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Skyrocketing Rent Is Driving Inflation

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Democrats, we are told to believe, are very serious about inflation. The Biden administration has said it will “give the Fed the space and the independence to do its job,” namely to hike rates by historic amounts, risking the degradation of a robust job market and the inducement of a recession, despite little indication that the interest rate will fix supply chain problems. When gas prices surged, House Democrats came together to pass the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, and last week, the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act. When airline tickets soared in cost, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg hauled the CEOs of the major airlines to a meeting for questioning (though doing anything about it is another matter). It’s been reported that the White House is considering sending Americans rebate cards to defray soaring energy prices.

But one of the biggest drivers of inflation, at least according to the most recent Consumer Price Index report, has not elicited even a peep from the political class: the soaring cost of housing. According to the breakdown of services, the cost of shelter is now far outpacing airline tickets, as well other services combined, as a primary driver of inflation. In fact, as the Council of Economic Advisers reported, increase in rents was responsible for almost 40 percent of the core CPI number in May. Worse still, the shelter index’s 0.6 percent increase in May marked the largest monthly increase since March 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The year-over-year increase is the largest since February 1991.

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At least 35 percent of Americans are renters, and anyone who has moved recently or whose landlord has reset the price is feeling the squeeze. According to a recent report from Redfin, the national median asking rent was $2,002 in May, the first time it has ever eclipsed the $2,000 mark. That represented a 2 percent gain from April, and a stunning 15.3 percent rise year over year. Both rent and owners’ equivalent rent—the amount of rent that would have to be paid in order to substitute a rental property for a currently owned house—are on a historic inflationary tear. These are the two major factors that the BLS uses to calculate shelter costs, and they are not slowing down.

Yet relief for renters and protection from skyrocketing housing costs has remained curiously absent from Democrats’ messaging on inflation. “There are three major things you can do to combat those rental costs, and nobody has done any of them,” said Paul Williams, a fellow at the Jain Family Institute who focuses on housing. “You can give people more money by making vouchers an entitlement, you can build more housing, or you can pass rent regulations. None of those are happening and it’s chaos.”

Indeed, there has been no national discussion of anything like rent control, or a voucher program to give cash assistance for rent relief. Meanwhile, rising interest rates have resulted in a surge in the cost of a mortgage. This not only discourages people from buying homes, it subsequently discourages new construction that might help increase supply and drive down costs.

For many, the crisis in housing costs has only just begun.

The Build Back Better Act, now defunct, actually featured meaningful solutions that might have blunted the sharpest edges of this crisis. Nearly all the housing investments that were included in the BBB draft were counterinflationary, from the funding of housing trusts to the support of low-income development to expansion of vouchers. Of course, there has been no indication whatsoever that the housing package might find its way into the revived, pared-back Build Back Better that has been rumored to be under negotiation.

It’s not just congressional Democrats falling down on the job. New York state’s Democratic supermajority just days ago failed to pass a good cause eviction bill that had been under consideration since 2019. The bill would have guaranteed lease renewals and restricted rent increases to 3 percent per year or by tying them to inflation, and would have done well to dent extreme rental increases being seen in places like Manhattan. The bill failed thanks in part to a lobbying effort and millions of dollars from landlord groups, and despite a frenzy of New York rental horror stories that have dominated local media.

There’s plenty of reason to believe the rent crisis is actually worse than the BLS data indicates. Because rents are often tied to 12-month contracts, those trends can be slower to surface, as they’re only enacted once contracts come up for renewal. “Roughly every month only 10 or 12 percent of people surveyed in these CPI reports are those who have just signed a new lease,” said Williams. Evidence of the ubiquity of those increases can be delayed, then, before they show up in the official CPI number. The result is that the current figure is likely artificially muted, and will continue to go up for months to come, as the data catches up with the reality on the ground. Indeed, rents rose in 2021, but that fact did not even register in inflation data until earlier this year; it can take up to 12 months before official inflation numbers catch up to rent hikes, as Fortune’s Tristan Bove noted.

There are other reasons to believe those figures will continue to get worse as well. While small and midsized cities saw their rents skyrocket as remote workers fled expensive metropolises like San Francisco and New York during the early months of the pandemic, that migration has begun to reverse. With companies calling their workers back to the office, people have begun to return to large cities.

Those places, in turn, have recently seen rents soar off of their pandemic lows. And because those cities have the highest population numbers, they account for a larger percentage of the rental population. “I think that rent in the CPI still has a ways to go up because these big cities are going to start going up more, and they have a higher weight in the way CPI is calculated, because they have more people,” added Williams.

