collapse of Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange that declared bankruptcy in 2014 after huge, unexplained losses of Bitcoin.

If cryptocurrency prices do not recover, “a lot of them will have to go back to work again,” Clinton Donnelly, an American tax lawyer specializing in cryptocurrencies, said of some of those gathered at Bam Bam.

Even so, Mr. Donnelly and other bar regulars said their belief in crypto remained unshaken.

Thomas Roessler, wearing a black Bitcoin shirt and drinking a beer “inspired by” the currency, said he had come with his wife and two young children to decide whether to move to Portugal from Germany. He first invested in Bitcoin in 2014 and, more recently, sold a small rental apartment in Germany to invest even more.

Mr. Roessler was concerned about the drop in crypto values but said he was convinced the market would rebound. Moving to Portugal could lower his taxes and give his family the chance to buy affordable property in a warm climate, he said. They had come to the bar to learn from others who had made the move.

“We have not met a lot of people who live this way,” Mr. Roessler said. Then he bought another round of drinks and paid for them with Bitcoin.

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CorpHousing Group Inc. Announces 2022 Second Quarter Financial Results

MIAMI–(BUSINESS WIRE)–CorpHousing Group Inc. (“CorpHousing,” “CHG”, or the “Company”) (Nasdaq: CHG), which utilizes a long-term lease, asset-light business model to acquire and manage a growing portfolio of short-term rental properties in major metropolitan cities, today announced financial results for the second quarter (“Q2 2022”) and six months ended June 30, 2022.

2022 Second Quarter Financial Overview Compared to 2021 Second Quarter

2022 Six Months Financial Overview Compared to 2021 Six Months

Operational Highlights

“We are excited to announce our Q2 results, which we believe reflect the success of our asset-light business model, the vibrancy of our target markers, and the opportunities inherent in our industry,” said Brian Ferdinand, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CorpHousing Group. “Q2 2022 net rental revenue increased by 144%, gross profit increased 19-fold, net income improved by $1.9 million, and EBITDA for the quarter was $2.1 million. Our available units for rent increased quarter over quarter, occupancy rates improved as the effects of COVID pandemic wane, and we realized certain efficiencies from scale.

“We currently operate hotels under long-term lease agreements in Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, greater Miami, New York City, Washington, DC, and Seattle, and will commence operations in New Orleans in mid-October.

We are in various stages of negotiation with a variety of potential partners that represent thousands of additional hotel units in destination locations across the United States and Europe. We believe that we are creating win-win opportunities by providing property owners the ability to create stable cash flow streams to maximize returns on their properties, which have been significantly impacted by restrictions on travel and leisure activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CHG then markets these units under our customer facing LuxUrbanTM brand to increase occupancy rates and drive operational efficiencies, thus creating the opportunity to generate high margin, recurring and predictable revenue streams. Supported by a strengthened balance sheet and seasoned team of executives, we believe that are well positioned to advance our highly scalable, predictable, and profitable business model and look forward to our future with confidence.”

Q2 2022 Overview

Net rental revenue in Q2 2022 increased 144% to $10.2 million from $4.2 million in the second quarter ended June 30, 2021 (“Q2 2021”), driven primarily by an increase in average units available to rent from 376 in Q2 2021 to 565 at Q2 2022, as well as better occupancy rates and average daily rates (“ADRs”) over this period.

Cost of revenue, which includes rental expenses for available units to rent, rose to $7.3 million in Q2 2022 from $4.0 million in Q2 2021, due primarily to the increase in size of CHG’s rental unit portfolio, as well as related increases in furniture rentals, cleaning costs, cable / WIFI costs and credit card processing fees.

Gross profit improved to $2.9 million, or 28% of net rental revenue, from $0.1 million, or 3.5% of net rental revenue. Higher gross profit and gross margin was primarily attributable to a reduction in the impact of COVID-19 on our operations, higher unit counts and better occupancy rates and ADRs.

Total general and administrative expenses in Q2 2022 increased to $0.9 million, or 9% of net rental revenue, from $0.7 million, or 18% of net rental revenue, in Q2 2021, attributable to an increased number of units in operation.

Income before provision for income taxes improved to $1.5 million from a loss of $(1.1) million, reflecting a significant increase in net rental revenue in Q2 2022 compared to Q2 2021 and the benefits of scale-driven operating efficiencies.

Net income improved to $0.8 million, or $0.04 per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $(1.1) million.

EBITDA rose to $2.1 million, or 21% of net rental revenue, in Q2 2022 compared to negative EBITDA of $(0.6) million.

For a discussion of the financial measures presented herein which are not calculated or presented in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”), see “Note Regarding Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures” below and the schedules to this press release for additional information and reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures. The company presents non-GAAP measures such as EBITDA to assist in an analysis of its business. These non-GAAP measures should not be considered an alternative to GAAP measures as an indicator of the company’s operating performance.

Conference Call and Webcast

The Company will host a conference call on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 9:00 am Eastern Time to discuss the results.

Investors interested in participating in the live call can dial:

A webcast of the event may be accessed via the following link: https://event.choruscall.com/mediaframe/webcast.html?webcastid=ltKz5SSV.

CorpHousing Group Inc.

