Monthly Archives: August 2017

San Diego Courts Will No Longer Offer Court Reporter for Family Law

courtroom-144091_640The San Diego Superior Court has revealed plans to stop using court reporters in family law matters. The cut, which will take effect on Sept. 5, will include cases such as domestic violence restraining orders, divorce, and child custody.

For many, this move is very concerning. Court reporters provide a valuable service, keeping a clear record of everything spoken during the court case. To do this, court reporters work at speeds of up to 225 words per minute thanks to their special stenotype machines.

Now, individuals who would like to have a record of their court case will need to hire their own service, which can be quite expensive. One woman, who spoke to KUSI News anonymously, said that she has had to pay nearly $3,000 over the course of the past two months in order to ensure a court reporter is present.

“You need to have that record to prove later on, here’s what I’ve tried, this is what I said, this is what this other person said, especially if they’re writing one thing in a declaration, but they’re saying something else in the court,” the anonymous woman said.

State officials say that this is part of a larger reduction of services in the San Diego Superior Court. Other measures have included closing courtrooms, reducing staff, and even consolidating departments. These steps are being taken to address what is expected to be a minimum $6 million budget cut, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. Officials also note that $6 million is a conservative figure.

Several factors have been highlighted as contributing to the budget cuts. Among them are pension responsibilities and a reduced revenue for court. But the biggest factor has been a restructuring of the way California funds courts across the state. The plan was meant to create a more equitable funding but has proven troublesome for larger courthouses.

Many in the community are worried about the effects the cuts will have on the communities being served by the court house. After all, 41% of first marriages end in divorce, many of which are contentious.

“These changes impact some of the most vulnerable people we serve, including families in crisis,” Judge Jeffrey Barton, who serves on the San Diego Superior Court, recently told KUSI.

He noted that many of the judges oppose the reduction of services across the board, although he noted that there was little he or his fellow judges could do.

“The judges of the San Diego Superior Court do not want to make these service reductions,” Barton said. “Unfortunately, we have no choice.”

Major League Baseball Hoping LLWS Brings In Younger Audience

Baseball has always been America’s pastime. Over the past 60 years, however, baseball has had to fight off other sports to remain atop the country’s sports entertainment pedestal. That fight continues to this day, as the numbers simply aren’t there for baseball like they used to be.

“There is no denying America’s love for baseball,” wrote the great Roger Kahn in 1960. “But increasingly the greater excitement seems to be coming from football fields, and that is where it’s likely to be coming in the future.”

Kahn was right for the most part — football has reigned supreme over baseball for many years now because of its massive marketing campaigns, superstar athletes, and sheer excitement on the field. According to The Atlantic, since January 14, 1968, when the Green Bay Packers beat the Oakland Raiders in front of a TV audience of over 39 million people, the Super Bowl has consistently drawn in more viewers each year and much more money than the World Series.

The most-watched World Series game ever was Game Seven of the 1986 series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets. That iconic game was seen by 38.9 million people. An extremely high number, yes, but not like the numbers that football has consistently brought in each year.

Another reason baseball hasn’t been able to compete with football in recent years is because of the national pride football fans have, and aside from a few major markets in the MLB, there aren’t too many teams with fans across the entire country.

“If Tampa Bay played Cincinnati in the World Series, I don’t care if the series goes seven games and every game goes into extra innings, baseball is screwed,” said legendary sports broadcaster Bob Costas.

Those in the baseball world are hoping to change that, though, and hope to once again be America’s favorite pastime.

“Younger audience members and eyeballs — if you’re not looking for that, you’re not protecting the business,” said John Angelos, Orioles Executive Vice President.

According to CNN Money, Major League Baseball is considering plenty of options to try and attract younger audiences and help grow the sport.

Though baseball might not be the most conventionally exciting game, it still takes a tremendous amount of skill and mental toughness to succeed at. Roughly 83% of coaches rate mental toughness as the most important set of psychological characteristics for determining competitive success.

In 2016, 13.46 million people played softball or baseball within the last 12 months in the United States. During this time of the year, as the Little League World Series gains national attention, the MLB is expecting a significant spike in younger viewers — and hopes to keep them.

Every year, the top five leisure activities for international visitors are shopping, sightseeing, fine dining, national monuments and parks, and amusement parks. But every year, thousands of kids and their family members from across the country and globe come to Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the Little League World Series.

On August 20th, for the first time in history, a professional MLB game was held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the MLB Little League Classic. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates squared off at the renovated BBandT Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field.

