Stellar Recap | Jan 29 - Feb 4
👋 Hello there,
Welcome to another edition of the Stellar Recap, a weekly newsletter where I share interesting content you may have missed over the week. This issue features 74 bullets.
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📊 Business, Economics & Personal Finance
Jan. 29 marked the 30th birthday of the first exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the US - the SPDR S&P 500 ETF.
The production of cardboard boxes used in shipping fell 8.4% in Q4 2022, the steepest drop since the Great Recession.
The IMF raised its global growth outlook for 2023 to 2.9%, up from its previous model of 2.7%. It also forecasted that 84% of countries will face lower headline inflation compared to last year.
The average price of a dozen eggs in the US has fall more than 40% from its peak of about $5.30 in Dec.
Consumer prices in the eurozone were 8.5% higher (🔒WSJ) year over year in Jan., but down from an annual rate of 9.2% recorded in Dec.
In 2022, ExxonMobil posted the most profitable year of any Western oil company ever - $56B (🔒Reuters), which is equivalent to $6.3M/hr.
Progressive and State Farm Insurance have begun refusing to issue auto insurance policies on Hyundai and Kia models released between 2015 to 2019 in some cities, like Denver and St. Louis, because of high theft rates.
As of the end of 2022, women made up 39% of tech workers but accounted for 47% of the layoffs.
Roughly half a million workers (🔒WP) went on strike in the UK last Wed., the largest single day of industrial action in Britain in more than a decade.
A record 50.5M US workers quit their jobs in 2022, topping 2021’s level of 47.8M.
The price of a chicken burrito from Chipotle has risen 19% since 2018. Competitors Qdoba and Moe’s have increased prices by 21.5% and 28.1%, respectively.
New data showed that the US unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, marking a 53-yr. low.
An American household needed an average income of $597,815 to be among the top 1% of earners in the US in 2022. Households in DC needed to earn the most at least $918K/yr. while households in WV needed to earn the least at $350K/yr.
In 2019, the median nest egg for a family headed by someone ages 60 - 65 yrs. with a household income of $71K - $126K was about $150K. Those earning more than $126K had a median retirement savings of $535K. This leaves more than 40% at risk of experiencing a shortfall in savings, which includes factors like home equity and long-term-care costs.
The number of women who died during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth rose by 22% between 2019 and 2020. The primary reason for the rise in death rates was nonpregnancy-related causes like drug poisoning, motor vehicle collisions, and homicide.
The implementation of San Francisco’s soda tax in 2018 was followed by a 34% decline in the consumption of sugary drinks. Sugary beverage consumption only fell by 16.5% in San Jose, which did not institute a tax.
A new study showed that the US far outspent other developed nations while seeing worse health outcomes in the first year of the pandemic.
In a 2022 review of more than 350 studies, researchers found no convincing evidence of a link between lower levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin and depression. Scientists are now looking for clues in other candidate neurochemicals, gut microbes, and differences in genes and neural wiring, as well as chronic inflammation.
EzriCare Artificial Tears were recalled after being linked to a drug-resistant bacteria strain that caused at least 1 person’s death and vision loss in 5 others. Outbreaks have been recorded in at least 55 people in 12 states.
Only 46% of US adults said they’d get an updated Covid booster if the FDA recommended it.
Banana Boat expanded its recall of its Hair & Scalp Spray SPF30 product due to the presence of a cancer-causing chemical called benzene.
A new study found that rising temperatures due to climate change may prompt some disease-causing fungi to evolve faster to survive heat and/or resist antifungal drugs.
A new report found that more than half of US physicians are burned out and nearly a quarter say they’re depressed. That’s about a 10% jump on both measures, compared with 5 yrs. ago.
The Biden Administration will end the national emergencies to combat the Covid pandemic on May 11. This means that Americans could have to start paying for testing and treatments, depending on their insurance coverage and where they live.
A deadly avian influenza outbreak at a Spanish mink farm has scientists concerned that it could trigger a human pandemic. The virus, H5N1, appears to have gained at least 1 mutation that favors mammal-to-mammal spread.
Just a few days of inactivity can affect our cardiovascular system and muscle strength (🔒NYT). The biggest changes in a person’s ability to get through a typical workout will drop off after about 3 weeks of inactivity. The size and strength of muscles decline after about 8 weeks of inactivity. Older adults lose fitness at about nearly 2x the rate of 20- to 30-yr-olds.
