Morning Read 4/6: Most Americans concerned about violence against Jews

14 percent of Americans expressed anti-Semitic attitudes, a slight increase from 10 percent in 2015, according to a new poll [Luigi Novi]
14 percent of Americans expressed anti-Semitic attitudes, a slight increase from 10 percent in 2015, according to a new poll [Luigi Novi]

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Mounting confidence nerve gas was used in Syria attack

Diplomats at the U.N. Security council sparred Wednesday over whether to hold President Bashar Assad’s government responsible for a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 80 people in northern Syria, while U.S. intelligence officials, Doctors Without Borders and the U.N. healthy agency said evidence pointed to nerve gas exposure.

The Trump administration and other world leaders said the Syrian government was to blame, but Moscow, a key ally of Assad, said the assault was caused by a Syrian airstrike that hit a rebel stockpile of chemical arms.

Early U.S. assessments showed the use of chlorine gas and traces of the nerve agent sarin in the attack Tuesday that terrorized the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, according to two U.S. officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

Israeli military intelligence officers also believe Syrian government forces were behind the attack, Israeli defense officials told the Associated Press. Israel believes Assad has tons of chemical weapons still in his arsenal, despite a concerted operation three years ago by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to rid the government of its stockpile, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief the media. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also blamed the Syrian government for the attack.

In Khan Sheikhoun, rescue workers found terrified survivors still hiding in shelters as another wave of airstrikes battered the town Wednesday. Those strikes appeared to deliver only conventional weapons damage. [AP]

Trump says chemical attack in Syria crossed many lines

U.S. President Donald Trump accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government of going “beyond a red line” with a poison gas attack on civilians and said his attitude toward Syria and Assad had changed, but gave no indication of how he would respond.

Trump said the attack, which killed at least 70 people, many of them children, “crosses many, many lines”, an allusion to his predecessor Barack Obama’s threat to topple Assad with air strikes if he used such weapons. His accusations against Assad put him directly at odds with Moscow, the Syrian’s president principal backer.

“I will tell you, what happened yesterday is unacceptable to me,” Trump told reporters at a news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Wednesday. “And I will tell you, it’s already happened that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much,” though when asked at an earlier meeting whether he was formulating a new policy on Syria, Trump said: “You’ll see.”

Vice President Mike Pence, when asked whether it was time to renew the call for Assad to be ousted and safe zones be established, told Fox News: “But let me be clear, all options are on the table,” without elaborating. [REUTERS]

Trump tells Japan ‘all options on the table’ in face of North Korea provocation

In a telephone call on Thursday morning, Trump told the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, that “all options are on the table” – including military action – to address provocations by North Korea.

Trump “made clear that the United States will continue to strengthen its ability to deter and defend itself and its allies with the full range of its military capabilities”, the White House said in a statement about the 35-minute call. “The president emphasised that the United States stands with its allies Japan and South Korea in the face of the serious threat that North Korea continues to pose.”

In a further sign of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, South Korea on Thursday test-launched a ballistic missile that is capable of striking any part of North Korea. Yonhap news agency cited a senior South Korean official as saying the missile, with a range of 800km (500 miles), would act as a “strong deterrent” against provocations from the North.

Seoul plans to deploy the new missile this year after further tests, Yonhap said. South Korea has been developing missiles with longer ranges to counter its neighbour’s missile programme under a 2012 agreement with the US.

The South’s test comes a day after North Korea fired a ballistic missile from its eastern port of Sinpo, a move experts believe was intended to remind Trump and Xi of Pyongyang’s determination to develop a long-range missile capable of carrying a miniaturised nuclear warhead. [GUARDIAN]

China’s strongman Xi to meet his match in Trump

Chinese President Xi Jinping has spent the past four years putting brash, wealthy politicians and businessmen in jail. On Thursday he will have to sit down and negotiate with one.

The first face-to-face meeting between Xi and Donald Trump at the US president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida will be a key test of whether the two leaders can overcome their vast differences and develop a personal bond.

The gathering is a gamble for the highly scripted Xi, who risks an unravelling of his carefully constructed image in the face of Trump’s notorious unpredictability as they discuss contentious issues ranging from North Korea to trade.

The 63-year-old, who took power in 2012 and was granted the vaunted title of Communist Party “core” in October, is widely considered China’s most powerful leader in a generation. Known best for leading an anti-corruption campaign that has taken down some of the party’s most eminent officials, Xi’s unyielding approach to governance has invited comparisons to Mao Zedong — and pointed to possible collisions with Trump.

