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Fri, 25 Sep 2020
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Investing in real estate today exceptionally smart or insanely stupid?

Real Estate shell game
© Unknown
As a graduate student and construction worker in San Diego from 2003-2005, I was afforded an up-close view of the inflation of the last real estate bubble. It was a truly exciting time to work in the building industry in Southern California because there was so much money sloshing around. I literally couldn't even walk into Home Depot without being accosted by hordes of greedy homeowners and slippery contractors offering to pay cash to anyone willing to do construction work.

Everyone I knew was making piles of easy money buying and flipping homes, and I often heard that I was just plain stupid to not be buying and flipping some of my own. I was content to just be able to finance graduate school without debt, however. I decided to move back to Colorado to finish graduate school at almost precisely the moment that my friends started making really big money in real estate. They all thought that I was insanely stupid to leave.

A year later, I wrote an article predicting the collapse of the real estate bubble. A year after that, my friends in Southern California started losing their jobs, and a year after that many of my old friends started losing big money. My decision to avoid real estate investment looked a lot less stupid at that point.

Only six years have passed since the largest housing bubble in world history imploded, and I am once again receiving investment advice from my friends involving real estate. Instead of buying and flipping homes, they are now promising me piles of easy money if I purchase "investment homes" to rent out. My friends are not quite as exuberant as Californians were in 2006, but the pitch of their excitement is definitely rising.

I am not sold on the idea at all, however. In fact, I think my friends who are piling into "investment properties" right now are setting themselves up for losses on a scale only surpassed by the losses suffered in the last real estate crash. Real estate is still extremely dangerous, and only people with a solid financial cushion and who are willing to take gargantuan risk should be moving into it.

Bizarro Earth

White power to the rescue

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© Illustration by Mr. Fish By Chris Hedges On a windy afternoon a few days ago I went to a depressed section of North Memphis to visit an old clapboard house that was once owned by a German immigrant named Jacob Burkle. Oral history—and oral history is all
On a windy afternoon a few days ago I went to a depressed section of North Memphis to visit an old clapboard house that was once owned by a German immigrant named Jacob Burkle. Oral history - and oral history is all anyone has in this case since no written documents survive - holds that Burkle used his house as a stop on the underground railroad for escaped slaves in the decade before the Civil War. The house is now a small museum called Slave Haven. It has artifacts such as leg irons, iron collars and broadsheets advertising the sale of men, women and children. In the gray floor of the porch there is a trapdoor that leads to a long crawl space and a jagged hole in a brick cellar wall where fugitives could have pushed themselves down into the basement. Escaped slaves were purportedly guided by Burkle at night down a tunnel or trench toward the nearby Mississippi River and turned over to sympathetic river traders who took them north to Cairo, Ill., and on to freedom in Canada.

Burkle and his descendants had good reason to avoid written records and to keep their activities secret. Memphis, on the eve of the Civil War, was one of the biggest slave markets in the South. After the war the city was an epicenter for Ku Klux Klan terror that included lynching, the nighttime burning of black churches and schools and the killing of black leaders and their white supporters, atrocities that continued into the 20th century. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in 1968. If word had gotten out that Burkle used his home to help slaves escape, the structure would almost certainly have been burned and Burkle or his descendants, at the very least, driven out of the city. The story of Burkle's aid to slaves fleeing bondage became public knowledge only a couple of decades ago.

Pistol

Man arrested for posing with baby and BB gun on Facebook photo

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© Screenshot from wlwt.com
Dominic Gaines
A 22-year-old Ohio father was arrested for posting a photo on Facebook of himself holding his baby daughter and a BB gun.

Dominic Gaines was charged with child endangerment for posing in a photo with his 1-year-old daughter, Paradise Gaines, while also holding what was mistaken for a deadly weapon. Police say the gun was positioned too close to the baby girl to be considered safe. The child's mother discovered the picture and the maternal grandmother called the police.

Authorities in Colerain Township, Ohio, initially believed that Gaines was holding a handgun .

"It's really been blown out of proportion," the young man's father, Wilson Dykes, told Fox 19, further explaining that the BB gun was pointed toward the ground.

While in court on Monday, Gaines referred to the incident as a misunderstanding and explained that he was playing with the gun while visiting relatives, WLWT reported.

"What had happened was he had his nephews over, as well as his daughter, they were all playing. He was playing with a BB gun with his nephews. His brother walked in and wanted to take a picture of him with his daughter, he incidentally happened to be holding the BB gun in the picture," said attorney Andy Schoenling.

Bizarro Earth

Colorado couple hatched sick sex scheme to rob pedophiles, kidnap children

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© Police Handout
Dustin Canup, 20, and Sareena Morrison, 18, of Loveland, Colo, arranged to meet with a man they thought was offering to trade sex with his 6-year-old daughter for money.
Dustin Canup, 20, and Sareena Morrison, 18, schemed to blackmail a man offering his 6-year-old daughter for sex and kidnap the child. Undercover police busted them with weapons and handcuffs at a motel in Loveland, Colo.