🎓 Lifelong Learning
🌴 Lifestyle & Travel
Chapel & Catacombs in Athens, Greece, is the world’s best escape room, according to Top Escape Rooms Project. The top escape room in the US is The Man from Beyond - Strange Bird Immersive in Houston, TX.
Restaurants with the most beautiful view in every country and state, according to HawaiianIslands.com’s analysis of data from TripAdvisor. Mama’s Fish House in Maui was #1.
🗳️ Politics, Security & International Affairs
Nadhim Zahawi, the chairman of the governing Conservative Party in Britain, was fired amid allegations that he settled a multimillion-dollar unpaid tax bill while he was in charge of the country’s Treasury.
The Memphis Police Dept. permanently disbanded a 50-person team known as the Scorpion unit after 5 of its officers beat an unarmed 29-year-old Black man, Tyler Nichols, to death. The Scorpion team was tasked with bringing down crime levels in particular areas of the city. The 5 officers involved were fired and charged with second-degree murder (🔒NYT).
A majority of registered voters see police violence as a serious problem in the US.
The US Pandemic Response Accountability Committee estimated that the government likely gave $5.4B to fraudulent Covid-19 aid programs (🔒Reuters). However, of the 33M applications reviewed, only 0.7% of the programs were likely fraudulent.
Americans think the most important problem in the US is “government/poor leadership," followed by inflation and immigration.
Driven by worsening economic conditions, food and medicine and shortages, and political upheaval, 225K Cubans tried migrating to the US last year. Several died attempting the journey.
A suspected Chinese spy balloon was spotted after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America. The US shot it down with a missile yesterday once it was about 6 nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, SC, where the debris from the blast wouldn’t harm anyone or structures on the ground.
The most accurate polls (which use probability sampling) show that Donald Trump is underperforming his 2016 vote share by an average of 4% in a 1:1 matchup with Ron DeSantis (🔒NYT). He underperforms by 10% in multicandidate state polls.
Russia is mobilizing forces to prepare for a fresh offensive (🔒WSJ) to coincide with the first anniversary of its invasion in Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year.
⏩ Pop Culture, Art, Sports & Entertainment
Professional tennis player Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open last Sun. It’s his 22nd Grand Slam title. Djokovic has earned $166.9M in prize money over his career, putting him more than $30M ahead of his closest rival Rafel Nadal.
Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs will face his brother Jason Kelce of the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. It’s the first time that siblings will play each other on the NFL’s grandest stage. The Eagles are a 2-point favorite over the Chiefs.
YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson (aka MrBeast) paid for cataract removal for 1K people who were blind or near-blind but couldn’t afford surgery. The surgeries cost about $3.5K each.
Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, which according to legend, means 6 more weeks of winter. Various incarnations of Punxsutawney Phil have predicted 108 forecasts of more winter and 20 early springs. He’s been correct about 40% of the time. My newsletter from last year highlighted, based on research from FiveThirthyEight, that General Beauregard Lee (GBL) of Jackson, GA, has the best overall accuracy rate while Prairie Dog Pete of Pete, TX and Chuck Wood of CA have been the least accurate. Snohomish Slew the frognosticator from WA had the highest regional accuracy rate.
After its feature in HBO’s “The Last of Us” last Sun., Spotify streams of Linda Ronstadt’s song “Long Long Time” rose 4,900% week over week as of Thur. eveing. Ronstadt sold her catalog in Mar. 2021 and isn’t making a single penny from the song’s resurgence but is “very glad” for it anyway.
A large curvaceous, reflective sculpture that resemble’s Chicago’s “bean” has been installed in TriBeCa, NYC. It was created by the same artist, Anish Kapoor. Some NYC media outlets are criticizing it for diminishing the city’s “original flair.”
🏡 Real Estate
The 6.3K sq ft, 5 bed and 6 bathroom, half moon-shaped home featured in HBO series “Westworld” was listed for sale for $20M.
UK realtors are turning to WhatsApp for luxury home listings. In London, off-market home sales accounted for more than 1 in 5 transactions in Q4 2022.