The game was nationally televised on ESPN and people couldn’t buy tickets to the event. Not selling tickets to a major game might seem like a poor marketing decision in terms of growing the sport, but MLB only played this game for one group of people: the kids.

The MLB and Little League International will continue to work to foster interest “and encouraging participation in youth-centered baseball and softball activities.”

2017 Housing Market Outlook: What To Expect

Homeowners across the country have always worried about the future worth of their properties. Even if the market, statistically, was doing fantastic, Americans would still be extremely cautious making decisions regarding their homes, as they should be. Homeowners are even more cautious when the market is not doing as well. But what’s going on in the U.S. now in terms of housing?

Housing Market Outlook: Mortgage Rates

What’s in store for the national housing market for at least the rest of 2017? Well, according to Bankrate, though higher mortgage rates could spike in the first few quarters of the year, it will largely remain a seller’s market in most parts of the country.

“For those who have been contemplating a purchase, it may be as opportunistic a time as you’re going to get to lock in a rate,” said Matthew Carbray, a certified financial planner in Avon, Connecticut.

Carbray and other forecasters are predicting the current trend of mortgage rates at about 4% is here to stay. The Mortgage Bankers Association expects the 30-year fixed mortgage will average 4.3 during the first quarter and that it will average 4.2 throughout all of 2017.

Millennial Impact

The one housing change that is quite obvious to identify is that the market is opening its doors to a much younger generation. According to Realtor.com, roughly 61% of homebuyers in 2017 will be under the age of 35 years old. Also, of all prospective buyers this year, 52% are first-time homebuyers.

The Daily Reckoning expects that because a large portion of millennials is growing up, beginning careers, and starting families, they will soon be leaving their apartments and parents’ houses and buying homes of their own.

How Do Current Homeowners Feel?

Though a large portion of current homeowners is skeptical about the future of the housing market, 58% of them are expecting a bounce back.

Forbes reports that many homeowners and market officials believe that though times might be tough, there is no housing bubble currently building.

“A defining factor in a housing market bubble is home price growth that is unsustainable or unsupported,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at brokerage Redfin. “A decade ago, the housing market was fueled by exotic mortgages and lax underwriting that allowed people to take on more debt than they could afford. What we have today is actually a very conservative and equity-driven market. We are seeing buyers in the hottest housing markets making sizable down payments, if not all-cash offers. Thus, unlike in the subprime boom, there’s equity that is supporting price growth along with good local economic drivers like job growth.”

Housing Market Under Current Administration

We’ll still have to wait and see how the next three and a half years pan out, but there will certainly be immediate changes.

Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been sponsored by the government and under conservatorship since 2008. There has been a debate within the industry about whether or not to abolish them or privatize them. Congressional conservatives would prefer it if the current administration tackles these two mortgage giants, but those on Wall Street favor privatizing.

“Privatizing Fannie and Freddie will infuse those organizations with more capital, which will enable them to purchase greater volumes of mortgages from lenders,” added Rick Roque, president of MenloFinancial. “So that should have the effect of lowering interest rates, or at least keep them from going higher.”

How Does Construction Come Into Play?

The younger homebuyer typically has a few must-haves on his or her list for the perfect home. Traditionally, millennials have enjoyed properties in vibrant neighborhoods, modern layouts, and smart technology capabilities, but they also prefer newly built homes to already existing ones. Because of this, the U.S. construction market will likely be building more and more homes over the next few years as millennials earn enough to enter the housing market. The U.S. currently has the second largest construction market in the world, resulting in over $900 billion in expenditures.

Also, homeowners across the board are always working toward improving their properties and increasing their return on investment (ROI). Even simple bathroom additions can offer an average of 86.4% ROI for homeowners.

“The new-home industry is also benefiting from a severe shortage of existing homes for sale. Most buyer demand, however, is on the lower end of the market, where builders have trouble meeting margins,” said CNBC officials. “Construction is still running well behind even normal levels, never mind the strong, pent-up demand. Most builders are also still concentrating on the move-up market, rather than entry-level.”

As the market continues to ebb and flow, it’s important for every American, regardless of their current financial situation, to pay attention to housing trends. The Washington Post states that a large reason the market has transformed over the last few decades is because of a significant increase in the income gap.

“Things have been calm enough for long enough that we have some clarity,” added Jed Kolko, of the Housing Innovation at the University of California at Berkeley. “U.S. housing markets are more unequal today than they were before the housing bubble.”

New Data Shows Twin Cities Has Worst Racial Disparity In Housing Market

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Approximately 32% of Americans looking to buy a new home are first time home buyers. And like many other first time home buyers, Akisha Everett of Minneapolis has been looking for her dream home for months. Unfortunately, being continuously outbid has kept her from getting the keys.

