MOST TALKED ABOUT BIZZARE STORY OF THE DAY: Mohammed Islam, a 17-year old, whose story of making $72 million went viral around the world. Islam later admitted the story was entirely made up. What’s the JI angle? There’s always a JI angle and we found one for you below.
TIMELINE: New York Magazine’s Jessica Pressler posted a profile on Sunday evening of the 17-year-old Stuyvesant High School senior named Mohammed “Mo” Islam with a headline stating that Islam made $72 million from trading [NYMag] • Business Insider’s Julia La Roche was quite skeptical of this story and broke the news that the $72 million figure was a false rumor [BusinessInsider]
Ken Kurson of the New York Observer was able to get an exclusive interview yesterday with Mohammed and his friend Damir Tulemaganbetov at the office of Ronn Torossian‘s public relations firm 5WPR. (Torossian explains how Kurson got the interview as anyone reading the Observer recently would know. How Torossian got involved and who’s paying him is another question some are wondering). Here’s an excerpt…
“Observer: What was your first contact with the New York magazine reporter? Mohammed Islam: My friend’s father worked at New York magazine and he had the reporter contact me. Then she [Jessica Pressler] called me. Q: You seem to be quoted saying “eight figures.” That’s not true, is it? A: No, it is not true. Q: Is there ANY figure? Have you invested and made returns at all? A: No Q: So it’s total fiction? A: Yes. Q: Are you interested in investing? How did you get this reputation? A: I run an investment club at Stuy High which does only simulated trades.” [Observer]
The Leaders Investment Club issued the following statement last night: “After further review, the Leaders Investment Club feels that Mohammed Islam’s tacit complicity in perpetuating false claims until pressed reveals a considerable lack of maturity and honesty. His continued refusal to provide audited returns or release proven numbers has raised concerns, and we reluctantly announce his removal from our organization. The Leaders Investment Club has a no-tolerance policy towards inflated or falsified returns, and we continue to strive to source the strongest young talent who uphold both strong moral and investment principles.” [LIC]
ANGLE: Well it’s probably not the first assumption one makes when hearing his name (we certainly didn’t) but it turns out that Mohammed Islam is supposedly a pro-Israel advocate and spoke about his financial “success” at an Aipac High School summit about a month ago in Arlington, Virginia. According to a source, Mohammed Islam is a “substantial donor” to Aipac. We’re not sure if the currency is verbal commitments or dollars but we did hear another very unconfirmed rumor that he donated $10,000. Crazy rumors, crazy story.
HAPPENING TODAY: At 4PM, Vice President Joe Biden will speak at the 35th annual National Menorah lighting ceremony on the Ellipse. It is unclear whether the Vice President will also ride up in a cherry picker to help light the menorah or will simply light a symbolic candle from the ground. The event, which will be live on C-SPAN.org, features the U.S. Army Band and British singer Alex Clare. Thank youHoward Mortman for sharing with us all the C-SPAN coverage of prior Menorah lightings [C-SPAN]
—JIMMY FALLON: “Joe Biden will assist in the 35th annual lighting of the National Menorah at the White House. When he heard that, Smokey The Bear was like, “hold my calls.” [NBC]
SCENE LAST NIGHT: Steve Rabinowitz hosted his annual Latkes & Vodkas event where it was announced that Rabinowitz will launch a new firm with Aaron Keyak, the former NJDC director and aide to Rep. Jerrold Nadler, called Bluelight Strategies.
Rosie Gray provides a rundown in BuzzFeed: “Of the name’s significance, Rabinowitz said, “The blue is progressive politics in America, and you know, the Jews can think it’s Jewish too if they want.” The firm will focus on progressive issues, both foreign policy and otherwise. Rabinowitz and Keyak say their clients include environmental clients in North Carolina and upstate New York, as well as the Jewish Federations of North America and its Jewish community relations councils, a university in Israel, the Times of Israel, the Israel Policy Forum, and the Religious Action Center, Reform Judaism’s political arm. It’s an “exciting opportunity to start fresh, to start anew,” Rabinowitz said. “And to not have it be all about me. It doesn’t need to be Rabinowitz Communications anymore.”
