Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pennsylvania Society: A Schmooze Fest With A Side Of Brawl

Pennsylvania political and business elite from both parties have been gathering for the Pennsylvania Society dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan on the second Saturday of December for 114 years. 1400 people attended this year's dinner on December 9 while thousands more attended the lavish parties on the sidelines of the event. At a time when Republicans and Democrats only talk at each other through cable news, this weekend is a rare bipartisan oasis. While some criticize the expense, others hope that politicos that play together, maybe will later be able to work together.

The Pennsylvania Society went Hollywood this year. Movie director M. Night Shymaylan, the Pennsylvania native that has directed many of his movies in Pennsylvania, was this year's honoree. Attendees included: Senator Casey, Mayor Nutter, Pa. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, new State Attorney General Kathleen Kane, former US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, Comcast's David Cohen, campaign stragegist Larry Ceisler, and attorneys Ken Jarin, Bruce Marks, and Alan Kessler. Cozen O'Connor, Buchanan Ingersoll, electrician's union, Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania were among the groups sponsoring parties.

The next big race in Pennsylvania is the governor's race in 2014. Governor Corbett, speaking during the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Seminar at the ornate Metropolitan Club, tried to reassure business leaders that he will soon be revealing his plans for controlling the state's pension costs, privatization of the liquor stores, and repairing the ailing infrastructure. Being a former prosecutor, Corbett is in the habit of presenting the entire case not teasing with a few details.

Frank Rapoport of the law firm McKenna, Long, & Aldridge, who is an expert on financing infrastructure, said that the Governor is going to announce ptlans for private companies to upgrade Pennsylvania's highways and then collect tolls. He thinks local union pension plans will finance the road repair because it will offer them a steady return of 7% and jobs for their mayors. Pennsylvanians that can afford to pay the tolls will be able to travel to work faster and avoid the bottlenecks on the older highways. This plan was made possible by the legislative passage of the Public/Private Partnership July.

The billionaire owner of the Red Apple grocery stores, John Catsimatidis held a fundraiser for Corbett at his palatial Fifth Avenue home. "This is no big deal. We have been doing business in Pennsylvania for 29 years," said the charismatic mogul, who is quick to tell that his daughter is married to Richard Nixon's grandson.

He remains unconcerned about the allegations that Corbett might have slowed the pace of the Sandusky investigation for political gain. "There are people who wished that we put a man on the moon quicker," replied the former Clinton supporter.

Two of the Democrats that want to replace the governor, Allentown mayor Ed Pawlowski and Philadelphia Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, were busy drumming up support during the weekend. The affable Pawlowski reiterated his plans to run due to his belief that Corbett is vulnerable. Schwartz has been trying to quietly explore a run until the Daily News broke the story. She reassured potential contributors in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria.that the unexpected publicity had not deterred her from running. State Treasurer Rob McCord indicated that he will defer to Schwartz about running in 2014.

Mayor Ed Pawlowski and his wife Lisa

The head of the Fels Institute of Government at Penn, David Thornburgh, believes that Corbett will fine. "Ridge poll numbers looked the same after two years. He won re-election, " he noted.

Republican Congressman Charlie Dent's party is always a big draw. Dent holds it at the restaurant Mint, because he apparently has a yen for Indian food. His special guest this year was Michigan Congressman Fred Upton. Unfortunately, attendees would have preferred the Michigan Congressman's cover girl niece Kate Upton instead.

A relaxed party atmosphere often loosens the lips of politicians. A new representative in Harrisburg accidentally divulged that one of his colleagues is so cheap that he makes staffers pay for their own toilet paper. Thornburgh confided that Chief Justice Roberts used to prep him before he argued at the Supreme Court when they worked together at the Justice Department.

Congressman Pat Meehan, on the other hand, was tight lipped about the fiscal cliff. He said, "I don't know if things can be resolved before the deadline. I am here not Washington."

Some union supporters and Republicans could not quite get the hang of bipartisanship. A fight broke out between the two sides at the W hotel.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Israeli Start Up Rumble Responsible for Inquirer's New Mobile Interface

One of the more interesting presentations at today's Philadelphia-Israeli Chamber of Commerce Mobile Conference was made by Israeli start up Rumble. I was surprised to discover that they created the  new mobile interface, which has been well received, for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

Co-founder and CEO Al. E. Azoulay claims the platform is so easy to use that newspapers will start building a mobile audience within hours of downloading.

The company has some big backers, including the Knight Foundation. The former publisher of the Inquirer, Gregory Osberg, recently joined the advisory board.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Penn Doctor Cures Leukemia


Dr. Carl June, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, kicked off Thinkfest by discussing his groundbreaking cure, personalized cell therapy, for leukemia and possible other cancers. The cancer buster previewed his December 10 presentation to the American Society of Hematology (ASH).

