Friday, November 28, 2014

Eagles Christina Lurie: I Would Let My Son Play Football

Christina Weiss Lurie, minority owner of the Philadelphia Eagles football team, insisted she would let her son with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie play football despite the growing body of evidence that concussions on the field cause permanent brain damage. Her one stipulation is that "the appropriate medical personnel were on the sidelines of the field during the game."

Lurie, on the sidelines of Philadelphia Magazine's Thinkfest, argued football is not dangerous at the NFL level although the league recently agreed to pay a record $870 million settlement to former NFL players. "By the time the players get to the NFL, they have suffered 10 or so concussions," said Lurie. "We need to worry about the 10 year olds that get hurt during a game. Their brains are not fully formed." 

She also pointed out that other sports are equally as dangerous. "Many of my friends' daughters ride. They fall off the horse and get right back up on the horse without being checked medically first." 

Lurie reflected onstage on her improbable journey from growing up in England to one of the few female owners in the NFL. Her remarks seemed to indicate she harbors no animosity against her former husband after their divorce. Unfortunately, the interviewer,'s Diana Lind, was out of her depth and unconscious of the recent controversies swirling around the NFL. 

"Having grown up in London, I loved soccer. I knew nothing about the NFL." recalled Lurie. "Being a female executive in the NFL has been an amazing journey. It's been invigorating. It's been eye opening... I was lucky to have Jeffrey Lurie as my partner when we first started. He had the same goals as I did, which was to make sure that we had a workplace environment where it did not matter whether you were a man or woman ....We actually have many female execs at the Eagles. I am really proud of that."

Lurie seemed oblivious of her inherent responsibilities as one of the few women with a seat at the NFL owners' table. She acknowledged, in a brief interview after the prepared program, she had written and talked to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the aftermath of the domestic violence incident involving former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice yet demurred on taking a leadership role in addressing domestic violence in the league. 

"The women that the NFL has consulted with and named to the committee are experts on domestic violence like prosecutors," said Lurie. "I am busy with the Eagles."

Lurie, who is a two time Oscar winner, has two new documentaries coming out shortly. "Dishonesty," will air on CNBC in March, and "We are the Giant," which is set in the Middle East, is expected in theaters in December.  She has recently broadened her film slate to include horror and action films. Her next project will be a biopic of a strong woman, the champagne widow Veuve Clicquot. It will star A lister Rachel Weisz. 

I didn't grow up thinking about the glass ceiling," said Lurie when discussing her success in male dominated Hollywood. "Maybe it was willful ignorance, but never thought about it. In film, you want to choose the best story possible. It doesn't matter whether you are a female or male producer. It's the story that counts and how you make the film."

Her advice to women: "The female aspect never came to me. I just ignored it and went on doing what I felt I was good at. I think that is an important thing for women. Find your passion. Don't think of the limitations. Follow your dreams. The limitations will go by the wayside."


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

From an IDF Soldier on the Border

An IDF soldier on the border with Gaza sent me this update. (Translated from the Hebrew)

What's happening here in the staging area [area where soldiers prepare to enter Gaza] is beyond comprehension, not rationally, not emotionally and begs the imagination.

Almost every hour, a car shows up overflowing with food, snacks, cold drinks, socks, underwear, undershirts, hygiene supplies, wipes, cigarettes, backgammon and more. They're coming from the North and the Center, from manufacturers, from companies and private businesses, from prisons, Chareidim and Settlers, from Tel Aviv and even Savyon.

Every intersection on they way down here we get stopped, not by the police, but by residents giving out food. What is amazing is that the entire situation isn't organized and everyone is coming on their own without coordination between the folks coming.

They're writing letters and blessings, how they're thinking of us all the time. There are those who spent hours making sandwiches, so they're as perfect and comforting as possible.

Of course representatives of Chabad are here to help soldiers put on Tefillin and distributing Cha'Ta'Ts (Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya) for every troop transport and Breslov are showing up to the border and dancing
with the soldiers with great joy.

