Blocking Robocalls, Stepping Up Suicide Prevention for Vets, and Appropriating Funds for a New Space Force

S 151, S 737, HR 2333, HR 1865, S 1790, HR 5363Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (S 151) – Approximately 58.5 billion robocalls were made in the United States last year, a 22 percent increase over 2018. That works out to an average of 178.3 robocalls per person, per year. Perhaps it’s no wonder then that this law was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress. The legislation requires that phone companies ensure all calls come from real numbers, do not charge extra to block robocalls, and authorize government regulators to punish scammers with fines of up to $10,000 per call. This legislation was sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ); it was signed into law by the president on Dec. 30, 2019.

Building Blocks of STEM Act (S 737) – This bill modifies National Science Foundation (NSF) grant programs that support STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to promote the role of teachers and caregivers in encouraging participation by female students in STEM activities. Specifically, the bill authorizes the development of gender-inclusive computer science enrichment programs in pre-kindergarten through elementary school. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). It was introduced on March 11, 2019, and signed into law by the president on Dec. 24.

Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act (HR 2333) – This legislation requires the Government Accountability Office to report on the responsibilities, workload, training and vacancy rates of suicide prevention coordinators. The bill responds to reports that coordinators are overworked and unable to keep up with their many responsibilities, particularly in light of the recent increase in veteran suicides. The Act was introduced on April 18, 2019, by Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY); it passed the House in May, the Senate in December and was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2019.

Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (HR 1865) – This annual appropriations bill sets government spending limits for the current fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020). Among a myriad of provisions, the bill extends funding for various health-related programs; deters pharmaceutical companies from blocking lower-cost generic alternatives from entering the marketplace; and repeals the Cadillac tax on expensive employer plans, the medical device excise tax, and the health insurance fee that was initially imposed by the Affordable Care Act. The final version of the bill was passed by the House and Senate in mid-December and signed by the president on Dec. 20, 2019.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (S 1790) – This $738 billion defense bill authorizes fiscal year 2020 appropriations and policies for the Department of Defense. Provisions include authorization for a sixth, stand-alone branch of the U.S. military service (Space Force); guaranteed 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers; a 3.1 percent pay raise for active-duty personnel; allows for Liberian nationals living in the United States under Deferred Enforced Departure to apply for permanent residency; funding for improvements to military housing and health care; funding to purchase 60 F-35s for the Air Force; and a dictate that prohibits Turkey from participating in the F-35 program as long as it maintains a Russian-made missile system. Note that passage of this bill does not provide budget appropriations, which is authorized in subsequent legislation. This bill was passed in both the House and Senate on Dec. 17, 2019, and signed into law on Dec. 20, 2019.

FUTURE Act (HR 5363) – This bill permanently authorizes funding for historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions, and increases appropriations for Pell Grants. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) on Dec. 9, 2019, passed in both the House and Senate on Dec. 10, 2019, and signed into law on Dec. 19, 2019.

How Businesses Benefit from Big Data Analytics

Big Data AnalyticsPreviously we looked at the key technology trends in accounting to watch out for in 2020. Among the trends are big data and data analytics, which can have a great impact on businesses.

Business data has existed for a long time, whether in filing cabinets, ledgers or storage devices. But today businesses both large and small have to deal with huge collections of data every day. This has seen the rise of data analytics trends that include deep learning, machine learning and dark data.

Unfortunately, small and medium businesses (SMB) have to struggle with making a decision on implementing data analytics. This is largely because many SMB owners assume that data analytics is strictly for large organizations – especially because of the expectation that it’s expensive and complicated.

Luckily, reduced tech costs have made it possible for small and medium businesses to afford technologies that were previously only cost-effective for big organizations.

Is the Cost and Effort Worth It? 

Before the advent of big data analytics, customer data was collected using surveys or customer feedback forms. Analyzing such data is tedious, and it’s possible to miss out on important trends.

Also, imagine running marketing campaigns and having no way to track how effective the campaign was. If you do this in your business, you have no way to know who saw the ad or even the response.

Enter big data and analytics and the whole marketing landscape changes. With big data, a business has clear insights about customer behavior. This is possible because we now can track visitors to a website, the time a visitor spends on a given page, action taken such as making an order, the location the purchase came from and so many other details that help a business refine its marketing strategy.

Is it costly? You’d be surprised to know that you don’t need to purchase expensive software. You’ll find, for instance, that you can take advantage of data collected by the QuickBooks accounting software. And depending on your business needs, the software can be connected with low-cost platforms that enable more detailed analytics.

