Donald Dossier: Health Care and Immigration Already Trumped Mueller

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The president had some pep in his step this week. “Bullshit,” Donald Trump crowed to a roaring throng of fans in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Thursday when speaking of the investigation into his 2016 campaign. The victory lap comes courtesy of a four-page summary of Robert Mueller’s much-anticipated report, which can be further condensed in Trumpworld to: “No collusion.”

Any revelations about his attempts to obstruct the investigation and other loose Russia-related ends in the full nearly 400-page report will have to wait on Attorney General Bill Barr, but a crippling blow to the president this was not. Even as Trump plans to turn the report back on his enemies and use it as a campaign cudgel — “This is not, ‘Oh, gee, it’s over. Let’s forget about it,’” attorney Rudy Giuliani told The Atlantic — its release did not represent an assured win in 2020 either. In fact, two non-Mueller developments were more telling on how the next 19 months will proceed.

First came Monday night, when Trump’s Department of Justice sought in a court filing to slay the entire Affordable Care Act, the great unfinished business of the Trump presidency.

Trump is trying to rebrand the GOP as the “party of health care” …

Plaintiffs in the case, now before the fairly conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, argue that the tax reform law, which reduced the penalty for not having health insurance to $0, effectively kills the entire law because the Supreme Court only upheld it in 2012 as an exercise of Congress’ taxing power. While the case was brought by 20 Republican states, the Trump administration’s position had been that only certain restrictions on health insurers should be struck down. But the DOJ on Monday filed a brief saying it agreed with a lower court that the entire law now is invalid.

Trump is trying to rebrand the GOP as the “party of health care” and said a group of Republican senators would work on a replacement plan, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants no part of it, as the issue has turned into a Democratic strength.

Meanwhile, immigration is surging on the southern border. Overwhelmed officials in El Paso, Texas, are housing migrants in a tent under a bridge. At his Michigan rally, Trump decried the asylum seekers “trying to invade our country,” as his Army Corps of Engineers scouts terrain to start construction on several dozen miles of border walls. On Friday, he again threatened to shut down the entire Mexican border.

 

This is the issue on which Trump has staked his presidency, including the record-length government shutdown and controversial emergency declaration. However much of that “big, beautiful wall” he can construct will be a showpiece for his political base … but hyping high numbers of immigrants carries political risk too, especially if his big talk and tough policies (i. e., family separations) fail to stem the Central American tide.

At the same time, Democrats have little agenda here other than opposing Trump (it’s the health care inverse), so they’d rather talk about other things. On balance, border crisis headlines help Trump, while health care crisis headlines harm him. Those will continue, while Trump–Russia is likely to fade.

Barr’s and Mueller’s expected congressional testimonies will produce cable news meltdown events, as will the release of Mueller’s full report, which the attorney general has promised by mid-April. But impeachment appears to be all but off the table, which works to Democrats’ political benefit.

On the campaign trail, you’re not going to hear much about Vladimir Putin, but you will hear a lot about health care and immigration. Democrats won on this playing field convincingly in 2018 — hence the heartburn among the Capitol Hill GOP after the health care announcement. But projecting midterm results on a presidential race is a dangerous game.

The Republican polling firm 0ptimus released fresh 2020 numbers in conjunction with Firehouse Strategies this week, finding Trump trailing a trio of top Democrats (Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke) in head-to-head matchups in Wisconsin. But Trump virtually tied Biden and Sanders in Pennsylvania and Michigan, with decent leads over the lesser-known O’Rourke. This comes after Dems won Pennsylvania and Michigan with relative ease last fall.

The poll also looked at Obama–Trump voters, who have been dissected like a high school science class frog since 2016, finding them mostly sticking to the president — even before Mueller’s verdict came out. In all three states, more voters disapprove of the job he’s doing than approve, but Trump was unpopular in 2016 too. His approval numbers have been pretty steady since taking office, with low ebbs in the mid-30s in the second half of 2017, around the same time Republicans nearly repealed Obamacare.

Perhaps sometime around June 2020, Chief Justice John Roberts will strike the blow the late Sen. John McCain would not and end Obamacare, with a decision far more powerful — both in substance and politics — than anything Robert Mueller could write.

Congestion Pricing Is Class Warfare. Here’s a Better Idea

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Henry Ford’s dream was to democratize transportation by selling cars so cheaply that every American could own one. His shareholders sued him for it, but Ford eventually succeeded, and we owe today’s driver-friendly America in part to Ford’s insistence that the automobile be a mass-market item. While climate change has taught us that the car was the wrong route to transport democracy, it has done nothing to undermine the principle that there should be no class divide in American transportation.