—Ready for Hillary: “Bluelight is also gearing up for Hillary Clinton’s presumptive 2016 presidential effort. Rabinowitz is a veteran of Bill Clinton’s White House and earlier this year launched “Jewish Americans Ready for Hillary,” a branch of the larger Ready for Hillary draft-Clinton campaign. “Steve is a longtime member of Clintonland,” Keyak said. “And so when it comes to the various communities we’re involved in, especially in the Jewish and pro-Israel communities, we’re going to be all about Hillaryland.” “They’re good partners, and they know the community,” Ann Lewis, a former Clinton White House communications director and senior adviser to Clinton’s 2008 campaign… “Some dynamics are changing; most notably, a growing, vigorous debate, with articulate conservative voices,” Lewis said in an email. “(We are not just people of the book, but the website.) But by Election Day, majority of Jewish voters will support Democratic candidates.” [BuzzFeed]
2016 WATCH: Ted Cruz’s 2016 Strategy? Jewish Outreach – “He has already gone to great lengths to court Jews, making it clear that he wants their approval, acceptance, and financial support. He turned up, for example, at Commentary magazine’s annual dinner in September 2013, the only potential 2016 candidate to do so. The senator also attended New York City’s Israel Day concert and parade in June — and then raised $100,000 at Abigail’s, a kosher restaurant in Manhattan. He gave an address last month to the Zionist Organization of America, preceded by a meeting with New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman and followed by meetings with Sheldon Adelson and the hedge-fund manager Michael Steinhardt, former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council. Steinhardt hosted Cruz in his office around a table with some of the Jewish community’s most influential political donors.”[NationalReview; TPM; NYMag]
—DAN SENOR: “If Jeb Bush Jumps in, Mitt Romney Will Stay Out: This presidential race may not be big enough for the two of them. Interviewed on “With All Due Respect” Monday, former Mitt Romney advisor Dan Senor said he believes that his former boss will sit out the 2016 presidential race if and when former Florida Governor Jeb Bush declares himself a candidate.” [Bloomberg] • “McClatchy-Marist poll shows Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush leading GOP pack” [Politico]
—O’Malley will probably put off announcement on presidential bid until spring: “Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will probably push off an announcement about running for president until spring, a timetable that reflects the dominance of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic field and the daunting challenges that he faces in raising money, according to several people helping him prepare for a possible bid. The thinking comes as O’Malley convenes some of his biggest supporters in Annapolis on Tuesday for a day of political briefings capped off by a reception at a private residence. While the invitation advertises talk of “the way forward for our country,” aides say the agenda does not include any definite word on O’Malley’s 2016 ambitions.” [WashPost]
BIBI & KERRY MEET IN ROME: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday sought assurances from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Washington would block efforts by Palestinians and Europeans on Palestinian statehood. “Our expectation is that the United States will stand by its position for the past 47 years that a solution to the conflict will be achieved through negotiations, and I do not see a reason for this policy to change,” Netanyahu told reporters after a meeting in Rome that lasted some three hours.” [Reuters; Haaretz] • “Arab states try to delay Palestinian UN bill” [AlMonitor]
—TOP TWEET: Matt Lee @APDiploWriter – “What a day for #US diplomacy: Enraged driver tries to cut off #SecKerry motorcade in #Rome and power outage at @StateDept sends staff home.” [Twitter]
IRAN TALKS: “Iran’s President Pledges to Face Down Forces Opposing a Nuclear Deal” by Thomas Erdbrink: “Risking his political standing, Iran’s president stressed on Monday that he was determined to cinch a nuclear deal and prepared to take on the conservative forces who would prefer not to see an agreement with the West, even if that means continued economic sanctions on Iran. “Some people may not like to see the sanctions lifted,” the president, Hassan Rouhani, said as Iranian negotiators and their United States counterparts resumed talks in Geneva. “Their numbers are few, and they want to muddy the waters.” United States and Iranian diplomats had a preliminary meeting on Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva on Monday before wider talks between Iran and six world powers get underway on Wednesday. Iran, pressured by a collapse in oil prices as well as inflation and lagging growth, wants sanctions lifted, while the world powers are demanding more control over Iran’s nuclear facilities.”[NYTimes]
TOP-OPS: Aaron David Miller – “All John Kerry Wants for Christmas Is an Israel Without Bibi: But if the United States plays politics in Israel’s spring election, it’s possible no one will get what they want next year” [ForeignPolicy] • Joel Golovensky: “Behind Israel’s Jewish ‘State Uproar” [WSJ] • Phyllis Chesler: “My Jewish Feminist Problem” [TabletMag]
