Updates from February, 2019 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Geebo 10:03 am on February 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , housing scam, jury duty scam, ,   

    Brushing, jury duty, and a housing scam that could cost you a lot 

    Brushing, jury duty, and a housing scam that could cost you a lot

    Once again, it’s time to bring you three scams from across the country that could potentially affect you in your area.

    One scam that is being reported out of Raleigh, North Carolina is called a brushing scam. The scam may seem innocuous at first but has the potential to be costly. In the brushing scam, online retailers will send you a product of their’s unsolicited and at no charge to you. It’s all part of an international scheme to try to get favorable reviews online so the company can boast of getting higher star ratings. While getting free stuff sounds like a great deal, the products are often shoddy or something you have absolutely no use for. The potential for abuse comes from the fact that someone may have opened an account in your name to have the products delivered which could lead to fraudulent charges.

    In northwestern Iowa a phone scam is proliferating that threatens to send you to jail if you don’t pay a fee. In this scam, someone calls you posing as a county authority accusing you of skipping out on jury duty then demands a fine from you in the form of a gift card or PayPal payment in order for you to avoid arrest. If a government body has any kind of issue like this more often than not they will send you something in the mail rather than calling you, and as always you should never make payments over the phone using gift cards as they are virtually untraceable once the serial number is given out to someone. If you receive one of these calls, hang up and contact your local law enforcement.

    The last scam for today is not only pretty scary but could end up costing you your life savings. A man in Massachusetts was getting ready to close on a new house. He was waiting for an email on how to make the final payment. He first received one email with the proper instructions then almost immediately received an identical email stating that the previous email was wrong and for him to wire the money under these new instructions. It turns out the man wired $300,000 to a scammer who had gained access to his email account. According to the FBI in Boston, this scam has cost potential homebuyers $53,000,000 just across Massachusetts. If you receive emails like this contact the financial institution or realtor you’ve been dealing with immediately to determine which of the instructions is the correct one.

     
  • Geebo 10:29 am on February 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Beth Mose, Dave Mackay, Michael Masucci, , , Virgin Galactic   

    Virgin Galactic launches 2nd manned commercial space flight 

    Virgin Galactic launches 2nd manned commercial space flight

    The VSS Unity

    The recent boom in the commercial space industry seems to have recaptured America’s interest in space travel again. Between Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin space program and Elon Musk’s SpaceX our fascination with leaving the planet has become rejuvenated. However, some people may not be aware of another commercial space program that some people may not be aware of and that’s Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. While Blue Origin and SpaceX are focused on developing rockets and space capsules that can be deployed and reused in order to drastically reduce the cost of space flight, Virgin Galactic is more focused on space tourism. That’s not to say that space tourism is nothing but folly.

    This past Friday, Virgin Galactic launched its second manned space flight aboard the VSS Unity. Virgin Galactic launched its first manned space flight back in July of 2018. The Unity was released from a cargo plane in flight before propelling into space under its own power. The crew consisted of chief pilot Dave Mackay, copilot Michael “Sooch” Masucci, and Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses who became the first commercial space flight passenger. Moses’ mission was to inspect the cabin interior along with evaluating the safety of weightlessness for future passengers. There were also a number of NASA related projects aboard the flight making the Unity’s voyage a profitable one.

    While it does take a certain amount of ego to try to enter the new space race, Virgin Galactic seems to be less about publicity and more about innovation. While Sir Richard does want to be a space passenger by the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this July he seems to have largely eschewed the attention of mainstream media. Which is refreshing from those who would launch a car into space for no other reasons besides publicity and stroking their own ego.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on February 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Sammy Musovic   

    Were NY Amazon protesters paid to be there? 

    Were pro-Amazon protesters paid to be there?

    While Amazon’s decision to not put their 2nd headquarters in New York remains a contentious issue in the Big Apple at least one positive outcome came out of the controversy. At least one Queens landlord was expecting to hike rents on his properties once Amazon moved in putting currently skyrocketing housing costs even more out of reach. Long Island City landlord Sammy Musovic reportedly put $1 million into renovating his properties in hopes of an influx of new Amazon employees needing housing in the area. When Amazon pulled out, Musovic organized a protest designed to get people to boycott the online retailer. The problem was with how the protest was allegedly organized.

