Massachusetts Web Design Company Moves Out of Founders’ Basement

??????????????????????????????????

A small web design company recently moved out of its founders’ basement in Danvers, Massachusetts.

The Salem News reports that Mike and Jodi Sperling founded the web design company Sperling Interactive in 2008, the beginning of the Great Recession. The company has spent the last seven years working out of their house, first in a guestroom, then another guestroom, then in a playroom, and finally in the basement. Before moving out to a separate office, the company had six employees working in the basement.

The Sperlings decided to move out of the basement when they were expecting their second child. They decided it was best to separate their office from their home.

In February, the company moved to a 2,200-square-foot condominium across from the Old Salem Town Hall and the Salem Farmers’ Market. Its ribbon cutting ceremony in June was attended by the mayor, members of the local chambers of commerce, and more than 100 of its clients.

The company now has eight full-time and nine part-time employees.

Before founding the web design company, Mike worked for the Eagle Tribune as a digital media specialist. Unsatisfied with his work, he and his wife decided to start their own web design business in 2008 “right as the stock market was crashing,” as he put it. He was 24.

“The strategy was to try and go after businesses or industries that were recession proof,” Mike said. To him, “recession proof” meant clients in photography and higher education. The company’s first major client was Salem State University, and it still retains the university as a client.

Mike is well aware of how competitive the web design industry is but believes being an independent business is better than being a “lone wolf”; that is, a single web designer doing the entire project by him- or herself and thereby straining their quality, according to Mike.

“They are on their own,” he explained. “The level of service you are going to get is not the same level of service you can come to us to get, because it’s the same guy selling the websites, maintaining the websites, building the websites, doing the graphic design.”

The company provides custom-designed websites, not derived from a template.

“Our philosophy is we start from a white screen or a white piece of paper, depending on the kind of design you are doing, every time,” he said.

In addition to web design, the company offers video services, search engine optimization (SEO), print designs, blogging. The latter service is very popular with clients as businesses that maintain a blog have on average 434% more indexed pages than those that do not.

Apocalypse Now: 666 is the Winning Number For Pennsylvania Lottery

lotteria2

More than 8,000 Pennsylvanians won the state’s “Pick 3” lottery using the notorious combination 666.

ReadingEagle.com reports that though the end of days isn’t here just yet, 8,333 players in last Saturday’s Pick 3 drawing won a total of $2.08 million using the demonic combo. 666, of course, refers to symbol of “the Beast” in the Book of Revelations (13:18) and is generally associated with the Devil.

Ominously enough, 666 has been drawn 23 times since the Pick 3 games (previously called “The Daily Number”) began in 1977. The last time it was drawn during the day drawing was in 2011. The last time the it came up in the evening drawing was in 2010.

Drawing a triple, any triple, is exceedingly rare. Professor Eric Landquist of mathematics at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania says there’s less than a 1% chance for a triple to be picked.

“Since three digits zero through nine are picked for the winning number, there is a 1/1000 probability (0.001 or one in a thousand) for any three-digit number to be the winning number, including the infamous lottery number of the beast,” Landquist said.

Triples have been drawn exactly 200 times since Pick 3’s debut: 153 times in the evening drawings and 47 times in the day drawings. In 2010, triplets were drawn 14 times, a game record.

Pick 3 involves players placing 50 cent and one dollar bets per play with up to five plays per ticket. The combos can be chosen by the buyer or at random by the lottery terminal. Placed in panels, the five combos can be played straight, boxed, straight boxed, super straight, front paired, back paired, etc. A straight bet’s odds is 500:1.

Lottery winnings can range from just a few dollars to those so large that they must be paid in installments, rather than in a lump sum lottery payout. Many lottery winners, therefore, sell their payments for either a lump sum or an annuity. Immediate annuities, for example, can deliver payments as quickly as 30 days since the agreement.

‘Fat Jewish’ Instagram Star Gets Modeling Contract, TV Show Development, and Book Deal

Vector agreement icon - hand signing contract on white paper

Josh Ostrovsky plans to be everywhere someday soon, and he wants his fame to get so out of control that he alienates his loved ones.

Ostrovsky, better known as “The Fat Jew” and @TheFatJewish on Instagram, just inked a deal with One Management agency, which also represents models Bar Refaeli and Karolina Kurkova. In addition to modeling, Ostrovsky will also begin developing two TV projects with Amazon and Comedy Central.

He also has a book deal in the works for his autobiographical Money Pizza Respect and a wine called White Girl Rosé, which he promoted on Nicole Richie’s VH1 show Candidly Nicole.

The rising star, who has about five million followers on Instagram, most recently made headlines for getting naked at the launch party for the wine.

When contacted by the Hollywood Reporter to talk about his new deal, he gave an amusing interview that left readers wondering whether or not he was serious much of the time.

