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The Internet Marketer
Janet Peischel's The Internet Marketer: Four ways to identify fake news

Fake news is under fire by the Trump administration. Many people who believe fake news believe everything they see in print.

“I read it on the Internet, so it must be true, right?”

Really, really wrong.

If you’re getting your news from the exaggerated headlines at the checkout counter and dubious Internet sites, it’s time you realized that you’re likely reading fake news.

Whatever happened to critical thinking?

What’s disturbing is that we seem to have raised a generation of people who have lost the ability to think, to question, to differentiate between legitimate reporting and that which is pure fabrication. People should have a fundamental sense of media literacy.

Here are four ways to evaluate the legitimacy of a news story.

1. Pay attention to the domain and URL

Established news organizations usually own their domains, and they have a standard look that you will recognize.

Sites that end with should tip you off that they may not be legitimate. This is true even when the site looks professional and has semi-recognizable logos.

An example: is a legitimate news source; is not.

2. Read the About section

Most sites will have a lot of information about the news outlet, the company that runs it, its leadership, mission and the organization’s ethics.

The language used here is straightforward. If it’s melodramatic and overblown, it’s a red flag. You also should be able to find information about the organization’s leadership all over the web.

Google them and look at their credentials. If they’re questionable, so is the publication.

3. Be wary of the lack of quotes

Most publications quote multiple sources in each story from professionals with expertise in the fields they are discussing. If it’s a serious or controversial issue, there are more likely to be quotes – lots of them — from industry experts.

Look for professors, industry heavyweights or well-known academics who can speak to the research they’ve done. If they are referencing research, look up those studies to validate them.

4. Be equally wary of the source of quotes

Check the sourcing. Is it a reputable source with a title that you can verify through a quick Google search? Let’s say you’re reading an article about President Obama’s wanting to take everyone’s guns away, and the article includes a quote.

Now, there are transcripts of pretty much every address or speech President Obama has ever given; they’re all recorded and archived.

Take a minute and Google some of the article’s quotes to understand the topic, audience and date. Even if he did an exclusive interview with a publication, that same quote will be referenced in other stories.

A free press and independent journalism are central to democracy. We now have the ability to validate the news we’re receiving. It’s up to each of us to be a critical thinker, to support free and independent journalism.

Our Founding Fathers understood its importance to a system of healthy checks and balances, which is fundamental to our democracy.

Beleaguered gun maker Remington points to bankruptcy court

MADISON, N.C. — Remington, the gun maker beset by falling sales and lawsuits tied to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, has reached a financing deal that would allow it to continue operating as it seeks Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The maker of the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used in the Connecticut shooting that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead in 2012 said Monday that the agreement with lenders will reduce its debt by about $700 million and add about $145 million in new capital.

The company was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting, but investors repulsed by the massacres distanced themselves from the company’s owner, investment firm Cerberus Capital Management. Cerberus acquired the gun maker in 2007, just when gun sales began to skyrocket.

Firearm background checks, a reliable barometer of gun sales, had risen steadily for at least a decade.

That changed last year with the election of President Donald Trump, and it has taken a toll on the gun industry.

Gun sales spike on the election of candidates who are perceived to be more likely to pursue more stringent gun control laws, whether or not there is any truth in that perception.

The opposite has occurred since Trump was elected. He became the first sitting president to address the National Rifle Association in three decades, telling members at their annual meeting last spring that “You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”

Firearm background checks declined faster in 2017 than in any year since 1998, when the FBI first began compiling the data.

While Remington is not a publicly traded company, shares in rival Sturm, Ruger & Co. slid almost 3 percent Monday. It’s shares have fallen almost 14 percent this year.

Remington Outdoor Co., the nation’s oldest gun maker, will attempt to file a prepackaged reorganization plan with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Delaware under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code.

The company, based in Madison, North Carolina, did not respond to attempts by The Associated Press to contact the company about the timing of bankruptcy procedures.

Analysis: Trump's economic policy rooted in debt

WASHINGTON — One clear principle runs through President Donald Trump’s emerging economic policy: Debt is good.

When defending a tax plan or laying out his budget, the man who once called himself “the king of debt” is trying to persuade Americans there’s no price to pay for running trillion dollar budget deficits over the next few years. Stronger economic growth will permanently follow the borrowing spree, officials argue, even as many economists and investors already warn about what could happen when the debt becomes due.

The White House budget plan released Monday is the latest example of the Trump principle. The budget proposal not only envisions soaring deficits through 2020, but it also outlines an infrastructure plan that would encourage state and local government to borrow heavily. The result, the plan suggests, would be exceptional growth that would then cause deficits to fall. The proposal assumes economic growth will climb above 3 percent and eventually settle into a solid 2.8 percent groove.

The plan amounts to a gamble that nothing can slow a high-flying U.S. economy and force a reckoning over the debt. Not higher interest rates. Not rising inflation. Not a foreign crisis. Not an aging U.S. population. Not even — based on the budget plan’s own estimates — an increase in the unemployment rate. Should the economy stumble, the risk is that the gravitational pull of the debt would worsen as the government would likely borrow more to stop a downturn.

“They’re assuming that the expansion lasts forever, basically,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “You have to ask what will ultimately happen when we do go into a recession.”

