Daily Kickoff: Schumer’s schmooze-out | Natalie Portman hosted Jeremy Ben-Ami | Silicon Wadi helps solve Silicon Valley’s water crisis

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TOP TALKER: “George Soros’ son builds a PAC for Jewish voters” by Tarini Parti: “Alex Soros, 29, who has steadily increased his political and philanthropic giving in recent years, has helped establish Bend the Arc PAC, the first ever national Jewish political action committee in America focused entirely on domestic issues. “The Jewish community has a lot to say based on what we, as Jews, have contributed to the country,” Alex Soros said in an interview. It really reflects a lot about me personally. I’m really excited about it.”

Soros said he hasn’t reached out yet to his father — a Hungarian Jew who became a billionaire after surviving the holocaust — about giving to Bend the Arc PAC. Hadar Susskind, who has previously worked for… J Street, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, will serve as director of Bend the Arc PAC. “We don’t touch any foreign policy stuff,” he said. “One of the reasons behind doing this is that [the other Jewish groups] aren’t really representing the views of the American Jewish community. And we know full well that the bluntest language in politics comes down to political dollars.” [Politico]

–Alex Soros Op: “What American Jews Want: We care about much more than Israel. That’s why I’m launching a Jewish Action PAC.” [PoliticoMag]

–Prominent Jewish Democrat Andrew Weinstein tells Jewish Insider: “I’m generally opposed to super PACs but, until the constitution is amended, progressive candidates need to be able to have resources to counter Adelson. I certainly support the focus on income inequality, marriage equality, social justice and immigration reform. And I absolutely agree that these are priority issues for the American Jewish community.”

–Here’s wondering if anyone will mix up JewishAction.com & JewishAction.us.

WikiLeaks: Natalie Portman hosted J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami for a reception at her house last August: In an email to Sony executive Amy Pascal, NataliePortman[at]JStreet[dot]org wrote, “Hi Amy, I am hosting an intimate salon style discussion at my home regarding the conflict in Israel and Gaza and some possible next steps forward on Wednesday, August 20th at 7pm. J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami will be leading the discussion and I’d love for you to join me in what I hope to be a productive conversation. x, Natalie.” [WikiLeaks]

2016 WATCH: “Haim Saban, Casey Wasserman Pitch Hollywood on Clinton Fundraising” by Tina Daunt: “Haim Saban and Casey Wasserman, two of the Clinton family’s most ardent supporters, sent an email to Democratic donors in Hollywood and beyond Monday with a fundraising appeal for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The letter seeks contributions of $5,400 per couple — the legal primary limit — and asks that contributors commit to a similar amount after Clinton wins the Democrats’ nomination. “She will be an excellent leader for the United States and for our International standing. She is and always has been a strong leader and true friend when it comes to the U.S. and Israeli relationship. Trust me we know!” [HollywoodReporterVariety]

“Scott Walker’s Liberal Math For [Clinton donor] Marc Lasry’s New Milwaukee Bucks’ Arena”[Forbes]

Garrett Jackson, Mitt Romney’s former personal aide, joins the other Romney 2012 alumni who have endorsed Marco Rubio in 2016. [Twitter] • David Brooks on “The Talented Mr. Rubio” [NYTimes]

Ron Kampeas on Lindsey Graham: “As a candidate who spends a lot of time in Jewish company, Graham has probably been exposed to much self-deprecating humor of the “Wait, that’s the Elders of Zion on the phone” variety. Might make sense for Graham to leave such self-deprecation to the deprecated.” [JTA]

“Israeli Leaders Decline to Meet Jimmy Carter” by Jodi Rudoren: “Israel’s president and prime minister have declined requests for meetings with former President Jimmy Carter, who has long been a harsh critic of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.” [NYTimesToI]

“Chuck Schumer’s workout: A little bike, a lot of schmoozing” by Manu Raju: “Each morning in the Senate gym, Chuck Schumer takes his seat on the stationary bike. Then he starts talking, loudly, in his familiar New York accent: playful barbs and occasional deal making with Republicans working out nearby, and briefings with aides over his omnipresent flip phone. On it goes for the next 90 minutes, give or take. The P90X this is not. But getting buff isn’t necessarily the primary objective of Schumer’s regimen.” [Politico]

