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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres





Kevin Mirallas of Belgium has a shot saved by Tim Howard of the U.S. during the World Cup round-of-16 match on July 1 in Salvador, Brazil
Photograph by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images





"Whatever the ratings for the final match in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has been a record-setting success on television in the U.S. The match between the U.S. and Portugal on ESPN on June 22 drew a record audience for soccer, with an average of 18.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen (NLSN). On Univision, Mexico’s match with the Netherlands on June 29 set the viewership record for any U.S. Spanish-language telecast at 10.4 million viewers. Almost 25 million people watched the U.S. play Portugal on the two networks, about 10 million more than the average for the National Basketball Association finals and Major League Baseball’s World Series. For Walt Disney’s (DIS) ABC and ESPN, which hold rights to English-language telecasts in the U.S., total viewership through the first 60 matches is up 42 percent over the 2010 World Cup. For Univision, the Spanish-language rights holder, viewership is up 38 percent over 2010. These figures don’t include record traffic on the two networks’ streaming services or the crowds watching at bars.
Celebrations at ESPN and Univision, however, will be muted and short-lived. The immediate financial benefit to the networks is minimal, since most of the advertising inventory for the tournament was sold well ahead of time—and likely at rates pegged to lower viewership. 'The bulk of the advertising, the 70 or 80 percent that was presold, that was not presold on these numbers,' says Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago consulting firm SportsCorp." (BusinessWeek)






Three Iron Dome rockets explode to intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip by Palestinians militants, as seen from the Israel-Gaza border in southern Israel,  on July 10
Photograph by Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Photo







"Israel’s astonishingly effective Iron Dome air defense has prevented Hamas from killing Israeli Jews and spreading terror in the civilian population. Ironically, though, the better Iron Dome works, the less sympathy the rest of the world has for a nation that remains under rocket attack.
Israel hardly feels like a place under assault from close range. Bars, restaurants, and the Mediterranean beaches are still busy. Businesses are open. Although traffic is lighter than normal, the roads are hardly abandoned. Incoming rockets that would ordinarily wreak havoc are being blown up in the air, causing nothing but a boom, a puff of white smoke, and falling debris. Iron Dome’s success rate hovers around 90 percent. No other system in the world is as effective in shooting down short-range and medium-range rockets. I was in Jerusalem as a tourist on Thursday afternoon when Iron Dome went into action in the city for the first time. An alarm sounded. We pulled our rental car to the side of the road, jumped out, and lay flat on the ground in a patch of dirt and stones next to the central bus station. People were prostrating themselves all across what passes in Jerusalem for a small park. Others continued to stand. Within a minute we heard muffled booms. We looked up and saw small, wispy clouds in the blue sky—the aftermath of the detonations. Threat over. Someone standing near me called it a miracle. The health ministry in Gaza on Friday reported that Israeli airstrikes against targets in Gaza had killed more than 100 Palestinians, with more than 500 injured. By contrast, as the Jewish Sabbath was about to begin on Friday evening, just one Israeli had died from Hamas’s rocket attacks—an elderly woman in Haifa who had a heart attack while seeking shelter. (Eight others were injured, one seriously, when a rocket hit a gas station in Ashdod on Friday morning.) But Iron Dome’s very success makes Israel look worse in the eyes of the world." (Bloomberg)















"Although China and India are often described in the West as rivals, the governments and some scholars of those countries have deliberately tried to paint a different portrait of their relationship. Since at least the first half of the twentieth century, several prominent members of Chinese and Indian elites have been in thrall to an intellectual movement known as pan-Asianism, which posits a deep cultural -- and, by extension, political -- solidarity between Asia’s two largest countries. The rhetoric of pan-Asianism has evolved over the decades, from the 'brotherly' relationship described by the Indian intellectual Rabindranath Tagore and his Chinese contemporary Liang Qichao in the early twentieth century to the euphoric 'Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai' (India-China brotherhood) celebrated by political leaders in the 1950s to the idea of 'Chindia,' put forward by the Indian politician and columnist Jairam Ramesh in our current era. The core aspect of this rhetoric has remained consistent: it has always justified present-day friendship between China and India on the basis of allegedly harmonious ancient ties. Today, diplomats and academics in both countries routinely claim that the two have enjoyed more than 2,000 years of mutual solidarity and peaceful exchange. This romanticized narrative is used as a diplomatic tool by policymakers who want to sidestep acrimonious border disputes and foster closer cultural ties between Beijing and Delhi. An increasing number of scholars, however, are acknowledging that this narrative not only distorts historical reality but also, as demonstrated by the military conflict between China and India in 1962, may not be capable of sustainably resolving tensions between the two countries. A new collection of academic essays, India in the Chinese Imagination, is an overdue effort to more accurately portray and critically examine the ancient ties between China and India, with a special focus on the role of Buddhism." (ForeignAffairs)






