Numlock News: January 28, 2020 • Furs, Gold Toilets, High Frequency Trades

By Walt Hickey

Commode

Regrets, I've had a few: a number of furnishings from Frank Sinatra’s executive suite at the former Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey went up for auction. Some of the most striking fixtures to hit the auction block were Sinatra’s marble and gold seated toilets, because you can take the crooner out of New Jersey but you can’t take the New Jersey out of the crooner. In what I have confirmed is not a weaker, late-season Paulie plot from The Sopranos, Frank’s basic Italian marble toilet sold for $1,800. Then, as to answer the question “For what is a man, what has he got?” the deluxe toilet with the golden seat fetched $4,250. Besides the throne that Ocean’s 11 built, all 197 items up for auction were sold, with the top seller being a $33,000 Enid Yandell fountain.

Hannah Lawson, CNN

High Frequency Trading

The U.K.’s financial regulator has released a report quantifying the cost to investors when it comes to high-speed trading algorithms. The practice known as “latency arbitrage” is when ultra-fast traders attempt to get the jump on the rest of the market thanks to their faster systems and oftentimes custom infrastructure investments. This quick-finger automated process is a side effect of the way market works, and regulators have sought to eliminate the arms race by building in split-second delays or other speed bumps. The reason is simple: everyone else in the market is less likely to post competitive quotes for stocks because the speediest traders can swoop in by sheer technical quickness rather than any inherent evaluation of the market. Globally, the estimated trader revenue from latency arbitrage is $4.8 billion skimmed from traditional investors by the speed freaks.

Alexander Osipovich, The Wall Street Journal

Movies

According to tracking service Reelgood, the number of movies on Netflix fell from 6,755 films in 2010 to just 3,730 titles in 2020. Meanwhile, the number of television shows — which by their very nature are much longer works, time-wise — jumped from 530 to 2,108 over that same period. The combined number of film and television titles appears to have peaked on Netflix in 2012, when there were 11,000 titles on the service. That slipped precipitously and by 2015 there were 5,769 titles, which then slowly fell to a low of 5,158 titles in 2018. The growth from that nadir over the past two years has been almost entirely in new Netflix original content.

Rani Molla, Vox

Booze

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the percentage of Americans who reported binge drinking fell from 18.9 percent in 2011 to 18.0 percent in 2017, according to the latest data. However, while the percentage of heavy drinkers has slipped, those who do are drinking more: 529 drinks per year in 2017, up 57 annualized drinks compared to 2011. The largest pop in consumption was in Idaho, where the average number of drinks increased from 433 in 2011 to 793 in 2017 for binge drinkers. Wyoming’s binge drinkers consumed the most, downing 1,219 drinks per year in 2017.

Andrew Noble, Route Fifty

Telescope

After 16 years of service NASA will shut down the Spitzer telescope this week. The issue is that the telescope — designed to detect light in infrared wavelengths — trails Earth in its orbit, and the distance has been growing, making it more difficult to maneuver in order to charge it with solar power, to transmit data, or to point it in space. It had an excellent run, finding a ring around Saturn, laying the groundwork for exoplanet detection and observing billions-of-years-old-light. Interestingly, it’s being left in orbit, and Earth won’t catch up to it again until 2051. That’ll be a fun reunion.

Marina Koren, The Atlantic

Outbreak

In 2003, when the SARS outbreak struck China, the nation accounted for 4.3 percent of world economic output. Last year, it was 16.3 percent, so the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent reaction may have world-impacting economic effects well beyond the borders. Tourism alone is in trouble: 134 million Chinese traveled abroad last year, and 7 million people were projected to travel internationally this Lunar New Year, up from 6.3 million in 2019. China’s neighbors — Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Hong Kong — could see immediate dents in visits. In Macau, a major gambling destination, visitors from mainland China were down 80 percent on Sunday compared to a year earlier, a possible preview of what’s to come if the outbreak is exacerbated.

Elaine Kurtenbach and Alexandra Olson, The Associated Press

Furs

Fur has been attracting the anger of activists for a while; however, the number of people moving away from the fashion is starting to make a dent. Last year, the International Fur Federation reported the industry had $30 billion in sales, which is somewhere between 10 percent and 15 percent down. Most of that drop was attributed to economic difficulties in China and Russia, two enormous fur markets, but retailers like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, which announced they will stop selling fur by the end of 2020, still represent something like 4 percent to 5 percent of fur sales. While new fur is obviously controversial, older, inherited furs — clothing made from animals killed decades ago — are still complicated for some inheritors. However, the maintenance and tailoring of these previously owned items to update them for more modern styles at no new loss of life has actually been a growth business for furriers dealing with a declining share of apparel.

