By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend! Check out this comic I edited for Insider.
Steven Seagal, a man whose Wikipedia page describes him as an “actor” despite ample evidence to the contrary, has been hit with a fine by the Securities and Exchange Commission and banned from promoting securities for three years. Basically, the SEC says Seagal heavily promoted Bitcoiin2Gen, an initial coin offering of a digital cryptocurrency. What Seagal allegedly failed to disclose was that he was promised $250,000 in cash and $750,000 worth of B2G tokens in exchange for lending his prodigious name to the investment, a violation of anti-touting provisions in federal securities laws, per the SEC. Without admitting or denying the findings, Seagal agreed to pay $157,000 in disgorgement and another $157,000 penalty and agreed to stay away from the securities business for a little while. Based on the market this week, not bad advice in general.
Scotland is the first country to provide free sanitary products to women of all ages, expanding on a program that makes menstrual products free in high schools and universities. The bill passed 112 in favor, zero opposed and one abstention. The annual cost of the program is just $31 million. All told, Britain collected the equivalent of $80 million in taxes on sales of sanitary products, which had been diverted to women’s charities since 2015, as European Union rules required a 5 percent tax on luxury goods, which tampons and pads were inexplicably categorized as. The E.U. plans to remove all taxes on menstrual products by 2022, which, I have to say, a bit long away, yeah?
Astronomers discovered the largest explosion ever detected in the history of the universe. A cluster of galaxies 390 million light years away was the site of the explosion which left a crater that could hold 15 Milky Way galaxies, five times larger than the previous largest explosion on record. Evidence for the explosion was first found in 2016 when NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory was making images of the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster and noticed a weird curved edge. Black holes — like the enormous one believed to be responsible for the blast — not only pull things in, but also blast out energy and material.
Turns out that operating enormous warehouses full of computers at scale is way more efficient than everyone doing their own computing on locally-stored storage racks. A new study of data centers found that while their computing output in 2018 was six times higher than it was in 2010, their energy consumption rose by only 6 percent. Sure, data centers are massive consumers of electricity, but by doing it all in one place there are considerable gains to be made when it comes to efficiency, according to the new study published in Science. In 2010, an estimated 79 percent of data center computing took place in smaller shops, operated by non-tech companies. With the rise of The Cloud, as of 2018 fully 89 percent of data center computing happened in the major cloud data centers, which are way better at utilizing energy effectively and efficiently. Numlock’s server is operated off of a 2011 Compaq rigged up to a diesel generator, maybe I should be rethinking this.
Congratulations to Dick Wolf, the producer of the Law & Order and Chicago family of products, for getting at least $150 million upfront from Comcast to continue making those television shows. NBC will continue airing Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. for three more seasons, television shows detailing the first responders of the city of Chicago and their often overlapping, inter-show lives, crossovers that (though I have never seen) I like to imagine are predominately arson-related. NBC will also air Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for three more seasons. SVU already holds the record for longest-running prime time drama series with 21 seasons, so the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies will get to keep racking up the score. Wolf already managed to get $300 million to $400 million to get his television programs on to the forthcoming streaming service Peacock. Wolf produces 11 shows currently on the air, a fact I remind myself of whenever I feel like I’m overdoing it on the newsletter spinoff front.
Gears of War
Locusts are menacing Pakistan, a neighbor of China, and seriously threaten the regional food supply. China has sent over several agricultural experts to help with what’s billed as the worst infestation in two decades, but those missions have been overshadowed by dubious reports that approximately 100,000 ducks will be sent from China to Pakistan this summer to combat the locust menace. If true, that’d be an army of fowl not seen since that YouTube video with the screaming ducks. A motivated duck can purportedly eat over 200 locusts per day. It was reported a trial run will take place in the western region of Xinjiang prior to unleashing ducks on the ecosystem of Pakistan, like Ender’s Game, but if the game Ender was playing was just Duck Hunt on NES. As with Ender’s Game, any thought of this story’s origin makes it way less fun, as it almost certainly will not work. Swarms of locusts number 40 million to 80 million per square kilometer, and Pakistan is at least several square kilometers. On the other hand, I don’t see anyone else coming up with any ideas.
On cable channels, scripted television is dying. Thanks to new competition from streaming, the conventional cable channels are seeing a huge under-performance of their original scripted comedies and dramas. Five years ago, 50 percent of the 25 highest-rated original series on cable were scripted shows. In the time since, competition from streaming services and an ascendance of reality television has wiped them out, and in 2019 they were just 25 percent of the top shows. In the crucial demographic of those 18 to 49, ratings were a bloodbath: down 25 percent from 2018 to 2019 at FX, down 23 percent at Adult Swim, 18 percent at TBS and 16 percent at both TNT and USA. Meanwhile, unscripted networks like A&E, Bravo and ESPN saw more muted losses and TLC saw a 12 percent gain.
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