About the author  ⁄ WFIN

Photo by Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for Stella & Dot(NEW YORK) — Georgetown Cupcake founders and sisters Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis Berman opened their first brick-and-mortar bakery during the recession in 2008, when bank loans were near impossible to come by and maxing out credit cards and life savings was the only way to get their dream off the ground.

“When we started it was 2008, no banks were lending at all,” LaMontagne tells ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis. “They say that sometimes the best business ideas die in bank parking lots because if you don’t have the money, people keep telling you no, so we had to find a way to get to yes.”

Leaving their stable careers in finance and fashion behind to pursue their dreams of owning a bakery, the duo rolled up their sleeves and took on every expense they could, from painting the store walls to sleeping on couches for a year. Starting out with little capital and zero experience made the success story of Georgetown Cupcakes even more remarkable, and the sisters’ story caught the nation’s attention when TLC aired their reality show, DC Cupcakes, from 2010 to 2013.

Now, there are six Georgetown Cupcake locations around the country and a TLC “cupcake cam” with 24/7 live feeds of their flagship DC bakery location. The sisters also are best-selling authors of The Cupcake Diaries and Sweet Celebrations.

When the sisters sat down with Rebecca Jarvis for an episode of Real Biz with Rebecca Jarvis, they shared one of their secret ingredients to success: family.

“Being sisters has actually helped us, we don’t sort of tip-toe around each other,” said Berman. “If Sophie doesn’t like something she tells me to my face, she doesn’t sugar coat it. I think we’re able to make the best decisions for our company by just hashing it out.”

With only a year-and-a-half age difference between them, the Kallinis sisters were always close. They spent their afternoons baking with their Greek grandmother, who lived down the street from their Toronto house and taught them traditional Greek recipes from scratch. That family tradition has now carried on with their mother, who has stayed on as an employee since the store opened.

“It was just the two of us, and our mom came to help us for the weekend and she ended up never leaving,” Berman said.

Having their grandmother’s recipes and their mother’s support, combined with Sophie’s business background and Katherine’s creative background from fashion, made a company expansion possible. Their brand has also grown thanks to social media, and the bakery boasts over half a million Instagram and Twitter followers (who can reap benefits like snagging free cupcakes).

“I think that it’s important when you choose a business partner to make sure that your relationship can withstand it, and family businesses can go either way,” LaMontagne said. “There are going to be highs and lows in a business – nothing goes straight to heaven. It’s going to be a roller coaster.”

For more business insights from successful entrepreneurs, watch Real Biz with Rebecca Jarvis and follow Rebecca Jarvis on Facebook.com/rebeccajarvis for live interviews like this one.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims slumped last week, decreasing by 8,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending Sept. 18, the number of people filing for benefits fell from an unrevised level of 260,000 the previous week to 252,000, marking the 81st consecutive week initial jobless claims came in below 300,000. It’s the longest streak since 1970, the Labor Department says.

The Labor Department said there were no “special factors” impacting that week’s figures.

The four-week moving average decreased by 2,250 to 258,500.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) — When Halla Yousef, a teacher in Madaya, sees one of her young students cry of hunger, she cannot do anything to help.

“I can’t feed him,” she told ABC News. “He says, ‘I’m hungry’ and I can’t do anything.”

The estimated 40,000 people who live in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya have not received any aid since April. Humanitarian assistance was supposed to reach Madaya and three other war-torn Syrian towns yesterday — but after an attack on an aid convoy in western Aleppo on Monday, the United Nations suspended all aid deliveries to Syria.

Yousef, who uses a pseudonym out of safety concerns, says she now fears the situation will get much worse without the aid delivery that was expected.

“We are on the verge of famine. Many people don’t have any food supplies left,” she said. “People are weak and have no energy. They get sick very easily. I haven’t had protein in a very long time and I haven’t had milk for over a year.”

Madaya is facing a meningitis epidemic and residents live without basic food such as flour, vegetables, fruit and meat. Their main diet is bulgur and rice, which Yousef says they mix in order to bake bread.

“There is almost never meat and almost never any kind of fresh fruit or vegetables. We have heard of children who were 4 or 5 years old who saw pictures of an apple and didn’t know what it was because they had never seen one in their memory,” Misty Buswell, Save the Children’s regional advocacy director for the Middle East, told ABC News. “Many parents are afraid to send their children to school because of the meningitis epidemic.”

