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Stellar Recap | Sep 10-16
SEP. 17, 2023
👋 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 87 bullets.
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📊 Business, Economics & Personal Finance
The IRS is investigating 1.6K millionaires who owe $250K+ each in back taxes. In 2021, the agency’s research indicated that the top 1% of income earners failed to report 20% of their earnings.
The 50 largest US banks lost $254.5B in assets in Q2, which may reflect increased confidence in smaller financial institutions and/or it may indicate that consumers are spending down their savings.
Hundreds of people applied to be a ghostwriter for the CEO of Yogurt company Chobani, which came with a salary of up to $278K/yr.
The Fed’s Aug. Survey of Consumer Expectations found that, on average, 13.8% of workers expected to lose their job over the next 12 mo., the highest reading since Apr. 2021. Concerns were greatest among people with lower incomes.
America’s largest newspaper company, Gannett, is hiring 2 separate reporters to exclusively cover Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. Both hourly roles require international travel and pay roughly $40K/yr–$100K/yr.
Adjusting for inflation, median household income fell by 0.8% between 2021-2022 to ~$74,755 in the US. The share of American households making $100K or more, meanwhile, rose from 34% to 37%.
A new report estimated that ~$10.2B will be spent on political advertising during the 2024 election cycle in the US (🔒Bloomberg).
A new survey suggests that only 27% of CEOs of major US companies expect to hire more workers in the next 6 mo., down from 33% in Jun. and 47% a yr ago. ~1 in 3 anticipate a decrease in their employee headcount, up from 27% in Jun.
The cost of car insurance in the US rose 19% YoY in Aug., according to new CPI data.
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union launched a strike against Detroit’s Big 3 automakers last Fri. 12.7K members (out of ~146K) walked out of Stellantis’ assembly plant in Toledo, OH, GM’s assembly plant in Wentzville, MO, and Ford’s paint plant in Wayne, MI. The 3 plants produce ~9% of the companies’ vehicles in N. America. More workers could be joining the picket lines as the UAW president ramps up the pressure.
France temporarily halted sales of Apple’s iPhone 12 (🔒WP) because tests showed it emits radiation levels in excess of European restrictions. Other European countries could soon follow.
A new study found that people who had Covid may be more likely to develop hypertension, even if they don’t have a history of high blood pressure.
More than 40% of US adults rate nursing home quality as poor or failing and 70% said they'd be at least somewhat uncomfortable about going into a nursing home when they can no longer take care of themselves.
New research suggests that phenylephrine, the leading decongestant used by millions of Americans looking for relief from a stuffy nose is not effective. Phenylephrine is the key drug found in popular over-the-counter medications like Sudafed, Allegra, and Dayquil.
There’s a laxative shortage in the US and analysts are pointing to an increase in travel and hybrid work as the reason.
Due to back-to-back natural disasters in Aug., the Red Cross fell short of their blood donation goal by 30K donations. Currently, the Red Cross needs to collect about 12.5K donations each day, nationwide to meet patients’ needs.
A new study estimated, based on 42B private healthcare claims that ~59% of ground ambulance rides in the US were out of network in 2022.
New research suggests that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can reduce symptoms of allergic inflammation in mice by suppressing a type of immune cell known as mast cells, which play a prominent role in allergic reactions. The study authors believe that SSRIs could be repurposed to treat human patients with allergic diseases.
~25% of breast cancers come back within 5 yrs and a new study suggests that a common chemotherapy drug, docetaxel, can cause healthy cells that were harmed by the drug to release signaling molecules that wake up dormant cancer cells. Antibodies designed to glom onto those signaling molecules can keep the cancerous cells from growing and dividing again, which means the right companion drugs could allow patients to receive the benefits of chemo without this drawback.
Work-related suicides fell by 9.2% YoY in 2021. 50% of the deaths involved a shooting.
OHSO Brewery & Distillery rebranded one of its popular beers to 988 to spark a conversation about the national suicide and crisis lifeline number, in memory of a friend and co-worker who was lost to suicide.
Due to extreme weather events, the CDC advised doctors to be on the lookout for infections caused by a rare “flesh-eating” bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, especially if a patient has been exposed to waters near the Gulf of Mexico or the East Coast. Some infections can be caused by raw or undercooked seafood.
