In Havana Club rum wars, Bacardi turns to court of public opinion

MIAMI, Fla. — The war between rival liquor giants Bacardi and Pernod Ricard over who owns the rights to the name Havana Club has been in U.S. courts for years, but Bacardí is courting public opinion through a theater experience that premiered in Miami and seeks to tell the story of the Cuban family who first created the famous rum and then fled the country after Fidel Castro took power. "Amparo," named after the widow of the late Ramon Arechabala, whose family founded Havana Club in 1934, takes the audience to pre-revolutionary Cuba and chronicles the story of the confiscation of their company by the communist government and their subsequent exile. Bacardi, the largest privately held spirits maker in the world, has been selling Havana Club made in Puerto Rico since 1995, after it purchased the recipe and rights to the trademark from the Arechabala family. In 2016, they introduced a new line along with eye-catching advertising that conjures up the period in Cuba before the 1959 revolution. But the French company Pernod Ricard says the trademark belongs to them and their Cuban partner, Cuba Ron. Pernod made a deal with the Cuban government in 1993 to distribute their version of Havana Club around the world. In Cuba, Havana Club has become an iconic product. Their marketing can be found all over the island in hotels, restaurants, the airport and market stalls, where T-shirts with the label can be purchased. Many American tourists purchase bottles and pack them in suitcases to take home. Cuba Ron's bottle has a different look and label from the one the Arechabalas produced, but the Cuban government has kept the year 1878 on many of the bottles — the year the Arechabala family brand was born. The website does not mention the history of Havana Club. Havana Club's complicated history The story behind the two words “Havana Club” has many twists and turns and began almost 150 years ago. Paola Arechabala recounted to NBC News, before Continue Reading

After acquittal, Rick Brunson addresses court of public opinion

For close to 16 months, Rick Brunson has remained publicly silent. The former Bulls player and former Bulls assistant coach listened as his name was sullied and as taunts were tossed at his son, the reigning Mr. Basketball of Illinois and Villanova-bound Jalen. He watched as job opportunities for his coaching career dwindled. And he waited for his day in court, when he took the stand and told his truth of what happened on April 2, 2014. Lake County Judge James Booras agreed with Brunson in a bench trial, acquitting him of all charges he had sexually abused a massage therapist at Vernon Hills’ Lifetime Fitness. Sometimes, the court of public opinion is tougher. "I want to move forward," Brunson said. "I just want to clear my name. I'm not an angel. But I'm damn sure not a criminal." In a startlingly candid interview, Brunson went into painstaking detail to deny each charge against him. He expressed disappointment with the Vernon Hills Police Department and said his case can serve as an instructional tale for those with name recognition and money. "People are looking at it like did he do it or did he have a good lawyer to get him off," Brunson said. "I didn't beat a case. There was no case to beat because I didn't do anything wrong. "The woman changed her story three times. It was all about money, financial gain. That was it." Most poignantly, Brunson elaborated on his court testimony that the incident that led to charges of attempted criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse, aggravated battery and domestic battery was part of an ongoing extramarital relationship and emphatically defended his son, who led Stevenson High to its first state championship and recently earned MVP honors as USA Basketball won gold at the FIBA under-19 world championships in Greece. "It has been hell," Brunson said. "My son is one of the toughest kids I've ever seen. If it was me, I would never have been able to handle what he handled, people taunting him. He's an 18-year-old kid Continue Reading

