“This is empty right now,” Mr. Pomeroy said, smoothly steering his white 2014 Ford Explorer (what he calls his “mobile command center”) past a swath of freshly paved asphalt. “But in the summer, and during the event in particular, there’s airplanes parked everywhere up here.”

Much like the activities of the conference, elements of the travel there are shrouded in secrecy. Many jets flying in are registered to obscure owners and limited liability companies, some with only winking references to their passengers. The jet that carried Mr. Kraft last year, for example, is registered under “Airkraft One Trust,” according to records from the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane that Mr. Bezos flew in on is registered to Poplar Glen, a Seattle firm.

Representatives for Mr. Kraft and Mr. Bezos declined to comment. Mr. Bezos is not expected to turn up at Sun Valley this year, according to an advance list of guests that was obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Pomeroy plans well in advance to deal with the intense air traffic generated by the conference, which he refers to obliquely as “the annual fly-in event.” Without proper organization, flocks of private jets could stack up in the airspace around Friedman, creating delays and diversions while pilots burn precious fuel.

That was the case for the 2016 conference, which coincided with Mr. Pomeroy’s first week on the job. That year, some aircraft circled overhead or sat on the tarmac for more than an hour and a half, waiting for the airspace and runway to clear.

“I saw airplanes literally lined up to take off from the north end of the field almost all the way down to the south end of the field,” Mr. Pomeroy said, referring to the 7,550-foot runway. “Tail to nose, all the way up the taxiway.”

After that episode, Mr. Pomeroy enlisted Greg Dyer, a former district manager at the F.A.A., to help unclutter the tarmac. The two coordinated with an F.A.A. hub in Salt Lake City to line up flights, sometimes 300 to 500 miles outside Sun Valley. For some flights, the staging begins before the planes take off.

“Before, it looked like an attack — it was just airplanes coming from all points of the compass, all trying to get here at the same time,” said Mr. Dyer, an airport consultant for Jviation-Woolpert.

Last year, delays were kept to a maximum of 20 minutes, and no commercial travelers missed connecting flights because of air traffic caused by the conference, Mr. Pomeroy said.

When moguls are forced to circle in the air, they often loiter in great style. Buyers willing to shell out tens of millions for a high-end private plane are unlikely to balk at an additional $650,000 to outfit the aircraft with Wi-Fi, said Lee Mindel, one of the founders of SheltonMindel, an architectural firm that has designed the interiors of Gulfstream and Bombardier private jets. Some owners, he said, have opted for bespoke flatware from Muriel Grateau in Paris, V’Soske rugs or other luxe features.

“If you have to ask what it costs, you really can’t afford to do it,” Mr. Mindel said.

During the pandemic, when commercial travel slowed because of restrictions, corporate jaunts increased among a subset of executives who didn’t want to be held back, said David Yermack, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He added that it might be cheaper in the long run to compensate chief executives with jet travel than pay them with cash.

“I think it was Napoleon who said, ‘When I realized people would lay down their lives for little pieces of colored ribbon, I knew I could conquer the world,’” Mr. Yermack said.

The glut of flights certainly raises practical concerns. The residents of Hailey, as well as nearby Ketchum and Sun Valley, have complained in the past about the noise created by the jets zooming into Friedman Memorial Airport.

To deal with the complaints, Mr. Pomeroy and the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority curtailed flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and limited the number of takeoffs and landings from the north, over the little city of Hailey.

Before the conference, Mr. Pomeroy sends a letter to incoming pilots about what to expect, admonishing them to keep the noise to a minimum.

“While the overwhelming majority of users during this event are respectful of our program and community, only a few operators who blatantly disregard our program, or who are negligent in educating themselves about our program, leave a negative impression on all of us,” Mr. Pomeroy wrote this year.

Allen & Company’s stinginess about some conference details extends to the airport. But Mr. Pomeroy and his team get enough information to conclude when the moguls will arrive and are about to leave town.

When the schmoozing is over next week, Mr. Pomeroy will begin the arduous task of ushering the corporate titans out of Idaho. Often that means closing the airport briefly to arrivals while they hustle out departures for an hour.

As the last jets get ready to leave, Mr. Pomeroy said, he and his team breathe a sigh of relief.

“Afterward, I am ready to hit the river for some serious fly-fishing for a day or two,” he said.

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How China Is Policing the Future

The more than 1.4 billion people living in China are constantly watched. They are recorded by police cameras that are everywhere, on street corners and subway ceilings, in hotel lobbies and apartment buildings. Their phones are tracked, their purchases are monitored, and their online chats are censored.

Now, even their future is under surveillance.

The latest generation of technology digs through the vast amounts of data collected on their daily activities to find patterns and aberrations, promising to predict crimes or protests before they happen. They target potential troublemakers in the eyes of the Chinese government — not only those with a criminal past but also vulnerable groups, including ethnic minorities, migrant workers and those with a history of mental illness.

They can warn the police if a victim of a fraud tries to travel to Beijing to petition the government for payment or a drug user makes too many calls to the same number. They can signal officers each time a person with a history of mental illness gets near a school.

automating systemic discrimination and political repression.

to quell ethnic unrest in the western region of Xinjiang and enforce some of the world’s most severe coronavirus lockdowns. The space for dissent, always limited, is rapidly disappearing.

