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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"On March 26, the Belgian federal police's counterterrorism force, or Special Units, conducted a felony car stop on Hakim Benladghem, a 39-year-old French citizen of Algerian extraction. When Benladghem reacted aggressively, he was shot and killed by the police attempting to arrest him. The Special Units chose to take Benladghem down in a car stop rather than arrest him at his home because it had intelligence indicating that he was heavily armed. The authorities also knew from their French counterparts that Benladghem had been trained as a paratrooper in the French Foreign Legion.Additional intelligence showed that Benladghem had traveled extensively and that, through his travels and email and cellphone communications, he appeared to be connected to the international jihadist movement. Rather than risk a confrontation at Benladghem's apartment, where he had access to an arsenal of weapons as well as a ballistic vest and helmet, the police decided to arrest him while he was away from home and more vulnerable. The Belgian authorities did not want to risk a prolonged, bloody siege like the one that occurred in April 2012 in Toulouse, France, when French police attempted to arrest shooter Mohammed Merah. The intelligence regarding Benladghem's arsenal was confirmed when a search of his apartment revealed several weapons, including an assault rifle, a submachine gun and a tactical shotgun. He also possessed a large collection of tactical equipment, including a ballistic vest, a Kevlar helmet, a ballistic shield and two gas masks. With such equipment and training, Benladghem would have been well-equipped to not only handle an assault on his apartment but also to conduct an armed assault -- intelligence indicating that he was preparing to conduct such an attack March 27 is reportedly what led the police to try to arrest him. Authorities are still closely guarding the identities of Benladghem's targets, but given France's involvement in the case, it is likely they were transnational in nature; there are a number of such targets in Brussels, which houses NATO and EU headquarters." (STRATFOR)


"Out of nowhere, or Monaco, comes the sad news that Barbara Piasecka Johnson, who was the maid to and then third wife of J. Seward Johnson I (born 1895!), has now died, far too young at the age of 76. Ms. Johnson was busy until late out-surviving the six children of her husband from his first two marriages. Upon his death, in 1983, the Johnson and Johnson heir left all his money—$402,824,971.59—to her instead of them. They sued; the courts gave them 12% of their dad's inheritance (they all had trust funds anyway! It was just spite!) and everyone moved on happily ever after, rich as fourteen Bush families in a crockpot. In any event, it looks like a number of the kids, who weren't that much older from their Polish stepmother, have survived her. The artist J. S. Johnson II—Michael Douglas' first cousin, never forget!—lives on; he is around 83. I have mislaid my Johnson family tree. But I did just notice the other day that Ms. Johnson's husband's grandson, young Jamie Johnson, recently had a new project, called 'Black Sweater' (they make good sweaters, which I suppose is a reasonable transition from making documentaries), but it is now no longer carried on the shelves at Bergdorf Goodman. Hmm. Bless you, Barbara Johnson, embodiment of the American dream." (TheAwl)



"The Wednesday lunch at Michael’s was busy and all business. Dennis Basso with CeCe Cord; Matt Blank, CEO and Chairman of Showtime; Tom Goodman (CEO Goodman Media); Steven Haft with Bob Friedman; Bizbash.com’s David Adler; mega-literary attorney Bob Barnett; Paul Blake, writer/producer for Bway; Veranda’s Dana Caponigro; Diane Clehane, mediabistro.com columnist with Evan Shapiro; Marianne Diorio, Beauty & Style Director; Victor Garvey, Senior VP of Special Olympics; investor Leonard Harlan; political consultant Jane Hartley; Da Boyz, Dr. Gerry Imber, Michael Kramer, Andrew Bergman and Jerry Della Femina; Alexis Graham; Ralph Isham; Peter Izzo of Merrill Lynch; Cornelia Guest with former CNN President Jon Klein; Amy (Mrs. Jack) Kliger; Susan Magrino, uber-PR exec; Wednesday Martin with Elizabeth Gordon; Eva Mohr, Senior VP, Sotheby’s Realty International; John Needham, CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative, with Patty Sellers; Judy Price, National Jewelry Institute founder; Peter Price entrepreneur (husband of Judy), with Jon Patricof; David Sable, President and CEO of Young and Rubicam; Donna Solloway; Stan Shuman, investment banker; Todd Snyder; Chris-Craft private investor, Herb Siegel with John Heymann; Starwood Hotels founder Barry Sternlicht; Steve Tisch, producer, co-owner of the New York Giants; Michael Braun; Bloomberg Muse editorial director Manuela Hoelterhoff with Marilyn Perry, former chairman of the World Monuments Fund, president of the Kress Foundation; Clifford Sobel, former US Ambassador to Brazil; Cindi Berger, publicist (Dixie Chicks, Mariah Carey); Chris Meigher of Quest Media. And scores more just like ‘em." (NYSocialDiary)



"Food and Wine magazine celebrated their 25th annual Best New Chefs in a lavish affair at Pranna last night. In addition to dishes served by past winners including Scott Conant, Michael Symon, Dan Kluger, and April Bloomfield, New York’s own Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese Food) and Alex Stupak (Empellon Cocina) were among this year’s recipients. We caught up with Kristen Kish, winner of this season’s Top Chef, (above, with Top Chef Season 8 contestant Angelo Sosa) find out how the win has changed her and get the real scoop on nemesis Josie Smith-Malave." (FishbowlNY)


"One needs little more than just fingers and toes to count the number of House members who represent districts won by the other party’s presidential candidate in 2012. As mentioned here previously, just 25 House members -- nine Democrats and 16 Republicans -- hold such 'crossover' districts. Compare that to 2004, when there were 59 such seats, or 2008, when there were 83. Both Democratic and Republican strategists are going to start with these seats as they try to identify targets for the upcoming campaign, but as is clear from a district-by-district analysis, many of them are not particularly vulnerable. Although the historical data are incomplete, the 25 crossover seats are probably the fewest number after a presidential election in nearly a century. The group includes some of the longest-serving members of the House, who have established deep roots that have allowed them to fend off challengers and build strong identities in their districts. In many of these districts, the challenging party simply must play a waiting game, hoping for a retirement that creates an open seat contest. The nine Democrats can generally be put into two categories: newish members who barely won in 2012 and who present the most attractive targets for Republicans in 2014, or moderate-to-conservative lifers whose seats will be particularly vulnerable if the incumbent retires. The 16 Republicans, meanwhile, are a bit more varied. A handful of these representatives -- like Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Mike Coffman (R-CO) -- are relatively new members who were elected to favorable districts that became more Democratic in last cycle’s redistricting; others are long-time Republicans who dissuade challengers through their seniority, but whose districts would also present attractive targets in the event of a retirement; still more are members elected as part of the 2010 wave -- like Reps. Chris Gibson (R-NY), Joe Heck (R-NV) and Scott Rigell (R-VA) -- or through bad Democratic challenges (California Reps. Gary Miller and David Valadao stand out in this category).One cannot stress enough how the lack of crossover seats benefits the Republicans; despite the fact that they hold a greater number of crossover seats -- 16 for them to only nine for the Democrats -- the Republicans could lose all their crossover seats and still hold a 218-217 House majority. Democrats need to net a gain of 17 seats to win control of the House next year." (CenterforPolitics)

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