“I am holding my breath,” Everett told StarTribune while she was still house hunting.

Everett is one of the many African Americans struggling in the midst of the housing market. Approximately 13.3% of the U.S. population is African American, but only 47.5% of black Americans owned homes as of 2008. In contrast, nearly 61.3% of the American population is non-Hispanic white. Up to 74.9% of white Americans owned homes in 2008.

In recent years, this disparity between races in the housing market has only grown. According to a new analysis of Census Bureau data, the Twin Cities, where Everett calls home, have the lowest rate of black homeownership out of 80 American cities. The Hispanic rate of homeownership in the Twin Cities has also fallen, but white homeownership has remained one of the highest in the country.

One of the reasons for the disparity includes a comparison of salaries between races. The average income for white households in Minnesota in 2015 was $67,000 in comparison to black Americans whose households totaled $30,300. For Hispanics, the average income was $43,400.

“Homeownership is the central vehicle Americans use to store wealth,” said Catherine Ruetschlin to Forbes. Ruetschlin is the co-author of a recent study entitled The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Policy Matters. “So homeownership and access to homeownership are at the heart of that widening wealth gap.”

Aside from income, the disparity also stems from the redlining of black neighborhoods. Since the 1934 National Housing Act, African American neighborhoods have been marked as credit risks. The effects of this redlining continue into the modern housing market where homes in black neighborhoods are considered of lesser value than those in white neighborhoods.

Discrimination in lending is another large factor. People of color, because of their lower incomes, are more likely to need a loan in order to pay the mortgage on their house. However, lenders have been known to overcharge black and Hispanic/Latinx households by giving them loans with higher interest rates as recently as 2012.

These high-interest loans helped to fuel the recent foreclosure crisis. In 2013, one out of every 96 homes filed for foreclosure. And between 2007 and 2008, Minneapolis’ black and Hispanic neighborhoods became the center of this crisis.

Now the Twin Cities housing market is up again, but still at the disadvantage of minority buyers. Lenders have made it more difficult to qualify for mortgages to reduce the risk of another foreclosure crisis. Therefore, minority buyers who have little to no credit must take yet another step in order to become advantaged enough to make an offer on a home.

“I have always dreamed of owning my own home,” said Everett to StarTribune. “I think it is important to start to create generational wealth for my children.”

After eight months of searching and visiting over 50 homes, Everett has now moved into a $190,000, three-bedroom house in north Minneapolis with her two sons.

Solar Eclipse Camping: There Are Still Spots In Unlikely Places

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Family camping trips are still one of the most popular vacation options for Americans, with the number of days spent camping totally an incredible 534.9 million days as of 2011. However, this summer there is a once-in-a-lifetime reason to head out camping, especially for those that have an interest in the stars and the sky.

The Great American Eclipse is coming soon, and most hotels and lodging along its path have been completely sold out for months. But while it might be impossible to find a cheap motel or hotel room along the path, there is still plenty of space to take advantage of.

Across the nation, from Oregon to South Carolina (the total path of the solar eclipse’s movement), there are hundreds of areas advertising spaces for tents and RV parking. Private ranches, farms, and vineyards are just a few places to name that are offering space, and some are so vast they’ll likely never sell out.

The fact is, there is still space to find during the event. Somewhere between 1.85 million and 7.4 million Americans plan to see the eclipse, and there is still space available for all of them.

But that doesn’t mean space for everything, and a lot of experts are predicting some troubles in areas on the path of the event. Interstates and major roadways may be flooded with individuals, and issues finding food or water or even a restroom could be a problem in many communities.

Some individuals, like Angela Speck, a researcher at the University of Missouri and a member of the American Astronomical Society’s Eclipse team, are reporting it could be quite crowded across the nation. Speck told Space.com that the event could, “resemble a zombie apocalypse.”

She went on to say that, “There will hopefully be less bloodshed, but zombies don’t need regular food, or sleep, or toilets.”

Which brings us back to the issue of the overcrowded cities and towns along the eclipse’s path, in which some city officials have warned residents to start getting their supplies now and avoid travel before and shortly after the event.

The Solar Eclipse is supposed to occur Monday, August 21, and it’s the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse to occur in nearly 100 years.

Realtor Purchases Mansion For $900,000, Lists For $1.9 Million

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There are a lot of benefits to getting adhesive floor coatings for homes or businesses. They protect flooring from chemicals and other threats, something that makes them extremely popular for industrial uses. Which is why the market is expected to continue growing to a sizable $11.01 billion by 2022. These adhesives include items like epoxy floor coatings, a popular coating used in many industries, and a more niche product, polyaspartic, which has a much quicker coating time than the more popular epoxy.