Their contrasting styles — reserved versus blunt, rehearsed versus spontaneous, controlled versus turbulent — could see the pair clash, Hu Xingdou, a Chinese economics professor and expert on corruption, told AFP. Both men have strong characters, Hu said.

Beyond their differing personalities, however, there may be more that unites the two leaders than separates them — which could be crucial in striking a personal connection and finding some common ground. “Both Xi and Trump are charismatic and have the traits of a strongman who is not afraid to take risks,” China political analyst Willy Lam told AFP. [AFP]

Trump and king of Jordan promise to make peace in the Middle East

President Trump met with King Abdullah II of Jordan att the White House Wednesday as a report revealed that the administration wants to host a Mideast summit between Israel and the Palestinians as soon as this summer.

The two leaders, Trump said, would “advance the cause of peace in the Middle East, including peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I’m working very, very hard when trying to finally create peace between the Palestinians and Israel.”

The president also praised Jordan, a US ally, for joining the fight against ISIS.

The Jordanian king returned the praise and said he was hopeful that the Trump administration could get action in solving the Middle East’s many problems. “I think your message is a message of hope,” Abdullah said.

Leaders at the annual Arab League summit last week in Jordan reached an agreement on recognizing Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. With the agreement to back his case, Abdullah told Trump that Arab leaders are serious about achieving what Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, described as the “historic reconciliation between Israel and the whole Arab world,” USA Today reported. [NYP]


Senate Is Running Out of Compromises to Avoid ‘Nuclear Option’ in Gorsuch Vote

A bipartisan group of 14 U.S. senators in 2005 ended a bruising fight over federal judgeships with a compromise agreement that stopped GOP leaders from changing the chamber’s rules for confirming Supreme Court nominees.

Twelve years later, no such group has materialized to pull the Senate back from the brink in the battle over Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

The country’s increasing political polarization in the intervening years has hardened the stances of both Senate Democrats, who said this week they had enough votes to mount a filibuster to block a vote on Judge Gorsuch under the current, decades-old rules, and Republicans, who are expected on Thursday to permanently change the chamber’s rules to confirm the GOP president’s pick.

“The whole environment has dramatically changed,” said Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), a member of the so-called Gang of 14 that averted a rules change in 2005. This week, Mr. McCain said he reluctantly would join most, if not all, Republicans in voting to alter the Senate’s rules so Supreme Court nominees could be confirmed with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes currently needed.

One party moving unilaterally to change the rules is so contentious, it is referred to as “the nuclear option.” It would leave the minority party without any ability to block nominees and enable the president to cater to his or her party’s ideological extremes if the Senate is controlled by the same party. “There’s a variety of reasons” for the shift, Mr. McCain said, “none of it good.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) said: “There’s no doubt we are moving into dangerous territory and we’re putting ourselves in a position where if you’re ever in the minority party, nobody has to talk to you.” [WSJ]

As Latest Health Plan Dies, Republicans Can’t Agree on a Culprit

The new bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is dead, killed off by House Republicans who never actually read the legislation — because in fact, it never actually existed.

Conservative groups moved quickly on Wednesday to shift the blame for the failure of a seven-year promise to repeal the law onto some not-as-conservative Republicans, after a small but powerful group of hard-line House conservatives failed again to come to a meeting of the minds with the Trump administration over how best to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature achievement.

“The left wing among House Republicans doesn’t want to compromise or keep their pledge to voters to repeal Obamacare,” David McIntosh, the president of the Club for Growth, a conservative free-market advocacy group, said in a statement. “They’ve rejected deals that would give Americans more choices for cheaper health insurance, and now they won’t even allow states the chance to scale back Obamacare’s costliest regulations.”

The accusation — echoed by other conservatives — represents a remarkable turnaround in the blame game. The group and its supporters have opposed much of the major legislation considered by Congress in recent years.

Last month, a House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed to get enough support to bring it to a vote. About 30 of the most conservative members of the House rejected the bill as preserving too much of the existing law, but as they pressed to dismantle ever more provisions, they pushed away more moderate House Republicans who were leery of leaving 24 million more Americans without health insurance.

