The Most Prosperous Cities In The US Are…

Wealthy coastal enclaves no longer have a monopoly on prosperity, according to a recent ranking by RentCafe.

After analyzing Census data from between 2000 and 2016, RentCafe ranked 303 cities according to changes in overall prosperity. RentCafe examined a mix of factors, with a final prosperity score that was based on the combined value of six  individual fields. Surprisingly, Texas cities occupied six of the top 20 spots, disrupting the longstanding east coast west coast rivalry.

With crude oil prices moving higher once again, it’s hardly a coincidence that the Midland-Odessa area – one of the main employment hubs in the Permian Basin with some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country – showed up on the list.

Rentcafe

In a separate ranking that only takes into account “large” cities (i.e. those with populations greater than 300,000), Rent Cafe discovered that Washington, New York and Miami are among the most prosperous of the major American cities.

More surprising is the number of cities that experienced growth across all six categories used to calculate prosperity.

Energy

RentCafe calculated prosperity by incorporating the magnitude of proportional changes that affected a city’s population, median income, home values, share of inhabitants holding a higher education degree, poverty rate and its unemployment rate.

The Long Death Of America’s Middle Class

Authored by Nick Giambruno via CaseyResearch.com,

In America, what separates the “haves” and the “have nots” has never been wider. It’s a genuine crisis. And yet, few people know why this is happening…

The American middle class is dying.

In 2015, it dipped below 50% of the population for the first time since data collection started on the issue. It’s now an official minority group.

Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans don’t have enough money to cover a surprise $400 expense. Many are living paycheck to paycheck, with little to no cushion. And US homes are less affordable than they’ve been in decades—possibly ever.

I’ll tell you why this is happening and how to secure your spot among the “haves” in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at the America that was.

The Largest Middle Class in World History

The late 1950s was the golden age of America’s middle class.

This isn’t nostalgia talking. The US really did have robust Main Streets and thriving small businesses.

Back then, the US produced three-quarters of the world’s cars and airplanes. Americans produced most of the world’s steel and built the majority of the world’s skyscrapers.

Plus, the US stock market held the bulk of the world’s total stock market capitalization.

All this productivity gave the average American an unusually high standard of living.

Around then, a husband could support his family on an average income. He and his wife likely owned their own home, as well as their car. They had multiple children—and didn’t think much of the cost of having more. Plus, they had money to save.

The Bleak Situation Today

Compare that to the average family today. Both spouses likely have to work—whether they want to or not—just to afford the same basic lifestyle.

Plus, it now costs well over $200,000 to raise a child, on average. And that doesn’t even include college costs. Back in 1960, it cost roughly $25,000.

This hefty price tag is one of the main reasons middle-class families are having fewer children… or none at all.

In short, the average American’s standard of living has taken a huge hit over the past generation or so.

For example, consider a typical high school teacher’s financial situation.

In 1959, the median annual salary for a US high school teacher was $5,276, according to the Department of Labor. Meanwhile, the median US home value was $9,627, according to the US Census Bureau.

That means a teacher made enough money each year to cover over half of the price of a middle-class home. Or 55%, to be exact.

Take a minute and think… How does your annual income compare to the price of your home? I’d bet many people make far less than 55%.

Today, the median purchase price of a US home is $241,700. To maintain the 1959 income-to-home price ratio, a high school teacher would need to make $132,935 annually.

Of course, the average high school teacher doesn’t make nearly that much. Not even close. He or she makes around $48,290—just enough to cover 36% of the median home price.

It All Went Downhill in the ’70s

The high school teacher’s predicament is only one example of a broader trend. In fact, circumstances are actually worse than it lets on.

As you can see in the chart below, the median income-to-home price ratio is just a hair above 20% now. That’s a historical low. And a far cry from the 58% peak it hit in the late 1950s.

Notice that the downtrend starts in the 1970s. More on that shortly…

Clearly, home prices have risen much faster than income levels since 1970.

Of course, Americans haven’t stopped buying homes. They’ve just gone deeper and deeper into debt to do it.

That debt has helped hide the slump in the average person’s standard of living.

Cars are another large expense for Americans. Debt has helped camouflage a big price increase there, too.

Americans are now over $1.1 trillion in auto debt. This figure has skyrocketed 2,954% since 1971.

