Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for April 26, 2019

Oklahoma Supreme Court Tosses Non-Economic Damages Cap:

The decision involves a lawsuit filed by a worker whose left arm was amputated following an accident at an oil well site near Wheeler, Texas, according to his attorney, Ed Abel of Oklahoma City. James Todd Beason was struck by a boom from a crane operated by an employee of Louisiana-based I.E. Miller Services, Inc. in March 2012.

An Oklahoma County jury in 2015 awarded Beason and his wife a total of $15 million, including $6 million for pain and suffering. A judge then reduced the jury award on non-economic damages to $700,000 — $350,000 for each of the Beasons — in order to comply with the law.

In invalidating the law, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial judge with instructions to enter judgment in the full amount of the jury’s verdict.

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the State Chamber of Oklahoma, had urged the court to uphold the cap, arguing that non-economic damages are unpredictable and often excessive.

We always hear the “business” side of this debate but rarely, if ever, the other side. Insurance companies typically come down on the side of “business.” It’s difficult to set premiums when awards can be high. However, high awards for pain and suffering put safety people into high gear. That includes insurance companies, which often ramp up underwriting requirements. The end result is a safer workplace and environment. Therefore, I come down on the side of no caps.

California Wildfires Helped Drive Homeowners Premium Volume in Surplus Lines:

It is believed that severe wildfires over the last few years are making it harder for homeowners in high risk areas to find coverage in the admitted market, which is driving them to the state’s FAIR Plan or into the surplus lines market.

Explosions Threatening Lithium-Ion’s Edge in a Battery Race:

While batteries are sealed from external sources of oxygen, some cathodes can release oxygen within the cell under high temperatures.

This calls into question whether landlords should allow tenants to use Lithium-Ion batteries on the premises. They’re almost everywhere. Let’s hope the battery industry gets a grip on all of this before it gets out of hand.

California May Boost Rules for Homes at High Wildfire Risk:

A state Senate committee voted 8-3 Monday to advance a measure requiring developers to increase fire protections, plan for evacuations, or prepare for residents who may need to ride out fires in safe areas.

Local governments would also be required to try to make existing structures less likely to burn.

There are always developers against any code, zoning, or other regulatory enhancements. I understand that their profit margins get squeezed, but the government (and I mean federal) needs to subsidize.

Update: Florida Legislature Passes Industry-Backed AOB Reform Bill:

After seven years of failed attempts, Florida legislators have passed property insurance reform to address the abuse of a policyholder benefit known as assignment of benefits (AOB).

The insurance industry and consumers advocates say the abuse has caused higher insurance premiums in the state and made insurance harder to obtain.

Concerning assignments of benefits, don’t.

This Louisiana town is moving to higher ground as taxpayers foot the bill for growing climate crisis

Over 500% Increase in Ransomware Attacks Against Businesses:

… cybercriminals have switched their targets from home users to commercial organizations which can afford to pay larger ransoms to have their computing systems unlocked and files decrypted.

Invisible Malware Is Here and Your Security Software Can’t Catch It:

… such malware may be accompanied by what’s called “Blue Pill malware,” which is a form of virtual root kit that loads itself into a VM and then loads the OS into a VM. This lets it fake a shutdown and restart while letting the malware keep running. This is why you can’t just use the shutdown choice in Microsoft Windows 10; only pulling the plug will work.

… If all of this makes it seem to you that security is an arms race, then you’d be correct.

New survey in humans shows link between advanced liver disease and glyphosate [Roundup herbicide]:

Prof Mills’ study does not prove that glyphosate actually causes liver disease. It is an “after the fact” study in humans with liver disease, in which exposure to glyphosate herbicide was not controlled but glyphosate excretion was measured after the subjects became ill. However, it does show a correlation between high glyphosate levels in human urine and NASH.

Exactly how glyphosate excretion levels in urine correlate with the amounts actually present in the vital organs of the body is not known. The pesticide industry claims that high urine levels are a positive thing because the body is successfully excreting the chemical.

However, this notion is contradicted by research led by Dr Monika Kruger in Germany. Dr Kruger found that glyphosate levels in a range of organs in dairy cows was very similar to that in urine. This suggests that glyphosate can accumulate in the body. In addition, chronically ill people had higher glyphosate residue levels in their urine than healthy humans, suggesting that high glyphosate excretion levels are not a healthy sign.

In addition, a separate study in pregnant women living in the US showed that glyphosate levels in their urine correlated with shortened pregnancy lengths.

Superbugs to Kill More People than Cancer if Industrial Agriculture Doesn’t Ditch Antibiotics and Pesticides:

Antibiotic resistance is sometimes attributed to the over prescription of antibiotics in hospitals and clinics. But the main driver is the use of human drugs in livestock raised on factory farms. Nearly 80 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are administered to conventionally raised cows, pigs and chickens to promote growth and treat disease. This means exposing healthy animals to antibiotics over long periods of time.

A recent study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment found more than 100 pesticides and 21 drugs in 29 waterways tested in 10 European nations. The substances detected include fungicides, herbicides and insecticides, as well as antibiotics used in livestock.

Scientists say the effects of these various substances mixing together in nature are unknown. However, mounting evidence links pesticides, as well as pollution, habitat changes and global warming, to an “insect Armageddon,” as insect populations were found to decline 76 percent during a 27-year research period.

The best way to protect you and your family from drug-resistant infections and toxic pesticides is to buy … organic food.

Regenerative Organic Certification: Farm like the World Depends on it:

Regenerative Organic Certification is a holistic agriculture certification encompassing pasture-based animal welfare, fairness for farmers and workers, and robust requirements for soil health and land management. The Regenerative Organic Alliance will oversee the Regenerative Organic Certification framework and guidelines.

The Alliance is excited to announce the launch of the Regenerative Organic Certification Pilot Program. Click the button below to learn more.

Glyphosate exposure causes serious health issues in future generations:

Washington State University researchers have found a variety of diseases and other health problems in the second- and third-generation offspring of rats exposed to glyphosate, the key ingredient of the world’s most popular weedkiller, Roundup. In the first study of its kind, the researchers saw descendants of exposed rats developing prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, obesity, and birth abnormalities.

Skinner and his colleagues call this phenomenon “generational toxicology”. It has been observed over the years from exposures to fungicides and other pesticides, jet fuel, the plastics compound bisphenol A, the insect repellant DEET and the herbicide atrazine. At work are epigenetic changes such as alterations in DNA methylation patterns, that are intimately involved in turning genes on and off, often because of environmental factors including exposure to toxic chemical pollutants.

… critics will point to several aspects of the study that may limit its applicability to human health ….

Belt and Road forum: China’s ‘project of the century’ hits tough times:

… Chinese companies build coal power projects around the world. Coal projects accounted for as much as 42% of China’s overseas investment in 2018, according to the China Global Energy Finance database.

“For the sake of the planet, for people who could be breathing in pollutants from coal plants and for the long-term economic health of many developing countries, let’s hope BRI quits coal,” said Wawa Wang, senior adviser at VedvarendeEnergi in Denmark.

It’s astounding to me just how stubborn the mainstream media is/are when writing about Xi. They write about his pet projects but don’t mention his totalitarian dictatorship over China, his illegal claims on the South China Sea, and his military threats against democratic and independent Taiwan, which he vows to takeover including by force of arms (invasion and occupation).

Sen. Warren Wants to Jail Those Who Caused 2008’s Meltdown:

BIll Black examines the historical context of Warren’s bills for easier prosecution of banks and corporate leaders.

If Current Laws Prosecuting Bankers Aren’t Used, What Can Warren Change?:

Bill Black demolishes the notion that we can’t prosecute banksters with the laws we now have in place.