“Big data should be used as an engine to power the innovative development of public security work and a new growth point for nurturing combat capabilities,” Mr. Xi said in 2019 at a national public security work meeting.

ChinaFile, an online magazine published by the Asia Society, which has systematically gathered years of records on government websites. Another set, describing software bought by the authorities in the port city of Tianjin to stop petitioners from going to neighboring Beijing, was provided by IPVM, a surveillance industry publication.

China’s Ministry of Public Security did not respond to requests for comment faxed to its headquarters in Beijing and six local departments across the country.

The new approach to surveillance is partly based on data-driven policing software from the United States and Europe, technology that rights groups say has encoded racism into decisions like which neighborhoods are most heavily policed and which prisoners get parole. China takes it to the extreme, tapping nationwide reservoirs of data that allow the police to operate with opacity and impunity.

Megvii, an artificial intelligence start-up, told Chinese state media that the surveillance system could give the police a search engine for crime, analyzing huge amounts of video footage to intuit patterns and warn the authorities about suspicious behavior. He explained that if cameras detected a person spending too much time at a train station, the system could flag a possible pickpocket.

Hikvision, that aims to predict protests. The system collects data on legions of Chinese petitioners, a general term in China that describes people who try to file complaints about local officials with higher authorities.

It then scores petitioners on the likelihood that they will travel to Beijing. In the future, the data will be used to train machine-learning models, according to a procurement document.

Local officials want to prevent such trips to avoid political embarrassment or exposure of wrongdoing. And the central government doesn’t want groups of disgruntled citizens gathering in the capital.

A Hikvision representative declined to comment on the system.

Under Mr. Xi, official efforts to control petitioners have grown increasingly invasive. Zekun Wang, a 32-year-old member of a group that for years sought redress over a real estate fraud, said the authorities in 2017 had intercepted fellow petitioners in Shanghai before they could even buy tickets to Beijing. He suspected that the authorities were watching their communications on the social media app WeChat.

The Hikvision system in Tianjin, which is run in cooperation with the police in nearby Beijing and Hebei Province, is more sophisticated.

The platform analyzes individuals’ likelihood to petition based on their social and family relationships, past trips and personal situations, according to the procurement document. It helps the police create a profile of each, with fields for officers to describe the temperament of the protester, including “paranoid,” “meticulous” and “short tempered.”

Many people who petition do so over government mishandling of a tragic accident or neglect in the case — all of which goes into the algorithm. “Increase a person’s early-warning risk level if they have low social status or went through a major tragedy,” reads the procurement document.

When the police in Zhouning, a rural county in Fujian Province, bought a new set of 439 cameras in 2018, they listed coordinates where each would go. Some hung above intersections and others near schools, according to a procurement document.

Nine were installed outside the homes of people with something in common: mental illness.

While some software tries to use data to uncover new threats, a more common type is based on the preconceived notions of the police. In over a hundred procurement documents reviewed by The Times, the surveillance targeted blacklists of “key persons.”

These people, according to some of the procurement documents, included those with mental illness, convicted criminals, fugitives, drug users, petitioners, suspected terrorists, political agitators and threats to social stability. Other systems targeted migrant workers, idle youths (teenagers without school or a job), ethnic minorities, foreigners and those infected with H.I.V.

The authorities decide who goes on the lists, and there is often no process to notify people when they do. Once individuals are in a database, they are rarely removed, said experts, who worried that the new technologies reinforce disparities within China, imposing surveillance on the least fortunate parts of its population.

In many cases the software goes further than simply targeting a population, allowing the authorities to set up digital tripwires that indicate a possible threat. In one Megvii presentation detailing a rival product by Yitu, the system’s interface allowed the police to devise their own early warnings.

With a simple fill-in-the-blank menu, the police can base alarms on specific parameters, including where a blacklisted person appears, when the person moves around, whether he or she meets with other blacklisted people and the frequency of certain activities. The police could set the system to send a warning each time two people with a history of drug use check into the same hotel or when four people with a history of protest enter the same park.

Yitu did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

In 2020 in the city of Nanning, the police bought software that could look for “more than three key people checking into the same or nearby hotels” and “a drug user calling a new out-of-town number frequently,” according to a bidding document. In Yangshuo, a tourist town famous for its otherworldly karst mountains, the authorities bought a system to alert them if a foreigner without a work permit spent too much time hanging around foreign-language schools or bars, an apparent effort to catch people overstaying their visas or working illegally.

In Shanghai, one party-run publication described how the authorities used software to identify those who exceeded normal water and electricity use. The system would send a “digital whistle” to the police when it found suspicious consumption patterns.

The tactic was likely designed to detect migrant workers, who often live together in close quarters to save money. In some places, the police consider them an elusive, and often impoverished, group who can bring crime into communities.

The automated alerts don’t result in the same level of police response. Often, the police give priority to warnings that point to political problems, like protests or other threats to social stability, said Suzanne E. Scoggins, a professor at Clark University who studies China’s policing.

At times, the police have stated outright the need to profile people. “Through the application of big data, we paint a picture of people and give them labels with different attributes,” Li Wei, a researcher at China’s national police university, said in a 2016 speech. “For those who receive one or more types of labels, we infer their identities and behavior, and then carry out targeted pre-emptive security measures.”

Mr. Zhang first started petitioning the government for compensation over the torture of his family during the Cultural Revolution. He has since petitioned over what he says is police targeting of his family.