A Colorado couple was busted in a disturbing scheme to lure child sex abusers to a hotel room, rob them and then kidnap their children, authorities said.

Dustin Canup, 20, and Sareena Morrison, 18, were busted at a motel in Loveland on Friday in a sting set up by undercover police, Denver's Channel 7 reported.

Cops said the pair posted messages on Internet sex sites targeting men willing to sell their children for sex.

After receiving a tip from someone who had seen their posting, Loveland police reached out to the couple posing as a man willing to pimp out his 6-year-old daughter, the station reported.

Heart - Black

Father of six-year-old boy killed in Sandy Hook massacre heckled by pro-gun activists

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© AP
Neil Heslin held a large framed photograph of his murdered son Jesse as he spoke
Neil Heslin was testifying at a local hearing on firearm control at the time

The father of a six-year-old boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook school massacre has reportedly been heckled by pro-gun activists while testifying at a local hearing on firearm control.

Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse was among the 27 victims of last month's massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, was giving an emotional account of his son's death when activists apparently interrupted him, shouting "the second amendment".

Mr Heslin held a large framed photograph of Jesse as he spoke, saying: "It's not a good feeling. Not a good feeling looking and your child laying in a casket or looking at your child with a bullet wound in his forehead."

Brick Wall

Antiabortion activists block sexual health funding for at-risk teens

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© Credit: Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock.com
North Dakota State University returned $1.2 million in sex ed. funds because of pressure from anti-choice activists

Last year, a pair of researchers at North Dakota State University won a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families to start a sexual health program aimed at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in at-risk teens.

But as Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones reports, the school had contracted Planned Parenthood to provide the services, and antiabortion activists in the state started complaining about NDSU doing business with the nationwide women's health - and in states other than North Dakota, abortion services - provider.

"When I see something that says this is Planned Parenthood - they're not even a part of the state of North Dakota. They don't serve anyone in North Dakota, and they shouldn't be a part of North Dakota. They're not a part of how we do business in this state," said Rep. Bette Grande on a local radio show denouncing Planned Parenthood and NDSU. "It is an overt abortion industry that we don't want to be a part of," she added.

Bad Guys

California inmate sentenced to death for 2003 wildfire

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© Photo: Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise, via AP
Rickie Lee Fowler, 31, sits in a Southern California courtroom before being sentenced to death Monday for a 2003 wildfire that killed five via heart attacks.
Judge agrees with jury that five heart-attack deaths during massive arson blaze were murder.

Following a jury's recommendation, a California judge Monday sentenced a prison rapist to death for starting a massive 2003 wildfire that caused five fatal heart attacks, which jurors decided was murder.

Rickie Lee Fowler, 31, was convicted in August of first-degree murder and arson for tossing a road flare into bone-dry brush above San Bernardino in October 2003 because his godfather had kicked him out of his house, the Riverside Press-Enterprise says.

Dubbed the Old Fire, it burned for nine days across 142 square miles in the mountains east of Los Angeles, killing five men fighting or escaping flames that destroyed more than 1,000 homes, cabins and other structures. The blaze was one of several that swept across Southern California at the time.

Health

Cruise ship carrying 112 passengers sinks in Egypt

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© Photo: Ahram Arabic News Website
Rescue team successfully offloads 112 passengers from sinking vessel near Upper Egyptian city of Kom Ombo.

A cruise ship carrying 112 Egyptian passengers sank in the Nile River on Tuesday evening after crashing into large rocks, Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website has reported.

Pistol

Prostate patient guns down California doctor as he prepares for surgery

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A 75-year-old man has been charged for the murder his doctor, 52-year-old urologist Dr. Ronald Gilbert, in Newport Beach, California.

KTLA identified Stanwood Fred Elkus as the person suspected of shooting Gilbert at around 2:45 p.m. on Monday. Elkus had reportedly been receiving treatment for a prostate problem.

According to The Jewish Press, Gilbert, who was an orthodox Jew, was shot six or seven times in the torso as he was preparing to perform surgery on Elkus at Hoag Hospital.

"What's going on with the world today?" nephrology laboratory office supervisor Kristen Cotty remarked to the Orange Country Register. "I mean, schools, now I got to worry about going to work. This has got to stop."

Airplane

Plane crash in Kazakhstan kills 20

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© Unknown
Twenty people died in a plane crash near Almaty in Southwestern Kazakhstan.

A civilian aircraft carrying 15 passengers and five crew members on board has crashed in the Central Asian state on Tuesday.

Media reports said that the passenger jet went down near Almaty, the country's financial capital.

"Twenty people were on board, five crew members and 15 passengers" and all of them died in the incident, Kazakhstan's SCAT airline said in a statement.

"According to preliminary information there are no survivors," it added.

The plane, whose make was not immediately made clear, was flying to Almaty from the northern city of Kokshetau.