You also can get free platforms such as Google Analytics to analyze website traffic and gain insight into consumer behavior. Whatever your company size, you can take advantage of big data insights to better understand your customers.

Here are some reasons why it’s worth it:

  • Analytics help to launch effective marketing campaigns that result in better ROI.
  • Analytics help to track the customers in their sales cycle.
  • It’s possible to track the outcome of business decisions, such as promotional strategies.
  • You get to know which suppliers or other business partners to work with.
  • Provides insights on customers who are likely to pay on time based on historical payment data.
  • Improves customer service. This is possible when customer conversations from different channels are analyzed.
  • It helps to improve the product or service offered by a business.  
  • Identifies trends and patterns. For instance, you can track frequently asked questions and then create a page to handle the common questions.
  • Helps create a strong bond with customers. By understanding customer interests, a business will then engage with their customers by creating personalized offers and campaigns.
  • On the tech side, big data is being used to detect and prevent fraud.  
  • Analytics identify problematic areas of a business, and this makes it easier to come up with a response quickly before the problem escalates.

Become Smarter

When used correctly, data analytics can help a business gain a competitive advantage over other businesses. At the same time, it will also boost your business conversions and revenue. But collecting just any piece of data can be overwhelming and even a waste of time. The secret is in collecting data that will help you reduce business costs and increase your revenue.

6 Ways to Keep Safe When Using Mobile Banking

Mobile Banking, Security Mobile BankingFor the most part, smartphones are your lifeline to the world. You connect with friends and family, shop and update your status on social media. However, you also store all your personal information on them and, these days, use them to do your banking. That’s why you need to take precautions. Here are a few critical things to do to make sure your information isn’t compromised.

Protect Your Smartphone

Your desktop and laptop are secure with anti-virus software and firewalls; the same should go for your phone. Here are five basic things you need to do ASAP: 1) Use a 4-digit PIN to lock your screen. If your phone is stolen, it’s harder for a thief to unlock it. Also, check to see if your phone has a feature that allows you to locate and remotely lock or erase data, should you lose it. This is called a “kill switch.” 2) Back up your data. Kind of basic, but it’s always important to be reminded. 3) Use location-based software to find your lost phone. 4) Install an antivirus app and software to erase the contents of a lost phone. And finally, 5) Update your apps to the latest versions and when downloading them, only choose those from publishers you trust.

Create a Strong Password

This is a no-brainer, but it’s imperative. Don’t use any part of your name or numbers from your birthday, or anything remotely personal. Make your password as complex and obscure as you can. Thieves can be smart. Don’t give them any chance to wreak havoc in your life.

Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi to Access Your Bank

Public Wi-Fi doesn’t have heightened levels of security, so make sure you use your phone’s data network or a secured Wi-Fi network when accessing sensitive information. If you don’t do this, you become vulnerable to hackers. You can never be too careful.

Don’t Save Usernames and Passwords in Your Browser

Sometimes, browsers give you the option to save your username and password. As convenient as this is, don’t do this. It could be easy for someone to gain direct access to your bank account if your phone is lost or stolen.

Don’t Follow Links

If you get an email or text from your bank, don’t click. It could be a phishing scam and could lead you to a “spoofed” website, which is a fake site created to look just like your bank’s official site. Always go to your bank’s site directly. Enter your bank’s web address into your phone and bookmark it. This way, you’ll avoid bogus sites and keep your money safe.

Log Out After Use

Even if you haven’t saved your credentials, it’s always important to do this when you’re finished banking. While this is convenient for the next time you do your banking, it’s leaving thieves an easy way in to steal all your assets should you leave your phone unattended, or worse, if it’s lost or stolen.

In a world that’s getting more and more digitized every day, shoring up your personal banking information just makes good sense. No one wants to put all that they’ve worked so hard for in jeopardy.

Sources

https://www.discover.com/online-banking/banking-topics/how-to-stay-safe-with-mobile-banking/

https://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/online-banking/5-mobile-banking-security-tips.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing

https://www.indiatoday.in/technology/tech-tips/story/tech-tips-wifi-can-be-used-to-hack-your-phone-here-s-how-to-prevent-it-1397211-2018-11-27

https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-wifi-why-hackers-love-public-wifi.html

Safety vs. Probability: Planning For Retirement

Planning For RetirementAs we progress through life, we find there are certain things we can control and others we cannot. However, even with the things we can’t control, we can exercise good judgment based on facts, due diligence, historical patterns and a risk/reward calculation.

