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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Photo: Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

"This weekend, the Supreme Court, by its customary 5-4 partisan split, issued an emergency ruling upholding Republican-authored voter-identification laws in Texas. The Texas law, like other legislation resembling it elsewhere, imposes disproportionate burdens on poor and nonwhite voters — or, as the Republicans hope, non-voters. Meanwhile, in what feels like unrelated news, Republicans continue to rack their brains for ideas to increase their share of the minority vote. Whatever could they do to convince these nonwhite Americans that the Grand Old Party has their best interests at heart? Rand Paul and Chris Christie, reports the Daily Beast, recently appeared at a Republican confab on Fifth Avenue, where they jostled to position themselves as the Party’s true hope for diversification. Earlier this spring, Paul tentatively questioned his party’s obsession with rooting out almost entirely imaginary voter fraud, but almost immediately retracted his heresy. ('I agree, there’s nothing wrong with [voter I.D. laws],' he told Sean Hannity. 'To see Eric Holder, you’ve got to show your drivers license to get in the building. So I don’t really object to having some rules for how we vote.') Christie has opposed measures to make voting easier, like early voting. They have a two-track approach to the minority vote: make it as hard as possible for them to vote, while simultaneously persuading those who do vote to vote for them. The Republican Party's strategy of making voting as difficult as possible is borne out of the correct observation that impediments to voting disproportionately ward off Democratic-leaning constituencies. It is true that anybody is legally entitled to obtain the identification needed to comply with Republican-mandated voting requirements. But poor voters are much less likely to have such identification in the first place, and voting restrictions create additional bureaucratic hassles that they are the least equipped to handle. A recent report by Richard Sobel, of Harvard’s Institute for Race & Justice, tallied the cost of obtaining the required voter identification — the costs include the direct fee in obtaining identification, plus transportation, plus time. The costs usually range from $75 to $175, an exorbitant expense for a low-income person in order to do an activity that carries no direct personal benefit. The report aptly presents voting restrictions as a modern form of the poll tax, which was outlawed in 1964. Indeed, the costs of contemporary voter I.D. requirements, even in inflation-adjusted terms, is many times the level of the poll taxes that existed before they were outlawed in 1964." (NYMag)

A medical officer in the I.D.F. Southern Command stands in a Hamas–built tunnel on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha.

"Yossi Adoni, a village leader in Zarit, is worried. For years, residents in his small Israeli farming community, on the northern border with Lebanon, have heard drilling under their homes, late at night. His mother, Ruth, for one, says she has often been awakened by 'the trembling and noise from a jackhammer.' Her next-door neighbor, Shula Asayag, insists that the subterranean vibrations have become so intense that picture frames and TV sets have crashed to the floor. 'My children are afraid to come and visit me,' she explains. Adoni and other officials contend that they have heard similar stories from other towns along the border. Nearby, Shlomo Azulai tends an Israeli apple orchard. For months he watched in disbelief as clouds of dust appeared on the ridgeline below the Lebanese town of Marwahin and steadily moved in his direction. He observed earthmovers operating in, around, and then underneath an enormous greenhouse. 'After a while,' Azulai claims, 'the excavator was so far underground I could no longer see it.' When he alerted the Israeli Defense Forces (I.D.F.), he says, they dismissed the moving dust clouds as 'small fires'—nothing to worry about. But Azulai has reason to worry. In 2006, Hezbollah operatives positioned across the border fired a guided missile at his Toyota Hilux, driving shrapnel into his arms, torso, and lower abdomen.Now, eight years later, Azulai and his neighbors believe Hezbollah may have pulled off a far more provocative gambit: building a tunnel under Zarit, which the group could conceivably use to send forces into Israel to massacre civilians. What once may have sounded like rejected scenes from a remake of Poltergeist, now strike Israelis in the north as harbingers, especially after this summer’s Gaza war, which laid bare a complex of subterranean tunnels that had been dug under Israel’s southwestern border with the Gaza Strip—an area ruled by Hamas, a party whose credo calls for the destruction of the State of Israel." (VF)

