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Did You Know?

Israel engineers are behind the development of the largest communications router in the world, launched by Cisco.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Alma Lounge wins prestigious award


Restaurant located in Tel Aviv boutique hotel honored for culinary excellence at 2013 World Boutique Hotel Awards ceremony

The Alma Lounge restaurant in Tel Aviv’s Alma Hotel has won the Culinary Excellence Award at the 2013 World Boutique Hotel Awards ceremony.
The restaurant offers a unique menu created by chef Yonatan Roshfeld and is owned by businesspeople Adi and Irit Strauss.
According to the Boutique Hotel Awards website, “Alma Lounge offers bohemian chic décor that remains as interesting and appealing as the food.”
The only Israeli hotel to make it to the list of finalists, Alma competed for the title against six boutique hotels from around the world.

Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal returns to Israel


Celebrating 40 years of modern dance excellence, the Ballet Jazz de Montreal returns to Israel with a new program featuring a mixed and varied repertoire created by intriguing choreographers.

Tel Aviv – Feb. 2-5 14
Jerusalem – Feb. 6th 14
Haifa – Feb. 8th 14

Israeli and Afghan educators meet

Israeli and Afghan educators meet

Hebrew U President Ben Sasson: Science is an international language that can serve as a bridge between peoples and nations.

In a rare show of academic cooperation, Professor Menachem Ben Sasson, president of Hebrew University, met this week with Professor Habibollah Habib, president of Kabul University in Afghanistan.
The meeting was held during a conference at the Confucius Institute in Beijing, China.
According to Ben Sasson, “a meeting between representatives from Israel and representatives from Afghanistan is not something to be taken for granted.”
The Hebrew University president was thrilled to have “the rare opportunity to sit down with the president of Kabul University and discuss bilateral relations and possible collaborations between the Hebrew University and Kabul University.”
During the hour long meeting, the two discussed policy and geopolitical problems facing Afghanistan and Israel, as well as the similarities in dealing with border disputes and neighboring countries. The two also talked about the importance of science to both Israel and Afghanistan, due to the lack of natural resources in both countries.
“Israel and Afghanistan may be perceived as enemy states, but science is an international language that can serve as a bridge between peoples and nations. It is our obligation as researchers to encourage scientific cooperation of this kind,” said Ben Sasson.
Ben Sasson presented a variety of original documents, written by Albert Einstein, about the theory of relativity, the establishment of Hebrew University and the offer to serve as president of the state of Israel. Einstein was one of the founding fathers of HU and bequeathed his personal archives and writings to the university.
More than 2,000 attendees, including university presidents and Confucius Institute representatives from over 110 countries, attended the conference sponsored by the Chinese government.
The Confucius Institute promotes Chinese culture and language in higher education institutions throughout the world.

Israeli start-up seeks to end roaming charges


New Israeli app aims to turn any smartphone into local phone, thus aiding travelers around world to pay local rates without pricey fees by their domestic wireless carriers