Daniel Yankelovich, master of public opinion research, dies at 92

Daniel Yankelovich, the pollster, author and public opinion analyst who for a half-century mirrored the perceptions of generations of Americans about politics, consumer products, social changes and, not least, themselves, died on Friday morning at his home in La Jolla. He was 92.His daughter, Nicole Yankelovich Mordecai, said the cause was kidney failure.Until the late 1950s, market research, when done at all, was a relatively crude way of trying to figure out whether a new soap or a set of kickable tires would go over with the American public. Often it was just guesswork. No corporation today would risk introducing a product without knowing, in advance, how well it is likely to sell, what it should look like, what to call it, and how to package, advertise and distribute it.Mr. Yankelovich (pronounced yank-el-OH-vich), an ebullient egghead with a passion for research, was part of a coterie of pollsters who changed all that. He came along at the right time with the idea that all kinds of academic discipline — psychology, sociology, statistical analysis and other offerings from the course catalogs — could be harnessed to the service of business, government and the masses.One of the nation’s most respected social researchers, Mr. Yankelovich devised innovative surveys of small representative groups not only to track American preferences in cars and toothpaste, but also to understand the values and goals of ordinary people — what made them feel moral, happy or fulfilled, or miserable and marginalized in an affluent but impersonal society.Unlike the pioneering pollsters George Gallup, Elmo Roper and Louis Harris, Mr. Yankelovich did not stress election results, though he accurately called some presidential races, and his work helped national leaders, including Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, shape political agendas and domestic and foreign policies.He focused more on detailing, and explaining, shifting trends in American life: the Continue Reading

Why America’s Military Isn’t Even Close to Being the Greatest in the World

Winning: It’s written into the DNA of the USA. After all, what’s more American than football-legend Vince Lombardi’s famous (if purloined) maxim: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”? Americans expect to be number one. First lady Michelle Obama recently called the United States the “greatest country on Earth.” (Take that, world public opinion, and your choice of Germany!) Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton went even further, touting America as “the greatest country that has ever been created.” Her rival, Donald Trump, who for political gain badmouths the country that made him rich and famous, does so in the hope of returning America to supposedly halcyon days of unparalleled greatness. He’s predicted that his presidency might lead to an actual winning overload. “We’re going to win so much,” he told supporters. “You’re going to get tired of winning. You’re going to say, ‘Please, Mr. President… don’t win so much’… . And I’m going to say, ‘No, we have to make America great again.… We’re gonna keep winning.’” As Trump well knows, Americans take winning very seriously. Look no further than the US gold-medal count at the recent Rio Olympics: 46. The next-highest total? Great Britain’s 27, almost 20 fewer than those of the country whose upstart rebels bested them in the 18th century, the nation’s ur-victory. The young United States then beat back the Brits in the early 1800s, and twice bailed them out in victorious world wars during the 20th century. In the intervening years, the United States built up a gaudy military record—slaughtering native tribes, punishing Mexico, pummeling Spain—but the best was yet to come. “Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” boasted President Barack Obama in this year’s Continue Reading

Pro-Canadian oil group’s plan to use ‘hot lesbians’ to turn public opinion against Saudi Arabia backfires

A Canadian group advocating for its country's development of oil sands has been criticized for creating a poster featuring two women embracing with a caption that reads, "In Canada, lesbians are considered hot! In Saudi Arabia, if you're a lesbian, you die!" The Canada Oil Sands Community sought to draw attention to the nation's use of fuel from Saudi Arabia, a country where sex outside of marriage, including same-sex intercourse, is punishable by death and gay marriage is nonexistent. Rather than turn Canadians against the Middle Eastern kingdom though, the post's use of nearly lip-locked lesbians caused a backlash online. "(We used) a random stock image," founder Robbie Picard told the National Post, "but the point was to draw attention to the bigger issue. I was surprised there was so much response to it." After Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, Canada has the third largest crude oil reserves in the world, yet according to National Resources Canada, Eastern Canada relies on oil from the U.S. and OPEC nations such as Saudi Arabia. "I think all lesbians are hot and I'm not opposed to putting a picture of two guys up there," Picard continued to say in defense of the ad. "It was just to strike up a conversation. I find anybody is hot. I think two women kissing is hot. I think that something that is part of the fabric of our city — that we can do whatever we want in our country — that is hot." Continue Reading

U.S. soccer president says new immigration law might cost Arizona chance to host World Cup game