After experiencing a ton of difficulty getting the rental relief program of the American Rescue Plan Act started, that aid did end up making a huge difference for renters nationwide. Over five million households received emergency rental assistance between January 2021 and March 2022. That financial assistance likely played a key role in preventing a surge in evictions after the national eviction moratorium lapsed in August 2021, though getting a clear sense of that situation has been hobbled by the fact that the federal government doesn’t track evictions.

But those programs have long since been depleted of funds, and for many, the crisis in housing costs has only just begun. With no national push to renew a broader voucher program, and a Democratic leadership class well into its eighties, there are plenty of homeowners and landlords and few renters with a front-row sense of the immediacy of this crisis. Meanwhile, young people, whose alienation from the Democrats in power has been shown in countless polls, are the ones feeling the brunt of the pain. The same is true for Black and Hispanic Americans, who are more likely than their white counterparts to rent.

For many renters, especially those in large, urban areas with public transit that happen to be dominated by Democrats, increases in housing costs are likely to be far more expensive and pressing than the price at the pump. Yet there remains little willingness to address this component of inflation head-on.

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Among the Landlords. Three days in St. Louis with 200 landlords at the 21st Annu...

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Among the Landlords. Three days in St. Louis with 200 landlords at the 21st Annual Mr. Landlord.com National Landlord Convention.

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In Sepsis and in Health

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Thank you so much for reading the free weekly edition of homeculture. If you like my work, please consider supporting it by becoming a paid subscriber. This newsletter is a lot of work. It’s a work I’d like to keep doing. Every paid subscription helps pay for childcare so I can keep writing. Paid subscribers get access to exclusive content and community features.

My thirteen year old was unwell for a few weeks, really unwell. This newsletter got quiet as I tried to figure out what was going on. (I am sorry. My care work got in the way of my writing about care work. I’ll make it up to you.) This piece is about what was wrong with her and it means after Roe.


Margaret was sick for the first two weeks of June. It wasn’t Covid. My other two daughters got it too, though not as bad. A reminder that Covid is novel, but illness is not. Margaret felt better on a Friday. 

The following Monday, she went on a walk. It was hazy outside with wildfire smoke when she left the house. Within an hour, the smoke was thick enough to press through our window screens. I worried about her, she’s sensitive to bad air. She came in the front door while I was shutting the windows. 

“Mom, I feel really bad.”

She had a headache and her throat ached. I thought it was the smoke. We didn’t go to the doctor until Thursday. By then, her body hurt too.

At the appointment, I told the pediatrician Margaret had a hard virus, gotten better for a few days and then much worse. I thought she had a secondary bacterial infection. The pediatrician disagreed. I understand why she disagreed. Margaret’s vitals were normal, she could breathe easily, she didn’t have a fever and her strep test was negative. Margaret said, “I just don’t feel right.”  The pediatrician said it was just another bad virus. She’d been seeing this a lot. Kids coming in with one virus within days of getting over another. A consequence of Covid quarantining. She told me to take Margaret home and give her lots of water. If Margaret still felt bad on Monday, she’d order some blood tests. But, she said with a smile, she didn’t expect to hear from us again.

I took Margaret home. But I shouldn’t have. I know about bacterial infections. I know how they look and feel, even when there is no fever. I failed Margaret in ignoring my knowing. But “I have a feeling” is not taken that seriously in many professional settings.

I spent a year and a half in hospital rooms and halls as my dad was ravaged by leukemia. My family spent all that time watching for signs of bacterial infections. The nurses taught us what to look for, how to tell early and often when bacteria was blooming inside of him. In a healthy person, like Margaret, seeing and treating an infection early with antibiotics is nearly always lifesaving. My dad was immunocompromised, so seeing the infections early only helped until it didn’t. He got bacterial pneumonia in the hospital.

The infection moved into his blood. When his body deployed its defenses against the blood infection, it did too much. He developed sepsis, an inflammatory immune response that kills tissue, damages organs and causes death. His heart rate and lactic acid climbed, his blood pressure dropped. He went into septic shock.

Septic shock is the final stage of sepsis. It has a 40% mortality rate across all groups. That rate is much higher if you control for pre-existing conditions. Oxygen couldn’t get to his organs. His cells shrunk and died while we asked what more could be done. Nothing. His heart beat faster and faster while we held his hands, his arms, his legs. And then his heart stopped. Margaret was six years old when he died.

