👋 Good Friday morning!
President Joe Biden announced a number of diplomatic nominations yesterday, including Barbara Leaf as assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs. Leaf previously served as U.S. ambassador to the UAE from 2014-2018, and as the Ruth and Sid Lapidus fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Biden also nominated Steven Bondy, a career diplomat and the former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in the UAE, to be ambassador to Bahrain.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced a bill yesterday calling for restrictions on U.S. aid to Israel, backed by 13 Democratic cosponsors.
Eight members of Congress joined on as cosponsors between Wednesday and Thursday afternoon: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL).
Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf said this morning that Iran has now begun enriching uranium to 60%, its highest-ever level.
Patrick Radden Keefe’s account of the family behind the opioid epidemic
By his own admission, the intrepid reporter Patrick Radden Keefe, a staff writer for The New Yorker, has never taken OxyContin, the addictive painkiller introduced by the drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma in 1996. “I’ve taken milder opioids after procedures,” he told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. “But no, not OxyContin, ever.” But Keefe is more intimately acquainted with the narcotic than most. His new book, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, lays out with damning specificity how the Sacklers, the family behind Purdue Pharma, built a pharmaceutical juggernaut while fueling the opioid epidemic.
Shocking revelation: The 44-year-old author and journalist admits he was “shocked” to discover that the Sacklers, until recently better known for their cultural philanthropy, were responsible for the powerful narcotic relentlessly marketed by Purdue Pharma despite clear evidence of OxyContin’s widespread abuse. Some family members are now in legal peril as they fend off a barrage of lawsuits. “There was a kind of initial revelation,” Keefe said, “which was, there’s this name that I see when I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and actually, this fortune is associated with this drug that has created a lot of carnage.”
Background: Keefe, whose previous books include Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland and The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream, was reporting on the Mexican drug trade years ago when he noticed an uptick in heroin coming into the U.S. and began looking into opioids. “It doesn’t take long when you start reading about the opioid crisis to come upon OxyContin and Purdue Pharma,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in the ways in which illegal drug organizations resemble legal businesses, and I became very interested in some specific ways in which legal Big Pharma practices sometimes resemble those of drug cartels — for instance, offering free samples to an addictive product.”
Strong-arm tactics: No one from the Sackler family cooperated with Keefe for the book, and he suspects he was surveilled. He was also subject to a slew of legal threats. “I’ve written about very wealthy people before who have tried to manhandle my reporting and the way the piece would be written,” he said. “I’ve written about some fairly scary figures from the criminal underworld. This was a different kind of experience.” The reason the Sacklers have managed to keep their name separate from OxyContin for so long, Keefe argues, is “this apparatus of lawyers and PR hatchet men who, any time journalists start writing about this stuff, they just come down on them like a ton of bricks.”
Fun fact: During the pandemic, Keefe hunkered down and got to work on the book, most of which he wrote from his bed. “My wife and I share a home office, and she has a job that normally takes her into the city every day, but she wasn’t doing that,” he recalled. “So I got the bed. It worked out strangely fine, in the sense that because there were so many documents, I found that the bed was a useful place to lay everything out. Everything was right there within easy reach, and I still have a little bit of a mild back pain to show for it. But that’s the worst of it.”
The Israeli startup working to monetize Clubhouse
As the audio-only social media app Clubhouse continues to grow in popularity, brands are looking for a foot in the door — and prolific users are hoping to monetize their efforts. Enter Clubmarket, the new Israeli-founded startup that is working to match up companies and creators for sponsorship deals. Clubmarket CEO Tomer Dean spoke with Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about the new startup and its early traction.
Marketplace: Clubmarket, founded by serial entrepreneurs Dean, Peleg Aran and Tal Hacmon, is seeking to serve as a marketplace to pair brands looking to have their products mentioned in Clubhouse rooms with “creators,” the hosts of popular rooms and clubs on the app. “Right now we’re kind of doing a few things at once,” Dean told Jewish Insider in a recent phone conversation from Tel Aviv. “On the one hand, we are developing this marketplace, which will be rolled out in a few different steps, in a few different phases in the next few weeks. And we’re already starting to facilitate, kind of like an agency approach. Because there’s a lot of things we want to learn about how advertising works on audio.”
High interest: Clubmarket first opened for business last month, said Dean, and began accepting applications from both brands and creators looking to join its marketplace. “Since we launched, we got a large amount of traction, much more than we were expecting, to be honest,” he said. “Right now we have over 100 brands saying they want to sponsor a club or a room on Clubhouse. And they’re already committing half a million dollars in ad spend.” Alongside that, he said, more than 500 creators on the platform have expressed interest in being sponsored.
In tandem: Dean said that while he has not had direct discussions with the team at Clubhouse, he believes Clubmarket fits in with the platform’s overall goals. “We haven’t had an official discussion,” he said, adding that in town halls where the app’s founders were asked about sponsorships, “their answer and their philosophy is: of course, they want creators to make as much money as possible from Clubhouse, either directly through Clubhouse, or indirectly through some kind of brand sponsorship.” The Clubmarket team, he said, made sure to “check [Clubhouse’s] intentions, because we definitely don’t want to do something if they’re going to try to block us at every turn. So hopefully it turns into a partnership.”
Quick start: Dean said launching a company in the COVID era actually made the process easier in many ways. “Everything is much faster. I never had a startup that was this fast,” he said. “The launch was fast, the traction was fast.” Dean, Aran and Hacmon are setting up round-the-clock conversations with brands and creators interested in coming on board. “And I’m not sure we would have been able to do that pre-pandemic. Because people were less trained to use Zoom and Calendly links and those things. I think it’s really easy to scale once you have a small bit of traction.”
on the hill
Nuland: Administration should address Iran non-nuclear issues ‘in tandem’ with JCPOA talks
Victoria Nuland, the Biden administration’s nominee for under secretary of state for political affairs, avoided committing to a specific strategy to address Iran’s nuclear program while highlighting the administration’s determination to bring Tehran into compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing yesterday, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Nuclear first: Asked about the comparative likelihood of reaching a comprehensive agreement with Iran versus one that only addresses Iran’s nuclear program, Nuland said: “I think we’ve got to pursue all of these problems in tandem. Whether that is a question of a comprehensive agreement, I think there are many players and many different pieces of this.” Nuland also made clear that the nuclear issue is the administration’s priority. “Its breakout time is shortened, so [the] first job [is to] get them back in the box. And then together define what ‘longer and stronger’ means.”
Flip side: Critics of the Biden administration’s approach argue that it is not viable because Iran may not agree to follow-on negotiations. According to Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the administration’s talking points also fail to articulate whether Iran’s other malign activities will be part of the negotiations to lengthen or strengthen the Iran deal or whether they will be negotiated separately. “I think Nuland is keeping the administration’s options open… even though so far they’ve already committed to return to the JCPOA as their priority,” he said.
High esteem: Even among critics of the 2015 nuclear deal and the Biden administration’s approach, Nuland is highly regarded. Dubowitz called her a “tough negotiator” and “very clear-eyed and sober-minded” about the threat from authoritarian regimes. Danielle Pletka, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, called Nuland “a pro, not an ideologue” and “a smart woman and a shrewd diplomat.” But, Dubowitz said, Nuland is unlikely to be a major player on Iran policy, given her background in Russia issues and the proliferation of Iran experts already within the administration.
Bonus: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also voted yesterday to advance Samantha Power’s nomination to be administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who grilled Power during her confirmation hearing over her role in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, told JI that Cruz will vote against Power’s confirmation.
🥯 Buon Bagels: An American couple living in Rome turned a pandemic baking hobby into a lucrative business, and is now selling hundreds of bagels across Italy every day, reports Erica Firpo in The Washington Post. Steve Brenner and Linda Martinez, who run an eco-hostel in Rome, said they are hoping to make the American morning staple a mainstay in Italian breakfasts. [WashPost]
🎼 Making Music: In The New York Times, Abby Ellin spotlights Madeline Forman, a nonagenarian who gave up her childhood dream of being a singer to help support her family, but recently found and had restored the record she made as a teenager. “It’s like an amateur ballplayer who played in the minors and you go, ‘Gee, I could have been in the big leagues,’” said her cousin, music producer Howard Forman. “She still swings.” [NYTimes]
📺 Back on Air: In Institutional Investor, William D. Cohan wonders if Larry Kudlow, who has a new Fox Business TV show, is “Fox enough for Fox Business?” Cohan suggests that “the question circulating among many cable television aficionados these days is whether Kudlow, despite his Trump Stink, is too cerebral and thoughtful to be successful at Fox.” [II]
Around the Web
💥 Crossfire: A rocket fired from Gaza yesterday struck a field in southern Israel, and the IDF responded with strikes on Hamas weapons facilities, breaking weeks of relative calm.
😷 Breathe Easy: Israel’s health minister announced yesterday that the requirement to wear masks while outdoors will be dropped starting Sunday.
🥵 Cool-off Period: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suggested Iran “calm down” following an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility, saying the “violent rhetoric” isn’t helpful.
🤝 Regional Ties: The foreign ministers of Israel, the UAE, Greece and Cyprus are meeting today and tomorrow to discuss a range of issues, including tourism and security concerns.
🛏️ Getting Help: The BBC explores how surrogate sex therapy is a state-sponsored option for some wounded IDF soldiers.
🗣️ Off Record: In a leaked recording, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) told AIPAC that former President Donald Trump’s goal was to “marginalize the Palestinians.”
🙊 Fallout: Jewish leaders in the district represented by Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) — who said at a January rally that “Hitler was right” — are disappointed by her muted handling of the incident.
🧔 Close Shave: A federal judge granted a stay of reprieve yesterday to a Hasidic Jewish sailor ordered to shave his beard by the U.S. Navy.
🎥 Coming Attractions: A new film foundation, Jewish Story Partners, backed by Steven Spielberg, the Maimonides Fund, the Jim Joseph Foundation and others, launched yesterday.
✍️ Writing History: Jim Campbell, whose book on Bernie Madoff will be released this month, said his extensive interviews with the family uncovered “an endless stream of shocking and little-known revelations.”
🛍️ Let’s Go To The Mall: American Eagle Outfitters CEO Jay Schottenstein said on CNBC that he expects mall traffic to experience a major rebound post-pandemic.
🎓 Campus Beat: The University of Kentucky is looking into allegations that members of an on-campus fraternity used Nazi salutes to greet a Jewish student.
⛓️ Staying Put: Two men who are serving prison sentences for firebombing synagogues and a rabbi’s home in New Jersey in 2011 had their appeals thrown out yesterday.
🎬 Hollywood: A new film, “Midas Man,” will tell the life story of Ben Epstein, the legendary manager of The Beatles who died at 32.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer-songwriter Noga Erez made her U.S. TV debut with a performance of her song, “Views,” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this week.
Hasidic singer Mordechai Werdyger, known by his stage name Mordechai Ben David, turns 70… Olympic track-and-field athlete and survivor of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, Esther Roth-Shachamorov turns 69… Actress Ellen Barkin turns 67… Chairman and CEO of private equity fund manager Jordan/Zalaznick Advisers, David Wayne Zalaznick turns 67… Physician and venture capitalist in the biotechnology and life-sciences industries, Lindsay Rosenwald turns 66… Professor of international affairs at Princeton University and co-director of the Woodrow Wilson School’s Center for International Security Studies, Aaron Louis Friedberg, Ph.D. turns 65… Filmmaker Stephen Kessler turns 61… Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School and former Director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf turns 59… Secretary of State of the United States, Antony John “Tony” Blinken turns 59… Television producer and writer, David Sanford Kohan turns 57… Los Angeles pharmacist, Jeffrey D. Marcus turns 57… Former Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, Dawn Zimmer turns 53… Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2013 until this past January, Ambassador Ron Dermer turns 50… Member of the House of Commons of Canada representing the riding of Toronto-Danforth, Julie Dabrusin turns 50… Celebrity plastic surgeon known as “Dr. Miami,” Michael Salzhauer, M.D. turns 49… Board member of Brandeis Marin Jewish day school in San Rafael, California, Ellen K. Finestone turns 48… President of Seattle-based Glass Ceiling Strategies, Alex Glass turns 43… Deputy opinion editor at Newsweek, Batya Ungar-Sargon turns 40… Founder of the Jewish Fashion Council and writer at Fabologie, Adi Heyman turns 39… Attorney who has served as a law clerk to three Maryland judges, Geoff Middleberg turns 31… Uriel Kejsefman turns 30… Singer best known as half of the folk-rock duo the Portnoy Brothers, Mendy Portnoy turns 29… Principal at Helena Special Investments, Matthew Saunders turns 28… Customer account executive at Quorum, Adam Gotbaum turns 27… Josh Goldstein… Sarah Wolfson…