After delivering a bid book Friday to FIFA in an effort to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cups, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati indicated that Phoenix might be dropped from plans if Arizona doesn't amend its new immigration law."We'd have to think long and hard about it," Gulati said, from Zurich. "We have 18 cities (in the bid proposal) and we only need 12 ... It may cost the state."Gulati was hopeful that the Arizona law, which grants law enforcement officials unprecedented power to detain individuals suspected of being in the country illegally, will be amended between now and when the U.S. would finalize plans to stage the World Cup. A FIFA executive board of 24 members will vote in December to assign both the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. England is considered the favorite for 2018, while the U.S. is reasonably hopeful for 2022, although Australia's bid is considered a threat.Gulati said that no FIFA members had yet approached him about the Arizona law, although a scheduled match in Glendale, Ariz., between two Mexican teams, America and Pachuca, was cancelled because of the bill."We have plenty of options," Gulati said. "Public opinion is awkward to rely on, because polls actually show a majority in this country are in favor of the law, though that is not (a view) shared by me."The U.S. hopes to sway FIFA with the promise of $1 billion in projected revenues from five million tickets that are certain to be sold. In addition, there is the hope that a second men's World Cup here would give MLS and youth soccer another boost.Other bidders are England, Russia, Belgium/Netherlands, Portugal/Spain, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Qatar. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

A world without Google? The Chinese seem fine with it

A world without Google? They can imagine it just fine in China. After all, it's not like losing "World of Warcraft." The online giant's threat to pull out of China over censorship has drawn little reaction among the country's 384 million Internet users. No flood of complaints to China's consumer rights agency, like the tens of thousands received in one day when the online fantasy game "World of Warcraft" was yanked last year because of a bureaucratic turf battle. Nor has there been the type of fury that saw 32,000 indignant gamers participate in an online chat session on the "World of Warcraft." "If Google leaves China, we'll lose one search engine. But we still have other choices," said 28-year-old Deng Zhiluo, who works in marketing in Beijing. He said while Google's search results are more "international," most of what he wants can be found on Chinese competitor Baidu. "For locals, Baidu is enough." The indifference of many Chinese points to a telling challenge for Google in the world's most populous Internet market. The Chinese Internet world is youthful, with people under 30 making up 61.5 percent of the online population, and Google's cause isn't generating popular support among China's wired teens and 20-somethings. "It's like in the U.S. saying, 'You can't use Yahoo search anymore'," said T.R. Harrington, CEO of Shanghai-based Darwin Marketing, which specializes in China's search engines. "What would people say? 'So what? I'll use Google more, and I'll try Bing and I might try a few other ones ... I don't care.'" Google threatened three weeks ago to shut down its Chinese search engine,, citing cyberattacks emanating from China plus attempts to snoop on dissidents. Some Chinese admire the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's stand and its "don't be evil" image: A few dozen laid flowers outside Google's Beijing headquarters, and a few hundred joined a "Don't Go Google" Web site before it was shut down for unknown reasons. The trouble Continue Reading

The call heard round the airwaves: Radio world reacts to Clemens breaking silence

Colin Cowherd Reaction on ESPN "Pete Rose is the classic example, who now years later has 'fessed up. He knew the truth, we knew the truth ... This society we live in is very accepting of mistakes. The American public will vote a former cocaine user, George Bush, into the White House. We will vote a philander, Bill Clinton, into the White House. Washington re-elected crack smoker Marion Barry. We as a society, we are incredibly forgiving in America. It is a frenetic society with lots of choices, but look us in the eye and lie, we will turn on you harshly and quickly." "He's gone from the penthouse to the outhouse publicly … The people are really tired of Clemens' act. People's emails are like, 'This guy is a fraud.'" "Overwhelmingly, reasonable people don't believe Roger Clemens. There's going to be sycophants and fan boys, but even Jason Stark, who has always given players the benefit of the doubt, even he acknowledges it's hard to buy Clemens' story." "There are inconsistencies that are hard to explain," Jayson Stark said on 'Mike and Mike' Tuesday morning. "The fact that his good friend Andy Pettitte doesn't believe him. The fact that his wife, Debbie Clemens, has admitted that Brian McNamee administered HGH to her, and we're supposed to believe that he never did that for her husband, that's troubling." Mike Francesa on Clemens on WFAN "Clemens reminds you of Pete Rose in this regard. Just like it took Rose so many opportunities, just like it took Rose to have a building finally fall on him, it looks like it will take Clemens that much time and that much weight for him to finally come back to reality. Guys like Clemens and Rose have only known one thing in their lives: success. As players that's all they've known, and their feeling always was that they could will anything to happen - that through the sheer force of their will could make things happen, and it happened on the field that way. … But they actually think they can turn black Continue Reading

