Interesting & Important News & Analysis, September 12, 2019

FEMA Officials Charged With Puerto Rico Hurricane Aid Fraud

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials who oversaw the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and the former president of Cobra Acquisitions were arrested on fraud and conspiracy charges linked to recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria, according to federal prosecutors.


Commission Says Humanity to Pay Massive Cost for Not Adapting to Climate Change

On Monday, the commission called for a sweeping readjustment of the global economy.

“Financial resources for adaptation investments will have to come in a coordinated manner from across the entire financial system,” they write.


Souderton Area School District Contending With Ransomware Cyberattack


Virtual Disk Attachments Can Bypass Gmail and Chrome Security and more.

Poulsen’s proof-of-concept, although unpolished, shows that planting well-detected malware on a computer without triggering any alarm is not only possible but dead easy, too.


Wolcott Schools Working Without Internet, Email After Multiple Ransomware Attacks

In June, Wolcott Public Schools experienced a ransomware attack where hackers demanded money to restore the computer system. Ransom was not paid and the situation was handled internally. However, when a suspicious email was discovered one week ago, the town wasn’t taking chances.


Look, the Bahamas ran on tourism and offshore banking. Money laundering and hiding money and ownership via shell corporations and trusts was big business. One can hope the seedy side never recovers.

US Report Names Bahamas As Money Laundering Jurisdiction

Nevertheless, even those involved in money laundering are human beings. We shouldn’t simply do little to nothing to help them. Also, think of those there who had nothing to do with the seedy side.

Trump administration will not grant protected status to Bahamians affected by Dorian: reports


If You’re Poor in America, You Can Be Both Overweight and Hungry

How can such cycles be minimized? It will take a concerted effort from many actors. The U.S. Congress, for one, should increase funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — food stamps — on which 50 million American families depend. And it should shift agriculture subsidies away from their heavy focus on corn, soybeans and other Big Ag crops and toward the farming of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.


Modular Is Poised For Greatness — If Only CRE Understood How To Use It

The Modular Building Institute, a nonprofit serving the modular construction industry, estimates that there are only about 200 or so modular manufacturing companies in the U.S.

“The beauty of modular is that this has been utilized in global construction and global developments for a significant amount of time,” Rusconi said. “We were able to get comfortable with that and we think that the industry as a whole will get comfortable with that and start to utilize it more.”


This economist debunked all the right-wing talking points about the Green New Deal

… we would need the jobs guarantee to guarantee anyone who wants to participate in the labor process a pathway to engaging in planting of forests, that sort of ecological remediation as just sort of a standing pool of labor ready to work for making a cleaner environment. Aside from that, we also need very directed public spending in creating a modern grid that can handle the very different types of renewable resources that we have purchased for the country. And that should be publicly owned. So I’m sort of tipping my hat at the Bernie [Sanders] plan that was recently released this week that calls for significant ownership stake on the part of the public in power generating and transmission capabilities.

If it is not passed? To put it bluntly, I think that we’re staring down a “Mad Max” situation here. You know, not to be alarmist, but I do think that our current institutions are not equipped to deal with the scarcity that will emerge due to higher average temperatures, a loss of traditional, arable land, mass migration due to climate refugees, common property value increases or depression and just an upending of the sort of status quo, however bad it’s been, given that current scarcity mindset results in very bad outcomes for most people. I think the rich will have a fine time, like they always do. But I think that for most of us we’ll be facing very mean and scarce conditions. So I tend to… When you ask me “How do you pay for it, how much does it cost?” I tend to say, “Look, what is the cost to the economy if it does not? What are the economic costs of having to face legitimate scarcity, several generations until we’re all dead?”


Preventing Cold War II

… China’s remarkable economic progress may yet lead to gradual political liberalization, however unlikely such a prospect may appear today.

When I read that, I laughed out loud. There will be no “gradual political liberalization.” China will throw off Xi and his Party or continue down the path of 1984-on-steroids dystopia. Also, I’m sure most “experts” are way overrating China’s future economic power. The rest of the world isn’t going to simply allow China to continue down dystopia road unchecked globally, economically, financially.


Rather than all the legislative gyrations suggested in the linked article, the law should simply be that everyone who qualifies gets vouchers. The vouchers should be “money” that all landlords and depository institutions are legally required to accept. The vouchers should be indexed to rental-housing inflation. It should be completely up to voucher holders where to live (from who to rent; what unit to rent).

Strengthening Housing Vouchers Should Be Priority in 2020 Funding Bills


That Assault Weapon Ban? It Really Did Work

In the decade after the ban, there was a 347 percent increase in fatalities in gun massacres, even as overall violent crime continued downward.

Indeed, the number of gun-massacre fatalities in the past five years alone has already topped the previous high for the decade after the ban was lifted. If we continue at the post-2014 pace, by 2024 we will have had more than 10 times as many gun massacre deaths in that 10-year period as we had during the decade of the federal assault weapons ban.

Similarly, fatalities per shooting incident fell during the assault weapon ban and have risen sharply since. With increasingly potent and readily available weaponry, the average number of people who die in a gun massacre has increased by 81 percent in just five years. Assault weapons were used in at least 11 of the 15 gun massacres since 2014; at least 234 of the 271 people who died in gun massacres since 2014 were killed by weapons prohibited under the federal assault weapons ban.


Five Key Criteria To Evaluate When Doing Multifamily Real Estate Market Analysis

The following are fleshed out in the article:

1. Population And Population Growth

2. Job Growth And Unemployment Rate

3. Job Diversity

4. Median Household Income

5. Crime


Never Mind Yield Curves. What’s Negative Convexity?

Convexity hedging can become so large at certain trigger points that it can actually drive the whole Treasury market, meaning moves in yields can become exacerbated as players rush to adjust their portfolios. That was said to be the case in March, when the yield on 10-year Treasuries fell below that offered on the three-month for the first time in over a decade. (This is known as an inverted yield curve, the appearance of which often precedes a recession.) The inversion was fueled by this hedging activity, which pushed swap rates down further and faster than 10-year Treasury yields.

If you care about the U.S. economy then you should care about convexity (really!). Many investors have been pointing to an inverted yield curve as a sign that recession could be looming. But if yields are being distorted by hedging activity, then there’s an argument that the signal sent by inversion is not as meaningful as it might otherwise be. If you combine convexity hedging with the idea that the premiums you get for locking your money up in Treasuries longer have been distorted by foreign inflows (as European and Japanese investors seek out better yields in American assets), then it’s possible the predictive power of an inverted yield curve really is different this time.

It’s only one factor among many. Think tariffs.


Who’s afraid of Elizabeth Warren?

“I want these billionaires to stop being freeloaders.”

Cramer: Wall Street executives are saying Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 bid has ‘got to be stopped’

However, more and more people on Wall Street are giving to her campaign because they are even more afraid of Bernie Sanders.


This is why, a few days before Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said it, I wrote it. The United States and Russia are natural allies. The sooner the People of America come to realize it, the better.

Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri called Wednesday on Muslims to attack U.S., European, Israeli and Russian targets in a speech on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Al-Qaida chief in 9/11 speech calls for attacks on West


More States Hitting Electric Vehicle Owners With High Fees, a Consumer Reports Analysis Shows

“People should be allowed to choose a vehicle that’s safe, reliable and better for the environment without being punished,” says Shannon Baker-Branstetter, manager of cars and energy policy at Consumer Reports.

Atkinson also contends that any EV fee should be set less than what the driver of an equivalent gas-powered car would pay in gas taxes, because EVs don’t pollute as much, and there are fewer government costs in dealing with the environmental impact. He adds that it’s probably a mistake to tax EVs at all for the next several years because the nascent technology is still trying to make inroads. Five years from now, it might be a self-sustaining technology, he said.


Concerns rise over tainted sewage sludge spread on croplands

The concern is that certain PFAS chemicals, which studies have associated with increased risk of cancer and damage to organs such as the liver and thyroid, could be absorbed by crops grown in soils treated with polluted sludge and wind up in foods. The Food and Drug Administration this year reported finding substantial levels of the chemicals in random samples of grocery store meats, dairy products, seafood and even off-the-shelf chocolate cake, although the study did not mention any connection to sewage waste.

Studies have documented PFAS absorption by some crops — lettuce, tomatoes and radishes among them — from soils fertilized with sewage byproducts. And the EPA’s inspector general reported last year that the agency was falling short in tracking hundreds of pollutants in sludge, including PFAS.

Its inspector general reported last year that the EPA had identified 352 pollutants, including PFAS, in biosolids. But the report concluded the agency had too little data and other tools to assess their safety. Regulations require testing for only nine pollutants in sludge, all heavy metals.


Is Trump moving to the left economically because he has come to learn how poorly his corporate-tax cuts turned out, or is he playing politics because of the upcoming election?

Trump Rules Out Unilateral Move on Cutting Capital Gains Tax

“President Trump was thoroughly briefed on the complex economic, legal and regulatory issues, and concluded that at this time he does not feel enough of the benefits will go to the middle class,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

If he’s not playing politics, he really was quite economically illiterate. He did say things when he was running that strongly suggested he didn’t understand monetarism or Keynesianism. He seems to now savvy monetarism, but monetarism isn’t going to bail him out if the economy really turns downward. The Fed will run out of ammo if Trump sticks to the tariff war and China doesn’t cave. In that case, he’ll need fiscal stimulus. Would the legislative branch give it to him? Would he have the chops to request that the money for the stimulus be created without increasing the deficit and national debt?