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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The unraveling of the al Assad regime in Syria will produce many geopolitical consequences. One potential consequence has garnered a great deal of media attention in recent days: the possibility of the regime losing control of its chemical weapons stockpile. In an interview aired July 30 on CNN, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said it would be a 'disaster to have those chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands -- hands of Hezbollah or other extremists in that area.' When he mentioned other extremists, Panetta was referring to local and transnational jihadists, such as members of the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been fighting with other opposition forces against the Syrian regime. He was also referring to the many Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which have long had a presence in Syria and until recently have been supported by the al Assad regime. The fear is that the jihadists will obtain chemical weapons to use in terrorist attacks against the West. Israel is also concerned that Palestinian groups could use them in terrorist attacks inside Israel or that Hezbollah could use such weapons against the Israelis in a conventional military battle. However, while the security of these weapons is a legitimate concern, it is important to recognize that there are a number of technical and practical considerations that will limit the impact of these weapons even if a militant group were able to obtain them." (STRATFOR)


"Gore Vidal was as good as it gets where writing is concerned. I can’t think of a single awkward sentence he ever wrote, and he wrote a hell of a lot for someone from a very privileged background who could do more enjoyable things than sit behind a typewriter. He wrote twenty-six novels, among which were Williwaw, The City and the Pillar, Washington, D.C., Myra Breckinridge, 1876, and his zinger, Julian, a novel about homosexuality that had his chic friends and his patrician family heading for the hills. That was in 1964. Vidal’s essays were his forte and his most successful play was The Best Man, which had a recent revival on Broadway. But you know all this. I want to tell you about a Gore Vidal few people knew, because he was an expert in hiding his feelings behind a cold and cynical mask. The first time I met him in London more than forty years ago, his opening line was, 'Oh hello, I read with great interest the lies you wrote about me.' He then shook my hand and smiled." (Taki)

"Using the website OpenSecrets.org as a guide, The Daily Beast has identified seven of President Obama’s most important bundlers for the 2012 campaign, and considered why their presence will matter in this election. (Exact contributions are not available, because the campaign only provides ranges.) In keeping with his general lack of transparency, Mitt Romney has not revealed who his bundlers are. All of the bundlers either declined to comment or did not respond to interview requests. The Obama administration declined to comment." (TheDailyBeast)


"About six years ago, Tom Florio, then the publisher of Vogue, had an idea. He wanted to expand the fashion bible’s brand into a new platform: online television. The magazine’s discerning editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, approved and Mr. Florio found blue-chip financial investors who did too. He’d been working on the proposal for nine months when he presented it to Si Newhouse, Chuck Townsend and other top Condé Nast brass. 'I hate it,' Mr. Newhouse said. Encountering Mr. Newhouse at a dinner party a few days later, Mr. Florio asked the Condé Nast chairman to elaborate on his abrupt dismissal of the idea. 'All that did was make money,' the boss told him. It’s hard to imagine the executive who would utter such a sentence in today’s economy (let alone one tasked with navigating the turbulent media market). But the story exemplifies what some say is the defining brilliance of Mr. Newhouse: his quickness to tear a book up, to unceremoniously fire and replace someone (see: Vreeland, Diana, or Mirabella, Grace), to say 'no.' 'He makes decisions based on what the essence of Condé Nast was,' Mr. Florio, now CEO of Advanstar Fashion Group, explained. It’s certainly the signature trait that enabled him to build his stable of glossies into one of the most influential corporate architects of consumer aspiration. But as luxury print advertising—the company’s lifeblood—continues to dry up, Condé Nast is reprogramming its top brass to say 'yes': to brand extensions, such as e-commerce relationships (GQ and Nordstrom), membership programs (Lucky Rewards) and licensed merchandise (Bon Appetit for Home Shopping Network). Though the 84-year-old Mr. Newhouse remains the company’s chairman and is still regularly spotted in the cafeteria, insiders say his presence is less common and his day-to-day influence quickly waning. The upshot is that the editorial old guard of Condé Nast is losing its best defender, prompting some to wonder if it the company’s 'essence,' the ineffable lustre that long captivated advertisers and readers, will survive its 2015 move downtown to 1 World Trade. Some signs of drift are more apparent than others. Employees have become accustomed to the sight of busted banquettes in the once-gleaming Frank Gehry cafeteria, for instance. 'That was the symbol of the luxury of the place,' noted a long-time staffer, adding that the food has also become less appealing. 'I think they just stopped caring,' the staffer said. 'I think something happened where they were like, ‘I’m not spending any more money.’' And according to some male editorial employees, even the elevator eye candy isn’t what it used to be. As one put it, 'You do sense that maybe one of the weird by-products of the ‘Death of Print’ is that girls in sundresses don’t all flock here quite as much.' The result seems to be a corporate culture that has lost its edge. 'You sense a little bit the loss of that swagger, the feeling that ‘I’m working in some special place,’' the employee added with a sigh." (Observer)

