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December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Israeli Food Retailers Required to Publish Prices Online

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

New regulations signed yesterday will force major food retailers in Israel to publish their prices on the internet and update them hourly.

The regulations, signed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, are intended to promote competition between the 19 food chains, according to Globes.

Lapid told media in a statement released by his office: “With the passage of the Food Law, the Consumer Protection and Fair Trade Authority has begun intensive work to formulate regulations that stipulate the technical specifications and the way in which information will be posted and updated on the retailer’s website.

“The Authority’s work in conjunction with the Ministry of the Economy and the Budgets Division at the Ministry of Finance was carried out in consultation with computing experts, and included extensive discussion with the retailers to which the law will apply.

“Applications developers were also brought in, in the expectation that they will us the information to develop price comparison applications.

“We continue to fight against the cost of living. Through price transparency, competition between the retail chains will increase, leading to cheaper prices,” Lapid said.

The government ultimately expects to create a mobile app that will allow consumers to check online while out and about to see which store is selling an item at the best price per unit.

Max Levchin Looking To Repeat Paypal Success With Affirm

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

This article first appeared on JewishBusinessNews

PayPal co-founder Max Levchin netted a reported $34 million when his brainchild was sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Ever since that day, the sometimes weird whiz kid Levchin, now 39, has been trying to do it again.

Now he told the San Jose Mercury News that he did.

Actually, he has been into another impressive project since PaPal, helping to start Yelp, the gripe and review site which is worth about $5.4 billion, and then there was Slide, a social gaming site that Google bought in 2010 for an estimated $200 million.

Now Levchin has launched Affirm, an online lending platform that offers personalized financing for. He announced last June that Affirm had raised $45 million in its first venture capital funding round. And people are paying attention, expecting Affirm to reach a PayPal kind of success.

Like PayPal, Affirm uses the Internet to move money around, in a secure fashion, which has the potential of peeling off yet another traditional bastion of global financial institutions, offering consumers buying power they never had before.

“I’m not trying to correct the wrongs of the past,” Levchin told the San Jose Mercury News. “But the underlying structure of the finance industry is still decrepit.”

Affirm offers consumers, especially young people, who don’t yet have cash or credit to their names, the financing they need to make big purchases, with delayed payments and monthly payment plans, helping them stay away from the scourge of credit card debt.

Scott Banister, an investor and former business partner of Levchin’s, described Affirm as “Max getting back into financial services with everything he learned from PayPal. You will definitely see big things.”

Levchin grew up in Kiev, Ukraine, in a Jewish family that fled rising anti-Semitism for Chicago, where they arrived when Max was 16.

4G Mobile Network Coming to Israel

Monday, July 14th, 2014

The Communications Ministry has issued a tender for the operation of fourth-generation – 4G – LTE mobile phone networks in Israel.

A 4G network, which has been operational in the United States for several years, allows users to work with the Internet at speeds three to five times the current rate.

Communications Minister Gilad Erdan told journalists in a statement, “Fourth generation services will make possible advanced services and applications at high speeds. The new network will propel Israel forward while delivering innovative services.”

The tender issued by the ministry notes “The bands will be awarded to the highest bids with a minimal bid of NIS10 million for each of the 8 available 5MHZ frequency bands. New and small operators may receive up to 50% discount, 10% discount for each 1% addition to their market share, obtained over the next 5 years.”

Five companies currently operate 3G networks — which are much slower — but 4G networks involve wider frequencies and they are expensive to develop. Israel cannot support five of those, so companies will have to share.

Israel’s three largest mobile firms – Cellcom Israel, Partner Communications (Orange) and Bezeq (Pelephone) – all offer 3G and have been fighting a price war over the past two years. But there are two new competitors in the market – Golan Telecom and Hot Mobile – which both own their own infrastructure and are rapidly moving up to take a share of the Israeli customer base.

Two months ago, Partner signed a deal to share a network with Hot, which is owned by Altice, a French cable group. Cellcom, meanwhile, announced a similar arrangement with Golan. Both are already developing 4G networks, which will cost approximately $100 million to create.

At present, the country with the fastest Internet speed is New Zealand, which runs a network with 25.8 megabits per second. According to the global Net Index, Israel is currently ranked 63rd in mobile speed, at only 5.6 megabits per second.

US Lawmakers Meet with Cuba’s American Jewish Prisoner, Alan Gross

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Four U.S. lawmakers met in Cuba on Monday with imprisoned American Jewish hostage Alan Gross. The legislators visited the jailed social worker at a prison hospital due to his medical condition, which is precarious.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 while visiting Cuba to provide internet access for the Jewish community there. According to a report posted by the Havana Times he was employed at the time by Development Alternatives, Inc., and contracted by USAID, an American government agency.

Gross was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison for “crimes against the integrity of the State.” Cuban authorities said he was caught “carrying sophisticated telecommunications equipment prohibited on the island, working for a well-funded, secret USAID program designed to topple the Cuban government.”

Speaking to reporters in Havana following their visit, delegation leader U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee said in a brief statement, “It is in the interests of both our countries to start negotiations, not just talks. It is time for both countries to make a serious commitment to enter into negotiations without preconditions.”

