The Week in Review

The real estate market in King County has flourished this past year, as 33 homes have sold for $5 million or more. According to Windermere Real Estate, this number is more than double of what sold in 2010. Buyers of these luxury homes tend to be either foreign citizens or technology-firm leaders. 25 of the 33 homes sold were all-cash purchases. Federal law-enforcement agencies will examine the sales more closely, addressing concerns of money laundering and criminal corruption. Homes sold for $1 million are much more common in King County, making up 9 percent of all home sales in 2015. 16 high-priced condos in downtown Seattle were also sold for $2 million or more. Much of the construction going on in the area accounts for the high costs of these homes. Unlike the lower end of the market, where homes will typically sell above the listed price, these luxury homes tend to sell somewhat below the listed price. This is in part because of the small group of buyers looking at these homes.

The Vatican and the Obama Administration have condemned Islamic State group for demolishing St. Elijah’s monastery, the oldest Catholic monastery in Iraq. The 1400-year-old building has been a place of worship for generations of monks and more recently, the U.S. troops who worked on its restoration. Over 100 religious and historic sites have now been destroyed by the Islamic State group, including mosques and shrines throughout Syria and Iraq as well as ancient monuments found in Nineveh, Palmyra and Hatra. The systematic destruction does not have a foreseeable end in sight. According to Congressman Eliot Engel, the ISIS terrorists are trying to wipe away a history, pocketing millions through trafficking artifacts looted from these sites to support their campaign of terror. ISIS continues to threaten the Christian religion as they relentlessly move forward with slaughtering thousands of civilians and forcing hundreds of thousands of Christians out of Syria and Iraq.

The Swedish automobile manufacturer revealed plans to construct a vehicle that will not kill or seriously injure anyone in a car accident. Innovative technology such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detectors and sensors that recognize pedestrians and any other objects in the car’s path will warn drivers of any danger. Zero deaths have been recorded in the past four years involving the current nine Volvo models in the U.S.Volvo believes that avoiding accidents and reducing injuries that result from accidents will be the new norm by 2020. Volvo models now have some of the technology that the “death proof” cars have, and are projected to continue to yield safer results. The hope is for these advancements to lead to a fully autonomous car.

By this February, U.S. gas prices are estimated to hit a seven-year low. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the national average price of gas will be $1.90 per gallon by next month. This price is less than January’s projected national average of $1.97 per gallon. Prices are expected to slowly rise back up, hitting an estimated peak of $2.18 per gallon in June, only to gradually decline again. Although prices vary from state to state, the current cost of gas in the U.S. is almost half of what it was in July of 2014, when the national average price was at around $3.50 per gallon. Crude oil prices are astonishingly low, while the crisis is nowhere
near resolved.

On Saturday, Jan. 23, a winter blizzard hit the East Coast, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power. At least 18 people have died in the storm, mostly due to highway accidents. Blizzard warnings remained in effect throughout the weekend from Virginia to Massachusetts, affecting over 35 million people. By Saturday evening, several cities had at least a foot of snow or more, including New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. In more than 10 towns in Maryland, the snowfall has climbed to at least a foot and a half. Several coastal towns in New Jersey were heavily affected by flood waters pouring into the streets. Hundreds of vacationers on The Royal Caribbean International’s Grandeur of the Seas were set to arrive back to a Baltimore port on Sunday, but officials declared it would not be ready by then.

Ammon Bundy and seven others involved in the armed seizure of a federal wildlife refuge were arrested in rural Oregon on Tuesday, Jan. 26. One person who has not been identified by the authorities was killed, and another was hospitalized with nonlife-threatening injuries. Ammon’s brother Ryan Bundy was among the seven other people arrested. The arrest took place after Ammon and his followers—who call themselves the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom—occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon for over three weeks. The group began the occupation on Jan. 2.