    Patch.com is reporting that at least two protesters were paid to attend the event after responding to a craigslist ad looking for sign holders. Now two people being paid $30/hr. to be there doesn’t sound that bad but when you take into account only 10 protesters showed up to the Musovic-led protest it may be safe to assume that others were paid as well. In their report, Patch also included a text message between one of the protesters to one of the organizers and a video of protesters receiving cash for their services.

    While there is no law against paying people to carry signs for you, it does certainly damage the credibility of your objection. However, since Musovic took out a million dollar loan to make the renovations there is a distinct possibility that he may raise rents anyway to try to recoup his loss which in turn may the local housing market even more volatile as I’m sure there are people living in his properties already struggling to make their rent. It seems that once New York, both the state and the city, decided to engage in the Amazon HQ lottery it was doomed to have a negative impact on the city no matter what Amazon’s decision would have been.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on February 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Why the charges against Patriots owner Robert Kraft matter 

    Why the charges against Patriots owner Robert Kraft matter

    New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft

    It was made public this past Friday that the owner of the New England Patriots, 77-year-old Robert Kraft, had been charged with two counts of allegedly soliciting prostitution in Florida. These charges stemmed from a much larger human trafficking investigation that targeted massage parlors in Orlando, Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. Investigators claim that they have video evidence of Kraft in the act. Kraft has not yet been arrested but a warrant may be issued shortly. While Kraft is the biggest name among those arrested for solicitation, other prominent figures have been arrested during the same investigation.

    The investigation itself is said to have revealed that women were being held against their will inside the massage parlors after being brought over from overseas. In many similar cases, the victims of sex trafficking are brought into the country and are forced to work off their ‘debt’ to the traffickers by being forced to work inside the massage parlors. The victims are also often shuffled from location to location among other massage parlors not only to try to law enforcement off the tracks of the traffickers but to also prevent the victims from knowing where they are or where they can get help.

    While it’s refreshing to see that high-profile johns are being charged in this investigation, the fact that a man like Robert Kraft may be engaging in the solicitation of prostitution almost normalizes trafficking in the eyes of some. Add to that many of these massage parlors are not just in seedy urban areas but many of them are ensconced in strip malls all throughout suburbia. Comments surrounding the Robert Kraft story have already been of the ‘I don’t see what’s so wrong about it’ variety, and then the cycle of trafficking continues. If people refuse to see that holding women hostage in multiple locations and coercing them into performing these acts is wrong than what hope do we have for fighting this crisis.

    In the long run, Kraft could not only have the charges against him reduced or dropped but the NFL will probably not sanction Kraft in any real damaging way and that’s where the problem is. If johns are only going to receive slaps on the wrist for encouraging human trafficking then fighting the problem is only going to continue to be like trying to hold the ocean back with a broom.

     
  • Geebo 10:28 am on February 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Judge rules Federal Prosecutors broke law by hiding plea deal from millionaire sex offender’s victims 

    Judge rules Federal Prosecutors broke law by hiding plea deal from millionaire sex offender's victims

    Jeffrey Epstein and Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta

    If you’re unfamiliar with the story of wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, it’s one that goes back 14 years. Starting in 2005, the now 66-year-old Epstein was accused of molesting underage girls in his Palm Beach, Florida mansion by offering them money in exchange for massages. An investigation carried out by Palm Beach police state there is probable cause to charge Epstein with multiple counts of unlawful sex acts with a minor. Along the way, it’s discovered that Epstein may have had as many as 40 victims and may have allowed some of his wealthy and powerful friends to use the girls as well.

    To cut to the heart of matters, Epstein eventually reached what’s called a non-prosecution agreement where Epstein would plead guilty to minor state charges and would only serve 13 months in Palm Beach County jail. As you may imagine, this wasn’t the harshest prison treatment as Epstein was allowed to move about the area freely while conducting business only having to report back to the jail at night. Meanwhile, his victims were never informed of the plea deal and were told that the FBI was still investigating Epstein. The man who brokered the deal was then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta who is now the current Secretary of Labor in the Trump administration. Epstein and Trump were at one time, close friends. As was Bill Clinton but President Clinton was in no position at the time to name people to presidential cabinets.

    Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that federal prosecutors broke the law by not revealing the non-prosecution agreement to victims and by telling the victims the investigation was still ongoing. This violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. Unfortunately, as of right now there’s no sure way on how to move forward with any further criminal action against Epstein since he served his ‘sentence’ and the Crime Victims’ Rights Act does not specifically state how violators should be punished.

