“U.S. Existing-Home Sales Rebound Even as Inventory Remains Tight.”
Sales of previously-owned U.S. homes rose more than expected in the first gain in three months, indicating that job gains and tax cuts are supporting demand despite low supply, National Association of Realtors data showed Wednesday.
The results indicate that even with a low supply of homes for sale and rising borrowing costs, demand is being driven by a strong labor market and steady income gains. At the same time, first-time buyers are still struggling to purchase, as the group accounted for 29 percent of sales in February, down from 32 percent a year earlier.
Existing-home sales account for 90 percent of the market and are calculated when a contract closes. New home sales, considered a timelier indicator though their share is only about 10 percent, are tabulated when contracts get signed.
“There’s no letup in home-price growth, another testament to the solid, strong housing demand in the marketplace,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a conference call with reporters. “If prices were weakening that may be signaling a possible turning point but we are not really seeing that.” Inventory conditions remain “very tight,” he said.
“Israel admits bombing suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, warns Iran.”
Israel for the first time admitted that it bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 and said on Wednesday the strike should be a warning to Iran that it would not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
The military released previously classified cockpit footage, photographs and intelligence documents about its Sept. 6, 2007, air strike on the Al-Kubar facility near Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria.
It said the reactor was being constructed with help from North Korea and had been months away from activation. Amos Yadlin, Israel’s military intelligence chief at the time, said on Israel Radio that even with a functioning reactor, it would have taken Syria years to build a nuclear weapon.
Israel’s decision to go public comes after repeated calls in recent months by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the United States and international community to take tougher action on Iran, Syria’s ally.
Israel’s intelligence minister, Israel Katz, said on Twitter: “The (2007) operation and its success made clear that Israel will never allow nuclear weaponry to be in the hands of those who threaten its existence – Syria then, and Iran today.”
Iran, which says its nuclear program has only peaceful aims, signed a 2015 deal under which it accepted curbs on its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. U.S. President Donald Trump and Netanyahu have both been critical of the deal.
The Israeli military described in detail events leading up to the night of Sept 5-6, 2007, in which, it said, eight warplanes, F-16s and F-15s, carried out the mission after taking off from the Ramon and Hatzerim air bases. They flew to Deir al-Zor region, 450 km (270 miles) northwest of Damascus, and dropped 18 tonnes of munitions on the site, it said.
Yadlin said Israel decided at the time against acknowledging the raid on the reactor so as not to provoke Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into retaliating. “No core. No war,” Yadlin said about Israel’s goal.
“Technology giants face European ‘digital tax’ blow.”
Big technology firms face paying more tax under plans announced by the European Commission. It said companies with significant online revenues should pay a 3% tax on turnover for various online services, bringing in an estimated €5bn (£4.4bn).
The proposal would affect firms such as Facebook and Google with global annual revenues above €750m and taxable EU revenue above €50m. The move follows criticism that tech giants pay too little tax in Europe.
EU economics affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the «current legal vacuum is creating a serious shortfall in the public revenue of our member states». He stressed it was not a move against the US or «GAFA» – the acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.
According to the Commission, top digital firms pay an average tax rate of just 9.5% in the EU – far less than the 23.3% paid by traditional companies. Its figures are disputed by the big tech firms, which have called the tax proposal «populist and flawed».
Countries including the UK and France have accused firms of routing some profits through low-tax EU member states such as Ireland and Luxembourg. Big US tech companies have argued they are complying with national and international tax laws. However, the Commission said it wanted to tax companies according to where their digital users are based.
“Facebook Is Why We Need a Digital Protection Agency.”
Over and over in the last 20 years we’ve watched low-cost or free internet communications platforms spring from the good intentions or social curiosity of tech folk. We’ve watched as these platforms expanded in power and significance, selling their influence to advertisers. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google—they grew so fast. One day they’re a lovable new way to see kid pix, next thing you know they’re reconfiguring democracy, governance, and business.
Facebook’s recent debacle is illustrative. It turns out that the company let a researcher spider through its social network to gather information on 50 million people. Then the Steve Bannon-affiliated, Robert Mercer-backed U.K. data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica used that data to target likely Trump voters. Facebook responded that, no, this was not a “breach.”
For years we’ve been talking and thinking about social networks as interesting tools to model and understand human dynamics. But it’s no longer academic—Facebook has reached a scale where it’s not a model of society as much as an engine of culture. A researcher gained legitimate access to the platform and then just … kept going, and Cambridge Analytica ended up with those 50 million profiles. The “hack” was a true judo move that used the very nature of the platform against itself—like if you gave MacGyver a phone book and he somehow made it into a bomb.
What’s been unfolding for a while now is a rolling catastrophe so obvious we forget it’s happening. Private data are spilling out of banks, credit-rating providers, email providers, and social networks and ending up everywhere.
So this is an era of breaches and violations and stolen identities. Big companies can react nimbly when they fear regulation is actually on the horizon—for example, Google, Facebook, and Twitter have agreed to share data with researchers who are tracking disinformation, the result of a European Union commission on fake news. But for the most part we’re dealing with global entities that own the means whereby politicians garner votes, have vast access to capital to fund lobbying efforts, and are constitutionally certain of their own moral cause. That their platforms are used for awful ends is just a side effect on the way to global transparency, and shame on us for not seeing that.
Given that the federal government is currently one angry man with nuclear weapons and a Twitter account, and that it’s futile to expect reform or self-regulation from internet giants, I’d like to propose something that will seem impossible but I would argue isn’t: Let’s make a digital Environmental Protection Agency. Call it the Digital Protection Agency. Its job would be to clean up toxic data spills, educate the public, and calibrate and levy fines.
How might a digital EPA function? Well, it could do some of the work that individuals do today. For example, the website of Australian security expert Troy Hunt, haveibeenpwned.com (“pwned” is how elite, or “l33t,” hackers, or “hax0rs,” spell “owned”), keeps track of nearly 5 billion hacked accounts. You give it your email, and it tells you if you’ve been found in a data breach. A federal agency could and should do that work, not just one very smart Australian—and it could do even better, because it would have a framework for legally exploring, copying, and dealing with illegally obtained information. Yes, we’d probably have to pay Booz Allen or Accenture or whatever about $120 million to get the same work done that Troy Hunt does on his own, but that’s the nature of government contracting, and we can only change one thing at a time.