Chatter: Post-Sandy, US presidential candidates get back to campaigning




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Need to know:
The New York subway isn't the only thing back on track today: less than a week from election day, the US presidential campaigns have resumed.

President Barack Obama, fresh from a tour of post-Sandy disaster zones in New Jersey, has a busy day of stops ahead in Nevada, Colorado and Wisconsin. Mitt Romney – in between keeping the East Coast in Campbell's Soup – held two rallies in Florida yesterday and will attend three more in Virginia today.

The worst of the deadly weather may have passed, but is Storm Sandy finished wreaking havoc? If the damage she did is severe enough, and if the states cannot get things under control quickly enough, Sandy could still cause another major disruption: postponement of the 2012 presidential election. Is it likely? Not in the least. But then again, what about this race has been normal or predictable?

Want to know:
Three people are dead after a stampede at a Halloween party in Spain.

The three victims, all women aged between 18 and 25, were crushed as revellers tried to escape from an arena in Madrid. Someone had reportedly thrown a flare into the crowd, and only one of the venue's exits was open. Another two people were seriously injured.

Sadly that wasn't the only Halloween tragedy: four people were wounded in a shooting at a party on the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles. Two suspects have been detained.

We hope your Halloween was altogether less dangerous.

Dull but important:
A Greek journalist goes on trial in Athens today. His crime? Naming and shaming thousands of his countrymen who are suspected of avoiding taxes.

Kostas Vaxevanis was arrested on Sunday after his magazine printed the names of more than 2,000 Greeks said to be funneling their wealth into Swiss bank accounts and out of the taxman's reach. He hadn't compiled the list: a former bank employee originally gave it to French authorities, who passed it on to the Greek government in 2010. No action was ever taken against those named – because, according to Vanevanis, many powerful establishment figures were among them.

He now faces criminal charges of breaching privacy, much to the alarm of journalists and campaigners for press freedom.

"If I need to go to prison I will do," Vaxevanis says. "Not because I'm a hero, but to show the injustice of what is happening in Greece."

Just because:
Good news for anyone still mourning the loss of Megaupload, the file-sharing site dramatically shut down in January in an international bust: chief nerd Kim Dotcom has built you a replacement.

Called, imaginatively, "Mega," the new service will encrypt the data stored on it so that only users know what they're uploading. The idea is to keep the site's administrators in the dark about hosted content, thereby shielding them from any responsibility for potential copyright infringement.

The site will also avoid dealings with "US hosters, US domains and US backbone providers" in a bid to steer clear of American authorities, Dotcom said. Apart, of course, from the ones clicking on it: Dotcom claims the Me.ga holding page is already getting "millions" of hits from "FBI agents pressing reload hahaha... We see their IP addresses. LOL!!!"

Strange but true:
Once upon a time, Russia and the US competed with space rockets. Now, the rivalry is all about the presidential wheels.

Russian carmaker ZiL has just unveiled its new limousine, especially designed to transport President Vladimir Putin. And, from the looks of thing, to see him through a second Cuban missile crisis.

ZiL says its 3.5-ton baby beats the POTUS's Cadillac any day. "If you look at what Obama drives around in, it's a scary submarine, no kind of aesthetic; it's awful to look at," sniffs the company's head of luxury vehicles.

The irony is that ZiL's patriotic ride relies on an engine and transmission built in – where else? – America.