On getting discovered, he quipped, “I was laying on a towel in a parking spot in Soho — I put money in the meter so it was mine to do whatever I wanted with — and was tanning in a used Versace speedo that I bought on eBay, and got spotted.”

Being a heavier gentleman, Ostrovsky said that he was happy that the industry was featuring more plus-size models. But the industry, he said, needed to cater more to those models during runway shows.

“I want to see a nacho machine backstage at someone’s fall show — I’m looking at you, Marc Jacobs!” Ostrovsky joked.

When asked about the challenges of his career, Ostrovsky only had one suggestion: he really wants a more stylish pajama onesie for adults.

“I love a good onesie,” Ostrovsky said, “but the people who design them have no taste whatsoever. I’m going to start a high-end onesie line, so you can luxuriate like a giant adult baby.”

While Ostrovsky’s answer may have been satirical, the entrepreneur could fill a void in the market since 61% of people surveyed said they don’t have enough pajama options to choose from.

Ostrovsky’s dream campaign, meanwhile, would feature him and Suri Cruise (daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes) in matching outfits.

When asked if he would take over Hollywood, Ostrovsky outlined his plans for the future as: “I hope to get uncomfortably famous, develop a raging drug problem, then spiral out of control and surround myself with people who only want to use me while simultaneously alienating people who actually love and care about me!”

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner Vacation in Bahamas Despite Ongoing Divorce

Leadership Signpost Showing Vision Values Empowerment and Encouragement

Hollywood power-couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner were spotted in their vacation home in the Bahamas earlier this month after announcing they are seeking a divorce.

E! Online reports that the celebrities went to the Bahamas with their three children for a “family trip” even though Affleck and Garner are going through a divorce.

Paparazzi photos show the soon-to-be divorced couple (they have already been separated for 10 months) sitting next to each other on a set of steps. Although they appear to be cordial with each other, Affleck and Garner also look stressed out during what looks an intimate discussion. Affleck still has his wedding ring on but Garner noticeably does not.

A source told People that the A-listers “seemed to be cordial to each other. They would look at each other and speak and then both look away in silence.”

“A lot of the time, they seemed to just stare off into space,” the spectator added.

The family has been going to this vacation home (which they refer to as a “private and special location”) for years, although this time around their time there was brief. On July 3rd, Affleck left to attend San Diego’s Comic-Con to promote his upcoming movie Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Garner left on July 5th to film Miracles From Heaven in Atlanta.

Media outlets recently found out that Affleck is living in a separate guesthouse on Garner’s Atlanta property.

In a joint statement, the couple claim to be moving “forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children.”

Celebrity marriage experts believe that their divorce is “not contentious” and that they simply want what is best for their children.

Married in 2005, the couple have actually been separated since last year.

61 Year-Old Woman Sentenced to Six Months in Prison For Counterfeiting Operation

???????????????

On June 2nd, a 61-year-old woman was sentenced to six months in federal prison for her part in a counterfeiting scheme involving fake money orders from Nigeria.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that West Virginia native Linda Walker was convicted of passing off counterfeit money orders shipped from con artists in Nigeria to a connection in Atlanta, who in turn passed them off to Walker and co-conspirator Monica Mason.

Mason was recently convicted but was sentenced to probation and home confinement.

Her defense lawyer argued that Walker turned to the scamming operation after losing her job as a secretary for the West Virginia Division of Veterans Affairs. The defense also pointed out that the amounts stolen from each victim was relatively small, usually less than $1000.

Her lawyer recommended probation during sentencing, deeming the defendant to be a person of high morals. Several of Walker’s friends testified to that effect in court.

However, the judge in the case sentenced her to six months in federal prison and six months of home detention upon her release on probation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Hull pointed out during court that though the amounts stolen from any particular victim were small, the number of victims was quite high.

“The scheme functioned on volume of victims deceived, not the size of the amount of money fraudulently obtained from any particular victim,” Hull said.

The Atlanta connection, Shawn Foote, is awaiting sentencing after having plead guilty.

The scheme involved Walker and Mason laundering counterfeit money orders and checks from Foote by fooling victims into thinking they were acting as “mystery shoppers.” The victims would purchase the money orders of up to $975 each in order to make small purchases in local stores and would send any leftover funds back to Mason and Walker.

When the victims’ banks, however, released the money orders and checks were fake, they forced the victims to pay the money lost.

When Foote was caught in 2013 due to an informant, she confessed to laundering more than $337,000 in counterfeit notes.

In order to protect against counterfeit notes and currency, many companies use money counting machines that can automatically detect fake notes as well as maintain 100% accuracy for cash transactions.

Frozen Embryo Sparks Custody Battle for One Divorced San Francisco Couple

Signing  divorce papers

Within a typical divorce proceeding, just a little over 10% of custody cases are decided during the mediating process.