On Friday night, Margaret was still sick. Early Saturday morning, she came into our room crying. “Mom and dad, I am so sick.” She stumbled into the bathroom, Riley followed and held her hair back while she vomited. We rushed her to the emergency room. She’s my size now, but I wanted to carry her into the hospital. Instead, she let me hold her hand. I think that’s when I knew how sick she was. They admitted her immediately.

The rooms in the ER are little bolt-holes with cords and monitors. There were no windows. That was somehow comforting. This wasn’t a place we were supposed to be for long. We kept our door ajar - look! The hall is right there, we can walk out of this room any time. When the nurse put the heart monitor on Margaret’s finger, the number on the screen flashed over and over again. It said her heart rate was 150. I asked the nurse if she needed to adjust the monitors placement. That number seemed too high. “Nope! It’s on just the way it should be.” The nurse looked professionally unworried, which I know means very worried.

I watched Margaret’s heartbeat translate into numbers on the screen above her head, 150…152…160. The nurses put an IV into her arm while I held her head against my stomach. The nurse filled six vials with blood. Margaret’s not little anymore, she isn’t always falling down and scraping her knee. It’d been a long time since I’d seen her blood. It’s so red.

When we went to get her x ray, she let me hold her hand again. Down the hall, past other windowless rooms. Many of the doors were propped open. They’d be walking out any minute too. I kept my eyes ahead of me. But my brain registered a collection of points from each room. The bent elbow of a mother with her head in her hands. A child’s foot, uncovered, at the end of the bed. A nurse’s chin angled up as she stared at a monitor. The points made a picture. Each room held a constellation.

When the nurse showed me the x-ray, it looked like there was a hurricane in Margaret’s right lung. Everything looks like extreme weather these days, I guess. Bacterial pneumonia. But that wasn’t all. The infection had moved into her blood. They thought she was in compensatory septic shock, but they weren’t sure. She had a white blood cell count of 24,000. Her lactic acid was climbing. Her heart rate would not come down. They pumped fluids and antibiotics into her arm. We waited. 

Humans have been trying to diagnose and treat sepsis since Hippocrates. We are still not very good either. There is no test to diagnose sepsis. One medical journal I read called sepsis “insidious” because it is so difficult to diagnose in its earliest, most treatable stage. If sepsis, and the infection causing it, are caught during onset, IV fluids and antibiotics can stave off septic shock. The first stage of sepsis can last a few hours or a few days.

One doctor we talked to thought Margaret was already septic by the time we took her to her pediatrician’s office on Thursday. Another thought it was more likely sepsis started on Friday. It’s hard to say.

Both agreed she’d progressed to septic shock by the time we got to the hospital Saturday morning. Both said things would have been much worse if we’d gotten her to the hospital even a few hours later. If she hadn’t thrown up, we would have gotten to hospital much later. I can’t even consider that alternate reality.

The treatment for septic shock is the same as the treatment for sepsis, it’s just much less effective at that stage. Lots of fluids and antibiotics. Severe cases require surgery to cut out infection and interventions to shore up struggling organ systems. People who survive septic shock often lose limbs, organ and cognitive function. The number of people developing sepsis is rising worldwide, including in America.

Margaret’s blood pressure dipped but then returned to safe levels. Her lactic acid fell as treatment progressed. But her heart rate stayed above 150. She had to be admitted to the hospital. A nurse took us to the new room. He pushed Margaret’s wheelchair and told me where to find the chapel and the family respite room. We went up nine floors and walked past a dozen closed doors to get to her room. It had a big window.

I made my bed that night after she fell asleep. All hospital sheets are the same kind of rough. I was glad for it. I was too raw for softness. The next morning, she ate breakfast. Her heart rate fell below 120. She saw the number first, “Mom! My heart!” By that evening, it was low enough for her to go home. She was unlucky. And then she was lucky. 

Will she stay lucky?

Margaret’s odds of future survival changed for the worse twice last week. The first change happened when her body responded to infection with systemic inflammation. Sepsis is a deadly new trick her body may not forget. People who develop sepsis and go into septic shock are more likely to go into septic shock again. The second change happened when Roe was overturned. The Dobbs decision is an inflammatory systemic reaction that puts Margaret, and anyone who can get pregnant, at greater risk of poor outcomes.

The rate of sepsis is increasing in pregnant people, as well as the general population. The World Health Organization reports that sepsis is one of the four main causes of pregnancy-related mortality. Black women, people who are pregnant for the first time, people with diabetes and people having miscarriages are at greater risk for developing sepsis while pregnant. Illegal, and so unsafe, abortions lead to infection and sepsis at horrifying rates.

