Good Wednesday morning!
An enormous explosion rocked the Beirut port yesterday in Lebanon, killing at least 100 people and wounding thousands.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the blast was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at the port. But at a press conference yesterday, President Donald Trump claimed the incident “looks like a terrible attack,” though that assessment has not been supported by other U.S. officials.
Israeldenied having any connection to the explosion, and offered the Lebanese government humanitarian assistance through diplomatic channels. Israeli hospitals near the northern border also readied for the possibility of accepting wounded patients.
Millions of people along the East Coast lost power as Tropical Storm Isaias battered the northeast, downing trees and power lines and killing at least five people.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Ritchie Torres were formally declared the winners of their respective primaries in the 12th and 15th districts of New York as the Board of Elections certified the results.
Joe Biden is now unlikely to name his VP choice before next week and Axios is reporting that Biden confidants believe it is down to Sen. Kamala Harris and Susan Rice. A Trump campaign official told Politico that Rice “is absolutely our No. 1 draft pick.”
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A new squad member and other election results
Most of the primary races in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington were decided by Wednesday morning, while some elections remained too close to call.
Missouri: So far, the biggest upset of the day came in Missouri’s 1st congressional district, where progressive activist Cori Bush narrowly defeated longtime incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), receiving 48.6% compared to 45.5% for Clay in the current tally. Bush’s support for the BDS movement and her anti-Israel stances were attacked by Clay in mailers last week. Tuesday night, Alexandra Rojas, the executive director of Justice Democrats, which backed Bush, toldThe New York Times, “If you don’t know, now you know: The Squad is here to stay, and it’s growing.”
Kansas: The controversial former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was easily defeated by Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS) in the Republican primary for Senate, easing the fears of many GOP insiders in the state. In the 2nd district, incumbent freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-AZ), who was recently charged with voter fraud, was ousted by Republican primary challenger Jake LaTurner.
Michigan: Rep. Rashida Tlaib appeared to hold a strong lead over her Democratic primary challenger Brenda Jones, receiving 66% of votes compared to 34% for Jones among the votes counted so far. In the state’s 3rd district, Peter Meijer won the Republican primary with 50% of the vote compared to just 26% for State Sen. Lynn Afendoulis. Meijer will face Democrat Hillary Scholten in November as they battle for the seat being vacated by Republican-turned-Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash. In the 11th district, the Republican primary was too close to call as early results showed Eric Esshaki with 31% compared to 24% for Carmelita Greco and 22% for former Rep. Kerry Bentivolio.
Arizona: Former ER doctor Hiral Tipirneni won the Democratic primary in the state’s 6th district, and will take on scandal-plagued Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) in November. In the Arizona State House, Jewish Rep. Alma Hernandez was leading her Democratic primary race with 46% of the vote.
In rematch, Anthony Brindisi and Claudia Tenney compete for another two years in D.C.
For freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), the hardest part of his job is leaving his family behind at the beginning of each week to head to Washington. But the father of two has found a way to ease those departures: by writing a note each week to his 13-year-old son and 9- year-old daughter about why he’s going to Congress. “Hopefully, they can look back at that later on and understand that daddy was trying to make the world a better place,” Brindisi told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh in a recent interview.
Challenge ahead: In 2018, the former state assemblyman beat first-term Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) by less than 2 percentage points in the district that Trump won by 15 points in 2016. This November, Brindisi and Tenney will face off again once more to represent the 22nd district, in a race considered a toss-up by The Cook Political Report. Tenney told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod that many voters are disappointed with Brindisi’s tenure. “I know a lot of people were just like, ‘Wow, this is not what we thought we were bargaining for,’” she told JI. Shana Kushner Gadarian, a political science professor at Syracuse University, told JI that Tenney might be hampered this cycle by her close ties to Trump, and is more conservative than the average voter in the district.
Middle road approach: Brindisi boasts about being one of the few freshman members of Congress who has had four pieces of legislation signed by Trump. “It was not an easy thing to do, especially when you’re in divided government right now,” he told JI. “But I believe in bipartisanship and trying to solve problems.” Brindisi believes this approach is greatly appreciated by his constituents. “The one thing I hear over and over again from constituents is, ‘We don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican. We just want you getting things done.’”
