Is the U.S. Minimum Wage Going Up?

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By Carlos Gamino

President Joe Biden has announced that he’d take action to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour in January, which would be the first increase since 2009. It’s currently $7.25 per hour, so doubling the current amount could make a huge impact on the U.S.’s economy – but is it possible?

Can President Biden Raise the Minimum Wage?

There’s no doubt that raising the minimum wage would benefit many hourly workers – both here in Wisconsin and across the rest of the country. In fact, any increase would boost the incomes of over 17 million people and, according to economists, raise about 1.3 million Americans out of poverty.

“People tell me that’s going to be hard to pass – Florida just passed it, as divided as that state is they just passed it,” Biden said. “The rest of the country is ready to move as well.”

As you might imagine, many businesses are against the increase. Some company owners say that they’ll be forced to make labor cuts as people become “too expensive” to hire – but several U.S. cities and states have raised their hourly minimum wages to $15 and haven’t yet appeared to damage any labor markets.

The Pew Research Center says that two out of three Americans support a $15-per-hour minimum wage, however – and the responses are split along party lines. Notably, though, 61 percent of Americans with household incomes of over $75,000 per year support an increase.

If the federal minimum wage goes up, it’ll take precedence over Wisconsin’s state minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. That means companies in Wisconsin will have to pay employees at least $15 per hour. Although states can have their own minimum wage laws, and the minimum wage can be anything the state deems necessary (even no minimum wage at all), workers are entitled to at least the federal minimum wage – regardless of what state laws say. On the other side of the coin, states that have minimum wage laws with wages exceeding the federal minimum wage, workers are entitled to the state’s wages. California’s minimum wage, for example, is currently double the federal minimum wage – and all workers are entitled to the state’s minimum wage, not the federal one.

What Do You Think?

Do you think the federal minimum wage should increase to $15 per hour? What do you think will happen if the federal government codifies the increase? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions, so please share them on my Facebook page or my Twitter feed!

Carlos Gamino

2020’s Weirdest Crime Stories

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By Carlos Gamino

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been the strangest year that any of us has experienced – criminals included. Check out the weirdest crime stories that hit the news in 2020 (and cross your fingers for 2021).

The Weirdest Crime Stories From 2020

Some of these weird crime stories come from our own backyard – and some are halfway across the world. Regardless of location, we hope you enjoy shaking your head at them like we did.

Tree Theft Has Authorities… Stumped

In Madison, someone stole a rare pine tree from the University of Wisconsin Arboretum – and it wasn’t small, so authorities are trying to figure out how the pine-pickers got it out unnoticed. The tree, a 25-foot Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain Pine, was chopped down sometime between November 5 and November 9, and whomever did it is still on the loose. Authorities suspect that someone is using the tree as part of a holiday display somewhere nearby.

Fake Death Claim Comes to Life

A New York man wanted to avoid being sentenced for two felonies (who wouldn’t?), so he faked his own death and tried to submit a false death certificate to authorities. It looks like he avoided English class in high school, too – the man’s undoing was that he spelled “registry” as “Regsitry.” The typo caught someone’s eye and now he’s facing additional charges.

It’s Okay to Go to a Liquor Store in a Mask – But Not This One

A man took masking up to the extreme by donning a hollowed-out watermelon and strolling into a liquor store to shoplift in Virginia this year. Even worse, he posted a TikTok video that connected the melon to his – well, melon – and authorities who saw the shoplifting on CCTV had an easy time putting two and two together.

What Are Your Favorite Weird Crime Stories From This Year?

I’d love to hear your weird crime stories from 2020, so please share them with me on Facebook or Twitter!

Carlos Gamino

SpaceX Has Sent Its Second Crew of Astronauts to the ISS

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By Carlos Gamino

Elon Musk’s SpaceX program successfully launched four astronauts into space in mid-November, marking the second time the private company has served as a shuttle for NASA. The Falcon rocket took off from Kennedy Space Center with three American astronauts and one Japanese astronaut, each ready to man the International Space Station. The crew is definitely diverse and includes the first Black astronaut on a long-term space station mission, Navy Commander Victor Glover and physicist Shannon Walker.

The capsule the astronauts traveled in, called Resilience, reached orbit in just nine minutes. After the short trip, the astronauts plan to remain aboard the ISS until spring 2021.

Commander Mike Hopkins told the crew, right before liftoff, “By working together through these difficult times, you’ve inspired the nation, the world, and in no small part the name of this incredible vehicle, Resilience.”

