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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres








"Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-biggest bank, just published its annual "Global Wealth Report," detailing how much money there is in the world, where the wealth is and which nations are up, down or sideways. Tucked inside is a surprising chart showing which country is getting richest quickest. (Spoiler alert: It's not China. Or the U.S.) The study assessed the global adult population of 4.7 billion people and their financial and physical assets, including real estate, minus debts. The world's wealth reached a record $263 trillion as of midyear, Credit Suisse says, after growing by more than $20 trillion since mid-2013. Global riches have more than doubled from $117 trillion in 2000. North America has the biggest share at $91 trillion or almost 35 percent of the total; Europe places second with $82.5 trillion. The biggest surprise comes in a table showing which countries posted the fastest percentage gain in wealth in the past year: The U.K. became almost 20 percent wealthier in the year to mid-2014, according to the report, turbocharged by surging house prices to outpace Korea and Denmark. It's an odd outcome given that the U.K. political debate in the run-up to next year's national election is focused in large part on how people don't feel better off, which in turn is fanning concern about immigration; it also highlights the risk that a recent decline in real-estate values may undermine consumer confidence and hobble Britain's nascent economic recovery.Less surprising is the wealth destruction suffered in war-torn Ukraine and perennial debt-defaulter Argentina, both of which lost more than 30 percent, with Indonesia, Turkey, Thailand, Russia and Chile also experiencing contractions. In a nod to Thomas Piketty and his bestselling 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century,' the Credit Suisse report features an analysis of how the world's wealth is distributed. It makes for depressing reading, no matter what your politics. Less than 1 percent of the world's population owns 44 percent of the world's wealth, according to Credit Suisse; 70 percent of the world gets by with assets of less than $10,000." (Bloomberg Opinion)





"It’s shameful, of course, that physical appearance should affect something as important as who gets elected president. But the reasons for that are pretty obvious, and they pre-date democracy by several million years. That doesn’t make them right or wise or inevitable, but it does make them hard to avoid. Unconscious or unintentional height discrimination does not by itself explain why we haven’t had a woman president. But in some future world of otherwise perfect gender equality, it might put women at an unfair and irrational disadvantage. It’s worth noting that the most presidential-looking person on the political scene at the moment is the International Monetary Fund’s (nearly six-foot-tall) managing director, Christine Lagarde. Unfortunately, she is French. Almost everyone, across the political spectrum, thinks that the moment has arrived for a woman president. In fact, if a man gets the presidential nomination of either party, he will be under pressure to name a woman as his running mate. A race with two men at the top of each ticket is starting to seem unbalanced and weird. Still, in the imperfect world we actually inhabit, women, far more than men, are judged on their looks, even for jobs (like, say, president) that have nothing obvious to do with looks. Imagine a woman with Chris Christie’s weight problem even considering a run for president. It will never happen, except maybe in a Melissa McCarthy movie. Moreover, the least attractive man will always have one unfair advantage over the most attractive woman: he’ll need less time for physical preparation each day. The most vain male politician (that would be John Edwards, who once paid $1,250 for a haircut) probably spends less time on his hair, his cosmetics, and his clothes than the most indifferent or naturally beautiful woman. This is extra time he can spend developing an anti-terrorism policy or catching up on sleep. Feminism is no longer, if it ever was, about burning bras or not shaving your legs. Or at least the female leadership pioneers in business and politics do not interpret feminism that way. The first woman president, be it Hillary Clinton or someone else, will travel with a hairdresser and wear designer clothes. And she will need an extra half-hour or more every morning to do things that cannot be delegated to an aide and that even Barack Obama—probably our most physically fastidious if not downright dandyish president ever—never has had to bother with." (Michael Kinsley)




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"It's arguable whether New York used to be better than it is now, but it was definitely wilder -- a time when crack addicts outnumbered strollers and bohemian life was so vital that major club events would have even more people waiting to get in than line up today for organic clam dip at Trader Joe's. Comic Nora Burns has tapped into this reality by throwing a series of rollicking, nostalgia-drenched events at Stonewall Inn called New York Stories, whereby survivors of the golden age hobble to the stage and remember the good, bad, and ugly of a time when the only rule was to not be boring. At last week's edition, Burns began by admitting that she doesn't want to be one of those people chronically complaining about NYC's changes. 'If you're 22,' she said, 'it's still exciting, with the artisanal beer gardens and Brooklyn things. But when I was young, it was this wonderland of freaks and weirdos and little old Italian ladies leaning out of windows.' Writer Anthony Haden-Guest talked about walking around covered in fake blood after shooting a cameo in a 1980s Troma film. 'No one batted an eyelash,' he marveled. 'This was crazy New York' ... Ex-door-gal Sally Randall Brunger spoke about the goldmine of opportunities back in the '80s, if you happened to be in the right place and looked right. When Sally worked in the office of a fashion company, 'this woman came by like the wind and looked back at me. It was Diane von Furstenberg. She said, 'Who are you?' I said, 'I'm a file clerk.' She said, 'No you're not. You work for me!' ' That led to two and a half years of fabulous employment -- 'everything from compiling the fashion show seating charts to meeting with Polly Mellen to show her the collection.' Not to mentioning hobnobbing with major celebs. At one von Furstenberg event, Sally ended up on a couch with Paul Schrader and Marisa Berenson, who were gabbing about the glories of Studio 54, insisting she come with them to the dazzling disco. But just in case we were getting too entranced by the past, Sally added, 'They dumped me at the front door, of course.' Jump ahead to 1985, when Sally was working for another designer, Norma Kamali, who doled out a wake-up call of her own. At one point, Kamali handed Sally a pink slip and a phone number, saying, 'I love you, but you're a terrible sales person.' The number was that of former 54 co-owner Ian Schrager, who was opening the splashy new Palladium on 14th Street. Sally promptly met with Schrager and suggested she do PR for him, but he said, 'No. I know who you are. You wear wigs and are friends with [scene queen] Dianne Brill and you really know Raquel Welch. You're the doorperson. You're the bridge between two worlds.'" (Paper/Michael Musto)