An Israeli startup is trying to combat a common fear for international travelers: getting socked with hundreds or thousands of dollars in unexpected roaming charges for using cellphones away from home.
Cell Buddy aims to turn any smartphone into a local one. Travelers can choose from an array of calling and data plans with carriers in dozens of countries. As a result, they pay local rates – not the pricey fees charged by their wireless carriers at home.
Here’s how it will work once the service starts next year: Customers use a universal SIM card provided by Cell Buddy. Travelers turn on their phones and launch a Cell Buddy app once they reach their destination. The app finds local carriers and lets travelers compare prices, data packages, download speeds and other factors. Travelers are assigned a local phone number and can continue to use their regular phone number back home, at regular prices, using the same SIM card.
One major caveat: Cell Buddy’s SIM works only with unlocked phones, making it difficult for American travelers who have phones still tied to two-year service contracts. Those phones are locked and won’t accept other SIM cards. In addition, Verizon and Sprint use the CDMA cellular standard, and some phones won’t work with the more common GSM networks elsewhere.
Cell Buddy’s service eliminates the need to order a roaming plan ahead of time, stand in line at the airport to buy a local SIM card or physically switch the cards. Most importantly, it eliminates roaming charges to the home carrier.
Profit margins on roaming charges are immense. Avi Weiss, editor of Israel-based Telecom News, estimated the global roaming market at $50 billion a year. Although many companies are beginning to offer ways to avoid that, Weiss said few customers are aware of their options.
“When they come back to their homeland, they get a bill shock,” Weiss said.
Cell Buddy is not the first company to take aim at roaming charges. In October, US carrier T-Mobile eliminated texting and data fees in more than 100 countries and capped charges for many international voice calls at 20 cents a minute. British carrier 3 has also begun to cap roaming charges.
Several companies sell global SIM cards with pre-paid service, and Canadian company Roamly makes a pay-as-you go SIM card “overlay” that promises savings of up to 80 percent through partnerships with carriers in some 200 countries.
Unlike the others, Cell Buddy makes no money from actual phone usage. Cell Buddy’s founder and chairman, Ofir Paz, said he is simply a middleman who connects users with the carrier best suited to their needs — much the way services such as eBay connect customers with merchants.
“I think the big idea over here is that for the first time we created a marketplace,” he said. “We let customers and operators meet, and from one hand, these operators can publish their plans and on the other hand, the customers can purchase plans in a very simple and straightforward way.”
To use the service, Cell Buddy charges $60 a year or $5 per day. Although travelers can avoid that by shopping for plans themselves, Paz believes the convenience and low rates make the fees reasonable.
“We’re giving everyone … the freedom to choose a carrier easily,” he said.
Weiss said Cell Buddy offers a promising product, but faces many competitors. He also said that roaming fees will likely come down over the long term, as T-Mobile has started to do. The European Union, for instance, is seeking to eliminate roaming charges in the 28-nation bloc by 2016.
“Cell Buddy’s solution is very nice, but it will work only a short period,” he said. “In the long run, there will be no roaming.”
Cell Buddy is in the final stages of testing and hopes to launch the service by the middle of next year. Cell Buddy does not have deals with mobile carriers directly. Instead, it has partnerships with SIM card resellers that, in turn, have such deals. The service will initially work in at least 60 countries, including the US, India, China and several others in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner said Cell Buddy’s product seems promising from a technical standpoint, thanks to its ease of use and elimination of multiple SIM cards.
“What they are offering seems to be very frictionless,” he said. “The less friction you have, the better.”
But he questioned the company’s ability to set itself apart and attract customers. “How are you going to get people on board?” he said. “They are a middleman for the middleman.”
Paz said Cell Buddy is focusing on corporate customers and has already been approached by a number of large companies with frequent travelers. He would not name any. Paz said he plans on turning to the consumer market in 2015.
Entner said the focus on the cost-conscious companies with lots of business travelers, as opposed to the general consumer market, would be a wise strategy.
If successful, Cell Buddy would join a long list of high-tech companies that have earned Israel the nickname “Startup Nation.” Paz himself has founded two other successful startups, Peach Networks, an interactive TV company bought by Microsoft Corp. in 2000, and InspireMD, a medical device company.

PM Netanyahu Meets President of Guatemala Otto Fernando Perez Molina

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President of Guatemala, Mr. Otto Fernando Perez Molina.

ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו נפגש עם נשיא גואטמלה, אוטו פרננדו פרז מולינה.

וידאו: לע"מ

Israelis find new way for quitting smoking


Using magnetism, researchers from Ben-Gurion University say they can effectively help smokers cut down on nicotine

Nicotine addiction is one of the most prevalent dependencies in the world today despite billions of dollars dedicated to showing the problems associated with cigarettes. Shifts in North American culture have particularly seen a decline in people smoking, but there are still those who struggle with their addiction every day.
Researchers from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, however, may have found a new way to help smokers quit and all it takes is some “transcranial magnetic stimulation.”
Sounds simple enough, right?
According to the BBC, results from an early test suggest that the magnetic procedure, which stimulates neurons to alter brain function, may help reduce cravings in smokers.
The experiment had 115 participants who had the procedure applied to parts of their brains associated with nicotine addiction, the prefrontal cortex and the insular cortex. The results show that smokers exposed to high frequency treatments were more likely to quit smoking within six months and experience less craving.
Dr. Abraham Zangen, one of the researchers involved in the study, said: “We know that many smokers want to quit or smoke less, and this could help put a dent in the number one cause of preventable deaths.”
Good news for those who struggle with the bad habit, but the scientists were quick to point out that the results were still preliminary. Such a procedure needs to go through a significant amount of testing before becoming available to regular people.

The Jerusalem Light Rail

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A 21st century way to commute through an ancient city.

Running from the northern edge of Jerusalem to Mount Herzl in the south, with further extensions planned, the electrified Jerusalem Light Rail has changed the face of transportation in the ancient city.

The Light Rail runs 13.9 kilometers (8.6 miles) through the capital, stopping at most major tourist sites and connecting with bus lines. It's a great way to meet the people of Jerusalem and get a real feel for life in the city.

