The Shmooze

Penelope Cruz Just Wants Peace in Gaza

By Curt Schleier

Getty Images

Penelope Cruz didn’t exactly say “I didn’t know what the heck I was doing,” but she did issue a clarification to an open letter — written by husband Javier Bardem — which she signed along with nearly 100 Spanish actors and filmmakers.

The original letter called for an end to “the genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army in the Gaza strip against Palestinian civilians.”

Turns out that just maybe that wasn’t what she meant.

“I don’t want to be misunderstood on this important subject,” she said. “I’m not an expert on the situation and I’m aware of the complexity of it. My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a cease fire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border. I wish for unity, and peace.”


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'Big Brother' in Bomb Shelter

By Rachel X. Landes

Keshet Broadcasting

The show must go on! This time with a new bomb shelter.

Although many Israeli shows and networks have gone on hiatus due to Operation Protective Edge, Big Brother Israel is undeterred. The show, filmed in Neve Ilan, a village near the outskirts of Jerusalem, was in the middle of its sixth season when the conflict started.

Rather than shut down, the show’s producers got creative.The house now contains regional alarms and a bomb shelter, even though that violate the rules of the show that houseguests cannot have any contact with the outside world. Security will out.

The network that produces Big Brother Israel, Keshet, has lost $13.1 million over the past two weeks, a Keshet rep told The Hollywood Reporter. Despite the rockets, 45% of Israeli audiences still watch the show, which switches to the news if there are any significant developments.


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Disney's Aladdin and Jasmine Re-Cast as Hamas

By Anne Cohen

aleXsandro Palombo

Well, this is a whole new world.

A new series called “Stop Hamas Terrorism: Once Upon a time the children in Palestine” by artist aleXsandro Palombo re-casts Aladdin and Princess Jasmine as members of Hamas. That sound you hear? That’s your childhood going up in smoke.

Per an introduction posted to Palombo’s blog:

Naftali Fraenkel (16, from Nof Ayalon), Gilad Shaer (16, from Talmon), and Eyal Yifrah (19, fromElad), were the three Israeli teenagers that were abducted and killed in June by a terrorist cell affiliated to Hamas. It’s unacceptable and atrocious that in the modern era three young boys full of life, hopes and dreams, had to die in this uncivilized and barbaric way, killed by unscrupulous people who, for years, have forced the Israeli people to live in fear and terror. Hamas terrorists not only harm the people of Israel but takes also in hostage the people of Gaza, where civilians are used as human shields and where children are turned into little soldiers and causing the deaths of Gaza’s civilians, children, women, men… Terrorism is like a cancer, something that you have to fight.

aleXsandro Palombo

Beyond the fact that the singling out of the two main Arab characters ever to appear on Disney is more than just a little racist, the art itself is seriously disturbing.

Jasmine threatening Snow White. Aladdin holding a rocket (and a Quran). Cinderella gagged and bound. Jasmine pointing a gun at Aurora (I bet “once upon a dream” is sounding pretty good right now).

Why Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Chris Griffin from Family Guy also appear dressed as Jihadists is beyond me.

In any case, it’s all pretty atrocious. We’re all entitled to our opinions, but don’t mess with Disney.

If you’re interested, you can see the rest of the series here. Careful though — you may have to waste a wish and ask Genie to help you erase them from your mind.



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Israel Embassy Tweets Image of Jihadist Mona Lisa

By Anne Cohen

Twitter/Newsweek

Israel’s embassy in Dublin has deleted a series of tweets showing iconic works of art, including the Mona Lisa, dressed as Jihadists. All images were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world.”

The images, captioned “Israel is the last frontier of the free world,” were sent from the embassy’s official Twitter account, Newsweek reports.

The Mona Lisa is portrayed wearing a hijab and holding a rocket, is stamped with the inscription: “Israel Now, Paris Is Next.” The statue of David, addressed to Italy, is dressed in a skirt of explosives.

Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue holds a gun and a message reading “Israel Now, Denmark is Next,” while Dublin’s own statue of Molly Malone is covered with a black niqab.

“There was no intention to cause insult or offense to anyone,” the Israeli ambassador Boaz Modai’s office explained to Newsweek.

The same Israeli embassy was criticized last week for posting the following tweet, likening Free Palestine activists to Hitler:

Nice and tactful, guys. Good job.


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Andi Dorfman Is Really Over 'Bachelorette' Runner-Up

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Unless you’ve been offline all day, or, you know, have a life beyond the dramatic ups and down of reality television, you may have heard that Andi Dorfman, a.k.a. the Jewish Bachelorette, has made her decision.

