Top Stories for Sunday, November 30, 2014

Black Friday Sales Down as Shoppers Move Online

From Reuters, “Bricks-and-mortar sales edge lower at start of holiday season; online surges: data”: “U.S. shoppers spent slightly less money at brick-and-mortar stores on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday than across the same two days in 2013, while online sales surged to record highs, data showed on Saturday.

Sales at retail stores totaled about $12.29 billion on Thursday and Friday, down 0.5 percent from the $12.35 billion spent last year, according to estimates by ShopperTrak. The research firm stuck by its forecast for November and December sales to increase 3.8 percent.

The data highlights the waning importance of Black Friday, which until a few years ago kicked off the holiday shopping season, as more retailers open their doors on Thanksgiving Day and start discounting earlier in the month…

Online Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales tracked by Adobe Systems Inc were a record $1.33 billion and $2.4 billion, up 25 percent and 24 percent from a year earlier, respectively. Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 28, $32 billion has been spent online, up 14 percent from 2013, Adobe said.

The proliferation of smartphones has made consumers more likely to shop online, with 29 percent of Thanksgiving sales via mobile devices, up from 21 percent on the same day last year. Adobe said its findings were based on more than 350 million visits to 4,500 retail websites.”

Sony Hacked, Movies Pirated Before Release

From Variety, Sony’s New Movies Leak Online Following Hack Attack”: “At least five new movies from Sony Pictures are being devoured on copyright-infringing file-sharing hubs online in the wake of the hack attack that hobbled the studio earlier in the week.

Copies of DVD screeners of four unreleased Sony movies including the upcoming “Annie” are getting some unwelcome early exposure, but nothing compared with the frenzy enveloping “Fury,” the war pic still in theaters that bowed last month.

“Fury” has been downloaded by over 888,000 unique IP addresses since showing up on peer-to-peer networks on Nov. 27, according to piracy-tracking firm Excipio. That’s high enough to be the second most-downloaded movie currently being pirated, and it’s not out of movie theaters yet.

Another big Sony movie, “Annie,” is also being pirated, this one three weeks ahead of its own wide release. Other Sony movies being downloaded include “Mr. Turner,” “Still Alice” and “To Write Love on Her Arms.”…

In the attack on the studio’s corporate systems Nov. 24, an image of a skeleton appeared on company computers with a message that said, “Hacked by #GOP,” with the group behind it calling itself “Guardians of Peace.” The message threatened to release “secrets and top secrets” of the company. Currently being investigated is a connection between upcoming Sony movie “The Interview,” and North Korea.”

From The Telegraph, “Nicolas Sarkozy back to the frontline of French politics – and straining to seize the Elysee”: “Two years ago, defeated and disillusioned, the man once seen asFrance’s saviour slunk off into the shadows. Nicolas Sarkozy exited the political stage with a promise never to return.

But on Saturday, a decade almost to the day after he first became leader of his political party, the man known as “Mr Bling Bling” was back – winning 65 per cent of the vote to choose the next head of the UMP party.

And for those gathering in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, his political heartland, there was every reason to crack open the champagne.

“We’ve missed him,” said Anthony Dodeman, a lawyer and UMP councillor for the town. “We need his energy, experience and dynamism. I’m delighted he’s back.”

Saturday night saw the end of a 24-hour electronic voting period, concluding with the 59-year-old being crowned president of the centre-Right UMP…

And in the mind of the divisive former president, his return to the political frontline is only the beginning. The next presidential election is not until 2017, but Mr Sarkozy has made no secret of his desire to reclaim the Elysée…

Mr Sarkozy always looked unlikely to repeat the landslide victory of a decade ago, when he swept to the head of the UMP with an 85 per cent majority. This time his victory was not so resounding. And he will need to rapidly unify the party to present a united front against the Socialists, seeing off the internal challenge from Mr Juppe.

His campaign has positioned the frenetic Frenchman even further to the Right, hardening his stance on immigration, wanting to return powers from Brussels and promising to repeal a law on same-sex marriages.

“In 30 years of political life, I’ve never seen such exasperation, such distrust, such anger,” he said. “I’ve never seen France so tense, so on edge, so worried. But also, at the same time, I have never felt from my compatriots such a need for hope.””