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Saturday, March 09, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"It’s hard to drag an elephant into a room. But once there, it’s surprisingly easy to ignore. Such was the case during Kenya’s presidential campaign, which concluded this week. After a series of galling technical mishaps, the latest vote count delivered the presidency to deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto. The elephant of course, is the fact that both are under indictment by the International Criminal Court, accused of inciting, organizing and funding ethnically motivated violence against political rivals—or as these actions are otherwise known, crimes against humanity. Ironically enough, Kenyatta and Ruto's trials evolved from a gruesome spate of violence during Kenya’s last elections, in 2007. After a tense campaign between incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, the tally was announced and Kibaki immediately sworn in. It was the last thing many voters saw; minutes later, the televisions went black. The ensuing indignation of Odinga supporters—which at the time included Ruto’s support base—quickly escalated into a campaign of violent reprisals, placing poor Kenyans on farms and in slums alike at the center of pent-up tribal grievance. After six weeks of chaos, global diplomats intervened, and Odinga was declared runner up and prime minister. Twelve hundred people were dead, and over 350,000 were displaced. Two years later, Kenyan courts had barely begun to address the matter of justice for those killed or ruined by the clash." (TNR)


"Analytics savant Nate Silver and his team at the FiveThirtyEight blog have hit a wall with the upcoming papal election. They will not be sticking their necks out with a prediction for the conclave vote, citing a dearth of conventional polling data to plug into their models. Sitting out the most-watched election on the planet speaks to the difficulties of building a statistical model to short-list the papabili, or men most likely to be appointed pope. The outcome of the papal conclave vote is far more difficult to forecast than, say, a political election. For starters, you have to account for a two-thirds clinching vote rather than a simple majority. Secondly, historical voting data from the College of Cardinals will get you only so far. For example, 67 of the 115 cardinal electors voting in this conclave (or, 58 percent) are first-timers. Still, these obstacles aren’t stopping Vatican watchers and oddsmakers from predicting the next pontiff. They contend there is enough available data to crunch from previous conclaves to handicap the 2013 field. After running the numbers, here is what the papal forecasters have to say about the upcoming vote ... As conclave veteran John L. Allen Jr. wrote in National Catholic Reporter last week, you can throw out the old bromide, 'He who enters as pope exits as a cardinal.” Allen crunched the data on the past six conclaves dating back to 1939, concluding that there has only been one complete stunner—Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, elected Pope John Paul II in 1978. All other future popes entered the conclave riding a wave of positive buzz. This time round, many oddsmakers, including Oddschecker.com and Paddy Power, are tipping Italian cardinals Angelo Scola and Tarcisio Bertone and Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson as the ones to watch, with Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston emerging as a dark-horse candidate." (Businessweek)



"Lucian Grainge is slightly overstating the glamour of my job, and I tell him Lunch with the FT is a rare chance for a journalist in 2013 to file a meaty expenses claim. 'The FT are paying for this?' he replies. 'Oh! I’ve got to do the classic rock’n’roll thing: not look at the menu, just order the most expensive thing.' The 52-year-old chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Group, behind artists from Amy Winehouse to Justin Bieber, learnt rock’n’roll’s high running costs early in his career, when he took the Damned to lunch in Paris in the mid-1980s. 'We’re on the Champs-Elysées and I was sitting there with Rat Scabies. We had a number one record at the time; they’d done a cover of ‘Eloise’ and we’re all sitting there, very grand, very grown-up, and he just opened up the menu and closed it.' Scabies, the band’s drummer, explained that whenever the record company was paying they would simply order the priciest food, Grainge recalls. 'And the meal eventually comes and it’s inedible, of course, because he ordered everything that no one would normally ever eat.' Grainge lets out one of the long, unrestrained laughs that punctuate his conversation. He is in a good mood. Universal artists and songwriters such as Frank Ocean and Mumford & Sons are in line for Grammy awards the weekend following our meeting, and, as Grainge knows but is not supposed to say, Billboard, the industry magazine, is about to crown him the most powerful person in the music business. The loose ends on the deal that won the Londoner that title – a £1.2bn swoop on EMI by Universal that required months of negotiations with regulators and rivals – were tied up hours before our meeting with the sale to Warner Music of Parlophone, the EMI label behind Coldplay and Sigur Rós that he was forced to divest to get the deal through. I cannot help but wonder if he engineered the announcement for Lunch with the FT’s benefit. 'I’m good but I’m not that good,' he laughs." (FT)


"For Jeff Zucker, the new president of CNN Worldwide, Job No. 1 is to create stars and conjure up a sense of excitement at the previously moribund cable news network. One thing is clear: Zucker certainly has a sense of urgency. Once, following its impressive coverage of Desert Storm, CNN dominated the cable-news landscape. Then, throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century, it committed the cardinal sin for any company: It believed its press clippings and became complacent. Over the past decade, it has meandered from one broadcast style to another and slipped far behind the Fox News Channel in the television ratings. It even found itself locked in a struggle with MSNBC for No. 2 in the cable sweepstakes. Zucker recognizes that television news is a business in which strong personalities command the steadiest and strongest followings. At NBC's 'Today' show, back in his glory days, he helped make Katie Couric into America's Sweetheart and boosted the career of Matt Lauer. Zucker showed an understanding of what the market wanted — and he provided it. Today, with viewers in the United States now enjoying so many alternatives, the journalists with the most clearly defined on-air styles have the best shots of cutting through the cable clutter. In prime time, for example, they tend to talk tough and sometimes even look a little tough, too. Above all, though, throughout the broadcast day their most marketable asset is their innate ability to make viewers care about what they're saying. Zucker wants to grab viewers by their lapels. By plucking Jake Tapper and Chris Cuomo from ABC News, for instance, he has already begun to demonstrate that he wants journalists who can define just as much of a viewer's TV-watching experience as the content itself — more so, actually." (TheFiscalTimes)


"At 10 p.m. on a Friday night in a private room on the 14th Floor of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital on 68th and York Avenue, my mother was lying in her bed hallucinating, in that dream space people go on their way to being gone. She spoke of seeing trees, possibly a forest. And she mentioned to Nick, my stepfather, that she had been to the theater where her play was showing and that the audience was full. In reality, she had not left the hospital in a month, and the play, 'Lucky Guy,' was nearly a year away from opening. My brother, Max, and I stood there in disbelief. Though it had been weeks since her blood count showed any sign of improvement, the gravity of the situation had crept up on us. Mom’s housekeeper, Linda Diaz, who had worked for her for 25 years, was in the corner sobbing. At some point, a team of doctors and nurses arrived to assess the situation, and Mom became slightly more lucid. 'Can you tell me your name?' one of them asked. 'Nora Ephron,' she said, nodding. 'Can you tell me where you are?' 'New York Hospital.' 'Who is the president of the United States?' At this point, my mother looked annoyed, gave a roll of the eyes and refused to answer the question, which later on was the source of some debate between Max and me about whether her sarcasm and humor remained even as her memory and focus faded or whether she was simply irritated at being treated like an infant." (NYTimes)

 
"I recently addressed The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society for the Kilburn Lecture on 'The Future of the Olympic Games.' Instituted in 1781, the learned society is Britain’s second oldest after the Royal Society. John Dalton, the father of modern chemistry, was one of its important past members. My NBF Peter Barnes (I had to explain to him the acronym meant New Best Friend) picked me up at the airport and whisked me to the Manchester Metropolitan University and in 45 minutes I had changed into evening clothes and was facing a jolly audience of bearded professors, smiling ladies, and an all-around appreciative audience that laughed at my jokes and was extremely generous with their applause. I spoke for 45 minutes and had an intelligent question-and-answer period of 15 minutes. One gentleman asked me why Lindsay Lohan hadn’t come with me, and I told him that, alas, she was most likely in jail and thus incapable of travel ... I began with a short history of the Games that first took place in 776 BC. I mentioned Arrachion, the famous pankration athlete who won his third medal posthumously because just as he expired he broke the toe of his opponent, who surrendered. Nero tarnished the Games in 67 AD by disqualifying all entrants and winning the chariot race unopposed. By 339 AD, the Games were abolished because they had become too corrupt.  I then ran through my favorite moments of the modern Olympics: Bob Mathias winning the decathlon in 1948 as a 17-year-old Californian of Greek extraction, and with his Apollo-like looks repeating four years later; Emil Zátopek’s 1952 triple victory in the 5,000, the 10,000, and the marathon; the German Armin Hary winning the 100 meters in Rome in 1960; my friend Tony Madigan beating Cassius Clay—AKA Muhammad Ali—in the boxing semifinals in Rome and being robbed by the judges; and the barefoot Ethiopian sergeant Abebe Bikila smiling his way through the Villa Borghese gardens and down the Via Veneto while receiving the greatest cheers from the Roman crowd." (Taki)



"On Tuesday, March 5, 2013, The Associates Committee of The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center hosted the 22nd Annual Bunny Hop at FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue, New York's legendary toy store. A Society tradition and the most high-profile family event of the year, the Bunny Hop is a thrilling and magical evening for families and children of all ages. Sponsored by Tiffany & Co., almost 900 guests attended including The Society's members, celebrity guests and New York families. The Event Co-Chairs were Alexandra D. Edwards, Nina Garcia Conrad, Melissa Meister and Marcie Pantzer, with Debra Messing serving as Honorary Chairman. The event raised over $311,000 to benefit the Pediatric Family Housing Endowment. The fund pays for overnight stays at special nearby accommodations when children and their families come from out of town for treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's renowned Pediatric Department and are unable to afford this expense." (NYSocialDiary)

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