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7/28/14

Internet: The truth about our Wi-Fi society: What the quest for constant connection really means - by Andrew Leonard

Beware the dark powers of Netflix. There I was, last Sunday morning, reading the news of actor James Garner’s death on my laptop and nostalgically recalling how much my father, a longtime TV critic, had loved Garner’s benchmark 1970s-era private-eye drama, “The Rockford Files.”

 But my memories of the show were vague — I was 12 when it premiered. I wondered idly if Netflix might carry it. Because isn’t that what our contemporary digital lifestyle is all about? Access to whatever we want, whenever we want. Time has no meaning in 2014  – get me the 1970s, now!

Before I could check myself, I was sucked down a time-warp rabbit hole, a fact I could not easily explain to my 16-year-old son, who was curious, and perhaps slightly alarmed, as to why I was spending a Sunday afternoon binge-watching car chases. I had expected to be charmed by James Garner. I didn’t expect to become obsessed with the question of how Jim Rockford’s adventures in L.A. would be different if he had owned an iPhone.

The wide-lapel shirts. The endless car chases. The shocking lack of racial diversity in Los Angeles as presented on 1970s television. There are plenty of obvious differences between the America of 40 years ago and the America of right now.

But I couldn’t stop fixating on just how often everything stopped in its tracks so that Jim Rockford could put a dime in a payphone: multiple times an episode. Without those payphones, the plot wasn’t going anywhere. But in between those payphones, Rockford lived in a kind of L.A. limbo-land, his whereabouts gloriously unknowable. No one is as isolated today as Rockford was in his Plymouth Firebird on an L.A. freeway.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes uses a smartphone just as you would expect a genius detective to, with the entire Internet at his disposal to assist in the deductive process. It’s clever, but it always seemed like cheating. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock didn’t need no stinkin’ smartphone! A few puffs on his pipe was all that was necessary!

It was hard for me to avoid the sinking feeling that Jim Rockford with an iPhone would no longer be Jim Rockford. Always-on Wi-Fi would accelerate his genial slouch. The languid ocean outside his trailer would end up a trivialized mote in his Instagram-feed. The string of dames in distress wouldn’t appear unannounced at his door; they’d find him on Tinder first.

Reasd more: The truth about our Wi-Fi society: What the quest for constant connection really means - Salon.com

Ukraine: MH17 Verdict: Real Evidence Points to US-Kiev Cover-up of Failed False Flag

Until this past Monday, the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17th, 2014, was a potential game changer for global geopolitics and the New Cold War. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the Kremlin…

In this report, we will lay out the facts based on a wide breadth of available information and data surrounding MH17. We will also present and give critique to Washington and Kiev’s “mountain of evidence” that has saturated US and European-based media coverage since the incident took place.

21WIRE has compiled this report with the help of many contributors and references from English-speaking media, as well as material translated from Russian and Ukrainian media sources, along with other historical references to provide context.

Our objective is to get as close to the truth as possible. Although many revelations will appear to be self-evident, we still encourage the public to draw their own conclusions regarding this pivotal event.

Read more: MH17 Verdict: Real Evidence Points to US-Kiev Cover-up of Failed False Flag

US Tax System = Paul Krugman Lays Bare Latest Corporate Scheme to Rob American Taxpayers

If corporations are people, as the Supreme Court says, then why don't they have to pay taxes? Paul Krugman expresses outrage about the latest corporate scheme to dodge taxes in today's New York Times column.

Admittedly, corporations do still pay some taxes. "The federal government still gets a tenth of its revenue from corporate profits taxation," the Nobel-prize winning economist writes. "But it used to get a lot more — a third of revenue came from profits taxes in the early 1950s, a quarter or more well into the 1960s. Part of the  decline since then reflects a fall in the tax rate, but mainly it reflects ever-more-aggressive corporate tax avoidance — avoidance that politicians have done little to prevent." 

The latest of these aggressive tax-avoidance ploys is called “ inversion.” And as Krugman explains, it's a purely legal maneuver that allows companies to claim that its "U.S. operations are owned by its foreign subsidiary, not the other way around, and uses this role reversal to shift reported profits out of American jurisdiction to someplace with a lower tax rate." 

The company does not need to move overseas to do this. What a quaint and old-fashioned notion. It's all done on paper. Sometimes, it might involve opening an office somewhere abroad. The most egregious current example is Walgreen, which will continue to operate its thriving pharmacy business in the U.S. (have no fear, your local Walgreen's will remain) but for purely tax reasons, is reportedly about to declare itself Swiss, which "will deprive the U.S. government of several billion dollars in revenue that you, the taxpayer, will have to make up one way or another," Krugman writes.

 Read more: Paul Krugman Lays Bare Latest Corporate Scheme to Rob American Taxpayers | Alternet

7/27/14

Health Alert: Ebola now taking toll on doctors

An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 670 people in Africa is now taking a toll on doctors and health care workers battling the deadly disease.

A government official in Liberia said Sunday that one of that country's highest-profile doctors has died in what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls the largest recorded outbreak of the disease.

An American doctor who has been working in Liberia since October 2013 for the North Carolina-based aid organization Samaritan's Purse is receiving intensive medical treatment after he was infected with Ebola, according to a spokeswoman for the organization.

