Algerian forces kill 22 Islamic State-tied militants: military

ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algerian troops ambushed and killed at least 22 militants allied to Islamic State as they held a meeting east of the capital on Tuesday in one of country’s largest military operations in recent years, the defense ministry and a security source said.

The Worst 401(k) Advice Ever

In our society, those who step the furthest outside of conventional norms tend to get the most attention. See: Kardashian, Kim.

Which brings me to today’s topic. James Altucher has been getting lots of attention lately because of a 62-second video he posted for Business Insider. The video’s target audience seems to be millennials, folks in their 20s and 30s. Altucher is something of a minor celebrity in the financial world, with several books to his name, a hedge fund, a podcast, and more.

The video’s title is provocative: “Why investing in a 401(k) is a complete waste of money.”

A complete waste, eh? Let me put it as mildly as I can: Watching this one minute video is (almost) a complete waste of time. I stuck the “almost” modifier in there because he manages to shoehorn one or two sensible thoughts into his short rant.

Why don’t you go ahead and watch it before proceeding. Click here. I’ll wait.

Back? That was fun, right? His hair made you smile. And he sure looks sincere.

OK, let’s start with the sensible advice. Investing in yourself makes perfect sense. I’ve always done it and I’ve advised my kids to do it. Then, too, he does correctly warn that if you withdraw 401(k) money before retirement you pay a big penalty.

But wait. Didn’t he also say, “I honestly think you should take your money out of 401(k)s.”

Yes, he warns you there is a penalty if you withdraw money, and then he tells you to do exactly that! He says, “They’re doing whatever they want, they’re paying themselves salaries…” Well, um, yes, everyone who runs a business charges for their services, including mutual funds and investment advisors. And the mutual fund’s fees are always fully disclosed. But “doing whatever they want?” No, they do what you want. If you invest in a mutual fund that focuses on, say, small cap stocks, that is what you will invest in, not whatever you want. It’s an insulting and weird claim.

And then he gets loopy. “The average 401(k) probably returns, like one-half percent per year.”

What? What time frame is he using? Not recent returns, that’s for sure. Starting with 2014 and going backwards, here are the returns for the past five years of the Lipper Growth Fund Index (a reasonable benchmark for typical mutual funds and 401(k) investors): + 10.3 percent, +34.4 percent, +16.8 percent, -3.0 percent, +16.2 percent. That works out to an average annualized gain of 14.3 percent.

Of course five years, as any competent financial advisor will tell you, is not long enough to draw conclusions. So let’s look at the ten-year return of that index, a time frame that includes the devastating Great Recession of 2008-09. Even there, the annualized rate of return of that index is 6.9 percent. (Those numbers include all mutual fund expenses, but not any 401(k) administrative fees, which would likely reduce the annual returns by perhaps 1 percentage point per year. Past performance does not guarantee future results.)

So where does he get the preposterous claim of “one-half percent per year?”

He also ignores the fact that many 401(k) plans offer an employer match. That is, you get money from your company that matches some or all of whatever you put into your 401(k). It’s free money! Or to put it another way, it is a guaranteed 100 percent return on your investment. Turning that money down is crazy.

Altucher urges young folks to ignore retirement accounts and invest in themselves: “That’s how you make money in your 20s and 30s.” But James! Many have called compounding the eighth wonder of the world. And James, you know that the magic of compounding only works over many years, so the longer that young person invests, the better the end results are likely to be.

One video won’t change the world. I decided to write this rebuttal not so much as a direct attack on this particular video but because some of what Altucher said reflects views held by others as well.

Please, dear Millennials, don’t fall for this nonsense.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Young & Entrepreneurial: Global Student Entrepreneur Awards High School Winner Yasmeen Haider — ‘Entrepreneurs are Hungry People’

Young and Entrepreneurial is a series of articles where I’ve decided to interview and write about young individuals disrupting the world. By sharing the stories of these individuals, I hope to inspire youth from all over the world to follow their passions, to take the road less travelled and to disrupt the status quo. This is the 17th post in the Young and Entrepreneurial Series. To read previous features and to stay up to date with future features, like our Facebook page here.