As China has built out its techno-authoritarian tools, he has had to use spy movie tactics to circumvent surveillance that, he said, has become “high tech and Nazified.”

When he traveled to Beijing in January from his village in Shandong Province, he turned off his phone and paid for transportation in cash to minimize his digital footprint. He bought train tickets to the wrong destination to foil police tracking. He hired private drivers to get around checkpoints where his identification card would set off an alarm.

The system in Tianjin has a special feature for people like him who have “a certain awareness of anti-reconnaissance” and regularly change vehicles to evade detection, according to the police procurement document.

Whether or not he triggered the system, Mr. Zhang has noticed a change. Whenever he turns off his phone, he said, officers show up at his house to check that he hasn’t left on a new trip to Beijing.

Credit…Zhang Yuqiao

Even if police systems cannot accurately predict behavior, the authorities may consider them successful because of the threat, said Noam Yuchtman, an economics professor at the London School of Economics who has studied the impact of surveillance in China.

“In a context where there isn’t real political accountability,” having a surveillance system that frequently sends police officers “can work pretty well” at discouraging unrest, he said.

Once the metrics are set and the warnings are triggered, police officers have little flexibility, centralizing control. They are evaluated for their responsiveness to automated alarms and effectiveness at preventing protests, according to experts and public police reports.

The technology has encoded power imbalances. Some bidding documents refer to a “red list” of people whom the surveillance system must ignore.

One national procurement document said the function was for “people who need privacy protection or V.I.P. protection.” Another, from Guangdong Province, got more specific, stipulating that the red list was for government officials.

Mr. Zhang expressed frustration at the ways technology had cut off those in political power from regular people.

“The authorities do not seriously solve problems but do whatever it takes to silence the people who raise the problems,” he said. “This is a big step backward for society.”

Mr. Zhang said that he still believed in the power of technology to do good, but that in the wrong hands it could be a “scourge and a shackle.”

“In the past if you left your home and took to the countryside, all roads led to Beijing,” he said. “Now, the entire country is a net.”

Isabelle Qian and Aaron Krolik contributed research and reporting. Production by Agnes Chang and Alexander Cardia.

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Ukraine News: Russia Calls E.U. Move to Advance Ukraine’s Joining ‘Hostile’

Credit…Nariman El-Mofty/Associated Press

BRUSSELS — The European Union officially made Ukraine a candidate for membership on Thursday, signaling in the face of a devastating Russian military onslaught that it sees Ukraine’s future as lying in an embrace of the democratic West.

While Ukraine’s accession into the bloc could take a decade or more, the decision sends a powerful message of solidarity to Kyiv and a rebuke to Moscow, which has worked for more than a decade to keep Ukraine from building Western ties.

The step was seen as almost impossible mere weeks ago, not least because Ukraine was seen as too far behind in terms of eliminating corruption and instituting economic reforms.

But the decision to nonetheless give it candidate status was another leap for European nations that have been rapidly shedding preconceptions and reservations to back Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.

“Agreement,” Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said on Twitter. “A historic moment. Today marks a crucial step on your path towards the EU.”

Candidacy in the European Union, which the 27 E.U. leaders also granted to Moldova, is a milestone but little else. It signals that a nation is in position, if certain conditions are met, to begin a very detailed, painstaking and yearslong process of changes and negotiations with the bloc, with a view to eventually joining.

When that might happen depends on the readiness of the country in question, which must align itself institutionally, democratically, economically and legally to E.U. laws and norms. On average, the process has taken other countries about 10 years; Turkey has been a candidate for 21 years, but is unlikely to join.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine called the E.U. move “one of the most important decisions for Ukraine” in its 30 years as an independent state.

“This is the greatest step toward strengthening Europe that could be taken right now, in our time, and precisely in the context of the Russian war, which is testing our ability to preserve freedom and unity,” Mr. Zelensky wrote on Telegram.

The European Union began in 1952 as a free-trade bloc among a core six nations. It has grown through the years to not only include huge swaths of the European continent, but also to encompass policies far beyond trade and economics, although those remain its strongest and best-aligned types of joint work.

The war in Ukraine has forced the European Union into foreign policy, defense and military alignment, areas that it is both politically uncomfortable with and legally underqualified to address. Although no substitute for NATO, the bloc could in future years — by the time Ukraine actually joins — develop into more of a military union.

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy, the largest E.U. nations, gave a preview of the decision to grant candidate status to Ukraine in a visit last week to its capital, Kyiv. Still, a handful of member countries needed to be convinced that despite Ukraine’s unreadiness to join the union, it was vital to give it the prospect.

Important as the moment is for Ukraine, it is deeply significant for the European Union, too. Most members had been eager to keep the bloc from growing, partly because its 27 members already find it at times exceedingly hard to agree on key issues like democratic freedoms, economic overhauls and the role of the courts.

The bloc nearly doubled in size in the decade from 2004 to 2014, adding 13 members, many of them poorer former Soviet nations that swiftly gained access to wealthier labor markets and ample funding by the bloc.

That integration is still not complete, with several nations struggling with corruption, rule-of-law issues and economic backsliding. This calls into question the bloc’s capacity to absorb a country of Ukraine’s size and population.

Some European nations would have also liked to see Albania and North Macedonia, Balkan nations that have been candidates for more than a decade, admitted before Ukraine. Western Balkan leaders met with their E.U. counterparts earlier Thursday, but the meeting yielded no progress.