The crew, who had been quarantined with their families since October to prevent the spread of coronavirus in space, took several precautions – as did everyone involved in the launch. SpaceX’s founder, Elon Musk, tweeted that he likely had a mild case of coronavirus immediately prior to the launch. NASA’s policy at Kennedy Space Center requires anyone who tests positive to quarantine in isolation until it’s safe for them to return to work.

NASA hopes there will be several crew rotations in partnership with SpaceX in the future.

What Do You Think?

Do you keep up with the ISS and crewmembers aboard it? Have you ever looked for it in the night sky or seen a livestream from it? I’d love to hear what you have to say about the International Space Station, SpaceX or even Elon Musk, so share your thoughts with me on Facebook or Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

Scientists Find Possible Signs of Life on Venus

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Scientists Find Possible Signs of Life on Venus - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Scientists have long been searching for evidence of life on other planets – not necessarily as an escape plan for us, but to prove once and for all that we’re not alone in the vast universe.

And they may have found it.

In September, a group of researchers published a study in Nature Astronomy that explained the discovery of trace gases in Venus’s atmosphere and how it could indicate that there’s life on the planet. More specifically, in the planet’s hyperacidic gas clouds. (Venus’s surface is dusty and hot – temperatures can reach up to 880 degrees F, so it’s unlikely that anything living could survive there.)

Venus’s atmosphere contains phosphine gas, which is typically associated with biological processes. Researchers tried – and continue trying – to connect the gas to non-biological processes, but so far, they’re coming up short.

“We did our very best to show what else would be causing phosphine in the abundance we found on Venus. And we found nothing. We found nothing close,” said MIT molecular astrophysicist Clara Sousa-Silva, who co-authored the study.

The gas molecule is, at least on Earth, a byproduct of bacteria and industrial processes. Here, it’s detectable in rice paddies, landfills and meth labs (so it should go without saying that we definitely don’t recommend taking your science set out to test for it).

This could drive a shift in focus from Mars, which scientists have been exploring as a potential place for exploration, and back to the second rock from the sun. Currently, NASA is thinking about a couple of low-cost robotic missions to Venus that haven’t yet been approved.

What Do You Think?

Are you excited about scientists finding potential signs of life on Venus? Do you think it’s a better idea to explore Venus than Mars? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Twitter feed or on Facebook page!

Carlos Gamino

Court Orders Indonesians to Dig Graves for Refusal to Wear Masks

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8 Indonesians Ordered to Dig Graves for Refusal to Wear Masks - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

A district leader in Cerne, East Java, ordered eight people to dig the graves of coronavirus victims in September. The move, designed as punishment for those who refuse to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, has drawn international applause.

The district leader, identified as Suyono, chose to impose the punishment because the area is suffering from a lack of gravediggers.

“There are only three available gravediggers at the moment, so I thought I might as well put these people to work with them,” Suyono said. “Hopefully, this can create a deterrent effect against violations,” he said.

It’s important to note that the people sentenced to grave-digging didn’t actually bury the bodies; they were only sentenced to dig. However, Suyono maintains that it’s a just punishment. The number of COVID-19 cases are increasing in Indonesia and in many other parts of the world – including the United States, where some experts are saying that the number of fatalities could top 400,000 by the end of 2020.

Other countries, like South Korea, have imposed hefty fines for refusal to mask up. Even in the U.S., some cities and counties are imposing fines as punishment for not wearing a mask, which has been proven to slow or prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

What Do You Think?

Do you think digging graves for coronavirus victims is a fitting punishment for refusing to wear a mask in public? Do you wear a mask in public? What do you believe is a fair punishment – or should there even be a punishment – for those who refuse? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Twitter feed or on Facebook!

Carlos Gamino

Will Wisconsin Schools Reopen During Fall 2020?

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Will Wisconsin Schools Reopen This Fall - Carlos GaminoBy Attorney Carlos Gamino

If you’re like most parents, you’re wondering whether schools in Wisconsin are going to reopen in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic – and you’re concerned about making the right choice for your child if they do. It’s a tough balance; moms and dads all over Wisconsin need to work, and kids need formal education, so what are we all supposed to do?

The State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee met online in mid-July to talk about it, and its members don’t seem too keen on the idea of opening.

“School opening is an engine for all the other respiratory viruses. This is going to be a nightmare for our school districts,” said Dr. Jonathan Temte, a UW-Madison family medicine professor.

Schools all over Wisconsin have been given more than $200 million in COVID-19 relief funds – $45 million for private and charter schools and $155 million for public schools – which may help teachers and school administrators prepare to open the schools with safety precautions in place.

