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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Alec Baldwin Interviews Julianne Moore





Media-Whore D'Oeuvres






"'The Interview' is an outstanding example of Hollywood's most popular genre: Movies That Should Never Have Been Made. That said, theaters that are pulling the film due to threats of terrorism should stiffen their spines. The movie, from Sony Corp., features Seth Rogen and James Franco as journalists who assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. From the start, it was an obviously bad idea. North Korea, with predictable belligerence, said it constituted an 'act of war.' Sony executives and distributors around the world found the film vulgar, dimwitted and 'desperately unfunny,' which in today's Hollywood is really saying something. Yet Sony pressed ahead, and now it's suffering arguably the worst cyberattack in corporate history, which hardly seems like a coincidence. Although the perpetrators haven't been identified, plenty of signs point to North Korea -- not least that the hackers have expressed an improbably vehement hatred of 'The Interview.' This week, they even threatened violence against theaters that show the movie. Two companies, Carmike Cinemas and Landmark Theatres, have already caved and pulled the movie. Others may soon follow. They're setting an awful precedent. Giving in to such threats only increases the likelihood of more intimidation. And what if, next time, the film in question isn't a dopey buddy comedy but something more serious -- a movie, say, that criticizes another autocratic regime with an enthusiasm for cyberattacks? That's a dangerous road to travel, especially in response to a threat that experts consider deeply farfetched. If the theater companies can't summon the marginal bravery required to show this film, then Sony should stand behind its work. It should release 'The Interview' online, and offer it to the world as a gesture of defiance and artistic liberty. That might serve as a useful experiment in distribution methods." (Bloomberg)












"'CBS Evening News' anchor Scott Pelley and executive producer Steve Capus were among the tvnewsers at last night’s White House media holiday party. Also spotted, Chris Licht, VP of Programming for CBS News, morning anchors Norah O’Donnell from 'CBS This Morning,' 'Morning Joe’s' Joe Scarborough, CNN 'New Day' anchor Chris Cuomo and 'Good Morning America’s' George Stephanopoulos. CNN anchors Candy Crowley and Wolf Blitzer were there, as were Fox News anchors Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren, and Greta’s husband John Coale. CNN executives Jeff Zucker and Andrew Morse, MSNBC president Phil Griffin, PBS’s Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, MSNBC anchor Joy Ann Reid (with her eldest son in tow), Haddad Media’s Tammy Haddad, and DC correspondents including FNC’s Shannon Bream, CBS’s Bill Plante, CNN’s Joe Johns, and NBC’s Chris Jansing and Kelly O’Donnell." (TvNewser)









Click to order "Manners That Matter Most."







"Last night I had dinner with Mai Harrison at Swifty’s. Mai had just come from a book signing at Nancy and Joe Misset’s for Susan Rudin and Louise Maniscalco and their book, 'The Trade Off.' Swifty’s was packed and there was a party in the back for  another book: 'Manners That Matter Most; The Easy Guide to Etiquette At Home and In the World.'  Researched and written by June Eding, it’s an excellent little book. It’s small enough that it could be a good stocking-stuffer. It’s about exactly what you think. Manners and Etiquette sound old fashioned nowadays. And in a way, they are, it is. Because we’re a mess now. The lack thereof  is epidemic and the result is we aren’t relating to each other as easily as strangers might/should/could/would. I know a book isn’t going to make the difference. I don’t know what will. But it is clear to me at this late age that I’ve only got along in this life with the basics that we call Manners and Etiquette. It’s the only way we can all get along. Eding’s book is comprehensive, serious, easy to read, and actually inspiring on a certain level. She begins each chapter with a 'quote' that is reaffirming of her point. For example: Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance. — Henry Ward Beecher. Or: Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others ... — Marcus Tullius Cicero. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. Lao Tzu. Meanwhile, for more inspiration, here are the windows down at Bergdorf’s. Fabulous, fascinating and more fabulous." (NYSD)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres






"To gaze back at who has dominated the international debate in America over much of the last 30 years is to see mostly neocons: the old Francis Fukuyama, Fouad Ajami, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, and so forth. They have outshone liberals in presenting their foreign-policy views by being more prolific, more coherent, and harder-hitting. Outside their clan stand only a small handful of notables like Henry Kissinger, a realist; Zbigniew Brzezinski, hard to peg since the Carter years but certainly a neoconfoe; Samuel Huntington, a conservative Democract; and Fareed Zakaria, a centrist.  For much of this period of neoconservative ascendance, Robert Kagan has been their intellectual tribune. This is why his courtship of Clinton is so interesting. Kagan’s open flirtation with Clinton has been coyly accepted and even reciprocated. While continuing to clutch the liberals’ new priorities like women’s rights, democracy, and climate change in her left hand, she is extending her right hand to the hawks. Few failed to notice when she selected Kagan to sit on her bipartisan State Department advisory group or when she picked his wife, Victoria Nuland, a very accomplished diplomat in her own right, as her spokeswoman. And it’s no accident that the much-admired former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, a friend to the Clintons and Kagans, keeps Kagan on at the venerable Brookings Institution as a senior fellow. Clinton has been increasingly touting her heretofore private record of toughness on Syria (she wanted early military aid to the rebels), Iraq (she urged extending the troop pullout date), and Afghanistan (she advocated a longer U.S. military presence). To be sure, it’s fair game in Washington after stepping down as a Cabinet officer to reveal where one stood on contentious issues, especially if these tough calls look plausible in hindsight. Clinton can’t be condemned for that.  The increasing fervor of her memories of past objections to Obama policies, however, is notable. She raised eyebrows in August when she told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, 'The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad…left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.' These and other slams at Obama’s liberal foreign policy, since echoed by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, can only be music to Kagan’s ears. There’s plenty in Clinton’s hard-nosed revelations to make the neocons hopeful, but how far will she go? President Obama himself has been moving rightward in his last years, and practitioners have to be mindful of the fickleness of politicians’ foreign-policy beliefs." (ForeignPolicy)



Vladimir Putin, trying and failing to stare down a currency crisis. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/Getty Images


"Santa has come early for the American commuter this year, bearing the gift of cheap prices at the pump. The plunge in the value of crude has filtered through to gas prices in the United States, with the average price of a gallon of unleaded dropping to $2.52, down from $3.24 a year ago. That means a lot of money left over in average families’ pocketbooks — especially the lower-income suburban and rural families that spend a disproportionately large amount filling up their tanks. But markets are not exactly applauding. The price of a barrel of oil extended its drop overnight, and the Dow was down at the opening bell this morning. And despite the surge of consumer spending the drop in gas prices should encourage — and during the holiday season, no less — the Standard & Poor’s 500 has fallen about 2.5 percent over the past month. That is because along with these cheap gas prices has come a huge lump of coal in the form of currency and commodities volatility. With the price of oil below $60 a barrel, countries that rely on oil production have taken a massive hit. At these levels, many OPEC producers are officially in the red — even Saudi Arabia is pitching toward a deficit.
Worst off of all is Russia, hit hard by European and American sanctions for its incursion into Ukraine as well as the drop in the price of crude. The ruble has lost about 50 percent of its value this year. Inflation has spiked. Gazprom, the state-owned oil giant, is reportedly contemplating firing a quarter of its staff. The economy is shrinking, and fast. To help staunch the bleeding and keep money in Russia, last night the central bank hiked its main deposit rate to 17 percent. Those are the actions of a country in the midst of a currency crisis, not just a recession, and the problem is that solving one might mean worsening the other. If you offer investors 17 percent to keep their money parked in the bank, what incentive do they have to spend it?" (NYMag)





"One morning early, on my Serbian adventure, I was driven from central Belgrade to the top of Avala, a mountain where my ancestor, King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, commissioned a monument The Tomb of the Unnamed Soldier to commemorate the victims of the Balkan Wars and World War I. Wars he fought in. This tomb would be built over the site of a medieval Fort, which was itself constructed atop the ruins of an ancient Roman city. Plans began, but over time, Alexander’s vision expanded from a modest gravesite to a memorial complex requiring the freeing up of space on the mountaintop. An explosives expert by the name of Schultz was brought along to prepare the area with copious dynamite. King Alexander granted the honor of plunging the TNT device to his nephew and namesake, Prince Alexander, the eldest son of Prince Paul, my grandfather. Whatever the King’s reason for choosing his nephew over his own sons, my uncle Alexander so relished the experience to this day, and he is alive and well and living in Paris, he is known, in small family circles, as Schultz. I’ve known this all my life, but I never knew why." (Christina Oxenberg)




