Monday, September 13, 2021

Rhino Poacher Killed By Elephant And Eaten By Lions - Darwin Award 2019

The Darwin award is given to those individuals who help the human species by ending any chance of reproducing themselves. We nominate this particular fellow for all time top prize.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A rhinoceros poacher was stomped to death by an elephant and eaten by lions in a South Africa wildlife preserve, and rangers found just his skull and trousers, authorities said.

The man and two others were hunting illegally at Kruger National Park last week when the elephant surprised them, park spokesman Isaac Phaahla said. The hunter’s companions dragged his body to a spot near a road and told the man’s family what happened. It took two days for rangers to find his remains.

South Africans weighed in on social media, with many celebrating the poacher’s death, calling it justice or applauding the animals for “restoring law and order in the jungle.” But others blamed the economic desperation that leads people to become poachers, and the international criminal syndicates they work for.

Julian Rademeyer, a project leader for TRAFFIC, which monitors the international trade in wildlife, said effective measures are needed to attack the global rings that deal in rhino horn and elephant ivory.

“The rage and anger of many people at the rampant poaching that is endangering rhinos and elephants is understandable. But the joy and gloating over the death of a poacher is crass and misguided,” Rademeyer said. “Killing poachers will not stop poaching. Poachers are just the foot soldiers of international criminal syndicates.”

The world’s rhinos are in danger of being hunted to extinction. They are prized for their horns, which are ground up and used in traditional Chinese medicine as a supposed cure for a variety of ailments.

South Africa, which has about 80% of the world’s remaining rhinos, has seen aggressive poaching of the animals in recent years. Last year 769 rhinos were killed illegally , down from more than 1,000 annually since 2013, according to Save the Rhino.

“Poaching is a serious, ongoing problem in the park,” Phaahla said of Kruger, which covers 7,500 square miles in southeastern South Africa, making it about the size of the U.S. state of New Jersey.

After the death of the poacher, whose name and nationality were not released, relatives asked park officials to help recover the body. Rangers searched on the ground and by air but did not find the remains before it got dark, Phaahla said. The two surviving hunters gave officials a more precise description of where they left the dead man. Police arrested them on suspicion of poaching.

“The next day, our field rangers searched in the bush and made the gruesome discovery,” Phaahla said. “There was a pride of lion nearby which apparently had devoured his body.”

Police said they seized guns and ammunition from the surviving men. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms, trespassing and conspiracy to poach.

“On most days, we have close to 15 poaching groups of three individuals each who are hunting illegally for rhinos,” Phaahla said. “Our rangers are well-trained and making progress in controlling the poaching.”

Rademeyer, the author of “Killing for Profit,” a book about the illegal trade in rhino horn, blamed “the appalling socio-economic conditions in South Africa that drive young men to take risks to hunt rhinos and elephants.”

In addition to fighting international criminal syndicates, “what is also needed is to win support in rural communities for conservation. People living around parks must see the value of wildlife,” Rademeyer said. “They must see the economic benefits of wildlife. We need a national pride, of all South Africans, in our wildlife.”

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Pootoo or Ghost Bird Wins the Prize for Most Amazing Creature

Nature is amazing, there is no denying that. I offer you my choice for the weirdest living creature on the planet. Here is my argument for bestowing that honor to Nyctibius griseus (commonly called potoo or ghost bird.)

The aptly name ghost bird (actual name potoo) in the light of day looks like something dreamed up by Steven Spielberg. The first time I saw this creature, I stared at it for several minutes trying to discern if it was a sock puppet, a CG, or an actual living creation. Of course, I've spoiled it for you, but even knowing it is real, it is almost hard to believe.

The ghost bird looks like a puppet
 The potoo eats flying bugs and the occasional small bat that it catches when perched as above or when flying at night. The ghost bird certainly takes on the appearance of a sinister creature more likely to be part of a Stephen King mystery when flying about at night. 

Ghost bird, potoo bird in flight looks very eerie

My award is based on the above two weirdnesses, but the potoo is not done yet. During the day, the bird has learned to camouflage itself by appearing to be the extension of a broken tree limb. It points its weird beak up towards the sky and hold this position most of the day.

