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Monday, January 26, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, the 53-year-old half-brother of 67-year-old ruler Sheikh Khalifa, and the son of the country’s founder, has been de facto ruler for about five years.                      
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates,



"When the Saudi king was laid to rest on Friday, two aging Gulf leaders were notably absent from the funeral—the heads of the United Arab Emirates and the sultanate of Oman. With both men reported to be ailing, the prospect of their deaths could inject more instability into the Middle East at a time when Yemen—home to al Qaeda’s most dangerous offshoot—is in political upheaval and the extremist group Islamic State remains in control of large parts of Syria and Iraq. Amid the turmoil of the past few years, each Gulf country has been carving out its own distinct foreign-policy path.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, and Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said weren’t in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Friday for the funeral of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud. Both rulers are ill and have had surgery in the past year, as did Kuwait’s 85-year-old ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, according to government news agencies and local media reports. The U.A.E., Kuwait and Oman are all strong allies of the U.S. Oman has mediated in nuclear talks between the U.S. and Iran. The U.A.E., alongside four other Arab countries, has helped the American-led international coalition carry out airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State targets in recent months. 'Succession issues in the region are being handled even more carefully than before because of the upheavals going on,' said Andrew Hammond, a Middle East policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. President Barack Obama ’s decision to fly to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to pay respects to the royal family—cutting short a visit to India—reflects global concerns about succession, Mr. Hammond added. In a bid to project stability, Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, on Friday appointed his 55-year-old nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as deputy crown prince, putting him second in line to the throne. It was the first time that a grandson of the country’s founder—who had 36 sons—was added to the line of succession. The appointment has quieted speculation and concerns that choosing a successor from the royal family’s younger generation could usher in a power struggle between the grandsons of the founder." (WSJ)


Screenshot 2015-01-26 12.45.46
Economist Intelligence Unit, BBC


"It may seem ironic that Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's extreme right Front National, rooted for the extreme left Syriza in yesterday's Greek election and rejoiced at its landslide victory. Yet there's nothing unusual about it: Syriza, Front National and other European anti-establishment parties are partners in a political revolution that appears to be about to sweep the continent, giving back the original meaning to political terms such as 'left' and 'right' -- and helping Russian President Vladimir Putin in the process. For much of the post-World War II era, European nations have been ruled by two-party systems, in which a center-right and a center-left political force alternated at the helm. In France, it was the Gaullist center-right party (now known as the UMP) and the socialists, in Germany the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), in the U.K. the Conservative and Labor parties, in Spain the People's Party and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, and in Greece New Democracy and the socialist PASOK. As they fought their increasingly ritual political battles, they came to be almost identical in their policies -- at least as far as voters were concerned. Francois Hollande's socialist government is now so pro-business, its reform proposals are wholeheartedly backed by the national employers' association. Angela Merkel's CDU evidently feels quite comfortable in a coalition with SPD. When the Labor party last ruled in the U.K., it was almost indistinguishable politically from the Conservatives.  In these countries and throughout Europe, the convergence of centrist parties into a kind of colorless sludge has led to huge decreases in party membership" (Bloomberg)





"LAST Thursday, Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly for the past 20 years, was arrested and charged with mail and wire fraud, extortion and receiving bribes. According to Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor who brought the charges, the once seemingly untouchable Mr. Silver took millions of dollars for legal work he did not do. In exchange, he used his official power to steer business to a law firm that specialized in getting tax breaks for real estate developers, and he directed state funds to a doctor who referred cases to another law firm that paid Mr. Silver fees. Albany is reeling, but fighting the kind of corruption that plagues not only New York State but the whole nation isn’t just about getting cuffs on the right guy. As with the recent conviction of the former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for receiving improper gifts and loans, a fixation on plain graft misses the more pernicious poison that has entered our system. Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy." (ZephyrTeachout)


Sen. Rand Paul Speaks To The Detroit Economic Club
Sen. Rand Paul speaks with the news media after delivering a speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Dec. 6, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.


"Foreign policy fissures were on full display among three likely GOP presidential hopefuls at the first unofficial forum of the 2016 cycle. Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) took the stage late Sunday evening at the California winter meeting of Freedom Partners, a conservative, free-market group aligned with Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch.During the 90-minute debate-style panel, moderated by ABC’s Jonathan Karl, there was little difference between the trio on fiscal issues. But on questions of international relations, the senators’ disagreements were stark and often heated — underscoring the foreign policy experience the lawmakers, as opposed to the party’s governors, would bring to the 2016 conversation. Cruz and Rubio — both the sons of Cuban immigrants who fled the country’s oppressive regime — were steadfast in their opposition to President Obama’s moves to normalize relations with Cuba. But Paul didn’t back away from his support for the steps, saying it would open up opportunities for trade, and even reiterated his opposition to sanctions against Iran. Cruz, who said his father was 'imprisoned and tortured” in the country, said Obama’s deal followed a pattern in which he 'consistently alienated and abandoned our friends and appeased our enemies.' He argued that normalizing relations would “result in billions more for the Castro regime' and make it less likely that Cuba would become a Democratic ally.
Rubio said the Cuba deal was poorly negotiated, many of the dissidents that Castro agreed to free having been either free already or rearrested since. Paul, meanwhile, argued that the 50-year embargo hasn’t worked and that the U.S. has relations with countless regimes that are similarly guilty of human rights violations. In an ironic twist, it’s Paul who has accused his Republican counterparts of 'isolationism' on the issue of Cuba — a charge usually leveled at the Kentucky senator and his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Paul also split from Cruz and Rubio on Iran, where he said increasing sanctions would only lead the country to withdraw further from the international community and make it more likely that an international conflict would erupt. 'The place has been a mess for 1,000 years, you have to think about what the practical results will be of not negotiating,' he said.Rubio, meanwhile, thundered that current U.S. sanctions were doing nothing to curb Iran’s moves to enrich uranium and that at this pace, 'in five years we’re going to build the bomb for them.' 'Nothing should ever be off the table,' including the possibility of military strikes, Rubio said.
Cruz agreed, saying that Iran’s leadership was made up of 'radical Islamic nutcases' and that stopping 'the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism' required 'more stick and less carrot.' Rubio may have done the most to boost his presidential chances with his performance, even though it’s very early in the presidential testing game. The Florida senator must decide whether to run for reelection to his Senate seat or take a gamble in a growing White House field. " (TheHill)




