Judge Hands 35 Years to First American Convicted of Trying to Join ISIS

Did you happen to see this?

A U.S. citizen convicted of trying to join the Islamic State did not get off easy.

Back on May 31, a federal judge sentenced the first American ever convicted of trying to wage jihad on behalf of ISIS to 35 years in prison.

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From a statement issued by the Department of Justice:

“Today, Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, a U.S. citizen and former member of the U.S. Air Force, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and obstruction of justice.”

As reported by the New York Post, Pugh, ostensibly a big, tough jihadist, was in tears during his sentencing by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis. Addressing the judge, Pugh said, “I am a black man, I am a military man, I am a Muslim man. I protected this country and the Constitution. And my service was repaid by stripping me of my career, shaming my wife, shaming my parents, shaming my children.”

If Pugh was seeking sympathy from Garaufis, it was not forthcoming.

“This isn’t about whether you’re Muslim or Christian or Jewish,” said the judge to the defendant before handing down his decision. “This is about whether you’re going to stand up for your country, which has done so much for you, or betray your country.”

“You made your choice,” proclaimed the judge. “I have no sympathy.”

Boom.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

SBA Administrator Says Volume of Government Regulations Is Devastating Small Businesses

Have you tried to start a small business in America recently?

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Depending on the size and nature of your concern, you may be out of compliance with a host of local, state, and federal regulations and not even know it. There are large numbers of people, all across the country, who innocently start working at very small, almost-entirely self-contained enterprises, and later find themselves at odds with regulators eager to fine and sanction them for any of a whole host of violations, many of them very minor and technical in nature.

So is there any real help forthcoming?

Very possibly. Linda McMahon, wife of professional wrestling impresario Vince McMahon and new administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), seems genuinely concerned about the fact that the present regulatory environment in the nation is suffocating small business. On Monday, McMahon rightly noted that even more than any one regulation, it is the mountain of rules and laws facing small business that prompt many budding entrepreneurs to decide that going into business just isn’t worth the hassle.

“It is not necessarily any particular regulation as much as it is the volume of regulations,” McMahon said Monday as a guest on Fox Business’ After the Bell. “And the cost of compliance and the time for compliance—everything is just way too complex than what it needs to be.”

Still, while it is a good sign that the Trump administration – including, and especially, the SBA’s administrator – recognize that small business owners are drowning in regulations, that awareness is of no value if material change is not implemented.

Here’s hoping the right thing is done, for the sake of all of those who keep America’s economic engine running.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

Study: Valedictorians Rarely Enjoy Wild Success, While the Average Millionaire’s College GPA is 2.9

If you believe your fair-to-middlin’ performance in school is a sign that you’ll never be a roaring success, you might want to think again.

It turns out that while valedictorians and salutatorians typically do quite well in adulthood, thank you very much, the average college GPA of millionaires is just 2.9, equivalent to a B-minus.

So, what gives?

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According to Eric Barker, author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, the inherent nature and structure of formal education has a tendency to reward the kind of behavior that makes for a good student, but does not so great a job of validating the dynamic traits of which millionaires are so frequently and naturally possessed.

Barker notes that “schools reward students who consistently do what they are told,” but it’s typically the case that those who often make a significant impact somewhere along the line have a record of shaking things up, and thinking unconventionally.

Additionally, says Barker, “schools reward being a generalist,” while society seems to do a better job at handing over its strongest, “real world” accolades to those who singularly devote themselves to a particular passion, and take it further than anyone who has come before.

Addressing his assessments with Business Insider, Barker said, in part: “Valedictorians often go on to be the people who support the system — they become a part of the system — but they don’t change the system or overthrow the system.”

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

Robot Preacher Beams Lights from Its Hands, Gives Automated Blessings

It was just a matter of time.

According to the Daily Mail Online, there’s a new preacher in town, and this one is likely very different from the faith leader you see each Sunday morning at your local house of worship.

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This preacher is neither male nor female…because this preacher is not even human.

This preacher is a robot – a robot that answers to the name “BlessU-2.”

