Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 23, 2019

Oklahoma Reels, Missouri Declares State of Emergency from Storm

Dozens of people were rescued from rising floodwaters and felled trees that smashed homes and blocked roadways in Oklahoma, as severe storms unleashing tornadoes and heavy rain roared through the central United States on Tuesday.


Do you have welding going on in your fix-ups and maintenance projects?

More Evidence Welding Fumes Raise Lung Cancer Risk

When researchers looked only at data from studies that accounted for both smoking and asbestos exposure, welding was still associated with a 17 percent higher risk of lung cancer.


Bogus hurricane damage claims net one guilty plea, another arrest

Sheila Ruffin, 50, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of disaster fraud related to the Hurricane Matthew recovery effort conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, authorities said.


Many people rah-rah China’s industrialization; however, industrialization has come with huge concerns over insufficient regulation and enforcement.

Chemical Multinationals Must Stop Cutting Corners in Sourcing: Report on China Blast

… IPE said international firms had created a “powerful engine for continued irresponsible operations around the country” and they must ensure they buy only from factories that meet safety standards.


What’s wrong with the following statement?

… we shouldn’t assume that technology can replicate the function of human knowledge itself. Just because a computer can know everything there is to know about a car doesn’t mean it can drive it.

Well, what part of a self-driving car isn’t part of a robot?

Brad DeLong seems unaware that software is already here that can devise language we can’t understand. Researchers actually shut such software down out of fear that the software could get up to things the software developers simply couldn’t know because those developers couldn’t speak the language. That was after letting the software run just a day or so.

The idea the computers won’t be designing and developing (manufacturing) newer generations of computers is amusing and rather quaint.

It’s really cognitive dissonance. People don’t want to deal with what’s coming. Many of them hate the idea that they are replaceable by computers in terms of work. They also get paid to protect the status quo of the plutocracy. They don’t want any of us thinking about a Universal Living Income, where no manual or other labor for money is required anymore of any human being.

I, on the contrary, can hardly wait. I wish it were already here.

Origins of “Microeconomics” and “Macroeconomics”

New Zero-Day Exploit for Bug in Windows 10 Task Scheduler

… SandboxEscaper focused on the Task Scheduler utility and uses it to import legacy tasks from other systems. In the days of Windows XP, tasks were in the .JOB format and they can still be added to newer versions of the operating system.

What happens is that Task Scheduler imports a JOB file with arbitrary DACL (discretionary access control list) control rights. In lack of a DACL, the system grants any user full access to the file.

The researcher explains that the bug is exploitable by importing legacy task files into the Task Scheduler on Windows 10.

Oh and I have 4 more unpatched bugs where that one came from.
3 LPEs (all gaining code exec as system, not lame delete bugs or whatever), and one sandbox escape.

If any non-western people want to buy LPEs, let me know. (Windows LPE only, not doing any other research nor interested in doing so). Won’t sell for less then 60k for an LPE.

I don’t owe society a single thing. Just want to get rich and give you *** in the west the middlefinger.

Lovely.

Rogue Security Researcher With Grudge Against FBI Goes On Windows 10 Exploit Spree

There are clues in the SandboxEscaper blog as to the real reasoning, and they are not subtle either: the motivation would seem to be getting back at the U.S. for a perceived injustice. The most telling is the confession that she has “most definitely given portions of my work to people who hate the U.S.” because “that’s what happens when the FBI subpoenas my google acc and intrudes my privacy.” SandboxEscaper goes on to suggest that the people who have access to the exploits “are going to use those bugs to get back at U.S. targets,” before finishing with, “an eye for an eye.” It’s not just the FBI and the U.S. that are on the receiving end of this apparent hatred, some of it is reserved for the information security industry itself. “F*ck this shitty industry. I don’t plan to make a career in it anyway,” SandboxEscaper writes, “I hate all the people involved in this industry.”

Amoral. More than the FBI and the cybersecurity industry could be harmed.

GetCrypt Ransomware Brute Forces Credentials, Decryptor Released

A new ransomware called GetCrypt is being installed through malvertising campaigns that redirect victims to the RIG exploit kit. Once installed, GetCrypt will encrypt all of the files on a computer and then demand a ransom payment to decrypt the files.


Windows 10 (but not the Home edition): Turn on device encryption

I suggest you research BitLocker first. It has had issues in the past.

IMF admits ‘notable failures’ in bailout programs deepened Greece’s recession

It is the third time the IMF admits failures, errors and mistakes in handling with the Greek crisis. So, now what? Will it hand out some extra money to the thousands of impoverish Greeks? Admitting mistakes is not enough for those who indebted their lives until the end of their days.

It was all predicted on this blog by this poster.

This made me laugh out loud. We might be better off if Facebook, Instagram and Twitter vanished: Sen. Josh Hawley

I laughed when I got to the bottom and saw, “Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, is on the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. Follow him on Twitter: @HawleyMO”

Look, I’m not faulting him. I just thought it was funny. I’m not thrilled with “social media” either, but this post will be posted to it. That’s about all, though. I can’t remember the last time I actually went on social media to “interact.” I just quit one day and have never looked back. I haven’t missed it for a second. I don’t regret trying to spread the word via it but did quit when I realized spreading the word was being way too marginalized. Social media has become a propaganda tool for propaganda most of which I find repugnant.

Everything You Know About Tariffs and Inflation Might Be Wrong

Why Workers Without College Degrees Are Fleeing Big Cities

For the first time in at least a decade, 4,868 more people left King County, Wash. — Amazon’s home — than arrived from elsewhere in the country.

Santa Clara County, Calif., home to most of Silicon Valley, lost 24,645 people to domestic migration, its ninth consecutive annual loss.

The trend is becoming widespread. Eight of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the country, including those around New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami, lost people to other places in 2018. That was up from seven in 2016, five in 2013 and four in 2010. Migration out of the New York area has gotten so intense that its total population shrank in 2018 for the second year in a row.

Today it makes a lot of sense for a lawyer to move to Silicon Valley from the South. The additional pay will more than compensate for the higher cost of housing. But a janitor moving from, say, somewhere in Alabama to Cupertino could see her household income, after paying rent, fall by more than half.

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 22, 2019

At points in this video, I literally winced.

If you are anti-regulation or anti-enforcement, anti-strong-enough government, but rather just plain laissez-faire (anything-goes capitalism), this is what you end up with:

Deadly Waters (RT Documentary)

Citarum: Indonesian river keeps textile industry’s dirty secrets

The Citarum river in Indonesia is known as the world’s most polluted river. In some places, the water turns from murky to black and resembles a bubbling witches’ brew of domestic trash, sewage and industrial waste from hundreds of factories along the Citarum’s banks. Locals, aware of the contamination and health risks, continue to use it for drinking and other daily needs, as manufacturers keep dumping toxic chemicals and heavy metals in the river. An RTD crew travels to Indonesia to witness the river’s degradation and meet environmental activists on a mission to stop it.



Bucks socialite Claire Risoldi sent to jail, ordered to pay $10.4 million in insurance fraud scheme

“This defendant masterminded a multimillion-dollar insurance fraud scheme to fund her own excessive lifestyle,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office prosecuted the case, said in a statement Friday. “Insurance fraud harms all Pennsylvanians — the costs trickle down to consumers and inflate rates for everyone else.… This is unacceptable.”


Man admits to $1.7 million insurance fraud using fire and water to damage homes

In total, nine fraudulent fire claims, three fraudulent water damage claims, and two fraudulent theft claims were filed with various insurance companies on nine different addresses, totaling approximately $1.7 million in fraudulent payments.


Here’s how to build a hurricane-resistant house — not as expensive as you may think

“We put probably 100, maybe 200 Simpson hurricane clips up there,” he said pointing to the third-floor ceiling as he walked through the home. “All this cross-bracing is new. All that foam, it’s new, that happened last month. All these light fixtures here, they’re all going away, every one of them.”

He is also breaking up much of the concrete on the ground, because the tidal surge caused it to push up against the pillars, cracking them during the storm. He said he will likely add stone pavers, which have spaces in between, and will therefore not push up against the columns.

He pointed all this out, just as his next-door neighbor’s home was being bulldozed. It was built two years ago to the highest local code, but it was a total loss.


How inequality makes us poorer

Roland Benabou gave the example (pdf) of how egalitarian South Korea has done much better than the unequal Philippines. And IMF researchers have found (pdf) a “strong negative relation” between inequality and the rate and duration of subsequent growth spells across 153 countries between 1960 and 2010.

Correlations, of course, are only suggestive. They pose the question: what is the mechanism whereby inequality might reduce growth? Here are eight possibilities: …

… the Gini coefficient has been flat for years (which is true if we ignore housing costs) is like saying that because the bus has stopped moving we need not care about the man who has been run over by it. It misses the main point.


Seeing all of these in one place makes one wonder how Facebook is still standing.

Top 10 epic Facebook fails

Don’t read the following unless you want to feel sick; however, read the following if you want to know what’s really going on and aren’t afraid to stand up to the powers that be to force through the right policies and practices throughout society and throughout the entire world.

Revealed: air pollution may be [is] damaging ‘every organ in the body’

Air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body, according to a comprehensive new global review.

The research shows head-to-toe harm, from heart and lung disease to diabetes and dementia, and from liver problems and bladder cancer to brittle bones and damaged skin. Fertility, foetuses and children are also affected by toxic air, the review found.

The systemic damage is the result of pollutants causing inflammation that then floods through the body and ultrafine particles being carried around the body by the bloodstream.

Air pollution is a “public health emergency”, according to the World Health Organization, with more than 90% of the global population enduring toxic outdoor air. New analysis indicates 8.8m early deaths each year – double earlier estimates – making air pollution a bigger killer than tobacco smoking.

Most air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, heat homes and power transport.

“We need to work on these factors in a very dramatic way,” said Neira.


180 countries — except US — agree to plastic waste agreement

IPEN umbrella group science adviser Sara Brosche said: “For far too long developed countries like the US and Canada have been exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries claiming it would be recycled in the receiving country. Instead, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned, or finds its way into the ocean.”

… Today, 2 billion people live in areas without garbage collection. “The poorest of the poor suffer the most,” said Müller.


MuddyWater Hacking Group Upgrades Arsenal to Avoid Detection

The MuddyWater threat group has been updating its tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to include a number of new anti-detection techniques designed to provide remote access to compromised systems while evading detection as part of a new campaign dubbed BlackWater.


BlueKeep Remote Desktop Exploits Are Coming, Patch Now!

Security researchers have created exploits for the remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services, tracked as CVE-2019-0708 and dubbed BlueKeep, and hackers may not be far behind.

While the vulnerability inspired some playful users to create fake proof-of-concept code intended for rickrolling, it is no joke. As Remote Desktop Services is commonly exposed to the public so that users can gain remote access to their internal computers, successful exploitation could allow access to an entire network.

Microsoft released a patch for the flaw on May 14 and described it as being “wormable” – not requiring user interaction, and allowing malware to propagate to vulnerable machines “in a similar way as the WannaCry malware spread across the globe in 2017.” The severity score of the flaw is 9.8 out of 10, which makes it critical.


I’m not at all interested in Bitcoin, never have been; but, many people are staking their hopes on “smart contracts,” as if blockchain is impregnable.

Blockchain Systems: Known Attack Vectors And Countermeasures

There is no bulletproof digital network, and blockchain doesn’t stand out from the rest in this regard.


Why so hostile? Busting myths about heterodox economics

Heterodox economists are Just Lefties Upset with Neoliberalism

Often, the mainstream of the field is described as neutral, while the heterodoxy is described as ideological. Those believing in such a statement would be surprised to learn from Myrdal (1953) that the development of economic thought has always and everywhere been political, as politics and economics are closely intertwined. There’s a recognition within all heterodox schools of thought that Economics is inherently political. This does not mean all heterodox economists will agree on politics, but they will usually agree that market solutions do not lead to “natural” or “optimal” outcomes.

Dismissing heterodox Economics as a political project is common, which completely covers up the politicalness of mainstream Economics, and it assumes motivations among heterodox economists that they cannot prove or validate.This assumption leads The Economist journalists to conclude that heterodox economics is more of a “tantrum” than an actual rigorous intellectual alternative to the mainstream.

However, much of the heterodox critique of the strong bias towards market-based theory and policy runs deeper than a tantrum against neoliberalism or mainstream economic. It boils down to challenging the idea that the market can always lead to the best outcome. Why is the market solution to economic problems the only game in town and everything deviating from it about market failure? This question relates to the long-standing debate on whether or not economics is value free and how it is possible to best promote positive analysis over normative. …

… core aspects of heterodox economics, ranging from power and conflict between labour and capital, to inequality and the role of institutions have been systematically neglected. It is, therefore, not a surprise to see the heterodox critique of neoliberalism overlapping with critique of mainstream economics.

With the above considerations in mind, it becomes clear not only that choosing one theoretical framework and excluding others is political, but also that every theoretical framework is political, including neoclassical economics. Since class conflict is a core element of much of heterodox economic theory, you will find heterodox economists being more explicitly political, as they are more likely to challenge the ethics of distribution within the system of social provisioning. However, as pointed out by Jo and Todorova (2015), most heterodox economists do not actually practice politics.


Raising the tax right now is a really bad idea. They regretted it last time and will again if they do it.

Japan Lawmakers Fret Over Looming Tax Hike in Weak Economy

Raising taxes before Japan has shaken off deflation is “incomprehensible,” Shouji Nishida, another LDP lawmaker who has publicly opposed the increase, said in a video on his website. Nishida is a proponent of Modern Monetary Theory, which argues that countries with their own central banks and borrowing in their own currencies can’t go broke, and don’t need to worry about overspending so long as it’s not generating high inflation.

“If you understand this, you will realize that it’s not true to say Japan’s in a fiscal crisis,“ said Hiroshi Ando, another LDP advocate of MMT.

Real estate, cybersecurity: links & commentary for May 21, 2019

There’s a whole lot of real estate that’s being freed up for other uses.

CVS, Payless and Victoria’s Secret are just some of the brands closing stores in 2019

This is what’s happened since China banned taking materials for recycling that didn’t meet China’s new standard. The same thing will happen if the Trump tariffs against China continue.

China’s ban on scrap imports a boon to US recycling plants

If progressivism is so terrible, why did U.S. News & World Report rank the most progressive state in the US as the best state?

Map: The United States of America, ranked from best to worst

The American rankings and analysis website factored in health care, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections, and natural environment to create its annual list of the best and worst U.S. states.

They ranked Washington as the best. It’s also the most progressive overall. The laissez-faire crowd calls it the socialist state.

Washington is not perfect. It’s not even close. It does, however, lean more progressive, particularly in the Seattle area, than other states.

Just an aside: If I never hear about Brexit again, it’ll be too soon. Talk about beating it to death! Maybe that’s actually gumming it to death.

Who’s lying? How are we supposed to know?

China’s tech transfer problem is growing, EU business group says

Cases of European firms forced to transfer technology in China are increasing despite Beijing saying the problem does not exist, a European business lobby said, adding that its outlook on the country’s regulatory environment is “bleak”.

China’s top Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, said on Saturday that Washington’s complaints on the issue were “fabricated from thin air”.

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 20, 2019

How Homes Are Being Built, Raised to Withstand Extreme Weather

Cost remains key for homeowners. The hurricane-strong house, as Azaroff has labeled it, is about 7% to 9% more expensive to build. But with energy and insurance savings, the upgrades should pay for themselves in 8-10 years, according to Azaroff.


California May Go Dark This Summer; Most Aren’t Ready

Canning said his community is working on its own solution. He’s looking at developing a small network of microgrids consisting of solar panels and batteries, which would allow his community to function when PG&E pulls the plug.


Washington’s New Short-Term Rental Law Requires Liability Insurance

La. Supreme Court Upholds Forum Selection Clause in Insurance Contract

The company purchased insurance through a policy that included more than 100 properties in 20 states. Insurance brokers often build sell such pooled policies, linking unrelated insureds with common operations into risk groups, to obtain more favorable terms, according to a footnote in the decision.

Hughes said the cases that Johnson mentioned did not involve insurance contracts. Louisiana Revised Statute 23:868, unchanged for 66 years, specifically applies to insurance contracts and prohibits any provisions that deprive Louisiana Courts jurisdiction of action.

If Hughes is right, the court erred. Insurance policies are never supposed to trump valid statutory law. All insurance brokers, claims adjusters, and insurance companies are required to know that.

Cyber Risks to Exceed Natural Disasters for Insurers: Scor CEO

Kessler said the cyber risk could exceed $600 billion per year “in the worst case scenario.” That compares with the yearly cost of natural catastrophes, which he said is about $230 billion.


With Billions at Stake, Utilities Fight to Charge Coal-Ash Costs

It’s a high-stakes battle for utilities, which have so far escaped any shareholder wrath over cleanup expenses because investors assumed the costs would be baked into customers’ rates. …

This has become a common refrain from officials across states — that utilities are to blame for letting their own bad situation fester, and for pumping waste into unlined pits for years that could let toxins seep into groundwater. Cleanup costs, therefore, should be borne by the companies and their shareholders ….

I’m on the side of the consumers. Making the consumers absorb the cost is bailing out companies that employed bad environmental practices. Shareholders should not have their bets guaranteed by consumers.

San Francisco May Ban Police, City Use of Facial Recognition

Joel Engardio, vice president of grassroots group Stop Crime SF, wants the city to be flexible.

“Our point of view is, rather than a blanket ban forever, why not a moratorium so we’re not using problematic technology, but we open the door for when technology improves?” he said.

Such a moratorium is under consideration in the Massachusetts Legislature, where it has the backing of Republican and Democratic senators.

Civil rights are extremely important but so is real crime-prevention and catching the truly guilty.

Researchers Find Low Integrity CEOs Cost Firms Money

Some CEOs view paying for unethical practices as a mere cost of doing business. Their businesses end up making an overall profit, as many unethical practices are never found out. Even auditors have been shown to cooperate with the unethical practices.

Vulnerability Reduction Scorecard Helps Cities Save Lives and Resources

There are three phases within the scorecard process:

Assemble all relevant community plans that guide development decisions in hazard areas by creating a digital map with overlapping layers where the plans are “stacked” one on top of the other.
Evaluate and analyze the stacked map to identify geographic areas or populations that are most vulnerable.
Score the different areas of the municipality based upon their level of hazard vulnerability and degree of integration of hazard mitigation methods.

“The genius of the Resilience Scorecard tool is that looking over the stacked overlays, one can easily see the areas that have been targeted for capital investment and redevelopment, but are unfortunately right in the crosshairs of severe repetitive loss from recurring flooding disasters,” Berke said.


Georgia Insurance Chief Suspended As He Fights Fraud Charges

The indictment alleges Beck stole more than $2 million through ‘‘an elaborate invoicing scheme,’’ BJay Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said Tuesday.

The indictment says the scheme lasted for five years, until last August, after Beck won the Republican primary for insurance commissioner. Pak said none of the alleged fraudulent activity occurred after Beck took office.

Thousands of dollars of the alleged fraudulent payments went to Beck’s campaign fund, Pak said. Other money went to personal expenditures, investments and the payment of taxes, he added.


Stay or Go? As Weather Gets Wilder, States Urged to Prepare for Displacement

Figures released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in Geneva on Thursday showed disasters had caused an average of 24 million new displacements each year since 2008, more than three times the number for conflict and violence.

In a report, the IDMC said extreme weather accounted for more than 87 percent of all disaster displacement, warning the problem was likely to get worse.

Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is causing millions of displacements. How long will it be before they become permanent refugees? We need to end AGW.

Lenders Scolded for Climate Ignorance in ‘Insane’ Florida Deals

Florida’s economic crash could begin with banks or home-buyers worrying that annual insurance policies in some places will become prohibitively expensive, or disappear completely, Glendon said. That would shake the housing market and hurt property tax revenue, leaving Florida without an obvious way to pay for infrastructure to replace what’s literally or figuratively under water.

Similar warnings are starting to reverberate among other financial institutions. BlackRock Inc. last month published a 20-page explanation of how climate-risk has become a necessary assessment in understanding shifting levels of risk and value.

The report concludes that 58% of U.S. metropolitan areas will face climate-related damages amounting to 1% or more of GDP by 2060-2080, and that “a rising share of muni bond issuance over time will likely come from regions facing economic losses from rising average temperatures and related events.”


X Prize Developing Wildfire-Fighting Contest

Why Less Data May Be More for Employers Using Wearables in Workplace

This is a deep dive.

While many risk managers are aware of the potential privacy risks, they may not be considering other potential landmines involving litigation, labor contracts, accommodations for disabled employees, sharing of medical information, reputational damage, incorrect data, even injuries from the devices themselves, they said.


National Labor Board Memo Says Uber Drivers Are Contractors, Not Employees

The general counsel said in the memo that Uber drivers set their hours, own their cars and are free to work for the company’s competitors, so they cannot be considered employees under federal labor law.

I disagree that those are the parameters for determining whether someone is or isn’t an employee. Flexible hours are often allowed of employees. Many pizza delivery people own their own cars but are still employees. “Moonlighting” for a competitor is allowed unless there’s a contract for employment barring it.

New Washington Law Requires Plan for Statewide Disaster Resilience

Smart move.

“This is a crucial first step in being prepared to mitigate disasters that we face in Washington state, including earthquakes, wildfires and flooding,” Kreidler said in a statement.


A.M. Best Warns of Ratings Downgrades If Terror Reinsurance Act Not Renewed

… A.M. Best said it will compile a list of rated insurers in mid-2019, and ask those with “material terrorism exposure” as well as “significant reliance on TRIPRA” to show in detail how they’ll mitigate their exposure if TRIPRA is not renewed.

Insurers that would be significantly hit by TRIPRA’s absence and don’t present a plan to reduce terrorism risk exposures will face ratings downgrades by the end of 2019.