"A new Bill Cosby sexual assault claim could mean criminal charges for the comedian. Chloe Goins, 24, claims the television figure drugged her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008, which puts the claim within California’s statute of limitations for criminal charges, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The multitude of recent allegations against Cosby, including claims from supermodels Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson, refer to alleged events that took place decades ago. Goins, who was 18 at the time of the alleged incident, told the Daily Mail she plans to give a full statement to the Los Angeles Police Department. The model-turned-lap dancer says she attended a party at Hugh Hefner’s famed pad with a friend when Cosby, now 77, offered her a drink. 'He gave me a vodka mixer I think,' she told the Daily Mail. 'I wasn’t really supposed to drink because of my age, but I was like, ‘OK, cool,'' she continued. 'I remember the drink being kind of strong but it didn’t taste funny or anything like that. I think I finished most of it. I didn’t set my glass down. I was holding it the whole time.'" (P6)



Steve talking shop with another "photographer," Sir Harry Benson.
 


"Yesterday, I had lunch uptown, and JH went to Michael’s to lunch with Carol Joynt our Washington Diarist who was in town for business reasons. Carol recently became Vice President of Communications at Foreign Policy magazine. We rarely see each other and when she comes to New York she loves the plate of fries at Michael’s. (They heap them on.) Here’s the story as told by JH and his camera.  A Good Time was had by all. Late yesterday afternoon at the old Marcel Breuer-designed Whitney Museum on 75th and Madison they held a memorial celebration for Richard Marshall, the art historian and museum curator who died suddenly at age 67 at his house in La Jolla last August 8th. Richard was highly regarded in his profession. That was evident by the turnout at the memorial – which is exactly what it was – friends and family remembering him. He was one of those remarkable personalities who did what he loved to do, did it very well, and without the kind of fervor that makes life difficult for others. He had a quiet but always present sense of humor. He was a California boy who had an eye for art outside of the New York/Paris art axis. He was easy to work with and even easier to be friends with. The memories shared of him all had a subtext of  the pleasure of his company, his humor and his friendship, and in the context of a life well lived." (NYSD)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



Army of Spin


"The foreign media image of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government has shattered over the past 18 months, and in response Turkey has ramped up an aggressive international information blitzkrieg. The campaign is made up of two fundamental elements: condemnation of allegedly duplicitous Western coverage, and a concerted effort to communicate the government’s message internationally. The onslaught is intense and the tone is becoming increasingly bitter. The words of a recent piece by Ibrahim Karagul, the editor-in-chief of the pro-Erdogan newspaper Yeni Safak, reflect the mood: 'What we have been experiencing for the last two years is a global struggle. This is why they have declared war against Turkey and its calculations for the future…. If you have plans to be a great country then you will find the whole world opposing you.' They may sound ludicrously bombastic, but such sentiments are widely shared among senior government officials. Convinced that the foreign media is a propaganda weapon deployed by the West, many call on patriotic Turks to rally behind the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the name of national sovereignty. This sense of embattled defiance is important to understand, and reveals much about the resentful mindset gripping the state. Joel Simon, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), wrote earlier this month about his recent meeting with President Erdogan, who, he said, surprised him by striking a 'combative posture,' denouncing foreign media coverage as (in Simon’s words) 'biased, intrusive, and tendentious n recent public speeches, Erdogan has repeatedly denounced 'foreign media groups' as well as the local “treason networks' alleged to be collaborating with them. Needless to say, this is a long way from the democratizing, self-confident Turkey that many in the West hoped was emerging just a few years ago." (ForeignPolicy)




Can Power reconcile her ardent human-rights interventionism with the “composite calculus” that must guide American policy?


