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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Google’

More Things to Come — in America

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

In a previous post, I imagined the situation in 2018, with Israel’s traditional Arab and Iranian enemies mostly toothless as a result of Sunni-Shiite conflict and economic incompetence, while a new threat emanates from a viciously anti-Jewish Western Europe. There, traditional European Jew-hatred has combined with the influence of a rapidly growing Muslim population to produce a true witches’ brew of hatred for Jews and their state.

But as one commenter noted, there was a country that, despite its importance, was not mentioned even once: the US. And the reason was that although the trends for Europe seemed clear, my ability to imagine the future here in the US was far weaker, producing only cloudy visions.

Or maybe I just wasn’t comfortable with what I envisioned. But let me flip the switch on the time machine anyway.

It’s 2018. President Clinton is halfway through her first term, having been helped to a landslide victory by a lackluster Republican candidate nominated by a fractured party split between representatives of extractive industries, social conservatives and Tea Party libertarians. Although the media that had so single-mindedly shilled for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 had begun to tire of him when the heavy hand of the Justice Department fell on them in 2013, Ms Clinton convinced the press that she was on their side. After all, wasn’t her own daughter a TV journalist?

Demographic changes also helped. Hispanics and Asians represented a greater share of the population than in 2012, and these groups voted heavily Democratic, especially as Clinton and her husband had campaigned hard for the American Immigration and Diversity Act of 2014, which provided a relatively unobstructed path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (and future Democratic voters). Many people voted for Ms Clinton simply because they thought it was time to give a woman a chance (it was hard to argue that male politicians hadn’t screwed up big time).

Although the Republican Party had traditionally been considered the party of ‘big business’, 2018′s biggest businesses — Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. — gave large contributions to Democratic candidates, and only smaller ‘insurance’ donations to Republicans.

Finally, there were some less savory aspects to the election. Small businesspeople thought twice about publicly supporting Republican candidates out of fear of regulatory agencies and the IRS, which were even more politically active than in 2013, despite the furor that had arisen then. Lists were compiled of voters that had moved or died, and since there was no requirement for ID to vote in most states, others voted in their places. Information from the massive NSA databases about ordinary Americans found its way to political operatives.

It was no contest for the presidency, and only slightly less unbalanced in the House and Senate.

Not that the Congress mattered that much anymore. Despite its constitutionally mandated role, its continued paralysis through the Obama years made it inevitable that the Executive Branch would find ways around it. By 2018, many of its debates were only political posturing, while the real decisions were taken by the administration by executive orders. Some politicians made quaint speeches about the Constitution, to little effect. “What can we do?” said administration spokespeople. “The Congress is dysfunctional.”

Although the Democrats had campaigned against income inequality, it turned out that the rich — especially the super-rich — were continuing to get richer, and the poor and middle-class poorer. Despite the commitments of the ‘progressive’ administration, health-care and other services for the poor, disabled, mentally ill, homeless, etc., suffered more and more for lack of funds. Many roamed the streets, begging and stealing to survive.

Shortly after Clinton’s election at the tail end of the Israeli-Hezbollah war of 2016, Hezbollah activated several terrorist cells who had infiltrated the US from South America via the Mexican border. They succeeded in detonating bombs at LA International Airport and several Jewish institutions in Los Angeles. They also invaded the Israeli consulate there, killing several security personnel and taking numerous hostages. Although Israel sent a security team, the terrorists began executing hostages before they arrived, and the LAPD stormed the building, resulting in a bloodbath of terrorists, hostages and police.

After the LAX bomb was determined to contain radioactive materials — a ‘dirty bomb’ — the centrally-located airport was abandoned at huge cost. Property values tumbled within a 30-mile radius (although the contamination was in fact limited to the airport area). The city of Los Angeles was forced to declare bankruptcy when it could not come close to balancing its budget.

Many Americans asked how this could have been allowed to happen, given the degree of surveillance that they had become used to, including tracking of cellphone usage, emails, monitoring of the content of voice communications, and a massive expansion of facial recognition software which received inputs from hundreds of thousands of cameras in public areas and matched it to databases of passport and driver’s license photos. Since these programs were revealed in 2013, they had become even more pervasive — and the security agencies developed incredibly powerful search tools than can spit out complete dossiers on the lives of individual people or groups, by analyzing literally trillions of database entries in moments.

President Clinton promised to “bring the terrorists to justice,” but Israel had already destroyed the Hezbollah infrastructure in Lebanon, so all she could do was send the few surviving terrorists to Guantanamo (which she promised to close). US Muslim organizations such as CAIR, ISNA, etc., swung into action to forestall an expected ‘wave of Islamophobia’. Liberal churches and Reform Temples throughout the country held special meetings in which representatives of those organizations ‘explained’ the difference between ‘bad’ (Shiite) Muslims like Hezbollah, and ‘good’ Muslim-Brotherhood types like themselves. They also hinted that the patience of even ‘good’ Muslims could run out if the US continued to support the existence of a Jewish state.