The move to grant Ukraine’s candidacy is bound to irritate Russia, which has described Ukraine’s aspirations to align itself with Western institutions like NATO and the European Union as a provocation and interference in its sphere of influence.

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Ukraine News: Civilians Are Urged to Flee Russian-Occupied Areas in South

Credit…Nariman El-Mofty/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said during a surprise trip to Ukraine on Tuesday that a veteran prosecutor known for investigating former Nazis would lead American efforts in tracking Russian war criminals.

Mr. Garland’s visit, part of scheduled stops in Poland and Paris this week, was intended to bolster U.S. and international support in helping Ukraine identify, apprehend and prosecute Russians involved in war crimes and other atrocities.

His overseas travel comes at a particularly tense moment in his tenure at the Justice Department, on a day of dramatic congressional testimony about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that prompted many Democrats to renew their call for him to prosecute former President Donald J. Trump and his allies.

Mr. Garland met for an hour with Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, in the village of Krakovets, about a mile from the border with Poland, to discuss the technical, forensic and legal support that the United States could provide, department officials said.

“The United States is sending an unmistakable message” to those who have committed atrocities, Mr. Garland said: “There is no place to hide.”

“We will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable,” he added.

After the meeting, Mr. Garland said he was tapping Eli Rosenbaum, the former director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, to create a war crimes accountability team that would work with Ukraine and international law enforcement groups.

Mr. Rosenbaum, 67, is best known for his work for the World Jewish Congress in the 1980s investigating the hidden history of Kurt Waldheim, a former United Nations secretary general whose army unit was implicated in war crimes against Jews and Yugoslavian partisans during World War II.

His work, during a 36-year career in the department, and in stints outside government, earned him the nickname “Nazi hunter” from historians, a sobriquet he dislikes.

In the department’s criminal division, Mr. Rosenbaum has also been instrumental in the prosecution and deportation of Nazis living in the United States and Jews who committed atrocities against their own people in concentration camps. In recent years, his portfolio has taken on a broader mission, as former Nazis die off, and now includes a wider array of human rights cases, at home and abroad.

The new team will include Justice Department staff members and outside experts. In addition to offering assistance to Ukrainian officials, the department said in a statement that Mr. Rosenbaum would investigate “potential war crimes over which the U.S. possesses jurisdiction, such as the killing and wounding of U.S. journalists covering the unprovoked Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

This line of work is, in a sense, part of Mr. Rosenbaum’s family business. His father, Irving, escaped Dresden in 1938, the year of the Kristallnacht attacks against Germany’s Jewish population, joined the U.S. Army, eventually served in an intelligence unit that interrogated German soldiers — and collected information at the Dachau concentration camp.

Mr. Rosenbaum was set to retire before Mr. Garland asked him about a week ago to lead the new unit. He agreed immediately, according to a senior Justice Department official with knowledge of the exchange.

The department is also assigning additional personnel to expand its work with Ukraine and other partners to counter Russian use of illicit financial methods to evade international sanctions — detailing a Justice Department expert to advise Ukraine on fighting kleptocracy, corruption and money laundering, officials said.

“We will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable,” added Mr. Garland, whose own family immigrated to the United States after fleeing antisemitic pogroms in Eastern Europe in the early 1900s.

After stopping in Poland, Mr. Garland flew on to Paris, where he was scheduled to join the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, in a series of bilateral meetings with European counterparts to discuss efforts to combat terrorism and carry out a strategy of holding Russia accountable for its brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Garland and Ms. Venediktova last met in May in Washington.

In April, Mr. Garland and the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, said they would work with investigators and prosecutors in Ukraine, a signal that the Biden administration intended to follow through on its public condemnation of atrocities committed by Russian forces that have been documented during the war.

His team has also been working with the State Department to provide logistical support and advice to Ms. Venediktova and the leaders of other ministries in Ukraine.

“We’ve seen and have determined that a number of war crimes have been committed by Russia’s forces,” Beth Van Schaack, the State Department’s ambassador at large for global criminal justice, said at a briefing in Washington last week.

“What we are seeing is not the results of a rogue unit,” she added, “but rather a pattern and practice across all the areas in which Russia’s forces are engaged.”

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Two Trends Slowing Housing Market Normalization, According to First American Potential Home Sales Model

SANTA ANA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), a premier provider of title, settlement and risk solutions for real estate transactions and the leader in the digital transformation of its industry, today released First American’s proprietary Potential Home Sales Model for the month of May 2022. The Potential Home Sales Model measures what the healthy market level of home sales should be based on economic, demographic, and housing market fundamentals.

May 2022 Potential Home Sales

Chief Economist Analysis: Market Potential for Existing-Home Sales down 10.5 percent year over year, but remains 2.5 percent above pre-pandemic level of May 2019

“The market potential for existing-home sales in May fell 2 percent to 5.62 million at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR), compared with last month, and is 10.5 percent lower than one year ago,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. “Yet, the market potential for home sales remains 2.5 percent higher than May 2019, before the pandemic hit.

“Home purchase demand is declining as mortgage rates rise alongside still-strong house price appreciation. While a decline in demand may reduce the pace of sales and lead to an increase in inventory, existing homeowners are less inclined to sell their homes as mortgage rates rise,” said Fleming. “Historically, nearly 90 percent of total inventory is existing-home inventory, and existing homeowners are staying put. Increasing the supply of homes for sale is key to slowing house price growth and restoring balance to the housing market.”

