Daily Kickoff

Jewish Insider Kickoff

FIRST LOOK – Vanity Fair September issue, “GOLDMAN’S GEEK TRAGEDY: A month after ace (Jewish) programmer Sergey Aleynikov left Goldman Sachs, he was arrested. Exactly what he’d done neither the F.B.I., which interrogated him, nor the jury, which convicted him a year later, seemed to understand. But Goldman had accused him of stealing computer code, and the 41-year-old father of three was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Investigating Aleynikov’s case, MICHAEL LEWIS holds a second trial” – “[I]n early 2009 [Aleynikov got an offer] to create a trading platform from scratch for a new hedge fund run by a 39-year-old Russian fellow named Misha Malyshev [who was] willing to pay him more than a million dollars a year … He agreed and then told Goldman he was leaving. … Four times in the course of [his final six] weeks he mailed himself source code he was working on. (He’d later be accused of sending himself 32 megabytes of code, but what he sent was essentially the same 8 megabytes of code four times over.) The files contained a lot of open-source code he had worked with, and modified, over the past two years, mingled together with code that wasn’t open source but proprietary to Goldman Sachs. As he would later try and fail to explain to an F.B.I. agent, he hoped to disentangle the one from the other, in case he needed to remind himself how he had done what he had done with the open-source code, in the event he might need to do it again.

“He sent these files the same way he had sent himself files nearly every week, since his first month on the job at Goldman. … [H]e did what he had always done since he first started programming computers: he deleted his … history. … It wasn’t an entirely innocent act. ‘I knew that they wouldn’t be happy about it,’ he says, because he knew their attitude was that anything that happened to be on Goldman’s servers was the wholly owned property of Goldman Sachs-even when Serge himself had taken that code from open source. When asked how he felt when he did it, he says, ‘It felt like speeding. Speeding in the car.”

“Serge Aleynikov wasn’t the world’s most eager immigrant to America, or, for that matter, to Wall Street. He’d left Russia in 1991, two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but more in sadness than in hope. …His problem with Russia was that its government wouldn’t allow him to study what he wanted to study. He wasn’t religious in any conventional sense, but he’d been born a Jew, which had been noted on his Russian passport to remind everyone of the fact. As a Jew he expected to be given especially difficult entrance exams to university, which, if he passed them, would grant him access to just one of two Moscow universities that were more accepting of Jews. He’d been willing to tolerate this state of affairs; however, as it happened, he’d also been born to program computers. …He applied to switch his major from mathematics to computer science, but the authorities forbade it. “That is what tipped me to accept the idea that perhaps Russia is not the best place for me,” he says. “When they wouldn’t allow me to study computer science.” [Vanity Fair]

Israel Says Iran Is Accelerating Nuclear Quest: “Saying the United States and the world are being misled by a false face into thinking that Iran has a more moderate leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday charged that Iran is not only continuing its nuclear program but has accelerated its quest to build a bomb in the weeks since voters there elected Hassan Rouhani president.

“The Israeli intelligence minister, Yuval Steinitz, said Tehran should hear from the United States and the international community that it has only two choices — voluntarily shutter its uranium enrichment program or “see it destroyed with brute force,” which he envisioned as “a few hours of airstrikes, no more.” Steinitz shrugged at the possible consequences and said he could envision Iran firing “several hundred missiles” at Israel in retaliation, producing “very limited damage because we can intercept many of them.” [Washington Post]

Iran’s Leader Reduces Posts of Military Elite: “Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, moved to significantly reduce the presence of the country’s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in Tehran’s next government – a trend U.S. and European officials cautiously take as a hopeful sign for international efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program.” [Wall Street Journal]

Erekat to Hoyer: PA curriculum not perfect, but working on teaching mutual respect – No group on earth has been subjected to more discrimination and hate than the Jews, and the US will not fund curriculum in the Palestinian Authority that does not teach tolerance and mutual respect, US Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said on Wednesday. Hoyer, leading a massive delegation of 36 Democratic US congressman, said this issue was the first one he broached during a meeting Wednesday in Ramallah with PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat.

“Erekat talked about the necessity to live together with mutual respect,” Hoyer said at a Jerusalem press conference. “I asked whether the [Palestinian] school curriculum would comport with that objective. He indicated that they had not done so perfectly, but he believes they are working on that and trying to get to that objective.” Hoyer, on his 13th visit to Israel, said that when he returns to Washington next week he intended to “pursue” the issue “with the State Department and others.” [JPost]

NYTimes Corrects Israeli Settlement Claim: “The New York Times has issued a correction on an Aug. 4 article in which Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren falsely stated that the United States considers as “illegal” the West Bank settlements on land seized by Israel in the 1967 war. In the second paragraph of the original story, Rudoren wrote, “The United States, along with most of the world, considers these settlements illegal,” a claim that the conservative outlet Washington Free Beacon flagged as inaccurate on Wednesday. The Times has since updated the online version of the article to read, “Most of the world considers these settlements illegal. … The United States has not taken a position on the settlements’ legality for several decades, saying instead, according to the State Department, ‘We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.'”

“Rudoren, who declined to comment on the mistake, is under sustained and unrelenting scrutiny from conservatives when it comes to the settlements, but it is not without warrant. She’s made her share of mistakes, most notably in an article last December, in which she incorrectly asserted that Jewish settlements would cut off Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem, divide the West Bank in two, and make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible (the last point was attributed to an editing error). At the time, conservative foreign policy analyst Elliott Abrams accused Rudoren of having a bias against settlements and the Israeli government because she was influenced “solely [by] a certain political and social milieu, the rough Israeli equivalent of the Upper West Side of Manhattan.” [Politico]

In Wake Of Accusations Of Anti-Israel Bias, Critics Point To Errors In Tom Friedman Column: “New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is facing criticism from the pro-Israel community following an article in Wednesday’s paper that incorrectly asserts Israeli settlers assassinated former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.” [NYTimes]

Israel Gives Preliminary Approval for 800 New Settler Homes: “Israel has given preliminary approval for the construction of more than 800 new homes in Jewish settlements on West Bank land, an Israeli official said on Thursday.” [Reuters]


Per WH Pool Report: Obama had dinner with “his longtime friend, Jeffrey Katzenberg,” the CEO of DreamWorks, the other night in Los Angeles at POTUS’s hotel, the Hilton Woodland Hills.

BIPARTISAN GOLF – Jewish Hollywood Superagent Ari Emanuel Went Golfing With Donald Trump and John Boehner: “Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Donald Trump’s golf game on Tuesday was apparently a high-powered threesome. On Wednesday, Trump told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that he and Boehner were joined by Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel when they played at Trump’s course in Bedminster, N.J. “We all played well and we played with Ari Emanuel. He played well. We all had a good time,” Trump said. Cavuto then asked him who had the lowest score. “I had the lower score. … I had a nice score. He did — everybody did well. We had a lot of fun.” Emanuel is one of the heads of the powerful William Morris Endeavor talent agency. He is also the brother of Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor and former chief of staff to President Barack Obama. Ari Emanuel is a major Democratic donor who bundled over $300,000 for Obama’s re-election effort last year.” [TPM LiveWire]


American Greetings Buyout Is Approved by Shareholders: “Shareholders of the American Greetings Corporation approved a $606 million buyout of the company by its founding family on Wednesday, ending months of negotiation over the deal. The buyout, at $19 a share, received support from 81 percent of the voting power of the outstanding shares, the company said on Wednesday. Excluding the stock owned by the buyers, the deal received support from 67 percent of shares. American Greetings, the No. 2 paper card maker after Hallmark, is now set to be privately owned by the Weiss family, which has a stake of roughly $44 million giving it 43 percent of the vote.

“In order to be approved, the deal had to secure support from a majority of the shares unaffiliated with the family’s vote. Wednesday’s result came after months of back-and-forth negotiations since the initial offer of $17.18 a share was announced in September. After discussions with a special committee of independent directors of the company, the Weiss family revised its bid to $18.20 a share in March. But the offer continued to face opposition from a large shareholder, TowerView, the investment company run by Daniel R. Tisch. The offer of $19 a share was announced in July.” [DealBook]

Revlon Gets $1.52 Billion Debt Commitment for Colomer Purchase: “Revlon Inc., the cosmetics maker controlled by financier Ronald Perelman, obtained $1.52 billion of loans to support its $660 million acquisition of beauty-care company The Colomer Group.” [BusinessWeek]

Governor Urges Evaluation of Wilf’s Stadium Dealings: “Governor Mark Dayton tells 5 Eyewitness News he is “deeply concerned” by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson’s ruling in the 21-year-old civil suit filed against Wilf and his family. The oral decision says Wilf committed fraud, breech of contract, and violated New Jersey’s civil racketeering statute. The plaintiff’s in the matter, Wilf’s former business partners, say Wilf engaged in what amounts to “organized crime-type” activities. In light of the decision, Governor Dayton is urging the Stadium Authority to assure Minnesotans that Wilf and the teams’ dealings in regard to the stadium are truthful and accurate.” [ABC5]

Rudin’s 641 Lex inks 25k sf deal with Israeli brokerage: “Rudin Management’s 641 Lexington is leasing 25,000 square feet to an Israeli securities brokerage in a 15-year deal, the New York Post reported. The Development Corporation for Israel, which handles securities issued by the government of Israel in the United States, is set to move in 2014 to the 32-story, 400,000-square-foot building, on the northeast corner of Lexington Avenue and East 54th Street.” [TheRealDeal]


Video messaging app Glide said it has stopped spamming users: “Glide is an Israeli-based video messaging app that’s seen strong growth recently, but it has had a spamming problem. The company told us that it’s now stopped auto-inviting your friends after users complained.” [GIGAOM]

Cyber-Security Company Sentinel Labs Raises $2.5M: “Sentinel Labs, a graduate of Israeli startup accelerator UpWest Labs, is a startup that detects cyber-security threats in real time. It has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from Data Collective, Granite Hill Capital Partners, Accel Partners and several other angel investors.” [TechCrunch]

DESSERT – New app makes Google Glass a religious experience: “When Rusty Brick CEO Barry Schwartz walked into his New York synagogue Tuesday morning, he didn’t have to get out his siddur or even look up which prayers to say. A small screen hovering over the corner of his eye already knew what he needed, and handily displayed it for him. Schwartz, among the few lucky people to test Google’s wearable computer spectacles, called Google Glass, was getting all the information he needed from JewGlass, the first Glass application for religious Jews, which his company released on Monday. “It’s not a way of bringing people closer to Judaism, but a way to help people who are already observing do it more efficiently,” says Schwartz, whose company has released over 30 applications for Jews. Rusty Brick boasts an iPhone siddur and Passover Haggada, a “no more hametz” application, a Bedtime Shema App to guide children through the evening prayer, and a bar mitzva learning tool to help students learn their portions.

“But to Schwartz, Google Glass is a whole new ballgame. “I think it’s going to be a game changer, though I don’t think it’ll be so obvious that you’re wearing it when the final product comes out,” he says. “I love it.” To that end, JewGlass was a logical next step. The app sends notifications to the ever-present Google Glass screen, reminding those who are observant when it is time to pray, helping them locate a nearby synagogue, and even displaying the relevant prayers through its prayer adviser. On Fridays it lets the user know at what time Shabbat begins and ends, and the portion of the week. For kashrut-keeping Jews on the go, the app can also locate kosher restaurants in the vicinity. The best part: It does it all through context, figuring out where the user is and what information might be useful at that time. Though the company’s offerings are geared toward religion, he says, some of their programs also take a different tack.

“We have a lot of religious apps, but we also have holiday- related apps and learning apps, like learning to read the aleph-bet to learn Hebrew, or touring the Old City, or a Jewish radio app for Jewish music,” he says. And while the religious application market isn’t the most profitable, the company is able to fund its projects with money it makes developing applications for the likes of MTV and Harvard. “It’s our way of doing something for the community, and we’re glad that we can do it,” says Schwartz. He even has a plan for getting technology to fill the gap on Shabbat and holidays in which phones and wearable computers cannot be tinkered with: Shul Cloud. That product would stream relevant data on prayers and holiday-specific instruction to screens in synagogues that are connected ahead of time and require no interaction. “You can make it useful and Shabbat-proof,” Schwartz says. “We’ll see if rabbis think that’s acceptable.” [JPost]

Thats all folks, have a great Thursday! 

**Have a tip, suggestion, or even an op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Email editors@jewishinsider.com**

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