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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"'Welcome to the third and final presidential debate. Our topic tonight is foreign policy. First question to you, Mr. President. Your critics say that you have no clear strategy, that you just react to events. Is there an Obama Doctrine? If so, what is it?' 'I killed Osama bin Laden.' 'Thank you, Mr. President. Governor Romney, your turn: What's wrong with the Obama Doctrine?' 'Libya. Libya. Libya.'  'Well, I guess that wraps it up for tonight. Vote early and vote often, folks.'  That would be a merciful version of Monday, Oct. 22's upcoming debate on foreign policy. In fact, we should probably feel thankful that Candy Crowley, the moderator of the Oct. 16 town-hall debate earlier this week, did not, as expected, divide the questions equally between foreign and domestic policy. During the few minutes devoted to foreign affairs, both candidates postured shamelessly on getting tough on trade with China, after which Barack Obama won a round on Libya by catching Mitt Romney ('get the transcript…') in a semantic error. But that was fair, because Romney's objection to Obama's Libya policy was itself semantic: When did he say 'terrorist,' and what did he mean when he said it? Of course, Monday night's debate will give the candidates a chance to air their differences on Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Russia, and Syria -- as well as Libya and China all over again. And some of those differences are real, rather than simply rhetorical. In recent weeks, however, the foreign-policy debate between the two candidates has narrowed down to competing banalities." (James Traub)


"'The men there love me,' she says. 'I don't know why. Religiously speaking, it's forbidden. But culturally, it's among them.… When I walk in the street or in the mall, boys are all over me.' Although there is very little data regarding this phenomenon, activists and lawyers who work with transgender sex workers say that the thriving sex trade in the Middle East, especially in Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Bahrain, is attracting hundreds of transgender sex workers, mostly from South Asia and the Pacific Islands. All these Gulf countries abide by strict Islamic law, outlaw homosexuality, and forbid gay foreigners from entering the country. Transgender individuals in particular have a difficult time traveling and residing in Gulf countries -- if they are caught with documents identifying them as members of the opposite sex, they're immediately detained and deported. If they are arrested for sex work, they could be jailed for even longer periods before they are allowed to leave the country. This is one of the more extreme challenges faced by the Arab Gulf countries as they struggle to adapt to the changing cultural norms brought on by globalization. With the discovery of oil, these countries have been catapulted to the forefront of the world economy -- but massive wealth has brought huge social changes as well, as foreigners have brought their own cultures with them, sometimes shocking the deeply conservative populations. This is most evident in emirates such as Dubai, where migrants make up 90 percent of the population. These communities have long grappled with the sale of alcohol and foreigners' scanty clothing -- but the presence of transgender sex workers is dealt with not through compromise, but brute repression." (Foreignpolicy)


"Berlin does not feel like an imperial city. The new government buildings – the chancellor’s office, the Bundestag and the foreign ministry – have all been designed with plenty of glass and natural light, to emphasise transparency and democracy. The finance ministry is, admittedly, housed in the old headquarters of the Luftwaffe. But most of the grandest architecture – Unter den Linden and the Brandenburg gate – is a legacy of the Prussian kings. Modern Berlin presents a more welcoming face, and has become a magnet for tourists and teenagers. Yet while the German capital has deliberately eschewed the trappings of imperial power, the fact is that Berlin is increasingly the de facto capital of the EU. Of course the EU’s main institutions – the commission and the council – are still based in Brussels. But the key decisions are increasingly made in Berlin. Will Greece have to leave the euro? Ultimately, it will be Germany’s call. Will politicians support further bailouts for southern Europe? The vital debates will take place in the Bundestag in Berlin – not in the European parliament. Who does the International Monetary Fund call about the euro crisis? The most important conversations take place with the German government and the European Central Bank in Frankfurt – not the European Commission. This shift in power from Brussels to Berlin has been accelerated by the euro crisis. Naturally, the German chancellor Angela Merkel still has to go to summits in Brussels and strike deals. She was there only last week. But the euro crisis means that Ms Merkel is now incomparably the most important leader at the table." (FT)


"Last March, Goldman Sachs VP Greg Smith quit his job in spectacular fashion—with a New York Times op-ed decrying the erosion of the firm's moral culture into a 'toxic and destructive' state. Now, Greg Smith has a book coming out. He was on 60 Minutes last night. He has become, in mere months, the world's most famous insider critic of the go-go culture of Wall Street's biggest banks.If you understand how the American news cycle works, you know what is coming next: the (new) backlash against Greg Smith. The inevitable backlash will recast him from heroic whistleblower to self-serving hypocrite. So before that backlash is fully formed, allow us to offer a defense of Greg Smith, and others like him, who assert their moral outrage over bad situations that are ostensibly 'well known' even before they raise their voices in protest." (HamNo)