CorpHousing Group (CHG) utilizes a long-term lease, asset-light business model to acquire and manage a growing portfolio of short-term rental properties in major metropolitan cities. The Company’s future growth focuses primarily on seeking to create “win-win” opportunities for owners of dislocated hotels, including those impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions, while providing CHG favorable operating margins. CHG operates these properties in a cost-effective manner by leveraging technology to identify, acquire, manage, and market them globally to business and vacation travelers through dozens of third-party sales and distribution channels, and the Company’s own online portal. Guests at the Company’s properties are provided Heroic Service™ under CHG’s consumer brands, including LuxUrban. CHG’s Heroic ServiceTM provides guests a hassle-free experience which exceeds their expectations with “Heroes” who respond to any issue in a timely, thoughtful, and thorough manner.

Forward Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements, including with respect to the expected closing of noted lease transactions and continued closing on additional leases for properties in the Company’s pipeline, as well the Company’s anticipated ability to commercialize efficiently and profitably the properties it leases and will lease in the future. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks, uncertainties and assumptions, including those set forth under the caption “Risk Factors” in the prospectus forming part of the Company’s effective Registration Statement on Form S-1 (File No. 333-262114). Generally, such forward-looking information or forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “plans”, “expects” or “does not expect”, “is expected”, “budget”, “scheduled”, “estimates”, “forecasts”, “intends”, “anticipates” or “does not anticipate”, or “believes”, or variations of such words and phrases or may contain statements that certain actions, events or results “may”, “could”, “would”, “might” or “will be taken”, “will continue”, “will occur” or “will be achieved”. Forward-looking information may relate to anticipated events or results including, but not limited to business strategy, leasing terms, high-level occupancy rates, and sales and growth plans. The financial projection provided herein are based on certain assumptions and existing and anticipated market, travel and public health conditions, all of which may change. The forward-looking information and forward-looking statements contained in this press release are made as of the date of this press release, and the Company does not undertake to update any forward-looking information and/or forward-looking statements that are contained or referenced herein, except in accordance with applicable securities laws.

The Company seeks to achieve profitable, long-term growth by monitoring and analyzing key operating metrics, including EBITDA. The Company defines EBITDA as net income before interest, taxes, and depreciation. The Company’s management uses this non-GAAP financial metric and related computations to evaluate and manage the business and to plan and make near and long-term operating and strategic decisions. The management team believes this non-GAAP financial metric is useful to investors to provide supplemental information in addition to the GAAP financial results. Management reviews the use of its primary key operating metrics from time-to-time. EBITDA is not intended to be a substitute for any GAAP financial measure and as calculated, may not be comparable to similarly titled measures of performance of other companies in other industries or within the same industry. The Company’s management team believes it is useful to provide investors with the same financial information that it uses internally to make comparisons of historical operating results, identify trends in underlying operating results, and evaluate its business.

A reconciliation of net income to EBITDA will be provided in the company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the three and six months ended June 30, 2022 to be filed on September 26, 2022, under the section thereof entitled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Reconciliation of Unaudited Historical Results to EBITDA.”

Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheet

(Unaudited)

 

 

 

(unaudited)

 

 

 

 

June 30,

 

December 31,

 

 

2022

 

2021

ASSETS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current Assets

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash

 

$

556

 

 

$

6,998

 

Processor retained funds

 

 

4,616,255

 

 

 

56,864

 

Prepaid expenses and other current assets

 

 

512,939

 

 

 

166,667

 

Deferred offering costs

 

 

1,234,500

 

 

 

771,954

 

Security deposits – current

 

 

276,943

 

 

 

276,943

 

Total Current Assets

 

$

6,641,193

 

 

$

1,279,426

 

Other Assets

 

 

 

 

 

 

Furniture and equipment, net

 

 

8,944

 

 

 

11,500

 

Restricted cash

 

 

1,100,000

 

 

 

1,100,000

 

Security deposits – noncurrent

 

 

4,108,010

 

 

 

1,377,010

 

Operating lease right-of-use asset, net

 

 

49,941,971

 

 

 

 

Total Other Assets

 

 

55,158,925

 

 

 

2,488,510

 

Total Assets

 

$

61,800,118

 

 

$

3,767,936

 

LIABILITIES AND STOCKHOLDERS’ DEFICIT

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current Liabilities

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accounts payable and accrued expenses

 

$

5,301,053

 

 

$

4,209,366

 

Rents received in advance

 

 

4,071,095

 

 

 

1,819,943

 

Merchant cash advances – net of unamortized costs of $0 and $57,768, respectively

 

 

575,489

 

 

 

1,386,008

 

Loans payable – current portion

 

 

2,780,054

 

 

 

1,267,004

 

Loans payable – SBA – PPP Loan – current portion

 

 

815,183

 

 

 

815,183

 

Convertible loans payable – related parties – current portion

 

 

2,596,865

 

 

 

 

Loans payable – related parties – current portion

 

 

1,071,128

 

 

 

22,221

 

Operating lease liability – current

 

 

7,182,381

 

 

 

 

Income taxes payable

 

 

750,000

 

 

 

 

Total Current Liabilities

 

 

25,143,248

 

 

 

9,519,725

 

Long-Term Liabilities

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loans payable

 

 

545,789

 

 

 

925,114

 

Loans payable – SBA – EIDL Loan

 

 

800,000

 

 

 

800,000

 

Loans payable – related parties

 

 

 

 

 

496,500

 

Convertible loans payable – related parties

 

 

700,195

 

 

 

2,608,860

 

Line of credit

 

 

94,975

 

 

 

94,975

 