But one of the most progressive states in the union, New York, is about to write such a class divide into law, in the form of congestion pricing for access to Manhattan. If the plan goes forward, drivers will be charged more than $10 to enter the island, and other major U.S. cities may follow the Big Apple’s lead.

Congestion pricing taxes car commuters. Advocates, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, public transport groups and even a once reluctant Mayor Bill de Blasio, argue that the tax would reduce rush-hour traffic and raise billions of dollars to invest in improving the city’s decrepit subways, which in turn would increase subway ridership, further reducing traffic.

Congestion pricing isn’t really reserving the city’s streets for those who need them most; it’s reserving them for the rich.

All that is true, but congestion pricing does something else: It puts the burden of decongesting the city entirely on the backs of poor and middle-class drivers, by politely but effectively making it impossible for some to drive into the city because they simply can’t afford the tax.

If there were no other way to reduce traffic, then, of course, New York should ask the poor and the middle class to shoulder this burden. But my research shows that there are other ways to reduce traffic that won’t write a class divide into law.

 

The Limits of the Price System

The premise of congestion pricing is that the best way to prevent overuse of an important resource is by charging for access to it. Those who value the resource more, the theory goes, will be willing to pay more for it, and so those who actually end up paying the price and using the resource will be those who value it the most. Those who decide not to pay — and therefore shoulder the burden of eliminating overuse of the resource — will be those who needed the resource the least.

In reality, however, willingness to pay is an imperfect indicator of need. A dollar, after all, is worth much less to a rich person than to a poor or middle-class person. So congestion pricing isn’t really reserving the city’s streets for those who need them most; it’s reserving them for the rich. 

Ration With Tech, Not Price

But there is a way to reduce traffic in Manhattan without excluding the middle class or the poor: allocate access based on the rule of first come, first served. Instead of charging for access, simply close the island (or the parts of the island that are the focus of the current plan) once it has filled up.

First come, first served, like congestion pricing, strives to grant access based on need — the more you want to enter the city, the earlier you will line up — but unlike congestion pricing, it would be far harder for the rich to use their wealth to short-circuit the sorting mechanism. Sure, the wealthy could pay people to line up in their place, but New York could ban the practice, whereas under congestion pricing the city could never prohibit the rich from buying access when they don’t really need it.

First come, first served evokes visions of lines of vehicles stretching off into the distance along the approaches to the city, and 10 years ago that would have been true. But the internet has taken the effort out of waiting by allowing us to join virtual lines from the comfort of home, which means the first-come, first-served model is now a viable alternative to the price system.

Imagine that instead of congestion pricing, city leaders were to create a city access app. The app would know your location and how long it would take you to drive into the city, and therefore could inform you before you depart whether you will be granted entrance. Even better, the app could measure your need to drive, allowing those who live far from public transport to drive during rush hour but requiring those with public transport options to use them during busy periods. Either way, no physical line would be necessary. 

Sure, it’s a bit more cumbersome than just driving into the city and having the tax deducted automatically from your bank account. But that’s only for those lucky enough to be able to afford congestion pricing. For those who would be priced out of the city, and thus their jobs, by congestion pricing, an app-based first-come-first-served approach would be a big improvement.  

Some have suggested that New York’s congestion pricing plan should include an exemption for the poor, but any proposal to make the plan truly affordable is doomed to failure, because if everyone can still afford to drive into the city under the plan, then the plan won’t stop congestion. The proposal to exempt the poor should be seen for what it is: an attempt to obscure congestion pricing’s classist reality, at the expense of the middle class, which would not be exempt.

Tax Incomes, Not Drivers

First-come-first-served might be a more democratic way of rationing access to the city’s streets, but what about all the tax revenue congestion pricing will generate to fund the subways? First-come-first-served can’t generate that revenue, because it keeps city access free. Nor should it.

Economists have long argued that the best way to soak the rich is directly — through taxes on high incomes and capital gains, like the state’s Millionaire’s Tax and a proposed exaction on second homes — not by taxing behaviors. Behaviors, such as commuting, often cut across class lines, and you end up taxing the rest along with the rich.

America has a long tradition of preferring market-based solutions to public problems, which is what congestion pricing represents, but America also has a longstanding hatred of class privilege — epitomized by Ford’s desire to put a car in every garage. That may explain why a still-class-bound London, and authoritarian Singapore, have embraced congestion pricing, but American cities have not.

And shouldn’t.

Ramsi Woodcock is a law professor at the University of Kentucky.

27 Billion Reasons Why Ukraine’s Next Leader May Not Want the Job

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The first round of Ukraine’s presidential election today caps an intense season of political posturing and often outlandish populism. And as old-guard politicians like President Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko face off against comedian upstart Volodymyr Zelensky for the top job, many Ukrainians are hunkering down for what’ll likely be more volatility in the weeks to come.