"Despite being outraised by Democratic super PACs all year long, the top conservative groups played to a draw in September and are in a strong position to continue matching — and possibly surpassing — their rivals leading up to Election Day. Conservative megadonors worried the Democrats’ surprising advantage in super PAC spending could cost the Republicans the Senate poured a flood of million-dollar checks into GOP-allied groups last month. The three biggest-spending conservative super PACs — the Karl Rove-conceived American Crossroads, the Joe Ricketts-funded Ending Spending Action Fund and the Koch brothers-backed Freedom Partners Action Fund — raised $30.3 million in September, according to a POLITICO analysis of reports filed over the past few days with the Federal Election Commission. The top three Democrat-aligned super PACs — the Harry Reid-linked Senate Majority PAC, the Nancy Pelosi-backed House Majority PAC and the Tom Steyer-led NextGen Climate Action — raised $30.5 million last month.Still, for the 2014 cycle, the top three liberal groups are trouncing the conservatives in super PAC fundraising, $134 million to $58 million, and the left has by far the most generous donor of disclosed cash in Steyer, a retired San Francisco hedge fund billionaire. He has given $41.6 million to his group, including $15 million last month alone — accounting for all but $2 million of the fundraising for NextGen, which is motivated by environmental issues." (Politico)

"Sunday on the Sava. That my beloved Green Parrot is closed and under renovation is an excellent reason to exit Key West. Most importantly the dance floor is being rebuilt and I feel a little responsible for its extensive wear and tear. What a great time to be away, because to be there and not be allowed to go dance at the Green Parrot would be worse than hell. Equally hellish in my sainted little island life is the weather, it being the muggy season, where the atmosphere perspires and oxygen has vanished and it feels like one is gagging on mouthfuls of clouds. These days I am in the very ancient city of Belgrade, Serbia where I have rented an apartment short-term and I'm feeling like a native but behaving like a tourist, using methods like the tram tracks to find my way home. Employing hand gestures to communicate numbers, flashing fingers and wincing, until the person says, 'English?' And I grin pathetically and proffer colored papery notes, fanned out like a deck of cards, and let them pluck what they like. The city of Belgrade is hustle and bustle like New York City except of course with a European flair with ornate buildings while others are blocks of marble, still others bombed wreckage with shrubbery growing where once there were walls. Bustling coffee shops everywhere are filled with slouched lupine locals." (Christina Oxenberg)

The glam Ms. von Furstenberg and Mr. Diller, who first met in the mid-'70s.

"ANOTHER WOMAN of note has topped off an incredible career based simply on her own will, talents, and determination. In fact, as the memoir 'The Woman I Wanted To Be' comes out, Diane Von Furstenberg is at the top of a fashion and living success that is even greater than her first slap at fame — (when she invented the simple wrap dress of the '70s.) I have known a lot of legendary females in my time covering New York, Hollywood and places in between and I often cite Helen Gurley Brown and Gloria Steinem as the ones people most often ask me about. A little later I had to add Tina Brown and Nora Ephron to the list. But now I find Diane the super person that folks are most curious about. Well, in her book, Diane tells us in no uncertain terms what she is 'really' like — her first youthful 'open' marriage that gave her children and made her a princess, then about when she and the dynamic entrepreneur Barry Diller first met and became lovers, drifted not apart but separately, stayed connected, finally married and all the ups and downs of health, coping, fashion, making decisions, being frank, honest and truthful and together, raising a terrific set of children, grandchildren and 'friends' as well." (NYSD)