Sepsis is even more difficult to diagnose in pregnant people. The onset of sepsis looks a lot like pregnancy symptoms - higher heart rate, shortness of breath, a general feeling of discomfort. Because it is harder to diagnose, sepsis in pregnant people can progress to later stages before being treated. Once diagnosed, it is harder to treat. Pregnant women metabolize antibiotics differently and so they are not as effective.

Medical journal articles about pregnancy and sepsis say that “induced birth is sometimes indicated” in treatment of a pregnant person with sepsis. Which is just a way to say, “Sometimes, the best hope of saving a septic pregnant person is getting the fetus out of their body so you can treat the infection and reaction more aggressively.” Induced birth before fetal viability is abortion.

Most anti-abortion trigger laws in effect after the end of Roe say abortion is legal when the life of the mother is at stake. But who decides when a person’s life is at stake? The PA didn’t recognize my daughter’s sepsis on Thursday. On Saturday, her father and I only knew something was wrong because she threw up. The nurses in the ER moved quickly, but it took time to gather all the information they needed to make a diagnosis.

We didn’t know for sure it was compensatory septic shock until Sunday morning. We knew then because the treatments worked and a collection of specialists had time to talk about her case together. Sometimes, like with Margaret, septic shock can be effectively treated without major interventions. But sometimes, it can’t. Who is going to decide a mother needs a life-saving abortion if the life-saving can’t be proven until after the abortion?

Do you know who knew something was gravely wrong? Margaret. On Thursday, she said, “I just don’t feel right.” On Friday she said, “It’s like everything hurts everywhere but it’s like an uncomfortable hurt, not a makes me cry hurt.” On Saturday, when she burst into our room, she insisted on the wrongness and her body insisted too. On Saturday, in the hospital, she told me she was scared because it didn’t seem like it was just pneumonia but she didn’t know why she felt that way. On Wednesday, after she’d been home for days, she started crying. “I am just so grateful to be here.” She knew how bad it was, she knows how bad it could have been. She’s the one who knows. And so she is the one who gets to decide. Her. In sepsis and in health.

It’s been a week since we left the hospital. She’s done with her antibiotics. She’s still tired. We don’t know how long that will last. Her doctor said, “She’ll feel more fatigued for a couple weeks to a year. Sepsis affects everyone differently.”

I wish I could rearrange my matter and walk through the corridors of her body, just to be sure. The way I check our home before we leave for a long trip. Are the windows closed, the doors locked, the sinks turned off, the beds made? I’d count her white blood cells, put my cheek against her heart and look between alveoli. Instead, when I wake up in the morning, I call down to her from upstairs, “Zuzu, how are you feeling?” I sit by her on the couch and try to read the color of her cheeks. I wash her sheets and make her favorite dinner.

After the kids go to bed, I listen for Margaret’s steady breathing. I turn on off the lamp next to Viola’s bed. I lift Brontë’s blankets up from the foot of her bed and over her chest. Care work is the anticipation of grief, theirs or mine. We care because we cannot keep or be kept. I know that.

And still, I stand in the hall for a minute before going to bed too and gasp,

Oh my God, my God. (You are my God. Am I yours?) Let me keep them. Let me keep them. Let us keep each other. What could it hurt?


The odds have shifted for many people this last week, not just Margaret. Pregnant people must be the ones who decide what happens to their bodies, in sepsis and in health. There’s so much more to write about all of this. And I will. But for now. This is my gasp in the dark. See you later this week. With some light. I promise.

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Thousands protest against G7 in Munich as leaders gather for summit

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Demands include end to fossil fuels, preservation of biodiversity and greater social justice

About 3,500 protesters have gathered in Munich as the G7 group of leading economic powers prepare to hold their annual gathering in the Bavarian Alps in Germany, which holds the rotating presidency this year.

Police said earlier that they were expecting a crowd of about 20,000, but initially fewer people showed up for the main protest, which started at midday on Saturday, the German news agency dpa reported.

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HIPAA won’t protect you, if prosecutors want your reproductive health records

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With Roe v. Wade now overturned, patients are wondering whether federal laws will shield their reproductive health data from state law enforcement, or legal action more broadly. The answer, currently, is no.

If there’s a warrant, court order, or subpoena for the release of those medical records, then a clinic is required to hand them over. And patients and providers may be made legally vulnerable by the enormous trail of health-related data we all generate through their devices every day.

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How to Make Olive Oil Like the Ancient Egyptians

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This story was originally published on The Conversation and appears here under a Creative Commons license.