"On July 17, 2013, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to consider the nomination of Samantha Power to be America’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She was an unusual choice. Although she had been a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and served on the National Security Council as the senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights, she had never been a diplomat. At forty-two, she would be the youngest-ever American Ambassador to the U.N. Power was best known for her book  'A Problem from Hell:' America and the Age of Genocide.' An indictment of what she called Washington’s 'toleration of unspeakable atrocities, often committed in clear view,' it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. For her conviction that America has a responsibility to halt or prevent the suffering of civilians abroad, she had been caricatured as the Ivy League Joan of Arc. She had written (in this magazine and elsewhere) with unqualified assurance. As a speaker, she was a performer of the first order,' Leslie H. Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. 'No notes, the fingers and the arms always flashing in the air, and a voice going from a whisper to a shout. She was pure theatre.' In a 2002 interview on 'Conversations with History,' a television series filmed in Berkeley, Power described a hypothetical need for a 'mammoth protection force' to police a peace accord between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But after she began working as an adviser on Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign, in 2007, his critics quoted that interview in accusing him of harboring hostility toward Israel, and Power disavowed her comments. In a departure for a journalist, she quietly asked the host of the interview to remove the video from the Web, though portions of it still circulate online. To repair the damage, she subsequently approached Shmuley Boteach, a celebrity rabbi who ran for Congress in New Jersey, Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, and other prominent defenders of Israel, who endorsed her U.N. nomination. She knew that during her confirmation hearing her record, her vision of America’s role in the world, and her transformation from an activist to a political figure would receive intense scrutiny. Tom Nides, a former Deputy Secretary of State, told her that her chance of being confirmed was twenty per cent, at best." (NewYorker)





"She has a spot in Democratic leadership, a swelling alliance of liberals in Congress and a rabid following in the Democratic Party. The question is: What does Elizabeth Warren want to do with all that power? Groups on the left are trying to draft the Massachusetts liberal into the presidential race, viewing her as the perfect populist counterweight to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Warren has steadfastly refused those overtures, and allies take her at her word that she isn’t planning to run. Meanwhile, her influence in the Senate is on the rise, partly due to a new position in Democratic leadership that makes her a liaison to groups on the left who have grown frustrated with the party’s direction.Warren has signaled she won’t be a shrinking violet in the post, last week defying Senate leaders and the White House to lead a revolt against government funding legislation that included a provision that rolled back part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. While the uprising ultimately failed, the fight showed Warren has real clout. 'When she gets involved in issues, she makes a real impact right away,' said one financial lobbyist. 'When she gets involved in an issue, it spooks other members. … It’s just not worth it sometimes to be against her.' Warren was already a rock star among liberals before she arrived in the Senate. She first gained recognition as an outspoken critic of the financial industry at Harvard, and rose to White House adviser when her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, became reality in the Dodd-Frank law. Associates and observers of Warren believe she will spend her new political capital on the issues that brought her to Washington in the first place — defending consumers and the middle class and fighting the power of Wall Street." (TheHill)





