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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The proxy war in Syria provides Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and their friends with a chance to develop and employ their emerging capabilities in covert action, subversion, and irregular warfare. Over the past three decades, the Quds Force -- the external covert action arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) -- has achieved remarkable success building up Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and supporting anti-U.S. militias in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the 1980s, Iran has demonstrated great skill at using covert action and deniable proxies to intimidate adversaries while simultaneously avoiding conventional military retaliation. If these techniques are warfare's latest weapons, Saudi Arabia and its allies likely desire to have them in their own armories. During last year's rebellion in Libya, tiny Qatar punched way above its weight when it sent hundreds of military advisors to assist the fighters who eventually overwhelmed Muammar al-Qaddafi's security forces. Saudi Arabia has called for arming Syria's rebels, an operation that would presumably entail many of the same tactics Qatar employed in its successful unconventional warfare campaign in Libya. If the Saudis are serious about fighting the proxy war in Syria, the kingdom and its allies will have to master the irregular warfare techniques that both the Quds Force and Qatari special forces have recently used. The emerging civil war in Syria harkens back to the Spanish civil war in the late 1930s. That ugly conflict drew in Europe's great powers and served as both as a proving ground for the weapons and tactics that would be used a few years later in World War II and as an ideological clash between fascism and socialism. For Saudi Arabia and Iran, the stakes in Syria are likely even higher than they were for Germany and the Soviet Union in Spain, which could add to the likelihood of escalation. .(ForeignPolicy)

"Political experts say Obama is in a much stronger position than (Jimmy) Carter, the only Democratic president to lose re-election in more than 120 years. 'The situation was totally different. Interest rates were in the ionosphere, 14 percent and 16 percent to finance various projects. Carter had a difficult term in dealing with his own party. The thing that was the dagger that went into his political heart was the botched hostage rescue in Iran,' said former Sen. Richard Byran (D-Nev.), who was serving as attorney general of Nevada before winning election to Congress. Republican strategists say the unemployment rate is not the only salient statistic in this election year. They argue Obama will be hurt by rising prices as Carter was by inflation more than thirty years ago. 'If your benchmark is Jimmy Carter, you are headed for the front of the one-term presidents pack,' said Sean Spicer, communications director the Republican National Committee. 'Look at healthcare costs, college tuition costs, energy costs, groceries. Everything that matters is headed in the wrong direction.' ... George H.W. Bush endured even worse jobs numbers than Carter during the ten-month stretch leading to his 1992 loss. The economy suffered a net loss of jobs in only one month, February. But the job creation in other months was anemic. Only 267,000 jobs were created January, March, June, July and September, cumulatively. The workforce increased by an average of 0.0738 percent. Obama’s burden is the national unemployment rate is higher this year than it was in 1992 and 1980. A Labor Department survey of households reported the national unemployment rate at 8.2 percent in March. It was 8.3 percent in January and February. The nation’s unemployment rate averaged 7.5 percent in the ten months before the 1992 election and 7.1 percent in 1980. Obama inherited a much worse economy than Bush senior, who took control of the White House when the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent. Carter took office when the rate was 7.5 percent, the same as it was in November of 1980. It was 7.8 percent when Obama swore his oath of office in January of 2009." (Alexander Bolton)


" ...(Y)ou have Cassandra Huysentruyt Grey, the pretty young second wife of Brad Grey, the chairman and chief executive of Paramount Pictures. Mrs. Grey’s opulent wedding one year ago, attended by Hollywood royals like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, made her an official member of moviedom’s AAA-list, with West Coast homes in Bel-Air and Holmby Hills. A New York perch comes via a recently purchased $15.5-million apartment at the Carlyle. But don’t call her a trophy wife. Mrs. Grey may have a Lilliputian figure, but she has big ambitions for a fashion studio and vintage clothing line that she runs from this town’s trendy shopping district. How big? Asked that question the other day, she picked up a copy of Salvador Dali’s 1942 autobiography, 'The Secret Life of Salvador Dali,' and pointed to a passage: 'At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.' If she was joking, it sure didn’t seem that way. Mrs. Grey had even taped a blown-up photocopy of the paragraph to her office wall — a type of mission statement. It’s this kind of did-she-just-say-that? candor that has popped claws in show business society, which plays faster and looser than old-money circles in New York or even Pasadena, but still has unspoken rules of propriety. One is that ambition from mogul wives, unless it’s for charity or political fund-raising, is best kept hidden. Another involves public perception. You may live a lavish life (stars, yachts, red carpets), but you work overtime not to appear as filthy rich as you are. " (NYTimes)
   

