Sheryl Weinstein, “Madoff’s Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie, And Me” Author, Claims Affair With Madoff

LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK - A new book says that an investor who claims she was devastated by Bernard Madoff's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme had a two-decade affair with the disgraced financier.

The memoir, "Madoff's Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie, and Me," was written by Sheryl Weinstein, whose relationship with Madoff spanned more than 20 years while both were married, said John Murphy, a spokesman for publisher St. Martin's Press. It goes on sale Aug. 25.

Madoff, 71, is serving 150 years in prison for defrauding investors. Weinstein says she met him at a business meeting when she was chief financial officer for the charitable women's organization Hadassah, where she had a role in investment decisions.

Madoff attorney Ira Sorkin said he hopes the author "was more discreet with her investment obligations than she has allegedly been with her sex life."

An attorney for Madoff's wife, Ruth Madoff, said his client did not know about the "alleged affair." The attorney, Peter Chavkin, said the allegations were a powerful reminder to those who claim Ruth Madoff knew about her husband's massive Ponzi scheme "that there are some things that some spouses -- however close they are -- do not share with each other."

At Bernard Madoff's June sentencing, Weinstein was among investors to urge a long prison sentence for the financier, who admitted ripping off thousands of investors for billions of dollars for at least two decades. She said she viewed meeting him 21 years ago "as perhaps the unluckiest day of my life."

Weinstein said her investment losses had forced her to sell her Manhattan home and devastated her, her husband of 37 years, her son, her parents, her in-laws and everyone who depended on them. She called Madoff "that terror, that monster, that horror, that beast ... an equal-opportunity destroyer."

In her correspondence with the court, Weinstein made no mention of the affair, though she did write in a request to speak at sentencing that she wanted to address Madoff and the court because "I think the personal connection may be more difficult for him to ignore."

Her husband, Ron Weinstein, said in a June letter to the court that all the money the couple had saved was lost by Madoff and that their marriage was strained.

"My wife has been a basket case," he said, "and we are both very depressed."

The book has drawn fresh attention to Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America.

The organization has said its principal investment with Madoff totaled about $33 million, while another $7 million had been entrusted to Madoff after it was donated by a French backer in 1988. Hadassah did not return a telephone call for comment Friday.

Stanley Epstein, a Santa Monica, Calif., lawyer married to a Hadassah member, said Hadassah's treasurer told him after Madoff's December arrest that the organization had cashed in between $120 million and $130 million from its Madoff accounts over the years. The profits could make the organization a target of those seeking to recover money to be distributed to defrauded investors.

By Friday evening, the publicity about Weinstein's book had pushed its presale ranking on Amazon.com from No. 4,408 eight hours earlier to No. 1,415.


Google, Zappos, and the “New PR” – Communications Savvy Must Be Distributed Across Your Company

This isn't really a post about Google per se, but working with different Googlers at different levels, and reading their various public statements and blogs, and hearing Googlers speak and interact with the public, definitely hammers the point home. It's a huge company. Their people are well trained, well spoken, and well scripted. But everything can't be scripted, and they'd come across as awfully spooky if they walked around "muzzled".

Typically in the good old days, public relations messages were controlled. And people in companies were supposed to communicate sparingly and always "check back to base" before sharing with the public.

In companies still controlled by traditional top-down PR concepts, this seems like the right thing to do. To everyone else, it seems not only old-fashioned, but unworkable.

The Zappos legend is one of radical openness - one of allowing reporters to walk around and talk to any old employee. No surprises, no secrets.

I thought of this again when posting a response to a customer on a consumer review site I work with. A little part of me said, well maybe I should be collaborating on the team before I post my responses, to make sure we are all on the same page. But you know what? If we always did that, our responses would sound canned and we wouldn't sound like real people. And the speed of the business would slow to a crawl. Especially in the digital world, a slow business is a dead business.

What it comes down to is this: everyone in your organization needs to be someone you can trust to do a good job of representing your brand and helping out a reporter or customer when they're seeking information or ideas. Scary from the standpoint of traditional PR, but most of all, an opportunity to reflect on whether your people have your full confidence: do they know their stuff, do they have good judgment, are they social media savvy, do they know how to make it clear that there's a difference between them thoughtfully considering an issue in their unique human way and official company policy, etc.? And if they aren't quite up to speed on all that, maybe there's an opportunity for company-wide education - not about how to stonewall, but how to naturally reach out to the ecosystem based on the relative transparency of the "new PR".