Roger Clemens has his public erring

Even if prosecutors now launch a criminal investigation into possible perjury charges against Roger Clemens, his real case sits in the only hall of justice that appears to concern Clemens in the slightest - the court of public opinion. And in this venue, as Clemens himself admitted on Wednesday before a congressional committee, he has already lost. "No matter what we discuss here today," he said, "I'll never get my name back." He may have been premature about such pessimism, but after five hours of testimony he appeared to have been right all along. His arguments sounded hollow. With his own angry talk in Washington, he basically volunteered himself to be placed headfirst into a stockade in the main square of professional sports. Clemens has been found guilty by the vast majority of loud voices in America, and there are plenty of them. Columnists, television commentators and callers to radio talk shows yesterday formed a rare, clear majority that passionately believes Clemens is not telling the truth - in large part, because of Saint Andy Pettitte's deposition. When Mike plus the Mad Dog both agree you are lying, well ... where exactly do you turn next? Not to the electors for the Hall of Fame. With his show of defiance, Clemens has probably alienated more than enough baseball writers to assure his nonelection for decades to come. A show of contrition might have worked better in this regard, or perhaps not. Once the Mitchell Report arrived, Clemens was likely doomed to Pete Rose status: Cooperstown purgatory. If only the world were comprised of Republican congressmen and ex-Presidents, Clemens might hold his head high and march through life surrounded by stubborn, adoring masses. But those oddball politicians we witnessed on Wednesday would appear to be drastically out of step with any true constituency. Instead, Clemens must map a new strategy, with the aid of friends and attorneys. Assuming he can escape further legal problems, there is much Continue Reading


MEL GIBSON copped a plea yesterday in his drunken driving case, but Jewish groups said the jury is still out on his anti-Semitic meltdown during his bust. The actor's attorney entered a no contest plea on his behalf in a Malibu, Calif., courtroom. Superior Court Judge Lawrence Mira sentenced Gibson to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for the next year, enroll in an alcohol-abuse program and pay a $1,300 fine. Gibson's driver's license was also suspended for 90 days. "This was an appropriate outcome, which addresses all the public safety concerns of drinking and driving," said prosecutor Gina Satriano. Satriano said Gibson, who has checked himself into an alcohol rehabilitation center, also volunteered to do a public service announcement on the hazards of drinking and driving. While the "Braveheart" star sets off to meet his court-ordered requirements, he has done little to redeem himself in the court of public opinion. "There's much more to that incident than driving under the influence," said David Marwell, director of New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage. Marwell said Gibson has yet to accept an invitation to come to the museum to learn about Jewish history. Gibson was collared July 28 when a sheriff's deputy clocked his 2006 Lexus LS doing 85 mph in a 45-mph zone on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Gibson's blood-alcohol level was almost double the legal limit of .08, and an open bottle of tequila was found in his car. While being taken into custody, Gibson launched into an ugly rant, screaming, "F-----g Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson apologized, blaming the "despicable" remarks on a "horrific relapse" in his battle with alcoholism. But Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Gibson "hasn't taken any steps to redress the form of bigotry he displayed." "What we cannot do is offer him absolution based on an eloquent press release," said Hier, who is also an Academy Award-winning Continue Reading