    It’s obvious that if Epstein was any other run of the mill child trafficker, he would have been facing a probable life sentence in prison. However, since he is a wealthy and connected man he basically served his sentence in a dormitory and only at night. It’s difficult to have faith in a system that has allowed this to happen and offers little to recompense for his victims.

    If you want to read an in-depth analysis of the Epstein case we highly recommend the Miami Herald’s Perversion of Justice investigation.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on February 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Virgin Group,   

    Does Richard Branson still have the gift for business? 

    Does Richard Branson still have the gift for business?

    Virgin Group CEO Sir Richard Branson

    Sir Richard Branson is what’s known in today’s business world as a disrupter. That means he goes into business fields with new and innovative ideas that can be felt through the entire industry. However, Sir Richard has been doing this since 1968, long before the term disrupter was ever coined. That’s not to say that the self-made billionaire hasn’t had his share of stumbles in the business world. For every Virgin Records, Virgin Galactic, and Virgin Atlantic there’s been Virgin Cola, Virgin Cars and even Virgin Brides. More recently, Sir Richard has announced the inaugural plans for his vacation cruise line. Has he tapped into today’s cultural zeitgeist or will this venture be a flight of fancy?

    On Valentine’s Day of this year, Sir Richard announced that Virgin Voyages is now open for bookings and divulged how his cruise line will work. The aim of Virgin Voyages is said to be competing with such popular party hotspots as Ibiza, Spain or Saint-Tropez in France. With the way it’s been described in the media, Virgin Voyages almost seems like it’s going to be a Coachella or Burning Man on the high seas with stops in Havana and Virgin’s own private beach club in the Bahamas. While most cruise lines focus on families and older couples, Virgin Voyages will cater more to the ‘Millennial’ generation who supposedly enjoy experiences more than material goods.

    While that may sound good in theory the Millennial generation is also said to be woefully underpaid in today’s job market compared to previous generations and are burdened with record financial debt. While Sir Richard may be socially conscious when it comes to most of his ventures, social consciousness comes at a price that can only be passed on to the customer. While the experience on Virgin Voyages may be an amazing one, the experience may be priced out of range for most of his target demographic. If Virgin Voyages fails to catch on it won’t be the end of Virgin Group or anything like that but it could make investors less likely to engage in Branson’s future ventures if it does not succeed.

     
  • Geebo 10:03 am on February 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: dyslexia, entrepreneur, Michael Cammarata, Schmidt's Naturals, success   

    How a barrier can be your building block to success 

    How a barrier can be your building block to success

    Schmidt’s Naturals CEO Michael Cammarata

    A lot of people tend to make a little joke that they must be dyslexic because they made a typo on an email. However, for people who have been legitimately diagnosed with the disorder can struggle for their entire lives due to having difficulty learning in traditional environments. For example, take Michael Cammarata. After he was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age Michael’s mother was literally told that her son would never be independent on his own. By Micahel’s own admission, he was repeatedly told that he would never amount to anything. The looks on those people’s faces must have been priceless when Michael made his first million by the time he was 13-years-old.

    He started off by starting his own webhosting company before getting into the online advertisement business. He eventually entered into the entertainment business where he managed a boy band which led him to get into the business of natural personal care products. This, in turn, led him to heavily invest in Schmidt’s Naturals where he is now the CEO and continues to cultivate the Schmidt’s brand with his unconventional way of thinking. Schmidt’s succeeds by not only listening to their customers’ feedback but making micro-changes in their business platform because of customer requests.

    The phrase ‘thinking outside of the box’ has become a worn-out business trope over the past several decades but its core moral still applies today. For Michael Cammarata, he had no choice but to think outside the box because the box wasn’t designed for him. Due to his perseverance, he overcame what many others saw as a handicap and used it as his strength. You may have a hindrance barring you from success whether it’s physical or something less tangible. Instead of using that hindrance as a pretext for a lack of success, use it as your catalyst to get yourself on the road to accomplishment.

     
  • Geebo 10:02 am on February 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Amazon’s alleged tax dodge is just the beginning 

    Amazon's alleged tax dodge is just the beginning

    Last week was not a good week PR-wise for Amazon, the company owned by the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos. Even before it was announced that Amazon was not going ahead with their second headquarters in New York, they were raked over the coals in the press for allegedly not having to pay any corporate income tax for this year and last year. Instead, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy published a report claiming that Amazon received multi-million dollar tax refunds.

