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SPOTLIGHT: "The Case Of Wilbur Ross' Phantom $2 Billion" by Dan Alexander: "Fresh off a tour through Thailand, Laos and China, United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. picked up the phone on a Sunday afternoon in October to discuss something deeply personal: how much money he has. A year earlier, Forbes had listed his net worth at $2.9 billion on The Forbes 400, a number Ross claimed was far too low: He maintained he was closer to $3.7 billion. Now, after examining the financial-disclosure forms he filed after his nomination to President Donald Trump's Cabinet, which showed less than $700 million in assets, Forbes was intent on removing him entirely."
"Ross protested, citing trusts for his family that he said he did not have to disclose in federal filings. "You're apparently not counting those, which are more than $2 billion," he said. When asked for documentation, the 79-year-old demurred, citing "privacy issues." Told that Forbes nonetheless planned to remove him from the list for the first time in 13 years, he responded: "As long as you explain that the reason is that assets were put into trust, I'm fine with that." And when did he make the transfer that allowed him to not disclose over $2 billion? "Between the election and the nomination." So began the mystery of Wilbur Ross' missing $2 billion. And after one month of digging, Forbes is confident it has found the answer: That money never existed. It seems clear that Ross lied to us, the latest in an apparent sequence of fibs, exaggerations, omissions, fabrications and whoppers that have been going on with Forbes since 2004." [Forbes]
PARADISE PAPERS: "How Business Titans, Pop Stars and Royals Hide Their Wealth" by Scott Shane, Spencer Woodman and Michael Forsythen: "Appleby had 31,000 American clients, the most common nationality by far. The firm’s files include a who’s who of the nation’s wealthiest citizens: prominent Democrats like James Simons, George Soros, and Penny Pritzker, commerce secretary in the Obama administration; and high-profile Republican supporters of President Trump, including Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, and Carl Icahn, the private equity investor." [NYTimes]
ONE YEAR LATER: "Ivanka and Jared’s First Year in Washington Has Not Gone as Expected" by Emily Jane Fox: "It has now been a year since the Trump-Kushners walked out onto the stage of the Midtown Hilton, after midnight, to the astonishing reality that Donald Trump would become the next president of the United States. The historic election commenced an equally extraordinary opportunity for two scions who had built their own careers largely upon their parents’ success. After the election, the two proceeded apace. Despite anti-nepotism laws and looming conflicts of interests, the couple quickly determined that they would re-route their ambitions through the White House, impervious to any sort of significant public-relations setback."
“President Trump himself has repeatedly reminded the couple of what a nice life they had in New York, before they were “getting killed” by the press in D.C., several sources have said Nonetheless, the couple has been insisting to friends in recent weeks that their family has settled in well in Washington and that they’re focused on what the administration should prioritize in 2018, according to three people who have spoken with them.” [VanityFair]
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: "Jared Kushner, Mohammed bin Salman, and Benjamin Netanyahu Are Up to Something" by Dov Zakheim: "Trump has given his son-in-law overall leadership on the peace process between Israel and the Arabs, and he is reportedly a welcome guest in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. Given [Jared] Kushner’s role, did Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signal his plans when Kushner last met with him — and did Kushner then inform his father-in-law? And if so, how far will Washington, or more precisely, the White House, go to back up the Saudis if their confrontation with Iran gets hot? Or will Israel serve as Trump’s proxy? With this president, this crown prince, and the current prime minister of Israel, anything is possible." [FP] Abbas speaks with Saudi king about US peace efforts, reconciliation [JPost]