The Chareidim are coming from their yeshivot to ask the names of the soldiers with their mothers' names so that the whole yeshiva can pray for them. It should be mentioned that all of this is done under the threat of the terrorist tunnels and rockets in the area.

Soroka Hospital (in Be'er Sheva) today looks like a 5 star hotel. A wounded friend who was recently discharged told us how the MasterChef truck is parked outside and is preparing food for the wounded.

It goes without saying the amount of prayer services that are going on. On the religious front as well, there are lectures and Torah classes, all the food is obviously Kosher. Shachrit, Mincha, and Maariv with Sifrei Torah. 

They're giving out tzitzit and Tehilim by the hundreds. It's become the new fashion! The Rabbi of Maglan [Special Forces unit] told me that almost the entire unit has started wearing them, because the Army Rabbinate has been giving out tzitzit that wick away sweat. They're gaining both a Mitzva and a high quality undershirt. We've started calling them "Shachpatzitzit" (שכפ"ציצית - a portmanteau of the Hebrew term for body armor and tzitzit). We're having deep conversations late into the night without arguments, without fights and we find ourselves agreeing on most stuff.

We're making lots of jokes at Hamas's expense and without politics. There's lots more to add but my battery is running low and the staff has been requesting someone give a class on Likutei MoharaN (Breslov).

How happy is the nation that is like this. - אשרי העם שככה לו

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hillary's Royal Book Tour

Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book tour for Hard Choices,” which is a memoir of her years as Secretary of State during the first Obama administration, resembles more of a royal expedition than a politician stumping for votes. It is quite the contrast from then Senator Obama’s book tour for "Audacity of Hope" that he effectively utilized to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.

Clinton, who has been practically anointed the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, has deigned to stop in Philadelphia on June 13, 2014 at the main branch of the Free Library in Philadelphia. She will only sign books although visiting authors typically talk, read from their book, or are interviewed while hawking books.

Those who want to have the possible future president sign their book must purchase a $35 ticket, which includes the price of the book. The tickets, which are one ticket/book per person, go on sale Wednesday, June 4, 2014 on a first come, first served basis. Ticket holders must then come to the Library ahead of time to pick up their books and wristbands.

Perhaps, the most stringent Hillary imposed rule is –There shall be no selfies with Hillary! On the day of signing, no one will be allowed to stand in line with any personal items, including bags, cameras, and phones. All items must be checked. Hillary has already states she will not be signing any campaign memorabilia or previous books.

A book tour is not a campaign. But the stringent rules for Clinton's book signing cause one to wonder if her aura of inevitability will defeat her in 2016 like it did in 2008. Will her fans who leave the book tour disappointed decide not to show up on election day? Clinton should have approached this book tour as if she missed her voters and wants to reconnect.

Go here to buy tickets for the book signing at the Free Library of Philadelphia. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Magic's Business Partner Refutes Donald Sterling Comments

Turner Impact CEO Bobby Turner with his partner Magic Johnson

Bobby Turner, who was Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s business partner from 2000-2013, refutes embattled LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s insulting comments about Magic during his explosive interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Sterling questioned why Magic was revered as a legend and what he he had done for the black community. 

Turner, who is now CEO of Turner Impact Capital, and Magic Johnson partnered to raise and invest $2 billion of equity in the Canyon Johnson Urban Funds. The purpose of the funds, which are estimated to have facilitated $6 billion in revitalization, is to revitalize densely populated ethnically diverse communities in urban America by building affordable work force housing and providing much needed services and amenities for these traditionally under-served communities.

“Magic’s impact far exceeds the investment dollars of our funds. He played a pivotal role in educating institutional investors on the merits of investing in urban markets, “said Turner. “He put his reputation, time, energy, and capital on the line for this venture.”

Turner created a large part of their success to Johnson’s fundamental understanding of what the urban consumer wanted and his passion for improving urban communities throughout America. The funds calculate they were responsible for the creation of more than 10,000 jobs, 5000 units of affordable housing, and millions of feet of retail and commercial space in the inner city. 