Dan Rossmiller of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards said, “Our goal is to reopen if possible five days a week. Whether that’s realistic or sustainable will depend upon infection rates, the spread of the virus and people’s perceptions about how dangerous that is.”

In June, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released guidelines for reopening. The plan, which totals nearly 90 pages, includes the potential to shift between in-person instruction and virtual learning as necessary, as well the possibility for a four-day school week and short-term closures. The guidelines aren’t mandatory, and nothing in them is a requirement – they’re only meant to help individual administrators make the right choices, according to Deputy State Superintendent Mike Thompson.

Parents who aren’t comfortable with their own school district’s arrangements are free to teach their children at home, provided they’re registered as homeschoolers. You can get more information on Wisconsin’s requirements for homeschooling here.

What Do You Think?

Will you send your children to school in the fall? Do you think it’s safe to do so, or would you prefer to keep them home to limit their potential exposure? How do you feel about Wisconsin’s guidelines? I’d love to hear your opinion on whether our state’s schools should reopen in the fall – and if you believe they should, which restrictions each district should put in place. Please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or Twitter feed to join the conversation!

Attorney Carlos Gamino

Weird Crime: 2020 Edition

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Weird Crime in the U.S. - Carlos Gamino By Carlos Gamino

Every now and then we like to pick up oddball news stories related to crime from across the world, and for 2020 – which is already weird as it is – we’ve uncovered a whole host of almost-unbelievable true crimes, including a couple who faked a woman’s death to keep her out of prison and a 5-year-old boy who wanted to buy a Lamborghini.

West Virginia Couple Fakes Woman’s Death

A West Virginia woman, with the help of her husband and son, attempted to fake her own death so she could avoid prison time. The woman went “missing” on May 31, when her fraud-committing family members said she fell off a cliff while searching for a missing earring. Search and rescue crews, including one from the National Park Service, scoured the area… until she turned up in her home a few days later.

Boy, 11 Years Shy of Getting Driver’s License, Takes Family Car on a Road Trip to Buy a Lamborghini

An Ogden, Utah 5-year-old hopped behind the wheel of his family’s SUV and embarked on a road trip to California to buy a Lamborghini because his mother wouldn’t buy him one. Utah Highway Patrol clocked him on the expressway doing 32 miles per hour, so officers believed the driver was drunk or having a medical emergency and pulled the car over. Surprisingly, the boy was fine – but he only had $3 in his wallet, so if the police hadn’t stopped him, he probably still wouldn’t have been able to get the car of his dreams. The boy isn’t going to face joyriding charges, but he did say, “The police told me I drive good.”

Polite Minnesotan Thief Leaves Thank-You Note

Porch pirates are everywhere, but they usually take your stuff and run. That wasn’t the case with a polite Midwesterner (they raise us right out here) who left a thank-you note in place of a package he or she stole from someone’s porch. The note, scrawled on notebook paper, read, “So just a quick little thank you for leaving me the opportunity of stealing your package. Very nice of you. Thank you.” It was signed “The new owner of your package.”

What Are Your Weirdest Crime Stories for 2020?

I’d love to read your favorite weird crime stories from this already-odd year, so please share a link on my Facebook page or Twitter feed to join the conversation!

Carlos Gamino

3 Amazing, People-Free Places to Go This Spring Near Milwaukee

3 Places to Check Out This Spring in Milwaukee - Carlos GaminoBy Attorney Carlos Gamino

Up for an adventure? There are plenty of things to see right here in Milwaukee, including the Bronze Fonz, St. Joan of Arc Chapel and the North Point Water Tower – but if you venture outside the city, that’s where the real adventures begin.

3 Amazing, People-Free Places to Go This Spring Near Milwaukee

Check out these great adventures within a short drive from Milwaukee – they’re all places you can go to escape from the city:

  1. Nasbro Ghost Town
  2. Fast Fiberglass Mold Graveyard
  3. Holy Hill

Here’s a closer look at each.

#1. Nasbro Ghost Town

You won’t encounter a soul on a visit to Nasbro (see what we did there?). This ghost town was a milling hub from the 1920s to the 1970s, and while there are only a few traces of the dozen homes that once stood on the land, you’ll see five stone lime kilns. The ghost town is located 3 miles west of Lomira on the west side of County Road Y (north of Knowles). It’s definitely worth exploring – and you might find some artifacts along the old train tracks. Check it out here.

