Genius Trivia: Just In Case It Matters To You

by Dennis Duitch

  • HACKERS CAN NOW USE FACEBOOK PICTURES, AS WELL AS PROFILES, TO GATHER INTEL for phishing or malware attacks. An open-source facial recognition tool, released as Social Mapper, can now track a person, by photo, across up to eight social media platforms and “create a report on the target including links to all profiles, photos and any emails associated with their accounts.”  [FUTURISM]
  • TIPS FOR GETTING BACK TO SLEEP AFTER NATURE’S URGE WAKEUP: (1) Do not even glance at the time, since attention “adds stress in release of fight-flight hormones”;  (2) Do not touch your smartphone, since the “blue light it emits can keep you up – especially if the screen is close to your eyes”;  (3) If still awake after 20 minutes, take a break from trying with anything that avoids thinking about sleep, like light reading or stretching;  (4) Try “deep circular breathing” while focusing on sights, smells & sounds of a relaxing place or activity;  (5) When all else fails, get a start on the day’s work which sometimes may put you right back to sleep.  [THE WEEK]
  • THE NEWEST AIR TRAVEL GIMMICK IS ‘SMART’ LUGGAGE. (1) Modobag doubles as an electric sit-down scooter, rideable along the corridors to terminal gates, after raising retractable handlebars with a thumb-tab to operate motor & brakes; battery & transmission take up a good portion of packing space and it weighs 20 pounds (half the allowance for carry-on bags) but it does fit overhead - www.youtube.com/watch?v=HazWCa3huMY ; (2) Travelmate is another: an “autonomous suitcase that follows you around like an unflaggingly faithful gundog” - www.youtube.com/watch?v=oT5mhcBba08     [ECONOMIST]
  • 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]
  • 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]
  • 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]
  • WORK MEETINGS ARE AMONG THE TOP ‘PRODUCTIVITY KILLERS,’ mostly from “too much communicating or socializing.” While team communication is critical to creativity, meetings often get “derailed and lose their focus due to even one overly chatty teammate.” Tips for better controlling a meeting: (1) Distribute an advance Outline/Agenda noting discussion items and meeting length; (2) Prioritize items and remind participants before each segment whether timing is on track; (3) Anticipate ‘triggers’ which typically usurp time – like participants who tend to elaborate on past experiences or ideas,– and guide them by acknowledging the value of what they may have to say, but noting that after-the-meeting will allow time to explore; (4) “Keep in mind that everyone has a different personality type and some may not even be aware they are overly chatty, so always avoid belittling them in front of the team.”  [U.S.NEWS & WORLD REPORT]
  • “ENGAGING IN ‘SUPERSTIOUS’ ACTS MAKES PEOPLE BELIEVE IN MYSTERIOUS FORCES RATHER THAN PROBABILITY (whether consciously or unconsciously), where outcomes are simply meant to be.” Research at Northwestern University found that superstition affects the way people think about risk and the odds of success or failure; that they “stop making rational deliberations about probability and, instead, believe that outcomes are predetermined… The simple act of crossing one’s fingers or clutching a rabbit’s foot keychain somehow flips ‘loss aversion’ on its head – i.e. that people will take significant risks to avoid losing money, but will not accept that risk in hope of receiving a windfall… But, while performing superstitious actions, people just look at the endpoints (gain or loss) without thinking about expectancy – fatalism at its finest.”  [INSIGHT.KELLOGG.NORTHWESTERN]
  • ‘BLOCKCHAIN’ IS STILL AN IMMATURE TECHNOLOGY but continues to attract billions of dollars in capital investment; IBM alone has funded over $200 million and hired over a thousand staff.  In simplest terms, the core advantages of Blockchain are “decentralization, cryptographic security, transparency and immutability… resulting from a database shared across a public or private computing network where each computer node holds a copy of the ledger, so there is no single point of failure. Every piece of info is mathematically encrypted and recorded with various consensus protocols required to validate a new block before it can be added to the chain of historical records, with automatic triggering when certain transactional conditions (i.e. dangers) are met. This prevents fraud or double spending without requiring 3rd party authority.”   [McKINSEY]
  • TECHNOLOGY ALLOWS US TO CONSUME FIVE TIMES MORE INFORMATION TODAY THAN A FEW DECADES AGO.  But, by spreading consumption habits too thinly and “letting the headline tides pull us along… we’ve become less productive learners.” Techniques for reversing that trend include: (1) Since filtering information that is irrelevant is critical in order to perceive, remember and make decisions about new info, reading and viewing needs to be focused on and limited to select topics; (2) Since it’s easiest to retain new information by associating it in a structured, repeatable way with what we already know, it should be put into ‘frameworks’ which act as the internal architecture for our brains; (3) then, by synthesizing the new info with your prior database, perspective is broadened, and solidified by reviewing the composite material and literally asking yourself ‘what are my key takeaways’ from this new information.”  [HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW]