BlessU-2, presently on display in Wittenberg, Germany, is programmed to dole out blessings in a variety of languages, and beam lights from its hands.

As described by the Daily Mail, the robot first welcomes a user, and then asks if they would prefer to be blessed by a male or female voice. Next, the user is asked to choose a blessing, and once they’ve made a selection, the robot raises its arms upward and smiles. Lights begin to flash in the mechanical preacher’s arms, at which point it says, “God bless and protect you,” and then recites verse from the Bible. Once finished, the user has the option to print the blessing from the robot.

According to Sebastian von Gehren, spokesman for the evangelical church presently featuring the robot, “It is an experiment that is supposed to inspire discussion.”

However, Von Gehren added, “The machine should not replace the blessing of a pastor. In the future there will not be a blessing robot in every church.”

Perhaps if the designers want to achieve something TRULY lifelike, they could program the robot preacher to request that users send it their life savings.

Just kidding.

Have a blessed day.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

 

Cocaine Is Pouring into the U.S. Again, Thanks to Resurgent Colombian Drug Cartels

The days of free-flowing cocaine in America’s streets are back, thanks to a revival, of sorts, among Colombia’s drug cartels.

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According to The Daily Caller, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration are saying they haven’t seen this much cocaine smuggled into South Florida since 2007, and that Colombian cartels are responsible for about 90 percent of it.

“There is a mountain of cocaine, much of it is likely headed our way,” says Justin Miller, intelligence chief for the DEA’s Miami field division.

Although cultivation of the coca crop in Colombia had been in decline for years now, it is back with a vengeance. As a matter of fact, it is said that so much of the crop is now being grown, excess leaves are being left to rot in the fields.

Disturbingly, the use of cocaine by younger Americans rose between 2013 and 2015, matching the time frame during which cultivation of coca in Colombia was noticed to be on the rise again for the first time in years. Overall, 13 percent of the fatal drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2015 were attributable to cocaine use.

What’s more, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 9,500 pounds of cocaine was seized in Florida during 2015, which represents a whopping 61 percent increase over the amount seized the year before.

Experts say that the production spike in Colombia is so sharp…that the full effects of it have yet to be felt in the U.S., which means that all of the relevant numbers, including the number of users and number of cocaine-related deaths, are only going to rise in the near term.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

Billionaire Entrepreneur Mark Cuban: “Don’t Use Credit Cards”

According to an article over at CNBC.com, billionaire Mark Cuban says the best money advice he ever received came from someone especially close to him.

“From my dad. Don’t use credit cards.”

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Cuban has said “that credit cards are the worst investment that you can make. That the money I save on interest by not having debt is better than any return I could possibly get by investing that money in the stock market.”

“I thought I would be a stock market genius. Until I wasn’t. I should have paid off my cards every 30 days,” says Cuban.

Credit card management can be tricky for many people, because the messages sent by personal finance experts can seem almost contradictory, at times. On the one hand, opening an unsecured credit card account can be one of the overall best and easiest ways to build a quality credit record, particularly for young adults just starting out. On the other, mismanagement of credit cards can lead to burdensome debt that not only puts downward pressure on those all-important credit scores, but drains financial resources that could be used to invest for wealth.

For Cuban, the best answer – indeed, the only answer – is to avoid using credit cards altogether. While that may seem like an easy solution for a billionaire, the underlying principle is sound for people of all economic strata, even if one does not avoid the use of credit cards entirely. Ideally, beyond their strategic application as credit enhancement tools, they should be used sparingly, such as for genuine emergencies and as a way to avoid carrying large sums of cash while on vacation.

In other words, Cuban’s dad, like just about all dads, was absolutely correct.

Perhaps father really does know best.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

Chicago-Area VA Hospital Knowingly Served Food with Roaches for Years

The crisis of conditions at many of America’s Veterans Administration facilities continues, despite promises from politicians on both sides of the aisle to finally make things right.

One of the latest pieces of evidence that reveals there’s still a long way to go to that end comes from the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.