Ray A. Smith, The Wall Street Journal

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2020 Sunday special editions: Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors

2019 Sunday special editions: 2019 · TI-84 · Heated · Hemp · Kylie Cosmetics · Secondhand · Biometrics · Voting Machines · Open Borders ·  WrestleMania ·  Game of Thrones ·  Concussion Snake Oil ·  Skyglow ·  Juul ·  Chris Ingraham ·  Invasive Species ·  The Rat Spill ·  
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2018 Sunday Editions:2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

Numlock News: January 27, 2020 • Video Games, Alberta, Crabs

By Walt Hickey

1917

Bad Boys for Life, the story of two men who team up for a high-stakes, risk-filled, must-succeed and over-the-top mission that could very well be their last, won the box office this past weekend, pulling in $34 million and pushing it to $120 million over two weeks. In second place was 1917, the story of two men who team up for a high-stakes, risk-filled, must-succeed and over-the-top mission that could very well be their last, which made $15.8 million and has made $103.9 million domestically.

Associated Press

Esports

Activision Blizzard launched a professional esports league on Friday for Call of Duty, the latest attempt from the video game manufacturer to grab a slice of the promising esports market. The company — which will soon enter its third year of the Overwatch League, a city-based league centered around the team-based six-vs-six Overwatch game — made about $6.4 billion in revenue last year, of which the Overwatch League was responsible for about $100 million, and it’s forecasted to make $390 million by 2022. Call of Duty is a bigger prize, as the league’s team owners are believed to have paid in the tens of millions each for the rights to the franchises, which could score Activision something like $300 million. Total industry-wide esports revenue is projected to increase 18 percent between 2019 and 2022, which is considerably faster than the 8.4 percent growth projected for selling games.

Olga Kharif, Bloomberg

Orphaned Wells

Canadian province Alberta is beginning to reckon with the long-lasting impacts of being home to extractive industries, one of which is orphan wells. These are oil and gas wells whose owners have gone bankrupt, and thus abandoned responsibility for ensuring they stay safe. An audit found 3,406 orphan wells in Alberta, typically on the land of rural landowners, still just a fraction of the 94,000 inactive wells that pockmark the province. These will be the responsibility of taxpayers if nobody else is responsible, and as a result they’re working on ways to prevent more wells from becoming orphaned in the first place. The total estimated cleanup cost for every oil and gas well in Alberta is $30 billion. By comparison, the Alberta Energy Regulator has $227 million in financial security.

Inayat Singh, CBC News

Sonos

In late December, speaker manufacturer Sonos began to take heat for their “recycling mode,” which rendered a speaker useless. A bad look, the situation got worse when Sonos then announced it was cutting support for some of its earliest products, adding to the ire. This has led to a swift tanking in its products’ reviews, per an analysis. As of December 16, before the crisis, the average review of Sonos’ products on their own website was 86.9 percent across 16,400 reviews. By December 30, two days after the news broke, the review count popped to 17,000 and the average score fell to 76.5 percent. As of last week, the average score had crashed to 60.2 percent.

Joshua Fruhlinger, ThinkNum

Multiplayer Mode

A survey of 4,000 video game developers found that 54 percent said that they thought game industry employees should unionize, which is up 7 percentage points from last year. Another 21 percent said that maybe they should. Still, despite the broader support, just 23 percent think that industry workers will in fact unionize, though 43 percent thought maybe they would.

Trilby Beresford, The Hollywood Reporter

Crabs

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intercepted approximately 15,000 live Chinese mitten crabs ahead of Chinese New Year as part of an operation codenamed Hidden Mitten. The invasive species poses a serious threat to ecosystems, out-competing native species for food and damaging infrastructure, though they are considered pretty tasty hence the smuggling. As a counterpoint, they also sometimes carry a parasitic lung fluke and female mitten crabs can produce 100,000 to 1,000,000 eggs per brood. Thanks to the hardworking people at the Fish and Wildlife Service the unbidden and hidden fluke-ridden mitten didn’t get in, as it was forbidden.

Laury Marshall, U.S. Fish and Wildlife

23andNobody

At-home DNA testing company 23andMe announced layoffs amid a slump in its direct-to-consumer sales. As of 2018, the total number of people who’d bought tests for 23andMe, Ancestry and others had hit 26 million, and after considering the implications of mailing DNA to strangers perhaps people are less willing to spend $99 to get on some list. One estimate puts sales of 23andMe’s kits at 4 million to 6 million DNA kits in 2019, which would have grown the databases by 20 percent, the slowest growth for the industry ever.

