News: Real Estate, Risk, Economics. Apr. 25, 2016

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Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) Hundreds of pupils at school near toxic site in east China fall ill, some with cancer, state TV reports | South China Morning Post

2) Hundreds of students fall ill after their school is relocated beside toxic waste dump: Shanghaiist

3) Investors should look beyond REITs to gain real estate exposure: Jeffrey Kolitch

4) China's Real Estate Conundrum: The Big Property Bubble vs. Ghost Towns

5) The Unprecedented Real Estate Bubble In China

6) Panama and the Criminalization of the Global Finance System

7) After he became Kansas governor in 2011, Sam Brownback slashed taxes on the promise that the cuts would trigger a furious wave of business expansion

8) Why it's hurting but not working | English Economic

9) Watch the Deficit, Not the Debt – Bloomberg View

10) Occupational Licenses May Be Bad for the Economy, But Good for Workers Who Have Them – Real Time Economics – WSJ

11) The Sub-Zero Club: Getting Used to the Upside-Down World Economy – Bloomberg

12) Multifamily Investors Seek More Value-Add Deals

13) Why populist uprisings could end a half-century of greater economic ties – The Washington Post

14) The US Occupations at Greatest Risk of a Labor Shortage – Real Time Economics – WSJ

15) The Panama Papers [Soak the Rich] – YouTube

16) Rural Utah Fire Departments Grind to Keep Up Daytime Manpower

17) Oklahoma to Hold Hearing on Earthquake Insurance Rate Increases

18) Budget Cuts Hamper Ability of Kansas Forest Service to Fight Fires

19) Early Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Has Researchers Concerned

20) San Francisco mandates solar panels on new buildings | Grist

21) Wall St. Regulators Propose Stricter Pay Rules for Bankers – The New York Times

22) US jobless claims hit 42-1/2-year low as labor market firms | Reuters

23) Six big reasons to hold off on virtual reality | The Verge

24) Follow-up on zombie properties is about accountability

25) Vacant properties tough to track in Hall County

26) Blackstone Real Estate | Jonathan Gray | Blackstone NYC

27) Recent FHA Guideline Changes and Highlights

28) flassbeck economics international – Economics and politics – comment and analysis

29) A graphical assault on supply-side tax cuts – The Washington Post

30) Fixing Our Terrible Housing Welfare Benefits | Demos

31) 101 Reasons for Citizen's Income — Citizen's Income

32) America's Top 30 Boom Towns of 2016 Revealed – WORLD PROPERTY JOURNAL Global News Center

33) Why Liberal Economists Dish Out Despair

34) Senate Committees Approve Bill Removing Barriers on Accessory Dwelling Units – The Registry

35) The Road not Taken

36) In honor of Earth Day, find out how poisonous your neighborhood is – MarketWatch

37) Lending Club and Sofi: The Big Flaw Few are Talking About in Fintech – Fortune

38) House prices have risen twice as fast as earnings: here's why | New Economics Foundation

39) Overtime Pay: A Lifeline for the Overworked American – The New York Times

40) twelve facts about food security and SNAP | The Hamilton Project

41) Millennials Are Buying Homes & Cars, Getting Better Jobs

42) Where have all the small loans gone? | Urban Institute

43) Short-Sighted Tax Cuts Hurting Energy States | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

44) Labour Press — Building an Entrepreneurial State at a local level…

45) Early Warning Signs Your Property Manager Has Lost Control

46) America's Wealth Effect From Rising Home Prices Has Been Cut in Half – Bloomberg

47) Hutchins Roundup: State Medicaid expansions, federal housing programs, and more | Brookings Institution

48) Real Estate Speculators Swooping Into East New York, Brooklyn, Offering Residents Quick Cash for Their Homes

49) Preserving Affordable Supply: Expiring Funding Threatens Existing Affordable Stock

50) Residents evacuated as 5-alarm fire burns at Gilbert construction site | 12NEWScom

51) Cost of solar energy falls every time the sun rises – The Washington Post

52) Researchers Accidentally Make Batteries Last 400 Times Longer | Popular Science

53) Technology is finally eliminating geography as a barrier to real estate investing | TechCrunch

54) Land bank offers new hope for polluted properties – Connecticut Post

55) How Hamilton is cracking down on nuisance properties | wwwjournal-newscom

56) Operator of foreclosure rescue firm convicted of real estate fraud | The Sacramento Bee

57) Most of the Recession's Stay-at-Home Dads Are Going Back to Work – Real Time Economics – WSJ

58) M7.8 Ecuador Earthquake, ALERT™ :: Event Summary

59) Kumamoto Earthquake, ALERT™ :: Event Summary

60) Existing home sales for March 2016 reported by the National Association of Realtors

61) mainly macro: Some thoughts on Paul Mason's McDonnell road show talk

62) Investors: Start Planning Now to Make Sure You Don't Miss 2016 Real Estate Tax Savings!

63) How to Plan NOW to Save Major Tax Dollars in 2016

64) United States 6 Month Bill Yield

65) Survey shows plunging public support for TTIP in US and Germany | Reuters

66) More than half US population lives amid dangerous air pollution, report warns | Environment | The Guardian

67) Why our landed gentry are so desperate to stay in the EU | Giles Fraser: Loose canon | Opinion | The Guardian

68) China's Great Ball of Money Is Rushing Into Commodities Futures – Bloomberg

69) Why America's impressive 5% unemployment rate feels like a lie for so many — Quartz

70) US Government Is Now a Major Counterparty to Wall Street Derivatives

71) Early analysis of Seattle's $15 wage law: Effect on prices minimal one year after implementation | UW Today

72) In banking, it's all other people's money – The Washington Post

73) How history can help us solve global economic issues | MIT News

74) In Hamilton's Debt – The New York Times

75) Fire at Tennessee Apartment Complex Kills 1, Destroys 11 Homes

76) Cameras Trained on Mountains around Lake Tahoe Help Wildfire Battle

77) New Drone Analytics Product Offers Faster Processing of Homeowners Claims

78) Earthquake Risk High Along Sierra's Eastern Front

79) Why the SEC Didn't Hit Goldman Sachs Harder – The New Yorker

80) Will We Care About Climate Change As Winters Get Warmer?

81) How do you prevent, control mosquitoes? | Life | thetanddcom

82) De Blasio to mandate energy retrofits for privately owned buildings | POLITICO

83) LA Times – Steve Fifield rides the ups and downs of real estate development

84) Midtown and Downtown Detroit Real Estate Is Pretty Darn Pricey — Deadline Detroit

  1.    Hundreds of pupils at school near toxic site in east China fall ill, some with cancer, state TV reports | South China Morning Post

    You could see it coming, and it's just the tip of a huge, huge iceberg.

    Hundreds of teenagers developed serious health problems, with some diagnosed with cancer, after their school in east China's Jiangsu province was relocated beside a former site for chemical plants, state television reported on Sunday.

    Soil and groundwater in the area was found to contain toxic compounds and heavy metals, with the level of one carcinogen almost 100,000 times the safety limit, according to China Central Television.

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  2.    Hundreds of students fall ill after their school is relocated beside toxic waste dump: Shanghaiist

    "There are absolutely carcinogens found in the tests… Long exposure to these pollutants will lead to leukemia and other tumors," Pan Xiaochuan, a professor on public health at Peking University, told CCTV. "The high morbidity at the school in such a short time must be linked to the pollutants."

    "First, you can't let your kids drink the milk. Next, you can't let them get their vaccinations. Now, you can't even let them go to school," commented one netizen.

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  3.    Investors should look beyond REITs to gain real estate exposure: Jeffrey Kolitch

    "We're building too few homes to shelter the growing population," he [Jeffrey Kolitch, portfolio manager of the $1.5 billion Baron Real Estate fund] said. "Right now housing is growing at 1.5 million units a year, which is low relative to our needs. We need about a million more new homes, and that bodes well for housing because it means prices are going up."