The lucky man comes in the form of Josh Murray, a failed baseball player from Atlanta. So basically, Dorfman could have avoided all this hearttache by just trolling her hometown’s sports bars.

But as in every fairy tale ending, there’s a big loser sitting at home crying. And in Andi’s case, that person is Nick Viall, who, as Jezebel pointed out, was less than gracious about not being the chosen one.

Read more


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Jon Stewart Calls U.S. 'Oprah of Middle East'

By Anne Cohen

Youtube

Everyone wants peace in the Middle East. That’s the easy part — saying it. But then, how to achieve it?

Jon Stewart may have the answer.

On Tuesday night’s “Daily Show,” Stewart opened a segment on the conflict between Israel and Hamas by showing clips of American leaders who “all want to see peace in this region.”

“It’s what we do,” Stewart quipped. He then pointed out that the U.S. is sending arms to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Israel.

“We’re like the Oprah of Middle East Weapons systems!” Stewart said. “You get some bombs! You get some bombs! Everybody get some bombs!”

You’re welcome.

Stewart, who has been lambasted for his coverage of Israel’s operation in Gaza, once again took the opportunity to strike back at his critics:

“This is a dangerous region,” he said, “even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”

Watch the whole segment below:


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Simon Cowell Takes Blowback for $150K IDF Gift

By JTA

Celebrity music impresario Simon Cowell is getting blowback for a $150,000 donation to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

Cowell’s donation, made at a Beverly Hills gala last October, has recently drawn more public attention, and with it some harsh online criticism for Cowell. According to Ynet, critics of Israel have been tweeting images of dead Palestinian children killed in Gaza to Cowell’s Twitter account. Other tweets accused Cowell of having “blood on your hands” and of acting on orders from his “masters in Tel Aviv.”

Cowell is Christian, but his late father, Eric, was Jewish, as is his current partner, Lauren Silverman, who recently gave birth to the couple’s first child.

The Friends of the IDF is a New York-based nonprofit that raises millions of dollars to support non-military benefits for IDF soldiers including fitness facilities, education programs, and financial assistance.


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'The Passenger': Holocaust On And Below Deck

By Masha Leon

Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s 1968 opera “The Passenger,” which Lincoln Center Festival premiered at The Park Avenue Armory, offered a soupcon of “Titanic” vibes with its 1960’s Brazil-bound ocean liner’s huge white funnel and its first class carefree passengers — elegant in all-white suits and gowns — waltzing to an orchestra’s calming beat.

Among the dancers, Walter (Joseph Kaiser), a 50-year old German diplomat and his 37-year old wife Liese (Michele Breedt) who suddenly panics when she recognizes one of the passengers –a former inmate of Auschwitz—at a time when she was a 22-year-old SS Overseer.

The below deck set is a can-almost taste, smell, and touch recreation of a concentration camp setting with women’s barracks housing an assemblage of multinational, head-shaved, inmates in striped garb: Polish Marta 34, French Yvette 22, Czech Vlasta 20, Polish Krystina 28, Bronka, 50, 21-year old Russian partisan Katya, 18-year old Jewish Hannah and 25-year old Teadeus, Marta’s fiancée.

Performed in English by members of the Houston Grand Opera, directed by David Pountney with Patrick Summer conducting the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, the program notes inform that the work was “deemed a perfect masterpiece by Weinberg’s mentor Dmitri Shostakovich”. In the realm of Holocaust re-creation, the presentation of the wretched women with their heads shaved and loose striped dresses ”The Passenger” stands alongside the visceral cinematic “Shoah” masterpiece “The Last Stop” “(Ostatni Etap”) by Wanda Jakubowska which she shot in 1948 at Auschwitz (using some of the camp’s survivors) and the only Holocaust film directed by a woman.

Polish-Jewish Weinberg — who escaped from Warsaw and ended up in the Soviet Union during WWII — never lived to see the opera performed. In the program notes Pountney notes “the Soviets didn’t want anything to do with pity for the Jews’ anything that did no actively further the Communist agenda was officially condemned as ‘Abstract Humanism’” a phrase Pountney noted “used by the Nazis vis a vis Red Cross inspections of the camps.’” Admitting that “The Passenger” is not a modern opera but a “time capsule,” he mounted its first full production in 2010 at the Bregenz Festival in Austria.”

Liese’s brutality to the woman as an SS Overseer is staggering. There is a love sub-plot, but mainly the opera is a musical j’accuse plea. As each woman prisoner sings her lament—the Russian (Kelly Kaduce) opts for a lullaby —the depth of each woman’s despair and hope is spelled out in a plea “Do not forget!” and to the fellow women prisoners, the promised: “I swear I will never forget you!

Most likely the nearly 1000-strong audience sitting on the floor-to-Armory ceiling highly raked tiered seats will not forget “The Passenger” operatic voyage.


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Javier Bardem Anti-Israel Letter Backed by Celebs

By JTA

Getty Images

A letter accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza was endorsed by 100 Spanish celebrities including Academy Award winners Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar.

On Monday the renowned actors, writers and directors endorsed a letter that Spanish actor Javier Bardem published last week in the Barcelona-based El Periodico de Catalunya, the daily reported.

“This is a war of occupation and extermination against a whole people without means, confined to a miniscule territory without water and where hospitals, ambulances, and children are targeted and presumed to be terrorists,” Bardem, himself an Academy Award-winning actor, wrote.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor told JTA that the “assertion that Israel is perpetrating genocide is not only patently false and detached from reality, but also inflammatory and outrageous at a time when demonization against Israel is fueling unprecedented levels of anti-Semitic violence in Europe.”

Kantor added: “I would be interested in reading the opinion of the same Spanish celebrities after 2,500 rockets explode on Madrid or Barcelona.”

In his letter titled “Genocide,” Bardem also wrote: “Being Jewish is not synonymous with supporting this massacre, just as being a Hebrew is not the same as being a Zionist and being Palestinian does not mean being a terrorist from Hamas. That is as absurd as saying that being German means espousing Nazism.”

Bardem also wrote: “My son was born in a Jewish hospital because I have Jewish people who are very near and dear to me.”


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First Look at Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

By Anne Cohen

Wonder Woman. Has. A. Sword.

“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” director Zack Snyder tweeted out a photo during Comic Con this weekend, showing what the glorious combination that is Israel model/actress Gal Gadot and badass superchick Wonder Woman will look like. This isn’t your good ol’ red, blue and gold getup. Gadot seems to be taking her cues from Xena, Warrior Princess’ with that metal armor bodice. No spandex or tights in sight.

At this point, it’s worth repeating: Wonder Woman. Has. A. Sword.

What do you think of the costume?


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One Direction Divided Over Gaza

By Anne Cohen

One Direction is at a crossroads.

It seems that two members of the popular British boy band have very different opinions when it comes to the war in Gaza.

Frontman (and sometimes Jewish wannabe) Harry Styles was criticized last week for being too pro-Israel, after he started following Israel journalist Lliana Bird on Twitter, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

Now, bandmate Zayn Malik has chimed in, tweeting out a “#FreePalestine” message to his 13 million followers. So far, it has received over 150,000 retweets.

But not all fans were pleased. Per the Jewish Chronicle:

One fan told the 21-year-old, who was raised as a Muslim in Bradford, Yorkshire, that he should be “ashamed”. Another wrote: “I’m so disappointed right now”. One Israeli tweeted: “It broke me that one of my idols wants me to die”.

The two tween heartthrobs join a growing number of celebrities who have taken to social media to air their views on Operation Protective Edge. Just last week, Joan Rivers passionately defended Israel on TMZ.

Hopefully, Styles and Malik can agree to disagree — we wouldn’t want One Direction parting ways.


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Bel Kaufman, Author and Tango Dancer, In Her Own Words

By Masha Leon

Bel Kaufman, who died on July 25 at 103, gave the impression she might live forever. During lunch on August 31, 2012 at her favorite eatery Demarchelier, she told me: “I have just stepped into the future.”

Her two novels, “Up the Down Staircase” (which was made into an award-winning film) and “Love, Etc.” were being digitized and sold as e-books. Seeing my reaction as she dug into a humongous omelet, she said, “I eat an awful lot…I warn people that I eat everything. I have all my teeth — only fillings…. When I was 100 everyone said, ‘God bless you! How wonderful!’ When I tell them I an now 101, they simply say, ‘Oh, really.” What about outliving your friends? I asked. “You just make new ones,” she replied.

Masha Leon and Bel Kaufman // Photo by Karen Leon

Between bites, Kaufman — whom I had known for over three decades and once kissed me on the head when I told her I had read her grandfather Sholem Aleichem’s works in Yiddish and did a dissertation on his “Eizenbahn Geshikhtes” (train chronicles) — confided “I was the first woman to get a by-line in Esquire magazine. It was the 1940’s and my agent told me that they don’t buy anything by a woman. So I changed my name from Belle to Bel.”

