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 April 24, 2015 18:03 GMT

AMAZON-CLOUD COMPUTING BUSINESS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Amazon's profitable cloud-computing services business is growing by leaps and bounds.

That growth helped the e-commerce company Thursday post a 15 percent first-quarter revenue jump and a smaller-than-expected loss. The results sent Amazon's shares up 6 percent in aftermarket trading.

Investors have been growing restless with Amazon's long-term strategy of plowing most of the money it makes into new areas like cloud computing, streaming video and hardware -- leading to razor-thin profits or, in this quarter's case, a loss.

Because Amazon had never broken out details on Amazon Web Services before, it wasn't clear if it was operating at a profit or loss. But details released on Thursday show that surging revenue isn't coming at expense of a profit in that business, reassuring investors.

Amazon has rolled out a series of new offerings in recent months.

DEATH OF COMCAST-TIME WARNER CABLE

NEW YORK (AP) -- Comcast is dropping its $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable after heavy regulatory pushback.

The combined company would have put nearly 30 percent of TV and about 55 percent of broadband subscribers under one roof, which would give the resulting behemoth unprecedented power over what Americans watch and download.

Competitors, consumer groups, and politicians have criticized the deal, saying it would lead to higher prices and less choice.

Even with the Comcast saying Friday that the deal was off, cable companies are likely to keep combining as costs rise for the shows, sports and movies they pipe to subscribers and video customers decrease.

Many analysts expect that Charter Communications Inc., which lost out on its bid for Time Warner Cable Inc. to Comcast Corp., to resurrect its effort.

DURABLE GOODS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods increased by the largest amount in eight months. But a key category that tracks business investment plans dropped for a seventh month, suggesting that manufacturing is still struggling through a soft patch.

The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods rebounded 4 percent in March after having fallen 1.4 percent in February. The strength was led by a big jump in demand for commercial aircraft. But outside of the transportation category, orders were down for a sixth straight month.

There was also a 0.5 percent drop in demand in the category that serves as a proxy for business investment plans. The decline followed a 2.2 percent drop in February. This key investment category has been down seven consecutive months.

EARNS-AMERICAN AIRLINES

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL) on Friday reported first-quarter earnings of $932 million.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based company said it had net income of $1.30 per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs and pretax expenses, came to $1.73 per share.

The results surpassed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.70 per share.

The world's largest airline posted revenue of $9.83 billion in the period, also topping Street forecasts. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $9.82 billion.

American Airlines shares have dropped 4 percent since the beginning of the year. The stock has increased 39 percent in the last 12 months.

GREECE-BAILOUT

RIGA, Latvia (AP) -- European creditors have been turning up the heat on Greece today. They're pressing Greek officials to deliver an economic reform program that the country will need in order to avoid a possible default -- and even an exit from the euro currency group.

At a meeting today in Latvia, Greece's finance minister heard a series of rebukes from his counterparts in the eurozone for failing to come up with a comprehensive list of economic reforms.

The eurozone's top official calls it a "very critical discussion."

Others spoke of being "tired" and "annoyed" with the way the talks were going. Austria's finance minister says they made those points "very vigorously."

Two months ago, Greece won an agreement from the eurozone under which it would get the remaining money in its bailout fund -- about $7.7 billion -- but only if it came up with a set of reforms that everyone could agree on.

There are just days to go before that deadline, and Athens has yet to present a full list.

EUROPE GM CROPS

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union has authorized the use of more genetically modified food and feed amid a row over whether EU member states should be able to independently ban certain GM products.

The EU's executive commission said Friday that it has approved 10 GM foods, including strands of maize, soybean and cotton, after they "have been proved to be safe." Two kinds of GM cut flowers were also authorized.

The European bio-industries association expressed satisfaction that the EU has "finally decided to authorize imports of safe products."

The EU and its member nations have been locked in a dispute over whether countries should be allowed to individually ban GM produce that EU institutions consider safe.

DIET PEPSI-NEW SWEETENER

NEW YORK (AP) -- PepsiCo says it's dropping aspartame from Diet Pepsi in response to customer feedback and replacing it with sucralose, another artificial sweetener commonly known as Splenda.

The decision to swap sweeteners comes as Americans keep turning away from popular diet sodas. Coca-Cola said this week that sales volume for Diet Coke fell 5 percent in North America in the first three months of the year.

Executives at Coke and Pepsi blame the declines on perceptions that aspartame, first sold under the brand name Nutrasweet, isn't safe. That's even though the Food and Drug Administration says more than 100 studies support aspartame's safety.

Still, PepsiCo says it wanted to listen to its customers.

Andrea Foote, PepsiCo spokeswoman, says the reformulated Diet Pepsi drinks will start hitting shelves in August.

LISTERIA-ICE CREAM

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Major recalls from two well-known ice cream companies due to the discovery of listeria bacteria raise questions about how the pathogen could have contaminated multiple ice cream manufacturing plants -- and whether the discoveries are related.

Blue Bell Creameries of Texas and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams of Ohio both took products off shelves this week after listeria was discovered in their products. Blue Bell ice cream is linked to 10 illnesses in four states, including three deaths. There are no known illnesses linked to the Jeni's recall.

The recalls are unusual: Listeria is rarely found in ice cream because it can't grow at freezing temperatures. A spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration says it has no evidence, for now, that the two recalls are connected.

TANNING LAWSUIT

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York's attorney general has filed suit against two tanning salon chains, accusing them of downplaying health risks while playing up the allure of bronze skin.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (SHNEYE'-dur-muhn) filed the lawsuits against Portofino Spas and Total Tan Thursday. He says both franchises falsely advertise the health benefits of indoor tanning by promoting it as a safe alternative to tanning outdoors.

Schneiderman says there's nothing safe about indoor tanning. He accuses the two companies of supporting the opposite message.

Attorneys for Total Tan denied the allegations. Representatives for Portofino didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Schneiderman says lawsuits are also coming against Planet Fitness and Beach Bum Tanning.

A spokesman for Planet Fitness says the company is working toward a resolution. Representatives for Beach Bum Tanning didn't comment.

GENERAL MOTORS-EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors CEO Mary Barra's compensation more than tripled in 2014 to $15.8 million in her tumultuous first year in the automaker's top job.

Barra and other top executives got only 74 percent of the cash incentives they could have received, because GM fell short of goals set by the board. But her stock awards more than doubled from 2013 when she was senior vice president of for product development and purchasing.

GM reported its 2014 compensation Friday in its proxy filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company also announced that its annual stockholders meeting will be held on June 9 at GM's Detroit headquarters.

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