🐤 Too big to fail?

Amazon continues to take bigger bites out of the consumer market --- including the healthcare industry.

Thursday | February 23rd, 2023
Early Chirp

Happy Thursday, chirpers! As your day gets started, I hope you feel like a million bucks.

Of course, if you want your bank account to reflect that millionaire status, you’ll probably need a little more than a positive attitude. In fact, a recent study shows that more than 1 in 3 of the wealthiest people in the United States have one thing in common: they attended one of eight universities.

Roughly 35% of the nearly 10,000 Americans whose net worth is more than $100 million went to either Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, or the University of Pennsylvania.

-Chris Agee

Markets
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*Market data for this issue is from February 22nd, 2023 at 4:39pm EST

🏦 Markets: Uncertainty about the Federal Reserve’s reaction to inflation data fueled some major sell-offs on Wall Street earlier in the week, but new information seemed to calm investors’ jitters on Wednesday.

There weren’t any significant changes to any of the major indexes in response to the Fed’s determination that, although consumer prices are still higher than where the central bank would like to see them, inflation is headed in the right direction.

Nevertheless, additional interest rate hikes are likely as the inflation-busting mission carries on.

World

The Breakdown

A quick look around the world.

Tenor

🥯 Bagel brouhaha: If you’re a “Seinfeld” fan like me, you might remember the episode in which Elaine failed a drug test after eating one too many poppy seed bagels. As it turns out, this is apparently a real threat to members of the U.S. military. A Pentagon official recently sent out a warning to enlisted men and women that consuming certain types of poppy seeds could result in testing positive for morphine or codeine. Citing the need for “an abundance of caution,” the advisory instructed service members “to avoid consumption of all poppy seeds to include food products and baked goods containing poppy seeds.”

🧐 Italian investigation: Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is no stranger to international probes into its business practices. Most recently, prosecutors in Milan, Italy, say that the company owes the government roughly 870 million euros (the equivalent of more than $923 million) in unpaid value-added tax. According to news sources in that country, an audit showed that Meta didn’t file any value-added tax forms between 2015 and 2021.

🎾 Tennis tensions: Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic has been associated as much with his vaccination status as he has with his athletic abilities in recent months. This week, he asked U.S. authorities for permission to compete in tournaments in Florida and California despite the fact that current rules prohibit unvaccinated international travelers from entering the country. Last year, his vaccination status resulted in his deportation from Australia, though he returned earlier this year to compete in the Australian Open, thus clinching his 22nd Grand Slam victory and tying his longtime rival Rafael Nadal.

❌ Spanish separation: Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, Spain, made international news this week when she cited alleged human rights violations against Palestinians in his decision to sever existing ties with the State of Israel. The mayor described her decision as temporary but suggested it would stay in place “until the Israeli authorities put an end to the system of violations of the Palestinian people and fully comply with the obligations imposed on them by international law and the various United Nations resolutions.” Meanwhile, political leaders in the Spanish capital of Madrid accused Colau of antisemitism and said their city would abide by the agreements that Barcelona rejected.

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business

You Already Know Amazon Is Big … But Do You Know How Big?

The retail giant is spreading its footprint into almost every area of the economy.

Twitter/Khalil - @sehnaoui

From its humble roots as an online bookstore, Amazon has grown to dominate the global retail market — and turn its founder into one of the richest people on the planet.

You’re probably also somewhat familiar with the tech giant’s foray into streaming content, tablets, smart assistant devices, and other niche sectors of the economy.

But this mega-corporation is involved in much more than meets the eye.

The healthcare hustle

Although the American healthcare industry has plenty of problems, not everyone is convinced that Amazon will make things better with its nearly $4 billion acquisition of provider One Medical.

Now that the deal is final, the company is set to begin providing medical services through more than 200 physical clinics as well as through its extensive online marketplace.

The One Medical purchase also stands to create new or stronger relationships between Amazon and hospitals around the world.

The acquisition comes several years after Amazon purchased an existing online prescription delivery company that it later renamed Amazon Pharmacy. It also worked on a low-cost healthcare business called Haven, but that went under in 2021.

The acquisition model

A common theme among many of the new areas being conquered by Amazon is that the company relies on purchasing smaller companies or creating new versions of existing products rather than investing in innovation and research of its own.

Since Amazon has so much money at its disposal, this is a model that allows it to keep growing at the expense of other businesses.

One Medical is only the third-largest acquisition in Amazon's history. Significantly larger sums were spent to purchase Whole Foods and MGM.

The company has a reputation for making smart purchases, but it remains to be seen whether any future missteps will derail its current strategy.

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technology

Is The Convenience Of A ‘Smart Home’ Worth The Privacy Risks?

Many consumers want assurances that their personal data will be protected.

Tenor

Most of us have integrated some type of “smart” technology into our daily lives, but early adopters have used such devices to automate almost every part of their homes.

There’s no question that these products make things simpler (as long as they’re working correctly), but a growing number of skeptics are concerned about the amount of information they gather and how that seems to equate to an invasion of privacy.

A sleepless spy?

There have been plenty of anecdotes suggesting that smart home devices are not only always listening for commands but are recording that information. If you can’t speak freely within your own home without fears that your conversations are being uploaded into the cloud, is it really worth buying an automated thermostat or a smart speaker that will play your favorite song upon request?

Consumers are increasingly wrestling with such questions, which puts the ball in the tech industry’s court. In order to convince a majority of people that they can trust the smart home transition, companies will need to prove that privacy is a priority.

A group called Connectivity Standards Alliance is currently working on a way to certify exactly what information smart devices are actually gathering.

The emerging solution

While most smart home products currently rely on communication with the cloud in order to keep costs down and provide ample storage, there are a couple of big problems. The first is that such information is inherently unprotected as mentioned above. Secondly, it takes longer for such devices to respond to user input.

Now, many companies are releasing products that include a more sophisticated chip allowing for immediate response and eliminating the need to upload information elsewhere. This promises to address both concerns, although at the moment such products are significantly more expensive than cloud-connected alternatives.

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finance

Here Are The Big Changes That Could Be Impacting Your Credit Score

Specifically, there's good news for folks with serious medical debt.

Tenor

For generations, consumers have been beholden to their credit scores whenever they need to buy a new car, secure an apartment lease, or engage in any number of other common activities.

While there are ways to boost the score, many situations beyond a person’s control can have a devastating impact, thus reducing or eliminating any chances of securing a loan in the future.

Fortunately, some of that might soon be changing.

Good news for folks with medical debt

A major factor in many low credit scores is medical debt, which is clearly different than most other types of debt because people generally don’t choose to incur huge bills from emergency surgery or other type of expensive treatment.

It appears that the major credit reporting bureaus are now recognizing this fact and are offering some relief.

Now that agencies have determined that people with medical debt are generally as worthy of credit as those without it, here’s how they’ve responded:

  • After paying medical debt in collections, it is now removed from credit reports.
  • It now takes one year (as opposed to the prior six months) for such debt to impact credit scores.
  • Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion no longer include medical collection debt under $500.

Even more positive changes to the system

There are a lot of factors that go into creating a credit score, and they can vary from one agency to another. Some recent developments, however, seem to be making it easier for responsible consumers to boost their scores without making too many painful sacrifices.

For starters, more on-time payments — from rent to utilities to cellphone plans — are now being reported to credit bureaus.

Additionally, some agencies offer services (like the “Experian Boost” you’ve probably seen commercials for) that help find new information that will often add points.

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Early Chirp

Written by Chris Agee

90 N Church St, The Strathvale House
Grand Cayman KY1, 9006, Cayman Islands

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