U.S. drops legal action against Apple over encrypted iPhone


The Justice Department said it successfully accessed data stored on an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters and asked a court to withdraw an order compelling Apple to assist, according to a court filing on Monday.

The technology company fought a court order obtained by the FBI last month that required it to write new software to disable passcode protection and allow access to the phone used by one of the shooters, Rizwan Farook.

Apple declined immediate comment on Monday.

U.S. officials said last week that they were hopeful they would be able to unlock the iPhone without help from Apple.

In a two-page court filing on Monday, the Justice Department said the government “no longer requires” Apple's assistance.

At issue was a county-owned iPhone used by Farook, one of the husband-and-wife shooters in the San Bernardino, California, shooting in December in which 14 people were killed and 22 wounded. The couple died in a shootout with police after the rampage.

U.S. asks to cancel Apple encryption hearing, may be able to access device


Prosecutors on Monday asked a federal judge to cancel a Tuesday hearing in their legal battle to force Apple Inc to break into an encrypted iPhone, stating that they may have found another way to access the device, according to a court filing.

The judge in the case, being handled in federal court in Riverside, California, scheduled a hearing for late afternoon on Monday to consider the request.

The unexpected development in the high-profile case raised questions as to whether the Justice Department might be backing off from its confrontation with Apple. 

In a court filing, the Justice Department said the new technique came to light on Sunday, but it provided no further details. 

The government has obtained a court order requiring Apple to write new software to disable passcode protections on a phone used by one of the shooters in the December attack in San Bernardino, California. 

Apple, with the backing of much of the tech industry, is fighting the order, contending that it will undermine computer security and privacy for all consumers.

U.S. tech companies unite behind Apple ahead of iPhone encryption ruling


Alphabet Inc's Google, Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp and about a dozen other Internet companies will file a joint legal brief on Thursday asking a judge to support Apple Inc in its encryption battle with the U.S. government, sources familiar with the companies' plans said.

The effort is a rare display of unity and support for the iPhone maker from companies which are competitors in many areas, and shows the breadth of Silicon Valley's opposition to the government's anti-encryption effort.

The group plans to file what is known as an amicus brief – a form of comment from outside groups common in complex cases – to the Riverside, California, federal judge Sheri Pym. She will rule on Apple's appeal of a court order that would force it to create software to unlock an iPhone associated with last December's shootings in San Bernardino.

Mozilla, maker of the Firefox web browser, said it was joining in the effort along with online planning tool maker Evernote and messaging app firms Snapchat and WhatsApp. Photo sharing service Pinterest and online storage firm Dropbox are also participating.

“We stand against the use of broad authorities to undermine the security of a company’s products,” Dropbox General Counsel Ramsey Homsany said in a statement.

Networking leader Cisco Systems Inc said it expected to address the court on Apple's behalf, but did not say whether it was joining with the large group of companies.

Semiconductor maker Intel Corp plans to file a brief of its own in support of Apple, said Chris Young, senior vice president and general manager for Intel Security Group.

“We believe that tech companies need to have the ability to build and design their products as needed, and that means that we can’t have the government mandating how we build and design our products,” Young said in an interview.

The Stanford Law School for Internet and Society filed a separate brief on Thursday morning on behalf of a group of well-known experts on iPhone security and encryption, including Charlie Miller, Dino Dai Zovi, Bruce Schneier and Jonathan Zdziarski.

“The dangers of forcing companies to denigrate the security of their products and of allowing law enforcement to commandeer consumer devices for surveillance purposes are too great,” the brief said.

Privacy advocacy groups the American Civil Liberties Union, Access Now and the Wickr Foundation filed briefs on Wednesday in support of Apple before Thursday's deadline set by Pym.

Salihin Kondoker, whose wife Anies Kondoker was injured in the San Bernardino attack, also wrote on Apple's behalf, saying he shared the company's fear that the software the government wants Apple to create to unlock the phone could be used to break into millions of other phones.

“I believe privacy is important and Apple should stay firm in their decision,” the letter said. “Neither I, nor my wife, want to raise our children in a world where privacy is the tradeoff for security.”

Briefs are also expected in support of the government.

Stephen Larson, a former federal judge, told Reuters last week that he is working on a brief with victims of the San Bernardino shooting who want the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to be able to access the data on the phone used by Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters. “They were targeted by terrorists, and they need to know why, how this could happen,” Larson said.

The fight between Apple and the government became public last month when the FBI obtained a court order requiring Apple to write new software and take other measures to disable passcode protection and allow access to Farook's iPhone.

Apple has pushed back, arguing that such a move would set a dangerous precedent and threaten customer security. The clash has intensified a long-running debate over how much law enforcement and intelligence officials should be able to monitor digital communications.

Law enforcement officials have said that Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were inspired by Islamist militants when they shot and killed 14 people and wounded 22 others last Dec. 2 at a holiday party. Farook and Malik were later killed in a shootout with police and the FBI said it wants to read the data on Farook's phone to investigate any links with militant groups.

Earlier this week, a Brooklyn judge ruled that the government had overstepped its authority by seeking similar assistance from Apple in a drug case.

FBI versus Apple: The privacy threat is overblown


Fourteen killed; 22 seriously injured; the presumptive plot leader, Syed Rizwan Farook, dead; the remaining contents of Farook’s county-issued cellphone inaccessible to those investigating the details of the terrorist rampage that struck the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino on Dec. 2. These are the facts that should matter most to those assessing the reasonableness of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym’s Feb. 16 “Order Compelling Apple, Inc. to Assist Agents in Search.”

[The FBI and Apple: It’s not just about one phone]

Unfortunately, much of the ensuing controversy has focused on extraneous issues and false assertions intended to scare the public into believing that their personal privacy is at stake — and, perhaps not incidentally, to preserve Apple’s pre-eminent position in the cellphone marketplace. Instead of arousing alarmist suspicions that Big Brother has arrived 32 years after George Orwell’s prediction, let’s look at some facts.

1. Apple Can Comply With the Court’s Order

In the final paragraph of its Feb. 17 editorial supporting Apple, the Los Angeles Times grudgingly conceded, “At least one security expert who’s worked on the iPhone says that it’s technically possible to do what the judge has ordered.” Yet, in October 2015, Apple told another judge in New York that it “would not have the ability to do what the government requests — take possession of a password-protected device from the government and extract unencrypted user data from that device for the government.” 

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Feb. 16 “Message to Our Customers” strongly implies that the company’s earlier judicial representations were at least hyperbolic, if not duplicitous. Cook’s new party line is that “the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create.” Note carefully that Apple is no longer asserting any technical inability (a claim that may apply to models more recent than the iPhone 5C Farook was using), but rather that there are no guarantees against multiple future uses of a program which would disable the 5C’s feature that erases all phone data after 10 unsuccessful attempts to break the password.

2. The Floodgates Fallacy

The principal thrust of Cook’s message to Apple’s customers is that the barn door cannot be closed after the horse has escaped. “Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed,” Cook wrote, “the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.” Perhaps so. But what Cook conveniently ignores is that Apple itself controls the barn door.

Judge Pym’s order asks only for “Apple’s reasonable technical assistance” to defeat the phone’s 10-tries-and-erase feature. Her order suggests one technical means for accomplishing this goal, but clearly specifies that Apple is free to use “an alternate technological means from that recommended by the government” and can ask the court for relief if “Apple believes that compliance with this Order would be unduly burdensome.”

Moreover, nothing in Judge Pym’s order states, or even suggests, that Apple must relinquish control of the program it is being asked to create. Indeed, the order provides that such a program can be loaded on Farook’s phone “at either a government facility, or alternatively, at an Apple facility.” Thus, if the horse were to escape, it would be no one’s fault other than Apple. However, I am quite confident that Apple has all the knowledge, wherewithal and human/financial resources to prevent this from happening.

In addition, there is nothing inherently dangerous about the prospect that other crimes might be solved if the same decryption program were used on other iPhones. On Feb. 18, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. told a news conference that there are presently 175 Apple devices in his cybercrime lab that investigators cannot access. So long as judges are presented and act upon adequate and reliable evidence when asked to issue phone decryption warrants, prisoners will no longer be able to characterize iPhone encryption as “another gift from God,” as one New York city jail inmate reportedly did. And should Apple cater to the access demands of repressive foreign regimes, it would be because they chose to — not because they were forced to.

3. The Dead Have No Privacy Rights Over Phones They Don’t Own

Much of the discussion about “privacy rights” in the context of this high-profile dispute ignores two salient facts. First, as a matter of law, the dead have no privacy rights — whether they are criminals, criminal suspects or ordinary citizens. Just as one who is deceased can no longer bring a claim for defamation (libel or slander), so too do all personal privacy rights evaporate the instant one dies.

Second, even if Farook were able to assert a privacy interest from beyond the grave, the phone in question is the property of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, and the county long ago gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation permission to search it.