The effort was left for dead, until Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials raced up to the Capitol this week to cobble together a new agreement with the most conservative Republicans, the House Freedom Caucus. The revived measure, stirring in its grave, was known informally on Capitol Hill as Zombie Trumpcare.

According to several members, Mr. Pence had proposed allowing states to obtain waivers from two provisions of the Affordable Care Act. One provision requires insurers to cover a standard minimum package of benefits, including maternity care and emergency services. The other generally requires insurers to charge the same price to people of the same age who live in the same geographic area.

By allowing insurers to increase the cost of premiums for sick people, the waivers would effectively gut the Affordable Care Act’s most popular provision: mandated access to insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions. But members of the House Freedom Caucus were pushing to allow states to compensate with “high-risk pools,” where sick people could buy subsidized policies. Many congressional Republicans and President Trump viewed that option as morally and politically toxic. [NYTIMES]

Pence adviser Nick Ayers eyes run for Georgia governor

One of Vice President Mike Pence’s top political advisers, Nick Ayers, is considering running for governor of Georgia next year, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Ayers is 34 but already a veteran Republican strategist who burst onto the political scene a decade ago as the wunderkind executive director of the Republican Governors Association. In 2016, he served as a senior adviser to Pence after Donald Trump tapped him as his running mate, and Ayers served on the executive committee of Trump’s presidential transition team. He has not previously run for office.

While it is not clear yet whether Ayers will jump into the contest, people close to the White House are already discussing what impact an Ayers run would have on the pro-Trump nonprofit group America First Policies, where he has worked as an adviser and fundraiser since January

If he runs, Ayers would enter a wide-open Republican primary to replace term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal, also a Republican. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is expected to run, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp recently declared his candidacy. A host of others, including former congressmen and state legislators, are looking at the race.

Ayers, who lives in Georgia with his family, is in Washington D.C. this week and expected to discuss his future with senior Trump officials, including Pence, chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon, according to a person familiar with those meetings. [POLITICO]


Lawmakers head home as NY budget deal crumbles

A near-deal Tuesday on an elusive state budget quickly dissolved Wednesday, leading many lawmakers to return to their districts after failing to reach consensus with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The standoff capped several days of tense negotiations, making it the latest state budget since 2010 — when a deal wasn’t reached until August. The state’s fiscal year started last Saturday.

“Having the right resolution is more important to me than having a resolution,” Cuomo said at a hastily called news conference at the Capitol. “And that’s what we’re working toward.”

On Monday, the Legislature passed a temporary spending plan to avoid a government shutdown. That is in place until May 31.

But big-ticket items — including juvenile-justice reform and funding levels for charter schools — stalled an overall agreement. Cuomo essentially said he and lawmakers were at an impasse.

And by Wednesday evening, the state Senate headed home after it became clear a deal would remain out of reach. The Legislature was scheduled to start a two-week break Thursday.

“We have nothing to do right now,” said Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse. “There’s open issues, and we think … it’s costly to the taxpayers to pay per diems to legislators for sitting around in this particular fashion.” [LOHUD]

De Blasio gets one-year extension controlling public schools

Mayor de Blasio continues to pay the price for his ill-fated attempt to wrest control of the State Senate from Republicans and his feud with Albany pols. For the third year in a row, the legislature is giving him a one-year extension on control of the public schools.

He had requested a permanent extension, but didn’t bother lobbying on the issue, choosing instead to push his mansion tax proposal. That went nowhere. Gov. Cuomo proposed a three-year schools deal, but the GOP-controlled Senate said it was one year or nothing. [NYP]

De Blasio Could Still Face Penalties in State Senate Fundraising Investigation

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance recently concluded his investigation into the effort by Mayor Bill de Blasio and his aides to funnel campaign funds to Democratic state Senate candidates in 2014. Vance did not bring any charges in the case, writing in a ten-page letter to the state Board of Elections enforcement counsel Risa Sugarman, who had referred the case for prosecution, that “the parties involved cannot be appropriately prosecuted, given their reliance on the advice of counsel.”

But, Vance’s decision did not entirely vindicate the mayor. He criticized de Blasio and his team for their actions that “appear contrary to the intent and spirit of the laws,” and also wrote that his decision “does not foreclose the BOE or others from pursuing any civil or regulatory action that they determine might be warranted by these facts; such a remedy might well provide guidance to those involved in the electoral process.”