Melissa Strickland said Kent Brantly, 33, was in stable condition, talking with his doctors and working on his computer while being treated. She cautioned that he is "not out of the woods yet." Strickland said patients have a better chance of survival if they receive treatment immediately after being infected, as Brantly did.
Brantly, who is married with two children and is medical director for the Samaritan's Purse Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center in Monrovia, is being treated at a Samaritan's Purse isolation center, according to Strickland.

Samaritan's Purse said later Sunday that a second U.S. citizen, Nancy Writebol, also has tested positive for Ebola. Writebol is employed by mission group SIM in Liberia and was helping a joint SIM/Samaritan's Purse team treating Ebola patients in Monrovia. Writebol is married with two children, the organization said.

Read more: Ebola now taking toll on doctors

EU ambassadors reach preliminary Russia sanctions deal

The preliminary deal covered sanctions targeting Russia's access to European capital markets and its imports in the sectors of defense and dual-use goods - those that can be applied to both civilian and military purposes - and other sensitive technologies.

The ambassadors are scheduled to reconvene next Tuesday to review the proposals after they have been formulated as regulations by officials, EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.

She said EU member states had to decide whether the measures would need approval at a summit meeting of the bloc to go into effect.

In a news release, the European Union announced that the ambassadors had also slapped EU-wide asset freezes and travel bans on 15 more Russians and Ukrainians accused of working against the country's status as a sovereign territory.

The measures were to take effect immediately and would bring the number of people under EU sanction over Russia's actions in Ukraine to 87.

Read more: EU ambassadors reach preliminary Russia sanctions deal | News | DW.DE | 25.07.2014

France: Tour de France 2014: Vincenzo Nibali confirmed as champion as he puts Italy back on the map with triumph - by Alasdair Fotheringham

After three successive years of Tour de France winners whose nationalities and backgrounds show how cycling has developed into a global sport, the coronation of Vincenzo Nibali as the 2014 Tour champion saw one of cycling’s most traditional power bases – Italy – recoup some of its lost status.

Read more: Tour de France 2014: Vincenzo Nibali confirmed as champion as he puts Italy back on the map with triumph - Cycling - Sport - The Independent

7/26/14

Egypt summons Turkish envoy over Erdogan slur

Egypt has warned Turkey of "further action" as it protested for the second time in a week at the Turkish premier criticising its president and Cairo's handling of the Gaza conflict.

In a statement on Saturday, the ministry said it summoned the Turkish charge d' affaires, the highest-ranking Turkish official in the country, over comments by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling Sisi a "tyrant" and criticising Egypt's stance on Gaza.

The ministry said Erdogan was driven by "narrow ideological interests," referencing Turkey's support to the Muslim Brotherhood group, listed as a terrorist organisation in Egypt, and defended the legitimacy of Sisi's election.

"The continuation of the insults against Egypt and its elected leadership will undoubtedly lead to more measures from Egypt, leading to limited progress of bilateral relations," the statement said.

The statement also said that Egypt's charge d' affaires in Turkey had conveyed "a message of strong protest" to Turkish authorities.

Read more: Egypt summons Turkish envoy over Erdogan slur - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

US Banking Insustry: Too big to fail banks (too big to jail) want to make amends with poor people - Lynn Stuart Parramore

How do we hate thee, Bank of America? Let us count the ways.

We hate thee for thy mortgage misdeeds, foreclosure frauds and grotesque fees. For unnecessarily kicking people out of their homes, extorting money from military families through predatory loan rates, and treating thy customers like garbage.

For basically being too-big-to-fail/too-big-to-jail blight on the economy and society thou hast proven to be, time and again.

Bank of America has earned itself the worst reputation of any big lender in the U.S., and that is no small feat. The megabank has incurred so many legal costs for its various frauds and abuses, to the tune of billions, its profits have seen a dip. Whatever is a big bank to do?

Under increasing pressure from regulators and widely despised by the public, Bank of America now wants us to believe hat it will make nice with poor people. In a recentreportin the New York Times, we learn that BofA and other giant banks are trying to launder their public images by talking about offering low-fee services to people who have been left out of the banking system. BofA has launched a banking account it claims is intended to prevent troubled customers from running up fees for overdrawing their balances.

That’s very interesting, because so far, its accounts have been designed to do the opposite, which is why a lot of poor people don’t have bank accounts in the first place.

BofA’s public campaign showing us its touchy-feely side involves asking low-income people to create collages representing their emotions about money. One image shows a woman who appears to be naked wearing nothing but words like “power,” “want” and “desire” scrawled across her skin.

Other banks like JPMorgan, are following suit with lower-cost prepaid debit cards, checking accounts and whatnot. As the Times points out, it’s a bit difficult to start cheering:

Read more: Too big to fail banks want to make amends with poor people - Salon.com

Ukraine: Russia lashes out at EU over new sanctions

Russia has reacted angrily to additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, saying they would hamper cooperation on security issues and undermine the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

Russia's Foreign Ministry also said the United States bore shared responsibility for the conflict for pushing Kiev into repressing Ukraine's Russian population.

The EU reached an outline agreement on Friday to impose the first economic sanctions on Russia over but scaled back their scope to exclude technology for the crucial gas sector.

After discussions on broadening the sanctions from the current mix of asset freezes and travel bans, the legal instruments required to give effect to the new punitive measures will be taken up on Tuesday, they said.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, "will swiftly table the necessary legislative proposals in all areas identified" by member states earlier this week, a statement said.

Read more: Russia lashes out at EU over new sanctions - Europe - Al Jazeera English