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Bank of Israel May Pop the Bitcoin Bubble

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

The Bank of Israel is considering clamping down on the use of “bitcoins” with stiff regulations and warned the public on Wednesday to beware of possible fraudulent use of the virtual currency.

The bitcoin is a digital currency, but its value is determined by demand. It is worth about $635 today, but was valued at $1,000 late last year and as little as $150 this past September.

Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug issued her warning following the bitcoin’s popularity that has attracted several start-ups to allow the bitcoin to be used to buy everything from soup to shares on the stock market.

The bitcoin “is liable to be exploited for criminal activity, including money laundering, financing illegal activities and financing terrorism,” the Bank stated.

“It was agreed to continue to examine various perspectives related to the use of, and trade in, virtual currencies. These perspectives include possible macro effects, their legal standing, their regulation, money laundering and terror financing risks, taxation and consumer protection.”

The statement added, “It is emphasized that they [bitcoins] are also not legal tender of any country, and that the term used does not indicate any legal status as ‘currency.’”

It also pointed out that bitcoins, since they are only virtual currencies and are stored on smartphones or computers, are subject to robbery through hacking.

Regulators in the United States , Canada, the European Union  and elsewhere, who have published similar warnings to the public.

However, all the warnings may be superfluous. Wired.com reported Wednesday that a computer glitch at Mt. Gox, once the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange, has scared bitcoin owners.

Mt. Gox said two weeks temporarily stopped allowing customers to withdraw bitcoins, stating that the glitch in bitcoin software affected it and another exchange. The result was a dive in the value of bitcoins at Mt. Gox although it has remained steady elsewhere.

Everything You Wanted to Know about Bonds

Monday, February 10th, 2014

On this week’s podcast, find out about bonds. How do they work? And how would you know if they are a good investment for you? Show host Douglas Goldstein explains what bonds are, their various parts, and how to calculate their yield. Tune in to this week’s show to learn more.

IDC’s Combined Degree in Law and Business

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The world is not only getting smaller – it’s getting hungrier, too!

With international commerce getting more competitive, resources dwindling, banks defaulting and world terror a constant threat, nations often find themselves competing in the board room or before a magistrate rather than in the battlefield – led by lawyers rather than generals. Thus, today’s business lawyer must be an expert in international trade and regulations, and a business major must be able to perform in a globalized economy – notwithstanding language and local predilections.

Prof. Sharon Rabin-Margalioth, Dean of the Radzyner School of Law at IDC Herzliya has studied law on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. “In business, local expertise is insufficient; there is a growing need for international business law expertise and the ability to cope with the challenges of globalization. That’s why we’ve established an innovative new program that provides students with significant added value in law and business.”

IDC’s combined degree in Law & Business Administration program focuses on global legal principles. Taught in English, students acquire an in-depth knowledge of international business law and the tools required to integrate into the international legal world and the global business sphere.

US Supreme Court Justice Brandeis once observed that a lawyer who is not proficient in economic theory poses a danger to the public. Today, that assertion would state that one cannot function in a global sphere without an interdisciplinary understanding of geopolitical processes and the realities of any region in which we desire to act.

In law, as in commerce one must draw upon experience and extensive knowledge to solve any problem at hand. One must interpret and utilize social norms and translate these into legal and commercial dispositions. The Radzyner School of Law provides students with that knowledge base and the ability to analyze problems and place them into an appropriate context – an impressive challenge, given the intricate nature of language and human disposition.

Students develop their analytical skills, a creative imagination, a sensitivity for others, and the ability to express themselves in any situation. They also engage in diverse practical experiences, acquire 21st century skills and directly interact with leading figures in the legal practice and academic world from both Israel and abroad. The nine semester curriculum (four years and an additional summer semester) includes law, business and specialized courses integrating the two.

The program is offered by the IDC’s Raphael Recanati International School.

Jonathan Davis who is both Vice-President for External Relations and head of the RRIS is a firm believer in the IDC’s mission of statement: “We are Zionists – here to contribute to Israel and to the Jewish People,” he stresses.” We strive to build bridges between the elites and the underprivileged, between Israelis and the Diaspora, between Israel and its neighbors.”

And, indeed, one of the main goals of the combined degree in International Business Law and Business Administration is to create a truly international learning experience. Students from 86 different countries make up more than a quarter of the student body; and the IDC’s internationally renowned faculty roster reflects both scholarly excellence and practical experience.

“We are constantly expanding the school’s international focus and developing new and exciting opportunities for our students to explore on a global level,” Davis adds.

The Radzyner School of Law is also one of the founding members of the Law Schools Global League – an international alliance between more than twenty law schools, which fosters collaborative relations and offers students the opportunity to study abroad for one semester as part of an extensive student exchange program.