Monday, October 20, 2014

John Oliver on The Supreme Court

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"In theory, the political equality of the polling place is supposed to be a counterweight to the inequality of wealth and power in the economy. According to the theory, anyone can vote, and anyone’s vote is worth as much as anyone else’s. But the Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, is bent on undermining the promise of American democracy. The Roberts court began to do this in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC by allowing the wealthy inordinate influence over campaign outcomes through contributions, which need not even be disclosed. The latest salvo is the court’s decision last week to allow Texas’ restrictions on voting to go into effect in spite of a district court’s ruling that they were unconstitutional. Texas’s laws, like those in other Republican-dominated states, have an ostensible political purpose, but their effect is to reinstitute barriers to voting that two centuries of fierce conflict had finally removed. Texas’ Republican legislature began almost a decade ago to promote a law that would require special identification at the polling place.They finally passed a bill, which Governor Rick Perry jubilantly signed, in May 2011. In 2012, the Justice Department blocked implementation of the law under the Voting Rights Act. But a year later, the Supreme Court threw out the provision of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the Justice Department to deny the approval of voting rules in Texas and other states that had been guilty of violating minority rights. Texas’s Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is now running for governor, immediately declared the law in effect for the 2014 elections.n theory, the political equality of the polling place is supposed to be a counterweight to the inequality of wealth and power in the economy. According to the theory, anyone can vote, and anyone’s vote is worth as much as anyone else’s. But the Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, is bent on undermining the promise of American democracy. The Roberts court began to do this in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC by allowing the wealthy inordinate influence over campaign outcomes through contributions, which need not even be disclosed. The latest salvo is the court’s decision last week to allow Texas’ restrictions on voting to go into effect in spite of a district court’s ruling that they were unconstitutional. Texas’s laws, like those in other Republican-dominated states, have an ostensible political purpose, but their effect is to reinstitute barriers to voting that two centuries of fierce conflict had finally removed. Texas’ Republican legislature began almost a decade ago to promote a law that would require special identification at the polling place. They finally passed a bill, which Governor Rick Perry jubilantly signed, in May 2011. In 2012, the Justice Department blocked implementation of the law under the Voting Rights Act. But a year later, the Supreme Court threw out the provision of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the Justice Department to deny the approval of voting rules in Texas and other states that had been guilty of violating minority rights. Texas’s Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is now running for governor, immediately declared the law in effect for the 2014 elections." (John Judis/TNR)

Chris Patten during a ceremony for his departure as Hong Kong’s last colonial governor in 1997.                        
Chris Patten during a ceremony for his departure as Hong Kong’s last colonial governor in 1997. Associated Press

"The agreement to return Hong Kong to China was signed by U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang in 1984. During a tense 1982 trip to China, Mrs. Thatcher tripped and stumbled on the steps of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square. It proved to be an omen for Mrs. Thatcher, who had started out as an optimist about the Hong Kong negotiations but soon realized that China had the upper hand. By 1983, after several rounds of increasingly testy talks, she abandoned her hopes of 'turning Hong Kong into a self-governing territory,' according to her memoirs, and accepted China’s claim of sovereignty. 'We did the best we could with quite a weak hand because we were dealing with a lease that ran out in 1997,' said Anthony Galsworthy, a former British ambassador to China. While China had ceded Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon peninsula to Britain in perpetuity, the U.K. held the lion’s share of Hong Kong’s territory under a 99-year lease.
Still, Mrs. Thatcher, who died last year, remained hopeful. The 1984 agreement and subsequent pacts guaranteed that Hong Kong wouldn’t be quickly absorbed into China, stipulating that it would have 'a high degree of autonomy' and that top officials would come from Hong Kong. The negotiations provided only loose guidance, however, on the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive—today’s big sticking point." (WSJ)

Photograph by Jonathan Becker

"Standing six feet and five inches tall, John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill was every inch a duke.  He was born in 1926, at Blenheim Palace, the spectacular 187-room baroque behemoth that was part of the 2,000-acre estate in Oxfordshire that Queen Anne gifted in 1705 'on behalf of a grateful nation' to Spencer-Churchill’s forbear, John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, after his pivotal victory against the French army.  Blenheim (the only non-royal, non-ecclesiastical residence in Britain styled a palace) has awed all visitors ever since. 'We have nothing to equal this,' King George III said to Queen Charlotte in 1786, upon his first visit. With the death of his father, in 1972, Spencer-Churchill became the 11th Duke of Marlborough and inherited the vast property—as well as the headaches all his ancestors had suffered trying to maintain the place. (Cousin Winston Churchill, born at Blenheim in 1874, was the presumptive heir to the dukedom until Spencer-Churchill’s grandparents produced a son.) 'My famous ancestor won the Battle of Blenheim in one day—but his descendants have been fighting it ever since,' His Grace the Duke said in 2011, when he and the Duchess of Marlborough allowed me to interview them for Vanity Fair and posed for photographer Jonathan Becker. " (VF)

