To understand Santa Claus you have to understand the history of St. Nicholas. He wasn’t from the North Pole, there was nothing fat or jolly about him, and his ethnicity while hotly debated in the USA this past Christmas season is without a doubt beyond debate: he wasn’t white. He is from Turkey.
His bones, however, have rested in peace in Bari, Italy for many years. Turkey wants them back.
The Turkey-based Santa Claus Peace Council has said it has written a letter to Pope Francis, requesting the return of the bones of Saint Nicholas.
Council Chairman Muammer Karabulut said they were expecting Pope Francis to give a positive response to their request to have a meeting on the bones, which are currently in Bari, Italy.
“We have been struggling for the return of the bones since 1995. State institutions have also been involved in this struggle,” Karabulut said. “So far, we have not reached a conclusion.”
Saint Nicholas, a historic Christian saint, died in 343 at the age of 73 in Demre, currently a district of the Mediterranean Turkish province of Antalya. His habit of performing miracles and his reputation of giving secret gifts to the faithful made him a model for Santa Claus.
No word yet on whether Pope Francis is inclined to send St. Nicholas back to Turkey.
If you have used a credit or debit card at Target since Black Friday this holiday season you could be in trouble. The Minnesota based retailer is reporting that up to 40 million credit and debit card accounts could be affected by a breach in their transaction security.
The chain said that accounts of customers who made purchases by swiping their cards at terminals in its U.S. stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 may have been exposed. The stolen data includes customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates and the three-digit security codes located on the backs of cards. The data breach did not affect online purchases.
The breach affected all cards, including Target store brand cards and major card brands such as Visa and MasterCard.
The Minneapolis company said it immediately told authorities and financial institutions once it became aware of the breach and that it is teaming with a third-party forensics firm to investigate and prevent future breaches. It said it is putting all “appropriate resources” toward the issue.
Target Corp. advised customers to check their statements carefully. Those who see suspicious charges on the cards should report it to their credit card companies and call Target at 866-852-8680. Cases of identity theft can also be reported to law enforcement or the Federal Trade Commission.
Target didn’t say exactly how the data breach occurred, but said it had since fixed the problem and that credit card holders can continue shopping at its stores. When asked whether there’s a certain time when shoppers know their accounts will no longer be vulnerable, a Target spokeswoman said, “We encourage everyone to be vigilant.”
But news of the breach comes at the height of the critical holiday shopping season and threatens to scare away shoppers worried about the safety of their personal data. The November and December period accounts for 20 percent, on average, of total retail industry sales.
The issue is particularly troublesome for Target because it has has used its red branded credit and debit cards as a marketing tool to lure shoppers with a 5 percent discount.
The company said during its earnings call in November that as of October the percentage of customers who have the Target branded cards topped 20 percent. This holiday season, Target added other incentives to use its cards. Two days before Thanksgiving, Target.com ran a special review sale with 25 exclusive offers, from electronics to housewares for those who used the branded card.
As a result of these incentives, Target says its continues to see that households who activate a Target-branded card have increased their spending at the store by about 50 percent on average.
“This is how Target is getting more customers in the stores,” said Brian Sozzi, CEO and Chief Equities Strategist. “It’s telling people to use the card. It’s been a big win. If they lose that trust, that person goes to Wal-Mart.”
Target is just the latest retailer to be hit with a data breach. TJX Cos., which runs stores such as T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s, had a breach that began in July 2005 that exposed at least 45.7 million credit and debit cards to possible fraud. The breach wasn’t detected until December 2006. In June 2009 TJX agreed to pay $9.75 million in a settlement with multiple states related to the massive data theft but stressed at the time that it firmly believed it did not violate any consumer protection or data security laws.
It is Black Friday and that means seeing the worst in people. The annual shopping frenzy is marked by deals that some shoppers wait days to take advantage of and the media usually covers the carnage, chaos and outright violence that breaks out as a result. But this year we’re seeing Black Friday violence and chaos widespread through-out the world.