These strategies play an important role in retirement planning. When it comes to accumulation, spending and protecting your nest egg, financial analysts rely heavily on safety and probability planning strategies.

For example, a probability-based approach generally refers to investing. In other words, prices of stocks and bonds will vary over time, and as investors, we do not have control over the factors that cause those price swings – such as poor company management, a dip in sector growth, an economic decline, political instability and even global economic implications. We basically have to do our due diligence to ensure the securities we invest in are stable and well-managed, but in the end it’s a bit of a leap of faith. The markets will inevitably rise and fall and our equity investments will be impacted.

When it comes to retirement, financial advisors often recommend the following probability-based investments because they tend to be more stable and reliable:

  • Investment-grade bonds
  • High dividend-paying stocks
  • Real estate investment trusts (REITS)
  • Master limited partnerships (MLPs)

On the other hand, the safety side of the equation involves insurance products. Note that all guaranteed payouts are backed by the issuing insurer, not the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or the U.S. Treasury Department. So even though insurance products represent strategies that we consider “safe,” they are only as secure as the financial strength of the issuing insurance company.

Insurance contracts are based on insurance pools. This means they spread the risk of losing money across a wide pool of insured participants, betting that a portion of that pool will die early while others live longer. However, that risk is managed by the insurer instead of the contract owner, who is guaranteed to get paid no matter what happens in the investment markets or how many people in the insurance pool live a long time.

Among safety-based vehicles, you might want to consider a long-term care insurance policy to cover expenses should you need part- or full-time caregiving in the later stages of your life. Like homeowner’s insurance, this type of contract leverages manageable premiums to pay for expenses that you might otherwise not be able to afford.

Another safety contract is an income annuity, which offers the option to pay out a steady stream of income for the rest of your life and the life of your spouse – even if the payouts far exceed the premiums you paid. This is a way of ensuring you continue to receive income even if you run out of money.

 

A retirement plan doesn’t have to rely on safety or probability alone – you can combine these strategies. Many retirees feel more comfortable knowing they have a growth component in their portfolio to help offset the impact of long-term inflation. And within the safety allocation, you can even combine strategies. For example, a hybrid life insurance policy that offers a long-term care benefits rider allows you to draw from the contract if you need to pay for your own long-term care, which simply reduces the death benefit for your heirs. This way you don’t have to pay for coverage you don’t need, but it’s there if you do.

How Will 20-Year Treasury Bonds Impact the Economy?

20-Year Treasury BondsAccording to a Jan. 16 press release from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, within the first six months of 2020, the federal department will begin issuing a 20-year Treasury bond. This is the U.S. government’s attempt to maintain and support the federal government’s ability to borrow into the future. This action will also have an impact on the markets going forward, especially when it comes to the Federal Reserve and its monetary policy.  

The Federal Reserve’s many purposes include promoting stability and growth in the economy by keeping prices stable and healthy employment levels. The ways The Fed does this is by influencing short-term interest rates, being active in Open Market Operations (OMO) and impacting reserve requirements.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis details that along with providing banks with loans from the federal funds market to support adequate reserves and liquidity, it’s important to understand how Open Market Operations function.

Much like individuals and institutions can buy or sell securities, The Fed can buy or sell securities, including U.S. Treasury bonds. The buying and selling are the operations portion. The open market refers to the fact that The Fed doesn’t transact directly with the U.S. Treasury, but works on the open market via auctions through the Trading Desk of the New York Fed.

Assuming there’s a modification to the federal funds rate’s target range by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the directive starts the reaction to either purchase or sell government securities to meet the new target. The OMO is one way the Fed adjusts its two-pronged mandate of promoting employment and maintaining target inflation.       

If the Fed wants to stimulate the economy, it can do so through Treasury bond purchases. This occurs when the Fed makes a deposit into the seller’s bank account via the Trading Desk. This purchase increases the reserve balance of the bank offering the Treasury bond for sale, which increases the bank’s ability and willingness to lend.

In the opposite scenario, the Fed can reduce the amount of money available that banks can use for lending. This time the Fed sells government securities, prompting banks to remove money from their bank accounts, reducing the amount available for lending. As pressure on the federal funds rate increases, rates will go up, making loans cost more for borrowers and incentivizing savings.