Vance’s investigation — which ran parallel to a federal investigation of the mayor’s fundraising and City Hall behavior that also concluded with no charges filed — delved into whether the mayor and his aides had solicited and directed campaign contributions far in excess of election law limits to individual candidate committees, using county committees as intermediaries.

At the behest of de Blasio and his associates, large donations were made to county committees, which can receive up to $102,300 from an individual, union or LLC, instead of directly to candidate committees, which can receive a maximum of $10,300. County committees can give unlimited funds to candidate committees. The money was funneled to a handful of Democratic candidate campaigns in swing districts, and largely used to pay hefty consulting fees to firms with close links to de Blasio, including BerlinRosen, AKPD, and Red Horse Strategies.

Vance’s office could not make a case for prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt, in part because of the legal advice de Blasio and his team had received that gave them the go-ahead for their maneuvers. But the BOE has a lower burden of proof for its own enforcement actions, which include civil penalties reaching thousands of dollars. [GOTHAMGAZETTE]


Trump Removes Stephen Bannon From National Security Council Post

In a move that was widely seen as a sign of changing fortunes, Mr. Trump removed Mr. Bannon, his chief strategist, from the National Security Council’s cabinet-level “principals committee” on Wednesday. The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, who insisted on purging a political adviser from the Situation Room where decisions about war and peace are made.

Mr. Bannon resisted the move, even threatening at one point to quit if it went forward, according to a White House official who, like others, insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Mr. Bannon’s camp denied that he had threatened to resign and spent the day spreading the word that the shift was a natural evolution, not a signal of any diminution of his outsize influence.

His allies said privately that Mr. Bannon had been put on the principals committee to keep an eye on Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, a retired three-star general who lasted just 24 days before being forced out for misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about what he had discussed with Russia’s ambassador. With Mr. Flynn gone, these allies said, there was no need for Mr. Bannon to remain, but they noted that he had kept his security clearance.

It was one more drama in a White House consumed by palace intrigue, where officials jockey for the ear of the president, angle for authority and seek to place blame for political defeats. Even as Mr. Bannon lost a national security credential, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, seems to be acting as a shadow secretary of state, visiting Iraq and taking on China, Mexico and Middle East portfolios.

Mr. Bannon’s many enemies, inside and outside the White House, celebrated what they saw as a defeat for his brand of fiery, nationalist politics.

Karl Rove — who, as senior adviser to President George W. Bush, was not allowed to join national security meetings — said it was a move back to a better process. “It was wrong for him to be added in the first place, and it was right to take him off,” he said. Even if Mr. Bannon really was removed only because there was no longer a need for someone to mind Mr. Flynn, Mr. Rove added, the end result was a victory for General McMaster. “It’s either a sign of McMaster’s strength, or the result is it strengthens McMaster,” he said. [NYTIMES]

Mega-donor urged Bannon not to resign

Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, a longtime Bannon confidante who became a prominent Trump supporter during the campaign, urged Bannon not to resign. “Rebekah Mercer prevailed upon him to stay,” said one person familiar with the situation.

Another person familiar with the situation, a GOP operative who talks to Mercer, said: “Bekah tried to convince him that this is a long-term play.”

Bannon has worked closely with Mercer not only at the right-wing website Breitbart News, where her family is a major investor and where he served as executive chairman until joining the Trump campaign in August, but also at Cambridge Analytica, the data-analytics firm owned largely by the Mercers. Bannon is a part owner of the firm, though he’s trying to sell his stake, and until recently he served as vice president of the company’s board.

The White House said that Bannon had not taken any steps to leave, and Bannon told POLITICO that any suggestion he threatened to resign was “total nonsense.” [POLITICO]

Trump, Citing No Evidence, Suggests Susan Rice Committed Crime

President Trump said on Wednesday that Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser, may have committed a crime by seeking to learn the identities of Trump associates swept up in surveillance of foreign officials by United States spy agencies, repeating an assertion his allies in the news media have been making since last week.

Mr. Trump gave no evidence to support his claim, and current and former intelligence officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations have said they do not believe Ms. Rice’s actions were unusual or unlawful. The president repeatedly rebuffed attempts by two New York Times reporters to learn more about what led him to the conclusion, saying he would talk more about it “at the right time.”

The interview with The Times was supposed to be focused on Mr. Trump’s plans for large-scale spending on the nation’s infrastructure. But moments after it began, the president began talking about Ms. Rice. “I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story. I think it’s a massive, massive story. All over the world,” Mr. Trump said.

