Chicago Tickets on Sale Now for Mathis and Steamroller

For some events associated with Christmas you have to act early — and fast. In Chicago at the Rosemont Theater two much anticipated concerts — Johnny Mathis on December 6th, and Mannheim Steamroller on December 20th — will see tickets go on sale this week.

Grammy Award-winner Johnny Mathis sings his hits and holiday favorites at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6. Tickets are $65-$95. Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis returns to town with a show at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20. Tickets are $39-$95.

Tickets for both these shows go on sale 10 a.m. Friday, March 28. Call (800) 745-3000 or visit

Connie’s Christmas Dream Published

Author Duncan Scott’s debut children’s book “Connie’s Christmas Dream” (published by AuthorHouse) tells the story of a fir tree with big plans.

Connie, the story’s main character, is a fir tree whose dream of being decorated as New York’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree seems out of reach.

When Connie first dreams of becoming the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, her fir tree friends in the forest don’t believe she can do it.

But one day, a tree cutter comes to pick the perfect tree for the holiday celebration, and Connie is ready to assume her new role.

The author says he was inspired to write the book during a visit to New York’s Rockefeller Center Christmas celebration, where he saw its holiday tree.

Scott says the book’s message is simple and will inspire its young readers to pursue great things: “Live your dreams, believe in them and they may come true.”

“Connie’s Christmas Dream”
By Duncan Scott
Softcover | 8.5 x 8.5 in | 18 pages | ISBN 9781491885154
E-Book | 28 pages | ISBN 9781491885161
Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

About the Author
Duncan Scott was born in the U.K. but now lives in Bermuda, where it never snows. Every year, he travels to New York to witness the holiday lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Turkey Asks the Pope for St. Nicholas’ Bones

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.

Target Hacked, Credit and Debit Cards Compromised

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, 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.

Black Friday Fights Not Limited to America

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:

From California:

The Zombie Apocalypse of Black Friday:

Aussie Family Shatters World Record for Christmas Lights

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.

A wedding under half a million Christmas lights

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