Martha Stewart Weddings party inspires marriage proposal

"One exuberant guest got so caught up in the moment at Martha Stewart Weddings’ 20-year anniversary party at the Pierre Monday, he proposed to his girlfriend. 'She said yes,' said a witness.
The event was hosted by the mag’s staff, including editorial director Darcy Miller and Martha Stewart. The Living Omnimedia title will reportedly be handed off to Meredith Corp. in a licensing deal that was announced this week. Also at the bash, where guests could get manicures and makeovers, were designers Carolina Herrera and Erin Fetherston, as well as event planners Preston Bailey and Bronson van Wyck." (P6)

Entering Mrs. DeWoody's living room while one of the guests, having spotted me taking the picture, pretends to be hiding from the camera.

"Then on Sunday afternoon Beth DeWoody gave a booksigning party at her Gracie Square apartment for our mutual friend and neighbor Charlie Scheips and his new book “Elsie DeWolfe’s Paris; Frivolity Before the Storm” (Abrams Publishers). The “storm” being Nazi Germany. This is an extraordinary book for social history as well as a chronicle of a time and a world that has passed.  It bears the curiosity along the lines of the great social document Augustus Mayhew put together for us with Ellen Glendinning Ordway’s photo diary of 50 years of the 20th century. Mrs. Ordway, as firstly Mrs. Frazer, on her honeymoon coincidentally happens to make an appearance in the book. But more about all that on Tuesday’s Diary when I will write about the book, the author and the subject." (NYSD)

"For models, Fashion Week starts the week before the shows, with castings all over the city. You show up, walk for designers and casting directors, and hope to get picked. Sometimes you don’t find out if you’ve been booked for a show until the day before. Two years ago, I started taking a camera with me to castings and shows to document what I was seeing. This season, castings began on a lonely Labor Day weekend. While most of my friends were out of town, I shuttled around to different offices and shot a look book for a Korean designer. I went to SoulCycle classes and, at night, put on face masks. These things just get me in the game — there’s really nothing you can do to prepare for the runway other than just feel good about yourself.
Lately, casting directors seem to be looking for either brand-new faces or for big-name veterans, like Naomi Campbell or Gisele, who both made surprise appearances on the runway this season. It’s tough to carve out a career in between all that, when you’ve been around a few seasons but you’re not a household name. Still, this season I walked for Opening Ceremony and J. Mendel in New York, and then I went straight to Paris, where I was booked by Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent. Every designer asks that you walk down the runway a different way: Sometimes it’s graceful and feminine; other times it’s tough, like at Saint Laurent, where you just feel cool about yourself. I walked in the Chanel show, too, where Karl Lagerfeld staged a 'feminist' rally and asked us to come out holding picket signs and shouting slogans. I chose DIVORCE POUR TOUS because it felt less awkward to scream something in French than it would in English. Being a model today is about so much more than what you do on the runway. You have to promote yourself on Instagram and in street style and build your personal brand. Part of the reason I document my life is to turn the camera around — to photograph the world that photographs me." (NYMag)

"The dubious Dawa (medicine) man of Carnivore restaurant - the ultimate tourist trap in Johannesburg which is like the Epcot Center of South Africa (providing you and all its guests with a real, live South African experience!) ... promises his drink will soothe all your pans and ills and make you happy. Which it may. If you aren't AA or an angry drunk. Where: Carnivore Restaurant, Johannesburg Why go: You’ve seen animals like zebra, elan, springbok and crocodiles from a Jeep, now why not experience them on your plate? Just like a real African! Carnivore, which prides itself on giving tourists the ultimate realness in African experiences, is the meat eaters ultimate Epcot center. Adding to the Epcot-ness is, at least three times a night, the servers and other staff with beat drums and sing and dance across the dining area (which, in keeping with the theme, has zebra patterned nylon seats). Take Note: Crocodile oddly takes like fish. We’re talking fishy fish. And Zebra? Stick some slices on rye, with a little bit of horseradish mayo and that would make a mighty fine sandwich." (Paula Froelich/Yahoo! Travel)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Defying the U.S. and Europe is forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin to aid his biggest rival to the east. To avert a recession, Russia is turning to China for investment, granting it once restricted access to raw materials and advanced weapons, say two people involved in planning Kremlin policy who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. Russia’s growing dependence on China, with which it spent decades battling for control over global communism, may end up strengthening its neighbor’s position in the Pacific. With the ruble near a record low and foreign investment disappearing, luring Chinese cash also may deepen Russia’s reliance on natural resources and derail efforts to diversify the economy. 'Now that Putin has turned away from the West and toward the East, China is drawing maximum profit from Russian necessity,' says Masha Lipman, an independent political analyst in Moscow who co-authored a study on Putin with former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul. China is wasting no time filling the void created by the closing of U.S. and European debt markets to Russia’s largest borrowers. A delegation led by Premier Li Keqiang signed a package of deals on Oct. 13 in Moscow. Among them were an agreement to swap $25 billion in Chinese yuan for Russian rubles over three years, a treaty to protect companies operating in Russia and China from having their profits taxed twice, and cooperation on satellite-navigation systems and high-speed rail. To promote trade, Export-Import Bank of China agreed to provide credit lines to state-owned VTB Group and Vnesheconombank, Russia’s development bank, as well as a trade finance deal with Russian Agricultural Bank. Russia’s economy is more vulnerable than it’s been since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Unlike then, Russians are united in support of their leader, and with $455 billion in foreign currency and gold reserves, the country isn’t broke, according to Lipman. 'The economy was much worse then, but Russia was in a much better position geopolitically because it had the support of the U.S. and Europe,' she says. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t respond to requests for comment.The deepening ties between Russia and China may reverberate throughout East Asia as Putin meets his neighbor’s desire for state-of-the-art weaponry. Russia is likely to sign contracts for the delivery of S-400 missile systems and Su-35 fighter jets to China as early as the first quarter of next year, says Vasily Kashin, a China expert at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow. Russia may also supply China with its newest submarine, the Amur 1650, he says. These arms deals could trigger a conventional arms race, says Omar Lamrani, a military analyst at Stratfor, a U.S. geopolitical risk-analysis company. 'Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam are already worried about the Chinese military, and those concerns will only increase if China gets this Russian equipment,' he says." (BusinessWeek)

"I missed yesterday’s Diary in which I would have written about the Wednesday lunch at Michael’s. I often think if you read the NYSD regularly this is the biggest yawn of all. Because on the face of it, what is it really but a lot of faces. And if you don’t know who they are, well ... who cares? Except. A lot of them do know who they are. And this is New York and Who and Are is part of the commerce. I go there all the time to pick up the pulse but I’ve also had the opportunity to have some interesting lunches there. Wednesday I had lunch with Meryle Secrest who has a new book out, a biography of Elsa Schiaparelli, the 20th century Italian born fashion designer. So interesting but first the frantic front room (and more serene) garden room on this past Wednesday. Talk about cacophony. If you don’t know who they are, as I said, no matter. I’m not going into much detail for this round – think media and marketing and you’re more than halfway there: Tom Goodman and Liane Ramirez; Jon Meacham, Joel Moser with James Guffey, Peggy Siegal; Leslie Stevens, Diane Clehane, Ouidad, Kate Boothby; Joe Armstrong with David Zinczenko; Jason Binn with Jim Fallon; Nancy Cardone of Marie Claire with Fragrance Foundation’s Elizabeth Musmanno; Debra Fine; Rich Gelfond; Elizabeth Harrison; Ed Klein with Judith Pisar; Susan Magrino; Jack Myers with John Sykes; John Paton (El Diario);" (NYSD)