Camouflage for potoo is amazing

Now, let's turn to potoo eyes. The huge yellow eyes help it to see well at night, but a second eyelid covering allows it to close the eyes to a small slit, but still see. They do this when camouflaged, as the yellow eyes would give them away. Since they can still see, the often allow predators to get very close before they fly away. 

Who is this potoo looking at?

The potoo's final attribute that gives it game-set-match is its haunting call. Watch this video. The entire video is quite cool, but if you just want the call, go to 



Do you have a better choice for weirdest living creature. Let me know in the comments. 

This article is sponsored by Bill Rayman of Homeowners First Mortgage. If you are looking for solid direction and advice regarding your mortgage, whether for a new property or a refinance in California, you should call Bill. He has mortgage products, especially for Jumbo loans, that few other lenders offer.  Call now: (310) 453-4016

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mortgage rates 2020

With Los Angeles Mortgage Rates At Historic Lows (September 2021), and Home Prices Still Increasing, Buying Is Still Better

In 2013, we started following a typical Westside home worth $650,000. We now have data through 2021 and while every situation is not the same, the results are pretty clear in this analysis. Buying is better!
According to the rental value of that home was $3150 a month in 2013.  The estimated mortgage was $2441 based on 20% down and 3.75% 30 year fixed mortgage.  Property taxes and insurance would add another $730.  Maintenance might be $500.  So total out of pocket was around $3700 in 2013. Other considerations would be the tax deductions on property tax and mortgage interest, and any maintenance costs. So the net financial impact per month for the owner was probably less than $3700.
You can follow this property year by year to see that it is always better to have owned than to have rented this home, but let's jump ahead.
TODAY - September 2021. For those who like to skip to the end of the book, here's the current situation. 
2013 Zillow estimated value $650,000.  September 2021 Zillow estimated value $1,372,000. 
The value is over double the original price after just eight years. Zillow estimates that the net proceeds from a sale at this point would be $1,261,000, resulting in a profit of $611,000 on an investment of $130,000 or so. 

But the really amazing part is that the rent in 2013 would be $3150 and today is double that at $6170. So, by owning, the out of pocket would increase due to property taxes to about $4200 per month, but the rent would have doubled. Due to the shocking drops in interest rates, the owner could do even better by refinancing the remaining loan and lowering the monthly payment. 

Of course, we can't know what the future will bring in Los Angeles or Detroit, but this random house was selected in 2013 and we've followed it for 8 years. The house is actually located in a nice part of Inglewood, so homes on the other side of the 405 probably did much better.

In today's market, you will want to go shopping for a home with a completely underwritten, pre-approved loan. Bill Rayman can help you get this done. Then once you negotiate a price, all you need to do is get an appraisal and home inspection and the loan is just about ready to close often in just 16 or so days. 
Right now Bill has loan programs offering Jumbo loans with just 10% down. Now would be a great time to start working on buying your dream home. Call Bill at (323) 682-0385 or email For more information

Back to the story in the first year of ownership, 2013.
The tax advantage in the 25% tax bracket would come in at around $800 month, so the net advantage to buying was around $250 a month that year. If the house was purchased in 2013, there would have been at least $6000 in closing costs. We’ll spread those over 3 years. That would result in another $166 per month.
Rent vs buy in 2013.  About even.
Zillow says the house is now worth $795,000, for a gain of $145,000. Last year the interest was 3.75%.  Today interest would be 4.5%. Total monthly mortgage would be estimated at $3129 now vs $2441 a year ago. All of these estimates are from, and we can't totally rely on their numbers.  In fact, the rent number seems suspect, as it has dropped from $3150 to $3125.  Government statistics for cost of living specifically associated with rental of a primary residence showed a 2.7% increase in the LA area.  Even so, that would only boost the rent by $90.  My gut tells me that rents are up and that the 2.7% number might be more in line with reality.   If this was a new purchase, there would be a slight bias to the renter of around $300 a month. However, if the home was purchased in 2013, the owner just made $145,000. The renter could have put the 20% down payment in an investment and made 6% on the $130,000 or $7,800.
Rent vs buy in 2014. Cash flow benefit to the renter.  Wealth increase huge win for the buyer
Zillow now says the house is worth $840,000. And increase of $190,000 over the last two years. The rent is up from $3150 to $4000 per month. Markets don’t always act like this, but the tenant would likely be subject to these increases and would now be paying $4000 for rent vs the $2700 they would still be paying for mortgage, property tax, insurance, and repairs if they had purchased in 2013. They would also have a $190,000 capital gain on their $130,000 down payment. The purchase in 2013 would have been a huge success. Of course this capital gain would be offset by costs of purchase and costs of sale if the increase was to be realized rather than just on paper. If we used 10% or $83,000 for that number, we are still $50,000 ahead by the end of year two. In other years this could have gone the other way.