“It’s a bigger story than you know,” the president added cryptically, also saying that new information would emerge “in terms of what other people have done also.”

“The Russia story is a total hoax. There has been absolutely nothing coming out of that,” he said. Turning the subject to Ms. Rice, the president said: “What’s happened is terrible. I’ve never seen people so indignant, including many Democrats who are friends of mine.”

Through a spokeswoman, Ms. Rice said, “I’m not going to dignify the president’s ludicrous charge with a comment.” In an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, Ms. Rice said she had done nothing wrong. “The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes,” Ms. Rice said. “That’s absolutely false.” [NYTIMES]

Border wall ‘unlikely’ to stretch ‘from sea to shining sea,’ says DHS head

It is “unlikely” that the wall along the Southwest border of the United States will stretch “from sea to shining sea,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said in a Senate hearing today.

Kelly is among several government officials who have now said that a “wall” across the entire border is not necessarily realistic. Instead the barrier will likely be some combination of wall, fencing, electronic surveillance and personnel, according to officials.

What the “wall” will look like — including how tall and thick it will be — is yet to be determined, Kelly said. It is “unlikely that we will build a wall or physical barrier from sea to shining sea,” he continued, adding that he is “committed” to constructing a physical barrier wherever it is recommended.

Kelly said that President Donald Trump is aware of his plans to look “at every variation and theme” when drawing up plans for the wall. “I have a lot of elbow room,” he said.

On Wednesday, Customs and Border Protection released its apprehension numbers for the month of March, which continue to show a sharp decline. Apprehensions — used as an indicator of illegal border crossings — were down 63 percent on the Southwest border: from 33,316 in March 2016 to 12,193 this past March, according to CBP. [ABCNEWS]


Few Americans hold anti-Semitic views, most concerned about violence against Jews, ADL polls find

Most Americans do not hold anti-Semitic views and are worried about violence against Jews, according to polls by the Anti-Defamation League.

Only 14 percent of Americans expressed anti-Semitic attitudes, a slight increase from 10 percent in 2015, according to the data, which was released Thursday. Older and less educated respondents were the most likely to hold anti-Jewish views.

However, 52 percent of respondents said they were concerned about anti-Semitic violence and an even higher proportion, 76 percent, were worried about violence against Muslims, the ADL found.
Forty-seven percent of respondents said there was more anti-Semitism during the 2016 presidential campaign than in previous times. Nearly half of Americans, 49 percent, said Donald Trump had not done enough to discourage anti-Jewish sentiments as a candidate, while 39 percent said he had.

A poll by the Anti-Defamation League found that a plurality of Americans say there was more anti-Semitism during the 2016 presidential campaign than before.Photo by: Anti-Defamation League

The polls found that a higher proportion of Muslim Americans, 34 percent, held anti-Semitic views than the general population. That number, the ADL noted, is lower than among Muslims in Europe and the Middle East and North Africa, where 55 and 75 percent hold anti-Jewish views, respectively. The polls also found that half of Muslim Americans hold a favorable view of Israel and most Muslim Americans, 89 percent, were worried about violence against them and Islamic institutions.

“The good news in this research is that today a large majority of Americans do not subscribe to common anti-Semitic stereotypes,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s national director, said in a statement. “It’s also encouraging that a record number of Americans are concerned about violence against the Jewish and Muslim communities, and are troubled at how intolerance has infected our politics. But it’s discouraging to know that Muslims and other minorities feel unsafe. Clearly, there is still a lot of work to do.” [JTA]


Asia demand, hedging boosts trading in forward U.S. oil contracts

Trading volumes and open interest in U.S. crude futures soared in 2016, particularly among buyers out of Asia and shale companies locking in output, both of whom have shown an affinity for far-dated contracts, the CME Group Inc (CME.O) said on Thursday.

NYMEX light sweet crude oil futures average daily volume hit an all-time high of 1.303 million contracts in November 2016, according to exchange data.

Demand out of Asia/Pacific was notably stronger, with trading volume rising 93 percent from a year earlier, according to data provided to Reuters by the CME.

Recently, there has been growing interest in the liquidity of near-term contracts but also further along the futures curve, for contracts that are two and three years forward, the CME said.