Deferred rent

 

 

 

 

 

536,812

 

Operating lease liability

 

 

43,962,492

 

 

 

 

Total Long-term Liabilities

 

 

46,103,451

 

 

 

5,462,261

 

Total Liabilities

 

 

71,246,699

 

 

 

14,981,986

 

Commitments and Contingencies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stockholders’ Deficit

 

 

 

 

 

 

Members’ Deficit

 

 

 

 

 

(11,214,050

)

Common stock (shares authorized, issued and outstanding – 90,000,000; 21,675,001; 21,675,001; respectively)

 

 

216

 

 

 

 

Accumulated deficit

 

 

(9,446,797

)

 

 

 

Total Stockholders’ Deficit

 

 

(9,446,581

)

 

 

(11,214,050

)

Total Liabilities and Stockholders’ Deficit

 

$

61,800,118

 

 

$

3,767,936

 

Condensed Consolidated Statement of Operations

(Unaudited)

 

 

 

For the Three Months Ended

 

For the Six Months Ended

 

 

June 30, 2022

 

June 30, 2021

 

June 30, 2022

 

June 30, 2021

Rental Revenue

 

$

12,656,540

 

 

$

6,728,686

 

 

$

24,419,439

 

 

$

11,688,873

 

Refunds and Allowances

 

 

2,455,202

 

 

 

2,545,820

 

 

 

5,118,676

 

 

 

4,199,978

 

Net Rental Revenue

 

 

10,201,338

 

 

 

4,182,866

 

 

 

19,300,763

 

 

 

7,488,895

 

Cost of Revenue

 

 

7,344,720

 

 

 

4,035,238

 

 

 

13,930,882

 

 

 

7,920,531

 

Gross Profit (Loss)

 

 

2,856,618

 

 

 

147,628

 

 

 

5,369,881

 

 

 

(431,636

)

General and Administrative Expenses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Administrative and other

 

 

809,121

 

 

 

701,040

 

 

 

1,559,742

 

 

 

1,258,458

 

Professional fees

 

 

76,500

 

 

 

37,390

 

 

 

305,485

 

 

 

90,404

 

Total General and Administrative Expenses

 

 

885,621

 

 

 

738,430

 

 

 

1,865,227

 

 

 

1,348,862

 

Net Income (Loss) Before Other Income (Expense)

 

 

1,970,997

 

 

 

(590,802

)

 

 

3,504,654

 

 

 

(1,780,498

)

Other Income (Expense)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other income

 

 

137,154

 

 

 

434

 

 

 

587,067

 

 

 

467

 

Interest and financing costs

 

 

(595,742

)

 

 

(542,764

)

 

 

(1,159,879

)

 

 

(660,007

)

Total Other Expenses

 

 

(458,588

)

 

 

(542,330

)

 

 

(572,812

)

 

 

(659,540

)

Income (Loss) Before Provision for Income Taxes

 

 

1,512,409

 

 

 

(1,133,132

)

 

 

2,931,842

 

 

 

(2,440,038

)

Provision for Income Taxes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current

 

 

750,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

750,000

 

 

 

 

Net Income (Loss)

 

$

762,409

 

 

$

(1,133,132

)

 

$

2,181,842

 

 

$

(2,440,038

)

Basic and diluted earnings per common share

 

$

0.04

 

 

$

 

 

$

0.10

 

 

$

 

Basic and diluted weighted average number of common shares outstanding

 

 

21,675,001

 

 

 

 

 

 

21,315,747

 

 

 

 

Non-GAAP Financial Measures

To supplement the condensed consolidate financial statements, which are prepared in accordance with GAAP, we use EBITDA as a non-GAAP financial measure.

The following table provides reconciliation of net income (loss) to EBITDA:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Months Ended June 30, (unaudited)

 

Six Months Ended June 30, (unaudited)

 

 

2022

 

2021

 

2022

 

2021

Net Income (loss)

 

$

762,409

 

$

(1,133,132

)

 

$

2,181,842

 

$

(2,440,038

)

Provision for Income Taxes

 

$

750,000

 

$

 

 

$

750,000

 

$

 

Interest and Financing cost

 

$

595,742

 

$

542,764

 

 

$

1,159,879

 

$

660,007

 

Depreciation Expense

 

$

 

$

 

 

$

2,556

 

$

 

EBITDA

 

$

2,108,151

 

$

(590,368

)

 

$

4,094,277

 

$

(1,780,031

)

EBITDA is defined as net income or loss before the impact of interest, taxes and depreciation and amortization. EBITDA is a key measure of our financial performance and measures our efficiency and operating cash flow before financing costs, taxes and working capital needs. We utilize EBITDA because it provides us with an operating metric closely tied to the operations of the business.

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Fugitive In Massive Navy Bribery Case Caught In Venezuela

Leonard Glenn Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribing military officials so his company could overcharge the U.S. Navy for servicing ships.

A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said Wednesday.

U.S. Marshals Service via AP

The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities Tuesday morning at the Caracas airport as he was about to board an airplane for another country, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Francis had traveled to Venezuela from Mexico with a stopover in Cuba, Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon said in a statement posted on Instagram. Francis was headed to Russia and was arrested at the main international airport in Caracas, the agency said.

The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California for a bribery scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of U.S. Navy officers.

There was no immediate word on when he might be extradited to the United States.

At the sentencing hearing Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino announced to the court that Francis was in custody in Venezuela and that a “no bail arrest warrant” had been issued.