Lack of food means that locals — especially children — are more at risk of catching diseases, said Buswell. Yousef, 40, is one of many residents who suffer from meningitis.

“My body is very weak,” she said. “I always have a headache and fever. In the morning, I feel like I don’t want to get up, like I didn’t get enough sleep and my body is tired. I have no energy.”

Many people are out of work. Others, including her husband, don’t get paid, she said. At the same time, prices of food are extremely high — Yousef says that the normal price for two pounds of cucumbers or tomatoes is $20. Yousef makes $200 a month, but sends all the money to her sister in Lebanon who takes care of her three children who were able to leave Madaya over a year ago. Yousef and her husband couldn’t leave because they are wanted by the Syrian government for doing aid work, she said.

“The worst thing is being away from my children. My oldest daughter is engaged and I don’t know her fiancé. Because my children aren’t here, I feel like I have a lot of affection that I want to give others. Today I played with the children at the school and we laughed loud,” she said, adding that she used to have a lot of money and live a nice life before she was forced to flee to Madaya, which had not yet been affected by the war.

“I never thought I would end up like this,” she said. “I want to see life and cars in the streets and I want to see a supermarket with good food, meat, yogurt and cookies. The other day, I was speaking with my children in Lebanon. They sent me photos from the supermarket and it made me cry.”

An estimated 13.5 million people, including six million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, according to the United Nations. Of these, 5.47 million people are in hard-to-reach areas, including close to 600,000 people in 18 besieged areas.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — A homeowner in Los Angeles, dubbed the “Wet Prince of Bel Air” for reportedly using 11.8 million gallons of water last year during California’s drought, remains unidentified by authorities, but the Center of Investigative Reporting has narrowed the list of possible perpetrators to seven.

Senior News Applications Developer Michael Corey and Senior Reporter Lance Williams for the Center of Investigative Reporting released new details on the possible water-wasting culprits based on satellite images, an algorithm developed to track drought and deforestation, and equations used in landscape planning.

The report estimates were not precise enough to pinpoint one particular Los Angeles home, but narrowed down the extreme water users within the Bel Air neighborhood that included some of the wealthiest people living in some of the city’s most expensive homes.

Corey and Williams said they were essentially looking for “the greenest and wettest yard.”

One possible home in question, owned by a retired broadcast CEO with a six-acre yard, showed usage from April 2013 to April 2015 equivalent to flushing a toilet repeatedly day and night for an entire year.

“This much waste has got to be mostly landscaping,” Corey told ABC News.

Other possible top offenders that made the list included homes of a retail heiress and a soap opera producer, both of whom gave no comment to ABC News.

A well-known hotelier, a telecoms mogul and a one-time studio boss all told ABC News they have cut back on water and taken steps to dramatically reduce usage since the issue was brought to their attention.

The investigative duo reached out to one of the homeowners and Williams said, “He didn’t water his yard so much,” after they contacted him.

“His yard started getting brown,” Corey added.

Due to California state law, over-hydration is not a crime as long as payment is made for the water being used.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — As criticism continues over Donald Trump Jr.’s “bowl of skittles” tweet, President Obama hopes different story on Syrian refugees goes viral.

A video from the White House posted to Obama’s Facebook page Wednesday night features a young boy named Alex from New York who wrote to Obama asking to host Omran Daqneesh, the 5-year-old Syrian boy shown in a heartbreaking picture out of Aleppo, Syria.

Obama read the letter during a summit on refugees he hosted earlier this week at the UN General Assembly, calling for nations to adopt the same compassion shown by the young boy.

In less than 10 hours, the video posted on Obama’s Facebook earned 106 thousand likes and was viewed more than 3 million times.

It gives a tour of Alex’s home as he reads about sharing his toys with Daqneesh, inviting him to birthday parties and hoping he will “teach us another language.”

“The humanity that a young child can display who hasn’t learned to be cynical, or suspicious, or fearful of other people because of how they look or where they’re from or how they pray,” Obama says in the video. “We can all learn from Alex.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

DiMaggio/Kalish/Corbis via Getty Images(OKINAWA, Japan) — A U.S. Marine Corps pilot ejected safely from a Harrier jet that crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Japanese island of Okinawa Thursday, the U.S. Pacific Command confirmed to ABC News in a statement.

