Owning is cheaper than renting in much of the GOUSA

Jared Whalen/Axios

Owning a median-priced home is more affordable than the average rent on a three-bedroom property in 58% of the U.S., a new report says.

There’s a big city/suburban divide, though: Renting makes more sense in big metropolitan areas, while homeownership wins out in rural areas and suburbs, where property prices are lower…

Driving the news: A new report by ATTOM, the big real estate database company, shows that the more populous a county, the more likely it is that renting will be cheaper than owning, and vice versa…

“The good news is that for average wage earners who can afford a down payment, owning in a majority of the country takes a smaller percentage of their income and offers a chance to build equity and wealth,” says Todd Teta, chief product officer at ATTOM.

Not completely unusual. This was the decision I had to confront back in New England decades ago – when I ended up buying a home for the first time.

A useful article.

How Iceland radically cut teenage drug use

❝ Walking with me are Gudberg Jónsson, a local psychologist, and Harvey Milkman, an American psychology professor who teaches for part of the year at Reykjavik University. Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. “You couldn’t walk the streets in downtown Reykjavik on a Friday night because it felt unsafe,” adds Milkman. “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.”…

❝ In 1991, Milkman was invited to Iceland to talk about this work, his findings and ideas. He became a consultant to the first residential drug treatment centre for adolescents in Iceland, in a town called Tindar. “It was designed around the idea of giving kids better things to do,” he explains. It was here that he met Gudberg, who was then a psychology undergraduate and a volunteer at Tindar. They have been close friends ever since…

Milkman started coming regularly to Iceland and giving talks. These talks, and Tindar, attracted the attention of a young researcher at the University of Iceland, called Inga Dóra Sigfúsdóttir. She wondered: what if you could use healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol as part of a programme not to treat kids with problems, but to stop kids drinking or taking drugs in the first place?

A useful read. Could be a guide to programs in many countries including the GOUSA. Not that I’m optimistic about any science and reason-based programs getting anywhere – here – in the near future. But, this sounds worthwhile and adaptable to local and regional priorities.

Woman ate only at Starbucks for a year — and lost weight

A Seattle woman named Beautiful Existence said she ate nothing but Starbucks food in 2013, at a cost of more than $7,000 — about $20 a day.

Existence said she challenged herself to eat only foods purchased at Starbucks during 2013 and she managed to lose weight on the diet…

The woman, whose challenges in previous years included shopping only at Goodwill for the year 2011 and applying articles from Parents magazine to her family life in 2012, said she does not think her Starbucks diet was unhealthy.

“Starbucks puts together menu items and protein bistro boxes and you know as long as you’re active and as long as you really monitor the intake of your calories, you absolutely can lose weight and I did,” she said.

Existence said her 2014 challenge is to try out as many recreational sports as she can during the year.

In other words, regardless of culture, context and opportunity – educated and sensible choices in nutrition and exercise work well.

Obama administration wants a smaller federal role in mortgages

The Obama administration’s much-anticipated report on redesigning the government’s role in housing finance, published Friday, is not solely a proposal to dissolve the unpopular finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It is also a more audacious call for the federal government to cut back its broadly popular, long-running campaign to help Americans own homes. The three ideas that the report outlines for replacing Fannie and Freddie all would raise the cost of mortgage loans and push homeownership beyond the reach of some families.

That fact is already generating opposition in Congress and among groups like community banks and consumer advocates.

But administration officials said they had concluded the country could no longer afford to sustain its commitment to minting homeowners. Better to help some people rent…

Which was the conclusion Clinton should have considered IMHO instead of lowering the bar, diminishing due diligence in mortgage loan requirements. Couple that with Republican deregulation, removal of oversight in combination with their bubbas on Wall Street designing mythical investment instruments for private trades – and you’re looking at the roots of the Great Recession.

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William & Mary College’s homecoming queen is transgender

History was made without fanfare on Saturday.

Jessee Vasold, William and Mary’s first transgender homecoming queen, took the field at halftime of the Tribe’s game against James Madison wearing a red shirt, black pants and a small silver lip ring to applause and not much other notice.

Vasold, a junior, and the other members of the homecoming court were introduced to the crowd, posed for pictures, and walked off the field…

Vasold identifies as “gender-queer,” a catch-all term for those who identify with something other than traditional male or female gender roles.

Normally, it really just depends on the day, how I dress,” said Vasold, who prefers gender neutral pronouns – “ze” instead of he or she and “zir” instead of him or her. “I don’t identify as a woman. It really just depends on the day and the occasion…”

William and Mary president Taylor Reveley had no problem with Vasold’s selection, made in nominations and voting by students.

“I knew Jessee before,” he said. “(It’s) a little more publicity than normal for a homecoming queen, but it’s just fine…”

Not unusual – is the way a person’s lifestyle choices should be accepted. Something that so-called Libertarians should be called upon to respect.

As for the bigots and backwards, well, sorting out those hangups is someone else’s job – not mine. Like Dr. King famously said – and I paraphrase – I’m not working to get fools to love everybody, just quit lynching people they hate.

What do you eat at your desk and what does that say about you?

The one thing we all like to do at our desks is eat. But what should we eat? It’s a question to ponder, because the food you consume, rather like the clothes you wear, says a lot about you. And just as you wouldn’t wear day-glo leg-warmers to minute a meeting of the board of directors, so you’d be ill-advised to spend each lunchtime with a polystyrene box of doner meat and chips, criss-crossed artistically with ketchup, and expect that big promotion to be in the bag. Some foods ooze professional kudos. Other foods just, well, ooze.

So what are the good, the bad and the ugly of desk-top delicacies? Top of the list of pariahs comes smelly food – burgers, kebabs, hot dogs, saveloys and the like. In fact, any food which is normally consumed after four or five stiff drinks is best avoided at your desk.

Next there is kiddy food. Most of us have a hankering for the tastes of our childhood from time to time but indulge in infantile treats on a daily basis and people will start to question whether you’re really mature enough to have responsibility for … well, anything. If you need to kick-start the day with an outsize bowl of Coco Pops, do it in the privacy of your own home. And if you have a mother who is still willing to make you sandwiches with the crusts cut off on a daily basis, that might not be something to shout about.

And then there’s the problem of noisy food. A perfectly ripe peach is a lovely thing – but is almost impossible to eat without making disgusting slurping noises and getting juice all over your face and/or clothes.

But that’s the problem with eating – it tends to be a messy business, especially when your mind is on other things, even if you’ve packed the most carefully chosen non-smelly, non-kiddy, non-noisy items.

All my years on the road required developing survival skills – like how to eat a chile dog without turning my shirt and slacks into an advert for organic spot remover. While not running off the freeway at 80 mph.