Existing Homeowners, the Immovable Object

“The amount of time a typical homeowner lives in their home increased 2 percent from one year ago, and 0.4 percent compared with last month, which was the largest month-over-month increase since August 2020 and contributed to a loss of 15,500 potential home sales compared with last month,” said Fleming. “Since existing homeowners supply the majority of the homes for sale, and homeowners are staying put longer, the housing market faces an ongoing supply shortage.

“Before the housing market crash in 2007, the average length of time someone lived in their home was approximately five years. During the aftermath of the housing market crisis between 2008 and 2016, the average length of time someone lived in their home grew to approximately eight years,” said Fleming. “The most recent data shows that the average length of time someone lives in their home reached a historic high of 10.6 years in May 2022.”

Two Trends Limiting Housing Supply and Housing Market Normalization

“Two trends are locking homeowners in place, preventing much-needed housing supply from reaching the market and helping tilt the market toward buyers. Many existing homeowners are rate locked-in to historically low, sub-3 percent mortgage rates, and now that rates are rising, there is a financial disincentive to sell their homes and buy a new home at a higher mortgage rate,” said Fleming. “The golden handcuffs of low mortgage rates prevent more supply from reaching the market.

“Seniors choosing to age in place, rather than downsize or move to another home, further limits housing supply. A 2019 study from Freddie Mac shows that if adults born between 1931-1959 behaved like earlier generations, they would have released nearly 1.6 million additional housing units to the market by 2018,” said Fleming. “As seniors continue to choose to age in place, there will be fewer existing homes available for sale. And, with many of these senior homeowners also locked into historically low mortgage rates and sitting on historically high levels of equity, it’s more likely they will renovate the home they currently own than list their home for sale and move.”

What Does it all Mean for the Housing Market?

“A moderation of house price growth will signal that balance is returning to the housing market. Yet, more housing supply is critical to meaningful moderation in house price appreciation. While rising mortgage rates will continue to cool demand, it will also keep existing homeowners locked into their homes,” said Fleming. “You can’t buy what’s not for sale — and existing homeowners have little incentive to relieve the supply pressure, keeping a lid on housing market normalization.”

Next Release

The next Potential Home Sales Model will be released on July 19, 2022 with June 2022 data.

About the Potential Home Sales Model

Potential home sales measures existing-homes sales, which include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate based on the historical relationship between existing-home sales and U.S. population demographic data, homeowner tenure, house-buying power in the U.S. economy, price trends in the U.S. housing market, and conditions in the financial market. When the actual level of existing-home sales are significantly above potential home sales, the pace of turnover is not supported by market fundamentals and there is an increased likelihood of a market correction. Conversely, seasonally adjusted, annualized rates of actual existing-home sales below the level of potential existing-home sales indicate market turnover is underperforming the rate fundamentally supported by the current conditions. Actual seasonally adjusted annualized existing-home sales may exceed or fall short of the potential rate of sales for a variety of reasons, including non-traditional market conditions, policy constraints and market participant behavior. Recent potential home sale estimates are subject to revision to reflect the most up-to-date information available on the economy, housing market and financial conditions. The Potential Home Sales model is published prior to the National Association of Realtors’ Existing-Home Sales report each month.

Disclaimer

Opinions, estimates, forecasts and other views contained in this page are those of First American’s Chief Economist, do not necessarily represent the views of First American or its management, should not be construed as indicating First American’s business prospects or expected results, and are subject to change without notice. Although the First American Economics team attempts to provide reliable, useful information, it does not guarantee that the information is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. © 2022 by First American. Information from this page may be used with proper attribution.

About First American

First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF) is a premier provider of title, settlement and risk solutions for real estate transactions. With its combination of financial strength and stability built over more than 130 years, innovative proprietary technologies, and unmatched data assets, the company is leading the digital transformation of its industry. First American also provides data products to the title industry and other third parties; valuation products and services; mortgage subservicing; home warranty products; banking, trust and wealth management services; and other related products and services. With total revenue of $9.2 billion in 2021, the company offers its products and services directly and through its agents throughout the United States and abroad. In 2022, First American was named one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For by Great Place to Work® and Fortune Magazine for the seventh consecutive year. More information about the company can be found at www.firstam.com. 

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Global Growth Will Be Choked Amid Inflation and War, World Bank Says

For large and small nations around the globe, the prospect of averting a recession is fading.

That grim prognosis came in a report Tuesday from the World Bank, which warned that the grinding war in Ukraine, supply chain chokeholds, Covid-related lockdowns in China, and dizzying rises in energy and food prices are exacting a growing toll on economies all along the income ladder. This suite of problems is “hammering growth,” David Malpass, the bank’s president, said in a statement. “For many countries, recession will be hard to avoid.”

World growth is expected to slow to 2.9 percent this year from 5.7 percent in 2021. The outlook, delivered in the bank’s Global Economic Prospects report, is not only darker than one produced six months ago, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also below the 3.6 percent forecast in April by the International Monetary Fund.

Growth is expected to remain muted next year. And for the remainder of this decade, it is forecast to fall below the average achieved in the previous decade.

poorer, hungrier and less secure.