Addressing the Warburg Society Tea at The Jewish Museum, Kaufman told the guests: “Because I am 94, I am too busy to grow old.” Once asked if she was still dancing,” the avid sometimes 3-times-a-week on stiletto heels tango aficionada snapped back: “Are you still breathing?” She once confessed to an audience that at home Sholem Aleichem spoke only Russian. “ I had to attend a Sholem Aleichem school to learn Yiddish.”

Karen Leon
Bel Kaufman

In May 2010 she managed to speak extemporaneously at three consecutive [May 11-12-13] nights of celebration on the occasion of her 100th birthday—a Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene bash, a May 12 National Arts Club reception and a May 13 Hunter College ”Party of the Century” held at Roosevelt House at which she was lauded by Hunter College president Jennifer Raab as “a 1934 Magna Cum Laude alumna.” She ended her address with “Now that I am one hundred I feel liberated — “My time is precious, I no longer have to do what I must do.”

Kaufman’s last public appearance was at the December 2, 2013 Hanukkah Gala at Symphony Space at which Theodore Bikel was honored. Presenting the award to 90-year young Bikel, Kaufman stated: “I am truly happy to be standing here!”

During my delightful March 13, 2009 taped hour-long interview with Kaufman at the Jewish Braille Institute, she recalled walking with her grandfather as 3-year old holding hands. “’The harder you press my hand, the better I write,’ he told me…. I held on very tightly, so if you enjoy his writing — the credit goes to me… A year before he died in Odessa, he wrote ‘Dear Belushka, I am writing for you to hurry up so you can learn to write me letters. So it is necessary for you to drink milk, eat vegetables and fewer candies. Regards to your dolls. Your Papa, Sholem Aleichem.’ He told me you gotta stay alive even if it kills you.


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Joan Rivers Goes All Jersey on Anti-Israel Crowd

By Gabe Friedman

Joan Rivers has come out in support of Israel in a big way.

When asked by a TMZ reporter about the violence in Gaza and Israel, Rivers compared the situation to New York and its much-maligned neighboring state.

“If New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe ‘em out,” she said, waving her hands. “If we heard that they were digging tunnels from New Jersey to New York, we would get rid of Jersey.”

Even if Rivers apparently missed the memo about the PATH trains that connect New York to New Jersey underground, she got her point across.

“You cannot throw rockets and expect people not to defend themselves,” she continued.

The reporter countered by asking her about the Palestinian civilian casualty rate.

“They started it!” she yelled repeatedly.

The interviewer then mentioned that celebrities Dwight Howard and Selena Gomez had defended Palestine on Twitter.

“Oh, Selena Gomez, that college grad,” Rivers responded. “Let’s see if she can spell ‘Palestinian.’”


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Support Israel's Troops — By Getting Naked

By Anne Cohen

A new Facebook page showcases a new way for Israeli women to support the troops — by stripping down practically to their birthday suit.

“Standing With the IDF” calls on Israel women to raise morale (so to speak) by uploading sexy pictures of the their bodies, upon which uplifting messages have been scrawled. The page’s intro is pretty self-explanatory: “You keep us safe from above, and we will watch you from below!”

The page had more than 15,000 likes as of Friday morning. It was taken down by Facebook but a number of copycat pages popped up.

Still, the initiative has received mixed reviews. As seen in Haaretz:

One person wrote “I must admit, I am a great fan of this page… You have found the way to give our soldiers the most uplifting present without even leaving the house. I thank you, in the name of every soldier who got a moment of peace and a reason to enter the battlefield with a smile on his face. Be he married or single, be he pious or a player, a big thank you from all soldiers, for the self- confidence and the strength of soul you teach us.”

Others were less positive. “I don’t want to bum you out, but wow - bad idea. Good execution, bad idea. Thanks, but no thanks to whoever invited me to this group,” said one. Another quipped: “Boys, what about the gay soldiers? They need to know you are behind them, too, so join the effort and send your naked photos!”

From singles trips in the desert to barely concealed support for the boys in uniform, the conflict raging in the region hasn’t seemed to put a damper on those libidos.


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What The Rockets Over Israel and Gaza Look Like From Space

By Anne Cohen

Social media is awash with pictures of what the rockets flying over Israel and Gaza look like from the ground. This tweet takes that to a whole new level.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst, currently on board the International Space Station, shared a photo of what the conflict looks like from 260 miles above earth — it’s pretty striking.


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Chelsea Clinton Holds Gluten-Free Baby Shower

By Rachel X. Landes

Chelsea Clinton and mom Hillary hosted a baby shower up at Cabtree’s Kittle House Inn, in Chappaqua, New York, near the senior Clintons’ estate.