Turner said, "As a result of our investment, tens of millions of dollars flowed into urban coffers as a result of the incremental wage, sales, and real estate taxes. This in turn allowed cities to provide much needed social services for their citizens. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Phillies Owner's Wife Called Anal at Project Home Tribute

Last night was the 25th anniversary gala of Project Home, the charity founded by indomitable Sister Mary Scullion and Joan Dawson-McConnon that endeavors to end all homelessness in Philadelphia. The charity has helped more than 8000 people get off the streets and built more than 600 housing units. Phillies part owner John and Leigh Middleton were honored for their transformative gift of over $15 million to the charity.

Leigh and John Middleton accepting their honor

The Philadelphia society types came out for the dinner, which was attended by 1250 and raised $2.1 million. Rock star Jon Bon Jovi, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, Bill Giles of the Phillies as well as the formerly homeless residents of Project Home attended the event. Pennsylvania's First Lady, Susan Corbett, Senator Bob Casey, and Mayor Michael Nutter also attended the event.
Eagles owner Jeffrey and Tina Lurie,  Comcast CEO Brian and Aline Roberts, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim
NBC's Meet the Press moderator David Gregory, whose show is currently in third place, was the evening's host. I asked him if there was any truth to the Washington Post report that a psychological consultant have been hired to help him. He dismissed the story with "It's just noise." Still I would have liked to be a fly on the wall during Gregory's conversation with his boss, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. No one was smiling.

Meet the Press moderator talking with his boss Comcast CEO Brian Roberts
Bon Jovi in his short but sweet speech made it clear who was the top dog in his relationship with Project Home co-founder Sister Mary Scullion. The nun is the boss of the rock star. He decided to become involved with the homeless after looking out his Philadelphia hotel room and seeing the homeless freezing on the street. He thought, This is not what our forefathers intended."

Bon Jovi teased Sister Mary Scullion during his speech. 

Binswanger Corp CEO David Binswanger and his wife Dorothy revealed some interesting details about the Middletons in their introduction of the couple. The couple works hard to deflect attention from themselves. They chose a seat at Phillies home game, to the left of the catcher, which is just out of camera range. The Middletons bought John's mother's 107 year old house and are refurbishing it. David Binwanger teased John Middleton about constantly looking at his phone and always being serious. Dorothy described Leigh Middleton as super organized or, in her words, "anal".

The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim gave a moving tribute to the Middletons in which he called them the new face of philanthropy. Kim announced that the World Bank is committed to ending extreme poverty in 15 years. He credited John Middleton with helping him developing a more scientific system for distributing aid.

He said, "I am so excited to be here. I have known John and Leigh Middleton for five years. There are no two people in the world that I admire more. John and Leigh ask simple questions of the people they work with 1. Do you have heart? 2. Do you grit? 3. Are you committed? 4. Do you use scientific evidence to improve the work that you do?"

I left the dinner with a queasy feeling in my stomach. I am not sure how I feel about going to a fancy gala dinner to raise money for the homeless. It was interesting to note two of the biggest supporters of the night made their fortunes from tobacco and sugary drinks, which have decimated poor communities.

Helping the homeless is hard work complicated by obstacles such as mental health and addiction. Yet, I was surprised how few people (8000 people) they had brought in from the streets or homes they had built (600) in a quarter century since the richest people in the city and Bon Jovi fund them. Mega developer Bart Blatstein does that in a year. When you break it down,  Project Home helped 320 people a year and built 24 homes a year.

The North Philly Stompers and the Phillie Phanatic led the crowd to dinner

David Binswanger and Marjorie Honickman are two major donors to Project Home

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Phillies Owner Middleton's Grand Palm Beach Mansion

It was announced yesterday that Phillies owner John Middleton and his wife Leigh will be given the prestigious Philadelphia Award this year. The Middleton family sold John Middleton Co, which was founded in 1856 as a center city tobacco store, to Altria for $2.9 billion in 2007. After the sale, John and Leigh Middleton stepped up their philanthropy including major gifts to Project Home and the Philadelphia School District.  John Middleton serves in the board of trustees of Penn Medicine.