A recent survey found that ~49% of college students in the US (n=76,406) have symptoms of depression or anxiety disorder. 14% reported they had seriously thought about attempting suicide in the past year and 2% said they had attempted. ~1 in 3 said they had intentionally injured themselves in the past 12 mo.
WP and The Examination analyzed thousands of TikTok and IG posts by dietitians with 10K+ followers and found that ~50% promoted food, beverages, or supplements to their combined 11M followers within the last year. While some noted in their posts that they were part of paid partnerships, their relationships with the food industry were in many cases not made explicit to viewers (🔒WP).
New data shows that a routine colonoscopy screening costs ~$1.1K in hospital outpatient depts compared with an average of $925 in ambulatory surgery centers. The average cost of a mammography screening was $287 in hospitals vs $217 in doctors' offices and cataract surgery costs $3.5K in hospitals vs $2.3K in ambulatory surgery centers.
The WHO launched 2 resources designed to strengthen suicide prevention efforts and efforts to decriminalize suicide and suicide attempts. The WHO and UN aim to reduce the global suicide rate by 1/3 by 2030.
The median time that US patients spent in ERs was 2 hrs, 40 min. in 2022, up from 2:35 in 2021 and 2:18 in 2014. The longest median wait time was in DC (5:29) while the shortest was in North Dakota (1:48).
The results from a double-blind trial conducted by MAPS Public Benefit Corp., a company that is developing prescription psychedelics, suggest that MDMA-assisted talk therapy may be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms. 86.5% of people in the treatment group reported a reduction in severity of symptoms with ~71% improving enough that they no longer met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis compared with 69% of those in the placebo group improved, with ~48% no longer qualifying for a PTSD diagnosis.
A new study estimated that 5.5M people die prematurely each year due to lead exposure, which imposes a social cost of $6T/yr worldwide.
A new study found that 99% of fathers reported that they put their baby down to sleep, yet only 16% of US dads followed all 3 safe-sleep practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
🎓 Lifelong Learning
The US Interstate Highway System maintains 75,000 km of roads, while the US National Forest System maintains 600,000 km of roads, plus another 96,000 km of roads that exist but are not maintained or managed.
HumanProgress.org published an interactive data page that lets visitors create their own visualizations.
At age 21, Peanut is the world’s oldest chicken.
The top 30 searched “meaning of…” baby names by state on Google in 2023 (the graph is from the Google Trends newsletter, which doesn’t link to a source page for its charts).
🌴 Lifestyle & Travel
Visitors trekked through federal land managed by the BLM 80M times in 2022, which was 40% more than in 2012. With its budget to maintain the land up just 22%, the agency must carefully account for all the trails and roads under its care to try and mitigate harm from overuse.
Food & Wine announced its 35th class of Best New Chefs.
Utah is the happiest state, according to WalletHub which evaluated 30 metrics such as depression rate, unemployment rate, and income growth.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee is reviewing ~50 nominations for new sites to add to its current list of ~1,157 sites in 167 different countries.
🗳️ Politics, Security & International Affairs
Google will require political advertisements to disclose if AI has generated “synthetic content that makes it appear as if a person is saying or doing something they didn’t say or do” starting in Nov.
New polling data suggests that Biden has a very slight lead on Trump among voters. Early polls from key battleground states also show a close race (🔒NYT) with no clear Electoral College advantages among either candidate.
A devastating flood in Libya killed at least 11.3K people last weekend and thousands more were displaced. The death toll could reach 20K. The catastrophe was attributed to the collapse of 2 nearby dams which caused a lethal flash flood that was as tall as 23' ft. The WP shared maps and videos that show why the floods were so deadly (🔒).
The amount of cocaine manufactured in Columbia, the world’s largest producer, rose to ~1.7K tons in 2022 (🔒WSJ), up 24% YoY. Colombia produces ~60% of the world’s supply of cocaine.
Iran launched its National Information Network last week. The new network will function as an intranet, similar to North Korea’s Kwangmyong, breaking most people’s online connections to the rest of the world.
