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Tech Giants With Feet Of Clay

It was the week two U.S. tech giants saw their seemingly unstoppable sprint toward global domination hit a wall.

First, on Tuesday, Apple was ordered to pay up 13 billion euros in back taxes after the European Union ruled that a series of sweetheart tax deals made with the Irish government were illegal. That's a big bill, even for Apple, and company chief Tim Cook denounced the ruling as "political" and based on "false numbers."

Meanwhile, Facebook's bad news came with a louder, though not quite as costly, impact. The company's first satellite the Amos-6 went up in smoke after the rocket SpaceX exploded during a pre-launch test at Cape Canaveral on Thursday.

Valued at more than $200 million, the Amos-6 was due to take flight on Saturday with the goal of bringing Internet connectivity to Africa, as well as parts of the Middle East.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who is currently visiting Africa, said he was "deeply disappointed" to hear that the satellite was destroyed.

Indeed, Silicon Valley titans like Zuckerberg and Cook are sometimes portrayed as modern superheroes, and the roadmap of the American-led technology revolution often appears as a foregone conclusion. But this week is a reminder that such massive changes in the way we live and do business are bound to come up against global forces beyond the control of any single company, or even a seemingly unbeatable technology.

The massive explosion on Thursday was also a big blow to another Silicon Valley titan, SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk. He lost $390 million of his personal fortune as shares in his other tech firms Tesla and SolarCity also took a dive following the accident.

Musk's ambitions, of course, go beyond just world domination. By 2024, he wants to conquer Mars.


  • Pope Francis to canonize Mother Teresa (Sunday).
  • China hosts G20 in Hangzhou.


Tropical Storm Hermine strengthened into a hurricane as it hit Florida's Gulf Coast early today with the potential for drenching rain and deadly flooding. Florida Governor Rick Scott warned of the danger of the Category 1 hurricane, describing a "life-threatening" situation and urging people to move to inland shelters if necessary, according to CNN.


Tens of thousands of chanting protesters marched Thursday through the streets of Caracas demanding a vote on recalling Maduro. Check how Venezuelan daily El Nacional featured the mass demonstrations on its front page Friday.


Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are meeting today on the sidelines of an Eastern Economic Forum business conference in Vladivostok, Russia. The two leaders are expected to discuss the case of the Southern Kuril Islands, "the key obstacle to complete normalization of the Russian-Japanese ties", according to RBTH. The Pacific Islands have been owned by Russia since the end of World War II, and Tokyo has repeatedly called on Russia to cede them. "We do not sell our territories," a determined Putin said, although he has recognized that a good relationship with his Japanese counterpart was "crucial."


Coffee Break — Amman, 1996


Two bombs killed at least 12 people and wounded 60 near a courthouse in northwest Pakistan. The first attack was a suicide attack near a gate of Mardan district courts, with the second taking place shortly afterwards just outside the gate, Pakistan Today reports. Earlier in the day, four gunmen wearing suicide-bomb vests attacked a Christian Colony in Peshawar, killing two people, before being shot dead by security forces. Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a Pakistani Taliban faction, claimed responsibility for the attack.


It's been 350 years since the Great Fire of London. More in your 57-second shot of History.


The government of Uzbekistan has announced the ailing president, Islam Karimov, is critically ill. The daughter of the 78-year-old leader said Karimov is in intensive care after he suffered cerebral hemorrhage. A message from the Government of Uzbekistan reads that "in last day, state of the President sharply deteriorated," the UzDaily reports. Meanwhile Reuters, quoting "three diplomatic sources" although unspecified, reports that Karimov has died after suffering a stroke. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed it in a cabinet meeting broadcast live.


In German, "du" is the informal version of "you" — something to be used among friends. So when the big boss of a German company decided that everyone should be on "du" terms, it was a little awkward at first, Angelika Slavik reports for German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung: "There is a new generation of young employees who don't much care for traditional perceptions of power and office etiquette. And so to win these people over, many companies with rather traditional values are trying to adopt a more relaxed image — doing the ‘du' is part of that. The problem, though, is that not everyone feels comfortable with these shifts."

Read the full article, The "Du" And Don'ts Of German Workplace Etiquette.



The postcard-perfect Croatian city of Dubrovnik boasted earlier this summer that it had broken its one-day record of visitors, after more than 10,000 people paid the tourist fee to enter the walls of the "Pearl of the Adriatic." But that is too many for the old city to hold, says UNESCO, which has given it protected status. So Dubrovnik Mayor Andro Vlahusic has a plan: After the 6,000th visitor enters, authorities simply close the city. Residents, of course, will have a special pass to get back home.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner Group 2.0: Why Russia's Mercenary System Is Here To Stay

Many had predicted that the death last month of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin meant the demise of the mercenary outfit. Yet signs in recent days say the private military outfit is active again in Ukraine, a reminder of the Kremlin's interest in continuing a private fighting formula that has worked all around the world.

Photograph of a Wagner soldier in the city of Artyomovsk, holding a rifle.

Ukraine, Donetsk Region - March 24, 2023: A Wagner Group soldier guards an area in the city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut).

Cameron Manley


“Let’s not forget that there is no Wagner Group anymore,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had declared. “Such an organization, in our eyes, does not exist.”

The August 25 statement from came less than two days after the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the infamous Russian mercenary outfit, as questions swirled about Wagner's fate after its crucial role in the war in Ukraine and other Russian military missions around the world.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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How could an independent military outfit survive after its charismatic founder's death? It seemed highly unlikely that President Vladimir Putin would allow the survival of a group after had launched a short-lived coup attempt in late June that most outside observers believe led to Prigozhin's private airplane being shot down by Russian forces on August 23.

"Wagner is over,” said the Kremlin critic and Russian political commentator Maksim Katz. “The group can’t keep going. There’s the possibility that they could continue in parts or with Defense Ministry contracts, but the group only worked with an unofficial agreement between Putin and Prigozhin.”

Yet barely a month later, and there are already multiple signs that the Wagner phoenix is rising from the ashes.

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