While You Were Sleeping: May 2013 | National | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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While You Were Sleeping: May 2013 

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The combination of employment growth and tax increases has boosted federal revenues 13 percent in the first five months of the current fiscal year. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), the level of spending in the current fiscal year—fiscal 2013, which started last spring or summer for most states—has risen 2.2. percent from fiscal 2012, which is below the historical average of 5.6 percent growth per year. However, state revenues are growing more quickly than spending, which could see the decrease of state capital deficits. "It's likely most states will end the year with a slight surplus," said Brian Sigritz, NASBO's director of state fiscal studies. For example, North Dakota's projects a $1.6 billion surplus, Ohio expects a $1 billion surplus, and even coast states hit hardest by unemployment and the collapsing housing markets, like California, are on the mend due to spending cuts, higher taxes, and general recovery. However, due to slow growth and weather-related destruction, states in New England and the Northeast still need to make cuts in order to find fiscal balance. Researchers hope these surpluses will reverse the trend of governments and legislatures firing employees to find balance. For fiscal 2014, NASBO said almost every state is projecting a spending increase, and almost a dozen are cutting income taxes.
Source: Daily Beast

Research funded by the Institute for Market Transformation found that energy-efficient houses are 32 percent less likely to go into default when compared to equivalent homes without that rating. The group looked at 71,000 nationally representative owner-occupied single-family homes of which 21,000 had Energy Star certifications—control variables included size and age of the houses, neighborhood income, climate, home value, local unemployment rates, utility prices, and borrower credit scores. Looking at loans originating between 2002 and 2012, the group found the more energy-efficient the house, the lower its default risk was. Of the houses looked at, the homes had an average sale price of $218,461 for non-Energy Star homes and $221,919 for Energy Star homes. The homes also came from areas with an average income of $73,000 and an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent. Researchers also saw visible data differences—outside of efficiency—between the two groups that could explain the varying default rates, such as the happiness of energy-efficient homeowners, lower utility bills, and the tendency for green homes to be healthier, which could lower medical expenses.
Source: The Atlantic Cities

Two instances of sticky-fingered thieves stealing food in bulk occurred within one day of each other—the first in Germany and the second in Florida. On April 8, German thieves stole 5.5 tons of Nutella, which is estimated to be worth $21,710, from a parked trailer in Bad Hersfeld in central Germany. Deutsche-Presse Agentur, a German news agency, said the thieves have previously stolen energy drinks from the same location. On April 9, a Florida man stole a tracker trailer filled with $75,000 worth of Campbell's soup from a Central Florida truck stop. After traveling 30 miles Eusebio Diaz Acosta, 51, was arrested and charged with two counts of grand theft—one for the tractor trailer and the other for the cargo, which had a combined value of $350,000.
Sources: New York, Gawker, Sun Sentinel

In 2010, the cost of environmental degradation in China was about $230 billion, or 3.5 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, according to a study released by the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning—which is part of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The figure, which is 1.54 trillion renminbi in local currency terms, is based on costs arising from pollution and ecosystem damage during China's rapid industrialization. The estimate could be much higher according to economists because researchers did not have a full set of data. In late March, the Beijing government released details of a three-year plan aimed at curbing various forms of pollution. Beijing's Mayor Wang Anshun said that sewage treatment, garbage incineration, and forestry develop would cost at least $16 billion. Environmental deterioration—including air, water, and soil pollution—has become a concern to many Chinese citizens. While foreign scholars have criticized the methods of the Chinese researchers, the consensus is that China's decades of double-digit economic growth has exacted an enormous environmental cost—which would only continue to increase due to expected coal consumption and the boom in automobile sales.
Source: New York Times

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