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 March 05, 2015 08:35 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report today on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. The department will also issue its revised report on fourth-quarter productivity. And the Commerce Department will report on U.S. factory orders for January. Also today, Freddie Mac will release average mortgage rates.

The jobs market has been steadily improving in recent months.

And a private survey Wednesday showed that U.S. businesses added more than 200,000 jobs in February for the 13th straight month. It was the latest sign that strong hiring should boost the economy this year.

Payroll processor ADP says companies added 212,000 jobs last month, a solid gain, though down from 250,000 in the previous month. January's figure was revised up from 213,000. The figures come just before tomorrow's government report on the labor market, which economists forecast will show an increase of 240,000 jobs, according to a survey by data provider FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent.

CHINA-ECONOMY

BEIJING (AP) -- China is setting a lower economic growth target for this year and is promising to open more industries to foreign investors as it tries to make its slowing, state-dominated economy more productive.

In a report to the National People's Congress, Premier Li Keqiang (lee kuh-TYAHNG') says the growth target of about 7 percent, down from last year's 7.5 percent, is in line with efforts to create a "moderately prosperous society." Actual economic growth last year was 7.4 percent, the lowest since 1990.

The ruling Communist Party is in the midst of a marathon effort to guide the world's second-largest economy to slower but more self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and services. It is trying to replace a worn-out model driven by trade and investment in construction and heavy industry that has left China's air and water badly polluted.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON-PHARMACYCLICS

Report: J&J close to deal to buy partner Pharmacyclics

UNDATED (AP) -- Health care giant Johnson & Johnson reportedly is close to buying biopharmaceutical company Pharmacyclics, its longtime partner in developing the blood cancer treatment Imbruvica.

London's Financial Times reports "people familiar with the matter" say Johnson & Johnson's anticipated offer would value Pharmacyclics of Sunnyvale, California, above its current $17 billion market capitalization. Those sources said a deal could be announced within days but might unravel.

J&J spokeswoman Amy Meyer declined to comment.

Pharmacyclics shares surged on the rumor, jumping 6.3 percent in regular trading and another 3 percent after hours to $237.48.

Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, usually makes mid-sized acquisitions worth several billion dollars, but paid $21.3 billion in 2011 for Synthes, a Swiss maker of orthopedic surgical equipment. J&J has annual revenue of $74 billion.

MANDARIN ORIENTAL-DATA BREACH

NEW YORK (AP) -- Upscale hotel chain Mandarin Oriental says it is investigating a potential credit card breach at its hotels.

"Unfortunately incidents of this nature are increasingly becoming an industrywide concern," the company said in an emailed statement. Mandarin Oriental said it is coordinating with credit card agencies and forensic specialists. The company didn't disclose how many hotels were affected nor how many customers reported fraudulent charges on their credit cards.

Mandarin Oriental operates hotels across the world including Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, London, New York, Miami, San Francisco, Prague, Boston, Las Vegas, Macau and Barcelona.

The breach was first reported by cybersecurity news website KrebsOnSecurity.

ACTIVISION-VIVENDI

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- A Delaware judge is eyeing approval of a $275 million settlement in a shareholder lawsuit alleging that videogame maker Activision Blizzard was shortchanged in a $6 billion buyback of shares from French media conglomerate Vivendi SA in 2013.

Following a hearing Wednesday, the judge said he viewed the settlement favorably, and that the defendants were providing reasonable value to settle the claims against them.

An attorney for the lead plaintiff told the judge that the $275 million settlement is the largest ever in a derivative suit, in which shareholders sue on behalf of a company.

The lawsuit alleged that Activision executives and directors, working with Vivendi, breached their fiduciary duties by entering into a deal that improperly benefited CEO Bobby Kotick and co-chairman Brian Kelly.

EXXON MOBIL-SETTLEMENT

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) -- Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists are criticizing a proposed legal settlement between Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration and Exxon Mobil over oil and chemical contamination.

The state had sought $9 billion in damages. But a person familiar with the matter says the settlement is for about $250 million. The person wasn't authorized to speak before details were released publicly and spoke Wednesday to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is planning a public hearing. Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Ray Lesniak have threatened a lawsuit.

A judge found Exxon liable in 2008 for contamination in Bayonne and Linden. But there's been no ruling on damages.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. had said damages should be capped at $3 million.

REVEL SALE

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) -- A bankruptcy court judge says more time is needed to seek higher bids for Atlantic City's former Revel Casino Hotel.

Judge Gloria Burns delayed a decision Wednesday on the proposed $82 million sale of the shuttered gambling hall to Florida developer Glenn Straub.

She did so after Los Angeles developer Izek Shomof expressed interest in buying Revel, but for $2 million less.

Leo Pustilnikov, Shomof's partner, says he's interested in making a formal bid soon.

Burns says she's giving Revel AC and potential bidders time to work out the best possible deal for the shuttered casino.

A new hearing is set for March 12.

Two previous sales of Revel have fallen through.

The $2.4 billion casino closed in September after two years of operation, and never turned a profit.

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