Milliman: Hurricane Katrina Litigation Could Cause Spike in Mississippi Homeowners Rates

“The basic allegation in each complaint is that insurers underpaid, partially denied, or denied wind claims by classifying them as flood claims,” the report states, noting that insurers did so with the knowledge that the HAP program would likely reimburse damage identified as flood “because of the insufficient flood insurance on the properties, and that the existence of HAP would lower the chance that policyholders would take action against their insurers for underpaying or denying the claims.”

It will be interesting to see if the complaints prevail. The article didn’t say what evidence has been alledged.

Arrest Made in Arson Fires to Homes Owned by South Carolina Gov

McMaster and his wife own 20 rental homes around Columbia and rent many to students at the University of South Carolina. Tax records show the couple earns about $300,000 a year from the rentals, according to the Post and Courier.


Bills Proposing Climate Change Studies Stall in Texas Legislature

Abbott, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, didn’t respond to requests for comment on why requiring for state-level climate change planning isn’t a priority for them.

Recent polling by the University of Texas and the Tribune found that 48 percent of Texans say the U.S. government should be doing “a great deal” or “a lot” about climate change. Twenty-one percent said the government should be doing nothing.

Obviously, politicians are beholden to the oil and gas sectors.

ZombieLoad Attack: Watch out! Your processor resurrects your private browsing-history and other sensitive data

After Meltdown, Spectre, and Foreshadow, we discovered more critical vulnerabilities in modern processors. The ZombieLoad attack allows stealing sensitive data and keys while the computer accesses them.

Can I detect if someone has exploited the ZombieLoad attack against me?
We do not have any data on this. The exploitation might not leave any traces in traditional log files.

Can my antivirus detect or block the ZombieLoad attack?
While possible in theory, this is unlikely in practice. However, your antivirus may detect malware which uses the attacks by comparing binaries after they become known.

Not very comforting.

Red Balloon Security, Inc. is disclosing two vulnerabilities affecting the products of Cisco Systems, Inc. (“Cisco”). [https://www.redballoonsecurity.com/; the https://thrangrycat.com site is part of Red Balloon Security]

While the flaws are based in hardware, 😾😾😾 [yes, the Pouting Cat Faces are in the original. They = “Thrangrycat,” which is the suggested name of the exploit; cute?] can be exploited remotely without any need for physical access. Since the flaws reside within the hardware design, it is unlikely that any software security patch will fully resolve the fundamental security vulnerability.

An attacker with root privileges on the device can modify the contents of the FPGA anchor bitstream, which is stored unprotected in flash memory. Elements of this bitstream can be modified to disable critical functionality in the TAm. Successful modification of the bitstream is persistent, and the Trust Anchor will be disabled in subsequent boot sequences. It is also possible to lock out any software updates to the TAm’s bitstream.

This vulnerability affects Cisco products with an FPGA based TAm. Cisco released the following list of more than 100 product families with this vulnerability.
….
We chose to communicate 😾😾😾 through a visual representation of symbols, rather than “words.” Naming vulnerabilities using emoji sequences instead of other pronounceable natural languages have several advantages. First, emoji sequences are universally understood across nearly all natural languages. Choosing 😾😾😾 instead of a name rooted in any one language ensures that the technical contents of our research can be discussed democratically and without latent cultural or linguistic bias. Second, emojis are indexical to the digital age. Third, clear communication is the foundation of friendship, and such a foundation must begin with proper ontological agreement. Just as the universal language of mathematics is largely expressed through interlinguistic symbology, so too is 😾😾😾. Fourth, cats are seen as almost paradoxical beings. While they exist in our lives as the ultimate creatures of leisure, cats are also fierce predators. “Cats are the most highly specialized of the terrestrial flesh-eating mammals. They are powerfully built, with a large brain and strong teeth. The teeth are adapted to three functions: stabbing (canines), anchoring (canines), and cutting (carnassial molars).” (Lariviere, Serge; Stains, Howard James. “Feline.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Feline). For an incomplete list of felines in various mythologies, see this webpage.

Okay.

Advisory: Security Issue with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Titan Security Keys

This issue affects the BLE version of Titan Security Keys. To determine if your key is affected, check the back of the key. If it has a “T1” or “T2” on the back of the key, your key is affected by the issue and is eligible for free replacement.


published_time” content=”2019-05-14T09:55:00″ WhatsApp Finds and Fixes Targeted Attack Bug

WhatsApp is urging its global users to update their app after fixing a serious remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability which was being exploited in a highly targeted attack, potentially by a nation state.

The Facebook-owned mobile comms giant, which has over 1.5 billion users, rolled out a fix on Friday [May 10th] for the buffer overflow vulnerability in WhatsApp VOIP stack.


Wanna know more?

One call on WhatsApp is enough to establish surveillance

A recently discovered zero-day vulnerability in the world’s most popular messenger — WhatsApp — allowed hackers to eavesdrop on users, read their encrypted chats, turn on the microphone and camera, and install spyware that allows even further surveillance, such as browsing through the victim’s photos and videos, accessing their contact list, and so on. What’s even worse, to exploit the vulnerability, all the hacker needs to do is call the victim on WhatsApp.

Our best suggestion at the moment is to make sure your WhatsApp is up to date. To do that, go to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, look for WhatsApp and hit Update. If there’s no “Update” button, but you see the “Open” button instead, that means you have the latest version of WhatsApp, and it is already patched against such attacks.

Yep, I got behind on my cybersecurity reading. I was too busy doing cybersecurity (among other things).

A deeper dive, well-written:

New Intel firmware boot verification bypass enables low-level backdoors

By replacing a PC’s SPI flash chip with one that contains rogue code, an attacker can gain full, persistent access.

While the attack requires opening the laptop case to attach clip-on connectors to the chip, there are ways to make it permanent, such as replacing the SPI chip with a rogue one that emulates the UEFI and also serves malicious code. In fact, Hudson has already designed such an emulator chip that has the same dimensions as a real SPI flash chip and could easily pass as one upon visual inspection if some plastic coating is added to it.

Such a physical compromise could occur in different ways, for example in an Evil-Maid-type scenario where a high value target, like a company’s CEO, travels to a foreign country and leaves their laptop unattended in their hotel room. Bosch tells CSO that replacing the SPI memory chip with a rogue one designed to execute this attack would take 15 to 20 minutes for an experienced attacker with the right equipment.

Another possibility are supply chain attacks or the so-called “interdiction” techniques where computer shipments are intercepted in transit, for example by an intelligence agency, are backdoored and then resealed to hide any tampering. The documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that the NSA uses such techniques, and it is likely not the only intelligence agency to do so.

Some devices do have tamper-evident seals or mechanisms, but someone with the right resources and knowledge can easily bypass those defenses, Bosch tells CSO.


Blocking Hyperlink Auditing Tracking Pings with Extensions

As Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox developers feel that this tracking feature is a performance improvement, they have all decided to enable this feature by default without a way to disable it. They feel that if they disable this feature, site owners will switch to JavaScript trackers, which are worse for performance.

With most popular browsers now enabling this feature by default, with Firefox doing so in the future, the only way to disable hyperlink auditing is through the use of browser addons and extension.

uBlock Origin can do some heavy lifting if you delve into it and set it up correctly.

Linux Kernel Prior to 5.0.8 Vulnerable to Remote Code Execution

Linux machines running distributions powered by kernels prior to 5.0.8 are affected by a race condition vulnerability leading to a use after free, related to net namespace cleanup, exposing vulnerable systems to remote attacks.


“secure by design and secure by default” I like that. Security standard for surveillance cameras set for launch

“The standard includes ensuring that passwords have to be changed from the manufacturer default at start-up, and that the chosen passwords should be of sufficient complexity to provide a degree of assurance, placing controls around how and when remote access should be provisioned.


A very deep dive, very informative:

A Cisco Router Bug Has Massive Global Implications

Cisco is announcing a patch for the IOS remote-control vulnerability the Red Balloon researchers discovered. And the company says it will also provide fixes for all product families that are potentially vulnerable to secure-enclave attacks like the one the researchers demonstrated. Cisco declined to characterize the nature or timing of these fixes ahead of the public disclosure. It also disputed that the secure boot vulnerability directly impacts the Trust Anchor. According to its security bulletin, all fixes are still months away from release, and there are currently no workarounds. When the patches do arrive, Cisco says, they will “require an on-premise reprogramming,” meaning the fixes can’t be pushed remotely, because they are so fundamental.


Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Routers Leak Info of Connected Devices

Mursch says that there is still good news even though Linksys might not want to fix the flaw seeing that 14,387 of the total of 25,617 vulnerable routers “currently have automatic firmware updates enabled.” This means that if the company will patch the vulnerability in the future, over 14K of them will receive the security update and will be protected automatically.

There’s also bad news too though, since “typical recommendation of keeping your router’s firmware up-to-date is not applicable in this case as no fix is available,” as Mursch concludes.

Additionally, “Disabling remote web access as a workaround is not an option because Linksys Smart Wi-Fi routers require it for the Linksys App to function.”


Microsoft Patches ‘Wormable’ Flaw in Windows XP, 7 and Windows 2003

Microsoft today is taking the unusual step of releasing security updates for unsupported but still widely-used Windows operating systems like XP and Windows 2003, citing the discovery of a “wormable” flaw that the company says could be used to fuel a fast-moving malware threat like the WannaCry ransomware attacks of 2017.


Over 12,000 MongoDB Databases Deleted by Unistellar Attackers

More to the point, the two most important measures which will prevent the attacks are to enable authentication and to not allow the databases to be remotely accessible.


This is a different issue from the Cisco one above.

Cisco Upgrades Remote Code Execution Flaws to Critical Severity

Cisco upgraded three remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities impacting the web management interfaces to critical severity with a CVSS base score of 9.8 after initially rating them as high with a base score of 8.8 when the advisories were first published on May 15.

Cisco Prime Infrastructure (PI) and Cisco Evolved Programmable Network (EPN) Manager are network management tools used by administrators “for provisioning, monitoring, optimizing, and troubleshooting both wired and wireless devices.”


How to design a stimulus package

As most modern research on business-cycle stabilisation has focused on monetary policy, not much is known about the properties of an adequate stimulus package. Indeed, because the Federal Reserve has been in charge of stabilisation for several decades, the design of optimal monetary policy has attracted an enormous amount of research, while the design of optimal stimulus packages has been relatively neglected.

Several properties of a well-designed stimulus package stand out – because they challenge existing preconceptions. The first is that the size of the stimulus does not follow the bang-for-the-buck logic often invoked in policy discussions. Instead, the relationship between multiplier and stimulus spending is hump-shaped – stimulus spending should be zero for a zero multiplier, increasing in the multiplier for small multipliers, largest for a moderate multiplier, and decreasing in the multiplier beyond that.

This sounds like it’s based upon a counterfactual analysis. We didn’t have a large stimulus, so how is it known that it would have resulted in diminishing returns to the extent suggested? Wouldn’t as much or more depend upon exactly how the money is spent? How was the stimulus targeted? Was it long enough for one?

How is GDP measured? What counts? Does the coal industry? The coal industry is nothing but externalities. Every single ounce of effort going into it could easily be diverted to outputs that are at least constructive on balance. The coal, oil, and gas industries are all net losses. They subtract from real GDP. They cost more than they return.

Naturally, there would be a limit to the positive impact of simply flooding the economy with new money due to resource constraints; however, it seems more variables and more historical data are needed.

Regardless, proper planning can bring demand on right along with the ability to supply.

Europe and the class cleavage

… the European Union, as built in recent decades, is based on widespread competition between countries, on fiscal and social dumping in favour of the most mobile economic actors and functions objectively to the benefit of the most privileged. Until the European Union takes strong symbolic measures for the reduction of inequalities, for example a common tax which impacts the richest, enabling the taxes of the poorest to be lowered, this situation will continue.

… there is no reason why present-day Europe should remain imbued with a Hayek-type vision. Today the European banner serves the interests of those whose aim is to impose their class politics. But it is up to us to remind people that Europe could be organised in a different manner as was already the opinion of Wooton, Beveridge or even Robbins almost 80 years ago.


The Disconnect between Inflation and Employment in the New Normal

Governor Lael Brainard

At “Certain Uncertainty: Tax Policy in Unsettled Times” National Tax Association 49th Annual Spring Symposium, Washington, D.C.

The emerging contours of today’s new normal are defined by low sensitivity of inflation to changes in labor market slack, a low long-term neutral rate of interest, and low underlying trend inflation.

While low inflation and low interest rates have many benefits, the new normal presents a challenge for the conventional approach to monetary policy, in which the Federal Reserve could rely on changes in the level of the federal funds rate to achieve its inflation and employment goals. …

… the overall labor force participation rate has remained constant despite the long-term aging of the population that would otherwise be pushing participation lower.

Given that the large majority of working-age households, those at the middle and lower ends of the income distribution, rely primarily on wage income, advancing our employment mandate has served the country well. In today’s new normal, with the low responsiveness of inflation to labor market tightness, there appears to be little evidence so far of a tradeoff with our price-stability objective. The sustained strengthening of the labor market also adds to the productive capacity of the economy by attracting people on the sidelines to join or rejoin the labor force and move into employment.

Of course, there are also risks. The past three downturns were precipitated not by rising inflation pressure, but rather by the buildup of financial imbalances. Extended periods of above-potential growth and low interest rates tend to be accompanied by rapid credit growth and elevated asset valuations, which tend to boost downside risks to the economy.9 It is not hard to see why a high-pressure economy might be associated with elevated financial imbalances, especially late in the cycle. As an expansion continues, the memory of the previous recession fades. Profits tend to rise, experienced loss rates on loans are low, and people tend to project recent trends into the future, which leads financial market participants and borrowers to become overly optimistic. Risk appetite rises, asset valuations become stretched, and credit is available on easier terms and to riskier borrowers than earlier in the cycle when memories of losses were still fresh.

One tool other central banks have been using to help temper the financial cycle is the countercyclical capital buffer (CCyB). The CCyB provides regulators with the authority to require large banks to build up an extra capital buffer as financial risks mount.10 Although the CCyB was authorized as part of the post-crisis package of reforms, so far, the Federal Reserve has chosen not to use it. Turning on the CCyB would build an extra layer of resilience and signal restraint, helping to damp the rising vulnerability of the overall system. Moreover, because the CCyB is explicitly countercyclical, it is intended to be cut if the outlook deteriorates, boosting the ability of banks to make loans when extending credit is most needed and providing a valuable signal about policymakers’ intentions. This feature proved to be valuable in the United Kingdom in the wake of the Brexit referendum.

Finally, let us turn to the apparent softness in underlying trend inflation. One hypothesis for the flat Phillips curve is that central banks have been so effective in anchoring inflation expectations that tightening resource utilization is no longer transmitted to price inflation.11 [That is not the reason.] Another possibility is that structural factors such as administrative changes to health care costs, globalization, or technological-enabled disruption have been dominant in recent years, masking the operation of cyclical forces.12 Regardless, because inflation is ultimately a monetary phenomenon, the Federal Reserve has the capacity and the responsibility to ensure inflation expectations are firmly anchored at—and not below—our target.

Of course, it is not entirely clear how to move underlying trend inflation smoothly to our target on a sustained basis in the presence of a very flat Phillips curve. One possibility we might refer to as “opportunistic reflation” would be to take advantage of a modest increase in actual inflation to demonstrate to the public our commitment to our inflation goal on a symmetric basis.17 For example, suppose that an unexpected increase in core import price inflation drove overall inflation modestly above 2 percent for a couple of years. The Federal Reserve could use that opportunity to communicate that a mild overshooting of inflation is consistent with our goals and to align policy with that statement. Such an approach could help demonstrate to the public that the Committee is serious about achieving its 2 percent inflation objective on a sustained basis.


I sometimes disagree with Jeffrey D. Sachs. Not this time. The following two paragraphs are the two best paragraphs I’ve ever seen from him.

A majority of Americans are neither happy with the way things are going in their country nor naive enough to believe that the 2017 tax cut is a solution to their woes. Unlike many macroeconomists, they know there is more to life than a short-run increase in GDP growth or decline in the unemployment rate. These are at best blurred snapshots that neglect the future, overlook inequalities of outcomes, and fail to reflect the high and rising anxieties of Americans living with overpriced healthcare, massive student debts, and lack of job protection. Nor do they reflect falling life expectancy and the rising burdens of substance abuse, suicides, and depression.

It’s time that economists, pundits, and politicians start looking holistically at life in our times, and take seriously the long-term structural changes needed to address the multiple crises of health care, despair, inequality, and stress in the US and many other countries. US citizens, in particular, should reflect on the fact that many other countries’ people are happier and less worried, and are living longer. In general, those other countries’ governments are not cutting taxes for the rich and slashing services for the rest. They are attending to the common good, instead of catering to the rich while pointing to illusory economic statistics that hide as much as they reveal.

Here’s the full article: America’s Illusions of Growth

When American Capitalism Meant Equality

… I looked at how American leaders handled the financial crisis of rolling bank runs occurring from 1929-1933, which was the last time we dealt with such a profound political challenge. What I noticed were profound ideological differences that played out in the response to the crisis. In short, in the 1930s New Dealers broke up banks and restructured the economy. This time, we didn’t.

My conclusion, after researching how New Dealers thought about the world, versus how the New Democrats surrounding Obama thought about the world, led me to the observation that the meaning of American capitalism changed. We transitioned from a relatively egalitarian New Deal state to today’s unequal and concentrated corporate apparatus. This change was accompanied by a parallel shift in how Americans thought about themselves as economic and political actors.

“The balance of political power,” Dutton wrote, had gone “from the economic to the psychological to a certain extent—from the stomach and pocketbook to the psyche, and perhaps sooner or later to the soul.” In 1975, a generation trained on these ideas arrived in the Democratic Party. This was Bill Clinton’s generation, the so-called Watergate Babies. In 1978, the Republican version of the Watergate Babies came into office in the form of the New Right (a class which included a young Newt Gingrich).

From 1975 until the early 1980s, these new, increasingly dominant factions of both parties restructured politics around the view that concentrated financial power—monopoly power—was mostly inevitable and efficient. Jimmy Carter changed rules in finance, trucking, airlines, and telecommunications, allowing private concentrated capital to regulate these spheres of the economy rather than democratic institutions. Reagan continued this trend, which came to be known as ‘deregulation.’ Reagan also eliminated antitrust enforcement. Democrats noticed the government cuts and attacks on unions, but they largely missed the shift in antitrust.

… The Reagan and Carter deregulatory efforts, along with the removal of New Deal era rules on finance, opened the door Milken walked through. Just the prospect of takeovers changed the way corporations operated. Between 1984-1985, 398 of the 950 largest companies in North America restructured—only 52 in response to actual takeover bids—mostly by loading up on debt.

… Barack Obama was asked why America hadn’t taken over the banks and restructured them, like Sweden had in the early 1990s, when it suffered a similar banking crisis. Sweden based its bank resolution model on what FDR had done in the 1930s. When Obama was asked this question, people were talking about the idea of Too Big to Fail banks as the first popular anti-monopoly slogan put forward since Brandeis’s Other People’s Money.

Obama said that Sweden’s plan was a good idea—for Sweden. But there was a problem. Sweden was a small country with a small number of banks. America, by contrast, is really big.

Besides, he added, “We also have different traditions in this country.”

“Too Big to Fail” was widely used concerning American Motors when Lee Iacocca was in his hay day. It was the argument put forth for bailing out the company.

As for Obama, he also said he didn’t want to look back. He said that in terms of not prosecuting banksters. However, I’m sure it applied in terms that he didn’t want to take on the banks.

FDR took them on and convinced them that the country needed the New Deal, which it did. They didn’t like it but went along for their own survival.

Obama was no FDR. I say that as one who believes FDR didn’t go nearly far enough.

Anyway, Matt’s article is chalk full of history you should at least be exposed to. Most people are way too young to remember the general moods Matt discusses. I remember when the New Deal was still sacred. It was amazing to me when people such as Milton Friedman were actually taken seriously. We ended up with the Great Recession/Depression, which vindicated my thinking all along.

I dipped my toe in libertarian economics but always pulled it back out before losing my economic mind.

10 Smart Tips for Finding Cheap Houses (Yes, They Still Exist in This Country)

I would have said “inexpensive” rather than “cheap,” but that’s the salesman in me coming out.

Rental Property Numbers So Easy You Can Calculate Them on a Napkin (With Real-Life Example!)

Repairs: Again, this is an estimate, but it should not be left out. Just like with vacancy, I err on the side of conservative. If a house is a turnkey property or recently rehabbed and gets a good report from the inspector, I use 5% of the monthly rent. If the property is not in top shape, conservative could mean closer to 25%. Use your judgment on deciding what percentage to use for your estimate, but don’t overestimate the quality of your property and estimate too low.


Why Buying Into Section 8 Myths Is Leaving (Big!) Money on the Table [With Photo Tour]

I buy properties in relatively safe, quiet, and peaceful neighborhoods. Most of my Section 8 tenants are escaping neighborhoods that are quite the opposite.

Therefore, a housing voucher is their golden ticket to a neighborhood free of drugs, gangs, and other negative influences. Their voucher is a gateway to a better quality of life for the entire family. So when they move into one of my houses, they usually stay for many, many years.


Want to Pay Less in Taxes? You Need This Designation (& May Already Qualify!)

… cost segregation reduces tax liability by using the depreciation captured as a written loss on your taxes. Cost segregation losses are considered passive losses (real estate losses) and can only be used to offset passive income. However, if you are a REP, you can use cost segregation’s losses against ordinary income!


Trump’s Plans for Protecting Polluters Have Been a Devastating Success

At the EPA, a 2017 memo signed by the agency’s former director for civil enforcement instructed regional enforcement officers to seek permission from Washington before ordering certain air and water pollution tests. These tests are often necessary to determine whether companies violated environmental laws. The result was to clog the case-building pipeline, causing such fact finding activities to decline in at least two of the agency’s most active regional offices. The messaging has caused confusion and dampened spirits among many of the agency’s investigators. The agency additionally inspected fewer industrial facilities during 2018 under Trump than at any time in the preceding decade.