4. The All Writs Act Kerfuffle

Apple CEO Cook’s message castigates the federal government for “an unprecedented use” of the All Writs Act of 1789 to effect its goal of defeating the 10-tries-and-erase feature of Farook’s phone. Yet, this same law has been invoked to obtain warrants that yielded information in similar cases — including, in recent years, roughly 70 from Apple itself. The act merely provides that the government cannot require someone to undertake overly onerous actions to assist in executing a search warrant — hence, the “unreasonably burdensome” exception in Judge Pym’s order.

And if the concern is that a law dating back more than 200 years is unsuited for today’s technological age, will Apple refrain from invoking the First Amendment (ratified in 1791) whenever it claims, in this case or elsewhere, that its corporate free speech rights are imperiled?

5. An Unnecessary Public Spat

Perhaps the most unfortunate fact about this melodrama is that it took a court order based upon a judicial warrant to bring this issue to a head. Apple and the FBI could have, and should have, resolved this dispute quietly and privately, without need of any judicial intervention. 

At a Feb. 9 congressional hearing, FBI Director James Comey testified that such efforts had already been underway for “over two months.” And, on Feb. 18, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Justice Department officials had even considered filing court papers against Apple a month earlier, only to hold off in the hope of gaining more cooperation.”

At this point, it is too early to tell with certainty which party’s intransigence was the proximate cause of this impasse. However, now that Apple has engaged the services of Ted Olson, the former U.S. Solicitor General who successfully represented George W. Bush in the 2000 election litigation against Al Gore and challenged California’s anti-marriage equality Proposition 8, we can now rest assured that the public profile of this litigation will only continue to escalate.


Douglas Mirell is an attorney and a founding partner of Harder Mirell & Abrams LLP. His practice focuses on privacy rights, defamation, publicity rights, copyright, trademark and First Amendment litigation. He can be reached at dmirell@hmafirm.com.

The FBI and Apple: It’s not just about one phone


The tragedy in San Bernardino has launched an increasingly intense public debate about where the line should be drawn to protect citizens’ digital data from government intrusion. Those horrific shootings left the nation stunned, and the U.S. government should thoroughly investigate this terrorist attack.

But in its search for more information, how far should the government be allowed to go in compelling a company to create something it does not possess?

At issue is an iPhone used by one of the shooters and the encrypted data it contains. The FBI has obtained a court order directing Apple to hack into its iPhones by designing and writing custom software to defeat the phone’s security features.

[The FBI versus Apple: analyzing the claims]

Apple has cooperated with the investigation for the most part, but it has refused the FBI’s demand that it design and write what amounts to malware designed to defeat the security systems it has spent years building. The company has decided to fight the court order, and it should be applauded for standing up for its right to offer secure devices to all of its customers.

So this debate then is not simply about one phone. It is about every phone. And it’s about every device manufactured by a U.S. company in the ever-growing “Internet of Things.”

If the government gets its way, then every device — your mobile phone, tablet or laptop — will carry with it an implicit warning from its manufacturer: “Sorry, but we might be forced to hack you.”

As Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a congressional leader on privacy and technology, has stated, “If upheld, this decision could force U.S. technology companies to actually build hacking tools for government against their will, while weakening cybersecurity for millions of Americans in the process.”

One concern is government overreach. The government isn’t just asking Apple to give them access to documents or programs that already exist. Instead, the government is using a 227-year-old law, the All Writs Act, to order Apple to spend time and resources coming up with a new technology that Apple doesn’t want to work on — code to hack its own phones.

However, the All Writs Act does not permit the government to obtain an order compelling assistance by a party that does not have possession or control of the information the government seeks.

The court order risks setting a dangerous precedent. If the FBI can force Apple to hack into its customers’ devices, then so too can every repressive regime in the rest of the world. If the government demonstrates that it can compel Apple to break its own security in this way, the next demands may well come from China, and the next targets will be dissidents, not criminal suspects.

Of course, historically, the government has sought and obtained assistance from tech companies and others in criminal investigations — but only in obtaining information or evidence the companies already have access to.

So much is at stake. And so much surrounding this case is misunderstood.

One argument is that Apple has unlocked 70 phones in investigations of other crimes. That is simply not true. Apple has extracted data from phones using earlier software without unlocking them. It has helped the government recover data in criminal investigations, but it has not created new code to defeat the security systems — code that would make all Apple customers less secure.

The company has not been able to extract data tied to a passcode since September, 2014, when its iOS 8 operating system was introduced. Apple no longer has a way of breaking into its customers’ mobile devices.

As Apple CEO Tim Cook has said, “We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.”

Another misconception is that Apple could develop a dedicated program that would work only on the phone the FBI has seized. That risk might appear acceptable to some if it were possible to limit access to legitimate governmental purposes overseen by a judge.

But Apple’s Cook notes that so-called backdoors are inherently dangerous. “Once the information is known,” he says, “or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.”

Once the code is bypassed, that knowledge becomes a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle.

For the government, every “Internet of Things” device will be more than just a novel convenience — it will be a new window into your home. The fridge that responds to your verbal commands might have a backdoor to allow for remote listening. The TV that enables you to video chat with your family might be commandeered into a ready-made spy camera.

The security of data and safety of users everywhere isn’t worth sacrificing to a possible lead in any one case, no matter how important.


Hector Villagra is executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.

Trump calls for boycott until Apple unlocks shooter’s phone


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called on Friday for a boycott of Apple Inc products until the tech company agrees to help the U.S. government unlock the cellphone of one of the killers in the San Bernardino, Calif., attack.

“Boycott Apple until such time as they give that information,” Trump said at a campaign event in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. “It just occurred to me.” 

Trump made the off-the-cuff comment at a town hall-style event at a country club in Pawleys Island, a day before that state's Republican presidential nominating contest. 

The Republican front-runner in the 2016 White House race has been a frequent critic of Apple and called on the company to make more products in the United States.

Trump's spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said the real estate mogul does not use an iPhone.

His latest comments came as the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion seeking to forceApple to comply with a judge's order for the company to unlock the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, portraying the tech company's refusal as a “marketing strategy.”

The filing escalated a showdown between the Obama administration and Silicon Valley over security and privacy that ignited earlier this week.

After San Bernardino shooting, Apple opposes FBI demands to unlock phone


Apple Inc opposed a court ruling on Tuesday that ordered it to help the FBI break into an iPhone recovered from a San Bernardino shooter, heightening a dispute between tech companies and law enforcement over the limits of encryption.

Chief Executive Tim Cook said the court's demand threatened the security of Apple's customers and had “implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” 

Earlier on Tuesday, Judge Sheri Pym of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles said that Apple must provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators seeking to unlock the data on an iPhone 5C that had been owned by Syed Rizwan Farook.

That assistance includes disabling the phone's auto-erase function, which activates after 10 consecutive unsuccessful passcode attempts, and helping investigators to submit passcode guesses electronically.

Federal prosecutors requested the court order to compel Apple to assist the investigation into the Dec. 2 shooting rampage by Farook and his wife, killing 14 and injuring 22 others. The two were killed in a shootout with police.

The FBI has been investigating the couple's potential communications with Islamic State and other militant groups.

“Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search, but has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily,” prosecutors said.

U.S. government officials have warned that the expanded use of strong encryption is hindering national security and criminal investigations.

Technology experts and privacy advocates counter that forcing U.S. companies to weaken their encryption would make private data vulnerable to hackers, undermine the security of the Internet and give a competitive advantage to companies in other countries.

In a letter to customers posted on Apple's website, Cook said the FBI wanted the company “to build a backdoor to the iPhone” by making a new version of the iPhone operating system that would circumvent several security features.

“The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers – including tens of millions of American citizens – from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals,” Cook said.

He said Apple was “challenging the FBI's demands” and that it would be “in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.”

In a similar case last year, Apple told a federal judge in New York that it was “impossible” for the company to unlock its devices that run an operating system of iOS 8 or higher.

According to prosecutors, the phone belonging to Farook ran on iOS 9.

Prosecutors said Apple could still help investigators by disabling “non-encrypted barriers that Apple has coded into its operating system.”

Apple and Google both adopted strong default encryption in late 2014, amid growing digital privacy concerns spurred in part by the leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski said on Tuesday that Apple might have to write custom code to comply with the order, presenting a novel question to the court about whether the government could order a private company to hack its own device.

Zdziarski said that, because the San Bernardino shooting was being investigated as a terrorism case, investigators would be able to work with the NSA and the CIA on cracking the phone.

Those U.S. intelligence agencies could likely break the iPhone's encryption without Apple's involvement, he said.

Alphabet profit sends shares up; overtakes Apple in value


Alphabet Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly profit on Monday, sending shares of Google's parent soaring in after-hours trading and making it the most valuable U.S. company ahead of rival Apple Inc.

