Monday, January 27, 2014

Davos Diary 2: Willful Inequality; Penny-Ante Syria; and the Long Ride Home

Income Inequality Was Forgotten Quickly at Davos
"It kind of disappeared," said one woman at the end of the World Economic Forum. But the markets remembered ....

The Penny-Ante Syria Talks
Slow and frustrating as they are, the Geneva negotiations may bring quick relief to some embattled civilians in Syria. Don't look for an end to the war though.

The Shadowland Journal: Sometimes the best part of Davos is the leaving: Photos taken on the train today from Klosters to Zurich

Sometimes the best part of Davos is the leaving: Photos taken on the train today from Klosters to Zurich

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Davos Diary 1: Setting the Scene, Pondering the Middle East

Setting the scene:

At Davos 2014, The Gods Of Mischief Rule
Even the high and mighty assembling at the Swiss resort recognize, now, that grotesque inequality is the greatest threat to world peace. Their answer: Party on!

On the first full day, Wednesday, I moderated a panel on the Middle East "context." It was like dealing with people from a parallel universe -- officials from Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, who would talk about the problems of the region but wouldn't touch the subject of Iranian-Saudi competition. And of course the Egyptian insisted there was no coup. Moderators aren't supposed to debate with their panels. That was tough. 

That night, Tina Brown and Credit Suisse gave their big Davos party. Rubbed shoulders with stars from all over, including Matt Damon and Richard Branson. There's really no better mixer in town that first day. I also moderated a presentation by the amazing Khalida Brohi, who works to liberate women in traditional Pakistani villages from their lives of purdah, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the Academy Award winning filmmaker who produced and directed the stunning documentary "Saving Face" about women horribly disfigured in acid attacks carried out by ... their relatives.

Then, Thursday began what has become a kind of marathon of Middle Eastern issues as the Iranians brought their charm offensive to the Alps, and the Israelis responded. 

Iran's Rouhani Does Davos
The Iranian president told the assembled leaders what they wanted to hear … almost.

Netanyahu: Israel's What's Right With the Middle East
Speaking at Davos, the Israeli Prime Minister tried to sell his country as "what's right with the Middle East."

Taped a segment with Jim Clancy for CNN International's "The Brief," which aired twice on Friday and will air at 13:30 Central European Time on Saturday.

Virtual Syria in Davos
It's not that the elites in Davos find the war in Syria hard to imagine, it's that they just have no idea how to end it.

More to come ...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Check out "America's Last POW"; "The Long Reach of Lebanon Terror"; and that "What First Lady?" press conference by French President Hollande

Proof of Life: America's last POW
Reports that the US military has obtained a recent video of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who went missing in Afghanistan, raise new hope and old questions.

The Long Reach of Lebanese Terror
It's not just about the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Hague tribunal sheds light on three decades of Syrian and Iranian terror targeting the United States.

Chaos and Desire: French President Hollande Meets the Press
In a bumbling press conference, the French president refused to answer questions about his alleged affair and declined even to say whether Valérie Trierweiler remains First Lady.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"Mon amour hélas, le temps passe": 2010 music video starring Julie Gayet, alleged lover of French President François Hollande

Alleged French presidential paramour Julie Gayet stars in this 2010 music video, emerging from the bath looking quite youthful at age 37, but the words of Biolay’s song are almost as cruel as the love triangle involving Gayet, President François Hollande, First Lady Valerie Trierweiler and, if we want to make it a quadrangle, ex-amante Ségolène Royal. The singer loves his “little princess, his promise, his little weakness,” his “plus belle histoire de fesses.” But then he gets tired of her, asks her what became of her youth, and reviles her as a slut he can’t bear to kiss. … "Mon amour hélas, le temps passe."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chaos and Desire: The French President's [Alleged] Lover and Her Ironic Filmography

Julie Gayet with Michael Cohen in "Shall We Kiss?", photo from IMDB

According to IMDB the 41-year-old actress, Julie Gayet, whose alleged affair with French President François Hollande is the talk of Paris and, indeed, the world, has 90 film credits. In light of the stories about her and the secret love nest where she and Hollande are supposed to have met a block from the Elysée Palace, the titles of many of these films have a certain irony. (Translations are literal, not from such versions as were, rarely, released in English)

La petite apocalypse (1993)

L’histoire du garçon qui voulait qu’on l’embrasse (1994) [Story of a a boy who wanted to be kissed]

One Hundred and One Nights (1995)

La vie de Marianne (1995) [Marianne being the symbol of the French nation, but hers was a bit part)

Les menteurs (1996)

Sélect Hôtel (1996)

Marianne (1997) [Again]

Pleasure (And Its Little Inconveniences) [1998]

Ça ne se refuse pas (1998) [You don’t say no to that]

Sentimental Education (1998)

Play (1998)

Je ne veux pas être sage (1999) [I don’t want to be good]

Les gens qui s’aiment (1999) [People who love each other]

Vertiges de l’amour (2001) The dizziness of love

Ma caméra et moi (2002)

Chaos and Desire (2002) [!!!!!!]

Les rois maudits [2005] [The cursed kings]

Un secret derrière la porte (2006) [A secret behind the door]

Shall We Kiss? (2007)

Le petit homme bleu (2009) [The little blue man]

De plaisir (2009) [Of pleasure]

Clandestin (2010)

Famille décomposée (2010)[Broken family]

Sans laisser de traces (2010) [Without leaving a clue]

L’apprenti Père Noël (2010) [Santa’s Apprentice]

L’art de séduire (2011) [Yes, “the art of seduction”]

Amoureuse (2011)

And, more recently:

Odysseus, a TV series last year in which she played Helen of Troy

as well as 2012’s Portraits de maîtresses, which, yes, means “Portraits of Mistresses.”

Monday, January 13, 2014

Yes, we are watching the French presidential sex scandal closely -- and shaking our heads. Time for a beer...

French President's Love Life Enters the E.R. With His First Lady Hospitalized
By Christopher Dickey
Valerie Trierweiler is reportedly resting after learning of François Hollande's latest dalliance.

French President François Hollande Slams Affair Allegations
By Tracy McNicoll 
French President François Hollande is threatening legal action over a tabloid photo-spread that allegedly showed the world leader dallying with a French actress.

On another subject: 

Why Everyone Should Copy Amsterdam's Beer-for-Work Scheme
By Nadette De Visser Why America should copy The Netherlands' latest social experiment.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Egypt: The Spring of the Patriarch / France: The Seductive Mme Le Pen / French Boss-Nappers' Last Stand

This week's columns for The Daily Beast:

Egypt's Arab Spring Gives Way To Spring Of The Patriarch
With a new constitution to approve and a military strongman to elect as president, there's a terrible inevitability to the course of events in Egypt over the next few months.

The Seductive Madame Le Pen
She is the rising power in French and European politics, but what lies behind the smile?
also see snapshots:

The French Boss-Nappers' Last Stand
France's labor unions are weak and getting weaker. When they take executives hostage, as workers did at a Goodyear factory on Monday, it's an act of desperation.

And for something a little lighter, don't miss my snapshots on

Monday, January 06, 2014

Assassination as Communication and Instrument of Policy

The Middle East's Murder Messages
From Beirut's car bomb to the exploding safe that killed a Palestinian ambassador, last week was a reminder of the Mideast's dialogue of death.