All administrations shuffle enforcement priorities, and some observers have posed contextual quibbles over the data documenting the decline. But the overall scale at which the Trump administration is pulling back on enforcement actions against corporate actors, banks, and polluters would be shocking under any other administration. As fewer cases gestate within the agencies’ ranks, companies will be emboldened to violate with greater impunity laws meant to protect public health, safety, and financial well-being. That’s bad news for all of us.


415.26 parts per million: CO2 levels hit historic high

The last four years were the four hottest on record and, in spite of the Paris deal and increasing public awareness of the problem, mankind continues to break its own emissions records, year on year.


Single-use plastics a serious climate change hazard, study warns

“With the petrochemical and plastic industries planning a massive expansion in production, the problem is on track to get much worse.”

The key actions which the authors say are required are:

• Immediately end the production and use of single-use, disposable plastic.

• Stop development of new oil, gas and petrochemical infrastructure.

• Foster the transition to zero-waste communities.

• Implement a system where polluters pay for the impact of their products – known as extended producer responsibility.

Forty per cent of plastic packaging waste is disposed of at sanitary landfills, 14% goes to incineration facilities and 14% is collected for recycling. Incineration creates the most CO2 emissions among the plastic waste management methods.

Refining the material is the most greenhouse gas intensive part of the plastic lifecycle, and major expansions in the US and elsewhere will accelerate climate change, the report says.

In 2019 the lifecycle of global plastic production – from extraction to disposal – was equivalent to the impact on the climate of 189 500MW coal-fired power stations. By 2050, the report predicts, the global plastic footprint will be equivalent to 615 coal plants running at full capacity.


Tornadoes, High Winds Destroy Homes in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana

Severe thunderstorms continued to rumble across parts of the U.S. Sunday, damaging buildings in Louisiana after spawning reports of tornadoes through north-central Texas and eastern Oklahoma on Saturday.


These States Have Had the Most Violent Tornadoes Since 1950

Less than 1 percent of all tornadoes were assigned the EF4/F4 or EF5/F5 rating from 2000 to 2010.

Despite their infrequency, tornadoes that produce this extreme damage account for more than half the deaths from all twisters.


Spring’s Record-Late Arrival in Parts of the U.S. Has a Serious Consequence

Snowmelt and heavy rainfall brought significant river flooding to parts of the Plains and Midwest in March. Many farming fields were ruined and will not be planted this year, according to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).


It’s the Most Favorable Time of Year For the Most Violent Tornadoes in the U.S.

We examined NOAA’s tornado database from 1950 through 2017 for the 628 violent (F/EF4+) tornadoes to see if there is a peak time of year, and found there’s a broad peak from April through early June.


Europe Is Now a Bigger Trade Villain Than China

The reduction in China’s external imbalance has been dwarfed by the emergence of a new glut emanating from Europe. Measured in dollars, Italy’s excess production in 2018 was larger than China’s. Excess output from the 19 members of the euro area is now worth about 0.6% of world production—a half-percentage point higher than in 2007.

Add in Denmark, Switzerland, and Sweden, which have broadly similar policies, and Europe’s total surplus has been bigger than China’s ever was since 2013. (China’s neighbors, meanwhile, have maintained their large collective surplus.)

The sustained increase in Europe’s external surplus has little to do with “competitiveness” or “reforms.” Instead, it is a function of the region’s battered domestic economies: Consumption and investment fell, which depressed imports, while exports rose in line with global demand.

Many ideological problems emanate from Europe, but China still poses the bigger hurdle in that regard. Due to the excesses of deregulation in the US, increased laissez-faire capitalism has given democracy a bad reputation. Many people are thinking incorrectly that democracy doesn’t work. They point to the rising, harmful rate and degree of inequality as their reason for thinking so. However, it was the weakening of democracy that allowed the deregulation that led to the inequality. The cure is stronger democracy, not the totalitarianism of China. Statistically and historically, democracy is better for overall economic and societal success and health. Dictatorships hit a plateau proper democracies don’t.

Fed Challenged Over View That Leveraged Loans Won’t Cause Crisis

The leveraged lending market — a subset of almost $1.2 trillion in borrowing that often funds mergers and acquisitions involving heavily indebted companies — grew 20% last year. The Fed, in a report issued last week, pointed to decreasing protections for lenders, with the risk typically passed on to investors in the form of collateralized loan obligations.

Global regulators are trying to learn more about who is buying CLOs that could suffer in a downturn, Quarles said, but he reiterated that U.S. banks aren’t very exposed. At the same time, he and others have noted that bank regulators have limited say in the riskiest end of the market, pointing to nonbanks as the lenders making the most hazardous deals.


SF’s homeless population breaks 8,000

The initial estimate of San Francisco’s most recent Homelessness Point-in-Time Count, conducted in January, reveals that SF’s homeless population swelled by more than 500 persons since 2017, for an overall estimate of more than 8,000.

This is a direct reflection on our system. There’s no good reason for not housing everyone in decent housing.

A Major Coal Company Went Bust. Its Bankruptcy Filing Shows That It Was Funding Climate Change Denialism.

In 2016, Greg Zimmerman, an environmental activist, stumbled upon a presentation titled “Survival Is Victory: Lessons From the Tobacco Wars.” The slide deck was the creation of Richard Reavey, a vice president for government and public affairs at Cloud Peak Energy, and a former executive at Phillip Morris. Reavey argued that fossil fuel firms, particularly coal, should emulate the tactics of big tobacco, which similarly spent decades battling scientists and regulators over claims that its product harmed public health.

In the New York Times coverage of the episode, Reavey told the paper that his firm “has never fought climate change — never fought it, never denied it or funded anyone who does.” The bankruptcy filing from last week, however, suggests otherwise.

The longer we allow global-warming denial to interfere with making the right political decisions, the more it will cost all of us in money, health, and safety.

Loads of stats:

Explained, the economic ties between Europe and Asia

Asia and Europe are now leading trade partners, with $1.5 trillion of annual merchandise trade, overtaking each continent’s trade with the United States. A new study gathering an unprecedented range of bilateral data between country pairs pinpoints the economic, social and political ties between 51 Asian and European countries.

… Sustainable connectivity is the new name of the game.

… better connected countries are also associated with larger impacts on the environment, which translates into higher greenhouse gas emissions and domestic material consumption. Policy-makers are faced with the challenge of minimizing the environmental impact of connectivity, and ensuring that its benefits are inclusive for all members of society.


James Bullard Discusses Nominal GDP Targeting

I think the question about both nominal GDP targeting and price-level targeting is whether the additional gains that you would get are going to be that big compared to what you already are getting from inflation targeting.

It’s the kind of thing where you might say, “OK, we switched to nominal GDP targeting.” Nobody notices in the entire economy. No one pays any attention, and you don’t get any of these effects at all. I think that would be the kind of thing that is very practical and could possibly happen, because private-sector people might say, “Well, I don’t understand it,” or “I don’t see what the difference is between this and inflation targeting. It’s all too subtle.”

Pointless. They translate into the same thing.

This simple trick could make it a lot harder for corporations to skip out on their tax bill

Donald Trump and his Republican entourage promised big benefits to workers from their massive corporate tax cut of 2018—but many workers discovered they ended up paying more than they had in previous years.

What’s more, the investment boom projected by the tax cuts proponents have utterly failed to materialize. “The good news is that there is a way to tax multinationals in a way that addresses both tax competition for real activity and for paper profits,” Zucman writes.

Individual countries can avoid profit-shifting by taxing the consolidated profits of firms proportionally to where they sell products.

“Concretely, if Apple AAPL, -0.57% sells 20% of its products in the United States, the U.S. federal government would say that 20% of Apple’s global profits are taxable in the United States,” the economist argues.
Can’t move your customers

“This would put an end to profit shifting because firms cannot affect the location of their customers (they can’t move their customers to Bermuda; and if they try to pretend that they make a disproportionate fraction of their sales to low-tax places, this form of tax avoidance is easy to detect and anti-abuse rules can be applied),” Zucman says.

“This would also put an end to competition for real activity, because in such a system there is no incentive for firms to move capital or labor to low-tax places; the location of production becomes irrelevant for tax purposes,” he says.

I like it.

This one reinforces my point above concerning China, laissez-faire-leaning economics, and the reputation of democracy.

Inequality driving ‘deaths of despair’

Widening inequalities in pay, health and opportunities in the UK are undermining trust in democracy, says an Institute for Fiscal Studies report.

The think tank warns of runaway incomes for high earners but rises in “deaths of despair”, such as from addiction and suicide, among the poorest.

It warns of risks to “centre-ground” politics from stagnating pay and divides in health and education.

The report says such widening gaps are “making a mockery of democracy”.


Disclaimer: I’ve always been a strong advocate of a national industrial policy.

A New Paper from IMF Researchers Puts Industrial Policy Back in the Limelight

To achieve their high growth rates, the “Asian miracles” relied on what development experts call industrial policy, in which governments encourage the growth of certain industries ahead of others, and sometimes even certain firms ahead of others, because they have higher future growth potential. …

If nothing else, the paper is a reminder that economists at the IMF, often perceived as ideologically homogeneous, can sometimes disagree with one another quite vigorously.

The IMF regularly advises developing countries to adopt policies that hew close to its “standard growth recipe” — macroeconomic stability, privatisation, and so on. Cherif and Hasanov’s paper says that those same policies “constitute the lowest gear” of growth models, or “the snail crawl approach” to development.

Still, the IMF’s receptivity to economic models outside the usual frameworks shouldn’t be overstated. Professor Wade cautioned that Cherif and Hasanov are employed in a marginal part of the IMF, and that their paper may have next to no readership among the rest of the IMF staff, let alone any influence on thinking.

“The neoclassical paradigm is very well-defended,” he said, “and most of the debate Minouche refers to is well within the bounds of the neoclassical paradigm.”

What the article misses is that people outside the IMF read these things and then cite them, as you can see right here. That helps to spread non-neoclassical models and ideas. I am squarely opposed to the neoclassical model and always have been. It was a huge mistake for the US to have ever gone down that path. We’ve been paying for that mistake now for a good four decades.

This is pointing out the obvious that most people completely miss.

Economics from the Top Down

If you’re a free market ideologue, you need to wrestle with this growth of hierarchy. No society on earth has industrialized using small-scale competition. Instead, concentrated power seems to be the name of the game.

… imagine that Walmart is purchased by a free market ideologue. Utterly convinced that the market knows best, the ideologue dismantles Walmart’s hierarchy and replaces it with a free market. In the new Walmart, each of the 2 million employees become private contractors. These contractors bid for every task and obey only the highest bidder. There is no CEO, no chain of command, no formal positions of any kind. Every task and every responsibility is up for auction.

How long will the new Walmart last? You probably agree, not very long. Without the chain of command, Walmart would probably [not probably but would definitely] collapse. …

I’ve assumed here that the ‘free market’ is equivalent to small-scale competition. I’ve characterized the ‘free market’ as a sea of individuals, each bartering and trading with one another. But the savvy reader likely knows that the phrase ‘free market’ is often used in an Orwellian sense.

You’ll here billionaires like the Koch brothers praise the ‘free market’. Their language evokes pleasant images of entrepreneurs and small businesses. But in reality, the Koch brothers (and other free-market advocates) usually seek policies that benefit big business (i.e. large hierarchies). So the term ‘free market’ is doublespeak for the unfettered power of large hierarchies.


Where are we in the economics of industrial policies?

A new generation of work has been moving us beyond the largely ideological debates of the past to a more contextual, pragmatic understanding. The most recent strand is rooted in two developments. One of these is the indisputable economic success of China, a country that has made liberal use of a diverse array of industrial policies: cheap loans, public ownership, local-content requirements, export subsidies, and technology-transfer requirements. The other is the dissatisfaction with Washington Consensus-type policies, which in Latin America and elsewhere produced weak returns in terms of structural change and productive diversification.

… Consider a setting where market imperfections are widely distributed throughout the economy. An implication of second-best theory is that reducing the distortion in industry A may make things worse if industry B is a general-equilibrium substitute for it and also has a large distortion. That is because expanding industry A results in a contraction of industry B. But when industry A is an input (an upstream industry), it will tend to be a general-equilibrium complement to other distorted industries. So reducing the distortion in A makes things better for B (and C, D, E, etc.) as well, since it leads to an expansion of all those industries. This is a case where the second-best interactions magnify the original gain rather than countering and reversing them. Therefore, the more upstream an industry is, the more beneficial it is to support it.

Liu (2017) formalises and generalises this intuition to show that it rationalises industrial policies that subsidise more upstream industries. He then applies the framework to South Korea during the 1970s and contemporary China. He finds in both cases that industrial policies were in conformity with the first-order implications of the theory.

This has clear implications for the Green New Deal (GND) in terms of avoiding and mitigating resource-constraint issues. I’ve advocated for the GND and said that proper planning is the key. In arguing as such, I’ve clearly stated that proper planning must start with the first inputs in the entire supply chain in order to arrive at the proper outputs where supply and demand are balanced via democratic choices in the first place and adequate funding in the form of monetary financing, which is printing money with no governmental borrowing.

Rather than people only voting with dollars in laissez-faire price discovery, we’d actually primarily vote with our votes for what we want collectively. Proper planning is key, but complete transparency is key to that. We can’t have the best economy if things are hidden from us by private corporations and captured governments.

Low Inflation Cloaks Consumer Pain Inflicted by Trump’s Tariffs

“The costs of the tariffs have fallen entirely on U.S. businesses and households,” [hogwash] Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists wrote in a recent note, where they made similar calculations about the levies’ impact on inflation.

Meanwhile, Trump has sought to enlist the Fed in his trade fight, urging policy makers Tuesday to “match” what he said Beijing would do to offset the hardship caused by U.S. tariffs.

That’s exactly what I said in my post of May 13, 2019, that the Fed should do. “Should the Fed turn on a dime with every increase or decrease in tariffs on Chinese goods? Yes.”

“There is no reason for the U.S. consumer to pay the tariffs,” Trump tweeted Monday. Tariffs can be “completely avoided if you buy from a non-tariffed country, or you buy the product inside the USA (the best idea). That’s zero tariffs.”

Trump often points to the China trade deficit — or the disproportionate amount of imports from the Asian nation — as a reason for the duties. China is the No. 1 trading partner with the U.S., with $659.8 billion of total goods being traded between the two countries in 2018, according to USTR data. Exports, however, totaled $120.3 billion, while imports totaled $539.5 billion. That brings the goods trade deficit with China to $419.2 billion.

The laissez-faire camp is dreading Trump’s tariffs actually working. They trot each other out to make “expert” statements against the trade war. Meanwhile, they avoid like the plague any positives associated with the tariffs, whether short or long term.

They hate the idea of thinking of the US as one. They don’t want a unified all-American approach. That’s because that approach is governmental. You see, if the government does anything right and does it concerning something the private sector could never do, then the People will get the right idea that the government can do things right that the private sector could never do.

The laissez-faire crowd only thinks collectively when it suits them. For instance, it suits them that the huge entity Amazon is treated as a person under the law. It suits them that Amazon is completely hierarchical rather than a free market internally. However, when it comes time to view the US as one and China as one, they hate it. It doesn’t work to their individual advantage.

Therefore, they only tell negative stories about trade wars via tariffs.

Look, we the People of the United States are already paying a “tax” on what we import and buy from China. We are paying the $419.2 billion quoted above. We are paying in many other ways all associated with the “free traders” having taken high-paying, middle-class jobs from the US to other places, especially China. We are paying for it by a China that’s being extremely belligerent concerning the South China Sea and Taiwan, etc., and a China that’s telling the world that democracy is evil.

You decide. Do you want low priced items from China that hide all the costs you don’t usually think about, or do you want to get this trade war over with, with China having capitulated so that we’re actually free from the machinations of the Chinese dictatorship?

Is Trump taking all the right stances and getting Europe and the rest of the world on board via arguments that can’t be refuted? Unfortunately, no. Will he get wind of this? Yes.

Fantastic, short article:

3 Things More Important to Trade Than Tariffs, by Matthew C. Klein

Tariffs are only one of many forces that affect the relative prices of goods and services. In practice, currency movements, concessional financing terms, and the labor share of income are often far more important, yet receive far less attention from ostensible trade experts.


Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a libertarian idea to do away with welfare programs. Progressives have always been for a Universal Living Income (ULI), which is substantially above the poverty line. I’m getting the impression that the UBI is being morphed into the ULI by progressives. They are co-opting the term and redefining it.

Something the article doesn’t mention is that John McDonnell has acknowledged that taxes would not have to go up to pay for it. The government (the central bank) could simply issue the money.

Universal Basic Income: The UK May Host One of the Biggest Trials Yet

Multifamily lenders balk at N.Y.’s proposed tenant-friendly reforms

The goal of the proposals is not to make it harder for landlords to conduct maintenance or make large capital improvements, but to root out bad actors who created business models based on evictions and subsequent rent hikes, Weisberg said.

It’s a tightrope.

Privatizing public power is a terrible idea!

Trump Wants to Sell Public Power Agencies to Wall Street

Trump’s A Budget for a Better America asserts that “Reducing or eliminating the Federal Government’s role in electricity transmission infrastructure ownership, thereby increasing the private sector’s role, and introducing more market-based incentives, including rates, for power sales from Federal dams would encourage a more efficient allocation of economic resources and mitigate risk to taxpayers.”

The budget provides zero factual support for these claims.

Privatizing would drive rates way up, hurting average payers while further enriching the already rich. Trump knows it. So, why does he want to do it? Backing and donations.

I want one.

GE’s Record-Breaking 12MW Offshore Wind Turbine Wins Backing of Swedish Utility Vattenfall

Swedish utility Vattenfall announced plans to deploy GE Renewable Energy’s 12-megawatt Haliade-X offshore wind turbine at future projects in Europe — a big win for the world’s largest wind turbine, and for GE’s otherwise lagging offshore wind business.

First announced last year and due to begin commercial deliveries in 2021, the Haliade-X will be capable of generating enough power from a single turbine to supply 16,000 European households, or an estimated 67 gigawatt-hours per year if sited in typical conditions in the German North Sea, GE said.

Haliade-X will use 107-meter blades, the longest ever manufactured.


Trump’s tariffs are equivalent to one of the largest tax increases in decades

However:

… consumers and businesses can reduce this tax hit by substituting away from high-priced goods and Chinese production. Some of that production could come back to the U.S. or simply move to other countries.


Employee wellbeing, productivity, and firm performance: Evidence from 1.8 million employees

The work presented here is suggestive of a strong, positive correlation between employee wellbeing, productivity, and firm performance. The evidence-base is steadily mounting that this correlation is, in fact, a causal relationship (running from wellbeing to productivity). …

… Interventions aimed at raising productivity should target the key drivers of wellbeing at work, such as social relationships, making jobs more interesting, and improving work-life balance ….


Stimulus needed:

Why printing money makes sense (Note: this is from October 12, 2010)

… suppose that we had a super-effective counterfeiter: someone who could make near perfect copies of $50 or $100 bills. Suppose this person printed up $2tn of counterfeit money and began to spend it on all sorts of items. Our counterfeiter buys up houses and cars. They pay for incredibly lavish parties and trips. They hire all sorts of servants, groundskeepers and investment advisers.

What would be the effect of this counterfeiting scam on the economy?

In the current situation, it would provide an enormous boost to GDP and create millions of jobs. After all, everyone thinks the money is real. It is no different whether the counterfeiter and his underlings spend $2tn of counterfeit money or if firms suddenly start investing their hoards of cash or households begin to spend again as though the housing bubble had never collapsed.

That may sound troubling, but this is because the current economic situation is so extraordinary. In normal times, the economy is, at least partially, supply-constrained. Collectively, we want more goods and services than the economy is capable of producing. If our counterfeiter manufactured his $2tn in normal times, it likely would cause a serious problem of inflation. There would be more demand for cars, houses and other goods than the economy was able to supply. This would push up prices and wages, leading to a cycle of inflation that would persist until policy measures were taken to slow the economy – or the counterfeiter was caught.


The 5 Percent New Grocery Store Rent Premium

Citing the oft-observed “Whole Foods effect”, whereby the presence of the grocer increases real estate values in the vicinity, Newmark Knight Frank has released an analysis of how the introduction of a new grocery store raises rental rates in nearby apartments.

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 14, 2019

China Exporters Reel as U.S. Tariffs Imperil World’s Supply Hub

… exports to the U.S account for around a fifth of China’s total and Deutsche Bank AG estimates that China’s industrial output overall has only a five percent exposure to the U.S. market.

Chinese production serving the rest of the world is five times more important than the supply chain serving the U.S., Deutsche Bank China economist Zhang Zhiwei in Hong Kong said last year. The key issue is whether U.S. tariffs drive out supply chains from China that serve other countries ….


New security flaw in Intel chips could affect millions

They’re not giving out much info on it I suppose to not tell hackers on how to exploit it.

The Shale Boom Is About To Go Bust

The shale industry faces an uncertain future as drillers try to outrun the treadmill of precipitous well declines.

It’s all the more reason to get on with the Green New Deal.

Trump’s Trade War Escalation Will Exact Economic Pain, Adviser Says

“It’s pretty likely that the tariff revenue is going to fall,” Mr. Weinstein of Columbia University said, as firms find themselves unable to shoulder the higher rates and stop importing from China. “We’re going to see a lot of supply chains shifting around.”

That means Chinese companies will also lose out as businesses buy more American-made goods or continue turning to other low-cost producers outside China, like Vietnam and Malaysia.

Look, would it have been a good idea to simply leave China alone and let it do whatever it wants? I don’t think so. In addition, look at all the same people who are complaining now who said the 10% tariffs would cause extreme general/average damage. It didn’t happen.