During the financial crisis, the FOMC engaged in quantitative easing (QE) after it brought the federal funds rate to near zero. This approach consisted of buying longer-term U.S. Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) through open market operations. As the St. Louis Fed explains, in exchange for the Fed buying these securities, banks receive a credit that increases their reserve balances above reserve requirements. While this was far more prevalent during the financial crisis, the 20-year U.S. Treasury bonds will undoubtedly make QE easier to re-engage in.

While the government may benefit from the direct investment and its ability for the Fed to guide the economy, there are a few potential risks for those who invest in U.S. Treasury bonds. Compared to many other investments, Treasury bonds have lower yields, which are even lower when inflation runs high. Another risk is that when rates rise, the value of the Treasury bond goes down, creating less attractive debt if the owner wants to sell it.

The Jan. 16 press release noted that more details on the 20-year bond will be available in the U.S. Treasury’s quarterly refunding statement on Feb. 5. Only time will tell the level of interest among investors and how effective this instrument will be in creating further cash flow for the U.S. Treasury.

Understanding Four Types of Depreciation

Four Types of DepreciationDepreciation is an accounting process where the cost of an asset is accounted for and expensed over its useful life. It shows how the value of the asset decreases over time. Assets that can be depreciated include buildings, fixtures, production equipment, etc. For intangible assets, including many types of intellectual property, this process is called amortization. For commodities mined or harvested from the earth, such as lumber, crude oil or natural gas, this process is called depletion. Here are four common types of depreciation.

Straight Line Method

In order to determine depreciation using this method, the following formula is used:

Depreciation = (Asset cost – Salvage value) / Useful life

The salvage value is the asset’s remaining value after its useful life, and the remaining amount from the asset’s cost is depreciable. The depreciable amount is divided by the asset’s useful life that’s used for depreciation expensing.

Double Declining Balance Depreciation

In order to calculate this method of depreciation, the first step is to look at the asset cost. From there, its useful life must be established. Let’s assume an asset’s book value is $75,000, it has a useful life of 10 years and a salvage value of $8,050.

Depreciation = (100 percent / asset’s useful life) X 2

= (100 percent / 10) X 2 = 20 percent

Year 1 depreciation expense = $75,000 X 20 percent = $15,000

Year 2 depreciation expense = $60,000 ($75,000 – $15,000 from Year 1) X 20 percent = $12,000

When beginning the first year, the book value is used as a basis for the asset’s value. The ending book value, which is determined after subtracting depreciation, is the following year’s new book value that will be used to establish next year’s depreciation expense. After it’s repeated through its useful life, the salvage value is left.     

Units of Production Depreciation Method

This type of depreciation method depreciates a business’ asset by the units it produces or how many hours the asset is to be run for production over its useful life.

Depreciation = (Number of items manufactured / useful life in measured units) X (asset cost – salvage value)

Let’s assume a supplement pill machine costs $50,000; it can produce 200 million vitamins over its lifetime; and it will have a salvage value of $2,500. This assumes it will produce 20 million vitamins in the first 12 months of operation.  

(20 million / 200 million) = 10 percent X ($50,000 – $2,500) = $47,500

If the machine produces 10 percent of vitamins over its expected 200 million vitamin unit life, the resulting depreciation amount is $4,750. At the end of the first year the book value will be $45,250. Production amounts in future years will dictate how much may be depreciated.

Sum of the Years Digits Approach

Similar to other methods of depreciation, the Sum of the Years Digits (SYD) depreciation method is another type of depreciation that assigns the bulk of depreciation in the beginning years of an asset’s useful life. Looking at the formula is the best way to understand how it works.

Expensing Depreciation = (Asset’s remaining life / Sum of the years digits) X (Asset’s cost – salvage value)  

If a machine that’s going to be used by a company to produce widgets costs $50,000, has a useful life of 16 years and a salvage value of $3,000, it would look as follows:

1. $50,000 – $3,000 = $47,000 Depreciation Base

2. With 16 years of useful life for the asset, the sum of the years would be: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 +6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 + 13 + 14 + 15 + 16 = 136. Using the machine referenced above during the first year would equal a Remaining Life of 16. Then, the Remaining Life of 16 years would be divided by the SYD of 136.