It was the first quarter the company provided information on what it calls 'Other Bets' such as self-driving cars, and the solid results eased investor concerns about the company's spending on ambitious projects. 

“As long as the core business continues to operate well with accelerated revenue… investment in those businesses can continue,” said Ronald Josey of JMP Securities.

Alphabet said consolidated revenue jumped 17.8 percent to $21.33 billion in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $18.10 billion a year earlier. Analysts had expected $20.77 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Adjusted earnings of $8.67 per share handily beat analysts' average estimate of $8.10 per share.

Total operating losses on the Other Bets – which include glucose-monitoring contact lenses and Internet balloons – increased to $3.57 billion in the 12 months ended Dec. 31, and $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter.

In a call with analysts, Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat attributed the strong earnings to “increased use of mobile search by consumers,” as well as “ongoing momentum” in YouTube and programmatic advertising. 

Google's shares were up almost 6 percent at $795.68 in after-hours trading, after breaking through the $800 level. Alphabet's combined share classes were worth $555 billion, compared with Apple, which had a value of about $534 billion. 

Alphabet will officially overtake Apple in market value if both companies' shares open around current levels on Tuesday. 

Google's advertising revenue increased nearly 17 percent to $19.08 billion, while the number of ads, or paid clicks, rose 31 percent, the company said. Analysts had expected paid clicks to increase 21.8 percent.

Advertisers pay Google only if someone clicks on their ad.

Net income in the fourth quarter rose to $4.92 billion, or $7.06 per Class A and B share and Class C capital stock, from $4.68 billion, or $6.79 per share.

Adjusted earnings of $8.67 per share excluded certain one-time items.

Apple’s Siri technology to be offered in Hebrew


Apple’s voice-activated assistant technology, which is offered in 18 languages, will be offered in Hebrew.

Siri, which stands for Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface, will be able to speak Hebrew next month in the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, Ynet reported Tuesday.

The beta version of the Hebrew Siri will not allow for searching of restaurants, movie theaters and other local destinations, the Times of Israel reported.

Siri is only currently available in various dialects of English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Thai and Portuguese.

The technology, which responds to a variety of vocal requests, is available only on Apple devices.

Apple invites journalists to Sept. 9 event


Apple Inc on Thursday invited journalists to a Sept 9 event, where it is expected to unveil new iPhones and potentially a new version of its Apple TV set top box.

The email invitation includes a colorful Apple logo with the phrase “Hey Siri, give us a hint.” The company typically announces its new iPhones in September.

Apple Watch launches April 24 for up to $17,000 in rose gold


Apple Inc launched its long-awaited watch on Monday, including yellow or rose gold models with sapphire faces costing up to $17,000, but investors questioned whether Chief Executive Tim Cook's first product would be a breakaway hit.

Apple's first new device since Cook became CEO will be available for order on April 10 and in stores on April 24, including chic boutiques in Paris, London and Tokyo.

In a nod to both fashion and technology, Cook shared the stage with model Christy Turlington Burns, who used it to train for a marathon, and Apple engineers who showed off apps, including how to call an Uber car with the watch.

Apple shares barely budged, however. Investors and analysts agreed that Apple would sell millions to fans but questioned whether it had a “killer app” that would engage a broader audience. Apple in September gave a sneak peek of the watch which included many features shown on Monday.

“I think there's a niche market for these kind of Apple tech people who love Apple and will buy anything they come out with. But I just don't know if it's going to be the power product that everyone's looking for,” said Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Company in Atlanta, Georgia, who described Wall Street as “scratching its head”.

Members of the style establishment, in Paris for shows from the glittering likes of Chanel, Givenchy and Hermes mostly said they saw the watch as a gadget, not this season's must-have accessory.

The Apple Watch sport will start at $349 for the smaller, 38-mm model. The standard version of the watch will start at $549 and the high-end “Edition” watch will be priced from $10,000, said Cook, who loved the Dick Tracy ability to hold phone calls by watch.

“I have been wanting to do this since I was five years old,” said Cook.

The different models reflect different materials. A $17,000 Edition in the smaller, 38-mm size, has a case made from a customized version of 18-karat rose gold, which is especially hard, along with a sapphire display. It comes with a magnetic charging case.

A $349 Sport model the same size has an aluminum case, a 'sport band' and a magnetic charging cable, and no case.

All the watches share digital faces that can look like traditional time pieces, show the heart beat of a friend, and display photos and interfaces for apps.

“Apple's been very good at personalizing its products,” said Angelo Zino, an analyst at S&P Capital IQ, who said the “intimacy” of the watch was appealing. He saw 10 million in sales this year.

In the presentation, Cook described the watch handling many functions currently associated with the iPhone, which tethers wirelessly to the watch and connects it to the Internet.

The watch will track exercise and remind wearers of events with a tap on the wrist.

Cook also laid out other product successes and launched a new MacBook notebook computer that starts at $1,299 and weighs as little as 2 pounds.

Every major car brand had committed to delivering Apple's CarPlay entertainment system, and the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have 99 percent customer satisfaction rates, he said. The Apple Pay payment system is now accepted at 700,000 locations, and Time Warner Inc's HBO in April will debut its streaming HBO NOW service on Apple TV.

Apple also is offering researchers new development tools, called ResearchKit, to help medical researchers design apps for clinical trials, the company said.

Apple’s health tech takes early lead among top hospitals


Apple Inc's healthcare technology is spreading quickly among major U.S. hospitals, showing early promise as a way for doctors to monitor patients remotely and lower costs.

Fifteen of 23 top hospitals contacted by Reuters said they have rolled out a pilot program of Apple's HealthKit service – which acts as a repository for patient-generated health information like blood pressure, weight or heart rate – or are in talks to do so.

The pilots aim to help physicians monitor patients with such chronic conditions as diabetes and hypertension. Apple rivals Google Inc and Samsung Electronics, which have released similar services, are only just starting to reach out to hospitals and other medical partners.

Such systems hold the promise of allowing doctors to watch for early signs of trouble and intervene before a medical problem becomes acute. That could help hospitals avoid repeat admissions, for which they are penalized under new U.S. government guidelines, all at a relatively low cost.

The U.S. healthcare market is $3 trillion, and researcher IDC Health Insights predicts that 70 percent of healthcare organizations worldwide will invest by 2018 in technology including apps, wearables, remote monitoring and virtual care.

Those trying out Apple's service included at least eight of the 17 hospitals on one list ranking the best hospitals, the U.S. News & World Report's Honor Roll. Google and Samsung had started discussions with just a few of these hospitals.

Apple's HealthKit works by gathering data from sources such as glucose measurement tools, food and exercise-tracking apps and Wi-fi connected scales. The company's Apple Watch, due for release in April, promises to add to the range of possible data, which with patients' consent can be sent to an electronic medical record for doctors to view.

'TIMING RIGHT'

Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans has been working with Apple and Epic Systems, Ochsner's medical records vendor, to roll out a pilot program for high-risk patients. The team is already tracking several hundred patients who are struggling to control their blood pressure. The devices measure blood pressure and other statistics and send it to Apple phones and tablets.

“If we had more data, like daily weights, we could give the patient a call before they need to be hospitalized,” said Chief Clinical Transformation Officer Dr. Richard Milani.

Sumit Rana, chief technology officer at Epic Systems, said the timing was right for mobile health tech to take off.

“We didn't have smartphones ten years ago; or an explosion of new sensors and devices,” Rana said.

Apple has said that over 600 developers are integrating HealthKit into their health and fitness apps.

Many of the hospitals told Reuters they were eager to try pilots of the Google Fit service, since Google's Android software powers most smartphones. Google said it has several developer partners on board for Fit, which connects to apps and devices, but did not comment on its outreach to hospitals.

Samsung said it is working with Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital to develop mobile health technology. The firm also has a relationship with the University of California's San Francisco Medical Center.

Apple's move into mobile health tech comes as the Affordable Care Act and other healthcare reform efforts aim to provide incentives for doctors to keep patients healthy. The aim is to move away from the “fee for service” model, which has tended to reward doctors for pricey procedures rather than for outcomes.

Still, hospitals must decide whether the difficulty of sorting through a deluge of patient-generated data of varying quality is worth the investment.

“This is a whole new data source that we don't understand the integrity of yet,” said William Hanson, chief medical information officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

FIRST STEPS

Apple has recruited informal industry advisors, including Rana and John Halamka, chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, to discuss health data privacy and for introductions to the industry.

The company said it had an “incredible team” of experts in health and fitness and was talking to medical institutions, healthcare and industry experts on ways to deliver its services.

A few hospitals are also exploring how to manage the data that is flowing in from health and fitness-concerned patients, whom many in Silicon Valley refer to as the “worried well.”

Beth Israel's Halamka said that many of the 250,000 patients in his system had data from sources such as Jawbone's Up activity tracker and wirelessly connected scales.

