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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The first act of the new pope, a Jesuit from Argentina, was to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi, who according to Catholic tradition was told by the Lord, 'Rebuild my Church!' Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, must believe his calling is to rebuild a church devastated by sexual and financial scandal. In a broader sense, the Catholic Church is emblematic of a 21st-century ill: the failure of social institutions to adapt to the times, and the public’s loss of faith in them. One of those faltering institutions, of course, is the U.S. political system.The parallel between the Catholic Church and Washington leaped to my mind the other day while I read this sentence in TheNew York Timess outstanding analysis of papal politics: 'The next pontiff must unite an increasingly globalized church paralyzed by scandal and mismanagement under the spotlight in a fast-moving media age.' Let’s play Mad Libs with that sentence:For 'church,' substitute the name of almost any U.S. institution and for 'pontiff' substitute practically any institutional leader." (Ron Fournier)


"Nine days after the search for the World's Next Top Catholic began, the 115 cardinal-electors gathered in Vatican City have selected a new pope. The election was indicated by white smoke billowing from the Sistine Chapel, bells ringing from St. Peter's, and an old-fashioned Roman Catholic party that erupted among those who had camped outside to await the decision ... Within an hour of the ominous white-smoke sign, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran appeared on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and announced that 76-year-old Jorge Mario Bergogli, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, would succeed Benedict. Bergogli, who will go by Francis, is the first pontiff from South America to have been elected leader of the Catholic Church and, according to the Times, 'is also the first non-European leader of the church in more than 1,000 years.' (Sign-of-peace fist bump, non-European Catholics!) Having already accepted the title within the Sistine Chapel, the newly ordained pope joined Tauran on the balcony in white to offer his first address and blessing. 'I would like to thank you for your embrace,' Francis said before thanking his peers, who, he noted, 'have chosen one from far away, but here I am.' According to Reuters, the '266th pontiff in the Church's 2,000-year history faces a daunting array of problems, including sex abuse scandals, infighting within the Vatican bureaucracy and the growing spread of secularism.'" (VanityFair)


"Prime Minister David Cameron recently gave a speech that assuaged British fears concerning the power play by Brussels, one that was long on rhetoric but short on specifics. It was, however, bold and strong, articulating the anxieties of the people who have enjoyed freedoms for the last 800 years. He pledged a referendum by 2017 if he is reelected in 2015 when his mandate runs out. This is a very big “if.” And it involves the kind of deceptive rhetoric that has become so depressingly familiar in the European debate. The Brits joined the EU after an underhanded and deceitfully worded referendum led the people to believe they were joining a free-trade bloc. Ever since, there has been a stream of directives from a sclerotic Brussels bureaucracy paralyzing free enterprise and businesses’ ability to compete with a booming wider world. Brussels is bloated, monstrously costly, ineffectual, and totally corrupt. So what are the British people to do? Europe lurches from one crisis to the next: first Greece, then Spain, followed by Portugal and now Italy. The Germans are pouring vast loans into a bottomless pit, with Chancellor Angela Merkel exposing her Eastern European upbringing that the state and its servants know best. Many observers think that sooner or later the German people will revolt against the crazy price they are paying for keeping the eurozone afloat. I’m not so sure. The European dream is instilled in stone in most northern European minds, and while the southern Europeans refuse to blame themselves for the state of their finances and instead blame the Germans for the austerity measures they’ve imposed, the Brussels machine keeps rolling along, making it almost impossible to leave the common currency without leaving Europe altogether." (Taki)

"In the 1990s, the Hiltons lived here in New York at the Waldorf  Towers and in Southampton. Several years ago they resettled in Los Angeles where both Rick and Kathy grew up, but they continue to keep the connection with their East Coast friends, still spending part of their summers in Southampton. What came to mind when I saw this friendly photograph of the couple and their four now grown-up children was how all-American-as-apple-pie family they look. And yet a decade ago, they were one of the most famous families in the worldnot because of their forebear, Conrad Hilton the famous hotelier, but because of those two young women standing on either side of their mother and father. Ten years ago Paris and Nicky were the most famous sisters in the world. Nicky eventually drew back from the spotlight, but Paris at 21 was an international celebrity, selling more magazines than any movie or rock star. Andoh the talk they created every summertime, not only along the beach lanes and at the Southampton Bathing Corporation, but in all the tabloids, and on all the entertainment channels around the world. In the generation of their mother and father, that kind of celebrity would have been scandalous. Not because they did anything wrong but mainly for reason of “appearances,” what’s done and not done. In the children’s generation, it turns out the sisters were the forerunners of a whole media/entertainment industry, paving the way for all The Real Housewives  to inspiring the Kardashians and their serialized fashion-slash-notoriety-slash-TV-reality." (NYSocialDiary)



"In 1965, U.S. Navy Admiral Arthur W. Radford persuaded Walther Moreira Salles, a Brazilian banker and former ambassador to the U.S., to back a venture to produce something called niobium. At the time, there was no market or commercial use for the powdery element -- just studies suggesting that tiny amounts of it could make steel stronger and more flexible. Radford sat on the board of mining company Molycorp Inc. (MCP), which had acquired the rights to deposits of niobium in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state, and needed another investor to start digging.Moreira Salles decided to buy a majority stake in the operation, and the bet paid off. Today, the metal is present in a 10th of all new steel produced globally, for use in cars, oil pipelines and jet engines. After gradually buying out Molycorp’s interest, the family now produces 85 percent of the world’s niobium.That market dominance has helped make the mogul’s heirs Brazil’s richest family. His four sons, Fernando, Pedro, Joao and Walter, control a combined fortune of $27 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The brothers do not currently appear on any international wealth ranking. 'We created the whole market,' Tadeu Carneiro, chief executive officer of Cia. Brasileira de Metalurgia & Mineracao, the family’s niobium company, said in an interview at his office in Sao Paulo." (Bloomberg)

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