For argument’s sake: But Tenney told JI that despite Brindisi’s affiliation with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, the freshman has not actually governed as a moderate, and has instead kowtowed to party leadership and the party’s left wing. “He’s almost paralyzed in fear,” she said. “He doesn’t take a strong stand on anything.” She also questioned the bipartisan group’s legislative efficacy. “I don’t know how many of their bills have really made much of an impact or gotten to the Senate,” she said. “I do know that the Problem Solvers Caucus does a tremendous job raising money.”
United on Jerusalem and Iran, divided on annexation: Brindisi supported Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He was also one of 12 House Democrats who broke party ranks last year to vote in favor of a Republican motion to recommit on anti-BDS legislation. The two candidates, however, differ on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. While Brindisi didn’t sign onto a House letter publicly expressing opposition to Israeli annexation because it didn’t strongly oppose conditioning military aid, he told JI he has “concerns” with the prospect of unilateral annexation. Tenney told JI that, if she were in Congress, she would have joined a letter from House Republicans backing the Israeli government’s proposed move.
Family ties: Victor Pearlman, executive director at the Jewish Community Federation of the Mohawk Valley, is married to Brindisi’s older sister, Eva. “[Anthony] is an amazing young man with an innate ability who understood my Jewish upbringing and my values like I don’t even think many Jews could understand,” Pearlman told JI in a phone interview. “He has participated in Passover Seders, he has come to shul to read passages at my children’s bar and bat mitzvahs.” Although the Jewish community is relatively small in Utica, Pearlman said that the local Jewish community “supports [Brindisi] almost to a person.”
Read our separate interviews with Brindisi here and Tenney here.
Bonus: A Tenney campaign ad released this week attacks Brindisi for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from groups connected to cable giant Spectrum. “You can’t spell Brindisi without BS,” the ad says.
IN THE BUBBLE
‘It’s like “Groundhog Day”’: One reporter’s account of life inside the ‘NBA bubble’
Before the pandemic, Mark Medina, a national basketball reporter for USA Today, had the luxury of being at least mildly selective about which games he attended. But now that he is ensconced inside the National Basketball Association’s temporary makeshift campus at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., he has found that his job has become more demanding as he scuttles from one matchup to the next. “I’m covering the league,” Medina told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “I’m at a game every night.”
Bubble life: Inside the so-called “NBA bubble,” 22 basketball teams are battling it out as they finish up the season and then move on to the playoffs. Medina, who, like other reporters in the bubble, isn’t allowed to leave the campus, has been attending one or two games a day for the past couple of weeks — and doing not much else aside from writing, eating, sleeping and getting tested daily for COVID-19. “It’s not ideal,” Medina said. “I’d like to live normally.” He’s still trying to stay positive, though a week of quarantine and three weeks of bubble life have proven monotonous. “It’s like ‘Groundhog Day,’” he declared.
Unique challenges: Though he is grateful to be given the opportunity to report from inside the bubble, there are challenges that have hampered his ability to get scoops and liven up his reporting. “The league has done as good a job as they can with allowing socially distanced interviews, but the setup’s a lot harder than it was before,” he said, bemoaning the fact that there have been fewer spontaneous encounters in which he might be able to wring an exclusive from a player.
Eat, write, sleep, repeat: Medina had the chance to mingle with his colleagues at a poolside soirée on the night they all got out of quarantine. Since then, however, he hasn’t had time to relax for an even hour or so with a stiff drink. He is simply too busy observing games, filing stories and doing radio and TV interviews. “You’re literally waking up, getting tested and just consuming basketball for the rest of the day,” he said. “And then you go to bed.”
👩⚖️ Seeking Consensus:USA Today’s Richard Wolf takes a look at how Associate Justice Elena Kagan has emerged as the bridge-builder between the liberal and conservative members of the Supreme Court during her decade on the bench. [USAToday]
👨👩👧👦 Living Apart: JTA’s Ben Sales spotlights the families torn apart by Israel’s entry ban on foreigners during the coronavirus pandemic, including same-sex and intermarried couples who face extra hurdles in having their unions recognized by the government. [JTA]
🇺🇸🇮🇱 Dual Loyalties: Rabbi Steve Roth writes in Florida’s Sun-Sentinel that American Jews should not need to choose between support of the U.S. and of Israel: “Being loyal to America and Israel are not mutually exclusive.” [SunSentinel]
Around the Web
🙊 Whoops:President Donald Trump raised eyebrows yesterday after mispronouncing Yosemite National Park as “yo Semite.”