Analyzing data from the largest 300 metros in the US, Realtor.com ranked Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN, as the top emerging housing market in winter 2023.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s one-of-a-kind circular sun house in Phoenix, AZ, is for sale for $8.95M.
10.76M US homes were owned or occupied by single women in 2021 (🔒NYT), compared with 8.12M homes owned or occupied by single men. The largest gap is in FL, where women outnumber men by 4.55%. Men only outnumbered women in 2 states: ND (13% v. 11%) and SD (12% v. 11%).
Americans of all races or ethnicities believe it’s more important for adult children to be financially independent than to have children of their own (🔒NYT). Asian parents were the most likely to say both are extremely important.
Nearly 2.34M freshmen enrolled in a college or university in fall 2022, a 4.3% increase over fall 2021. The number is still below prepandemic trends.
In 2022, almost 3 in 4 public schools reported higher rates of chronic teacher absenteeism (missing 10+ days of work). It’s also become much more difficult to find substitutes than before the pandemic.
A new survey of 127K people in 122 countries in 2021 found that 16% (~900M people) would like to permanently leave their country. The share is 37% among respondents in Latin America and the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa.
🧪 Science, Climate, Environment & Technology
The HiRISE camera captured two craters and a partially collapsed hill that resemble the face of a bear.
Auckland, New Zealand, was struck by heavy rainfall over the past week, which flooded the city. At least 4 people died and 350 people needed emergency accommodation. More than 2K people were forced to stay overnight in the airport terminals.
Increasingly more consumers are attempting to lower their climate “foodprint” by eating foods that are grown and packaged sustainably.
Google researchers created an algorithm called MusicLM that can generate minutes-long musical pieces from text prompts. One study estimated that about 1% of the music generated by the system is a direct copy of a human artist.
A Japanese telescope captured a glowing, whirlpool-like formation spinning through the sky above HI shortly after SpaceX launched a navigation satellite into orbit earlier this month.
Colossal Biosciences announced they plan to bring back the dodo bird, in addition to reviving the woolly mammoth.
A team of scientists aboard an Italian icebreaker, the Laura Bassi, sailed further south than any ship before it, reaching a point in the Bay of Whales with the coordinates 78° 44.280 S.
Southern US cities were paralyzed by a severe ice storm last week. At least 3 people died in TX. More than 500K homes and businesses lost electricity.
About 2B people (a quarter of the world’s population) used Facebook each day in Dec. Following this news and surging stock price, CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth increased by $12.5B in a day (🔒Bloomberg), his largest wealth gain ever.
Pots from a 2.5K-yr-old embalming workshop revealed the ingredients used to prepare ancient Egyption mummified remains, which included local plant extracts, animal fats, beeswax, and resins from plants grown as far away as SE Asia.
Jan. temps in the US were some of the warmest on record, particularly in the northeast.
That’s in stark contrast with temps in New England this weekend, which reached as low as -60F accounting for wind chill.
Without any intervention, a new report predicted that the Great Salt Lake in UT will completely dry in 5 yrs.
ChatGPT officially became the fastest-growing consumer app in history (🔒Reuters) after notching 100M monthly active users in Jan. The company just launched a $20/mo. premium subscription tier (ChatGPT Plus) that gives priority access to early features and updates.
Since Oct. 2018, at least 47% of Elon Musk’s tweets have been memes (🔒NYT). Prior to that, Musk mostly posted photos that promoted his businesses (SpaceX and Tesla). Musk has posted more than 21K times since he created his account in Jun. 2009.
4Chan members used ElevenLabs to make AI-generated voices of Emma Watson, Joe Rogan, and others saying racist, transphobic, and violent things. The company is now exploring more safeguards around its technology.
Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI are being sued for allegedly violating copyright law by reproducing open source code using AI.
New research out of MIT suggests that self-driving cars will require powerful computers that could generate as much greenhouse gas emissions as all the data centers in operation today.
Scientists created a new form of ice that has never been seen before. This new form is called medium-density amorphous ice and it appears to have the same density and structure of liquid water.
OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, released a tool that identifies text written by AIs, but so far, it’s not very accurate. It’s more effective at distinguishing between humans and AI when the text is longer than 1K words.
Researchers have noted a rise in malvertising via Google Ads, which refers to malware that is showing up in Google searches. This means that we should all be more cautious when downloading software recommended by Google.
Wishing you a productive week
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