"Hillary Clinton is drawing large, cheering crowds at virtually every stop as she campaigns for Democrats in the midterm elections. Back in Washington, another audience is equally engrossed, though much less enraptured, by her every word.
While Clinton rallied voters Wednesday night in Kentucky, Republicans in the capital monitored her appearance on a livestream broadcast. Inside the Louisville convention center, a GOP campaign tracker recorded video of Clinton hand-in-hand with Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in front of a backdrop of red, white, and blue lights. When the event was over, the watchers were read. 'Hillary didn't mention Mitch once. Odd strategy in GOP state,' tweeted Tim Miller after Clinton's Wednesday appearance with Grimes, who is trying to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Miller is the executive director of America Rising PAC, a Republican research group stockpiling ammunition to use against Clinton and her allies during the 2014 election and, he hopes, the 2016 presidential. Though the former secretary of State is months away from announcing whether she'll make a second bid for the White House, a whole industry is already defining her image. At least 10 groups list defeating Clinton as their primary mission, according to a review of Federal Election Commission filings, and Democrats say they're preparing for as much as $500 million in spending on attack ads during the 2016 election aimed at her. Her allies have created their own organization to push back, an effort run by longtime supporters but technically unaffiliated with Clinton. In event after event, Republicans record Clinton's statements, scrutinize them for any gaffes, and bank footage." (Bloomberg)

"On the evening of May 6, a man carrying a shotgun approached a black Lancia Voyager pulling out of a hospital parking lot in Nice, France. Raising the weapon, he fired through the front passenger window and hit Helene Pastor, the richest woman in Monaco, in the chest, neck and jaw. Another shot hit her driver, Mohamed Darwich, in the heart and abdomen. As the gunman fled with an accomplice to Marseille, the victims were rushed to the intensive care unit at Nice’s St. Roch hospital. Darwich died four days later. Pastor told police before she died on May 21 that she had no idea who would want to attack her, French weekly L’Express said. 'There was real astonishment. She was an extremely discreet individual and the Pastor family aspired to be completely normal business people,' said Frederic Laurent, a Monaco historian. 'They’re the richest family in the principality but their business affairs were perfectly normal.' Over the next seven weeks, police pieced together phone records, closed-circuit television footage and DNA found on a soap bottle in the gunman’s hotel room. The trail led them to Wojciech Janowski, the longtime partner of Pastor’s daughter, Sylvia. His personal trainer Pascal Dauriac told police that Janowski gave him 140,000 euros ($180,000) in cash to arrange the attack, Brice Robin, the Marseille prosecutor, said at a June 27 news conference ... The fortune Janowski stands accused of targeting belongs to a single branch of the Pastor family, the Monegasque clan that built much of Monaco’s skyline and owns thousands of apartments in the city-state. Helene Pastor’s two children, Sylvia and Gildo, stand to inherit at least $1.2 billion each, joining four other members of the family’s fourth generation who also have become billionaires, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. None have appeared individually on an international wealth ranking." (Bloomberg)

© Eric Nathan/Alamy.