"I asked David Geffen to manage me. That's not exactly how it went down. I sent him a letter, it was really damn good, I wanted a job at his new record company, Geffen Records. At the time there were only three employees, Eddie Rosenblatt, John Kalodner and Geffen himself. Based on that letter, I got a meeting with Rosenblatt. Geffen wouldn't give me the time, even though I was convinced I could close him. Not only did Eddie say no, there was no job for me, almost seven years later when John Kalodner escorted me into Eddie's office Mr. Rosenblatt didn't remember either the letter or our previous meeting, it was all news to him. I didn't get the job. Despite John imploring Eddie to hire me, Eddie didn't think his people would listen to me. And it was sometime around then, give or take a year or two, that I asked Geffen to go into business with me. He told me he didn't have the time. That he didn't operate on that level anymore. I never asked him for anything again. I'll admit, it took me a long time to understand where Geffen was coming from. It's the same place Jimmy Iovine is coming from, which is why I pointed out that 'Rolling Stone' article, because Jimmy spoke the truth and almost no one in this lyin', stinkin' business ever does. Jimmy doesn't have time to produce records. Not because he doesn't like to, but he just can't have the impact he wants to. Jimmy wants to change sound. Wants to upgrade it for the masses. And make a ton of money doing it. David Geffen did not think I lacked talent, but he wanted to hobnob with not only his rich buddies, but his POWERFUL buddies. Not long thereafter, he started DreamWorks SKG." (Bob Lefsetz)


"Ekaterina and Vladimir Doronin will not be divorcing any time soon. Despite reports that Ekaterina — the long-estranged wife of the Russian billionaire and property mogul — was finally ready to file for divorce and would name her hubby’s model girlfriend Naomi Campbell as a cause of their split, sources close to Ekaterina say that couldn’t be further from the truth. 'She has no plans to file for divorce in the near future,' a friend of Ekaterina told Page Six. 'She hasn’t met with a lawyer as of yet. Vladimir takes very good care of her and her daughter [Katia, 15], and they both have very separate lives.' Vladimir and Ekaterina were married nearly 25 years ago, but they had already been living apart for a decade when Vladimir first met supermodel Campbell at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. They’ve since become a couple, and Naomi has moved to Russia to be with him. The two have also been fixtures together on the New York and European social scenes. Campbell told British Vogue in 2010: 'I live in Moscow now permanently, and I really love life there. I’m really happy and things are just going really well.'" (PageSix)


"When he set out to wedge his coffee onto supermarket shelves in England and America, Andrew Rugasira didn’t start by making phone calls from his home in Kampala, Uganda. He didn’t begin by sending e-mails. The distance seemed too great for that. At one end of his business were farmers who, until he came along, thought their beans were purchased and carried off to make gunpowder. At the other were buyers at the corporate headquarters of chains like Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, Whole Foods and Wal-Mart. If he was going to succeed, he felt he would have to do it physically; it was as if he believed he could stretch himself to span the divide between the two worlds. So he got on a plane to London, without trying any advance contact ... Yet Rugasira has a resilience that may have been forged in childhood. He grew up in Kampala during the terrors of Idi Amin’s reign in the ’70s. When he was around 11, with Amin just driven out, soldiers climbed over the gate in front of his family’s house and carried away the TV, the refrigerator, the furniture, while Rugasira and two of his sisters, who were 7 and 5, huddled on their knees and prayed in a bedroom. He could hear the soldiers threatening and his parents pleading out front. The gunmen left, but one evening, his father, who owned a factory that made chalk for Ugandan schoolchildren, didn’t return home ... Rugasira’s company is called Good African Coffee. The Kasese office, about 200 miles west of Kampala toward the center of the continent, is a squat, white-and-blue building surrounded by a dilapidated town that once served a copper mine, now defunct. The town is framed by the Rwenzori Mountains, a glacial chain that the ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy labeled the Mountains of the Moon, borrowing from the name the locals gave to the glowing, snowcapped peaks. Under a tree near the office was a waiting cluster of boda-boda boys, the young men who taxi people around on their motorbikes, their heedless speeds and buzzing engines speaking of the constant motion and ambition that somehow exist side by side with a profound inertia in Africa." (NYTimes)           
"Denim emporium 3x1's normally calm and collected Mercer space was transformed into a killer club-like party last night in celebration of the brand's new limited edition skateboards, a collaboration with famed photographer Ben Watts that finds Jessica Hart, Lake Bell, Chanel Iman and more on the dashing decks. We wondered if Watts was a boarder himself? 'Well, the skateboards were 3x1's idea -- you can't skateboard with these babies,' he told us with a smile, referring to his amazing blue suede slippers. Touché, Ben. We said our goodbyes to the evening's guest of honor then danced our way around the rest of the party thanks to PAPERMAG favorite DJ Chelsea Leyland, who turned the space out with some bass-bumping tunes while Brandee Brown, Jenne Lombardo and others danced along. Meanwhile, the real-life Winklevosses (that would be Tyler and Cameron) hung in the back corner with some lady friends while the beautiful Jessica Hart continually posed for pics, not to be outmatched by the also-beautiful Elsa Hosk, who chatted it up with an entourage-heavy Jude Law." (Papermag)
"The good folks at ExtremeTech took it upon themselves this week to get at one of the Internet’s crucial questions—just how big are porn sites these days? The answer? Ron Jeremy big. To study porn sites, ExtremeTech turned to the DoubleClick Ad Planner tool from Google (GOOG). It’s a useful website where you can peek at information gathered by ad-serving cookies about how much traffic a website gets, the age and income of visitors, and the amount of time people spend on a site.According to this tool, the online porn kingpin Xvideos feeds up 4.4 billion page views per month. That’s about 10 times as many as the New York Times and three times as many as CNN.com. YouPorn—another site packed full of stimulating content—notches 2.1 billion page views per month. And while people spend a few minutes per day on news sites, they tend to spend 15 minutes or more on porn sites, which would seem to say something rather definitive about, er, male stamina. 'But it’s not just men on the sites,' you shout. True, although the top porn sites count men as about 75 percent of their visitors. Breaking the stats down further, about half of the visitors make between $25,000 and $50,000 per year, while only 2 percent earn more than $150,000 per year. According to Google, the other interests of Xvideos visitors include Latin American music and gangs and organized crime, while YouPorn visitors like networking equipment and family films, so it’s an eclectic bunch." (BusinessWeek)

