Today’s compilation of things economic, political, and ecologic begins with a bubble inflating, via the San Francisco Chronicle:
S.F. hot housing prices back, bidding wars fiercer than ever
Prices have climbed 33 percent since 2011, with many neighborhoods exceeding that.
And while bidding wars have long been part of buying a home in Noe Valley, Glen Park and Cole Valley, they are now just as fierce in less fashionable areas such as the Excelsior, Mission Terrace and Ingleside.
Citywide, properties are now commanding an average of 10.7 percent more than asking price, according to Paragon Real Estate Group, with Bernal Heights leading the pack at an average of 21 percent over asking. That’s up from April 2012, when homes were selling for an average of 3.5 percent over asking.
The Wall Street Journal covers the other side of the coin:
Poor Americans Direct 40% of Their Spending to Housing Expenses
Housing and food expenses absorb more than half of low-income Americans’ annual spending. Even the wealthiest Americans devote a sizable share of their spending to keeping a roof over their heads and food in their refrigerators.
That’s according to the Labor Department’s latest survey of Americans’ buying habits. The consumer expenditure survey report released Friday contained data on spending from July 2012 through June 2013.
On average, the report found, Americans upped their spending on food, transportation, health care, housing and “cash contributions” like child support payments and charitable donations. Overall, they spent 1.5% more compared with the previous 12 months, while average income ticked down 0.2%.
While The Hill finds cause for rejoicing:
Bankers breathe sigh of relief as Tea Party power fizzles
Banks are breathing a sigh of relief after established GOP incumbents bested a handful of Tea Party challengers at the polls recently.
Industry sources said the establishment wins improve Republican odds of retaking the Senate, which would in turn lead to a friendlier climate for the long-beleaguered sector. But some note that the Tea Party has left a mark on the Republican Party, presenting a challenging landscape for the industry.
The Tea Party movement can trace its roots back to fury about bailouts and banks, but the force that pulled the Republican Party right in recent years is finding less success at the polls recently.
And from the East Bay Express, a sign of rationality:
Californians Overwhelmingly Support a Ban on Fracking
A new poll shows that a super-majority of California residents — 68 percent — say they support a ban on fracking in the state. Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial oil- and natural gas-extraction method that involves shooting massive amounts of water and toxic chemicals into the earth. It’s been linked to groundwater and air pollution and to causing earthquakes. The new survey was published earlier this week by public policy opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, or FM3. Of the 807 California voters who were polled over the phone at random, 68 percent suppored a moratorium on fracking, with 45 percent of respondents stating that they “strongly” supported it.
Just a week after FM3 conducted its poll — and on the same day that the firm released its poll results — Californians learned that the estimate of extractable oil via fracking or acidization in the state was significantly lower than originally thought. The Monterey Shale, a 1,750 square-mile rock formation stretching from Sacramento to Los Angeles, was expected to provide 13.7 billion barrels of oil. A new estimate by the US Energy Information Administration lowered the number to 600 million barrels — about four percent of the original estimate.
From the San Francisco Chronicle, Proposition 13 strikes again [the measure limiting property taxes used to find the state’s schools]:
Governor’s teacher pension plan shocks school districts
When local school district officials pulled out their calculators and started crunching the numbers based on the governor’s new plan to shore up the state’s teacher pension fund, their jaws hit the floor.
The proposal, part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revision, would more than double the 8.25 percent of payroll that districts now pay toward teacher retirement each year. Phased in over seven years, districts would end up paying 19.1 percent.
For San Francisco, that would mean spending $34 million each year above the current $25.8 million for teacher pensions, district officials said Friday.
From Bloomberg, a dire warning?:
U.S. Retailers Missing Estimates by Most in 13 Years
U.S. retailers’ first-quarter earnings are trailing analysts’ estimates by the widest margin in 13 years after bad weather and weak spending by lower-income consumers intensified competition.
Chains are missing projections by an average of 3.1 percent, with 87 retailers, or 70 percent of those tracked, having reported, researcher Retail Metrics Inc. said in a statement today. That’s the worst performance relative to estimates since the fourth quarter of 2000, when they missed by 3.3 percent. Over the long term, chains typically beat by 3 percent, the firm said.
Extreme winter weather through February and March forced store closings and stifled sales, Swampscott, Massachusetts-based Retail Metrics said. Lower- and moderate-income consumers had little discretionary spending power, and chains also faced price competition from e-commerce sites.