STARTUP NATION: “Arab woman aims to blaze a trail in Israel’s high-tech sector” by Tova Cohen: “Israel is proud to call itself a “Start-up Nation”, with more tech firms listed on Nasdaq than any other country outside the United States and China. But two elements are often missing from that success story: women and Arabs. Doctor Amal Ayoub is hoping to change that. An Arab-Israeli from the town of Nazareth, Ayoub is the founder and chief executive of Metallo Therapy, a biomedical start-up that has developed technology to better monitor the development of malignant tumors.” [Reuters]
BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Delek deal to sell Phoenix stake to Kushner falls apart” [Reuters] • Adam Neumann‘s WeWork valued at $5 Billion [WSJ] • Sam Boymelgreen plans 162-room hotel in Gowanus [DNAinfo] • More details on Ashkenazy’s Faneuil Hall Renovations [BostInno] •
Bloomberg Philanthropies Expands Innovation Teams Program to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: “Bloomberg Philanthropies also announced that two non-U.S. cities will receive innovation team grants: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Mayor Nir Barkat of Jerusalem will use his i-team to focus on poverty and economic development, while Mayor Ron Huldai of Tel Aviv-Yafo will focus on cost of living and illegal immigration. “Successful innovation depends as much on the ability to generate ideas as it does the capacity to execute them – and i-teams help cities do both,” said philanthropist Michael Bloomberg. “More and more city governments around the world are eager to innovate, so we’re excited to work with 12 new U.S. cities, and to expand the program beyond our borders by bringing i-teams toJerusalem and Tel Aviv-Yafo.” [Bloomberg] • New York Magazine’s 19th Reason to Love New York 2014 – “Because This Is Michael Bloomberg’s Idea of Retirement” [NYMag] • “Cordial Ties for Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton” [NYTimes]
David Garth, Strategist to Four New York City Mayors, Dies at 84: “Garth was born David Goldberg on March 5, 1930. He grew up in Woodmere, New York, the son of Leo Goldberg, a lingerie manufacturer, and Beulah Jagoda, who was national vice president of the American Jewish Congress, according to a 1980 article in the New York Times. “My father came here from Russia and his name wasn’t Goldberg, it was Nisinnyevich,” Garth said, according to the Times. “Immigration gave him Goldberg. He always said, either change it back or find something that you like. Garth had the same initial and I liked the sound of it.” Starting with John Lindsay, a Republican, in 1965, Garth ran the campaigns of four successful New York mayoral candidates. His other winners were Ed Koch, a Democrat, Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, and Michael Bloomberg. Others who sought his help included Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and West Virginia Governor Jay Rockefeller, both Democrats, and Israeli Prime MinisterMenachem Begin.” [Bloomberg] • “The world according to Garth: Remembering the pioneer of the modern political ad” by Todd S. Purdum [Politico] • “The Consultant Who Talked Up to Voters” [DailyBeast]
LONGREAD: Indian-Americans Look Towards Jewish-Americans As A Model — “The New Indian Lobby: Are Indian Americans primed to become the next political kingmakers?” by Adam B. Lerner in Politico Magazine: “But he has a very clear benchmark in mind as he tries to navigate his educated and wealthy ethnic group towards political power: Jewish-Americans. “We’re learning a lot from the Jewish diaspora here and what we have noticed from the Jewish diaspora is that they’re willing to contribute, invest, and write checks,” Rangaswami told me. “Because of the size of India, we could become a much larger community [than the Jews] in terms of population and also in terms of diversity.” Though the first Jews to serve in Congress (Representative Lewis Charles Levin and SenatorDavid Levy Yulee) were both inaugurated in 1845, America had a relatively small and uninfluential Jewish population until the 20th century.”
“Only in the mid-20th century did the community begin claiming the political and cultural clout it’s currently known for. By then, the Holocaust had further stigmatized anti-Semitism and second- and third-generation Jewish-Americans had acquired their own wealth as professionals. Today Jews make up less than two percent of the population—about double the percentage of Indian-Americans—but the U.S. Senate currently features ten Jewish members and three of the nine Supreme Court Justices are Jewish. An important factor in consolidating Jewish-Americans political power since the mid-20th century has been the community’s targeted interest in Israel. Contrary to popular belief, Jews run the gamut in terms of views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But together powerful Jewish-American organizations like AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and J Street, all of which receive much of their funding from wealthy Jewish-American donors, have transformed an otherwise small population’s activism on Israel into a potent force on a wider set of issues. Coupled with an array of wealthy Jewish-American individual donors (among them Michael Bloomberg, Sheldon Adelson, and George Soros, to name a few) this prominence has led to nearly every prominent U.S.politician donning a yarmulke at one point or another in their careers.” [PoliticoMag]