MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Inside a nondescript garage-like workshop nestled between restaurants, a flower shop and jewelry stores along Main Street, ideas are taking shape.
At HeatSync Labs, the tables are littered with computer chips, pens, pads and tools while the room is abuzz with the chatter of would-be inventors hoping to change the world — or just make cool things. They are part of a growing global movement of so-called hackerspaces.
"It's all about sharing what we know with one another," said Mitch Altman, 57, founder of a similar setup in San Francisco called Noisebridge. "It's centered around community and education and a place where people do what they love doing and hopefully make a living from it."
The idea began to take shape in the U.S. after Altman and other Americans attended a 2007 computing conference in Germany where panelists spoke of their own hackerspaces. Altman returned home, met with fellow tinkerers, rented a space for Noisebridge the next year.
"I didn't want it to end," he said.
At the same time, similar workshops were opening up across the country — NYC Resistor in New York City, Hack DC in Washington, D.C., and The Hacktory in Philadelphia — while dozens more have popped up since. More than 1,600 are now operating around the world, according to hackerspaces.org, a website dedicated to the effort.
At HeatSync, which opened in 2009, Larry Campbell, 49, is working on a nuclear fusion chamber, while Ryan McDermott, 27, tinkers with an electric keyboard programmed to make the colors dance on an LED strip in preparation for Nevada's annual Burning Man alternative arts festival.
Campbell, a network engineer, hopes his device will "change the universe" by turning hydrogen atoms into helium.
McDermott, who works in information technology, has more modest plans for his keyboard.
"Anybody that I've shown this thing immediately wants to play with it and touch it and make the colors dance and things like that," McDermott said. "That's the fun thing for me: getting people's reaction out of it."
While many projects in hackerspaces are done as hobbies or just for the challenge, some have been turned into multimillion-dollar products. The MakerBot, for example, was created by a tinkerer at NYC Resistor and is now one of the most well-known 3D printers on the market.
And while hackerspaces have been quick to spread, each has sprouted locally with its own unique flavor.
HeatSync, for instance, gives members 24/7 access to the facility for paying dues that help cover the costs for rent and tools. For non-paying members of the public, HeatSync opens its doors for three hours every weekday, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., during which they can work on projects and share ideas.
"Anybody can get their foot in the door," said HeatSync co-founder Jacob Rosenthal, 33. "It's their job to make it work for them but (we) give you a time to meet the people and to get access to some of the tools and to show people your project and get people excited about what you do."
Jeremy Leung, 30, an IT security consultant and another co-founder of HeatSync, said those involved in the movement also are working to dispel the myth that hackers are, well, hackers who are an ominous security threat to credit card data and computer systems worldwide.
In reality, those involved in the movement say it has a much more productive mission: to improve existing technology and in some cases create new ideas.
"Hacker had become this muddied term in the media," Leung said, describing the origins of the word as merely "someone that takes a technology and they learn so much about it that they're able to take it past what the initial idea was."
Campbell hopes to do just that with his nuclear fusion chamber. When he fires it up, nobody will be able to change those helium atoms back into hydrogen.
"All of a sudden, something's irrevocably different," Campbell said. "And that's kind of cool."
WASHINGTON (AP) — Burger King plans to become the latest U.S. company to shift its legal address out of the country by merging with a foreign company. Burger King has announced plans to buy Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain.
Burger King's operations will stay in Miami. But the corporate headquarters of the new company will be in Canada.
The transaction is called a corporate inversion, a maneuver that is becoming popular among companies looking to lower their tax bills.
Burger King stressed that the deal is being driven by the international growth possibilities of Tim Hortons, not a desire to take advantage of Canada's lower tax rates.
Still, at least one senator — Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio — is urging fast-food patrons to take their business elsewhere, to Wendy's or White Castle, two fast-food chains that happen to be based in Ohio.
Ten things to know about corporate inversions:
1. WHAT IS A CORPORATE INVERSION?
An inversion happens when a U.S. corporation and a foreign company merge, with the new parent company based in the foreign country. For tax purposes, the U.S. company becomes foreign-owned, even if all the executives and operations stay in the U.S.
2. WHY INVERT?
There can be many business reasons for two companies to merge. The decision to incorporate the new parent company in a foreign country can generate significant tax savings over time.
The U.S. has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world, at 35 percent. The U.S. is also the only developed country that taxes corporate profits earned abroad. Foreign profits are subject to U.S. taxes once they are brought to the U.S., though corporations can deduct any foreign taxes paid.
