Here's what we emailed out the week of July 2, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.
We’ve heard that elephants never forget. Now a new study shows they have personalities just like humans! With a pool of Asian and African elephants, researchers developed creative ways to test for variances based on individual behavior. What’s more, elephants of certain personalities are quicker at solving problems. With these findings, elephant managers can track the elephants most likely to overcome the deterrents protecting human-populated areas, and act to prevent human-elephant conflict.
SEC whistleblower program doesn't pay for the type of fraud that started it all
Sun Jun 27
The SEC introduced their Whistleblower Program following the 2008 collapse of Bernard Madoff’s multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, a type of fraud in which returns are made to investors by handing over money put in by new investors — all lured in with the grand promise of large profits at little risk. The SEC’s program tries to catch such fraud before collapse (which would mean investors lose their money) by financially incentivizing people to become whistleblowers. Typically, these whistleblowers are employees, analysts, short sellers, or even industry observers, risking their job or damage to professional relationships even with SEC protection of their identities. Turns out, they may not be getting paid for that risk.
How does this happen? Here’s a recent example.
- In 2010, consultant John McPherson (the whistleblower) reported suspicious behavior at Life Partners (the company), where he worried the life settlements being sold to clients were overpriced with exaggerated estimates as to when the insured person was likely to die.
- Over five years, he put in over 3,000 hours documenting behavior for the SEC, who sued Life Partners in 2012 and recommended McPherson be given 23% of the amount collected — a typical whistleblower award is between 10-30%.
- But before the SEC was able to recover funds, Life Partners filed for bankruptcy in 2015 to protect their retail investors whose money was not a part of the life settlement arm. And since bankruptcy is a private action (not a judicial action from the SEC or CFTC), the funds from it are ineligible for award.
- Even worse, the SEC themselves declined a claim to some of the bankruptcy funds to maximize refunds to investors, leaving $0 for the whistleblower expecting millions.
- McPherson ended up going all in as a “professional” whistleblower and filed for bankruptcy himself earlier this year.
While lawyers say it’s not the first time a whistleblower has been shafted from a bankruptcy declaration, it’s unclear how often. Ponzi schemes frequently end in bankruptcy, which may be counterproductive to the program’s original goals. Still, in the program’s first ten years, more than 28,000 whistleblowers helped recover over $1.7B in financial remedies, with the SEC successfully paying out $900M to whistleblowers. All the while though, Ponzi schemes are at an all-time high with over 60 totaling $3.25 billion in investor funds in 2020 — a reminder that these schemes are thriving amidst reduced whistleblower desire to get involved.
Some additional resources...
- Full coverage: Wall Street Journal
- Details on Whistleblower Program: National Law Review
- Ponzi schemes new record: CNBC
What’s driving the subreddit encouraging men not to ejaculate?
Fri Jun 25
Over 90,000 men have found a community on Reddit encouraging each other to cum less (or not at all). Started in 2014, the “r/SemenRetention” subreddit (a community within Reddit) is a growing movement of spiritual men who believe frequent ejaculation can be harmful. The community claims a variety of benefits, including as a cleanse to protect their “magic juice” or communal support to overcome addiction. Overall, it seems a lot is unclear.
- Some research shows withholding cum increases risk of cancer, other research shows no correlation. Some members are completely celibate while others are not.
- Meanwhile, other members say the subreddit is helping them heal from the trauma of porn addiction even though at least one sex therapist is unsure the two are related.
The group’s creation seems to be one outcome of America's “porn epidemic,” with over 200,000 Americans classified as porn addicts. Universally, 28,258 users are watching porn every second. This has led to a host of problems for both men and women.
- Frequently watching porn contributes to feelings of loneliness and even major depression, especially for male teens, most of whom start watching at 14 or older.
- Roughly 5% of the “NoFap” subreddit, a similar community but with a mission to give up porn and masturbation, are women who struggle with body image, increasing objectification of others and themselves, and the expectations of sex because of porn.
Though not everyone agrees porn is a true health threat, and alternatives are cropping up. Some argue that today’s problematic porn stems from a culture of hyper-sexualizing women through the male gaze. In reaction, men seem to be protecting themselves while women are embracing their sexuality more, seen in the emergence of ethical porn created by women in various genres.
Some additional resources...
- Full coverage: Vice
- Stats on internet pornography: WebRoot
- Women joining r/NoFap: The Guardian
- Arguing porn isn’t a health crisis: The Atlantic
- Ethical porn: Mind Body Green
ASCII OF THE WEEK
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My personality type makes me a great multi-tusker!
Art Credit: Shanaka Dias