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 July 28, 2015 17:06 GMT

HOME PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home prices rose at a steady pace in May, pushed higher by a healthy increase in sales this year.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index increased 4.9 percent in May from a year prior, and down slightly from a 5 percent pace in April.

Home sales have jumped in recent months as an improving economy boosts hiring and enables more people to afford a purchase. Yet the higher sales haven't encouraged more people to sell their homes, leaving supplies tight and pushing up prices.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The May figures are the latest available.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Conference Board says its index of consumer confidence dropped this month on worries about the future.

The index fell to 90.9 in July from a revised 99.8 in June. Consumers' assessment of current conditions fell slightly to 107.4 from 110.3, but their outlook for the future dropped sharply to 79.9 this month from 92.8 in June.

Lynn Franco, a conference board economist, says consumers may have been rattled by the debt standoff in Greece and a stock market plunge in China. She says overall, "the index remains at levels associated with an expanding economy and a relatively confident consumer."

SMALLBIZ-SBA LOANS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Small businesses will soon be able to get loans approved again by the federal government.

The House has passed and sent to President Barack Obama a bill raising the lending authority for the Small Business Administration's biggest loan program, known as the 7(a) program. Loan approvals went on hold Thursday when the SBA reached its $18.75 billion annual limit for loan guarantees.

The bill, passed earlier by the Senate, raises the lending limit to $23.5 billion.

The SBA reached its annual limit with more than two months left in the government's fiscal year. The agency has had an influx of applications because owners are willing to take on more risks including loans after cutting back during the recession and its aftermath. Last year, the SBA didn't approach the limit until September, but Congress raised the ceiling before it was reached.

PELL GRANTS-PRISONERS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the Obama administration wants to expand the Pell grant program to prisoners.

He and Attorney General Loretta Lynch will visit the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, Maryland, on Friday to announce the plans.

In a speech Monday, Duncan said the administration wants to develop "experimental sites that will make Pell grants available" to inmates so they can get training for jobs.

Prisoners in federal or state institutions are not currently eligible for Pell grants, which are for lower-income people and do not have to be repaid.

SUPERVALU-SAVE-A-LOT

NEW YORK (AP) -- SuperValu says it's considering spinning off its discount grocer Save-A-Lot into a separate publicly traded company as competition in the industry intensifies.

The company says the split will help each company focus on finding ways to grow. SuperValu Inc. has been getting smaller in recent years, selling its Albertson's, Jewel-Osco and other chains.

Rival chains have been combining. Last month, the owner of Stop & Shop and Giant stores said it would merge with the parent company of Food Lion to operate 6,500 stores around the world.

Save-A-Lot has more than 1,300 stores around the country, selling fresh meat, vegetables and other groceries. Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based SuperValu distributes grocery items to nearly 3,600 stores and also operates the Cub Foods and Shop `N Save chains.

MICROSOFT WINDOWS

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Microsoft's new Windows 10 operating system debuts tomorrow, as the longtime leader in PC software struggles to carve out a new role in a world where people increasingly rely on smartphones, tablets and information stored online.

No one's expected to line up overnight for Windows 10, the way people did 20 years ago for Windows 95. But Microsoft is counting on tens or even hundreds of millions of people to download its latest release for free in the coming months. The launch will be accompanied by a global marketing campaign for an event the company hopes will be pivotal -- both for its own future and for a vast audience of computer users around the world.

Windows 10 is coming to PCs and tablets first, but it's also designed to run phones, game consoles and even holographic headsets. It has new features, a streamlined Web browser called Edge and a desktop version of Cortana, the online assistant that is Microsoft's answer to Google Now and Apple's Siri.

EARNS-FORD

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. (F) reports second-quarter earnings of $1.89 billion.

On a per-share basis, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company said it had profit of 47 cents.

The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 35 cents per share.

The automaker posted revenue of $37.3 billion in the period, which beat Street forecasts. Seven analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $35.93 billion.

Ford shares have decreased 6 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has stayed nearly flat. The stock has decreased 17 percent in the last 12 months.

EARNS-PFIZER

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pfizer's second-quarter earnings fell 10 percent, as the largest U.S. drugmaker absorbed revenue hits from a stronger U.S. dollar and the loss of patent protection for some key products. But the maker of Viagra and the painkiller Celebrex topped expectations for the quarter and raised its 2015 forecast.

Shares of the New York company climbed today before the market opened.

Pfizer also raised its earnings forecast. The company now expects 2015 adjusted earnings of $2.01 to $2.07 per share, up from its previous forecast for $1.95 to $2.05 per share.

Analysts forecast, on average, earnings of $2.06 per share, according to FactSet.

EARNS-MERCK

UNDATED (AP) -- Merck & Co.'s second-quarter profit plunged by two-thirds, hammered by the sale of its consumer business, unfavorable currency exchange rates, lower sales of some key drugs and hefty one-time charges.

Merck, which makes the Gardasil cancer vaccine and diabetes pill Januvia, says that net income was $687 million. That's down from $2 billion in 2014's second quarter.

Merck says it's signed an agreement to buy cCAM Biotherapeutics, a developer of cancer immunotherapy treatments, for up to $605 million, hinged on some of its drugs getting approved and meeting sales milestones. Keytruda, which had sales of $110 million in the quarter, also is in that growing new class of drugs, which use different mechanisms to boost the immune system and help it fight cancer.

EARNS-DUPONT

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- DuPont's second-quarter profit fell 12 percent, and the chemical company lowered its forecast for the year after a stronger dollar and a sales drop in its agriculture segment affected results.

The company also cut its quarterly dividend from 49 cents to 38 cents. DuPont plans to buy back $2 billion in stock this year and another $2 billion next year with proceeds from its spinoff of its Chemours business.

The Wilmington, Delaware-based company now expects 2015 adjusted earnings to total about $3.10 per share, compared with a previous forecast for $4 per share. Company officials said most of that decrease came from removing results from its now-separated Chemours business.

EARNS-ALLY FINANCIAL

DETROIT (AP) -- Ally Financial Inc. (ALLY) is reporting second-quarter profit of $182 million.

On a per-share basis, the Detroit-based company said it had net loss of $2.22. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to 46 cents per share.

The results surpassed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 44 cents per share.

The auto finance company and bank posted revenue of $1.13 billion in the period, which fell short of Street forecasts. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $1.27 billion.

Ally Financial shares have decreased roughly 9 percent since the beginning of the year. The stock has dropped 10 percent in the last 12 months.

EARNS-UNITED PARCEL SERVICE

ATLANTA (AP) -- Overseas business helped UPS during its second quarter, as did the absence of a hefty charge recorded a year ago.

The package-delivery company earned $1.23 billion for the three months ended June 30. A year earlier it earned $454 million.

Last year's quarter included a $665 million charge for the transfer of some post-retirement liabilities to defined-contribution health care plans.

The Atlanta company's revenue slipped $14.1 billion from $14.27 billion, hindered by lower fuel surcharges and foreign currency fluctuations.

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