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Israel

Texas versus AirBnB

This is one to watch.

Texas is adding short-term-rental site Airbnb to a list of companies that cannot receive state investments because it disallows Israeli-owned rentals in the disputed West Bank.

Airbnb is the only American-based company on Texas’ anti-Israel boycott list, which includes a Norwegian financial services group, a British wholesale co-op and a Norwegian insurance company.

Texas is making it “very clear that our state stands with Israel and its people against those wishing to undermine Israel’s economy and the wellbeing of its people,” said a statement from state Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office.

In November, Airbnb said it would remove about 200 listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It cited a variety of factors for its decision, including whether listings inside an occupied territory had a direct connection to a larger regional dispute.

“We unequivocally reject and oppose the BDS movement and are disappointed by the decision,” Airbnb said in a statement. “There are over 20,000 Airbnb hosts in Israel who open their doors and showcase the best of Israeli hospitality to guests from around the world.”

In addition to the West Bank, Airbnb also said it has removed listings in the disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Airbnb has about 20,000 Israeli hosts who’ve welcomed more than 1 million visitors, including 4,700 Texans in 2018, the company said.

Texas’ move was praised by Christians United For Israel, the public policy arm of the nation’s largest pro-Israel organization. It likened the so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to “end international support for Israel’s suppression of Palestinians,” to “terrorists” and “hostile nations.”

[…]

Democratic critics of laws cracking down on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement are increasingly skeptical of Israel’s policies and see such laws as an infringement on free speech. In January, Florida added Airbnb to a list of companies that it defines as boycotting Israel. The same month, a bill to crack down on the BDS movement was blocked by Democrats in the Senate.

The backlash against Airbnb comes as the company is reportedly preparing for an IPO sometime in 2019.

I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds here, so let me sum up: The Lege passed a law in 2017 that created this policy and led to AirBnB’s blacklisting. The push for this has largely come from the Christian far-right fringe, with radical clerics like John Hagee in San Antonio as the main cheerleaders. The author of that bill, Rep. Phil King, has filed another bill that intends to clarify that the law applies to companies and not individuals. One possible reason for that is that there has already been a lawsuit filed, by a speech pathologist in Pflugerville who lost her job with Pflugerville ISD over her support for BDS. The current law is broad enough that it may well be vulnerable to litigation on free speech grounds. AirBnB has 90 days to respond to the Comptroller’s actions, so if a lawsuit is to come of this, it’ll happen after that. Got it? Good.

Maglev pods in the sky

And now for something completely different.

Image courtesy of: www.skytran.us

Image courtesy of: www.skytran.us

skyTran, Inc., headquartered at the NASA Research Park (NRP) near Mountain View, California, and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a company headquartered in Lod, Israel, entered into an agreement today for the construction of a skyTran Technology Demonstration System (TDS) on the grounds of IAI’s corporate campus. The agreement was executed by the Director of IAI’s Lahav Division, Yosef (Yossi) Melamed and by skyTran CEO, Jerry Sanders.

skyTran is the developer of the patented high-speed, elevated, levitating, energy-efficient, skyTran transportation system. The skyTran system is a network of computer-controlled, 2-person “jet-like” vehicles employing state-of-the-art passive, magnetic levitation (maglev) technology. skyTran systems will transport passengers in a fast, safe, green, and economical manner. skyTran intends to revolutionize public transportation and, with it, urban and suburban commuting.

IAI is a world leader in the development and production of aerospace systems and aircraft. It has accumulated nearly half a century of experience in creating and supplying advanced systems for customers worldwide and it devotes substantial resources to research and development.

Jerry Sanders remarked, “The support afforded by IAI is a breakthrough for skyTran. IAI, as a worldclass designer of aircraft and avionics, is the perfect partner to take skyTran from concept to construct.” Yossi Melamed declared, “We are proud to be part of this exciting moment in transportation history and to host the first SkyTran system in our grounds. The TDS will incorporate IAI’s advanced capabilities in the areas of engineering, robotics, and control.”

The TDS will incorporate skyTran’s salient features. It will provide a platform for skyTran vehicles to travel at high speeds, with full payloads while levitating. The TDS will enable testing, refinement, and validation of skyTran’s technology in a controlled environment.

The TDS will be followed by deployment of the first commercial skyTran system in Tel Aviv, Israel. Other projects worldwide are pending TDS completion.

Via Engadget and Swamplot, the latter of which picked it up because the featured image on the Engadget post, which I have included here, is a bizarre mashup of Houston’s downtown skyline and some freeway/green space combination that may not exist anywhere, courtesy of skyTran’s images page. The About and Benefits pages will tell you what there is to know about this idea, which if it is successful in Israel could come to San Francisco (skyTran’s US headquarters), where is would undoubtedly compete with the trolleys as a tourist attraction, if nothing else. After that, who knows? I wonder if John Culberson would let one of these things get built on Richmond Avenue.