"It's a wonderful life on Wall Street, yet here is a holiday wish list to make it even better. 1. The financial sector rids itself of anyone with even the faintest reason to believe that he or she is unusually clever.All those who have scored highly on standardized tests, or been invited to join Mensa, or finished in the top quartile of any graduating class will be banned. Most of our recent financial calamities -- collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps on subprime mortgage bonds, trading algorithms that prey on ordinary investors, the gaming of rating companies' models, the rigging of the Greek government's books so the country might disguise its true indebtedness -- required a great deal of ingenuity. Lesser minds would have been incapable of causing so much damage. Of course, it's not easy to prevent clever people from working in finance, or from doing anything else they want to do. Perhaps now more than ever, clever people are habituated to being paid to ignore the spirit of any rule -- which is one reason they have become such a problem on Wall Street. Upon seeing a new rule they do not think, 'What social purpose does this serve, and how can I help it to do the job?' They think, 'How can I game it?' If it pays to disguise their intellects, clever people will do it better than anyone else. Without further regulation, our entire society would soon be operating in the spirit of the Philadelphia 76ers: Kids tanking the SAT, parents choosing high schools that guarantee failure, intellectual prodigies scheming to gain entry to Chico State. No single rule, by itself, is capable of protecting the rest of us from their intellects. We'll need more rules. 2. No person under the age of 35 will be allowed to work on Wall Street. Upon leaving school, young people, no matter how persuasively dimwitted, will be required to earn their living in the so-called real economy. Any job will do: fracker, street performer, chief of marketing for a medical marijuana dispensary. If and when Americans turn 35, and still wish to work in finance, they will carry with them memories of ordinary market forces, and perhaps be grateful to our society for having created an industry that is not subjected to them. At the very least, they will know that some huge number of people -- their former fellow street performers, say -- will be seriously pissed off at them if they do risky things on Wall Street to undermine the real economy. No one wants a bunch of pissed-off street performers coming after them. To that end ... 3. Women will henceforth make all Wall Street trading decisions. Men are more prone to financial risk-taking, and overconfidence, and so will be banned from even secondary roles on Wall Street trading desks -- though they will be permitted to do whatever damage they would like in their private investment accounts." (Michael Lewis)






"What can’t Shonda Rhimes do? She’s the executive producer of the hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy, the political thriller Scandal, and the legal potboiler How to Get Away With Murder, which air in contiguous time slots on ABC. The network hasn’t packed three programs by a single executive producer into one night since 1982, when Aaron Spelling’s series T.J. Hooker, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island aired back-to-back-to-back on Saturdays. All three Rhimes dramas, including the freshman Murder, are popular hits, which is why ABC recently extended its deal with Rhimes’s production company, Shondaland, to keep her on the hook through mid-2018. She’s a master juggler, subcontractor, and impresario who seemingly has yet to succumb to the kind of focus problems that have bedeviled other multitasking showrunners. She created Grey’s and Scandal and oversees Murder, which is the brainchild of Peter Nowalk, a longtime writer and producer on her other programs. Rhimes is as hands-on as a TV producer can be while keeping tabs on multiple shows and having something like a private life. Each workday, she drops her daughter off at school, then heads back to her house, where she tracks the real-time cutting of Shondaland shows via a closed-­circuit feed of editors’ workstations. She also holds in-person or virtual story conferences, reads and writes and rewrites scripts, confers with network executives, and who knows what else. The notion of Rhimes as an NSA-level master of surveillance — the eye in prime time’s sky — would be intriguing even if her shows weren’t good. But they are good. At their best, they’re proof that brazenly commercial pop culture can be at once silly and serious, entertaining and artful, disreputable and significant. Scandal and Murder, in ­particular, are models of how to make network TV a social-media event, designed to be watched, commented upon, and unpacked as it’s happening onscreen. Every week between 9 and 11 p.m., when Scandal and ­Murder air new episodes, you see normally blasé-snarky Twitter feeds light up with OMGs and WTFs. The shows manipulate viewers like puppet master Olivia Pope yanking the D.C. media’s strings and make old TV formats new again." (NyMag)

Harry Benson, Tatiana Smith, and Hilary Geary Ross.

The city is now really getting into the season. The events on the social calendar are more casual and relaxed (not so much black tie), and smaller (the New York version). Last Wednesday night, for example, Hilary Geary Ross and Harry Benson were doing a booksigning for their new Palm Beach People down at Bulgari on 57th Street and Fifth.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Poignant Images From #MillionMarchNYC






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And this .....