Americans have also racked up more than $1 trillion in credit card debt. This debt explosion also started in the early 1970s. Credit card debt is up 14,281% since 1971.

The Work-Wage Divide

So why are Americans going deeper and deeper into debt?

It’s simple: The cost of living for the average middle-class family has risen dramatically faster than its income.

Since 1971, there’s been a dramatic—and growing—split between work and wages. As the next chart shows, the average person’s real wages have more or less stagnated since the early 1970s.

With higher expenses and stagnating wages, people have made up the difference with debt.

What Happened in 1971?

It’s no coincidence that things started to go downhill for the middle class in the early 1970s. August 15, 1971, to be exact.

This is the date President Nixon killed the last remnants of the gold standard.

Since then, the dollar has been a pure fiat currency. This allows the Fed to print as many dollars as it pleases. And—without the gold standard to hold it in check—it does precisely that.

The US money supply has exploded 2,075% since 1971.

There’s an important lesson here: The Federal Reserve is the mortal enemy of the common man.

The Four Tenets of Lasting Wealth

Eventually, I think this trend will lead to a genuine crisis. And it won’t be pretty.

In the meantime, a perfect storm of economic pressures will further hollow out the middle class. Tens of millions of Americans will be kicked down the ladder.

As Doug Casey puts it:

Most middle-class people will end up joining either the upper or lower classes—mostly the lower—and that’ll be a moral disaster for the country.

If you want to firmly establish yourself in the world of the “rich,” I recommend…

  1. Owning hard assets like physical gold, silver, and certain real estate.

  2. Owning the highest-quality, elite businesses. Think businesses with attractive dividend yields—even better if you buy these standouts at bargain prices.

  3. Holding some speculative investments. They can leapfrog your wealth. Think transformative technologies like cryptocurrency and blockchain, the booming cannabis industry, and natural resource stocks.

  4. Protecting what you’ve earned from taxation, inflation, and other forms of confiscation by internationalizing your assets. This reduces the threat any one particular government poses to your wealth.

These are the four tenets of lasting wealth. They’re time-tested strategies. And they work.

Company Selling Real-Time Cell Phone Tracking Ends Up Leaking Location Data

On Tuesday we covered a disturbing story from the New York Times and ZDnet.com detailing how some of the country’s largest cellular providers have been selling your real-time location information, allowing a Texas-based prison technology company, Securus, to track any phone “within seconds” – all without a warrant – through an intermediary called LocationSmart. 

Now, as KrebsOnSecurity reports, in addition to a story from Motherboard on a hacker which had broken into the Securus servers and stolen the usernames, email addresses, phone numbers and other information of 2,800 users – mostly law enforcement, it turns out that a flaw in LocationSmart’s tracking demo website gave anyone the ability to surveil anyone else’s cell phone on the open web.

Several hours before the Motherboard story went live, KrebsOnSecurity heard from Robert Xiao, a security researcher at Carnegie Mellon University who’d read the coverage of Securus and LocationSmart and had been poking around a demo tool that LocationSmart makes available on its Web site for potential customers to try out its mobile location technology. –KrebsOnSecurity

The demo, which has since been taken down, was a free service that would give anyone the approximate location of their own cell phones by entering their name, email address and phone number into a form. LocationSmart’s service would then text the supplied phone number and request permission to ping that device’s nearest cellular tower. Once consent was obtained, the service would then reveal the subscriber’s approximate latitude and longitude on a Google Street View map. 

As Krebs notes, “It also potentially collects and stores a great deal of technical data about your mobile device. For example, according to their privacy policy that information “may include, but is not limited to, device latitude/longitude, accuracy, heading, speed, and altitude, cell tower, Wi-Fi access point, or IP address information.” 

But according to Xiao, a PhD candidate at CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, this same service failed to perform basic checks to prevent anonymous and unauthorized queries. Translation: Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about how Web sites work could abuse the LocationSmart demo site to figure out how to conduct mobile number location lookups at will, all without ever having to supply a password or other credentials.

I stumbled upon this almost by accident, and it wasn’t terribly hard to do,” Xiao said. “This is something anyone could discover with minimal effort. And the gist of it is I can track most peoples’ cell phone without their consent.”

