A few thoughts on Edward Snowden

Updated: Thursday, August 8, 2013
A few thoughts on Edward Snowden story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The flap over Russia granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, has led to President Obama canceling a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Some diplomatic analysts suggest that the matter is returning the relationship between the countrires to cold war status.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's a shame it's so serious, because it reads like a dark comedy.

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In case you've forgotten, Edward Snowden is a 29-year-old high school dropout who went on to get his G.E.D., take a few computer courses at a community college, get hired as a security guard for the NSA,  get promoted, and wound up working for a private information technology—I.T.--contractor for the U.S. government, living in Hawaii on an income of $200-thousand dollars a year.

While agents for the NSA were subjected to intense background checks, Snowden, with his limited IT credentials, was sort of just handed the highest security classification our nation has to offer and access to absolutely everything the NSA was doing. Everything!

And he didn't like what he saw. So after much consideration, which included the chucking of his own lifestyle, he blew the whistle.

He told The Guardian newspaper that he did so because he'd seen abuses—the framework, he said, for an architecture of oppression.

He said he could, on his own, as a computer specialist just sitting at his desk, wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, or even the President. All he needed was a personal e-mail.

Truly chilling, Orwellian stuff. And the NSA was doing it not only to whomever it pleased all over the world, it was doing it here in the United States as well.

Millions upon millions of personal bits of information were intercepted, stored, and ready to be examined at a whim—all in the name of national security.

Reaction was widely mixed. I have a brother who diminished it all, and immediately gave up fourth amendment rights, by saying, "It really doesn't bother me if the government knows I like pepperoni on my pizza."

And I have a friend who amplified my brother by saying, "Big deal. If you haven't done anything wrong, what are worried about?"

Both comments immediately bring to mind Benjamin Franklin's famous thought that if you are willing to forgo individual rights in the name of security—you deserve neither.

Let Snowden answer my brother:

"It's getting to the point where you don't have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you have ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer."

All the classified information he gave to The Guardian—notice, he "gave," did not "sell;" and there was a lot of it—has inspired all kinds of debate in Washington.

Enough people there are sufficiently shocked, if not creeped out, to start thinking maybe, just maybe, the NSA is overstepping its bounds a bit.

So here we have a poorly-credentialed I.T. guy who tells the world the U.S. government is spying on them and its own citizens. In doing so he inspires congressional debate and a national dialogue.

He knows that his own country would like to lock him up, so he flees to Russia, where he gets sanctuary and is now looking for a job.

Now our president is also angry at their president who granted Snowden asylum—like we wouldn't—and cancels a summit meeting.

Meantime, we are repeatedly assured, and we have the word of our politicians on this, that all the stored information will be properly safeguarded and will never be abused.

Sure.

This from the same gang who hired a high school drop out to do some computer work -- and then gave him the keys to the kingdom.

With a little effort, we could stage a musical.

From this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on May 27, 2015 18:03 GMT

STATE UNEMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates fell in 23 U.S. states in April as hiring rebounded nationwide from weak job gains the previous month.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that 11 states reported a higher unemployment rate than in March, while 16 states saw no change. Forty states gained jobs, and 9 states posted job losses.

The drag from lower oil prices that has triggered sharp cutbacks in oil drilling was evident in some states. Texas added just 1,200 jobs, far below its average monthly gain of 34,000 last year. Wyoming lost jobs, while North Dakota reported a small gain.

Nationwide, employers added a healthy 223,000 jobs in April, lowering the unemployment rate to a seven-year low of 5.4 percent. That represented a reassuring bounce back after the economy generated just 85,000 jobs in March.

Nebraska reported the lowest unemployment rate at 2.5 percent, followed by North Dakota at 3.1 percent. North Dakota had boasted the lowest rate for nearly every month since the Great Recession, but the figure has climbed from 2.7 percent a year earlier in part because of layoffs by oil drillers.

Nevada had the highest unemployment rate at 7.1 percent, followed by West Virginia at 7 percent.

BANK EARNINGS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. banks' earnings rose 6.9 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier as revenues increased, delinquent loans continued to fall and the number of "problem" banks reached a six-year low.

The data issued Wednesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed "gradual but steady improvement" for the banking industry, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said. Still, low interest rates continued to crimp banks' profit margins on loans during the January-March period.

The FDIC reported that U.S. banks earned $39.8 billion in the first quarter, up from $37.2 billion a year earlier.

Nearly 63 percent of banks reported an increase in profit in the first quarter from a year earlier. Only 5.6 percent of banks were unprofitable -- the lowest percentage of unprofitable institutions since the second quarter of 2005.

MCDONALD'S-SALES

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's says it will stop reporting its monthly sales results as the company works to fix its struggling business.

Steve Easterbrook, who became CEO of McDonald's on March 1, noted the change would happen during a presentation for analysts at the Bernstein's Strategic Decisions Conference in New York. The decision comes after Easterbrook laid out the initial steps for turning around the company's performance earlier this month.

McDonald's Corp., based in Oak Brook, Illinois, said June will be the last month for which it reports sales at established locations. Those results will be reported with its second-quarter earnings results.

Other major restaurant chains, including Burger King's parent company Restaurant Brands International and Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, do not report monthly sales figures.

FORD RECALLS

DETROIT (AP) -- Ford is recalling nearly 423,000 cars and SUVs in North America because the power-assisted steering can fail while they're being driven.

The recall covers certain Ford Flex and Taurus vehicles, as well as the Lincoln MKS and MKT from 2011 through 2013. Also covered are the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ from 2011 through 2012 and some 2011 Mercury Milans.

Ford says an intermittent electrical connection can cause the power steering to stop. That sends the steering into manual mode, making the vehicles harder to control.

Dealers will either update power steering software or replace the steering gear.

The company also is recalling 19,500 2015 Mustangs with 2.3-Liter engines due to high underbody temperatures that could degrade the fuel tank. Dealers will replace a heat shield and add insulation.

EPA-WATER REGULATIONS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is moving to protect the nation's drinking water with rules that clarify which smaller streams, tributaries and wetlands are protected from pollution under the Clean Water Act.

Two Supreme Court rulings had left the reach of the law uncertain. The rules issued Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are designed to clarify which smaller bodies of water are federally protected.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rule will only affect waters that have a "direct and significant" connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected.

The rules have already run into deep opposition from farm groups and the Republican-led Congress. The House voted to block the regulations earlier this month, saying they amount to overreach.

EXXON MOBIL-SHAREHOLDERS

DALLAS (AP) -- Shareholders are considering whether Exxon Mobil should put a climate-change expert on its board.

That is one of several environmental and company-governance resolutions on the agenda at the oil giant's annual meeting Wednesday in Dallas.

CEO Rex Tillerson is expected to discuss the outlook of the company, which has seen profits decline recently with lower prices for crude oil. Still, the company earned $32 billion last year.

An organization of Catholic priests in Milwaukee proposes to put a climate-change expert on the board, saying it would address a poor environmental image. The Exxon board opposes the resolution, saying several board members have engineering and scientific backgrounds and can handle climate issues.

GERMANY-G7-FINANCE

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) -- Top finance officials from the Group of Seven wealthy democracies are gathering in Germany to discuss ways to strengthen the global economy.

U.S. officials are pressing countries such as Germany that have strong economies and finances to invest more and stimulate their economies. They're also urging European leaders to find a solution to Greece's financial problems that will avoid a messy exit from the euro.

Ahead of the meeting, activists urging more help for poor countries floated large balloons bearing the faces of G-7 leaders next to Dresden's historic Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, urging the meeting to produce more than "hot air."

The gathered finance ministers will also tackle financial regulation and ways to cut off financing for extremist organizations such as the Islamic State group.

GREECE-BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (TSEE'-prahs) says his country is close to reaching a deal with its creditors, but stressed that "calm and determination" were needed in the final stretch of negotiations.

Speaking after a meeting at the finance ministry in Athens on Wednesday, Tsipras said that "we have made many steps, and we are in the final stretch, we are close to an agreement."

His comments came shortly after government officials said negotiators were to start drafting a staff-level agreement with creditors to end a months-long deadlock and unlock aid that would allow the country to make a looming debt repayment on June 5.

SPAIN-EUROPE-ECONOMY

MADRID (AP) -- Spain's government is calling for an overhaul of the European Union's common economic policy and for the European Central Bank to play a greater role in avoiding future crises.

The presidency issued a statement saying Spain has sent European institutions an eight-page proposal urging greater labor mobility, increased fiscal union with a common budget for emergency situations, completion of the banking union and the future issuance of common euro bonds.

The document says Spain believes current monetary policy is inadequate for certain members and leaves the union vulnerable to shocks.

Spain's push to give Europe more powers and forge closer financial ties seems to clash with the stances of Germany and Britain.

Spain was hit hard by the financial crisis and has a jobless rate of nearly 24 percent.

SOCCER-FIFA RAIDS

ZURICH (AP) -- Seven officials of soccer's world governing body have been arrested in Switzerland in an investigation of what the Justice Department calls "rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted" corruption.

The seven arrested in a raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich are among 14 people indicted in the U.S.

Swiss officials say only one of those officials has agreed to a quick extradition to the United States. He could be handed over to U.S. officials shortly. They say U.S. authorities now have 40 days to submit a formal extradition request to Switzerland for the other six.

All seven are connected with the regional confederations of North and South America and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Hours after the arrests, Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The Swiss prosecutors' office said in a statement that "electronic data and documents" were seized at FIFA's headquarters on Wednesday as part of their probe. And Swiss police said they will question 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010.

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