Cruising the Med



"Island of Rhodos—When I’m on the water, I feel I was born to it. Yachting has always been a way to enjoy the sea and the nature associated with it. The motion through water, the breeze and spray on the face, the anticipation of a landfall, the sheer beauty of leaning into the wind and watching the bowsprit plunge in and then emerge shaking water off itself like a puppy, these are some of the pleasures.  Well, I’m on a gin palace, and nothing of the above is happening. I’m a guest of John and Darcy Rigas, whose chartered mega yacht accommodates sixteen in pasha-like comfort, and to my eternal shame I’m having the time of my life. I chose the smallest of the 12 double cabins with bathroom en suite to pretend I’m on a sailboat’s cramped quarters, but it’s like slumming at the Savoy. The itinerary is Rhodes, Symi, Patmos, Mykonos, and from that sin island I fly to Gstaad, the mountains, the cows, the mother of my children, and some early nights. I can use them.
One more week in London and it would have been curtains. We ended a frantic week of partying with the Spectator’s summer party, followed by one I gave in honor of my lowlife colleague Jeremy Clarke at London’s latest hot spot, the Firehouse, a dud if there ever was one. I had a private dining room for my guests and when Lord and Lady Black came in late they sort of had to describe me physically to the staff for the penny to drop. That’s no way to treat Taki, a big spender and not even of the Arab or Russian persuasion. The evening wore on and on, so I remained dressed for my next assignment, which was to meet our loyal readers at our very home, in 22 Old Queen Street’s garden. Jeremy, whom I had left only a few hours earlier, was already there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, in a dark suit to boot and looking like the banker he’s not. I was still in my khaki one, tailored exquisitely by Anderson and Sheppard—sorry about the plug, it’s well deserved. And what fun I had, despite the Karamazovian hangover that made it feel twice as hot as it was. Brenda Murray was among the first ladies I spoke with; she is 90, a lecturer, and has been a regular Spectator reader for—get this—61 years. In other words she started to subscribe when I was 16 years old. I chatted with many others, all extremely nice, all very encouraging, some sympathizing with me about the loss of manners and the horrors of modern celebrity. My NBF, Father Julian of the Brompton Oratory, seemed interested in saving a sinner’s soul, and the way I felt after the night before, believe you me, my soul is ready." (Taki)














Robby Ayala, a comedian and employee of Niche.




"On a Monday evening in late June, Darren Lachtman surveyed the sun-dappled patio of Southern Pacific Brewing, a bar and restaurant in a cavernous warehouse in San Francisco’s Mission District. Beer in hand, he nodded toward Robby Ayala, a comedian and employee of Niche, the social media management agency Mr. Lachtman, 32, founded with a partner last July. Mr. Ayala was one of more than a dozen Niche members invited to the company-sponsored happy hour. 'He got like, 40,000 likes and shares on his last post,' Mr. Lachtman said. (That post featured Mr. Ayala, an affable 23-year old with a kind of frat-boy charm, pouring hot coffee on his bare hand.) 'The dog is down there with his 50,000 followers,' Mr. Lachtman went on, gesturing at Biggie Griffon, a pouty Brussels Griffon who sat underneath a pizza-and-cheeseburger-strewn picnic table. Known online as Biggie Smalls the Notorious D.O.G., Biggie has actually garnered more than 75,000 followers across Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr with punny posts involving rap lyrics and improbable photos. He is paid in turn to promote brands like BarkBox, a subscription service for dog accessories, on his social media feeds, with Niche brokering the deals." (NYTimes)


Illustration by Luke Waller of Vikram Pandit


"This doesn’t immediately strike me as a Vikram Pandit joint. I am waiting for the deposed chief executive of Citigroup at Felidia, a restaurant on 58th street, just below the Upper East Side in Manhattan. Sipping a glass of champagne, one woman is telling another how she recently blacked out in a hotel room – “That really freaked me out” – before praising her hairdresser Alessandro.
In bounds the wonkish, wiry Indian-born financier, who contrives to look both uncomfortable and confident in most settings. I doubt he cares about his hair even though, like his navy blue suit, it is neat, and he certainly won’t be blacking out on the fizzy water we order. In an industry where some still knock back the booze, Pandit rarely drinks and declines my suggestion of wine." (LunchFT(

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