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Sanctioned Ukraine tycoon seeks to support war effort

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Dmytro Firtash, one of Ukraine's richest men, pictured in an Austrian court in 2019
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Sanctioned by Ukraine in the past over his close ties to Russia, Dmytro Firtash, one of the country’s wealthiest citizens, made international headlines this week for saying he is sheltering hundreds of Ukrainians in his chemical factory.

“This war is completely pointless and cannot be justified in any way, it only brings suffering and misery on all sides. This humanitarian tragedy is intolerable,” the 57-year-old said in a statement on his company’s website.

A one-time ally of ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, Firtash, who is currently in Austria and fighting extradition to the US on bribery accusations, has a controversial history. 

– Providing refuge –

In June 2021, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree imposing sanctions on Firtash, including the freezing of his assets and withdrawal of licences from his companies, after accusing him of selling titanium products to Russian military companies.

But now some 800 civilians, including 200 factory workers, have taken refuge in the bunkers of the Azot chemical plant, owned by Firtash’s Group DF, in Ukraine’s strategic eastern city of Severodonetsk, the tycoon’s lawyer Lanny Davis said this week. 

Russian troops have been pushing for control of the key city over the past weeks as part of their effort to conquer eastern Ukraine. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin “is never going to come out victorious… No matter what happens, Russia will lose,” Firtash said in an NBC News interview in April.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Firtash’s Inter has also joined the pool of several main Ukrainian news channels, which broadcast news 24/7 and fully reflect the official position of the Ukrainian authorities.

Before the invasion, Inter, one of the largest Ukrainian national TV channels, was considered pro-Russian.

Firtash insists he has always been pro-Ukrainian, telling NBC that he was “never pro-Russian”.

“But you have to understand that I am a businessman. And my goal is to earn money. That’s my job,” he said in the interview.

An AFP request to interview Firtash is pending.

– Wanted by US –

Firtash is also wanted on bribery and racketeering charges in the United States.

In the case, Indian officials allegedly received $18.5 million in bribes to secure titanium mining licences in 2006.

The United States argues it has jurisdiction because the conspiracy involved using US financial institutions, travel to and from the US, and use of US-based communications — computers, telephones, and the internet.

Firtash, who denies the charges and says he is the victim of a smear campaign, was detained in Austria in March 2014.

He had to pay bail of 125 million euros ($130 million) — reportedly a record high for Austria — and has since not been able to leave the country.

Austria’s supreme court ruled in 2019 that he could be extradited. But Firtash is still fighting the extradition and can remain in Austria while court proceedings continue.

In an interview with CNN in May, Firtash said he had requested prosecutors to be allowed to return to Ukraine while the war is going on — but his request was denied.

He has also been accused of being involved in alleged efforts by Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor and a personal lawyer of former US president Donald Trump, to dig up dirt on Joe Biden before he became president, but Firtash denies ever having met with Giuliani.

Born in a village in western Ukraine, Firtash’s father was a diver and his mother an accountant, and for additional income the family grew tomatoes.

Firtash began his business career by organising commodity trading in Ukraine and Russia.

In 1993, he established business ties in Central Asia and organised the supply of consumer goods in exchange for natural gas.

In 2004, he set up a joint venture with Russia’s Gazprom to supply natural gas from Central Asia to Ukraine and other European countries.

Three years later, Firtash set up Group DF, growing it into a business empire, employing some 100,000 people.

The group is involved in energy, chemicals, media, banking and property in Ukraine and other countries.

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The county receiving the most Small Business Administration loans in each state

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Flippa identified the county in each state where applicants were approved for the most Small Business Administration loan funds per capita in 2023.
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The Small Business Administration backed loans worth $27.5 billion through its primary lending program in 2023—rising well above pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels as government officials aim to stabilize the economy.

Many small businesses get their start and scale up with SBA loans, which increased lending to Black, Latino, and women entrepreneurs in the past few years in step with efforts to become more equitable.

Flippa found the county within each state where applicants were approved for the most SBA loan funds per capita in fiscal year 2023, which ended in September. The analysis was based on the SBA’s most common loan program, known as 7(a) loans. States are listed in alphabetical order.