  • FLAWLESS MANIPULATED VIDEOS – photorealistic superimposed faces, movements & voices – can now be translated into any altered video, by an artificial intelligence-powered system usable on any home computer, where it’s almost impossible to tell fake from real. Reality is that ‘deepfake’ videos are starting to be used for smearing politicians & political parties or shaming someone, and fears are growing that they could be used to “create international incidents by showing soldiers committing atrocities, or world leaders declaring war on another country and triggering an actual military response… It will only take a couple of big hoaxes to really convince the public that nothing is real… Soon we won’t be able to trust our own eyes.”  [THE WEEK]
  • ‘PSYCHOGRAPHICS’ IS WHAT THE CURRENT FACEBOOK CONFLICT IS ALL ABOUT. “Beyond demographic data like age/gender/race, its focus is on customer emotions/values/attitudes and other psychological factors… by using massive datasets which group people into psychological groups.  Referred to as the “dark arts of marketing, psychographics is at the cutting edge of digital marketing, and could transform how marketers influence decision-making.”  [CBINSIGHTS.COM]
  • “STRESS IS REALLY JUST OUR BODY’S RESPONSE TO A CHALLENGE and follows an ‘inverted U’ function: as pressure goes up, do does performance. But this is only to a certain point. Beyond that, greater pressure cause performance to drop.” So there’s a ‘sweet spot’ for stress: whereas chronic stress can lead to blood pressure, diabetes, insomnia and other health problems, the ‘right kind’ of stress, in the right circumstances, can be beneficial – by “secreting hormones of (1) adrenaline (which increases attention) and (2) cortisol (which mobilizes glucose for energy, stimulates the immune system, and enhances growth of neurons critical to learning & memory).”  Research studies at Stanford suggest that “attitude about stress can influence whether we experience it as manageable or noxious, and that emotional & biological response to stress is modifiable just by adjusting one’s mind-set about it… Other studies demonstrate that when people feel in control of a difficult situation – whether actually right about being in control or not – they were less impaired by stress.”  [NEW YORK TIMES]
  • “ON THE INTERNET, THE DEVIL’S IN THE DEFAULTS…but 95% of users are too busy or too confused to change them.” Examples of ‘set up’ defaults which don’t even get looked while giving away your rights include: (1) Facebook’s right to expose your friends list and all pages you follow; (2) Google’s right to save a map of everywhere you go and let marketers use your name in their Facebook ads; (3) Microsoft Windows 10 Cortana is allowed to gobble up your entire digital life; (4) Amazon’s Alexa records every word spoken in the room… Changing complicated Privacy Settings means less personalization from some services, but can curtail some of the creepy advertising and other stuff fueled by your data.” To get back control, steps are spelled out at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2018/06/01/hands-off-my-data-15-default-privacy-settings-you-should-change-right-now/?utm_term=.43bff2524184  to change your settings and regain some control.  [THE WASHINGTON POST]
  • WHY ARE CALIFORNIANS LEAVING THE STATE IN DROVES? The Wall St. Journal forecasts hundreds of thousands will move out over the next few years. “Reasons for the mass exodus include rising crime, the worst traffic in the western world, a growing homelessness epidemic, wildfires, earthquakes and crazy politicians that do some of the stupidest things imaginable.” Add unconscionable home prices; a continuing influx of illegal immigrants (who, thanks to Sanctuary State legislation, are provided with food, shelter, healthcare & drivers licenses); unfathomable regulations from dozens of overlapping agencies; and punitive income taxes that “eat away at disposable income.” Top three areas losing population are Silicon Valley, San Mateo & Los Angeles counties. Top out-of-state destinations are Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Texas & Washington.   [ZEROHEDGE.COM]
  • DESPITE ‘DO NOT CALL’ REGULATIONS, LITERALLY BILLIONS OF ROBOCALLS CONTINUE to plague landlines and wireless phones. The FTC has enforced actions against nearly 600 violators but abusive calls daily “harangue households with calls that are at best a nuisance and at worst threaten unsuspecting consumers with financial scams.” In April, legislators in both House and Senate introduced bills to hopefully curtail the problem by “requiring phone companies to provide effective technology that verifies accurate caller IDs and offer consumers free robocall-blocking… along with a ‘right of action’ against telecommunications companies for violations.”   [MANATT TCPA CONNECT]
  • WHEN CAN LAW ENFORCEMENT SEIZE & SEARCH YOUR MOBILE PHONE, TABLET OR PERSONAL COMPUTER? Laws are a little fuzzy among the states, but legal precedent generally holds that: (1) If you or, in your absence, an employer/spouse/roommate give consent. (But, even then, you are not required to provide passcodes or encryption keys under the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination); (2) In event a warrant has been issued, or if the “device is on and displaying something clearly illegal… or it looks like an imminent threat that evidence will be destroyed”; (3) When in an airport or crossing a border.  FYI, a $15,000 device which local and some federal enforcement agencies now possess (called GreyKey) can now crack open both password and fingerprint-protected iPhones.  [FUTURISM.COM]
  • AND THE FUTURE WILL SOON ALSO SEE A.I. TECHNOLOGY THAT “DETECTS DECEPTION FLAWLESSLY” based on image and facial recognition. Researchers at Univ. of Maryland have developed a system to “autonomously detect deception in courtroom trial videos… by classifying micro-expressions (such as ‘lips protruded’ or ‘eyebrow frown’) and by analyzing vocal patterns …significantly better than common people.”  [FUTURISM.COM]
  • VISION PROBLEMS ARE THE LATEST ‘SCREEN TIME’ DANGER FOR SCHOOL-AGE KIDS – not because of electronic screen emissions, but because kids who spend as little as four hours weekly indoors on screens, versus outdoors in sunlight, become near-sighted. “Almost 90% of 18-year olds in the U.S. and Europe now have Myopia, a condition which prevents light from focusing directly on the retina, making distant objects appear blurry.” AND NOISE POLLUTION IS ANOTHER INCREASING DANGER TO BOTH KIDS & ADULTS, “causing hearing loss, hypertension, insomnia, and inducing stress which can cascade into worsened immune systems, heart problems, increased anxiety and depression.” The danger level for human hearing (temporary or permanent) is prolonged exposure to anything over 85 decibels. The major contributors are diesel trucks (generating 90 decibels at 50 feet away), jet engines, construction sites, trains, loud traffic, rock concerts and boom boxes.  [THE WEEK]

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“Genius Trivia: Just in Case it Matters to You” is the work product of Dennis Duitch, author, poet, sculptor and musician. Presented by: www.duitchconsulting.com

Genius Trivia: Just In Case It Matters To You

by Dennis Duitch

  • BREATHING-IN THROUGH YOUR NOSE AND EXHALING THROUGH YOUR MOUTH GIVES “BETTER CONTROL and the ability to act more quickly than mouth breathing.” According to recent neuroscience research at Northwestern University, nasal inhaling increased ability to recognize faces, remember objects, and demonstrated that “the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the brain with dramatic difference related to emotional processing & memory.” Practical considerations hint that in pressured, dangerous or fearful situations (like public speaking, before & during negotiations, feeling overwhelmed with learning new stuff or meeting new people), mindful attention to nasal inhaling can be helpful.  [DEVELOPMENTAL EXCELERATIONS]
  • THE METAPHORICAL ‘DOOMSDAY CLOCK’ is ‘set’ by a Board of cybersecurity, environmental science & nuclear policy experts who “weigh existential threats to humanity, including war, pandemics and artificial intelligence.” They moved the Clock ahead 30 seconds last month and it’s now set at 2-minutes-to-midnite, “marking the closest humanity has (in their eyes) theoretically been to annihilation” since the testing of H-bombs in early 1950s. “The point is to get people talking about urgent issues facing humanity, whether rising oceans, killer robots or nuclear destruction, but reality is that our daily deluge of disturbing headlines” has numbed most Americans to a quick thought and then on to more immediate personal issues.  [THE WEEK]
  • LARGE OCEAN FISH, ESPECIALLY TUNA, CONTAIN HIGHER-THAN-AVERAGE AMOUNTS OF MERCURY – particularly dangerous to young children thru age 12 whose nervous system, brain, heart, kidney & lungs are susceptible to the harmful toxic effects. Canned or bagged ‘Chunk-light’ tuna is safest for tuna sandwiches since it’s usually Albacore or Skipjack variety which are smaller, faster-growing & shorter lived fish, with less accumulated mercury than blue-fin.   [MENS HEALTH]
  • “THE FUTURE OF SECURE AUTHENTICATION IS VOICE PROFILING,” now close to supplanting DNA or fingerprinting as the key measure of what defines individuals. Research at Carnegie Mellon University has, using Artificial Intelligence, now “generated a 3-D image of a speaker’s face, simply by analyzing a voice recording… It turns out your voice picks up micro-signatures which offer hints – more than the human brain can conceive – about not only facial features, but also mood, social status, upbringing, age, ethnicity, weight, height and information about the environment around you.”  Beyond authentication, A.I. may facilitate voice technology which can tele-medically provide early identity of medical conditions.  [FORTUNE]
  • “DESPITE YEARS OF SANCTIONS, INDICTMENTS, AND OTHER ATTEMPTS TO COMBAT HACKERS, attacks continue and experts warn it could be twenty years before the situation is under control… In the absence of a clear legal framework (as politicians try to wrap their heads around the concept of ‘The Cyber’) hackers and spy agencies are experimenting to see what they can & cannot get away with, creating a free-for-all online… The oft-forgotten reality is that all countries commit espionage (even against their own allies) to understand capabilities and intentions… Some are looking for trade secrets, some for weaknesses that could be used in future attacks, and others want to just stir up trouble… So making a clear distinction between what they consider standard (if unsavory) elements of ‘statecraft’ and those activities less acceptable (like industrial espionage, election meddling, destructive cyberattacks) has proven difficult. Hacking is cheap, easy, deniable, and everybody is doing it. No wonder it’s proving so hard to stamp out.”  [TECHREPUBLIC.COM]
