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MEDIA WATCH: Facebook Overhauls News Feed to Focus on What Friends and Family Share by Mike Isaac: Facebook has introduced sweeping changes to the kinds of posts, videos and photos that its more than two billion members will see most often, saying on Thursday that it would prioritize what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands. The changes are intended to maximize the amount of content with meaningful interaction that people consume on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, the companys chief executive, said in an interview Mr. Zuckerberg added that his way of running Facebook has shifted since the birth of his two daughters, Maxima and August, in recent years. He said he had rethought the way he views his and Facebooks legacy, even if it will cost the company in the short term. Its important to me that when Max and August grow up that they feel like what their father built was good for the world, Mr. Zuckerberg said. [NYTimes]
-- "Facebook Finally Blinks" by Franklin Foer: "Theres no undoing the damage that Facebook has caused over the last few years. Still, Mark Zuckerberg has made a noble decision, to carry his company back towards its roots as a true social network, largely stripped of journalism and political propaganda. Facebook will be back primarily in the business of making us feel terrible about the inferiority of our vacations, the relative mediocrity of our children, teasing us into sharing more of our private selves." [TheAtlantic]
-- The Information's Jessica Lessin: "I'm glad Facebook is de-prioritizing public posts (aka lots of news) in NewsFeed and hope it will finally convince publishers to build publications good enough that users will want to visit them directly. Brands aren't dead on the Internet; they're just hard to build." [Twitter]
DRIVING THE DAY -- Trump Is Expected to Stop Short of Reimposing Strict Sanctions on Iran -- by Mark Landler: President Trump has again stopped short of reimposing draconian sanctions on Iran but he is expected to give Congress and European allies a deadline to improve the deal or the United States will pull out of it His reluctance to preserve the agreement deepened in recent weeks after the protests But his senior aides again persuaded him not to dissolve it In a phone call, President Emmanuel Macron of France also urged Mr. Trump not to scrap the deal"
Privately, some White House officials complained about the phone call with Mr. Macron, which they said could have provoked Mr. Trump. Others said the diplomatic meeting in Brussels (between European foreign ministers and Irans foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif) was similarly ill conceived, and they expressed frustration that the legislative efforts in Congress were not progressing quickly enough. Legislative gimmicks that dont permanently fix the Iran nuclear deal under U.S. law and continued European photo-ops with Javad Zarif are like waving a red flag in front of an angry bull, said Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. It could lead Trump to kill the deal, now or soon, he said. [NYTimes]
"Ted Cruz: Waiving Iran Sanctions 'Would Be a Serious Mistake'" by Jenna Lifhits: Waiving the sanctions on the ayatollah while protesters are dying in the streets would be a serious mistake, Cruz told The Weekly Standard... There are voices in the foreign policy establishment world in Washington who are desperately trying to save the Iran deal, even though it has failed, he said. It endangers American lives, it endangers the lives of our allies. ... Florida S enator Marco Rubio... advised the president on Thursday to slap Iran with fresh sanctions over its non-nuclear activities." [WeeklyStandard]
NEXT STEPS -- Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says new Iran sanctions are coming -- by Anne Gearan: I am expecting new sanctions on Iran, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Thursday. We continue to look at them, we've rolled them out, and you can expect there will be more sanctions coming There are many activities outside of the Iran deal, whether it be ballistic missiles, whether it be other issues, that we will continue to sanction that are outside the JCPOA Human rights violations. We couldn't be more focused. [WashPost]
Sessions creates team to focus on Hezbollah financing and drugs by Josh Gerstein: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is creating a dedicated team of prosecutors and investigators to focus on drug trafficking by the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah in response to a recent Politico article that highlighted some such cases were softpedaled during the Obama administration in order avoid derailing a nuclear deal with Tehran. [Politico; Bloomberg]
TALK OF THE REGION -- "With Trump in power, emboldened Israelis try redrawing Jerusalems boundaries" by Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash: "Emboldened by a more supportive White House, Israeli leaders have proposed a flurry of bills and resolutions that, in part, would annex areas of the West Bank and re-engineer Jerusalems demographic balance by redrawing the citys map to exclude Arab neighborhoods and include Israeli settlements... In his office in Maale Adumim, [Mayor Benny] Kashriel says the change of attitude toward settlements under the Trump administration was immediately apparent. All previous U.S. administrations had largely shunned the settler community, he said. They boycotted us. They never wanted to meet us, he said. But Kashriel was invited to Trumps inauguration in Washington." [WashPost]
"Palestinian leaders threaten to withdraw formal recognition of Israel" by Noga Tarnopolsky: "The PLO is examining whether you can rescind recognition, said Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent lawyer on the groups executive committee. You can suspend or cease relations, but we are examining if revocation can be done." [LATimes]
"Flare-up with Israel tests Hamas effort to keep Gaza on low boil" by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Lee Marzel: "Hamas has responded to Trumps move by mobilising mass protests at the border and turning a blind eye to other factions firing into Israel in two weeks of daily attacks, which have tailed off recently... A more violent response was tamped down in debate among Palestinian factions who agreed that an armed confrontation could erode the international support Palestinians have won diplomatically and shift attention from the political process." [Reuters]
UPDATE: Yesterday, Netanyahu announced he will be meeting with President Trump "in March, if not before then. We speculated that the meeting would coincide with Bibi's appearance at the AIPAC Policy Conference (March 2-4). According to Jerusalem Posts Herb Keinon, Israeli diplomatic officials said there was a possibility that the two leaders would meet at the Davos Economic Summit later this month, which they are both scheduled to attend.
GALLUP POLL -- Jews' Approval of Trump Remains Low: "American Jews' 28% approval rating for Trump is significantly below the national average. This reflects the strong underlying connection between Jews and the Democratic Party; in 2017, 65% of Jews identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party, 20 points above the national average... Trump has adopted a pro-Israel position in his presidency so far... But the historical record suggests it's unlikely that any of this will make a significant difference in how Jews in the U.S. view his presidency." [Gallup]
Trump Plans to Bring at Least Six Cabinet Secretaries to Davos, Sources Say by Jennifer Jacobs: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who will lead the administrations economic delegation, on Thursday brushed aside portraits of the annual forum as a gathering of elite proponents of globalization, a characterization previously made some former Trump advisers. I dont think its a hangout for globalists, Mnuchin said The presidents son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, chief of staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster also will attend the World Economic Forum the week of Jan. 22 as part of the delegation. [Bloomberg]
INSIDE THE ADMIN: "Steven Mnuchin's ever-expanding orbit" by Nancy Cook and Ben White: Many observers see the Treasury chief using his proximity to the White House and his close relationship with the president to grab hold of any issue he can and bring it into his portfolio. Those senior administration officials say that Kelly has been particularly annoyed by Mnuchins desire to attend as many meetings as possible and participate in photo-ops, on the reasoning that all policy matters are tangentially related to Treasury. The sanctions led Mnuchin to get more involved in the Iran deal and North Korea, much to the frustration of some of the national security experts including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and defense secretary James Mattis, said a close adviser to the White House senior White House officials who spoke to Politico described a particularly dysfunctional relationship between the Trumps NEC, led by Gary Cohn, and Mnuchins Treasury Department. [Politico]
COMING APPOINTMENT: "Trump Expected to Tap Ex-Rumsfeld Adviser for Top Middle East Job by John Hudson: The decision to hire David Schenker, a director at the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, would place a political appointee in a position (head of the State Departments Middle East bureau) that has been held by career diplomats since the 1990s Still, Schenkers appointment is not exactly imminent. Dont expect an announcement today or tomorrow, but he is expected to be the nominee, a senior Trump administration official told BuzzFeed News. [BuzzFeed]