I think Trump is right to take a longer view of it all. I think the American public should be vastly more patient and stop thinking in terms of yearly quarters.

It’s true that we’ll need to help different people to get through things, but what’s wrong with that? We haven’t been helping each other nearly enough for decades now.

We’re going to be making more things ourselves and buying more from other than China. All things being considered, those are good things on balance.

Speaking of other than China:

Asian Economies Set to Dominate 7% Growth Club During 2020s

India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines should all meet that benchmark, according to a research note Sunday from Madhur Jha, Standard Chartered’s India-based head of thematic research, and Global Chief Economist David Mann. Ethiopia and Côte d’Ivoire are also likely to reach the 7% growth pace, which typically means a doubling of gross domestic product every 10 years. That’ll be a boon to per-capita incomes, with Vietnam’s soaring to $10,400 in 2030 from about $2,500 last year, they estimate.


Cryptocurrency laundering as a service: members of a criminal organisation arrested in Spain

Honestly, how long is it going to take for governments to shut this whole cryptocurrency thing down? It’s never been any good for anything other than crime.

ADU legislation can move forward after clearing appeal

Single-family zoning in Seattle is currently extremely permissive. While it has height limits (25 to 30 feet), there’s no limit to floor-area ratio (FAR)—that is, the size of the home in relation to the lot—as long as the giant home that results is only one home. Under the legislation, single-family zones could get a FAR limit of .5, so, for example, a single-story house could only have a footprint of half the lot. O’Brien said the council plans to carve out some small exemptions for additions or planned remodels to existing houses, although, since ADUs wouldn’t be included in the FAR limit, homeowners could build in a mother-in-law unit to get around them.

The major idea behind ADU reform is around affordability: ADU reform was among the recommendations of the Housing Affordability and Livability committee (HALA) in 2015, although reforms have been underway since 2014.

They’re going to be rented out. If two are allowed, it will turn the property into a triplex.

The Best Performing Opportunity Zones For Real Estate Investors

The top of the list found Gowanus in South Brooklyn going from having only 0.3% of households earning over $200,000 in 2000 to 21.6% of households reaching that level 17 years later.

Of course, that’s past tense. Some zones that haven’t done well at all yet may still take off.

The Return of Fiscal Policy

… these arguments lead to a straightforward conclusion: in the future, we will have to rely more on fiscal policy and less on monetary policy to achieve stable and equitable growth.

Real estate, risks, & economics: links & commentary for May 13, 2019

Why tariff war threatens Beijing’s global economic ambitions

China’s intensified tariff war with the Trump administration is threatening Beijing’s ambition to transform itself into the dominant player in global technology.

Good!

Obama’s overtime rule was better for Michigan residents

In March, the Department of Labor announced a proposal to set the salary threshold under which American workers are entitled to overtime pay to $35,308 a year. The Trump administration is touting the rule as a way to bring “common sense, consistency, and higher wages to working Americans.” However, the adoption of this new rule will actually leave behind 192,000 Michigan workers who would have gotten overtime protections under Obama administration guidelines that would have raised the threshold to $47,476 for a full-year worker in 2016 and indexed it to wage growth going forward.


As Uber Investors Prepare to Make Billions, Drivers Strike Over Low Pay and Poor Conditions

On May Day, the New York Times’s Farhad Manjoo published an op-ed lambasting the approaching Uber initial public offering as a moral stain on Silicon Valley: “In the years since [its founding], Uber skirted laws and cut corners to trample over regulators and competitors. It accelerated the start-up industry’s misogynistic and reckless hustle culture. And it pushed a frightening new picture of labor — one in which everyone is a contractor, toiling without protection, our hours and our lives ruled by uncaring algorithms in the cloud.”

I’ve never hidden that I can’t stand the Uber model. I think it represents everything that’s wrong with our economy. Laissez-faire is where Uber came from, and it’s been awful.

How many of your tenants are Uber drivers simply because we don’t have good labor-laws and regulations in the USA? How tentative are their rent payments because of it?

10 expensive cities where salaries are rising faster than housing costs

Wages in the United States have been mostly stagnant over the past few decades, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. And since 1999, incomes for middle class families, specifically, have actually shrunk in all but two states, another study found.

At the same time, housing costs keep increasing.

Still, there are some cities where incomes are rising faster than housing costs. To determine exactly where, financial website Magnify Money used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to compare workers’ incomes in the nation’s 100 largest metros to the cost of housing in those same areas.

Here are the top 10 U.S. cities where incomes are outpacing housing.

That’s nice, but wages aren’t salaries.

Rate Cuts Are About Stocks Not Inflation

Most exceptional economy ever needs an emergency 1% rate cut? Sounds odd, doesn’t it? How can you have a robust economy creating over 200,000 jobs per month with nominal wages growing faster than any time in the cycle and then beg for not only a 1% emergency rate cut but also QE4? Is the argument really about inflation?

It’s not low inflation. It’s about the stock market.

For the Fed, rate cuts are not simply about stocks. Rate cuts are about a sinking economy regardless of stock prices. Stocks are just one of now probably dozens of factors used by the Fed to model and try to predict the economy’s direction.

Labour pledges £10 minimum wage for under-18s

Speaking at a party gathering in Birmingham on Saturday, Mr Corbyn said: “Equal pay for equal work is hardly a controversial idea, so why are we discriminating against young people?

“You don’t get a discount at the shops for being under 18.

If you read the arguments against Corbyn’s position, you’d think they’re talking about high-skilled wages being set at minimum wages. Don’t they give raises over there above the minimum?

Arguably, after the media, Trump has railed hardest against the Federal Reserve. The rates and an economy that has grown at an annualized pace above 3% for three of the past four quarters and unemployment is sitting near 50-year lows. The 12-month moving average of non-farm payrolls is above 200k, a full decade since the economy troughed during the Great Financial Crisis. Despite this, and the fact when adjusted for inflation, interest rates are only a little above zero, Trump has called for the resumption of the asset purchase program and 100 bp cut in interest rates. His senior economic adviser has called for an immediate 50 bp cut.

The economic logic is elusive, but the political motivation is obvious. Just like the investment bank that suggested that based on economic growth and unemployment forecasts thought the odds favor Trump’s re-election, Team Trump recognize that should the economy weaken so will the re-election chances. An amped-up economy also gives the President the latitude to be Disruptor in Chief.

“The economic logic is elusive, but the political motivation is obvious.” That “logic” is flawed. “… should the economy weaken ….” is the weakness in that “logic.” Trump’s team knows the economy will weaken due to the falling off of the impact, what little there was, of the massive corporate-tax cuts and the tariff war with China (which tariff war I’m for).

Like Mexico is going to pay for the wall, Americans have been told by the President that China is paying for the tariffs. In practice, the situation is more complicated. The importer pays the tax to get access to the goods. As the Fed’s Bostic explained last week, the companies he spoke with were willing to absorb the 10% tariff but the 25% tariff they will have to pass on to their customers. The initial tariffs were on capital and intermediate goods, which also helped minimize the direct impact on consumers. Consumer goods account for around a quarter of the $200 bln of goods that will be subject to a 25% levy instead of 10%. One study by an economist at the University of California, cited by NPR, estimated that last year’s tariffs cost the average American consumer about $760 last year and the new tariffs will cost an extra $500 a year.

“… the 25% tariff they will have to pass on to their customers.” That means fewer Americans will be paying for Chinese products unless China itself reduces what it charges for those products. That’s the whole point behind the tariffs. If it were not going to work, China would laugh it all off and tell Trump to raise the tariffs to 100% or 10,000%. Naturally, that’s not what China is doing. China is afraid, and many Chinese businesses are already reeling. That’s what will get China to cave. Unfortunately, it won’t get them to democratize because Trump isn’t holding out for that. He doesn’t care about it.

The article then goes on to somewhat affirm my positions. Go figure.

Trump Warns China to Act on U.S. Trade Deal or Face Worse Terms

In a wide-ranging interview with Chinese media after talks in Washington ended Friday, Vice Premier Liu He said that in order to reach an agreement the U.S. must remove all extra tariffs, set targets for Chinese purchases of goods in line with real demand, and ensure that the text of the deal is “balanced” to ensure the “dignity” of both nations.

Harsh but true: Dignity is code for China fearing losing face. Those days are over. Welcome to the world of hyper-capitalistic competition. Trump doesn’t give a damn about your face. He cares about making money. You want to save your face? You should have thought about that before engaging in competition with the US over money.

An Experiment with Basic Income

Writers such as Dickens exposed the appalling conditions in which the poor were living both inside and outside workhouses. But they were deliberately created by well-meaning people convinced of the virtue of work, any work, however demeaning and however poorly paid.

We have come a long way since the days of Dickens. Let us not go back there again.


FHA Offers Incentives for Multifamily Developers in Opportunity Zones

The FHA announced it will reduce application fees paid by property owners applying for certain multifamily mortgage insurance programs for the development or rehabilitation of current or proposed apartment units located in Opportunity Zones. This will involve the switch from the current $3 per thousand dollars of the requested mortgage amount to $1 per thousand dollars of the requested mortgage amount, which the FHA said will result in an average cost saving to applicants of approximately $28,000. For ‘market rate’ and ‘affordable’ transactions, FHA will reduce application fees from $3 to $2 per thousand dollars of the requested mortgage amount, which the FHA said will create an estimated average cost savings of $14,000. The agency is also dispatching teams of senior underwriters to review these applications to prioritize processing.


Money talks: Investor pressure is key to tackling climate change

The Bank of England’s Sarah Breeden told us that many regulations came from looking “in the rear-view mirror at what has happened but climate change is, by definition, a forward-looking risk”. The impression I get is that the Bank is open to a debate; Ms Breeden herself told me that climate change was “an unprecedented challenge”.


Even with unemployment at 50-year low, Kashkari says it’s not the time to raise interest rates

Since becoming Minneapolis Fed president at the start of 2016, Neel Kashkari has repeatedly expressed a reluctance to raise interest rates. And the reason he cited most was that the U.S. job market wasn’t as strong as the steadily falling unemployment rate made it seem.

On Friday, a week after the nation’s unemployment rate reached its lowest level in 50 years, Kashkari said the job market is still not as tight as the rate indicates. The central bank should look at wages instead, he said.

“Historically we believe, and the evidence shows, the unemployment rate was a pretty good proxy for measuring slack in the labor market,” Kashkari said. “But it has really failed us in this recovery and it continues to send off faulty readings.”

That’s where I’ve been all along, long before he joined the Fed. Nevertheless, Neel Kashkari has the best sense and feel of it of anyone at the Fed today without doubt.

Trade tensions push mortgage rates lower for second week in a row

Should the Fed turn on a dime with every increase or decrease in tariffs on Chinese goods? Yes.

Trump May Redefine Poverty, Cutting Americans From Welfare Rolls

The chained-CPI concept is junk. It’s a scam and not about helping the poor at all. What it really is, is substituting dog food for steak. That’s inhumane.

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 10, 2019

The Trouble with Argentina’s Economy

When the current government, led by President Mauricio Macri, took office in December 2015, it said that its economic policies would attract foreign direct investment and lead to sustained increases in productivity. The currency crisis that erupted in April 2018 underscored the failure of its policy approach.

In response, the government turned to the International Monetary Fund, secured a $57 billion stand-by loan – the largest in the IMF’s history – and agreed on a new approach to address the country’s macroeconomic imbalances. But the terms of the loan agreement have kept changing as investors remained nervous.


Private lending can be a good — if risky — way to invest in real estate

… this can be risky investing, but you can drastically reduce the risk if you know what you’re doing; and, lending money to a flipper is (typically) much less work, risk and stress than buying a property yourself. Another benefit is that the flipper usually brings money to the deal, which gives the lender more cushion.


The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q1 2019
… these debt slaves [student-loan borrowers] now owe $4 trillion that they must pay interest and principal on for all times to come. And inflation won’t help them because rising inflation will cause these rates to rise, and our debt slaves will just have to work that much harder to deal with their debts.

Ten Years Later—Did QE Work?

Our paper reveals that the impact of QE1—an increase in commercial banks’ mortgage refinancing activity—had effects on local consumption and employment in the nontradable goods sector, but no overall employment effects. In contrast, QE3-driven increases in commercial and industrial lending and home mortgage originations translated into sizable growth in overall employment. The main results are best illustrated in the chart below, which plots the average growth of employment in two sets of counties: those whose banks had high MBS exposure and those whose banks had low MBS exposure. While there is virtually no differential effect after QE1 and QE2, there is a substantial difference after QE3.


Miami’s housing affordability crisis is dire. A new report reveals possible solutions.

Trump Administration Floating Changes to Poverty Measure That Would Reduce or Eliminate Assistance to Millions of Lower-Income Americans

The Trump Administration yesterday floated a proposal to use a lower measure of inflation when adjusting the poverty line each year. Consistent with other policies the Administration has pursued, this policy would over time cut or take away entirely food assistance, health, and other forms of basic assistance from millions of people who struggle to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, and see a doctor when they need to. The reductions in assistance that this proposal would produce stand in stark contrast to the Administration’s 2017 tax law, which conferred large new benefits on the highest-income households.

If the poverty line is altered in this fashion, fewer individuals and families will qualify over time for various forms of assistance, including many who work hard but are paid low wages. That’s because using a lower measure of inflation like the chained CPI to adjust the poverty line each year would make the eligibility thresholds for various programs that serve people in need lower and lower over time, compared with what the thresholds otherwise would be. This, in turn, would lower the income eligibility limits for programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and Medicaid, which are tied to the federal poverty line.

… the Department of Education says that more than 1 million school children were homeless in the 2016-2017 school year, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that 15 million households faced food insecurity in 2017, meaning that they experienced difficulty affording food.

… Labor Department data show that costs for rental housing, which low-income people rely on disproportionately, have been rising faster than the overall CPI.

The Trump administration suggests that the plan would force people to try harder to find and hold jobs. However, wages are so pathetically low. More people fighting for them would keep them low, too low. It would not lift people or give them the dignity claimed by the wealthy. There are vastly better ways to help people to work than slashing existing benefits so the rich can keep paying slave wages.

I read a great deal of international business and economics news, and the analysis (in the video below) by Richard Vague is very good. His point about R&D has been an issue of mine for decades. We used to really emphasize it. We used to give major tax breaks exactly for it. Ever since we stopped, we’ve been sliding down.

Instead of imposing additional tariffs, which will hurt the Chinese and U.S. economies, the U.S. should have its own research and development strategy, says Richard Vague, author of The Next Economic Disaster.

I don’t agree with no tariffs against China. However, my reasons for tariffs has to do with the total lack of democracy in China, not simply “trade” issues.


Affected Nebraska Residents Get Bad News About Dam Failure

State law limits the power district’s liability to $1 million per individual court-proven claim per occurrence and $5 million, total, for all such claims, Domina said. Knox County, which was one of four counties affected, already estimates that it suffered more than $17 million in damages.


Hackers Selling Access and Source Code From Antivirus Companies

Yelisey Bogulsavskiy, AdvIntel’s director of security research, told BleepingComputer that Fxmsp reportedly compromised the Active Directory (AD) of at least one company and established persistence through an external Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) server.

AD is the most critical part of a Windows network, as the server is responsible for authenticating and authorizing all users and computers on the network; it is also where security policies are defined for all the systems it manages.

This tactic has been used by the Carbanak gang against banks across the world. It was discovered by Kaspersky threat researchers at a bank in Russia.


Android Q Hardens Security, Adds Better Encryption

Minnesota lawmakers weigh tighter safety rules for toxic mine waste storage

Brazil’s National Mining Agency, for example, has banned construction of new “upstream” tailings dams following the collapse of the Brumadinho tailings dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in January. The giant mudflow killed at least 200 people.

Upstream tailings dams are the most common type of dam — and the type planned by PolyMet Mining in its proposed mine.

The International Council of Mining & Metals in London reacted to the Brazilian catastrophe by launching an independent review of standards for managing tailings dams.

Minnesota needs to engage in that conversation, Maccabee said.

“For computer security, would we take a playbook that was written in 1993?” she said.

The proposed rule changes are modeled on similar reforms Montana lawmakers passed in 2015. That industry-led effort was a response to the disastrous collapse of the Mount Polley tailings dam in British Columbia in 2014, which spilled more than 20 million tons of mining waste into streams and lakes.

The panel that reviewed that dam failure recommended a shift to storing mining waste in a safer dry or drained form, instead of wet tailings.

So called “dry stack” or drained tailings storage is more expensive.


Wolters Kluwer takes services offline after malware attack

Great Lakes Water Levels at ‘Precipice of a Disaster’ With Flooding Occurring or Imminent in New York, Ohio and Michigan

It’s a remarkable turnaround from early this decade, when lake levels were slumping and some hit record lows.

“These events are quite consistent with what scientists have been expecting with long-term climate change patterns,” Drew Gronewold of the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability told the AP. “The challenge is that it’s very hard to forecast when those extremes are going to occur and when the transition between them might occur.”

The central U.S. has been the target of numerous heavy rain events this spring, which have filled Great Lakes tributary waters and churned up big waves that are eroding shorelines, Guy Meadows, director of the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University, told the AP.


Possible Tornado Tears Roof from Arkansas Apartment Complex

Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant said there was extensive damage to buildings, and four injuries at the apartment.


Flash Flooding in Texas Leaves 1 Dead in Austin

In the West Texas town of Merkel, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Abilene, Police Chief Phillip Conklin told KTXS-TV of Abilene that seven people were rescued Wednesday from floodwaters. Three were rescued from an apartment complex, two from flood-stranded vehicles and a couple from their home.


14 Counties Added to Emergency Declaration in Oklahoma

… the counties have experienced flooding, severe storms, tornadoes and straight-line winds over the past week.


It’s not possible for China to win a tariff war with the US.

Chinese companies brace for tariff hike: ‘If the tariffs rise to 25%, then we’re done for’

UN: Plastic waste pact approved with US among few holdouts

The framework “is historic in the sense that it is legally binding,” Payet said. “They (the countries) have managed to use an existing international instrument to put in place those measures.”

The agreement is likely to lead to customs agents being on the lookout for electronic or other types of potentially hazardous waste more than before.

“There is going to be a transparent and traceable system for export and import of plastic waste,” Payet said.

Now that’s good news!

“Democrats Are No Longer Afraid of a Trillion-Dollar Price Tag. Here’s Why,” by Ryan Teague Beckwith. Time. May 8, 2019

There’s a great deal of handwringing in the article. The issue is never, never, never where the money will come from but only what constraints there are, or will be, on meeting demand. If meeting demand is planned properly, there won’t be any price-inflation concern. If the money is simply created without issuing debt, there won’t even be a deficit.

A recent analysis by the Tax Foundation based on data from the first year of the Trump tax cuts projected that they will end up adding $900 billion to federal deficits over 10 years.

That has given a boost to Democrats seeking to spend more on their issues in several ways. First, it reinforces the idea that a trillion dollars is a reasonable amount of money for a presidential proposal. Second, it makes it easier for Democrats to pay for their ideas, since they can simply pledge to roll back some of the unpopular Trump tax cuts that benefited the wealthy. And third, it offers a counter to traditional conservative arguments about adding to the deficit.

“He defanged the Republican Party’s scolding about government spending and deficits,” says Jesse Lee, a spokesman for the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “There is nothing that Democrats are proposing that would be remotely in line with the amount of added deficits [from the Trump tax cuts] compared to the minuscule amount of benefits.”

Democrats Are No Longer Afraid of a Trillion-Dollar Price Tag. Here’s Why

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 7, 2019

Lava, sulfur and steam: After the Hawaii volcano eruption, Hawaiians struggle to recover

A year after lava began flowing here on May 3, 2018, in what would become Hawaii’s largest and most destructive volcano eruption in decades, thousands of residents and business owners are still struggling to put their lives back together. Hundreds can’t return home or rebuild. Tourism is down and unemployment is up. The ground still steams in some places and major roads remain impassible. And frustration is mounting over the pace of recovery.

Today, even though the family’s home is still standing, the insurance company has deemed it a total loss, largely because sulfur emissions have rotted away almost everything metal, from electrical sockets to frying pans, the nails in the siding and their appliances. That has meant paying out of pocket to make their home livable again.


$20M in Flood Work Still Not Funded in Colorado

Improving Labor Force Participation

Within demographic groups, the increased incidence of being too sick or disabled to work stands out as the largest contributor to the decline in prime-age labor force participation between 2008 and 2014.

Since 2014, prime-age LFP has benefited from the movement of both demographics and participation behavior. But so far, less than half of the overall behavioral decline between 2008 and 2014 has been reversed.


California’s Latest Weapon Against Climate Change Is Low-Tech Farm Soil

Silent Spring’s Encore

… according to the World Health Organization and the UN Environmental Program, toxic chemicals have been implicated in cancers, heart disease, diabetes and mental disorders (does that sound familiar?)

Studies at NY State University demonstrated exposure to multiple chemicals were far worse than single chemicals as for impact on the human body, causing developmental disorders, sexual dysfunction, infertility, nerve, brain, and bone diseases, autism, depression, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, cancers and heart disease. (Hmm- health problems that today are “on the rise like never before.”)

A large international study of 85 suspect chemicals found that even low doses of comparatively innocuous chemicals might trigger cancers when combined with other chemicals in diet or the living environment. (Source: W.H. Goodson, et al, Assessing the Carcinogenic potential of low-dose Exposures to Chemical Mixtures in the Environment, Carcinogenesis, Oxford Journal, 2015)

Rachel Carson would be shocked to know that, 60 years subsequent to publication of Silent Spring, health authorities and world leaders have never/ever demanded adequate studies or thorough careful analyses of thousands of chemicals drowning the world in toxicity.

Meanwhile, toxic man-made chemicals are routinely found by scientists in birds, whales, seals, polar bears, and other life forms, which have never had contact with humans, as well as spread throughout the global food chain.