The GAO estimated that fraudsters stole $1 out of every $7 in US pandemic unemployment aid (🔒WP), totaling as much as $135B.
The Air Force’s top general warned that China is recruiting Veterans and troops for their institutional military knowledge and "hundreds" of allies and service members could be targeted.
Switzerland retained its top spot in US News & World Report’s annual Best Countries rankings for the 2nd straight year. European countries made up the majority of the top 25, holding 16 spots.
Last week marked the beginning of a 10-week antitrust trial that the DOJ filed against Alphabet (parent company of Google) which has been accused of illegally monopolizing internet search.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced Republicans will open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden for allegedly lying to the American people about his knowledge of his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings.
A survey conducted in late Aug. by the AAUP in 4 states—TX, FL, GA, and NC—found that, on average, 67% of college and university faculty across disciplines wouldn’t recommend colleagues pursue work in their states (🔒Chron of Higher Ed), including 86% of those in FL. ~1 in 3 FL respondents said they were planning to interview for jobs in other states and 47% said they already were searching and/or had interviewed for out-of-state positions.
A transmission line between 2 power plants caught fire and exploded yesterday, causing a nationwide blackout in Nigeria last Thurs.
Last year, Texas made 93 attempts to ban 2,349 individual book titles, the highest number ever recorded by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and 2x+ the challenges made in 2021.
TikTok was fined $368M by Irish privacy regulators for allegedly failing to protect children’s data in violation of European laws.
⏩ Pop Culture, Art, Sports & Entertainment
See the winners of the 2023 Bird Photographer of the Year contest. There were 23K+ submissions.
Courtney Dauwalter won the 100-mi. Ultra-Tour du Mont-Blanc race in Chamonix, France, becoming the 1st person to win the "Triple Crown" of ultrarunning in one year.
The latest film in The Conjuring franchise, The Nun II, made $32.6M at the domestic box office and $52.7M overseas last weekend. It reportedly cost ~$22M to make the film.
Public-land agencies have gotten snarky on social media to draw in new audiences and spread educational messaging.
Half of the Billboard Hot 100 songs today are in a minor key, up from ~30% in 2000 and 15% in the 1960s.
The number of US surfers increased by ~1M from 2019 to 2022 (🔒The Atlantic) and the surge in these shoobies is annoying some longtime surfers who don’t like sharing coveted surfing locations.
🏡 Real Estate
The annual cost to insure a home on Miami’s Tony Star Island rose to $622K (🔒Bloomberg), up from $200K for the same policy last year.
It would cost the average American $623.3K to own a single-family home over the average property lifetime (if purchased in 2021), according to credit building company Self, which estimated the average cost of owning a home over the average occupancy period in all 50 states and DC (13.2 yrs). Hawai'i residents spend the most at an average of ~$1.48K over the average property lifetime, while West Virginians spend the least at ~$321.2K.
The average effective tax rate on the median-valued owner-occupied home in the US fell to 1.32% in 2022 from 1.33% in 2021. At the 1.32% rate, someone whose home is worth $200K would owe ~$2.6K in property taxes. Detroit homeowners paid the highest effective property tax rate (3.21%) in 2022 but SF owners actually paid the most in taxes in terms of total dollars (~$1.3M) because homes are so expensive there.
A new survey by Redfin showed that 1 in 10 home sellers are moving because of return-to-office mandates. The most common reason was wanting more space (~34%).
Over the past 10 yrs, the typical home in the US has more than doubled in value on average (🔒NYT). Since 2000, it has more than tripled. More expensive homes, particularly those in the top 10%, appreciated the most.
New data shows that >50% of students at selective US colleges come from families earning in the top 20% (🔒NYT) while fewer than 1 in 20 students have parents earning in the bottom 20%. Part of the advantage among wealthy students is driven by legacy admissions.
1 in 5 Asian American adults said they’ve hidden part of their heritage (e.g., cultural customs, food, clothing or religious practices) from non-Asians at some point in their lives, often driven by fear of ridicule and a desire to fit in. 32% of US-born Asian adults have done this compared with 15% of immigrants.
Just 3% of Americans work for a company that requires wearing business professional clothes on most days. 51% of women wear business casual clothing compared with 32% of men.