Whoever wins — probably after a second-round runoff on April 21 — might want to think twice before celebrating. Ukrainians want to see progress, and those heading to the ballot box today expect to see tangible results soon. While the top electoral issue, according to a January poll by the International Republican Institute, remains the conflict in the Donbas, which allows for some finger pointing toward the Kremlin, the No. 2 concern is entirely domestic. Sixteen percent of those polled voters cited corruption as their primary concern, and on that score, Ukraine is struggling. 

A bloated state bureaucracy means far too much money is lost on incompetence, poor decision-making or downright fraudulent conduct by government employees. In fact, according to the Kiev-based Center for Economic Strategy (CES) …   

Improving governance could boost Ukraine’s budget by nearly $27 billion as a one-off lump sum payment. 

Barring an immediate fix, however, Ukraine stands to lose nearly $9 billion each year thanks to poor governance — that’s more than neighboring Moldova’s entire economy.

The single biggest annual dent, around $6 billion, stems from a lack of income tax revenue thanks to widespread gray and black salaries — those that aren’t properly taxed due to being wholly or partially unofficial. The biggest one-off gain, meanwhile, could amount to a whopping $12 billion for the state — if only around 50 percent of currently state-owned land was sold at market-level prices, rather than rented. But such a move has been blocked for years by a controversial moratorium that prohibits the sale of agricultural land. Ukraine is one of just six countries — the only one in Europe — with such a rule. 

 

Sure, these are estimates based on a so-called blue-sky scenario that imagines all public institutions functioning smoothly. What’s more, says CES project director Maria Repko, the study isn’t necessarily an authoritative list of Ukraine’s most pressing problems, but rather a rundown of its most easily calculated losses. Still, the estimates provide a useful window into just how widespread misrule remains in Ukraine.

Taken together, CES finds, these deficiencies highlight “the more general problem of trust in the Ukrainian state, [and a] lack of rule of law and good governance.” More than two-thirds of Ukrainians believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, and bad management is mostly to blame.

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President Petro Poroshenko (center) speaks during a meeting with people as part the presidential election campaign in Kiev, Ukraine, on March 17, 2019. The presidential election will be held in Ukraine on March 31, 2019.

Source STR/NurPhoto via Getty

While corruption is just one part of the equation of poor governance, it’s a significant one. The International Monetary Fund, which has provided Kiev with billions of dollars in badly needed economic assistance in recent years, believes various forms of graft cost the country around 2 percent of gross domestic product growth, or just over $2 billion, each year. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, meanwhile, actually boosted Ukraine’s score from 30 to 32 from 2017 to 2018 — but it still falls well below the world average of 43 and even the Eastern European average of 35 … though it outranks some other former Soviet republics. By contrast, the highest-scoring (or least corrupt) country in the world is Denmark, with a score of 88, and the United States scores 71. 

Times aren’t exactly encouraging for Ukraine’s anti-corruption fighters: Struggling to dismantle a system of institutionalized graft that has been built up for decades, they’re running into resistance everywhere. Just last month, the country’s Constitutional Court struck down a law punishing officials whose assets exceed their officially declared wealth. That’s left the independent National Anti-Corruption Bureau, often hailed as one of the most important achievements of the so-called Revolution of Dignity of 2014, effectively toothless. Even more recently, the deputy head of the country’s National Security and Defense Council — and a former business partner of Poroshenko’s — was fired after his 22-year-old son was implicated in a defense spending scandal that sucked millions out of taxpayers’ pockets for overpriced military hardware. 

According to Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anticorruption Action Centre in Kiev, such grand-scale corruption remains a particularly stubborn problem. “There are oligarchs who own members of Parliament, who own judges, who own prosecutors,” she says, “and who use the power of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to intimidate their opponents, foreign investors and activists.”

That doesn’t mean Ukraine hasn’t made significant strides toward reform over the past five years. Observers have celebrated an electronic procurement system that’s reportedly saved the budget more than $2 billion since its introduction in 2016. They’ve also praised the government for taking meaningful steps toward cleaning up the notoriously corrupt banking and natural gas sectors. Moreover, Kaleniuk adds, a freer media climate and an emboldened class of civic activists also means Ukrainians know more about their crooked rulers than ever before. 

But the question remains: What will those rulers do about it?

On a High Note: Meet the World’s First Sufi Opera Singer

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Saira Peter’s kitchen is a pretty good representation of her as a professional singer and as a person. Nestled in the basement of her East London residence, her carefully positioned keyboard keeps her ready for long hours of practice, tuition with her students and also for collaboration with two doting men in her life, her father and her husband. From here, she explains while samosas and tea are cooking on the stove, springs the distinct style of Sufi opera that has caught fire in Pakistan.