Xiao’s tests showed that he could easily command LocationSmart’s service to ping the closest cell phone tower to a subscriber’s mobile device. He says he checked a friend’s cell phone number multiple times over a few minutes while that friend was moving – and he was able to manually plug the provided coordinates into Google Maps to track his directional movement. 

“This is really creepy stuff,” Xiao said, adding that he’d also successfully tested the vulnerable service against one Telus Mobility mobile customer in Canada who volunteered to be found. (Krebs)

Before LocationSmart’s demo was taken offline today, KrebsOnSecurity pinged five different trusted sources, all of whom gave consent to have Xiao determine the whereabouts of their cell phones. Xiao was able to determine within a few seconds of querying the public LocationSmart service the near-exact location of the mobile phone belonging to all five of my sources.

One of the queries “came within 100 yards of their then-current location” says Krebs, while another was 1.5 miles away. The remaining participants in the test say that the results were accurate to approximately 1/5 to 1/3 of a mile at the time. 

When Krebs reached out to LocationSmart Founder and CEO Mario Proietti, he said that the company was investigating. 

“We don’t give away data,” Proietti said. “We make it available for legitimate and authorized purposes. It’s based on legitimate and authorized use of location data that only takes place on consent. We take privacy seriously and we’ll review all facts and look into them.”

It’s not clear exactly how long LocationSmart has offered its demo service or for how long the service has been so permissive; this link from archive.org suggests it dates back to at least January 2017. This link from The Internet Archive suggests the service may have existed under a different company name — loc-aid.com — since mid-2011, but it’s unclear if that service used the same code. Loc-aid.com is one of four other sites hosted on the same server as locationsmart.com, according to Domaintools.com. –KrebsOnSecurity

***

Last week Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to the FCC demanding an investigation into Securus, after the New York Times revealed that former Mississippi County sheriff Cory Hutcheson used the service almost a dozen time to track the phones of other officers, and even targeted a judge

Between 2014 and 2017, the sheriff, Cory Hutcheson, used the service at least 11 times, prosecutors said. His alleged targets included a judge and members of the State Highway Patrol. Mr. Hutcheson, who was dismissed last year in an unrelated matter, has pleaded not guilty in the surveillance cases. –NYT

Hutcheson has pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful surveillance. 

How did this happen?

How is it that LocationSmart obtained real time location data on millions of Americans? Moreover, who else has access to that information?

Kevin Blankston, director of New America’s Open Technology Institute told ZDNet in a phone call that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act only restricts telecom companies from disclosing data to the government. It does not restrict carriers from disclosing information to other companies – a loophole Blankston calls “one of the biggest gaps in US privacy law.” 

“The issue doesn’t appear to have been directly litigated before, but because of the way that the law only restricts disclosures by these types of companies to government, my fear is that they would argue that they can do a pass-through arrangement like this,” he said.

LocationSmart, a California-based technology company, is one of a handful of so-called data aggregators. It claimed to have “direct connections” to cell carrier networks to obtain real-time cell phone location data from nearby cell towers. It’s less accurate than using GPS, but cell tower data won’t drain a phone battery and doesn’t require a user to install an app. Verizon, one of many cell carriers that sells access to its vast amounts of customer location data, counts LocationSmart as a close partner. –ZD Net

LocationSmart boasts coverage of 85 percent of the country due to its relationships with major US carriers – including Virgin, Boost, MetroPCS and US Cellular, along with Canadian providers Rogers, Telus and Bell.

We utilize the same technology used to enable emergency assistance and this includes cell tower and cell sector location, assisted GPS and cell tower trilateration,” said a case study on the company’s website.

“With these location sources, we are able to locate virtually any US based mobile devices,” the company claimed. The precise location of a target can be returned in as little as 15 seconds, according to a different study.

ZDNet reached out to carriers for comments. What follows is their responses:

Sprint spokesperson Lisa Belot said the company shares personally identifiable location data “only with customer consent or in response to a lawful request such as a validated court order from law enforcement.”

The company’s privacy policy, which governs customer consent, said third-parties may collect customers’ personal data, “including location information.”

Sprint said the company’s relationship with Securus “does not include data sharing,” and is limited “to supporting efforts to curb unlawful use of contraband cell phones in correctional facilities.”

When asked the same questions, Verizon spokesperson Rich Young provided a boilerplate response regarding Securus and would not comment further.

