Wandering Eye: An increase in distressed home sales, reckoning with America's history of lynchings, and more

The shortage of Nicorette lozenges, prompted by maker GlaxoSmithKline's voluntary recall due to manufacturing issues, has left ex-smokers who habitually use them on the edge, WaPo reports. The price is surging, too, with Amazon offering a 72-count box for prices ranging from $99.25 to $149.99, which translates to $1.38 to $2.08 per lozenge, more than the 108-count box for $122 ($1.13 per lozenge) that one of WaPo's subjects balked at ordering on Amazon. Nicorette "Cinnamon Surge" gum, meanwhile, is going for $53.85 for a 160-piece box, or $0.34 each, a 58-percent savings off the list price. With production not expected to resume for months, the shortage—and resulting price gouging—is only going to get worse before it gets better. (Van Smith)


Kevin Litten at the BBJ notes that there were almost twice as many "distressed sales" of city properties in January 2015 as in January 2014: 210 this year vs. only 109 last year. He goes on to talk about the effect this has on the median price of city home sales—which is detrimental: "The median home price in the city was $118,544 when distressed homes were included; it was $173,846 when those homes weren't in the mix." That's because the median "distressed" property sold for about $50,000. But this may not be as bad as it first seems. Baltimore has a big backlog of foreclosures, owing mainly to the very long legal process the state requires. Many—maybe most by now—of city house foreclosures are on uninhabitable wrecks that investors and straw buyers picked up during the boom and its aftermath. Those houses are part of a fraud-soaked system that has dominated Baltimore's low-end housing market for decades; many of them sell for low four-digit sums. They simply aren't part of the normal real-estate market and should instead be seen as part of the Shadow Economy—as fodder for mortgage scams, slumlording, and low-budget land speculation. With its Vacants to Value program, the city is trying to curb these abuses. In those cases, houses changing hands at auction—even for very small money—could be a good thing. To know if it is, the stat to watch is building permits. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


The New York Times has a sobering story this morning about a report released by the Equal Justice Initiative that documents "3,959 victims of 'racial terror lynchings' in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950." The report, according to the organization's founder, Bryan Stevenson, means to underscore the point "that these brutal deaths were not about administering popular justice, but terrorizing a community." Stevenson hopes to erect markers and memorials at particular lynching sites "to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way." But as @alwaystheself pointed out on Twitter, "Not *once* in this NYT article about lynching is it ever explicitly stated that whites did the lynching." In all of the lynchings that The Times describes in the beginning of the story, the lynchers' race is never described, and in two of the lynchings described, the writer, Campbell Robertson, uses the passive voice, so that there are no people described as doing the lynching. It's sort of difficult to force people to reckon with our racial history when you erase the actors behind the racially motivated terror. (Anna Walsh)

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