It’s really amazing to see how transformative entrepreneurship can be and the lessons one can learn from starting a business. This was the case for high school student entrepreneur Yasmeen Haider, the founder of Cake Pop Place and the winner of the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards (GSEA) High School Division.

Before my interview with Yasmeen, I got to watch her presentation at the GSEA Finals last April in Washington, D.C., and this is how she started it, “I think entrepreneurs are pretty hungry people.” She then quoted Roy Ash saying, “An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he will quickly learn how to chew it.”

2015-05-19-1432070918-7858948-16617087363_b111c30ffa_o.jpg Yasmeen presenting at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

It was the perfect opening to what would be a presentation that would get a lot of the entrepreneurs at the GSEA Finals hungry after Yasmeen presented the different Cake Pop designs (you can view the designs here) she has made in the past 4 years, ranging from animal cake pops to graduation caps to logos of companies.

It was back in 2011 when Yasmeen was in 9th grade when she first started Cake Pop Place, a specialty business focused on making cake pops, which are cakes on sticks. Cake Pop Place offers exceptional taste, custom designs and artisan quality.

She recalled, “It came out because of a Spanish Immersion Trip my school offered that I wanted to go to. I needed to raise enough money to go because it was a very expensive trip.” She added, “I learned a lot about patience. It comes from the first two months when I first tried to make cake pops and it would break for the first two months to standing in a farmers market for three hours and only sell two cake pops.”

But Yasmeen enjoyed making Cake Pop’s so much and seeing the reactions of her customers that she decided to continue even after her Spanish Immersion Trip was over.

2015-05-19-1432070984-9287828-11187220_804817519625757_6689854189380874173_o.jpg Animal Cake Pops!

Stepping out of her comfort zone

Yasmeen shared how starting Cake Pop Place really helped her step out of her comfort zone. “It was a great experience for me because I was forced to speak to strangers that I didn’t really know. I was incredibly shy but it really helped me put myself out there. It was a big step out of my comfort zone but it has really helped me become the person I am today.”

In 2012, Yasmeen decided to make her business official and created a logo and website. She would also start selling at farmer’s markets. She shared, “I would stand out there for four hours on a Thursday evening and eight hours on a Saturday morning.”

This sacrifice would pay off as Yasmeen started to get more traction, which allowed her to move from selling in farmer’s markets to selling in bigger festivals and shows. She shared, “These festivals were better time wise and more affordable. I could also meet a larger audience in a short amount of time. These festivals and shows would be around 3 days and I would meet anywhere from 300-1,000 people.”

However, starting a business didn’t come without its challenges.

The “you’re too young” dilemma

One of the challenges Yasmeen faced when she was a 15 year old trying to close deals with customers was being too young. She recalled her experience dealing with a coffee shop owner who tried to take advantage of her youth. She shared, “The owner of the coffee shop and I discussed a deal, where I was going to supply every week then suddenly he tried to lower the price for the cake pops I was selling.”

She added, “There came to a point where I had to confront him. He eventually started to say things like you’re so young, you don’t know what you’re doing.” Fortunately, Yasmeen was able to resolve this with the help of her parents and get the coffee shop owner to pay what he owed her.

The key takeaway from this experience? It’s really important to have a support structure especially when you’re young and trying to start a business. She shared, “It’s very difficult to be a student entrepreneur. When my parents see me at 2 in the morning and they tell me to keep going. Sometimes, I do need that push. Just seeing people around me that are supportive helps keep me running. After GSEA, I now have all this support and network as well.”

2015-05-19-1432071296-4583987-1374826_489932451114267_1042796791_n.jpg Yasmeen selling at the Cake Pop Place booth at one of the festival events she attended

Favorite moments

Despite these challenges and the tough balancing act of being a student entrepreneur, Yasmeen enjoys seeing people eat her cake pops especially when she goes to community events and donates cake pops to partner organizations.

She shared, “When I make cake pops, I generally make extras just in case. However, if they don’t sell, I don’t want them to go to waste so I donate them to a children’s hospital. When you bring in these bouquet of cake pops and they’re all decorated and it makes the kids all happy, that’s usually one of the most impactful moments.”

Yasmeen also won’t forget her first commercial order where she had to make 500 cake pops. She even initially thought that her friend was pranking her. She shared, “A business called up and their budget was in the thousands. It was definitely interesting because they were looking to give the cake pops to investors.”

With this, Yasmeen had to take a day off from school, and spent her free time that entire week finishing the order.

The Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards

Yasmeen shared with me how winning the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards and attending the global finals where she got to hear the pitch of the college finalists really helped her with her college decision and what she wanted to do when she graduated high school — “I want to continue being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is what I’m doing for the rest of my life.”

But how did it all start? Yasmeen recalled looking for college scholarships for entrepreneurial students when she came across the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards and decided to just apply for it. After filling in a lengthy application and going through an interview, Yasmeen didn’t know what to expect.

She shared, “They called me a day early. And I thought oh know and they’re telling me I didn’t make it. But when they told me I won, I started crying. I was in the pool on vacation. The people next to me were just like what just happened.” And the rest is history.

Yasmeen had the time of her life in the global finals where she got to interact with entrepreneurs from all over the world. While initially Yasmeen thought that the other competitors wouldn’t take her seriously because she was a high school student, she was amazed by the openness of the entrepreneurship community.

2015-05-19-1432071033-6734158-17235785762_ce0d439362_o.jpg Photobooth at the GSEA Finals with the other finalists!

She shared, “Their reactions were pretty great. That’s the great thing I found out about the entrepreneurship community, everyone treats everyone equally. They’re always willing to help out. I had older judges going to me and saying, ‘Oh you have this new idea, let me know, I’m willing to invest.'”

All this energy from meeting fellow entrepreneurs has gotten Yasmeen even more excited for the next chapter of her life–College at the University of Maryland’s Entrepreneurship Program.

Future Plans

Yasmeen hopes to create an actual shop model for Cake Pop Place in the future. She explained, “Right now, I’m running out of my house. I have an idea, and I have a base sort of plan. I’m just trying to find the money to get the business self-sustaining. My future idea for the business is a modern cake pop lounge, where you can go and have a quiet place and other places where you can go talk and hang with your friends.”

It’s been such a surreal journey for Yasmeen so far, but this is exactly what she loves about entrepreneurship. She ended our interview by saying, “There are dreamers and doers. Then there are entrepreneurs. We’re both of them. We like to dream, we like to take risk but we also like to take action.”

You can visit the Cake Pop Place website here for more information.

—About the Author—

David Ongchoco is a student entrepreneur and avid storyteller from the Philippines studying at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in what he likes to call, LIFE. He is currently working on expanding his nonprofit organization YouthHack. It’s David’s goal to make an impact in the lives of as many people possible while constantly learning new things every single day. David can be reached at

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Police In Mississippi Town Buy New Station, Cruisers With Funds From Aggressive Civil Forfeiture Program

The sign outside a new, $4.1 million law enforcement training facility in Richland, Mississippi, reads, “Richland Police Station tearfully donated by drug dealers.” As reported on Monday, it’s a proud declaration of the fact that funding for the building, as well as for a new fleet of Dodge Charger police cruisers, came entirely from a civil asset forfeiture program used by police in this town of about 7,000 people.

But the sign also suggests a certain blitheness in the face of strong public criticism of civil asset forfeiture — the legal tool that allows police to violate due process and property rights and treat anyone caught in their net like a drug dealer to be relieved of their money, even when there’s no evidence of criminal activity.

Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which police can seize property they suspect is related to criminal activity. Police don’t charge the owner of that property with a crime, and the mere existence of cash, for example, is often enough for an officer to decide he or she has “probable cause” to make a seizure. The charges are filed against the property itself, which can also include jewelry, cars or houses. The property can then be sold, with part of the proceeds flowing back to the department that made the seizure.

At that point, the burden of proof is typically flipped onto the owner, who often has to wage a costly legal battle to prove that he or she obtained the property legally in the first place. In effect, the property, and by extension the owner, is considered guilty until proven innocent.

As a result, countless numbers of innocent people have ended up “tearfully donating” their money to law enforcement, alongside those who were actually drug dealers, but were never charged with any drug crimes. A 2014 series in The Washington Post showed that since 2001, U.S. law enforcement has seized at least $2.5 billion in cash alone — all from people who were never charged with a crime, and all without a warrant being issued. Included in this have been numerous instances of police seizing relatively small amounts of cash, as well as taking money from people who had documents proving their money came from legitimate sources. Last month, Drug Enforcement Administration agents used this tool to seize $16,000 from an aspiring music video producer riding a train through Albuquerque, New Mexico, on his way to start a career in Hollywood. The seized money represented his entire life savings. The producer is now contesting that seizure in court.

Richland Mayor Mark Scarborough is a major supporter of the drug interdiction efforts that have promoted civil asset forfeiture in the city since 2006. He and police Chief WR “Russel” James characterized the program to Watchdog as an important tool in fighting the drug trade that flows through Richland on Interstate 20. They claimed civil forfeiture creates a revenue stream that saves taxpayer dollars by filling the city’s coffers with seized drug money. The $1 million down payment recently paid for the new police station came from this pool of money.

Watchdog — a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which Media Matters describes as a conservative news organizationreported Monday that Richland’s four-officer interdiction team seized $1.2 million in cash and property in 2013 and $506,400 in 2014, leaving the city’s civil forfeiture account at more than $2.3 million. Proceeds are split with a neighboring police department and the local district attorney.

As examples of the program’s effectiveness, Scarborough pointed Watchdog to a $485,000 cash seizure made shortly after the program launched in 2006. While it’s not hard to understand why that much cash would have raised suspicion, many cases of civil asset forfeiture are far less straightforward.

Mississippi law doesn’t require police to collect or report data on forfeiture use or proceeds, so it’s hard to know specifically which seizures made in Richland may have been controversial or contested in court. It’s possible that the town’s officers were remarkably successful at picking out drug dealers instead of innocent civilians. The problem with the state law and civil asset forfeiture more generally, critics say, is that it doesn’t actually require officers to differentiate between the two.

Mississippi’s civil asset forfeiture laws earned a D-plus grade from the Institute for Justice, a libertarian group that focuses on civil liberties.

“The state only needs to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is related to a crime and thus forfeitable, a standard lower than the beyond a reasonable doubt required for a criminal conviction,” the group writes in an explanation of the grade.

The Institute for Justice also points to a key problem underscored in the Watchdog report: There’s a clear profit motive for police in Richland and across Mississippi to prioritize civil asset forfeiture as a way to directly benefit their departments. If police want new equipment or expensive new resources and can’t get the local government to write these costs into the budget, officers can simply seize more property in order to come up with the funds.

This dynamic presents a perverse set of incentives that opens the door for abuse. A recent report on civil asset forfeiture in California published by the Drug Policy Alliance found evidence of police departments supplanting their budgets with forfeiture revenue — a federally prohibited practice in which cities cut law enforcement budgets with the understanding that police will fill these gaps with revenue from seizures. DPA also found instances of departments in California budgeting future forfeiture revenue, another federally prohibited practice that effectively forces police to pursue seizures in order to pay for the items on their budget.

These practices can lead departments to prioritize civil forfeiture over general public safety concerns, often employing methods that end up targeting people who are vulnerable and less likely to have the means to contest a seizure.

Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, expressed concern that Richland could be headed in this direction.

“Police here have clearly distorted their priorities and are seizing property to fund buildings and other amenities,” McGrath told The Huffington Post. “The real question is, are they engaged in policing for profit or the neutral administration of justice?”

There has been some bipartisan movement in favor of civil asset forfeiture reform at the national level, though in recent months the most effective changes have been happening at the state level.

A law passed in Montana earlier this month increased protections for property owners, though it failed to close a loophole that allows police in the state to circumvent state laws in any case conducted in cooperation with federal authorities.

In New Mexico, a new law set to go into effect in July will completely overhaul the system of incentives for civil asset forfeiture by funneling proceeds into a general fund, instead of to the department that makes the seizure. The law also explicitly prohibits local authorities from circumventing state laws by seeking federal forfeiture.

A number of other states have also considered efforts to reform civil asset forfeiture this legislative session. Mississippi is not among them.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Burundi police fire teargas, beat anti-president protesters

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) – Burundi police on Tuesday fired teargas and beat protesters demanding President Pierre Nkurunziza end his bid for a third term next month, in a resurgence of unrest that has stoked fears of ethnic conflict in Africa’s Great Lakes.