The current mortgage based on a 20% down payment and 4% interest rate would be $3208 with another $900 for property taxes and insurance. Add in $500 for repairs and the total is approximately $4700. Tax savings would be $1000 using the same criteria as above. So the net cash cost per month is $3700 vs rent of $4000.
Of course, every house in every neighborhood will have different results, but Zillow has done an analysis by neighborhood that predicts how long it will take to break even on a purchase vs a rental. Their system is not very sophisticated and does not take into consideration appreciation.

We skipped a year, but how is that same house doing in 2017. Zillow says that the house is now worth $970,000 and the rent is likely to be $4000.
For the owner who purchased in 2013, his out of pocket is now $2900. He has a capital gain of $320,000 which would be reduced by about $50,000 for real estate fees were he to sell. The gain would still be at least $270,000.
The renter who put his $130,000 into an investment returning 6% compounded would have made $34,122.
Owner out of pocket $2900 vs renter out of pocket $4000
Owner ROI $270,000 vs renter ROI $34,122
So, what about buying that home today? Is it still a good deal? With 20% of $194,000 down and a 4.15% mortgage, the monthly payment including taxes and insurance, would be $4700. Add in the $500 for maintenance and subtract the tax IRS advantage of $1200 per month and you have $4000 per month out of pocket, just about equal to the rental amount. The closing costs of $10,000 would result in a the buyer paying about $300 per month more than the renter in the first year. But by year three it is likely that the monthly rent would be up another few hundred dollars, and in year four the amortization of those closing costs would be over (based on our idea to amortize them over 3 years.)
After four years of running this experiment, and even with a supposedly overheated seller’s market in Los Angeles, it seems that buying just makes way more sense than renting. We can imagine scenarios where this would not be the case. The housing market is subject to downturns just like any market. It is possible to imagine this home dropping by $300,000 if there were a typical drop in market values like 1999 or 2008.
Even then, these markets correct, and over time the likelihood is that the home will continue its upward valuation curve. On the other hand the market may continue strong and deliver another $100,000 or so in appreciation over the next three years.
A major issue in the 2017 market was whether you could even get a mortgage in Los Angeles

For the owner who purchased in 2013, his out of pocket is now $3000 per month. He has a capital gain of $550,000 which would be reduced by about $60,000 for real estate fees were he to sell. The gain would still be at least $490,000.
The renter who put his $130,000 into an investment returning 6% compounded would have made $54,407.
Owner out of pocket $3000 vs renter out of pocket $4950 per month
Owner ROI $490,000 vs renter ROI $54,407.

Rent today would be $4950 and mortgage payments (4.0% on 30-year fixed) based on a purchase today would be $4600 + $1150 in taxes and insurance (estimates). Even with the new tax law, the current out of pocket on this home if purchased today would be less on a monthly basis than renting the same home. (Of course the $240,000 down is not included in that analysis)

Some say that the LA market has cooled this year. But this home has seen an increase of $100,000 since January of 2019. Zillow predicts no increase the rest of 2019. 

Let's consider a possible worst case scenario based on over 100 years of California real estate history. If there is a housing bust, this home will likely drop about $300 - $400,000. But within five or so years that amount would be made up, and would go to new highs. 

If you are currently renting and wondering about the rent vs buy decision, the above analysis would suggest that buying has been the right answer for many years. 

According to Zillow, the property is now worth $1,304,000. This would mean that in the last 12 months, the home has appreciated another $100,000. This is in keeping with the average since we began the analysis. 

The rent continues to be $4950 per month. Buying continues to beat renting.  
The trend continues upward. 1,372,000. Rent is now $6100 per month for this home. 

Bill Rayman

(323) 682-0385