Roughly 75 million more people will face extreme poverty than were expected to before the pandemic.

Per capita income in developing economies is also expected to fall 5 percent below where it was headed before the pandemic hit, the World Bank report said. At the same time, government debt loads are getting heavier, a burden that will grow as interest rates increase and raise the cost of borrowing.

“In Egypt more than half of the population is eligible for subsidized bread,” said Beata Javorcik, chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. “Now, that’s going to be much more expensive for government coffers, and it’s happening where countries are already more indebted than before.”

stock market’s woes. The conflict has caused​​ dizzying spikes in gas prices and product shortages, and is pushing Europe to reconsider its reliance on Russian energy sources.

“Insecurity and violence continue to weigh on the outlook” for many low-income countries, the World Bank said, while “more rapid increases in living costs risk further escalating social unrest.” Several studies have pointed to rising food prices as an important trigger for the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.

In Latin American and the Caribbean, growth is expected to slow to 2.5 percent from 6.7 percent last year. India’s total output is forecast to drop to 7.5 percent from 8.7 percent, while Japan’s is expected to remain flat at 1.7 percent.

The World Bank, founded in the shadow of World War II to help rebuild ravaged economies, provides financial support to low- and middle-income nations. It reiterated its familiar basket of remedies, which include limiting government spending, using interest rates to dampen inflation and avoiding trade restrictions, price controls and subsidies.

Managing to tame inflation without sending the economy into a tailspin is a difficult task no matter what the policy choices are — which is why the risks of stagflation are so high.

At the same time, the United States, the European Union and allies are struggling to isolate Russia, starving it of resources to wage war, without crippling their own economies. Many countries in Europe, including Germany and Hungary, are heavily dependent on either Russian oil or gas.

The string of disasters — the pandemic, droughts and war — is injecting a large dose of uncertainty and draining confidence.

Among its economic prescriptions, the World Bank underscored that leaders should make it a priority to use public spending to shield the most vulnerable people.

That protection includes blunting the impact of rising food and energy prices as well as ensuring that low-income countries have sufficient supplies of Covid vaccines. So far, only 14 percent of people in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated.

“Renewed outbreaks of Covid-19 remain a risk in all regions, particularly those with lower vaccination coverage,” the report said.

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Fierce street fighting in Ukraine’s Sievierodonetsk, a pivotal battle for Donbas

  • Fierce street fighting for key eastern industrial city
  • Ukraine troops outnumbered, will not surrender-Zelenskiy
  • Eastern front under constant shelling
  • Efforts to evacuate thousands

KYIV/DRUZHKIVKA, Ukraine, June 7 (Reuters) – Ukrainian troops battled Russians street-to-street in the ruins of Sievierodonetsk on Tuesday, trying to hold onto gains from a surprise counter-offensive that had reversed momentum in one of the bloodiest land battles of the war.

The fight for the small industrial city has emerged as a pivotal battle in eastern Ukraine, with Russia focusing its offensive might there in the hope of achieving one of its stated war aims – to fully capture surrounding Luhansk province on behalf of separatist proxies.

After withdrawing from nearly all the city in the face of the Russian advance, Ukrainian forces staged a surprise counter-attack last week, driving the Russians from a swath of the city centre. Since then, the two armies have faced off across boulevards, both claiming to have inflicted huge casualties.

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“Our heroes are not giving up positions in Sievierodonetsk,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an overnight video address, describing fierce street fighting in the city. Earlier, he told reporters at a briefing the Ukrainians were outnumbered but still had “every chance” of fighting back.

Before Ukraine’s counter-offensive, Russia had seemed on the verge of encircling Ukraine’s garrison in Luhansk province, cutting off the main road to Sievierodonetsk and its twin city Lysychansk across the Siverskiy Donets river.

But following the counter-offensive, Zelenskiy made a surprise visit to Lysychansk on Sunday, personally demonstrating that Kyiv still had an open route to its troops’ redoubt.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said Russia was throwing troops and equipment into its drive to capture Sievierodonetsk. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Monday the situation had worsened since the Ukrainian defenders had pushed back the Russians over the weekend.

REFOCUS

Luhansk and neighbouring Donetsk province, together known as the Donbas, have become Russia’s main focus since its forces were defeated at the outskirts of Kyiv in March and pushed back from the second biggest city Kharkiv last month.

Russia has been pressing from three main directions – east, north and south – to try to encircle the Ukrainians in the Donbas. Russia has made progress, but only slowly, failing to deal a decisive blow or to encircle the Ukrainians.

In its nightly update, the Ukrainian military said two civilians were killed in Russian shelling in the Donbas and Russian forces had fired at more than 20 communities, using artillery and air strikes.

In Druzhkivka, in the Ukrainian-held pocket of Donetsk province, residents were picking through the wreckage of houses obliterated by the latest shelling.

“Please help, we need materials for the roof, for the house, there are people without shelter,” shouted Nelya, outside her home where the roof had been shredded. “My niece, she has two small children, she had to cover one of her children with her own body.”

Nearby, Nadezhda picked up a children’s pink photo album and kindergarten exercise book from the ruins of her house, and put them on a shelf somehow still standing in the rubble.

“I do not even know where to start. I am standing here looking but I have no idea what to do. I start crying, I calm down, then I cry again.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, in what it calls a “special military operation” to stamp out what it sees as threats to its security. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war to grab territory.