“Can I interface to every possible device that every patient uses? No. But Apple can,” he said.

Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles is developing visual dashboards to present patient-generated data to doctors in an easy-to-digest manner.

Experts say that there will eventually be a need for common standards to ensure that data can be gathered from both Apple's system and its competitors.

“How do we get Apple to work with Samsung? I think it will be a problem eventually,” said Brian Carter, a director focused on personal and population health at Cerner, an electronic medical record vendor that is integrated with HealthKit.

Apple iPhone sales trample expectations as profit sets global record


Apple, Inc. quarterly results smashed Wall Street expectations with record sales of big-screen iPhones in the holiday shopping season and a 70 percent rise in China sales, powering the company to the largest profit in corporate history.

The company sold 74.5 million iPhones in its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 27, while many analysts had expected fewer than 70 million. Revenue rose to $74.6 billion from $57.6 billion a year earlier.

Profit of $18 billion was the biggest ever reported by a public company, worldwide, according to S&P analyst Howard Silverblatt. Apple's cash pile is now $178 billion, enough to buy IBM or the equivalent to $556 for every American.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said the Cupertino, California-based company would release its next product, the Apple Watch, in April.

Shares rose about 5 percent to $114.90 in after-hours trade.

Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Apple-shareholder Synovus Trust Company in Atlanta, Georgia, said that the report was a good sign in a quarter where big tech companies such as IBM and Microsoft Corp have disappointed.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told Reuters in an interview that the company did not sell more iPhones in China than the United States, despite some earlier predictions by research analysts.

But the big-screen iPhone 6 and 6 plus drove revenues in China were up 70 percent in the quarter from a year earlier. The company's success in the competitive Chinese market can be attributed to its partnership with China Mobile Ltd, the largest global mobile carrier, and the appeal of the larger screen size of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Maestri said he does not expect Apple to struggle because of China's slipping economic growth. “We haven't seen a slowdown,” he added.

Maestri also said the company doubled iPhone sales in Singapore and Brazil.

Apple will reach 40 company stores in greater China by mid-2016, Maestri told analysts on a conference call.

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, also lauded a 14 percent rise in unit sales of Apple Macintosh computers and sales of older iPhone models.

Apple was well positioned for the current quarter in China, she added, which will include the Chinese New Year holiday and reflect Apple's attempts to sell through new channels.

Apple reported net profit of $18.02 billion, or $3.06 per diluted share, compared with $13.07 billion, or $2.07 per share, a year earlier. That topped expectations of $2.60 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Analysts had expected revenue of $67.69 billion.

Maestri said that Apple faced “a clear headwind” from the strong dollar but that it had included the challenge in its forecasts. Apple predicted revenue of $52 billion to $55 billion in its fiscal second quarter, compared with Wall Street's average target of $53.79 billion.

Cook said that the company's new mobile payment service, Apple Pay, which lets customer buy products from select merchants with their phones, was in its “first inning” and the company would consider adding new features as it looked at expanding outside the United States.

No magic bullet: Technology has much to offer in the classroom, but it can’t fix everything


I’m sold on technology in the classroom. I really am. I mean, books, paper and pens are a form of technology — they’re just a comparatively inert and messy form. 

I’m not sentimental about physical books. I’m sure when they came around, some poor slob was sitting in a corner crying because reading would never be the same without handwritten scrolls, and a few centuries before that, when the scrolls came around, some sad shmo was tearing his hair out and wailing that you’d have to pry his stone tablets out of his cold, dead hands.

But I’m not ready to hand the keys over to Apple yet. The fact that new technology is available does not mean we know how to use it. The really cool thing about most of these netbooks, laptops, tablets and e-readers is that they are adaptive to our needs, and if the software is smart, it’s adaptive, too.

Technology is not static. High-tech tools are not shovels; they aren’t created for a single purpose and used that way forever. In fact, it’s my impression that iPads were created because they were cool and Apple figured, correctly, that users would figure out what they were good for through trial and error. Google is now doing the same with Google Glass. God help us all.

But currently we are not talking about technology in schools this way. What I see instead is an approach to technology as if it were a solid, unchanging, one-size-fits-all answer. In my opinion, this way of thinking is a mistake — a very, very expensive mistake. This mistake has two aspects:

1. Top-down, large-scale, prepackaged “solutions” 

Right now, superintendents and schools, terrified of seeming out of date, are investing enormous amounts of money in prepackaged technology without regard to its usefulness in the context of the very different classrooms in which it will be used. The most glaring example is the recent fiasco in which Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy pushed for $1.3 billion to purchase iPads for every single student in the district — with such blind enthusiasm that the original plan was to offer above retail for each and every tablet. Are your ancestors spinning in their graves? Mine are. 

The district also failed to ask whether any teacher actually wanted to use these tablets; as of this year, 80 percent of the high schools that received the iPads reported that they rarely use them. As for the expensive Pearson software “curriculum” purchased for the devices, sight unseen, less than half of 1 percent of all teachers surveyed had ever used it. 

2. The delusion that technology and “blended learning” will allow us to cut back on teachers, saving us money 

This is a fantasy I hear promoted by many blended-learning advocates whose dream, at least as I’ve heard it, was that in the future, classrooms would have 60 or more kids. Here’s how the dream goes:

Each class, divided into three groups of 20 pupils, will have a “master teacher” in charge of 60 kids per class period. One group will be led by the teacher and be focused on discussion or direct instruction. Another group will be divided into small groups who work together on a project. A third group will work independently on computers to do individualized lessons guided by software to meet their needs.

A third of the way through the class, everyone will rotate to a new station. By the end of the class, each of the pupils will have been in a class discussion, participated in a group and done an individualized lesson.

Final result: We save a ton of money. 

The teacher is then carried away on a stretcher.

Actually, that last sentence is purely hypothetical. It’s also the only part I actually believe. Seriously, can you imagine actually teaching a class like this? I mean, for more than an hour? Without being on a Xanax drip?

Let’s get real. Blended learning is a cool idea, but it is not going to allow us to fire half the workforce as if on an assembly line when you upgrade your machinery.

So what can blended learning do? I have now seen blended learning in action at a few sites, and I’m here to tell you that — done thoughtfully, in an organic way that proceeds from a teacher’s needs and with a class size small enough for the teacher to have an individual relationship with students — it looks promising. 

But when class sizes balloon to more than 30, things get much, much dicier. I recently witnessed a really excellent teacher leading a blended-learning English class with 37 students. With this number of pupils, due to funding cuts, the small-group work aspect was not possible because kids just wouldn’t focus without a teacher’s supervision. 

But the biggest issue is sustainability. The teacher I observed was essentially teaching two simultaneous classes; she had to plan the discussion and personally design work for the students doing the individualized lessons, because as far as I know there is no really good software for 11th-grade English — how could there be once you got past basic grammar and vocabulary? The kids not sitting in front of her were filling out worksheets or chatting. Every so often, she’d stop her lesson to redirect them, at which point the other group would drift off task. Just watching her gave me a headache.

Like so many educational innovations I read about, large classrooms and rotating workstations might work in a class of high-functioning, confident students, but in an underserved community where you have a lot of kids coming in far below grade level, with low confidence and a history of negative experiences with school, many students need more individual attention than this. 

And yet, ironically, I only hear people talking about saving money by using technology to allow enormous classes when they’re talking about students of color in high-poverty communities. I never hear people talk this way about saving money on affluent white students. So before we implement the technology “solution,” let’s be honest about which students are being treated as objects on an assembly line and which are being seen as human beings in our educational system.

Technology is a great tool. We are going to be able to do a lot of cool stuff we’ve never dreamed of. But as a society, let’s let go of the delusion that technology is going to replace teachers or allow enormous class sizes.

It’s going to take time. And patience. And that most outrageous of luxuries, human conversation. 

I know, I know, we can’t afford human conversation. We need to spend a billion dollars to gear up for the billion dollars’ worth of standardized testing coming at us.

That, we can afford. How else will we be sure our children are learning?


Ellie Herman is an award-winning writer, teacher and life coach in Los Angeles. She blogs about education, learning and life at GatsbyInLA.wordpress.com.

Meet the Jewish founders of Tinder


Finding dates used to require approaches such as hiring matchmakers, signing up for dancing and cooking classes, attending synagogue, asking friends for help, or, for the least energetic, merely creating a cursory profile on sites such as JDate.

But now, thanks to apps such as the uber-popular Tinder, it takes just one finger and a smartphone to maybe, just maybe, find your one-and-only. 

Launched in 2012, Tinder may now be millennials’ most popular source for matchmaking — possibly even more than friends introducing friends.