Traditionally, leukemia has been treated with a bone marrow transplant. The body often rejects the foreign material resulting in horrible side effects and death. Personalized cell therapy does not have these side effects because it uses the patient's own cells. The patient's T cells are injected with a re-engineered form of the H.I.V-1 virus, which fights cancer instead of spreading AIDS.

So far 12 patients have been treated with this immunotherapy. Chemotherapy was not working for three adult patients with late stage Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). Each patient had between 3.5-7 pounds of tumor. Two of the patients have experienced complete remission and one a partial remission after being injected with the reconfigured T cells a year ago. It is still too soon to tell if the remissions are permanent.

One side effect of the treatment is it prevents the production of infection fighting antibodies. June dismissed this as a relatively minor side effect. "There is a pro football player that does not have antibodies. It only requires a transfusion once a month," he said.

Some of this has been reported by the New York Times and other publications. What is new is that children with acute leukemia are now in remission after a transfusion of re-configured T cells. One Children's Hospital patient, whose body was 76.3% overrun by unhealthy B cells, received the personalized cell therapy on April, 18, 2012. She attended the first day of school on August 29, 2012 disease free.

Next step for Dr. June and his colleagues is FDA approval so that he can cure the world. Pharmaceutical Giant Novartis is building a robot operated lab at the Center for Advanced Cellular Therapies to mix the personalized cell therapies so that a scientist does not have to mix each therapy separately.

Richard Vague, who has endowed a professorship at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine in immunotherapy, said, "Soon, Philadelphia will be known as the place cancer was cured.

I predict a Nobel Prize is in Dr. June's future.  His Power Point presentation is below.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Frasier Statue One Step Closer

Tonight, Mayor Nutter held a fundraiser to raise money to build a statute in memory of boxing champ Joe Frazier in Philadelphia. The event, organised by Saul Ewing lawyer Richard Hayden and Nutter staffer Erica Haywood. was held in the ornate Conversation Room in City Hall. Xfinity Live and West Coast promoter Jerry Perenchio have each donated $25,000 to the building fund. Fans of Smokin Joe have contributed $5000 through  It is time that we have a statue of the real Philly boxing legend. 

Mayor Nutter and the Frazier Family

As a treat to the fans coming, Frazier's daughter, Weatta Collins, created a shrine for her father at one of the room with memorabilia she brought from home.

Frazier's son in law with the keepsakes.

Frazier's daughter unpacking one of her cherished trophies. 

Mayor Nutter with Frazier Estate spokesman Richard Hayden
In a fun touch, all of the food, drink and decorations had a fight night  theme.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

IDF Spokesman: Israel Had To Bomb Gaza Media Center

The New York Times and other media outlets reported this about the Israeli strike where many broadcast companies have their offices. 

On Sunday, Israeli forces attacked two buildings housing local broadcasters and production companies used by foreign outlets. Israeli officials denied targeting journalists, and said that a second attack on one of the buildings, known as Al Sharouk, had targeted an office of the Islamic Jihad, killing four militants. The attack also hit a computer shop, sparking a blaze that sent plumes of dark smoke creeping up the sides of the building. Video footage showed clouds of smoke billowing.
IDF Spokesman Captain Eytan Buchman, who is head of the North American Bureau in the IDF Spokesperson's office, asserts in a late night email exchange that this account and others from the international media omitted crucial details. 
We targeted a building that includes intl' media a few days ago because it had Hamas communication gear," said Buchman. "This gear is used for military communications between themselves. That places it very clearly as a military target. We hit it because we needed to..but used the most precise weapons available"
Israel bombed the building again on Monday. Buchman insists that only person killed in that attack was what AP even admitted was an Islamic Jihad terrorist inside the building,"
This AP tweet corroborates Buchman's account. 

BREAKING: Gaza group Islamic Jihad says Israeli strike on media center killed one of its top militant leaders.

CNN's Anderson Cooper also confirmed that rockets were being launched in the vicinity of the building. 

4 rockets just fired from near media center in  City. The same media center bldg hit by three IDF missiles earlier today

As further proof, Captain Buchman offers this compelling video of the IDF hit. 

A frustrated Buchman does not understand why the media refuses to criticize Hamas for deliberately planting terrorists in civilian locations. He argues, "Zero condemnation from the intl' media that terrorists are practically embedded in media buildings. The press even forgot that Hamas rockets hit Reuters cameraman earlier this week."
Ma'an, an independent Palestinian News agency, was one of the few, if only media outlets that reported on Hamas rockets hitting the car of the Retuers news crew.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

IDF Spokesman: 3 Million Israelis In Line of Fire

IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) spokesman Captain Eytan Buchman is one of the people live tweeting the Gaza incursion. Yesterday, the official twitter account of the IDF, @IDFspokesperson, tweeted - 

Buchman, a Chicago native, explained in a phone call the reasoning behind the IDF’s increased social media activity. “We learned from Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009 that there were potential new audiences that we could target rather than the traditional media,” he said. “There is so much misinformation coming out of Gaza. Videos show a man be carried into an ambulance, but don’t show the same man walking out of the ambulance a few minutes later. Hamas falsely claimed to have hit an Israeli naval vessel. Social media allows everyone to see for themselves what is happening and make their own decisions.”