CONSTANT SHELLING

Britain’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that Russia was still trying to cut off Sievierodonetsk by advancing from the north near Izium and from the south near Popasna. It said Russia’s progress from Popasna had stalled over the last week, while reports of heavy shelling near Izium suggested Moscow was preparing a new offensive there.

“Russia will almost certainly need to achieve a breakthrough on at least one of these axes to translate tactical gains to operational level success and progress towards its political objective of controlling all of Donetsk Oblast,” it said.

The Donetsk regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, told Ukrainian television there was constant shelling along the front line, with Russia attempting to push towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the two biggest Ukrainian-held cities in Donetsk.

Kyrylenko said efforts were underway to evacuate people from several towns, some under attack day and night, including Sloviansk where about 24,000 residents, around a quarter of the population, still remains.

“People are now understanding, though it is late, that it is time to leave,” he said.

Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest exporters of grain, and Western countries accuse Russia of creating risk of global famine by shutting Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Zelenskiy said Kyiv was gradually receiving “specific anti-ship systems”, and that these would be the best way to break a Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports.

Moscow denies blame for the food crisis, which it says was caused by Western sanctions.

Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vassily Nebenzia, stormed out of a U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday as European Council President Charles Michel, addressing the 15-member body, accused Moscow of fueling the global food crisis with its invasion of Ukraine. read more

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would respond to Western deliveries of long-range weapons by pushing Ukrainian forces further back from Russia’s border.

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Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Peter Graff
Editing by Gareth Jones
Editing by Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Ryanair forces South Africans to prove nationality with Afrikaans test

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  • Ryanair says move to curb entry of fraudulent passport holders
  • Afrikaans spoken by only 12% of South Africans
  • South African government clamping down on fake documents

DUBLIN/JOHANNESBURG, June 6 (Reuters) – Ryanair (RYA.I) is requiring South African passengers to prove their nationality before travelling by completing a test in Afrikaans, a language used by just 12% of the population that has long been identified with apartheid and the white minority.

Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers, which does not operate flights to and from South Africa, said it required any UK-bound passengers from the country to fill in the “simple questionnaire” due to what it described as a high prevalence of fraudulent South African passports.

“If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel and issued with a full refund,” a spokesman for the Irish airline said.

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South Africa’s Home Affairs department, which has warned of syndicates selling fake passports, said it would issue a statement on the Ryanair test.

The UK High Commission in South Africa said on Twitter that the Ryanair test was not a British government requirement to enter the United Kingdom. The Irish High Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The low cost carrier said the test would apply to any South African passport holder flying to Britain from another part of Europe on the carrier. The airline did not immediately respond to a query about why it would apply to those routes, given Britain says it is not a requirement.

Zinhle Novazi, a South African attorney, faced the test when travelling by Ryanair from Ibiza, Spain, to London on May 29.

Some of the questions include naming the highest mountain in South Africa, its largest city and one national holiday.

“I was able to answer the questions,” said Novazi, who learnt Afrikaans in school but is not a native speaker of the language. She was then allowed to board the plane.

Novazi wrote to South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation on June 1 but has not received a response.

The department did not respond to a request for comment.

The test triggered a backlash from South Africans in Johannesburg.

“It’s very discriminatory to a whole host of South Africans who don’t speak Afrikaans,” Siphiwe Gwala told Reuters.

“They’re using this (test) in a manner that is utterly absurd,” Conrad Steenkamp, the chief executive officer of the Afrikaans Language Council, said.

Afrikaans is the third most spoken of 11 official languages in South Africa, used by 12% of the 58 million people in the country. It has long been identified with the ideology of apartheid andwas considered the official language until the end of apartheid in 1994.

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Reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin, Promit Mukherjee and Nqobile Dludla in Johannesburg; Editing by Alison Williams and James Macharia Chege

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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What Happened on Day 100 of the War in Ukraine

One hundred days ago, before sunrise, Russia launched artillery strikes on Ukraine before sending troops racing toward major cities, beginning a war against a much smaller country and outnumbered military that seemed destined to quickly topple the government in Kyiv.

But the brutal invasion has ripped apart those predictions, reawakening old alliances, testing others and spreading death and destruction across the country. Both armies are now locked in fierce and bloody battles across a 600-mile-long front for control of Ukraine’s east and to gain the upper hand in the conflict.

The winner, if there is one, is not likely to emerge even in the next 100 days, analysts say. Some foresee an increasingly intractable struggle in eastern Ukraine and a growing confrontation between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the West.

New Western arms promised to Ukraine — such as long-range missiles announced by President Biden this week — could help it reclaim some towns, which would be significant for civilians in those areas, said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting organization. But they are unlikely to dramatically alter the course of the war, he said.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Squeezed by tightening Western sanctions, Russia, he said, was likely to retaliate with cyberattacks, espionage and disinformation campaigns. And a Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian grain is likely to worsen a food crisis in poor countries.

“What we’re looking at now is what the war in Ukraine is likely to look like in 100 days, not radically different,” Mr. Bremmer said. “But I think the confrontation with the West has the potential to be significantly worse.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said defiantly Friday that “victory will be ours,” and noted overnight that 50 foreign embassies had resumed “their full-fledged activities” in Kyiv, a sign of the fragile sense of normalcy returning to the capital.