    That makes no sense to me. Prices are too high for the good of the overall economy, which good is always more important than short-termism.

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  4.    China's Real Estate Conundrum: The Big Property Bubble vs. Ghost Towns

    Huge article. Here are our highlights:

    The end of China's real estate boom, which saw property prices rise some ten-fold in the decade to 2013, has left the nation with an estimated 735 million square meters of unsold property — or some 13 million unsold homes — as of the end of March, according to official statistics. Much of this unsold property is in smaller or inland cities known as "third or fourth tier" cities. New construction and land sales in such cities fell sharply last year as a result.

    It's a major drag on China's economy, of which real estate was once a driver: "Real estate is the single most important sector of the Chinese economy," says Frank Chen, executive director of China research at real estate company CBRE. "Local governments in particular rely on property. So the government is always worried about its impact on growth."

    Indeed, analysts at HSBC have estimated that the real estate slowdown, and the resulting slump in new construction, "shaved one percentage point off China's GDP growth" last year, when it fell to 6.9 percent, its slowest growth rate for a quarter century. It's also dealt a heavy blow to the finances of local governments, already struggling with slowing revenue from manufacturing — and often saddled with debt from the stimulus-led boom that followed the 2009 financial crisis.

    … policy flip-flops have added to a sense that the authorities are struggling to deal with the contradictory pressures of stimulating the market in smaller cities while stopping price hikes from getting out of a hand — and doing so without leading to a crash in property values in China's bigger cities.

    … there is a question-mark as to whether much of China's unsold housing stock is the right type for China's toiling masses, or in the appropriate location:

    … it remains to be seen whether lo cal governments currently have the funds, or the will, to create truly affordable housing for rural migrants. …

    … the continuing movement of people into China's major urban centers, that has contributed to the government's other real estate headache: the signs of a new wave of real estate market overheating and growing inaffordability in the major cities.

    It is not yet clear whether the measures aimed at making it harder to get loans will have a major impact in cooling the market in the long term. Overall transaction volumes have slowed in Shanghai and Shenzhen in recent weeks, but Chinese media have reported on companies finding new ways to make unofficial down payment loans.

    "I think it will be very hard to control gray market loans," says one Shenzhen real estate agent, who asked not to be named. And while Shenzhen currently limits individuals or couples to two properties in total, he notes that there is no limit to the number of properties people can buy in the name of a company.

    Other strategies, such as couples divorcing in order to be allowed to buy more properties, are also reportedly becoming increasingly common, while some investors are said to be pooling funds to buy properties.

    It all means that many young people in China's big cities are likely to remain "house slaves," as people who have put almost their earnings into buying property are described in Chinese.

    Yet in practice at the grassroots level, he says, local governments "are incentivised to have lots of major real estate transactions," since these boost their finances. As a result local government officials often believe "the higher the costs of real estate the better … At least until there's a riot or protest, in which case there would be a very different set of circumstances!"

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  5.    The Unprecedented Real Estate Bubble In China

    Gary D. Halbert:

    Chinese citizens are up to their eyeballs in real estate and almost nothing else. Prices have skyrocketed in recent years into what some are calling a giant bubble.

    If that bubble bursts and home prices plummet, millions of Chinese would see their net worth evaporate.

    This problem is much larger and potentially more devastating than most economists and forecasters realize. …

    With almost three-fourths of their net worth invested in real estate (and the other 25% mostly in cash), Chinese investors have no diversification. They have overinvested in illiquid and overpriced assets that they wrongly believe can only go higher. In doing so, they have created what some call the greatest real estate bubble in history.

    Home price to income ratios in the largest cities are off the charts. Beijing is 33.5 times income, Shanghai is 30.2 times and Shenzen is 30.0. In the US, by comparison, the home price to income ratio in cities is only about 6 times income on average. That's a HUGE difference!

    … Only 18% of homes have a traditional mortgage, compared to half of all homes in the US. Minimum down payments on first homes is 30%; for second homes, it's 60%. For investments like condos, there is no mortgage financing available.

    … It is estimated that household wealth in China is over $27 trillion, or about three times its annual GDP. With 75% in real estate, that comes out to over $20 trillion. If real estate falls 60%, as it did in Japan, that means over $12 trillion in household wealth would disappear!

    Can it crash that dramatically while the Chinese people have little place else to invest?

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  6.    Panama and the Criminalization of the Global Finance System

    … basically, criminals are the most liquid people in the world. They don't want to tie down their money and property, because property can be seen, it's visible. Finance in the balance of payments reports is called "Invisibles." If you're a criminal, you want to have your finance invisible in order to keep it safe. And the safest investment is U.S. Treasury bonds.

    So there was an argument in Congress in the 1960s: Do we want to have 15% tax withholding on the Treasury bonds, especially to foreigners? It was pointed out that most foreigners who hold Treasury bonds actually are criminals. So Congress said, we need criminal money. We are not going to withhold criminal taxes. We're going to make crime tax-free. We're going to tax American industry, we're going to tax American labor, but not foreign criminals, because we need their money. So we're not going to withhold what they hold through their fiduciary accounts in Delaware, which was the main at that time, or New York, or London branches of U.S. banks. The London branches of U.S. banks were the single major depositors and source of revenue of growth in the 1960s for Chase, Citibank and others. They were called eurodollars. The eurodollars flowing into these branches were very largely from drug dealing and arms dealing, and third world dictators in Africa and other places.

    Now do you see why we shouldn't be borrowing as a nation, why we should just be issuing the currency without issuing bonds?

    Why do almost all economists ignore this?

    Michael Hudson doesn't. That's why he's one of the very top economists in the world, for sure.

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  7.    After he became Kansas governor in 2011, Sam Brownback slashed taxes on the promise that the cuts would trigger a furious wave of business expansion

    After he became Kansas governor in 2011, Sam Brownback slashed personal income taxes on the promise that the deep cuts would trigger a furious wave of hiring and expansion by businesses.

    But the "shot of adrenaline" hasn't worked as envisioned, and the state budget has been in crisis ever since. Now many of the same Republicans who helped pass Brownback's plan are in open revolt, refusing to help the governor cut spending so he can avoid rolling back any of his signature tax measures.

    Last month, Brownback ordered $17 million in immediate reductions to universities and earlier this month delayed $93 million in contributions to pensions for school teachers and community college employees. The state has also siphoned off more than $750 million from highway projects to other parts of the budget over the past two years.

    Democrats have long described Brownback's tax cuts as reckless. Republican critics want to repeal the personal income tax break for farmers and business owners to raise an additional $200 million to $250 million a year.

    Brownback blames the economic sluggishness — the state ranked 43rd in total personal income growth in 2015 — on slumps in agriculture, energy production and aircraft manufacturing.

    "You've got some global issues that are going on that we have absolutely no control over," Brownback told reporters at a recent news conference.

    But Scott Drenkard, an economist for the conservative Tax Foundation, told legislators last month that farmers and business owners appeared to pocket the extra money from the state's recent tax cuts rather than use it for expansion — "tax avoidance, not job creation."

    The continuing budget turmoil has been "just amateurish," said Republican Sen. Jim Denning, a former conservative ally of Brownback's who has become a critic. "I'm not ha ppy with how things played out."

    "… cut spending so he can avoid rolling back any of his signature tax measures." That was his plan from the start: Cut taxes, create a budget crisis, demand that spending be cut to balance the budget, all to shrink the state so privateers can swoop in and buy up the state for pennies on the dollar. It's a laissez-faire proponent's wet dream.

    Are all of the new Republican naysayers for real? I more than suspect that a number of them knew the plan but didn't count on the People getting such wind of it: hearing it spelled out the way I just have above. Now they're jumping ship for the sake of plausible deniability: "Who me?"

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  8.    Why it's hurting but not working | English Economic

    The Government can invest in roads and railways, pay its staff more, build schools and hospitals and so on. This stimulates the economy by creating jobs and raising wages and profits. Or it can put money directly into people's pockets by cutting taxes or increasing welfare benefits. This is "fiscal policy" and it was the preferred method of reviving a stagnant economy until the late 1970s.