  • AMERICA NOW POSSESSES THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL SUPERCOMPUTER. The ‘Summit,’ built by IBM, utilizes over 185 miles of fiber optic cables, two tennis-courts worth of floor space, and nearly 37,000 processors. It can perform 200 quadrillion calculations per second (that’s 200,000,000,000,000,000 or 200 Petaflops – roughly “a million times faster than a typical laptop, and nearly twice the peak performance of the next most powerful machine (in China).” The next milestone in large-scale computing is targeted by 2021, named ‘Aurora,’ which would multiply power five times, to 1000 petaflops.  [WIRED]
  • ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE HAS PROVEN 27% SUPERIOR TO HUMANS IN DETECTING CARDIAC ARREST by analyzing the words & voice tone which an emergency incident caller uses.  After researching over 150,000 recorded calls to test the algorithm, software correctly detected 93% of cases and made its determination a half-minute faster on average.  The Univ. of Copenhagen study (on audio archives “considered the best in medicine”) also concluded that “a patient’s 30-day survival rate triples when a dispatcher recognizes cardiac arrest during an emergency call.”  [BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK]
  • EYEGLASSES MAY SOON BE REDUNDANT. Israeli researchers have developed a process which, so far in animal testing, can repair corneas and other refractory problems to improve both short-sightedness and long-sightedness. Now in clinical tests, patients can use a smartphone app to “measure eye refraction and create a laser pattern which ‘stamps’ onto the corneal surface. A synthetic nanoparticle solution (Nanodrops) can then correct the vison problem.”  [JERUSALEM POST]
  • ADMINISTRATIVE POSITIONS AT COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES HAVE GROWN at 10 times the rate for tenured faculty. At Cal Poly Pomona, while full-time faculty increased by around 400 over three decades, the number of Administrators grew to a roughly 1-to-1 proportion with total students. The University of Michigan currently employs a ‘Diversity Staff’ alone of nearly 100, for which aggregate compensation/benefits exceeds $11 Million annually. “There are various reasons for surging education costs, but the primary one is expansion of administration, and particularly ‘diversicrats’ on today’s campuses.  [ZEROHEDGE]
  • SUMMER TRAVEL WARNING: BEWARE OF HOTEL POOLS.  In recent years, “nearly a third of disease outbreaks linked to recreational water facilities occurred in hotels/inns/lodges.” Around 60% were caused by the Crypto parasite – which can survive for days in even well-maintained pools & hot tubs and which, from just swallowing a mouthful of water, “can make otherwise healthy kids and adults sick for weeks with watery diarrhea stomach cramps, nausea & vomiting.” Another 30% were felled by bacteria responsible for hot tub rash, swimmers’ ear, or pneumonia. CDC advises showering before swimming. [THE WEEK]
  • IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL, MORE THAN 20 LOBBYISTS ARE REGISTERED FOR EVERY MEMBER OF CONGRESS, most deployed to “block anything that would tax, regulate or otherwise threaten a deep-pocketed client.” Money now dominates all activity so completely that elected officials “have been reduced to begging on the phone for campaign cash up to five hours a day, and spending their evenings taking checks at fundraisers organized by those swarming lobbyists.” The overriding impact is that the real polarization which has divided America is not so much political parties, but rather “the protected vs. the unprotected, the common good vs. maximizing and protecting the elite winners’ winnings… On one side are the few who don’t need government for much, and even have a stake in sabotaging its responsibility to all citizens… On the other are the many who look to government to preserve their way of life and maybe even improve it.” A fascinating article on how, over the past five decades, “the core values that make America great have instead brought it down.” http://time.com/5280446/baby-boomer-generation-america-steve-brill
  • IT’S BEEN A YEAR SINCE ‘WannaCry’ RANSOMWARE infected over 200K machines in 150 countries, bringing the global marketplace to a standstill and causing billions in damages. Since then, there have been over 175 million new attempted attacks as “nation-state developed hacking tools have become widespread, and as newest variations of ransomware have evolved to automated, self-learning ‘ransomswarm’ strategies which accelerate attacks to digital speeds.” While cyber-awareness has improved, poor security practices continue to plague companies who focus solely on deploying patches and updating antivirus programs but fail to “define how a ransomware infection will be contained & remediated, then actually implement that defense strategy… A ransomware attack should be a blip on the radar that wastes people’s time only to restore from backups, not a week long debacle of trying to restore service and deciding whether to pay the ransom or not.”  [THREATPOST.COM]