But what happens when the child in question is still an embryo?

After being married for five years, Mr. Mimi Lee and Stephen Findley officially divorced in April. The only unsettled dispute between them, however, is the destiny of five frozen embryos that the couple had produced during their marriage.

After Lee learned that she had breast cancer, the San Francisco couple made the embryos to plan for their future family. Although Lee is cancer free, her treatment has left her infertile. The frozen embryos represent her only chance to have children that genetically belong to her.

Findley, however, suspects that Lee’s desires to keep the embryos are motivated by money. During the settlement of their assets, the embryos were brought up by Lee; Findley claims the manner in which she put a price tag on their unborn children made him ‘sick to his stomach’.

Findley also claims that the couple had never gone through with having children because of unsavory power dynamic between him and his ex-wife, and he feared having children with her.

In 2013, Findley filed for a divorced, claiming his then-wife had ‘stepped all over’ him.

When the couples produced the embryos, Findley claimed that the two of them signed a form, agreeing to destroy them in the case of divorce. While Findley stated he wants to be a parent that provides for his child, he does not want to produce children with Lee outside of their marriage.

The judge has 90 days to deliberate and present his final verdict.

In past cases involving divorce and embryonic cells, the ruling has generally fallen in favor of the side opposing procreation.

The two noted exceptions, however, were cases that involved women who had cancer and were rendered infertile.

Chiropractor Sentenced to Five Months in Prison After Fraudulent Insurance Claim

hands of a prisoner behind bars

A Pennsylvanian chiropractor is being prosecuted for a fraudulent insurance claim after an accident in Maryland. Larry Herman has pleaded guilty in a Pennsylvania court to filing false health care statements, which is a felony.

These statements were filed as a fraudulent automobile accident claim to USAA insurance in May 2012, after he sustained injuries in a Maryland crash that took place in August 2011. Herman, who owns Herman Chiropractic in Waynesboro, PA, allegedly forced a colleague to create false records. Demanding $60,000 from USAA, he printed the documents with a letterhead for a fake business.

The median salary for chiropractors is somewhere around $66,160.

During his hearing, Herman had several friends testify to U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo about his good character, pointing out his involvement charities such as Marathon Maniacs, his former membership of the board of directors of Running USA, his founding of Running Down a Dream, and his win of the 2006 Lewis Memorial Annual Award from the Frederick Steeplechasers’ Running Club. But that would not be enough to get him out of prison time.

“I’ve grown to know Larry as a rare and truly selfless person,” James Hyrkas said. He said Herman’s guilty plea to a felony crime was an “absolute aberration” in his overall character. In addition to the friends who testified, 17 more people sent the judge letters of support.

Herman’s attorney attempted to persuade the judge to consider a 10 to 16 month sentence, as he never even received the $60,000 from USAA. Herman was also the only person to be tried for the claim, despite the involvement of several others as well. However, sentencing guidelines are based on intended, not actual loss, and the involvement of others was based on coercion, so the arguments did not stand.

“I apologize to everyone involved for my actions,” Herman said.

While the judge agreed that the actions were out of character for Herman, she said that a just punishment was necessary and sentenced him to five months in prison, five months of home confinement within a one year sentence of supervised release, and a $700 fine.

The maximum penalty for this charge is five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Why Faith-Based Entertainment Remains Largely Absent From Comic-Con

comic con

Every summer, San Diego Comic-Con brings some of the biggest names in geekdom royalty together to one place — along with countless droves of adoring fans.

And while you’re likely to catch a glimpse of a Jedi knight, a debonair cannibal, a mutant or a crew of zombie apocalypse survivors at this event, there’s one thing you’d be hard-pressed to see at Comic-Con: any representation of faith-based media.

According to a July 12 New York Times article, faith-based entertainment, despite making up an increasing share of mainstream movies and TV, still remains mostly absent from the more cult-like fare of Comic-Con.

Mostly, but not completely absent.

At one Comic-Con panel, writer Mark Russell and cartoonist Shannon Wheeler went through an irreverent, 10-minute slideshow detailing the entire (abridged, of course) history of the Bible. When chronicling the epic flood that would have obliterated humankind if it weren’t for Noah’s Ark, Russell displayed a slide entitled “Sorry for the genocide.”

The panel was promotion for Russell and Wheeler’s graphic novel, “God Is Disappointed in You,” which features similarly sardonic re-tellings of familiar Bible stories. Its sequel, called “Apocrypha Now,” is soon to be released as well.

“It’s basically the Bible written for people in a bar,” Russell said, insisting the graphic novel is intended to make the Bible more accessible, not turn it into a punchline.

Still, Russell and Wheeler’s project remained one of the very few representations of faith or Christian ministries in pop culture at this year’s Comic-Con. And no, people cosplaying as the Weeping Angels from “Doctor Who” don’t count as representations of Christian imagery.