COMING DEPARTURE -- Trump during an interview with the Wall Street Journal: Look, hey, Gary [Cohn] may leave and Rex [Tillerson] may leave but I dont anticipate it. I hope Gary stays and well see Well find out. But people do leave. [WSJ]
DRIVING THE CONVO: "Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa" by Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Thomas Kaplan: "Trump on Thursday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and some nations in Africa, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from shithole countries rather than from places like Norway." [NYTimes; WashPost] 'Shameful': Jewish American Groups Respond to Trump's 'Shithole' Comment on Immigrants [Haaretz]
Bill Kristol tweets: By the way, Haiti was one of 35 countries that abstained on the UN Jerusalem vote a couple of weeks ago, and was rewarded by being invited to Nikki Haley's party for our friends. Norway of course voted against us. [Twitter]
Jake Tapper reports this morning: "The president did not refer to Haiti as a shithole country according to the source familiar with the meeting though he DID say it about countries in Africa..." [Twitter]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- Rabbi Joe Potasnik delivered the invocation at the start of the New York City Council meeting: Years ago, it was Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) who was invited to speak at the Waldorf Astoria. Before he spoke, the waiter came around with the butter, and Bradley looked at him and said, I will have an extra pat of butter, and the water said to him, Sorry sir, we have a strict rule at the Waldorf - one pat per person. Bradley looked at him and said, You know who I am? He said, No sir, who are you? He said, I am the senator from New Jersey, I played for the New York Knicks, I went to Oxford. And the guy says, Thats very impressive. You know who I am? He says, No, who are you? He said, I am the guy with the butter. There is a lesson there for all of us: whether you are the server or whether you are the senator, in our eyes - as people of faith - you are the same person. Whether you were born here or brought here, you are the same person And to those brave women who stand up and identify with the #MeToo movement, we, as men, need to stand with them and say, we too stand with you. [Pic]
Mike Bloomberg speaks out on Trumps first year in an interview with NBCs Stephanie Ruhl: The one time I talked to the president... I said. 'Youve just got to focus on building a team, not passing legislation.' If you don't do it at the very beginning, it gets harder to do as the administration gets more controversial, which would happen to every administration. So, the Trump administration's ability to attract people today is less than it was at the very beginning. And I think that's the failure of not -- they should have focused on that.
Bloomberg on an Oprah-Bloomberg ticket in 2020: Would we do it alphabetically, I just want to make sure. Ruhle: Could you run now, Mike? Bloomberg: I suppose I could. You have to be 35 years old. I am older than that. You have to be a citizen. Im a citizen. You have to be born in America, I was. But I have no plans to run for president. [Video]
The Next Steps for 'NeverTrump' by Seth Mandel:"The goal should be to stop candidates like [Roy] Moore from getting the nomination in the first place. Thats where the fate of the GOP will be determined. Republicans must undo the incentives that enable unfit candidates to rise to the top of the GOP field precisely because of their unfitness The only fight thats going to save the Grand Old Party is the one that takes place in the primaries. [TheAtlantic]
Greitens faces criminal inquiry, calls for resignation after blackmail allegations by Bryan Lowry and Jason Hancock: Greitens, Missouris first Jewish governor, is scheduled to headline the Republican Jewish Coalitions annual event in Las Vegas next month. Matt Brooks, the groups executive director, said Thursday that the organization plans to stand with Greitens. Eric is family to the RJC and as such our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time, Brooks said in an email. Regarding his attendance at our meeting in Las Vegas, that is a decision that he and his wife will have to make in the coming weeks as they figure out how best to move forward. [KansasCityStar]
** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? Wed love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Bill Ackmans Pershing Square fund to slash management fee [NYPost] Steve Cohen Loses Another Top Trader Before Hedge Fund Launches [Bloomberg] Rob Saliterman has joined Citadel as a director of corporate communications in its New York office. Rob previously worked for Snapchat and Google on political ad sales, and was a member of the Bush 43 White House communications team [HFMweek]
Gal Gadot Is Huaweis New CEO—Chief Experience Officer by Amarelle Wenkert: Gadot, the Israeli actress who played the title role in the 2017 Warner Bros. movie Wonder Woman, is the new celebrity sponsor of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. Ms. Gadot will join Huaweis marketing efforts as the company introduces its Mate10 Pro mobile phone to U.S. market Gadot will serve as the companys first Chief Experience Officer. [Calcalist]