  • SURGICALLY EMBEDDED MICROCHIPS UNDER THE SKIN have become pretty mainstream in Sweden, with organized corporate-sponsored “Implant Parties for people to hook themselves up…The chips essentially act as a digital keychain” – unlocking doors to cars & offices, making credit card transactions, signing into the gym, buying train tickets, and of course allowing whomever/whenever to track the person (similar to chips veterinarians implant in dogs & cats in case they run away). “Near Field Communication (NFC) chips give corporations a fair amount of control over your activities, and ‘opting out’ is a lot more convoluted than leaving your wallet at home… also making your personal info far more vulnerable to hacking.” But technology moves forward irrespective of those type concerns, so get ready for personal microchipping.   [FUTURISM.COM]
  • SCIENCE FICTION FILMS CONTINUE TO FORECAST REALITY. “Predictive Policing and Surveillance Algorithms – a mini-version of ‘Minority Report’ – now serves Los Angeles, a dozen other California police & sheriff departments and Highway Patrol, along with numerous other U.S. cities & counties… Palantir-powered software “assigns people points based on past offenses, or even just having been stopped by (or in contact with) law enforcement, which determines who ‘ought’ to be monitored. Those targeted by the algorithm and flagged as people of interest can then face extra police surveillance for up to two years, just because they may be associated with or know of criminal activity – even if they haven’t done anything wrong ever, in their entire lives… The system model intakes ‘suspicious activity’ reports from across the many agencies and compares against each other plus all sorts of intel (including instant access to 911 call records) to identify patterns.”   [FUTURISM.COM]
  • VISION PROBLEMS ARE THE LATEST ‘SCREEN TIME’ DANGER FOR SCHOOL-AGE KIDS – not because of electronic screen emissions, but because kids who spend as little as four hours weekly indoors on screens, versus outdoors in sunlight, become near-sighted. “Almost 90% of 18-year olds in the U.S. and Europe now have Myopia, a condition which prevents light from focusing directly on the retina, making distant objects appear blurry.” AND NOISE POLLUTION IS ANOTHER INCREASING DANGER TO BOTH KIDS & ADULTS, “causing hearing loss, hypertension, insomnia, and inducing stress which can cascade into worsened immune systems, heart problems, increased anxiety and depression.” The danger level for human hearing (temporary or permanent) is prolonged exposure to anything over 85 decibels. The major contributors are diesel trucks (generating 90 decibels at 50 feet away), jet engines, construction sites, trains, loud traffic, rock concerts and boom boxes.  [THE WEEK]
  • THE POST-MILLENNIAL GENERATION – KIDS BORN AFTER 2000 BEST KNOWN AS ‘GEN Z’ – have grown up during a period of mass disruption, watching parents lose jobs & retirement savings, older siblings achieve college degrees but struggle for jobs to offset student debt, and technology consistently and rapidly displace itself to the point where old systems (business, political, even daily functional) are visibly failing. Recent research focusing on generational attitudes suggests that over three-in-four Gen Zers now believe getting a 4-year college degree “no longer makes economic sense,” and are instead looking to alternative educational programs “from apprenticeships to bootcamps.” Also known as App Generation and iGens, they have expectations of continuous diversity in work since, “accustomed to flitting between apps, they expect that going online will allow teaching themselves anything they want,” after which over 60% say they “plan to start their own businesses or work independently within five years.” Employers who fail to strategically plan for workplace continuity are at risk; let DCG help mitigate it.    [TIME]
  • ‘REVERSE’ MORTGAGES ARE BECOMING MORE FASHIONABLE FOR SENIORS 62 AND OLDER. These are loans against ‘equity’ in a home (excess of appraised market value over the loan) which requires no payments of interest or principal unless/until the borrower moves, sells the house, or passes away.  Proceeds (in the form of a credit line draw down) can be used for any purpose. Most are insured by the FHA, an agency of the U.S. Dep’t of Housing & Urban Development, up to a loan limit of $636,000 and protect the borrower from liability even if accumulated loan & interest balance is below value when sold. Some commercial lenders also offer ‘jumbo’ larger reverse mortgages for high value properties. Borrowers must simply remain current on property insurance, taxes and appropriate maintenance. Particularly for persons unconcerned with their home providing financial legacy to heirs, this can be a very viable retirement strategy.  [REVERSE MORTGAGE MAGAZINE]
  • OVER ONE-HALF OF AMERICAN EMPLOYEES ARE SEARCHING FOR NEW JOBS THIS YEAR and, according to numerous surveys, the priority for over a third of is about getting (1) Health insurance benefits, and (2) “appreciation for their work” – probably correlated to why most job searches on the internet and job-sites peak on Mondays before 11:am. Meanwhile, employers are instead focusing more on utilizing artificial intelligence to assess “soft skills.” Notwithstanding the number of workers still unemployed (and no longer part of the statistical labor-rate count), it appears that “with workers getting scarce, the fight for talent will dominate 2018.”  [CFO MAGAZINE]