    The alternative is for the government to encourage other people to spend money, usually by reducing interest rates or loosening restrictions on credit. This is "monetary policy" and it works by encouraging businesses and households to borrow more, either to invest in plant and machinery or to spend on things like new cars, holidays and home improvements. This has been most governments' preferred tool for the last 35 years.

    … If the policy is exhausted, it's time to try something else.

    … Rather than spend or invest more, governments have been cutting back, quite savagely in the case of the UK. The policy of cutting spending regardless of the economic circumstances — what we call now call "austerity" — just means monetary policy has to be even more effective to compensate. But monetary policy isn't working.

    Why is the government doing this? At least in the case of the UK, the reasons seem to be ideological. "The antagonism to public investment seems to lack any deep historical explanation, and may just reflect stupidity or an ideology imported from the US," says Simon. The ideological obsession in the Tory party with reducing the size of the state, whatever the consequences, effectively rules out using fiscal policy as a tool of economic management.

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  9.    Watch the Deficit, Not the Debt – Bloomberg View

    … much of the interest on the debt would actually be paid back to Americans.

    That's the bone of contention I don't see anyone answering.

    Look, Narayana Kocherlakota is a bright guy. Why is he dancing around this issue?

    He says that much of the interest would come back to Americans. Okay, but plenty of Americans are paying taxes but don't hold US bills or bonds that would earn them that interest back from themselves.

    Even if they were to, why the circle? Why not, not borrow from themselves in the first place.

    Second, plenty of the interest does not come back to American tax payers. It goes, for just one, to the Chinese Communist Party (the state of China) and, as we've seen above from Michael Hudson, the global, criminal underworld.

    Look at the Saudis threatening to dump their US bonds for fear of having them confiscated in law suits for any Saudi government involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Why are American's working to earn money they then pay in taxes that go to paying interest on bonds held by a regime that won't let women drive or not cover their heads, etc., etc.?

    What's your direct response, Narayana? I know you get it. I also know you have a soft spot for the common workers in America, and rightly so.

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  10.    Occupational Licenses May Be Bad for the Economy, But Good for Workers Who Have Them – Real Time Economics – WSJ

    Josh Zumbrun:

    It's one thing when a thoracic surgeon must have an active license, but it's another when an interior designer must have one. The public-safety risks of botched surgery are greater than the public safety risk of clashing prints (though interior designers say unregulated design could also lead to hospital deaths).

    That's the only bit in this article about that issue.

    Licensing requirements are not merely revenue generators for governments. Nor are they merely for the sake of higher earnings for those who have them or to restrict competition. Licensing requirements are first and foremost consumer protection.

    Caveat emptor is the world of laissez-faire snake-oil sales. It's also the world of people being tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail (if lucky).

    Yes, he mentioned a thoracic surgeon, but a botched real-estate deal can be every bit as problematic as a bad operation, depending. Should real-estate agents not be licensed, not required to complete any education, not have to pass any exam?

    Do we really want to recreate the lawless Wild West? Doctors had their licenses back then and there. Interior designers didn't.

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  11.    The Sub-Zero Club: Getting Used to the Upside-Down World Economy – Bloomberg

    The overall aim, of course, is to spur banks to look elsewhere when lending their cash, preferably to spenders such as companies and consumers, who should also benefit from low borrowing costs in markets. There's also the hope—especially in Scandinavia and Switzerland—that currencies will fall as investors seek higher returns elsewhere, lifting exports and import costs.

    … Danish central bank Governor Lars Rohde notes that 2015 was the most profitable year for his country's banks since 2008, despite a deposit rate of less than zero. …

    … Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer acknowledged that the approach is "working more than I can say I expected in 2012."

    I pushed for negative rates as a second-place option. In first place remains fiscal stimulus via debt-free money.

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  12.    Multifamily Investors Seek More Value-Add Deals

    "A lot of the activity will be in the value add," said Jim Clayton, Ph.D., head of investment strategy and analytics for real estate investment firm Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers, speaking at the NMHC research forum, held April 6-7 in Chicago.

    Higher prices on apartment properties have squeezed the yields for investors. Value-add investments offer an opportunity to push those yields higher. That might not matter for buyers simply looking for a safe place to park their money, but high yields are very important to institutional investors like pension funds and insurance companies that must meet their targets to fulfill their responsibilities.

    It's a good thing for increasing affordable housing too, provided everyone doesn't try to move class-B value-adds to A. The neighborhoods will determine much of what can be expected.

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  13.    Why populist uprisings could end a half-century of greater economic ties – The Washington Post

    … IMF chief economist Maury Obstfeld … added, "The problem is that trade creates winners and losers. And we haven't figured out how to adequately take care of the losers."

    That's not true that we don't know how to take care of the losers.

    What we know is that the losers are deliberately created for the sake of systemic unemployment to keep workers down so the superrich can keep more of the power to themselves. It's that simple.

    Does the IMF's chief economist, Maury Obstfeld, really not know that? If he doesn't, then why is he the IMF's chief economist?

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  14.    The U.S. Occupations at Greatest Risk of a Labor Shortage – Real Time Economics – WSJ

    And wage gains have been paltry, suggesting that workers don't have much negotiating power, though some measures are showing signs of life.

    Where's the breakdown of wage gains due to legislation versus just fewer people to fill openings?

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  15.    The Panama Papers [Soak the Rich] – YouTube

    The Panama Papers This special feature is produced by Democracy at Work for Worker Independent News. This is Richard Wolff from Democracy at Work. This last …

    Richard's statement bolsters Bernie Sanders use of taxing the rich to pay for infrastructure and jobs and higher wages, etc.

    Nevertheless, we still don't have to borrow or tax to have the money to do the things Bernie wants and much, much more.

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  16.    Rural Utah Fire Departments Grind to Keep Up Daytime Manpower

    According to the National Fire Volunteer Council, 69 percent of fire departments across the country are staffed by volunteers.

    People should weigh higher taxes against higher insurance-premiums due to less fire department protections/capabilities, etc.

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  17.    Oklahoma to Hold Hearing on Earthquake Insurance Rate Increases

    Concerned about a competitiveness in the … earthquake insurance market, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak has ordered a public hearing ….

    Another cost of fracking. Is it worth it?

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  18.    Budget Cuts Hamper Ability of Kansas Forest Service to Fight Fires

    Speaking of the governor of Kansas' terrible tax-cutting:

    …as the biggest fire in state history was raging in March, he was required to send back more than $15,000 as part of statewide budget cuts.

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  19.    Early Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Has Researchers Concerned

    … smashed record for early melting by more than three weeks.

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  20.    San Francisco mandates solar panels on new buildings | Grist

    Solar panels and density:

    While it's a definite boost to clean power, especially given the city's goal of running 100 percent on renewables by 2025, there are certainly more impactful approaches. At Vox, Brad Plumer makes a strong case for boosting housing density in the city.

    Build up. Don't sprawl. Watch out for earthquakes though. Build correctly!

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  21.    Wall St. Regulators Propose Stricter Pay Rules for Bankers – The New York Times

    Regulators released long-awaited rules on Thursday morning that aim to restrict how big financial institutions can pay their top executives.

    The new limits on banker bonuses would make the highest-paid employees at the biggest banks wait at least four years to receive parts of their annual pay. If the proposals are completed in the coming months, banks would also have to reclaim bonuses from bankers who take risks that lead to big financial losses.

    The structure of executive pay packages before the financial crisis was blamed for encouraging bankers to take unnecessary risks. In some cases, pay was set up in ways that motivated bankers to seek short-term gains even if their actions led to losses over the longer term.

    In Britain, by contrast, banks are now forced to hold back some pay for at least seven years. European countries have generally imposed stronger restrictions on executive compensation since the financial crisis, including some hard caps on salary and bonuses.

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  22.    U.S. jobless claims hit 42-1/2-year low as labor market firms | Reuters

    Jobless claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with healthy labor market conditions, for 59 weeks, the longest stretch since 1973. …

    The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 4,500 to 260,500 last week.

    "This continued strength in the labor market supports our forecast for a modest rebound in consumer spending growth in the second quarter, but it also suggests that wage and inflation pressures will continue to build," said Jesse Edgerton, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

    Don't expect a spike in economic growth in the near future unless politicians get wise and do the right things: funding training and public employment.

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  23.    Six big reasons to hold off on virtual reality | The Verge

    Not ready for real-estate-offerings prime time yet?

    The resolution of Oculus Rift's earliest prototypes was so low, that its view of virtual reality appeared to be obstructed by a screen door. Both the commercial Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headset make positive strides, but the visual fidelity of VR still gets the runner-up prize to standard HDTVs, let alone a 4K displays. While the actual screens inside the headset are high-resolution, having your eyeballs within an inch from their surface allows you to spot individual pixels. The limits of the resolution are especially noticeable when watching video, which is soft and blurry. While small text, like the folder names on your desktop, is nearly impossible to read. VR needs ultra-high-resolution screens and the appropriate computing power, neither of which come cheap in 2016.

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  24.    Follow-up on zombie properties is about accountability

    I got an earful the last time I wrote about this lawsuit from readers who sided with the town and its security argument. But I got another earful from people who live near some of these properties and have been frustrated by what they see as foot-dragging on the part of their elected officials when it comes to solving the problems.

    It's tough to speculate on what I might or might not do with a set of data that I haven't yet been able to get my hands on. But my biggest question is: If a town, a village or New York state is going to institute a registry as a means of holding banks or property owners accountable for the condition of vacant home, how can the public hold that government accountable if it insists the locations of those properties can't be disclosed?

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  25.    Vacant properties tough to track in Hall County

    Gutted and boarded up, the weeds growing over, hundreds of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties across Gainesville and Hall County can reduce property values for homeowners, contribute to crime and increase public health risks, according to local government officials and business leaders.

    It's difficult to ascertain just how many properties are vacant, abandoned or in foreclosure, officials said.

    Gainesville, for example, keeps no list.

    Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell, who works in real estate, said there is a neighborhood in his district where a half dozen or more mobile homes, located near pricey lakefront homes, are abandoned and crumbling.

    Another consequence from vacant and abandoned properties is lost tax revenue for local governments.

    "It can also result in additional costs for the city if we have to maintain or demolish the properties," Davis said.

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  26.    Blackstone Real Estate | Jonathan Gray | Blackstone NYC

    The Blackstone Group's real estate division passed the $100 billion mark in assets under management in the first quarter, while its earnings recovered slightly from a dip at the end of 2015.

    Blackstone's real estate head Jonathan Gray recently argued that the U.S. real estate market cycle is entering a more mature phase — which tends to limit opportunities for high-yield investors like Blackstone. The firm's president Tony James echoed that comment in a media call Thursday morning. "In real estate I think the U.S. has gotten a bit pricier, although there's still value to be had, but Europe is booming for us," he said.

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  27.    Recent FHA Guideline Changes and Highlights

    Reviewing these changes in the FHA mortgage guidelines proves that it is imperative to work with an experienced mortgage lender that keeps up to date with the latest regulations.

    That's quite true concerning the majority of buyers.

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  28.    flassbeck economics international – Economics and politics – comment and analysis

    Heiner Flassbeck takes off the gloves.

    These days, we are witnessing a tragedy of historic proportions in Europe. A country called Germany stubbornly and almost unanimously refuses to come to terms with the economic consequences of its own mistakes. It blames all the others but never accepts its own responsibility for what is happening.

    In particular, the Christian parties, who persuaded the German people for decades that independence of the central bank is one of the main achievements and pillars of democracy, show with their rabid attacks on the ECB and its current interest rate policy that they know no principles and that laws do not count for them when it comes to their primitive party interests. The intellectual level of these attacks is very low. The lack of intelligence and insight is being outweighed by far by their political brutality, which has recently been increasing on an almost daily basis. …

    … stupid and/or brazen people are ultimately playing with fire. The tragic combination of German ignorance and economic power revives a lot of old prejudices about Germany. Intelligent German politicians worked for decades to move beyond such preconceptions by cooperating on equal terms with others. However, now the hatred between populations raises its ugly and mighty head again.

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  29.    A graphical assault on supply-side tax cuts – The Washington Post

    Jared Bernstein:

    … the fact that the simple empirical record is uniformly hostile to the supply-side story should put the burden of proof squarely on those arguing that supply-side tax cuts will be pro-growth.

    I'll close with one more picture of a different sort. Governor Brownback of Kansas made the mistake of listening to Art and leading a willing legislature to aggressively cut state taxes. Those cuts, which took effect in 2013, have now blown a $400 million hole in the state's budget. Not only have the cuts caused serious underfunding of the state's education system, they've also coincided with weak job and GDP growth. The figure below plots Kansas' job growth since the cuts against that of neighboring states.

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  30.    Fixing Our Terrible Housing Welfare Benefits | Demos

    Matt Bruenig:

    Why not just do what Finland does here? Have a monthly welfare benefit that phases out like a negative income tax based on a family's gross income. Vary the size of the benefit based on the rent of the area and family size. Do not require people to have earnings and thereby create this bizarre and cruel gulf between 0-cent earners and 1-cent earners. And have different allowances for students and pensioners than for working-age adults. This has all the upside of Dreier's proposal and none of the problems.

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  31.    101 Reasons for Citizen's Income — Citizen's Income

    A Citizen's Income would benefit people without homes.

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  32.    America's Top 30 Boom Towns of 2016 Revealed – WORLD PROPERTY JOURNAL Global News Center

    The only one that really surprised me was the top one: Gilbert, AZ. I also didn't think Chicago was doing as well as the article suggests.

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  33.    Why Liberal Economists Dish Out Despair

    Gerald Friedman:

    … Christina Romer, former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration, who was always skeptical of fiscal policy and Keynesian economics, and why Jared Bernstein, former Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden under Obama, who should have known better, wrote that the economy would return on its own to full employment. They predicted, quite wrongly, that the proposed Obama stimulus would accelerate this recovery by 6 months.

    … we have a research agenda for many graduate student papers and dissertations.

    • The strength of Verdoorn's Law associating productivity growth with economic growth rates and the level of labor shortage.
    • The impact of pro-growth government investment policies – including investment in Research and Development as well as investments in roads, bridges, and other public utilities.
    • The investment accelerator and its role in fiscal stimulus, or in theories of secular stagnation.
    • The determinants of changes in labor force participation and the effect of increasing employment opportunities.
    • Responsiveness of immigration, especially undocumented, to labor demand.
    • The sensitivity of US imports to economic growth, an issue complicated by the international role of the dollar.
    • Restoring controversy to economics
    •  

    Controversy reflects the disagreements and uncertainty that alone can lead to intellectual progress. It is time to inject some of these into orthodox macroeconomics. We have been ill-served by a smugly sure macroeconomics both in imagination and policy. Amazingly, the crisis of 2 007-9 has left intact the dominant pseudo-Keynesian orthodoxy; maybe the kerfuffle around my report will help to open some space for constructive dialog in a profession that has clearly grown too complacent.

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  34.    Senate Committees Approve Bill Removing Barriers on Accessory Dwelling Units – The Registry

    Sacramento — The supply of accessory dwelling units, a long under used approach to providing affordable workforce housing, would increase across the state under a bill by State Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) that is receiving widespread backing from the business community, affordable housing advocates and urban planners. SB 1069 was approved with bipartisan support this morning [April 20] in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, and yesterday in the Transportation and Housing Committee.

    "Bay Area companies are having a tough time hiring employees because they cannot find housing in today's tight market without having to drive two to three hours a day," said Denise Pinkston, co-chair of the Bay Area Council's Housing Committee and the former Marin County Planning Services Coordinator. "This common-sense bill makes modest changes, but will have huge impacts on the supply of affordable secondary units.

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  35.    The Road not Taken

    Way ahead of his time by correctly reading a much older work:

    Axel Leijonhufvud showed economists a promising path forward. They should have taken it.

    Can we theorize the economy as an entity that is growing, evolving, never in equilibrium? An economy passes through periods of intense instability and groping towards an uncertain future as a matter of course? How might one begin?

    " The pretense that we know the future probabilistically as a given set of probability distributions of every damn thing is, I think, a pretty dangerous delusion, but it's also a comforting one to some people.

    The year was 1967. …

    … Keynesian economics was at the peak of its prestige, after having swept academia in the 1940s and 1950s. Keynesians were seeing direct success in economic policy-making in the Kennedy administration, overseeing several years of high growth with low levels of inflation as well as an impressive number of accurate forecasts. The problems of macroeconomic stability were defeated in most people's eyes. In the academic world, one approach dominated. The IS-LM model that John Hicks and Alvin Hansen had separately extracted, formulated and codified from Keynes's General Theory had become the fundamental way of thinking about the macroeconomy: a set of behavioral equations determined 'equilibrium' in the goods market, another set determined equilibrium in the money market, and the both together determined macroeconomic equilibrium, the point to which the economy would naturally gravitate. . (A modified version of that approach remains the preferred tool of undergraduate teaching today).

    … The more he looked at his footnotes, originally written in puzzlement at the disparity between what he took to be the Keynesian message and the orthodox Keynesiani sm of his time, the confident he felt. The implications were amazing. Had the whole discipline catastrophically misunderstood Keynes' deeply revolutionary ideas? Was the dominant economics paradigm deeply flawed and a fatally wrong turn in macroeconomic thinking? And if this was the case, what was Keynes actually proposing?

    Leijonhufvud's "Keynesian Economics and the Economics of Keynes" exploded onto the academic stage the following year; no mean feat for an economics book that did not contain a single equation. The book took no prisoners and aimed squarely at the prevailing metaphor about the self-regulating economy and the economics of the orthodoxy. He forcefully argued that the free movement of wages and prices can sometimes be destabilizing and could move the economy away from full employment.

    That helped understand the Great Depression. At that period, wages here highly flexible and all that seemed to occur as they fell was further devastating unemployment. …

    Reading Axel's work has provided, for us, a thunderclap of clarity on several issues. We hope that the same is true for you as you engage with the mind and work of this true, great, original master of economics.

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  36.    In honor of Earth Day, find out how poisonous your neighborhood is – MarketWatch

    Porter Ranch ZIP Code (91326) plunged 44% (twice the normal seasonal drop), while the share of all-cash sales spiked 50% during the same time period. Meanwhile, the median home sales price in Porter Ranch in the three months following the discovery of the gas leak dropped 1%, after climbing more than 30% in the three years since 2012, according to Zillow.com.

    Almost at the same time as the Porter Ranch leak, in Flint, Mich., residents awoke to find their tap water undrinkable, having been poisoned by lead after a misguided series of decisions a year earlier by local and state and federal environmental officials to use the long-polluted Flint River as a water source.

    Median home sales prices in Flint had risen from a 10-year low in April 2014 to $46,700 in August of last year. But the water-poisoning crisis at the end of December dropped selling prices to $30,700, according to Zillow.com.

    This is why in our last issue, I mentioned the importance of hazards maps as part of the due-diligence process.

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  37.    Lending Club and Sofi: The Big Flaw Few are Talking About in Fintech – Fortune

    Lowered lending standards have hit Fintech.

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  38.    House prices have risen twice as fast as earnings: here's why | New Economics Foundation

    Our focus needs to be on stabilising house prices and diversifying housing supply — ensuring there is a range of affordable and secure housing options.
    Watch our animation to find out more about what is causing our housing crisis, and what we can do together, to put a stop to this.
    Help us spread the word ….

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  39.    Overtime Pay: A Lifeline for the Overworked American – The New York Times

    Lower- and middle-income workers don't stash their earnings in offshore accounts the way high-paid chief executives do — the more the typical worker is paid, the more she spends on goods and services. When workers have more money, businesses have more customers; and when businesses have more customers, they hire more workers.

    When it comes to labor standards, Senator Alexander and his Republican colleagues always sing the same old trickle-down tune: If wages go up, jobs must go down. Yet it never turns out to be true. And trickle-down economics looks more like Chicken Little economics with every passing day.

    Nick Hanauer is an entrepreneur, a venture capitalist and the founder of Civic Ventures, a public policy incubator. Robert B. Reich is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few."

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  40.    twelve facts about food security and SNAP | The Hamilton Project

    It's not only common sense. It's backed up by real data properly interpreted.

    In 2012 safety net programs lifted almost 50 million people—including over 10 million children—out of poverty, as defined by the Supplemental Poverty Measure (Sherman and Trisi 2015). The largest reductions in poverty among children can be attributed to SNAP, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the child tax credit. After adjusting for the underreporting among social program beneficiaries in the Current Population Survey, it is estimated that SNAP lifts more than 10 million people out of poverty, including around 5 million children. Other programs such as housing assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) lift a smaller but still substantial number of children out of poverty.

    Recent research has documented strong, long-term impacts from investing in certain antipoverty programs aimed at children. Programs such as the EITC that supplement the earnings of low-income working families have been shown to increase children's test scores (Dahl and Lochner 2012), thereby raising their expected earnings when they reach adulthood (Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff 2014). These studies suggest that the benefits of poverty alleviation will accrue over the long run.

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  41.    Millennials Are Buying Homes & Cars, Getting Better Jobs

    Here are a handful of signs showing that millennials are growing up, and that they are not, in fact, all that different from previous generations.

    There's no doubt that generations are shape largely by the experiences they go through growing up. The generation that came up during the Great Depression was marked by the hardship. Generation Y has also been marked by the Great Recession, which is actually dragging on longer than the Great Depression due to a stupid lack of sizable enough fiscal stimulus.

    There's nothing inherently wrong with this generation relative to others that came before it. It has its general pluses and minuses, but so did mine.

    They seem to be catching on concerning economics better than any other generation since the depths of the Depression, but they do have better ways of communicating unfiltered economic truths.

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  42.    Where have all the small loans gone? | Urban Institute

    … lenders don't find these loans attractive. Loan origination costs are largely fixed and recovered either through the sale of the loan or, over time, through the financing spread and payment for servicing. Smaller loans generate lower sales prices, spreads, and servicing income, making them less economically attractive to lenders.

    What's happening instead? Three possibilities are no sales, more all-cash purchases (which tend to be to investors, rather than owner-occupants), and greater use of seller financing vehicles, including land contracts, which often have fewer protections for borrowers than traditional mortgages.

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  43.    Short-Sighted Tax Cuts Hurting Energy States | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

    Some people have never met a tax cut they didn't like, but what have they been thinking about other than shortsightedly about themselves?

    The severe financial problems confronting states that rely heavily on revenues from oil, natural gas, and other energy sources would be much less serious if those states hadn't cut taxes in recent years. If states like Louisiana, Oklahoma, and West Virginia had pursued a more fiscally responsible course, the recent plunge in energy prices wouldn't have so badly harmed their ability to support schools, roads, health care, and other building blocks of a strong economy.

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  44.    Labour Press — Building an Entrepreneurial State at a local level…

    John McDonnell MP, Labour's Shadow Chancellor:

    … if growth is low, incomes will rise more slowly. It is much harder for the government to redistribute incomes when they are not rising so rapidly.

    That means the priority for progressives must be not so much the distribution of income, as the distribution of ownership.

    This is much closer to an old tradition in the labour movement of decentralised ownership and democratised wealth.

    We want to empower local authorities, communities and workers to think and act creatively when it comes to building a fairer, more prosperous economy.

    With two-thirds of Britain's family businesses at risk of closure when their owners retire, employee ownership can help solve our brewing succession crisis.

    Twice as many co-operatives survive the crucial first five years as other businesses.

    And worker-owned companies have a clear productivity advantage over conventional businesses.

    We can either stick fearfully to the failures of the past and of this government in particular.

    Low pay. High debts. Rising inequality.

    Or we can see the opportunities ahead of us, and seize them with confidence.

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  45.    Early Warning Signs Your Property Manager Has Lost Control

    Here's what you should watch for:

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  46.    America's Wealth Effect From Rising Home Prices Has Been Cut in Half – Bloomberg

    Years removed from the bust, households may still be scarred from its effects and reticent to tap into home equity lines of credit.

    Let's hope so.

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  47.    Hutchins Roundup: State Medicaid expansions, federal housing programs, and more | Brookings Institution

    Using data on major financial institutions from 14 advanced economies for 1994 to 2012, Leonardo Gambacorta and Hyun Song Shin of the Bank for International Settlements find that a 1 percentage point increase in a bank's equity-to-total assets ratio is associated with a 0.04 percentage point reduction in the cost of debt financing and a 0.6 percentage point increase in annual loan growth. The authors note that this finding suggests that regulations that require banks to increase their equity can both help ensure bank solvency and help with macroeconomic performance.

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  48.    Real Estate Speculators Swooping Into East New York, Brooklyn, Offering Residents Quick Cash for Their Homes

    Good for the flippers but bad for those who are priced out of their long-time neighborhoods:

    The Center for NYC Neighborhoods, a nonprofit group that seeks to keep housing affordable, says in a new report released Monday that East New York is now the top neighborhood in the city for speculators who buy and flip homes. Last year, 94 homes were sold for an average of $215,000, and resold within 12 months for more than triple that amount.

    The solution is building more affordable housing. That will require governmental backing not being thwarted or undercut/underfunded by those who care only about themselves and the rich.

    Flippers perform a service, but Wild West flipping isn't socially responsible enough.

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  49.    Preserving Affordable Supply: Expiring Funding Threatens Existing Affordable Stock

    Even with a large portion of the affordable market threatened, efforts to support the affordable market by creating new units have dampened. With respect to developing new affordable units, it is difficult to keep up with demand. It is even more difficult to incentivize developers to create new affordable units as these deals typically yield smaller margins in terms of ROI than conventional development. With no significant additions on the horizon, preserving the existing affordable units remains a crucial tactic to support affordable supply.

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  50.    Residents evacuated as 5-alarm fire burns at Gilbert construction site | 12NEWS.com

    Wow! Speaking of the hottest real estate market in the country:

    The 5-alarm fire at Gilbert and Warner roads was battled by 120 firefighters using 40 trucks to beat back the blaze.

    The flames destroyed seven of eight apartment buildings in the complex and caused a nearby neighborhood evacuation.

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  51.    Cost of solar energy falls every time the sun rises – The Washington Post

    Eventually, the savings on the electric bill will add up to what you paid for the system, which means from then on you're basically getting free electricity. The average return on investment is 5 1 / 2 years in the District, said JD Elkurd, executive director at Solar Solution.

    "From a money perspective alone, I don't know why everyone in D.C. doesn't have panels," said Northeast resident Neha Bhatt. "Financially, solar roofs are becoming a no-brainer, even if you're not trying to 'save the environment.'?"

    Plenty of apartment complexes have roofs that are perfectly suited to solar. Go for it, landlords.

    Tenants are allowed to have satellite dishes. Why not solar panels?

    Battery breakthroughs are rapidly approaching too. More on that below.

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  52.    Researchers Accidentally Make Batteries Last 400 Times Longer | Popular Science

    Even though minuscule amounts of gold are being used in this experiment, that would still make these batteries be expensive to manufacture. Penner suggests that a more common metal, like nickel, could replace the gold if the technology catches on.

    The lab's future work will entail actually building batteries with this technology, and further investigating why the process works.

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  53.    Technology is finally eliminating geography as a barrier to real estate investing | TechCrunch

    Firms such as HomeUnion … and OwnAmerica offer investors the ability to buy an entire single-family home or create a portfolio of homes, fully customized to meet their personal investment needs. …

    The fundamental difference in this next wave of funding platforms is that they support true ownership of real estate. … Additional benefits include receiving significant tax breaks associated with home ownership and investment guidance throughout the entire holding period.

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  54.    Land bank offers new hope for polluted properties – Connecticut Post

    Bogen, who owns his own consulting agency in addition to his work on brownfields with the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, said the land bank offers a way forward that wouldn't otherwise be available. Under the legislation, a land bank would be eligible for the same remediation funding as a municipality, but as a nonprofit it would be better equipped to pursue other sources, including philanthropic donations.

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  55.    How Hamilton is cracking down on nuisance properties | www.journal-news.com

    Under the new process, city staff will have to prove the case to the Nuisance Appeals Board, which will have three options, Scharf said: it can agree with inspectors that the building is a nuisance and must be rehabbed or razed; it can decide it is not a public nuisance; or it can decide more information is needed and postpone a decision until a future meeting.

    Scharf has said the change "eliminates the need to go to council and proceed with the lengthy period to take to court for approval."

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  56.    Operator of foreclosure rescue firm convicted of real estate fraud | The Sacramento Bee

    The former operator of a foreclosure rescue company was convicted Friday of 23 felony real estate fraud charges.

    A Sacramento County jury found 52-year-old Richard Henri Fecteau guilty of offenses involving grand theft, recording false documents and illegally acting as a foreclosure consultant, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release. The jury also found true a white-collar crime enhancement.

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  57.    Most of the Recession's Stay-at-Home Dads Are Going Back to Work – Real Time Economics – WSJ

    Unsurprisingly:

    The number of stay-at-home dads surged during the recession, but a stronger job market is drawing many of them back into the workplace.

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  58.    M7.8 Ecuador Earthquake, ALERT™ :: Event Summary

    AIR Worldwide estimates that industry insured losses from the M7.8 earthquake that struck Ecuador's central coast on April 16 will be between USD 325 million and USD 850 million. Ecuador continues to take stock of the casualties and widespread losses resulting from a major earthquake that struck the country's central coast last week. According to the Ecuadoran Secretariat for Risk Management, which is concerned with risk reduction and emergency and disaster management, 570 people have been killed, and more than 4,600 injured. More than 1,100 buildings are reported to have been destroyed and more than 800 damaged.

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  59.    Kumamoto Earthquake, ALERT™ :: Event Summary

    AIR Worldwide estimates that insured losses to properties from the April 16 M7.0 earthquake that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on Japan's Kyushu Island will be between JPY 180 billion (USD 1.7 billion) and JPY 320 billion (USD 2.9 billion). Kyushu Island continues to take stock of the casualties and widespread losses from two shallow and major earthquakes that struck southwestern Japan last week. Fifty-eight people are reported to have been killed, and more than 900 have been injured. The Japan Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA) estimates that more than 3,900 residences and 120 non-residential buildings were damaged or destroyed, a number of mudslides resulted, and 14 fires were attributed to the temblors.

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  60.    Existing home sales for March 2016 reported by the National Association of Realtors

    Housing is being supported by a buoyant labor market, which has resulted in an acceleration in household formation. Sales, however, remain constrained by a dearth of homes available for sale, which is limiting choices for buyers.

    The rise in house prices is outstripping wage gains. While that could make home purchasing expensive for first-time buyers, it is boosting equity for homeowners, which could encourage them to put their homes on the market.

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  61.    mainly macro: Some thoughts on Paul Mason's McDonnell road show talk

    He also supports Corbyn's original Peoples QE proposal. He cites me as opposing it, but in fact I did not oppose the idea as an alternative to the QE that the Bank would want to do otherwise. What I thought was wrong with Corbyn's QE was that it appeared either to negate central bank independence, or make a National Investment Bank conditional on the Bank wanting to do QE. In the past I have talked (here, or via Tim Harford here) about how governments and the central bank could cooperate to do money financed fiscal stimulus. In other words Corbyn's QE is fine as an alternative to conventional QE in the context of recession fighting, but not as a general way to finance an investment bank.

    "… Corbyn's QE is fine as an alternative to conventional QE in the context of recession fighting, but not as a general way to finance an investment bank." Does Simon also simply mean "not as a way to fund the government on a full-time basis"? I think he does; and if so, he's wrong. Central-bank independence is not what we need. What we need is real democracy, something we've never really had.

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  62.    Investors: Start Planning Now to Make Sure You Don't Miss 2016 Real Estate Tax Savings!

    … put some systems into place to automate, systemize, and simplify your record-keeping processes.

    What we are talking about is good bookkeeping. Don't be alarmed — bookkeeping does not need to be complicated, and it does not need to involve fancy software. It does, however, need to be a system that works for you. Excel is easy to use. QuickBooks is great for automation. Take the time now to play around and find something that works for you. Leverage what your CPA uses and leverage what other investors are doing. Don't reinvent the wheel.

    … It is not up to you to understand thousands of pages of the tax code. Nor is it up to you to keep up-to-date on all the ever-changing tax loopholes and pitfalls. That is the job of your tax advisor.

    Make sure you know enough to verify that your tax advisor knows enough. Who's using your tax advisor and for what? Vet your tax advisor!

    I enjoy reading Amanda Han's articles. I don't think I've missed one since I first started reading her. Why? She appears to know her stuff. Now, just how good she is in operating her business is something I can't say, but first appearances are often telling. Often, though, does not mean always.

    You interview your potential CPA/tax advisor. You ask about law suits against him/her/the firm. Being sued is standard if one is in business long enough and doing a large enough business. The question is, how are any suits turning out and why? Are there any regulatory "black marks" against the advisor/firm?

    You get the picture.

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  63.    How to Plan NOW to Save Major Tax Dollars in 2016

    Okay, so it was ladies first. That said, I also always read Brandon Hall's articles.

    It comes through that he's very detail oriented, thorough, and wants to apply tools that will magnify those things while making them easier.

    Again, I have not personally vetted Brandon. I'm simply stating what I consider to be obvious appearances.

    … time value of money creates significant opportunity costs when the IRS is holding your funds hostage. Find a CPA who will have this talk with you, as it means they have your best interest in mind and are more interested in seeing you create wealth than being elated by a large refund.

    Consider cloud based accounting systems and documentation management for best results. This will make collaboration with your CPA easy and seamless.

    The fact that he mentioned the "time value of money" makes me sit up and take notice. That's my kind of talk.

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  64.    United States 6 Month Bill Yield

    The United States 6 Month Bill Yield increased to 0.38 percent on Monday April 25 from 0.36 percent in the previous trading day.

    Ordinarily, I wouldn't mention or link to something this granular from day to day. I'm bringing it up simply because yields almost across the board have been going up for several days. Bond prices have fallen. Demand for bonds is down for both long- and short-term bonds.

    It appears to me that the domestic scene has more to do with this than does the international. Labor slack is being seen by investors as decreasing. They expect the economy to heat up enough that they'll do better with their money elsewhere than in so many bonds.

    Of course, things change rapidly. We'll keep an eye out.

    If you have any insights on this issue, please share them.

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  65.    Survey shows plunging public support for TTIP in U.S. and Germany | Reuters

    The survey, conducted by YouGov for the Bertelsmann Foundation, showed that only 17 percent of Germans believe the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a good thing, down from 55 percent two years ago.

    In the United States, only 18 percent support the deal compared to 53 percent in 2014.

    The Bertelsmann survey showed that many Germans fear the deal will lower standards for products, consumer protection and the labor market. It also pointed to a dramatic shift in how Germans view free trade in general. Only 56 percent see it positively, compared to 88 percent two years ago.

    Good! The TTP is a terrible plan.

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  66.    More than half US population lives amid dangerous air pollution, report warns | Environment | The Guardian

    "We've certainly seen dramatic improvements in air quality but far too many cities and counties exceed levels where adverse effects occur. Progress should be faster. Americans deserve to breathe clean air and there's still a lot of work to be done."

    Billings said more needed to be done to prevent pollution from wood stoves ….

    Even though I'm close to a major international airport and a freeway, wood burning causes more general pollution right where I am than does anything else. After that, I'd say smokers smoking outside (because they aren't allowed to smoke in their units).

    Why people still smoke at all is beyond me.

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  67.    Why our landed gentry are so desperate to stay in the EU | Giles Fraser: Loose canon | Opinion | The Guardian

    Giles Fraser:

    We like the idea of the EU being this great big free-trade zone. But the word "free" here is most misleading. As so often, one person's freedom is another's imprisonment. The EU operates like one great big cartel — a mechanism for fixing prices and keeping out competition. Again, it's the poor who suffer.

    I can't say that I disagree.

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  68.    China's Great Ball of Money Is Rushing Into Commodities Futures – Bloomberg

    "These guys are going nuts," Hong said. "Leverage exaggerates the move of the way up, but also on the way down – much like what margin financing did to stocks in 2015."

    "There's a lot of liquidity and there are people looking for opportunity," said Ben Kwong, a director at brokerage KGI Asia Ltd. in Hong Kong. "Investors are just boosted by recent rebound in those commodity prices and it's speculative behavior."

    Officials cracked down on speculators using borrowed money to buy equities after a surge in debt exacerbated the boom-to-bust of the world's second-largest stock market. When China was spurring lenders to pump credit to aid growth in 2008 and 2009, investors speculated on everything from Pu'er tea to garlic. Easy money is again surging, with new credit topping $1 trillion in the first quarter.

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  69.    Why America's impressive 5% unemployment rate feels like a lie for so many — Quartz

    This is why US bond yields aren't convincing to me.

    Sarah Kendzior:

    There are three main reasons the vaunted economic recovery still feels false to so many. The first is the labor participation rate, which plunged at the start of the Great Recession and discounts the millions of Americans who have been out of work for six months or more. The second is "the 1099 economy," a term The New Republic's David Dayen coined to refer to the soaring number of temps, contractors, freelancers, and other often involuntarily self-employed workers. The third is a surge in low-wage service jobs, coupled with a corresponding decrease in middle-class jobs.

    Employment statistics in particular have a habit of eclipsing the real story. As any worker will tell you, it is not the number of jobs that matters most, but what kind of jobs are available, what they pay, and how that pay measures against the cost of living. The 5% unemployment rate, other words, is hiding the devastating story of underemployment, wage loss, and precariousness that defines life for millions of Americans.

    BTW, concerning:

    …. Apr. 14, Bloomberg News announced that jobless claims in the US have reached their lowest level since 1973. "All other labor market data are telling us that the economy is creating a lot of jobs," economist Patrick Newport told the outlet. "This is further confirmation that the labor market is strong."

    I read that at the time and thought about how jobless claims are not a very good gauge right now. There's a great deal of psychology involved in terminations. How hard are people working for less money just to avoid being laid off?

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  70.    U.S. Government Is Now a Major Counterparty to Wall Street Derivatives

    Wow! Pam Martens and Russ Martens:

    The official narrative around the bailout of Fannie and Freddie is that they were loaded up with toxic subprime debt piled high by the Wall Street banks that sold them dodgy mortgages. While that is factually true, the other potentially more important part of this story is the counterparty exposure the Wall Street banks had to Fannie and Freddie's derivatives if the firms had been allowed to fail.

    That was often openly stated about AIG at the time but not much concerning Fannie and Freddie.

    Thanks to Occupy Wall Street and Senator Bernie Sanders, the public knows two concrete things about Wall Street: banks got bailed out, we got sold out and, the business model of Wall Street is fraud.

    But until we have a President in the Oval Office who believes that the citizens of a genuine democracy deserve the right to sift through the documents of the most epic fraud in the history of financial markets so they can reach their own conclusions, all we really have are slogans, including the one that says we live in a democracy.

    We need democracy. We need transparency so we may abolish this fraudulent plutocracy once and for all.

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  71.    Early analysis of Seattle's $15 wage law: Effect on prices minimal one year after implementation | UW Today

    Most Seattle employers surveyed in a University of Washington-led study said in 2015 that they expected to raise prices on goods and services to compensate for the city's move to a $15 per hour minimum wage.

    But a year after the law's April 2015 implementation, the study indicates such increases don't seem to be happening.

    "Workers are hopeful about the promise of greater income, but harbor few illusions about the potential for price increases, or reductions in government benefits, to eat away at these gains."

    "From its inception, this study has sought to do more than track employment figures," Vigdor said. "Our team hopes to develop a full understanding of how businesses and nonprofits change their practices to accommodate higher wages, and of whether a higher minimum wage meaningfully transforms lives. Today's report showcases that broader approach."

    Contrary to the false warnings by the libertarian capitalists, the sky didn't fall.

    "Workers are hopeful about the promise of greater income, but harbor few illusions about … reductions in government benefits, to eat away at these gains."

    That's what the libertarians will attempt to do.

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  72.    In banking, it's all other people's money – The Washington Post

    This book, like many other accounts, also describes a culture where lying to clients, investors and regulators is pervasive. The worst consequences of corporate fraud, when it is caught, are usually fines paid by the corporation without any individual named or held accountable, which do not help change people's behaviors. Worse, current regulations still fail to do enough to protect the public from the distorted incentives for excessive risk-taking in banking.

    Our persistently unstable financial system fuels repeated cycles of boom, bust and crises — the most intense and harmful of which involve excessive borrowing. In credit booms, too many loans are made, including some that are wasteful and misdirected.

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  73.    How history can help us solve global economic issues | MIT News

    … the tools needed for anyone to be able to innovate have to start with programs that mitigate the terrible (and multiplying) effects of poverty, especially on the youngest members of our society. And we have to create the social conditions that allow everyone the full human dignity to try and have a go.

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  74.    In Hamilton's Debt – The New York Times

    Paul Krugman almost always writes as if there are only two choices: 1) borrow and run deficits or 2) cut government spending.

    Why does he not change from a usurer to a democrat?

    Alexander Hamilton was a clever guy. He was cleverer than Andrew Jackson. However, there was also Thomas Jefferson, who openly stated that we didn't need, nor would it be a good idea to have, a central bank.

    Hamilton had some good ideas, but on the issue of who issues the money and determines its value, Jefferson was the democrat. Hamilton was the elitist with banking ideas that were, and remain, anti-American at their core.

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  75.    Fire at Tennessee Apartment Complex Kills 1, Destroys 11 Homes

    One person has died and 11 homes have been destroyed following a fire at an apartment complex in Harriman, Tenn.

    Add your comment. Including the article/link number will help.


  76.    Cameras Trained on Mountains around Lake Tahoe Help Wildfire Battle

    The high-definition cameras can be operated remotely to pan, tilt and zoom in the search for the first wisps of smoke in remote areas ….

    Coupled with drones with cameras, censors, and fire-fighting equipment, this could be the start of something really big.

    Add your comment. Including the article/link number will help.


  77.    New Drone Analytics Product Offers Faster Processing of Homeowners Claims

    See, not all the news about drones (UAV's) is bad.

    US DataWing Aerial Analytics incorporates data and images captured by a drone using a proprietary algorithm … to assist in the claims process.

    Add your comment. Including the article/link number will help.


  78.    Earthquake Risk High Along Sierra's Eastern Front

    "The shocks were so violent and varied and succeeded one another so closely, one had to balance in walking as if on the deck of a ship among the waves."

    Add your comment. Including the article/link number will help.


  79.    Why the S.E.C. Didn't Hit Goldman Sachs Harder – The New Yorker

    After reading this article, I shake my head about Reid Muoio.

    … During a year spent researching for a book on this subject, I've come across case after case in which regulators were reluctant to use the laws and resources available to them. …
    Kidney was on the inside at a crucial moment. Now retired after decades of service to the S.E.C., Kidney recently provided me with a cache of internal documents and e-mails about the Abacus investigation. The agency holds the case up as a success, and in some ways it was: Goldman had to pay a five-hundred-and-fifty-million-dollar fine, and a low-ranking trader was found liable for violating securities laws. But the documents provided by Kidney show that S.E.C. officials considered and rejected a much broader case against Goldman and John Paulson & Company.

    Kidney could not understand why S.E.C. staffers were reluctant to investigate Tourre's bosses at Goldman or anyone at Paulson & Company. Charging only Goldman, he said, would send exactly the wrong message to Wall Street. "This appears to be an unbelievable fraud," he wrote to his boss, Luis Mejia. "I don't think we should bring it without naming all those we believe to be liable."

    Kidney told me that he thought the S.E.C. could avail itself of a broader interpretation of securities law. He argued that the agency should file civil actions against top players at both the bank and the hedge fund under a concept called "scheme liability"—a doctrine of securities law that makes it illegal to sell financial products whose main purpose is to deceive investors.

    In late October of 2009, Kidney circulated a long memo arguing that the S.E.C. should consider charging Paulson & Company, John Paulson himself, and Paolo Pellegrini, who was the hedge fund executive who worked on the Abacus deal.

    … The oft-cited explanations—ca mpaign contributions and the allure of private-sector jobs to low-paid government lawyers—have certainly played a role. But to Kidney, the driving force was something subtler. Over the course of three decades, the concept of the government as an active player had been tarnished in the minds of the public and the civil servants working inside the agency. In his view, regulatory capture is a psychological process in which officials become increasingly gun shy in the face of criticism from their bosses, Congress, and the industry the agency is supposed to oversee. Leads aren't pursued. Cases are never opened. Wall Street executives are not forced to explain their actions.

    Kidney still rues the Goldman case as a missed chance to learn the lessons of the financial crisis. "The answers to unasked questions are now lost to history as well as to law enforcement," he said. "It is a shame."

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  80.    Will We Care About Climate Change As Winters Get Warmer?

    … winter temperatures have become warmer for virtually all Americans while summer conditions have remained relatively constant.

    Climate change models predict that under all potential levels of future warming, average summer temperatures will ultimately rise at a faster rate than winter temperatures.

    Using these projections, the researchers calculated that under a severe warming scenario, survey scores will decline such that an estimated 88 percent of the US public will experience less pleasant weather at the end of this century than it has in the past 40 years.

    Add your comment. Including the article/link number will help.


  81.    How do you prevent, control mosquitoes? | Life | thetandd.com

    Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths on a regular basis.

    Add your comment. Including the article/link number will help.


  82.    De Blasio to mandate energy retrofits for privately owned buildings | POLITICO

    The nanny state wants to save the planet. Good.

    Among the measures announced Friday, the mayor's office will push new energy codes that will require buildings to complete cost-effective energy conservation measures; require large and mid-size building owners to repair and improve heating distribution systems within the next 10 years; require large and mid-size building owners to assess energy retrofit strategies as part of their required energy audit; and improve efficiency and information transparency in mid-sized buildings and non-residential spaces.

    Add your comment. Including the article/link number will help.


  83.    LA Times – Steve Fifield rides the ups and downs of real estate development

    Debt lesson: Don't get over-leveraged.

    Moral of the bigger story: Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.

    Add your comment. Including the article/link number will help.


  84.    Midtown and Downtown Detroit Real Estate Is Pretty Darn Pricey — Deadline Detroit

    In the central core of Detroit's comeback — downtown and Midtown — real estate prices are skyrocketing after years when they were depressed and property was hard to move.

    Add your comment. Including the article/link number will help.


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