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The newest U.S. economic hotspot is not in or near Silicon Valley, New York or any tech corridor, but in the northern Plains — specifically oil-infused North Dakota.
What's happening: This region, in the middle north of the country, has led the nation in a string of economic indicators since the financial crash, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution. And North Dakota is atop the bunch.
Why it matters: Commentators often refer to the middle of the U.S. as a single entity, like "middle America" or, more pejoratively, "flyover country." This makes the economic vitality of the northern Plains all the more striking, writes Axios' Harry Stevens.
The region's prosperity has been driven in part by a massive expansion of shale oil and gas production in the Bakken region of North Dakota.
The boom has driven North Dakota to the top of the economic indicators:
The other side: The boom has brought growing crime and environmental destruction.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Judging from Seattle's experience, Amazon's planned second headquarters could bring a housing crisis to the as-yet-unannounced city where it will be built, pushing up home prices by as much as 30%, according to a new analysis.
Why it matters: Amazon HQ2 will take up 8 million square feet, employ up to 50,000 people and cost some $5 billion. A footprint of that scale will strain any city's infrastructure and trigger economic impacts that will reverberate for decades, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.
For a picture of how HQ2 will shake up housing markets, Mr. Cooper, a home loan and mortgage company, analyzed home price changes in Seattle after Amazon expanded its headquarters there in 2010. It says it attempted to isolate Amazon's influence from other factors — and the impact in Seattle hinted at what’s in store for Amazon’s second home.
Of the 20 finalists to host the new Amazon complex, Mr. Cooper looked at the 18 cities that had adequate data from which to draw conclusions:
"Wherever Amazon goes, they're going to change that city landscape completely," says Alexander Lowry, a professor of financial analysis at Gordon College. Even in a city like Boston, where the report predicts only a slight price bump, the market is hot, he says.
Many of the bigger cities on Amazon's shortlist are already straining to provide affordable housing to residents, and the e-commerce giant moving in would shift the market further toward pricier homes, says Lowry.
But, but, but: Amazon has said it's determined not to do to its new home what it did to Seattle. By way of preparing HQ2 bids, "all of the cities have had to do some planning already," Lowry said. "Every city has some different problems, and they've all had to speak to those."
Christoph Hanger of the International Committee of the Red Cross prepares a virtual reality headset. Photo: Kaveh Waddell/Axios
A haunting choose-your-own-adventure, set in a modest Syrian home and rendered in immersive virtual reality, is the latest product from a humanitarian organization desperate to remind the world of the harms of urban warfare.
Why it matters: Syria’s 7-year-long civil war has killed roughly half a million civilians, and it’s just one of many ongoing conflicts that are lost in the wash of daily headlines. With new storytelling formats, aid organizations hope to ignite empathy in faraway viewers — and perhaps stoke some generosity, reports Axios' Kaveh Waddell.
Details: The new VR experience comes from the International Committee of the Red Cross, a relief organization that works in war zones. It was funded by a $200,000 grant from Google, the company behind the Daydream VR platform the experience is built for.
The story is short — it takes only minutes to play through — but it stayed with me long after I removed a clunky white VR headset last week. The potentially upsetting experience is described here. If you’d rather see it yourself, it’s available for iOS and Android, but requires a Google Cardboard headset.
"You're part of the decision-making process, but it doesn't matter what you do," says Christoph Hanger, a spokesperson for the ICRC. "There is no choice that's going to lead you in a good direction."
What’s next: The ICRC will show the interactive film to people on the street in the U.S. and Europe to gauge its impact. The organization will also use it as an advocacy and fundraising tool, with plans to show it to U.K. parliamentarians to prod for action and donations.
The unrepentant Eddie Lampert (Suzanne Kapner, Rachael Levy, Juliet Chung — WSJ)
Where Saudi Arabia fits in the global arms trade (Zach Basu — Axios)
How social democracy in Germany got lost (Tobias Buck — FT)
Students fighting hackers on college campuses (Erin Winick — MIT Tech Review)
Spain climbs past Japan in global life expectancy (Rob Picheta — CNN)
An old-timey pilot. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
Why should trick-or-treating be just for humans? This year, some of the most creative costumes will be donned by dogs and cats.
The big picture: By the end of the month, 31 million Americans will spend $480 million on Halloween costumes for pets, reports MarketWatch. That's a sizable chunk of the $9 billion that the National Retail Federation predicts Americans will spend on Halloween in total, Erica writes.
Go deeper: The working dogs of Instagram