Antonio Regalado, MIT Technology Review

Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.


Now when you tell a friend to sign up for Numlock, you’ll get some free Numlock stickers and magnets if you go to swag.numlock.news. It’s a great way to reach new readers organically.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at walt@numlock.news. Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at copy@numlock.news.

The very best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.

2020 Sunday special editions: Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors

2019 Sunday special editions: 2019 · TI-84 · Heated · Hemp · Kylie Cosmetics · Secondhand · Biometrics · Voting Machines · Open Borders ·  WrestleMania ·  Game of Thrones ·  Concussion Snake Oil ·  Skyglow ·  Juul ·  Chris Ingraham ·  Invasive Species ·  The Rat Spill ·  
The Sterling Affairs ·  Snakebites ·  Bees ·  Deep Fakes ·  Artificial Intelligence ·  Marijuana ·  Mussels · 100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner · Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·  Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite
2018 Sunday Editions:2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

Numlock Sunday: Kyle Chayka on The Longing for Less

By Walt Hickey

Welcome to the Numlock Sunday edition. Each week, I'll sit down with an author or a writer, behind one of the stories covered in a previous weekday edition for a casual conversation about what they wrote.

This week, I spoke to writer Kyle Chayka, the author of the newly released The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism. Kyle's a really great writer whose work has appeared in a number of places I love, and the book is superb.

You can check out an excerpt over on LitHub, and Kyle can be found on Twitter. The book is available wherever books are sold, be it your local independent book store or Amazon.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Walt Hickey: The book is The Longing for Less. It's about minimalism. What drew you to this topic?

Kyle Chayka: It started in 2016 when I just noticed that a ton of different things were being called minimalist. Like you could call a bar "minimalist," you could call a hotel "minimalist," you could call like your outfit "minimalist," you could call cleaning your closet "minimalist." Since I have a background in art history, my association with minimalism was as this radical art movement in the mid-sixties in New York.

What made me want to write about it was there seemed to be no connection between these two things. The people are calling a bar minimalist without knowing anything about what minimalism meant originally. The word seemed to mean nothing, or be the shorthand for empty spaces, essentially.

I wanted to solve that mystery a little bit, and figure out how this radical art movement became a popular lifestyle trend.

You highlight a few names that were kind of, at least in the popular imagination, associated with minimalism, folks like Marie Kondo and Steve Jobs. Can you talk a little bit about like who some of these "minimalist influencers" are and whether they do or don't fit within the framework of what minimalism actually is?

As far as minimalist influencers — which is a great term — I think minimalism is so often associated with technology now. We say our iPhone is minimalist. I think Steve Jobs is really the one who's responsible for that, the Silicon Valley obsession with minimalism. Sure, he was the most successful entrepreneur of all time. But he also weirdly had this very ascetic lifestyle. There's the famous photo of him in the eighties sitting in his living room with like nothing on the floor and only a lamp and a stereo. And he's like, this is all I need to live a happy life, but also he'd be worth billions of dollars. I think he's someone who's really associated with minimalism because I think people associate his ascetic lifestyle with the money that he made and how successful Apple was.

Another minimalist influencer might be Philip Johnson, the architect who lived for most of the 20th century. He was the one who was really responsible for importing European modernism to the United States and kind of the ‘20s and ‘30s. So he would travel in Europe with the founder of MoMA and bring back German modernist furniture, and study architecture, and then do exhibitions about it in the U.S.

Philip Johnson made
Glass House, which people may recognize. You wrote that a lot of that modernist stuff was only described as minimalist in retrospect.

Minimalism as a word was only coined in 1965. The word did not exist essentially before that. And obviously like calling something minimal, there's a word, but "minimalism" as a term didn't exist until Richard Wollheim, who's a British art theorist, coined it in '65. It's really funny to me that the modernist aesthetic gets associated with minimalism when really it came long before minimalism proper. Just to clarify people use "modernism" to describe a lot of things as well. But what we're talking about is the art movement that lasted for the first half of the 20th century. In terms of architecture and design, it was really all about industrial materials, empty spaces, and whiteness. It was hermetically sealed spaces of glass and steel that now we see everywhere in skyscrapers and condos and stuff.

That aesthetic is like very much still a thing. Like, I just saw
Knives Out and like Glass House is exactly where Chris Evans lives.

Yeah, totally. It's so funny, and it's like that I think because of Philip Johnson, the aesthetic is associated with high end luxury culture and rich, fancy people. It's good taste.


For the book, you spent some time in Japan. What drew you there?


The last chapter of the book is on Japan. We associate Japan so much with minimalism. We think of it as a minimalist culture in some ways. I wanted to go there, and to experience it for myself, and just see how minimalist it feels. Like maybe this is a projection of Western culture. I wanted to test out that idea that Japan was very minimalist.

Again, minimalism is a thing that emerged in the ‘60s. You can't call a Japanese monk from the 13th century a minimalist, necessarily. He's not cleaning out his cave or whatever according to Marie Kondo. To me, what I wanted to do with the book was to expand the idea of minimalism and talk about it in a more associative way, where like we can break down what minimalism is and talk about what goes into it.

Part of that is like definitely Japanese Buddhism, which has some appreciation of the ephemerality of life and the absences as much as presences. That's really what I studied in going to Japan.

One portion of the book made me feel completely roasted. You wrote:

But minimalist marketing usually ends up in one of two ways. The first is simplicity as pricey luxury, like a thousand-dollar iPhone or the iconic Eames lounge chair. The chair, made of three segments of bent plywood upholstered with puffs of leather pillows like piped icing, has become a shibboleth of good taste, a cliche fixture in photo shoots. At upwards of $4,000 for the real thing, it’s not really “for the least” price or “for the most” people. The second is IKEA territory, where every college graduate buys the same geometric side-table in shoddy materials that might mimic modernist style but gets ditched whenever they can afford something better. It promises permanence but ends up ephemeral.

Anyway as a person who covets all of that stuff I felt nuked by this line. Can you expand on it a bit?

Minimalism is often a luxury good. The minimalist ideal is that we can make a product or a thing that's good for everyone, a style that's cool to everyone and is tasteful to everyone. I think what it often ends up as is this.

On the high end you have something like the Eames chair, which is this prized cultural relic and is perfect in every way, shape and form. And it's a beautiful object. But no one can afford it. Like $5,000 for a single chair is like not an easy leap to make.

IKEA approaches the same idea from the other angle, where they make a lowest common denominator aesthetic and that is minimalism. If you make the simplest furniture possible, the most functional, useful object possible, then it can get applied everywhere. I think minimalism has a lot of utility as a style, it can be cheap to produce and it does fit in everywhere. I think that's part of the reason why it's so popular across the world. It just kind of blends into its surroundings.

I mean we all aspire to the Herman Miller minimalism, but maybe like IKEA minimalism is our starting point.

Kyle Chayka@chaykak
My first book, The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism is on shelves today from @BloomsburyPub! You can order it here:
bloomsbury.com/us/the-longing… But I also wanted to do a thread of my favorite people & quotes from the book —



Do you want to talk a little bit about like 4'33'' by John Cage? That's best known as the silent track, so to speak, and you go deep on how oftentimes that's misinterpreted.


The misinterpretation of 4'33'' is that it's like a silent piece, John Cage composed it.

The moment 4'33'' debuted, it was at this concert hall in upstate New York. And you know, the audience is all seated in their chairs. Some people are outside, everyone's nervously awaiting this last song at this avant-garde classical music concert. And then the pianist goes up and unveils the keys and then just sits there and does nothing. And he like continues to do nothing opening, closing the piano for four minutes and 33 seconds.

And by the end of that, obviously the audience is super annoyed. Like, why are we not hearing any music? What is the point of this? Like is John Cage trolling us basically?

And he was trolling, but the piece is not about silence. It's not about like hearing nothing. It's instead about reframing the sounds of the environment as the musical experience. So instead of the piano player making the sound, that's John Cage saying "everything happening around you is the sensory experience that you should focus on, you should focus on the rustling of the leaves and the people mumbling, the environment." He talks about the sound of the rain on leaves and that can be a beautiful sound. So the argument of 4'33'' is not that music is nothing, but that music is everything. We should be maybe less picky about what we see as arts in our everyday lives.

That's a great place to land on. Marie Kondo says that a house basically needs just 30 books. Can you explain to readers why this should be their 31st?


I keep telling people that this book counts for negative five other books. You know, reframe your mind.

To me the utility of the book is not giving you a way to clean your apartment, or telling you how to live, but instead helping you ask deeper questions and be exposed to some ideas that are cool or might help you see the world in a different way. Change your mind, as opposed to just cleaning out your apartment.

The book is called Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism. It's an exploration of all of these different artists and writers and philosophers and architects who make up a wider idea of minimalism, it's published by Bloomsbury. It's out now and you should be able to find it just about anywhere.


If you have anything you’d like to see in this Sunday special, shoot me an email. Comment below! Thanks for reading, and thanks so much for supporting Numlock.