We’re still trying to verify their activities, but if this company is, in fact, doing this with our customers’ data, we will take steps to stop it,” he said.

AT&T spokesperson Jim Greer said in a statement: “We have a best practices approach to handling our customers’ data. We are aware of the letter and will provide a response.” Our questions were also not answered.

A spokesperson for T-Mobile did not respond by our deadline.

“It’s important for us to close off that potential loophole and that can easily be done with one line of legislative language,” said Bankston, “which would also have the benefit of making every other company careful about always getting consent before disclosing your data to anyone.”

Senator Wyden has called on each carrier to stop sharing data with third parties – arguing that it “skirts wireless carriers’ legal obligation to be the sole conduit by which the government may conduct surveillance of Americans’ phone records.”

Pat Buchanan: A Trump Doctrine For Singapore And Beyond

Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org,

After Pyongyang railed this week that the U.S.-South Korean Max Thunder military drills were a rehearsal for an invasion of the North, and imperiled the Singapore summit, the Pentagon dialed them back.

The B-52 exercises alongside F-22 stealth fighters were canceled.

But Pyongyang had other objections.

Sunday, NSC adviser John Bolton spoke of a “Libyan model” for the North’s disarmament, referring to Moammar Gadhafi’s surrender of all his weapons of mass destruction in 2004. The U.S. was invited into Libya to pick them up and cart them off, whereupon sanctions were lifted.

As Libya was subsequently attacked by NATO and Gadhafi lynched, North Korea denounced Bolton and all this talk of the “Libyan model” of unilateral disarmament.

North Korea wants a step-by-step approach, each concession by Pyongyang to be met by a U.S. concession. And Bolton sitting beside Trump, and across the table from Kim Jong Un in Singapore, may be inhibiting.

What was predictable and predicted has come to pass.

If we expected Kim to commit at Singapore to Bolton’s demand for “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” and a swift follow-through, we were deluding ourselves.

At Singapore, both sides will have demands, and both will have to offer concessions, if there is to be a deal.

What does Kim Jong Un want?

An end to U.S. and South Korean military exercises and sanctions on the North, trade and investment, U.S. recognition of his regime, a peace treaty, and the eventual removal of U.S. bases and troops.

He is likely to offer an end to the testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, no transfer of nuclear weapons or strategic missiles to third powers, a drawdown of troops on the DMZ, and the opening of North Korea’s borders to trade and travel.

As for his nuclear weapons and the facilities to produce them, these are Kim’s crown jewels. These brought him to the attention of the world and the Americans to the table. These are why President Trump is flying 10,000 miles to meet and talk with him.

And, unlike Gadhafi, Kim is not going to give them up.

Assuming the summit comes off June 12, this is the reality Trump will face in Singapore: a North Korea willing to halt the testing of nukes and ICBMs and to engage diplomatically and economically.

As for having Americans come into his country, pick up his nuclear weapons, remove them and begin intrusive inspections to ensure he has neither nuclear bombs nor the means to produce, deliver or hide them, that would be tantamount to a surrender by Kim.

Trump is not going to get that. And if he adopts a Bolton policy of “all or nothing,” he is likely to get nothing at all.

Yet, thanks to Trump’s threats and refusal to accept a “frozen conflict” on the Korean peninsula, the makings of a real deal are present, if Trump does not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

For there is nothing North Korea is likely to demand that cannot be granted, as long as the security of South Korea is assured to the degree that it can be assured, while living alongside a nuclear-armed North.

Hence, when Kim cavils or balks in Singapore, as he almost surely will, at any demand for a pre-emptive surrender of his nuclear arsenal, Trump should have a fallback position.

If we cannot have everything we want, what can we live with?

Moreover, while we are running a risk today, an intransigent North Korea that walks out would be running a risk as well.

A collapse in talks between Kim and the United States and Kim and South Korea would raise the possibility that he and his Chinese patrons could face an East Asia Cold War where South Korea and Japan also have acquired nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

In the last analysis, the United States should be willing to accept both the concessions to the North that the South is willing to make and the risks from the North that the South is willing to take.

For, ultimately, they are the one who are going to have to live on the same peninsula with Kim and his nukes.