The changes in just the last decade have been startling. Every kind of life form where I live that I used to see on a regular basis and sometimes in the hundreds at once (with the sole exception of humans) is down. Many life forms are way, way down. Some of them I rarely see at all. A few seem to be completely gone.

WordPress 5.2 to Come with Supply-Chain Attack Protection

The WordPress 5.2 build which will be released today will ship with offline digital signatures for all core updates as a defense measure against possible supply-chain attacks, with support for themes, plugins, and translations to be delivered at a later date.


What Chrome’s browser changes mean for your privacy and security

Chrome, which claims close to two-thirds of all global browser market share, is the latest to double down on new security and privacy features after Firefox announced new anti-tracking blockers last month, Microsoft’s Chromium-based Edge promised better granular controls to control your data, and Apple’s Safari browser began preventing advertisers from tracking you from site to site.


Margaret Thatcher elected 40 years ago today [May 4] – ushering in 11 years of discord and despair

The same old Thatcherite story. The effects are being felt, mainly by the young, to this day.

She liberated City bankers with a Big Bang, turning London into the speculator’s world capital.

To bonus-splurging Loadsamoneys, satirised by Harry Enfield, she declared greed was good. To the jobless losers, that there was no such thing as society.

Within a decade we had a banking system which spawned out-of-control Krug-supping spivs who crashed the economy in 2009.

Ordinary families were left to be poorer today than a decade ago while the spivs carried on picking up their bonuses.

Those bankers aren’t the only products of Thatcherism that haunt us today.

A generation of young Tories grew up worshipping her free-market views and her Euroscepticism. David Cameron thrust Brexit on us to try to placate them, taking us back to Thatcher’s days as a warring nation.

George Osborne brought in austerity to shrink the state and attack the poor taking us back to Victorian times. Look at her glorious Thatcherite legacy.

We work longer hours in less secure jobs, there are hordes of homeless on the streets, kids go to school hungry, families live off foodbanks, the NHS is in crisis.

Social mobility has stagnated as has productivity and investment. The North/South divide is huge, the gap between rich and poor is off the scale. Some might say, it’s what she would have wanted.


Preparing for the Worst: How NCEI Data Helps Model Hurricane Impacts

MTA retires old diesel buses as it moves toward all-electric fleet

Over the next five years, the MTA plans to add 500 all-electric buses and has pledged to convert its fleet entirely to electric vehicles by 2040.


The NRP Group Breaks Ground on Platform Lofts Affordable Housing Community in Charlotte

All of the apartment homes at Platform Lofts will be reserved for people making 60% or less than the median income in Meck County, about $44,460 a year for a family of four.

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 6, 2019

Concerning Trump increasing tariffs on China, “subsidies to state-owned companies” are truly irrelevant to the true issue. If a nation wants to subsidize something, let it. The US subsidizes plenty of industries in the US. Is Trump prepared to drop all such subsidies in the US? He is not. Therefore, demanding China to stop is hypocritical at best.

I’m for increasing the tariffs but only for the right reasons. Trump is always focused on money and never on democracy except when it suits his propaganda, which it doesn’t concerning China.

U.S. companies with heavy business interests in China are getting hit the hardest, particularly technology and industrial companies.” Tough. They should have thought about that before they got in bed with a totalitarian dictatorship.

Scientists say nature is in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over 1 million species of plants and animals.”

4 Die in Midwest Flooding; Roads Closed, Levees Strained

… polluted the air and ground with dynamite, hydrofluoric acid, mercury, sodium cyanide, arsenic, chloroform, toluene, and chromium.

“The utility blamed for the natural gas explosions in Massachusetts last September now says the potential financial costs of the disaster have jumped to more than $1.6 billion, and could go higher.”

Why the change after so many years of Microsoft’s refusal to let people decide for themselves whether to install feature updates? It’s because Microsoft is a different company under Satya Nadella than it was under Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. It has shed its arrogance and is far more open to new ways of doing business and dealing with its customers. A few months ago, for example, it pulled the plug on its 25-year browser strategy and said it would replace Edge’s web rendering engine with one developed by the Chromium open-source project — a project originally launched by Google.

Microsoft surrenders in its Windows Update war with users

This and domain hacking are the two biggest worries:

… Microsoft’s site carried a definition that hits home with the current spree.

“Supply chain attacks are an emerging kind of threat that target software developers and suppliers. The goal is to access source codes, build processes, or update mechanisms by infecting legitimate apps to distribute malware. Attackers hunt for unsecure network protocols, unprotected server infrastructures, and unsafe coding practices. They break in, change source codes, and hide malware in build and update processes.”

The apps and updates are signed and certified; vendors are likely unaware that their apps or updates are infected with malicious code when released. The malicious code runs with the same trust and permissions as the app.

As tech news sites provided details on the supply chain attack, an often cited information source was Kaspersky Lab—for good reason. Kaspersky has been eyeing this for some time. They were the ones who gave it the name, ShadowHammer.

Supply-chain hack attacks are worrying investigators

Steve Keen – Climate Change and the Nobel Prize in Economics: The Age of Rebellion

How is it possible that the optimal temperature for the planet is 4 degrees above pre-industrial levels—and that damages from that level of warming would amount to under 10% of global GDP—when it would also be “catastrophic to all life on Earth”? How is it possible that Global Warming of 1.5 degrees would reduce global GDP by a few trillion US dollars—less than 5% of what it would have been in the absence of Global Warming—while the policies to achieve that limit, even if executed over a century rather than just five years, would cost over ten times as much?

It isn’t. Instead, either Extinction Rebellion’s claims are vastly overblown, or Nordhaus’s estimates of the economic damages from Global Warming drastically understate the dangers.

Both are possible, of course. But categorically, Nordhaus’s estimates of the potential economic damage from Global Warming are nonsense.


A War Reporter Covers “The End of Ice” — And It Will Change the Way You Think About Climate Catastrophe

Building a bike network in south Brooklyn

Neighborhoods in southern Brooklyn like Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Gravesend — with higher than average car ownership rates when compared to the rest of New York City — aren’t traditionally thought of as cycling hotspots. But as the city adds more and more bike infrastructure, and elected officials call for an ambitious bike network buildout, a new generation of activists is working to get southern Brooklyn its fair share of bike lanes and let the world know that bikes are welcome south of 65th Street.


Bolsonaro, the Amazon and the world’s next environmental catastrophe

It is easy to place this ugly story into the emerging narrative of Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil. On his way to the top, the new far-right president cast doubt on climate change, committed to slash environmental -protections and branded land rights activists “terrorists.” Since taking office on 1st January, he has banned environmental agencies from talking directly to the press, and flirted with ruinous Amazon mining schemes. He has painted those who wish to protect the Amazon as not just his enemies, but enemies of the whole nation. In sum, the Brazil he is building is, very starkly, a land where the might of loggers and cattle farmers will count for everything, and the vast wooded wilderness and its people will count for nothing.

The left is not immune from embroilment. The Brazilian Workers’ Party—the party of Lula and his successor, Dilma Rousseff—made several alliances with the caucus, and would constantly endorse big projects in the Amazon region, not caring about the fears of environmentalists and indigenous rights activists. Consider the Belo Monte dam—a former dictatorship brainchild that would become the fourth biggest dam in the world, built on the Xingu river. Its construction destroyed the livelihood of traditional populations—about 175km² of protected woods were chopped down, while a further 500km² was flooded.

Yet this project was brought to life not by any nefarious influence of the right, but by Lula himself. When the Rousseff government was about to collapse, one of its last remaining allies was staunch beef caucus congresswoman Katia Abreu, mocked by Greenpeace as “Miss Deforestation”(she later popped up as the Democratic Labour Party candidate for vice president).

In his virulent anti-environmentalism at least, then, Bolsonaro is not such an aberration. Neither he, nor his callous indifference to the Amazon, are extraneous forces put into Brazilian politics. But in many ways, they are its culmination.

… the Amazon’s impact on the world’s environment cannot be over-stated. The rainforest is the world’s largest “carbon sink,” its trees absorbing some 2bn tons of carbon dioxide every year, equivalent to 6 per cent of global emissions. Those trees also release 20 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen. These numbers alone make plain there can and will be no happy ending to the climate change story without protection of the Amazon. But worse, much worse, the destruction of the Amazon also risks unleashing feedback loops of climate change that humanity will not be able
to control.


Close Coal Plants, Save Money: That’s an Indiana Utility’s Plan. The Coal Industry Wants to Stop It.

The company, which gets about 65 percent of its generating capacity from coal, put out a request for proposals for projects to fill the gap if it closed the two coal plants. The results were clear: wind and solar power options were much less expensive than anything else, including natural gas.

Coal has seen its market share battered by a decade of low natural gas prices, which has lifted gas to become the leading fuel for power plants. But the fastest-growing power sources are renewable, as prices of wind turbines and solar panels have dropped to the point that they are competitive with fossil fuels in much of the country.

Coal-supporting officials, including President Donald Trump, put pressure on the Tennessee Valley Authority earlier this year as that utility’s board was deciding whether to close another money-losing coal plant. Despite the pleas, the board approved the shutdown, saying the decision came down to economics.
Coal has seen its market share battered by a decade of low natural gas prices, which has lifted gas to become the leading fuel for power plants. But the fastest-growing power sources are renewable, as prices of wind turbines and solar panels have dropped to the point that they are competitive with fossil fuels in much of the country.

Coal-supporting officials, including President Donald Trump, put pressure on the Tennessee Valley Authority earlier this year as that utility’s board was deciding whether to close another money-losing coal plant. Despite the pleas, the board approved the shutdown, saying the decision came down to economics.


FOURMIDABLE Expands into Toledo Market with Management of Multiple Multifamily Communities

GOHSEP urges hurricane preparedness

What’s wrong with this: “Don’t Tell Anyone, But We Just Had Two Years Of Record-Breaking Global Cooling“? What’s wrong with it?

Truth beats false propaganda every single time:

It is incorrect—while temperatures in 2017 and 2018 were lower than 2016, global temperatures have not dropped sharply, nor at record breaking levels, and there is no “global cooling” trend occurring.

No, we are not experiencing “global cooling”

The spinning by those who want to sow doubt about global warming is the same error they pushed on the public based upon 1998. They took the hottest year on record and then compared it to the next 10. The next 10 weren’t dramatically hotter, so they claimed there was no warming at all. However, after 2008, we started setting records higher than 1998. The trend was always up, and that hasn’t stopped. There are things that could stop it, but we’d be taking a huge gamble waiting for any of them. What we can do is cut carbon burning and ramp up carbon capture.

Real estate, risks, & economics: links for May 5, 2019

Deadly Flooding From Michigan to the South Damages Homes, Sends Mississippi River to 157-Year-High in Davenport, Iowa

Mark Zuckerberg makes privacy a priority – when he buys real estate

Mark Zuckerberg may be under fire for failing to protect the privacy of Facebook users, but he takes extraordinary measures to protect his own while expanding his personal portfolio of homes.

The 34-year-old CEO of Facebook has tried to hide his property purchases through a limited liability company and a firm that manages investments for wealthy clients, and he also requires real estate agents who work for him to sign non-disclosure agreements, the Wall Street Journal reported.


Don’t Be Shocked If Trump’s Economy Goes the Way of Bush’s

… Trump’s policies resulted in one year of modest incremental growth at a cost of large increases in the deficit: from $665 billion in 2017 (3.2 percent of GDP), up to $779 billion in 2018, Trump’s first budget (3.8 percent of GDP), and $1.1 trillion in 2019 (5.1 percent) of GDP.

A 5.1 percent budget deficit in an economy with only a 3.9 percent unemployment rate — that is a strange pair of numbers. As the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Keith Hall, pointed out in late January, the high deficits mean that lawmakers will have less flexibility to use tax and spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges. It also means less money for investments in education and infrastructure that really do produce long-term growth.

If the $2 trillion infrastructure investment that Democrats and Trump appear to want is to become a reality, Trump may well have to undo a good chunk of his 2017 tax cut.


TDCI Debunks Flood Insurance Myths on Ninth Anniversary of Nashville Flood

“There are many misconceptions about flood insurance, so we encourage consumers to do their research and ask questions before selecting a policy or choosing to forgo insurance. ‘I’m not in a flood zone’ is not by itself a reason to not have flood insurance as more than 20 percent of flood insurance claims originate outside of mapped flood zones. While flood insurance cannot stop flooding, it could help prevent a financial catastrophe.”

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 4, 2019

Property Owners Protest Pipeline Procurement Process

“They’re making millions in profit, and we still haven’t gotten a dime,” Erb said in a phone interview. “They’re exploiting a broken system.”


Solar Energy Gaps Driven by Statehouses, Not the Sun

In the solar energy race, some of the sunniest states — Louisiana, Kansas and Texas, to name a few — are overshadowed by much dimmer ones, including Vermont, New Jersey and Massachusetts, according to a Center for Public Integrity data analysis.

… shifts in electricity generation are happening during a crucial time, research suggests. The global consortium of scientists with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the key to avoiding catastrophic consequences of rising global temperatures is a swift move away from fossil fuels toward more renewable and efficient forms of energy.

“Severe climate change impacts … could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but the time to act is rapidly closing,” Caitlin Wiesen with the UN’s Development Program said last fall in Vietnam.

Renewables are projected to be the nation’s fastest-growing source of electricity in the coming years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Solar-generated electricity alone is expected to grow 32% at utilities and 44% at residential and small-scale operations by 2020.

But that’s starting from a small base. Less than 2% of U.S. electricity was solar powered last year. And the surge in that type of electricity generation is uneven because many states aren’t taking full advantage.

… challenges were magnified in 2013 after an analyst prepared a blunt and bleak report for the Edison Electric Institute, which represents the electric utility industry. The report warned that surging consumer interest, political will and technological breakthroughs had the potential to make customer-owned solar so economically successful, it could undermine the business of centralized electricity sales — an existential threat to the utility industry.


Millennials are pouring into these smaller cities and buying homes

In the majority of the top 10 millennial markets, the unemployment rate is lower than the national average, and home prices are generally lower. Based on average income, millennials in these markets can afford to buy 1 out of 4 homes listed for sale. In Oklahoma City, they can afford 30%. By comparison, millennials can afford just 10% of the homes in Dallas, 13% in Boston and barely 2% in San Diego.

Rentals work there too.

Millions of homes are underinsured against natural disasters as construction costs keep rising

In California, one of the regions studied, Corelogic identified 110,000 Southern California properties in very high to extreme risk of wildfire. With average reconstruction cost estimated at $400,000, the risk is more than $46 billion. Those costs are significantly higher than they were just two years ago because of a significant increase in the costs of labor and materials.

So if just 1% of the homes at risk were a complete loss in a wildfire, given the increase in reconstruction costs over the last two years (5.6%), the undervaluation of that 1% would be $25 million if insurance coverage is not current.

That’s good info. Let’s take it a bit further. Here’s just one example of many.

Extended Replacement Cost (ERC)

Provides an additional amount of insurance up to 20% of the Coverage A limit of liability. Must be insured to 100% of Replacement Cost.

Why might an applicant choose “Extended Replacement Cost (ERC)”?

Extending the replacement-cost limit will aid in:

1) covering 20% inflation of replacement costs to help avoid replacement-cost-coinsurance issues with inflation below 20%

2) covering more of any materials and supplies under COVERAGE A – DWELLING … 2.

3) covering more of any building equipment and outdoor equipment under COVERAGE A – DWELLING … 3.

4) increasing the amount of insurance available for OTHER COVERAGES that are a percentage of COVERAGE A, for example Other Structures; Rental Value and Additional Living Expense; and Trees, Shrubs and Other Plants

5) covering more of anything purchased during the policy and covered under COVERAGE A – DWELLING but where the limit was not increased via an endorsement.

Take note of this: “Must be insured to 100% of Replacement Cost.” Therefore, if construction costs rise but you don’t increase your limit to match, you could easily fall below the 100%, in which case the extra premium you’ve been paying for that “20% inflation of replacement costs” would be lost.

This is complicated material, and even insurance brokers have to occasionally refresh at this level of detail.

Loss Settlement. Covered property losses are settled as follows:

Buildings under Coverage A or B at replacement cost without deduction for depreciation [age, wear & tear, & obsolescence], subject to the following:

(1) If, at the time of loss, the amount of insurance in this policy on the damaged building is 80% or more of the full replacement cost of the building immediately before the loss, we will pay the cost to repair or replace, after application of deductible and without deduction for depreciation, but not more than the least of the following amounts:

(a) the limit of liability under this policy that applies to the building;

(b) the replacement cost of that part of the building damaged for like construction and use on the same premises; or

(c) the necessary amount actually spent to repair or replace the damaged building.

(2) If, at the time of loss, the amount of insurance in this policy on the damaged building is less than 80% of the full replacement cost of the building immediately before the loss, we will pay the greater of the following amounts, but not more than the limit of liability under this policy that applies to the building:

(a) the actual cash value of that part of the building damaged; or

(b) that proportion of the cost to repair or replace, after application of deductible and without deduction for depreciation, that part of the building damaged, which the total amount of insurance in this policy on the damaged building bears to 80% of the replacement cost of the building.

The following formula is used to determine (2)(b) above: (chosen dwelling limit ÷ 80% of the actual replacement value of the dwelling) x actual loss amount = loss payment. Of course, due to varying degrees of depreciation from property to property, actual cash values could be lower.

Example:

Dwelling limit: $150,000

Loss: $20,000

Dwelling replacement value: $250,000

$250,000 x .80 = $200,000

$150,000/$200,000 = .75

$20,000 x .75 = $15,000 loss payment

A $150,000 dwelling limit on a $250,000 replacement-cost dwelling (excluding land, etc.), cost the insured an additional $5,000 on a $20,000 loss.

If the dwelling has depreciated 50%: Actual cash value loss: $20,000 x .50 = $10,000

A $150,000 dwelling limit on a $250,000 replacement-cost dwelling with 50% age or other depreciation, cost the insured an additional $10,000 on a $20,000 loss.

To determine the amount of insurance required to equal 80% of the full replacement cost of the building immediately before the loss, do not include the value of:

(a) excavations, foundations, piers or any supports which are below the under surface of the lowest basement floor;

(b) those supports in (a) above which are below the surface of the ground inside the foundation walls, if there is no basement; and

(c) underground flues, pipes, wiring and drains.

You can see why keeping your limit above the 80% level pays after a loss. You pay more in premium for 80%+ than for a limit below 80%, but your loss payment (the money the insurance company pays you for a valid claim) can really take a hit if you fall below that 80%.

Asst. Prof. Amir Jina discusses how environment affects the way societies develop

Are there specific regions of the U.S. that should brace themselves more for economic hardship than others as a result of climate change?
One of the most surprising findings our research uncovered was the significant regional disparities in terms of responding and adapting to the effects of climate change. We know that places with lower average incomes are suffering more than their affluent neighbors and because U.S. counties in the South are, on average, poorer than counties in the North, their ability to manage the impact of climate change is tenuous. The fact that they face hotter temperatures on a more regular basis further exacerbates risk. In the North, rising temperatures are positive for things like better health. In the South, enhanced hurricanes and rising sea level caused by a hotter climate creates a perfect storm from which these communities may not be able to recover.

Climate change is a threat multiplier. We see a strong correlation between climate and conflict. In places where resources are scarce, political systems are unstable and cultural rifts exist; for example, climate change comes in and exacerbates all of that. We look a lot at crime and the rise in crime rates — from theft to homicide — that occur due to environmental exposures. This could become a major issue for countries as they evaluate how important climate change policies are and what level of response is necessary to ensure the safety and security of their citizens. It’s not just about dollars, but also about our sense of safety.


What do you think?

Rep Jayapal and Sen Sanders Have Introduced Medicare For All Bills: One Is a Lot Better Than the Other

Representative Jayapal’s bill, HR 1384, meets the definition of a single-payer bill as originally outlined in PNHP’s 1989 article and as most experts define the term. It contains the four elements of a single-payer system: It relies on one payer (HHS, not multiple payers called ACOs) to pay hospitals and doctors directly; and it authorizes budgets for hospitals, fee schedules for doctors, and price ceilings on prescription drugs.

Senator Sanders’ bill contains two of those four elements – fee schedules for doctors and limits on drug prices. That’s a good start. He should add the other two. He should get rid of Section 611(b), the section that authorizes ACOs, and thereby ensure HHS is the single payer. And he should add a section authorizing HHS to negotiate budgets with each of the nation’s hospitals.


Africa’s disappearing forests

The main problem areas are Brazil and Indonesia’s rainforests, which together account for 46%of primary rainforest loss in 2018. But this year researchers discovered a new disturbing development: trees in Africa are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. …

… important forests in West Africa which are producing oxygen and absorbing carbon and, in essence, making an enormous contribution in the mitigation of climate change ….


The love of money over everything else:

Lost world: UN report shows Nature at death’s door

Paris (AFP) – A landmark UN report on the state of Nature, obtained by AFP, makes for grim reading, showing how humanity has wreaked havoc with the environment.

The 1,800-page draft document, set to be finalised after a biodiversity summit in Paris this week, depicts a planet ravaged by rampant overconsumption and drowning in pollution, where hundreds of thousands of species risk extinction.

Here is a rundown of the report’s key findings, which read like a charge sheet against history’s most destructive creatures: ourselves.


Never store your user name and password in the clear or in the open. Always use two-factor authentication (2FA) when possible. Select the strongest method of 2FA possible too. Use strong passwords. Use a password generator to create complex passwords. Use a fully encrypted password manager. Don’t use the same password for more than one site. Here’s why:

Attackers are targeting GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket users, wiping code and commits from multiple repositories according to reports and leaving behind only a ransom note and a lot of questions.

Attackers Wiping GitHub and GitLab Repos, Leave Ransom Notes

PSA: If you’ve got a Dell computer, you might want to fix this now

Your new Windows laptop typically ships with an awful lot of bloatware you don’t need. Often, it’ll just slow down your computer a tad. But occasionally, a pre-installed piece of manufacturer cruft can pose a serious security risk — and that’s why you should probably update or uninstall Dell’s SupportAssist right away.