The incident took place at approximately 2:00 p.m. local time near Kadena Air Base, the statement said. The aircraft involved was an AV-8 Harrier pilot.

The Air Force’s 33rd Rescue Squadron, also out of Kadena Airbase, successfully recovered the pilot.

The aircraft went down in the ocean about 100 nautical miles east of Okinawa.

The cause of the incident is under investigation, the statement said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A shell fragment from an ISIS rocket that landed several hundred yards from a U.S. base in northern Iraq will undergo further testing to determine if it contained mustard agent after two initial field tests provided different conclusions, a U.S. military official said Wednesday. No American forces have shown symptoms of possible exposure to mustard agent in an incident that occurred Tuesday.

The American base at Qayarrah West Airfield received some indirect fire on Tuesday afternoon, according to the military official. Hundreds of American personnel are currently working on the airfield to prepare it as a logistical hub for an eventual offensive on the ISIS-held city of Mosul. No one was injured in the rocket attack.

Following the attack, a small team of U.S. personnel conducting a routine inspection for unexploded ordnance in the perimeter around the base came across a small shell fragment that contained what the official described as an oily “tar-like” residue, which sometimes indicates mustard agent.

A chemical field test of the shell fragment tested positive for mustard agent, but a subsequent test came up negative, the military official said. The shell fragment will now undergo further testing at a laboratory to determine if it ever contained the blistering agent.

As a precautionary measure, the two to four U.S. military personnel who came across the shell fragment were decontaminated with showers and brushing to wipe away any agent, the official said. None of them has shown any symptoms or potential impacts from the contact with the shell.

Mustard agent is a powder that can be placed in the hollow tip of an artillery shell or rocket. Exposure at a place of impact could cause blistering, but the agent dissipates quickly and does not spread over a wide area.

The official described ISIS’s use of blistering agent as “militarily insignificant,” though American troops are prepared for potential chemical weapons exposure.

ISIS has used mustard agent dozens of times against Iraqi and Kurdish forces, but the official did not know if this was the first potential contact with ISIS chemical weapons experienced by American troops serving in Iraq.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate cleared the way Wednesday for a massive arms deal with Saudi Arabia to proceed, after voting against a resolution that would have blocked the transfer of $1.15 billion worth of military equipment to be sold from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia.

The bipartisan resolution was introduced in the Senate earlier this month amidst increased reports of civilian casualties in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition.

Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Rand Paul, R-Ky., Al Franken, D-Minn., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, who introduced the resolution, argued in part that by arming Saudi Arabia, the U.S. was complacent in these civilian deaths in Yemen.

Amnesty International said in a statement Monday that a U.S.-made bomb was used in a Saudi airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in northern Yemen that killed 11 and injured 19.

While the humanitarian group expressed disappointment at Wednesday’s vote, they praised the increased “voice of dissent” in Congress regarding U.S. arms sales to Saudi.

“Today’s vote is the latest example of the growing voice of dissent in Congress when it comes to the United States’ selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” Sunjeev Bery, Amnesty International USA Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

“U.S. officials know that the Saudi government continues dropping bombs on civilian communities and yet the Obama Administration continues selling it weapons. This arms deal is bad for the people of Yemen, bad for the region and bad for U.S. foreign policy. President Obama should cancel it immediately,” Berry added.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Chris Murphy argued that the situation in Yemen, in addition to being an “ongoing humanitarian disaster,” has also provided an opportunity for al-Qaeda and ISIS to “grow by leaps and bounds.”

“But the scope of this disaster for the purposes of U.S. national security interests is not just the radicalization of the Yemeni people against the United States, it’s not just the thousands of people that have been killed, but the fact that this war has given, has given ground, an opportunity, for al-Qaeda and ISIS to grow, grow by leaps and bounds,” Murphy said this morning, prior to the vote, on the Senate floor.

Following the results of the vote, Murphy said he was pleased about the message that the vote sent, regardless of the results.

