The Mild West
August 17, 2022
Some Good News
- In a world first, Scotland offers tampons and pads for free (WaPo, $)
- Georgia high school football players save woman stuck in car after crash (CBS)
“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” – Buddha
The Mild West
America remains one of the last countries where many individuals own colossal swaths of land, some controlling acreage larger than Delaware. The West – where the notion of American exceptionalism and pioneer masculinity are burnished in myth, movies, and television – holds an enduring allure for modern land barons. A dazzling ranch has become a weekend oasis for rich (mostly) men to realize their cowboy dreams. Some owners accumulate a collection of ranches to satisfy seasonal needs the way other people acquire jackets: a quail hunting ranch in Georgia for the winter; a Montana ranch for the spring and summer.
Legendary ranch broker Jim Taylor has spent half a century crisscrossing the Continental Divide through Wyoming, Idaho, and his native Montana, assisting the fabulously wealthy to spend millions on their rustic life. The coronavirus pandemic prompted a furious Western land grab, sparking bidding wars among moguls fleeing cities for wide open spaces. The U.S. has 735 billionaires and plenty of quasi-billionaires, and many of them are buying. According to the Land Report, the publication of private land ownership, in 2007, the 100 largest private landowners owned a combined 27 million acres of property. By 2021, they controlled 42.2 million acres, a 56% increase. “When people strike it rich, they want a big parcel of land,” says report editor Eric O’Keefe. And it’s not just for indulging boyhood fantasies – these hefty parcels help diversify portfolios when the stock market sinks, and are especially attractive in Wyoming, where there’s no inheritance, gift, personal, or corporate income tax.
In 2020, Taylor’s firm completed $1 billion in sales, and that more than doubled in 2021. Land adjacent to a national park or forest is particularly coveted because owners can score a conservation easement, which limits development on the land and provides generous tax benefits. Yale professor Justin Farrell, author of Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West, says expensive land purchases “represent an enormous social, economic and environmental transformation of the region. Not a lot of people are invested in the community.” Large ranch owners contribute relatively little in taxes in Farrell’s native Wyoming, and decrease the availability of land for affordable housing. “Extreme rural gentrification does not help communities to flourish. It makes it impossible to live there.” (WaPo ($), Land Report)
Dial M For Manipulation
- The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) is a self-proclaimed, unrecognized, pro-Russian industrial region in eastern Ukraine. Three Britons and two E.U. citizens captured in the DPR by Russian forces have gone on trial in the city of Donetsk in a court administered by Kremlin-backed separatists.
- All five pleaded not guilty to charges of being mercenaries and “undergoing training to seize power by force.” Their next court hearing will be in October. Last June, the DPR’s supreme court sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan to death for being mercenaries.
- Russia has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 1997, but it doesn’t apply in the two separatist regions in Ukraine. Speculation on Ukrainian social media is that Russia may seek to use the foreign fighters to extract concessions from Kyiv, or swap them for Russian prisoners. (Guardian)
Any Port In A Diplomatic Storm
- In 2017, after Sri Lanka failed to repay its debts to China, the government leased its Hambantota International Port to state-owned China Merchants Port Holdings. Beijing sees the port as a potential strategic foothold for the Chinese navy to project power into the Indian Ocean and Middle East. The U.S. condemned the port’s transfer as a prime example of China’s harmful lending practices and its growing influence over the island nation.
- Since July, a 730-foot-long Chinese satellite-tracking vessel, the Yuan Wang 5, has been sailing from China to Hambantota port on the southern tip of Sri Lanka after officials approved a stop there for “replenishment.” Indian and U.S. officials strongly pressured the Sri Lanka government to revoke access to the port, infuriating their Chinese counterparts and putting the economically devastated island nation in a diplomatic tug-of-war between major financial supporters.
- On Tuesday, the Yuan Wang 5, carrying 2,000 soldiers, docked at the Hambantota Port. It was welcomed in a traditional Sri Lankan ceremony attended by Chinese and Sri Lankan dignitaries, marking a small triumph for Beijing over India and the U.S. (NYT ($), WaPo ($))
Additional World News
- Myanmar court convicts Suu Kyi on more corruption charges (ABC)
- Human remains reportedly found in suitcases bought at New Zealand auction (Guardian)
- U.S.-Russia nuclear war could starve 5 billion to death, study says (WaPo, $)
- Kenya election 2022 results: William Ruto declared winner of presidential vote (CNN)
- The world’s economic engine is sputtering (Axios)
- German fighter jets on marathon 24-hour flight to Singapore (Al Jazeera)
Federal Bureau Of Indignation
- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis began a rally tour of battleground states by attending an event in Phoenix over the weekend for Arizona Senate nominee Blake Masters and gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake. He spent a good portion of his roughly 46-minute appearance lambasting the FBI search on Mar-a-Lago.
- Without explicitly mentioning Donald Trump by name, he said the search was another example of agencies being “weaponized to be used against people that the government doesn’t like.” Attendees in Phoenix were energized, and some clearly angered, by every mention of the FBI’s search and seizure of documents at Mar-a-Lago.
- Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, used his warm-up speaking slot to argue the raid has only made Trump more popular. Lake, a staunch Trump supporter and former TV journalist who won the GOP primary on August 2, said the FBI agents were “politically motivated.” (CBS)
Why Is It Always Florida?
- Florida law requires written consent from a parent or guardian to terminate a minor’s up-to-15-week pregnancy. On August 10, a Republican juvenile court judge in Florida ruled a pregnant, parentless 16-year-old girl was not “sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.”
- The girl, then 10 weeks pregnant, appealed the decision. She hand wrote her petition, saying she wasn’t ready to have a baby, didn’t have a job, was still in school, and the father was unable to assist her. The teenager lives with relatives but does have a guardian, whom she claimed was “fine” with whatever the child wanted to do.
- However, in Monday’s ruling, the appellate panel agreed with the trial judge that the girl “had not established by clear and convincing evidence that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.” It’s even more unclear why, if the guardian is “fine” with what the teen wants to do, they don’t just give written consent for the procedure to satisfy Florida law. Absent written consent, this young girl will be forced to abandon her plans and give birth to a baby she can’t care for. (NBC)
Additional USA News
- Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: Former fire captain repeatedly walked off the witness stand during testimony (CNN)
- Colorado River cuts expected for Arizona, Nevada and Mexico (NPR)
- U.S. carries out ICBM test delayed during Chinese show-of-force over Taiwan (Reuters)
- Alaska vote tests Trump’s influence, Palin’s bid and a new election system (WaPo, $)
- Migrant Apprehensions Surpass a Fiscal Year Record (NYT, $)
- Trump Organization CFO expected to plead guilty in New York tax evasion case (LAT, $)
A Novel Idea
- Librarians have been under a lot of pressure lately, considering some Texas evangelicals want them arrested for providing pornography to children. So it’s nice to hear about a librarian getting recognized in a positive light. For years Sharon McKellar of the Oakland Public Library has been collecting forgotten mementos left in library books, from old family photos, notes, coupons, recipes, and concert tickets to a kid’s drawing of his dad with devil horns. It started out as her personal collection but grew when other library staff started submitting their artifacts. Then she got the idea to start the “Found in a Library Book” project – an online database of all the things found in books at the Oakland, California library.
- McKellar has added 370 artifacts to the library’s online collection, but has a couple hundred more to upload. Besides kids’ drawings, there are notes, like one that reads: “Dear librarian, those three kids over there are making too much noise, and I can’t read and my friend can’t do his homework.” Some are book reviews left behind for the next reader, like: “I loved this book. It stole my heart and made me cry. When you find tear stains, you will know they are mine. Enjoy.” Other artifacts are less profound: an old playing card, a luggage tag, a Big Red gum wrapper, a coupon for pizza, a pre-paid phone card from Vietnam, and all types of bookmarks.
- McKellar said that while the origins of the forgotten artifacts remain a mystery, some people have recognized items on the online database. The project is fairly new, but McKellar hopes it inspires people to dive into books at their local library, because you never know what you’ll find: maybe an old baby photo, a ticket to a 2004 Oakland A’s game, or a map of Japan, all of which were found in a library book. (Daily Pnut, Oakland Library, CBS)
- How can we help humans thrive trillions of years from now? This philosopher has a plan (NPR)
- Divers say they’ve found wreckage of the first U.S. Navy destroyer ever sunk by enemy fire (CBS)
- The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score (NYT, $)
- Airplane part falls from sky, nearly hitting Maine Capitol Police worker (NBC)
- Red panda found in fig tree after escaping Australian zoo (AP)
- The Academy apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather for her treatment at the 1973 Oscars (NPR)
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