Homeschooling is estimated to account for more than 26% of the 1.2M decline in student enrollment at public schools nationwide, while private schools account for ~14%.
The poverty rate in the US rose to 12.4% in 2022 (🔒NYT) from 7.8% in 2021, the largest 1-yr jump on record. The increase was driven primarily by the expiration of safety net programs that were created or expanded during the pandemic. The rise in poverty was particularly acute among children and seniors. The poverty rate declined to the lowest on record dating back to 1959 for Black Americans (17.1%) but the rate is still substantially higher than for white non-Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans (8.6%).
Metropolitan areas including Miami, Denver, and Columbus, OH, have recorded steep increases in homelessness among people ages 55+. Federal data shows that people 55+ accounted for 16.3% of the sheltered homeless population in 2018 and 19.8% in 2021 (🔒WSJ). The aging of America means more old people on fixed incomes are overwhelmed by the high cost of housing and other financial shocks, such as the death of a spouse or a medical emergency.
75% of LGBTQ adults in the US think an open marriage is acceptable compared with 33% overall.
40% of Americans said they are very or somewhat pessimistic about the institution of marriage and the family. The one that was viewed most negatively by far was the trend toward fewer children being raised by 2 married parents, with 49% of respondents stating that this will have a negative impact on the country.
🧪 Science, Climate, Environment & Technology
Sustainable Waters estimated that irrigated agriculture accounts for 79% of the water consumed in the Colorado River Basin, with 55% of that going to crops like alfalfa, grass hay, haylage, and corn silage, which are produced exclusively to feed cows.
Researchers have identified academic papers written with the undisclosed help of the ChatGPT, which is a breach of ethical policies in many scientific journals.
Temperatures topped 110F in Phoenix, AZ, for 54 days straight last Sat., setting a new record. The previous record (53 days) was set in 2020.
In 2022, Microsoft consumed enough water to fill 2.5K+ Olympic-sized swimming pools (~1.7B gal.) to support its AI tools and projects. That’s a 34% increase from 2021 and a 228% increase from 2017. One study estimated that every 5-50 prompts on ChatGPT requires 16 oz of water, due to the vast amount of water needed to cool the supercomputers that train the chatbot. The range varies depending on where its servers are located and the season.
The US has been hit with 23 separate billion-dollar disasters so far in 2023, the largest number of billion-dollar disasters since records have been kept.
Last week, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio set a new record for the longest US spaceflight mission, eclipsing the previous record of 355 straight days in space. Rubio is also the first person of Salvadoran origin to go to space. He is set to return to Earth on Sept. 27, when he will have spent 371 days in space.
Giant cracks are emerging across the US Southwest as groundwater is being depleted.
A team of students in Switzerland designed an EV called “mythen” that can accelerate to 100 km/hr in 0.956 sec. The previous record of 1.74 sec was set by the Rimac Nevara which costs $2M.
The total area of Mount Rainier that is covered by glacier ice shrunk by an estimated 42% between 1896 and 2021 (🔒NYT). One of the mountain's 29 glaciers is completely gone and 2 are on the verge of disappearing. The glaciers that remain are ~half the size of what they used to be.
A NASA space telescope detected an exoplanet that could harbor life. The exoplanet, K2-18 b, is 8.6x the size of Earth and ~120 light-yrs away. Some scientists are skeptical about the claim that the exoplanet could be an “ocean planet with possible signs of life.”
A new survey found that ~1 in 3 Swiss adults made greener choices because of climate activist Greta Thunberg.
A new Gallup poll found that a majority of US adults don’t trust businesses to use AI responsibly (79%) and 75% expect AI to take away human jobs within the next 10 yrs. Just 10% believe it contributes more good than harm.
The NSF curtailed or canceled 67 out of 131 projects that are being conducted in the Antarctic primarily due to a housing shortage caused by pandemic delays.
Consumers can purchase airless bike tires made from nitinol, a nickel and titanium alloy developed by NASA, on Kickstarter. They’re the first consumer product to use the metal and the maker, Smart Tire Co., claims its Metl tires will never go flat and will last a lifetime.
Wishing you a good week
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