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 28, 2015 17:28 GMT

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The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index climbed 3.4 percent to 112.4 last month. It's the fourth consecutive monthly gain. The index now stands at its highest level since May 2006.

Pending sales increased in the Northeast, Midwest and South, while barely edging upward in the West.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.

MORTGAGE RATES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week to their highest level so far this year as new data showed strength in the housing market.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.87 percent from 3.84 percent a week earlier. The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages advanced to 3.11 percent from 3.05 percent.

Rates have risen in recent weeks amid signs of improvement in the economy.

A government report issued Tuesday showed that more Americans bought new homes in April, evidence that the stronger job market is propelling the housing market. New-home sales climbed 6.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 517,000.

Rising demand has created a supply crunch, and the limited inventory has pushed up prices.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI says it's begun an investigation into the theft of personal tax information of more than 100,000 taxpayers from an Internal Revenue Service website.

The FBI said Thursday that agents were "working to determine the nature and scope of this matter." The agency is advising individuals it's contacted to take steps to safeguard their personal information.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has said the information was stolen as part of an elaborate scheme to claim fraudulent tax refunds.

Two officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday that IRS investigators belief the identity thieves are part of a sophisticated criminal operation based in Russia.

The information was taken from an IRS website called "Get Transcript," where taxpayers can get tax returns and other tax filings from previous years.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal regulators say Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries will pay $1.2 billion to settle charges that one of its subsidiaries illegally blocked the launch of generic versions of the blockbuster sleeping pill Provigil.

The settlement announced Thursday is a major victory in the government's campaign against a common drug industry practice known as "pay-for-delay" deals. Drugmakers have long maintained the deals help resolve costly patent litigation between branded drugmakers and their generic counterparts. But Federal Trade Commission officials say the agreements keep cheaper forms of medicines off the market, driving up costs for consumers.

The FTC settlement stems from charges brought in 2008 against Cephalon Inc., which was acquired by Teva in 2012. The FTC alleged that Cephalon paid four generic firms over $300 million to delay launching their drugs until 2012.

INTERNET FOR THE POOR

NEW YORK (AP) -- The head of the Federal Communications Commission is proposing that the government agency expand a phone subsidy program for the poor to include Internet access.

The FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, has called broadband a critical service for modern life.

But many low-income people don't have access. According to a Pew Research Center report from 2013, 70 percent of U.S. adults have a high-speed Internet connection at home. Only 54 percent of households earnings less than $30,000 a year do.

The FCC says low-income Americans are more likely to rely on smartphones for Internet access. According to the Pew report, 67 percent of households that make less than $30,000 a year have home broadband or a smartphone.

The program, called Lifeline, has been funded by surcharges on telephone customer bills.

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece says it aims to clinch by Sunday a deal with creditors to get more rescue loans.

Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis told reporters at a briefing on Thursday that "we are going into these negotiations with the aim to have a deal by Sunday."

Reports from Greece Wednesday that a deal was near caused a market rally, but the optimism proved short-lived as key creditor states, like Germany, quickly warn that a final agreement remained elusive.

Greece has been in talks for four months on what reforms it should make to get the final installment of its bailout program, worth 7.2 billion euros ($8 billion) from fellow eurozone states and the International Monetary Fund. Without the money, it will be unable to pay debts due as soon as June 5.

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DRESDEN, Germany (AP) -- Top finance officials from the Group of Seven wealthy democracies are debating ways to broaden and strengthen economic recoveries that aren't as robust as everyone would like.

Finance ministers and central banks traded ideas on growth-boosting reforms and discussed financial markets and monetary policy.

Officials said the discussions in Dresden, Germany, were marked by concern over growth that is uneven and below long-term averages. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has pressed countries in good financial shape such as host Germany to do more to boost growth.

Both the U.S. and Europe are growing. But unemployment remains high in the 19-country eurozone.

The meeting is a discussion forum that sets up final positions to be taken at a summit of presidents and prime ministers July 7-8 outside Munich.

AVAGO-BROADCOM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Avago Technologies is buying rival chipmaker Broadcom in a cash and stock deal worth about $37 billion.

The deal, announced Thursday, comes at a time when technology stocks are booming and the companies that make the guts for tablets and smartphones are looking for ways to grow aggressively.

Avago Technologies Ltd. will pay $17 billion in cash, along with the equivalent of about 140 million Avago shares, which were worth about $20 billion when the markets closed Wednesday.

Broadcom shareholders will be able to trade each of their current shares for either a cash payment of $54.50, or 0.4378 shares of the new company's stock.

When the deal closes, Broadcom shareholders will own about 32 percent of the combined company.

Broadcom Corp. is based in Irvine, California.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON-CARDINAL HEALTH

J&J accepts offer from Cardinal Health for Cordis unit

NEW YORK (AP) -- Health care giant Johnson & Johnson has formally accepted a $2 billion offer to sell its Cordis heart devices unit to Cardinal Health.

The offer was initially made March 1. The companies expect the deal to close toward the end of 2015.

The Cordis business, which is based in Fremont, California, had 2014 revenue of about $780 million. The U.S. is its biggest single market, but 70 percent of total sales come from outside the U.S.

Cordis has operations in more than 50 countries, including China, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, the U.K. and Brazil.

AMAZON-FREE SAME-DAY DELIVERY

NEW YORK (AP) -- Amazon wants to make your impulse buys even more impulsive. The e-commerce powerhouse is offering free same-day delivery service in some cities to its Prime loyalty club members.

Amazon says starting Thursday more than 1 million items including books, electronics and vacation gear will be eligible for same-day delivery in 14 metro areas including New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Atlanta. Orders over $35 are eligible for the service. They need to be placed by noon and will be delivered by 9 p.m.

Orders under $35 can still have one day delivery, it just costs $5.99.

Previously the service cost $5.99 for Prime members and $9.98 for non-Prime members for the first item, plus 99 cents for each additional item.

NYC TAXIS-REGULATING UBER

NEW YORK (AP) -- Uber and Lyft are pushing back against a New York City effort to regulate app-based ride-hailing services.

The proposal before the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission would require car services that riders can book with their smartphones to comply with many of the rules that govern the yellow cabs with which they compete.

The proposed rule changes would address fares, the availability of wheelchair-accessible cars and restrictions on picking up passengers at airports.

San Francisco-based Uber and Lyft say the regulations would discourage innovation.

A few dozen drivers in black shirts protested outside the taxi commission's Manhattan headquarters before a hearing on Thursday. They chanted: "We love Uber!"

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- A loan program that was supposed to lend as much as $40 million to struggling homeowners and businesses in cash-strapped Atlantic City has given out nothing and instead led to a federal lawsuit.

Atlantic City is suing to get back $3 million it gave to the company that has failed to run the Community Loan Program. The program was launched in 2013 by Lorenzo Langford, who was mayor at the time.

The Associated Press found that the company is partially owned by relatives of a former aide to Langford. ZeMurray Street Capital used most of the money to buy a Tennessee firm that has since had management of its government-backed loans taken away by the Small Business Administration.

The lawyer for the company and W. Wesley Drummon denies the city's claims. He says city lawyers had reviewed the loan program.

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