• Predicted deaths range from 4,000 to half a million
Sunday, March 20, 2011
• Predicted deaths range from 4,000 to half a million
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- It's not always easy to feel sorry for sunny Florida. But they just got hit with another blow.
On Thursday, the Census Bureau revealed that 18% -- or 1.6 million -- of the Sunshine State's homes are sitting vacant. That's a rise of more than 63% over the past 10 years.
Having this amount of oversupply on the market will keep home prices depressed and slow any recovery.
During the housing boom, Florida was among the hottest real estate markets in the nation. Homes were snapped up by the state's growing population as well as hordes of investors confident that prices would continue to soar.
"You'd drive through downtown Miami and see 30 or 40 cranes sticking up in the air," said Michael Larson, a housing market analyst for Weiss Research.
The bust brought an end to that. Development ground to a halt. Retirees stopped relocating. And prices started falling and vacancies rising.
"Housing went from being the preeminent investment of choice to toxic waste," added Richard DeKaser, an economist with the Parthenon Group.
The vacancy problem is more dire in Florida than in any other bubble market: In California, only 8% of units were vacant, while Nevada, the state with the nation's highest foreclosure rate, had about 14% sitting empty. Arizona had a vacancy rate of about 16%.
In Florida, the worst-hit county is Collier -- home of Naples -- with a whopping 32% of homes empty. In Sarasota County, 23% of the housing stock sits vacant, while Lee County (Cape Coral) has a 30% vacancy rate. And Miami-Dade County has a vacancy rate of about 12%.
The housing recovery will take years, perhaps many years, to complete, according to Ingo Winzer, a housing market analyst and founder of Local Market Monitor.
Not helping is the the fact that the state's rate of population growth slowed in the second half of the last decade to just 5.7%. Still, the 2000s saw the state population grow overall by nearly 18%, the Census Bureau reported. I
"It will take about eight years just to put the vacancy numbers back into the single digits," said DeKaser.
The inventory overhang has sent home prices plunging. The median price for homes sold in January was just $122,000, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. That was down 7% from 12 months earlier and less than half the price at the peak of the market.
Winzer thinks prices in Florida will drop even more, another 5% in 2011 and 3% in 2012. "Even after that, they're not going to rebound, they'll just sit on the bottom," he said.
Celia Chen, a housing market analyst for Moody's Analytics, is also downbeat in her forecasts for Florida. Not only will prices fall another 11%, she said, but the bottom won't hit until mid-2012, about a year later than the nation as a whole. Some metro areas won't get back to their pre-recession peaks until long after the present owners are old and gray.
She doesn't expect Naples, for example, to come all the way back until the late 2030s. Other Florida metro areas with a 20-year wait or longer include Punta Gorda, Palm Bay and North Port.
AT&T has started to issue warnings to customers unofficially tethering their smartphones to its network. In an email to unauthorized tetherers, the company writes, “Our records show that you use this capability, but are not subscribed to our tethering plan.” The correspondence goes on to note that users will be automatically enrolled in the $45 per month “DataPro for Smartphone Tethering” plan if they ignore the warning. “The new plan – whether you sign up on your own or we automatically enroll you – will replace your current smartphone data plan, including if you are on an unlimited data plan,” the email continues. The standard DataPro offering is $25 per month and provides users with 2GB of monthly data, although some users are still clinging to a discontinued, $30 per month 5GB data plan. It is safe to assume that a large portion of the unofficial, tethering populous is jailbroken iPhone users and rooted Android users. “If you discontinue tethering, no changes to your current plan will be required.” A copy of the email tethering-cheaters are receiving is after the break.
Dear [Name of Account Holder],
We’ve noticed your service plan may need updating.
Many AT&T customers use their smartphones as a broadband connection for other devices, like laptops, netbooks or other smartphones– a practice commonly known as tethering. Tethering can be an efficient way for our customers to enjoy the benefits of AT&T’s mobile broadband network and use more than one device to stay in touch with important people and information. To take advantage of this feature, we require that in addition to a data plan, you also have a tethering plan.
Our records show that you use this capability, but are not subscribed to our tethering plan.
If you would like to continue tethering, please log into your account online at www.wireless.att.com, or call us at 1-888-860-6789 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-860-6789 end_of_the_skype_highlighting Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. CST or Saturday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. CST, by March 27, 2011 to sign up for DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering. Here are details on the plan:
DataPro 4GB for Smartphone Tethering
- $45 per month (this gives you 4GB in total, combining both your smartphone data plan for $25 and the tethering feature, $20)
- $10 per each additional GB thereafter, added automatically as needed
- Mobile Hotspot capabilities are included for compatible Smartphones
If we don’t hear from you, we’ll plan to automatically enroll you into DataPro 4GB after March 27, 2011. The new plan – whether you sign up on your own or we automatically enroll you – will replace your current smartphone data plan, including if you are on an unlimited data plan.
If you discontinue tethering, no changes to your current plan will be required.
It’s easy to track your usage throughout the month so there are no bill surprises. For example, we send you free text messages when you reach 65, 90, and 100 percent of your plan’s threshold. If you would like to monitor your account more closely, go to www.att.com/dataplans to learn about other ways to track your data usage.
As a reminder, our smartphone data plans also include unlimited usage of Wi-Fi at no additional charge. AT&T smartphone customers can use Wi-Fi at home or on-the-go at any one of our more than 23,000 U.S. hotspots already included in your data plan.
Thank you for bringing your account up to date. We appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve your mobile broadband needs.
WASHINGTON—U.S. government officials, in private sessions on Capitol Hill Friday, repeatedly declined to give details of radiation measurements at the stricken Japanese nuclear complex, saying the situation is shrouded in a “fog of war.”
