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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Media-Whore D'oeuvres











   


"KABUL, Afghanistan — AFTER decades roaming the margins of power — as a close aide to the revered resistance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, as a foreign minister and later as Afghanistan’s perennial opposition leader — Abdullah Abdullah may finally be arriving at the center of it all.
Since his electoral loss to President Hamid Karzai in 2009, Mr. Abdullah, who is of mixed Pashtun and Tajik ethnicity, has widened his political base, having used persuasion and energy to forge alliances built on the core of ethnic Tajik supporters he made during his days as part of the Northern Alliance mujahedeen coalition. His critics have seized on that history and say that as president he will be a threat to national unity. They argue that his close relationships with powerful regional warlords raise the specter of more of the cronyism and corruption that the Afghan public resents, and will risk alienating ethnic Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in the country. But the true response to that criticism, his supporters say, is in his widening coalition, and in his commanding lead during the first round of presidential voting in April. Mr. Abdullah garnered 45 percent of the vote in the first round, compared with 33 percent for his closest competitor, Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank official. The result proved wrong the analysts who said that it would be impossible for a candidate not viewed as an ethnic Pashtun to fill the front-runner role. Now, as he faces a runoff election against Mr. Ghani, a Pashtun, on Saturday, nearly every significant presidential candidate from the first round — all of them Pashtuns — has endorsed Mr. Abdullah’s ticket. Despite that rallying of support, some analysts predict that the runoff vote will be much closer than the first round, as many Pashtun voters line up behind Mr. Ghani because of shared ethnicity. Mr. Abdullah rejects that notion, arguing that he is a unity candidate capable of stitching together the country’s myriad groups with a message of national resilience. 'There will be a lot of news about this issue,' he said in an interview, 'but among the people I don’t think it will be a big deal.'" (NYT)



"Even with the aid of his prodigious recreational drug intake, it is doubtful the late Hunter S Thompson ever imagined that the 'gonzo' journalism genre he pioneered in the 1960s would one day spawn a business worth $2bn. This week Vice, the anarchic digital media group that is the natural heir to Thompson’s all-excess style, hit those heights. Time Warner is negotiating to acquire a stake of more than 30 per cent, which would value Vice at $2bn – not bad for a company that started life as a Canadian music magazine. Shane Smith, Vice’s 44-year-old hard-partying chief executive, co-founder and largest shareholder, dislikes the word 'gonzo' to describe Vice’s style of journalism. Eighteen months ago, when he came close to breaking a record for the volume of alcohol drunk in a Lunch with the FT interview (three bottles of rosé), he said he preferred the term 'immersionism', adding that Vice journalists 'immerse ourselves and press record'. It is a strategy that has propelled the company and its staff into 36 countries and turned it into a multiplatform brand, operating a global network of digital channels covering news, sport, technology and music. Vice has a news show on Time Warner’s HBO network, a branding agency that has produced campaigns for clients such as Vodafone and Nike, and production facilities that churn out 70 original news-driven video series. Its video reports range from the hard-hitting and serious – slave labour in Pakistan’s brick kilns, for example – to the bizarre, such as the piece filed from the Westminster dog show (the US equivalent of Crufts) by a correspondent on LSD. This blend has won credibility with 'millennials' and helped forge long-term relationships with companies such as chipmaker Intel, which are eager to burnish their brands with Vice’s edginess and cool." (FT)



"Gstaad—A slight bump at 30,000 feet concentrates the mind, as the good Dr. Johnson said about an appointment with the gallows. Halfway over the Atlantic and lost in a fantasy, I came back in a hurry as the plane shook and trembled, yet my first thought was to show off, pretend I hadn’t noticed, exhibit a kind of brazen indifference while my co-passengers nervously tightened their seatbelts. It was only a bump, the nose dipped and then pulled up rather violently, but it lasted less than half a minute, hence my bravado. (I suspect the automatic pilot was the culprit.) .... And speaking of jokes, at the last dinner party I attended in the Bagel, a very beautiful princess of the German persuasion said that Wendi Deng’s behavior was unacceptable because she did what she did with Tony Blair in her husband’s house. I countered that it was the fault of Rupert Murdoch, who should have known he was marrying trouble. I am a Murdoch fan, but basically Rupert’s folly was due to old age. Where am I going with this? That’s an easy one. The biggest error an oldie can commit is to try and recapture his youth, especially where women are concerned. Rupert is neither the first nor the last to get it as wrong as he did. Oldies hate the modern world because they cannot envision it without them. I loathe it because it changed while I was still alive. The bump in the mid-Atlantic had an oxygenating effect but as I already said, only briefly. Now it’s summertime, party time, and girls in their summer dresses time. It’s good to be alive, so all you oldies out there rejoice. Unless you have to pay alimony to Wendi Deng, life’s a peach." (Taki)



By Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images; inset, by Frazer Harrison.


