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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part IV

The hacking movement known as "Anonymous" may be looking to make some donations to charity -- with other people's money. The hackers say they've stolen thousands of credit card numbers and other personal information belonging to clients of a U.S.-based security think tank. One hacker says the goal is to take money from people's accounts, and give it away as Christmas donations. And some victims confirm unauthorized transactions to charities.The group has posted a link on Twitter to what it says is the company's tightly-guarded, confidential client list. Among those on the list are the U.S. Army and Air Force, and the Miami Police Department.There are also banks, defense contractors and technology firms like Apple and Microsoft. Anonymous says it was able to get the credit details partly because Stratfor hadn't encrypted them. If that's true, it would be a major embarrassment for any security-related company.


A Texas man who spent more than a decade dealing with cybercrime at banks is now among the apparent victims of a hacking attack against a security contractor based in Texas. Allen Barr of Austin -- who recently retired from the Texas Department of Banking -- says he discovered Friday that a total of $700 had been spent from his account. He says five transactions were made, with the money going to charities including the Red Cross, CARE and Save the Children.
   
At least 40 people have been killed in the terror attacks that were carried out across Nigeria today by a radical Muslim sect. Most of the victims died on the steps of a Catholic church after celebrating Christmas Mass. Authorities acknowledged that they weren't able to bring enough emergency medical personnel to care for the wounded outside St. Theresa Catholic Church, near Nigeria's capital. Elsewhere, a bomb exploded amid gunfire in a city in central Nigeria. And a suicide car bomber attacked the military in Nigeria's northeast.



 The White House is condemning what it is calling a "senseless" Christmas terrorist attack in Nigeria.The White House also offered its condolences to the Nigerian people, especially the families of the at least 39 people killed today. The White House says U.S. officials have been in contact with their counterparts in Nigeria and pledged to assist them in bringing those responsible to justice.President Barack Obama was monitor developments from his home state of Hawaii, where he is spending Christmas with his family.

Vandals are suspected of setting a fire Sunday morning that caused major damage to a Reno-area post office and shut down its postal operations. U.S Postal Inspector Steve Hofheins told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the building in Verdi (vur-die) about 10 miles west of Reno may be a total loss. He says while no mail was burned, some mail sustained water damage from firefighters' efforts. According to Hofheins, the fire apparently started about 5 a.m. after "something was thrown through the back window." A neighbor reported hearing four gunshots behind the post office about 4:30 a.m. and calling 911, and smoke was visible when officers arrived at the scene. A fire inspector from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is investigating the cause of the blaze.

Federal land managers have agreed to postpone their precedent-setting plan to castrate hundreds of wild stallions in eastern Nevada pending a federal court's review of the issue. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's action came a week after a coalition of conservationists and wild-horse defenders sued the government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to block the plan's implementation. Under a compromise approved by the court Thursday, the agency will be allowed to begin a long-term removal of roughly 1,800 wild horses from the sprawling Pancake Complex near Ely beginning about
Jan. 12 as scheduled. But the BLM agreed to put on hold its plans to castrate 200 wild stallions before releasing them back to the complex. Horse activists think the court will rule in its favor.

Dim Christmas Box Office may mean Movie Biz is Mission Impossible

Tom Cruise's latest mission has won a holiday weekend that's shaping up with some silent nights at movie theaters as business continues to lag. To say that this Christmas Box Office is slow would be an understatement.  Studio estimates Sunday place "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" a solid No. 1 with $26.5 million domestically over its first weekend in full release.  "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" was No. 2 in its second weekend with $17.8 million. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" finished third with $13.3 million. Big newcomers failed to light up the box office, though. David Fincher and Daniel Craig's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was No. 4 with $13 million, Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin" was No. 5 with $9.1 million and Cameron Crowe and Matt Damon's "We Bought a Zoo" was No. 6 with $7.8 million. "War Horse is among three films hitting today, Christmas Day.

Hope and Opportunty in the 2011 Elections

Hope and opportunity need to be the message behind this years political campaign, not attack and bitterness. 

7 in 10 Americans think the country is headed on the wrong track, in the wrong direction. Economic confidence is low, which means the current under all events is not a positive ones. Underwater homes, foreclosure, job loss, underemployment, cuts in education and services are in contrast to the rhetoric of the Republican presidential debates and resulting news coverage. There is anger over the "gridlock by design" in Congress, driven by the shift to the right and Tea Party victories and the "no new taxes" pledge. While blame is higher against Republicans, most Americans blame all politicians for the lack of significant action by their elected representatives.

The loss of jobs, homes, manufacturing, skyrocketing costs of health care, education and gasoline have Americans ready for a change. The problem is that change in itself is not necessarily good.

The day of the Iowa Caucus will mark 13 years, to the day, of the end of House Speaker Newt Gingrich in that position. He left having pushed "the Contract for America" and gained a Republican majority in the house, but failing in most of his goals and generally being seen as a poor majority leader.





What is missing from this year's political rhetoric and next years potential election year rhetoric are the priorities for the 21st century such as education, communication, infrastructure, a new type of defense, and the international nature of  everything from manufacturing to banking. Most conservatives have their head in the sand and think we are still in the 20th century, cutting education, slashing infrastructure and relying on American business in an age where most significant corporations and business are international, and not American. Democrats have a "large tent" but those on the left or progressives have their heads in the clouds thinking we still have the resources to deliver on our needs in a fast timely manner.


The position of the US in maintaining stability in the world will also play a key role in this fall's election. Unrest and change around the world have seen the US projecting its own values and priorities, and has been since the start of World War II, 70 years ago. The world is changing rapidly, with growing economies, shifting natural resources, the internationalisation of

Obama has ended the war in Iraq, saw the end of Asama bin Laden, a victory without ground forces against Qaddafi, a shift to our advantage in Afghanistan, foiling terrorist threats against the US, saw the end of pre-existing conditions and discrimination against women in health care. Those are just a few of his accomplishments, but with a weak economy most American remain disappointed in their leaders, and as Harry S. Truman said "the buck stops here."

All candidates have the problem of taking very complex issues and communicating in a way that the American people understand. The issue is to be honest, and avoid simplistic answers that may not be entirely true. Already campaign rhetoric is full of slogans with no real substance or truth beneath them,.

Historically Roosevelt, Truman and others have overcome obstacles far greater than what President Obama faces (remember "Dewey Beats Truman" on the front page of the Chicago Tribune). This fall's election could go either way, with the smart money at this point on the incumbent. That said, there are too many unknowns over the next eleven months...wars, economics, disease, terrorism, over-exposure to campaigns and positive trends or changes could and probably will shift the playing field many times before we see the new presidential term.


Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

The shortened NBA season kicks off today, dominating televisions and upstaging traditional holiday football. Which sport will win out in the ratings? And how much of an impact on holiday celebrations be? 


The Pope used part of his Christmas homily to lament the commercialization and secularization of Christmas. Meanwhile retailers in the US alone anticipate 470 billion dollars in sales over the full Christmas season.

Transportation Security Administration officers at the Los Angeles International Airport have added Christmas caroling to their to-do lists this holiday season. Since 2003, members of the LAX TSA Chorus have performed for travelers in airport terminals during their off-duty hours. 

In the story of the birth of Jesus, one of the gifts given by the wise men was frankincense. This fragrant resin is still collected from trees today, for use in incense and perfume. But a new study shows that the population of these trees could decline by 90% in the coming decades.

The Soviet Union ended twenty years ago today. Middle class Russians are gathering in frigid Moscow today now just to mark the anniversary, but also to protest the plight of the middle class in that nation. It is being seen as a sign that the upcoming elections may not be a "shoe in" as had been thought. Tens of thousands turned out yesterday for another huge protest against apparent fraud in this month's parliamentary election.The end of the Soviet union ended fifty years of cold war with the US and the west. In recent years cold war like tension has grown between the US and Russia, mostly over the middle east and the encroachment of the European Union into former Soviet territory. 


As Russians mark the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union, their political system has reached another watershed moment.  Tens of thousands turned out yesterday for another huge protest against apparent fraud in this month's parliamentary election.  Peter van Dyk looks at this moment, when the urban middle class in Moscow has risen up to demand greater political rights.

The U.S. deported a record number of illegal immigrants in 2011. The Obama administration says it is now "prioritizing" deportations -- focusing on illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. The policy, so far, has only been initialized in a few cities, but is pledged to expand. It is labor intensive and costly, but meets what many in America say should be a priority for this country despite the recession. The process is a contradiction as those calling for it also are calling for smaller government and cutting expenses.

Occupy Wall Street-style protestors in Des Moines are making plans to camp out at the headquarters of presidential candidates and disrupt campaign events leading up to the Iowa Caucuses. They say they're dissatisfied with the response of candidates from both parties to their concerns, so they're organizing their own caucus-style event two days after Christmas. 


In Anchorage in the winter, about 1500 moose roam the city, always on the lookout for their next meal in parks, along the road, and in dumpsters. This year, there seem to be more moose than ever in backyards and parking lots. For Alaskans, interacting with the giant, quirky beasts becomes a regular part of life. In much of Alaska if you hit a moose, and your pick-up can still drive, you collect it into the back of your truck and use it as food, warmth and supplies for the rest of the winter. Of course you need to carve up the huge beast to get it into the pickup. From Wyoming to Alaska, there are hundreds of collisions between cars and Moose a year...with the car usually the loser and the moose often walking away.