#2. Fast Fiberglass Mold Graveyard

Perhaps stranger than a ghost town, this eerie graveyard isn’t home to any people – it’s home to dozens of fiberglass molds designed to make larger-than-life animals, shapes and more. You’ll find massive dogs, oversized Santas and mice bigger than both. The owners let people stroll through the collection, which is located at 14177 County Highway Q in Sparta. Check it out here.

#3. Holy Hill

Whether or not you’re in need of redemption, Holy Hill is an amazing place to visit. Just 30 miles outside of Milwaukee, the hill was deemed a place of miracles after a partially paralyzed hermit named Francois Soubio spent the night there and woke up completely cured from his ailments. The site was home to a cross and altar set up in 1676 by a Canadian pioneer, and then the property sold for $50 in 1855. After changing hands a few more times, you can now find a side chapel and church house with crutches and canes left by those who claim to have been miraculously cured by the hill. And even if you’re not into the religious aspect of Holy Hill, you’ll love the spectacular views from the top – you can see the Milwaukee skyline and acres upon acres of forest. It’s located at 1525 Carmel Road in Hubertus. Check it out here.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your favorite adventures in and around Milwaukee, so please feel free to share them on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed.

Carlos Gamino

Corporate Casualties of the Coronavirus Pandemic

What Businesses Are Closing Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Millions of small businesses are at risk of closing down permanently due to the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic – and millions more will shutter their doors forever if the second wave is as bad as Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts.

So which businesses have closed their doors or filed for bankruptcy due to the virus? Here’s the most recent list:

  1. JC Penney, which is the largest victim of the shutdown to date. The company filed for bankruptcy in mid-May.
  2. Crew filed bankruptcy in early May.
  3. Neiman Marcus was the first department store chain to declare bankruptcy in early May.

Forbes is maintaining a “Bankruptcy Watch List,” and as of today, that list includes:

  • Capri Holdings (Michael Kors, Versace and Jimmy Choo)
  • Dillard’s
  • Kohl’s
  • Levi Strauss
  • Macy’s
  • Nordstrom
  • Signet (Kay Jewelers, Zales, Jared and Piercing Pagoda)
  • Tapestry (Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzmann)
  • The Gap
  • L Brands (Victoria’s Secret)
  • GNC
  • Olympia Sports
  • Walgreens

The bottom line is that department stores aren’t cut out for long-term closures.

“Retail companies are not built to have their stores closed for extended periods of time, and unfortunately we need to really plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Manny Chirico, the CEO of PVH Corp., the owner of brands including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, told CNBC this week.

Chirico expects to see 20 to 25 percent of all U.S. stores to close within the next few years. And he may be right – department stores never quite bounced back from the 2008 recession, and shoppers’ habits have changed significantly since then. The pandemic has made online shopping even more popular, which could be the kiss of death… and we may be in for another retail apocalypse.

What Do You Think?

Do you think these companies should be bailed out, or that they should file for bankruptcy protection in order to stay open? I’d love to hear how you feel about these major retailers closing down, so please feel free to share them on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed.

Attorney Carlos Gamino

Coronavirus in Wisconsin – What You Need to Know

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Coronavirus in WisconsinBy Attorney Carlos Gamino

Coronavirus moved across Wisconsin in mid-March with more than 30 cases of COVID-19 – and one patient has made a full recovery – but what does the CDC say, and are schools scheduled to close?

Coronavirus in Wisconsin: What You Need to Know

Governor Tony Evers has ordered all public and private schools to close by Wednesday, March 18, and that order will remain in effect until at least April 6. Naturally, the schools may remain closed longer, depending on what happens next with coronavirus – an illness scientists are still scrambling to learn about.

The CDC is suggesting that all gatherings larger than 50 people should be postponed, as well. That includes business conferences, festivals and concerts, and other get-togethers. Many cities cancelled St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (including New York, which cancelled its parade for the first time in more than 250 years).

Should you stay home, though?

The CDC says in general, yes. People should stay home whenever possible and avoid going to places like stores, restaurants and other locations where people you don’t know gather. (You can monitor coronavirus cases here.)

Coronavirus Symptoms

If you’re experiencing symptoms that could be related to coronavirus, the CDC is advising you to stay at home and call your primary care doctor. Don’t go to an emergency room unless you’re having difficulty breathing or facing other complications, because you could infect others who are there for other types of treatment.

These are the most common symptoms of coronavirus:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

You need emergency medical attention if you have:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in your chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

What Do You Think?

Are you staying home to prevent the spread of coronavirus and protect yourself (and others)? What do you think of the way Wisconsin is handling the pandemic, such as by closing schools? Are our officials doing things right or wrong? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Carlos Gamino