Olive oil was one of the major commodities in the ancient Mediterranean. Alongside wine, grain and perhaps also cheese in some regions, it enveloped and permeated Canaanite, Phoenician, Greek, and Roman cultures, and was present in Egypt long before.

According to the Roman writer Pliny the Elder (1st century CE):

there are two liquids that are especially agreeable to the human body, wine inside and oil outside […] [the latter] being an absolute necessity.

Olive oil was used for a broad variety of purposes in antiquity: fuel for cooking, lighting and heating; personal hygiene; craft; and within the daily diet.

Large proportions of Greek, Roman, and presumably Phoenician agricultural texts are devoted to the production of oil.

Authors like Columella, Palladius, Pliny and Cato the Elder, and the now-lost treatise of Mago the Carthaginian—the father of agriculture—debate what tools and equipment are needed, how and where to grow olive trees, what workers are required, and the array of olives and oils.

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The detail within these texts is staggering. It extends to precise instructions for creating olive oil as well recipes for various types. Combined with surviving iconography and art that depicts these processes, as well as the archaeological remains of oileries and olive groves, we can attempt to reconstruct these ancient commodities.

This process is termed experimental archaeology. Experimental archaeology is often used to fill gaps in our knowledge and help us understand the practicalities of these production techniques—particularly for objects and processes that are rarely preserved.

This is particularly true for some types of oil presses, which were made almost entirely of organic materials and survive only in exceptional circumstances.

Recreating ancient Egyptian olive oil

One of the earliest, if not the first, methods of pressing substances to produce a liquid such as wine or oil was by torsion.

This method involves filling a permeable bag with the crushed fruit, inserting sticks at either end of the bag before twisting them in opposite directions. This compresses the bag, and liquid filters out.

The torsion method is depicted on various Egyptian wall paintings, from the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. The earliest known example is in the tomb of Nebemakhet from around 2600–2500 BCE.

This method lasted millennia. There is evidence for the use of the torsion bag method from pre-industrial Venice, Spain, and Corsica, and it is illustrated in early 20th-century Italy.

Egyptian depictions of the torsion press have often been assumed to be related to wine production, but we wanted to know: Could it also be effectively used to make olive oil?

With a lack of written and structural archaeological evidence—unlike the later Greco-Roman eras—depictions on wall paintings and in relief are some of our only clues in Egypt.

Accompanied by basic olive crushing methods, known since the Neolithic era and still used until recently, we aimed to use these processes to test how effective they were and what quality of oil was achievable.

It is difficult to determine exactly what cloth was used in antiquity for the bag, so we decided to use a simple cheesecloth.

A mix of green and black olives, still used by traditional Italian producers today to create high quality extra-virgin oil, were harvested in the late Australian autumn season of mid-May.

Following ancient recommendations, they were washed before processing.

Before the torsion occurs, crushing is necessary to tear the flesh of the olive. This allows for the release of oils under pressure. We used a basic mortar and pestle—a technique documented archaeologically since around 5000 BCE.

This was hard work, particularly on the less ripe green olives.

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It is not surprising that advances through the Classical and Hellenistic Greek eras were made, including larger rotary mortars, called trapeta (or later, the slightly different mola olearia), allowing greater quantities to be processed with ease.

After crushing, the pulp was placed in a cheesecloth sack and a variety of torsion methods were tested: twisting on both ends; anchoring one end and twisting the other; and first soaking the fruit in hot water to release oils before twisting.

It was immediately noticeable that gentle pressure worked well, providing a slow but steady drip of liquid and minimizing any solid materials being forced through the cloth. Multiple layers of cloth were required to prevent ripping, but this also made the filtration process slower and less permeable.

A slow and gentle pressing

A compromise in the middle created the best results: a gentle, slow pressing, anchoring one end and twisting the other.

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Some pressing methods separated the oil far quicker, with a fine yellow layer floating on the surface of the vegetable water in just minutes. Other methods did not separate even when left overnight and we were left with a thick brown mixture of vegetable water (the Roman amurca) and oils. Even Pliny noted “the very same olives can frequently give quite different results.”

The successful jars produced a delicious olive oil. Sharp, bitey, and with hints of pepper—just like a nice fresh-pressed extra virgin oil.

Despite the fact that almost no archaeological evidence is known of actual olive oil facilities in Pharaonic Egypt, with iconography providing the only real clues, this experiment clearly showed it is possible to press olives and produce oil using this frequently depicted method.

It is also an excellent (and relatively easy) method of making your own olive oil at home!

Emlyn Dodd is the assistant director of archaeology at the British School at Rome, an honorary postdoctoral fellow at Macquarie University, and a research affiliate at the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens.

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