When more people are qualified and willing to speak on behalf of the company at a moment's notice, you can get more done. You can draw customers into the dialogue, and solidify your role as a partner. It's a mistake to imagine that there is any other way to go about it. That's especially true in companies that have all sorts of responsible people working on hundreds of products, in dozens of divisions.

The "letting go" attitude also strengthens accountability and responsibility in more people in an organization and even outside it. That reinforces the idea of partnership. Think about the difference between two celebrities or CEO's who come to a major interview. One has had his "people" control which questions can and cannot be asked, and wants their bio to be structured in a certain way. The other has her people inform the magazine that (unflattering photos aside) the choice of questions and biographical portrayal are in the reporters' and editors' "capable hands". Who do you think is going to think harder about their real role as a responsible journalist? The one who is told what to say? Or the one who is asked to exercise their judgment?

Allison Kilkenny: British Defend Their Healthcare System

In America's healthcare reform debate, there is no greater whipping boy than the National Health Service (NHS,) Britain's healthcare system. The NHS is being used as an example of the "failed Socialist" model of healthcare. FOX host Glenn Beck took some shots at the NHS, apparently forgetting his own nightmare journey when he received subpar care in an American hospital. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley told a radio station last week that "countries that have government-run health care" would not have given Senator Edward Kennedy, who suffers from a brain tumor, the same kind of care as in the U.S. because he is too old. And most impressively, FOX News's treasure, Neil Cavuto, even claimed universal healthcare is a terrorism recruitment tool. Seriously.

Conservative hosts and politicians alike must have been overcome with joy when they finally secured a Conservative British politician who was willing to bad mouth the NHS, which remains extraordinarily popular in Britain. Daniel Hannan previously sat as an Independent after having been expelled from the European People's Party. Hannan is most famous for opposing the European Union and praising Iceland's "economic miracle" prior to the country's titanic crash in 2008. It was probably that stellar resume that first caught the eye of FOX News, which couldn't secure the microphone to his lapel fast enough.

These kinds of attacks on the NHS aren't unusual or new, but what is unique is the British response this time to the mad attacks on their healthcare system. British citizens -- particularly tech savvy residents -- are fighting back on Twitter. The top trending topics after Hannan's FOX declarations included #welovetheNHS and #NHS. British Twitterers boasted 'I Heart NHS' avatars designed by Twibbon, a group that spreads awareness about causes by overlaying an image onto supporters' Twitter profile avatars. The Twibbon team says during our interview that the response to the 'I Heart NHS' design has been "magnificent." They add, "In the UK, people often talk about political apathy and show concern over disappointing voting turnouts. What everyone has shown over the last few days is a testament to the power of social networking, and Twitter in particular, not only to unite people in solidarity, but also to initiate global conversations at grassroots level."

Graham Linehan, the man behind the #welovetheNHS tag, tells me he was motivated by FOX's irresponsible coverage of the healthcare reform debate.

I think that the way that FOX News has been raising the temperature of the health care debate over there is one of the most reckless and cynical things I have ever seen. It's just mindblowing to me. It's also infruriating the way they change their coverage of the UK according to their needs. So when they wanted a partner to legitimise an illegal and ill-thought-out war, the UK was the best country in the world. Now that their needs are different, they attack the UK as 'Socialist'. It's breathtaking, how little shame they have.

What really inspired Linehan to do something was when Investor's Business Daily published an editorial claiming Steven Hawking "wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless." Of course, the claim is absurd as Hawking stated later, pointing out that he would not be alive today if it hadn't been for the NHS.

Where other British citizens saw gross lies, exaggerations, and frustrating half-truths, Linehan saw a "golden opportunity to kickstart a campaign to redress the balance a little bit." He linked to the Hawking article and the #welovetheNHS hashtag was born. "I thought it might pick up steam once people saw the ridiculousness of that story, but I had no idea how big it would become. Three days now, and we're still trending," says Linehan.

The online response to the We Love the NHS campaign is overwhelming. "NHS Saved my life as a 19 year old naive lad!" writes one Brit. "Saved my life, saved my wife's life, beat my brother-in-law's cancer and embodies a compassionate civilized ideal #welovetheNHS," writes one more. The movement now includes some of Britain's most powerful leaders, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who Tweeted "NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death. Thanks for always being there #welovetheNHS."

