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  • Geebo 10:05 am on March 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amtrak, Brightline, trains, , Virgin Trains USA   

    Is rail the future of travel in America? 

    Is rail the future of travel in America?

    If you’ve ever traveled by train in America your choice of carrier is extremely limited. You’re going to be using the services of either Amtrak or a regional rail service like SEPTA in the Philadelphia area or NJ Transit in the Garden State. Most of these services are government-run and in the case of Amtrak can be just as expensive as flying. While there are many great train stations in major cities like Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Chicago, train stations in smaller but still major cities leave a lot to be desired. However, a privately owned rail company is hoping to change all that.

    Brightline has its major station in Miami and is said to be an amazing experience for train travelers. They currently run lines to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach with a future expansion planned for Orlando. The rates appear to be quite reasonable and the service aboard the trains is said to be outstanding. It also doesn’t hurt that Brightline has partnered with the Virgin Group and has rebranded as Virgin Trains USA. Virgin has its own history when it comes to commuter travel as they have been successful in both the airline industry in the US and the rail industry in the UK.

    Brightline/Virgin Trains USA hope to cash in on the rising trend of people ditching cars for ride-sharing services not to mention travel between destinations which are too long to drive but too short to fly. While the service is only currently in South Florida, there are plans to expand the service to other parts of the country such as having a line from Las Vegas to Southern California. Could we be seeing a travel by train renaissance in the US within the next decade? Hopefully so because current rail services and options are lacking at best.

     
  • Geebo 10:21 am on March 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Motel 6   

    Facebook sued by human trafficking victim 

    Facebook sued by human trafficking victim

    Social media has long been a tool that human traffickers use to approach their victims. Even going back to the days of MySpace pimps and traffickers would use social media to groom underage victims to come to work for them. These predators look for any vulnerability in their victims to exploit to get their victims to believe in working for the pimps. Most pimps offer a lifestyle of money and luxury while others promise them a better life than what the victims parents are currently providing. So, the question that needs to be asked is should social media platforms be held responsible for the messages sent between traffickers and their underage victims?

    An attorney in Houston thinks the answer to that question is yes. She is suing Facebook on behalf of Jane Doe #19 claiming that Facebook allowed the traffickers to message the then 12-year-old girl for six months before convincing the girl to meet them at a local Motel 6. She was then put up for sale on Backpage where she, unfortunately, was forced to meet with multiple johns. In response to this suit, Facebook released the following statement…

    “Human trafficking is abhorrent and is not allowed on Facebook. We use technology to thwart this kind of abuse and we encourage people to use the reporting links found across our site so that our team of experts can review the content swiftly. Facebook also works closely with anti-trafficking organizations and other technology companies, and we report all apparent instances of child sexual exploitation to NCMEC.”

    Backpage and Motel 6 have also been named in the suit and on those instances, we think the suit has merit. Backpage for the obvious reasons and Motel 6 because they allegedly told the girl’s parents that the victim wasn’t there. However, we’re not so sure that Facebook should be held responsible in this matter. For one, while we sympathize with the victim, no 12-year-old girl should be on Facebook as their terms of service state that a user must be 13-years-old to use their service. I know that sounds like splitting hairs but it’s almost guaranteed it will be brought up by Facebook’s attorneys. Secondly, Facebook, in this case, is just a form of communication. If the girl had been texted by her traffickers should the phone company be sued for allowing traffickers to text her? Then if Facebook starts to monitor messages between users there will be another backlash against Facebook over privacy issues.

    While we hope this girl is able to receive some form of justice with her suits against Backpage and Motel 6, we believe the suit against Facebook holds no merit.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on March 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Homeland Security, , , , , , ,   

    Tax collection, Homeland Security, and yet another puppy scam 

    Tax collection, Homeland Security, and yet another puppy scam

    It’s time again to bring you some more scams that are happening around the country that could ultimately impact your area and possibly someone you know.