Chelsea first announced her pregnancy with Jewish hubby, Marc Mezvinsky, back in April when she tweeted: “Marc and I are so thrilled to be expecting our first child in the fall! Thank you for all of the kind words!”

Bill Clinton, with Mezvinsky in tow, even stopped by towards the end of the festivities and schmoozed with guests. According to the New York Daily News, the family are regulars, and the former POTUS can often be found chatting up patrons at the bar.

Due to Chelsea Clinton’s wheat intolerance, the food was mostly gluten free, and present openings were saved until after the party ended.

The Clintons didn’t leave until 10 PM, two hours later than their reservation dictated.

Who knows if Bill Clinton’s grandkid will be raised Jewish, but we still wish the happy couple the best!


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War, What Is It Good For? Jewish Sexy-Time

By Anne Cohen

War, what is it good for? Jewish sexy-time, apparently.

Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund- JDate Singles Trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travel to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.

The launch of Operation Protective Edge forced the organizers to tweak the original itinerary, which included tours through “the trendy neighborhood clubs of Tel Aviv, the wide expanses of the Negev, and the hi-tech center of the Gush Dan region.”

Far from putting a damper on the experience, a JNF statement reports that the alternative route “served to enrich the trip experience.” Said one participant from New York: “Because we were unable to go to some of the typical tourist sites in the center and the south, we got a chance to see another side of Israel. The main sites are important too, but this way we felt like we were really getting to know the country and its people.”

Read more


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Celebrities Tweet the Middle East — With Controversial Results

By Julie Wiener

(JTA) — First, there were the celebrity tweeter and deleters.

As the Israel-Gaza conflict continues to spark a proxy war on Twitter and other social media, numerous celebrities are getting themselves caught in the crossfire.

Earlier this week, both singer Rihanna and basketball player Dwight Howard alienated partisans on both sides by tweeting the #FreePalestine hashtag — and then deleting it.

Then former Justin Bieber paramour Selena Gomez decided to get all political and post a “Pray For Gaza” photo on her Instagram feed.

Fans got upset, so she posted a photo of herself meditating on the beach with the caption: “And of course to be clear, I am not picking any sides. I am praying for peace and humanity for all!”

Now comedian Bill Maher is irking feminists (and, presumably, Hamas supporters) with the following post:

Jezebel took issue with the “crazy woman” analogy: “Making a joke about hitting a woman to make a point about a country where people are being killed is just gross.”

Read more


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Robert Downey Jr. Tops Forbes List of Highest Paid Actors

By Rachel X. Landes

For the second year running, Robert Downey Jr. tops Forbes’ list of highest paid actors in Hollywood. Since June of last year, Iron Man has made $75 million — impressive even by Tony Stark standards.

The tribe has done slightly better on Forbes list of highest paid actresses, with two fabulous Jewish ladies making the list.

Natalie Portman comes in 8th, having made $14 million last year from another movie from the Avengers franchise, “Thor: The Dark World.”

Mila Kunis made $11 million, due to the Wizard of Oz remake, “Oz the Great and Powerful.” She ranked 9th on the list.

Sandra Bullock deserves an honorable mention (Does anyone remember that time she had a bris for her adopted son?). She made $14 million as well for being suspended in front of a green screen for “Gravity”.


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Jill Abramson Champions Freedom of The Press

By Masha Leon

“She was reading the New York Times before she could transfer to a bottle,”Gail Sheehy said of Jill Abramson, at the July 15 reception she hosted at her Manhattan duplex for the former executive editor of The New York Times.

Author of 16 books — including megahit “Passages,” Sheehy touted Abramson as “among the first to invade the all-male testosterone preserve at Harvard…and because of her, the New York Times has an equal number of men and women on [its] masthead.”

Sponsored by The Common Good as part of its Leadership Series, the more than 50 guests included former, still active and young wannabe journalists. Standing on a white plastic stool — so she could be seen — barefoot in-a-chic-black and white pattern sleeveless dress, Abramson declared: ”The First Amendment is first for a reason… Jefferson famously said if you had to choose between having a country with a government and no newspapers — or the opposite — he would say that having newspapers is more important than the government. The founders of this country were desperately afraid of highly centralized power and believed that a free press was necessary to hold the government accountable to the people” and that “stories from [accused] whistle-blowers — if they are indeed the sources — were very much in the spirit Jefferson envisioned.”

Karen Leon
Jill Abramson

Abramson stated: “When Obama came into the White House, he pledged to have the most transparent administration ever… and in certain ways the Obama administration had been good — declassified millions of documents. But in terms of these leaks… they have been unusually tough, aggressive and I see that as a really disturbing trend.”

Read more


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