News: Real Estate, Risk, Economics. Apr. 4, 2015

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Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) Employment Situation Summary

2) ICT Implants, nanotechnology, and some reasons for caution

3) Nonresidential Construction Employment Ticks up Despite Dismal Overall Jobs Report

4) California Facing Extreme Heat Waves and Rising Seas – Bloomberg Business

5) Pimco Sues AIG Over Losses From 2008 Financial Meltdown – Bloomberg Business

6) Reuse and Redevelopment: Reinventing Space – Videos Article – GlobeSt

7) The Daily Shot; April 3, 2015: Global Macro Currents

8) Jobs Report Adds to Evidence of a Slowing Economy – NYTimescom

9) PACE Financing to Jump-Start Rooftop Solar? | Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP – JDSupra

10) Saudi Arabia and Iran Fighting Proxy War in Yemen – SPIEGEL ONLINE

11) Warren Buffett’s mobile home empire preys on the poor | Center for Public Integrity

12) Ahamed: Powerful Central Bankers – YouTube

13) The real estate market is hot, and now, so are the scams – + KSHBcom

  1.    Employment Situation Summary

    Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 126,000 in March, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
    Employment continued to trend up in professional and business services, health care, and retail trade, while mining lost jobs.

    Pretty much everything else “was little changed.”

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  2.    ICT Implants, nanotechnology, and some reasons for caution

    This may seem quite off topic at first blush, but bear with us.

    We are big believers in, and supporters of, the precautionary principle as critical to proper risk-management. The following excerpt is a “futurist now” example of the thought processes that go into the who, what, where, when, why, and how much, in applying that principle concerning a very important and geometrically progressive unfolding of technology that will impact every facet of the human experience as we now know it (and more).

    A further difficulty in achieving this delicate balance is in answering the question: What constitutes risk, hazard or harm? As Wickson et al (2010, p. 7) explain, ‘While everyone may agree that scientists, policy makers and citizens should work to ensure that nanotechnology does not harm “nature” or “the environment”, there are very different ideas about what these concepts mean, what constitutes harm, and the reasons why we might wish to avoid it’. Optimists like Kosta and Bowman (2011, p. 271) suggest that existing legislation, along with ‘engineering based solutions’ should suffice so long as researchers and manufacturers can be encouraged to consider integrating precautionary systems within their designs during the early stages of the products’ development. Though they were talking specifically about privacy issues arising from the use of ICT implants, this sort of optimism is not uncommon. Indeed, there are many other voices that question whether developers need to think of these issues at all. Legislation and ethical consideration should come later, they cry. The difficulty with such claims is that, as McDonough and Braungar (2002, p. 26) astutely reflect, ‘At its deepest foundation, the industrial infrastructure we have today is linear: it is focused on making a product and getting it to a consumer quickly and cheaply without considering muc h else’. We simply cannot ignore the commercial aspect that drives some elements of research, nor ignore the fact that ‘over time some technological practices become so entrenched in society that it becomes difficult to do things differently’ (Feng, 2000, p. 213). These factors combined mean we ought to consider such questions from the earliest stages of conception and design onwards, alongside related issues pertaining to freedom, dignity, privacy, security, consent, trust, control and equity of access.

    As Feng (2000, p. 213) notes, ‘early on in the design process technologies are often malleable enough to be produced and implemented in a number of ways. Hence the need for ethical discussion to take place early on in the design of technologies’. Yet, and despite the abundance of questions offered above, current research on implants typically addresses either very general philosophical/ethical issues or practical issues (e.g. technical or regulatory) arising from these technologies. While the former is often discussed within philosophy, humanities and social sciences, the latter often comes from within industry, applied research, regulation and insurance.

    We believe that the insurance industry needs to take the longer view because liabilities will otherwise seemingly hit the industry out of the blue, which liabilities could have been anticipated via more use of the precautionary principle: ary_principle

    As insured (entities covered by insurance policies), you can impact the discussion in a positive way by urging the application of the precautionary principle in society as a whole: public and private policies and practices.

    Science and technology are exponentially advancing. If we fail to apply the precautionary principle, we will find that we’ve allowed great damage to occur before we move to correct the damage.

    The time from conception to application of a new technological advancement with vastly more power to wreak incalculable havoc and losses will continue to shorten.

    We must get out and stay out in front of such advancements. It is the ethical and responsible thing to do.

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  3.    Nonresidential Construction Employment Ticks up Despite Dismal Overall Jobs Report

    “Today’s jobs report was a stunner and construction was not spared as the sector lost jobs for the first time in 15 months.” —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

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  4.    California Facing Extreme Heat Waves and Rising Seas – Bloomberg Business

    A day after California imposed mandatory water restrictions to battle a four-year drought, a new study on global warming suggests the worst is yet to come.

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  5.    Pimco Sues AIG Over Losses From 2008 Financial Meltdown – Bloomberg Business

    Sixty-three Pimco investment funds seek damages from AIG under U.S. securities law for stocks and bonds they bought from Oct. 18, 2006, to May 12, 2008. They allege AIG’s offering documents for the securities either misstated or left out crucial information.

    That’s not about AIG’s insurance division.

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  6.    Reuse and Redevelopment: Reinventing Space – Videos Article – GlobeSt

    Full video of the Reuse and Redevelopment: Reinventing Space panel from RealShare LOS ANGELES 2015.

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  7.    The Daily Shot; April 3, 2015: Global Macro Currents

    Walter Kurtz reports that Chinese demand for iron ore and coal are way down, which is hitting Australia as expected.

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  8.    Jobs Report Adds to Evidence of a Slowing Economy –

    Justin Wolfers:

    Over the past few months, consumption spending has been flat. Industrial production has fallen slightly. Real retail sales are down. And durable goods orders have fallen sharply. The latest readings of gross domestic product suggest a tepid rate of growth at the end of 2014, and tracking estimates point to continuing weakness at the start of 2015.

    Likewise, measures of sentiment among both consumers and businesses point to some degree of dissipating optimism.

    Against this background, it comes as little surprise to learn that recent reports of strong jobs growth had been overstated. The latest revisions say the economy is creating around 150,000 to 200,000 jobs per month, rather than the 250,000 to 300,000 that optimists had hoped for.

    Don’t think it has all been due to bad weather. The economy started slowing before that weather even hit.

    The stronger dollar has been the main problem, and any rate rise by the Fed in the face of it would be downright ______. You fill in the blank.

    Low gas-prices have not made up for the stronger dollar or losses from the fracking downturn, not that we’re for fracking. We aren’t.

    Fighting the currency wars isn’t wrong, per se; but the right path is via high fiscal-spending without governmental borrowing.

    It would be child’s play, but the bankers do not want you to even know that it exists as a fantastic option to the Federal Reserve System.

    What’s more, very few professional or academic economists will touch it because to do so would put them on the wrong side in the bankers’ eyes.

    More power to those who stand up for what is best for the people as a whole whether the bankers like it or not.

    Martin Wolf is one, and Adair Turner is another. Thank you, gentleman.

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  9.    PACE Financing to Jump-Start Rooftop Solar? | Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP – JDSupra

    Michael Polentz and Jack Stoddard:

    Where the PACE model goes from here and what roadblocks FHFA will develop against larger implementation remain to be seen; however, with the explosion of capital flowing into energy efficiency and solar distributive generation, creative finance companies utilizing the PACE model are well positioned to jump-start the marketplace.

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  10.    Saudi Arabia and Iran Fighting Proxy War in Yemen – SPIEGEL ONLINE

    This is a global risk-management issue. That’s why we’re covering it.

    We largely agree with the article but take strong exception to the following statement:

    …for the 75-year-old Khamenei, signing a far-reaching nuclear deal by the end of June would represent an unbelievable reversal. It would mark a retreat from a confrontation that provides him, as leader of the revolution, with his legitimacy.

    In no way is confrontation what has provided Khamenei with legitimacy.

    In fact, his popularity in Iran will only go up if the deal is finalized. He knows that but was prepared not to agree with a deal that would humiliate Iran.

    We’d like to point out here that the Houthi have not been looking to establish a theocracy in Yemen. They have not been looking for sharia law there. Here’s a good article that will fill you in more on who the Houthi are and what they are all about in this conflict: 5-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-yeme n-conflict

    Contrast that information with the Saudis’ emphasis on Wahhabism:

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  11.    Warren Buffett’s mobile home empire preys on the poor | Center for Public Integrity

    A scathing report against Warren Buffett’s Clayton Homes:

    Daniel Wagner and Mike Baker:

    …dealers and lenders went by different names — Luv Homes, Clayton Homes, Vanderbilt, 21st Mortgage. Yet the disastrous loans that threaten them with homelessness or the loss of family land stem from a single company: Clayton Homes, the nation’s biggest homebuilder, which is controlled by its second-richest man — Warren Buffett.

    Buffett’s mobile home empire promises low-income Americans the dream of homeownership. But Clayton relies on predatory sales practices, exorbitant fees, and interest rates that can exceed 15 percent, trapping many buyers in loans they can’t afford and in homes that are almost impossible to sell or refinance, an investigation by The Center for Public Integrity and The Seattle Times has found.

    Clayton’s tactics contrast with Buffett’s public profile as a financial sage who values responsible lending and helping poor Americans keep their homes.

    To maintain its down-to-earth image, Clayton has hired the stars of the reality TV show Duck Dynasty to appear in ads. Buffett, meanwhile, has become known as a Billionaire of the People, grousing publicly that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does and delivering public pronouncements riddled with folksy aphorisms and quotes from Mark Twain.

    Customers said in interviews that dealers misled them to take on unaffordable loans, with tactics including broken promises, last-minute changes to loan terms and unexplained fees that inflate loan balances. Such loans are, by definition, predatory.

    But when federal agencies jointly proposed appraisal rules in September 2012, industry objections led them to exempt loans secured solely by a mobile home.

    It will be interesting to see how Clayton Homes responds.

    Disclosure: Berkshire Hathaway has large property and casualty insurance company holdings. We do business with some of them.

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  12.    Ahamed: Powerful Central Bankers – YouTube

    Returning to the Gold Standard ruined the world. That’s just one of the insights in this video.

    We discuss the lessons learned and ignored from the powerful central bankers of a century ago. Financial Thought Leader Liaquat Ahamed, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Lords of Finance discusses the differences and similarities between central bank policies today and those leading up to the Great Depression.

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  13.    The real estate market is hot, and now, so are the scams – +

    The real estate market is suddenly hot, but some agents warn home sales are skyrocketing as much as the scams.

    Scammers are particularly targeting potential renters.

    Deb Frohling, leasing agent and owner of Advantage Homes LLC, said rental properties only stay on the market for a few days.

    Frohling said scammers are taking advantage of the hot rental market with an old tactic.

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