1. FLAK

    Assad Turned to Western PR

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (foregorund L), his wife Asma visit the exhibition dedicated to French painter Claude Monet at the Grand Palais on December 11, 2010 in Paris at the end of their official visit in France. AFP PHOTO MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

    Miguel Medina, AFP / Getty Images

    This pig’s lipstick was made in the U.S. and Europe. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his wife turned to Western public-relations firms and news publications to burnish their image, portraying themselves as cosmopolitan and progressive. They kept the act up right until Assad’s government began a brutal crackdown to suppress a popular uprising that began 15 months ago. “He speaks English,” said one Syria expert who previously worked for a charity associated with the couple, “and his wife is hot.” Among other mingling of media sheen and money, the Assad’s paid Washington spin artists Brown Lloyd James $5,000 a month to play the go-between for first lady Asma Assad as Vogue prepared a profile in March 2011.

    Read it at The New York Times