• UNSURPRISINGLY, NEWEST RESEARCH FINDS THAT SPENDING MORE TIME IN NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS IS HEALTHIER. “Living close to nature and spending time outside has significant & wide-ranging health benefits,” according to global data involving 140 studies of nearly 300 million people in 20 countries. Populations living in Greenspace – “open, underdeveloped land with natural vegetation, as well as urban parks and street greenery” – have reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, pre-term birth and early death, along with reduced blood pressure, heart rate and stress. In Japan, it’s called ‘Forest bathing’ with improved health attributed to “using the senses to soak up the sights, smells & sounds of the natural world… and breathing in the compounds emitted by trees which may stimulate immune systems to reduce inflammation.” [SCIENCE DAILY – Jul 6, 18]
  • BANK REGULATION WAS THE FEDERAL RESPONSE TO 2008’s ECONOMIC CRASH, caused by banks having over-leveraged the sub-prime mortgage market. “Post-crash, the obvious reform was to make sure that banks would have enough assets on hand to not require ‘bailouts’ the next time they borrowed beyond their means.” So Dodd-Frank legislation mandated reduced borrowing along with increased capital reserves, subject to ‘Stress Testing’ examinations to confirm compliance plus Contingency Plans in case of collapse. A decade later, new legislation has weakened the law, in a surprising bi-partisan vote (though understandable since politicians from both parties are big recipients of donations from financial-services lobbyists). “In a masterstroke of deregulatory trickery, one that should go down in the Hall of Fame of legistive chicanery,” a provision in the original law that Federal Reserve “may consider weakening safety rules for a particular bank was changed to shall consider every request for special treatment – potentially the mother of all loopholes.” Additionally, the law first applied to banks with over $50 billion in assets, but now exempts all under $100B “may go to $250B which would exempt 99% of banks… We’ve been here before – in an economy that feels shakier than suspiciously swollen stock market numbers would indicate.” [ROLLING STONE – July 18]
  • A TRADITIONAL REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE COMPANY NOW OPERATES SOLELY ONLINE through a Virtual Campus with over 12,000 employees, contractors & agents spread out over 300 markets in the U.S. and Canada, where hiring, training, collaboration and administrative tasks are handled by avatars, without overhead costs or commuting to any physical location. eXp Realty is a NASDAQ traded company with over $1 billion capitalization who developed a sophisticated virtual world in three years, and “remain light years ahead of everyone in terms of leveraging virtual reality this way.” [SINGULARITY HUB – July 8, 18]
  • FRAUDULENT U.S. GOVERNMENT CALLER IDs HAVE DUPED “HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS” from over 15,000 victims (mostly immigrants and older people) by scammers posing as IRS or immigration officials “threatening arrest, imprisonment, deportation or other penalties if the victims did not immediately pay debts with prepaid cards or wire transfers.” So far, the Justice Dep’t has indicted over 50 conspirators in the U.S. and India, with prison sentences up to twenty years and judgements of some $75 million in the nation’s “first large-scale multinational telephone fraud operation… on charges including wire fraud, money-laundering and conspiracy.” About time!   [NEW YORK TIMES – July 23, 18]
  • STUDENT LOAN DEBT, NOW AROUND $1.5 TRILLION, IS STAGGERING. While most loans are federally backed, low-interest, and can be stretched out twenty years after which loan-forgiveness generally applies, they are burdensome to graduates – most of whom do not obtain high-earning jobs. Above $31K, private loans are also available to students but at higher interest and without debt-forgiveness provisions. An alternative is now evolving at some universities working with investors to offer an ‘Income Share Agreement’ which acts as Equity rather than Debt,” with investors taking a share of the student’s future income stream. Obviously investors “will offer better terms to students at universities whose graduates earn well… but caps on repayment mean high-fliers do not end up paying back fortunes” and students will have better opportunity for cash flow in early years as their income level grows. [THE ECONOMIST – July 21, 18] 
  • THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK: “The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” 

          Univ. of Arizona has received a Nat’l Institutes of Health grant for $775,000 to study “sleep health of Mexican-Americans on the border… who may be at increased risk of sleep disturbances due to acculturation, stress, socioeconomics and health behaviors.”  Our tax dollars are still flowing for useful purposes.  

          For close-up Magic lovers:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXxtLIb0iF8