ACTIVIST INVADES PLUTOCRATS' POVERTY PSYCHODRAMA
Robert Polet, Gucci Group CEO, an AK 47 to his head, pleaded for help.
"Please, please help me find my children," he cried as soldiers pinned him to the muddy floor of a refugee camp.
In a moment of high psychodrama, pampered executives learned what it's like to be one of the 32.9 million displaced persons who live in squalid, brutalized conditions around the world.
The simulation, presented by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in coordination with the Crossroads Foundation and the Global Risk Forum, a Davos non-profit, was meant to heighten executive sensitivity to the problems of the oppressed. Polet, who was called Mustafa in the play, flinched as an actress stepped on a make-believe land mine and was stretchered away, gushing stage blood.
"What a humbling experience to feel so defenseless," Polet told the Wall St. Journal and agreed enthusiastically when UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said that the lesson of the exercise was: "We should have the same level of determination in saving lives as saving banks."
But then someone in the audience shouted:
"This is the height of hypocrisy!"
Suddenly, the stage was invaded by a young woman leading a group of South Asian children.
"This man is responsible for the poverty and oppression of thousands of workers," she shouted.
The woman identified herself as Leah Schikdkraut, Labor Rights specialist with the Anarcho-Feminist Coalition.
"As the head of Unilever, this man employed 25,000 child laborers, ages 6 to 11, in the cotton seed operations of his Indian branch, Hindustan Lever," she shouted. "Hindustan Lever factories in Nepal, Mumbai and Pakistan were targeted for unfair labor practices and false police charges against workers."
Guards tried to evict her, but she waved an official invitation in their faces. "Polet now heads a company which hides its Made in China and India labels in the folds of its thousand dollar garments," she shouted. As Davos officials debated what to do she swung an Yves St. Laurent sweater, with embroidery by Lesage over her head.
"The rhinestones are falling off, " a designer screamed in anguish.
"This sweater cost $23,155," Schildkraut shouted. "Do you know how many displaced people we could feed...?"
Schildkraut was quickly surrounded by Swiss Guards. Brandishing a bottle of wine she held them at bay.
"After attending a three course gourmet dinner to discuss world hunger, these men will go to a Classic Claret wine tasting hosted by Janis Robinson, wine columnist for the Financial Times," she said.
"Be careful for God's sake, that's a Latour 1952," a sommelier pleaded.
"Do you know how much medicine we could purchase with the price of this bottle?" Schildkraut shouted.
Outside, reporters asked Schildkraut how she had managed to wangle an invite to this exclusive session. She reddened and hesitated for a moment.
"I sold myself as a sex slave to Eliot Shpritzer, a real estate mogul from New York," she said. "The price was his invitation."
" I, too, wanted to know what it's like to be exploited and degraded..."
IT'S THE US AGAINST THE WORLD
Executives played the "blame game" at Davos and the US was the loser.
Chinese Premier Wen Jia Bao blamed China's sudden slowdown on US's "macroeconomic failures and "underregulated economy." He threatened to stop buying US T-bills, but was then seen offstage with his head in his hands, moaning: "what am I going to do with all that money?"
Russian President Putin blamed social unrest, the price of oil, the dispute with the Ukraine and the watery borscht on the US. He then raised eyebrows when he blamed an anti-government demonstration in Vladivostock on "Communist agitators."
Finally, the Americans had enough. When asked how American bankers could be so "stupid," Morgan Stanley Asia Chairman Stephen Roach fired back: "How could the regulators have been so stupid? How could the borrowers have been so stupid? How could everyone have been so stupid?"
Outside, the dispute continued.
"You were stupid to give mortgages to people who couldn't pay," a Chinese official shouted.
"You were stupid to buy the mortgage securities of the people who couldn't pay," an American banker replied.
"You were stupid to sell insurance on the mortgage securities of people who couldn't pay," a Swiss broker accused.
"You were stupid to trade swaps on the insurance on mortgage securities of people who couldn't pay," the American parried.
"You hit a mulligan into a sand trap," a Japanese CFA snorted.
"You served toxic blowfish testicles and seven people died," the American shot back. "How stupid is that?
TURKS SAY MODERATOR WAS "ARMENIAN AGITATOR"
Feb. 2...Turkish sources today accused Washington Post columnist David Ignatius of being an "Armenian agitator" who deliberately snubbed and humiliated Prime Minister Erdogan at a debate on the Middle East last week.
Ignatius, an Armenian-American, has written of the world's failure to acknowledge the massacre of a million Armenians by the Turkish Army in 1915. Sources claimed he had been planted on the panel to humiliate Erdogan. That it was all part of a plot to get Jewish legislators to vote for a Congressional resolution condemning the genocidal attacks
The debate began with four participants--Erdogan, Israeli President Shimon Peres, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa-- ritually repeating familiar positions.
There were yawns. Heads bobbed in and out of wakefulness as:
Erdogan spoke of a "humanitarian crisis" and expressed annoyance that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert had been in Turkey four days before the Israeli invasion of Gaza and had given no indication of what was to come.
Moon asked for $613 billion and said the Israeli attack was "disproportionate."
Moussa said the Israelis were enforcing a "military occupation" and demanded a peace agreement by the end of 2009.
Peres protested that Israel "did not want to shoot anybody," and asked "why did they fire rockets? What did they want?" Then concluded by saying it was all Iran's fault.
At that point a Pakistani delegate's stomach grumbled so loudly that several Indian IT executives thought there was a terror attack and caused a panic. Ignatius, responding to urgent messages in his earphones, said the debate had gone overtime and that the audience was "anxious to go to dinner." But Erdogan grabbed his sleeve and demanded a chance to rebut. He accused Peres of speaking loudly to hide a "guilty conscience." Apologetically, Ignatius cut off Erdogan in mid-tirade. Claiming that people were "late for dinner", he closed the session. Erdogan invoked the Sixth Commandment (Thou Shall Not Kill) and left the stage to enthusiastic applause and a fraternal handshake from Moussa, vowing never to return to Davos "because you didn't let me speak."
Event host Klaus Schwab mounted the podium and thanked the participants as the audience stampeded to the buffet.
Later, sources confirmed that the diplomatic and military cooperation between Turkey and Israel would continue. Turkey was set to receive a shipment of Israeli- made UAV's and modernized tanks to be used in its ongoing war against Kurdish nationalists.
Ignatius would not comment, but a spokesperson for the Washington Post said he had been instructed to end the debate when Deutsche Bank analyst Horst von Grepps fainted from hunger and had to be given a glucose IV.
Causes Heywood Gould Supports
Leukemia and Lymphomia Association
American Cancer Society
St. Jude's Children Research Hospital