It was argued that ‘hate speech’ against Islam was partly responsible for the anger against the West, and that — while everybody had a right to free expression — certain videos and blogs should be removed from the Internet, because they exacerbated a bad situation. Many people agreed. The Clinton Administration hinted that “it knew how to deal with hate-mongers” and would take steps to do so.

The Administration issued a classified executive order called the “Homeland Protection Act” [HPA] which was explained as a response to the “West Coast 9/11.” Since it was classified, the contents were not revealed, but it was understood that it was necessary to deal with the emergency, just like the broad surveillance measures. It was thought that it temporarily suspended certain parts of the Bill of Rights. Again, many Americans agreed, and those who didn’t understood that they needed to be very careful about how they expressed their disagreement.

Some Americans were taken into custody under the HPA. Interestingly, they were mostly right-wingers, not Islamic terrorists. But the HPA apparently didn’t require that they be publicly charged, so in essence they disappeared.

The Canadian Prime Minister expressed his concern about the erosion of civil rights in the US, especially since many Americans were crossing the border into Canada daily. The US government responded by beefing up its control of the Canadian border, subjecting suspected emigrants to impromptu examinations to ensure that they were not trying to avoid their US tax obligations. The Administration issued an executive order than anyone leaving the US had to prove that they had paid all due taxes or post a bond. In some places, they built a wall.

Impossible? I wonder.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Vic Rosenthal

Savvy Israelis Ahead of US in Smartphone Internet Use

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Israel is ahead of the United States and Europe in the use of Internet on smartphones, and Israel is almost at the top of pack in the percentage of people owning smartphones, according to Google and other market surveys.

Israel is the country that gave the world chat instant messaging, disk on-key, Waze and MobileEye, among hundreds of other high-tech gadgets and computer programs.

The smartphone came to Israel in 2009, two years after it was launched in the United States and Europe, but Israelis have made up for lost time.

Approximately 93 percent of Israelis use Internet through smartphone, compared with 83 percent in the United States, and 77 percent watch YouTube, according to Google and Ipsos MediaCT surveys, which examine habits of smartphone use worldwide.

More than 57 percent of Israelis have a smartphone, up from 35 percent last year. At even half that rate of growth, Israelis will be the most smartphone-saturated country in the world next year. The penetration in France is only 42 percent and in Germany is 40 percent.

Approximately 60 percent of Americans are estimated to have smartphones, and 62 percent of Britons have the high-tech gadget.

Israelis have the popular habit of answering phones in the middle of a chupah or Brit Mila. The new marketing surveys show that half of Israelis feel comfortable in using their smartphones at social occasions. When using the smartphones in coffee shops, more than half of the respondents said they use one hand for holding the coffee cup and the other for the smartphone.

When Israelis start trying to speak with the coffee cups and drinking the smartphones, then we knew have a big problem.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Google to Buy Waze for $1.3 Billion

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Google will fork out $1.3 billion to buy the Israeli-based Waze social-friendly navigation app, the Hebrew-language Globes business newspaper reported Sunday. Waze’s staff reportedly will remain in Raanana.

Facebook reportedly was in front of the lineup to buy Waze, but Waze rejected the condition that its staff be transferred to the United States. Waze may also have been holding out for more money, and Google came up with the right price.

Apple had been rumored to be a potential bidder, but Apple CEO Tim Cook denied those reports.

Waze has soared in popularity, with more than 50 million users around the world, and that number is growing every day.

Google has shown that it loves Israel. In 2010, it bought up website gadget developer LabPixies for $25 million and interactive video-clip developer QuikSee for $10 million, and has set up a Google office here. Facebook, on the other hand, has closed down the Israeli operations of most of the companies it bought up.

The Waze app allows drivers using smartphone and tablet to share information on driving times and traffic situations, as well as the location of police radar traps, accidents and hazardous conditions. Based on user-shared information, it helps users find the fastest path to their destination taking into account traffic conditions and preferred routes.

The $1.3 billion price tag is more than 40 times the $30 million of financing Waze received less than year ago, three years after it was founded.  Waze’s founders will be instant multi-millionaires thanks to the Google purchase, which has not been officially confirmed.

But no one has denied the purchase eitehr. Waze told Globes “no comment,” and Google said, “We don’t relate to rumors and speculation.”