  • “DEMOCRACY HAS ITS FLAWS.” Only a quarter of American adults could name all three branches of government, and one third couldn’t name any, according to a Univ. of Pennsylvania survey last year. The result, as so readily evident in election results, is that “voters apathetic or disengaged from public policy debates make poor electoral choices.” While the right to vote is generally denied to children and those judged mentally incompetent, arguments have been advanced for a more selective process, one being ‘weighted voting’ – in which “a ballot counts more or less depending on a voter’s qualifications, determined by a civics test or maybe by one’s profession or education…implicitly equating knowledge with good judgment, which experience tells us isn’t a sound equation… Democracy does have its flaws, but elitism isn’t the way to cure them… Conservative writer William F. Buckley once said: I’d rather entrust the U.S. government to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”  [BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK]
  • IT’S ESTIMATED THAT UP TO TWO-THIRDS OF BOTTLED WATERS ARE JUST TAP WATER, but costing two-thousand times greater. Calling water ‘purified’ simply means that some process (filtration, distillation, or reverse osmosis) has removed contaminants from the tap or spring. ‘Ionized’ means the water has also been exposed to an electrical current, which is one way to create ‘alkaline’ water with a PH level above neutral. ‘Vapor distilled’ is another label which means the water was boiled into steam then condensed back. Beyond the fact that some four billion pounds of plastic are used annually in packaging bottled water (requiring energy input equivalent to some 45 million barrels of oil), it turns out that tap water “comes with more safeguards, since the federal government requires more rigorous safety monitoring of municipal taps.”  [ECOWATCH.COM]
  • PLASTIC HAS BECOME THE LASTEST DIRECT HEALTH DANGER. Researchers at State University of New York studied water bottles from the U.S. and eight other countries to find that “93% were contaminated with microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic which get ingested” when we drink bottled water. Eleven different brands (including Aquafina, Dasani, Evian & Pelligrino) averaged ten plastic particles per liter which can accumulate in the body.  [BBC.COM and THE WEEK]
  • 89% OF AMERICANS STILL “BELIEVE IN GOD as a concept or being that is arguably more existentially important to individual human beings, and historically more momentous, than any other single word,” according to a Gallup poll.  [LBNElert.com]
  • THE MOST EFFECTIVE LEADERS CONSISTENTLY CONNECT WITH THEIR EMPLOYEES OR TEAM by positive actions which influence behavior to motivate performance. “Being a leader in people-centric work cultures differs drastically from managers in toxic workplaces who bark out demands and use century-old tactics like fear and negative reinforcement… In close teams and interpersonal interactions that build trust, authenticity wins out every time.” The most effective strategies have proven to be:  (1) Asking for and listening to advice from employees. Studies at Harvard & Wharton found that subordinates perceive those who do so as ‘more competent; (2) Acknowledging mistakes. Putting ego aside and admitting errors in judgement increases trust since people are generally turned off by others who seem ‘too perfect’; (3) Acknowledging others contributions. Recognizing deserved efforts & achievements “sends ripples of trust across the organization, when recognized as a cultural trait”; (4) Manifesting positive confidence. Top leaders let it be known that they are confident in team abilities and never thwart the possibility for accomplishment of challenges.  [INC MAGAZINE]
  • SIX HOURS OF DAILY STANDING BURNS ENOUGH CALORIES to lose 5½ pounds after one year and 22 pounds after three years, according to multiple Mayo Clinic studies with over 1,000 people. “Spending more time on your feet (perhaps at a standing desk) is also healthier than the well-established harmful effects of prolonged sitting.”  [THE WEEK]
  • THE POPULARITY OF FORTUNE TELLERS & TAROT CARD READERS has opened the door to ‘Demonic Activity’ and tripled the demand for Exorcism” by some 500,000 Italians each year. The Vatican has responded by offering additional courses for Priests enabling them to “purge people of the devil and possession.”  [LEVINE BRIEFING NOTES]
  • THE GLOBAL DRONE INDUSTRY IS EXPECTED TO GROW BY A FACTOR OF TEN OVER THE NEXT 5 YEARS. According to the FAA, some 420,000 commercial drones will require as many remote pilots, while smaller hobbyist drones multiply to 3.5 million. Beyond delivery of online retail and possible U.S. Postal improvement, PricewaterhouseCoopers projects that “agricultural drones which assist farmers with crop surveillance & fertilizer application could be worth more than $32 billion; could save the insurance industry up to $7 billion by reducing costs related to data allocation, risk evaluation and battling fraud; and could spark the global infrastructure market in land surveys & asset inspections by as high as $45 billion.  [IMPACTLAB.NET]