☢️ Talk of the Region: Saudi Arabia is reportedly secretly working with China to expand its nuclear program, alarming both the U.S. and Israel.
🏢 Checking Out: The FBI raided two offices yesterday belonging to Optima Management Group, which is affiliated with Ukrainian billionaire Igor Kolomoisky.
🤐 Tight Lipped: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to disclose the recipients of the $600 billion-plus coronavirus relief program for small businesses during a hearing on Capitol Hill.
💰 Big Entry: Cloud-service provider Rackspace, backed by Apollo Global Management, has raised $704 million in its IPO.
📦 Eye on the Ball:Hedge fund manager David Einhorn purchased a stake in cargo airline Atlas Air in the hopes it will benefit from the delivery shortages caused by the pandemic.
🎮 Joy Stick: Strauss Zelnick’s Take-Two gaming company is walking back plans to hike up the prices on all its new games.
✈️ Liftoff: Israel’s Government Companies Authority granted approval to Eli Rozenberg, the 30-year-old son of nursing home chain owner Kenny (Naftali) Rozenberg, to buy a controlling stake in El Al.
🚢 Rush Sale:Israel is ramping up efforts to privatize its Haifa seaport as the Chinese-owned Shanghai International Port Group prepares to open a new harbor in Haifa Bay.
📽️ ‘Nisht Gut’:“The Umbrella Academy” show on Netflix is facing backlash for featuring a Yiddish-speaking villain.
👎 No Remorse: A GOP-backed candidate for the Minnesota House claimed she was “forced” to apologize for a Facebook post comparing coronavirus restrictions to the Holocaust.
🇨🇦 New Gig: Canadian Liberal MP Michael Levitt has resigned from office in order to become the president and CEO of the Canadian Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
👨💻 Wire Service: Philanthropist Craig Newmark gave a $500,000 grant to The Forward for the second year in a row to expand its reach online.
📺 Cuke Comedy:The New York Timesreview of Seth Rogen’s heavily Jewish new film, “An American Pickle,” calls it “swift and nimble enough to avoid weighing itself down with schmaltz.”
🕯️Remembering: Adam Max, chairman of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, died at age 62 after a battle with cancer.
Pic of the Day
An Israeli couple kisses at an anti-Netanyahu protest last night in Jerusalem on Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love, which is marked last night and today.
Publisher of The New York Times, Arthur Gregg (A.G.) Sulzberger turns 40…
Former minority leader of the New York State Senate, Manfred Ohrenstein turns 95… CEO of Delphi Financial Group, Robert Rosenkranz turns 78… Nonfiction author, Jon Winokur turns 73… Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff turns 72… Banker, once known as “Austria’s woman on Wall Street,” Sonja Kohn turns 72… Former Soviet refusenik, elected to the Knesset in each of the last ten elections, he is now the Minister of Health, Yuli-Yoel Edelstein turns 62… Intellectual property and entertainment attorney, Howard Leib turns 62… Member of the British House of Lords, Baron Jonathan Andrew Kestenbaum turns 61… Songwriter, columnist and noted baseball memorabilia collector, Seth Swirsky turns 60… Chair of the department of Jewish history at Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh Dahan High School, Neil Rubin Ph.D. turns 57… Actor who starred in “Weekend at Bernie’s,” his father and grandfather were both rabbis, Jonathan Silverman turns 54…
President at ConservAmerica, Jeffrey Kupfer turns 53… Former member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party, Roy Folkman turns 45… VP for the Wireless Infrastructure Association, Matt Mandel turns 43… Member of the comedy duo Jake and Amir, Jacob Penn Cooper Hurwitz turns 35… Longtime member of the Israeli national soccer team, Gil Vermouth turns 35… Baseball pitcher for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Tyler Daschier Herron turns 34… Strategic designer at BCG Digital Ventures, Lila Cohn turns 32… Front-end web design consultant, Abby Milberg turns 30… Director of Jewish affairs for New York State’s Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Michael E. Snow turns 29… Policy analyst at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Lisa Geller turns 27… Leslie Saunders…