As one passenger notes on this video: "It's good to see that they've got signs and announcements in Hebrew, English and Arabic so it's inclusive of everyone. It's really good."

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Amazing pictures of snowy #Jerusalem

Massive storm, said to be 3 times worse than on previous days, batters Jerusalem

City urges everyone to stay indoors; electric corp. declares national state of emergency; tens of thousands left without power; northern Israel, West Bank, Gaza also hit






Israeli firms generate $12 billion in business in Massachusetts


Forget Silicon Valley: Massachusetts has become a magnet for Israeli high-tech entrepreneurs in its own right.

When Israelis think about American high tech, what comes to mind is California’s Silicon Valley, home to the headquarters of Google, Apple and Facebook along with major venture capital firms. It’s no surprise that when Israeli high-tech businesses wish to gain better access to markets, investors and potential strategic partners, they frequently open offices in that region. But Silicon Valley isn’t the only high-tech stronghold in the United States. The Boston area has also been a major hub in recent years.
Like Silicon Valley, the Boston area has proven to be a supportive environment for tech-based companies. The region has excellent universities that produce a sophisticated potential workforce. It also has a strong base of investors along with the presence of multinational firms. Israeli entrepreneurs, particularly those involved in life sciences and organizational software, have become a significant presence in Massachusetts.
According to a study released last week by the New England-Israel Business Council, last year these Israeli entrepreneurs were directly responsible for $6 billion in business activity. The study was carried out by Stax, a consulting and research firm. The total impact last year by Israeli entrepreneurs and companies actually came to $12 billion in Massachusetts, according to Stax. This includes not only the firms’ revenues but also its expenditures on the local market on items such as salaries, rent and payments to providers of services. All in all, that represents 2.9% of the state’s gross domestic product.
More than 200 Israeli companies have a local presence in the region, the study states, including Israeli entrepreneurs’ firms that were founded in Israel and operate in the state of Massachusetts.
The study’s results were formally released last week at an event attended by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and leading business figures in the state. Israeli firms employ a total of 6,600 in the state, according to the study, and between 2010 and 2012, Israeli companies in the state raised more than $700 million in venture capital.
Interestingly 30% of companies set up in Massachusetts by Israelis are headed by graduates of universities in the state. According to the study, many Israelis use contacts that they have made while in school for their business ventures. Some even start their businesses while in school or immediately after graduation, but most then return to Israel and set up businesses there, returning to Massachusetts later as the business grows.
Avi Hasson, the chief scientist at the Economy Ministry, noted that in addition to many Israeli businesses choosing Massachusetts when they decide to expand abroad, many Massachusetts companies choose to invest in Israel.
That raises the question of whether Massachusetts is responsible for a brain drain of entrepreneurs who would otherwise grow their businesses in Israel. “It’s a natural stage in the development of any company, especially a high-tech firm that wants to operate in the world,” says Yisrael Shamai, who heads the chief scientist’s office that deals with U.S.-Israel economic cooperation. “Usually the main research and development activity continues to be carried out in Israel.”
Israelis living in the Boston area describe a lively Israeli community of business entrepreneurs in addition to about 300 Israelis studying at area universities including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There is even a scout troop for Hebrew speakers. Boston has a 200,000-member Jewish community which provides assistance to Israel entrepreneurs who come to the area.
The Foreign Ministry provides advice to Israeli businesses that are seeking investors or other contacts in the New England region. Over the past two years, dozens of Israeli enterprises have set up shop in Massachusetts or have expanded operations that were started in Israel, says Eyal Geffen, who is the director of innovation and economic affairs at the Israeli consulate in Boston. Over the past three years, Israeli companies in Massachusetts have on average experienced 12.6% growth in annual revenues and have increased their workforces over the period from 2009 through 2012 by 5.3%, which is five times the overall employment growth rate in the state.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Morton's Hanukiya for IDF Soldiers

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Meet Morton Freiman, an American who immigrated to Israel. At 74, he labored alongside our soldiers to create a large Hanukiya -- a Hanukkah candelabra -- which they carved together out of stone. As we close the Hanukkah holiday, we share Morton's warmth & devotion to the #IDF with our supporters everywhere.


Israel’s Mobli Takes On Instagram in the Battle for Picture Posting


Israel’s Mobli web picture sharing service is taking on Instagram, the U.S.-based leader, in a battle for supremacy in the online picture and video sharing business, Israel’s Globesbusiness daily reported on Thursday.