And from CNN, the first of two headlines in what we suspect will be a stream to come as the long, hot summer commences:
Arizona residents evacuate as fierce wildfire rages
The online Incident Information System reported Friday night that much of the fire burned with lower intensity throughout the day, allowing firefighters to make some progress.
However, despite that progress, the total area scorched climbed to 8,500 acres that night, and the containment level held steady at 5%.
The equivalent of a battalion of firefighters, including 15 hotshot crews and three air tankers, have been fighting the fire between Flagstaff and Sedona — a tourist and retirement destination famed for its red rock formations — since Tuesday afternoon.
Wildfire scorches nearly 80,000 acres in Alaska
A days-long wildfire had covered more than 78,000 acres of Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge by early Saturday, a state agency said.
The Funny River Fire began burning Monday evening and was 20% contained by early Saturday, Alaska’s Interagency Incident Management Team said.
No evacuations or injuries have been reported. There were more than 409 firefighters battling the blaze.
North of the border, and an all-too-familiar headline south of the border, via CBC News:
39% of unemployed have given up job search, poll suggests
In a poll carried out by Harris Poll and published Friday by employment agency Express Employment Professionals, the company surveyed 1,502 unemployed Canadians. None of them had a job, and not all of them were receiving EI benefits.
The results were eye-opening.
Some 39 per cent of those polled were in agreement with the statement that “I’ve completely given up on looking for a job” with five per cent saying they “agree a lot” 11 per cent saying they “agree somewhat” and 17 per cent saying they “agree a little.”
In the poll, which saw people respond to questions online over a week in April, more than a third responded they hadn’t had a job interview in over a month. A full 13 per cent of respondents said they hadn’t had a job interview since 2012 or before — well over a calendar year ago.
Britain next, and another slap on the wrist from BBC News:
Barclays Bank fined £26m for gold price failings
Barclays Bank has been fined £26m by UK regulators after one of its traders was discovered attempting to fix the price of gold. The trader, who has been sacked, exploited weaknesses in the system to profit at a customer’s expense, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said.
The incident occurred in June 2012, the day after the bank was fined a record £290m for attempting to rig Libor. Barclays said it “very much regrets the situation” that led to the fine.
The FCA found the bank failed to “adequately manage conflicts of interest between itself and its customers”, in relation to fixing the price of gold.
The Independent sets a precedent:
Slovak Roma parents fail in attempt to block same sex couple adopting their children
A Slovakian couple who have accused Kent County Council of social engineering have failed in their bid to block the adoption of their two sons by a same sex couple.
The Catholic couple, who are of Roma origin, took their case to the High Court earlier this month in an attempt to prevent their sons, aged two and four, from being adopted by a same sex couple in Kent.
In the judgement – released on Friday –Sir James Munby, the most senior judge in the Family Court, refused the pair’s request, saying that they had no grounds in law to appeal the decision.
And Sky News covers hard times populism resurgent:
Parties Reel From UKIP Election Success
- The establishment faces up to the fallout from UKIP’s election “earthquake” as it wins more than double the seats many predicted.
UKIP’s haul of seats in the council elections is up to 184 with the main parties now mulling the prospect of four-party politics in next year’s general election.
Nigel Farage has said his anti-EU party is a “serious player” for 2015 after they added 167 councillors at the expense of the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats.
UKIP made gains in traditional Labour and Conservative heartlands, including strong showings in Rotherham – where it returned 10 out of 21 councillors.
One reaction from EUbusiness:
British deputy PM faces calls to quit
Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg came under pressure Sunday to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats after the centrist party took a pounding in local elections.
Two would-be Lib Dem parliamentary candidates — staring at a much-reduced prospect of winning a seat at nexy tear’s general election — have put heir names to an online letter, signed by more than 200 party members, calling for Clegg to step aside.
He insisted Friday he would not quit despite being down 307 seats to 427 in the English local authority seats voted for on Thursday, with two of the 161 councils still to declare.
Sweden next, and a surge to the left form TheLocal.se:
Greens, feminists surge ahead of EU vote ‘thriller’
- The Green Party climbed ahead of the Moderates into second spot in the polls ahead of Sunday’s EU elections with the upstart Feminist Initiative taking a further step forward in what promises to be a tough election to forecast.
The Green Party (MP) now has the support of 15.5 percent of the Swedish electorate ahead of Sunday’s vote, according to the latest opinion poll by Novus. The poll shows that the party has overtaken the Moderates who came in at 15 percent and now trails only the Social Democrats on 25.1 percent.
