Interesting & Important News & Analysis, July 29, 2019

Here’s a huge risk-management issue. “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs for national unity,” said China’s Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe. As those in the world who are aware and care know, Taiwan is a democracy while mainland China is a totalitarian dictatorship quickly creating a total-surveillance police state.

Is the United States to just cave into the dictator’s demands for the South China Sea and total dictatorial power over Taiwan, rendering Taiwan a completely enslaved society? If the US does so, what message will that send the dictator when he goes to expand even further, which he would?

I oppose American imperialism, but whether Xi likes it or not, Taiwan has earned the right to decide for itself. Taiwan was also a dictatorship but threw that off. Taiwan is proof that democracy is better than dictatorship. It has proved Chinese people can live under a democracy and be better off. Xi hates it because it proves he’s wrong. I recognize Taiwan’s national sovereignty.

“… heat waves kill more Americans than any other weather event.”

Extreme Heat: what you should know.

I do disagree with the following as a blanket statement:

Do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees, as this could increase the risk of heat-related illness. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature.

The point is that it depends upon the humidity. If you use an electric fan in 95+ degree heat when the humidity is low enough that there is sufficient evaporation, then it’s a good thing provided you place something damp or wet in front of the fan. An example might be to hang a wet bed sheet in front of the fan. Another thing you can do is to wear a wet t-shirt. It can be so effective that you can feel cold at first. It may require re-wetting the shirt quite often. A spray bottle full of water can help. Also put wet washcloths in the freezer and place chilled ones on your head. These are tricks I learned living and working in the hot desert for many years.

Recommended Extensions program

Extensions allow you to add features to Firefox to customize your browsing experience. Extensions are software programs, most often developed by a third party, that modify the way Firefox works.

Recommended extensions are curated extensions that meet the highest standards of security, functionality, and user experience. Firefox staff thoroughly evaluate each extension before it receives Recommended status.

Here are all of the current Recommended extensions.

It’s a Start: Lower Mortgage Rates Are Boosting Home Building

… the recovery has been driven almost entirely by the multifamily sector, rather than the larger single-family market.

HUD Charges Texas Landlords With Discrimination

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has charged Plano, Texas landlords Quang Dangtran and his wife, Ha Nguyen, with violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to lease a room to a prospective tenant because she is African-American.

“Just from my observations, this specific crime of child rape, illegal aliens tend to commit child rapes at a rate of four to one, compared to citizens,” Johnson said. [Source]

So, you’re a landlord and read something like that and think maybe you should bar those often referred to as “illegal immigrants” from renting from you or living in any of your rentals as family members or guests or the like.

Well, read this:

… it is not illegal to ask housing applicants to provide documentation of their citizenship or immigration status as long as you have a legitimate basis for doing so. A landlord has legitimate basis for seeking this information because it may affect how long the individual is able to be present in the country; and, as a result, whether the person will be able to fulfill the lease’s terms. If a person is only allowed to be in the country for another six months, but they want to sign a year-long lease, this may be a valid reason for denying the applicant. However, denying an applicant solely on the basis of citizenship—if their citizenship does not prevent them from fulfilling the terms of the lease—would be illegal.

NYC management company facing blowback after demanding residents prove U.S. citizenship [immigration status]

Breaking up big companies and market power concentration

… Joseph Stiglitz remarks that “as corporate behemoths’ market power has increased, so, too, has their ability to influence America’s money-driven politics”. Since “the challenge, as always, is political”, Stiglitz expresses doubt that “the American political system is up to the task of reform” and believes that “it is clear that Europe will have to take the lead”.

In one of its briefings The Economist goes even further, arguing that “if you want to understand where the world’s most powerful industry is heading, look not to Washington and California, but to Brussels and Berlin”. Not only is the EU more likely to be more objective owing to its lack of big tech firms; it is also where Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have a quarter of sales and the world’s biggest economic block, meaning that its standards are often copied in the emerging world. What’s more, the EU has what the article calls “a distinct tech doctrine” which, similarly to the approach of the “Report of the Digital Competition Expert Panel”, rejects break-ups and utilities-style regulation and is rather based on equal treatment for rivals who use a platform [emphasis added] and individuals’ sovereignty over their data. On the latter, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is to be followed by allowing interoperability, and thus customer switching, between digital service providers.

Budget Deal Needed to Protect Key Investments

Housing. Rental assistance is highly effective at reducing hardship for families but, due to funding limitations, only 1 in 5 low-income families with children eligible for housing assistance receives it. The House would boost funding for the Housing Choice Voucher Program and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance by $2 billion in 2020 to cover the cost of rising rents and fully renew the aid that helps keep rent affordable for more than 3.4 million households, nearly all of which include seniors, people with disabilities, or children. Included in these funds is $85 million to help some 9,000 additional homeless veterans and at-risk families with children afford decent, stable housing.

As Flood Risks Rise Across the US, It’s Time to Recognize the Limits of Levees

For their part, many scientists and engineers have found that levees can exacerbate floods by pushing river waters to new heights. One 2018 study estimated that about 75% of increases in the magnitude of 100-year floods on the lower Mississippi River over the past 500 years could be attributed to river engineering.

… this year’s floods should lead to more of this kind of rethinking. River towns can start by restricting floodplain development so that people and property will not be in harm’s way. This will create space for rivers to spill over in flood season, reducing risks downstream. Proposals to raise and improve levees should be required to take climate change and related flooding risks into account.

Foreign purchases of American homes plunge 36% as Chinese buyers flee the market

The Chinese were the leading buyers for the seventh consecutive year, purchasing an estimated $13.4 billion worth of residential property. Yet that was a 56% decline from the previous 12 months and comparatively the biggest percentage drop of all foreign buyers. Chinese economic growth slowed to 6.3% in 2019 compared with 6.9% in 2017, when the previous buyer survey began. The Chinese government also tightened its grip on the outflow of cash to purchase foreign property.

The Chinese may also be souring on U.S. real estate due to the current political climate.

5 Unique Ways to Help your Rehab Stand Out Without Scaring Away Buyers or to attract renters.

New rent cap bill won’t cap homelessness

… in practice, rent control has very different consequences. Rent control measures are turned on their heads because of a loophole created by Costa Hawkins. It resets rent-controlled units to market rate whenever a tenant vacates the premises. In turn, landlords are encouraged to maximize tenant turnover to collect higher rents.

A landlord looking to raise rents beyond the rate allowed by local rent control ordinances may limit property maintenance to the legal minimum to encourage a tenant to leave. It inadvertently creates a perverse landlord/tenant relationship that fails to keep its promise of keeping long-term tenants in place.

Change the law: Eliminate rent control in favor of more low-income housing

Better than rent control

Clearly, rent control is not perfect. But is there a better solution that allows low-income renters to qualify to pay rent, while also keeping landlords happy?

Yes, and it’s really simple — more construction of low-income housing is needed across California, and especially in its coastal cities.

There are already 1.5 million fewer homes than needed to keep up with the population of low-income residents in the affordable housing inventory, according to the Low Income Housing Coalition. Every year, this number grows as the increasing population exceeds new residential construction of all types.

To fight this severe housing shortage, local governments need to encourage the building of more housing suitable for low-income households. This can be done through builder incentives and re-zoning to allow denser building near jobs and public transit. However, such efforts often receive the support of legislators, but end up being derailed by local not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) advocates. For a recent example, see SB 50, a promising bill to provide more housing near public transit which has been delayed due to NIMBY interference, citing the bill’s potential to change the “character” of their neighborhoods.

When sufficient rental housing exists to shelter the state’s low-income population, the need for rent control will diminish.

Federally subsidize construction wherever it’s needed, and subsidize the tenants so they can pay the rent.

Earthquakes repeatedly striking proposed US nuclear waste site

‘Liberal paper straws don’t work’: Trump campaign starts selling plastic drinking straws

This is Donald Trump claiming that degrading plastics polluting literally everything is not a crisis. Well, it is a crisis. If the Donald Trump approach had prevailed back in the day, we never would have had the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. I remember how it was before those Acts were passed and signed into law. It was awful, and we haven’t done even remotely enough to clean up and safeguard our environment.