Category: Today’ News Headlines

The Shrinking Middle Class: The Current State of Affairs

Most Americans consider themselves part of the “middle class,” but no one can agree on what term that means. The problem? If sizing up the middle class is difficult enough, it’s even harder to say that circumstances within this group have changed. But they certainly have. As you’ll discover in this Fortune special report, life has gotten more difficult for the millions of people within the middle class. We dispatched more than 50 people to discover why the American dream has been fading for far too many.
In this section, we examine the current state of affairs by speaking with the people affected most by it. What we learned: Chasing the American dream was once exhilarating; now it’s exhausting.

When Umbelina Martinez’s family first came to the United States decades ago, from ­Michoacan, Mexico, they settled in a three-bedroom house in Redwood City, Calif. It wasn’t all theirs; 25 people lived on the property, sharing a single bathroom. Martinez’s family of eight squeezed into one bedroom. “My mom and dad had to step over us kids to get to the door,” she recalls.
Today, the 46-year-old single mother of three has much more spacious accommodations: a 200-square-foot mobile home in a trailer park in Palo Alto, the heart of the technology industry and one of the most expensive cities in the country. She has lived there 13 years.
“Who wouldn’t wish to live in Palo Alto?” she asks, seated in her kitchen, which doubles as a living room, dining room, and storage space. Its thin walls are painted pale green, and there is a black refrigerator set against one wall, topped with a TV monitor. (The small quarters call for some creative design.) Kiwis and oranges rest on a tiny table pushed so close to the door that it almost touches.

Trailer Park Living in Techtopia
Most of Martinez’s neighbors live in two- or three-room trailers with their families. Many keep pets. Their homes come in an array of colors, and some feature tiny gardens blooming with flowers and hot peppers.
If Palo Alto, with its many Silicon Valley billionaires, seems like an unlikely location for trailer living, that’s because it is. The Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, tucked behind a Valero gas station on one of the city’s busiest streets, is home to just over 100 trailers and about 400 residents, including Martinez and her kids; her mother, sister, and brother; and his family. (Her mother lives with her; her sister and brother have separate mobile homes.) The residents of the park are mostly working-class immigrants who hold jobs in nearby restaurants, hair salons, and construction sites. They pay around $1,400 a month for rent and utilities in an area where the median home price is $3.2 million.

“For my family and me, it would be impossible to live anywhere else in Palo Alto,” says Martinez, who works as a banquet server at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel.
Buena Vista started out as a road-stop general store and motel in the 1920s. Over the years, it grew into one of the last sources of low-income housing in Palo Alto. In 2012 its then owners informed the residents of the mobile home park that they wanted to sell the property to an apartment complex developer. The plan included some restitution for residents, who would be evicted.
“I didn’t want the money,” says Don Roberto Munoz, one of Martinez’s neighbors. “I wanted my daughters to stay in the schools here.”
Martinez and others echoed the sentiment. So they banded together, aided by supporters from Palo Alto. In 2017 the Santa Clara County Housing Authority purchased the property for $40 million, allowing tenants to stay put.


Martinez’s sister Maria now serves as the president of Buena Vista’s residents association. “It is important to show that there isn’t just one way of thinking,” Maria says. Just a few miles west of her one-room trailer, the founder of Sun Microsystems is selling his four-story mansion. The price? $96.8 million.

California Today: Will a Desert Town Test Marijuana’s Saturation Point?

So this story about Needles, a struggling desert town that was name-checked in “The Grapes of Wrath,” caught my eye. The community is now looking at the marijuana industry as a kind of economic savior — but the town already faces plenty of competition. I asked our reporter Nathaniel Popper about the possibilities of pot.

At some point in the distant future, we will probably test the limits of how many towns and counties can cash in on the marijuana boom, but it is safe to say for now that point is a long way off.

