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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres






"There is a general view that Vladimir Putin governs the Russian Federation as a dictator, that he has defeated and intimidated his opponents and that he has marshaled a powerful threat to surrounding countries. This is a reasonable view, but perhaps it should be re-evaluated in the context of recent events. Ukraine is, of course, the place to start. The country is vital to Russia as a buffer against the West and as a route for delivering energy to Europe, which is the foundation of the Russian economy. On Jan. 1, Ukraine's president was Viktor Yanukovich, generally regarded as favorably inclined to Russia. Given the complexity of Ukrainian society and politics, it would be unreasonable to say Ukraine under him was merely a Russian puppet. But it is fair to say that under Yanukovich and his supporters, fundamental Russian interests in Ukraine were secure. This was extremely important to Putin. Part of the reason Putin had replaced Boris Yeltsin in 2000 was Yeltsin's performance during the Kosovo war. Russia was allied with the Serbs and had not wanted NATO to launch a war against Serbia. Russian wishes were disregarded. The Russian views simply didn't matter to the West. Still, when the air war failed to force Belgrade's capitulation, the Russians negotiated a settlement that allowed U.S. and other NATO troops to enter and administer Kosovo. As part of that settlement, Russian troops were promised a significant part in peacekeeping in Kosovo. But the Russians were never allowed to take up that role, and Yeltsin proved unable to respond to the insult.Putin also replaced Yeltsin because of the disastrous state of the Russian economy. Though Russia had always been poor, there was a pervasive sense that it been a force to be reckoned with in international affairs. Under Yeltsin, however, Russia had become even poorer and was now held in contempt in international affairs. Putin had to deal with both issues. He took a long time before moving to recreate Russian power, though he said early on that the fall of the Soviet Union had been the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. This did not mean he wanted to resurrect the Soviet Union in its failed form, but rather that he wanted Russian power to be taken seriously again, and he wanted to protect and enhance Russian national interests. The breaking point came in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution of 2004. Yanukovich was elected president that year under dubious circumstances, but demonstrators forced him to submit to a second election. He lost, and a pro-Western government took office. At that time, Putin accused the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies of having organized the demonstrations. Fairly publicly, this was the point when Putin became convinced that the West intended to destroy the Russian Federation, sending it the way of the Soviet Union. For him, Ukraine's importance to Russia was self-evident. He therefore believed that the CIA organized the demonstration to put Russia in a dangerous position, and that the only reason for this was the overarching desire to cripple or destroy Russia. Following the Kosovo affair, Putin publicly moved from suspicion to hostility to the West.The Russians worked from 2004 to 2010 to undo the Orange Revolution. They worked to rebuild the Russian military, focus their intelligence apparatus and use whatever economic influence they had to reshape their relationship with Ukraine. If they couldn't control Ukraine, they did not want it to be controlled by the United States and Europe. This was, of course, not their only international interest, but it was the pivotal one." (STRATFOR)





"The downing of Malaysian Airline MH17 by Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists 'is truly a historically defining moment,' said former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.
“If we do the things we need to do, if we are firm and clear, but also somewhat flexible, we can still give Putin the chance to redeem himself and to rejoin the community of nations,” he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: We are, in fact, facing the first use of force over territorial issues in Europe since the outbreak of World War II. Putin is doing it. I think he can be persuaded to stop if we stand united, and that means presidential leadership from the United States and consistent, continued actions and European leaders rallying with us. It’s a major challenge, but it is defining. Stephen Sestanovich, a former US ambassador to Moscow now at Columbia University, said that Putin’s past behavior made it difficult to predict which path he would take .." (DemDigest)





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"Ben Stein wrote in a bizarre magazine column last month that he’s still like a hormone-crazed teen who gets 'mad crushes' on every beautiful woman he meets. But one woman targeted by the supposedly harmless Stein told Page Six on Monday that the 69-year-old married grandfather is nothing but a manipulative leech who gave her money — and then begged to 'touch' her even though she’s pregnant. Tanya Ma, a 24-year-old pregnant performance artist, said she contacted Page Six to tell her story because she doesn’t 'want him to continue to do this to women' ... Tanya, who admits she briefly worked as an escort in Chicago, said that when she first met Stein, she thought he was interested in her as a fledgling author. 'He said he’d read my blog, and I gave him my contact information,' she said. 'We texted for about four months, then he asked me to send him pictures. He said he was very captivated and he just wanted to remember me. After a while, he started asking for more racy photos.' Then, earlier this month, 'He wanted to place me in a hotel near where he lives' in LA, Ma said. But 'the day before I was supposed to meet him, he texted me' about wanting to touch and kiss, she said. Ma said the ex-Comedy Central star wrote, 'When you get here i want to hug and kiss you. I understand you don’t want to f–k me. But i want to touch you and kiss you.' 'I knew he had developed a crush on me, but it just started to get weird,' said a grossed-out Ma, who is 18 weeks pregnant by a former beau. Growing 'horribly uncomfortable' with his antics, Ma said, she texted back: 'Ben, you may hug me and feel my baby bump, but anything more is too much for me. I’m not your girlfriend. Can’t we simply enjoy a conversation and meal? I’m pregnant.' Stein responded, 'Your note hurts my feelings. Insulting. Shows zero appreciation.'" (P6)






"Since I was five years old, I don't think I've missed more then a few Junes in London. As soon as school was out, my sister Maureen, our beloved English governess Ann "Daya" Baker, and I would board the SS America or the SS United States, which were the height of luxury at that time. And off we'd sail for a wonderful two months in London. Nowadays, except for the brief interlude of the Concorde, most travel is a nightmare. At least planes have seats that can turn into beds, which I hoped would neutralize my terrible jet lag. It didn't. When in London, we always stay with our best friend Persian beauty Kokoly Fallah, known the world over as Kooki. She kindly sent a car and driver to pick us up with a note not to do anything but come straight to her house. I have a tendency to disappear into the market, the chemist, Selfridges, and everywhere else and forget the time. After we arrived and caught up briefly, I had mentioned to Kooki that I'd like to try AndrĂ© Balaz's new place, the Chiltern Firehouse. Kooki (who goes everywhere) said, 'don't fret, we already have reservations.' OH! I admire Balaz and think he's very smart and very talented. I especially enjoy Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. Supposedly, one can't book a table at the Firehouse until October unless you're a Biggie, a Somebody, or a Famous Star of film or stage. It was all so un-English, all that hype and velvet ropes and paparazzi. I had always enjoyed the nightclub Annabel's, Harry's Bar, Mark's Club, San Lorenzo, The Ivy, Nobu, and Robin Birley's newish 5 Hertford Street — very popular establishments without all the hype and hysteria. Finally, we do get to that controversial little outpost of Hollywood, the Chiltern Firehouse. It's both a hotel and restaurant, but I'm not sure the hotel part is open yet. It seems that people either love it or hate it depending on how they're treated — which makes sense.  At this point it should be renamed Movie Star Central. It's sort of sad that they are getting almost all of the attention, and making the less famous customers, of which there are few allowed in, feel snubbed. I say sad because the decor is very smart, the staff seems nice, and the Portuguese chef's Nuno Mendes' 'specials,' such as crab donuts and crunchy chicken skin (without the chicken) Caesar salad, deliciously different. I just hope CF lasts, and doesn't prove Lao Tzu's quote true, 'The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.'" (NYSD)

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