So far in 2017, WTI open interest and volume continue to exceed historic levels. Several WTI crude oil trading records have already been set in 2017, including the current daily open interest record of 2.24 million contracts on March 14. “With the lifting of U.S. export ban and greater market efficiencies, WTI has become the leading indicator for price discovery in the global crude oil market,” the exchange said in a report on Thursday.

U.S. shale production has boomed since 2011, fueled by hydraulic fracturing technology, but production waned during the worst price rout in a generation. Shale has since emerged as a resilient rival to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as efficiency improvements have reduced the cost of production. [REUTERS]

Cuomo: 421a is still unresolved because it doesn’t make sense to link the abatement to rent regulations

Despite reports that legislators reached a deal to revive 421a, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday night that “differences” in opinion still stood in the tax abatement’s way. “What we’re down to is truly ideological issues,” he said. “421a is an ideological, philosophical issue.”

In a circuitous press conference that seemed to leave much of the press corps scratching their heads as to why exactly it had been called, Cuomo noted that many controversial state issues remained unsettled. These “ideological issues” include the Raise the Age bill (which would increase the minimum age for criminal responsibility to 18) and 421a, he said. Though Cuomo criticized the state Legislature for failing to pass a budget by the April 1 deadline, he cited the uncertainty of the Federal Budget as a reason to further draw out budget negotiations. The governor said the state needs the kind of “financial flexibility” that the federal government achieved through the continuing resolution passed in December. He explained that approving a full budget deal now could force the state to change course mid-year when additional federal cuts come to light.

“It’s important that we not put our financial feet in cement,” Cuomo said.

Still, the governor indicated that he’d be willing to sign off on the bills already passed by both houses. He also said he wouldn’t necessarily object to the Assembly and Senate pushing through the rest of the budget. The Senate and Assembly adjourned shortly after the announcement.

When asked about rent regulation being linked to 421a, which Politico reported was part of the deal reached on Tuesday, he noted that it took two years to negotiate the tax abatement. Rent regulation is up for renewal in two years, meaning Affordable New York — the latest iteration of 421a — could be wiped out after only two years. He said he understands why one was hitched to other, but it doesn’t make sense. “You can’t have a program exist for only two years,” he said. [TRD]

83North announces ‘oversubscribed’ $250 million fourth fund for European and Israeli startups

83North, the VC firm formerly known as Greylock IL, has announced a new $250 million fund aimed at “aspiring” technology startups from across Europe and Israel.

This represents the firm’s fourth fund in 11 years, but only its second since rebranding as 83North back in 2015, when it announced a $200 million pot. The company was initially an affiliate of Greylock Partners focused specifically on Israeli startups, but it has since spun out on its own with a broader focus on Europe as well.

With hubs in London and Tel Aviv, this latest “oversubscribed” fund represents the company’s largest to date. Though the focus is on startups hailing from Europe and Israel, 83North sets out to help founders scale their businesses across the U.S. too, “providing a breadth of expertise and on-the-ground support” across all three regions, according to a statement issued by the company.

“We continue to invest in all stages, with an emphasis on early investments, where we work side-by-side with founding teams to build companies from the ground up,” explained 83North partner Yoram Snir, who’s based in Tel Aviv. “Our model gives us access to some of the best talent in the world, meaning that we can add real value by exposing entrepreneurs to the best practices in each domain.”

A number of large funds from and for Europe have launched over the past couple of years. A couple of months back, U.K.-based VC firm Atomico closed a meaty $765 million pot, representing one of the biggest funds to emerge from Europe. Elsewhere, Index Ventures closed a $706 million growth fund in 2015 followed by a $550 million early-stage fund a year later; Lakestar closed a $400 million fund; Northzone announced a $335 million fund; and Partech Ventures launched a $440 million pot, followed by another $108 million fund.

With the U.K. currently in the process of exiting the European Union (EU), 83North reckons this presents an opportunity for it to leverage its existing presence across the region to help tech hubs crop up away from London’s gravitational pull.

“Since we started investing in Europe in 2008, we have expanded our focus from primarily U.K.-headquartered start-ups to invest across the region and have now backed companies from France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden,” added 83North partner Laurel Bowden, who’s based in London. “As we look to the future, the U.K.’s exit from the EU will accelerate activity in European tech hubs outside the UK. We believe this presents a big opportunity for venture funds, like 83North, that are already well-established in the wider European region.” [VB]

04/06/2017 10:24 AM by David Kinzer
Tags: Morning Read

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