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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The European Central Bank had two basic short-term goals for this year's stress tests. On one hand, it had to come up with a test that was tough enough to be credible after tests held in 2010 and 2011 were widely seen as too soft and lacking in credibility. On the other hand, the tests could not produce results dire enough to generate panic. The European Union is going through a phase of relative calm in financial markets, and the European Central Bank was not interested in creating a new wave of uncertainty over the future of Europe's banks. While the tests did attract some criticism, the central bank achieved both goals. Of the 130 banks involved in the tests, 25 had capital shortfalls, a finding slightly more severe than forecasts projected. Of those 25 banks, 13 must raise fresh capital and come up with 9.5 billion euros ($12.1 billion) in the next nine months. None of the failed tests came as a surprise, however. Italy's Monte dei Paschi, the worst performing bank in the tests, has been in trouble for a long time and had to receive assistance from the Italian government in 2012. Other failing banks are located in countries such as Slovenia and Greece, which have been severely affected by the financial crisis. And while the price of several banks' shares dropped during the Oct. 27 trading session, no collapses occurred. The tests were not perfect -- they used data from December 2013 and were mostly done by each participating state. The methodology and scenarios were also criticized. For example, the most extreme "adverse scenario" included in the tests considered a drop in inflation to 1 percent this year, although the rate has already fallen to around 0.3 percent. The decision to include only 130 "systemic" banks while turning a blind eye on smaller -- and probably weaker -- institutions also drew criticism. But overall, markets considered the tests legitimate, especially in comparison with the weak tests that have taken place since the beginning of the European crisis. The stress tests, however, are only the starting point in the much deeper and complex process of creating a banking union in Europe. The issue has traditionally been very controversial in the Continent. As Europe became more integrated, several policymakers proposed the creation of a banking union to complement the Continent's internal market and common currency. Nationalism and diverging political interests, however, made this quite difficult, and the idea was abandoned during the Maastricht Treaty negotiations in 1991 and again after it was reconsidered during deliberations for the Treaty of Nice in 2000." (STRAFOR)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. (Photo by Haim Zach / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. (Photo by Haim Zach / GPO)

"In his Atlantic article on the growing crisis between Jerusalem and Washington, Jeffrey Goldberg quoted American officials slamming Netanyahu, one now-famously called him 'chickenshit.' The substance of the criticism was that he lacks the 'guts' to strike Iran and is only interested in 'protecting himself from political defeat.' Beyond the damage Netanyahu and his government are causing Israel in the international community – hurting ties crucial for a small country with limited resources in a complicated region – I disagree with the American diagnosis. In Netanyahu’s case, preserving his rule without any apparent progress towards a clear goal is part and parcel of his plan to deepen the deeply-ingrained process of preventing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and splintering the Palestinian people. Even if Netanyahu did not start these steps, he is propelling them with pristine efficiency.Every day that Netanyahu tries to maintain his seat is another day of settlement construction in the West Bank, another day of Palestinian displacement, of destroying Palestinian assets and other grave human rights violations; another day in which Netanyahu’s strategic goals are being achieved. Unlike the objective of peace and ending occupation, Netanyahu’s objectives don’t have a big fan base in the international arena. He knows this all too well, and this is why he cunningly operates to maintain the status quo. Ostensibly this means doing nothing; in practice it means rapidly changing facts on the ground in the West Bank. His declaration of support for the two-state solution at Bar Ilan University and the negotiations led by Kerry were conducted in parallel to government actions on the ground – constituting an integral part of his strategy. Netanyahu surely must have taken the Americans’ criticism as a complement. They thought they were insulting him but in fact they were praising him. They revealed that they do not understand Netanyahu’s strategy – mistaking his effective methods for fear and lack of political vision. They also positioned him perfectly in his battle for right-wing voters. He is simultaneously standing tall in front of the Administration while winking to his benefactors and allies in the Republican Party ahead of Senate elections. At the same time, he is not “giving in” to Bennett, who perfectly fills the role of the settler youth who makes the prime minister appear like the experienced, rational centrist. A trip to the West Bank and a perusal of reports by human rights organizations, like the recent B’Tselem report on the Burqah village, can attest to these processes. While Netanyahu’s rhetoric focuses on Iran, ISIS, the war in Gaza and the high cost of living, the West Bank continues to undergo significant changes and the Palestinian people continued to be divided and conquered. Netanyahu is the victor in Goldberg’s Atlantic story." (972Mag)