“This turn of events raises several issues, and obviously will have an impact on other cases,” she said. A sentencing hearing for four Navy officers who went to trial in the case and were found guilty is set for October.

Prosecutors asked the court to note that Francis failed to appear at his sentencing hearing as ordered, while defense attorneys notified the court that they would be filing a motion severing their ties with Francis due to an “irreparable break down of the attorney-client relationship.”

Sammartino set a Dec. 14 status hearing for Francis with the caveat that all parties could meet sooner depending on how events unfold.

“I believe that’s all we can accomplish this morning,” Sammartino said.

The U.S. government faces an uphill challenge returning the fugitive back to American soil. The U.S. government doesn’t recognize Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government, has no embassy in the country and has imposed crushing sanctions on the country that has further embittered relations. Law enforcement cooperation between the two countries is rare.

Francis was under home arrest in San Diego when he cut off his GPS ankle bracelet and escaped on Sept. 4. Ten U.S. agencies searched for Francis and authorities issued a $40,000 reward for his arrest.

U.S. authorities also issued a red notice, which asks law enforcement worldwide to provisionally arrest someone with the possibility of extradition. Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition agreements with the United States.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than $500,000 in bribes to Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship servicing company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA. Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35 million for servicing ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific.

Francis had been allowed to remain in home confinement to receive medical care while he cooperated with the prosecution. With his help, prosecutors secured convictions of 33 of 34 defendants, including more than two dozen Navy officers.

Sammartino had feared Francis would run when she denied a request four years ago to allow him to be under house arrest without around-the-clock security guards.

The judge repeatedly maintained that security guards must be on site for Francis to be on house arrest, despite his poor health.

According to a transcript of a closed-door hearing in February 2018, which was unsealed in January, Sammartino expressed concern that her name would come up if Francis escaped and ended up back in Malaysia if anyone asked “who let somebody do this without security.”

She raised similar concerns in a Dec. 17, 2020, after receiving a report that the home was left without anyone guarding it for nearly three hours, according to the court transcript. The guard was on a lunch break, and Francis apologized to the judge for the mishap.

Officials found no security guards when they arrived at Francis’ home in a tony San Diego neighborhood some seven hours after he removed the ankle monitor, according to Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marsha, Omar Castillo. The device, believed to have been removed with heavy scissors, was found in the home.

Castillo said someone had called the San Diego police department, which sent officers to the home on the afternoon of Sept. 4. Officers found the home empty and contacted U.S. Pre-Trial Services, the federal agency in charge of his confinement, which then contacted the U.S. Marshals Service.

Neighbors reported seeing U-Haul trucks coming and going from the home one or two days before the escape, Castillo said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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New Model To Enlist Regular Americans To Resettle Refugees

Neighbors, co-workers, faith groups and friends have banded together in “sponsor circles” to help Afghans get settled in their communities.

When nearly 80,000 Afghans arrived in the United States, refugee resettlement agencies quickly became overwhelmed, still scrambling to rehire staff and reopen offices after being gutted as the Trump administration dropped refugee admissions to a record low.

So the U.S. State Department, working with humanitarian organizations, turned to ordinary Americans to fill the gap. Neighbors, co-workers, faith groups and friends banded together in “sponsor circles” to help Afghans get settled in their communities.

They raised money and found the newcomers homes to rent, enrolled their children in schools, taught them how to open bank accounts and located the nearest mosques and stores selling halal meat.

Since the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Kabul last year, the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans has helped over 600 Afghans restart their lives. When Russia invaded Ukraine, a similar effort was undertaken for Ukrainians.

Now the Biden administration is preparing to turn the experiment into a private-sponsorship program for refugees admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and is asking organizations to team up with it to launch a pilot program by the end of 2022.

The move comes amid increasing pressure on President Joe Biden, who vowed in a 2021 executive order to increase opportunities for Americans to resettle refugees and restore the U.S. as the world’s safe haven. The Trump administration decimated the refugee program, which traditionally tasks nine resettlement agencies with placing refugees in communities.

Experts say the private sponsorship model could transform the way America resettles refugees and ensure a door remains open no matter who is elected.

“I think there is a real revolution right now that is happening in terms of American communities and communities around the world that are raising their hands and saying, `We want to bring in refugees,'” said Sasha Chanoff, founder and CEO of RefugePoint, a Boston–based nonprofit that helped jumpstart the effort.

It comes as the number of people forced to flee their homes topped 100 million this year, the first time on record, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The pilot program will incorporate lessons learned from the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans, which was developed as an emergency measure to accelerate the resettlement of Afghans, with many languishing on U.S. bases. But the pilot program will differ because it is intended to be “an enduring element of U.S. refugee resettlement,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said in an email to The Associated Press.

The pilot program will match regular Americans with refugees overseas who have already been approved for admission to the U.S., the spokesperson said. Later, the plan will let Americans identify a refugee overseas and apply to resettle them.

Canada has used private sponsorship for decades to augment its government program.

Chanoff said the new model should also be in addition to the traditional U.S. government refugee program, which has admitted only about 15% of the 125,000 cap Biden set for the budget year that ends Sept. 30. The Biden administration has been slow to beef up staff and overcome the huge backlog, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to advocates.

Those numbers exclude the roughly 180,000 Afghans and Ukrainians who were mostly admitted through humanitarian parole, a temporary legal option that was intended to get them in quicker but left them with less government support.

