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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Successful lawyers and high school sweethearts Fred Mwangaguhunga and Notoya Green got two things right from the start – entrepreneurship and love. In the 12 years they dated before tying the knot, the kindred soul mates kept their long-distance love afloat throughout their college years, then once reunited in their hometown of New York City, they even managed to stay together while enduring the tedious strains of full-time law school. By the time they were both practicing attorneys, they were already co-owners of a successful laundry delivery business and experts at balancing careers and love. A few years later, Mwangaguhunga founded popular urban celebrity gossip websiteMediaTakeout.com, which quickly became a multi-million dollar business. Two years after the couple took their vows, they received news of their next big challenge – raising triplets. Green left her post as a family law attorney to take on her biggest job offer yet – being a devoted full-time mom of three. That’s when her popular parenting blog, TripletsInTribeca.com, was born. The dynamic duo just celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary, and while Mwangaguhunga continues to work determinedly to further the growth of their family empire, Green says her most rewarding work is still being done at home." (Essence.com)


"Take Tony Blair, the former British prime minister. In September, Mr. Blair was called to Claridge’s hotel in London to mediate a renegotiation of the proposed acquisition of Xstrata by Glencore, according to British news reports. Mr. Blair, who negotiated peace in Northern Ireland, put his skills to good use, apparently earning himself roughly $1 million for three hours of work.That’s not a bad hourly rate, and it’s in addition to the reported $4 million a year he is paid by JPMorgan Chase to be a senior adviser and 'provide briefings on political trends.' You’ll be happy to know, by the way, that Mr. Blair was able to save the Xstrata deal. Wall Street likes former politicians for lots of reasons. Perhaps like Mr. Blair they are good negotiators or mediators when a deal needs to be done ... . Al Gore shows that you can use Wall Street to become superrich and do it in the name of a cause, all while building your own franchise. Mr. Gore is a co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management and a senior partner of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He’s also a senior adviser to Google and a member of Apple’s board, where he has options on about 98,000 Apple shares, according to the company’s last proxy statement. Apple, by the way, is trading at about $580 a share. You do the math. Mr. Gore’s efforts are part of his mission to alert the world to global warming and embrace the environmental causes he firmly believes in. It’s unclear what the former vice president does at Kleiner, but Generation Investment is focused on investing in sustainable companies ... Sometimes it’s not for a cause, but simply for the money. Mr. Gore’s former boss, Bill Clinton, is most widely known in his post-presidential period for his work with the Clinton Global Initiative. But the former president has also made millions working in finance. Mr. Clinton was an adviser to Ronald W. Burkle’s investment firm, the Yucaipa Companies, and made at least $15 million in that position.Mr. Clinton’s job was apparently to promote Yucaipa and enhance Mr. Burkle’s reputation, and as Mr. Burkle put it to BusinessWeek after the two had a falling out, 'When Clinton left the presidency he had to make money, and there were certain limits on how he could do it.' Until March of this year, Mr. Clinton also served as a paid adviser to another private equity and financial consulting firm, Teneo Capital. It’s no surprise that the former president recently said that private equity was 'good work.' It was for him." (NYTimes)


"Israel's assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jaabari in a missile attack has shattered the short-lived and fragile calm in the Gaza Strip, and could be another step in the transformation of the basic balance of power within Hamas -- and even the broader Palestinian national movement. The attack is the most significant escalation since Operation Cast Lead, the offensive Israel launched in Gaza in December 2008, and which cost an estimated 1,400 Palestinian and 13 Israeli lives. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced that Jaabari's killing was the first strike in 'a widespread campaign' to 'protect Israeli civilians and to cripple the terrorist infrastructure' -- and indeed, the IDF hit a number of targets across Gaza in the hours that followed, killing at least eight Palestinians. It's possible that these developments are laying prelude to another Israeli ground intervention in Gaza. On Nov. 11, Israel's Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter declared, 'Israel must perform a reformatting of Gaza, and rearrange it' -- but gave no indication of what that dire-sounding phrase might mean in practice.It is impossible to know how the conflict will unfold in the days ahead, but what is clear is that the outbreak of violence is the result of a swirl of events that are reshaping power structures within Hamas and its relationships with regional forces, including with Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. During most of the period since Cast Lead, the Hamas rulers in Gaza have refrained from attacks against Israel and tried to prevent other militant groups from launching attacks as well. But as 2012 has progressed, that policy has changed -- largely due to internal transformations within the group itself." (ForeignPolicy)