"TheAwl:  There’s a lot of you out there for people to access—the sex scenes, your weight, your personal Twitter. A lot of your work is based on the experience of being you. What do you say to people who accuse you of oversharing? Lena Dunham: I completely get it, and I have those moments too, where I think, I’m sick of the sound of my own voice, and why does anybody care what I weigh, and what foods I’m overeating. Every now and then I’ll tweet something and I’ll just think, 'what?!' And then someone favorites it and I guess I feel a little less alone. I understand completely the critique of oversharing. It can feel like a loss of manners in our society, but it’s always been my own instinct to make my own experiences—it’s comforting to me. It’s almost a selfish thing, it’s comforting to me to have other people connect to things I’ve gone through, and I’m also interested in it as a tool to fuel narrative work. It may be that there’s a phase where I decide that the work that I want to make is much less personal, but at this point, I’m interested in that blurry line between life and art." (TheAwl)

"Larry David hates giving interviews so much that he concocted an elaborate scheme to get out of Lunch with the FT, playing out in his head the role he and I would take when he arrived at the restaurant. It is a sunny day in Santa Monica and we have taken our seats at Stefan’s at LA Farm, a lunch spot popular with Hollywood executives – and a short walk from David’s office – when he drops this minor bombshell. “I was thinking about coming here and saying, ‘Oh, this is an interview? I didn’t know it was an interview! I thought you just wanted to have lunch.’ Then you’d go, ‘No, no, it’s an interview.’ And I’d say, ‘Oh my God. I’m sorry.’  He shrugs and shakes his head in mock surrender. 'I would say, ‘I just can’t do it. There’s been a miscommunication.’ '" (FT)

"Food and wine pairing is always a tricky business, but somehow I suspected that the wines of Serge Hochar and the cooking of April Bloomfield would make a perfect match. Bloomfield’s cooking is earthy and elemental, characterized by intense flavors and quirky in the best sense, always surprising us somehow, and much the same could be said about the wines of Chateau Musar, the Lebanese winery founded by Serge’s father Gaston Hochar in 1930. Last night Hochar was at the Spotted Pig hosting a dinner that featured some of the most original and eccentric reds, whites and roses that I’ve ever tasted. I’ve been following the reds for many years, having first tried the 1975 back in the mid-eighties. It was a brilliant wine, and reminded me of a little of a great Bordeaux, though it was ultimately something altogether original. 'Ah yes, that was a good one,' the imperturbably cheerful Serge said last night. 'Unfortunately we didn’t get to make a 1976 because of the war.' Chateau Musar is located in the Becca Valley some fifteen miles north of Beiruit and the Hochar family has often found itself on the front lines of the civil war in Lebanon. Battle raged around the vines again in 1983 and 1984, and Serge was again unable to produce a wine in the latter vintage. The winery took direct hits from shelling in 1988 and 1989. In recent years, he’s only had to contend with nature, and the challenge of getting grapes from his vineyards to the winery, a distance of more than a hundred miles. The very unusual style of both his whites and reds may have something to do with this issue of transport." (Jay McInerney)

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