Bluelight Launching Today: Seasoned Washington political operatives Steve Rabinowitz and Aaron Keyak launched a new strategic communications and media relations firm today, Bluelight Strategies. As a leading firm for Jewish non-profits, Bluelight’s clients range from The Jewish Federations of North America, which represents 151 local Jewish Federations, to the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis, and the Union for Reform Judaism.” [Bluelight] • In case you’re wondering, Keyak tells us the @Rabinowitz email addresses will still work to reach them…

DRIVING THE WEEK: “Iran Nuclear Talks To Resume” by Laura Rozen: “Negotiators from Iran and six world powers resume talks in Vienna this week for the first time since the reaching of a framework deal April 2 that has set off debate and some confusion over seemingly conflicting interpretations about the provisional accord. Whether pressure from domestic critics to “improve” the framework deal causes backsliding in the negotiations when talks resume in Vienna April 22-23, at the deputy level, is still unclear.” [AlMonitor]

“Iran talks face compilation: Yemen” by Michael Crowley: “The war-torn Arabian nation of Yemen has emerged as a surprise complication for U.S.-Iranian relations in the late stages of President Barack Obama’s nuclear diplomacy with Tehran. The Obama administration dispatched an aircraft carrier to Yemen’s coastal waters over the weekend, an escalation of American involvement in that country’s civil war that also serves as a show of strength against Iran just as negotiators resume the nuclear talks this week in Vienna.” [PoliticoForeignPolicyNYTimes]

“Obama Kept Iran’s Short Breakout Time a Secret” by Eli Lake: “When Obama began his second term in 2013, he sang a different tune. He emphasized that Iran was more than a year away from a nuclear bomb, without mentioning that his intelligence community believed it was only two to three months away from making enough fuel for one… Back in 2013, when Congress was weighing new sanctions on Iran and Obama was pushing for more diplomacy, his interest was in tamping down that sense of urgency. On the eve of a visit to Israel, Obama told Israel’s Channel Two, “Right now, we think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close.” [BloombergView]

“When a Nation Is Threatened, Democracy Is an Impossible Dream” by Peter Beinart: “For many prominent hawks, human rights isn’t an end in itself. It’s a quiver in the arsenal of American power—a way to accentuate the moral difference between the United States and its enemies. It’s an emotional language that rouses Americans to support hawkish policies when the sterile discourse of power politics doesn’t work.” [TheAtlantic]

“Israel Alone” by Bret Stephens: “Previous quarrels between Washington and Jerusalem were about differing Mideast perceptions. Now the issue is how the U.S. perceives itself.” [WSJ]

“How to Save the Iran Deal” by Dennis Ross: “Stand tough, Obama. The supreme leader and Revolutionary Guard oppose inspections, but only transparency can make it work.” [PoliticoMag]

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BUSINESS BRIEF: “Teva Said to Plan Public Mylan Approach as Soon as Today” by Ed Hammond and David Wainer: “Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. is preparing an unsolicited offer for rival Mylan NV, people with knowledge of the matter said, in what could be the drug industry’s largest takeover attempt this year. The Israeli company could make a public bid for Mylan, which has a market value of $33.3 billion, as soon as Tuesday, the people said.” [Bloomberg

REAL ESTATE ROUNDUP: “Gary Barnett’s ‘Poor Door’ Building Draws 88,000 Applicants for 55 Rental Units” by Mireya Navarro: “Having to walk through a so-called poor door has not deterred those seeking an affordable place to live. As of Monday, the deadline for applying, more than 88,000 people had put their name in for the 55 low-priced units, the developer said. “I guess people like it,” said Gary Barnett, founder and president of Extell Development Company, the tower’s developer. “It shows that there’s a tremendous demand for high-quality affordable housing in beautiful neighborhoods.” [NYTimes]

“Sutton Closes on Crown Building and Inks Deal for Aman Hotel” by Max Gross: “Jeff Sutton closed on the jewel of his Fifth Avenue empire—the Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue, which he purchased for a jaw-dropping $1.78 billion, with a $1.25 billion mortgage, that he bought with General Growth Properties. This means that Mr. Sutton’s Wharton Properties now owns the entire spruce block of Fifth Avenue from West 56th to West 57th Streets along with his new prize.” [Observer]