IDC is located in Herzliya, a city six miles north of Tel Aviv along the Mediterranean’s white sandy beach. Besides a host of recreational facilities, the area has been nicknamed Silicon Wadi – attracting the world’s leading venture-capital firms alongside Israeli software and biotech companies, many of them traded on international stock exchanges. When established in 1994, IDC was the first major private educational institution in Israel. Today, with 25 research centers and more than 60 exchange programs with leading universities around the world, IDC employs a truly international and distinctly interdisciplinary approach, allowing students to obtain an education that is comprehensive on so many levels and practical.

False Advertising, Jewish Morality and the Tobacco Industry

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Advertising and marketing are everywhere we look: on billboards and blimps, on television and film, in our newspapers and magazines, on the food boxes we eat from, even on the clothes we wear. This is a far cry from our society 50 years ago – have you ever seen an old film or television show with product placement? These advertisements often increase and shift our desire and even tell us how we might feel and act. Consumer behavior shifts based not on personal needs, economic considerations, or ethical concerns, but on the power of gimmicks and social branding.

For better or worse, the United States has become the advertising capital of the world. Total U.S. advertising expenditures reached nearly $140 billion in 2012, more than a quarter of world advertising expenditures. These can range from the sponsorship of valuable cultural activities or messages urging a more healthful living style to deceptive ads from businesses that endlessly claim to be going out of business and holding one final sale.

One example of an industry full of deceptive advertising is big tobacco, which promotes one of the most addictive and life-threatening substances known to humanity. From top to bottom, it issues false propaganda. For example, in 1994, executives of seven tobacco companies testified before Congress and lied by saying that smoking tobacco was not addictive. Significantly, however, when pressed, the executives added that they hoped that their children would not become smokers.

Tobacco advertisers have proven extraordinarily resilient and successful in promoting their products. While tobacco ads have been banned from radio and television for more than a generation, they have discovered other ways to advertise. They have learned to increase their messaging through sponsoring sports and social events where people cannot avoid exposure to their logos. In addition, cigarette companies target specific populations using various tactics:

Fortunately, society can take steps against such harmful advertisements and promotions, and we can resist false messages. We no longer have to contend with smoke-filled restaurants and theaters, or feel obligated to have ashtrays in our home ready for anyone who chooses to come in and smoke at will. Also, the percentage of American smokers has declined from about 42 percent in 1965 to 19 percent in 2011. In addition, the federal government passed legislation in 2009 that empowered the FDA to regulate tobacco products and gave states the right to restrict cigarette advertising and promotion through means such as restricting the time and place where these activities could occur. Thus far, 20 states now restrict or prohibit places where free tobacco samples can be distributed. Still, today nearly 44 million Americans smoke tobacco, and in 2011 cigarette companies spent $8.37 billion on advertising and promotional activities in the United States. Advertising has the power to persuade, and to deceive.

As religious Jews, one pertinent question about advertising and its relationship to deception and promoting harmful decisions and habits is, what is halacha’s view of this?

In “The Impact of Jewish Values on Marketing and Business Practices,” Hershey Friedman, a professor at Brooklyn College, argues that while Jewish law may not explicitly forbid the influencing of consumers, it clearly violates the spirit of the law. (Specifically, it is geneivat data, deception, which is a Biblical prohibition).

The Talmud (Chullin 94a) gives an example of how business must not include any deception, towards Jews or non-Jews: “A person should not sell shoes made of the leather of an animal that died of natural causes (which is inherently weaker) under the pretense that it was made from the leather of an animal that was slaughtered.” The Shulchan Aruch bring this as halachah (CM 228:6).

Businesses need to compete, and advertising is the norm in commercial life. It is not an option to stop advertising. Further, Jewish law does embrace the notion that a reasonable person’s expectation can be assumed. One Talmudic passage gives an example:

Mar Zutra was once going from Sikara to Mahoza, while Rava and R. Safra were going to Sikara; and they met on the way. Believing that they had come to meet him, he said, “Why did you take the trouble to come so far to meet me?” R. Safra replied, “We did not know that you were coming; had we known, we would have done more than this.” Rava said to him, “Why did you say that to him? Now you have upset him.” He replied, “But we would be deceiving him otherwise.” “No, he would be deceiving himself” (Chullin 94b).

Rav Safra argues that one may not gain from the false perception of another. Rather one must proactively correct that misunderstanding to ensure an unfair moral debt is not created. Rava, on the other hand, believes there is responsibility from the other not to be self-deceived. Aaron Levine, author of “Case Studies in Jewish Business Ethics,” explains that one must not only avoid wrong but proactively assure consumers of the truth. “The seller’s disclosure obligation consists not only of a duty not to mislead in an affirmative manner but also of a requirement to disabuse the customer of his reasonable misperception about the product.”

We see from these sources that Jewish law demands that we be extremely cautious in protecting and promoting the truth. We should take note of and observe these principles in our daily interactions with our fellows on the street, in the beit midrash, in workplace, and in the voting booth and when we talk about creating regulations for advertising.