One factor that has been limiting the growth of the industry so far is that federal laws make it illegal to transport the plant across state lines, even to other places where it’s legal. If it becomes legal to transport joints and vape pens across state lines, it’s easy to imagine California becoming the pot basket of the country, with all the jobs that entails. On the other hand, as commercial operations spring up, the price of pot is falling fast, challenging a lot of the early players.

I figured this would make it hard to compete with places like Santa Barbara County, where pot producers are allowed to grow outside. But even though growing marijuana indoors is more expensive on a day-to-day basis, it can be much more efficient because the lights can stay on all night, with growing continuing through the year. Indoor facilities can also make it easier to turn out a uniform product.

All that means that there is room in the industry for towns that have cheap land and electricity, alongside the areas that have plentiful farmland.

Needles is in the desert, which has become a kind of Instagrammer’s paradise. Is it trying to attract tourists, too?


What to Do With Your Money in 2019 According to Financial Advisors

Money mistakes are a dime a dozen. Except, you know, they end up costing us a bit more than that.

Think More Critically About Your Resolutions

To prevent those costly financial blunders, we asked some financial advisors and professionals what clients tend to get wrong—and you should do differently going into 2019.

Don’t make News Year’s Resolutions. They don’t work.

Set your goals now, or in early January (after the holiday). The goals need to be realistic. This is key. If they are too hard or not remotely achievable, most folks give up before they even start. When setting goals, start small, then move up. For example, if you are contributing three percent to your 401(k) plan, increase it to four percent. Then plan six to nine months down the road to increase it to five percent.

Similarly, if your cash reserve fund is only one month’s living expenses, give yourself a period of time, say six months, to [get to] two months’ living expenses.

Small steps that are actually implemented have a much higher chance of staying implemented. Then you can go from there and again, slightly raise the goal.

The other thing people need to do is check in with their goals. This doesn’t mean following every movement in the stock market. This means reviewing your progress. This should be quarterly.

Pay Yourself First

The tumultuous markets sometimes cause people to quit contributing to their retirement plans, when we should do the opposite and continue to defer into our 401(k) or other retirement plans. If you are worried about volatility, you should still contribute, especially if you are many years away from retirement. Markets have historically gone through periods of decline and subsequently recovered.

READ MORE: https://twocents.lifehacker.com/what-to-do-with-your-money-in-2019-according-to-financi-1830992314?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits


How to Take Charge of Your Medical Care

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 4.34.13 AMWalking into a doctor’s office or hospital can be intimidating. But when you go armed with the right tools and frame of mind, you can walk out of that appointment or hospital stay feeling more confident and satisfied. Learn how to ask your questions, either for yourself or a loved one, figure out your various medical options and determine the best course of action. Just having that knowledge in your pocket can help you feel better.

When You’re Healthy

It can be hard to think about dealing with a medical emergency when you are well, but the things you do now can really pay off later.

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Get Your Paperwork in Order

As much as we don’t want to think about the end of our own lives, it’s a good idea to get a head start while you’re still relatively young and in good health. Don’t just assume your partner or family can read your mind about whether or not you’d want to be put on a feeding tube or be resuscitated if something went wrong. Yes, that means having an advance care directive on hand. This also means appointing a proxy granting him or her power-of-attorney to make your medical decisions if you’re not able to do so.

If you are fortunate enough to have some form of health insurance, always have your current policy information handy and organized in case you need it. In fact, keep it in an easily accessible folder, along with an updated list of all the medications you’re taking — prescribed, over-the-counter and supplements — and a record of your personal and family medical history. Regardless of whether you’re going to see your general practitioner about a viral infection or end up in the E.R. with a broken foot, you’re going to be asked about your medical history, so it’s best to come with as much detail as possible.

Know Your Rights

In the United States, we have various sources setting forth our rights as patients. HIPAA, for example, guarantees on a federal level a patient’s right to get a copy of his medical records, as well as the right to keep them private. There is also the Patient’s Bill of Rights that is part of the Affordable Care Act, though it primarily deals with insurance-specific rights, rather than general health care. Some states, like New York, do have a Patients’ Bill of Rights which grants additional protections, like receiving an itemized bill and explanation of all charges, as well as a right to get emergency care if you need it, meaning that hospitals are not permitted  to turn away a patient requiring emergency care, regardless of where they live and regardless of whether they can pay the bill. In addition, some organizations, like the American Hospital Association, have their own guidelines outlining the rights of patients.