“Never before have so many Senators gone on record supporting a rethink of the US-Saudi relationship. Didn’t win, but a strong message,” Murphy said on Twitter, adding, “Lots of Senators who voted for the sale mentioned to me how good it felt to be openly debating foreign policy in the Senate again.”

Sen. Rand Paul echoed Murphy’s sentiments in a tweet, saying, “Today we didn’t just debate Obama’s $1.15 billion Saudi arms deal, we debated constitutional principles and war.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The United States and Russia announced a Syria cease-fire deal Sept. 9. It officially took effect Sept. 12 and was supposed to be expanded on after an initial seven-day period.

It collapsed on Monday, exactly a week after it started.

How the Deal Fell Apart

It was the moment of truth for the feeble week-long ceasefire in Syria, and it went up in flames.

A humanitarian aid convoy of 31 trucks carrying water, food, sanitation and hygiene supplies for 78,000 people in opposition-held Aleppo came under attack in a prolonged airstrike Monday night, killing about 20 people, according to Physicians for Human Rights, and destroying 18 trucks.

The unimpeded delivery of aid was a linchpin of the cease-fire deal brokered by the United States and Russia on Sept. 9. It was the last of the three pillars of the deal that still had a standing chance.

The United States blamed Russia for the attack. Russia denied any involvement, advancing a series of increasingly implausible scenarios, including that the convoy caught fire on its own, and that a U.S. drone was to blame.

A U.S. official said there were no U.S. aircraft flying in the area. Despite their sparring, both powers maintained that the deal still stood.

The attack on the aid convoy marked the beginning of a re-escalation of aerial bombardment and artillery shelling, mainly by the Syrian regime and its backers, that lasted well into the Tuesday morning.

“We died a thousand times over last night,” a resident of East Aleppo City said Tuesday morning, telling ABC News the attacks hadn’t relented for over eight hours.

Attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies were also reported in other areas of Syria. Russia, meanwhile, reported a renewed offensive by the armed opposition factions in Aleppo province.

One other major incident happened during the initial seven-day period. On Saturday, the U.S.-led coalition mistakenly bombed what appeared to be a unit of the Syrian Arab Army, killing 62 and wounding 100. The United States acknowledged the mistake and apologized, though Russia still convened an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the matter.

Why Is a Cease-Fire in Syria Important to the US?

A day after Aleppo awoke to aid in ashes, diplomats in New York convened at the United Nations to hold more talks about the situation.

“This is a moment of truth,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria today in a searing speech. “If we allow spoilers to choose the path for us – the path of escalation … then make no mistake … the next time we convene here, we’re going to be facing a Middle East with even more refugees, with more dead, with more displaced, with more extremists, and more suffering on an even greater scale.”

The United States and Russia have agreed on four different international agreements to halt the fighting in Syria so far, and all have failed.

“It’s important for the U.S. that the cessation of hostilities holds in Syria because we have U.S. troops there; we can’t get them home until the conflict is stabilized,” said Robert Ford, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria. “And the conflict in Syria has spawned ISIS terror attacks in Europe, our most important ally.”

How Likely Was the Cease-Fire to Last?

For many, this agreement was dead on arrival.

“It was inherently flawed because it didn’t have an enforcement mechanism,” according to Emile Hokayem, senior fellow for Middle East Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The agreement hinged on three main components: The Syrian government air force was to stop flying over the entire Syrian territory except for well-defined areas where terror-designated groups, ISIS and former al-Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat Fateh al Sham (JFS) operated; humanitarian aid delivery would be unimpeded; and armed opposition factions were to disassociate themselves from JFS. None of these commitments were honored.

During the initial seven-day cease-fire period, shelling and airstrikes continued though they had diminished, humanitarian aid convoys were blocked for the duration and the armed opposition factions did not make moves to distance themselves from JFS. Some went as far as declaring their solidarity with the terror-designated group.

This has been the main Russian complaint about the implementation of the deal. “The Russian-American agreement emphasizes that the key priority is the disassociation of the opposition groups of terrorists from ISIS and Nusra [the former name of JFS],” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the U.N. Security Council.

Analysts cast doubt over the ability of the United States to persuade armed opposition factions to stop working with JFS, a group that has emerged as the most reliable and well-equipped fighting force on the ground.