SBA’s 7(a) program provides extra security to lenders when they loan money to small businesses that might otherwise be considered too risky to grant. Loans can be for up to $5 million, but in 2023, nearly 7 in 10 loans were for amounts of $350,000 or less. Small businesses can use these funds for real estate acquisitions or improvements, working capital, supplies and equipment, and for other business startup or acquisition purposes.

Barriers do still exist for eligibility, including income, credit history, and location, but SBA loans can be fruitful for founders who don’t qualify for conventional business financing. They can also provide protection against high and volatile interest rates, as SBA-backed loans have maximum interest rates that are predictable and often lower than other loans.

All but two of the #1 ranked counties had populations of less than 500,000—most smaller than 100,000. That’s not surprising, as the Census Bureau classifies about 99% of U.S. counties as small. Still, it signifies that these smaller communities are building successful entrepreneurial environments. In most cases, their small businesses are able to succeed beyond those within the major U.S. population centers—at least in terms of success in gaining SBA funding.

Read on to see whether your county was among those receiving the most SBA loans.


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Alabama: Cleburne County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.6 million (About $375 per resident)
– Number of loans: 5

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Alaska: Sitka Borough

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.1 million (About $716 per resident)
– Number of loans: 4

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Arizona: La Paz County

– SBA loan funds approved: $3.1 million (About $185 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Arkansas: Lawrence County

– SBA loan funds approved: $8.5 million (About $524 per resident)
– Number of loans: 3

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California: Madera County

– SBA loan funds approved: $29.0 million (About $186 per resident)
– Number of loans: 16

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Colorado: Summit County

– SBA loan funds approved: $20.6 million (About $662 per resident)
– Number of loans: 23

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Connecticut: Hartford County

– SBA loan funds approved: $95.6 million (About $106 per resident)
– Number of loans: 212

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Delaware: New Castle County

– SBA loan funds approved: $49.8 million (About $88 per resident)
– Number of loans: 121

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Florida: Gilchrist County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.6 million (About $317 per resident)
– Number of loans: 2

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Georgia: McIntosh County

– SBA loan funds approved: $10.0 million (About $888 per resident)
– Number of loans: 3

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Hawaii: Kauai County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.1 million (About $56 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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Idaho: Shoshone County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.8 million (About $365 per resident)
– Number of loans: 4

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Illinois: Logan County

– SBA loan funds approved: $8.2 million (About $291 per resident)
– Number of loans: 2

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Indiana: Bartholomew County

– SBA loan funds approved: $16.4 million (About $201 per resident)
– Number of loans: 10

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Iowa: Chickasaw County

– SBA loan funds approved: $2.5 million (About $207 per resident)
– Number of loans: 6

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Kansas: Gove County

– SBA loan funds approved: $2.0 million (About $721 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Kentucky: Owen County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.1 million (About $456 per resident)
– Number of loans: 2

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Louisiana: Claiborne Parish

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.0 million (About $412 per resident)
– Number of loans: 5

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Maine: Knox County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.3 million (About $132 per resident)
– Number of loans: 19

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Maryland: Allegany County

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.5 million (About $95 per resident)
– Number of loans: 9

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Massachusetts: Nantucket County

– SBA loan funds approved: $3.3 million (About $240 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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Michigan: Keweenaw County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.3 million (About $2,101 per resident)
– Number of loans: 5

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Minnesota: Marshall County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.1 million (About $559 per resident)
– Number of loans: 4

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Mississippi: Smith County

– SBA loan funds approved: $7.3 million (About $506 per resident)
– Number of loans: 14

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Missouri: Pettis County

– SBA loan funds approved: $17.4 million (About $406 per resident)
– Number of loans: 9

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Montana: Sweet Grass County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.8 million (About $1,312 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Nebraska: Nuckolls County

– SBA loan funds approved: $2.2 million (About $521 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Nevada: Carson City

– SBA loan funds approved: $13.3 million (About $229 per resident)
– Number of loans: 15

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New Hampshire: Rockingham County

– SBA loan funds approved: $35.3 million (About $113 per resident)
– Number of loans: 117