Separately, the Obama administration said Friday “miniscule quantities” of radiation from the Japanese nuclear accident were detected Friday at a monitoring station in Sacramento, Calif., a day after similar traces of radiation were detected in Washington state.
The administration said the levels of the radioactive isotope xenon 133 were approximately equivalent to one-millionth the dose received from the sun, rocks or other natural sources.
The Obama administration’s reluctance to detail in public what it is learning from radiation-detection operations around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi complex in Japan highlights a broader sensitivity in the U.S.’s posture toward a stricken ally.
In a phone call from his headquarters in Hawaii, Admiral Robert Willard told reporters at the Pentagon everything possible must be done to avoid the worst case scenario.
"That would be a situation where the recovery effort to keep the cores covered in these reactors would ever be abandoned. And we believe that that can't happen, that we must do everything required to keep water and cooling affecting these reactors," said Willard.
Japanese engineers working in and near the reactors have had difficulty keeping the reactor cores cooled and spent fuel rods covered with water. If they fail in that effort, large amounts of radiation would be released, creating a contamination cloud that could affect millions of people in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
But Admiral Willard says reports he has received indicate the team at the reactors had more success on Thursday and he is "cautiously optimistic" a full meltdown of the nuclear fuel will be avoided. He indicated he will send more forces into the most dangerous area near the reactors to help if necessary.
"We, when necessary, will conduct operations inside that radius, when they're in support of the Japanese Defense Forces," he said. "So while U.S. citizens are constrained from operating in there, my forces are not, when they're needed to conduct humanitarian assistance, disaster response or logistics support to our Japanese friends or to our own forces or any other forces that we happen to be supporting."
Admiral Willard has 15 ships and thousands of naval, ground and air force personnel working to help Japan deal with the damaged nuclear reactors and the humanitarian crisis caused by the earthquake and tsunami. And he has unmanned, remotely controlled aircraft that can fly close to the reactors to gather data without endangering any pilots.
He also has a small team working with Japanese officials to assess the danger in areas near the reactors, and he has 450 more experts in radiological contamination on alert to be deployed to Japan if needed.
In addition, all U.S. aircraft and ships in the area have sensors on them, and any data on radiological contamination is immediately shared with the U.S. and Japanese governments.
Admiral Willard says he is in regular contact with Japan's top military officer, General Ryoichi Oriki, and the U.S. commander in Japan is sharing a headquarters with the Japanese disaster relief commander. Willard says the American and Japanese militaries are well prepared to work together in such a situation after decades of close relations and joint exercises.
"Exercise in disaster response and humanitarian assistance is part of our regular exercise series, and then together we go beyond that to become truly two interoperable militaries," he said.
Willard calls the current joint relief effort a "natural fit", but he acknowledges that the triple disasters - the earthquake, tsunami and meltdown threat - go beyond anything the two militaries have ever practiced dealing with.
The fuel rods at all six reactors at the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi complex contain plutonium — better known as fuel for nuclear weapons. While plutonium is more toxic than uranium, other radioactive elements leaking out are likely to be of greater danger to the general public.
Only six percent of the fuel rods at the plant’s Unit 3 were a mixture of plutonium-239 and uranium-235 when first put into operation. The fuel in other reactors is only uranium, but even there, plutonium is created during the fission process.
This means the fuel in all of the stricken reactors and spent fuel pools contain plutonium.
Plutonium is indeed nasty stuff, especially damaging to lungs and kidneys. It is also less stable than uranium and can more easily spark a dangerous nuclear chain reaction.
A grassroots movement of Americans using reports leaking out of Japan, the internet and critical thinking skills have become more than jittery awaiting truth from government about the risk of radioactive material drifting over the United States from Fukushima. Some are now demanding their human right to know and to live as the first amounts of nuclear fallout have reached California and even mid-west states, now 10 times the level of east coast states.
A radiation map on the U.S. Environmental Protection Service showing radiation levels at measuring stations across the United States indicates "a disturbing pattern showing gamma radiation levels along the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii at two to ten times levels on the East Coast, with midwest states in mid-ranges." (See: GAMMA RADIATION LEVELS ON WEST COAST 2 T0 10 TIMES LEVELS ON EAST COAST - GOOGLE CACHE OF THE STORY THAT WAS DELETED, East County Magazine, March 18, 2011, posted on What Really Happened)
CTV News in British Columbia reports on existing indications that meltdowns have occurred and the Japanese government admits the Fukushima nuclear 'crisis' has reached Level 5 indicating "wider consequences."
"In fact, CTV's Tom Walters reported that the change in rating on the INES scale is 'a recognition and acknowledgement that there have been meltdowns -- or partial meltdowns -- occurring in one or more of these reactors,'" reports CTV News.
Japanese officials have now acknowledged that the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe is "more severe than initially believed," according to CTV.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan told reporters Friday that "the situation is 'very grave' at the power plant where several reactors remain at risk of melting down."
Kan claims that everything has been disclosed to the Japanese public.
"We have shared what we know with the international community and I would like to stress that point," according to an English language translation of his remarks on NHK reported by CTV.
People in Japan think otherwise. In desperation for truth, one man in Japan posted a video showing what Japanese TV is reporting: happy faces, game shows and business as usual. (See Youtube: Nuclear Emergency - Fukushima nuclear reactor - JAPAN LIES !!!! 15-03-2011 WE WANT THE TRUTH, www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgTSlBHKb78&feature=youtube_gdata_player)
Many Japanese remain concerned about what they are being told about the nuclear crisis, wondering if they are getting the full picture.
Yaeko Sato, 57, told an Associated Press reporter that she is tired of not knowing what is going on.
'All we hear are rumours,' she said.