"On May 6, 2014, the sun was still high over Nice, France, when Hélène Pastor, 77, left L’Archet public hospital and was ambushed and murdered in a barrage of gunfire. She was known as Monaco’s richest woman, reportedly worth as much as $25 billion. But even before her murder, 2014 had been an annus horribilis for her. On January 26, her dashing son, Gildo, 47—co-founder, along with Leonardo DiCaprio, of a Formula E-style electric-car racing team, and owner of an electric-car consumer brand called Venturi—suffered a devastating stroke, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak. A little more than a week later, Hélène buried her brother, Michel, known as 'the Boss of Monaco.' His death, at 70, after a long illness, left her as the last surviving offspring of Gildo Pastor, the late real-estate developer, who had been anointed in 1966 by Prince Rainier to build the wall of high-rise buildings that would come to constitute the new Monte Carlo, home to the most expensive real estate in the world. The two tragedies, along with her only daughter’s being diagnosed with breast cancer a few years earlier, had left Hélène, known as Monaco’s 'deputy princess,' distraught. 'Sometimes, I wonder if there is a God,' she told a friend. However, on the day she was shot, in early May, she had reason for optimism. Gildo was going home in a few days, so her daily drives, about 45 minutes each way, between Monaco and the hospital in Nice would be over, and the summer season was ahead. Around seven P.M., she kissed her ailing son good-bye and walked out of the hospital to her black Lancia Voyager minivan, where her longtime chauffeur and majordomo, Mohamed Darwich, 64, was waiting to drive her home. She climbed into the passenger seat, because Belle, her large, snow-white Pyrenean shepherd, occupied the backseat. The street in front of the hospital was crowded with traffic and pedestrians, who watched a surreal scene unfold. From the snack bar across from the hospital a young man signaled when the black minivan rolled out of the driveway and turned right. Just then, a second young man stepped from the shadows with a sawed-off shotgun, of the kind used by European hunters to shoot wild boars in the Provençal forests. At extremely close range, the man aimed the shotgun at the front-seat passenger-side window and fired twice. The car was engulfed in a rain of lead and broken glass. Pastor and her driver were struck in the face, neck, chest, and abdomen. Dr. Eric Cua was smoking a cigarette in the hospital driveway when he heard the gunfire and was told that someone had been shot. He rushed to the van to find Pastor slumped in her seat, her chest riddled with shot. He took her pulse. Nothing. 'I thought she was dead,' he said. But she was still alive and lived 15 days more, before expiring on May 21. (Her chauffeur had died on May 10. The dog, Belle, survived.)'" (VF)

Verdura President Nico Landrigan sported a pair of Verdura cabochon emerald cufflinks.

"On Monday, October 6th, legendary jeweler Verdura held a private press preview of their current exhibit, “The Power of Style: Verdura at 75.” Hosted (and curated) by Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera and their daughter, Patricia Lansing, and by Verdura Chairman & CEO Ward Landrigan and his son President Nico Landrigan, the exhibit celebrates the 75th anniversary of Duke Fulco di Verdura opening his salon on Fifth Avenue. The exhibit features photos, drawings and in many cases the original exquisite jewels created by Verdura for some of the most stylish and famous faces of the twentieth century, including Linda and Cole Porter, Greta Garbo, Coco Chanel, and Babe Paley. " (NYSD)

Sir Bob Geldof blames himself for Peaches’ death

"Sir Bob Geldof is still recovering from Peaches Geldof‘s sudden death in April. 'She was super bright, too bright,' said Sir Bob, 63, to ITV News on Wednesday about his late daughter, who died of a heroin overdose at 25. 'She knew what life was supposed to be. God bless her she tried, very hard to get there. And she didn’t make it.' He says he blames himself for his daughter’s death. 'I’m not just blaming the newspapers, of course not,' he continued. 'You blame yourself. You’re the father who’s responsible and clearly failed.' The Live Aid founder often thinks he could have done more to save Peaches’ life. 'For anybody watching, who has a dead kid and you’re a parent, you go back, you go back, you go back, you go back, you go back, you go over, you go over, what could you have done,' he said. Even months after her passing, he’s still grieving and struggling to find answers. 'The ability to try and understand, though it isn’t comprehensible, or try to come to terms with the immensity of the grief is there,' he explained. 'But it takes a long while to filter through. I’m not there yet with Peaches. It was all too soon. Too sudden. Too unexpected.' Despite the tragedy the year has brought him, Sir Bob finds some relief when he takes the stage. 'It is utterly cathartic those two hours. I am drained. It drains my mind,' he said. 'It’s very useful.' Peaches’ mother, Paula Yates, also died of a heroin overdose in 2000." (p6)

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)


"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)