"The Saudi Crown Prince Is Gambling Everything on Three Major Experiments" by Hussein Ibish: "The Hariri resignation is likely tied to significant gains made by Iran and its key ally, Lebanese Hezbollah, in securing, along with their Iraqi allies and clients, key areas in northern and western Iraq... and in eastern Syria... These developments are a potential strategic game-changer in the Middle East, and the Saudi response, apparently, is to go after Iran and Hezbollah in their central and original locus of power in the Arab world: Lebanon. With the removal of Hariri, who is perceived in Riyadh as having been too accommodating to Hezbollah, the prospect of an all-out political war to destabilize Hezbollah’s dominance of the Lebanese state seems set." [TheAtlantic]
In newly revealed recording, Kerry blames Israel for stalled peace talks: "Israel’s Channel 10 on Tuesday published a recording, purportedly made at a conference in Dubai during this past year, in which [John] Kerry can be heard praising the Palestinian Authority for its commitment to nonviolence... “The Palestinians have done an extraordinary job of remaining committed to nonviolence. And in fact, when the [knife] intifada took place they delivered nonviolence in the West Bank,” Kerry says. “This is overlooked by the general [Israeli] population because it is not a topic of discussion. Why? Because the majority of the cabinet currently in the current Israeli government has publicly declared they are not ever for a Palestinian state,” he adds." [JNS]
REPORT: "Israeli envoy to US questioned in Netanyahu graft probe" by Raoul Wootliff:"[Ambassador Ron] Dermer, considered a close associate of Netanyahu, confirmed to police that, on the direction of the prime minister, he asked then-secretary of state John Kerry to help organize a visa for Arnon Milchan, Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2) reported Tuesday... The television station also reported that the US State Department is preventing Israeli investigators from gathering testimony from former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro over the visa request." [ToI]
KAFE KNESSET -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: Dermer is the last in a long list of Netanyahu's advisors who have found themselves part of the several probes... The Dermer report prompted Netanyahu to issue a response attributed to "sources close to the PM," in which he first admits that he acted to help Milchan with the US visa, but claims that he did it for the sake of the security of Israel. "The wave of lewd and illegal leaks continues - this time in an attempt to discredit the Prime Minister only because he fulfilled his obligation to safeguard the security of the State of Israel," the sources said. "The reason that Milchan's visa was denied was media reports about his contribution to Israeli security. It is inconceivable that a person who helped Israel's security would be harmed by this contribution and that a Prime Minister in Israel would remain indifferent to it. The Prime Minister also addressed foreign governments in the matter of Meir Dagan and others who contributed to the security of Israel.” Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
SIGHTING: Israeli PM was spotted leaving exclusive Mayfair nightclub LouLou's -- by Charlie Bayliss: "Benjamin Netanyahu was flanked by bodyguards as he made his way out the West London nightclub, which has been host to Princes William and Harry, Mick Jagger, Kate Moss and George Clooney... The exact nature of the 68-year-old's visit to the nightclub is unknown, but he had been in London to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour declaration - which paved the way for a Jewish state." [DailyMail]
ON THE HILL -- House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte signals skepticism about anti-Semitism bill -- by Aaron Magid: In a contentious debate yesterday before the House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) appeared to demonstrate concern regarding the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act. In December of 2016, the Senate unanimously passed the bill introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). However, the House legislation, sponsored by Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Peter Roskam (R-IL), has remained stalled in the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee, headed by Goodlatte, and never received a vote...