John Middleton

The Middletons have been building a mansion on the northern end of the island of Palm Beach, Florida for the last 3 years. Much to the chagrin of neighbors, who including the Duponts, the construction noise at the house might continue into 2015. Progress on the mega mansion is proceeding slowly because Palm Beach enforces strictly, especially during the season, the time each day that the contractors are allowed to work

The oceanfront property boasts a large main house, two guest houses, and servant quarters. As one neighbor noted, "The house is so big that the guest house has a guest house."

It is a shame that Middleton can't use his riches to field a winning team for the Phillies.

The view from the beach

The garage

I can't figure out what it is taking so long. The windows are already in. 

Are the blue rails surrounding a pool or a barbecue pit?

The view from their home, 
The Middleton's have nice neighbors. The Duponts live two houses away.
The beach is mostly private except for pretty ladies doing yoga. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hillary Clinton To Fundraise for Marjorie Margolies, Chelsea Clinton's Mother-in-Law

Hillary Clinton will be appearing next year at a fundraiser for Marjorie Margolies' congressional campaign in the Pennsylvania suburbs, according to Ken Smukler, who serves as a communications consultant for Margolies.
Margolies, who is Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law, is locked in a Democratic primary campaign against a strong progressive, state Sen. Daylin Leach, as well as two others. Margolies served one congressional term in the early 1990s.
Longtime Margolies fundraiser Linda August, who attended Chelsea Clinton's wedding, also confirmed Clinton's upcoming appearance.

"Hillary said from the beginning that she was not going to be political this year except for McAuliffe and family. She is scheduled to come in six months before the election. She is coming in just when we need her," said Smukler, who also serves as spokesman for the local Democratic party. "The Clintons are doing this for themselves as much as for Marjorie. They can't have a family member lose a race for Congress six months before she is gearing up for a presidential election."
Leach said he wasn't concerned by Margolies' support from the Clinton camp.
"We have outpaced all of our opponents in fundraising and outreach since I got into the race," he told HuffPost. "We are following a very carefully crafted campaign plan. That plan does not depend on who does and does not support or attend fund-raisers for any of our opponents. I wish them all well, but I have a long history of winning elections, and I and my team are extremely confident our campaign will prevail on May 20th. "
The campaign of physician Val Arkoosh, another candidate for the congressional seat, disputed Leach's figures, and said Arkoosh currently led in fundraising. "We are the leading fundraiser in this race among the slate of candidates as of the end of the 3rd quarter with 588k cash-on-hand," said communications director Bryan Lesswing. "We are leading state Sen. Leach by over 210k, and Marjorie Margolies by 398k."

Smukler made his comments about Margolies at a fundraiser for the Dorys Erving Fit Youth (DEFY) Foundation at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Philadelphia on Friday night. Dorys is the wife of former NBA legend and Philadelphia favorite son Julius "Dr. J" Erving. Dr. J is currently on a book tour promoting his memoir, "Dr J: The Autobiography."
The foundation will provide a platform for solutions to childhood obesity in Philadelphia. According to the CDC, 25 percent of school age children in Philadelphia are suffering from obesity. The huge cake rolled out for desert illustrates the difficulty of tackling obesity.

The gala attracted many celebrities, such as former Laker star Kareem Abdul Jabbar and R & B singer Jeffrey Osborne, and local politicians such as Congressman Bob Brady. Brady lamented about the ubiquity of fast food chains in Philadelphia.

Osborne's performance was the highlight of the night.

State Senator Anthony Williams, who is running for mayor of Philadelphia in 2015,  and his wife Shari shared a romantic to "On The Wings of Love."

Even Dorys and Julius Erving couldn't resist the music.

At the same event, Jabbar voiced his frustration at the racism of Obama's critics.

"Obama is the President of the United States. He should be treated with respect."Many of the president's critics, especially the birthers, are racist. This nonsense that he was born in Kenya, which we all know is not true, is pure racism," Jabbar said.

The Huffington Post Washington editor Ryan Grim co-wrote this post with me.