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New Jersey: Cape May County

– SBA loan funds approved: $26.7 million (About $280 per resident)
– Number of loans: 27

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New Mexico: Torrance County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.2 million (About $280 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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New York: Essex County

– SBA loan funds approved: $11.5 million (About $306 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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North Carolina: Dare County

– SBA loan funds approved: $13.3 million (About $362 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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North Dakota: Oliver County

– SBA loan funds approved: $384,000 (About $208 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Ohio: Putnam County

– SBA loan funds approved: $7.4 million (About $214 per resident)
– Number of loans: 10

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Oklahoma: Craig County

– SBA loan funds approved: $4.4 million (About $311 per resident)
– Number of loans: 2

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Oregon: Wasco County

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.1 million (About $229 per resident)
– Number of loans: 7

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Pennsylvania: Jefferson County

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.8 million (About $153 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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Rhode Island: Kent County

– SBA loan funds approved: $14.9 million (About $88 per resident)
– Number of loans: 39

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South Carolina: Jasper County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.5 million (About $192 per resident)
– Number of loans: 5

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South Dakota: Deuel County

– SBA loan funds approved: $1.5 million (About $341 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Tennessee: Decatur County

– SBA loan funds approved: $3.0 million (About $262 per resident)
– Number of loans: 2

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Texas: Menard County

– SBA loan funds approved: $1.5 million (About $745 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Utah: Piute County

– SBA loan funds approved: $1.4 million (About $746 per resident)
– Number of loans: 1

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Vermont: Windham County

– SBA loan funds approved: $9.2 million (About $201 per resident)
– Number of loans: 15

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Virginia: Richmond County

– SBA loan funds approved: $6.9 million (About $777 per resident)
– Number of loans: 22

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Washington: Columbia County

– SBA loan funds approved: $1.3 million (About $331 per resident)
– Number of loans: 3

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West Virginia: Marshall County

– SBA loan funds approved: $5.3 million (About $172 per resident)
– Number of loans: 3

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Wisconsin: Vilas County

– SBA loan funds approved: $13.6 million (About $597 per resident)
– Number of loans: 8

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Wyoming: Sheridan County

– SBA loan funds approved: $13.9 million (About $451 per resident)
– Number of loans: 7

Story editing by Ashleigh Graf. Copy editing by Paris Close. Photo selection by Michael Flocker.

This story originally appeared on Flippa and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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How has US wealth evolved since the 1980s?

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How do people allocate their wealth? The Wealth Enhancement Group analyzed data published by the Federal Reserve to answer this question.
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America’s economy has exploded since 1989.

Gross domestic product, which measures all of the goods and services produced in a year, grew from $9.9 trillion to $22.5 trillion from 1989 to 2023 (after accounting for inflation), according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This figure represents a massive increase in economic output.

This increased productivity has fed into a similarly significant increase in wealth. The Wealth Enhancement Group used data from the Federal Reserve to look at how the assets held by U.S. households has evolved over time.

Data shows that American households owned a combined $161 trillion in assets in the third quarter of 2023, up from $24 trillion in 1989. That makes for a roughly 570% increase, or 170% after adjusting for inflation.

After accounting for debt, such as mortgages, America’s total household net worth grew to $142 trillion, up from $20 trillion. Although the number is down by about 1% from its peak in the second quarter of 2022, it still reflects a dramatic increase over time.

The most valuable asset class the typical American family holds is real estate. Besides a significant drop during the 2000s subprime mortgage crisis and a brief dip following interest rate hikes in 2022, housing has been a reliable generator of wealth for the middle class.


Line chart showing the rise of household assets in the US between 1989 and 2023, which rose from $24 trillion to $161 trillion.

Wealth Enhancement Group

Household assets have skyrocketed since 1989

For Americans in the bottom half of the wealth distribution, housing made up 51% of their assets. Wealthier households, in contrast, tend to have higher shares of their savings in equities.

Households in the top 0.1% held 60% of their assets in shares of public and private companies in 2023. Meanwhile, households in the bottom half of wealth in the United States held only around 6% of assets in equities.

Yet, despite how much housing has grown in value, its ascent pales compared to the fastest-growing asset class: public equities.