SATURDAY: Cynthia J. Kugler turns 85… Retired Los Angeles cardiologist, Martin Bobrowsky, MD turns 81… NYU professor and noted legal scholar, Richard Allen Epstein turns 78… Marketing manager at Allied Interpreting Service, Barry Schreiber turns 78… The official historian for Major League Baseball, John Thorn turns 74… Talk radio host on NYC’s sports radio station WFAN, his nickname is “The Schmoozer,” Steve Somers turns 74… CEO of B’nai B’rith International, Daniel S. Mariaschin turns 72… Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ, Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler turns 70… He and his brother own the House of Chanel perfume company as well as holdings in vineyards and a thoroughbred horse racing stable, Gérard Wertheimer turns 70… Elizabeth H. Scheuer turns 67… Rabbi of Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha, Wisconsin since 1985, her brother is the former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin Russ Feingold, Dena Feingold turns 66… Actress, screenwriter and film director, Daphna Kastner turns 60… Winner of two Super Bowl rings with the San Francisco 49ers, now a physician and an inductee in the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Dr. John E. Frank turns 59… Director of Rutgers University Press, Micah Kleit turns 51… Professor of politics and Russian studies at New York University and co-author of The Monkey Cage, Joshua A. Tucker turns 50… Congressional editor for The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis turns 46… Member of the Alaska Legislature, Jesse Kiehl turns 45… Executive director at Morgan Stanley, Nadya Belenkiy turns 42… Reporter for Bloomberg covering technology in Asia with a focus on China, Shelly Banjo turns 37… Southern California-based regional director at The Washington Institute For Near East Policy, Miri Katz Belsky turns 37… Press Secretary for Senator Chuck Schumer, Angelo Roefaro turns 37… Communications manager at the Center for Responsible Lending, Matt Kravitz turns 36… Managing director at Bully Pulpit Interactive, Alex Kellner turns 35… Founder and principal of DKL Strategies, Dean Lieberman turns 32… Member of the Baltimore City Council, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer turns 32… Brian T. Earll turns 29…
SUNDAY: Former chief rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem, Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl turns 86… Partner in the intellectual property law firm of Furgang & Adwar, Philip Furgang turns 84… Biochemist, geneticist and winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1985, Joseph Leonard Goldstein turns 81… Managing director of fundraising consultants Mersky, Jaffe & Associates, Michael Jaffe turns 81… Corporate turnaround expert, Jerry W. Levin turns 77… Los Angeles resident, Saul Bernstein turns 76… President of DeForest Concepts in Burlington, Vermont, Hinda Miller turns 71… Former Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, Phil Gordon turns 70… Composer, pianist and musicologist, Robert M. Greenberg turns 67… Dallas attorney and former Planning Commissioner, Sally Brenner Wolfish turns 66… Former college basketball coach, now an ESPN analyst, Seth Greenberg turns 65… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of four acclaimed books, Susan Faludi turns 62… Community leader in Detroit and former President of AIPAC, David Victor turns 62… Editor of Commentary magazine and columnist for the New York Post, John Mordecai Podhoretz turns 60… President and rosh yeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone institutions in Israel, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth R. Brander turns 59… VP and deputy general counsel at Scholastic Inc, Mark Seidenfeld turns 58… Executive director of the American Zionist Movement, Herbert Block turns 56… Emmy Award-winning actress, Tamara Braun turns 50… Film director, producer, and actor, Eli Roth turns 49… Founder and executive director of the Aspen Chabad Jewish Community Center, Rabbi Mendel Mintz turns 46… Partner in the white collar and cybersecurity practices of Paul Hastings, nominated earlier this week to be undersecretary for strategy, policy and plans at DHS, Robert P. Silvers turns 41… Political director for AIPAC’s Florida region, Evan Philipson turns 32… Dov Maimon…