National POW/MIA Flag Act (S 693) – This bill amended title 36 of the United States Code to require that the POW/MIA flag be displayed on all days that the flag of the United States is displayed on certain federal properties. Previously, the POW/MIA flag was displayed only on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day and Veterans Day. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Elizbeth Warren (D-MA) on March 7. It was passed in the Senate on May 2, passed in the House on Oct. 22 and signed into law by the president on Nov. 7.
Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act (HR 1396) – This legislation awards Congressional Gold Medals to Katherine Johnson and Dr. Christine Darden, and posthumously to Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, as well as all of the women who contributed to the success of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration during the Space Race. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Eddie Johnson (D-TX). It was introduced on Feb. 27, passed in the House on Sept. 19, in the Senate on Oct. 17 and then signed into law by the president on Nov. 8.
Rebuilding Small Businesses After Disasters Act (S 862) – Introduced on March 25 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), this bill makes permanent the increased collateral requirements for major-disaster loans issued by the Small Business Administration. It passed the Senate on Aug. 1, the House on Nov. 20, and is currently awaiting signature by the president to enact into law.
Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 (S 1838) – In response to the millions of Hong Kong citizens who have protested and demonstrated for government reform since last June, this bill authorizes three actions. 1) Requires the State Department to recertify Hong Kong’s autonomous status each year in order to continue receiving special treatment by the United States; 2) mandates the U.S. government identify anyone involved in abductions or extraditions of Hong Kong protesters or citizens to mainland China, plus freezes any U.S.-based assets and denies them entry into the United States; and 3) clarifies under federal law that no one should be denied a visa to the United States on the basis of participating in Hong Kong protests. The bill was introduced on June 13 by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and passed both Houses of Congress in November. It is currently with the president, who may sign or veto the bill.
A bill to prohibit the commercial export of covered munitions items to the Hong Kong Police Force (S 2710) – This legislation prohibits the issuance of licenses to export certain munition items to the Hong Kong Police Force and the Hong Kong Auxiliary Police Force, such as tear gas, rubber bullets and handcuffs. The bill does allow for the president to make an exception upon certifying to Congress how such exports would be advantageous to U.S. national interests and foreign policy goals. This prohibition would expire one year after enactment. The bill was introduced on Oct. 24 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and passed in Congress on Nov. 20. It is currently awaiting signature by the president.
Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act or the PACT Act (HR 724) – This bill expands criminal provisions with respect to animal crushing (torture by stepping on an animal). It subjects violators to criminal prosecution for intentionally crushing an animal, or knowingly creating or distributing an animal crush video using interstate commerce. Criminal penalties include a fine, a prison term of up to seven years, or both. The bill was introduced by Rep. Theodore Deutch (D-FL) on Jan. 23, passed the two Houses of Congress in October and November, and is currently awaiting to be signed into law.
Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, made a prediction in September 2018 that the internet will split in two – one part being led by China and the other by the United States. The reasoning behind this involves China’s active monitoring of all internet activities, as well as technological products and services from the country. Other reasons include a different leadership regime, controls and censorship.
Although it’s just speculation, the splinternet phenomenon has been around since the 1990s. Also known as cyber-balkanization, the concept is slowly taking root as governments seek to fence off their internet to create national internets.
How Realistic is Splinternet?
The United States has maintained dominance over the internet since its inception and going public. But in the modern digital landscape, rules and regulations are expected to curve the global internet into smaller networks. The idea is being driven by nationalism as well as concerns surrounding digital colonization and privacy issues.
China is one country known to be taking steps to compartmentalize the internet through its Great Firewall. Other countries that have taken steps to control domestic access to the internet include Russia and Iran. Europe is also taking steps toward reducing U.S. dominance by increasing regulations that require data localization. They have facilitates this with the 2018 introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
In the United States, there is a drive to increase internet fragmentation to reduce the domination of large companies. This is because of the need to increase personal data protection and reduce data control by large companies. With the world becoming more global, we continue to see cases of large companies like Facebook or Apple having more influence as well as centralized power.
Though a small fraction of the internet interactions, this provides a good example of the splintering. With such fragmentation of the internet increasing, it’s bound to have an effect on economic interests.
How a Split Internet Would Affect Businesses
Data has become a critical resource, from influencing purchasing decisions, behavior dynamics, health and other aspects. But with the changing internet landscape, businesses could be affected in one way or another. Businesses have had an easy time operating in a standardized web. But with the unity of the internet shattered, they would have to adjust their planning and metrics to fit into the new environment. For instance, due to China’s domestic internet control, it’s impossible for some companies in the United States to carry out business operations in China.
This situation presents a challenge for businesses – and especially those whose operations are purely internet based. Increased regulation means disruption of operations.
For small companies expanding to other countries, it would be difficult due to the overhead costs of compliance to various regional regulations. As a business, failing to comply with the laws of a different region would subject it to hefty fines.
Whether this is going to be a reality or not, the fact is there are big changes happening on the internet. The days of an open internet are dwindling with different countries and companies erecting digital walls on the internet every other day.
Unless we have a new set of global rules that enhance openness and public interest, then businesses and consumers will have to navigate complex laws and regulations that will not only affect the economy, but also disrupt seamless communication.
Since data today plays a big role in the digital economy, businesses can’t afford to ignore the possibility of a splinternet. As a business owner, you need to stay steps ahead as it would be a challenge connecting with your customers when caught up in the changes.
Businesses need to know how to follow consumers to new environments – and this could mean a bigger budget is required for development and testing different markets. Given that technological changes happen gradually, it’s advisable to keep tabs on tech trends and adjust accordingly.
It may be hard to believe, but the end of the year is upon us. During this time, many of us might reflect on the year and tally up the good and the bad, the pros and the cons of the past 12 months. In a society that focuses on success and getting ahead, probably the most common thing to do is zero in on what you didn’t accomplish, or what went wrong. But science tells us that if you’re smart, you’ll look back with gratitude. And the best news is: it’s good for our health.
Gratitude Changes Your Brain – For the Better
When you give thanks for positive things in your life and show appreciation, it literally changes the structure of your brain, according to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. It keeps the gray matter functioning and causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions, lighting up parts of the brain’s reward pathways and the hypothalamus. It’s kind of like an anti-depressant: it boosts neurotransmitter serotonin and causes the brain stem to produce dopamine, a chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain. In short, thinking about what you’re grateful for is kind of like free therapy.
Make a List of Your Successes
So now that you know how gratitude works, make a list of what you’ve accomplished this year. It doesn’t have to be big and dramatic; for instance: you ate at home more often. You decided to recycle. You drank more water. However, if you got a promotion and raise, by all means write it down and feel good about it. Besides, there’s more that happens: when you’re feeling grateful, you generate higher levels of activity in your hypothalamus, the area which controls a large array of essential body functions, like eating, drinking and sleeping. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), this activity prompts you to exercise more, get better sleep and, best of all, decreases depression and bodily aches and pains. How’s that for some motivation to put pen to paper?
Keep a Journal for Next Year
As you can see, being grateful is beneficial, both mentally and physically. So why not keep a journal for the upcoming year? It doesn’t have to be fancy. Granted, a journal helps organize your thoughts and can be your go-to source should you start feeling down. But practicing gratitude can be as simple as jotting down your thoughts on a sticky note and posting it on your mirror. Another way to do this is to pick a gratitude buddy. When you think of something you’re thankful for, text or email a friend. Don’t worry about it sounding right, just do it! Chances are, it’ll not only make you feel better, it might brighten your friend’s day, too.
Just Look for Positive Things
According to Dr. Alex Korb in his book “Upward Spiral,” the simple act of seeking things to be grateful for has as much if not more benefit than the things you are actually grateful for. Korb says that the search “forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.” This area of the brain not only regulates blood pressure and heart rate, it’s also responsible for decision making and evaluation processes. Serotonin is good stuff: it’s known as the happy chemical. See how good this gratitude thing is?
So, in the coming year, if you start feeling blue and negative, here are some quick remedies:
- Look in the mirror and name five things you like about yourself.
- Write someone a thank you note.
- When something bad happens, think of something good that’s happened.
- Give someone a compliment. The act of giving is soul-nourishing: to give is to receive.
Here’s to looking back and feeling good, then moving forward with positive vibes!
The economic indicator known as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) represents the dollar value of all purchased goods and services over the course of one year. It is comprised of purchases from all private and public consumption, including for profit, nonprofit and government sectors.
There are four components that are added to calculate the GDP:
- Consumer spending
- Government spending
- Investment spending (this includes business, inventory, residential construction and public investment), Net exports, meaning the value of goods exported minus the value of goods imported
The government calculates and publishes the GDP rate on a quarterly basis and for the entire year.
What Affects GDP?
There are different ways GDP is measured. For example, nominal GDP refers to a straight calculation of raw data, while real GDP adjusts the calculation to include the impact of inflation.
When inflation increases, the GDP tends to rise; when prices drop, so does the GDP. Be aware that this adjustment can happen even when there is no change in the quantity of goods and services produced in the United States during that time frame.
A key component of the GDP calculation is net exports. This number rises when the country sells more goods and services to foreign countries than it buys from them. A trade surplus means the United States sells more than it purchases, which is a strong contributor to GDP. When the United States buys more foreign goods than it sells, this creates a trade deficit, which is a negative weight in the GDP calculation.
GDP also reflects demand. The dollar output of certain sectors and industries rises and falls based on the popularity of their products and services. For example, when a new product is well received, then those sales increase that sector’s contribution to the GDP. This is a helpful measure because it enables companies to make better research and development decisions based on recent success. The same is true when a new product, or even an upgrade to a new product, does not increase sales.
What Does GDP Indicate?
The GDP is the most common, broad-based measure used to monitor the country’s economic progress. When it is on the rise, the economy is considered to be growing. When the GDP rate drops – even if it remains in positive territory – the economy is viewed as contracting. If it continues to slip quarter after quarter, it is an indicator that the economy might be in trouble and the Federal Reserve or Congress could consider altering monetary (interest rates) or fiscal (taxes and government spending) policy to inject cash into the nation’s financial system.
Technically, economists define a recession as a prolonged period of economic decline, often precipitated by two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.
This economic yardstick also is used to indicate a country’s general standard of living. The better a country is able to produce the goods and services that its residents and businesses use, the more that capital is infused back into the country. Therefore, higher GDP levels indicate a more prosperous country and relatively higher standard of living among its residents.
The GDP doesn’t just gauge domestic economic health, it serves as a comparison measure to other countries. This is particularly important during periods of growth and decline, when the United States can track how well it is responding to global economic factors relative to other countries.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, first quarter real GDP closed at 3.1 percent. In the second quarter, real GDP fell to 2.0 percent. The advanced assessment for the third quarter of 2019 is 1.9 percent.
The so-called phase one of a trade deal with China is expected to contain a provision for $40 billion to $50 billion in purchases of American agricultural products by China, according to an October news release from U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (D-ND) With ongoing discussions surrounding the US-Sino trade talks, there are rumors for such a partial trade deal. But how has the recent past impacted both countries’ economies and a mutual desire for better trade deals?
While not directly related but announced during a similar time frame, a November press release from the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced Chinese acknowledgment and acceptance of American poultry exports. This stated that China will now accept $1 billion in American poultry and related poultry products, effectively reversing China’s ban.
After a December 2014 avian influenza outbreak, China banned US poultry in January 2015. America exported more than half a billion dollars of poultry to China in 2013, and there has been much interest in restarting exports to China since August 2017. With the USTR citing U.S. poultry exports of $4.3 billion in 2018, this will undoubtedly ensure America maintains its position as the globe’s second biggest poultry exporter.
According to a late October press release from the USTR, there will be a 30-day comment period in November to garner public opinion on continuing tariff exemptions on certain Chinese goods, worth approximately $34 billion. The items currently exempt are set to reverse exclusion on Dec. 28. Additionally, as part of phase one discussions, the United States is expected to not implement tariffs scheduled to take effect on Dec. 15, along with rolling back existing tariffs in stages.
Trade War’s Impact
According to BNP Paribas Wealth Management, the trade impasse between the United States and China has had a measurable negative impact on the world’s economy. BNP cited a 1.2 percent point reduction in growth over the past 1.5 years.
However, the phase one deal is expected to include many provisions, such as $40 billion to $50 billion of US farm product exports to China, along with $16 billion to $20 billion of Boeing aircraft for commercial use to China.
Financial institutions outside of China will be able to establish insurance companies in mainland China, financed by ex-China investments, along with being able to hold shares in the newly created entities. Ex-China lending institutions will be able to create wholly owned banks and conduct business in the Yuan or Renminbi (RMB) currency throughout mainland China without explicit approval from Chinese officials.
These developments, according to the Chinese State Council and China Banking and Regulatory Commission and CNBC, are part of the ongoing discussions to determine how China will increase IP protection and the aforementioned agricultural purchases. Announced on Oct. 11, 2019, the China Securities Regulatory Commission will work on lifting limits on ownership ceilings for ex-China entities, specifically in mutual funds, securities and futures operating in China.
BNP also mentions expectations of Dec. 15, 2019, tariffs to not be implemented, along with expectations for existing tariffs to be relaxed or reduced. In addition to giving American farmers increased sales, this will provide China with more soybeans for domestic consumption, including an ability to help increase the number of the country’s pork livestock population through feedstock. If phase one is agreed to, it’s also expected to help the RMB appreciate. Based on recent data, the RMB has appreciated by three percent since September 2019.
One noteworthy item that depends on a phase one deal being certified is the expectation that it will positively impact the global economy. The International Monetary Fund dropped its World Economic Outlook gross domestic product projection from 3.2 percent in July 2019, down to 3.0 percent, based on the current trade tensions.
Since there’s great hope for a phase one deal that will encourage mutual and global economic development, there’s confidence that both countries facing economic hardships will find a short-term resolution.