By the way, Dell’s SupportAssist is a huge resource hog.

These hackers are so nasty that when I saw the Firefox problem early today (Update Regarding Add-ons in Firefox), I wondered immediately if this exploit was involved. It turned out not, thankfully.

A mysterious hacker gang is on a supply-chain hacking spree

“There’s a constant evolution of their methods, and it’s growing in sophistication,” Kamluk says. “As time passes, it’s going to become harder and harder to catch these guys.”


Salt-Water Fish Extinction Seen By 2048

The apocalypse has a new date: 2048.
That’s when the world’s oceans will be empty of fish, predicts an international team of ecologists and economists. The cause: the disappearance of species due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change.

The study by Boris Worm, PhD, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, — with colleagues in the U.K., U.S., Sweden, and Panama — was an effort to understand what this loss of ocean species might mean to the world.

The researchers analyzed several different kinds of data. Even to these ecology-minded scientists, the results were an unpleasant surprise.

… the loss of species isn’t gradual. It’s happening fast — and getting faster ….

Over fishing? Considering how polluted the oceans are now, we better figure out how to feed people without serving up fish from those waters.

The Senate Resolution To Condemn MMT: …

MMT is an accurate model of how the economy works. It doesn’t have to lead to higher deficits (unlike Trump’s fake “trickle-down” corporate-tax cuts) or higher price inflation. The money can be created without borrowing, and the money created can be funneled into projects that increase the GDP more than the amount to fund them. It’s called the multiplier. Most politicians working for the plutocrats don’t know what that is.

Fed’s QE Unwind Continues at Full Speed in April

The Fed has already announced that it wants to bring down the average maturity of its Treasury holdings to the average maturity of total outstanding marketable Treasury securities. This will require that the Fed take on short-term bills, of which it has none at the moment, and get rid of a portion of its long-dated Treasury notes and bonds. The Fed’s stepping away from those long-dated maturities is likely to put upward pressure on the 10-year Treasury yield which would steepen the yield curve a wee bit. Sit tight for details, Powell said.


Three Things To Consider Before Investing In Any Multifamily Deal

Multi-family real estate investing is one of the hottest topics being pitched to investors now by real estate sponsors and operators (the people raising money for syndications) who are looking to raise capital. Making things even more promising, savvy investors have found vehicles such as self-directed IRAs to establish these private partnership and joint venture investments using tax-advantaged savings. To most, this is newfound money — and it is quickly finding its way to the alternative asset class such as real estate and venture capital.

… This article is uniquely written for those who want to understand the hard questions to ask someone who is soliciting you for an investment into a private placement or limited partnership opportunity.

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 2, 2019

Excellent start. Smart move by Corbyn.

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s parliament declared a symbolic climate change “emergency” on Wednesday, backing a call by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for “rapid and dramatic action” to protect the environment for generations to come.

After protests, Britain’s parliament declares climate change ’emergency’

Berlin police scuffle with activists at gentrification protest

Excellent:

The law will prohibit “covered establishments” — like restaurants and grocery stores — from using polystyrene containers. Hospitals, seafood shippers and state-funded meals-on-wheels programs will be exempt.

Maine has banned foam food containers at state facilities and functions since 1993. Some communities in the state had also already banned polystyrene.

Maine becomes 1st state to ban single-use foam containers

The following are the parts I particularly agree with.

… “many strands in [Friedrich] Hayek’s thinking… may have influenced the course of events leading to Monetary Union in subtle ways.”

As well as academics, the architects of the system included prominent British Treasury civil servants and politicians.

It is this inbuilt architecture of the European Union – embedded in present treaties – that is being resisted today by both right and left-wing populism across Europe. As it has been designed, the system is undemocratic and unresponsive to the will of the people. It is a system based on the theories and policies of out-of-touch neoclassical economists (with strong past and present links to the London School of Economics) whose attachment to permanent fiscal austerity, insecure employment, low wages and poor productivity are fuelling the fires of populism and nationalism. Their economic policies have predictably led to political and economic divergence across Europe ….

… Europe has been made politically and economically unstable, first by the huge imbalances that have grown between and within countries, and then by the way these imbalances have been reabsorbed through deflationary policies. It is these dynamics that lie at the heart of the political divergences and the rise of populism. Imbalances fuel nationalistic movements in the surplus countries of Northern Europe, while deflationary countermeasures fuel populistic reactions in the South.

Moreover, by shifting imbalances from inside the EMU to outside it, the Eurozone – following German-style neomercantilism – has become the largest surplus bloc on a global scale, with growing dependence on foreign markets. It also has an internal market which, thanks in part to austerity, is shrinking more and more.

Germany bears the most responsibility, thanks to its massive trade surplus and its dogged determination not to raise wages and stoke internal demand, or to cooperate with her partners to reflate European markets and economies. No wonder Europeans – and Britons – are angry.

How to transform the EU – and build solidarity between its members

And now comes blockchain. This advanced tool offers yet more potential to transform the insurance industry — and fraud fighting with it. Insurance transactions such as claims and policy applications are more secure and transparent when conducted via blockchain.

Fraudsters will find it virtually impossible to forge or alter documents or transactions sequestered behind the digitally armored blockchain wall. If the insurance industry possesses the will and resources to standardize transactions with blockchain, the system will quickly expose scams and lock them out of the system early in the transaction chain. Complex schemes such as forged medical bills from staged crashes will diminish. One-off claims such as an uninsured driver faking the date of a crash will be exposed. So will anyone offering forged insurance policies such as workers compensation. A new era of security against fraud is possible the more blockchain becomes adopted industry-wide. [Source]

Well, Better read this before jumping on the smart-contract bandwagon

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday that glyphosate, a chemical in many popular weed killers, is not a carcinogen, contradicting recent decisions by U.S. juries that found that it caused cancer in people.

The EPA announcement reaffirms earlier findings from the agency about the safety of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup.

“Unfortunately American consumers cannot trust the EPA assessment of glyphosate’s safety,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity.

Weed Killer Chemical Glyphosate Is Not a Cancer Agent, Says EPA, Contradicting Juries

Unfortunately, the article didn’t state why Nathan Donley said American consumers cannot trust the EPA assessment. The reason he said it is because the EPA does zero independent testing. It relies entirely upon those who produce the thing the EPA is to ban or regulate. In other words, the fox is guarding the chicken coop.

So, you’re a landlord with an income property on one of these roads. What position do you take about global warming? Do you dismiss it; or, do you refuse to take the unnecessary risk and, therefore, tell the government you want quick action to slow and reverse it?

… it’s been more than a year since the flood damage was declared a disaster, yet about 43 percent of the road repair projects haven’t even started.

Federal Flood Repair Projects in West Virginia Behind Schedule

… this company in particular has had a history of environmental violations. So we’re not inclined to look the other way.”

Pollution Charges Filed Against Texas Petrochemical Facility That Burned

Citrix confirmed that the hackers who successfully breached the company’s network stole sensitive personal information of both former and current employees and were able to access internal assets for about six months.

The new information was released as part of a “Notice of Data Breach” sent to the Office of California’s Attorney General and to the Citrix employees who were impacted by the security breach.

Citrix Confirms Hackers Stole Sensitive Employee Personal Information

The city’s Green New Deal would require all new city-owned buildings and major renovations to be “all-electric,” effective immediately. The plan also hopes to phase out styrofoam and to plant 90,000 trees by 2021, and to end plastic straws and single-use containers by 2028.

The initiative also includes Los Angeles recycling 100% of its wastewater by 2035 and building a zero-carbon electricity grid with the goal of reaching an 80% renewable energy supply by 2036.

By 2050, the city hopes to create 400,000 green jobs, have every building become emissions-free and halt sending trash to landfills. By then, the city’s plan is expected to save more than 1,600 lives, 660 trips to the hospital and $16 billion in avoided health care expenses every year.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of cities pledging to use 100% renewable energy had doubled. More than a dozen states have passed or are considering setting 100% clean-electricity targets, according to a March report by consultant group EQ Research.

Los Angeles Launched Its Own Green New Deal

Dozens of studies show that exposure to chlorpyrifos is associated with lower birth weight, reduced IQ, attention disorders, and delayed motor development in infants and children. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded in 2016 that all uses of chlorpyrifos are unsafe, but Trump’s EPA refuses to ban the pesticide despite the science.

New York Bans Brain-damaging Pesticide Chlorpyrifos

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are similar in structure to natural hormones such as the female sex hormone estrogen, the male sex hormone androgen, and thyroid hormones
EDCs interfere with development, reproduction, neurological functioning, metabolism, satiety and your immune system function, and much more, and for many of these chemicals, there may be no safe level of exposure
12 of the worst and most widely used EDCs are: BPA, dioxin, atrazine, phthalates, perchlorate, fire retardants, lead, mercury, arsenic, PFCs, organophosphate pesticides and glycol ethers
10 common routes of exposure include personal care products, drinking water, canned and packaged foods, conventionally grown produce and CAFO meat, poultry and dairy products, high-mercury fish, plastic and nonstick kitchenware, cleaning products, household dust, office products and cash register receipts
Suggestions for how to avoid or limit exposure are included

How to Avoid Hormone Disrupting Chemicals

The following is pretty good. I didn’t read it word-for-word but overviewed it instead. One thing that caught my eye concerns asking a prospective tenant about felony convictions. Check your state and local laws before doing that. There’s a movement to prevent landlords from discriminating against those who’ve serve their time. I’m not expressing a view for or against that here but simply cautioning readers.

Landlord Guidance: Content & Quiz for Determining if You Are Ready to House Hack

Larger storms mean bigger headaches for businesses and their employees. Meticulous disaster response planning has therefore never been more important.

Key Considerations for Disaster Planning

This is why parents who work often see little choice but to live with their children in their car.

Renters are left with little income to spend on necessities such as food, clothing, and medical care.

The problems renters face in Los Angeles aren’t unique. The Apartment List study found that across the U.S., renters of all incomes spend a greater share of their earnings on rent than they did in 1980.

Rental prices in the region and nationally also continue to go up, a trend Apartment List blames on an influx of high-income renters.

These renters may not be able to afford a home in a metropolitan area as expensive as Los Angeles, but they earn 23 percent more than the median renter did a decade ago. As people with more money enter the rental market, landlords have raised rents. Nationally, the nominal median rent paid has jumped by 23 percent, Apartment List found.

Housing costs are exacerbating gap between rich, poor in LA

Think tank pushes for transparency on multifamily lending data

This is what I called for right after malls started suffering. I consider it a form of recycling.

Dying malls resurrected in multifamily markets

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for May 1, 2019

As soon as the Consumer Protection Coalition saw Cohen’s video, it issued this statement: “It is precisely this type of gaming of the system that has hurt Florida’s hardworking families and fueled out-of-control AOB litigation, fraud and abuse in both property and auto insurance. Florida’s legislators and other senior elected leaders should be aware that there are already blatant efforts under way to erode the good reforms that the Legislature has just passed on AOB property abuse …”

AOB Abuse King Addresses His Army of Vendors, Vowing to Get Around the New Law

“Remote identification will enhance safety, security, and privacy, and serve as a critical tool for law enforcement to respond to and address reports of illegal and unauthorized drone operations,” the senators said in a letter to Chao on Monday.

The FAA said on Monday that “drone ID and remote tracking are priorities for the FAA and we are well underway developing proposed rules.” The agency said last month it plans to publish a proposed rule by July 21, having previously vowed to unveil the proposal by May 1.

Senators Push Regulator to Finalize Drone ID System

… according to an in-depth analysis shared with KrebsOnSecurity by security researcher Paul Marrapese, iLnkP2P devices offer no authentication or encryption and can be easily enumerated, allowing potential attackers to establish a direct connection to these devices while bypassing any firewall restrictions.

Marrapese said a proof-of-concept script he built identified more than two million vulnerable devices around the globe (see map above). He found that 39 percent of the vulnerable IoT things were in China; another 19 percent are located in Europe; seven percent of them are in use in the United States.

“A P2P server will direct connection requests to the origin of the most recently-received heartbeat message,” Marrapese said. “Simply by knowing a valid device UID, it is possible for an attacker to issue fraudulent heartbeat messages that will supersede any issued by the genuine device. Upon connecting, most clients will immediately attempt to authenticate as an administrative user in plaintext, allowing an attacker to obtain the credentials to the device.”

“The nature of these vulnerabilities makes them extremely difficult to remediate for several reasons,” Marrapese wrote. “Software-based remediation is unlikely due to the infeasibility of changing device UIDs, which are permanently assigned during the manufacturing process. Furthermore, even if software patches were issued, the likelihood of most users updating their device firmware is low. Physical device recalls are unlikely as well because of considerable logistical challenges. Shenzhen Yunni Technology is an upstream vendor with inestimable sub-vendors due to the practice of white-labeling and reselling.”

… avoid purchasing or using IoT devices that advertise any P2P capabilities.

P2P Weakness Exposes Millions of IoT Devices

The program we are preparing for the EU elections focuses on three key issues. The first is democracy: we must invent more democratic and more inclusive decision-making processes in the EU. For now, the citizens of the EU are asked their opinion on unimportant issues such as the question of daylight savings time, but no one asked the citizens if they want austerity, if they reject a common solution to the economic crisis, etc. Citizens must have a say.

The second issue is to invert the EU’s priorities. Currently we have a Union built on the single market and fiscal compacts. In effect, such a Union demands that member states obey its fiscal rules at all costs and is at the same time completely indifferent if that causes a 30 percent rise in youth unemployment, if it starves old people because of pension cuts, or if national healthcare systems fall apart. A Union that mistreats its citizens in such a way is unsustainable! The EU should be just the opposite: it should enforce common welfare standards and social minimums rather than bloody fiscal rules.

And our third priority is European Green Deal. We propose an investment plan that would focus on pan-European green transformation. EU should finance building up of a European high-speed railway grid and of sustainable transport in general. It should invest heavily in green and carbon-free technologies. And it should subsidize the spread of such technologies. It should become a global leader in struggle against climate change.

Building the Slovenian Left: Successes and challenges in Eastern Europe’s most promising New Left project

The following is a highly comprehensive call by anti-Capitalists. These people are ecosocialists. Can capitalism rise to the Global-Warming occasion?

We are in dire need of just and sustainable structural reforms throughout society – bearing in mind the historical responsibility of the rich, big polluters. Making capitalism just a bit greener will not succeed in halting climate change, it will only delay climate action further. To date, dirty industries have been influencing our climate policies. Now we need our climate action to be accountable to the people, not the climate confusers. We need to place people and the sustainability of the environment above profit. If we do not implement radical system changes right now, the commercialisation of the earth will continue to put the interests of the multinational companies first. This puts our planet and ourselves at an unacceptable risk. We have a responsibility to avert the climate crisis with urgency and preserve the earth for future generations. The only effective response is to immediately address this crisis as a climate emergency. Together we can change the system to save the climate!

Climate emergency manifesto: We only have one planet. Let’s save it. Now!

Concerning this next one (and all links unless otherwise stated), linking doesn’t mean I agree with every last thing stated in the linked article. Often, I link to something I mostly disagree with or even completely disagree with. I do not even remotely disagree more than I agree with this next linked article; however, I do not agree with every last bit of it.

Let me say that socialist writers seem to drink more coffee (or something else stimulating).

Lastly, you are free, just as I am, to adopt what you want and to reject what you don’t. You do not have to agree with everything in the article in order to be for plenty of what it calls for. Many people are afraid to take that position.

… the political crux of the question. Capitalism has been built and continues to be built on fossil fuels. Governments have done almost nothing since the Earth Summit (Rio, 1992), and emissions have continued to increase so we are now in a critical situation. The largest and fastest possible reduction of emissions would necessarily involve the very rapid destruction of a huge amount of capital, of an unprecedented “bubble.” The most important sectors of capitalism oppose this with all their might, so two tendencies are crystallizing in the ruling class: that of Trump, Bolsonaro and some other climate denying leaders on the one hand, and on the other hand that of “green capitalism” which, to avoid an excessively brutal bursting of a bubble that is too big, argues in effect for scenario 4, with a massive deployment of BECCS [Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage], a “temporary overrun” of the 1.5C limit and cooling of the planet during the second half of the century — since these people imagine that the Earth’s temperature is as easy to regulate as that of their “smart house.”

Everyone understands that the first tendency is simply criminal, but the second one is barely less. For three reasons:

No one knows if BECCS and the other technologies envisaged will actually remove enough carbon from the atmosphere to return below 1.5°C after exceeding this threshold;
No one knows how to avoid the likely adverse effects of BECCS and other so-called solutions, especially on the biodiversity and food of the world’s population; and
Climate change is a non-linear phenomenon. The risk increases very seriously that a major accident with irreversible consequences may occur during the “temporary overrun,” for example the breaking up of the gigantic Thwaites or Totten ice-sheets in the Antarctic, which would ultimately bring about an increase of three to six metres in the ocean level.

No shortcuts: The climate revolution must be ecosocialist: A red-green manifesto for the 21st century

… “312,570 files in 51,025 folders, over 516 Gb data financial and private information on all clients, include VAG, Ericsson, Leica, MAN, Toshiba, UniCredit, British Telecom and etc,” was stolen from the German service provider.

Extortionist hacks IT provider used by the stars of tech and big biz, leaks customer info after ransom goes unpaid

Security requirements

The top three security requirements set out in the CoP are that:

IoT device passwords must be unique and not resettable to any universal factory setting.
Manufacturers of IoT products provide a public point of contact as part of a vulnerability disclosure policy.
Manufacturers explicitly state the minimum length of time for which the device will receive security updates through an end of life policy.

UK gears up for new laws on IoT security

Soil is starting to get the attention it needs.

Climate change being fuelled by soil damage – report

Estate Planning for Investors: Insight From a Real Estate Attorney

In a statement, Vodafone said: “The issues in Italy identified in the Bloomberg story were all resolved and date back to 2011 and 2012.

“The ‘backdoor’ that Bloomberg refers to is Telnet, which is a protocol that is commonly used by many vendors in the industry for performing diagnostic functions. It would not have been accessible from the internet.

“Bloomberg is incorrect in saying that this ‘could have given Huawei unauthorised access to the carrier’s fixed-line network in Italy’.

Vodafone denies Huawei Italy security risk

Concerning cybersecurity vulnerabilities:

Prevented: safe by default languages and libraries, design reviews, training & documentation
Found automatically: static analysis, dynamic analysis, lint rules, tests, fuzzing.
Found manually: Security reviews and consulting, self-service tooling
Found externally: Bug bounty, external scanning services

Each method has a cost (time, $$$, friction to company), a return (# of bugs shifted and how far). Each company, situation, team has different trade-offs here.

6 buckets of prodsec

The Rich Kid Revolutionaries: Children of privilege, like Abigail Disney, are taking a moral stand against inequality.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development is scrutinizing the potential misuse of these schemes. In October 2018, it released a blacklist of 21 jurisdictions, including Malta and Cyprus, that it believes are undermining international efforts to combat tax evasion.

Millionaires Flee Their Homelands as Tensions Rise and Taxes Bite

Here’s why it might not be so good for small-time home builders this year

Where’s the wage pressure? There’s hardly any even though: Nine states at historically low unemployment rates in March 2019

… why not jettison the federal funds target, and just use the interest rate paid on reserves? There is really no compelling objection. The interest rate on reserves is already the key short-term rate, so the change would have no meaningful effect on the Fed’s monetary policy stance. It would also make things simpler and more transparent by eliminating the need for technical adjustments to the interest rate on reserves to ensure that the federal funds rate stays within its range.

The Fed Should Dump Its Interest-Rate Target: The federal funds rate has outlived its usefulness. By Bill Dudley

Plastic bottles, rusty barrels and even old washing machines are among tons of garbage clogging rivers in Bosnia that were once famous for their emerald color and crystal clear waters adored by rafters and adventurers as well as fishermen.

Garbage clogs once crystal clear Bosnia rivers amid neglect

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for April 30, 2019

Bonner said a main goal of Bee Downtown is to introduce the idea of agriculture back into cities and back into people’s everyday lives, which comes with perks for the environment and the bees.

“As soon as the companies get their hives their first questions are always ‘What else can we do on our campus to help the bees and all the pollinators?’ Typically the campuses turn around and begin to create more sustainable landscaping for all pollinators and stop spraying so many chemicals,” Bonner said.

“Their neighboring companies and neighborhoods hear about the bees and don’t want to hurt them either so they begin taking better care of their surroundings as well.”

North Carolina, Atlanta Bee Highways Create Communities For Both Pollinators and People

“It’s not going to be cost-effective for every building to say, here’s how we’re going to flood-proof it,” Kevin Bush, Washington’s chief resilience officer and the lead author of the strategy, said in a phone interview. “In some cases, we’re going to have to figure out how to do managed retreat and relocation.”

Another challenge, Bush said, is finding new homes in the city for the residents whose houses can’t affordably be retrofitted. The problem is that Washington, like other places around the country, is facing both a housing shortage and climate change at the same time.

“Those two big changes are in conflict with each other,” he said, noting that the city’s resilience plan also addresses both affordable housing and income inequality. “You can’t seriously address climate change without also understanding what we need to do to grow more inclusively.”

Washington D.C. Plans to Confront Climate Change by Retrofitting Flood-Prone Buildings

Look at all the costs we’re anticipating simply because we haven’t acted quickly enough to stop all the carbon-fuel burning.

PG&E Behind on Tree Work in California a Month from Wildfire Season

Safety first!

The crane collapse in the heart of Seattle’s tech hub Saturday ended four lives, cast a pall on the city’s rapid expansion and may lead to tens in millions of dollars of costs for a building that Alphabet Inc.’s Google is set to occupy.

Seattle is in the middle of a commercial real estate boom and has nearly 60 construction cranes dotting its skyline, the most of any U.S. city. Developers have flocked to the area to build new offices and apartments for a swelling tech workforce.