Companies that become foreign-owned don't have to worry about the Internal Revenue Service trying to tax the profits they make abroad.
Most U.S. corporations pay federal income taxes at rates much lower than 35 percent because the tax code is filled with breaks for businesses. Inversions open the door for even more.
Inverted corporations must still pay U.S. taxes on the profits they earn in the U.S. However, they can lower their U.S. tax bills through a maneuver called "earnings stripping."
Here is how it works: The new foreign parent company "lends" money to the U.S. firm, which must pay it back. The U.S. firm then deducts the interest payments it makes to the parent company, reducing its taxable profits — "stripping" them from its balance sheet.
"You haven't raised any new money," said Robert Willen, a New York-based tax adviser. "All you've done is literally out of thin air, you've created a debt obligation on which the U.S. company is the debtor and the foreign parent is the creditor."
Many U.S.-based corporations are hoarding money overseas, either to invest abroad or to shield it from U.S. taxes. Experts say the total amount could exceed $2 trillion.
If a foreign subsidiary sends profits directly to a U.S. corporation, the U.S. firm must pay taxes on it. However, if those profits are funneled through a foreign parent company that was formed through an inversion, the money can be invested in the U.S. without paying U.S. taxes.
The technique is called "hopscotching" because the money — at least on paper — bounces from country to country while avoiding U.S. taxes.
5. HOW BIG IS THE ISSUE?
Nearly 50 U.S. companies have inverted in the past decade, and more are considering it, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
The recent wave of inversions has been dominated by health care companies, including drugmaker AbbVie, which has announced plans to merge with a drug company incorporated in Britain. Walgreen Co. had been considering an inversion, but the nation's largest drugstore company announced in early August that it will no longer pursue one.
6. WHAT HAS CONGRESS DONE?
In 2004, Congress tried to curb inversions by saying U.S. companies couldn't escape U.S. taxes by simply reincorporating abroad, with the same shareholders and executives running the new company. Instead, Congress passed a law saying that in order to become a foreign-owned corporation, U.S. companies must merge with a foreign partner, even if the foreign partner is much smaller.
7. WILL CONGRESS DO MORE?
Several Democrats in Congress have announced bills to make it harder for U.S. corporations to invert. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he was working with key Senate Republicans in an effort to come up with a bipartisan response.
President Barack Obama included provisions in his 2015 budget request to limit inversions. The president has renewed his push in recent weeks.
But in the current political climate, it's hard to see House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the Obama White House all agreeing on a fix. We're talking about taxes, and Republicans and Democrats don't agree on much when it comes to taxes.
8. CAN OBAMA ACT ALONE?
The Treasury Department says it is "reviewing a broad range of authorities for possible administrative actions that could limit the ability of companies to engage in inversions, as well as approaches that could meaningfully reduce the tax benefits after inversions take place."
Experts are divided over how much Treasury can do without action by Congress.
9. WHAT DO DEMOCRATS SAY?
Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress have questioned the patriotism of corporate executives who elect to invert their companies. At the same time, they are trying to make it a political issue ahead of this year's congressional elections, accusing Republicans of protecting corporate loopholes.
"They are renouncing their citizenship even though they're keeping most of their business here," Obama said in a recent speech. "They shouldn't turn their back on the country that made their success possible."
10. WHAT DO REPUBLICANS SAY?
Key Republicans say the only way to adequately address inversions is to overhaul the tax code, making it more attractive for businesses to locate in the U.S.
"Anything short of that and you're not going to be able to do it," said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
Hatch and other Republicans say they could support limited efforts to fight earnings stripping, which many see as nothing more than a tax dodge. But in general, Republicans said they don't like the idea of punishing corporations for trying to lower their tax bills.
"We want to promote American competiveness, not hurt it," said Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, a senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A century and a half after his valiant death in the Battle of Gettysburg, a Union Army officer is being awarded the nation's highest military decoration, thanks to a decades-long campaign by his descendants and Civil War buffs.
The White House announced Tuesday that President Barack Obama approved the Medal of Honor for 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, who was killed standing his ground against Pickett's Charge during the pivotal, three-day Battle of Gettysburg.
Congress granted a special exemption last December for Cushing to receive the award posthumously since recommendations normally have to be made within two years of the act of heroism and the medal awarded within three years.
The White House also announced that Obama will award the medal in a ceremony on Sept. 15 to two Vietnam War soldiers who also received the congressional exemption — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat. The medal is given to members of the Armed Forces who risk their own lives in acts of great personal bravery.
Cushing was born in Delafield, Wisconsin, raised in Fredonia, New York, and buried at his alma mater, West Point, after being killed on July 3, 1863, at age 22. He commanded about 110 men and six cannons, defending the Union position on Cemetery Ridge against Pickett's Charge, a major Confederate thrust that could have turned the tide in the war. Cushing received a bullet wound in the head.
The fierce battle near the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, resulted in more than 51,000 casualties. Confederate soldiers advanced into the Union fire but eventually retreated with massive losses. The South never recovered from the defeat. Four months later, President Abraham Lincoln memorialized the Union war dead in his Gettysburg Address.
During the battle, Cushing's small force stood their ground under a severe artillery bombardment as nearly 13,000 Confederate infantrymen waited to advance. Cushing was wounded, and his battery was left with two guns and no long-range ammunition. Historians say his stricken battery should have been withdrawn and replaced with reserve forces, but Cushing insisted on ordering his guns to the front lines on the last day of fighting.
"Refusing to evacuate to the rear despite his severe wounds, he directed the operation of his lone field piece continuing to fire in the face of the enemy," the White House said in its announcement. "With the rebels within 100 yards of his position, Cushing was shot and killed during this heroic stand. His actions made it possible for the Union Army to successfully repulse the Confederate assault."
More than 1,500 soldiers from the Civil War have received the Medal of Honor, most recently Cpl. Andrew Jackson Smith of Clinton, Ill., who was awarded the medal in 2001 by President Bill Clinton. It's not clear why Cushing never got one, but his descendants and admirers took up his cause in the late 1980s.
The Cushing name is prominent in Delafield, his birthplace in southeastern Wisconsin. A monument to Cushing and two of his brothers — Naval Cmdr. William Cushing and Army 1st Lt. Howard Cushing — stands at Cushing Memorial Park, where the town holds most of its Memorial Day celebrations.
Wisconsin lawmakers pushed through an amendment to a defense spending bill to award Cushing in 2010, but then-Sen. James Webb, D-Va., stripped it from the bill because he said it was impossible to go back 150 years to determine who should receive the award. Webb predicted it could open an endless series of claims and argued at the time, "The better wisdom would be for Congress to leave history alone."
The award also will be given posthumously to Sloat, who was killed in action in Vietnam on Jan. 17, 1970, at age 20. Sloat, of Coweta, Oklahoma, picked up a live grenade triggered by a fellow soldier and used his own body to shield the blast and save his fellow soldiers.
Adkins, a veteran who served 22 years and has retired to Opelika, Alabama, plans to receive his medal in person. He was deployed three times to Vietnam with the Special Forces and is being awarded for actions in combat on his second tour, in 1966, when he ran wounded through enemy fire to drag wounded comrades to safety.
Insurers can no longer reject customers with expensive medical conditions thanks to the health care overhaul, but there's still wiggle room for them to discourage the sickest and costliest patients from enrolling.
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The third Gaza War in six years appears to have ended in another sort of tie, with both Israel and Hamas claiming the upper hand. Their questionable achievements have come at a big price, especially to long-suffering Palestinians in Gaza.
In a sense, Israel got what it wanted: Hamas stopped firing rockets in exchange for mostly vague promises and future talks. But the cost to Israel was huge: Beyond the 70 people killed — all but six of them soldiers — the economy has been set back, the tourism season destroyed, its people rattled for 50 days and its global standing pummeled by images of devastation in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces bristling from people who sense that Hamas controlled events and could not have its grip loosened on the Gaza Strip, which it seized by force from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Around the corner lie international investigations into war crimes allegations.
Hamas is celebrating its success after surviving Israel's far superior firepower. The Islamic militant group's rocket fire emptied a string of Israeli border communities and disrupted Tel Aviv's international airport. Weak a few months ago, it may emerge as more of a player in Palestinian politics and in the region, and the plight of Gazans is again atop the world's concerns.
It also paid dearly: 2,143 Palestinians were killed, including nearly 500 children and hundreds of militants, according to U.N. and Palestinian figures. The U.N. estimates the war destroyed or severely damaged 17,200 homes and left 100,000 Palestinians homeless, with considerable swaths of Gaza in rubble. Hamas' rocket arsenal is much depleted and many — if not all — of its attack tunnels against Israel have been destroyed.
For the moment, Israel has promised to open border crossings with Gaza to a degree, something it does intermittently anyway, and to increase access for Gaza fishermen. Hamas' other demands are to be later discussed: an airport and seaport, prisoner releases, salaries for its thousands of civil servants and the opening of the Rafah crossing to Egypt. Israel will ask for demilitarizing Gaza. Little is likely to be resolved anytime soon.
The region is unpredictable. But as it seems this cease-fire may stick, here are some preliminary lessons:
FORCE MAY HAVE WORKED
For 50 days, Hamas stuck to its rockets. Israel started with carefully targeted destruction of sites, but steadily escalated its strikes. It razed neighborhoods and killed top militants. This week, Israel destroyed whole apartment towers. Hamas' fight was at first genuinely supported by Gazans desperate for an end to the embargo of the strip by Israel and Egypt — a policy largely meant to squeeze out Hamas. But in the end, probably sensing the population couldn't take more, Hamas accepted a deal that does not differ much from the first Egyptian cease-fire proposal offered in mid-July and accepted then by Israel. The moral side of Israel's use of devastating force will be debated and its legality may end up being examined at The Hague, but the outcome suggests it achieved its aims.
THE PALESTINIANS SHOWED MORE RESILIANCE
Gazans are hardly free to oppose Hamas' rule, but it was still striking how much more pressure there was on Netanyahu to find a way to end the war. Also striking was the differing view of combatant deaths: At Hamas funerals in Gaza, the mood bordered on celebratory; in Israel, the soldiers' deaths brought national bereavement. This limited Netanyahu's options: Removing Hamas meant invading the heart of Gaza City and potentially losing many hundreds of troops in urban warfare. There was little stomach for this in Israel, however great the outrage over Hamas and its rockets.
THE PALESTINIAN UNITY GOVERMENT IS BACK
Israelis say that since Hamas embeds itself in civilian areas, there was no choice but to target those areas while making efforts to diminish civilian casualties by issuing warnings. Yet there were alternatives. Israel could have accepted some of Hamas' demands despite reservations about doing so under fire. In May, Israel could have cautiously accepted the establishment of a technocratic Palestinian "unity government" that was backed by both Hamas and the moderate Fatah group, which runs the Palestinian Authority and its autonomous enclaves in the West Bank. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that government backed continued peace efforts even though Hamas itself may not, yet Netanyahu launched a diplomatic campaign against Abbas for aligning himself with terrorists. What followed was the killing by Hamas activists of three Jewish teens in the West Bank, an Israeli crackdown on Hamas in the territory, and the start of the violence. Now Israel seems less upset about the unity government. It would probably be grateful to have the Palestinian Authority back in Gaza, running at least the borders, handling the reconstruction aid projects — and in general, keeping Hamas in check.
PROSPECTS FOR REAL PEACE REMAIN BLEAK
Whatever lies ahead, the bigger Israeli-Palestinian story remains the same: A majority on both sides wants peace and accepts partition of the Holy Land into two states — but when the other sides' terms are considered, they cannot do a deal. Israel has always feared a total West Bank pullout that would leave it about 10 miles (15 kilometers) wide at its narrowest point. Jihadi advances in the face of Arab governments' haplessness now compound that fear. On the Palestinian side, there is talk of asking the world to force Israel to accept its terms — a follow-up to the U.N. General Assembly's recognition in 2012 of a "state of Palestine" in all of Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians tend to describe such efforts, as well as the recent U.S.-led negotiating effort that fizzled, as "last chances" to save the "two-state solution." When that's off the table, their vision does not lean toward accepting a future as an occupied people. More likely is another uprising, or a push by the Palestinians for a single state over all the territory of the Holy Land, in which Arabs and Jews would be equal citizens. Israel fears the first and ferociously opposes the second, because it would bury the Zionist dream of a national home for the Jews.
Dan Perry has covered the Middle East since the 1990s and currently leads AP's text coverage in the region. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/perry_dan
MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — The battle for Ukraine's strategic coastline heated up Wednesday as a local mayor reported that pro-Russian rebel forces entered a key town in southeast Ukraine after three days of heavy shelling.
Novoazovsk, a resort town of 40,000 on the Sea of Azov, lies in a strategically significant location — on the road linking Russia to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol and onto Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Russia annexed. Wednesday's incursion, reported by the town's mayor, was the first time in the four-month-long conflict between the government in Kiev and separatists in the east that fighting has reached as far south as the seacoast. It suggests that the rebels — who Ukraine, NATO and Western nations all say are being supported by Russia — have been both emboldened and reinforced.
The new southeastern front also raised fears the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea. If successful, it could give them or Russia control over the entire Sea of Azov and the gas and mineral riches that energy experts believe it contains. Ukraine already lost roughly half its coastline, several major ports and significant Black Sea mineral rights in March when Russia annexed Crimea.
Oleg Sidorkin, the mayor of Novoazovsk, told The Associated Press by telephone that the rebels had entered the town and he had seen dozens of tanks and armored vehicles roll in.
AP reporters earlier in the day saw more than 20 shells fall around the town in a one-hour span. But access from the west was blocked by Ukrainian soldiers later and the presence of rebels in Novoazovsk could not be independently confirmed.
Sidorkin said the rebels had been positioned near Ukraine's southernmost border with Russia. It was not immediately clear how the rebels could have traveled to the southeast area, which is far from the main front line further north and in an area controlled by the government. Fighters could have easily come over the Russian border, however.
The assault on the town has forced government troops to spread their ranks thinner along the Russian border.
A spokesman for Ukraine's security council, Col. Andriy Lysenko, said "we do not have information that it (Nozoazovsk) is occupied."
Earlier, he said the shelling around the town was coming from both Ukrainian and Russian territory. Ukrainian security officials said nearby villages had also come under shelling.
In Mariupol, a city of 450,000 about 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the west, the defenses built up. A brigade of Ukrainian forces arrived at the airport on Wednesday afternoon, while deep trenches were dug a day earlier on the city's edge. Other troops were blocking traffic from entering or leaving the port's eastern edge.
Artillery shells in Novoazovsk appeared to be flying between rebel and government positions.
"It hit a tree, there was a blast and the shrapnel came down here," said Alexei Podlepentsov, an electrician at the Novoazovsk hospital, which was struck by shelling Tuesday.
In Donetsk, the largest rebel-held city further north, at least three people were killed on a main road when their cars were hit by shrapnel from falling artillery shells.
Fighting persisted elsewhere, and Lysenko said 13 Ukrainian troops had been killed over the past day.
Ukraine and Western governments have repeatedly accused Russia of playing a direct role in the conflict, supplying troops and weaponry to the rebels. Russia denies the claims, but their stance is increasingly dismissed abroad.
"Information, which in recent hours has gained another hard-facts confirmation, is that regular Russian units are operating in eastern Ukraine," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Wednesday. "This information, coming from NATO and confirmed by our intelligence, is in fact unequivocal."
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, met in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Tuesday for their first ever one-on-one meeting, which lasted over two hours. But there was no indication of a swift resolution to the fighting that has dragged on since April and claimed at least 2,000 civilian lives.
Poroshenko called the talks "overall positive" and said Putin had accepted the principles of his peace plan, which includes an amnesty for those in the east not accused of serious crimes and calls for some decentralization of power.
Putin, however, insisted that only Kiev could secure a cease-fire deal with the pro-Moscow separatists, saying the conflict was "Ukraine's business" because Russia was not in the fight.
Russia "can only help to create an atmosphere of trust for this important and necessary process," Putin said. "We in Russia cannot talk about any conditions for the cease-fire."
But Associated Press journalists on the border have seen the rebels with a wide range of unmarked military equipment — including tanks, Buk missile launchers and armored personnel carriers — and have run into many Russians among the rebel fighters. Ukraine also captured 10 soldiers from a Russian paratrooper division Monday around Amvrosiivka, a town near the Russian border. In videos posted on Facebook by Ukraine, one captive soldier said he did not know they were heading on a mission into Ukraine, while another said he did.
Those 10 have been taken to Kiev for questioning — but Ukrainian officials say Russia has not contacted them about the soldiers.
Ukraine wants the rebels to hand back the territory they have captured in eastern Ukraine, while Putin wants to retain some sort of leverage over the mostly Russian-speaking region so Ukraine does not join NATO or the European Union. Putin has so far ignored requests from the rebels to be annexed by Russia.
In Moscow, Denis Pushilin, one of the leaders of the pro-Russia insurgency, told reporters he had no information about whether Russian soldiers had entered Ukraine near Novoazovsk. But he said the Ukrainian separatists have been joined by many volunteers, including ones from Russia and Serbia.
AP reporters in eastern Ukraine have heard a variety of Russian accents from all over the country among the rebel fighters.
Jim Heintz in Kiev, Ukraine, Nicolae Dumitrache in Donetsk, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, and Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed to this report.