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According to a variety of sources, including the Washington Examiner, the facility’s kitchen had been infested for years with cockroaches, and patients were actually served food trays with roaches on them.

As sickening as that is, however, it’s not the worst part.

The worst part is that hospital staff knew about the infestation all along, discussed it internally, and still never took anything approaching appropriate, useful steps to fix the problem.

A report on the matter was just issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and reads, in part, “Six reports of cockroaches on patient food trays had been submitted to facility leadership between March 2011 and December 2015. Facility leadership relied on its pest control program and did not take additional action to control the problem.”

The same report also notes that patients “became very upset and distressed as a result of witnessing cockroaches on food trays and transportation carts.”

The initial investigation into the roach problem at the hospital was prompted by complaints in 2016 to then-U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and then-U.S. Senator Mark Kirk. From there, a formal inquiry was begun that included an unannounced visit to the hospital last year by health inspectors. During the visit, inspectors saw dead roaches first-hand, as well as numerous conditions conducive to roach infestation, including trash cans without lids and cracks in the flooring.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

8½ Years Later, Madoff Victims Have Yet to Receive Any Money from Recovery Fund

Bernie Madoff, mastermind of the largest Ponzi scheme in history, was arrested almost 8 ½ years ago, but a company selected by the Department of Justice to distribute billions of recovered dollars has yet to make one payment to any victim, according to USA Today.

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RCB Fund Services LLC has been charged with the responsibility of distributing roughly $4 billion to those swindled by Madoff, and while that sum is just a relative fraction of the $65 billion that went missing from Madoff Securities, it is not likely that claimants see the amount presently available for distribution as a figure of which to be dismissive.

The failure of RCB to distribute any funds thus far was addressed back in January by special master Richard Breeden, in a statement on the madoffvictimfund.com website. Breeden, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, wrote, in part, “We were unable to initiate our first payout in 2016 as we had hoped because of the volume and complexity of claims.”

“However, we now expect that the initial distribution will take place sometime in 2017 and will be larger than we had anticipated.”

Raising eyebrows even further, beyond the singular issue of having doled out no money to victims, is that Breeden’s firm has received $38.8 million so far for its role as a distribution agent.

RCB’s inability to distribute any funds up to this point stands in stark contrast to the work done separately by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation on behalf of Madoff victims. The SIPC effort, led by Irving Picard, has recovered almost $12 billion, and has so far distributed a little over $9 billion to claimants.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

Report: Up to 25,000 Professional Driving Jobs Per Month Could Be Lost to Autonomous Vehicles

While self-driving cars as a core component of the American transportation landscape remain many years away, they are coming…and with them, a predicted deleterious impact to the number of jobs available to those who drive for a living.

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As outlined over at CNBC.com, a new report from Goldman Sachs anticipates that when self-driving vehicles become prevalent, professional drivers could suffer job losses at the rate of roughly 25,000 per month.

As you might expect, it is believed that truck drivers, more than drivers of other kinds of commercial vehicles, like buses and taxis, will be hardest hit when that day arrives.

The overall impact on the professional driving community could be enormous. Of all the professional drivers in the country – roughly 4 million or so of them – truck drivers comprise about 3.1 million, and that figure represents about 2 percent of everyone employed in the country. While not every human driver will be made obsolete by the advent of self-driving vehicles, it’s clear that big changes are on the horizon for those who work as professional drivers, in one capacity or another.

Additionally, the report details that sales of semi- and fully-autonomous cars will make up roughly 20 percent of the total number of car sales somewhere between years 2025 and 2030.

The bottom line is that as rare as the presence of self-driving vehicles is right now, the country is close to realizing a sea change in the way Americans are transported, and when that occurs, the effects, some of which are particularly far-reaching, will be profoundly felt.

The information contained here is for general information purposes only. The Financial Writer blog and Bob Yetman disclaim responsibility for any liability or loss incurred as a consequence of the use or application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein. Nothing contained in this article, or any other article featured at this blog, should be construed as a solicitation or recommendation to engage in any financial transaction. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any changes to your personal financial profile.

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