Goodlatte revealed his preference to delay the bill and noted that President Donald Trump nominated Kenneth Marcus, an advocate for the usage of the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, to the Department of Justice’s civil rights division. Goodlatte asked that if he is confirmed, “Might it be best to wait and see the results of using such a definition before Congress codifies the statute?” [JewishInsider]
--Jake Sherman tweets: "In Playbook — other Virginia news — House Judiciary chairman BOB GOODLATTE thought to be retiring." [Twitter]
In letter, Congress slams Tillerson for closing sanctions office -- by Aaron Magid: In a bipartisan rebuke of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, 27 members of Congress are urging the State Department to preserve the office of the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy. According to the letter, first obtained by Jewish Insider, the lawmakers note that restoring the office “would also demonstrate this administration’s commitment to a comprehensive and coordinated interagency sanctions policy.” [JewishInsider]
HAPPENING TODAY -- At 10:00 AM: The House Subcommittee on National Security will hold a hearing to discuss the benefits and challenges of relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel-Aviv to the capital of Jerusalem. John Bolton, Mort Klein, Dore Gold, Eugene Kontorovich, and Michael Koplow will testify. [CSPAN]
HEADLINE: "Despite Trump’s misgivings, nuclear negotiator and watchdog say Iran deal works" by Carol Morello: "As Congress contemplates what actions to take, [Federica] Mogherini said she is talking with lawmakers to ensure that any changes would not violate the existing agreement. “I got clear indications that the intention is to keep the United States compliant with the agreement,” she told reporters at a news conference. Mogherini also pushed back against widespread criticism of the deal’s “sunset provisions” of varying lengths... “Article 3 says Iran will never develop a nuclear weapon,” she said." [WashPost]
ELECTION RECAP -- by Jacob Kornbluh: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio became the first Democratic mayor to win reelection since Ed Koch. In the race to replace outgoing Councilman David Greenfield in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park/Flatbush, Kalman Yeger defeated his opponent Yoni Hikind, the son of Assemblyman Dov Hikind, by a 2-1 margin. In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy easily beat Republican Kim Guadagno by 14 points. Of note, Murphy was supported in the town of Lakewood, New Jersey, a community that previously voted for Christie and Trump. In Virginia, the Democratic candidate for Governor, Ralph Northam scored a big win. In Pennsylvania, Democrat Larry Krasner was elected Philadelphia District Attorney.
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Murray Koffler, Shoppers Drug Mart founder, dies at 93 [TheStar; Globe&Mail] Heather Reisman's Indigo Books & Music has announced plans to expand to the US [Newsarama; HuffPost] For Black Cube, a network of for-hire ex-Israeli spies, information is big money [LATimes] Carl Icahn, the Car Guy: Why He Bets on Hertz, Lyft and Pep Boys [Bloomberg] New York Observer’s 2017 Content Kings [Observer] How Schwarzman, Leon Black and A-Rod Spent Their Monday Night [Bloomberg]
PROFILE: "It All Started With Wrestling, Says Billionaire Owner of Philadelphia 76ers" by Jennifer Wang: "Billionaire financier Josh Harris wears many hats. At his “day job,” he serves as the senior managing director of private equity giant Apollo Global Management, a $242 billion (assets) firm that he cofounded in 1990. When he’s off the clock, he checks in on his trio of professional sports teams: the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, NHL’s New Jersey Devils, and English Premier League’s Crystal Palace F.C. An avid athlete, he also invests in nutrition and fitness research and participates in marathons and triathlons."
"The Wall Street veteran credits his past as a wrestler for his legendary work ethics. A native of Chevy Chase, Maryland, Harris always played sports growing up -- Little League, basketball, soccer -- but a chance encounter with wrestling when he was 9-years-old got him hooked. “I had never done it, but I won this tournament at my [summer] camp,” says Harris. “So when you’re 9 and that happens, you get all excited.” [Forbes]
RISING STAR: "How This Bioengineer Linked a Human Brain to the Internet" by Tafline Laylin: "Before meeting Adam Pantanowitz in a ritzy alcove of Johannesburg, my brain is buzzing — and for good reason. At 33, the Wits University lecturer has designed an interface that connects the human brain to the internet. I’m thinking: Why would you do that, unless you’re an evil genius in a sci-fi movie? Only Pantanowitz’s intentions are sound and, dare I say, noble. By using his Brainternet — a device he first conceived of four years ago but just recently developed with two senior biomedical engineering students — he’s made it possible to convert brain waves into signals and stream them into cyberspace, a tech that offers practical, health-based applications." [Ozy]
STARTUP NATION: "An Israeli startup claims Apple said it could copy the startup's camera technology with few consequences" by Jan Wolfe: "An Israeli startup has sued Apple, accusing the iPhone maker of copying its patented smartphone camera technology. Tel Aviv-based Corephotonics... said its patented dual-camera technology for mobile devices was incorporated by Apple in the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus without its authorization. According to the lawsuit, Corephotonics Chief Executive David Mendlovic approached Apple about a partnership. Apple praised the startup’s technology but refused to license it." [BusinessInsider]
"Real estate startup Compass nabs $100M at a $1.8B valuation" by Ingrid Lunden: "Ori Allon's real-estate startup Compass is announcing that it has raised another $100 million — money that it plans to use to expand its sales and rental listings service to every major city in the U.S., as well as build new CRM technology to integrate client, listings and transactions data. The Series E values the company at a whopping $1.8 billion." [TechCrunch] Tel Aviv-based User-Based Marketing Startup Yotpo raises $51 Million [CTech]
TALK OF OUR NATION: "Jerusalem protests look to preserve ultra-Orthodox lifestyle" by Associated Press' Aron Heller: "Experts say tomorrow’s ultra-Orthodox will look much different from the community that mainstream Israel fears today. “If you are expecting everything to change tomorrow morning — that is not going to happen. But if this is done quietly and it is not forced upon us, it will happen on its own,” said Gidon Katz, an ultra-Orthodox Jew who runs and advertising and public relations agency in Jerusalem... Gilad Malach, an institute researcher who specializes in the community, said such fears are exaggerated. He believes the modernizing effect will make the Haredi community far more educated and employable, much the way ultra-Orthodox communities in the United States and Europe have adapted." [AP]
TALK OF THE TOWN: "Baltimore County votes to keep schools closed on Jewish holidays" by Talia Richman: "The Baltimore County school board voted Tuesday to approve an academic calendar that keeps schools closed next year on the Jewish High Holy Days... The 9-3 vote follows the order of Gov. Larry Hogan that public schools in Maryland begin after Labor Day and end by June 15. The requirement, aimed at extending the summer and boosting state tourism, has forced some districts to compress their academic calendars." [BaltimoreSun]
"Kiryas Joel to become 'Palm Tree,' the first Haredi town in America" by Yair Ettinger: "In a referendum in the town of Monroe... a majority of residents voted to separate from the well-known village of Satmar Hassidic sect Jews, Kiryas Joel. The Yiddish-speaking village, founded in the 1970s, will become a separate town in 2020, which will be the first Haredi city in the United States. The city will be called Palm Tree, an English translation of the Rebbe's surname - Teitelbaum." [JPost]
BIRTHDAYS: United States Attorney for New Jersey (1971-1973), then US District Court Judge (1973-1987), now a criminal defense attorney, Herbert Jay Stern turns 81... Actress, comedian and writer, she played the recurring role of Doris Klompus on Seinfeld, Annie Korzen turns 79... Vice Chairman and CEO of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, he was a senior White House aide to President Bill Clinton (1993-1998), Ira Magaziner turns 70... Senior Advisor for Global Government Affairs to the Blackstone Group, Wayne Berman turns 61... Chartered Financial Analyst in the San Francisco Bay Area, Michael Sosebee turns 61... Michelle Silverstein turns 60... Major General in the IDF, his military career (1977-2012) included heading the Southern Command, now the Minister of Construction and member of Knesset for the Kulanu party, Yoav Galant turns 59...
Manhattan attorney, Charles "Chesky" Wertman turns 55... Senior Director of Bono's The ONE Campaign, Laurie Moskowitz turns 53... Past President of University Women at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Allison Gingold turns 49... Popular Israeli female vocalist in the Mizrahi music genre, Zehava Ben turns 49... Teacher, writer, editor and diversity consultant, she is the CEO of Boston-based Dimensions Educational Consulting, she founded and led Ayecha (a nonprofit advocacy group for Jews of color), Yavilah McCoy turns 45... Allan Waxman...
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