According to a recent market report, the driving force for the market growth is the increasing demand for flooring adhesives by the industrial and residential sectors. Epoxy is, understandably, still holding the largest share of the market, but some polyurethane floorings are starting to catch up.

While these products are most commonly used in industrial settings, they’re also becoming more popular among property flippers.

And in recent years, home flipping has become more profitable than ever before.

Realtor Dave Kooistra, who has flipped and sold at least 10 properties in the last 15 years, recently purchased a mansion for $900,000 and then listed it for $1.9 million after doing a bit of work on the interior.

The mansion was built by a couple in the late 1990s and cost nearly $6 million when it was first constructed. The couple later passed away in the early part of the 2000s, and the home lingered on the market for several years as the asking price fell.

The mansion had only three bedrooms and a rather dated decor when Kooistra first purchased it.

“We hired six guys working full-time for eight days to remove the wallpaper,” says Kooistra.
In addition, boxes of angelic cherubs were removed from the cabinetry. The outdated kitchen and bathrooms were gutted and renovated, and he replaced all of the 144 halogen lamps in the ceiling canister fixtures.

Some of the work that was done in the house included resurfacing the entirety of the heated garage with a new epoxy coating, to prolong its lifespan by several years. He also refreshed the entire house with new paint and updated decor.

“Every square inch of this house has been repainted,” said Kooistra.

The realtor believes that the home is worth more than his asking price, but would be happy to see it go for it. The amount of work put into the home was substantial, and he would like to get a profit while he can.

Nigerian Man Charged In School Teacher Phishing Scam

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Identity theft is one of the most common crimes in the United States. In 2016, approximately one out of every 16 Americans were the victims of identity theft. On Thursday, August 3, the Federal Bureau of Investigation brought justice to one of these thieves.

Daniel Adekunle Ojo, 33, was charged with identity theft and fraud after stealing tax information from teachers in Minnesota and Connecticut from his illegal home in Durham, North Carolina.

IRS agents and the FBI’s cyber-crime unit were able to identify Ojo via a series of phishing emails, which the Nigerian man used to collect fraudulent tax refunds from teachers in Connecticut school districts.

The FBI reported that in the case of Glastonbury, Minnesota, a school employee had received a request for W-2 tax information.

“I want you to compile and email W-2 copy of ‘All employees’ wage and tax statement for 2016,” read the phishing email. “Kindly prepare and attach the lists in PDF file type and email them to me for review as soon as possible.”

To appear legitimate, Ojo used the address DaltonK@Glastonburyus.org. “Kim Dalton is the executive assistant to Glastonbury’s assistant school superintendent,” reports the Hartford Courant. “The recipient replied with the tax information of about 1,600 employees.”

According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the IRS deposited approximately $37,000 into various bank accounts and processed up to six of the fraudulent tax reforms.

In March 2017, Ojo sent a nearly identical phishing email to teachers at the Groton school district. The teacher who received the email replied with the information of nearly 1,300 employees. However, when the IRS received the information they alerted the FBI of the suspicious behavior.

The FBI was able to find Ojo through an examination of the email address and an SMS number. The SMS number was listed on a six-month visa application for Ojo from December 2015, which he’d obtained to visit family in New York state. Ojo had filed for immigration status earlier that year, listing his Durham address on each of the four petitions.

Ojo is now being held in Greensboro, North Carolina where he was presented in federal court. He will later be transferred for prosecution in Connecticut.

U.S. Senators Afraid the Internet of Things Will Turn on the Government

Secure internet data processing concept

Today, about 68% of funds lost as a result of a cyber attack are unrecoverable, and in a world of increasing reliance on the internet for day-to-day life, cyber threats are more dangerous than ever.

That’s something two U.S. lawmakers are making clear in their most recent proposals. They believe that the internet itself is the problem.

Last year hackers took advantage of smart home devices to shut down access to major websites like Spotify and Twitter. They did so by using what is termed the Internet of Things, a sort of all encompassing phrase for all web-connected devices. Simply put, hackers were able to corrupt smart washing machines, refrigerators, and other web-connected appliances to attack important online sites.

Because of this attack, a group of lawmakers in Congress is now getting to work to have the U.S. government build strong digital defense. Sen. Mark Warner from Virginia and Sen. Cory Gardner from Colorado are the two strongest voices. They’ve recently pushed out a bill titled “The Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017.”