All patients also have the right of informed consent, meaning that if you require any sort of treatment or procedure, your physician should explain what will happen to you in a way you understand, which allows you to make an educated decision. Being familiar with informed consent before needing medical treatment can help you achieve the best outcome possible.

Schedule Regular Appointments

It’s important to stay on top of your health, so schedule regular check-ups to ensure everything is in working order. If you live somewhere with numerous options for medical care, you’ll have the task of finding and then selecting a doctor who best serves your needs. This is true when dealing with your physical as well as a mental health. Once you’re at the appointment, make the most of your time with your doctor, by asking any questions you may have about your body and health, and requesting a full blood test workup.

WeWork’s Rise: How a Sublet Start-Up Is Taking Over

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 4.30.28 AMCritics have derided WeWork as overvalued and vulnerable to the next downturn. But the company holds so many leases in so many cities, it might hold more power than its landlords.

Real estate titans have long scoffed at WeWork, which in eight short years has managed to attain a $20 billion valuation by selling short-term leases for shared office space with a mixture of stylish design and free-flowing alcohol.

Derided by some as a real estate company masquerading as a technology company, it has been called everything from a “$20 billion house of cards” to a “Ponzi scheme.”

The naysayers argue that WeWork’s business model looks brilliant only in a rising economy that has allowed it to lock in long-term leases and then re-rent that space to other businesses at a premium. The enormous valuation it has obtained is higher than that of Boston Properties and Vornado, two of the country’s biggest office-space landlords — companies that actually own the kind of space that WeWork usually rents.

Now, with interest rates creeping higher, residential real estate prices flattening and fears of an economic slowdown coming, real estate insiders are gleeful at the notion that a downturn could be an existential threat for the company.

But a funny thing happened as WeWork has scaled up all over the globe: It may have become too big to fail.

WeWork has gobbled up leases for so much space in so many cities, there’s a compelling case to be made that its landlords wouldn’t be able to afford for it to go under.

Because of WeWork’s size, “they have more power in a down market,” said Thomas J. Barrack Jr., the longtime real estate investor and founder of Colony Capital.

The company is scheduled to release third-quarter financial results on Tuesday. A WeWork spokesman, citing the coming report, declined to comment.

The conventional wisdom is that when the economy turns south, WeWork’s customers — many of which are start-ups and may be the most vulnerable — will simply walk away. The flexibility of WeWork’s short-term leases is part of its appeal, after all.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/13/business/dealbook/wework-office-space-real-estate.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage

The scripted chaos of Stephen Curry

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Like a seasoned yogi realizing he can deepen his stretch, there is a zen-like quality to Stephen Curry’s exacting hunt for the perfect shot.

On Sunday against the Nets, he continued his streak of making at least five threes in the first seven games of the season, breaking the record George McLoud set in 1995. Curry is on pace to shatter the single-season record in three-pointers made, which he set at 402 in 2015-2016, which shattered his own the previous record of 286 in 2014-15, which shattered his own previous record of 272 in 2012-13.

In the offseason, he told the Wall Street Journal, “I might be delusional, but I feel like I can get better at putting the ball in the basket.” His personal trainer, Brandon Payne, added that “he’s not even close” to his peak. Together, to hear it from Pablo Torre on ESPN’s High Noon, Curry and Payne devised a drill in which Curry had to hit 20 sets of shots, differing in spot and style, from the perimeter, and swish six of 10 free throws. It was called “Perfection.”

Up against the Warriors’ decadence, tried-and-true theories about the professional athlete’s insatiable drive fall away. It’s hard not to wonder why they’re not satisfied when they’re already deemed unbeatable. What an extravagance. And what do they have left to improve?