3. Using this example, for the first year of using the machine, the formula would be as follows:

16 years (remaining life) / 136 (SYD) = 0.11764. Then, 0.11764 X $47,000 (Depreciation Base) = $5,529.08

The next (or second) year’s depreciation expense would by 15 / 136 = 0.110294. Then, 0.110294 X $47,000 = $5,183.82

Each subsequent year the SYD would be divided by the remaining years until it’s exhausted and the salvage value should be met.

Depending on the type of business, the type of asset and the accounting approach, there are different ways to expense for property acquired during the course of business.

When Should You Switch Your Side Hustle to a Business Entity Structure?

Side Business, How to File for Business EntityStarting a side hustle today is easier than ever. Between the numerous websites that act as marketplaces and project jobs that can be found on the internet, almost anyone can turn a skill or hobby they have into something they can make money off. Many people who do this are just looking to make a little extra money on the side, but this side hustle can turn into something bigger – and this is where the tax and legal questions come in.

Sole Proprietorship

For someone just starting or looking to make a little extra on the side, there’s nothing special you need to do when it comes to filing your federal taxes. Just complete an extra form that is called Schedule C of your personal tax return. This is referred to as doing business as a sole proprietorship.

But that is where the simplicity stops. While organizing your business, the default way as a sole proprietor takes the least effort and expense; however, there are risks associated with this path, particularly legal liability risks.

Legal Risks

The biggest problem is that the sole proprietorships form leaves personal as well as business assets exposed to the risk of being sued. Lawyers will often recommend that the moment a business has paying clients, it should be converted to an LLC or corporation to provide legal protection by separating the business and personal assets.

While this legal advice is technically true, it doesn’t consider the cost-benefit of the situation. The problem is that the costs of forming and running an LLC or corporation can easily exceed the money earned from a side hustle. Combine this with the probability of getting sued at all (in each personal situation) and for most side hustles, it’s simply not worth it to form an LLC or corporation. The key question then is when is it worth it to switch from a sole proprietorship to an LLC or a corporation?

When Side Hustle Grows Up

What about the taxation issue? Generally, tax savings aren’t a good reason to convert a sole proprietorship to an LLC or corporation. Particularly, making the move from a sole proprietorship to a single-member LLC will not help for tax purposes and in fact may only increase your chances of an audit. Moreover, operating as an LLC will cost more both for the initial filing as well as ongoing annual expenses. Legal liability remains the main reason to convert the entity structure.

Hidden Tax Issues

All three pass-through entity types (sole proprietor, LLC and S-Corporations) calculate your income in the exact same way under current laws. There is however a hidden tax to consider: the self-employment tax. Self-employment taxes are paid on all sole proprietor earnings, but only on the salary portion of LLC or S-Corp earnings. Any profits over and above your salary are considered dividend payments and are not subject to self-employment taxes.

Unfortunately, the income level needed to change entity structures depends on each individual situation, but you’ll need the savings to at least cover the initial and long-term compliance costs of filings, fees and tax preparation costs. Let’s look at two examples to see how this works.

Imagine a business is earning $100,000 in net profit and from this, you pay yourself $40,000 as salary and take the remaining $50,000 as dividends. At the current 15.3 percent self-employment tax rate, this translates into a savings of $7,650. Now imagine a side hustle that only earns $25,000 from which you take $15,000 as salary and the remaining $10,000 as dividends. This only translates into $1,530 in tax savings.

In the first case above, you’ve not only generated enough tax savings to more than cover your tax preparation and filing costs, but you’ll end up with more money in your pocket and have stronger legal protection. In the second case, you’ll barely save enough to cover your costs – and you’ll create more work for yourself.

Conclusion

Your side hustle might be small right now, but tomorrow it could grow into the next big thing, so make sure your organizational structure makes sense now.

Hanging Flags, Awarding Geniuses, Supporting Hong Kong Protestors and Criminalizing Animal Cruelty

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.

What is Splinternet and Why You Should Care

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.

Be Prepared

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. 

Practicing Gratitude: A Look Back at 2019

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:

  1. Look in the mirror and name five things you like about yourself.
  2. Write someone a thank you note.
  3. When something bad happens, think of something good that’s happened.
  4. 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!

Sources

https://thriveglobal.com/stories/how-gratitude-actually-changes-your-brain-and-is-good-for-business/

https://www.news-medical.net/health/Dopamine-Functions.aspx

http://ebooksdownloadfreeed.blogspot.com/2016/04/the-upward-spiral-pdf-free-download.html

https://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.php?term=Anterior+Cingulate+Cortex

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/kc/serotonin-facts-232248