Throughout the decades, music in Pakistan has courted controversy and broken barriers — from bhangra, born from the Punjabi folk music of the 1940s around the nation’s inception, to poetic ghazal music to disco. With the rise of conservative Islam in the 1970s and ’80s, however, music developed a tension with the government and saw heavy censorship under the regime of Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Still, some Pakistani pop music has crossed borders — “Disco Deewane,” by Nazia Hassan, charted around the world in 1981; Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan collaborated with Peter Gabriel, of Genesis fame. And with a long tradition of the mystical strain of Islam known as Sufism, its spiritual Qawwali poetry remains timeless.

And yet when Peter, 35, first launched herself as a singer of Western classical music in Pakistan, she had to mentally prepare herself: “If people start throwing tomatoes, I’m ready.” That was in 2016, after she appeared as a judge on two seasons of Voice of Sindh, a reality TV show, so people knew she could sing Pakistani classical music. But her inaugural performance at the Pearl Continental in Karachi with a star-studded guest list, which launched her professional singing career, introduced a Pakistani audience to Western opera.

Still, performing while female is relatively taboo in modern Pakistan.

She sang arias from Mozart, Puccini, Handel and Strauss and came away surprised by the reaction, with people telling her the music touched their hearts and seemed very spiritual, despite being in European languages. Then the nation’s media became hooked and everyone wanted to hear more music from Peter. Permanently based in London, she goes back to Pakistan every two to three months, and each visit is packed with TV appearances and performances. She has performed at iconic venues, including the Governor House in Karachi and Alhamra Art Center in Lahore, which has a 1,000-seat capacity. She drew a crowd of 5,000 at the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. 

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Saira Peter isn’t afraid to sing boldly, and she’s prepared in case anyone starts throwing tomatoes. So far, that hasn’t been an issue.

Peter’s love for the craft began when she was growing up in the southern coastal city of Karachi. A part of the country’s Christian minority community, she spent her days singing in the church choir without envisaging it as a full-time career. She went on to study sciences at university and then did a master’s program at Queen Mary University of London in 2008 in Islamic history and the West, nurturing an interest in Sufi poetry. Deeply reflective, she often thought about turmoil in the world, she says, and how music could be a bridge between people. So she started seeing a vocal coach and decided to professionalize her talents. 

What surprises people most about Peter, says husband Stephen Smith, himself an expert on the anthropology of music, is her ability to move between genres. “People don’t usually sing both,” he says, referring to the different technical skills needed to sing Western opera and Pakistani classical.

 

Peter explains that Pakistani classical music has lots of portamentos — a pitch that slides from one note to another — and once you start getting into that style, it’s difficult to switch to Western classical. “You have to hit the proper frequency of the note,” she says. “You can’t just slide into it. That’s prohibited in Western classical.”

Paul Knight, Peter’s vocal coach who also performs himself, says they’ve worked on everything from Pakistani classical to the French chanson and German lieder. Western music, Knight says, has developed Peter’s strength and stamina, and musical theater is now developing her into an actress. Asked to pinpoint what it is about Peter’s style that appeals to Pakistanis, he says, “They love the fact that she sings high and has a deep range, which is unusual.” They’ve added cadenzas and other operatic twists to traditional Pakistani songs, giving them an atypical fusion sound.

Then there’s her signature material, as Knight and the Pakistani press describe her as the world’s first Sufi opera singer. Merging both Eastern and Western genres another way, Saira adds portamento to her Western classical style too, to give the music a bit of a Pakistani vibe. When she sings Sufi poetry in Western classical style, the pace is slower to make clear the message of peace within the song. Her natural Pakistani tone adds a twist to the song but Qawwalis tend to be rhythmically fast, so the high operatic tones take things to a whole new level. 

Peter is making sure her style won’t be unique for long. After one fan persistently asked Peter to teach her opera for a year, she relented, and now the Saira Arts Academy, which launched in Karachi in 2010, has around 20 female students in opera and other classical styles, as well as students in London, where Peter is the director of NJ Arts London. Still, a female performing is relatively taboo in modern Pakistan — even if things have loosened since Al-Haq’s day. “Overcoming men’s attitudes has been a definite challenge,” Smith says.

Peter doesn’t seem phased. Whenever musicians collaborate with her, she confidently assumes her leadership, something many senior male artists are not accustomed to, she says. It seems she has no time to ponder the negative. Acknowledging that she comes from Pakistan’s Christian minority, she brushes off questions about discrimination, saying she’s only ever felt love from the country’s media. In person, she’s friendly and accommodating, making sure I don’t leave without taking something from the spread she has laid out on the table.

Peter is currently in the throes of developing a full-scale Sufi opera with other creative practitioners including Stephen and Saira’s father, Zafar Francis, who is working on the text. And then? Knight believes it’s “inevitable” that his pupil will sing in Pakistani films — bringing her unique voice to its widest audience yet.

Read more: Once kidnapped by her parents, she’s bringing her story to the big screen.

Utah Has America’s Largest Households. Now It Also Has a Housing Shortage

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James Wood and his wife have owned their four-bedroom home in Salt Lake City for 45 years. But they’re no longer empty nesters: As local housing prices climbed, Wood’s pregnant granddaughter, her boyfriend and their son moved in with him so they could save money for a car. 

The family’s pressures aren’t unique — they’re merely symptoms of an opportunity evolving into a unique housing crisis in Utah. The state’s population grew by 14.4 percent over the past eight years, faster than any other state, according to Census Bureau population estimates. And that’s increasingly because of migration, which contributed 43 percent to the state’s population growth between 2015 and 2018, compared to 16 percent in the previous four-year period. The state capital is drawing plaudits as a “boomtown” and surrounding Salt Lake County had the state’s largest numerical population growth in 2018.

Experts credit the region’s attractive labor and business conditions as a draw for transplants, plus a thriving tech sector. Geographic advantages offer easy West Coast travel and year-round access to the outdoors for nature lovers priced out of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. But experts warn there’s growing evidence that Salt Lake City is also heading toward a housing affordability crisis that could stymie its growth before it could ever come close to those other cities.  

Statewide home values climbed 14 percent over the past year, nearly double the growth rate of U.S. home rates at 8 percent, according to real estate website Zillow. Utah’s household income is rising at 0.4 percent annually, while housing prices are increasing much faster at 3.3 percent, according to the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. For the first time in four decades, Utah is facing a housing shortage — of 54,000 units, according to the Salt Lake Chamber, the state’s largest business association. Households around or below the median income — often including teachers, nurses or firefighters — are disproportionately vulnerable, says Jen Horner, a realtor at the brokerage RE/MAX Masters in Salt Lake City. While one in eight Utah households spends more than half of its income on rent, that likelihood jumps to one in five for those under the median. 

Salt Lake City could be a next California [in terms of unaffordable housing].

Wendell Cox, Demographia

In itself, a growing population leading to a housing shortage isn’t unique to Utah. Even beyond the U.S., European cities jostling for a slice of London’s financial sector due to Brexit face housing and public infrastructure challenges. But Utah is staring at a housing double whammy no other American state has to tackle. At 3.19 persons per household, Utah already has the largest average household size in the nation, according to the Gardner Policy Institute, where Wood also works as a senior fellow. Normally, doubling up with relatives or friends is a coping mechanism when housing is unaffordable, suggests Wendell Cox, principal of Demographia, a public policy firm. In Utah, that’s compounding the existing crush for space. A Gardner Policy Institute report indicates that if Utah’s housing prices and household income rise at the same rate as the past 26 years, housing affordability in 2044 will equal that of San Francisco’s current market. Salt Lake City’s home prices are already 20 percent higher than comparable cities like Boise, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

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Bill Pendleton watches Audrey Pendleton, 15, play the violin at their home in Draper, Utah. The Pendletons are among a growing number of families with grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Source Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute

“Salt Lake City could be a next California,” says Cox, and he doesn’t mean that as a compliment. 

In Wood’s home, there are the expected kerfuffles over who’s cleaning up after whom, or not doing their share of dishes. Wood says he and his wife enjoy the extra company, while his granddaughter and her boyfriend get to save. But a 2016 Harvard study suggests doubling up with extended family or non-kin is associated with lower educational attainment and greater likelihood of obesity for children. 

 

A key reason for Utah’s unparalleled household size is its traditionally high fertility rate. Even today, only South Dakota is more fertile among U.S. states. But that statistic masks a shift. Utah’s fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is currently at an all-time low – it was 4.30 children per woman in 1960. 

Declining fertility rates only underscore the central role of migration as the driver of Utah’s recent population boom. Annual net migration stayed below 12,000 people between 2011 and 2014 but jumped above 21,000 beginning in 2015, according to Utah Population Committee (UPC) estimates. Utah competes well in terms of labor quality, supply and costs, and skews younger than the national average, says Wood. Then there’s the low cost of labor: Utah’s average yearly wage is roughly 15 percent below the national average, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. 

Lower wages aren’t good news for workers, but Salt Lake City’s cost of living is 16 percent lower than in Denver, 37 percent lower than Seattle’s and 48 percent under San Francisco’s, according to PayScale. The state — often led personally by Governor Gary Herbert — pitches its advantages well to firms considering relocation, says Joe Vranich, whose consulting firm helps small businesses looking to move. “They will roll out the carpet for you and treat you like a king.” The approach is working. Utah’s “Silicon Slopes” — dubbed by Josh James, founder and CEO of Domo — houses a cluster of information technology, software development and hardware manufacturing firms like SanDisk, IM Flash Technologies and EA Sports. The state is home to top private cloud company Qualtrics.

Geography helps too. Flying from Salt Lake City to San Francisco takes just under two hours, a major consideration for tech companies considering relocation, Vranich says. Truck drivers can reach the West Coast from Salt Lake City overnight (trumping Denver). Quality of life appeals too: The Great Salt Lake and snow-tipped mountains of the Wasatch Range border Salt Lake City, promising four-season access to hiking, biking, skiing and kayaking. On the flip side, outward growth and developable land are limited because the state is surrounded on all sides by mountains, lakes and federal lands, says Horner.

In 2018, the Salt Lake Chamber launched the Utah Housing Coalition, which is leading a public-awareness campaign about increasing home prices and dipping affordability. The kickoff meeting brought elected officials, developers, bankers and other stakeholders together. Chamber officials intend to visit each city council in Utah, while advocating for streamlined local fees and zoning ordinances to permit a combination of housing types. High-density construction, by “building vertically up,” could address the issue while accounting for Utah’s unique geography, Horner says. An increased percentage of new development is being allocated toward affordable housing for lower-income families, she says.

Back at Wood’s home, his granddaughter hopes to own a house someday, likely a year after her baby is born. Wood says he and his wife would help her look for places and pitch in on the down payment if needed. Such family support might be the only way out of doubling up for many in Utah. The state’s dreams of prosperity through its rise as a tech hub are already beginning to unravel.

Our 10 Must-Read Stories — the OZY Highlight Reel

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This week NASA canceled the much-anticipated first all-female space walk over the lack of suitable suits. Here’s hoping that appropriate space wear is available for a U.S. trip back to the moon by 2024 — a 21st-century odyssey proposed by Mike Pence at a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama.

Here on OZY we have 10 out-of-this-world stories for your weekend reading: people doing cool things, a one-of-a-kind museum, what millennials are moving away from (not to), older women making waves on TV and a contentious graveyard. Plus, a story about the latest episode of OZY’s podcast The Thread, which explores the controversial criminal defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.  

No. 1: On the Streets: Why Americans Are Retiring Into Homelessness

Why You Should Care: Rather than enjoying the fruits of decades of labor, more elderly Americans are facing homelessness instead.  

Much more >>

No. 2: In the Spotlight: The Mueller Report Fuels a World of Witch Hunts

Why You Should Care:  Because world leaders will use America’s experience against their own internal foes.

Much more >>

No. 3: Pee Bricks: Can She Lay the Building Blocks to Help the World’s SewagePay Off?

Why You Should Care:  Cape Town is running out of water, but professor Sue Harrison might have a solution.  

Much more >>

No. 4: Not-So-Big Moves: The Tech Generation Rush Isn’t to Major Cities. It’s Away From Them

Why You Should Care:  Because the move to superstar cities may have been overstated.

Much more >>

 

No. 5: Hairy Exhibit: Let Your Hair Down at This One-of-a-Kind Museum

Why You Should Care: The world’s only hair museum holds the locks of Ronald Reagan, Mike Rowe and Ozzy Osbourne.

Much more >>

No. 6: The Thread: Connecting Reagan’s Assassin and Lennon’s Killer

Why You Should Care: Because two of recent history’s most shocking crimes have some unexpected connections. Find out more in OZY’s new podcast.

Much more >>

No. 7: Opinion: Older Women Are Having a Moment on American TV

Why You Should Care:  Representation matters, and women ages 50 and up have it right now on U.S. screens.

Much more >>

No. 8: Play Time: Welcome to the Artcade, Where Art and Gaming Collide

Why You Should Care:  Around the world, a rising tide of artistic collectives and curators are bringing out the next generation of weird indie games.

Much more >>

No. 9: Ink Be Gone: Have a Terrible Tattoo? Blast It Away With This New Procedure

Why You Should Care:  New technology means fewer treatments to eradicate that one bad decision. 

Much more >>

No. 10: Bitter Memories: Why This Himalayan Region Is Home to 400 American Graves

Why You Should Care:  Hundreds of American airmen died while flying over this treacherous route between Arunachal Pradesh and China. 

Much more >>

This Weekend: America Through New Eyes

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WHAT TO DOWNLOAD

NYT Crossword Puzzle — Waste Time the Erudite Way. Nobody loves crosswords more than we do (sorry, Will Shortz), and the New York Times is the gold standard. Even if you don’t currently agonize over them, this app is a really good way to get yourself addicted, since it gives you access to decades of puzzles. (Recommended by Alex Furuya, Puzzle Master)

Goldstar — Seats for Less. Goldstar Events has long been selling discounted tickets to music, theater, movies and sports events, with a focus on young audiences that might otherwise not be going to see live shows. The app is just a simpler way to get them — and they are genuinely discounted, which is refreshing. (Recommended by Alex Lau, Theatergoer)

Cinemagraph Pro — Spice Up Your ‘Gram. First, some background: A cinemagraph is a still image where just one part is animated, so a combination of still footage and video. This is the best app for creating them … and it’s free, though subscriptions to fully use it will cost you between $15 and $300 depending on what you want. (Recommended by Sophia Akram, Camerawoman) 

WHAT TO READ

In the Distance — America Through New Eyes. Hernan Diaz’s debut novel is a gripping adventure story, the tale of a Swedish kid walking all the way across 19th century America to find his long lost brother. Diaz’s captivating description, told through the eyes of someone genuinely baffled by much of what he sees, will appeal to the travel writing devotee in most of us and catapult us beyond the banalities of modern life into something rich and strange. (Recommended by Jana Bennett, OZY TV Guru)

Pachinko — An Immigration Story. The title of Korean-American author Min Jin Lee’s newest novel refers to a Japanese form of pinball enjoyed by the patrons of the protagonist’s gambling shop in 1960s Nagano. And that protagonist — as all great ones do — has a terrible secret. His is about his identity: He’s hiding his Korean background, and its discovery would mean he’d be subjected to the abuse heaped on immigrants in mid 20th-century Japan. (Recommended by Sharon O’Sullivan, Pinball Wizard)

WHAT TO LISTEN TO

Southern Gothic — Spooky Stories From the Bayou. This podcast hasn’t made the headlines like S-Town did, but it explains the American South’s folklore and history — from the burning of Atlanta to the legend of Tennessee’s Bell Witch, which reportedly enjoyed having arguments about religious scripture.

This also scratches the true crime itch as it recounts stories (some of them about famous crimes) in a similar style to many popular true crime podcasts. And there is an entire miniseries on Southern cryptids like the rougarou, a Louisiana bayou werewolf. You won’t be able to inhale this fast enough. (Recommended by Perry Jeffries, OZY Fan)

And whatever you do, don’t do this …

Fart on other people, jeez. But if you DID, it’s not a form of bullying in Australia. That was the ruling of a court of appeals in Victoria state, after an engineer brought the case that his supervisor constantly farting on him counted as bullying. (Fox News)

SLIDE INTO OUR DMS

Do you have a killer potato salad recipe that you’d like to share? Think you discovered the next great jam band? Share your suggestions with us here at OZY! Email us: Weekender@ozy.com

It’s Hard Out There for a Middle-Class Pitcher

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This is the latest edition of OZY’s Huddle newsletter, which brings you a smart, flavorful conversation-starter for your next game watch party. No stale takes allowed. Add The Huddle to your OZY email subscriptions here.

Baseball’s middle class is dead. Gone are the days of the well-paid journeyman. Now, MLB roster building is about two things: superstars and cheap, young talent. For front offices, the pool of big-league quality youngsters is larger than ever before. For most players, paydays are harder to come by.

As Opening Day arrives, two star pitchers — Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel — remain unemployed, casualties of a free-agent market that players now fear. Countless veterans saw their values squeezed this winter, signing deals that previously would have gotten their agents fired, before a flurry of other big leaguers signed contract extensions in late March. No coincidence there: Players don’t want to hit free agency. Mike Trout’s $426 million extension made headlines, but deals like the one by someone named Brandon Lowe in Tampa (six years, $24 million) were more common. Why? Because the business of baseball is evolving.

Yeah, we all saw Moneyball.

This is next level. Thanks to improved development and technology that seems to extend down to T-ball, organizations are stocked with minor leaguers who are ready sooner for The Show. A record 1,379 players appeared in MLB games last season, the sixth straight annual increase. What’s better than paying large sums of money to proven free agents? Paying much less to dozens of players you’ve groomed for years. Add one blockbuster like Bryce Harper to the mix, and a dynamic young contender is born.

So tell your favorite journeyman you love him. Ten years ago, players couldn’t wait to reach free agency. Now, all that gets you is a pink slip and memories. Just ask Keuchel.

 

What to Watch & Pick ’Em

No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 1 North Carolina (Friday at 7:29pm ET on TBS). Two of the country’s hottest teams square off in what should be a high-scoring affair. Watch the point guards. UNC’s Coby White versus Auburn’s Jared Harper will be a battle. Who’s your pick? 

No. 3 Houston vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Friday at 9:59pm ET on TBS). Will Kentucky star P.J. Washington’s potential return from a sprained foot be the catalyst UK needs for a Final Four run? Not if Houston guard Corey Davis Jr. can help it. Who’s going to take it?

Ones to Watch

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Anne Van Dam of the Netherlands waves from the 18th hole of the 2017 Dubai Ladies Classic in December 2017 in Dubai.

Source David Cannon/Getty

Anne van Dam, LPGA Tour. Not only does van Dam have the sweetest swing on the LPGA Tour, but she might just hit the purest ball in all of golf. So says Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, at least. A 5-foot-11 23-year-old from the Netherlands, van Dam is turning heads with drives nearing 300 yards — she leads the Ladies European Tour with drives of 287 yards and ranks 10th in accuracy. Van Dam has won four European Tour tournaments since turning pro at 18 and is currently No. 66 in the Women’s World Golf Rankings. Entering her LPGA rookie season, van Dam is a force to be reckoned with.

Naz Reid, LSU Tigers. The biggest off-court story heading into March Madness was LSU head coach Will Wade’s suspension after being allegedly caught on an FBI wiretap discussing payment for players. Well, if Wade was loose with the rules, it was in pursuit of big-time players: Exhibit A is Naz Reid. A 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward, the former McDonald’s All-American is shooting up NBA draft boards with his smooth handles, deep shooting range and powerful play down low. The 19-year-old could be a lottery pick and, with a potential Elite Eight date ahead, his Tigers are one of the few remaining teams that can rival Duke in terms of NBA talent.

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Naz Reid #0 of the LSU Tigers takes a foul shot during the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament against the Yale Bulldogs on March 21, 2019, in Jacksonville, Florida.

Source Mitchell Layton/Getty

Trending Up

Olympic Skateboarding. With skateboarding making its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games, the United States just announced its first-ever national team. Former preteen viral phenom Nyjah Huston, now 24, leads the way in men’s street, alongside Chris Joslin. (Side note: Need a thrilling skate documentary? Check out Joslin’s three-part series Foundation.) Tom Schaar, the first skater to land a 1080, headlines the men’s park team, while the youngest gold medalist in X Games history, 14-year-old Brighton Zeuner, leads the women’s park team. Olympic inclusion is a historic moment for skateboarding, with the rebellious sport now undeniably mainstream.

Trending Down

Fastballs. We live in a world where 102-mph heaters happen on the daily and MLB teams have bullpens full of cannon-armed specialists, right? Yes and no. Pitchers throw harder now than in any point in recorded history (93 mph average velocity), but according to FanGraphs, those fastballs are being thrown less than ever before. Only 55 percent of all pitches thrown in the major leagues last year were a form of fastball, down from 64 percent as recently as 2003. That same year, sliders and cutters made up 14.6 percent of all pitches thrown. Last year, that was up to 22.6 percent. Put simply, Major League pitchers have never had such diverse repertoires, making pitch prediction nearly impossible. No wonder strikeouts are at an all-time high.

Read This

The NBA’s Best Defense? Daring Teams to Shoot, by Matt Foley in OZY

In the three-point-obsessed NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks are leading the league in alternative thinking, forcing the deep shots that they want you to take.

‘She Always Finds a Way’: 4 March Madness Mothers Tell Their Stories by Jonathan Gold in theScore

The road to the Sweet 16 isn’t easy. For these four college basketball players and the single mothers who ushered them along, the road to college basketball wasn’t either.

An Ice Marathon Across a Frozen Russian Lake: ‘I Ran Twice As Fast’ by Neil MacFarquhar in The New York Times

Marathon runners often use races to explore the world, and every March the Baikal Ice Marathon attracts a small group to the lake, both for its exotic beauty and the unpredictable, grueling conditions.

How the NBA Made Kelvin Sampson a Better Coach by Jenny Dial Creech in the Houston Chronicle

Sampson took an unusual road from the NBA head-coaching track to return to college for a rebuilding mission. But the lessons he brought have turned the Cougars into a contender.

Don’t Miss

Denver high school senior Francesca Belibi blew up the internet in January after throwing down the first alley-oop dunk in Colorado girls basketball history. On Tuesday night in Atlanta, the Stanford-bound player became the second girl ever (shoutout to Candace Parker) to win the McDonald’s All-American Game dunk contest.