Google Analytics, Strategy, and You

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

How can you make your online business a success in today’s world of SEO and social media? In the first part of this week’s Goldstein on Gelt podcast, listen to Doug’s interview with Daniel Waisberg, an Analytics advocate at Google, to find out the tactics of building a business on line and how to make the Google search engine process work for you.

A Worried Wife And Mother

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I was pleased to see the letter from a reader titled “Not of This Generation” in your July 12 column, as well as your reply to her over the following two weeks.

I’m also one of those people who are “Not of This Generation.” My friends and I thought your response to the letter writer was perfect, so I thought you might just be the one to help my husband and I resolve our conflict.

We have five children who are all married with lovely families of their own. I know that is a great blessing. My friends always tell me how lucky I am, and I thank Hashem every day. But still have problems.

My husband has his own business. He worked very hard on building it and making it what it is today. In our younger years there were days he never came home. He actually slept in the office. Four years ago my husband started to turn over the business to our children. Two of my sons are professionals so they weren’t interested; our three other children – two sons and one son-in-law – became very much involved and are in the business today.

As you might imagine, there has been some sibling rivalry but my husband managed to smooth it all out. I just hope that (after 120, as we say) there won’t be any split in our family. I’m always frightened of that and my husband to some extent shares my sentiment; however, he does not think there is anything to really worry about. I think he is deluding himself because he doesn’t want to face such a possibility.

In one of our family conferences we pointed out to the children that there is room for everyone if they chose to live in peace but if they opt for acrimony and contention, not only will the business collapse but the entire family will be in jeopardy as well. They all nodded their heads and assured us it won’t happen. But I could see from their expressions that our words hadn’t penetrated.

When I mentioned this to my husband, he said I was getting carried away. Rebbetzin, I have seen families where cousins, aunts and uncles are not even invited to one another’s weddings. Several of my friends have this very problem and tell me that jealousy destroyed their families and businesses.

I have another problem. My husband is 69 and thinking of retiring and moving to Florida. I ask him, “What will you do there?” He replies, “I’ll do what other people do. I’ll play some golf. Maybe I’ll take on a hobby. I always wanted to paint but never had time for it. I’ll to the gym. I’ll play cards. I’ll go boating. I just want to relax and live my life without pressure.”

To make me feel better he tells me, “You can have a wonderful relaxing life. You’ll find many friends. You can learn new hobbies. And then there are things we can do together. We can go out to dinner, to lunch – you won’t even have to cook. There are so many great restaurants in Florida. The weather is good. We can join other friends and have a good time.”

It all sounds wonderful and under normal circumstances I’d love to move to Florida. My sister lives in Boca Raton and I could take a place right near her. Additionally, I have many friends in the area and I know I could have a nice social life. But I’m just so concerned about our children. Perhaps “children” is the wrong word because they are adults, but they will always be my children. My husband tells me I’m being ridiculous, that we can’t watch them forever.

We are not all that observant. We are not fully shomer Shabbos but we are traditional, keep a kosher home and go to synagogue. We support Israel. And we are regular readers of The Jewish Press who very much respect your views and opinions.

My husband is convinced you will agree with him. If that’s the case, I’ll accept it. My husband acknowledges that many families have become divided because of money but he assures me this won’t happen with our children. They come from a good home. Their parents and grandparents (maternal and paternal) imbued them with love and family responsibility.

The children are encouraging my husband to retire. “Dad, Mom,” they say, “just go; we’ll be okay. We won’t do anything radical without discussing it with you. And we’ll come down to Florida a few times a year and you’ll come visit us here.” And then they turn to me. “It’s not like you’re moving to a different country Mom. It’s no big deal. It’s only a two-and-a-half hour flight.”

And yet I’m still very nervous, Rebbetzin. I do hope you can address my problem and that you’ll do so sooner rather than later because my husband is ready to go ahead with his plans.

I wish you a happy and a healthy new year. Your column and books have been blessings in my life.

PA Entrepreneurs Shun Politics in Cisco Systems Training

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Palestinian Authority entrepreneurs are not interested in politics and concentrate on business in a Cisco-Israel training program, Forbes business magazine reported. Israeli Jewish high-tech experts coach PA CEOs and middle-level managers in the sessions.

Cisco CEO John Chambers began thinking about the program after meeting with  chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in 2008.

“I personally went to Cisco and said, ‘Forget about donating; allocate part of the money and help us create jobs,” according to  Tariq Maayah, a top Palestinian entrepreneur and business leader who spoke with Forbes.

Jews are carrying out the training because Cisco could not find any qualified PA Arabs.

“We didn’t find any Palestinian experts with the kind of credentials or backgrounds we needed,  and to bring them from the [United] States would be too expensive, so we have to use the Israeli Jews. Because we have plenty of those in Israel,” explained Gai Hetzroni, a top Cisco R&D executive. “

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/pa-entrepreneurs-shun-politics-in-cisco-systems-training/2013/07/26/

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