Vicky Ward with a copy of The Liar's Ball


"Last night. Over at The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Pier 86 on West 46th and the Hudson River, there was a dinner honoring Henry Kissinger, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and Charlie Rose and celebrating The Spirit of Lafayette & Hermione Voyage. The Hermione  is the French 12 pounder Concorde class frigate of the French Navy that brought the 33-year-old Gilbert de Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette -- Major General Lafayette to the United States (then known as the Colonies) to America in 1780 to join General George Washington in the American Revolutionary War.  It was built in 1779 by order of King Louis XVI specifically for the purpose of the joining the American revolutionaries in fighting for the American independence from the British ... Meanwhile, up on the East Side of town, Tina Brown and Sir Harry Evans held a book party for Vicky Ward and her new book 'The Liar’s Ball, The Extraordinary Saga of How One Building Broke the World’s Toughest Tycoons.' Vicky Ward told me this story a couple of years ago when she was working on the book. The building which became known as the General Motors Building on Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th Street, and later the Trump Building is now especially famous for being the neighbor of the now famous Apple Cube which sits prominently on its plaza in front of the building. Harry Macklowe, the real estate tycoon was its builder, and Vicky’s tale of How and What is what Dr.Amanda Foreman, biographer of 'Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire' and historian --  'A World on Fire' about the British activity in the American Civil War --  describes as 'about men with edifice complexes. In this case, the ones who have left their mark all over New York City,” exposing “one of the most secretive, ruthless, and successful boys clubs. …Fascinating and unput-downable….'  That was the compelling story I heard when Vicky first told me about it." (NYSD)





Mujahedeen rebels fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in 1980. Credit Associated Press


" The Central Intelligence Agency has run guns to insurgencies across the world during its 67-year history — from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba. The continuing C.I.A. effort to train Syrian rebels is just the latest example of an American president becoming enticed by the prospect of using the spy agency to covertly arm and train rebel groups. An internal C.I.A. study has found that it rarely works.The still-classified review, one of several C.I.A. studies commissioned in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of the Obama administration’s protracted debate about whether to wade into the Syrian civil war, concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict. They were even less effective, the report found, when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground. The findings of the study, described in recent weeks by current and former American government officials, were presented in the White House Situation Room and led to deep skepticism among some senior Obama administration officials about the wisdom of arming and training members of a fractured Syrian opposition.But in April 2013, President Obama authorized the C.I.A. to begin a program to arm the rebels at a base in Jordan, and more recently the administration decided to expand the training mission with a larger parallel Pentagon program in Saudi Arabia to train 'vetted' rebels to battle fighters of the Islamic State, with the aim of training approximately 5,000 rebel troops per year.
So far the efforts have been limited, and American officials said that the fact that the C.I.A. took a dim view of its own past efforts to arm rebel forces fed Mr. Obama’s reluctance to begin the covert operation. 'One of the things that Obama wanted to know was: Did this ever work?' said one former senior administration official who participated in the debate and spoke anonymously because he was discussing a classified report. The C.I.A. report, he said, 'was pretty dour in its conclusions.' The debate over whether Mr. Obama acted too slowly to support the Syrian rebellion has been renewed after both former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta wrote in recent books that they had supported a plan presented in the summer of 2012 by David H. Petraeus, then the C.I.A. director, to arm and train small groups of rebels in Jordan." (NYTimes)


Beth Rudin DeWoody and daughter Kyle DeWoody.


"Last week there was a 30th birthday party for Kyle DeWoody at the Wooly, a party venue here in Tribeca here in New York. Kyle’s mother Beth Rudin DeWoody and I have been friends since she was a kid (I’m a little older) back in the early 1970s, and Beth has been a very important influence in my life. Beth actually has been a very important influence in the lives of many individuals especially writers and most especially artists. She even married one: Jim DeWoody (first marriage). So I’ve known Kyle since she was a little baby (although she obviously didn’t really know me). We got to know each other more in the 1993 when I had returned to New York from Los Angeles and was staying with her family when I was first settling here. One of the great things about growing older is watching the miracle of infants growing into young people and then adults. Mother Beth sent me a photo last night of the 9 year old Kyle tying my necktie at a birthday party for another close friend of Beth’s and mine (and now Kyle’s) Joanne Cassullo at a restaurant here in town called Fez." (NYSD)

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