“New York City has multimillion-dollar backup plan if Barry Diller pulls out of his island project” by Rosa Goldensohn: “The city has pledged $17 million toward Diller’s vision and the adjacent esplanade. But DNAinfo New York has learned that, to hedge against the possibility of Diller bowing out, the Parks Department and the trust created a backup plan, a more modest $30 million park at Pier 54.” [DNAinfo]

TALK OF THE VALLEY — Silicon Wadi comes to Silicon Valley’s aid on water: “Silicon Valley’s Water Conservation Conundrum” by John Markoff: “To date, technology innovations around water conservation have largely come from Israel, home to an entrepreneurial culture that mirrors Silicon Valley’s, plus more flexible policies and market incentives. Indeed, the sensor-based irrigation innovations that might have been expected to come from the Valley have largely come from Israeli entrepreneurs, as well as more traditional businesses like the wine industry and farming equipment, said Michael Kleeman.” [NYTimes]

STARTUP NATION: “In Israel, behind every successful entrepreneur stands a lot of government support” by Simona Weinglass: “Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist has been called the “killer app” of Israel’s startup ecosystem. A new report sheds light on what it does.” [GeekTime]

SPORTS BLINK: “Steven A. Ballmer’s Inner Fan Finds Its Voice in a Corner of the N.B.A.” by Karen Crouse: “The official transfer in August of the team to Ballmer, whose Swiss-born father worked for the United States Army as an interpreter in the Nuremberg war crimes trials, was seen as a clean break from the Clippers’ desultory past. In Ballmer, 59, the team acquired a loud and proud leader. He was more inclined to show his enthusiasm than his navel, unlike Sterling, who at Ballmer’s age was still wearing shirts unbuttoned to his waist.” [NYTimes]

“Jewish group slams mixed martial arts, linking sport to Abu Dhabi government and anti-Israel attacks” by Kenneth Lovett: “The group has penned a letter to “friends of the Jewish community” that will go to state lawmakers and run in Jewish publications highlighting the fact that the Abu Dhabi government owns a 10% stake in the sport’s biggest league — the Ultimate Fighting Championship. “This is a country that refuses to recognize Israel as a nation, refuses to allow Israeli citizens to travel in their country, and has banned the teaching of the Holocaust in their schools,” the letter says.” [DailyNews]

HAPPENING TODAY: “Trial of Former Auschwitz Guard, 93, Opens in Germany” by Alison Smale: “Seven decades after the liberation of Auschwitz, a 93-year-old former SS guard at the Nazi death camp shuffled into a German court on Tuesday to answer charges of complicity in the murder of 300,000 mostly Hungarian Jews in two months in the summer of 1944. With Holocaust survivors watching in the stark courtroom, Oskar Gröning read a terrifying but startlingly clear account of his life, focusing on the autumns of 1942 and 1944, when he served in the SS at Auschwitz-Birkenau. After an hour, Mr. Gröning turned to the judge and said: “It is beyond question that I am morally complicit.” [NYTimesWSJ]

Pope Francis met with European Rabbis yesterday: “A first meeting between the Conference of European Rabbis and His Holiness, Pope Francis took place [yesterday] as a CER delegation led by President Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt visited Vatican City. During the visit, Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt and His Holiness The Pope discussed their shared concern for the future of religion in Europe and the meeting was particularly timely in the context of recent attacks on the Jewish Community in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen.”

“Elio Toaff, Spiritual Leader of Italian Jews, Dies at 99” by Bruce Weber: “Elio Toaff, the chief rabbi of Rome for half a century, who as a leader of Italian Jewry during its revival after World War II helped forge more amicable relations between Jews and the Vatican, died on Sunday in Rome. He was 99.” [NYTimes]

LongRead — A Washington Mystery: “Why Can’t America Have Great Trains” by Simon Van Zuylen-Wood: “Thirty-nine minutes into his southbound ride from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, D.C., Joseph H. Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak, begins to cry. We’re in the dining car of a train called the Silver Star, surrounded by people eating hamburgers. The Silver Star runs from New York City to Miami in 31 hours, or five more hours than the route took in 1958, which is when our dining car was built.” [NationalJournal]


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