  • ‘SERVICE ANIMALS’ ARE NECESSARY FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, but in the past few years there has been “a surge of animals brought on planes by passengers insisting they couldn’t fly without them – including pigs, monkeys, turkeys, snakes and untrained dogs. Delta alone flew 250,000 Service and ‘Emotional Support’ animals last year, “many unfit to sit in a passenger seat and which have disrupted flights by urinating & defecating, barking, biting, and fighting other support animals… People are abusing the accommodation to bring their pets aboard regardless of the discomfort to other passengers. What happened to decency? ...The credo of today’s culture fetishizes individual preference and expression over communal well-being – simply and shamelessly: I am the center of the universe. What I want is what I need, and who cares how it affects you?”  [THE WEEK]
  • THE “FUTURE OF ARTIFICAL INTELLIGENCE IS AUGMENTING HUMANS,” according to global government leaders who met this month with experts & innovators at the World Government Summit in Dubai. Top execs from organizations like World Bank, Int’l Monetary Fund, World Trade, World Health, UNESCO, World Economic Forum, & Human Longevity met managers from Microsoft, Amazon, IBM Watson, Facebook, etc. to discuss “the most immediate way that A.I. should be used to benefit humanity; the consensus was ‘augmenting humans.” Beyond brain implants that take humans to the next phase of evolution, wearable earpieces to translate language in real time, smart contact lenses to monitor glucose levels, an algorithm for predicting death, and the like, the objective is also for systems to “deliver humans from the seeming mundane systems of the present, to free us from hours of drudgery and allow us to truly spend our time on tasks we deem worthwhile.” Nice.  [FUTURISM.COM]
  • SAVING PASSWORDS ON YOUR COMPUTER BROWSER IS CONVENIENT BUT DANGEROUS. A new study from cyber-security experts at Princeton University found that ‘Password Management’ tools (on Safari and Google Chrome) which store and autofill website login data have security loopholes which both (1) enable hacker access to passwords which can be exploited; and (2) allow advertising firms to “steal information which is used to track user activity from website to website, gathering browsing habits in order to target advertisements.”    [DAILYMAIL.CO.UK]
  • SILICON VALLEY IS NO LONGER THE TOP TECHNOLOGY HUB IN THE WORLD. San Francisco now ranks third, behind Beijing and Berlin, based on “average software engineer salaries, how long it takes to get a business up & running, cost of living, growth index and startup output… The study shows how fast-moving and internationally-competitive the tech industry is.” Combined with Shanghai’s hub (which ranked sixth in the Expert Market study), Beijing’s fast consumer adoption rate and rapid business timelines, helped along by the government’s injection of $1.5 billion last year, have made China “home to leading tech companies including Google & Intel… playing a leading role in supercomputers and market influence in security products, messaging apps, ride-sharing services, electric cars and e-commerce… with an industrial incubation plan to improve its innovation ability in artificial intelligence.” [CHINADAILY.COM.CN]
  • AS AMERICAN CULTURE EVOLVES, SEXUAL ‘HARASSMENT’ IS A FAIRLY NEW PHENOMENON. It effectively began in 1980, when federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated that “unwelcome sexual advances which affected an individual’s work were grounds for a complaint.” Since then, according to EEOC, a “range of 25% to 85% of women have faced harassment at some point in their working lives,” and a recent YouGov poll supports culture change with statistics that young men 18 - 30 were double the percentage of men over age 64 who considered the following behavior (absent a “romantic partner” relationship) to be unacceptable: “Commenting on attractiveness; Placing a hand on her lower back; or Looking at breasts.” Expect the 24/7 headlines ‘outing’ abusers (by today’s standards) to be the ‘new norm’ and just tip of an iceberg. [THE ECONOMIST]
  • IMPOSTER SCAM CALLS INCREASE DAILY – on mobile as much as on landlines. Latest examples include claims of being from the IRS: “you owe back taxes and a warrant for your arrest will be issued if you don’t settle by this afternoon.” / POLICE: “We’re raising money for officers injured in the line of duty; how much will you be donating today?” / JURY DUTY CLERK: “I’m calling from the XYZ courthouse; you missed jury duty and unless we collect the $300 penalty today, a warrant will be automatically issued for your arrest” / BANK: We’ve uncovered a major data problem with your checking account; Please verify this info so we can confirm you haven’t been hacked.” / GENEOLOGY WEBSITE: “Our site has identified 14 matches in your family history; we can confirm and provide this info to you with just a few more pieces of info.” / MILITARY REP: “I’m from the VA to finalize the supplemental pay approved for your service group; we just need your bank for direct deposit.” [COACHELLA VALLEY WEEKLY]