    First up is a twist on the typical IRS scam. In the typical IRS scam, someone will call a victim on the phone pretending to be from the IRS trying to pressure the victim into making an immediate payment on a tax bill that doesn’t actually exist. The flaw in this scam is that the IRS rarely calls a taxpayer to settle any taxes owed. Instead, the IRS is known for mailing out any delinquent tax notices. That’s where this new scam being reported out of Sullivan County, Tennessee takes it up a notch. The scammers are mailing out letters claiming to be from a “Tax Enforcement Department” which then directs potential victims to call a phone number to make a payment. If you receive a letter like this and you feel like you may owe the IRS some money always call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040.

    Speaking of government agencies, our next scam involves possible the most fear-inducing branch of the government and that’s the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS recently released a warning stating that scammers were calling people posing as the DHS by spoofing official DHS phone numbers. That way when someone receives the call it appears to be from DHS itself when in reality it’s just a scammer. The scammers are said to be claiming that the people they call have been victims of identity theft and ask the victims for personal information or threatening people with immigration offenses if they don’t make a payment right then and there. Some of these scammers are even sending out emails using an uscis.org email address. That is similar to but not the web address of DHS which is actually uscis.gov If you receive one of these phone calls or emails, the DHS requests that you call them at 1-800-323-8603.

    Lastly, we have an online puppy scam that has an added level of cruelty added to it. Luckily, no puppies actually exist in this scam if you can call that lucky. An online puppy scammer is said to be taking money from victims over PayPal as a deposit for a purebred puppy. The phony breeder then directs all of their victims to an address in Atlanta, Georgia to pick up the fictitious puppy. According to FOX 5 Atlanta, people have driven from as far away as Detroit. The man who lives at the Atlanta address has had to tell all the people who showed up on his doorstep that they’ve been scammed. Buying puppies online is always a risky venture as there are a plethora of scams involving puppies, some of which end up with puppies being bred in backyard puppy mills. When searching for a new pet for your family you should always deal with a locally licensed breeder or your local shelter. You’re less likely to run into scammers this way.

     
  • Geebo 10:06 am on March 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , at will states, daycare, family,   

    Is anybody really looking out for employees? 

    Is anybody really looking out for employees?

    It wasn’t too long ago in our country’s history when employers would take advantage of their employees to the point where it was just a step above slavery conditions. This resulted in the rise of labor unions where workers could collectively fight for better wages and working conditions. Thanks to the unions we now have provisions that are considered standard in many workforces such as 40 hour work weeks and weekends off. However, over the years, many unions became corrupt and bloated rife with nepotism and cronyism where the unions in question would make outrageous demands from management. This corruption resulted in some states passing legislation that made it illegal for anyone to be forced to join a union if they didn’t want to. These states are now called ‘at will’ states which is intended to mean that employees could work at will but along with that choice employers were given the power to fire employees at will. Now, most of the country’s workforce are stuck in situations where they are forced to sacrifice much of their personal lives in order to keep working.

    For example, mothers who work at Amazon are asking the company to provide backup daycare services for their kids. While not many employers offer this kind of service it shows how little some employers value their staff. Some reports even state that some female Amazon employees will hide the fact that they have children from their coworkers as not to be seen as ‘distracted’. It’s to the point where mothers at Amazon allegedly feel like they have little to no recourse if they are admonished for wanting to take care of their family. This is just one company’s example of how the workforce is being treated in our country. In other company’s employees don’t even have the benefits of an Amazon job. Healthcare benefits have eroded immensely over the past few decades as has paid time off.

    Labor laws and regulations need to be reexamined for today’s workforce. There has to be a happy medium somewhere between a labor union that could keep you out of work for weeks on strikes or keep you low on the union totem pole since you don’t know the right people and the at-will states where workers constantly worry if today is the day where they’ll be released for no apparent reason other than as a cost-cutting measure or they didn’t kowtow to the corporate culture at the price of their family. For our country’s workforce to thrive there needs to be equal give and take between employer and employee but right now it seems that the workers are the only ones doing any giving.

     
  • Geebo 9:33 am on March 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: auto loans, , ,   

    Misleading Media: Machinations of Malice or Misguiding for Money? 

    Misleading Media: Machinations of Malice or Misguiding for Money?

    There’s an old adage attributed to Edgar Allan Poe that says “Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” In an era where the term ‘fake news’ has become so prevalent in our culture that saying couldn’t be any more apropos. Misleading headlines, known as clickbait, dominate social media. They’re used to try to elicit an immediate and emotional response from readers to garner as many clicks and shares as possible. In return higher clicks, likes, and shares lead to increased advertising revenues which keep the lights on for one more day at whatever media outlet is posting the purported content.

    For example, there was a recent media kerfuffle in the economy sections of most news outlets stating that the auto loan industry was in freefall due to the number of delinquent loans. However, as the National Automobile Dealers Association points out, when the numbers are viewed in a proper context and given the right perspective, the industry is actually healthier than it has been. But by saying an industry is doing well doesn’t generate any clicks or views. So the facts get a little twisted in order to fit a narrative that the media would rather tell.

    So, why is the media doing this? Is it some grand conspiracy to try to hide the truth from an unsuspecting public? No, the truth is a lot less bombastic as that. Traditional media such as print and TV have been on a steady decline for years and were slow to adopt an online strategy and by the time they did, there was already a generation of new media outlets that were taking advertising dollars from them. In order to compete, old media had to adopt new tactics to try to draw readers and viewers back, and if old media is engaging in questionable tactics that gives newer media license to do the same and the cycle continues. However, that’s no excuse for the media’s actions.

    So how should you, the consumer, react to inflammatory headlines and stories? When you come across one of these stories you should always take them with a grain of salt. It never hurts to be a little skeptical. If you find a story that particularly grabs your emotional attention try to find other legitimate sources that corroborate or disprove what you’ve just read. And if at all possible, try to keep your political biases at bay as political opinion can often prejudice us against the truth and many misleading media outlets are counting on that.

    The media has every right to stay in business short of libel and slander. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be more savvy consumers of content. If the media won’t do it for us it’s up to us to discern the facts from the falsities.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on March 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Andrew Cuomo, , Jeff Bezos, ,   

    New York tries to lure Amazon back with full-page ad 

    New York tries to lure Amazon back with full page ad

    Long Island City, the proposed spot for HQ2

    Just like a lover who was spurned on Valentine’s Day, New York is trying to win back Amazon on both the state and city level. As you’ll recall, Amazon had originally picked Long Island City in the Borough of Queens to be the location where Amazon would construct its new corporate headquarters dubbed HQ2. Then after a groundswell of opposition by a number of politicians representing the community, Amazon announced on Valentine’s Day of this year that they would not be going forward with the project in Queens. Since the announcement, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has vociferously voiced his displeasure in those who opposed the Amazon deal citing Amazon would bring much-needed jobs and revenue to the state. Governor Cuomo is even reportedly working behind the scenes to try to bring Amazon back to New York City.

    To that end, not only has Cuomo been in communication with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos but in today’s New York Times, a full-page ad has been taken out asking Amazon publicly to come back to New York. The open letter has been signed by such luminaries as the AFL-CIO labor union and former New York mayor David Dinkins.

    This past week, Governor Cuomo has insisted that 70% of New Yorkers were in favor of Amazon building HQ2 in New York, which may, in fact, be true. However, when it comes to picking a final location anywhere in the five boroughs will the local residents be in favor of Amazon coming to their part of town. I’m sure someone living in Brooklyn or Manhattan wouldn’t mind if Amazon chose to build a massive complex on Staten Island but the Staten Island residents may have an issue with them. Amazon can have both good and bad effects on any community it lands in. If New York really wanted to have a smooth process of bringing Amazon back it needs to find a community that would welcome Amazon in with open arms first.

     
  • Geebo 10:03 am on February 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: brushing scam, 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: , , , , Robert Kraft   

    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.

     
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