Media-Whore D'Oeuvres






"The last time George Tenet was asked about torture on television, he sounded defiant and jabbed his finger in the air. The year was 2007, and Mr. Tenet, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was promoting his memoir when a question about waterboarding came up while he was being interviewed on CBS’ '60 Minutes.' 'You know, the image that’s been portrayed is we sat around the campfire and said, ‘Oh boy, now we go get to torture people,’' Mr. Tenet said, growing angry as the newsman Scott Pelley challenged him on how the agency interrogated terrorism suspects. 'We don’t torture people. Let me say that again to you, we don’t torture people. O.K.?' This week the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a long-awaited report detailing the gruesome interrogation techniques employed by the C.I.A. on Mr. Tenet’s watch as well as the false claims the agency made about their effectiveness. But Mr. Tenet, now a managing director of a secretive New York investment bank, has been nowhere in public view, leaving it to one of his successors — Michael V. Hayden, who was much less involved with the brutal interrogation program — to serve as the C.I.A.’s most vocal defender. While Mr. Hayden has been all over television this week, Mr. Tenet has responded only in writing. But they are working in concert; their disparate approaches are part of an orchestrated campaign by the two former directors — and a third, Porter J. Goss — to defend the agency they all worked for by attacking the report’s credibility." (NYT)


The only thing privileged kids learn is club music


"Some of the world’s most privileged children — with the opportunity to do anything in life — are ending up as DJs. Besides Paris Hilton, and the sons of Valentino exec Carlos Souza, there is Alexandre Arnault, the son of LVMH chairman/CEO Bernard Arnault, the 16th-richest man in the world with $32 billion. Karl Lagerfeld has said he loves going to th VIP Room in St-Tropez 'especially when Double A (Alexandre Arnault) is DJ!' But not everyone applauds the career choice. One fashionista lamented, 'They are given the best education, raised in proper households with nannies and staff, and all they come out with is that they know club music.'" (P6)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Diane Rehm: Brook Shields Interview



Diane Rehm: Domestic News Weekly Roundup



Chris Rock on Howard Stern



Media-Whore D'Oeuvres





"If you take a look at the bill, it does indeed have a bunch of objectionable features. People like me, with nothing really at stake, can bitch and moan about them endlessly. But you know what? For all the interminable whining we do about the death of bipartisanship in Washington, this is what bipartisanship looks like. It always has. It's messy, it's ugly, and it's petty. Little favors get inserted into bills to win votes. Other favors get inserted as payback for the initial favors. Special interests get stroked. Party whips get a workout. That's politics. The fact that it's happening right now is, in a weird sense, actually good news. It means that, for a few days at least, politics is working normally again. I understand that this sounds very Slatepitchy. But it's true. Even at its best, politics is lubricated by venality, ego, and mutual backscratching. And you know what? By the normal standards of this kind of stuff, the obnoxious riders in the current spending bill are pretty mild. Really. The only one that rises above the level of a political misdemeanor is the provision that allows banks to get back into the custom swaps business, and even that's hardly the end of the world. Swaps may have provided a tailwind to the 2008 financial collapse, but they were far from its core cause. So should working politicians avert their gaze from the muck and vote to keep the government functioning? Of course they should. Government shutdowns are immensely costly in their own right, after all. This kind of crass calculus sucks, but that's human nature for you. All things considered, I'd say we all got off fairly easy this time around." (MotherJones)



Vice President Joe Biden will be denied a raise under the new spending measure.



Associated Press

"–The spending bill includes provisions to stop the transfer or release of Guantanamo detainees into the U.S. ... –The Pentagon won funding for 38 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters — nine more than were funded in fiscal 2014. –Banks won a measure easing restrictions on their derivative-trading activities. The change would affect requirements under the Dodd-Frank law that banks spin off certain derivatives-trading activities into units that don’t enjoy access to the government safety net. –Appropriators steered some $619.8 million to Israeli programs, including $175 million for the Iron Dome missile-defense system. That is on top of the $225 million for Iron Dome that Congress approved roughly four months ago. –The measure would make a $345.6 million cut to the Internal Revenue Service budget and provided no funding for the International Monetary Fund. –The spending bill continues a longstanding ban on federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the life of the mother." (WSJ)