O’Sullivan expects that ratings agencies could downgrade the U.S. government’s credit rating. He cites the $1.5 trillion higher debt after Trump signed tax cuts into law last year and the bipartisan deal reached last week to fund the government through 2019, which puts the U.S. on track to hit trillion-dollar deficits next year.

Trump’s willingness to embrace debt is in direct contradiction to years of Republican rhetoric on the dangers of deficits and breaks his campaign promises. As a candidate, Trump vowed not just to balance the budget but pay down the entire national debt, which is currently $20.5 trillion.

But as a businessman, Trump was anything but debt averse. Several of his companies filed for bankruptcy protection after being unable to service debt, leaving investors and contractors with losses. Trump portrayed this experience during the campaign as proof of his financial shrewdness.

“I’m the king of debt. I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me,” he told CBS News in 2016, adding if he was unable to fully honor any obligations that he would tell investors that “the economy just crashed” and renegotiate the terms. But Trump has cautioned that he likes debt for his companies but not the country, saying that the government was “sitting on a time bomb” with its yearly deficits.

For now, the Trump administration is saying that the U.S. economic landscape has been overhauled over the past year. With the passage of the tax cuts, the economy is now set for a long-term acceleration, rather than a quick gain followed by a slowdown.

“It’s not a sugar high,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told Fox News on Sunday. “We have fundamentally changed the structure of the American economy to where we think we can change the long-term trends of our growth possibilities.”

But investors are unconvinced. They’re already starting to charge the government higher interest rates in anticipation of rising deficits. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury climbed as high as 2.89 percent on Monday, up from a recent low of 2.06 percent in September.

Many forecasters assume that any economic upswing is temporary, but the Trump budget sees no end in sight.

Trump’s budget overlaps with the mass retirement of baby boomers, whose use of programs such as Medicare and Social Security will likely cause government expenditures and the debt to keep increasing. Indeed, the government is borrowing more at a moment when unemployment is already at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, a time when many economists say it should be repairing its balance sheet by borrowing less.

Even before the tax cuts and two-year spending deal, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that publicly held debt would equal more than 90 percent of the U.S. economy in 2027. The Trump budget assumes savings that would put the debt at less than 75 percent of the economy.

Trump achieves some of his debt savings by slashing Medicare by $554 billion over the next decade among other substantial cuts to programs at the Labor Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere. But he also assumes that the entire economy will be $3.1 trillion bigger than previously forecast because of his policies.

Some of that growth would potentially come from new roadways and upgraded airports. But states appear to be increasingly hesitant to borrow more than they otherwise would for infrastructure projects, despite the financial incentives being introduced by Trump.

State budgets are already being squeezed as costs for education and programs such as Medicaid are rising faster than tax revenues, said Gabriel Petek, a managing director at Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings.

“The plan doesn’t appear to fundamentally alter existing incentives at the state level,” Petek said. “The states we have been talking to are not eager to take on more debt.”

Real Estate in the Napa Valley
Burt Polson's Real Estate in the Napa Valley: Shaking up real estate values with the new fault maps - Part 2

The Napa earthquake of 2014 likely affected the value of several homes close to the fault with several owners finding it may be difficult to sell at some time in the future.

In part one, we reviewed the new Alquist-Priolo earthquake fault zone map that now confirms the location of the fault running from north Vallejo, through American Canyon up through northwest Napa.

When examining a map, you will find a yellow-shaded area following the actual fault and averages a quarter of a mile in width. This area is where development could be restricted.

The Cuttings Wharf map includes the area of Highway 29 through American Canyon. There, you will find many undeveloped commercial parcels that unfortunately are within the earthquake fault zone.

One project currently underway is the Village at Vintage Ranch, a 159-unit apartment development in American Canyon.

Located on the northeast corner of Highway 29 and American Canyon Road, the West Napa Fault runs directly through the project.

As part of a project’s entitlements, the developer is required to identify the exact location of the fault.

Locating a fault is usually accomplished by hiring a geologist to perform reconnaissance of the site by first digging several deep trenches perpendicular to the probable location.

The geologist can then determine the location and direction of the fault by examining the walls of the trench.

They also use trenching that may have occurred on other adjacent properties, thereby mapping out the fault. The Walgreens site to the south had trenching done before development the geologist can use to confirm the direction of the fault.

The geologist identified the location of the fault within the Village at Vintage Ranch and recommended no inhabited structure within 50 feet on each side of the fault.

The requirement essentially bisected the development into two areas with the 100-foot section being used for parking and greenbelt.

The real test of value lies in a site with development potential. The Village at Vintage Ranch site is zoned cluster residential allowing for 12 to 18 units per acre.

At 11.5 acres, the possibility exists for 138 to 207 units. This project is entitled for 159 units and falls within the range, but there was potential for more.

Many factors go in to determine the potential number of units allowed on a site including parking, streets, landscaping, easements, drainage, topography, and setbacks with the fault line playing a significant role.

Other sites in American Canyon along Highway 29 are within the fault zone and may even have the fault run through them.

The development potential of a parcel could be affected so much so that the size of a structure may be drastically reduced or even found to be undevelopable.

In either case, the potential for the number of units or size of the building correlates to the value of the parcel to a developer.