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Post-Apartheid Inequality Sparks Frustration and Fury in South Africa

Bloomberg (08/02/2021)
  • The bottom 50% of South Africans are currently economically worse off than they were at the end of apartheid (1994).
  • South Africa’s commodity-driven economy has stalled since 2008, eliminating jobs in labour-intensive sectors (eg mining).
  • Lack of jobs has pushed 1/3 of South Africa’s population (18 million) onto welfare rolls.
  • The slowing economy and rampant corruption have also forced the government to cut welfare and pension payments.
  • South Africa leads in global economic inequality (richest 3,500 South Africans worth more than poorest 27 million).

Why Silicon Valley’s Asian Americans Still Feel Like a Minority

Bloomberg (08/06/2021)
  • Despite representing 40-50% of the workforce at major tech companies (eg Google, Facebook), Asian-Americans lament racial bias (“bamboo ceiling”) preventing them from securing leadership roles.
  • Despite over-achieving in their roles, many recount receiving vague, subjective feedback (eg “not a good fit”) for being passed over for top promotions.
  • Some believe that cultural stereotypes that help getting them hired (obedient, subservient) are viewed as shortcomings in leadership roles.
  • Seeking independent leadership via startups, Asian founders also recount being viewed with more skepticism than White counterparts.

Murder Rose by Almost 30% in 2020. It’s Rising at a Slower Rate in 2021.

The New York Times (NYT) (09/22/2021)
  • FBI data revealed that 2020 experienced the biggest year-over-year increase in US murders (+5,000 approx) ever.
  • While the increase eclipsed the previous record (+1,938 in 1990), total murders (21,500) remain below peak early 1990s levels (24,000).
  • Drivers behind the increase include pandemic-related stresses, police pullback after George Floyd protests and the increase in guns in circulation.
  • Murders rose 35-40% in cities with over 100,000 people.
  • While murders are still increasing in 2021, the rate of increase has slowed (+9.9%).
  • 77% of US murders involve firearms.

Small business owners have mixed emotions about Biden’s vaccine mandate

The Morning Brew (10/15/2021)
  • Biden’s recent mandate requiring small businesses with over 100 employees to be fully vaccinated has sparked controversy.
  • Surveys found that 40-60% of small business owners oppose the mandate, claiming discomfort with interfering in employees healthcare decisions.
  • Owners also fear that the mandate will turn-off prospective employees, making it harder to hire during current labor shortage.
  • Both supporters and opponents complain about the arbitrary mandate threshold of 100 employees; the vast majority of America’s 31.6 million small businesses employ under 100 people.

Instagram Struggles With Fears of Losing Its ‘Pipeline’: Young Users

The New York Times (NYT) (10/16/2021)
  • Internal documents reveal that Facebook executives lamenting Instagram’s waning popularity among American teens.
  • While Instagram remains widely popular (1.3B users), a recent survey found that its the 3rd ranked favorite app among teens (22%), below Snapchat (35%) and Tiktok (30%).
  • Teens prefer Snapchat and Tiktok features focused on sharing fun content with friends instead of Instagram’s “performative culture”.
  • Viewing teens as the “key pipeline” to sustained future relevance, Instagram’s annual marketing budget ($390M) has been primarily allocated to targeting teens via digital ads.

Why cremation has overtaken burial in America

CNN (10/12/2021)
  • 55% of Americans are currently getting cremated after death, up from 20% about 30 years ago.
  • The biggest driver of increasing cremations is rising funeral costs, which average about $10K (cremations can be up to 90% less expensive).
  • Also, increasing environmental awareness (land usage) is convincing more people to request post-death cremation.
  • The “Margins of Error” podcast examines these drivers as well as high cremation rates across politically diverse regions (eg Florida, Northeast, West Coast).

‘Lurching Between Crisis and Complacency’: Was This Our Last Covid Surge?

The New York Times (NYT) (10/14/2021)
  • While US Covid infections have declined by 40% since August to 90,000/day, researchers remain unsure if the worst is over.
  • Unpredictable human behavior makes predicting outbreaks inherently difficult.
  • While Delta variant fears pushed vaccination rates higher, public mask-wearing has been in decline.
  • Americans reported public mask-wearing have shifted from 77% (Winter 2020) to 23% (July 2021) to 41% currently.
  • Also, current Covid hotspots (Alaska, Minnesota) signal a potential resurgence when cooler weather returns nationwide.
  • Future Covid surge wildcards include new variants and/or weakening vaccine efficacy.

More than 200,000 children sexually abused by French Catholic clergy, damning report finds

CNN (10/05/2021)
  • A recent report disclosed that France’s Catholic clergy has abused 216,000 children over the last 70 years.
  • The abused minors rises to 330,000 when including victims at Catholic schools and youth programs.
  • Most of the abuse occurred from 1950-1968, when it was widely ignored by the Church.
  • The investigation also found that Catholic clergy pedophilia was in decline until the early 1990s.
  • Recommendations to prevent future abuse include “reinforcing the presence” of women in Church decision-making and psychological evaluations for prospective priests.

What Happens to Your Body on No Sleep?

Outside (04/02/2019)
  • Scientists have found that the effects of acute sleep deprivation, or all-nighters, kicks in after being awake for 16-18 hours straight.
  • The first sign is a sluggish mind, with reaction times lagging to the equivalent of being legally drunk by the 24th hour awake.
  • After 24 hours, your brain starts forcing you into 10-20 second periods of “micro-sleep”.
  • After 35 hours, the brain’s emotion-emitting amygdala becomes 60% more reactive and the ability to regulate emotions declines.
  • Hallucinations are common after 48 hours awake.