"Last Thursday night at the Park Avenue Armory was the Opening Night Party of the Winter Antiques Show to benefit the East Side House Settlement. WAS, as some are now calling it, marks the beginning of the social season that will now extend until late May when people start preparing for summer (and many leaving the city whenever they can). The evening’s co-chairs were Lucinda Ballard, Arie Kopelman and Michael Lynch. Arie Kopelman, now retired President of Chanel US, has been at the center of producing this Opening Night for many years, and has been a hands-on contributor to its successes. The Opening Night Party Chair was Kathleen Tierney, Executive Vice President and COO of Chubb Personal Insurance. The East Side House Settlement was established 124 years ago in 1891 as a non-profit community service organization. The 'settlement houses,' of which there are several in the greater New York area, were all founded to assist newcomers (immigrants) and the poor in the neighborhoods. They are the glue to a cohesive community that moves and grows in every direction by leaps and bounds in the city called New York." (NYSD)


"David Wolkowsky’s annual party was the usual roaring success with the best of Key West from the artists and authors and poets to the elite conchs with streets named after them. And of course there are the ‘guests’ who have never received a cream colored embossed invitation in the handwritten matching envelope, but they crash the party each year. David notices everything. I, on the other hand, notice very little these days as I’m in the middle of swimming across the Atlantic Ocean, metaphorically speaking. Only two reasons are good enough for me to tear away from my current project, one being anytime David Wolkowsky calls, and the second being anytime Xperimento perform at the Green Parrot, the Ozymandias of watering holes. Another not on David’s party guest list is the new most popular personality in town. This personality has their own Facebook page and ‘friend requests’ are blowing up. This fresh personality can reliably be found outside the Green Parrot. To be precise, directly across the street. Because it is a bench, it is the bench outside the Court House Deli. This bench by day hosts coffee drinkers and newspaper readers and by night it hosts stringy strung-out hippies and snoozing drunks. Some nights it is host to me and pals with parrots, for chatting smoking drinking laughing. One local told me, 'I post on the Bench’s Facebook wall if I’m coming out, so it’s like a date!'" (Christina Oxenberg)


There’s No Justice
      


"I had a short chat with BBC Radio concerning the actor Jack Nicholson, whom I knew slightly during the 70s and 80s. Alas, it had to do with age, his and mine, 77 and 78 respectively. No, the man on the other side of the telephone did not ask me anything embarrassing. All he wanted to know was: Do women still come on to an oldie, or are they, as Jack Nicholson claims, a thing of the past? Well, for starters, I do not believe that Nicholson is telling the truth, that he’s now alone and fears he will die alone because women have abandoned a sinking ship. He has a sense of decorum, and knows how ridiculous a man our age sounds when talking about women, especially younger women, something Jack and Taki have in common. Jack Nicholson has been chasing beautiful women all his life and will continue to do so up to the moment the man in the white suit pays him a visit. And that goes for me also, except that his fame and celebrity status give him an unfair advantage over the poor little unknown Greek boy ... And speaking of Hollywood, the number one producer in the world swept through Gstaad like a tsunami, and I took him up to the Eagle Club, where he was a great hit. Harvey Weinstein produces the only films that are watchable nowadays. No science fiction, no flesh-eating robots, no creatures from other planets that enter earthly bodies, none of that crap. He arrived with his very pretty and very well-mannered, fashion designer English wife; five children; and his mother-in-law, Caroline. Harvey previewed The Imitation Game for us, a wonderful movie that has both its stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, plus a host of others nominated for Oscars. I hope it wins for both best actor as well as director because it truly deserves it." (Taki)



"Moving day, so great to be back in that magnificent house."


"Some of the news of the week from Washington again had to do with France, but this time in a happier way. After being closed for a full two years for an extensive renovation, the French reopened the Tudor-style Kalorama mansion that has been home to the nation's ambassadors since the 1930s. A member of the staff posted a photo on Facebook with the message, 'Moving day, so great to be back in that magnificent house.' The repair work was principally behind the scenes and probably won't be apparent to visitors because it focused on issues of leaks, mold and asbestos. The redone public rooms may look familiar. The happiest about the reopening may be the new French Ambassador Gerard Araud, who when he landed here in September made it clear to anyone he met that he was eager to get the work done and lay claim to the fabled home. The city's many fans of France were eager, too. During the repair project the ambassador (Francois Delattre before Araud) was exiled to Foxhall Road and a McMansion that while spacious was very low on the chic scale. Entertaining went on as usual, it just wasn't quite the same. As part of the renovation, the ambassador got spiffed up digs, too. Many aren't aware that while ambassadors to Washington typically reside in elegant and huge mansions, the part that is privately theirs – sleeping quarters, bath, sitting room, basically – is often not among the grand formal rooms, and occasionally even in the attic. No different with the French residence, though now the ambassador's apartment has been refreshed and with a kitchen and some other amenities added." (NYSD)

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