"It was Wedneday, and so it was the Michael’s media madhouse – although suitably subdued for a high summer day. Jolie Hunt, the new Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for AOL was lunching with Arianna Huffington: Table One birthday lunch for mega-real estate broker Debbie Grubman. Among the friends celebrating: Barbara Walters, Hilary Gumbel, Penelope Inzerillo whose husband Jerry Inzerillo was at a nearby table also.  Moving on: David Sanford and Lewis Stein who actually lunch at Michael’s more than I do; Harry Benson and David Friend; Fred Shuman, Gillian Miniter and Tim Landi; Debra Black with the Lyden Brothers, Peter and Dr. David. Many of us who know Peter (who runs fund-raising at the American Museum of Natural History, having come from a highly successful stint at the American Ballet Theatre) didn’t or don’t know that he had/has a twin brother ...As the world now knows, author, playwright, critic and essayist Gore Vidal died Tuesday in Los Angeles where he had a home for more than 40 years in Outpost Estates in the Hollywood Hills. Like millions of us, I was a great fan and read almost all of his books and essays. He was a liberal thinking individual, which is not to be confused with the political designation, although I’m pretty sure he voted the Democratic ticket, if he voted at all ... I met him a couple of times out there at the homes of mutual friends or acquaintances ... The first time I met him was at a big splashy holiday party at the Beverly Hills mansion of a famous talent manager. It was during the era of Central American political upheavals in the 1980s. I asked his opinion on a question about the Sandinista revolution." (David Patrick Columbia/NYSocialDiary)



"Defense reporters want a straight answer from the Pentagon on whether it intends to listen to their phone calls, intercept their emails or spy on their workstations as part of its new plan to crack down on national security leaks. And while the Pentagon insists it’s not doing anything that should alarm reporters, it has yet to offer a direct response as to exactly what it means when it says it’s going to monitor news reports for unauthorized disclosures. It’s important to draw a line that people’s conversations shouldn’t be listened to,” said Robert Burns, a national security reporter for The Associated Press and president of the Pentagon Press Association. 'No one’s accusing [the Defense Department] of doing anything sinister,' Burns said. 'But we just don’t know what they’re doing.' The press association, formed in 2010 to advocate for reporters who cover the Defense Department, sent a letter to Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey seeking clarification: Does the Pentagon have the authority to spy on reporters? 'Journalists expect the Pentagon reads the news, including looking for classified leaks,' said Kevin Baron, a national security reporter at Foreign Policy magazine and vice president of the press association. 'More important to us is a straight answer from the secretary himself on what they do and do not intend to do.' Reporters have been pushing for an answer over the past two weeks, repeatedly bringing up the issue during the Pentagon’s press briefings and gaggles. In one memorable exchange, Bloomberg News’s Tony Capaccio declared, 'The whole notion of classification in this building has degenerated into a joke.' 'What steps are you going to be taking to make sure when you analyze these news stories that it’s really classified-classified versus B.S. classified?' he asked." (Politico)



