1. FLAK

    Assad Turned to Western PR

    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