British newspapers, politicians, and medics are rushing into the debate partly to defend the NHS and partly to gain some kind of political leverage. Labor hoped to embarrass David Cameron by challenging him to disown the Hannan comments, which he did. "Nobody should be in any doubt, for the Conservative Party, the NHS is the number one priority," said Cameron to Sky News.

The British newspaper, Daily Mirror, has started calling America "the land of the fee" because of the way patients are forced to pay for medical services. Senior figures in British healthcare are also frustrated at the portrayal of the NHS. Mike Hobday, of Macmillan Cancer Support, stated: "We are really furious at the way in which the NHS, which is the best healthcare system around, is being denigrated by a group of people who clearly don't have the first idea about how it works."

"The NHS does a damn fine job," says president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, Dr. Alan Maryon-Davis. "These claims are complete and utter rubbish...The horrific thing about the American system is that there are tens of millions of people without health insurance. We spend less on health in terms of GDP than America but if you look at health indices, especially for life expectancy, we have better figures than they do in America," he adds.

The nexus of the Internet makes the dissemination of disinformation difficult. Such interconnectedness means the lie of "dangerous Socialized medicine" cannot sustain itself when Brits of all ages and backgrounds shout to the rafters that they love the NHS, and are here to defend it.

Cross-posted from Allison Kilkenny's blog. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.


Senate Twitter Smackdown! Specter and Grassley Get Into It On Twitter

townhall600Looks like Senator Arlen Specter learned a little something from that feisty health care town hall he held last week — at least on Twitter, where rants are at least limited to 140 characters.

Specter’s target: Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who has emerged as a voice promoting the “death panel” myth. Grassley told an audience in Iowa that they had “every right to fear” and that the country “should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.” Specter was having none of it, and told Twitter he called Grassley to make him stop:

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Turns out what Specter really meant is that he left a voicemail:
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But still! The punch was thrown. And if you know Chuck Grassley on Twitter, you know he’s not one to back away from a fight:
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Not even the liberal press! Look who sounds a little bit like Sarah Palin after all. Actually, this is a neat lesson in semantics: Specter’s tweet clearly put “death panels” in quotes, but the focus was the myths, which he did, indeed, spread (”pull the plug on grandma“, anyone?). The phrase “Death Panels” as introduced by Sarah Palin — she keeps on giving! — has been the buzzphrase used to promote the idea. And boy, has it worked.

So what’s wrong with Specter trying to correct the record via Twitter? Nothing, actually, in light of the myths being spread. Alas, Grassley’s offense-as-defense tactic appears to have worked: Specter later toned down his Twittatude and slunk back to the empty promises for political discourse that we’re used to:
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We definitely tip our hat to Specter for having the swagger to call Grassley out on Twitter — very Lance Armstrong of him! — though given it’s limitations, Twitter might not the best place for a productive dialogue on complex subjects. But where is these days.

Mediaite’s Own Health Care Town Hall Meeting

In honor light of all the coverage health care town hall meetings are getting, Mediaite decided to hold a town hall of its own. We wanted to know what New York had to say about the proposed health care bill. Alas, New York has not been one of the states blessed with an exciting Town Hall (and New Jersey doesn’t count). So, we did what we could. In an effort to make this as Town Hall-y as possible, we tried to get people to yell at us, make some impromptu word associations, and, although very difficult, pick their favorite clause in HR 3200. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite manage to elicit the Arlen Specter Effect from people; New York is quite docile in August. Who knew! Highlights below.


Ethan Nichtern: Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s Utterly Disappointing Worldview

There is a Whole Foods across the street from the Interdependence Project in New York's East Village, the Buddhist-inspired nonprofit organization which I direct. Some nights, after teaching or participating in a class on meditation and Buddhist psychology, or after yoga practice, I head there on my way home, to buy convenient, healthy food for one of those 10 pm diners New Yorkers know all too well. Since our organization works directly with issues of responsible consumption and environmental activism, it's always nice to be able to find local and organic produce, even if it traumatizes my slender wallet to shop regularly at "Whole Paycheck." Five-dollar pre-washed spinach from the North Fork of Long Island! It's late, I'm exhausted; what could be better?

Of course on the surface, a Buddhist shopping at Whole Foods makes a lot of sense (almost to a degree of neo-hippy caricature). I practice, study and teach a tradition of mental health and wellbeing, a path for people to systematically learn to take care of our own minds and extend that care-taking to others around us. A healthy diet and an interest in eating both local and organic foods are -- for me -- the physical extensions of that mental mindfulness practice.

However, the Buddhist teachings on the truth of interdependence don't allow us to stop at the level of individual health and wellbeing. The more we pay attention to reality, the more we see the total impossibility of taking care of our own bodies and minds without taking care of others. The more we see interdependence -- that our lives do not happen in a vacuum, separate from the lives of others -- the more we realize that our own health is inextricably bound up with the health of others. If you are healthier, then I am healthier, and vice versa. This is true physically, this is true psychologically, and this is true comunally.

A few years ago I wrote a book about updating the Buddhist philosophy of interdependence for the 21st century, called One City: A Declaration of Interdependence. In researching where the term interdependence has surfaced outside of Buddhist thought, I came across Whole Foods' mission statement on their website, which, serendipitously, is also called a "Declaration of Interdependence." Read it -- it's uplifting and full of good intentions on taking care of oneself and taking care of each other. An excellent corporate mission statement for sure. At that time, I was heartened by the thought that -- during the dark and separatist cynicism of the Bush era -- interdependence was still making deep inroads into corporate America.

Then this week I read Whole Foods' CEO John Mackey's Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, which struck me as a highly fearful and regressive take on the healthcare debate, which is undoubtedly one of the most interdependently pressing issues of our time. Mr. Mackey's Wall Street Journal piece might alternatively be titled "A Declaration of I, Me, and Mine."

The world view on display in that piece of writing is one of selfish individualism, mistrust for the very notion representative government itself, and continued support for a system of profit on anabolic steroids. The piece is also amazingly dismissive of the most interdependently-minded president we've had in a long time, taking the term "Obamacare" straight from Rush Limbaugh's play book. The cognitive dissonance between the worldview that seems to inform Mr. Mackey's views on healthcare, and the "Declaration of Interdependence" on his company's website are too much for me to continue to support, at least for now.

As a Buddhist practitioner, I work hard to identify and slowly transform my own internal hypocrisies. Most of them take the following form: I declare good intentions to benefit myself and others. Yet, I fall prey to deep-seeded destructive habits and fearful self-obsessions instead. As a practice, whenever I recognize a destructive habit or a cognitive dissonance, I set an intention to work mindfully and diligently to open myself to a larger, more compassionate and less fixated worldview. This work is slow and difficult, and I look like a hypocrite myself a large percentage of the time. But unless I choose to recognize my own hypocrisies, the work of positive transformation never begins at all. An extension of this practice is to not support the obvious hypocrisies of a friend (and my wallet, at least, has definitely befriended Mr. Mackey for years), especially when the friend is in a position of enormous power and influence.

So until Mr. Mackey learns that truly declaring interdependence means we take care of each other no matter what - a declaration best furthered in the healthcare debate by supporting a single-payer plan, or, at the very least, a strong public option - I am not going to support his cognitive dissonance on interdependence with any more of my hard-earned local-organic-neo-hippie-spinach money.

We are all interdependent. And therefore we must take care of each other and support policies that promote real interdependence. Especially those of us who go so far as to proclaim interdependence as a corporate mission statement.
In the meantime, anybody have a good CSA in Brooklyn?


Alive in Joburg Offers a Sneak Peek at District 9

The Peter Jackson-produced sci-fi flick District 9 opens in U.S. theaters this weekend, and while it features no big stars, the clever ARG and great outdoor advertising campaign have helped give the film some solid buzz. Doesn’t hurt that it’s also getting a great critical response: Rotten Tomatoes rates it a 89 percent on the Tomatometer, giving it a solid shot at becoming one of this summer’s major sleeper hits.

But if you still aren’t sure if it’s for you, skip watching the trailer — instead, check out the 2005 short film it’s based on: Alive in Joburg, directed by District 9 helmer Neill Blomkamp (who also directed Tempbot, and was going to direct the now-on-hold Halo feature film). Alive is District 9 writ small, a documentary-style look at what would have happened if, in 1990, Johannesburg, South Africa’s apartheid system was complicated by the arrival of some truly illegal aliens.

Everything down to the incredibly realistic CGI to the creature design matches with the feature film’s look and feel, but Alive in Joburg is meant more as a treatise on apartheid than a complete narrative. Six minutes in length, it’s available in full at the web site of production company Spy Films — but as their web design is a bit flawed, you may find it easier to watch on Google Video, embedded below.


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