Globes said that Instagram retaliated this week, moving to block access to its services by users of Mobli, the up-start Israeli competitor that received a major investment from Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim in November.
“Although there is no real competition between the companies in terms of scale – Mobli has 12 million users compared with Instagram’s 150 million users – it seems that the latter feels threatened. It therefore decided to block Mobli users from downloading pictures from Instagram to Mobli at the press of a button, basically banning access to the applications programmable interface (API),” Globes wrote.
In a statement, Instagram said, “Instagram’s API guidelines make it clear that an application that replicates or attempts to replace the essential user experience violates our terms of use. We have a team dedicated to reviewing apps and enforcing our policies.”
Mobli responded: “We respect every platform’s right to do with its platform as it sees fit. We believe in the user’s right to control his content and creation and therefore commit to continuing to enable users to do with their content as they see fit. We are working diligently to create a user experience by which users will stay at Mobli because they want to.”
In March, Mobli launched a campaign calling on Instragram users to take a creative picture and upload it on Instagram under the hashtag #mylastinstagram, and then leave their service for Mobli, while competing for a $100,000 prize.
Mobli’s campaign included a flyover the headquarters of Facebook, Instagram’s owner, by a plane carrying a 100-foot banner broadcasting the campaign’s website.
Mobli has raised $89 million to date, including $60 million in a financing round in November 2013, mostly from Carlos Slim, the world’s second wealthiest man, who believes in the app and plans to offer it to all of the nearly 250 million subscribers of his mobile carrier, America Movil.
In addition to Slim, Mobli’s other high profile investors include Hollywood’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Toby Maguire, and tennis champ Serena Williams.
In an interview with Globes, Mobli founder and CEO Moshe Hogeg said, “Instagram is an amazing company, and we should doff our caps to it ten times over. But the man has not been born who will say that Mobli’s technology is not better than Instagram’s, including its CEO.”
“We’ll probably never surpass Instagram in the number of users, but we’ll differentiate ourselves in other markets. Most of the world does not know Instagram. India, China, Central America. We’ll probably be smaller than Instagram, but we’ll be big enough to have a good business,” Hogeg said.

Norway Delegation Visits Israel, Asks for Forgiveness

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UN passes Israeli-sponsored agricultural development bill


The UN on Tuesday passed an Israeli-sponsored resolution on “agricultural technology for development,” a bill dedicated to sustainable agricultural advancements for developing countries.

This is the third time in its history at the UN that Israel has passed a resolution by a majority vote.
Calling it a “Hanukka miracle,” the Israeli Mission to the UN announced that a record number of member states – 138 in total – had voted yes on the resolution.
The Arab group led the 34 abstentions to the vote. One country, Bolivia, voted no. The resolution had 105 cosponsors with Israel. SDM Note: 114 co-sponsors reported by algemeiner.
The mission called it a “breakthrough in promoting access to agricultural technologies in developing countries,” and said the bill specifically emphasizes the introduction and use of them by young people and women in Africa.
“Where Israel works to bring repair to the world, Arab countries are putting up walls,” UN Ambassador Ron Prosor said in a statement. “The technologies developing in Israel are now at the forefront of the global fight to eradicate poverty and hunger. The unprecedented support of the Israeli resolution proves that Israel is a technological powerhouse that offers creative solutions to the world.”
A representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of the Arab group, said the resolution was redundant with a similar one presented by China. The representative added that the resolution did not take into account the requirements in transferring technologies and financing their implementation, Jordan’s official PETRA news agency reported.

Netanyahu: Mandela Will be Remembered as ‘Moral Leader of the Highest Order’


Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday said Nelson Mandela, who passed on Thursday at 95, “was among the greatest figures of our time” and “will be remembered as the father of the new South Africa and a moral leader of the highest order.”

In a statement, Netanyahu remembered Mandela as “the father of his country, a man of vision and a freedom fighter who disavowed violence. He set a personal example for his country during the long years in which he was imprisoned. He was never haughty. He worked to heal rifts within South African society and succeeded in preventing outbreaks of racial hatred.”
Israel President Shimon Peres also issued a statement about the passing of Mandela: “The world lost a great leader who changed the course of history,” he said. “On behalf of the citizens of Israel we mourn alongside the nations of the world and the people of South Africa, who lost an exceptional leader.”
“Nelson Mandela was a fighter for human rights who left an indelible mark on the struggle against racism and discrimination,” Peres said. “He was a passionate advocate for democracy, a respected mediator, a Nobel peace prize laureate and above all a builder of bridges of peace and dialogue who paid a heavy personal price for his struggle in the years he spent in prison and fighting for his people.”
“Nelson Mandela’s legacy for his people and for the world will forever remain engraved in the pages of history and the hearts of all those who were touched by him. He will be remembered forever,” Peres said.