For years, Cuban leader Raul Castro has been trying to persuade the Obama White House to enter negotiations to free the “Cuban Five” — spies who were caught and jailed for espionage in the United States in 1998. Two have already been released, having served their terms. One is serving a double life sentence. President Barack Obama has reportedly shown no inclination to discuss the matter with Cuban officials, and no apparent interest in a swap deal for Alan Gross.

(Likewise Obama has had no interest in discussing a deal to commute the sentence of American-Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard to time served. After having agreed to a plea bargain, Pollard was nevertheless sent to prison on a life term in 1987 on a single count of passing information to an ally. Often jailed under harsh conditions at the prison where he is held in North Carolina he is presently in extremely frail health. Hundreds of appeals to U.S. presidents through the decades have left all unmoved — including Obama, who has been approached by the current Israeli government.)

U.S. Representatives Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA) and Emanuel Clever (D-MI) also took part in the delegation to Cuba. They met with Alan Gross for 90 minutes, according to the report. The delegation reportedly then met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

There have been no diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana in more than half a century. But Gross, age 65, has vowed that by the end of this year, he is determined to return home to the United States, either “dead or alive.”

Khamenei: Islam Forbids Male-Female Chat Messages

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Islam forbids men and women chatting with each other on social networks, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, the Egyptian daily Al Ahram reported.

He issued a “Fatwa” religious decree that explained chatting between the sexes is immoral. The Islamic Republic has placed severe restrictions on use of the Internet and social networks, and it tried to close them down during the mass protests in 2009 against the fraudulent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president.

Iran recently blocked a WeChat message that is used on smartphones.

Knesset Bill Aims at Google to Pay Royalties on Israeli Content

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Google will have to pay 7 percent on revenue from Israeli Internet content that is copyrighted if the Knesset approves a bill submitted by Labor Knesset Member Erel Margalit and now under discussion in the Knesset Finance Committee.

The proposed legislation calls for the royalties to be deposited in an account managed by the Finance Ministry, which then would transfer the money to those who produced the content.

Conditions for copyrighted material are that a website be active for more than one year and that at least 30 percent of the content is produced by the website itself.

MK Margalit explained that the bill is designed to protect content producers whose websites often are not used by Internet surfers, who can simply use results from the Google search site, Globes reported.

Margalit warned, “Israeli democracy is in danger…. Google has become a search engine technology tycoon in the State of Israel. Technology is an important means to bridge gaps and the Israeli economy needs new thinking about the connection between high-tech and technology and the country’s economy and growth.”

What’s Wrong With the Star-K Kosher Phone?

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

About a month ago the Star-K, a world renowned Kashrus agency, announced that they were certifying kosher phones. These phones have no access to the Internet, cannot place or receive text messages, cannot take photos, and most importantly, cannot be hacked to perform any of these tasks.

It’s not troubling to me that people would want a phone that is insulated from certain tasks. Although I think it is an unnecessary measure and perhaps counter productive, I don’t begrudge people their personal self control restraints.

What is troubling is that a kashrus agency is part of this initiative. A kashrus agency should be concerned with one thing and one thing only. Their singular concern should be the kosher status of the food. I don’t even think that a kashrus agency must concern itself with humanitarian or other ethical issues that may arise. I have no problem with a secondary agency coming in and providing a secondary level of supervision. But the kosher status of the food cannot be affected by anything other its status as kosher food.

So when I see a kashrus agency entering into the phone market, I see an agency that should be worried about kosher status of food but is now legislating morality. It’s not even as if the technical skills involved in kosher supervision overlap the neutering of cell phones. They have nothing to do with each other. I don’t think it is smart for kosher supervision to be intertwined or even related to morality supervision.

Similarly, when kosher supervision agencies make demands on the clientele or ambience of an eating establishment I believe they are overstepping their bounds. There are restaurants that are not allowed to be open at certain hours because they will lose their hechsher if they are open. This is far beyond the scope of kosher supervision. Tell me if the food is kosher and I will decide if I want to patronize the restaurant. That is all we need from a kashrus agency. The stretching of their authority serves no important purpose for the public. It seems to me that it is merely a self-serving, self-righteous way to legislate their morality. If they can legislate phones and who can eat where, what’s next?

I am not making a slippery slope argument. I am pointing out that there is no logical connection between the kosher status of food and the kosher status of a phone. There is also no relationship between the kosher status of a restaurant and whether teenagers are hanging out. In other words, the kashrus agencies are already legislating their morality. There is no reason to think it only will apply in these two instances because there is no connection between these two things and the kosher status of food.

We need to stop using the word kosher for things other than food. Yes, the word is a general term but it has evolved into a word that describes whether food can be eaten by orthodox Jews who keep kosher. We don’t eat anything that is not kosher. Using the word kosher for phones and Internet implies that the non-kosher versions are not allowed to be used. This is sophomoric and divisive.

If anything, the kashrus agencies should be concerned with the ethics and morality of the actual food. This is something they have resisted time and time again. I am not recommending they get into the ethics of food business, but if they must expand their business and purview of supervision I think that is the first place they should be looking to legislate seeing as they have the knowledge and expertise to monitor and report on that aspect of food production. But teens mingling and phones? They don’t belong there at all.

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