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Month June 2013

Whole Foods’ John Mackey backs corporate tax avoidance tactics

Andrew Hill:

He said GE “might be paying no taxes because they’ve got special crony capitalistic favours from the government, and [are earning] certain tax credits because they’re investing in alternative energy”. In response, GE said it paid “significant income taxes in the US, and our US tax rate reflects laws that encourage investments supporting US jobs and economic growth”.

Mr Mackey, whose conservative views have in the past placed him at odds with customers of his food stores, said he thought Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, should have been “more aggressive” in laying out the company’s position at a US Senate committee hearing in May into corporate tax.

The Engine

Ed Wallace:

Today few people would ever refer to the gasoline-powered engine in their automobiles as a Langen, a de Rochas, or an Otto, the gas engine’s inventors and early pioneers in internal combustion, respectively. But the Diesel’s name lives on, not just for his compression-ignition engine, but for the very fuel that powers it. In fact, from the day he designed it, his engine’s elegant beauty lay not just in its incredibly efficient use of thermal energy, but also in the fact that each new generation of engineers and scientists could improve it even more — meanwhile finding new uses for its low rpm and high torque output.

Even in his own time, Diesel saw wide adaptation spread his engine’s popularity. By the time of his death in September of 1913, 70,000 Diesel engines were in operation around the world. In fact, Diesel was traveling to England to open yet another manufacturing plant for production of his engine, meanwhile attending meetings to discuss the British Navy’s use of his engine in its vessels.

Much more on Rudolph Diesel, here.

Madison’s a hotspot for hybrid vehicles

Thomas Content

Look at a U.S. map for hybrid car sales hot spots and you’ll see they’re all the rage in California, the Pacific Northwest and some pockets of the East Coast.

Peer a little closer, and you’ll find just one spot in the rest of the country where hybrids are big sellers: Madison, Wis.

While the number of hybrids sold compared with all cars remains small, it’s growing fast. Between 2011 and 2012, hybrids’ share of new-vehicle sales nationally rose from 2.4% to 3.4%, according to registration data analyzed by Edmunds.com.

Places like Madison lead the charge.

In Madison, hybrids accounted for 4.2% of new-vehicle sales last year. And so far this year, hybrids are even more popular, accounting for 4.7% of registrations.

To be sure, Wisconsin’s capital city has some of the key hallmarks of a hybrid hub — university town, progressive tradition.

In college towns, buyers are “a lot more inclined to try hybrid technologies,” said Jeremy Acevedo, automotive analyst at Edmunds.com.

Among top hybrid cities, other college towns that appear on the list include Charlottesville, Va., Eugene, Ore., and Gainesville, Fla.

Germans Loved Obama. Now We Don’t Trust Him.

Malte Spitz:

That was my motivation for publishing the metadata I received from T-Mobile. Together with Zeit Online, the online edition of the weekly German newspaper Die Zeit, I published an infographic of six months of my life for all to see. With these 35,830 pieces of data, you can follow my travels across Germany, you can see when I went to sleep and woke up, a trail further enriched with public information from my social networking sites: six months of my life viewable for everybody to see what exactly is possible with “just metadata.”

Three weeks ago, when the news broke about the National Security Agency’s collection of metadata in the United States, I knew exactly what it meant. My records revealed the movements of a single individual; now imagine if you had access to millions of similar data sets. You could easily draw maps, tracing communication and movement. You could see which individuals, families or groups were communicating with one another. You could identify any social group and determine its major actors.

All of this is possible without knowing the specific content of a conversation, just technical information — the sender and recipient, the time and duration of the call and the geolocation data.

With Edward J. Snowden’s important revelations fresh in our minds, Germans were eager to hear President Obama’s recent speech in Berlin. But the Barack Obama who spoke in front of the Brandenburg Gate to a few thousand people on June 19 looked a lot different from the one who spoke in front of the Siegessäule in July 2008 in front of more than 200,000 people, who had gathered in the heart of Berlin to listen to Mr. Obama, then running for president. His political agenda as a candidate was a breath of fresh air compared with that of George W. Bush. Mr. Obama aimed to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, end mass surveillance in the so-called war on terror and defend individual freedom.

2015 GTI vs 2013 Focus ST



Tony Quiroga:

At roadside cafeterias in France, next to the napkins, cutlery, and plastic trays, are baskets of free dinner rolls. Hungry? Take as much as you want; bread is as free as air. We have to assume that this is a legacy of the French Revolution. No need to steal, Jean Valjean. The struggle is over. Everyone is equal and no one will go hungry. Put away the guillotine.

Parked outside the cafeteria is a 2015 Volkswagen GTI, the ­seventh generation of the hatchback that brought a taste of speed, in a dinner-roll-shaped package, to the common man. It’s not free bread, but it does represent a revolution. The super Golf was and remains the great egalitarian performance car, the first to so effectively combine power, economy, handling, practicality, and price. And, like all breakthrough ideas, it spawned imitators, all promising the same mix of virtues.

Volkswagen has not slacked off ?for its seventh GTI. A new ­platform called MQB is both lighter and stronger than before. At a glance, it does look a lot like its predecessor, but the metal is more tightly folded and the roof?is lower. Longer in wheelbase and overall length by 2.1 inches, the GTI is within an inch in other dimensions. There’s more space inside, and the interior décor, while familiar, is also completely updated.

Much more on the Focus ST and GTI, here.

Car Sharing Grows With Fewer Strings Attached

Sally McGrane:

Marc Clemens, founder and chief executive of Sommelier Privé, an online wine service, gave up owning a car a year and a half ago. When he wants to drive to work in the morning, he checks his smartphone to see where a particular BMW, Smart car or Mini is parked and takes it.

Once he gets to his destination, Mr. Clemens parks the car on the street and forgets about it.

He relies exclusively on two car-sharing services, DriveNow and Car2Go. “I use this three to four times a day,” he said, as he dropped off a colleague in front of a wine bar in the German capital’s Mitte district on a recent Sunday evening. “To get to work, for business meetings, going out to a bar. I like it because it’s one-way.”

Car sharing has been around for decades in Europe and has caught on in the United States with Zipcar. These station-based car-sharing services require members to pick up vehicles from a particular place, which may or may not be convenient. Users usually need to reserve cars in advance for prearranged, prepaid blocks of time and, when they are done with the car, they have to return it to the same place — all factors that have limited car sharing’s attractiveness.

Berlin, though, has become the largest one-way, car-sharing city in the world. One-way or free-floating services, which recently started in the United States, use GPS and smartphone apps for far more flexible car sharing. Cars are parked on city streets, and users pick up cars parked nearest to them. Instead of bringing the car back to a lot, users leave it wherever they find parking near their destination. They are charged for the amount of time they spend driving.

Ben Bernanke is the most misunderstood man on Wall Street

Heidi Moore:

Bernanke has been brutally honest with the market, repeating his targets time and time again. And in return, the market has been brutally honest with Bernanke, with investors stomping out of the bond market at the slightest whisper of rising rates.

In both cases, neither side is dissembling or misleading the other. But there’s also a certain pain they hope to inflict on each other, hoping to manipulate the other side to come around to its own way of thinking. Bernanke wants the market to be prepared for the Federal Reserve to stop supporting its profits; the markets want Bernanke to know that investors will do anything to protect their profits, up to and including to hurting the wider economy.

No one’s lying, but no one’s being cautious, either. As the British Conservative politician Richard Needham once said, “people who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty”. That’s where the relationship between Bernanke and the stock markets stand.

Students cite EU data protection laws, challenge firms over NSA data transfers

Thomas Guignard:

In the wake of the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s mass digital surveillance program, a group of Austrian students have filed a series of formal complaints with a number of European data protection agencies. The case could become the first legal proceeding challenging disclosure of non-American data to the American government on the basis of alleged violations of European Union data protection law.

The students filing the complaints are all members of an advocacy organization called “Europe vs. Facebook,” which for over two years has been encouraging Facebook users worldwide to request copies of whatever data Facebook holds on each of them. Ars profiled this effort, and its leader, Max Schrems, in December 2012.

“[The goal of this effort] is to see if it is legal for a European Union company to forward data to the National Security Agency in bulk,” Schrems told Ars. “[and] to get more information, because they will have to disclose stuff in a preceding here. The US gag orders are not valid here. Both might be another puzzle piece for the good of mankind.”

Obama’s Soft Totalitarianism Europe Must Protect Itself from America

Jakob Augstein:

Is Barack Obama a friend? Revelations about his government’s vast spying program call that assumption into doubt. The European Union must protect the Continent from America’s reach for omnipotence.

On Tuesday, Barack Obama is coming to Germany. But who, really, will be visiting? He is the 44th president of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. He is an intelligent lawyer. And he is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

But is he a friend? The revelations brought to us by IT expert Edward Snowden have made certain what paranoid computer geeks and left-wing conspiracy theorists have long claimed: that we are being watched. All the time and everywhere. And it is the Americans who are doing the watching.

Memories of Stasi color Germans’ view of U.S. surveillance programs

Matthew Schofield:

Wolfgang Schmidt was seated in Berlin’s 1,200-foot-high TV tower, one of the few remaining landmarks left from the former East Germany. Peering out over the city that lived in fear when the communist party ruled it, he pondered the magnitude of domestic spying in the United States under the Obama administration. A smile spread across his face.
“You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true,” he said, recalling the days when he was a lieutenant colonel in the defunct communist country’s secret police, the Stasi.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/06/26/195045/memories-of-stasi-color-germans.html#.Ucwg81W9LCR#storylink=cpy