OECD Lauds Israel’s Economic Growth


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Thursday praised Israel’s economic growth in 2013 and predicted that its economy will continue to grow in 2014 and 2015 at a rate that exceeds growth projections for the OECD’s other 33 member nations, Israel Hayom reported.

“Israel’s output growth remains relatively strong, unemployment is at historically low levels, its high-tech sector continues to attract international admiration, and new off-shore gas fields have come on stream,” the OECD said in the executive summary of its 2013 Israel Economic Survey.
The report projected that Israel’s economy would grow by 3.7 percent in 2013, compared to 3.9-percent growth in 2012. Growth projections for 2014 and 2015 were pegged at 3.4 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. As a result, unemployment is expected to rise from its current historic low of 5.9 percent to a range of 6.6-6.9 percent. The OECD also praised the Israeli economy for being one of the most turmoil-resistant economies in the West, and for its high-tech industry.

Grammy-winning Russian pianist to receive Israeli citizenship

Evgeny Kissin

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar will personally grant citizenship to the classical performer Evgeny Kissin.

Russian classical pianist Evgeny Kissin, an ”enthusiastic supporter of the State of Israel” will be granted Israeli citizenship in a special ceremony, the Jewish Agency announced on Thursday.
Kissin “regularly engages in pro-Israel activities aimed at countering the ongoing assault on Israel’s legitimacy,” the agency’s statement read. Kissin, who does not reside in Israel, will recieve his Israeli identification card on Saturday, December 7, in an event which will be attended by Minister of Internal Affairs Gideon Sa’ar.
Kissin, 42, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University in 2010. “We Jews have every reason to be proud of the State of Israel,” Kissin said in his acceptence speech. “The Jewish state has always remained true to the noble principles proclaimed in its Declaration of Independence… I am grateful to providence for having been born a son of the people of Israel.”
Last year, the statement said, Kissin approached Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky for help in procuring an Israeli citizenship. Kissin told Sharansky that he wished to “fight for Israel not only as a Jew, but also as an Israeli.”
Born in Moscow, Kissin started his career as a performer at the age of 12 and has since garnered worldwide adulation, won two Grammies and been presented an Honorary Membership in the Royal Academy of Music in England.

Two Bedouin Sheikhs and the Begin Plan

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Two Bedouin sheikhs reveal their support for the Begin Plan, Israel's strategy to improve the welfare of the Negev Bedouin and resolve land issues in southern Israel. While Sheikh Awde A-Zanoon and Sheikh I'd Abu Rashed do not hesitate to criticize former Israeli policies toward the Bedouin, they also express their satisfaction with the proposed plan, praising Minister Benny Begin for his personal involvement and efforts to jointly reach a solution.

The Begin Plan is an improvement on an outline suggested by Ehud Prawer of the Prime Minister's office (which was based on the report of an official committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg.) The plan will not only settle all land claims by the Bedouin, giving them property on which to build houses legally, but will set up employment, social, educational and health programs for the 210,000 Bedouin men, women and children in the Negev. Nearly 2.2 billion dollars is being invested in implementation of the plan.

Cooperation between the Israeli government and the Bedouin is emphasized by the sheikhs, as this is the best way to find an equitable resolution that respects Bedouin traditions and culture. However, support for the advancement of the Bedouin in the Negev is not limited to governmental action: in an act of Jewish-Bedouin cooperation, the Yerucham municipality is giving Sheikh A-Zanoon's village 500 dunams (124 acres) of land.

Strong criticism is also expressed towards "people on the outside," primarily Israeli Arabs from northern Israel and foreign activists. These outsiders are agitating against the plan, but as Sheikh A-Zanoon says "they lack nothing" while the Bedouin suffer from difficult conditions. These agitators offer no better alternative yet are willing to sacrifice the future of the Bedouin for their own political interests.

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Covidien buying Given Imaging for $860 million


Sale of camera-in-a-capsule maker expected to be consummated by March 31.

Medical device maker Covidien is buying Israeli camera-in-a-capsule maker Given Imaging for $30.00 per share in cash, totaling $860 million, the companies said on Sunday.
Given Imaging developed a pioneering technique for non-invasive endoscopy. Its technology for visualising, diagnosing and monitoring the digestive system starts with the PillCam, a capsule containing a miniaturized video camera. Over the years Given Imaging, which operates out of Yokneam, developed a number of versions for the technology, including one for esophageal diagnostics.
Its shares closed at $23.65 on Nasdaq on Friday.
“We believe GI (gastrointestinal) is one of the most attractive specialty procedure areas. Acquiring Given will enable Covidien to significantly expand its presence in a $3 billion GI market,” stated Bryan Hanson, group president for medical devices and the United States at Covidien. “Adding Given’s portfolio of diagnostics to our portfolio accelerates Covidien’s strategy of providing physicians with products that support the patient along the care continuum from diagnosis to treatment.”
The combination of Covidien’s global presence and Given Imaging’s innovative capabilities has the potential to transform this market, said Homi Shamir, chief executive of Given Imaging.
The transaction is expected to be completed by March 31. The boards of directors of both companies have approved the deal, and the boards of Given’s major shareholders, who own 44 percent of Given’s outstanding shares, have approved voting in favor of the transaction.
On Saturday, three units of Israel’s IDB Group – Elron Electronic Industries, Discount Investment Corp and RDC Rafael Development Corp – agreed to sell their stakes in Given Imaging.
Covidien intends to finance the transaction through cash on hand and will report Given Imaging within the medical devices business segment. Covidien expects Given Imaging will add between $40 million and $50 million per quarter in incremental revenue to the medical devices segment.
On a GAAP basis, the transaction is expected to be dilutive to operating margin and earnings per share in fiscal 2014. On an adjusted basis, excluding one-time items and transaction costs, management expects the transaction to be neutral to both operating margin and EPS in fiscal 2014.
The transaction is expected to be accretive to operating margin and EPS both on a U.S. GAAP and on an adjusted basis in fiscal 2015 and beyond.
Covidien said it is not changing any of its guidance as a result of this transaction.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

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After 12 days, 2686 patients, 60 surgeries, 848 children treated and 36 births, the IDF aid delegation in the Philippines has returned to Israel today (Nov. 27). For more on the delegation:


Israel as gateway to developing world

Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 11.07.55 AM

Business leaders gathered at Go4Europe conference in Tel Aviv say Jewish state poised to link its innovative spirit with Europe’s established business practices to spur growth in technological breakthroughs

While Israel still has some regulatory kinks to work out, the small Middle Eastern country is poised to link its innovative spirit with Europe’s established business practices to spur growth in technological breakthroughs, according to business leaders at the recent Go4Europe conference in Tel Aviv.
“We are looking for the best talent in the world, and Israel is known for having some of the best talent,” Meir Brand, the managing director of Google Israel, Greece and sub-Saharan Africa, told The Media Line. “We also look for the entrepreneurial spirit and the risk taking that Israelis are comfortable with.”
Brand was among a large group of leading financiers and high-tech CEOs who discussed their vision for creating more cooperative connections between Israel and Europe. The presenters spoke of Israeli know-how and Israelis’ inclination to challenge the status quo.
“One thing in Israel is the cultural element, the disrespect of authority, together with extremely strong technical skills,” Dor Skuler, the vice president of Franco-American telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent told The Media Line.
“There is also a very healthy and strong team spirit (among Israelis). They’re very helpful to each other, and they have a mindset that focuses on the success of the team. They also have a real hunger to disrupt the market.”
While Israel holds promise with those looking to create new digital products, companies who want to engage in larger infrastructure projects still face issues of regulation and government interference.
“There’s a lot of non-coordination between ministries when it comes to national infrastructure, which can cost an entrepreneur a lot of money because of delays if they don’t know how to work the system,” Yosef Abramowitz, a solar power pioneer and CEO of Energiya Global, told The Media Line.
“Our advice for international investors who do want to benefit from long term, green investments in the state of Israel is to find a trusted local partner who can navigate the politics and bureaucracies in Israel.”
According to a recent Bank of Israel study, the average construction time for a project in Israel is 14 years. This lengthy process is one that has stymied business opportunities.
“We’ve seen solar energy companies that have left Israel,” Abramowitz said. “And we’ve seen solar energy companies that have closed shop. So that should be a warning sign to the Ministry of Finance that the state has been squandering the opportunity to have billions of dollars invested in its energy infrastructure. Security has to be given to investors about the future of the industry.”

IAF Launches Largest International Military Exercise in Israel's History

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On Sunday, November 24, for the first time in Israel's history, the Israel Air Force launched the "Blue Flag" training exercise - an international air force exercise with participation by the US, Italian and Greek air forces.