Nevertheless, more than three months into a war that has radically altered Europe’s security calculus, killed thousands on both sides, displaced more than 12 million people and spurred a humanitarian crisis, Russian forces now control one-fifth of the country — an area greater than the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combined.

Asked during a briefing with reporters what Russia had achieved in Ukraine after 100 days, Dmitri S. Peskov, the presidential spokesman, said that many populated areas had been “liberated” from the Ukrainian military, whom he described as “Nazi-minded,” doubling down on a false narrative the Kremlin has used to justify the invasion.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday that the invasion had caused destruction that “defies comprehension,” adding, “It would be hard to exaggerate the toll that the international armed conflict in Ukraine has had on civilians over the last 100 days.”

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

More than 4,000 civilians have been killed since Feb. 24, according to U.N. estimates. Ukrainian officials place the death toll much higher.

The war has also set off the largest exodus of refugees in Europe since World War II. More than 8 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced, and more than 6.5 million have fled to other countries, according to the United Nations.

Half of Ukraine’s businesses have closed and 4.8 million jobs have been lost. The U.N. estimates the country’s economic output will fall by half this year. Ninety percent of the population risks falling near or below the poverty line. At least $100 billion in damage has been done to infrastructure.

“We may not have enough weapons, but we are resisting,” said Oleh Kubrianov, a Ukrainian soldier who lost his right leg fighting near the front line, speaking in a raspy voice as he lay in a hospital bed. He still had shrapnel lodged in his neck. “There are many more of us, and we are motivated, and convinced by our victory,” he said.

Indeed, a recent poll found that almost 80 percent of Ukrainians believe the country is “moving in the right direction.”

“The idea of Ukrainian identity expanded,” said Volodymyr Yermolenko, a Ukrainian writer, describing the national sentiment. “More people feel themselves Ukrainian, even those who were doubting their Ukrainian and European identity.”

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

Russia, too, is suffering from the invasion, geopolitically isolated and facing years of economic dislocation. Its banks have been cut off from Western finance, and with oil production already off by 15 percent, it is losing energy markets in Europe. Its industries are grappling with developing shortages of basic materials, spare parts and high-tech components.

The decisions by Finland and Sweden to abandon more than 70 years of neutrality and apply for membership in NATO have underscored the disastrous strategic costs of the invasion for Russia.

Major Western companies like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Nike have vanished, ostensibly to be replaced by Russian brands. The impact will be less noticeable outside major cities, but with nearly 1,000 foreign companies having left, some consumers have felt the difference as stocks ran low.

While existing stocks have kept much of the country ticking, Russia will soon have much more of a Soviet feel, reverting to an era when Western goods were nonexistent. Some importers will make a fortune bringing in everything from jeans to iPhones to spare engine parts, but the country will become much more self-contained.

“In Russia, the most important economic thing in the last 100 days is that Putin and the elite firmly settled on an autocratic, isolationist course, and the wider elite and public seem supportive,” said Konstantin Sonin, a Russian economist at the University of Chicago.

“It seems that the course is settled, and it will be hard to reverse even if the war ended miraculously quickly,” he added. The next step will likely be a return to more centralized economic planning, he predicted, with the government setting prices and taking over the allocation of certain scarce goods, particularly those needed for military production.

The war is reverberating globally as well. On Friday, Macky Sall, the president of Senegal and chairman of the African Union, appealed directly to Mr. Putin to release Ukraine’s grain as countries across Africa and the Middle East face alarming levels of hunger and starvation.

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

At a news conference with Mr. Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Mr. Sall also blamed Western sanctions on Russia for compounding Africa’s food crisis.

“Our countries, although they are far from the theater,” Mr. Sall said, “are victims of this crisis on an economic level.”

Tens of millions of people in Africa are on the brink of severe hunger and famine.

On Friday, Chad, a landlocked nation of 17 million people, declared a food emergency and the United Nations has warned that nearly a third of the country’s population would need humanitarian assistance this year.

For now, peace in Ukraine appears to be nowhere in sight.

On Friday, the skies around Sievierodonetsk, the last major city in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine still under Ukrainian control, were heavy with smoke as both armies traded blows in a fierce battle.

Ukrainian troops were moving heavy guns and howitzers along the roads toward the frontline, pouring men and armor into the fight. Russian rockets pummeled an area near Sievierodonetsk late Friday afternoon, landing with multiple heavy explosions that were audible from a nearby village. Missiles streaked through the sky from Ukrainian-held territory toward Russian positions.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, said both sides could become bogged down for months or years in a war of “positions,” rather than movement.

“This is not a bad scenario for Russia, which would maintain its country in a state of war and would wait for fatigue to win over the Westerners,” Mr. Tertrais wrote in a paper for the Institut Montaigne. Russia would already win to some degree, “by putting the occupied regions under its thumb for a long time.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Tertrais believes a progressive material and moral collapse of the Russian effort remains more probable, given Russian troops’ low morale and Ukraine’s general mobilization.

Amin Awad, the United Nations’ crisis coordinator for Ukraine, said that regardless of who wins the conflict, the toll has been “unacceptable.”

“This war has and will have no winner,” Mr. Awad said in a statement. “Rather, we have witnessed for 100 days what is lost: lives, homes, jobs and prospects.”

Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall, Dan Bilefsky, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Cassandra Vinograd, Elian Peltier and Kevin Granville.

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