The influx of another $1.3 billion into Israel is great news for the Finance Ministry and for anyone purchasing items whose prices are based on the dollar. It is terrible news for exporters and for Israelis whose salaries come from the United States.

The influx of dollars will put downward pressure on the shekel-dollar rate, which dropped last week to 3.61 shekels to the dollar.

Last month. Warren Buffet paid out $2 billion to buy the remaining shares of the Iscar precision tool maker, and PepsiCo and Coca Cola are now rumored to be offering approximately $2 billion for the Israeli SodaStream manufacturer of machines that convert tap water into soda, and which had become an international hit.

The influx of those big bucks, along with the prospects of Israel’s exporting gas and bringing in more foreign currency, has strengthened the shekel. It also is a major headache for corporations and wage earners whose profits and salaries are in dollars and then converted to shekels.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer has tried to battle the drop in the shekel-dollar rate by cutting the interest rate by a quarter of a percent, twice in two weeks, and announcing a $2 billion buying binge of dollars. So far, the “Fischer effect” has been negligible and the rate has continued to drop.

Following the report of the Google purchase of Waze, the exchange rate may drop again Monday when currency trading resumes, unless Fischer buys more dollars – lots of them.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Can Google Glasses Help Your Rabbi Decide if the Etrog is Kosher?

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Over the past few weeks, strangers have begun stopping high school computer science teacher Chaim Cohen on the street. A few accuse him of recording them without their knowledge. Even fewer blame him for all of society’s ills.

But many just want an answer to a simple question: Is he wearing Google Glass?

Cohen is among the approximately 2,000 developers throughout the United States who are trying out the search giant’s much-hyped wearable computer, a futuristic Internet-connected gadget that users wear like a pair of glasses and enables them to stream information from the Web directly into their field of vision.

Using voice commands and hand gestures, Google Glass users can take pictures, record videos, get directions and send messages.

“I offer to let them try it on,” Cohen said. “My goal is to advocate for this and show people that this is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.”

Well before Google Glass is expected to be publicly available sometime in 2014, the device already is generating controversy. Critics worry that users will be able to surreptitiously take photographs with an app that permits wearers to snap pictures just by winking. Some bars and casinos, citing privacy concerns, have preemptively banned the device. In West Virginia, legislators have tried to make it illegal to wear Glass while driving.

But none of this concerns Barry Schwartz, CEO of the Web development firm RustyBrick, who can hardly wait to get his hands on it. Schwartz is one of the 8,000 “explorers” chosen by Google to receive the device for $1,500 apiece.

“We would be programming Jewish-related apps to help Jewish people use the technology to live their Jewish lives,” said Schwartz, whose company has already developed popular Jewish applications for smartphones, like a digital prayer book and Hebrew translator.

Schwartz’s vision of a Glass-enabled Jewish life sounds incredibly futuristic. Notifications flash when it’s time to pray. Nearby synagogues or kosher restaurants are instantly located. Important Jewish dates such as yahrtzeits and holidays are never forgotten.

Recently, a Chabad rabbi at StanfordUniversity set up a Google Glass tefillin stand. Men who chose to don the ritual leather straps then put on Glass and the blessing flashed before their eyes.

Google Glass, which is generating controversy even before hitting the market in 2014, is being seen as a powerful technology for Jewish applications. Potential Jewish applications for Glass are endless, Schwartz says.

“Let’s say you want to buy an etrog,” he said. “You can create a Google Hangout and have a rabbi look at the etrog as you are looking at it. The rabbi can ask you to turn it to the right and turn it to the left, and can give you an opinion about it right away.”

Mike Vidikan of the Washington, D.C.-based organization Innovaro, which provides insights about how new technologies will shape the future business environment, expects that Glass also could significantly change how consumers shop for kosher food.

“As they start inspecting a particular group of foods,” he explained, “notifications could pop up with information about the kosher certifications, as well as reviews, and who in their social networks recommend it.”

In education, where information technology already is transforming the classroom experience, Glass could be yet another game-changer. Hebrew school classes could tour Israel virtually, seeing the country though the eyes of a guide equipped with the device. Students in various locations could participate in classes together, following text as seen through the eyes of a teacher.

Cohen, who teaches at a public school in central New Jersey, plans to develop an application that will help him learn his students’ names.

“I don’t remember all the names of my students during the first weeks of school,” he said. “I want to be able to look at them and have their names overlapped on top.”

Despite the enthusiasm, tech experts from Jewish day schools are skeptical. Price is one factor. At $1,500, Glass is significantly more expensive than an iPad or similar devices.

Educators also are understandably uneasy about a device that can snap pictures, literally, with the wink of an eye. Others point out that since Glass’ apps are still being developed, its educational value remains to be seen.

