Friday, April 22, 2016

After sniffing pot leaves, Orthodox rabbis decide it's Kosher for Passover

Two leading Orthodox rabbis sniffed some pot plants this week in Israel and okayed it for Passover, but only for medicinal purposes.

88-year-old Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, who is "widely considered the leading living ultra-Orthodox halachic authority", and Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein blessed the weed, after prodding from the pro-marijuana group Siach.

Passover is an eight-day Jewish holiday, which has strict dietary rules, but the rabbis said that it was kosher to eat or smoke it, but only if it isn't for recreational purposes. "Kanievky stipulated that in normal circumstances the plant is considered a member of the kitniyot group of legumes and pulses that are banned on Passover among Jews of Ashkenazi origin," The Times of Israel reported.

Many US states have passed or are pushing legalization laws for marijuania, but critics claim that it's far too easy to get prescriptions, since anyone can claim stress as a medicinal purpose.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, at the White House's website, "Confusing messages being presented by popular culture, media, proponents of 'medical' marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana is harmless."

Even though some elected Republicans and Democratic officials want the White House to deschedule marijuana as a Class I narcotic, the office contends that these actions "significantly diminishes efforts tkeep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction."

Three of the five current candidates still running for the 2016 presidential favor various forms of legalization, The Huffington Post recently noted. Democratic rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are considered marijuana friendly, and Republican Ted Cruz believes the decision should be left up to states. Donald Trump and John Kasich have been a little bit harsher about the topic, but haven't completely decided against some form of legalization.

"Mazel Tov, Jewish stoners!" gossip columnist Perez Hilton wrote in response to the news today.

"Blessed is Hashem our God, King of the universe, who has created types of fragrances," was the blessing, according to an English transcripted posted on the following video.

video link

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Country Music Labels Won't Tell States To Take LGBT Laws And Shove Them

At least five country music labels contacted by the Associated Press refuse to say anything about laws passed or proposed against LGBT people in multiple states, even though some artists have denounced discrimination against gays.

Universal Music Group Nashville, Curb Records, Warner Music Nashville, Sony Music Nashville and Big Machine Label Group have opted to remain mum, the AP reports. Some platinum-selling performers such as Emmylou Harris, Billy Ray Cyrus, and his daughter Miley Cyrus have condemned the bills and laws.

On Monday, the Tennessee legislature passed a Republican-sponsored bill, which "declares that no person providing counseling or therapy services shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the counselor or therapist." GOP Gov. Bill Haslam hasn't said whether he would sign it into law, yet.

Yesterday, "responding to backlash," the Washington Post reported, Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory penned an executive order that would help LGBT state employees maintain their jobs. PayPal and Deutsche Bank called off expansion that would cost the state hundreds of jobs, and Bruce Springsteen is skipping the state on his latest tour. But, in a video message, McCrory stated that his order “maintains common sense gender-specific restroom and locker facilities in government buildings and in our schools.”

South Carolina may pass similar laws, while Mississipi already did, and rocker Bryan Adams recently cancelled a show in the latter state.

"The people who are at risk are people like my son who would really be called out publicly, and anyone who is a trans person knows that can escalate into a really dangerous situation," Gretchen Peters, who wrote Martina McBride's "Independence Day" and co-wrote and performed "When You Love Someone" with Adams told the AP. "I live in fear of that as a mother."

Unlike the labels, some music industry related firms have issued condemnations.

Reacting to the actions by Springsteen and Adams, concert producer Live Nation stated that it "supports our artists' efforts to take a stand against this exclusionary and unfair law." Country Music Television called the restroom bill "inconsistent with our values," and Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern said the firm behind the CMA awards is "working closely with the City of Nashville to offer all of our visitors and residents an inclusive environment where they feel welcome."

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sanders campaign manager claims Hillary Clinton 'dissed' Bernie's young supporters

Normally, every four years, by the middle of spring, the top contenders left standing in the ring for both major political parties keep their eyes on the November championship prize, but this hasn't been a normal year. Seventeen Republican candidates contended, but only three are left standing, and none seemed inclined to even support the eventual winner, who may not be crowned until July's Republican National Convention. Early on, in the Democratic race, the candidates fought with pillows, but now the last two contenders are starting to trade harder blows, and things are starting to get down and dirty.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are set to rumble in Brooklyn in the Naval Yard on April 14th, five days before the New York primary, in which 291 delegates are at stake. And while both still say they'll support the other one if they lose, Sander's campaign manager suggested on Tuesday in an interview on CNN that Clinton might not be able to win over their side's young supporters because she "dissed" them too much recently.

While New York polls once showed Clinton with a commanding lead, the most recent polls indicate that the former Empire State senator may only have an eleven percent advantage. Just a few weeks ago, one poll claimed that Clinton was "trouncing" Sanders by 48 points. But the poll had some issues, as Daily Caller reported, since it relied on landlines, and most younger people only own cellphones, and tend to screen their phone calls.