“We have not seen anything like it. I think that in Sweden, this is unique in itself,” said Torbjörn Sjöström at Novus to Sveriges Radio.
The Feminist Initiative (Fi) continued their dramatic success of recent months to claim a statistically significant rise to 5.4 percent and look set to claim their first seats in the parliament.
From BBC News, more of that hard times intolerance:
Brussels fatal gun attack at Jewish museum
- Police have cordoned off the area but will not confirm if the gunman is still being pursued, as Duncan Crawford reports from the scene
A gunman has shot dead two men and a woman at the Jewish Museum in the Belgian capital Brussels.
A fourth person was seriously wounded, emergency services said.
The attacker arrived by car, got out, fired on people at the museum entrance, and returned to the vehicle which then sped away, Belgian media report.
Germany next, and political idiocy rebuked from EUbusiness:
Schulz mocked for ‘German’ appeal in EU election ad
The Socialists’ top candidate in European elections, Martin Schulz, drew online ridicule Sunday for telling Germans only a vote for his party would ensure one of their compatriots runs the European Commission.
“Only if you vote for Martin Schulz and the SPD (Social Democratic Party) can a German become president of the EU Commission” read an advertisement published in Germany’s top-selling Bild daily ahead of the election.
The appeal to national sentiment in the pan-European polls quickly sparked derisive commentary on Twitter under the hashtag #NureinDeutscher (Only a German).
“Youth unemployment in Europe is a huge problem, only a German can solve it,” quipped journalist and blogger Tilo Jung.
From Reuters, deals undone:
Germany stops numerous arms exports, risks compensation fees: report
Germany’s national security council declined two-thirds of applications for arms export licenses at its most recent sitting three weeks ago, German news weekly Spiegel said on Saturday.
The economy ministry had prevented a license application to export to Saudi Arabia 500 million euros worth of sight devices for armored personnel carrier guns from even being discussed in the council, it said.
Spiegel said the sights were made by a unit of Airbus. A spokesman for Airbus said: “We have no information about any government decision. We hope however for a swift and positive decision.”
And TheLocal.de protests:
Thousands protest at Erdogan German rally
Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Germany on Saturday, splitting the large Turkish community between passionate street protesters and conservative supporters flocking to what was widely seen as a campaign speech.
Erdogan is expected to run for the presidency in August, and Germany – with a Turkish community of three million, about half of them eligible voters – would be a strong constituency for the controversial leader.
Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) have polarized Turks at home and abroad over what critics call his authoritarian style, a crackdown on civil liberties and corruption scandals under his rule.
On to Eastern Europe and epidemic apathy from New Europe:
Record abstention in Chech Republic reaches 80%, exit poll
- Right wing TOP 09 leads with 18%
Right wing opposition party TOP 09 is taking the first place in the European Elections in the Czech Republic, according to exit polls. Czech news agency CTK calculates abstention to have reached record levels at around 80%
According to the exit poll done on behalf of the Dnes newspaper, TOP 09 gets 18% of the poll, while the ruling Social Democratic party (CSSD) follows with 17%.
Spain next, and significant symbolism from the Guardian:
Why Spain’s goal to leave racism behind could be decided by 56 villagers
- A mayor’s quest to change his village’s name could help to alter attitudes in the country as a whole
At 4pm on Friday, it’s eerily quiet in this tiny village. The blinds on the stone houses are drawn and there’s not a person to be seen wandering the few streets that make up Castrillo Matajudíos.
It’s a sharp contrast to the noisy, relentless chatter about the place in the outside world. Ever since the mayor announced his intention to hold a referendum on changing its name, the spotlight has been on this Spanish village near the northern city of Burgos. Hundreds of media outlets around the world have shared its story. Thousands have taken to social media to opine on the name change. And come Sunday evening, when journalists are expected to outnumber residents at the announcement of the referendum result, millions around the world will hear about the outcome.
For 400 years, this place has borne the name of Castrillo Matajudíos, or Fort Kill the Jews in English. Starting at 9am on Sunday, the village’s 56 residents will have the chance to decide whether the time has come to change the name to Castrillo Mota de Judíos, or Hill of Jews. “We had no idea that this would be something that would gain worldwide attention,” said Lorenzo Rodríguez Pérez, mayor of Castrillo Matajudíos.
After the jump, mixed Latin American signals, That turmoil, serious Chinese economic uncertainty, Japanese Olympic fraudsters, the tragic loss of play, pre-cooked chickens, and fears of another Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading