Tuesday, May 9th, 2017


International Block Buster

The median home price in Vancouver soared nearly 40% percent between mid 2015 and mid 2016. What happened? Vancouver is a nice place, but what could possibly explain the massive price increases that city has seen in recent years? (Spoiler alert: the answer is not that millions of California liberals rented U-Hauls and headed up Highway 101 after the presidential election.) As MoJo explains, Vancouver -- like several other cities around the world -- is seen as a safe place for international investors to park their money in uncertain times. And "for wealthy Chinese, Vancouver has emerged as the perfect 'hedge city' -- scenic, cosmopolitan, with good schools, a long-standing Chinese community, and an undervalued (by global standards) real estate market where capital can be sheltered against mounting economic and political uncertainties back home ... So popular is Vancouver among hedgers that local real estate firms send Mandarin-speaking recruiters to Chinese cities to entice buyers to take bus tours of Vancouver's upscale neighborhoods." Vancouver is a hotspot, but its story is not all that unique in the global economy. So if you live in a place with soaring real estate costs, it's fair to ask: Is Your City Being Sold Off to Global Elites?

+ And a very interesting piece from the NYT from the other end of the home-buying spectrum: How Homeownership Became the Engine of American Inequality.


Slippin’ Into the Future

Want to get a preview of the future? Try going to Houston. And I don't mean the Space Center. I just mean the town. "The story of how [this] city turned from a town of oil industry roughnecks and white blue-collar workers into a major political centrifuge for immigration reform, demographic analysts say, is nothing less than the story of the American city of the future." The LA Times: How Houston has become the most diverse place in America.


Over There

"The new plan, which still needs the approval of the president, calls for expanding the U.S. military role as part of a broader effort to push an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban back to the negotiating table." From WaPo: US poised to expand military effort against Taliban in Afghanistan.

+ In blow to U.S.-Turkey ties, Trump administration approves plan to directly arm Syrian Kurds against Islamic State.


Takes One to Know One

We've all been pretty certain that economic issues were the key factor that drove the 2016 election results. But a new report from The Atlantic suggests we have gotten the story wrong. It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump: "Evidence suggests financially troubled voters in the white working class were more likely to prefer Clinton over Trump. Besides partisan affiliation, it was cultural anxiety -- feeling like a stranger in America, supporting the deportation of immigrants, and hesitating about educational investment -- that best predicted support for Trump."

+ I know what you're thinking. "Dave, another story analyzing the election results? What's next, more stories about emails?" Well, stick with me for a second on this one. Because the story here is how long it's taking us to understand the story. Part of the problem is polling. But there's a much bigger issue. We don't have reporters where the story took place. Consider this headline from Poynter: To understand Trump's America better, Reuters has hired a Rust Belt correspondent. Yes, a major news organization appointing a single "special correspondent dedicated exclusively to covering" this region is considered news.


Vicious Crop Circles

"Seventeen years and $10 billion after the U.S. government launched the counternarcotics and security package known as Plan Colombia, America's closest drug-war ally is covered with more than 460,000 acres of coca. Colombian farmers have never grown so much, not even when Pablo Escobar ruled the drug trade." From WaPo: A side effect of peace in Colombia? A cocaine boom in the US. (Ever get the feeling the war on drugs isn't going all that well?)


Macro Soft

"Think of DAS as similar to a comprehensive camera system in Vegas casinos, with park managers replacing pit bosses on the hunt for cheats and camo-sporting rangers in place of the security guards that flank blackjack tables. Except in this case, when alerts strike, managers aren't preventing the hemorrhage of a couple hundred thousand dollars; they're dispatching help to save one of 352,271 estimated remaining elephants, or one of 30,000 surviving rhinoceroses." From Bloomberg: Paul Allen's High-Tech Quest to Save the World's Most Endangered Animals.


Haze Valley

"After downing a dangerous amount of alcohol and suffering severe internal injuries during a fraternity hazing, a 19-year-old college sophomore died. Not long ago, the story might have ended there, except for some hand-wringing and litigation." The NYT on a Penn State hazing death, and how prosecutors are taking a much tougher stance in such cases.


Pep Sally

Slate does a pretty good job of summing up how Dems felt about Sally Yates's testimony: On Monday, Sally Yates walked out of an Aaron Sorkin script and into liberals' hearts. Here are a few outtakes that got people (and presidents) talking (and tweeting). In some ways, the most amazing aspect of the testimony was how many people seemed to be watching it, live, on a weekday. C-Span has become appointment television.

+ Sean Spicer argued that the White House was slow to react to Yates' warnings on Mike Flynn because she was "appointed by the Obama administration and a strong supporter of [Hillary] Clinton ... [and was] widely rumored to play a large role in the Justice Department if Hillary Clinton had won."


There Will Be a Biz

"After receiving the assignment from his eighth grade science teacher, Mrs. Omland, Manuell started tinkering. Using materials he had at home -- including old battery-operated toy bugs and the batteries from his hearing aid -- he discovered a way to extend the lifespan of zinc hearing aid batteries by 85 percent." Mental Floss on 7 Discoveries That Started as School Assignments. (For their classmates's sake, let's hope grading wasn't on a curve.)


Bottom of the News

"As she stood in front of the lights and the camera, a live video selfie projected onto the screen. The video was being fed into a real-time facial recognition software that transformed any unsmiling faces into yellow orbs with two black zeros for eyes and a neutral, flat-line mouth. Anyone wearing a grin or a not-so-happy grimace was instantly transformed into a big green smiley face." Outside's Peter Andrey Smith reports on his weekend at a conference for the super-happy. "Americans spend $11 billion a year in pursuit of the blissful happy-ever-after." (You know what would make them really happy? Saving $11 billion...)

+ Q-Tip related injuries send about 12,500 kids to the emergency room each year. (Further proof, they never listen...)

+ A tweet about chicken nuggets has broken the all-time retweet record.