Regular Americans helped fill that need, Afghan families say.

Under the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans, participants underwent background checks, received training and developed a three-month plan. Each group had to raise at least $2,275 for each person who was resettled, the same allocation the U.S. government gives agencies for each refugee.

Mohammad Walizada, who fled Kabul with his family, said five days after he was connected to a sponsor circle with the Four Rivers Church in New Hampshire, his family moved into a furnished home in Epping, a town of about 7,000 residents.

Meanwhile, Afghan friends and relatives spent months on U.S. bases waiting to be placed by a resettlement agency, he said. Many ended up in California, staying in hotels because of the lack of affordable housing, and with just three months of government assistance.

He said his sponsor circle gave his family 10 months worth of rent and a car, and someone still checks on him, his wife and six children daily. Each circle gets a mentor who coaches them from WelcomeNST, an organization created in 2021 to help Americans resettle Afghans and now Ukrainians. The organization offers a Slack channel for circles and partners with the resettlement agency, HIAS, which connects them to caseworkers when needed.

The New Hampshire team has more than 60 members helping people like Walizada.

“I feel like I have a lot of family here now,” Walizada said.

To be sure, regular Americans have always helped resettle refugees, but not at this scale since the 1980 U.S. Refugee Act created the formal program, experts say.

A similar outpouring of goodwill happened when the Biden administration launched Uniting for Ukraine, which allows Ukrainians fleeing the war into the U.S. for two years with a private sponsor. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the program, received more than 117,000 applications through August.

Hundreds of Americans have formed teams to resettle Ukrainians, including in Wyoming — the only state that has never allowed an official refugee resettlement program.

“We just wanted to be able to do something and we have such a beautiful community here,″ said Darren Adwalpalker, pastor at Highland Park Community Church in Casper, who formed a group that sponsored three Ukrainians who arrived to the city of 60,000 in June.

Adwalpalker got support from humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse.

“Without private sponsorship, this would not have been possible for a lot of these communities with tremendous resources and goodwill to do this,” said Krista Kartson, who directs its refugee programs.

With $3,000, the pastor said his group provided an apartment for six months for the one Ukrainian who stayed in Casper. Just about everything else — grocery store gift cards, furniture — was donated.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that the whole idea of a resettlement office isn’t that significant” if there are people on the ground willing to help, said Adwalpalker.

“We’ve got dentists working on their teeth. We have doctors seeing them. We have lawyers helping with their immigration paperwork.”

Rudi Berkelhamer, a retired biology professor, wanted to help because her grandparents fled attacks on Jews in the early 20th century in what is now Ukraine.

She was connected to a sponsor circle in Irvine, California, through HIAS, which requires a six-month commitment. Circle members had a week to get to know each other and draft a plan before they were matched to an Afghan family — a young couple and their 3-year-old son — in February.

Berkelhamer shuttled furniture to the family’s home and got them set up with computers and cellphones. Others got them bus passes.

The father — a mechanical engineer who worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan — found work at a parachute factory. The mother is taking English classes, and their son is attending preschool.

Berkelhamer sees the family every two weeks. This summer, she went to a museum with the mom and another circle member to paint parasols and have lunch. She plans to keep helping.

“It is not just the necessities; it is doing those kinds of things that make it so meaningful,” she said.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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400M Tons Of Plastic Waste Created Each Year But Only 2M Tons Recycled

Newsy’s Scott Withers visits the largest residential recycling plant in the country, located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Americans generate a lot of waste — about five pounds per person per day — and a lot of it is plastic. Those flimsy grocery bags, shrink wrap packaging and of course, bottles — lots and lots of bottles.  

Every year, we toss out 2.5 million plastic bottles.  

“They are highly recyclable and its imperative they end up in your recycling bin,” Republic Services External Communications Manager Jeremy Walters said.

Together, we create 400 million tons of plastic waste a year. Only two million tons of that gets recycled. We used to do better but during the pandemic, our recycling rate dropped because we started making more garbage.  

“It’s how much trash is generated versus how much recycling is generated. And when that trash starts to go up, the recycling volumes start to dilute,” Walters continued. 

Vegas—What happens here, gets recycled here. It’s not the official slogan for the city, but it could be. 

This city is known for excess — huge hotels and big casinos. And it also has the largest residential recycling plant in the country.  

Republic Services recycles two million pounds every day, which is the equivalent weight of 500 cars. Workers at the massive plant sort the mixed recyclables, plastics, aluminum, glass and paper and remove the wish-cycle items, which are things we wish we could recycle but can’t. 

“Bowling balls, shoes, engine blocks, steel security doors—I promise you, if you use your imagination, we’ve seen it here,” Walters said.

Paper is easily the most recycled item — 50 million tons of it per year, and we also break down and recycle almost all of our cardboard boxes. More than 90% of those boxes get recycled.

There is plenty that doesn’t get recycled, though. One hundred and ten million glass bottles get thrown away every year. Glass can be recycled indefinitely—same with aluminum— but we still don’t recycle about seven million tons a year. And then there’s all those plastic bottles.

All the trash that we create, which does not go through recycling plants like this one, ends up piling up in landfills.  

Source: newsy.com

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Sends Migrants To Massachusetts By Plane

Republican governors sent more migrants to Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis took part in the latest tactic Republican governors have employed to push back on what they view as President Biden and Congressional democrats’ inaction on the migrant crisis. DeSantis sent two charter planes Wednesday carrying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard — a popular vacation spot off the coast of Massachusetts.

“The minute even a small fraction of what those border towns deal with every day is brought to their front door, they all of a sudden go berserk and they’re so upset this was happening,” DeSantis said.

The planes, which were carrying roughly 50 migrants including children, arrived around 3pm with no warning, according to local officials. 

Earlier this summer, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas began sending buses full of migrants apprehended at the southern border to Washington D.C., often with no warning. 

“In any one sector in the state of Texas, we have more than 5,000 people coming across that sector every single day,” Abbott said.

On Thursday, two buses carrying migrants also arrived at the U.S. Naval Observatory — the vice president’s official residence in Washington D.C. Those buses came from Del Rio, Texas.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a public health emergency last week in order to redirect more resources to support the thousands of migrants who have arrived in the nation’s capital from Texas and Arizona. And just last month, Texas Gov. Abbott began sending migrants to New York and Chicago as welll. 

Illinois governor JB Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation and has tapped the state’s national guard to help handle the hundreds of migrants being sent from Texas. 

“Let me be clear: while other states may be treating these vulnerable families as pawns, here in Illinois, we are treating them as people and when a person comes urgently seeking help here in Illinois we offer them a helping hand,” Pritzker said.

Nearly a dozen busloads of immigrants have arrived in recent weeks in Chicago, with some migrants being relocated by the state to hotels in the suburbs — angering local mayors. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called on the Biden administration to provide more federal assistance in light of Texas’ action. 

“Governor Abbott’s racist and xenophobic practices of expulsion have only amplified the challenges many of these migrants have experienced on their journey to find a safe place,” Lightfoot said.

Source: newsy.com

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Why Is It So Difficult To Tackle Homelessness?

How to resolve homelessness is a long-running topic of conversation, with few easy answers.

The U.S. is struggling to solve its homelessness crisis.  

The number of Americans living on the streets and in shelters is growing. 

“This is home. Housing is so expensive, and you can’t afford. I would be killing myself to pay rent,” said Knoye Brown, who lives in a tent. 

Those rent prices are only increasing.  

And that means even more Americans will have a difficult time affording housing.  

When you add in record high inflation, that leaves America’s homeless even more vulnerable.  

In 2020 nearly 600,000 Americans were left without a home, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  

Data from the non-profit organization shows overall homelessness has improved by 10% since 2007. 

But in 2020, the U.S. saw a 30% increase in unsheltered homelessness.  

And in recent months homelessness has reached crisis levels in major cities across the country. 

This year Knoxville saw a 50% increase in its homeless population, Long Beach, California saw a 62% increase since 2020 and

Phoenix saw a 33% spike.  

Homelessness can come in many forms and can impact all ages.  

In January 2020 70% of the homeless were individuals and 30% belonged to families with children.  

“I wasn’t able to finish school because I didn’t know where I would sleep after school. So I would stay where I was at, so I had a spot,” said Conner Showen, a former young homeless person.  

States and cities have set aside more funding to try to curb the issue. 

New York has more than doubled its spending to over $3 billion since 2014. 

Colorado’s governor approved $45 million to convert a youth corrections facility into a homeless recovery campus.  

And in New Mexico, $10 million is going to communities to buy old motels and hotels and transform them into transitional housing. 

These are just a string of new methods in an attempt to tackle a problem that goes back decades. 

According to Bloomberg, homelessness first peaked after the Civil War when veterans without jobs struggled to find housing and freed slaves struggled to find affordable homes or jobs.   

From then on affordable homes were demolished in many minority neighborhoods as part of urban renewal. 

In the 1970s investment in public housing started to decline when President Richard Nixon imposed a moratorium on new public housing after he declared them a failure, and instead pivoted to housing subsidies. 

And in the 80s welfare programs to support those in need were cut under President Ronald Reagan’s economic plans to lower taxes for businesses.  

Bloomberg adds the AIDS crisis that hit the LGBTQ+ community, a drug epidemic and mass incarceration of people, specifically Black or Hispanic people, also fueled the problem.  

This was further exacerbated by policies that favor single family housing zones.  

According to the New York Times, most land plots are designed for a single-family house. Many state laws and zoning rules limit the land that can be used to build multi-unit buildings, like apartment buildings that can house multiple families.   

“Really it’s a blend of a trifecta of affordable housing, mental illness and substance abuse. When you add those three at various levels for each person, this is what we’re facing,” said Jeff Hicks, the executive director of Hope Rescue Mission.   

Other states like California and Oregon have taken other approaches and passed laws in recent years to end single-family zoning so more affordable housing can be built.  

Some cities, like Missoula, Montana have moved toward sanction camps, known as temporary safe outdoor spaces.  

“49% of the people that have gone through here are now permanently in housing, recovery, or in areas where we mended some family situations, but they have not turned back to the system,” said April Seat, the director of outreach at Hope Rescue Mission. 

In the last year a number of state legislatures introduced bills that some say criminalize homelessness.  

In Tennessee, it’s now a felony for homeless people to camp in parks or other public property. Some argue this is not the solution. 

“I believe it’s only a misdemeanor but with a small misdemeanor and a failure to appear, now you have warrants. You can be jailed at any time, it’s difficult to walk into a state building or federally funded building because you’re worried instead of getting help or resources, you’re scared you’re going to get indebted to a lack of it all,” said Seat. 