"The executive summary of the report released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Central Intelligence Agency’s brutal detention interrogation practices after 9/11 offers the most damning assessment of the agency in four decades. In the mid-1970s, the Church Committee, another Senate entity, issued reports that condemned the CIA for spying within the U.S., attempting to assassinate foreign leaders, working with the Mafia on operations, and other abuses.Amid the furor in Washington about how the torture report will affect the agency, the U.S., and even the 2016 presidential elections, little attention has been paid to another impact of the report’s release. The report is likely to have significant effects on politics in several of the countries that were home to the dungeon-like prisons where the CIA, and local intelligence officers, detained and harshly treated prisoners ... In Afghanistan, reportedly home to some of the most notorious CIA detention facilities, the report could be a bombshell as well. After the report’s release, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reportedly stayed up all night reading it and gave a speech on Afghan national television decrying the CIA’s practices as against 'all accepted norms of human rights abuses in the world.' Ghani’s harsh condemnation suggests that the report could well undermine U.S.-Afghan cooperation, which was beginning to stabilize under the technocratic Ghani after the mercurial Hamid Karzai regime. The revelations may undercut Ghani and his program of political and economic reform, as well. Ghani declared that the abuses happened in an earlier era, suggesting a break between that time and his current administration, yet he served as a senior Afghan cabinet minister in the early 2000s. The report is reverberating in Eastern Europe, too. Lithuanian leaders are publicly calling on the CIA to disclose whether it tortured prisoners at black sites in Lithuania, which appears to be one country named in the report as housing detainees. Lithuania’s former president, Valdas Adamkus, who was in power at the time of the CIA’s detention program and remains a revered figure in Lithuania, maintains there were no black sites in his country. A Lithuanian parliamentary investigation, and the eventual release of more details from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, may undermine that claim. Or the investigation may reveal that Lithuanian intelligence agencies worked with the CIA without informing Lithuanian leaders, suggesting a dangerous lack of government accountability, which has plagued Lithuania since the fall of communism. Only in Poland, reportedly home to another CIA detention center, has the report’s release had little apparent impact on domestic politics. Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who had previously denied that the CIA ran a detention center in his country, has admitted that he had indeed allowed the agency to operate a site in Poland—yet most Polish leaders publicly announced that the report would not change strong relations between Washington and Warsaw." (BloombergBusinessWeek)













"New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd promised to show Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal’s husband, Bernard Weinraub, — a former Times reporter — a version of a column featuring Pascal before publication.The end result was a column that painted Pascal in such a good light that she engaged in a round of mutual adulation with Dowd over email after its publication. It also scored Pascal points back at the studio, with Sony’s then-communications-chief calling the column 'impressive.' The exchanges were uncovered in a trove of Pascal’s emails released as part of a massive hack on Sony carried out by the group known as 'Guardians of Peace.' The column, published after the Academy Awards earlier this year, lamented how “Oscar voters and industry top brass are still overwhelmingly white, male and middle-aged.' Dowd quoted Pascal as saying women received “paltry” salaries compared to men in Hollywood. Pascal, according to leaked salary data from the hack, is tied for the highest earning executive at Sony Pictures with Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. Pascal also told Dowd that women directors face an 'unconscious mountain' of rejection. It highlighted Pascal’s role in greenlighting movies by female directors Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers, but also other Sony movies like The Social Network and American Hustle that had 'impressed the guys in the boardroom,' Dowd wrote." (Variety)


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"Peter Ubertaccio, a political science professor at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, who follows (Elizabeth) Warren’s career, said that this week, Warren demonstrated a better feel for the sentiments of her party than her leadership.'If she’s able to succeed in the Senate at the expense of her own leadership team — the team that she’s on — it will have the practical impact of moving the center of power away from folks like Schumer and toward her,' he said. 'That’s pretty significant for a freshman senator that’s been brought into the leadership.' It could also reverberate in the 2016 presidential race, which liberal Democrats are dying for Warren to enter as a rival to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. David Paleologos, the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said Warren is now a national figure in a tradition of influential Massachusetts politicians who have run for president such as former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D), former Gov. Michael Dukakis (D), former Gov. Mitt Romney (R), former Sen. John Kerry (D) and former Sen. Paul Tsongas (D).
Warren’s efforts also carried risks, and rubbed some Democrats the wrong way. Critics saw her efforts as a play for media attention ahead of a potential presidential campaign — something that Warren has repeatedly expressed no interest in pursuing. 'I have to assume Elizabeth Warren is running for president. That’s what you do when you run for president. You get out front,' said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee who backed the spending bill opposed by Warren. Warren exhorted fellow Democrats to defeat the spending bill because it repealed a key provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. The change would allow big banks covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to trade in derivatives, which Warren said would increase the chances of a financial crisis and bailout. Opposition among Democrats built and built after Warren declared war on the measure. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) position appeared to harden to the point on Thursday where she delivered a tough floor speech announcing her opposition and harshly criticizing the White House. Maybe that would have happened without Warren, but lawmakers in the trenches believe she made a difference." (Alexander Bolton)