Two of the app’s three creators are Sean Rad and Justin Mateen, two Jewish 27-year-olds from Los Angeles who set up shop in West Hollywood with their other co-founder, Jonathan Badeen. (Despite their full work and social schedules, both Rad and Mateen said they make sure to be at their parents’ Shabbat dinner tables every Friday.) They declined to reveal how many millions of people have downloaded Tinder, but they are competing with the most successful matchmaking apps (see: Hinge) in “creating introductions,” Tinder’s raison d’etre.

Available for free on Apple and Android operating systems, Tinder works like this: If Ted, 22, wants to meet someone new, the app starts by pulling information from his Facebook account — first name, age, interests, friends and photos. Then Ted can write a brief description of himself, choose which photos to post and — voila! — time to Tinder.

One after another, pictures of young women — if that’s who he’s looking to meet — will appear on Ted’s screen, along with their first names and ages. Ted can also see whether they have friends or interests in common. 

Clicking on the profile photo of one — say, Victoria, 23 — Ted scrolls through a few more pictures, reads her bio (she describes herself as “compassionate and adventurous” and has an Instagram account) and sees that their mutual Facebook friend is someone he has never met in person. Not sufficiently intrigued, Ted swipes his finger to the left, sending Victoria into the Tinder netherworld. He will never see her again.

Next up is Beth, 21. Bad photo. Easy choice. Swipe left.

Then Jamie, 22. Cute face but strange smile. Swipe left.

It has been only seven seconds since Ted swiped left on Victoria, and he’s coming up on his fourth potential match: Sara, 21. She’s very pretty, has four mutual friends, loves Dave Matthews Band, and she last used the app five minutes ago (Tinder shows that), so she’s definitely actively looking. Swipe right.

Suddenly, a new screen pops up with a picture of Ted and Sara and the words “It’s a Match!” This means Sara must have seen Ted’s profile and swiped right, too. This allows them to send direct messages to each other, share some jokes, exchange phone numbers and then, who knows what?

Will LAUSD’s iPad upgrade work?


The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest public school district in the United States, has approved a plan that will provide every K-12 student and teacher in Los Angeles with an iPad by fall 2014. With more than 650,000 students and almost 26,000 teachers, this initiative represents a huge and risky investment that’s quickly growing from an initial estimate of $500 million to close to $1 billion. The initiative is being financed from monies in a bond fund that had been earmarked for school infrastructure. 

Is it worth it?

As someone who has, literally, written the book on iPad use in the classroom, I can answer with a definitive: It depends.

Incorporating technology into learning can potentially enhance the quality of education — but only if such an initiative has clear objectives, is well planned and properly managed. The quality of a school’s education can’t be validated with a simple tally of the devices being used on campus. The iPad isn’t a magic pill that will cure the ailments of outdated educational models — not unless its use is integrated into holistic educational approaches that address the needs of 21st century learners entering adulthood in a technology-rich, unpredictable and exponentially changing society. 

As a parent deciding between educational alternatives for my child, I would ask several key questions in deciding whether the new LAUSD initiative will improve public education:

How will technology use change the educational dynamics at the school?

We’ve all experienced the depth of “learning by doing.” In contrast to the traditional “sage on the stage” classroom lecturing model, technology can be used to empower learners to research, discover, create and connect within more student-centered, experiential processes. Given opportunity and support, students can analyze and work toward solutions of real-world problems. Student-centered educational models develop independent, lifelong learners that can thrive in a climate of societal change. As examples of student-centered models, consider the school in Culver City where students polled residents about their water usage in order to create public service videos as part of their campaign to promote water conservation. The students in a middle school class in Texas took it upon themselves to research and design cafeteria menus and school programs for healthier eating and increased fitness. When deciding to rebuild their outdoor play areas, one elementary school turned to its students and gave them the chance to debate and offer design suggestions. 

We all get caught up in assessments and academic results. Remember, however, that preparing students for “the test” can often come at the expense of building important skills that prepare them for life. Education needs to focus on preparing children for the journey ahead and not for some arbitrary destination. 

Will technology be used to break down classroom walls? 

The traditional school design gathered students together in a walled-off, physical space, giving them access to a single content source (textbook) and a subject expert (teacher). That model remained largely unchanged for more than a century — and then along came the Internet. All of a sudden, huge libraries of content and teams of experts are available anywhere and at any time. We can steadfastly hold on to our old pedagogical models or embrace the opportunity to help our students connect, analyze, evaluate and utilize the incredible amount of information they have at their fingertips. 

Access and connection — that’s the magic of technology. Imagine their awe when a class of fifth-grade science students in Ohio had a Skype video call with famed international astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson to discuss their interplanetary travel project. Consider the ninth-grade class I worked with that searched Twitter and found the author of the novel they were reading, then arranged a video conference to discuss how he developed the characters and plot. Think of all the classrooms where students can work collaboratively in groups, sharing their work online with others while developing the teamwork and collaborative skills demanded by employers in the workplace. An amazing transformation occurs when you go from “Refer to your textbook and answer the questions at the end of the chapter” to “How and with whom can I connect to develop the answers I’m seeking?”

How will teachers make the adjustment? 

Deploying iPads effectively involves a major change in educational outlook and school culture. This requires ongoing training, mentoring and continual support. Will the teachers at your school receive training on integrating multimedia into lessons, screencasting presentations, creating and publishing class e-books and more … or will they be expected to continue lecturing and use technology for projecting and word processing? Without constant training and reinforcement, not only will technology fail to reform education but it will become a very expensive Band-Aid on an old educational model that isn’t working.

Will classes have a virtual learning environment? 

Learning is occurring in both physical and virtual environments. Schools require a well-designed and implemented online presence that helps students engage in interactive communications and learning practices both before and after the afternoon bell rings. Does your school have an effective online presence that always communicates clear expectations for classes and students? More importantly, can students collaborate and interact with teachers and other students outside of class? Does the school’s online presence encourage and facilitate collaboration with teachers and students in other locations around the world?

The LAUSD plan is a brave and bold first step that recognizes the need to reform our schools. The key question is how schools will use technology to create a 21st century learning environment for students. Answer that question correctly and we’ll be doing our children a great service.


Sam Gliksman is an educational technology consultant, author and speaker. He is the author of “iPads in Education for Dummies” and can be contacted at samgliksman@gmail.com.

Billion-dollar Waze


UPDATE [7/29/13]: Google bought Waze for $966 million.

Just a couple of years ago, the Israeli entrepreneurs behind the traffic-fighting smartphone app Waze were knocking down the door of every news outlet in Los Angeles. They were seeking publicity to help forge their way into the iPhones and Androids of L.A. drivers by promising some reprieve from “Carmageddon” weekend on the 405 freeway. Waze argued that its brave new method of crowdsourcing map and traffic data — via social media, with input from an active user base — would be the perfect tool to navigate drivers around the monster 405 freeway project and resulting traffic jams. The company needed press, and bad — because if enough people didn’t use the app, it wouldn’t work for anyone.

Well, they don’t need the press anymore. On June 11, Google Inc., the American tech giant at the forefront of online mapping, bought Waze Mobile for between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion, according to various media reports (neither company has disclosed the final sum). Google’s acquisition is one of the largest in the history of the Israeli tech industry and stands as a major vote of confidence for both Waze and Israel’s startup scene at large.

These days, the Waze guys, who once reached out to Los Angeles eager for attention from any reporter, are mum. They are happily cloaked under Google’s strict no-press policy. “We are Google employees” now, says one of the app’s three founders over Facebook chat, “and we cannot speak to the press.”

Even without Google, Waze picked up a fast and loyal following in its first five to six years on the market: The app already boasts almost 50 million users in 190 countries and counting.

But no one will ever love Waze quite as fiercely as Israel.

[Related: What is it with Israelis and high tech?]

The buzz of the billion-dollar sale could be felt last week through the summer heat in Tel Aviv and environs, where Waze has long been regarded a national treasure — the top of the class in a nation of 1,000 startups. “Congratulations, you have reached your destination,” cheered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a reported phone call to Waze’s founders on the night of the sale.

“The Israeli people feel that they have some part in this huge success story,” said Izhar Shay, head of Israel operations at venture capital firm Canaan Partners. “We were the test group. We were the first users of an international breakthrough project, and we were part of the reason why Waze was so successful.”

The local market may only be about 7 million strong — a shortcoming that some say has slowed the overall progress of consumer-oriented invention in Israel — but it’s famously hands-on.

“By nature, people here are happy to try out new technologies, new concepts, new ideas — especially if they’re introduced by Israelis,” said Shay. “When Waze started, everybody knew somebody at Waze. So if people had bugs or issues with something that didn’t work properly, they would pick up the phone and call to yell at somebody at Waze.”

There have been local concerns, over the years, that large foreign companies are harvesting many of the best Israeli business ideas at an unripe age. But industry analysts who spoke with the Jewish Journal argued that the Waze buyout, which reportedly includes an agreement to keep Waze’s headquarters in Israel for at least the next three years, is the best possible scenario for a local company looking to go global.