"After way too many years, last week CNN got rid of its long time CEO Jim Walton. Even Walton – who bills the leave-taking as his own decision – seemed to acknowledge in his departing remarks CNN's lack of direction, and his own failure to alter that course. Actually, it would be hard to offer a more dismal appraisal of one's own tenure. Walton's message: you really, really need someone else. But the problem with CNN is not just uninspired leadership and lack of vision. In fact, what Walton is really saying is: good riddance, nobody can fix it. Because what's wrong with CNN is what's wrong with Time Warner, its owner. And what's wrong with CNN is what's wrong with television news. And even if you acknowledge what's wrong with it, that does not mean that there is any real upside in fixing it. When it agreed to be acquired by Time Warner in 1995, Turner Broadcasting, the parent of CNN, was arguably the most innovative company in the media business. It was the revolution in cable television and in 24-hour news. CNN was the Twitter of its day, reinventing the culture, methods and expectations of news. I'm not sure it is possible to overstate how much Ted Turner and his satellite delivery system, plus his non-network style, up-ended the business. Time Warner, for its part, was the Apple of 1995 – at least in terms of reach, influence, power and relative oppressiveness." (Michael Wolff via MediareDEFined)




"Despite a pledge to stop abuses by its security forces, the ruling Sunni minority in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain is engaged in systematic and disproportionate use of tear gas on its restive Shiite majority, permitting police officers to routinely fire volleys at point-blank range at crowds and into homes and vehicles in Shiite neighborhoods, a leading rights group said in a report released on Wednesday. The group, the Physicians for Human Rights, which has been highly critical of the Bahraini monarchy’s behavior since the Shiite protests inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings began there 18 months ago, called the policy on tear gas use unprecedented in the world, even among dictatorships where tear gas is a staple tool for crowd control. Its report, based on dozens of interviews of victims in Bahrain and forensic evidence gathered there by the group’s investigators in April, said the Shiite populace’s abnormally prolonged exposure to the tear gas’s toxic components had already led to an alarming increase in miscarriages, respiratory ailments and other maladies." (NYTimes)


"Friday, Jim Walton, the veteran president of CNN, stepped down, citing the need for a 'new leader who brings a different perspective, different experiences, and a new plan.' And CNN certainly seems to need one. Primetime ratings in May were at a 20-year low, the network is the subject of near-constant ridicule by Jon Stewart, and it routinely gets crushed in ratings by more ideological rivals like MSNBC and Fox. Oh, and it badly muffed the most-anticipated breaking news event of the year: the Supreme Court’s health- care ruling. When the network canceled John King’s hour-long show earlier this year, The New York Times reporter Brian Stelter led the piece by referring to 'the ailing cable-news channel CNN.' A few notches down the dial at NBC, an even more venerable media brand seems to be in crisis as well. The Today show in late June unceremoniously dumped veteran Ann Curry and decided to replace her with a younger co-anchor, Savannah Guthrie. Producers may have moved quickly to swap talent because, after a reign that seemed to rival that of Queen Elizabeth II, Today was showing signs of being displaced atop the morning show ratings race by ABC’s Good Morning America.With the press surrounding them, you’d think that CNN and Today are hemorrhaging money and acting as mammoth millstones around the necks of their parent companies. Which is sort of the opposite of the truth. From a financial perspective, CNN is one of the jewels in parent company Time Warner’s crown. CEO Jeff Bewkes told investors in May that CNN would make $600 million in profits this year." (ThedailyBeast)


"Last Saturday night in East Hampton on the estate of businessman and recording tycoon Russell Simmons, they held the 13th annual Art For Life fundraiser for Simmon’s Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. Art For Life was created by Simmons and his two brothers, Danny and Rev. The objective is to help underprivileged kids get access to the arts.The evening's honorees were Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon. Soledad O’Brien was the evening’s master of ceremony. Star Jones conducted an auction, helping raise more than $2 million for Rush Kids." (NYSocialDiary)


"Nicholas Soames is Winston Churchill’s grandson, a Conservative member of Parliament since the early 80s, a very large man whose food and drink intake is legendary, and an old friend of mine with whom I used to get into terrible trouble. Soames has been married twice, his first wife having indiscreetly answered a hack’s question about his lovemaking as 'like having a wardrobe fall on top of you with the key sticking out of it.' An amicable divorce soon followed. Soames holds no grudge against his ex, but if he did he might soon be able to have her jailed for committing a hate crime. This is a proposed addition to English hate-crime legislation that could make outlaws of countless schoolchildren who use the word “fat” or “fatty” against another student. It adds a criminal taint to teasing and rebrands it as a hate crime on a par with racism and homophobia. No, it’s not a joke." (Taki)

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