Almost buried in a Politico story, and not even highlighted at CNN, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver "challenged Clinton’s electability, calling into question whether she can rally support from Democrats" or even independents who are feeling the Bern more.

“[If] Bernie Sanders is the nominee, he will get the over, over, overwhelming support of Democrats in this race," Weaver said on CNN's "New Day" show. "The question is who can capture and mobilize young people and independents in this race to bring them out and to have them vote in the general election so that we can elect not just Bernie Sanders but Democrats up and down the ballot."

Weaver added, “Hillary Clinton is not gonna do that. All these young people who are coming out for Bernie Sanders, are they gonna come out for Hillary Clinton? I’m not so confident about that given how many times she’s dissed them recently.”

One of the "disses" that Weaver appeared to be referencing was when Clinton snapped at a young activist during a rally at SUNY Purachase on March 31, after she was asked, "Will you act on your words and reject fossil fuel money in your campaign?"

After arguing that she only takes "money from people who work in the fossil fuel" industry, Clinton complained to Eve Resnick-Day, "I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me, I am sick of it."

As noted at Real Clear Politics on Sunday, Clinton told NBC's "'Meet The Press' host Chuck Todd that she 'feels sorry for' young supporters of Bernie Sanders who believe his 'lies' about her taking money from the fossil fuel industry, without 'doing their own research.'"

"When people make these kinds of claims, which now I think have been debunked," Clinton said. "Actually the Washington Post said 'Three Pinocchios'-- and the New York Times analyzed it. Independent analysts have said that they are misrepresenting my record."

In a Fact Checker article on Saturday, The Washington Post reported: "The Sanders campaign is exaggerating the contributions that Clinton has received from the oil and gas industry. In the context of her overall campaign, the contributions are hardly significant. It’s especially misleading to count all of the funds raised by lobbyists with multiple clients as money 'given' by the fossil-fuel industry."

So far, Clinton hasn't specifically responded to the "dissed" comment, but she may have a tougher road ahead of her than Sanders since she and some of her former State Department employees are facing an FBI investigation for their use of private emails to trade information later marked classified. Sanders might even pull out the brass knuckles and score a knock-out in Brooklyn, if he decides to use what could be his strongest weapon to reach the final bout. If Sanders makes it to the DNC, and is able to woo enough superdelegates, the seventy-four-year old one time long shot might be crowned the new "comeback kid."

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Weiner did consulting work regarding foreign investment in broadcast industry; Teneo handled press for $17.7 billion Cablevision deal

(Editor's note: I added this update today to my original article called "Controversial firm linked to Clintons handles press for $17.7 billion Cablevision deal", but decided to also make it a new post so that readers can easily find it.)

4/2/16 Update: Last October, former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner - who is married to former Teneo consultant Huma Abedin - told me that he never worked for that consulting firm because he likes to be his own boss.

Very little is known about Weiner's post-Congress lobbying firm, Woolf Weiner Associates, and he acts angrily when questioned about it. In May of 2013, I did a story called "Anthony Weiner company led by former board director for firm investors blasted as 'CROOKS'", which has a lot of information about his consulting, that no other journalist ever seems to probe.

In regards to this story, this is what Michael Barbaro reported for The New York Times on April 30, 2013:
Mr. Weiner has advised Covington & Burling as it seeks to persuade the Federal Communications Commission to relax its long-standing objections to major foreign investment in the broadcast industry. He has tutored the firm on the key players and their political sensitivities, using knowledge gleaned from his tenure on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Mr. Weiner said he had reached out to federal officials at the Energy and Agriculture Departments, as well as members of Congress, on behalf of his clients. But he insisted that the work did not meet the legal definition of lobbying, which he said his contracts made clear he would not do.

The executives who have worked with him said the raunchy online banter with women that cost Mr. Weiner his post in Congress posed no problem for their employers.

“Nobody said don’t do this,” Mace J. Rosenstein, a partner in Covington’s telecommunications practice, said of hiring Mr. Weiner. 'He’s got this thing he has to deal with and it appears he is dealing with it in his own way.'
A controversial consulting firm connected to the Clintons scored a bigtime client under the radar recently. And even though Teneo was founded by two Hillary Clinton fundraisers - including CEO Declan Kelly who she appointed as Economic Envoy to No. Ireland while she was Secretary of State - the D.C. press ignores the news. The specific person handling the press for the multi-billion dollar international cable deal once worked for a firm whose owner consulted former President Bill Clinton.

The New York Times appears to have published a "scoop" they received from a public relations firm tied to the top presidential candidate - but omitted mentioning either in their article - just to get an exclusive a few hours early. And since it's related to the creation of what will be the "#4 cable operator in the US market", which affects millions of US voters, this omission of news might be disturbing to watchdogs. Teneo sometimes gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a month by clients, and both entities inherently have common ground to make each other look good to the public.