Gil Ben-Artzy, co-founder of UpWest Labs — a training program in Silicon Valley for Israeli startups — called the sale a natural and smart evolution for Waze, and a “beacon” for other Israeli entrepreneurs.

“I find it hard to accuse somebody who sold their company for over $1 billion of selling too early,” said Jonathan Medved, head of Israeli crowd-funding venture OurCrowd.

Waze “fought like a lion to keep its development in the country,” Medved said. “The fact that these guys showed that you can fight that battle and win, and still sell your company for a good price, means that everybody’s going to try to do it.”

Up until now, Google Maps has been a dirty word in Israel; everyone wants to support the home team, plus Waze appeals to the Israeli nature to jump into the conversation, so the app has become extremely accurate due to all the input. But the two companies’ new all-star collaboration has now set the tech blogs on fire with speculation on the future possibilities of online mapping.

One thing they all can agree on: Waze’s secret weapon in a world clamoring with startups — and undoubtedly one of Google’s top reasons for scooping it up — has always been its devoted army of Wazers, who together helped the app reach the critical “viral” stage by telling all their friends and helping chart new territory within Waze’s virtual map system.

In combining their strengths — manual and social-media mapping, respectively — Google and Waze have hit such a sweet spot in the online map market that Southern California-based interest group Consumer Watchdog has even expressed concern that the duo might become a monopoly.

Facebook and Apple, who were also rumored bidders in the race for Waze, can’t be too happy about the new superpower.

“When you are driving in your car and you’re using Waze … you’re stuck in traffic, and all you have is this small screen in front of you that delivers the most important news to you,” Israeli investor Shay explained. “Now Google has access to our hearts while we are at a very significant part of our day, and we have nowhere to go.”

Israeli techies and investors are also touting the Waze acquisition as a ribbon-cutting of sorts for the new and exciting “consumer-oriented” frontier of Israeli innovation.

In the past, the country has been known more for its security software, semiconductors and other business-to-business (read: boring) technology. 

Waze is the polar opposite — a people’s product to the core. With its cutesy icons and game-like elements — including swords and badges for those drivers who submit warnings about “objects in the road,” police stakeouts, etc. — the app has proven as addicting as any Farmville or Angry Birds, only loads more useful. For the Waze addict, a commute is no longer complete without the soothing voice of Waze’s token she-bot, coaxing her customer through each lurch and turn.

To be sure, the app has had its detractors. Some traffic-safety advocates have worried that Waze’s highly interactive, video-game-like experience can prevent drivers from paying attention to the real-life road in front of them. The company has responded by installing voice-command and motion-sensor functions, as well as a keyboard lock for when the vehicle is moving — although drivers can easily override the latter by telling Waze that they are in the passenger’s seat. Last week, New York Magazine blogger Kevin Roose wrote in a concerned post on the acquisition: “As Google considers adding revenue-generating features like local advertising to Waze’s already-packed interface, it may raise the question: How much information is too much for drivers to handle safely?”

Yet, for Waze’s defenders, the proof is in its adaptability — and with Google’s latest infusion of cash, the app will no doubt keep adapting to meet user demands. 

Consumer-oriented innovation “requires a certain aesthetic understanding, and a certain design excellence” that Israel hasn’t necessarily been known for in the past, said Mick Weinstein, a longtime tech writer based in Jerusalem. “And that’s part of what’s so wonderful about Waze, is the user experience.”

In the wake of Google’s winning bid, Oren Hod, co-founder of video creation marketplace VeedMe, which connects videographers with prospective clients, said startups like his are catching Waze fever.

“I think [the sale] gave hope to some entrepreneurs and Israeli startups that are not super technology-oriented … to make it big in the U.S. market,” said Hod.

Local and international investors, too, are apt to be inspired by Google’s big move, said Shay — and “we should expect to see additional votes of confidence in Israeli startups as a result.”

Medved added that he has “never seen a time when there have been more good-quality Israeli startups that are really attracting worldwide attention — I think it’s a golden age.”

Waze, for one, doesn’t need the press anymore, nor the hasbara. As Google’s gorgeous Tel Aviv campus buzzes with new life and Waze enjoys its hard-earned spot on top of the world in Ra’anana, it begins to sound superfluous — even old-fashioned — to rave about Israel’s “Silicon Wadi” as if it were a niche or an underdog.

Apple to open third research center in Israel


Apple will open its third research and development center in Israel.

The tech giant's new center will open later this year in Raanana's industrial zone, the Israeli business daily Globes reported, but no official date has been set.

Apple will bring aboard some 150 employees from Texas Instruments, whose Israel branch suffered major layoffs several weeks ago.

The website Next Web had reported that Intel was offering “healthy compensation packages” to lure engineers and nearly spoiled Apple's plan to open the Raanana site.

Apple opened an R&D center last year in Haifa and also acquired the Herzliya-based flash memory developer Anobit.

Slice of Life: Cider recipes for adults


When my boys were younger we had hot cider for them and the neighborhood kids after a hard day playing in the leaves. Now that my kids are out of the house and all I’m doing  all the raking (yeah, right) I’ve decided to invite other “parents of children too old to do the chores we don’t want to do” over to share stores of epic piles of laundry that engendered shock and awe to all that beheld them. I felt that the appropriate fall beverage to serve would be cider, but cider with a twist and a kick.
 
All of the following recipes are rated ADULTS ONLY as alcohol as a key component. While they are perfect for keeping the cold at bay after a hard day with the leaf blower they are also wonderful for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

HOT APPLE CIDER WITH RUM (pareve)

  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup rum
  • Cinnamon sticks, garnish
Push the cloves into the apple and place it in a saucepan. Add the sliced orange, apple cider, brown sugar, allspice and nutmeg. Whisk to combine and bring to a boil and then immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the apple. Add the rum and whisk to combine. Ladle into 6 to 8 mugs and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Serve hot.
 
Serves 6 to 8
 
Recipe modified from one by Emeril Lagasse, 2002

CIDER STREUDEL COCKTAIL (pareve or dairy)

  • 1 oz. orange, lemon or plain vodka
  • 6 oz. apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ground cinnamon
  • powdered sugar
  • 1 apple
  • caramel apple dipping sauce (optional)
  • ice
In a microwave bowl combine the vodka, water and apple cider. Add one dash of ground cinnamon and whisk to combine. Microwave until hot about 30 seconds but do not boil. Dip the rim of a hot beverage glass with powdered sugar then ladle the warm cider into the rimmed glass. Dip a slice of the apple in the caramel dipping sauce and use it, with a dash of cinnamon as a garnish.
 
Serves 1. This recipe can be doubled
 
Modified from a recipe by Michael Snyder

CIDER PUNCH (pareve)

  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 dash of nutmeg
  • Dried apple slices
In a tea strainer combine all the spices. In a large saucepan, combine apple cider, sugar and salt. Add spices. Bring slowly to a boil. About 20 minutes. Turn down the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Discard spices. Add cinnamon stick and dried apple to each mug. This can be made ahead of time and reheated when needed, but don’t boil.
 
Serves 8
 
Modified from about.com

CIDER SHOTS (dairy)

  • 1 ounce vodka (you can use flavored)
  • 1 ounce apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon sweetened whipped cream
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
In a 2 ounce shot glass, combine vodka and apple cider. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a pinch of cinnamon.
 
Serves 1
 
My files, source unknown

GOLDEN APPLE PUNCH (pareve)

  • 1 pint vodka
  • 1 pint apple liquor
  • 2 bottles sparkling apple cider
  • red apple slices
Into each glass, pour 1 tablespoon vodka and 1 tablespoon Calvados over ice. Add sparkling cider to fill and a red apple slice. 
 
Serves 30.
 
From Health DECEMBER 2008

New Apple operating system lists Israel without a capital, Jerusalem without a country


The map included in Apple’s new iOS6 operating system reportedly does not show Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Every other country on the map has its capital listed, The Algemeiner reported Tuesday.

In addition, the world clock included in the operating system lists Jerusalem without an affiliated country — the only city to be included that way, the paper said.

Apple did not respond to JTA requests for comment.

Coming to a seder near you: A haggadah on your iPad


This Passover, Jews can still reliably be called “the people of the book.”

If sales of newly published versions of the haggadah are any indication, on the first night of Passover, when it comes time to tell the story of the Exodus, most people sitting at seder tables will be holding in their hands a text that consists of printed words and images on paper.

Next year, though, it’s anyone’s guess, and it seems inevitable that electronic readers and tablet computers will become a big part of at least some future seders, and anyone with an iPad can experience that future today.

A purpose-built iPad app, titled, simply, “The Haggadah” (Melcher Media) was released on March 28, and another iPad-friendly haggadah, an e-book version of the new ink-on-paper title “Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contemporary Family” (CCAR Press), has been submitted to Apple’s iBookstore for approval, for a release, the makers hope, before seder time.

