In brief | Nation & World, January 12, 2014


Neiman Marcus falls prey to cyber-security attack, cards compromised

NEW YORK — 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.

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.

Multimillionaire backs Calif. proposal to raise minimum wage to $12 per hour

LOS ANGELES — 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 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 more than $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.

Black rhino hunting permit auctioned for $350,000 amid outcry

DALLAS ­— A permit to hunt an endangered African black rhino sold for $350,000 at a Dallas auction held to raise money for conservation efforts but criticized by wildlife advocates.

Steve Wagner, a spokesman for the Dallas Safari Club, which sponsored the closed-door event Saturday night, confirmed the sale of the permit for a hunt in the African nation of Namibia. He declined to name the buyer.

The Safari Club’s executive director, Ben Carter, has defended the auction, saying all money raised will go toward protecting the species. He also said the rhino that the winner will be allowed to 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.

But the auction drew howls from critics, including wildlife and animal rights groups, and the FBI said it was investigating death threats against members of the club.

Officials from the Humane Society and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have said that while culling can be appropriate in abundant animal populations, all black rhinos should be protected, given their endangered status.

An estimated 4,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, down from 70,000 in the 1960s. Nearly 1,800 are in Namibia, according to the Safari Club.

By wire sources