    So how did this happen? According to the report from ITEP, it’s because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that Congress passed in 2017 which was heavily backed by President Trump. It not only lowered corporate tax rates but it also failed to close loopholes that large corporations like Amazon could take further advantage of. This is somewhat ironic since President Trump has long criticized Amazon’s business practices while enabling a law that allows Amazon to supposedly continue those practices.

    So Amazon is not paying its ‘fair share’ taxes, what’s the big deal right? Well, it’s not just Amazon who is taking advantage of these new tax regulations. Netflix is another company that will reportedly pay no federal income tax this year either. How many other Fortune 500 companies will also look to take advantage of these loose corporate tax laws? Without corporate taxes being paid as they have been before 2017 tax increases could be passed on to an already overtaxed American public making the economic disparity in our country even worse.

     
  • Geebo 10:26 am on February 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adam Schiff, Andrew Wakefield, anti-vaxxers, , , vaccines   

    Should social media companies police anti-vaxx groups? 

    Should social media companies police anti-vaxx groups?

    There once was a time in this country when people were grateful for advancements in medical science such as the polio vaccine. People of a certain age still bare the small scar that the initial polio vaccines carried but such a small price to be paid to prevent such a horrible disease. Then in the late 1990s, a British doctor by the name of Andrew Wakefield publishes a study that alleged a link between childhood vaccines and autism. Even though Wakefield’s claims were quickly disproven that hasn’t stopped an entire movement of people who refuse to vaccinate their children over fears of their children becoming autistic. This movement has been dubbed by many as the Anti-Vaxx movement and has proliferated across the internet.

    Anti-Vaxx groups have found their core audience on places like Facebook and YouTube where their misinformation continues to find a top footing among the sites’ search algorithms. Because of that, U.S. Representative Adam Schiff wrote to both Google and Facebook requesting they take action claiming that these Anti-Vaxx groups are a “direct threat to public health” and that it undoes “progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases.” Facebook responded by saying that they were looking into the matter. Meanwhile, pockets of outbreaks of diseases that were almost thought to have been eradicated have reemerged. So the question remains should companies like Facebook and Google do something about Anti-Vaxxer groups?

    Neither of these companies has to be a complete censorship tyrant when it comes to Anti-Vaxxing. However, due to the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of vaccinating children against these preventable diseases, they can tweak their search algorithms to better promote more responsible content. Just in doing the research for this post, the Google search for Andrew Wakefield came up with more content about how Wakefield was supposedly maligned rather than being debunked. We realize that some people will never be shaken from their misguided belief that vaccines cause autism but if new people could be stopped from being indoctrinated into this dangerous belief then the better off our children and future generations will be.

     
  • Geebo 10:06 am on February 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Queens   

    Amazon dumps New York on Valentine’s Day 

    Amazon dumps New York on Valentine's Day

    In 2017, online retail leader Amazon announced that it was searching for a city to host its second corporate headquarters dubbed HQ2. Amazon’s initial headquarters in Seattle would remain while the new headquarters would potentially host up to 40,000 new jobs wherever Amazon ultimately chose to build it. In November of last year, Amazon finally decided on putting HQ2 in New York City, specifically Long Island City in the Borough of Queens. That was until yesterday when Amazon announced it was withdrawing from the deal due to local opposition.

    Many local politicians and residents opposed the new Amazon headquarters claiming that not only would the jobs go to those from outside of the area but it would also put a strain on an already crumbling infrastructure. Most importantly opponents to the new headquarters were concerned that the influx of Amazon employees would make the local housing crisis even worse. Those who were in favor of the new headquarters touted the tax revenue that would be brought into the city and the state and that would bring even more companies with more jobs and revenue to New York.

    However, the housing crisis question is one that can’t be ignored. In Amazon’s own hometown of Seattle, many local residents blame Amazon not only for rising housing prices but also disrupting old neighborhoods that for generations were well within the financial grasp of the middle class. Silicon Valley is an even more bleak example of how giant tech corporations have affected local housing markets as the San Francisco Bay area has been priced out of reach for almost all except the tech elite and the revenue generated by these companies does not seem to be providing many benefits to locals.

    What do you think? Did the residents of Queens make a mistake in driving Amazon away or were they justified in trying to protect their neighborhoods?

     
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