Israeli leader Netanyahu stumps acclaimed mentalist by Aron Heller: Acclaimed mentalist Lior Suchard went head to head with Netanyahu in front of a group of journalists, only to come up empty in an awkward duel with the seemingly inscrutable Israeli leader. In one of his famous routines, Suchard asks his guest to scribble a picture on a piece of paper, while Suchard stands across the stage and draws an identical image. But when he tried the game with Netanyahu on Wednesday night, Suchard was unable to match Netanyahus doodle: a Jewish candelabra with the words Long Live the Jewish People underneath Suchard looked and said, I was completely wrong. He refused to show his own drawing. This was an Israeli deception campaign, Netanyahu quipped. This is how you influence people, Suchard responded. [AP]
TALK OF THE TOWN -- New Orleans City Council Passes Measure Pushed by BDS Activists by Aída Chávez: New Orleans became the first city in the South — and one of the largest in the country — to pass a resolution in accordance with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction Movement, known by its initials BDS The resolution passed the council unanimously, with all five members present voting in support. Five of seven city council members, including the mayor-elect, co-sponsored the resolution, drafted by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee I think its nuts, said Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy I want to know exactly what it does, but just on the face of it, it sounds crazy. [TheIntercept]
"New Jersey Divests From Danish Bank Over Its Support for BDS" by Armin Rosen: "In late December, governor Chris Christie announced that the New Jersey state government had sold off its investments in Danske Bank in compliance with a 2016 anti-BDS law. Danske is Denmarks largest bank, with over a half a trillion dollars in total assets. The bank currently includes two Israeli concerns, Aryt Industries and Elbit Systems, in its list of excluded companies whose work violates the banks social responsibility policies." [TabletMag]
FBI recognizes Jewish Community Relations Council for work: The FBI announced Thursday that the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas is receiving the 2017 FBI Directors Community Leadership Award The FBI says the JCRC organized forums, provided education and addressed community concerns after Jewish community centers and synagogues received threats in early 2017. [AP]
PIC OF THE DAY -- Seen yesterday on the 1211 6th Ave/Fox News building: Trump kvelling over latest Quinnipiac Poll on the economy." [Pic]
DESSERT: "Ditmas Kitchen west of Boca Raton is a creative kosher delight" by Michael Mayo: "New Yorkers of a certain age will recall a famous ad campaign with the tagline, "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's Real Jewish Rye." Ditmas Kitchen Boca could very well adopt the slogan, "You don't have to be Jewish - or keep kosher - to enjoy Ditmas Kitchen." It is a good restaurant that happens to be kosher, not simply a good kosher restaurant... The mix can be a little meshuga (that's Yiddish for "crazy"), but many items are good... Who needs pork? Reznik's earthy mushrooms with crunchy cashews ($9) also have endured, a good side dish that will please vegans and carnivores alike." [MSN]
Review: "In My Coffee With Jewish Friends, Sit With Me and Talk of God" by Ken Jaworowski: Where there are two Jews, there are three opinions, Manfred Kirchheimer says in his little gem of a documentary, My Coffee With Jewish Friends. ... Hes just as nimble in front of the camera, usually sitting one-on-one with others to consider topics including Israel, marriage and orthodox religion... [NYTimes]
WINE OF THE WEEK -- Yarden Rom 2013 -- by Yitz Applbaum: "Passover is approaching just over the horizon (exactly 11 weeks from today!) and with that there are many new wines to review. There is an abundance of new and interesting kosher wine options, and I will be making some out-of-the-box recommendations in future weeks. However, today, I would like to share a thought and a recent experience on generosity when pouring wine. Last Shabbat, I was in Jerusalem attending the Bar Mitzvah of the son of a respected wine peer of mine. We both teach and learn a great deal from one another. The array of wines served was extraordinary. That evening my friend served five vintages of Yardens El-Rom, two vintages of Yardens Rom and huge assortment of older French wine as well. And for those keeping score at home, the Smith Haut Lafitte 2000 is still brilliantly subtle and sensuous."