"Teneo is a senior-led advisory firm with deep collective experience working at the highest echelons of the public and private sectors," the Teneo Holdings website states. "Our team has a rich knowledge base and global network of relationships that we bring to bear on behalf of our clients every day."

If that "global network of relationships" includes New York Times reporters, then - in a sense - this rapidly growing international firm, which has been criticized for using government connections across the world to woo clients and accused of milking those links, controls the media on multiple levels. Teneo is especially secretive about their long list of clients - including "the CEOs of many Fortune 100 companies across a diverse range of industry sectors" and "senior leaders of many of the world’s largest and most complex companies and organizations" - and notorious for not commenting on controversies involving itself.

"Cablevision has agreed to sell itself to Altice, an acquisitive European telecommunications giant, for about $17.7 billion, including debt, people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday," Michael J. de la Merced, Andrew Ross Sorkin and Emily Steel reported for the new York Times on September 16. "It is the latest deal to reshape the broadband and cable television landscape. An announcement could be made on Thursday, these people said."

The story adds, "Talks between Altice and Cablevision began in June, weeks after the Suddenlink deal was struck and after bankers had deluged the European company with pitches for additional deals to pursue, according to the people who were briefed."

At 8:46 PM last Wednesday, @NYTimes tweeted a link to the exclusive article. A little over five hours later - at 2:08 AM - @M_delamerced bragged in a tweet, "As @andrewrsorkin and I reported (, Altice is buying Cablevision for $34.90 a share. Release:" The press release in Merced's tweet mentions that David Vermillion from Teneo is handling media relations, and lists his phone number and email address.

At 2:03 PM on September 17, New York Times journalist Michael J. de la Merced celebrated a huge link he received for a story that didn't mention that a PR firm tied to top Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was handling press for a $17.7B deal that will affect millions of Americans. "DRUDGE SIRENS GALORE," @m_delamerced tweeted.

"Teneo Strategy's David Vermillion is handling press for Altice, which has cable systems in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal, Switzerland, Israel, Dominian Republice and French Caribbean," Kevin McCauley noted at O'Dwyer's PR on Wednesday, which shows that New York Times journalists Merced and Sorkin almost certainly knew about Teneo, but left them out of their story.

Both Merced and Sorkin have ignored my tweets.

Last year, on December 8, 2014, Michael J. de la Merced, "scooped" the world on a story directly related to Teneo, reporting, "Teneo, a corporate advisory firm with an unusually broad array of businesses, has secured backing from the big private equity firm BC Partners, the company plans to disclose this week."

However, Merced's article doesn't make any reference to how he learned about the "company plans". The New York Times reporter doesn't mention a source, named or unnamed, which might be a violation of the paper's rules on journalism ethics.

Merced does paraphrase an exclusive quote he apparently got from one of Teneo's presidents, but, again, there are ethical concerns, if a top business journalist for - arguably - the most important paper in America is publishing stories - that omit key information - based on tips from a powerful P.R. firm. "The investment from BC Partners came about through friendships that some of the firm’s senior executives have with Teneo’s management, according to Richard Powell, the head of Teneo’s communications arm."

"Since its founding by two former FTI executives, Declan Kelly and Paul Keary, and a former Clinton administration aide, Douglas J. Band, the firm has garnered clients like Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical and the Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group," Merced wrote in December, but didn't mention that both Kelly and Kerry were fundraisers for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was beginning to rev up her presidential campaign, at the time. It also didn't mention that former President Bill Clinton once consulted for the firm, but was reportedly pressured to stop earning money because it was damaging to his wife. So, he instead became a client, allegedly. There also isn't any mention of longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who controversially worked for Teneo, the Clinton Foundation, the State Department and Hillary Clinton, herself, from June of 2012 to February 1, 2013.

According to his LinkedIn resume, Managing Director David Vermillion has been working at Teneo since 2013, after a year as Executive Vice President for Edelman, and it notes, "In 2005, Dave played a central role in the landslide reelection campaign of New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, writing and producing all television and radio commercials and direct mail as well as serving as spokesman for her campaign." Vermillion also worked for Sheinkopf Ltd. as Vice President from 2003 to 2006, for former Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who consulted for President Bill Clinton on his successful 1996 re-election campaign. In 2004, Vermillion was the Treasurer and Chairperson for a 527 called Better Government Committee, with the stated purpose of which was to contribute to other political committees, but no contributions or expenditures were ever recorded.

The New York Times journalists also noted last Wednesday, "But the takeover of Cablevision — one of the last trophies of the American cable industry and the longtime province of its founding family, the Dolans — could also draw significant concern from regulators, particularly as control of the telecom market shrinks to fewer and fewer players."

In their rush to publish an exclusive a few hours early, the reporters didn't even apparently attempt to contact any critics of the deal. And a day later, any story already is in danger of becoming old news. Business journalists reporting on firms that have deep political ties and that will affect how many Americans receive their news should leave room for criticism in all their articles. But not quoting critics might have been a condition of the "scoop", as well.