Others, like Judge Glock with the Cicero Institute, believe camping bans are the right path to helping the homeless long-term. 

And record-high inflation is adding another hurdle for Americans struggling to keep up with rising rent prices. 

For some those rent price increases are simply unaffordable.  

“We do see people falling into homelessness because they can’t afford rent. It’s not like it’s being raised $30 to $60 and some areas are raising $200,” said Seat. 

According to government data reviewed by the LA Times, new rent leases have increased by more than 11% year-over-year. 

And polling from Freddie Mac found a majority of renters saw a rent price hike in the last year. 

One in five say they’re “extremely likely” to miss a payment. 

The severity of America’s homeless problem ranges depending on the city and state, but cities across the country are taking action to address the problem. 

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness says the solution is to tackle the housing issue, integrate healthcare, strengthen crisis response systems and build career pathways. But this can’t be done without building and fostering partnerships to address the root causes of homelessness.  

Source: newsy.com

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Two Russian embassy staff dead, four others killed in suicide bomb blast in Kabul

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KABUL, Sept 5 (Reuters) – Two Russian embassy staff in Kabul were among six people killed when a suicide bomber detonated explosives near the entrance of the embassy, in a blast that injured at least 10 others, the Russian Foreign Ministry and Afghan officials said on Monday.

Police said the attacker was shot dead by armed guards as he approached the gate, in one of the first such attacks since the Taliban took power last year.

“The suicide attacker before reaching the target, was recognised and shot by Russian embassy (Taliban) guards … there is no information about casualties yet,” Mawlawi Sabir, the head of the police district where the attack took place, told Reuters.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that an unknown militant set off an explosive device near the entrance to the consular section of the embassy around at 10:50 a.m. Kabul time. read more

“As a result of the attack, two employees of the diplomatic mission were killed, and there are also victims among Afghan citizens,” the ministry said.

The four others killed were Afghan civilians, Khalid Zadran, a Kabul police spokesman said.

Russia is one of the few countries to have maintained an embassy in Kabul after the Taliban took over the country more than a year ago. Although Moscow does not officially recognise the Taliban’s government, they have been in talks with officials over an agreement to supply gasoline and other commodities.

The United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the blast.

“In light of recent events, UNAMA stresses the need for the de facto authorities to take steps to ensure the safety and security of the people as well as diplomatic missions,” the UN wrote on Twitter, in reference to the Taliban government.

During the decades-long Taliban insurgency against the western-backed Afghan government, bombings targeting foreign missions were a regular occurrence in Kabul, especially in recent years, with embassies and hotels fortifying themselves with razor wire and blast walls.

Such incidents have decreased dramatically since the insurgent group swept to power in August 2021.

Since then, attacks – some of them claimed by Islamic State – mainly targeted the Taliban and civilian targets such as mosques.

No group has claimed responsibility for Monday’s blast.

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Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Gibran Peshimam; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield, Alasdair Pal and Shivam Patel, Editing by William Maclean and Hugh Lawson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Qatar Detains Workers Protesting Late Pay Before World Cup

By Associated Press
August 22, 2022

The move comes as Qatar faces intense international scrutiny over its labor practices ahead of the tournament.

Qatar recently arrested at least 60 foreign workers who protested going months without pay and deported some of them, an advocacy group said, just three months before Doha hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The move comes as Qatar faces intense international scrutiny over its labor practices ahead of the tournament. Like other Gulf Arab nations, Qatar heavily relies on foreign labor. The workers’ protest a week ago — and Qatar’s reaction to it — could further fuel the concern.

The head of a labor consultancy investigating the incident said the detentions cast new doubt on Qatar’s pledges to improve the treatment of workers. “Is this really the reality coming out?” asked Mustafa Qadri, executive director of the group Equidem.

In a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday night, Qatar’s government acknowledged that “a number of protesters were detained for breaching public safety laws.” It declined to offer any information about the arrests or any deportations.

Video footage posted online showed some 60 workers angry about their salaries protesting on Aug. 14 outside of the Doha offices of Al Bandary International Group, a conglomerate that includes construction, real estate, hotels, food service and other ventures. Some of those demonstrating hadn’t received their salaries for as many as seven months, Equidem said.

The protesters blocked an intersection on Doha’s C Ring Road in front of the Al Shoumoukh Tower. The footage matched known details of the street, including it having several massive portraits of Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, looking down on passers-by.

Al Bandary International Group, which is privately owned, did not respond to requests for comment and a telephone number registered in its name did not connect on multiple attempts to call it.

The Qatari government acknowledged that the firm hadn’t paid salaries and that its Labor Ministry would pay “all delayed salaries and benefits” to those affected.

“The company was already under investigation by the authorities for nonpayment of wages before the incident, and now further action is being taken after a deadline to settle outstanding salary payments was missed,” the government said.

Qadri said police later arrested the protesters and held them in a detention center where some described being in a stifling heat without air conditioning. Doha’s temperature this week reached around 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Qadri described police telling those held that if they can strike in hot weather, they can sleep without air conditioning.

One detained worker who called Equidem from the detention center described seeing as many as 300 of his colleagues there from Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nepal and the Philippines. He said some had been paid salaries after the protest while others hadn’t. His comments could not be corroborated.

Qatar, like other Gulf Arab nations, has in the past deported demonstrating foreign workers, and tied residency visas to employment. The right to form unions remains tightly controlled and available only to Qataris, as is the country’s limited right to assembly, according to the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House.

