand larceny. 'They’re pretty worked up over a clip of Romney talking about his horses,” Mr. Muto wrote of the unaired Fox News video footage he published on Gawker. Nick Denton’s news site thought the clip was worth $5,000, five times the threshold for grand larceny in New York. 'I should have done something more innocuous, like hacked a dead girl’s phone and interfered with a police investigation,' he added, referring to Fox News parent company News Corp.’s ongoing phone hacking and bribery scandal. The scandal thrust chief Rupert Murdoch in the spotlight again today in another installment of the Leveson inquiry. Testifying before a judge, a rehearsed, confident Mr. Murdoch denied asking any favors of Prime Ministers and claimed Gordon Brown misled Parliament when he said Murdoch tabloids hacked his family’s medical records. In the inquiry, Mr. Murdoch slammed the once-rampant phone hacking practice as a 'lazy way of reporters not doing their job,' but maintained that the celebrities, politicians and public figures—including himself—should be subject to greater scrutiny." (Observer)


"Three years ago in Taki’s Magazine, before all of Tiger’s problems with his now ex-wife surfaced, I pointed out that Woods had become massively more muscular before our eyes in 2006-07. This was puzzling, since looking like a GI Joe action figure isn’t essential to golf. For instance, as a 24-year-old in 2000, Woods had won the US Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 strokes while wearing a shirt that appeared several sizes too large for his then-wiry frame. Now we finally know what the bodybuilding was about. According to insider Hank Haney’s book The Big Miss, Tiger had long been fascinated by the Navy SEAL commandos. His father Earl had been a lieutenant colonel in the US Army Special Forces, and the only thing cooler than a Green Beret is a SEAL. (Just under a year ago, SEAL Team Six assassinated Osama bin Laden.)  Around the time his father died in May 2006, Tiger transformed himself physically to see if he had what it takes to make it in the SEALs as an overage new recruit. When Woods went on a three-day paratroop training session before the 2006 US Open (in which he missed the cut), Haney unloaded on him in an email: 'With the U.S. Open 18 days away, do you think it was a good idea to go on a Navy SEALs mission? You need to get that whole SEALs thing out of your system and stick to playing Navy SEAL on the video games. I can tell by the way you are talking and acting that you still want to become a Navy SEAL. Man, are you crazy?' Woods kept up his strenuous military sojourns well into 2007." (Takimag)


"'Act professionally. Act professionally! Don't be argumentative with the candidate.' It was January of 2008, the last time Romney ran for president, and Fehrnstrom was getting in the face of an Associated Press reporter in a Staples store in South Carolina. The reporter, Glen Johnson, had just challenged Romney during a press conference, interrupting him in the middle of a claim that he didn't have lobbyists working on his campaign—Mitt definitely did—and when the press conference was over, Romney rushed after Johnson to press his case.  'Listen to my words, all right? Listen to my words,' Romney sputtered, smiling through gritted teeth. That's when Fehrnstrom stepped in and cornered Johnson in front of a Post-it notes display. 'You should act a little bit more professionally instead of being argumentative with the candidate,' he hissed at Johnson. 'It's out of line. You're out of line.' The exchange, which was caught on camera, became a brief YouTube sensation, a rare glimpse at the sort of aggressive press-management tactics that are usually employed over the phone or at a hotel bar rather than out in the open at an office-supplies superstore. But for politicos and journalists back in Boston, the video was mostly a source of amusement. They'd witnessed Fehrnstrom tearing into a reporter on Romney's behalf plenty of times before. But him lecturing someone else about journalism ethics? Now that was rich. Before he went into politics, Fehrnstrom was a reporter himself—and a notorious one at that. He worked for the Boston Herald—the tabloid rival to the more staid Boston Globe—which prided itself on its feisty, muckraking metro coverage. As a Rupert Murdoch owned paper, the Herald's political mission was simple: Make life miserable for Massachusetts Democrats. 'The Herald was like the schoolyard bully,' Howie Carr, the legendary Boston brawler who was the paper's top columnist and animating spirit, told me. 'We were all about finding people and kicking them when they were down. And then we'd laugh about it.' With Michael Dukakis gearing up to run for president in 1988, there was never a riper target for kicking, so the Herald'seditors moved Fehrnstrom from the police beat to politics. The hard-hitting scoops he dug up about the state's budget crunch may have been motivated by spite for a Democratic presidential contender, but the stories themselves were fair, substantive, and uniquely damaging. At one point, George H. W. Bush actually brandished copies of the Herald on the stump, turning one of Dukakis's core strengths—his cultivated reputation for fiscal competence—into a crippling liability. Today, Dukakis is philosophical about the teardown job that Fehrnstrom, Carr, and the rest of the Herald did on him.  'I'd say, 'Look guys...don't waste time with that paper,'' Dukakis told me. 'The Herald is the Herald.'" (GQ)


"'I'm looking at the cardboard cutout over there and thinking that's Bill,' Gayle King said last night at the Waldorf Astoria, where the legendary Bill Cunningham was being honored with the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence. "I feel stupid with two Os. I was thinking, 'Wow, he's taking pictures at his own party.' In fact, that's exactly what the real Bill Cunningham was busy doing. Surrounded by some of his favorite subjects, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Linda Fargo, Mercedes Bass, and Annette de la Renta (all of whom had come 'dressed for Bill'), the shutterbug snapped away with his camera. 'Bill is like a war photographer. If he's talking to you and sees something going on, he'll leave mid-sentence,' Paper's Kim Hastreiter told Style.com. 'Bill used to run after me on the street and photograph me because I used to dress crazy back in 1976 and we just became friends,' Hastreiter went on. 'Then one time the photo ended up in The New York Times—I remember I was wearing this coat made out of a Hudson's Bay blanket.' Many ladies last night were musing over the thrill of their first Bill photo: 'There's really nothing like the first time; you can't compare anything to that,' said Alexandra Lebenthal." (Style)


"Yesterday at noon at '21,' the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club held its fourth annual luncheon and honored Somers Farkas. The Club which was founded in 1919 is the only private organization in the New York area which provides accommodations at subsidized rates, as well as club-type facilities for servicemen and servicewomen, military retires and veterans and their families visiting the city.  The club is not affiliated with the US federal government, the state or the city. It is private and not–for profit. Ivan Obolensky, a nephew of the late Vincent Astor, and son of Alice Astor and Serge Obolensky, is a long time supporter and the club’s CEO, and has worked hard to maintain its founding credo: 'Service To Those Who Have Served Our Country.'  To make a tax-deductible donation, click here." (NYSocialDiary)


"The Skyy Vodka/Spin Magazine party at the Reniassance Resort in Palm Springs had one of the best vibes during Coachella weekend #2. The liquor brand's new coconut flavor made for a sweet treat in the desert heat, which called for plenty of floppy hats, huge sunglasses and flip-flops courtesy of Havaianas (which had a customization booth). DJs including Ana Calderon, spun splashy, funky and rockin' tunes for the colorful crowd." (Papermag)

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