Trump ran on a foreign policy that may fairly be described as a Trump Doctrine: In the post-post-Cold War era, the United States will start looking out for America first.

This does not mean isolationism or the abandonment of our allies. It does mean a review and reassessment of all the guarantees we have issued to go to war on behalf of other countries, and the eventual transfer of responsibility for the defense of our friends over to our friends.

In the future, the U.S. will stop futilely imploring allies to do more for their own defense and will begin telling them that their defense is primarily their own responsibility. Our allies must cease to be our dependents.

Exile In Guyville, 25th Anniversary

Girly-Sound To Guyville: The 25th Anniversary Edition Box Set Released earlier this month from Matador Records.     Filled with candid, clever songs about sex and scenesters, Liz Phair’s 1993 masterpiece Exile In Guyville was an audacious national debut. Explore Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville (in 5 Minutes)   Liz Phair – “Never Said” Via…

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The post Exile In Guyville, 25th Anniversary appeared first on The Big Picture.

Feds Allow Florida Officials To Battle Mosquitoes With Advanced Drones

The controlled airspace above Southwest Florida might become more congested now that the Trump administration has cleared the way for Lee County Mosquito District (LCMD) as one of ten state, local, and tribal governments as participants in the new Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program.

On Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao named Lee County and nine others among 149 applicants for the UAS Integration Pilot Program that “will help tackle the most significant challenges to integrating drones into the national airspace,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) press release.

“Data gathered from these pilot projects will form the basis of a new regulatory framework to safely integrate drones into our national airspace,” said Secretary Chao.

Here is the full list of the ten selectees:

  • Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, OK

  • City of San Diego, CA

  • Virginia Tech – Center for Innovative Technology, Herndon, VA

  • Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, KS

  • Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Myers, FL

  • Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, TN

  • North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC

  • North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, ND

  • City of Reno, NV

  • University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK

“The enthusiastic response to our request for applications demonstrated the many innovative technological and operational solutions already on the horizon,” Secretary Chao added.

The Trump administration is expecting to stimulate economic development through the deployment of drones in agriculture, energy, public safety, media, infrastructure, and construction. Secretary Chao also plans to test detection and tracking of the drones and traffic-management systems in each of the ten selected regions.

“Our nation will move faster, fly higher and soar proudly toward the next great chapter of American aviation,” said President Donald Trump, who approved the program late last year.

According to CNBC, the pilot program allows Lee County to incorporate drones into their fleet of aircraft used to control Florida’s ubiquitous mosquito population. The pilot program could provide mosquito control drone operators with more relaxed federal regulations, such as enabling flights above the maximum allowable altitude of 400 feet.

“The pilot program could allow not only expanded use for observation and spraying but also potentially at higher altitudes or in more remote areas where visual contact might no longer be a requirement,” said Eric Jackson, a public information officer at the Lee County Mosquito Control District in southwestern Florida.

“We’ve been doing this for 60 years with aircraft dealing with mosquito issues, so I’m thinking that might have played a part (in our selection),” Jackson told CNBC, describing the region’s mosquito populations as a public health risk.”Our district relies heavily on aerial operations.”

Jackson said his department used drones for about a year to “take images of aquatic bodies to see where there’s a lot of vegetation.”

“Because where you have vegetation crowding out water, sometimes mosquitoes can grow in those,” he added.

Jackson told CNBC that the department hopes to acquire an advanced 1,500 lbs. drone in its surveillance and pest treatment operations fleet. The pilot program would relax current federal drone laws, allowing the mosquito control drone operator to fly above 400 feet, at night, and beyond the line of sight.

“We potentially could be using it more for surveillance and in more isolated areas for treatment missions,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to be as innovative as we can and as efficient as we can. And if this can be used safely, we’re open to anything.”

“Really, the whole point of this program is to be able to expand beyond the current regulations to see how this can be used,” he said.

“We have pilots in the air, and as the airspace becomes more crowded and people start flying above 400 feet and out of line of sight, [we asked ourselves] how can we make sure we have a seat at the table to where we can help draft these regulations to keep our pilots safe.”

While Lee County is simply one of the ten selectees for the drone pilot program, we are curious to see what the other nine municipalities will do with their new drones. So far, Jackson is hellbent in replacing his fleet of expensive aircraft and human pilots with inexpensive 1,500 lbs. drones.