Here was the scene at a Walmart in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico:
The BBC is reporting on chaos associated with Black Friday in Belfast.
While the frenzy of Black Friday appears to be spreading the USA still dominates these stories. Here are some of the typical stories we’re seeing from across the USA:
The Zombie Apocalypse of Black Friday:
The Richards family of Canberra in Australia once held the record for the most lights on a home — a world record of more than 331,000 lights.
That record fell last year to a family located in LaGrangeville, New York, who put up more than 346,000 lights.
The Richard’s knew they could do better. Much better. After all, light hanging season is summer in Australia and they were motivated by charity — SIDS & Kids ACT — supported by their Christmas lighting efforts. This year they shattered the record by putting up more than 502,000 lights.
“The charity is very close to our heart. We lost a child and SIDS looked after us many years ago,” he said.
Setting up the lights takes enormous effort and time but Mr Richards had a lot of help this time from family and friends, and when the power comes on and the tent-like streams of lights under a massive tree are revealed it is spectacular.
“I have always loved Christmas. Having the Christmas lights with the community coming in and sharing it is a time when you get to know people you probably should know better, I guess.”
But SIDS and Kids is the main reason he does the time-consuming task, to raise money for the work they do.
“It was very important for us,” he said.
“Anyone who has been through that sort of loss will probably tell you the worst thing that can happen to you is losing a young child.”
In years past they raised nearly $80,000 for the charity. This year they are hoping to top $100,000.
Kids in Thailand, of all places, gathered by the hundreds in red and green for one reason — to break the record in forming the world’s largest human Christmas tree. They did it, too, all 852 of them.
Christmas is not an official holiday in Thailand but they have malls and where there is shopping there is Christmas. They beat the old record of 672 kids set by kids in Germany in 2011.
To the relief of parents, and the chagrin of a few teenagers, the children were not hoisted onto a human pyramid shaped like a conifer.
It was more an exercise in crowd control, grouping the assembled 6- to 15-year-olds into a tree-like formation on the ground.
“I kind of thought we’d get to stand on each other’s shoulders,” said 13-year-old Nattakit Liewkulnattana. Like most participants at the event, he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. He wasn’t sure whose birthday the holiday marks (“Santa Claus?”) but was excited to take part in a world record, and maybe get something in return.
“I want presents!” the teen said. All participants got to keep their hoodies.
The record was set in 15 minutes, 29 seconds.
Guinness representative Fortuna Burke certified the feat, counting on a clicker as children filed onto an outdoor verandah at Siam Paragon mall, the event’s organizer. Once in place, the children waved as a drone flew overhead to capture aerial images.
Christmas bonuses for everyone — if you live in Bolivia.
President Evo Morales decreed Wednesday that an extra month’s wages should be paid as a special Christmas bonus to all salaried workers in Bolivia, at state agencies, in the military and police and in the private sector.
Bolivian law already requires that salaried workers get a month’s pay as a December bonus, so they will now get triple their pay for that month.
The leftist president said he made the surprise announcement because his government’s goal is to reduce poverty and more equally distribute the wealth in one of South America’s poorest nations.
“The economy is good and the country’s growth should return to the workers with a double Christmas bonus,” Morales said during a meeting with union leaders.
Bolivia is among countries that oblige all employers to pay workers an extra monthly wage in December. The new decree means Bolivia’s salaried workers will get a third monthly wage for the month.
Those affected include some 300,000 state employees, who have doubled in number since Morales took office. Their median salary is a little more than $500 a month.
Bolivia’s government is the single biggest employer in the country of 10 million people. Most Bolivians work in the informal economy and Morales has sought to extend a social safety net to them.
The bonus will be paid every year as long as Bolivia’s gross domestic product grows by at least 4.5 percent annually, the decree states.
The government says GDP is expected to grow about 6.7 percent this year, thanks to record exports that are forecast to total $12 billion, half from natural gas sales and most of the rest from mining.