"In a move that would likely make Jordan Belfort say, 'Whoa, that is absurdly extravagant, bro,' Belfort’s Wolf of Wall Street portrayer, Leonardo DiCaprio, has reportedly taken over the fifth-largest super-yacht in the world for World Cup partying purposes. According to the Daily Mail, DiCaprio and 20 of his friends are going to be staying on the $678 million, 482-foot yacht—named Topaz—during the weeks-long sporting event. The yacht is owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and also owner of the Manchester City soccer team. The boat was made custom for Sheikh Mansour—whose personal fortune is estimated at $4.9 billion—in 2012; the Daily Mail notes that it is unclear whether DiCaprio is renting it or borrowing it. (Perhaps Leo Venmo-ed him the amount, entering 'YACHT-zee' when the app asked, 'What’s it for?') This is not, it turns out, DiCaprio’s first time on the Topaz, as the actor co-hosted an 80s-themed party on the ship—which features 'a deck top Jacuzzi, a swimming pool, fitness hall, cinema, and large conference room'—in April, with Jamie Foxx and Orlando Bloom, according to the Daily Mail. (The yacht also has two helicopter landing pads, for those times when you have Javier flying in from St. Tropez with the foie gras molded into the shapes of different zoo animals, and Persephone flying in from Ibiza with the custom-made champagne Slip-N-Slide, within minutes of one another.) DiCaprio was spotted at the Brazil-Croatia game on Thursday, in his usual newsboy cap and shades, adorning his Leo DiCaprio uniform with a festive Brazil scarf around his neck." (Vanity Fair)




"An heir to the famed Rockefeller family was killed in a single-engine plane crash on Friday just moments after he took off in wet, foggy conditions from Westchester County Airport, authorities said. Maine doctor Richard Rockefeller, 64, had just celebrated the 99th birthday of his billionaire philanthropist dad, David — and was attempting to fly home to Maine at 8:08 a.m. when tragedy struck. His Piper 46 Malibu Meridian slammed into tree tops and a horse farm about a half-mile from the end of the runway near SUNY Purchase, sending pieces of debris more than 100 feet in all directions. 'It’s a terrible tragedy,' said family spokesman Fraser Seitel. 'Richard was a wonderful cherished son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. He was an experienced pilot.' Rockefeller, who expected to land back in Portland, Maine around 9:25 a.m., nearly struck a home on Cottage Avenue with the 3,500 pound aircraft. George Ventricelli, who owns the South Horse Stables, said the plane came within 50 feet of the house, but none of the residents or horses were hurt. Investigators are looking at whether poor visibility, wind and morning mist played a role in the crash." (NYPost)


Illustration by James Ferguson of Edmund Phelps©James Ferguson
Edmund Phelps (James Ferguson)


"Phelps won the 2006 Nobel Memorial Prize in economics for path-breaking work of the 1960s, particularly on the 'natural rate of unemployment' – the idea that monetary policy cannot alter the long-run rate of unemployment. Born in 1933, Phelps grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and has been at Columbia since 1971. He is, in my view, a true Yankee, promoting the dynamism that made the north of the US the most dynamic, and enterprising region of the planet from the middle of the 19th century into the 20th century. In his latest book, Mass Flourishing (2013), Phelps calls the desire of individuals to shape their lives 'modern values'.We settle on pumpkin soup as remedy for a cold Alpine day, followed by tagliatelle for me and veal carpaccio (a second starter) for him. We stick with mineral water and focus on debating his ideas. Phelps starts by telling me that at a dinner for Nobel laureates at Davos he had argued that 'the state of Europe is not described simply by the financial crisis but is also due to a loss of innovation that happened a long time ago. For a while this was not visible because Europe transferred technology from the US. But the growth of productivity in the US also fell from the early 1970s. Then Europe was living on borrowed time.'What, I ask, led to writing Mass Flourishing? He tells me he started thinking about capitalism and socialism in the 1990s. But 'it was only around 2002 that I began to think about creativity. I realised that the economics profession was mired in the idea that advance is ultimately the result of scientific discovery.'" (FT)




Simply seersucker: James LaForce, Laurie Haspel Aronson, Brenner Thoma s, and Tom Wallis.


"I went to Michael’s to lunch with Peter Lyden, who is the President of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, a post he assumed only three months ago. We’ve known each other professionally for probably two decades. He was the executive in charge of fund raising and development for the American Ballet Theatre and most recently for the American Museum of Natural History. I don’t know much about that field of endeavor (raising money for cultural purposes) although I do know that it is, in New York anyway, very big business. These men and women are the ones who pass the plate amongst the gilded classes, their foundations and corporations. It takes a special kind of talent to tune a personal exchequer. No one has ever bothered (as it would be pointless) to include me in such endeavors since I am a humble (sometimes), poor (relatively), writer  ... Meanwhile most of our conversation yesterday was about mutual friends (of which we have many), as well as the crowd in the lunchroom at Michael’s yesterday. At Table One in the bay, Shari Rollins was celebrating a birthday with Nancy Collins, Lyn Paulsen, Bess Friedman, Jolie Hunt, Susie Friedman, and Shari’s husband the uber-political advisor, Ed Rollins ... At a big table in the middle of the front room were several men, all in seersucker jackets and suits and one raven-haired young woman wearing a pale peach seersucker jacket. Her name, I learned, was Laurie Haspel Aronson from Baton Rouge. She is the President and CEO of Haspel, the men’s suit manufacturer started by Laurie’s great-grandfather down there in Louisiana." (NYSD)













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"Bill Murray continues his streak of appearing where you least expect him. This time it was in a couple’s engagement photo. Ashley Donald and Erik Rogers were shooting their engagement photos in downtown Charleston, SC, when they encountered the 63-year-old 'Groundhog Day' star on Wednesday. According to a blog post by Fia Forever photographer Raheel Gauba, initially the actor just seemed like someone who was trying to distract the couple ... Never one to let the opportunity for bizarre fun pass him by, the actor sauntered up to the couple and posed for one shot, before disappearing into the afternoon.This is the second time Murray’s found time for impromptu fun in Charleston over the last month. Late last month, video surfaced showing the actor sharing some words of wisdom at a bachelor party he happened upon." (P6)

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