Between 1989 and 2023, the value of public stocks held by American households grew by nearly 1,700%, rising from $2 trillion in value to $37 trillion. This trend, coupled with the fact that shares in companies are held disproportionately by the rich, has caused the share of American household assets held by the top 0.1% to increase from 8% to 12%.

A stacked bar chart showing the top 0.1% have most of their wealth in equities where housing makes up for 51% of the assets of people in the bottom half of wealth in the United States.

Wealth Enhancement Group

The wealthy tend to own shares in companies

Some economists argue that, in theory, the ratio of a country’s wealth to its economy, as measured by GDP, should be constant over time.

Yet, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Federal Reserve data shows that the ratio of the net worth of American households and nonprofit organizations to GDP rose from around 3.6 in the 1980s to 5.5 in the third quarter of 2023.

In 2022, YiLi Chien and Ashley Stewart, two researchers at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, offered a few theories to explain how this ratio has increased over time. They suggest that American companies might now have greater market power, allowing them to charge more. The authors also note that since the internet era, many of America’s biggest companies, such as Meta and Google, offer their services to consumers for free—while investors may value their economic contributions, they do not count for much in the GDP numbers.

However, assets are not net worth. The rich are more likely to own their homes outright. In the third quarter of 2023, households from the top 0.1% owned $1.83 trillion worth of real estate while owing just $70 billion in mortgages. In contrast, households in the bottom 50% of wealth owned $4.87 billion of real estate against $3 billion of housing debt.

Story editing by Ashleigh Graf. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn.

This story originally appeared on Wealth Enhancement Group and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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Deepfakes cause 30% of organizations to doubt biometrics, Gartner finds

A look at AI deepfakes, it’s impact on security, and ways to mitigate the risks

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A fake moustache and trenchcoat isn’t a convincing disguise, right? But a digitally altered video that makes your face identical to someone else’s? 

That’s a different story. 

Deepfakes are artificial images or videos that imitate a person’s likeness so convincingly that it can be nearly impossible to recognize they’re fake. Hackers use them to impersonate people’s faces and voices. This can have monumental impacts — even $25 million worth, which is what one undisclosed company lost in a deepfake scam. 

Even with all the money a company spends on voice authentication and facial biometrics, it can all be in vain if a deepfake hacker manages to fool them. 

Gartner explores the impact of deepfakes on organizational policy, and we’ll share some risk management considerations to address the trend. 

30% of organizations can’t rely on facial recognition software and biometrics

Biometrics rely on presentation attack detection (PAD) to assess a person’s identity and liveness. The problem now is that today’s PAD standards don’t protect against injection attacks from AI deepfakes. Once a bulletproof security strategy, biometrics are now inefficient for 30% of companies surveyed by Gartner. 

“These artificially generated images of real people’s faces, known as deepfakes, can be used by malicious actors to undermine biometric authentication or render it inefficient,” 

— Akif Khan, VP Analyst at Gartner 

The solution is a demand for more innovative cybersecurity tech. Gartner advises organizations to update their minimum requirements from cybersecurity members to include all of the following 

  • PAD
  • Injected attacks detection (IAD)
  • Image inspection

On top of that, you can beef up security with: 

  • Device identification: Numerical values or codes to identify a user’s device
  • Behavioural analytics: Machine learning algorithms to detect any shifts in day-to-day online behaviour

So, how can you account for deepfakes risks and mitigation in practice? Here are a few more tips to consider: 

  • Educate employees: Hold monthly or quarterly meetings with experts in the field to help your employee identify common signs of deepfakes, including blurred or pixelated images in a person’s video, or distorted audio. Greater awareness of what to look out for can allow employees to flag suspicions. 
  • Don’t rely on one authentication process: Multi-factor authentication demands 2+ pieces of evidence to verify a user before admitting them into a network. Include email, phone, or voice verification in addition to biometrics. 
  • Invest in deepfake detection software: Consider a subscription Sensity AI, Deepware Scan, Truepic, or Microsoft Video Authenticator. 

Gartner plans to share more findings and research on deepfakes at their security and risk management summits taking place in various countries around the world. 

Read more about those summits and see the news release here.

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