Crane Collapse Casts Pall Over Seattle’s Rapid Growth

Los Angeles County sued Southern California Edison and parent company Edison International on Thursday to recover more than $100 million in costs and damages from a wind-driven wildfire that may have been sparked by one of the utility’s wires.

L.A. County Sues Southern California Edison for Wildfire Damage

Americans must assume more responsibility for protecting themselves from the rising toll of natural disasters, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned.

FEMA Chief Calls for Changing Attitudes as Storms Get Stronger

Again, this is closing the barn door after the horse is out. Yes, we all have to do our best to prepare and change; however, the real focus must be on eliminating CO2 and other greenhouse-gas buildup in the atmosphere. The best way to do that is via switching as quickly as possible from carbon-fuel burning to clean alternatives. That won’t be enough though. We must also sequester what’s already there. The best ways are reforestation and organic-soil regeneration.

As the Trend Micro researcher concluded, “Users should remember that there are other ways to recover their browser. Users that encounter a similar attack can simply close the browser using Task Manager.

Tech Support Scammers Freeze Browsers Using Iframes

It’s not that simple. Most people have sessions automated. They’d restart the browser, and the same tabs would load. They’d have to close the offending tab too before loading it. Another alternative is to use the task manager plus unplug the modem/router before restarting the browser. It would still be best to close the offending tab before opening it.

How hijacked routers can be exploited for phishing

After taking over your router, attackers modify its settings. It’s a tiny, unnoticeable change: They change the addresses of the DNS servers the router uses to resolve domain names. What does that mean, and why is it so dangerous?

Phishing without borders, or why you need to update your router

These five exercise trends will help society and your health

Guest Post: Understanding the Basics of Probate Investing – Part 1

… powerful global forces are holding down inflation and interest rates worldwide — and there is little reason to think that will change soon.

As a result, the Fed simply has fewer arrows in its quiver to protect the economy from the normal ups and downs. It also has a widening credibility gap over an inability to reach its inflation goal. Fed officials do not envision raising rates further anytime soon, and there are signals in financial markets suggesting that if they did raise rates much above current levels, the economy could tumble into recession.

… the Fed has been the equivalent of a driver who aims to go 60 miles an hour but starts tapping the brakes every time the car gets over 55.

If, instead, the Fed tried to target a steadily rising price level, or achieve average inflation over many years of 2 percent, it might avoid the problem. That would be the equivalent of a driver with an average speed of 55 being comfortable driving at 65 miles per hour until the average rises to the goal of 60.

In the current monetary policy environment, it would mean keeping rates lower for longer, allowing the economy to overheat until inflation was tracking comfortably above 2 percent for a time.

How Will the Fed Fight the Next Recession? It’s Trying to Figure That Out Right Now

This is a good follow-on from the link right above.

7 ways the Fed’s decisions on interest rates affect you

Higher price inflation does hurt, but higher interest rates hurt too. The opposite is also true depending upon your position. Higher price inflation means average consumers have more money to spend (to bid up prices). Higher interest rates means higher interest-earnings for those on fixed incomes who’ve invested in interest-earning accounts and other financial vehicles.

The greatest risk of increased energy costs are likely to occur in the southern, especially southeastern, United States, where costs for additional cooling are projected to be larger than the savings from lower heating bills. In the northernmost reaches of New England and the Midwest, and throughout much of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains, energy expenditures may actually decrease. In those areas, lower expenditures on heating could outweigh higher expenditures on air conditioning. For the Lower 48 states on average, the models project the risk of greater demand for air conditioning overwhelming savings on heating, meaning national energy expenditures could rise overall.

National Climate Assessment map shows uneven impact of future global warming on U.S. energy spending

The financial community’s most important action with regard to climate change has happened in the last few years: many stakeholders in the financial industry, and central bankers, too, have realised that climate change is not an issue for next century. It’s an issue for now, and it’s a topic not only for other sectors but also for the financial sector and for central bankers and supervisors.

The ECB is paying a lot more attention to climate risks, not least through its participation in the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS).

Sabine Lautenschläger: Central bankers, supervisors and climate-related risks

Mayor Carlyn Obringer called the renovations and new landscaping “superb” and praised the funding model used by Community HousingWorks that didn’t rely on subsidies from the city or state. That means Concord can keep its affordable housing dollars for other projects ….

Nonprofit renovates affordable, 198-unit apartment complex in Concord

… HomeShare offered renters a chance to live in upscale new condos by dividing homes into comparatively affordable, ultra-micro units via temporary partitions.

HomeShare partitions measured around 100 to 120 square feet and started at $1,300 per month at launch.

Bay Area ‘homesharing’ startup abruptly shuts down

Landlords and management firms would benefit hugely by convincing the federal government to make child care and rental assistance programs into entitlement programs.

Stable, affordable housing and high-quality, affordable child care are essential to families’ economic stability, parents’ ability to work, and children’s healthy development. But due to inadequate funding, just 1 in 6 children eligible for child care assistance — and 1 in 5 families with children eligible for housing assistance — receives it. As a result, many low-income families struggle to pay for child care and housing, and many are forced into lower-quality or less stable child care arrangements and housing that is overcrowded, substandard, or located in neighborhoods with fewer opportunities for parents and children.

Funding for federal housing and child care assistance is inadequate because:

Unlike Medicaid or food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), federal child care and rental assistance programs are not entitlement programs — that is, they do not serve everyone who applies and is eligible because the programs’ funding is capped and does not automatically expand to meet increased need.
A majority of the federal funding for child care and all of the funding for rental assistance programs is subject to the annual congressional appropriations process and, while the programs enjoy bipartisan support, funding is not high enough to serve all eligible families. This partly reflects the overall limits (or caps) on annual funding for appropriated programs that have been in place in recent years, which have made it hard for policymakers to provide enough funding to serve more eligible families.

Child Care and Housing: Big Expenses With Too Little Help Available

One country, two systems until Xi feels like making it one country, one system:

Hong Kong has a separate legal system through the “one country, two systems” deal struck between Britain and China.

Historically the city has baulked at mainland extraditions because of the opacity of China’s criminal justice system and its liberal use of the death penalty.

But earlier this year Hong Kong’s government announced plans to overhaul its extradition rules, allowing the transfer of fugitives with mainland China, Macau and Taiwan on a “case-basis” for the first time.

Huge Hong Kong protest against China extradition plan

Then you wonder why democratic Taiwan wants nothing to do with Xi’s China.

Typically when you use Chrome for mobile on Android, as you scroll down a webpage the URL bar vanishes. Attackers can use this vulnerability to display a fake URL address bar called an “inception bar” that won’t disappear until you visit another website.

The fake bar displays a real website’s address, fooling you into thinking that you’re on a different site than you actually are.

What’s even worse is that the attack can block you from seeing the real address bar once you scroll back up.

Beware! Google Chrome address bar can reportedly be used to launch a phishing attack

Real estate, risks, economics, & more: links for April 29, 2019

These 10 Cities Are On The Brink Of A Housing Crisis In 2019

… new empirical findings support a much older body of theory that argues that credit markets, left to their own devices, will not optimize the allocation of resources. Instead, following Joseph Schumpeter’s, Keynes’s and Hyman Minsky’s arguments, they will tend to shift financial resources away from real-sector investment and innovation and towards asset markets and speculation; away from equitable income growth and towards capital gains that polarizes wealth and income; and away from a robust, stable growth path and towards fragile boom-busts cycles with frequent crises.

This means, we argue, that there is a strong case for regulation ….

Debunking Deregulation: Bank Credit Guidance and Productive Investment

Video: BC One – Climate Change -The Facts

After one of the hottest years on record, Sir David Attenborough looks at the science of climate change and potential solutions to this global threat. Interviews with some of the world’s leading climate scientists explore recent extreme weather conditions such as unprecedented storms and catastrophic wildfires. They also reveal what dangerous levels of climate change could mean for both human populations and the natural world in the future.


Spain’s unemployment rate ticked up by a quarter percentage point to 14.7% in the first quarter of 2019, when economists had expected a down tick, as the number of people claiming unemployment benefits increased by 50,000 to 3.35 million, according to data released by the National Statistics Institute (INE). Although it’s not unusual for unemployment in Spain to tick up during the first quarter, this is the biggest quarter-on-quarter increase in six years and it highlights a persistent weak link in an economy that has done nothing but grow since late 2013.

The biggest job losses were registered in the services sector (69,000), followed by industry (8,600) and construction (2.500), raising concerns that the generalized economic slowdown affecting the European economy has spread to one of the region’s fastest growth engines.

“The worst labor market” on the planet: unemployment exceeded 20% in three downturns over the past 35 years.

How to create an eco-friendly office: Many UK businesses are trying to reduce plastic waste and enhance energy efficiency in sustainable workplaces, but change is more difficult in a shared office space

Q1 GDP surprised with a gain of 3.2% versus expectations of 1.9% and last P of 2.2%. News shows and political leaders celebrated the headline number (NYT), but markets were fussier. Chief among these was the increase in inventory accumulation (contributing over one percent) and reduced imports (which were affected by potential tariff timing). Without these effects economic growth was only 1.5%. (Barron’s). Despite the news stories, stocks did not rally on the news and interest rates actually moved lower. I enjoyed lunch with Bob Dieli on Thursday, and this scenario was just as he predicted. His subscribers can see the details. This left me well-prepared for an early analysis at FATrader. The story was pretty well reported on Twitter and financial media.

New Deal Democrat had a slightly different negative take, emphasizing his long-leading indicators in the report.

“Davidson” (via Todd Sullivan) suggests looking at trends in Real Private GDP. This takes out some artificial government accounting and provides a measure on private activity. He concludes:

But, the data reveals that an expansion in the Private economic activity the past 18mos has definitely accelerated. The Real Trailing Twelve Mos Private GDP is definitely significantly higher than the trend of 3.00% since early 2009. Today’s report of 3.51% confirms all other economic trends I monitor and is something expected in GDP data.

The development of Real Private GDP is to remove the skewed perception many derive from the widely reported and in my view misinformed GDP data. GDP includes discretionary govt spending which comes from taxation and govt borrowings based on the Private economy. It is a form of double counting the underlying strength or weakness when govt spending tends to rise and fall somewhat along economic trends. Total Govt Expenditure&Inv does not include the mandatory payments from Social Security or Medicare and etc.

This chart shows the significance.

And by the way, the Chemical activity barometer increased again in April (Calculated Risk).

I am scoring GDP as “good,” but it is really more of a neutral call by my rules.

And last but not least is this comment from Robert Dieli’s special GDP report (subscribers only).

All of the remarks you are seeing about whether this report indicates the start of a recession are a waste of your time. For two reasons. The first, and the most important, is that GDP in not used to in the establishment of business cycle peaks and troughs. The second, is you will find positive growth quarters in recessions. So, folks who try to date recessions with GDP don’t know the first thing about dating recessions.


Recent worries have been resolved or reduced.

Recession fears have abated after a spate of stories sparked by “yield curve rookies.” Fed expert Tim Duy’s most recent comment calls it the “non-recession watch.”

Weighing the Week Ahead: How to Watch the Information Avalanche

Landslides and floods triggered by torrential rain have killed at least 29 people in Indonesia, the disaster agency said on Monday, with thousands taking shelter in evacuation centers amid fears of disease.

Indonesia floods, landslides kill at least 29

A 44-page, draft “Summary for Policy Makers” obtained by AFP catalogues the 1001 ways in which our species has plundered the planet and damaged its capacity to renew the resources upon which we depend, starting with breathable air, drinkable water and productive soil.

The impact of humanity’s expanding footprint and appetites has been devastating.

UN report to highlight urgent need for Nature rescue plan

 

Real estate, cybersecurity and other risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for April 28, 2019

Buildings Damaged, 2 Killed as Tornado Tears Through Northern Louisiana:

Communications director for the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Mike Steele said a mother and son in Lincoln Parish, which Ruston lies in, were killed when a tree fell on their home overnight.


Tesla Versus the World: First Musk Takes on Chips, Now Insurers:

Musk has bristled for years at how some Tesla customers have paid higher insurance rates. Costlier coverage undercuts the case the company frequently makes that its cars are the safest in the industry, and that its Autopilot system is deft at helping drivers avoid crashes.


I didn’t care for the following article because it is extremely redundant and doesn’t discuss the negative impacts of greed at the top and low wages at the bottom.

Has the U.S. economy stagnated because its work force aged?

Truth:

… monopolists drive down wages …. [Source: Restoring Antimonopoly Through Bright-Line Rules]


Facebook investigated by New York AG over email harvesting:

In its statement, the attorney general’s office claimed that “the total number of people whose information was improperly obtained may be [in the] hundreds of millions.”

“It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers’ personal information,” state Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers’ information while at the same time profiting from mining that data.”

Don’t give tech giants your user name and password to anything.

Mozambique came up with a solution, and the US is well behind the curve.

… André Tenreiro was called into a meeting between the chief technology officer of the phone carrier he worked for—one of the largest in Mozambique—and an executive of the country’s largest bank. The latter had seen an escalating pattern of fraud based on so-called SIM swap attacks, where hackers trick or bribe a phone company employee into switching the SIM card associated with a victim’s phone number. The attackers then use that hijacked number to take over banking or other online accounts. [Source: The SIM Swap Fix That the US Isn’t Using]

Measuring populist anti-elitist views

Academic studies of populism consistently identify a few key ideas as underlying the concept: The people’s will is the main source of government legitimacy; “the people” and “the elite” are two homogenous and antagonistic groups; and “the people” are good, while “the elite” are corrupt (Stanley, 2011; Akkerman, Mudde, & Zaslove, 2014; Schulz et al., 2017).

The populism measure used throughout this report is based on combining respondents’ answers to two questions: 1) “Ordinary people would do a better job/do no better solving the country’s problems than elected officials,” and 2) “Most elected officials care/don’t care what people like me think.” Both measures are meant to capture the core ideas that the government should reflect the will of “the people” and that “elites” are an antagonistic group that is out of touch with the demands of “the people.” The second measure is a traditional question asked regularly over time on political surveys to measure efficacy and dissatisfaction with government responsiveness. This measure, or ones that are similar, are used by scholars studying populism to capture attitudes about an antagonistic relationship between elites and the people (Stanley, 2011; Spruyt et al., 2016; Schulz et al., 2017).

Those who answered that elected officials don’t care about people like them and who said ordinary people would do a better job solving the country’s problems than elected officials were considered to hold populist anti-elitist views. People who say the reverse – that elected officials care and that ordinary people would do no better – are considered to not hold populist anti-elitist views. Everyone else, including people who refuse to answer one or both questions, is considered to hold mixed views. In France, 40% of adults hold these populist anti-elitist views, 16% do not hold these views, and the remaining 44% hold mixed views. [Source: Views of the news media in France]


I was thinking about this very thing when Trump ramped up sanctions on Iran by withdrawing any waivers for those importing Iranian oil while he also doubled down against Venezuela. My thought was he was not simply looking to OPEC and specifically the Saudis but also Russia (now that the Muller report came back with no collusion to report) and finally US frackers. This following linked article doesn’t mention those possibilities but is an interesting read.

We may see a US recession over this if Trump holds.

The Fed certainly doesn’t think quickly in this sort of situation. They’ll only be reactive after the economy tanks at the rate they seem to go.

This time OPEC is going to wait until Mr Trump is irreversibly committed and the market is as tight as a drum. The fiscal break-even price of oil for the Saudi regime is $US88. That is the target.

The deeper problem does not go away when OPEC does finally match lost Iranian barrels. The more the Saudis produce, the more they erode the world’s safety buffer.

Westbeck’s Mr Le Mee says global spare capacity will fall to 1.2m barrels a day by the third quarter. This will not be enough to cover demand even if nothing goes wrong, and a great deal is likely to go wrong.

Mr Trump has taken the biggest economic gamble of his presidency. He has set in motion a potential oil crunch. [Source: Trump has just taken the biggest economic gamble of his presidency]


Was first-quarter GDP growth really at a 3.2% annual rate?

Growth in the first quarter smashed expectations, fueled in part by strong inventory building. According to the government, $32 billion of goods were added to inventories this quarter, or $128 billion annualized.

This stockpiling of goods boosted first-quarter GDP growth by about 70 basis points and helped propel growth to a 3.2% annual rate, well above forecasts.

The problem is that it is not at all obvious where these inventories came from.

Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the inventory build was mainly in autos, and wouldn’t be a problem because consumers would be opening their wallets.

Another White House economist, Kevin Hassett, seemed to suggest that the extra production wasn’t picked up in the Fed’s report on industrial production.

“People built new factories last year. This year they’re turning them on and are beginning to produce output. In the first quarter, I think a lot of that new output from the new factories went into inventories,” Hassett told CNBC.

The inventory mystery has key implications for the outlook. If the inventory build is real and unwanted, it might slow production. [Source: The big mystery in the GDP report — where did the inventories come from?]

… inventories rose, and rising inventories, which are considered an investment and add to GDP, are eventually followed by a decline in inventories when companies whittle them down again, and there is a price to pay for it. [Source: I Just Hope the Fed Won’t See This: US Economy Has Blowout First Quarter]


A Guide to Plastic in the Ocean

“Multifamily permitting activity has been high in recent years, but the reality is that as much as it feels like we’re building abundant rental units, it’s not enough to make up for a decade-long shortfall experienced during the housing boom, bust and early recovery,” Olsen said. [Source: Median rent reaches all-time high]


Here’s how climate change magnifies homeownership costs and leads to saving money if handled properly.

Here’s Marxist Paul Mason calling out MMT for not having worked everything out in advance. This is the typical approach to trashing MMT. Meanwhile, MMTers have no problem with wanting to workout the details, the models, etc.

Bill Mitchell, a prominent MMT theorist, argues that there is no need for government to issue bonds at all, since borrowing is inefficient compared to the Fed simply supplying money to the private sector at zero interest rates via the banking system. Again if you think I’m oversimplifying his position you only need to read the headline: “There is no need to issue public debt” writes Mitchell. Stephanie Kelton, prominent MMT advocate and a former adviser to Bernie Sanders, recently suggested that the Fed could pay off the USA’s $16 trillion debt “tomorrow”.

As far as I know, I wrote both things publicly before either of them went public with these ideas.

What can we agree on?

I want the US Federal government to spend money fast, running into extra trillions per year, because as the 2018 IPCC report says, humanity has just eleven years left in which to halve carbon emissions.

Since governments can today borrow at historically low rates, it should be financed through a mixture of running a deficit, hiking the tax take from US corporations and getting maximum bang for your buck in terms of the multiplier effects of government spending. I see no big problem for the Federal Reserve to finance some of the deficit by buying government debt directly — a process known as monetisation.

Mason trots out the “bondholders won’t like it” argument. Look, when all national debt is paid off and everyone is lifted up and saved from global warming through a war footing, who’s going to complain and be taken seriously? Yes, they need convincing, but MMT is finally getting a hearing. That had to come first, as I’ve said before.

Look, Marxism has had how long to convince the American masses? Did it succeed? No. Was it crushed and driven from the public square in terms of economic debate? Yes. Let’s not expect MMT do convince everyone overnight. Besides, MMT is democratic. Marx was a militant revolutionary who had no problem with the workers being the armed dictators. I don’t think that will sell here in the US. I’m sure not buying it. I’m a democrat, not a Bolshevik. Maybe Paul is a bit miffed that his “side” didn’t win. He’s not a Stalinist, but he comes across as still rather hardline.

MMT will prove that the government can create the money needed without borrowing, without owing anything to anybody. That money can be created democratically. The People can decide where it should be spent. What’s not to like?

Furthermore, Paul is arguing with strawmen. FDR didn’t use MMT perhaps because he didn’t know the economics. Keynes said FDR was relatively economically illiterate. Lincoln did, however, use a type of MMT and won the Civil War with it (read about the Greenbackers). Some people argue he was assassinated on account of it.

The additional problem this creates for MMT is that, because of the potential to automate 40%+ of all jobs or tasks in the next two decades, the “jobs guarantee” becomes like pushing a piece of string. It is why I and others advocate the creation of a universal basic income combined with universal basic services out of taxation to finance the one-off rapid automation that will significantly reduce the hours worked on the planet.

I agree with that. I’ve been saying it for years now. Although, I don’t say “basic” but “living.” Basic is the term of the laissez-faire, who want to eliminate government as much as possible. Living is the term of those who want everyone to have a high quality of life, not just be barely making it at the poverty line.

I don’t ask academics who have made their careers out of perfecting MMT to give up their theory. I just ask them to collaborate in the creation of a challengeable macroeconomic model where we can test the actions we’re going to take, understand the risks and mitigate them.

Paul writes as if he’s asked and been rejected.

Risks are ‘a thing’…and so is the death of capitalism: A contribution to the debate on Modern Monetary Theory

… it was obvious that the global rules of the game were tilted — not against, but in favor of the United States and other advanced countries at the expense of developing countries. The trade agreements were unfair — to the benefit of the U.S. and Europe and to the detriment of developing countries.

The idea that our trade negotiators got snookered is laughable: we got almost everything we wanted in late-twentieth-century trade negotiations. Over the opposition of those from developing countries, we secured strong intellectual property protections — which protected the intellectual property of the advanced countries, but not that of developing countries. We’ve succeeded in forcing countries to open up their markets to our financial firms — and even to accept those highly risky derivatives and other financial products that played a central role in our own financial collapse.

It’s true that American workers have been disadvantaged — low-skilled workers in particular have seen their wages reduced, in part because of globalization. But that is partly because American negotiators got what they asked for …. [Source: Joseph Stiglitz: US trade deals were designed to serve corporations at the expense of workers]

“Retail sales haven’t been this low for the past two years with the exception of the last few months where in December it went to its lowest reading since 2009.”