"When you started your career as a young man in Paris, did you ever think that you would become such a brilliant, internationally recognized legend? Valentino: My dear, when you start it’s quite difficult to dream for everybody. But of course you have aspirations. I did a very important collection in 1968 and I realized that I was quite good. All the magazines and everybody came to visit me. I became quite well known for my glamour and my femininity and women started to love my clothes. Since then the fashion industry has changed a lot. How would you sum that up? Valentine: Fashion has changed every decade very strongly. I like the 60s quite a bit, I like the 70s very much. But I hated the 80s: I think that was something extremely vulgar. Ladies that were crazy to buy clothes but the looks were not beautiful: big shoulders, short dresses, hair like mountains… I never liked it. But I enjoyed the 90s quite a bit. Shortly before your retirement you said a designer nowadays has to be more like a manager than a creative artist. Do you still agree? Valentino: They want to make money now. If you want to make lots of money, you try to make a product that sells everywhere. But then your productivity goes down. The products are cheap because the materials are not really expensive. This is not my world, as you can imagine. How do you get inspired? Valentino: I dream about dresses sometimes. Then I turn the light on at my night table and I draw. I’m also inspired if I go to a museum like the Hermitage in St. Petersburg or if I visit China and see the old costumes of its national theater. I get a lot inspiration from these sorts of things, but never from a woman. I do the dress for a woman, but I don’t take inspiration from them." (The-Talks)


The authoresses Louise Maniscalco and Susan Rudin (Click to order).

"I went to lunch at Michael’s yesterday and Wednesday.  If you’re a regular reader (many thanks) you know I claim I frequent the place for the possibility of something to write about. Sometimes I wonder about that myself. Part of it is I love being around all that energy and the implied drama. After all, we are dramatic, aren’t we?. Last night on my way to dinner, I went down to Bergdorf Goodman where Billy and Ophelia Rudin were hosting a book signing for Billy’s aunt Susan (Mrs. Jack) Rudin and Louise Maniscalco. Traffic on 57th was at an almost standstill going both east and west. I got out at the corner of 57th and Fifth by the Louis Vuitton store. Art is the theme.  It was about 7 p.m. and the pavement was crowded and the avenue traffic was bumper to bumper almost gridlock. Crossing the avenue I took this shot of the diamond and emerald necklace in the window of Van Cleef and Arpels. I went straight to Bergdorf’s since I was arriving an hour and a half into the party. Rudin and Maniscalco have written a novel called 'The Trade Off' about the life of a personal shopper in a store like ... Bergdorf Goodman? You get the picture. It doesn’t matter; it’s a fictional store just like the real thing. It’s about life living in that sphere, that world, that New York phenomenon. A microcosm of the Big Town. Hard, tough, not simple and not always clear, and full of all the politics that occur in such circumstances where money and temptation meet the real world. I know about the book because Mrs. Rudin is a friend and she asked me for a blurb when they were working on it. I said yes. I did think would I ever read a book about a personal shopper in a big luxury department store in New York? No. Although not without being aware that it couldn’t be anything but fascinating. A retail establishment of that kind is world onto itself and The World comes to its portals. So I received a copy of the galleys. I was surprised that I turned page after page to see what was going to happen, and it went on like that to the end. I learned something too, but it’s a rainy or snowy weekend afternoon, or the plane ride to St. Barth’s and you’ll read faster toward the end not just because you’re getting closer to landing but because you want to know ...The Rudin party was the biggest turnout for a book party I’ve ever seen. Must have been a couple hundred. And the co-authors were busy signing." (NYSD)