  • ANY MOBILE PHONE CAN NOW BE BUGGED, TRACKED & HACKED from anywhere in the world. Your mobile device is essentially an open pocketbook & file cabinet to your life. How it’s done is the outgrowth of real world espionage and “potentially the weapon of our own destruction.” A 20-minute documentary shows how calls, texts & email data is being captured by commercial spies, crime rings and local hackers via the Electronic Signaling System SS7 – which covers 7 billion smartphones across 800 telephone companies – with an inexpensive piece of technology. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4tUx1W3zLc
  • MUSIC IS CONSIDERED BY MANY TO BE A UNIVERSAL LINK which provides “communication of simple ideas between people even when they have no language in common.” A recent Harvard University study played dozens of musical excerpts (under 15 seconds each) to 750 online volunteers from sixty countries who neither understood the lyrics nor were familiar with the music, but ranked the music by what they “thought the song’s function was” and how confident they were. Options were Dancing, Healing, Expressing Love, Storytelling, Soothing a Baby, or Mourning the Dead. Results were that “perceptions of a song’s function were generally in good agreement with its actual function.” It turns out that Hans Christian Andersen was right in the 18th century, that music indeed transcends cultural boundaries, with his poetic phrase “Where words fail, music speaks.” [THE ECONOMIST]
  • IF/WHEN STROKE VICTIMS CAN GET MEDICAL HELP WITHIN 3 HOURS, severe brain damage can usually be mitigated. An easy way to identify STRoke is by just asking the person three questions: S- smile or stick out your tongue; T- talk; R- raise both arms. If they have trouble with any one of these (particularly a non-crooked tongue), call emergency immediately.
  • FOR THE BITCOIN MANIA: “Very possibly an unprecedentedly dumb bubble built on ludicrous speculation… outpacing almost all the great bubbles of the past (except for the Dutch tulip mania of the 1630s).”  Along with lesser-branded competitors, Bitcoin is an ‘electric cryptocurrency’ which is ‘created’ by ‘miners’ all over the world who ‘verify’ and ‘approve’ transactions simultaneously on their computers, based on purportedly secure encryption, utilizing blockchain technology. In theory, cryptocurrency is a type of “digital gold which could be used as a hedge against inflation or trouble in the global economy,” as well as for privacy from regulatory and taxing authorities (once the domain predominantly of drug dealers and other criminal enterprises). “For now, the rise in Bitcoin seems divorced from any fundamental rationale.” [THE WEEK]
  • FOR ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE:  AI will increasingly continue to transform the essence of human culture, with major adverse impact on jobs – replacing professionals, bankers, insurance agents & adjusters, researchers, taxi & truck drivers, instructors, designers & creative professionals to the point where intelligence and advanced training will no longer protect job stability. Robot-to-worker ratios (now 1.6 to 1 in America) will continue to rise, and robots will very soon be creeping into many other areas of our lives – serving meals, providing health care, policing, national defense, education, and even sexual services.  When computers can easily outthink and outperform us, a sort of learned helplessness is also likely to set in and the concept of ‘working’ altogether will continue losing relevance for more people.
  • TIME PRESSURE IS THE MOST COMMON CAUSE OF STRESS which, besides impacting the efficiency and effectiveness of business productivity & profitability, can lead to anxiety disorders, headaches, upset stomachs, insomnia, high blood pressure, and behaviors (like drinking & smoking) that increase risks of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. DCG offers clients and contacts a courtesy lunchtime workshop in Time Management Techniques (“Work Smarter not Harder”) to help owners & employees alleviate stress and minimize these impacts.  Winter/Spring scheduling is now available.
  • INCREASING TEENAGE ANGST IS ATTRIBUTABLE TO “SMARTPHONE AND SOCIAL MEDIA OVERLOAD,” according to a longitudinal study of more than a million young Americans. Psychologists found that “playing games, using social media, texting and video-chatting were all associated with less happiness than adolescents who invested more time in real world, not-screen activities – such as playing sports, reading newspapers and face-t-face social interaction.”  [LEVINE BRIEFING NEWS]
  • COMING SOON: A CAR THAT WILL READ YOUR BRAIN WAVES was unveiled this month at the Consumer Electronics Show. The driver “wears a skullcap with electrodes that transmit brain-wave activity to influence the steering, acceleration and breaking systems. While the driver still turns the wheel or hits the gas pedal, the ‘brain-to-vehicle technology’ anticipates those movements and begins these actions up to ½ seconds sooner… The skullcap also can distinguish driver preferences & discomfort, so the car can adjust accordingly and switch back to manual.”   [THE WEEK]

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“Genius Trivia: Just in Case it Matters to You” is the work product of Dennis Duitch, author, poet, sculptor and musician. Presented by: www.duitchconsulting.com

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