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A few thoughts on Edward Snowden

Updated: Thursday, August 8, 2013
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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 August 05, 2015 07:27 GMT

DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Payroll processor ADP reports today on how many jobs private employers added in July. The Commerce Department reports on the U.S. trade gap for June and the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, issues its index of non-manufacturing activity for July.

Corporate earnings reports are also expected.

GENERAL MOTORS-PLANT INVESTMENT

FLINT, Michigan (AP) -- General Motors says it's investing $877 million to upgrade an assembly plant in Flint.

The company plans to build a new, 883,000-square-foot body shop for Flint Assembly, which makes full-size pickups for the Chevrolet and GMC brands.

The new body shop will be closer to the Flint Metal Center, which supplies sheet metal to the plant. Construction is expected to begin in early 2016 and finish in 2018.

Flint Assembly, which opened in 1947, is GM's oldest plant in North America. GM says the upgrade will reduce the time and cost to ship parts between the two plants.

TOXIC ALGAE BLOOM

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Pacific seafood industry, coastal tourism and marine ecosystems could suffer from a vast bloom of toxic algae off the West Coast.

Researchers say the bloom is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists feared even weeks ago.

This coastal ribbon of microscopic algae, up to 40 miles wide and 650 feet deep in places, is flourishing amid unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures. It now stretches from at least California to Alaska and has shut down lucrative fisheries. Shellfish managers have doubled the area off Washington's coast that is closed to Dungeness crab fishing, after finding elevated levels of marine toxins in tested crab meat.

So-called "red tides" are cyclical and have happened many times before, but ocean researchers say this one is much larger and persisting much longer, with higher levels of neurotoxins.

Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, says the bloom likely will bring a premature end to this year's crab season.

NETFLIX-BABY BENEFIT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Netflix is giving new parents on its payroll up to a year of paid leave in a move that could pressure other technology employers to improve their baby benefits as they vie for talent.

The employee benefit announced Tuesday on Netflix's blog is generous even by the high standards of Silicon Valley, where free meals and other perquisites supplement lavish salaries in the fiercely competitive battle for computer programmers and other technology workers.

Google, which consistently ranks among the best places to work, offers 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. Parents can also take seven to 12 weeks of paid "baby bonding" time during their child's first year.

The U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only countries among 185 nations and territories that hadn't imposed government-mandated laws requiring employers to pay mothers while on leave with their babies, according to a study released last year by the United Nations' International Labor Organization.

Netflix's baby-benefit policy covers all of the roughly 2,000 people working at its Internet video and DVD-by-mail services, according to the Los Gatos, California, company.

IMF-CHINA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The staff of the International Monetary Fund is recommending that China wait until at least October 2016 to join an exclusive club of the world's top currencies.

China wants its currency, the yuan, included in a basket of currencies used in IMF operations along with the U.S. dollar, euro, British pound and Japanese yen. It was hoping the yuan could be added this Jan. 1. The IMF board will consider the staff recommendation later this month.

China believes it deserves to be included because it boasts the world's second-biggest economy. But the yuan is not as widely used or freely traded as the other four currencies.

The IMF staff said in a report released Tuesday that it was also worried that adding a new currency Jan. 1 might rattle financial markets on the first day of trading next year.

There have been estimates by some private economists that the Chinese economy will get a major boost if its currency is added.

Since mid-June, the Chinese stock market has been plunging in value despite efforts by the government to end the free-fall.

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