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Saturday, November 08, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"While we were all panicking about Ebola and the Democrats' getting schooled in the midterms, the bottom dropped out of the Russian economy. The ruble has been nosediving for weeks, despite the fact that the Russian Central Bank has spent some $40 billion over the last two months to prop it up. In January, you would have to shell out 32.86 rubles to buy one U.S. dollar. Through October, that number edged higher and higher into the thirties, prompting nervous jokes from Russians as they watched their national currency lose value before their eyes. By November 1, a Russian would need to scrape together over 43 rubles to buy one U.S. dollar, a drop of over 30 percent. Every day since November 1 has brought new lows for the ruble. By Wednesday, the Russian Central Bank, which had been spending billions of its reserve dollars every day to prop up the Russian currency, announced it was no longer going to do so. It was going to let the ruble float. (Technically speaking, it said that it would 'only' spend $350 million a day to prop up the ruble.) The ruble promptly nosedived. By Thursday, the ruble was dropping so fast that people started taking photos of the ubiquitous exchange rate signs around Moscow ... On Friday, the exchange rate was being tracked not by the day, but by the minute. The ruble had collapsed to a historic low: nearly 49 rubles to the dollar, nearly 60 rubles to the Euro. (On January 1, one Euro cost only 45 rubles.) 'While I was riding the trolleybus, the Euro grew by another ruble,' wrote one Russian journalist. And it looked like it was going to plummet further until the Russian Central Bank stepped and promised to support the ruble. This isn’t a theoretical currency game. Much of what you see in Russia is imported, especially what the Russian middle class eats, drives, and wears. And the weaker the ruble, the fewer dollar-denominated iPhones you can buy with it. A crashing ruble makes prices do the opposite. According to the Russian government, projected inflation will hit somewhere between nine and 9.5 percent. Last year, it was 6.5 percent. In the U.S., for comparison, inflation is just 1.7 percent. As Buzzfeed reported yesterday, food prices in Russia have been skyrocketing: dairy is up 15 percent, and meat costs 18 percent more. Understandably, Russian officials have spent the last couple of weeks trying to calm Russians and telling them not to hoard foreign currency. And Russians are, understandably, freaking out. " (TNR)

The thin-skinned need not apply. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said his relations with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham remain good, even though the two Republicans are among the most vocal critics of President Barack Obama's foreign policy.'I watch what they say very closely and I admire them both a lot,' McDonough said in an interview on 'Charlie Rose.' He said he listens to what the senators have to say "privately" as well as publicly, and respects their "hard-earned" perspective on national security and foreign policy. The Arizona and South Carolina senators have condemned Obama for reportedly sending a private message to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In a joint statement yesterday, McCain and Graham said the letter suggesting Iran and the U.S. had a mutual interest in fighting Islamic State was an "ill-conceived bargain," because the U.S. continues to withhold sufficient support to pro-American rebels seeking to bring down the 'brutal' regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. 'It is outrageous that, while the cries of moderate Syrian forces for greater U.S. assistance fall on deaf ears in the White House, President Obama is apparently urging Ayatollah Khamenei to join the fight against ISIS,' the lawmakers said. McDonough wouldn’t confirm reports of the private letter, though two U.S. officials confirmed its existence on condition of anonymity yesterday. Even so, he suggested it would make sense to seek a dialogue with Iranians as the two sides try to reach an accord on that country's nuclear capacities. He rejected the claims by McCain and Graham that such a discussion would endanger alliances with Arab partners." (Al Hunt/ Bloomberg)





Photo

Garry Trudeau CreditChristian Oth for The New York Times

"NYT: Which president has been your most vocal opponent? The first President Bush was so abundant in his condemnations of the strip that he began to be asked about it, and then the more he was asked, the more he would talk. Editorial writers started to wonder why he was so disturbed by a comic strip. You had questioned his manhood, right? I never questioned it. I said he had put it in a blind trust while he was vice president. NYT: You went to Yale with George W. Bush. Garry Trudeau: When I was a sophomore and W. was a senior, I illustrated an article for the newspaper about hazing at Bush’s fraternity — D.K.E. had been branding initiates with a red-hot iron. It became a national story. The Times assigned a reporter, who came up to New Haven and interviewed Bush. And Bush described the branding as no worse than a cigarette burn. His first interview in the national media was in defense of torture. Did you know him personally? Garry Trudeau: We were on the social committee, and our main responsibilities were to order kegs of beer and select bands." (NYTMagazine)

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt.


"On Wednesday evening, a week ago, more than 200 made their way to Greenwich Village to toast Gloria Vanderbilt and preview her new artwork at a party hosted by New York Magazine design editor Wendy Goodman, and Michael Bruno, creator of the Housepad App and founder of 1stdibs, and his partner Alexander Jakowec. The event was held at Bruno’s Bank Street townhouse. Those who took in the exhibition and toasted Gloria were four generations of her immediate family including her sons Anderson Cooper and his partner Ben Maisani; son Stan Stokowski and his wife Emily; his daughter Aurora Stokowski and her son, Vanderbilt’s great grandchild Kenny Mazzei. Also from the family was Vanderbilt’s cousin the renowned illustrator Mac Connor, who currently has an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. Other guests included Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos, actor Joel Grey, artist Michelle Oka Doner; philanthropist Lewis Cullman and Louise Hirschfeld Cullman; composer Ned Rorem, sculptor Seward Johnson and his wife; Ellen and Chuck Scarborough; interior designers Geoffrey Bradfield and Roric Tobin, Lisa Nilsson Levin; Jayne and Joan Michaels, Christopher Maya, and Brian Del Toro, and fashion designer Peter Som, who came with New York Times journalist Rima Suqi." (P6)



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