By Walt Hickey
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In 2018, a bank going by Choice Bank in Belize went under, which is not exactly the kind of financial tremble that shows up on the global financial Richter scale. The problem was that the bank was the home to deposits on prepaid debit cards used around the world by a U.S.-based company called Payoneer. Their funds were among the $100 million in uninsured deposits totaling, meaning that amounts loaded onto such cards evaporated without any notice to the holders, many of whom had no clue they were even banking with the Belizean entity. Prepaid cards are used by millions globally — many of whom are without access to credit or banking resources, or who get paid with them, or who need to move money to family across borders — and total prepaid debit card spending exceeded $7 trillion in 2018.
An analysis of 80,000 websites with a new tool called Blacklight found that third-party trackers are incredibly common, with any third party tracker appearing on 69,293 of the sites, a Google tracker appearing on 59,316 of the sites, and a Facebook tracker appearing on 25,981 of the sites. About 12,000 of the sites loaded scripts that recorded every user interaction on a page — session recording — and 5,000 were using tech to “fingerprint” users, allowing them to be identified even if they blocked cookies. This data is sent to third-party data brokers, even if it’s collected on medical sites, banking sites, sites for at-risk groups, government websites, and more.
This was a rough year for berries and salmon in Alaska, which means bears are going to cities to eat trash to stock up for winter. This year, the Juneau Police Department and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have fielded 687 calls concerning 13 different bears, double the number of bears compared to last year. Of those 13, four were moved and nine were killed due to risks posed to lives or property. Part of this is that the citizens of Juneau seem to have grown complacent: just 1,500 of 8,000 residential customers have bear resistant trash cans.
Cow milk’s position has been diminishing, as the amount of milk consumed in liquid form dips and the amount of nut- or plant-based simulations rises in popularity. Lots of this is simple digestion: just 29 percent of the world’s adults can absorb lactose, and even self-diagnosed lactose intolerance or avoidance of milk is on the rise. Cheese, butter, yogurt and other milk-based solids are performing better, but the liquid stuff is facing stiff headwinds, and there’s a case for milk processors to diversify into plant-based dairy, given its higher profit margins and rising market share: 17 percent of the milk and alternatives market by retail sales volume is alt-milks.
The “learning rate” as defined by economists is the percentage decrease in cost-per-unit over the course of a doubling in output. For batteries, this is 18 percent, meaning that every time global battery output doubles, we’d anticipate that it gets 18 percent cheaper to crank one out. This has been one of the most important trends in the past decade, as battery capacity allows for greater adaptation of renewable technology and more batteries mean that they get cheaper, and cheaper batteries mean they get more popular — a virtuous cycle we’re beginning to see pick up a head of steam. By 2023, the price per kilowatt-hour is projected to dip below $100, and by 2030 could get to $62 given that learning rate. As recently as 2010, that kilowatt-hour was over $1,160.
Earth is projected to accumulate a new mini-moon, which is a term used to describe an asteroid that in the process of trying to pass by Earth gets hauled (usually briefly) into orbit for some time before, more often than not, carrying on its way. The new object is about to join Earth’s orbit in October and will continue to stick around until May 2021, so I assume it brought popcorn because that’s going to be a helluva stretch to be an observer. Scientists are actually skeptical it’s even an asteroid and suspect, rather, it is merely trash, specifically the discarded part of the Surveyor 2 rocket launched to the moon in 1966. It’s expected to get two close calls, passing at a distance of 50,000 kilometers in December and then another time at 220,000 kilometers in January 2021.
Out of the 30 largest airlines by revenue worldwide, only four had a profit in the second quarter of 2020: Korean Air Lines, Asiana Airlines, China Airlines and EVA Airways, all of which are based in South Korea or Taiwan and make a large chunk of their money from cargo services. Worldwide air cargo is projected to be a $111 billion business this year, and moving stuff has its advantages over moving people. Boxes certainly don’t hit message boards when you cut the size of a seat, and in a pandemic, air cargo is more necessary than ever since passenger revenue is projected to be $241 billion this year, an enormous cut from the initial $581 billion projection for 2020. For the four airlines that managed to be in the black in the worst quarter for the industry, cargo’s share of revenue is anywhere between 72 percent to 93 percent of the business now, up from about a third of their business last year. About 40 percent of air cargo had been moving in the holds of passenger planes, so when that dried up, cargo fleets were there to swoop in and save the day.
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