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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres








"'Here begins our tale: The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.' This opening adage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, China's classic novel of war and strategy, best captures the essential dynamism of Chinese geopolitics. At its heart is the millennia-long struggle by China's would-be rulers to unite and govern the all-but-ungovernable geographic mass of China. It is a story of centrifugal forces and of insurmountable divisions rooted in geography and history -- but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of centripetal forces toward eventual unity.
This dynamism is not limited to China. The Scottish referendum and waves of secession movements -- from Spain's Catalonia to Turkey and Iraq's ethnic Kurds -- are working in different directions. More than half a century after World War II triggered a wave of post-colonial nationalism that changed the map of the world, buried nationalism and ethnic identity movements of various forms are challenging the modern idea of the inviolable unity of the nation-state. Yet even as these sentiments pull on the loose threads of nations, in China, one of the most intractable issues in the struggle for unity -- the status of Tibet -- is poised for a possible reversal, or at least a major adjustment. The long-running but frequently unnoticed negotiations have raised the possibility that the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, may be nearing a deal that would enable him to return to his Tibetan homeland. If it happens, it would end the Dalai Lama's exile in Dharamsala, India -- an exile that began after the Tibetan uprising in 1959, nine years after the People's Republic of China annexed Tibet. More important, a settlement between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could be a major step in lessening the physical and psychological estrangement between the Chinese heartland and the Tibetan Plateau." (STRATFOR)



Photo: Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Corbis


"Britain has decided to remain whole, but the secession fever gripping the world has not yet broken. Catalonia will hold a non-binding vote on independence in November, and a number of other European regions are contemplating going it alone. There’s always some idle secession chatter in the freedom-and-independence-loving United States, too. A new poll shows one in four Americans support 'the idea of your state peacefully withdrawing from the United States of America and the federal government.' But could it ever be more than a rhetorical phenomenon in the States? It seems unlikely, given that those who benefit most from union are those most interested in secession ...  To wit, only one in five residents of the wealthy New England states supports secession, separatist-lusty Vermont included, versus one in three residents of the poorer southwest, where the urge is more pronounced. In the United States, the most likely breakaway is Texas, and there’s at least some reason to believe it might do fine as an independent republic. It has access to international waterways. It has a diversified economy, with all that cattle and oil money coming in. It has a long foreign border with Mexico. Most of all, it has that independent spirit. But it takes a lot more than grit to make it as a new country — and generally, the poorer, smaller, and less-diversified the state, the worse it would fare after independence. Secession itself would also be extremely costly, though how costly would depend on whether the United States acceded to the plan (not likely) and how much it wanted to antagonize New Kansas or Free Texas or what have you." (NYMag)





"For Barack Obama, what is happening now no longer falls into the category of cleaning up old wars. This is no longer the war of the Afghan 'surge,' which was mainly intended to end a war that was already underway. Or Obama’s aggressive policy of launching covert drone strikes and special operations missions against al Qaeda and its affiliates. This is a wholly new war, Obama’s very own, and it is out in the open. And it is happening in a country, Syria, where the president has until now resisted the entreaties of his entire national-security team to get involved militarily, refusing to arm the Syrian rebels and temporizing over whether to strike Bashar al-Assad over his alleged use of chemical weapons. It’s now clear that the perilously swift rise of the Islamic State, and perhaps too the perilous downward slide of the president’s poll numbers, has forced him to radically re-evaluate his presidency—and to shed, at long last, the state of denial he has appeared to inhabit regarding the most precious myth of his presidency: that he was close to defeating al Qaeda, and bringing America out of a 'state of perpetual war.' If Obama can at long last discard that superannuated narrative and forcefully confront the Islamic State—as he promised to do in his Sept. 10 speech to the nation—then the waning perception of him as an effective leader could change in a short period of time.
It’s not that Obama has been shy about using force in the past six and a half years. But he has preferred to do it covertly." (Politico)


Jack Ma celebrates Alibaba IPO at Tao Downtown


"Jack Ma, the CEO of Alibaba, celebrated taking his Chinese e-commerce company public in what is now the largest IPO in history over dinner at Tao Downtown Sunday night. The 50-year-old entrepreneur — whose company is now valued at more than $200 billion — was the topic of conversation across the dining room as other guests noticed a very happy-looking Ma enter with 50 people. The group, sources said, seemed in high spirits during dinner. (You would be, too, if you were personally worth $18 billion). With Friday’s IPO, Ma became China’s wealthiest citizen." (P6)


e48fdebcae8411e38b94124a1c452438 8 Young Models Are Easy Pickings For the Citys Club Promoters
Ro-Parra Grady (right)


"As Fashion Week returned to New York, thousands of young women and men visited, hoping their dreams of becoming a top model will come true. Waiting to catch these young hopefuls in an underground web of corruption are club promoters. Every night, one can find teams of promoters herding young pretties down into thumping burrows of hedonism. With offers of free dinners, paid-for vacations, entry into an exclusive life few are privy to, many models fall for the highlife pitches. Top earning promoters will make thousands of dollars a night, bringing in between 10 to 20 girls and boys to attend hosted tables. The more important the unsuspecting model or celebrity is regarded to be—and some of them are very successful working models—the more a promoter can charge the club for his or her visitation. From newbies to top earners, they are all susceptible to the antics of promoter manipulation. And the numbers are soaring. As hemlines rose, nightclubs, pop-ups and daytime deejay parties exploded all over the city and neighboring boroughs. Williamsburg this summer hit its peak as the new global fashion Mecca. Top promoters, many former fashion models themselves, sat outside fashion week castings waiting for models to exit. The Calvin Klein runway show casting was a specific target. Modeling agencies and management companies are now handing out books to their new models with specific restrictions against contact with promoters. So-called 'promoter clauses' are being built into models’ contracts and costly chaperones are being hired by agencies for girls and boys in development to insure that they don’t fall prey to these bad actors." (Observer)

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