LBN – Special Report – Wednesday

*Afghan Taliban Announce New Leader

The Afghan Taliban announced their new leader will be Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, following the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a drone strike by the U.S. on Saturday in Pakistan. Wednesday’s announcement was the first time the Taliban had acknowledged Mansour’s death. Militant attacks reportedly escalated under Mansour’s rule. Akhundzada was a deputy to him and is a former head of the Taliban courts. NBC News reports Akhundzada has previously issued religious edicts that justify attacks on U.S. military forces.

*WHO READS LBN? Author and philanthropist Lynda Resnick

*Thiel Is ‘Funding’ Hulk’s Gawker Case

Peter Thiel, the eccentric cofounder of PayPal and an early financial backer of Facebook, privately agreed to foot the bill for pro wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuits against Gawker Media, according to a report from The New York Times and Forbes, citing people familiar with the arrangement. Thiel, a libertarian billionaire who has advocated that kids skip college and also serves as a delegate for Donald Trump in California, has a history of skirmishes with the gossip website. In 2007, a Gawker report outed Thiel as gay, which he is now open about; in turn, Thiel once referred to the website’s tech-gossip Valleywag vertical as “the al Qaeda of Silicon Valley.” In a New York Times interview published Tuesday, Gawker owner Nick Denton said he believed a Silicon Valley investor was supporting the legal actions. Hulk Hogan, who won a $140 million verdict against Gawker in March in a privacy case, has never disclosed a financial relationship with Thiel. Both have declined to comment. Gawker is appealing the ruling on First Amendment grounds.

*THINK FREELY – READ LBN

*LBN-HEALTH WATCH:   ***Many users of activity trackers have always harbored suspicions: How accurate are these things? A handful of tests by journalists and researchers have tried to bring clarity to the issue. Results, alas, have been mixed. The latest study, released by the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Fitbit, found that the pulse-monitoring technology used in the company’s wrist-bound Surge and Charge devices was “highly inaccurate during elevated physical activity.”

*LBN-MY REVIEW: “LBN is delicious! Mouth-watering delicious.”—–Zoey G., an LBN reader from St. Paul, Minnesota

*LBN-NOTICED:   ***Mick Jagger dining at Indian Accent in NYC.   ***Billy Bush being thrown a farewell party by “Access Hollywood” staffers at Invite Only, where “foodie magician”Josh Beckerman performed.   ***Rhea Perlman seeing “The Effect” at the Barrow Street Theatre in NYC.   ***Gillian Anderson, Bernadette Peters and Judith Light dining at Brooklyn’s River Café in NYC.   ***New York Knicks playerLance Thomas and “Empire” star Malik Yoba at Industry Kitchen in NYC.   ***Javier Bardem, Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom at Nikki Beach in Cannes, for Benjamin Larretche’s CometLife launch.

*LBN-R.I.P.:   ***Beth Howland, who made high anxiety an art form as the ditsy, accident-prone waitress Vera Louise Gorman on the 1970s and ’80s sitcom “Alice,” died on Dec. 31, 2015, in Santa Monica, Calif., her husband said on Tuesday. He had refrained from announcing her death earlier in keeping with her wishes. She was 74. The cause was lung cancer, her husband, the actor Charles Kimbrough, said, adding that she had not wanted a funeral or a memorial service.

*UNIQUELY, LBN: Tara G., an LBN reader from London, England.

*LBN-HOLLYWOOD INSIDER:   ***Patti Davis and Primary Wave Entertainment are producing a documentary centered around Super 8 film footage shot primarily by Ronald Reaganfrom the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. Zak Knutson, best known for Film 4’s “Milius,” is directing. The private footage is in pristine condition and offers a never-before-seen look at Reagan’s family on vacations, ranch visits, backyard plays, birthday parties, visits to the beach and pool time that dominated the family’s Southern-California outdoor lifestyle.

*LBN-COMMENTARY by Thomas L. Friedman: Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique. But a lot of it is also driven by Israel’s desire to destroy itself — thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s steady elimination of any possibility that Israel will separate itself from the Palestinians in the West Bank. Netanyahu is a man who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never crossing it, always teasing you (“I’m coming your way — I’m going to make a decision”), only to remain right where he is, balancing between all his rivals, so that he alone survives. Meanwhile, Israel sinks ever deeper into a de facto binational state controlled by Jewish extremists. Soon, this newspaper will have to call Netanyahu what he’s made himself into: “Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine.” I raise this now because Israel under Netanyahu has gone from bad to worse. He just forced out Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. Yaalon, a former army chief of staff, is a very decent man — a soldier’s soldier, determined to preserve the Israeli Army as a people’s army that aspires to the highest standards of integrity in the middle of a very dangerous neighborhood.

*LBN-COMMENTARY by Mark Bittman: Over the last decade or so, taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages have been proposed in a handful of American cities; they’ve failed all but once. Sometimes, this has been through a lack of governmental support — in 2009, David Paterson, then governor of New York, quickly gave up on his proposal for a tax — but mostly their advocates’ efforts have been overwhelmed by injections of cash from soda manufacturers and distributors. Things changed 18 months ago, when a penny-per-ounce excise tax on soda and its relatives (heavily sweetened tea, sugar-added juices and so-called energy drinks) was approved by a 3-to-1 margin by voters in Berkeley, Calif. Conventional wisdom (and the soda industry) immediately labeled Berkeley a wacky anomaly. But in fact that East Bay university town is a harbinger: It was the first, or among the first, to voluntarily and intentionally desegregate schools, make sidewalks wheelchair accessible, establish a municipal recycling program and limit fast-food packaging and indoor smoking. Each of these was radical in its time, and all are now common — as I believe soda taxes will be five years from now.

*LBN-COMMENTARY by Michael Levine: In one study, a group of experimenters were given unlabeled samples of both Pepsi and Coke. Not a single tester could tell the difference between the two. The test was repeated with the correct labels attached. Three out of the four testers chose Coke. In fact, the Coke label activated parts of the brain associated with the mind (memory, self-image, and culture) that the Pepsi label didn’t.

*LBN-A DIFFERENT VIEW:…

*LBN-OVERHEARD:   ***Former “Little House on the Prairie” star Melissa Gilbert is dropping her run for Congress in Michigan. Gilbert was the only Democrat challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop in the 8th District. But in a statement Tuesday, she says health problems are forcing her out of the race. The 52-year-old Gilbert says she’s following the advice of doctors. She says head and neck injuries from two accidents in 2012, “have only gotten worse.”

LBN E-Lert Edited By Marcelle Luna

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