As for the controversial decision to show the video of the assassination of senior Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari, Buchman defends it.“The video shows that we hit him when he was in the middle of the intersection to minimize collateral damage," he said. 

He asserts Israel tries to avoid civilian casualties but that the Palestinian leaders make that hard to do. "They put the rockets in the middle of urban areas. When the leaders know they are a target, they use Palestinians as a human shield."

He stresses that Israel tries to minimize the collateral damage. "If you ever read Sun Tzu's Art of War, you would know that surprise is important.Yet, Israel drops leaflets before an attack warning the Palestinians to leave the area. No other army in the world does that."  

Buchman is shedding no tears over the death of Jabari, He said, "Jabari has been in Hamas since 1995." He has blood on his hands and not just the sheen of blood. Gilad Shalit is just the highest profile case that he has been involved with. He is behind the stockpile of weapons in Gaza.”

The captain emphasizes 3 million Israelis now are in the line of fire from Hamas rockets. Many of them ran to bomb shelters this morning when the sirens sounded.  My cousin, Hila Tal-Lazarus, wrote this on her Facebook page: “Terrible, I can’t explain the feeling of running for shelter with a 6 months old and a three year old. This is the time that I wish I wasn’t a mommy… But otherwise we are well. Thanks!”

Captain Buchman credits the Iron Dome, which was supplied by the United States Government under President Obama, for preventing the situation from not being much worse.  “Since it was first utilized in April 2011, it has prevented 100 rockets. In the last four days, it has prevented 105 rockets.”

The IDF has 30 seconds, the length of time of a Super Bowl commercial, to make the decision to fire a missile in response to a Hamas rocket. They do not fire at every Hamas rocket, only the ones that will land in urban areas, due to the $40,000 cost of each missile.  

Three Israelis died today after being hit by Hamas rocket fire. Israel does not have enough Iron Dome batteries to cover the entire Southern region.

Buchman argues, “Those that accuse Israel of being the aggressor have not been paying attention. They should be asking why it took us so long to respond. Since 2001, 12,800 rockets and mortars, an average of 3 a day, have landed in Israel. 274 rockets have landed in Israel since Operation Pillars of Defense.”

By the way, Buchman is the one that coined the Operation Pillar of Defense name. In Hebrew, the name of the operation is Pillar of Cloud, which references the cloud that traveled with the Jews as they left Egypt and made their way to Israel. While Israelis know the Bible well, he was not sure that Americans would understand the biblical reference. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sixers Owner Marc Leder Fathers Love Child

Sixers Owner Marc Leder can't seem to stay out of the headlines. The host of the fundraiser where Romney made his infamous 47% remark acknowledged today the existence of a 10 month old daughter by a paramour that he had a tempestuous relationship with. (You can not make this stuff up.)

The spokesman for Leder, the multi-millionaire founder of Sun Capital, sent over this statement. 

“I became the proud parent of a beautiful little girl last January with my former girlfriend of a year. We maintain a close relationship, and are committed to raising our daughter jointly.”

Sources close to Leder say that he deliberately hid the existence of his love child while he was actively campaigning for the family values party. Even after the 47% debacle, he introduced then Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan at a swanky fundraiser at the St. Andrews country club in Boca Raton before the last presidential debate. 

Leder resisted giving much of his fortune to his baby mama. The New York Post has reported that he is providing them an apartment on W. 57th Street. 

I am much to polite to suggest that if Leder supported the party that advocated for insurance coverage for birth control that he would not be in this mess. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Preview of Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show

The 36th annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show opened tonight. The show, which is the museum's only fundraiser raised over $500,000 last year, is one of the best in the country. The preview party offered great music, food and art. Patrons, who were looking to buy unique for loved ones, were in a buying mood. Many were carrying multiple bags.

Suzanne Cohn has one of the most famous craft and glass collections in the country. It is worth paying  attention to what she buys. She liked this wood purse, which costs around $200, because wood is "so tactile."

Interior Designer Barbara Eberlein bought these earrings

With England and Ireland selected as the guest countries this year, it is no surprise that  fascinators, ranging from $30 to $350, were available at the show. 

Lisa Woolbert, chairman of the 2012 Craft show, is second from the left. 

Connie Williams modeling the scarlet gloves she purchased. 
Selma Karaca, who dresses former Sex in the City star Sarah Jessica  Parker, is an exhibitor.

Lyn Ross, posing with the artist, modeling the bracelet she purchased 

Committee member Jamie
This striking white and black coat was on sale.
A patron trying on earrings. 

A patron modeling a necklace with the artist. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Philly Celebrates Halloween Early

Philadelphians have already started celebrating Halloween. Rittenhouse sponsored a trick or treat today. Local bars are sponsoring a Halloween parties.