WELCOME BACK TO WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
Welcome back to a new edition of The Weekender… where data will determine if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates. Also, job scammers are on the hunt for job seekers. The Food and Drug Administration is looking to update the word “healthy” to better describe modern science’s understanding of diets more accurately. There’s a lot to discuss and more to learn below in the latest edition of The Weekender.
Data will Determine the Federal Reserve’s Interest in Raising Interest Rates
Your ability to mortgage a home, finance a car, or take out a small business loan in the immediate future may depend on data. On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said officials would base their decisions about interest rates on hiring and inflation data from February 2023. During two days of Congressional hearings, Powell said, “I stress that no decision has been made on this,” going on to say officials are prepared to raise rates, if necessary, based on “the totality of the data.” His comments indicate the Federal Reserve is debating whether to raise rates by another quarter-point, as they did last month. According to CNBC, the Fed had not anticipated needing to raise rates to their current peak. In December 2022, officials estimated that the terminal rate would rest at 5.1%. Current market pricing moved that number to between 5.5% and 5.75%. The Economist notes that the global impacts of these rates will be felt in the housing market’s spring selling market, which serves as a bellwether for the economy’s performance. With buyers keeping their ink off mortgages, home builders holding off on breaking ground, and sellers trimming prices, signs point to a recession in our near future. Rate hikes are hurting home buyers and owners alike, as the average mortgage rate is roughly 3% higher than it was at this time in 2022, and mortgage payments for homebuyers have increased by 40%, rising by nearly $700 per month. While it is certainly no guarantee of a recession, the writing is on the wall, and the Federal Reserve has its hands full to avert a potential economic downturn. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.
If You’re Looking for a New Job Online, Scammers May Be Looking for You
The latest installment of the “Don’t believe everything you see on the internet” series is materializing in an unexpected place: the job market. Job seekers who seem to have found their perfect fit should err on the side of caution, as the posting they see may be a scam. Job posting scams are intended to rob job seekers of precious dollars or, worse, personal information leading to identity theft or serious fraud later. Cybersecurity specialists have seen a stark uptick in scam postings on sites, including LinkedIn, following recent layoffs in the tech and other industries. Generally, internet scammers attempt to impress a sense of urgency on their victims to ensure they overlook red flags. Job seekers are feeling the need for immediate employment, making them ideal targets for phishing attempts. According to Clearance Jobs, scammers are becoming more sophisticated in their postings every day, creating websites, operating phone numbers, and utilizing AI chatbots. LinkedIn is already warning users that if a posting seems too good to be true, it probably is. The Federal Trade Commission released employment scams exploded by a 110% increase over two years because of COVID-19, from $174.2 million in total losses in 2020 to $367.4 million in 2022. Wilmer Hale explains that impersonated companies are affected as much as lured job seekers. They recommend companies examine each case individually but should act quickly, speak out, report impersonation accounts, keep records, contact law enforcement, and send cease-and-desist letters. As the digital workplace evolves, so do the threats seeking to capitalize on the opportunity. Read more at CNET.
The FDA Asks, “What’s in a Name?”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is deliberating a proposal to update its definition of the word “healthy” to describe modern scientific understandings of diets more accurately. The existing definition was released in 1994 and means, in part, that food “has limits for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.” Under the current standard, “healthy” foods must provide “at least 10% of the Daily Value (DV) for one or more of the following nutrients: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Protein, and Fiber.” While these are important components, the FDA does not believe they tell the whole story about a proper diet and hopes redefining the word will help consumers make more educated decisions in grocery stores. The FDA is looking to rework its description of “healthy” to emphasize nutrient-dense foods from the categories of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins. In the new definition, raw fruits and vegetables automatically qualify, but high-sugar, low-fat products would be booted from being able to claim the healthy tagline. Queue the input from major food companies: the new regulation would remove prominent cereal, pasta, yogurt, and processed foods from achieving the healthy accolade. Unsurprisingly, the major food producers are pushing back aggressively. Some companies called the change “unconstitutional,” claiming the new proposal infringes on their first amendment rights. According to The Washington Post, the American obesity pandemic continues to worsen daily. Studies show that obesity, especially among children, has risen significantly over the course of COVID-19. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that six in 10 adults suffer from chronic diseases, often due to poor diet and excessive weight. These illnesses are one of the main drivers of the United States’ $4.1 trillion spent in yearly healthcare costs. While the new distinction will continue to receive pushback from food producers, it is far too early to determine if it leads to any meaningful change in Americans’ dietary habits. Read more in Salon.
