15 December 2018 - 8 Tevet 5779 - ח' טבת ה' אלפים תשע"ט

Alibaba, China’s top e-commerce firm, announced in October that Israel is to host one of eight R&D (research and development) centres as part of the company’s US$15 billion global drive to build overseas research hubs to help it compete with global leaders in e-commerce, logistics and cloud technology.

The Alibaba Damo Academy will launch research bases in China, the US, Russia and Singapore, and is hiring 100 researchers to work on artificial intelligence, quantum computing and fintech, the company said.

The Chinese giant and its affiliates have undergone a rapid expansion in the past year, bringing it into direct competition with US e-retailer Amazon, as well as global payments, cloud and logistics firms.

Since last year, Alibaba has invested roughly US$2 billion to acquire a majority stake in Singapore-based retailer Lazada. com, creating a network of e-commerce hubs across Southeast Asia in partnership with payment affiliate Ant Financial.

It has also pursued a US$1.2 billion bid for US money-transfer service MoneyGram, in a pending deal that has come under scrutiny from critics, who say it poses a national security threat.

Along with an existing data science research lab in California, Alibaba has opened new data centres in Europe, the US, the Middle East, Australia, Japan, India and Indonesia since 2016, in a bid to boost its cloud business.

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Albert Einstein’s notes in Japan fetch a record at auction E-mail

A handwritten note in German by Albert Einstein for a deliveryman in Japan was sold at auction for US$1.56 million.

Einstein travelled and lectured throughout Japan for six weeks in 1922. The signed note was written in 1922 on the stationery of the Imperial Hotel Tokyo, shortly after Einstein won the Nobel Prize for Physics. It reads: “A calm and humble life will bring more happiness than the pursuit of success and the
constant restlessness that comes with it.”

A second note in German that said “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” sold for US$240,000.

Both letters were purchased by the same person, and were auctioned off on 19 October at the Winner’s auction house in Jerusalem. The letters had been expected to sell for up to US$8,000 and US$6,000 respectively. The buyer asked to remain anonymous, according to reports. “It was an alltime record for an auction of a document in Israel,” Winner’s spokesman Meni Chadad told AFP.

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Israel’s Transport Minister invites Japanese participation in Middle-East infrastructure projects E-mail

On a three-day visit to Japan in October, Israel’s transportation minister, Israel Katz, announced a far-reaching proposal that could radically transform the geopolitical landscape.

Katz, who doubles as minister of intelligence, invited Japanese participation in multibillion- dollar projects to dramatically improve infrastructure in the Middle East. Israel’s goal, he said, was to establish itself “as the ultimate gateway between Europe, the Mediterranean and the Gulf countries, to transport goods from east to west and bridge three continents”.

Katz intends to propose ambitious, unprecedented cooperation between Israel and the Sunni Arab world, along with simultaneous plans to help the Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank. His plan is twofold: one part would be a land bridge dubbed “Tracks for Peace”, and the second part would be an artificial island off the Gaza Strip.

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Israel Prime Minister to visit India E-mail

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on 23 October that he will visit India in January, six months after his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi visited the Jewish state.

Netanyahu will be only the second Israeli Prime Minister to visit India — Ariel Sharon visited New Delhi in 2003. “In the past year, I have visited all the continents besides Antarctica,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the winter session of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). “And in January, I will make a reciprocal visit to my dear good friend, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, whose population is a significant part of humanity,” he added.

Modi’s visit to Israel in July this year celebrated 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Modi’s visit, the first by an Indian Prime Minister, was described by many as the dehyphenation of New Delhi’s ties with the Palestinians.

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Anne Frank Halloween costume removed from websites E-mail

Just in time for this year’s celebratory Holloween parties, an online costume company removed a Halloween costume of Holocaust diarist Anne Frank from its US and European websites.

Holloween costumes.com, whose website is run by Minnesota- based company Fun. com, pulled the costumes after a backlash on social media.

The costume, which can be seen on social media in screen grabs, included a long-sleeved blue button-up dress, a brown shoulder bag and a green beret. The company described Frank as a WWII hero and an inspiration, adding that “we can always learn from the struggles of history”.

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