"The wine of the evening was the Yarden Rom 2013. This massively powerful wine is made from 50% Cabernet, 30% Syrah and 20% Merlot. Each of these grapes touches a different part of your palate with the Syrah taking over your mid-palate and resting there for a long time. The wine is aged in new French oak for 18 months has strong coffee and dark chocolate overtones. I drank this wine with fatty lamb and the food and wine married perfectly. The multitude of ages and varietals of wine were impressive, and everyone shared equally in the generosity, abundance and inclusiveness. It took the Shabbat meal to a new and higher level of holiness."
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS -- FRIDAY: Chair of Hillel International, she also serves on the boards of the Israel on Campus Coalition and the UJA Federation of New York, Tina Price... US-born biochemist, moved to Israel in 1973 after being granted an M.D. and Ph.D. from NYU, winner of the Israel Prize (1999), professor (now emeritus) at Hebrew U in Jerusalem, Howard ("Chaim") Cedar turns 75... Israeli-born, raised in London from age 13, jewelry designer, editor, and businesswoman, she was the First Lady of Iceland (2003-2016), Dorrit Moussaieff turns 68... Author of over 40 books, most widely recognized for his crime fiction, Walter Mosley turns 66... NYC-based psychiatrist and the medical director of the Child Mind Institute, Harold S. Koplewicz, MD turns 65... Radio personality since 1976, on terrestrial bandwidth until 2005 and on Sirius (now Sirius XM) since 2006, Howard Stern turns 64... Director of the West Coast office of the Jewish Funders Network, Tzivia Schwartz Getzug turns 56... Midday news anchor at Washington's WTOP Radio, Debra Feinstein turns 56... Former three-term member of the Maryland House of Delegates (2003-2014), he is the nephew of US Senator Ben Cardin, Jon S. Cardin turns 48... Identical twin comedians and actors, Randy Sklar and Jason Sklar, turn 46... National Director of AIPAC's Synagogue Initiative, Jonathan Schulman turns 36... Director of finance and operations at NYC-based Hornig Capital Partners, Daniel Silvermintz turns 25...
SATURDAY: Lifelong resident of Greenwich Village, a two-time Emmy Award winner as a television producer, including at NBC Nightly News, Susanna Beth Aaron (h/t son Sam)... South African biologist and a 2002 Nobel Prize laureate, Sydney Brenner turns 91... Kathleen Chambers turns 72... Cathy Nierenberg turns 71... NYC pediatrician at Carnegie Hill Pediatrics, graduate of the University of Witwatersand in Johannesburg, Barry B. Stein, MD turns 61... Director of the Presidents Commission on White House Fellowships during the Obama administration, Cindy Moelis turns 57... Founder of Working Today and Freelancers Union, leading organizations of independent workers, a MacArthur Fellow in 1999, Sara Horowitz turns 55... Statistician and writer, editor-in-chief of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver turns 40... Senior development director for strategic philanthropy at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Shira Berenson Feinstein turns 32... DC-based Deputy Director of Communications for the Israel on Campus Coalition, Carly Freedman... North America Director at The Israel Forever Foundation, Heidi Krizer Daroff... Bruce Maclver... Lucia Meyerson... Rebecca Seider... Sandra Shapiro...
SUNDAY: Award-winning legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio since 1975, focusing primarily on the US Supreme Court, Nina Totenberg turns 74... Screenwriter, director and producer, best known as co-writer of the films "The Empire Strikes Back," "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Return of the Jedi," Lawrence Kasdan turns 69... Shaul Saulisbury turns 60... Member of the Knesset since 2015 for the Likud party, she holds a Ph.D. in criminology, Anat Berko turns 58... Historian, journalist, author, media critic, blogger and educator, he is currently a professor at Brooklyn College and the media columnist for The Nation, Eric Alterman turns 58... AIPAC activist, founding member and co-managing partner of LA-based law firm, Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern LLP, Michael L. Tuchin turns 53... Associate attorney in the Toronto law firm of McCague Borlack, Aryeh Samuel... Stephen Panikoff... Alba Farquharson... Barbara Singer-Meis...
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