The creators of “The Haggadah” app anticipate that people won’t only use the new application to follow their own seder, but also that the app itself could become a site for actual sharing — of recipes, photos, stories and, of course, questions.

[Related: Download the Jewish Journal on your mobile device]

“As far as I know, this is the first haggadah app with this kind of interactivity,” said David Kraemer, a professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), who translated the haggadah’s text into English and wrote most of the app’s additional text. There are features familiar to any reader of Passover books — an introduction to Passover and a history of the haggadah — and Kraemer also wrote dozens of comments sprinkled throughout the text, each one accessible with the tap of a finger.

Search any online marketplace for e-books and you’ll find a few haggadot (the plural of haggadah), each with its own tone, quality and price. Craig Buck, a TV writer who created the 15-page “Ina Gada Haggadah” for his family’s 20-minute seder back in the 1990s, doesn’t think anyone has purchased the Kindle version yet, although hundreds have downloaded versions available each year (in PDF format) on his Web site.

PDFs can be read on many tablet readers, and DIYSeder, an online resource that allows users to customize a haggadah’s text (What word would you prefer to substitute for “God”?) and commentary (Is your seder table full of politicos? Children? Non-Jews?) has apps for iPad- and Android-equipped devices that will allow their haggadot to be read there.

Another haggadah in the Kindle store — “The Union Haggadah,” first published in 1923 by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) — displays both a menorah and a dreidel on the cover, a clear indication that the seller mixed up Chanukah, probably the best-known Jewish holiday, with the most widely celebrated one, Passover.

“The copyright expired, so it’s technically in the public domain,” Rabbi Dan Medwin, publishing technology manager for the CCAR, said. “We don’t know who took that text and made it an e-book. There’s even an iPhone app.”

That shoddy repackaging of a 90-year-old text (retail price $3.99) is nothing like the e-book version of “Sharing the Journey” that Medwin created for the CCAR Press.

E-books, Medwin said, are becoming more flexible. Thanks to the advent of iBooks Author, software released by Apple in January of this year that allows publishers to incorporate various kinds of media into their e-books, Medwin was able to include a number of special features; for example, he embedded more than a dozen recordings of Passover songs directly into the text of “Sharing the Journey.”

All of the text from the paper version of the book is in the e-book version as well. The illustrations by Mark Podwal are included in the e-book, too; Medwin added tap-activated captions to one illustration of a seder plate.

But if “Sharing the Journey” feels like a powered-up book with a soundtrack included, “The Haggadah” app — which was paid for in large part through more than $25,000 of donations solicited through the crowd-funding Web site Kickstarter — is something else entirely.

“The way people use apps is much more tactile and exploratory than the way they use a book,” said David Brown, one of the developers who worked on the app at Melcher Media, a New York-based book producer that has been creating apps since 2011, including the award-winning app version of Al Gore’s book, “Our Choice.”

“What people want is interactivity and surprise and layers of information in a way that a static page can’t deliver,” Brown said.

Just how layered is the app? Look past the fancy spinning seder plate in the “Preparing for the Seder” section, and consider the other illustrations, all of which come from haggadot that are centuries old.

While the main haggadah text in the app might use only a detail from a particular page — say, a single, ornately inscribed word from the Washington Haggadah, which dates back to 1478 and is held in the Library of Congress — a finger-tap on a magnifying glass icon nearby takes the reader to a new screen. There, the full page where the detail is from is displayed, and with a few pinches and swipes, any part of the reproduced page — crinkles, faded sections, even what look like wine stains — can be viewed.

Most of the illustrations come from the holdings of JTS’ library, where Kraemer is director; some illustrations are accompanied by audio commentary from Sharon Liberman Mintz, the library’s curator of Jewish art.

If the illuminated manuscripts reproduced in “The Haggadah” look as though they might have taken years to create, the app itself was put together far more quickly. Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of Clal, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, contributed his own audio commentary, which he recorded in a single one-hour session, a little more than a month before the app’s release.

And the running time of his observations was even shorter.

“The challenge was, OK, say something in one minute about ‘Dayenu,’ or say something in one minute about the Four Questions or the four sons,” Kula said, naming a few of the better-known parts of the haggadah. “Say something in one minute that is accessible and usable and relevant — that gets the job done, which is to help create meaning in people’s lives.”

Kraemer said he won’t use the app at his seder — he doesn’t use electricity on the holiday, and prefers to use a “basic traditional haggadah” anyway, to allow for more interaction between the people around the table.

Kula, who hadn’t yet seen the full app but had heard the edited versions of his commentaries, was very happy with the result and is looking forward to using it at his family’s second seder, which has always been more free in its format. In previous years, Kula said, the young adults at the table have incorporated media of all types, everything from recorded songs to YouTube videos.

In 2012, it seems, flexibility and interactivity are the words to live by when creating seders, and in that spirit, Amichai Lau-Lavie, the founding director of Storahtelling, contributed to “The Haggadah” app an alternative order of events of his own design.

Lau-Lavie began creating “The Sayder” six years ago, and the basic model — four rounds, each one focusing on one question and accompanied by one glass of wine — was established early. Since then, the format has changed; what was an “on-the-fly” innovation morphed first into a one-page paper handout, then a Web site (TheSayder.com) and now, an app.

“I don’t think the haggadah was ever meant to be read cover-to-cover, as is,” said Lau-Lavie, who is now studying to become a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary. “The Sayder,” he said, has a uniquely spelled name for a reason: “We really wanted people to read less and say more,” Lau-Lavie said.

This year — in light of the harsh conditions under which the workers who make Apple electronics are known to endure, and particularly since there’ll be at least one iPad at his seder table — Lau-Lavie is hoping to get people to talk about consumption and the conditions of workers.

To that end, Lau-Lavie is asking people to put an apple on their seder plates this year.

“Are we the Pharaoh or are we the Moses?” Lau-Lavie asked, modeling the kind of inquiry he hopes to inspire. “How can we do more to spread freedom around the world?”

Israeli innovation shines at Mobile World Congress


Israel proved itself to be a leader in technological innovation based on its strong showing at the Mobile World Congress.

Some 100 Israeli companies participated in the mobile industry’s largest annual event in the world, held in Barcelona, which ended earlier this month. The event brought about 67,000 visitors and 1,400 companies to Barcelona to show off the latest advances in the field.

The joint national effort by the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute and the Foreign Trade Administration of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor resulted in some 2,000 business meetings between Israeli and foreign companies. Israeli exhibitors reported on closed deals, advanced negotiations and breakthroughs with the world’s largest mobile operators and hardware and device manufacturers.

The show was an “unparalleled success” for Israeli companies, according to Ramzi Gabai, chairman of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute.

The Spanish publication elperiodico.com wrote, “Although a small country with barely 7 million inhabitants, it’s a leader in technological innovation. Proof of this is that Israel has at its disposal one of the largest showcase pavilions at the Mobile World Congress.”

Some of the mobile technology innovations Israeli companies brought to the congress included fixed 3G car phone devices, telemedicine devices and satellite communication systems.

The Jewish Journal announces iPhone/Android apps


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Apple reportedly acquires Israeli startup


Apple reportedly has purchased its first Israel-based company, Anobit Ltd., a flash storage solutions provider, for an estimated $500 million.

The deal for the Herzliya-based startup reportedly was finalized Tuesday. Anobit’s management was gathering its staff early Tuesday afternoon to formally announce the acquisition by Apple, the Israeli financial daily Calcalist reported.

The purchase comes on the heels of an announcement last week that Apple will open a development center in Israel focusing on semiconductors, reportedly the first to be opened outside of Apple’s California headquarters.

Reports: Apple to open Israel development center


Apple will open a development center in Israel focusing on semiconductors, according to reports.

The development center would be the first to be opened outside of Apple’s California headquarters, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

Aharon Aharon, a veteran in Israel’s high-tech industry, reportedly has been hired by Apple to head the center, Globes and Calcalist reported Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

The announcement comes as the company enters talks to acquire its first Israel-based company, Anobit Ltd. of Herzliya, a flash storage solutions provider.

Apple’s corporate vice president of research and development, Ed Frank, is currently visiting Israel, according to Globes. Calcalist reported that Frank is meeting with several Israeli high-tech companies.

Hebrew support for Siri in development


Apple reportedly is developing add-ons for the Siri interface that will include support for Hebrew, among other languages.

Sources told the iPhones.co.il website that Nuance, a company working directly with Apple, has rented a studio where sound bites and sentences are being recorded in Hebrew. Nuance is using a special developer’s iPhone app to make the recordings.

The report does not guarantee that iOS 5.1, the forthcoming software update for iPhone, will support Hebrew.