“The U.S. and the U.N. have lost a lot of credibility in Aleppo,” Hokayem, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said. “They were unable to prevent the siege of the city and those who broke it were the Islamist and jihadist factions, including JFS.”

The Syrian opposition feels as though it is backed into a corner.

“The international community has still not provided any guarantees that if the armed opposition factions reorganized along these lines, that the Assad regime and its allies won’t take advantage of the situation to advance militarily on the ground,” according to Basma Kodmani, a member of the Syrian opposition High Negotiation Committee who is currently in New York.

What Happens Next?

In a bid to salvage the cease-fire deal, the United States is reiterating the call for an immediate grounding of the Syrian air force accused by the United States and the U.N. of dropping unguided and deadly barrel bombs on civilians and targeting hospitals and first responders. It is also asking, along with the U.N., for the immediate unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to all besieged and hard to reach areas in Syria.

The likelihood of solving the Syrian conflict before the inauguration of a new U.S. president in January seems highly unlikely, though, as a durable, sustainable cease-fire looks more elusive than ever.

The Syrian government quickly rejected the idea of grounding its air force and maintained that it was not impeding humanitarian aid deliveries.

In the meantime, the various warring parties in Syria — both Syrian factions and foreign countries including Russia, Iran and Turkey — look set to push on with their own agendas.

“The various actors in Syria are using the current situation to consolidate their positions and, if possible, expand their leverage,” including NATO-member Turkey, Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, said.

Turkey recently launched a ground operation into Syrian territory that it said aimed to fight ISIS, though observers noted that the main areas in which it is operating was territory recently consolidated by the YPG, a Kurdish militant group backed by the United States but affiliated with the terror-designated Kurdish separatist PKK militant group that has been in conflict with Turkey for decades.

The United Nations estimates that well over 300,000 Syrians have been killed since the start of the uprising in 2011, about 10 million have been displaced and 1 million live under siege with an additional 4.5 million in hard to reach areas.

Since 2011, Physicians for Human Rights has documented 382 attacks against 269 medical facilities – 90 percent of those attacks were carried out by Syrian government forces or their Russian allies.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen defended the independence of the U.S. central bank Wednesday, saying it does not play politics in response to charges from Donald Trump that she is manipulating financial markets to benefit President Obama.

Trump earlier this month said that the Yellen-led Fed is keeping interest rates low in order to give a boost to the stock market in an effort to make Obama’s economic record look good.

“Well, it’s [the interest rate] staying at zero because she’s obviously political and she’s doing what Obama wants her to do,” Trump said in a Sept. 13 interview with CNBC. He added that Yellen should be “ashamed of herself.”

In response to questions about Trump’s comments, Yellen was careful not to mention the GOP presidential campaign by name while making clear she was strongly dismissing his accusations.

“In order to insulate monetary policy from short-term political pressures and I can say, emphatically that partisan politics plays no role in our decisions about the appropriate stance of monetary policy,” Yellen said at a news conference following a gathering of the Fed committee that determines interest rates. “We are trying to decide what the best policy is to foster price stability and maximum employment and to manage the variety of risks that we see is affecting the outlook. We do not discuss politics at our meetings and we do not take politics into account in our decisions.”

The Fed announced Wednesday it will keep interest rates near zero, but suggested a rate hike will happen before the end of the year. Fed officials say they are keeping rates low to aid the economy, which they argue continues to need support, by making loans, such as mortgages, cheaper.

The Fed has been under attack from conservatives, including some in Congress, in recent years because they argue its easy money policies will eventually lead to inflation, hurting the economy. Former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, made criticism of the Fed a central theme of his 2008 and 2012 presidential runs.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen tells @RebeccaJarvis: “The Federal Reserve is not politically compromised” https://t.co/Rozj4rsgd1 pic.twitter.com/wpJgnEP2OF

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 21, 2016

But Trump’s suggestion that Yellen is purposefully keeping rates low as a political favor to Obama goes well beyond that criticism.

The Fed releases transcripts of its rate setting meetings five years after they take place. Yellen said she’s confident when that day arrives Trump’s charge that politics were at play will be disproved.

“I will assure you that you will not find any signs of political motivation when the transcripts are released in five years,” she said. “It is important that we maintain the confidence of the public, and I do believe that we deserve it.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →