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PROGRAMMING NOTE

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 September 02, 2014 17:28 GMT

ECONOMY-MANUFACTURING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. manufacturing grew in August at the strongest pace in more than three years as factories cranked out more goods and new orders rose.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, says its manufacturing index rose to 59 from 57.1 in July. Anything above 50 signals that manufacturing is growing.

A gauge of production rose to the highest level in four years, and a measure of new orders jumped to its highest in 10 years. That suggests that the sector should continue to grow in the coming months.

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. construction spending staged a strong rebound in July, rising by the largest amount in more than two years. All major categories of construction showed gains in an encouraging sign that spending on building projects will help boost the economy in the second half of this year.

The Commerce Department says construction spending rose 1.8 percent in July, the biggest one-month gain since May 2012. It followed a 0.9 percent decline in June, the largest setback in a year. That decline had been blamed in part on soggy weather which depressed construction activity in many parts of the country.

The July rebound pushed total construction to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $981.3 billion, the highest level since December 2008. Spending on housing, non-residential and government projects all increased.

HOME PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home prices rose in July but at a slower rate compared with earlier this year.

Real estate data provider CoreLogic says prices rose 7.4 percent in July from July 2013. That was slightly below June's year-over-year increase of 7.5 percent.

Prices rose 1.2 percent in July from June.

The smaller price gains should make homes more affordable and support sales. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.1 percent last week, the lowest in a year. And the number of available homes rose 3.5 percent in July to the most in nearly two years. A greater supply tends to limit the bidding wars that inflate prices.

UKRAINE-ECONOMY

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The International Monetary Fund says Ukraine will need billions of dollars in additional support if the fighting between the military and Russian-backed separatists in the country's east persists.

In its first in-depth assessment since granting the country a $17 billion bailout program in March, the IMF said Tuesday "risks loom large" for the country's economy.

It says the bailout program already faces a $3.5-billion funding shortfall through 2015, with the economy forecast to shrink by 6.5 percent this year. Analysts say Ukraine's gross domestic product might tumble even more.

It says if the fighting in the eastern region -- representing about 16 percent of Ukraine's GDP -- were to persist through next year, Kiev would likely need additional support worth $19 billion only to shore up its central bank reserves.

NEW NATURAL GAS PIPELINE

NEW YORK (AP) -- Dominion Resources, Duke Energy and other partners have proposed building a $5 billion natural gas pipeline to connect the Southeast with the prodigious supplies of natural gas being produced in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

Gas is being relied upon to generate more of the nation's electricity in recent years because the enormous new domestic supplies have drastically lowered its price and it burns cleaner than the nation's other most important fuel for electric power, coal.

The 550-mile project will begin in Harrison County, West Virginia and stretch to Robeson County, North Carolina, in the southern part of the state.

The partners, which included Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources, expect to receive regulatory approval by mid-2016 and to start operating the pipeline in 2018.

HALLIBURTON-SPILL SETTLEMENT

HOUSTON (AP) -- Halliburton says it has agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle a substantial portion of plaintiff claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, will be paid into a trust until appeals are resolved over the next two years.

Halliburton was BP PLC's cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf in April 2010, killing 11 workers and triggering the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The deal will settle claims assigned to Halliburton as a result of BP's settlement in 2012 and punitive damages from the loss of property or commercial fishing activity resulting from the oil spill.

DOLLAR GENERAL-FAMILY DOLLAR

GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Dollar General is boosting its bid for rival Family Dollar to approximately $9.1 billion and says it's now willing to more than double the number of stores it would shed to avoid trouble with regulators.

The newest bid from Dollar General is worth $80 per share, up from $78.50. Dollar General's previous bid, worth nearly $9 billion, was rejected by Family Dollar in favor of an offer of about $8.5 billion from Dollar Tree Inc.

Dollar General Corp. says it will now divest 1,500 stores to steer clear of antitrust issues. It previously said it would divest up to 700 stores. The Goodlettsville, Tennessee company has also agreed to pay a $500 million reverse break-up fee to Family Dollar Stores Inc. if the deal runs into antitrust roadblocks.

COMPUWARE-TAKEOVER

UNDATED (AP) -- Private equity firm Thoma Bravo is spending about $2.5 billion to buy Compuware and take the software developer private.

The companies say Compuware stock owners will receive about $10.92 for each share they own. That price includes mostly cash and some stock from Compuware spin-off Covisint.

It represents a premium of about 17 percent to the Detroit company's Friday closing price.

Compuware says its board unanimously approved the deal and recommends shareholders vote for it as well. Activist investor Elliott Management has already agreed to vote in favor of the deal. Elliott holds more than a 9 percent stake in Compuware Corp. and tried to acquire the company last year.

Thoma Bravo and Compuware expect the deal to close early next year.

Shares of Compuware are soaring in morning trading.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE-PRESTIGE-ACQUISITION

NEW YORK (AP) -- Norwegian Cruise Line is getting into the luxury cruise business by acquiring Prestige Cruises International in a deal worth about $3 billion.

Prestige operates high-end cruise lines Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., based in Miami, values the deal at $3.025 billion, when debt is included. Its shares are up more than 10 percent today.

Prestige is owned by the private equity firm Apollo Global management LLC, which also owns a large stake in Norwegian.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

1-800-FLOWERS-HARRY & DAVID

1-800-FLOWERS buying Harry & David for $142.5M

CARLE PLACE, N.Y. (AP) -- 1-800-FLOWERS.COM Inc. is buying Harry & David for $142.5 million to help broaden the assortment of foods that its customers can choose as gifts.

The deal includes Harry & David Holdings Inc.'s brands, websites, 47 retail stores, some plants, orchards and its headquarters in Medford, Oregon.

Harry & David's fruit, food and other gifts are housed under brands including Wolferman's, Cushman's and its namesake. Products include Royal Riviera pears, Wolferman's specialty English muffins and Cushman's HoneyBells citrus gifts.

1-800-FLOWERS' brands already include Fannie May, Cheryl's and The Popcorn Factory.

The transaction is expected to close in October.

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