Lawsuits dropped after Apple drops ‘Jew or Not Jew’ app


French anti-racism groups dropped lawsuits against Apple, Inc. after it removed an iPhone app called “Jew or Not Jew?” from online stores around the world.

The made-in-France app had been removed from Apple’s on-line store in France in September following an outcry in that country.  At the time, French Jewish and human rights groups argued that the application, which came out in early August and allows users to guess whether public personalities are Jewish or not, violates French law forbidding the collection of personal data such as a person’s religion or ethnicity without permission from the individual.

The app was removed from all European on-line Apple stores last month, but it was still available through the United States store.

Groups including the French Jewish Students Union, SOS Racisme and the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between People filed suit against Apple in Paris demanding it withdraw the app worldwide.

The app was created by Frenchman Johann Levy, who said his intentions were to show “pride” in being Jewish.

“I did it out of healthy intentions. I am Jewish myself,” Levy said in September on French radio Europe 1. “The goal was just to bring a feeling of pride to Jews when they see that such-and-such a businessman or celebrity is also Jewish.”

Following Ted, not Steve


With the passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs, master creator of the iPod, iMac, iPhone and iPad, many people are now wondering: Which future brilliant gizmo will be buried with Jobs that we’ll never get to see?

As someone who adores Apple products, I appreciate the question, but it still disturbs me.

That’s because it reminds me that we live in a world that worships cool gadgets. I’ve noticed this is especially true with men. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a dinner conversation be overtaken by male friends debating megabytes, bandwidth and cellular connections.

Cool gadgets fascinate us because they give us an illusion of power — a sense that we’re always making progress, that we have the power to control an unpredictable world.

The problem, of course, is that machines, however mesmerizing, can’t teach us how to think.

In fact, they might do just the opposite. They train us to consume. The faster our digital gadget, the faster we consume. The more sophisticated the gadget, the less sophisticated we seem to become.

How do we consume our information? In little snippets, posts, Tweets and texts. If the snippet is juicy, like a graphic video of Gadhafi’s last minute, or one of monkeys that can paint, we spread it around so others can consume it, too.

We’re becoming a snippet society. We snorkel and catch newsy snippets and instant opinions that reinforce our thinking but rarely go scuba diving for deeper understanding. 

One of the sexiest snippets is news of The Upgrade. We eagerly await it, crave it, sleep outside the Apple store hoping to be among the first to get it.

Can you imagine Ernest Hemingway, while he was working on “The Old Man and the Sea,” lining up outside a pencil store for a “new and faster” pencil?

Instead of meaningful or creative thought, our new mobile gizmos make us value speed and ease. They spew out zillions of digital Doritos that our minds snack on all day — and once you start crunching, who can stop?

“Information is cheap,” Internet philosopher George Dyson wrote, but “meaning is expensive.”

Yes, but in truth, how can meaning compete with the serial pleasures of our alluring gadgets? We caress them, study them, marvel at their features, and, in no time, discard them so we can marvel at the upgraded version. This pattern of pleasure never stops. A better gadget is always around the corner, waiting to seduce us.

The maestro of this impulse was the great Steve Jobs. His sensual and intuitive machines, it must be said, have added an enormous amount of pleasure, convenience and human connection to the planet, and we owe him immeasurably for that.

But what his machines can’t do — what no machine can do — is encourage us to think more deeply and value the power of human ideas.

For that, you’ll need to go see Ted.

This is one of my favorite Web sites (TED.com) because it seduces with ideas — fascinating, challenging, eye-popping ideas on subjects like life, science, philosophy, beauty, ethics, art, astronomy, love — you name it.

The site offers videos of hundreds of the best and deepest thinkers in the world presenting their ideas in snappy talks that last anywhere from seven to 20 minutes. 

As I write this, here are some of the subjects featured on its home page: “How Beauty Feels,” “Art Made of Storms,” “Learning From a Barefoot Movement,” “How to Spot a Liar,” “Less Stuff, More Happiness,” “What Do Babies Think?” and “Finding Life We Can’t Imagine.”

The subjects are endless. The insights are riveting. But here’s the point: The site could be just as riveting in 100 years — even without improved technology — because its hero is content.

When I say content, I don’t mean disposable content that gives you a sugar rush. I mean deep and meaningful content that intrigues you, fires up your curiosity and provokes thought. This kind of content makes you think of new ideas, not new technology.

It reminds us that the ultimate gizmo is the human mind, and the ultimate app is human ideas.

I have no doubt the presenters on the TED site all have their own smartphones, iPads and Twitter accounts. But I also have no doubt that in order to come up with their ideas, at some point they had to slow down, unplug and just think.

The Jewish tradition seems to have a prophetic understanding of this need to reconnect with the essential. Maybe it’s no coincidence that 3,300 years before the invasion of Tweets and texts, God gave us a day for just that purpose. It’s Shabbat, our weekly holy day, when we liberate ourselves from all technology and reconnect with our inner humanity, our inner ability to think and go deep.

It took the extraordinary content of a Web site to remind me of this great Jewish value of elevating our minds over our machines.

This is surely a value that won’t soon die — not with Steve Jobs or any of us.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

The Jewish Zen of Steve Jobs


Social networking sites began buzzing immediately after word spread of the death of Apple Inc. visionary Steve Jobs Wednesday evening. Rabbis took time out of their busy preparations for Yom Kippur to halt their sermon writing and post personal reflections on what the contributions of Steve Jobs’ creative spark had on them.

Rabbi Andrew Pepperstone of Dewitt, N.Y., posted to his Facebook page, “Is Steve Jobs a hero? If someone who has vision, discipline, passion, and love for what he does is a hero, then yes. It was not about the money or the fame for him. It was about changing the world in a million little ways that improved peoples’ lives. And his devices and other inventions have been a major breakthrough in helping people with disabilities communicate and employ the best that technology has to offer.”

Earlier on Facebook, Pepperstone recounted the plethora of Apple computers and gadgets he had used since his first Apple IIe in 1984.

Answering the question “Why Is Steve Jobs Important to Me?” Rabbi Eric Linder of Omaha, Neb., explained how Jobs impacted his professional life. On his blog Linder wrote, “In my rabbinate, I have tried to use technology to make Judaism relevant. For Rosh Hashanah we leveraged the power of social media to crowd source answers to the question, ‘What does the shofar call YOU to do?’ All of the technical stuff was done on Apple technology. And the project brought the congregation closer together. It brought people together.”

Over the past three decades, the technological innovation that was inspired by Steve Jobs’ vision had a significant effect on the Jewish community. His genius was in intuiting what would happen when you “strip away the excess layers of business, design, and innovation until only the simple elegant reality remained.”

The ways in which Jewish education and Jewish life have been positively affected by the products that Jobs dreamed of and made into a reality are countless. His iPods made Jewish music and Jewish learning more accessible. His computers brought graphic design to new levels for Jewish institutions like synagogues and day schools. His Facetime application on the iPhone allowed Jewish communities separated by continents to come together and communicate. The geographical distances and borders have become irrelevant thanks to the innovative contributions of this genius. The thousands of Jewish-themed applications from utilities to resources to games were created specifically for the iPhone and iPad.

Steve Jobs’ understanding of efficiency and connectivity led to the intuitive devices that have changed the way we work and connect with each other. The Jewish high school that has its students learning Talmud and chemistry on the iPad owes a great deal to the work of Steve Jobs. The father who created a slideshow of memories set to music using iMovie for his daughter’s wedding is indebted to the vision of Steve Jobs. The young boy living in a remote area of the country who is preparing for his bar mitzvah by listening to a New York cantor’s podcast on his iTouch is grateful to Steve Jobs.

Did the devotee of Zen Buddhism have a Jewish spark in him? Perhaps he did. There is no doubt that Steve Jobs had a profound effect on the Jewish world. His dynamic legacy will continue to make the world better as we continue to plug in and connect with each other in just the way he envisioned and using the devices he helped design. If the value of tikkun olam really means leaving your imprint on the world in a quest to make it a better place for all of us, then Steve Jobs possessed that value a thousand-fold.

Jason Miller is an entrepreneurial rabbi and technologist. He is president of Access Computer Techonlogy, an IT and social media marketing company in Michigan. He blogs at http://blog.rabbijason.com and is a popular speaker about the intersection of Judaism and technology.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dead at 56


Apple Inc co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, counted among the greatest American CEOs of his generation, died on Wednesday at the age of 56, after a years-long and highly public battle with cancer and other health issues.

Jobs’ death was announced by Apple in a statement late on Wednesday.

The Silicon Valley icon who gave the world the iPod and the iPhone resigned as CEO of the world’s largest technology corporation in August, handing the reins to current chief executive Tim Cook.

Jobs, who fought a rare form of pancreatic cancer, was deemed the heart and soul of a company that rivals Exxon Mobil as the most valuable in America.

Jobs was a Buddhist.

Reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Gary Hill