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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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Bibi Blinked: Can Netanyahu Survive After Backing Down On Judicial Putsch?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu has backed down in the 11th hour on his plans to push forward on a major judicial reform bill that had sparked massive protests.

Bibi Blinked: Can Netanyahu Survive After Backing Down On Judicial Putsch?
Pierre Haski


Benjamin Netanyahu played the sorcerer's apprentice and lost. By announcing Monday night the suspension of his judicial reform, which has deeply divided Israeli society and brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the nation's streets, he signed his defeat.

One thing we know about the Israeli prime minister is that he has not said his last word: the reform is only suspended, not withdrawn. He promised a "real dialogue" after the Passover holiday.

Netanyahu is not one to back down easily: he had clearly gone too far, first by allying himself with extreme right-wing forces from the fringes of the political spectrum; but above all by wanting to change the balance on which the Jewish State had lived since its foundation in 1948. His plans threatened to change the nature of the state in a patently "illiberal" direction.

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