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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"'In the name of Allah the most gracious the most merciful. Praise Allah and pray on his prophet. To the esteemed brother, Sheikh Mahmud, Allah protect him.' Holed up in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Osama bin Laden sat at a computer and set down his thoughts in a long letter dated April 26, 2011, to Atiyah Abdul al-Rahman, his third-in-command and the link to his far-flung and beleaguered followers—the man he addressed as Sheikh Mahmud. It was the al-Qaeda leader’s sixth spring of confinement in Abbottabad. His hair and beard had grown white. Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden’s life had shrunk to the cramped and crowded space of the upper two floors of a house behind high walls. His days consisted of familiar routines, rarely broken: his meals, his seven daily prayer sessions, his readings, the poetry lessons for his children and grandchildren, the sermons to three of his wives, the brisk daily walk around the vegetable gardens. In his letter to Sheikh Mahmud, he raced to catch up with the Arab Spring, to interpret the events in light of his own immutable beliefs. Bin Laden also hammered home some advice about security. After more than nine successful years in hiding, he considered himself to be an expert: 'It is proven that the American technology and its modern systems cannot arrest a Mujahid if he does not commit a security error that leads them to him,' he wrote. 'So adherence to security precautions makes their advanced technology a loss and a disappointment to them.' The computer turned bin Laden’s words into neat lines of uniform Arabic. He was feeling confident. He had five days to live." (VanityFair)

"CNN's Elise Labott, traveling with Hillary Clinton in Peru, got the secretary of state to make news by stating the obvious: that she is ultimately responsible for the safety of U.S. diplomats. There's a bit of editorial sleight of hand going on, because the headline quotes her saying 'I take responsibility' and then throws in '... for Benghazi' without quotes. So there may be less to this story than meets the eye. Without the full context of her remarks, it's hard to say whether she was really taking the hit for the whole fiasco or not. (The AP has a slightly different version, as does Fox News.) But hey, it's close enough, and Clinton's comments are obviously going to get wide play and will of course be instantly politicized -- regardless of whether she's merely doing the right thing, or whether she's actually just shielding Obama from scrutiny ahead of Tuesday night's debate, as some are already suggesting, or whether, as the conspiracy-minded would have it, she's pulling some Machiavellian maneuver to appear like she's taking responsibility only to make the president look bad and set herself up for 2016. (Clinton may have unintentionally set Obama up to be more directly attacked, by the way: Three Repubublican senators already have issued a press release saying that the president himself needs to take responsibility.)" (ForeignPolicy)

"As Ankara is discovering, the resurgence of a nation can be an awkward and rocky process. Things were simpler for Turkey in the early part of the past decade when the regional climate allowed Turkey to re-emerge cautiously, with a white flag in hand and phrases like 'zero problems with neighbors' on its lips. The region has since become far more unforgiving, with violent political transformations nipping at Anatolia's borders, Iran putting up stiff competition for regional influence, Russia's resurgence proceeding apace and the United States increasingly losing interest in the role of global policeman. The region is pushing Turkey into action regardless of whether Ankara is ready to take on the responsibility. The past week offered several glimpses into Turkey's growing pains. Turkish and Syrian border troops shelled each other after Syrian mortar fire killed five Turkish civilians. Turkish fighter jets scrambled after the Syrian air force attacked a town along the Syrian side of the border. Turkish-Russian tensions also flared when Turkey intercepted a Syria-bound plane from Moscow allegedly carrying radar equipment. And a nervous Ankara watched as a coalition of Kurdish groups from Syria, northern Iraq, Iran and Turkey gathered in Paris to brainstorm ways to exploit the shifting regional landscape and propel a campaign for Kurdish statehood." (STRATFOR)

"Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni stopped for a quick meal at Amaranth on the Upper East Side and loaded up on more than $1,000 of takeout for their private jet. The glamorous couple dined on Sunday with a group of seven. A witness told us, 'Sarkozy drinks only French red, while Carla prefers Italian white wine. However they always order the same meal. They were flying out, and they couldn’t resist ordering $1,100 worth of food to go, including four pizzas.' Owner Paola Pedrignani had to bicycle up to her sister restaurant Gina La Fornarina, on East 91st Street, to collect the pizzas made just as Carla likes them — crispy crust and soft cheese." (PageSix)

"Last week, this column took the first in a two-part break from Oscar-related dish to profile 10 deserving underdog actresses from this year's batch of films.The group included some who have definite shots like Emmanuelle Riva ('Amour') to more than a few that sadly have pretty much no Oscar chance whatsoever, like Melanie Lynskey ('Hello I Must Be Going') and Ann Dowd ('Compliance'). This second part works in a similar vein, except this time it takes a look at the boys' club.There's definitely a few good men locked into both male acting categories this year, including powerhouses like Daniel Day-Lewis, Denzel Washington and Joaquin Phoenix in the lead category, and Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee Jones and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in supporting (check out an updated weekly prediction charts here). But there's still a little bit of wiggle room, perhaps the same sort that brought performances from tiny films like 'Winter's Bone' (John Hawkes, who is looking strong for a nom this year for 'The Sessions') and 'The Messenger' (Woody Harrelson) into the mix. So perhaps one or two of the following will indeed end up in the running. Commenters should once again keep in mind that the list purposely does not include work that looks like a good bet for a nomination (such as the aforementioned Hawkes) and that it only includes films currently scheduled for release during the 2012 eligibility period (leaving out James Franco's work . With that said, here are 10 underdog actors for your consideration." (IndieWIRE)

"Howard (Stern) started the show talking about The Walking Dead ratings. Howard said Sunday night's season premiere got like 16 million viewers. Robin said that's like network numbers. Howard said he had to double check on those numbers. Howard said people passed out when he said that. Howard looked for the numbers and found 10.9 total viewers. Howard said he thought the NY Post had different numbers. Howard asked Gary if he has it. Gary said the NY Times had it as 10.9 too. Howard said he has to check the post again. Howard found it in the spot and they had it as 11 million. Howard said he thought it was 16. Howard said for AMC that's insane numbers. Gary said it beat every non-sporting event this entire season. Howard said maybe he reversed his numbers for football and that show. Robin said cable channels don't get those kind of numbers. Howard said he loves that show. He said Showtime has great shows and AMC has great shows." (Marksfriggin)
"Last week, Africa Foundation held its annual gala dinner, raising $240,000 for rural community development in Africa. The distinguished guest for the evening was Honorable George Monyemangene, South African Consul General. Keynote Speaker was Dominic Salvatore, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Ph.D. Program in Economics, Fordham University. Master of Ceremonies was Richard Wiese, Host and Producer of ABC series 'Born to Explore.' Eliza Osborne, Vice President, Sotheby's, was auctioneer. Guests included Alex Kuczynski, Chris and Richard Mack, Frances Schultz, Jennifer Creel, Jennifer Kennedy, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Nina Griscom, Patty Raynes and Sara Ayers." (NYSocialDiary)

"Bernie Ecclestone is a gnomish Brit ex-grease monkey. He is my neighbor in Gstaad, the small alpine Swiss village which once upon a time was the Mecca of the old rich and titled but is now slowly turning into the playground of the nouveaux riches and vulgar. I’ve often written about Bernie because for a very short man, he has a very long reach. About ten years or so ago he bought a beautiful old inn, a Gstaad landmark used by both locals and tourists, and turned it into a chic boutique type of restaurant/hotel whose prices only the very rich can afford. I wrote about it in the Spectator, and Bernie answered that it was not his fault my finances were not up to it. Par for the course. He recently purchased yet another chalet for his daughters, both of whom are experts in knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. Ecclestone is a multi-billionaire, having made his fortune as owner of Formula I Grand Prix racing, whatever that means. Bernie doesn’t own the teams that race, nor the courses where the racing takes place, yet somehow he has made billions for reasons that escape me." (Taki Theodoracopulos)



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