Qatar, a small, energy-rich nation on the Arabian Peninsula, is home to the state-funded Al Jazeera satellite news network. However, expression in the country remains tightly controlled. Last year, Qatar detained and later deported a Kenyan security guard who wrote and spoke publicly about the woes of the country’s migrant labor force.

Since FIFA awarded the tournament to Qatar in 2010, the country has taken some steps to overhaul the country’s employment practices. That includes eliminating its so-called kafala employment system, which tied workers to their employers, who had say over whether they could leave their jobs or even the country.

Qatar also has adopted a minimum monthly wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals ($275) for workers and required food and housing allowances for employees not receiving that directly from their employers.

Activists like Qadri have called on Doha to do more, particularly when it comes to ensuring workers receive their salaries on time and are protected from abusive employers.

“Have we all been duped by Qatar over the last several years?” Qadri asked, suggesting that recent reforms might have been “a cover” for authorities allowing prevailing labor practices to continue.

The World Cup will start this November in Qatar.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Woman Describes Frequent Sex With R. Kelly Before She Was 18

Jane — the pseudonym for the woman central to R. Kelly’s trial — said she was 15 when they first had intercourse. Kelly would have been around 30.

A woman who has been central to R. Kelly’s legal troubles for more than two decades testified Thursday that the R&B singer had sex with her “hundreds” of times before she turned 18 years old, starting when she was 15.

Jane — the pseudonym for the now 37-year-old woman at Kelly’s trial on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges — told jurors that in the late 1990s when she was 13, she asked the Grammy award-winning singer to be her godfather because she saw him as an inspiration and mentor.

She said within weeks, Kelly would call her and say sexual things. She said he first touched her breasts and other parts of her body when she was around 14 at a Chicago recording studio, and that around that time, he “started penetration” at his home at his North Side Chicago home. She told jurors she was 15 when they first had intercourse. Kelly, 55, would have been around 30 years old at the time.

Asked by a prosecutor how she would know what to do sexually, Jane answered, “He would tell me what to do.” Asked how many times they had sex before she turned 18, she answered quietly: “Uncountable times. … Hundreds.”

Kelly, who is serving a 30-year prison sentence for his conviction in a New York this year on federal charges alleging he used his fame to sexually abuse fans, is standing trial in his hometown of Chicago on several other federal charges. Among the most serious is conspiracy to obstruct justice by allegedly rigging a 2008 trial on state child pornography charges stemming from a purported video of him and Jane having sex when she was underage. Among other things, prosecutors say Kelly paid off and threatened Jane to ensure that she didn’t testify at that trial. She didn’t, and he was ultimately acquitted.

Kelly is also standing trial on charges of producing child pornography and enticing minors for sex.

Unlike at the 2008 trial, Jane cooperated with prosecutors leading up to the current trial and is a pivotal witness.

Speaking softly and tentatively when she first took the stand Thursday, Jane described her upbringing in a musical family in a Chicago suburb, including that she was home-schooled because she was in a touring musical group that she joined when she was about 12.

Jane first met Kelly in the late 1990s when she was in junior high school. She had tagged along to Kelly’s Chicago recording studio with her aunt, a professional singer who worked with Kelly. Soon after that meeting, Jane told her parents that Kelly was going to be her godfather.

Prosecutors have said Kelly shot the video of Jane in a log cabin-themed room at his North Side Chicago home between 1998 and 2000. In it, the girl is heard calling the man “daddy.” Federal prosecutors say that she and Kelly had sex hundreds of times over the years in his homes, recording studios and tour buses.

Kelly, who rose from poverty on Chicago’s South Side to become a star singer, songwriter and producer, knew a conviction in 2008 would effectively end his life as he knew it, and so prosecutors say he conspired to fix that trial.

According to prosecutors, Kelly told the parents and Jane to leave Chicago, paying for them to travel to the Bahamas and Cancun, Mexico. When they returned, prosecutors say Kelly sought to isolate Jane, moving her around to different hotels. When called before a state grand jury looking into the video, Jane, her father and mother denied it was her in it.

Tears streamed down his faced on June 13, 2008, when he was acquitted on all counts of child pornography. Some of the jurors told reporters after the trial that they weren’t convinced that the female in the video was who state prosecutors said she was.

Before the 2008 trial, Kelly carried a duffle bag full of sex tapes everywhere he went for years, but some tapes later went missing, according to court filings. In the 2000s, bootleg copies of some videos appeared on street corners throughout the U.S.

In the early 2000s, the aunt showed the parents a copy of a video she said depicted their daughter having sex with Kelly. When they confronted Kelly, he told them, “You’re with me or against me,” a government filing says.

The parents took it as a threat.

Kelly, who has denied any wrongdoing, has been trailed for decades by complaints and allegations about his sexual behavior. The scrutiny intensified after the #MeToo era and the 2019 six-part documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.”

Kelly also faces four counts of enticement of minors for sex — one each for four other accusers. They, too, are expected to testify.

Prosecutors told jurors that the evidence includes at least three videos showing Kelly having sex with underage girls.

Two Kelly associates, Derrel McDavid and Milton Brown, are co-defendants. McDavid is accused of helping Kelly fix the 2008 trial, while Brown is charged with receiving child pornography. Like Kelly, they also have denied wrongdoing.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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