May 3, 2019

Weekend reads: How to spot a scammer

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    It's OK to eat MSG (and you're probably already eating it). Monosodium glutamate (MSG) has had a bad reputation for more than 50 years—ever since a 1968 letter in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that MSG may have caused a doctor to feel numbness and palpitations after eating Chinese food. But the bad reputation is likely unfounded and stems in part from xenophobia, according to Sarah Lohman, a culinary historian. In fact, while MSG has been discussed largely in relation to Chinese food, the product is found in a lot of American processed food as well—which means that most Americans consume MSG without even being aware of it.   Further, FDA estimates the average American consumes about a half a gram of MSG each day—even though about four in 10 say they are actively trying to avoid it. But there's no reason to worry, according to the Journal. FDA categorizes MSG among foods "generally recognized as safe."

    Grab a Yaaas Meal at Burger King? Burger King on Thursday announced it has partnered with Mental Health American (MHA) to launch "Real Meals," a variety of boxed meal deals that the fast food company says focus on "real" moods. These meals include the Blue Meal, the Salty Meal, the Pissed Meal, the Yaaas Meal, and the DGAF Meal, all of which include a Whopper sandwich, French fries, and a drink. The campaign aims to spread mental health awareness. Paul Gionfriddo, MHA's president and CEO, said, "While not everyone would think about pairing fast food and mental health, MHA believes in elevating the conversation in all communities in order to address mental illness Before Stage 4 (when someone has severe symptoms)."

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    The DIY treadmill that's taking the internet by storm. People across the world have found a cheaper, and more dangerous, way to reach their exercise goals—and they're putting it on video. For the new social media challenge, people are creating "makeshift treadmills" to create a "gym on a budget," SCMP News said in a tweet. In the videos, subjects pour water and shower gel onto a hard floor, grab a sturdy surface—like a cabinet or table—and start running in place as if they are on a treadmill. Videos of the treadmill challenge have received tens of millions of views. Viewers of the videos expressed that the treadmill challenge could lead to injury, and some have complained that the videos could influence children to try the challenge.  

    The scammer's playbook. If the Theranos scandal has taught us anything, it's that scamming takes "chutzpah and skill," Charlotte Scows writes for The Cut. But how do scammers convince people to give them money in the first place? According to Cowes, it helps if the scammer tries to come across as rich. Scammers usually initiate their scam by making promises to their victims. "Crooks often try to create trust and dependency by doing something for people, or getting people to rely on them socially," said Dan Ariely, founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University. Then they make it their mission to understand their marks—a tactic that helps scammers learn the social cues and norms to fit in without suspicion. Once scammers have established trust with their victims, they begin to ask for favors, such as borrowing money. On top of that, scammers benefit by keeping their mouths shut, Crow reports.

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