Human Genome Editing Sparking Controversy
During the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing that concluded this week, organizers explored the applications and ethics of technology and its future in medicine. Genome editing is a way for scientists to make specific changes to the DNA in a cell or an entire organism by adding, removing, or swapping in or out one or more nucleotides. Human genome editing technology has rapidly advanced in recent years. However, techniques making it easier to manipulate DNA still produce too many errors for scientists to be confident in the technology. In its closing statement, the committee said that heritable human genome editing should not be used unless certain conditions have been met, which they have not. The fear is that a mistake could introduce new genetic mutations into the human gene pool, which would be passed down for generations. Another concern is creating “designer babies” – children whose parents try to pick and choose their traits. Five years ago, a Chinese scientist said he had created the world’s first gene-edited babies, which cause major outcry and updated regulations. Still, some scientists warn the rules in China to regulate gene editing in humans aren’t strict enough. Despite the worries over gamete cells, which includes egg or sperm, many people’s lives have been changed through treatments used on adults with serious diseases. More than 50 experimental studies are underway that use gene editing in human volunteers to treat everything from cancer to HIV and blood diseases. Most of the studies involve Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR), which can be used to change specific DNA sequences accurately. CRISPR is the most versatile of gene-editing methods. Victoria Gray was one of the first patients treated using CRISPR and was cured of her sickle-cell disease symptoms. While there are hopes of gene-editing treatments for the future, there is still a long way to go and more work to go regarding the ethical dilemmas raised by the technology. Read more at The Economist.
Continuing to Break the Glass Ceiling
With Women’s History Month, we continue to celebrate the contributions of women, both past and present, who have paved the way for women everywhere. Women’s History Month reminds us of the American women who demanded equal rights to vote, jumpstarting the creation of the Equal Rights Amendment, which passed this month in 1972. Significant strides have been made since this period, but more can always be done. According to recent research, women aren’t investing in the market at the same rate as men. Experts point to factors such as how women are perceived and treated by the investment community, among other hurdles for this gender investment gap. If women invested at the same rate as men, there would be at least an additional $3.22 trillion in assets under management from private individuals. The investment industry isn’t engaging women to the same degree as men. In fact, 86% of asset managers surveyed target male customers. Many women describe their financial health as very poor, which creates a high disposable income hurdle that will stop them from entering the financial markets. The wage gap is another issue for women looking to invest, especially single women. Never-married women earned just 92% of what never-married men did last year and have 29% less wealth, giving them less spending power and wealth. It also doesn’t help that women, on average, earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2022. Even with these drawbacks, there are still ways to close the gap. A more inclusive financial community needs to be built with more women financial advisors. The male advisors also need to understand that their income and economic success can be hurt if they ignore women, as more women are becoming wealthy. With challenges ahead, women are determined to continue breaking that glass ceiling for generations. Read more at CNBC.
China Poses More Threats to the United States
China’s economic, technological, political, and military influence continues to challenge the United States. Intelligence chiefs from across the U.S. government faced backlash from a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the origins of COVID-19 and China’s effect on the world. China’s ruling Community Party seems convinced that it can only be a major power on the world stage at the expense of U.S. power and influence. China is becoming a bigger and more dangerous world player with the increasing tensions with Taiwan and Hong Kong and the possibility of American data going to the Chinese government. There is much concern over China’s TikTok platform being used to exploit the data of millions of American users, advancing military capabilities, and the origin of COVID-19 possibly starting from a Chinese lab leak. China’s manipulation of technology is beginning to outpace other nations, inching closer to the United States’ technological capabilities. The Senate Intelligence Committee unveiled a bill that would ban TikTok and other Chinese technology in the United States, which could be a crucial tool for countering threats from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Read more at ABC News.
- 223,000: The number of jobs that U.S. employers added in December, pushing the unemployment rate down to 3.5% and matching a 53-year low.
- 21.8%: The average percentage that the state of Delaware tips, declaring it the most generous tipping state. Cleveland, Ohio, is the top city with a tipping average above 20% according to Toast.
- 4: The number of American citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Mexico last week. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is offering $50,000 for the Americans’ return and arrest of the gunmen.
- 57: The number of people who were killed in a train collision in the northern part of Greece. Last weekend, thousands of people protested in Athens to demand better safety standards for the country’s rail system.
- 216: The number of fires last year started by the lithium-ion batteries in electric bikes and scooters, resulting in 147 injuries and six deaths. The batteries caused at least 30 fires, 40 injuries, and two deaths in New York City so far this year.
- 55%: The percentage out of 1,000 men who do not go for routine health screenings. A third of the men surveyed thought they didn’t need checkups, while 65% believed they could skip seeing a doctor because they’re “naturally healthier than most people.”
- 111,000: The number of white-owned real estate development firms out of roughly 112,000 real estate development companies in the United States. Out of the 383 top-tier developers who generate more than $50 million in revenue annually, one is Latino; none are Black.
- $44.55 million: The amount a painting by Russian Modernist Wassily Kandinsky sold for at Sotheby’s in London. Once belonging to victims of the Nazi Holocaust, “Murnau mit Kirche II” was the most expensive sale of the night and a new auction record for the artist.
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— CNBC (@CNBC) March 30, 2019