JTA

Waze’s Demand to Keep Jobs in Israel Freezes Facebook’s Bid

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Israel’s Waze user-based social mapping and navigation startup seems to be too Zionist for Facebook, which has been trying to pay up to $1 billion for the company.

Facebook reportedly insists that the Waze management team re-locate to California from Israel, a condition that money can’t buy, at least not yet, according to the AllThingsD website.

Google, which has an R & D center in Israel, also has been interested in buying up Waze, but Apple denies similar rumors.

The purchase of Waze by Facebook would be logical because Waze’s success is based on drivers reporting to each other traffic conditions and radar traps. Facebook does not offer any mapping services.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Google and the Defenders of Kfar Etzion

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Gush Etzion is an area southeast of Jerusalem, which contains several “settlements.” One of them is Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. Part of the Palestine Mandate from 1917 to 1948, and the Ottoman empire before that, it was purchased from local Arabs and settled by Yemenite Jews in 1927.  They lived there on and off (they were driven out several times by Arab “riots”) until May 1948 when the invading Jordanian army overran it and massacred all but four of its defenders. All of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were made Jew-free by the Jordanians, who illegally occupied the area until 1967, when the kibbutz was reestablished.

The Haganah sent thirty-five men to relieve the besieged kibbutzim of Gush Etzion in January 1948, following an Arab attack. They were wiped out and their bodies mutilated after an Arab shepherd, whom they unwisely set free after encountering him on the way, reported their presence. They are referred to as the lamed hey, “the thirty-five.”

Let me spell it out more clearly: Jews lived there on land they owned. The kibbutzim of Gush Etzion (there were four of them) represented the realization of the promise made by the world to the Jewish people in the Palestine Mandate, that there would be a national home in the land of Israel. Arabs violently resisted their presence, and when Jordan violated the U.N. charter by invading and occupying Judea and Samaria in 1948, Jews were murdered or expelled. Not one Jew was allowed to remain on the Jordanian side of the cease-fire line. Because they were Jews.

But in the eyes of the “international community,” the ethnic cleansing of the area east of the 1949 armistice line and the 19-year Jordanian occupation thereof transformed Gush Etzion into Arab land, land that today “belongs” to the new non-member-state of the U.N., “Palestine.”

Apparently this magical transmutation was recognized by Google, because when Jewish residents of Gush Etzion tried to use Google’s search engine this month, they received a message suggesting that they switch to the appropriate page for their location, Google Palestine (Google.ps), in Arabic, rather than the Hebrew-language Google Israel (Google.il) they had been using. This follows Google’s recent decision to re-title Google.ps “Palestine” instead of “Palestinian territories.”

Some people think this is much ado about nothing, and at a time when nobody knows if Israel will be at war with Hizballah, Syria and Iran tomorrow, they have a point.

But it is indicative of a much bigger problem. In its desire to present itself as a peace-loving member of the “international community,” Israeli governments have not asserted the historic right of the Jewish people, guaranteed in international law, to the land of Israel. They have not challenged the U.N.’s abdication of its responsibility, inherited from the League of Nations, to preserve this right. They have allowed the Arab position, that the Jews are colonialist interlopers occupying Arab land, to become the conventional wisdom.

I am not saying that it isn’t possible for Israel to agree to a negotiated settlement that would transfer some part of the area of the original mandate to Arab sovereignty, assuming that it could be consistent with Israel’s security. But this has to be negotiated from the starting point that the Jewish people have prima facie rights to Judea and Samaria, not the Palestinian Arabs.

This distortion underlies the position of the U.S. that Israel should withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines “with land swaps.” In other words, the U.S. believes that the armistice lines represent the boundaries of “Arab land” and so if Israel annexes any of it, the Arabs must be “compensated.” Why? The land wasn’t theirs to begin with!

Recent Israeli governments have argued for holding onto parts of the territories for security reasons, an argument which makes eminent sense. But they have generally avoided firmly asserting that Israel, on behalf of the Jewish people, holds the legal title to the land and has the right to dispose of it as it sees fit. The Arabs, of course, aren’t shy in saying that it’s all theirs, and that in addition, Jews aren’t allowed to live there.

Vic Rosenthal

Waze. Outsmarting Google and Facebook. Together.

Friday, May 24th, 2013

With the deal Facebook and Waze not yet closed, Google has reportedly jumped into the fray,  making a play for the Israeli start-up company, who’s opening bid is at $1 billion dollars.

There’s another alternative also on the table now, Waze turns down both giants, keeps its independence, and raises money with another round of venture capital.

Waze currently has 40 million registered users, and is generally considered to be best navigation program out there.

Any which way they go, Waze wins.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/waze-outsmarting-google-and-facebook-together/2013/05/24/

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