Blue Flag

Artsetters, setting global style trends

Lee Rotenberg, left, and Alex Schinasi. “Trendsetters aren't thinking politics when thinking what's cool.”
Lee Rotenberg, left, and Alex Schinasi. “Trendsetters aren’t thinking politics when thinking what’s cool.”
by Viva Sarah Press

Lebanese hipsters are wearing Israeli fashion, thanks to a new cross-border ecommerce site based in Tel Aviv.

Pink, red, emerald, purple and black are this fall’s colors according to the catwalks. But two Tel Aviv-based trendsetters – behind a new global community dedicated to keeping the hipster crowd hip — say black and white are the colors to look for on the street.
And they should know.
Alex Schinasi and Lee Rotenberg, two transplanted entrepreneurs to Israel, founded Artsetters – a website, popup shop and creative community now taking the world of ecommerce by storm. It’s a platform that unites the world through art and design.
Their site serves up the crème of creativity from across the globe and includes designers you should not admit you never heard of. The purpose, according to the mission statement, is to “bring the coolest content to our users from unique artists and designers hand-picked by young creative influencers in cities around the world. We hope to break the often impenetrable scenes of cities like Beirut and Hong Kong and grant access to unique products long before they become mainstream.”
Their global reach means Lebanese hipsters are wearing Israeli fashion; Turkish youth are decking out in Greek gear; and American fashionistas are donning handmade Russian sunglasses.
Schinasi and Rotenberg officially launched a beta version of their website in the last week of October. It already includes works by more than 80 artists in 19 creative cities – including Tel Aviv.
“I completely think Tel Aviv is one of most creative cities out there. If you don’t come to Tel Aviv, you don’t understand how vibrant the culture is here, how cool creativity is here,” Rotenberg, who hails from the United States, tells ISRAEL21c. “It is so different from any other place.”

Tel Aviv hearts Beirut

Schinasi, a former film producer who came to Israel to work on a movie two years ago and fell in love with Tel Aviv’s culture vibe, and Rotenberg, who comes from the world of finance and is equally enamored by the city’s pulse, first began promoting their joint venture just over four months ago.
Word got out. Curators, magazine editors, fashion stylists, photographers, architects and fashion hipsters all volunteered to help make Artsetters the place to click for the next “it” thing. The volunteers are known as Artsetter Ambassadors.
Rotenberg points to the staff’s international background as one of the key elements for early success.
“I’m American, my co-founder is from Switzerland, our graphic designer is Canadian and our editor is Belgian. We’re all from different countries and we all met in this country. Tel Aviv is a city comprised of internationals. And it really helped to give birth to the idea of Artsetters,” Rotenberg tells ISRAEL21c.
This global community allows trend-seekers to cross borders without political stumbling blocks.
“At the end of the day, trendsetters aren’t thinking politics when thinking what’s cool. That’s how I think we’ve had Artsetters grow so quickly,” she says. “People identify with the language of great taste and trends.”
So far, designers from Athens, Berlin, Brooklyn and Casablanca have been among the bestsellers on the site, says Rotenberg. Graffiti artist Pilpeled, who has a line of black and white T-shirts, is one of the best-selling Israelis to date. In fact, Pilpeled’s shirts have become a hot commodity in Beirut.
Because technically it is illegal to sell Israeli-made goods in Lebanon, Artsetters ships the clothing from Israel to its American office, cuts off all incriminating labels, and sends the orders to Beirut.
“The T-shirts are incredibly popular in Beirut,” says Rotenberg.
“Usually it’s two very distinct communities, Lebanon and Israel, but under the umbrella of Artsetters it becomes this unified community,” Schinasi told The Times of Israel. “What’s uniting them is this love of art and design, and you know, cool content.”

The opposite of Etsy

Artsetters, says Rotenberg, is the opposite of Etsy, where solo designers can sell jewelry and crafts.
Artsetters uses its ambassadors to “pinpoint what’s really cool” for shoppers. Whereas on Etsy anyone can put up their wares for sale, on Artsetters you have to be chosen by someone in the know.
“We’re an ecommerce site but we’re very selective and highly curated. We’re also on a city-specific platform,” she says.
The Tel Aviv page, for example, features photographer Fima Shlick, jewelry designer Shlomit Ofir, textile designer Mika Barr, industrial designers AndreyAndShay, textile designers Tesler + Mendelovitch, and graffiti artist Pilpeled, among others.
The prices range from $10 to $5,000. “People are definitely buying,” says Rotenberg. “You can get handmade sunglasses from Moscow for $190, which is an incredible price, or great air roller cabin bags from Geneva for $40, which have been huge.”
They have received no funding (but are looking for some). They did get workspace in Tel Aviv’s startup incubator. The site is listed as an American company with an Israeli incubator.
So, what’s the next trend?
“Each city has its own trend. To be in Tel Aviv wearing something from Beirut — or vice versa — is trendy,” says Rotenberg. “Black and white is a trend across all cities. There’s also a big trend in the direction of handmade items. It’s hard to find handmade at affordable prices.”
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Bilingual Jerusalem School, where Hebrew and Arabic go Hand in Hand

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Principal Nadia Kanana and a young teacher take viewers on a tour, in Arabic, of a special school. Hand in Hand in Jerusalem is a bilingual school for Jewish and Arab students. The staff in each of the four schools in the network is equally balanced between Arab and Jewish principals and teachers.

Every class is co-taught by teachers from both groups, and respect is the guiding principle. Lessons are in Hebrew and Arabic, and the co-teachers can divide the lesson subject or teach it together. The children, who follow Hand in Hand's motto: "learning together, living together," may look up to the adults for inspiration, but they also have learned to find their own way towards getting along and even beyond, to friendship.

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The (awkward) tradition continues: NBA’s Rockets sing ‘Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel’

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Three years ago in this very space, we hipped you to the Houston Rockets attempting to sing the Hanukkah classic, “I Have a Little Dreidel.” Ahh, memories of then-Rockets Luis ScolaKyle LowryShane Battier, Chuck Hayes and other since-departed Rockets belting out the song in their own unique way.

In 2011, we weren’t treated to a version of the song (at least as far as we here at All Ball HQ could find, anyway). Then, last year, we got a fresh version, with Jeremy LinJames HardenChandler Parsons (and some other since-departed Rockets) singing the Dreidel song.
Thanks to the fine folks at, we have the 2013 version. This one features Dwight Howard,Patrick Beverly, Parsons, Ronnie BrewerOmri Casspi and others. (Bonus points, too, for including Aaron Brooks … he was in the 2010 version.)

Israeli President Shimon Peres express support for same-sex marriage

Peres in Mexico (Photo: Mark Neiman, GPO)
Peres in Mexico (Photo: Mark Neiman, GPO)

In Mexico, President Peres stresses support of same-sex couples’ right to wed, start families while enjoying same rights as heterosexuals. Meanwhile, two bills attempting to legalize same-sex marriages make their way through Knesset

President Shimon Peres expressed unequivocal support for same-sex marriage during a state visit to Mexico.
In an interview with Ynet on Sunday while in Mexico’s Guadalajara, Peres said that “even a person who is a homosexual is a human being, and he has rights. We have no power to take away (their) rights.”
Peres added: “We cannot take away someone’s rights because they are different. We cannot take away their right to breathe, right to eat or right to start a family. We must allow everyone to live as is natural to them.”
Peres’ comments came in response to a new bill being promoted by the Justice Ministry called ‘Living together’ which attempts to regulate some form of a civil partnership between same-sex couples. The government is not scheduled to vote on the bill any time soon, but a memorandum signed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in its favor is being circled around.

Towards equality

On Sunday morning the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs authorized a new bill which attempts to mend the Income Tax Act and grant same-sex couples with children the same tax exemptions enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts.
“We are talking about tens of thousands of shekels given to the parents of children under 18, sums which were prevented from same-sex parents,” said MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) who proposed the bill.
An additional bill, being promoted by MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) and which attempt to secure equal marriage rights to same-sex couples, failed to make it through the committee a few weeks ago. Yesh Atid filed a party-supported initiative to regulate same-sex as well as civil (as opposed to religiously ordained) marriage in Israel. The gist of the bill was an attempt to form a civilian version of the rabbinate which would offer state-sanctioned civilian marriage services.
The bill is expected to be voted on in the committee and – if it should pass – could move onto the Knesset for an additional round of votes. However, it is safe to assume that even within the coalition there will be those opposed to the proposal – namely the Habayit Hayehudi who view the idea as an attempt to circumnavigate the rabbinate.
As the Knesset’s summer plenum began, Finance Minister Yair Lapid reiterated his commitment to the fight for same-sex marriage. In reality, there are little to no differences between Livni’s and Lapid’s bill, and now it is only a fight over who will take the credit for the move. It remains unclear whether the two are considering merging their respective proposals.