The bill is an attempt to force companies that sell web-connected tools to federal agencies to follow new security standards, ones that are separate from lax consumer standards. This is so that a tablet sold to, say, the FBI is not the same as a tablet sold to a family of four.

“With cybersecurity,” Warner told said, “You’ve got to constantly be upgrading your game. And what we’re saying with Internet of Things devices is, if you’ve got hard-coded passwords or they’re not able to be patched, because they’re cheaper or smaller devices, that can’t be standard protocol.”

The Senators have noted that the Internet of Things is growing rapidly, and that worries them due to the widespread availability and use of malware.

“If we turn around and there are 20 billion [IoT] devices in a couple years, and the federal has ‘x’ million of these devices, and they all have these characteristics, then, you know, I think we’re going to make a big mistake,” said Warner.

And as much as consumers love devices that connect to the internet, so too does the U.S. government. Federal agencies spent somewhere around $5 billion on sensors and data collectors from 2011 to 2015, all of which connect to the internet.

Sen. Warner admits that, as of this moment, “there’s actually no full, comprehensive accounting of the IoT (Internet of Things) devices that the U.S. government owns or operates.”

Houston Man Ordered to Pay Thousands in Child Support for Child That Isn’t Even His

MoneyOne Texas man is being ordered to pay thousands in child custody for a child that isn’t his.

Gabriel Cornejo of Houston has been ordered to pay $65,000 to an ex-girlfriend for late child custody payments for a 16-year-old. Cornejo has only met the teen once.

Back in 2003, a Texas court ruled that Cornejo had to pay child support to Carel Stith for the teen who will remain unnamed. At the time, there was no DNA test administered because the mother vowed Cornejo was the only person who could be the father. However, Cornejo was not made aware of this decision and was never contacted about how much he owed.

Cornejo is currently raising his own three children and two nephews and claims that he was only made aware of the late payments when he was served papers saying that the state of Texas listed him as having another child. Confused, he took a DNA test and found out that the teen isn’t his.

However, the state of Texas and the teen’s mother still want the $65,000. While it may sound far-fetched, according to Texas family law, the man in question must pay any and all back payments of child support up until the time that the DNA test proved he was not the father. Fox News reports that Stith claims Cornejo knew all about the child support as money was taken out of his paycheck several years ago and he didn’t do anything about it. But according to Cornejo’s lawyer, only $31 was taken out three times, so it was too arbitrary an amount for him to notice.

So while 29% of custody cases are made without any third party involvement, Cornejo is getting as many people involved as he can. His lawyer is trying to get a Houston judge to reopen the case as the original court order cannot be changed. If the judge does not re-try the case, Cornejo will be forced to pay the entire sum or spend time in jail.

The judge is set to make a decision on whether or not to reopen the case next month.

Botox Seller Concerned Over Number Of Teenage Patients

Syringe Being Inserted into a Vial

Botox is a massive market, with an annual revenue of more than $2 billion and growing. However, despite the drug’s reputation as a balm for middle age, Botox has an unlikely new customer: teenagers.

That’s right, many teenagers are now interested in Botox, specifically those teens under the age of 18, and that’s raising a lot of questions among some Botox providers. It’s no real secret that the millenial generation is going under the knife for an injection of “youth” just like Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers before them.

However, the surge of interest in Botox from teenagers has inspired some rarely seen introspection from the pharmaceutical industry. Now, with the number of teenage Botox patients rising, Allergen is considering whether this particular growth market is healthy.

Allergan’s biggest selling product is the Botox, which brings in billions of dollars each year. Last year, about $730 million of that came from the cosmetic uses of the product, but Botox also has a number of non-cosmetic uses. However, despite this, Allergan CEO Brent Saunders is considering limiting the drug’s growth.

He’s calling for all stakeholders in the medical aesthetics field to come together with him and talk about managing the demand from the teenage population. He wants to know what can be done to better counsel young patients in the future.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2016 report, nearly 230,000 teenagers between 13 and 19 had a cosmetic procedure last year.

“Regardless of whether you agree with me, it’s clear that we need to begin a dialogue about this issue before it becomes a major challenge. Unless we do something to address this issue directly, we risk harming a vulnerable part of our society,” Saunders said.

The CEO has been no stranger to controversy, especially for his opinions concerning the medical industry. He has been outspoken about the growing issues of drug pricing and its out of control future. He has not gained a lot of friends in the pharmaceutical industry for his progressive statements.

Saunders suggests that “at a minimum, these patients should consult and rely on the judgment of a trained and licensed healthcare professional and obtain parental consent prior to receiving any medical aesthetic procedure.”