But the difficulty of Curry’s shots aren’t mere theatre. If he wants to actually shoot the ball, defenses are going to force the world’s best decoy to chase perfection and master chaos.

Consider: Opponents would rather allow Kevin Durant to play one-on-one against mismatches and let Jordan Bell throw down alley-oops than allow Curry to shoot threes. Hell, they’d rather let him get lay ups: the Warriors often free Curry up by running him off screens as he cuts to the rim, usually as a fake-out before he sprints to the corner pocket. Against the Jazz on Oct. 19, Curry was aggressively chased off the three-point line by Dante Exum and hounded on pick and rolls by Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert, whose 7’9 wingspan gave Curry pause. They tugged at his jersey and laid him out with hard screens. Royce O’Neale even gave him a nosebleed. Curry didn’t hit a three until more than halfway through the second quarter, on a uniquely unguardable play illustrated by NBA analyst Jared Dubin.

Curry tried to push the game to devolve into chaos, his high-risk way of forcing the issue: boxing out for offensive rebounds, throwing dangerous outlets, whipping rainbow passes across the floor. But the Jazz’s length, athleticism, and discipline tipped the scales in their balance, up until Jonas Jerebko’s game-winning putback for the Warriors.

As though he took note, Curry had, to put it lightly, more success against the Wizards on Oct. 24, scoring 51 points and drilling 11 threes. The Wizards tried to switch and trap Curry mercilessly, forcing the ball out of his hands. The only problem: he got rid of it by flinging it into the basket.

READ MORE: https://www.sbnation.com/2018/10/31/18047242/stephen-curry-highlights-golden-state-warriors-mvp

California Tenants Take Rent Control Fight to the Ballot Box

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LOS ANGELES — From pulpits across Los Angeles, Pastor Kelvin Sauls has spent the past few months delivering sermons on the spiritual benefits of fasting. The food in the sermon is rent, and landlords need less of it. “My role is to bring a moral perspective to what we are dealing with around the housing crisis,” Pastor Sauls explained.

In addition to a Sunday lesson, this is an Election Day pitch. Pastor Sauls is part of the campaign for Proposition 10, a ballot initiative that would loosen state restraints on local rent control laws. The effort has stoked a battle that has already consumed close to $60 million in political spending, a sizable figure even in a state known for heavily funded campaigns.

Depending on which side is talking, Proposition 10 is either a much-needed tool to help cities solve a housing crisis or a radically misguided idea that will only make things worse. Specifically, it would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which prevents cities from applying rent control laws to single-family homes and apartments built after 1995.

The initiative drive builds on the growing momentum of local efforts to expand tenant protections. “In the midst of the worst housing and homeless crisis that our country has ever seen, how does a bill that restricts local government’s ability to address it go untouched?” asked Damien Goodmon, director of the Yes on 10 campaign, which is primarily funded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles.

Proposition 10 has won prominent endorsements from backers including the California Democratic Party and The Los Angeles Times. But opponents have also amassed editorials and broad support, mainly from a coalition of construction unions, nonprofit housing developers and local chambers of commerce.

Among those fighting the initiative is a relatively recent class of landlords — private equity firms like Blackstone Group, which accumulated a vast residential real estate portfolio after the housing market collapse a decade ago. Landlords warn that repealing the Costa-Hawkins law would create deep uncertainty among developers, making California’s housing shortage worse by discouraging construction.

“This is a serious problem, but the solution to that problem should not land solely on the rental housing industry,” said Tom Bannon, president of the California Apartment Association, a landlords’ group.

The California fight reflects a renters’ rights movement that is bubbling up in churches and community centers across the country, a semi-coordinated stand of low-income tenants against the gentrifying American city. Last month in the Roxbury section of Boston, about 300 people gathered for an afternoon assembly on how to blunt evictions and economic displacement. The event offered free child care and had organizers speaking English, Spanish and Cantonese.