“As a mother of boys, my son grew up playing with Batman and Superman action heroes,” says Kelly Shiley, CEO, Mary Square. “The only similar faith based hero out there was “Bible Man.” In my opinion, it is obvious why Christians shy away from the comic category of media. It is a slippery slope to elevate heroes and action figures when the ULTIMATE hero is the center of your faith. Comics can come off as irrelevant or counter intuitive to the Christian faith. Hollywood is much better poised to make films such as War Room, Fireproof, Courageous, and Against the Giants. These films speak to a much wider audience who is cheering for Hollywood to steer their writers in a positive direction. I hope Hollywood continues to put out movies that I’m proud to take my kids to see.”

Despite the lack of faith at Comic-Con, the overall environment in Hollywood appears to be veering toward more faith-based entertainment. The New York Times reported that last month, some of Hollywood’s biggest studio executives met in Los Angeles to note a resurgence in demand for films and TV shows that reflect religious themes.

“Everywhere I go, people are unhappy with the path we are on,” said Nolan Lebovitz, who attended the recent Los Angeles meeting and said he sees opportunity for more faith in pop culture.

Study: How Do Destination Weddings Actually Save Money?

Beautiful wedding couple

A perhaps counterintuitive new study reveals that the main reason couples choose destination weddings is to save money. In fact, a destination wedding can lead to savings of between $9,000 and $11,000 on average for couples exchanging “I Do’s” in exotic locales.

On average, couples spend $28,385 on a wedding ceremony and reception, but booking a destination wedding allows couples to save money by booking cheaper venues, limiting their guest lists, and for foreign events, stretching each dollar much further. Plus, destination weddings allow many couples to save money by bundling wedding planning and other services together. Combined with romantic vistas of popular vacation destinations like Hawaii and the Caribbean, wedding experts say the choice is a no-brainer for many couples.

“Not only is the money saving aspect the most crucial to them, but at the same time they will tick other requirements which they will receive for booking abroad,” said Matthew Lawson, Ecommerce Director for LoveHolidays.com. “Who wouldn’t want beautiful scenic views, and a personal wedding planner, which you get as standard by booking overseas.”

According to the most popular wedding site of the moment, The Knot, the average wedding has 138 guests, compared to just 86 guests for a destination wedding (96 for domestic destination weddings). So although couples who travel for weddings will spend more per guest, up to $404 per RSVP, they will usually spend less overall.

Of course, destination weddings can still be far more expensive for the guests, even if the bride and groom (or groom and groom, or bride and bride) end up saving money overall. Only 40% of destination weddings included air travel and accommodations for some of their guests last year.

The Knot also reports that one in four U.S. weddings will be destination weddings this year, and that the majority of them will take place in the states. In fact, half of all destination weddings occur in Florida, California, and Nevada.

Health System Responds to Lawsuit That Alleges Wrongful Termination of Doctor

lawsuit

Last month, health system Mercy Springfield and its president, Alan Scarrow, denied allegations in federal court that they unlawfully terminated a doctor after he raised concerns about inappropriate treatment and billing.

The Springfield News-Leader in Missouri reports that in May, Dr. Viran Roger Holden was terminated from his job as a medical oncologist at Mercy Springfield due to concerns of inappropriate behavior of his own, especially involving relationships with fellow employees. Dr. Holden maintains, however, that the real reason for his firing was his attempt at “whistleblowing” to both the hospital’s lawyers as well as to members of the Missouri Board of Registration for the Healing Arts.

Dr. Holden filed the lawsuit soon after he was fired, saying he was convinced that it had to do with his complaints against two doctors who “were billing for medically unnecessary services and/or performing inappropriate treatment.”

In their responses, Mercy Springfield and Scarrow adamantly denied the accusations, including Dr. Holden’s claim that he had even talked to the hospital’s lawyers. Rather, his termination was due to two relationships he had with other employees, something that he himself admitted to during a meeting with hospital administrators in March.

In addition, Dr. Holden was accused of unlawfully writing prescriptions for narcotics in 2012, something that he argued was appropriate during the same meeting.

What makes the lawsuit particularly tricky is that Dr. Holden himself admits to the affairs in court documents. However, he denied that his termination was, in Mercy Springfield’s own term, “for cause,” arguing instead that it came about only when he started bringing up the arbitrary treatments.

Scarrow and Mercy Springfield’s court responses maintain that the doctor admitted “to the majority of the allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation levied against him by the employees” during the March meeting and that he “engaged in for ’cause’ terminable events and that Mercy took the necessary and appropriate steps and actions to make the for ’cause’ determination.”

The case, despite taking place in a medical setting, is a wrongful termination lawsuit in nature. Employee lawsuits have grown by 400% since 1995.