That decade low coincided with the historic plunge in the stock market. [Source: Chart shows glaring economic risk that could wipe out record highs]

This was the first time in recorded history that the southern African nation has been hit by two cyclones in one season, again raising concerns about climate change. [Source: Serious flooding in Mozambique in wake of Cyclone Kenneth]

Real estate, risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for April 27, 2019

I’ve said repeatedly that the US government must subsidize the development of more affordable housing and subsidize poor renters paying rent. These measures would benefit the overall economy.

It’s amazing that individuals put their own selfish interests above the good of the whole.

Landlords renting to those whose rent payments are subsidized are not worse off but better off. Landlords are much better off with less turnover and fewer tenants stressed out by barely being able to make the rent or not being able to make it at all. People who are stressed out financially are much greater risks in a whole host of ways. Plus, there’s the humanitarian aspect. Good landlords want their tenants having happier, more prosperous lives. Just because a tenant does better doesn’t mean he or she will suddenly move out because of buying a house. Many people prefer not having to mess with the maintenance aspects of owning.

Landlords should support having the federal government subsidize construction and rents.

Her bill, reintroduced in March and co-sponsored by another presidential candidate, Kirsten Gillibrand, includes a hefty infusion of money to nonprofit developers of affordable housing, paid for by raising the estate tax. A Moody’s analysis projected that the added resources, about $50 billion a year, would help build enough new housing to push rents a decade from now about 10 percent lower than they would be without Ms. Warren’s bill. [Source]


The reason for a lack of price inflation is simple and clear. Owners and executives are keeping more of the profits for themselves. The Fed never seems to want to say it.

Daly cited two gauges developed by San Francisco Fed economists, which divide up the items in the inflation basket based on whether or not they are sensitive to cyclical pressures, and help explain why inflation rose last year before coming back down again.

The gauges show that the inflation rate for such cyclically sensitive items has been flat for the past two years, and remains well below levels achieved in previous expansions. The inflation rate for other items, which is harder for policy makers to influence, jumped last year before sliding again in January.

“To the extent we’ve got low inflation in an environment with sub-4 percent unemployment, I think that that’s indicative of the fact that we don’t have an active Phillips curve in this environment, and you have to look to other channels for signals about inflation,” St. Louis Fed President James Bullard told reporters on April 17 in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. [Source]

… neighbors often balk at shelters because of misconceptions about the city’s homeless, and Win’s survey highlights those misbeliefs. While families with children represent over 70 percent of New York City’s homeless population, 62 percent of those polled believe that the city’s homeless are primarily single men and women. Some 65 percent also assumed that having a job is enough to stave off homelessness, but one in three homeless families have a working adult. The country’s level of working poor—those who spend 27 weeks or more in a year either working or looking for work, but whose incomes fall below the federal poverty line—came in at just shy of 10 million in 2016, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Even those who opposed shelters coming to their neighborhoods admit living near one “isn’t as bad as we thought it would be,” as Dion Ashman, a longtime Crown Heights resident, told Curbed in October. Ashman, who opposed a family shelter opening on Rogers Avenue and Crown Street, even helped bring a lawsuit on behalf of concerned neighbors to halt the project.

“The things that people were concerned about, the quality of life issues, those haven’t really materialized,” he told Curbed. The advisory board for that shelter, of which Ashman is a member, shifted to meeting every three months instead of monthly because there simply wasn’t much to report within that window. “There wasn’t really enough new material to report on at the end of every month,” Ashman added. [Source]

Everyone who wants to live inside a decent place should have that as a guaranteed human right. I don’t care whether they are working or not. The basic necessities of life should be met for everyone no matter the reason for the individual’s circumstances. The vast majority of people who are lazy are so because they’ve been repeatedly kicked down and don’t see the point in trying. Given a real chance, given real support, they’d rise to the occasion. Most homeless are not lazy to begin with. Many are ill and need kind assistance whether they know it or not.

… Chicagoans have a new online tool for tracking the road repair projects, utility work, and special events impacting their neighborhoods.

Known as ChiStreetWork, the free web-based application went live on Tuesday, city officials announced. It uses the familiar Google Maps interface to display a wide range of information including past, current, and future repaving initiatives and permits for water, sewer, gas, or electrical projects impacting the public right-of-way. [Source]

Perhaps [no perhaps] the most important factor in the turnaround: the Federal Reserve. Markets began to stabilize, and stocks climbed again, after Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chairman, said in January that the central bank would be “patient” before raising interest rates again, after four increases in 2018.

… businesses remain cautious, in part because they expect the economy to cool gradually as the effects of last year’s tax cuts and spending increases fade. [Source]

The Fed did not change due to Trump but due to their own internally generated models/data.

If the Fed had a higher inflation target going into the 2007-2009 slump, policymakers would have been forced to respond earlier and more aggressively to the downturn, likely shortening its severity and duration.

Moreover, policymakers would have refrained from raising rates over the last two years despite signs that, despite a low unemployment rate, wages for most workers had yet to pick up substantially ….

As someone who grew up under a hyperinflationary Brazilian economy during the 1980s, I offer my two cents: We’re not in Rio anymore―It’s time for the Fed to adopt a higher inflation target.

What’s the right number exactly? Two percent was chosen rather randomly, a trend that began in New Zealand and was then adopted by other mimicking, consensus-seeking central bankers.

Let’s start with 4%, as ex-IMF economist Olivier Blanchard has suggested, and see what happens. [Source]

I called for 5% when it became apparent that the fiscal stimulus was way too small and there wasn’t going to be a follow-up. It was my publicly stated view that the unemployment target should be below 3% and that 5% price inflation might be necessary to get us there. That was around 10 years ago. I even thought the Fed knew it. Maybe they did.

During the last couple weeks, strange things have been happening in Ireland. A mysterious organization called the Irish Tax Agency launched a Facebook campaign to advertise how Irish tax authorities gave preferential treatment to international property investors. The Sunday Business Post revealed Ireland’s economic development agency, the IDA, was paying for changes to Wikipedia pages about itself and its chief executive. It had gotten caught up in an “edit war” with a Wikipedia user who kept on making edits “linking Ireland and its stakeholders to negative stories, particularly on economics, taxation and Brexit.”

For a long time, Ireland has used taxes to aggressively attract incoming investment. Now this strategy is being questioned.

Ireland is a tax haven …. [Source]

… the fiscal outlook for many Americans continues to stagnate, and that includes seniors.

According to a study published today by the journal Health Affairs, half of America’s middle-income seniors will be unable to afford housing and healthcare within 10 years. The study, using data from the Health and Retirement Study by the University of Michigan, found that 54 percent of middle-income people who will be over 75 in 2029 “will not have sufficient financial resources” to pay for healthcare or housing costs.

The authors estimated that 81 percent of middle-income seniors who don’t have equity in housing will earn less than $60,000 a year, but the estimated assisted living rent and medical out-of-pocket spending costs will be $62,000. [Source]


If you’re interested in democratic-socialism and whether it can work in a mixed economy, read this: “Explosion of Interest in Worker Cooperatives Drives Economic Changes.”

Employee ownership coupled with democracy in the workplace is democratic-socialism at the organizational/enterprise level. It’s not failing but growing and often beating the competition while lifting the poor. I’ve always been an advocate. I was born that way.

Concerning Social Security, what’s missing from this (deficit hawkish/) article?

When the funds are depleted, Congress has a few options: it can pass a law to keep benefits at the same level, which would increase the country’s deficit, or it could choose to raise the age that Americans get benefits or increase payroll taxes. [Source]

Whenever you see the Peter G. Peterson Foundation mentioned in a way that even slightly hints that it’s view on Social Security is realistic, you know you’re reading false propaganda whether the author intends the propaganda or not. What’s missing from the above is the government simply issuing the funds without increasing the deficit. That would mean issuing the money but not issuing bonds or debt at the same time. The old would continue spending. Demand would continue being met. Price inflation wouldn’t be a problem. GDP would go up. There is no problem with even increasing SS benefits!

The Objective of Money Laundering

When you buy an asset, whether a home or an oz of pink kush, you try to get the best value for your time and money. You want a deal. The seller is trying to extract the maximum price they can get from you, without driving you away. They don’t want you to get a great deal. The balance of interests go back and forth, and is a fundamental part of a functioning market. Opposing interests help balance things, plus or minus a dash of exuberance.

If you are money laundering, that’s not the case. The objective is to move as much cash, as fast as possible. This often involves large assets, and the bigger the price – the better. Especially if there’s a recurring payment component. Both the seller and the money laundering buyer want the highest acceptable price.

Sellers often feel somewhere between a genius and a lottery winner when they find this buyer. Competition between interests align, and there’s minimal friction preventing prices from going higher. The seller assumes their master negotiation skills prevailed. The money laundering buyer gets to move more money than they were asking for. The buyer seems “irrational,” but that’s just the market. Real estate agents without a clue, begin to rationalize and normalize this behavior. There’s no more land is a popular explanation.

… say you’re shopping for a home in Anyplace, BC. You’re watching the homes in the neighborhood climb at an average of 5% from last year. You find a place you’re ready to put on offer on, do some research, and come up with an offer. All of a sudden, a money launderer shows up, and offers the owner 10% over ask for a “quick close.” You’re not too worried, your agent told you the place a few doors down is going to be on the market next week.

Unfortunately, the new place now uses the home owned by the money launder as a comp. Now the ask is 10% more than you were expecting, because the marginal buyer set the price down the street. Someone else bites, and buys it before it “goes too high.” Now the money launderer’s buy was just validated in the system. But wait – there’s more.

Remember, the goal of laundering isn’t to buy a house, it’s to clean the money. They list the home again, let’s say another 10 points higher than bought. Bonus points if they can turn it into a wash trade, and sell it to another associated launderer. A regular family shopping down the street uses your washing machine as a comp for their buy. Behavior typically only seen in the frothiest of asset bubbles, can surface quickly. Exuberant buyers, both illicit and legit, compete and drive prices higher. [Source]

It creates bubbles that pop. Hot markets are where that action is.

Following a path previously laid out by the likes of real estate search engines Zillow and Redfin, and taking a page out of the playbook of iBuyer platforms Opendoor, Offerpad, and others, real estate agency Keller Williams is about to start buying and selling houses.

Next month, Keller Williams will launch an iBuyer offering, which will be called “Keller Offers.”

… An iBuyer is the catchall term for online real estate investors, who seek to reduce transactional property costs via digital tools. These investor[s] will typically make an “instant” offer on a home. Thus, the term i(nstant)Buyer.

Companies like Opendoor, Offerpad, Perch, and others have been operating in the space for some time, and in certain cases, have raised money hand over fist. [Source]

Cash is king. You can also get a loan later. It’s why the rich get richer.

… there is more turbulence below the surface than the optimist’s eye might recognize. Retail closings continue, initial unemployment claims have started to tick higher in some places, and job postings have declined in many district states (year over year). That’s what the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found in its most recent Beige Book report on current business conditions, released April 17.

But there’s more to the labor market story—more disconnects between labor demand and supply—than even these recent events suggest, according to supplemental insights and data from numerous contacts across the Ninth District. [Source]

It sounds like a great deal of laissez-faire ideology coming through rather than hard data.

… would delay treatment time, increase taxes, and eliminate private health insurance companies

“Medicare For All would save individual families thousands of dollars a year and save the American health care system trillions by eliminating duplicative costs across insurance companies, zero’ing out billions in advertising costs, and ending excessive CEO pay,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told The Intercept in an email.

“Medicare For All would also ensure families can use whatever doctor they like, even if they switch jobs or lose their jobs — and people would be happier as dental, vision, and home long-term care are covered and co-pays and deductibles are eliminated,” Green said. “The only ones who understand Medicare For All and oppose it are the Big Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies who will finally have their power challenged — and the corporate-funded think tanks who are paid to give Democrats losing political advice.” [Source]

Just because I’m an insurance broker doesn’t mean I think that Enhanced Medicare for All is a bad idea. I’m a big-picture person. Private health-insurance companies could transition into other coverages, and those that wouldn’t should still have a truly decent safety net for all employees while they are trained for and look for other work.

Five years after Flint entered the national consciousness, the perpetrators of this man-made crisis continue to go unseen and unscathed. And Flint is just the beginning. Because of bad corporate actors, derelict landlords, and governmental neglect and mismanagement at all levels, our nation’s infrastructure has become toxic and dilapidated, in need of more than $2 trillion worth of investments and 21st century policies that prioritize the most affected and proactive prevention rather than costly yet reactionary and incrementalistic approaches …. [Source]

… we need an International Green New Deal: a pragmatic plan to raise $8tn – 5% of global GDP – each year, coordinate its investment in the transition to renewable energy and commit to providing climate protections on the basis of countries’ needs, rather than their means.

Call it the Organization for Emergency Environmental Cooperation – the namesake of the original OEEC 75 years ago. While many US activists find inspiration in a “second world war-style mobilization”, the International Green New Deal is better modeled by the Marshall plan that followed it. With financial assistance from the US government, 16 countries formed the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), dedicated to rebuilding the infrastructure of a devastated continent and coordinating its supply of energy.

… Confronting the climate crisis will require more than keeping fossil fuels in the ground. We will also need major scientific breakthroughs to develop renewable sources of energy, adapt existing infrastructure, detoxify our oceans and decarbonize the atmosphere. No country alone can fund the research and development necessary to meet these challenges. The OEEC would pool the brainpower of the global scientific community: a Green Manhattan Project.

“Advanced” capitalist countries today are literally falling apart. In the US, net public investment has fallen below half of one per cent of GDP. Across the eurozone, net public investment has remained below zero for nearly a decade. …

… Austerity means extinction.

The promise of an International Green New Deal is to avoid the pitfalls of cold war politics and unite humanity in the only project capable of preserving a habitable planet. To do this, however, we need a powerful progressive international movement to demand that our leaders begin to act beyond their own borders. Let’s start building it. The children are watching. [Source]


Apartment complexes: “How to Effectively Manage Package Acceptance.”

… researchers found that extreme winds in the Southern Ocean have increased by 1.5 metres per second, or 8 per cent, over the past 30 years. Extreme waves have increased by 30 centimetres, or 5 per cent, over the same period.

As the world’s oceans become stormier, Professor Young warns this has flow on effects for rising sea levels and infrastructure.

“Although increases of 5 and 8 per cent might not seem like much, if sustained into the future such changes to our climate will have major impacts,” Professor Young said. [Source]

In the following six cities, residents never experienced a day when ozone or particulate pollution spiked into unhealthy ranges, and average year-round particulate pollution in these cities ranked among the lowest nationally. In alphabetical order, these are the cleanest metropolitan areas in America:

Bangor, Maine
Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont
Honolulu, Hawaii
Lincoln-Beatrice, Nebraska
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
Wilmington, North Carolina [Source]

The “State of the Air” report — which reflects air quality measurements from 2015-2017 — found that air pollution worsened in many cities compared to previous years’ findings, which is in part due to the impact of climate change. Warmer temperatures exacerbate ozone formation and wildfires, which are major contributors to soot pollution.

“There is no clearer sign that we are facing new challenges than air pollution levels that have broken records tracked for the past twenty years, and the fact that we had more days than ever before when monitored air quality reached hazardous levels for anyone to breathe,” American Lung Association president Harold Wimmer said in a statement. He also called the findings “eye-opening.” [Source]

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.

Real estate, risks, economics, & more: links & commentary for April 24, 2019

New York City to Require Buildings to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions in First of Its Kind Law

The City Council passed a measure aimed at reducing buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030.

The plan is said to be the first of its kind in the world.

It’s part of the city’s effort to cut emissions 80% citywide by 2050.


$16B and Counting: The Climate Change List No One Wants to Be On:

It’s the climate change list (one of them) that no one wants to be part of, but Ocean City, N.J., Miami Beach and Hollywood, Florida, have been crowned the biggest losers in the United States in terms of home value due to climate change-enhanced flooding.

Ocean City alone lost $530 million in home value in the last 15 years with $612 million more pain coming in the next 15, according to an analysis conducted by First Street Foundation. Miami Beach has seen $337 million in home value wash away since 2005, and all told $16 billion in home value has been erased along the East and Gulf Coasts in the last decade and a half.

… Perhaps the most important factor, according to Stiles, is not flooding itself but the escalating cost of flood insurance for certain homes.

“I’ve had three people move onto my block, which doesn’t require insurance,” says Stiles. “They told me they were getting away, because of flood insurance. They could get more equity in this neighborhood.”

Stiles says his flood insurance is only $500 per year, but his agent told him the same house in a FEMA flood zone would cost eight times as much to insure. However, picking your house based on FEMA’s flood maps isn’t always straightforward. The agency periodically updates its maps to reflect new conditions. The process is politically fraught as towns fight bitterly to prevent homes from being included in these maps. Homeowners fear the increased flood insurance costs and the federal mandate that you must buy it. A flood designation has other major consequences, no federally backed mortgages or disaster relief unless a neighborhood fully complies with the federal program. Currently, there are more than 5 million homes in FEMA’s national flood insurance program.


A Neighborhood Requiem: disaster gentrification:

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, saw the early stages of a housing grab and described it as “disaster gentrification.” Similar buyouts and land-flipping happened in New York after Hurricane Sandy and in Houston after Hurricane Harvey.

In every city, storm damage and flooding initially displaced people of every ethnicity and income level, though in New Orleans, like elsewhere, communities of color were harder hit because of historically segregated housing patterns that pushed African American households to lower-lying areas. One analysis of black and white households found that black residents were more than twice as likely to live in flooded areas.

In New Orleans, the disparities were exacerbated during rebuilding, as higher-income people moved into city cores, displacing lower-income families. Similar “back to the city” dynamics are playing out in every urban area across the country. But in disaster-ravaged cities like New Orleans, they’re playing out at fast-forward speed.

I remember after the flood and when things had dried out, there were perfectly good public-housing complexes sitting there boarded up with the former residence ready and willing and desirous to move back in. They weren’t allowed to. The places were sold off as uninhabitable. They were not at all uninhabitable. The fact is, it was racism at work.

NOAA Upgrades Hurricane Michael to Category 5:

But the reclassification doesn’t come with the much-needed state and federal funding Cathey said is necessary to rebuild.


City Council in Hawaii Advances Vacation Rental Bills:

Bill 89 would allow up to 4,000 bed-and-breakfast operations, those run by owner-occupants, across Oahu but no new “whole home” vacation rentals, also known as TVUs, where there is no owner-occupant present.


Municipalities Try to Reassure Investors on Climate Risks in Bond Offerings:

BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, says that within a decade, more than 15 percent of debt in the S&P National Municipal Bond Index will come from regions that could suffer losses from climate change adding up to as much as 1 percent of gross domestic product annually.

BlackRock developed a model which uses climate data to analyze the physical risks and probabilities of flooding and hurricane force winds on a granular level across the U.S. The company’s research found that Coastal Florida, the Gulf Coast region — which was recently battered by Hurricane Harvey — and Arizona because of extreme heat, are most susceptible to economic losses from climate change.


California Insurance Commissioner Rejects Petition to Require Fossil Fuel Underwriting Disclosure:

The petition called for Lara to immediately initiate a rulemaking proceeding and promulgate emergency regulations to require all insurance companies licensed to conduct business in California to fully disclose all their investments in fossil fuel-related entities, and all the fossil fuel-related companies and projects that they underwrite or otherwise insure.

The petition also sought to expand disclosure of insurance companies’ fossil fuel-related investments.

It remains to be seen just how well the commissioner will do bringing different interests together to combat global warming. I, for one, hope he does really, really well; but, I’m not sure he should have summarily rejected the petition. Perhaps he could have lowered the threshold from $100 million to 50 just to show that he has everyone’s interest at heart.

I do understand his thinking about not prematurely ganging up on insurers who are working out plans to divest from carbon-fuel industries and to withdraw coverage for the same. This area is still quite new to those just waking up to the waiting crisis if we fail to act quickly and decisively enough. We need to hurry, but we can’t slash and burn everyone to save them.

He doesn’t sound like he’s planning to drag his feet, though. I’m for giving him a chance to try it his way.

Alphabet’s Drone Delivery Business Cleared for Takeoff by FAA:

“It shows these devices can be value added in our communities,” Burgess said. “They can be a faster, cleaner, less expensive way to transport things while still adding to the safety of society.”


Electric vehicles in Germany account for more CO2 emissions than diesel ones, according to a study by German scientists

The problem with that kind of thinking is not taking into consideration the holistic approach. The holistic approach is concerned with every point at which carbon-fuel burning can be switched to electric energy. Mining, etc., can all be electrified. Diesel can’t do that. With carbon burning, you’re stuck.

Rep. Pingree highlights role of farmers in fighting climate change:

One of the largest programs, recently announced by a partnership of NGOS and major companies, would place a value on such carbon-building practices as no-till farming and cover crops, which build organic matter in the soil by pulling carbon out of the air.


Scientists Dig Into Hard Questions About The Fluorinated Pollutants Known As PFAS:

“Essentially everyone has these compounds in our blood,” she explains.

That’s in part because PFAS don’t break down easily — a quality that has earned them the nickname “forever chemicals.” Some varieties have been found to stick around in the human body for years, if not decades. Others accumulate in soil or water, creating a continuous source of exposure.

Despite their ubiquity, however, scientists know relatively little about the health effects of most types of PFAS.

No PFAS legal safety limit yet

“Despite their everyday use, the body of science necessary to fully understand and regulate these chemicals is not yet as robust as it needs to be,” acknowledged the assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water, David Ross, at a congressional hearing on PFAS in March.

“These are a very broad class of chemicals — probably 5,000 or more — and it seems like new ones are being produced all the time,” she says.

In most cases, U.S. chemical regulations do not require that companies prove a chemical is safe before they start selling it. It’s up to the EPA to determine whether a substance is unacceptably dangerous and under what circumstances, and typically such analyses begin only after public health concerns are raised.

At the current rate of research, Birnbaum says, it will take about two years to get a basic handle on the toxicity of the whole PFAS group. But there will still be many questions for both scientists and regulators.