2014 Crystal BallOutlook

*3 vacancies in House: 2 Safe D, 1 Safe R

"While many races remain close, it’s just getting harder and harder to envision a plausible path for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Ultimately, with just a few days to go before the election, the safe bet would be on Republicans eventually taking control of the upper chamber. We say eventually because there’s a decent chance we won’t know who wins the Senate on Election Night. Louisiana is guaranteed to go to a runoff, and Georgia seems likelier than not to do the same. The Georgia runoff would be Jan. 6, 2015, three days after the 114th Congress is scheduled to open. Vote-counting in some states, like Alaska, will take days, and other races are close enough to trigger a recount.Generally speaking, candidates who have leads of three points or more in polling averages are in solid shape to win, but in this election five states -- Republican-held Georgia and Kansas, and Democratic-held Iowa, New Hampshire, and North Carolina -- feature a Senate race where both of the two major polling averages (RealClearPolitics and HuffPost Pollster) show the leading candidate with an edge of smaller than three points. What makes the Democrats’ situation so precarious is that Republicans have polling leads of more than three points in five other states, all of which are currently held by Democrats: Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Two others, Democratic-held Alaska and Colorado, show Republicans leading in both averages, but by more than three points in just one. (These averages are as of Wednesday afternoon.) The wealth of GOP targets is a reflection of the structural advantages that have favored Republicans in this election, some of which don’t have anything to do with a specific campaign. Those are: Obama’s troubles: President Obama’s approval ratings are in the low 40s, and midterm elections are very often a vote against the party that occupies the White House, particularly if the occupant is unpopular. A great map: This Senate map is the most-Republican leaning of the three Senate classes up for election once every six years. These seats were last on the ballot in 2008, a big Democratic year. American politics is about surges and declines: In 2008 came the surge for Democrats, and in 2014 comes the decline. Partisan polarization: The increasing partisanship of American politics and the American people makes it harder and harder for Democrats to win in Republican states and districts, and vice-versa. Seven Democrats hold Senate seats contested this year in states that supported Mitt Romney in 2012. Six of those states are very Republican at the presidential level -- Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia -- and Republicans are probably at least slightly favored to win all six of their Senate races. The seventh, North Carolina, is gettable if the GOP has a big night. Republicans only have to defend one seat in an Obama state, Maine, and GOP Sen. Susan Collins has the race all but wrapped up." (SabatosCrystalBall)


In the window of the Chinese Porcelain Company last night.


"Meanwhile, among the din and the tumult of the Michael’s Wednesday lunch, amidst the cross-table conversations about everything except hair and trichotherapy, among those in the room keeping the energy erupting: Vicky Ward who is busy promoting her new book 'The Liar’s Ball' about the building of the former GM Building (where the Apple Cube occupies the plaza in front), and was lunching with Charlotte Morgan, Charlie Rose’s producer. We had a larger table yesterday to accommodate all of us. Cornelia Guest had my usual table and was lunching with Jim Fallon, WWD editor. We had the table usually occupied on Wednesdays by Duh Boyz, Della Femina, Greenfield, Imber, Kramer and Bergman. They were across the way at Joe Armstrong’s regular table sans Kramer and Bergman. On one side of them: Mickey Ateyeh with Ruth Shuman and her cousin Dana Bronfman. On the other side: Jimmy Finkelstein, and next to him Stan Shuman and guest. Moving along: Paul Wilmot and guest; Amy Fine Collins; Pat Mitchell, director of the Paley Center for Media; Julie Hayek (former Miss USA), of Corcoran Real Estate; Tracey Jackson and Glenn Horowitz with Roseanne Cash; Jolie Hunt; George Farias with Robert Zimmerman; Jack Kliger; Peter Brown with Gillian Tett of the FT; Mark Rosenthal with Doug McCormick; Keith Meister with Sean O’Keefe; Tom Goodman of Goodman Media with Diane Clehane; David Sanford of the WSJ with Lewis Stein; Jolie Hunt; Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates; Haspel heiress and owner of Haspel, Laurie Aronson with a party of 12; Todd Joyce of Break Media; Esther Newberg; Lynne White with Linda Stacy of NY1 and the Daily News; Patrick Murphy; Christine Taylor; Bob Towbin, Beverly Camhe; John Loeffler of Rave Music. To name just a few partaking of the fare.More Brits. Last night at the Chinese Porcelain Company on 58th and Park, Pierre Durand hosted a booksigning for his friend HRH Princess Michael of Kent and the American publication of her new book 'The Queen of Four Kingdoms' (Beaufort Books)." (NYSD)





"The Nikola Tesla museum is a creamy villa in Belgrade. I arrived in time for the short film which included a snapshot of my grandfather saying hello to Mr. Tesla. It was surreal to see my grandfather up there on the screen. I forget where I am sometimes. I never fail to recognize my grandfather and his beautiful serene face concealing who knows what thoughts. In the photos he is always perfectly composed and serious. Not at all like the warm funny man I remember from my child...hood.
After the film a tiny lady with a huge engineering brain lectured us, and showed us how the machines worked with light beams and conducting electricity through people and remote control operation which in its time was considered magic mind control. And despite my minimal grasp it was impressive. The museum lady was so fierce, although young and sporting a plump ass, no one dared ask a single question at any point of her talk. Instead we all just gaped in silence. When a couple of German tourists whispered to each other she admonished them, saying, 'Later is a better time for you to chat'. Next we were left alone to wander around and look at Tesla's personal effects, his top hat, his kid gloves, his eyeglasses, a silver flask. His art collection and letters from friends. And the final room with an urn shaped like a bowl atop a marble obelisk and here are Tesla's ashes. Before we were let loose the museum lady gave strict instructions not to photograph or video or in anyway be disrespectful to the ashes of the hero. There's no denying Tesla was way ahead of his time. He went to see his hero Edison in America and Edison turned on him. He conducted experiments in NYC and his laboratory was mysteriously burnt to the ground. He built a tower on Long Island and it was destroyed with TNT by the army claiming spurious reasons. When he went to Colorado Springs he was treated like a crazy man. And his great sponsor J.P. Morgan withdrew his sponsorship once he realized Tesla wanted to help the world not charge the world." (Christina Oxenberg)





Jack Murphy and Allan Kuhn photographed at Malibu Lagoon State Beach.



"They are old men now in their 70s, two robbers who were famous long ago and now sport white hair, Butch and Sundance in twilight. Five decades ago, Jack Murphy (a.k.a., 'Murf the Surf') and his partner Allan Kuhn were high-spirited beach boys who gave swimming lessons at Miami Beach hotels and had a lucrative second occupation—as jewel thieves. In 1964, bored with preying on wealthy divorcees and tourists, these athletic young men drove to Manhattan and pulled off the most audacious jewel heist of the last half-century. Climbing up the stone walls of the American Museum of Natural History on the evening of October 29, 1964, they broke in through a window and stole priceless gems from the J.P. Morgan jewel collection: the Star of India sapphire, the DeLong Star ruby, and fistfuls of diamonds and emeralds. Murphy, now garrulous and robust at age 77, explains, 'Just like mountain climbers and skiers, as a jewel thief, you go for the challenge. It’s dangerous, it’s glamorous, there’s an adrenalin rush. We couldn’t just keep doing Palm Beach.' Apprehended within 48 hours of the robbery, the two men, plus accomplice Roger Clark, became national folk heroes. With the jewels nowhere to be found, an ambitious 23-year-old Wellesley graduate, Nora Ephron, landed her first front-page story for the New York Post by sneaking into the hotel where the thieves had stayed. 'These guys had committed the perfect victimless crime,' Ephron recalled in an interview in the fall of 2010. 'It was delicious. No one had a clue what they had been up to, they just seemed like fabulous party boys.'" (VanityFair)

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