CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — On the third day without clean tap water, business owners with empty dining rooms and quiet aisles of merchandise around West Virginia’s capital were left to wonder how much of an economic hit they’ll take from a chemical spill.
Most visitors have cleared out of Charleston while locals are either staying home or driving out of the area to find somewhere they can get a hot meal or a shower. Orders not to use tap water for much other than flushing toilets mean that the spill is an emergency not just for the environment but also for local businesses.
A water company executive said Saturday that it could be days before uncontaminated water is flowing again for about 300,000 people in nine West Virginia counties. The uncertainty means it’s impossible to estimate the economic impact of the spill yet, said the leader of the local chamber of commerce.
Virtually every restaurant was closed Saturday, unable to use water to prepare food, wash dishes or clean employees’ hands. Meanwhile, hotels had emptied and foot traffic was down at many retail stores.
“I haven’t been able to cook anything at home and was hoping they were open,” Bill Rogers, 52, said outside a closed Tudor’s Biscuit World in Marmet, just east of Charleston. “It seems like every place is closed. It’s frustrating. Really frustrating.”
Neiman Marcus falls victim to cyber-security attack
NEW YORK (AP) — Luxury merchant Neiman Marcus confirmed Saturday that thieves stole some of its customers’ payment card information and made unauthorized charges over the holiday season, becoming the second retailer in recent weeks to announce it had fallen victim to a cyber-security attack.
The hacking, coming weeks after Target Corp. revealed its own breach, underscores the increasing challenges that merchants have in thwarting security threats. Neiman Marcus didn’t say whether the breach was related to the massive data theft at Target, but some security experts believe they could be part of the same scam. Nevertheless, the recent security breaches at two major retailers threaten to scare shoppers who worry about the safety of their personal data.
Ginger Reeder, spokeswoman for Dallas-based Neiman Marcus Group Ltd., said in an email Saturday that the retailer had been notified in mid-December by its credit card processor about potentially unauthorized payment activity following customer purchases at stores. On Jan. 1, a forensics firm confirmed evidence that the upscale retailer was a victim of a criminal cyber-security intrusion and that some customers’ credit and debit cards were possibly compromised as a result.
Reeder wouldn’t estimate how many customers may be affected but said the merchant is notifying customers whose cards it has now determined were used fraudulently. Neiman Marcus, which operates more than 40 upscale stores and clearance stores, is working with the Secret Service on the breach, she said.
“We have begun to contain the intrusion and have taken significant steps to further enhance information security,” Reeder wrote.
Africa sees violent, deadly start to 2014
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The death tolls are huge and the individual incidents gruesome. One estimate says nearly 10,000 people have been killed in South Sudan in a month of warfare, while in neighboring Central African Republic combatants in Muslim-vs.-Christian battles have beheaded children.
Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a very violent start to 2014, with raging conflicts in South Sudan and Central African Republic, as well as continued violence in Congo, and attacks in Somalia and Kenya.
Compared to decades past, Africa and its people are suffering from fewer conflicts today, but several recent outbreaks of violence are cause for concern, said J. Peter Pham, director of the Washington-based think tank Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. The conflicts also lack strong international peacekeeping, he said.
“Peacekeeping in Africa, whether under the formal auspices of the United Nations or those of the African Union, suffers today from the same two limitations which they have been burdened with since the very first U.N. peacekeeping mission, the 1960-1964 operation in the Congo (ONUC), namely lack of political will resulting in a weak mandate and lack of adequate forces,” he wrote by email.
The conflict that broke out in South Sudan on Dec. 15 saw violence radiate across the country as ethnic groups targeted each other. Shortly afterward Uganda dispatched troops and military equipment to aid South Sudan’s central government from breakaway units of that country’s military.
Proposal could push California minimum wage level to highest among states
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Democrats across the nation are eager to make increasing the minimum wage a defining campaign issue in 2014, but in California a proposal to boost the pay rate to $12 an hour is coming from a different point on the political compass.
Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley multimillionaire and registered Republican who once ran for governor and, briefly, U.S. Senate, wants state voters to endorse the wage jump that he predicts would nourish the economy and lift low-paid workers from dependency on food stamps and other assistance bankrolled by taxpayers.
A push for bigger paychecks for workers at the lower rungs of the economic ladder is typically associated with Democrats — President Barack Obama is supporting a bill in Congress that would elevate the $7.25 federal minimum to over $10 an hour.
But entrepreneur Unz, 52, is a former publisher of The American Conservative magazine with a history of against-the-grain political activism that includes pushing a 1998 ballot proposal that dismantled California’s bilingual education system, an idea he later championed in Colorado and other states.
Two decades ago, as a 32-year-old, the theoretical-physicist-turned-software-developer tried to unseat then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a fellow Republican. After a long break on the political sidelines, Unz’s reappearance has startled members of both major parties, and his proposal — if it goes to voters in November — could unsettle races from governor to Congress.
Dallas group set to auction permit for black rhino hunt in fundraiser that’s sparked outrage
DALLAS (AP) — Hunt the black rhino to save the black rhino.
That’s the Dallas Safari Club’s approach to a fundraiser for efforts to protect the endangered species. The group hopes to raise more than $200,000 Saturday by auctioning off the right to shoot and kill a black rhinoceros in the African nation of Namibia.
But the auction has drawn howls from critics, including wildlife and animal rights groups, and the FBI earlier this week said it was investigating death threats against members of the club.
Ben Carter, executive director of the Safari Club, defended the auction. He said all money raised will go toward rhino conservation efforts. He also said the rhino that the winner will hunt is old, male and nonbreeding — and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife.
Carter added that wildlife experts say culling a herd is an acceptable habitat management practice.