"The Fader and Converse joined forces to host 4 days worth of the Fader Fort's annual unofficial CMJ lineups, this year at their Rubber Tracks studio on Hope Street in Williamsburg. Saturday we got there in time to catch a diverse smattering of buzz bands including The Crystal Ark, Hunters, Kilo Kish, the Twerps (whom we couldn't help but notice wore every brand of sneaker except Converse) and Chairlift. We hear Britt Daniel's new band -- Divine Fits -- also played a surprise set later in the evening. Photos ...." (Papermag)


"Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education held its annual 'Fiesta 2012' gala at The Mandarin Oriental in New York City. This year’s honorees were Lilly Scarpetta de Pumarejo, Pierre Durand and Marina B. Kiera Chaplin collected a special gold medal on behalf of Marina B. Mario Buatta served as master of ceremonies and Christopher Mason was the program’s host. As has become the tradition, Jacqueline Weld Drake, Aileen Mehle, and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia were the Dinner Chairmen. Kiera Chapin, Jacqueline Weld Drake, Fe Fendi, Lilly Scarpetta, and Enrica Arengi Bentivoglio were all adorned in Marina B. sparkling jewels. Cocktails began in the hotel’s lobby lounge and was followed by dinner and dancing in the ballroom. The benefit raised $528,800 dollars – the silent auction raised $32,900. This elegant back tie evening raises money for an intuition in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the Bronx, the Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, which supports young people and their families through high quality social, cultural, and educational opportunities. Casita Maria was founded in 1934 by Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan, two schoolteachers in East Harlem. The event hosted over 370 guests..." (NYSocialDiary)


"A former CEO of Citigroup, Sanford Weill—not exactly an Errol Flynn lookalike—recently sold his Upper West Side apartment to a 22-year-old daughter of a Russian—libel laws prevent me from describing his profession accurately—for 88 million big ones. He purchased the Weill pad and parked his daughter inside while trying to keep his ill-gotten gains from her mother’s eager hands. When Barbara Hutton and Doris Duke were considered the two richest girls in the world back in the 1930s, they wouldn’t have dreamed of treating themselves with such over-the-top extravagance." (Taki Theodoracopulos)


"The latest cringe-worthy example: Bloomberg reported today on the highly-detailed specifications that Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries required for the flight crews on the company’s corporate jet. 'Clean-shaven males had to wear a uniform of Abercrombie polo shirts, boxer briefs, flip-flops and a ‘spritz’ of the retailer’s cologne,' according to a manual that has come to light through an age-discrimination lawsuit brought by a former pilot. (Abercrombie did not directly employ pilots for the corporate jet.) The 40-page set of 'Aircraft Standards' also prescribed the color of gloves attendants should use (black when putting out silverware, white when setting a table), detailed menus for Jeffries’ three dogs, and instructions on diction: the men should say 'no problem' instead of 'sure.' Jeffries is apparently a frequent flyer as well as a fastidious and exacting one. As Bloomberg reported: 'In 2010, the board agreed to pay him $4 million to limit [Jeffries’] personal use of the company jet to $200,000 annually beginning with the fiscal year ended Jan. 29, 2011.' All this at a company whose stock has fallen by half in the last 12 months. CEOs are very comfortable delegating the running of vast enterprises to others. But they often obsess over the smallest details surrounding private jets: what they look like, who gets to use them, how much they have to pay to fly. In fact, the private jet—a Gulfstream, a Hawker-Beechcraft—occupies a central role in American corporate culture. CEOs may not get too exorcised about a falling stock price or declining market share. But try to take away their plane, and they’ll scream bloody murder." (TheDailyBeast)



"A topless woman in psychedelic body paint distracted some guilty eyes at the Chelsea opening of artist Chuck Close’s latest show. 'Yup, she just showed up, painted,' exclaimed one gobsmacked guest at the Pace Gallery of the smiling lady who opened a raincoat to reveal she was only wearing underwear. Though, thankfully, fully clothed, Paul Simon also turned some heads, as did the singer’s portrait, hanging with never-before-seen paintings of Cindy Sherman and Philip Glass and a tapestry of Lou Reed. Close later held court at a chic Glasshouses dinner, where guests included Agnes Gund, Beth Rudin DeWoody, artists Ross Bleckner and Tara Donovan and Marc and Andrea Glimcher." (PageSix)

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