"On Oct. 19, Lebanese Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan was assassinated on a narrow side street near Sassine Square in downtown Beirut. The attack involved the detonation of a moderately sized vehicle-borne improvised explosive device as al-Hassan's car passed by the vehicle in which the device was hidden. The explosion killed not only al-Hassan and his driver but also six other people and wounded about 90 more. Al-Hassan, the intelligence chief for Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, had been a marked man for some time prior to his death. He was the security chief for former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in February 2005 in an attack that most believe was conducted by the Syrian regime and its allies in Lebanon. But more recently, as Stratfor noted in February 2012, al-Hassan played a critical role channeling support from the Gulf states and the West to the Syrian rebels through Lebanon. This involved smuggling arms from Lebanon to Syria destined for opposition forces, providing a haven for Syrian defectors in Lebanon and allowing Syrian rebels to use Lebanese territory as a staging ground for attacks in Syria. His part in the Syrian opposition movement clearly made him a prime target for Syrian intelligence and indeed the Syrian regime had previously attempted to assassinate al-Hassan -- one such plot was thwarted in early 2012 by Jordanian intelligence, which caught wind of the plot and passed a warning to Lebanese authorities.
Al-Hassan was doing dangerous work in a dangerous place, and he knew he was a marked man." (STRATFOR)



"Crystal Ball Senior Columnist Alan Abramowitz points out in the chart below that how a state voted in 2008 was predictive of how it voted in 2012. The correlation between President Obama’s margin in 2012 and his margin in 2008 across all 50 states and D.C. is .96. In other words, you can closely predict Obama’s margin in 2012 almost perfectly from his margin in 2008; his drop from 2008 to 2012 was fairly uniform, and limited the number of electoral votes he lost from 2008. The biggest outliers are Utah, where Obama did substantially worse than expected in 2012, and Alaska, where he did substantially better than expected. Mitt Romney’s Mormonism probably explains why Obama underperformed in Utah, and Sarah Palin’s absence from the national ticket might explain Obama’s uptick in Alaska. To see the change in the Democratic coalition over the years, first look at Appalachia. The mountainous region stretching from New York in the north all the way to Mississippi in the South was at one time a decent source of votes for Democratic presidential candidates: Southern Democrats Jimmy Carter (in 1976) and Bill Clinton (in 1992 and 1996) — the last two Democratic presidents before Obama — did reasonably well in the region in their victories: Carter won more than two-thirds of the 428 Appalachian counties in 1976, and Clinton won close to half (see chart below). In this election, the region was unkind to Obama; he won only 7% of Appalachian counties in his successful reelection bid last week. In fact, Obama lost every county in West Virginia, the only state wholly contained in Appalachia.  Obama’s failures in rural Appalachia are worth noting, but even more so are Romney’s setbacks in the nation’s 50 most populous counties.
Romney won only six of the nation’s 50 largest counties (as measured by the Census Bureau). This was a significant drop-off from the last two winning Republican presidents, George W. Bush in 2004 — who won 16 of these 50 counties in 2004 — and George H.W. Bush in 1988 — who won a majority of these counties, 29-21, in his victory over Michael Dukakis." (SabatosCrystalBall)


"I was recently at a tony wedding party—it was really fun! Hooray for love!—and all the women there were talking about, among other things of course, their dresses. It was all 'Oh I got this at a sample sale' and the like. Everyone wanted to be clear that she hadn't paid full price. Many of them even hadn't. It was as if buying retail was a crime. And it was slightly scandalous (as if it were, like, 1890) that one somewhat New York-famous guest was wearing sneakers. They looked like Vans, people thought. But I pointed out that they were in fact Bottega Veneta sneakers—so, expensive, suede, woven vans—which retail for $560. So that was actually okay, I think. This party took place the same weekend as Laurel Touby and Jon Fine's 'Housewarming and Art Party.' 'Three long years ago,' the invitation went, 'we invited our friends to a Housebreak party at our new apartment. With the assistance of giant Sharpies, spray paint, and sledgehammers, many of you played an invaluable role in the earliest stage of our renovation.' Among the invitees to this housewarming were novelist (etc.) Kurt Andersen, Flavorpill's Mark Mangan, Craigslist's Craig Newmark and enduring New York guest list names like Felix Salmon and Daniel Radosh. Not so fancy really This is what their apartment looked like three years ago. This is what it looks like now. As she told the New York Times in a profile in today's Home section, she bought the apartment for $3.9 million (actually, $3,905,000, according to city records, to be precise), from Natalie and Steven Judelson, lawyers who now make artisanal sea salt in Amagansett, and then "renovated and furnished it for an additional $2 million." Touby describes the apartment as being "in the heart" of Silicon Alley; it is not, it is really located somewhere near the left ear of Silicon Alley. Touby bought the pad with the money she received from the sale of the company Mediabistro, in 2007. Estimates as to her actual take-home varied at the time; New York solidly put it at $12 million, as she owned 60% of the company, so that's a minimum, though that doesn't count any of the traditionally tasty post-sale executive retention fees." (Choire Sicha)

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