Thank you so much for becoming a paid subscriber!

Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at walt@numlock.news.

Numlock News: January 24, 2020 • Satellites, Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake Venom

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!

Satellite

DirecTV had to ask the FCC for permission to crash a satellite out of orbit, the Spaceway-1, a 15-year-old Boeing 702HP. In what is still only the second-biggest problem Boeing has had lately, the satellite has suffered serious thermal damage to its batteries, and those batteries can’t be guaranteed to not burst anymore, and given that that would be a debris-spewing problem in orbit the best course of action is just to crash it into the atmosphere. The satellite has 73 kilograms of propellant left, and typically the plan would be to burn that off over the next two to three months. But given that eclipse season is coming up for the satellite in late February and the batteries are in no condition to endure that, the plan is to either de-orbit the satellite and let it burn up in the atmosphere or to alternatively blast it 300 kilometers out and let it die in the murky blackness of space.

Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

DIY

The in-home orthodontic business is accelerating, with the sector leader — SmileDirectClub, with 95 percent of the at-home clear aligner business — having 750,000 customers so far. However, the do-it-yourself style is not without its risks, with Kaiser Health News tracking 1,600 complaints against SmileDirectClub lodged to the Better Business Bureau, 72 complaints to the FDA since 2017, 175 to the FTC (with a few duplicates) and — after contacting 51 state attorneys general with 34 responses — 19 states reporting 75 complaints. As for me? I recently installed a door knob, and did it backwards the first time and backwards (but a different way) the second time, so I’m going to sit this trend out.

Julia Appleby and Victoria Knight, Kaiser Health News

Pandemic

The recent outbreak in China has many wondering about the ability of the U.S. pharmaceutical business to respond to a threat, and, well, don’t think about that. The majority of the pharmaceutical R&D is from just 20 pharmaceutical companies that spent more than $2 billion in 12 months, but only four of those companies have major vaccine units. One reason for that is that vaccines aren’t really profit blockbusters, let alone able to reliably recover development costs, and federal investment is trending down. As of Q2 2019, just 65 chemicals were in the pharmaceutical pipeline that were vaccines or treated infectious diseases. Compare that to the 195 in development in oncology, a more profitable avenue.

Max Nisen, Bloomberg

Catastrophe

Rodney Strong Vineyards in northern California reported a massive leak Wednesday, accidentally dumping 97,112 gallons of wine that poured into the nearby Reiman Creek and ultimately the Russian River. About 20 percent of the liquid was contained in the process, and the fire department, two vacuum trucks and an improvised dam were called into action to quaff the cascade of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jared Gilmour and Don Sweeney, The Sacramento Bee

Lonely

A new survey from Cigna found a 13 percent increase in reported loneliness since 2018. The survey — of over 10,000 adult workers last summer — found that 63 percent of men were lonely, as well as 58 percent of women. The youngest respondents, those 18 to 22, had the highest average loneliness score while the older Boomer respondents had the lowest. I’m not ready for a future in which my health insurer allows me to use flexible spending account dollars to start a podcast with buddies — the only known treatment for male loneliness — but, listen, I’m not exactly opposed to it.

Elena Renken, NPR

Spain

Coal fell from 14.3 percent to just 4.8 percent of Spain’s national electricity power mix, a 70 percent drop and the lowest level in four decades. There are eleven coal plants in Spain that have a capacity of 500 megawatts or more, but the nation is investing heavily to not only move away from carbon-based generation but also guarantee successful transitions for affected workers. The government cut a deal with unions for 250 million euros in exchange for shutting down coal mining in the country. The coal plants in the Spanish market lost a projected 992 million euros in 2019.

Akshat Rathi and Jeremy Hodges, Bloomberg

Venom

Stem cells collected from mice can be treated to produce “organoids,” or small versions of full-sized organs. They have also been used to create organoids from other species, such as humans. One project attacks a massive health issue long considered the most significant under-treated affliction of humanity — snake bites. Snakebites kill between 81,000 and 138,000 people annually, and those who survive can be permanently disabled by the venom and suffer long-lasting consequences. To create anti-venom, you have to first milk venom from snakes, then inject it into horses, and finally harvest the anti-bodies they subsequently produce. Messed up, I know, but it was the only way, at least until this organoid experimentation gets off the ground developing faux venom sacs. So far, the lab has grown venom sacs from eight species, with a target of 50, and could study those venomous proteins to labs to develop ways to neutralize them more effectively and without all the stabbed horses.

Ed Yong, The Atlantic

Generic

Eighteen Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies will provide $55 million to the nonprofit Civica Rx. The organization was formed by health care organizations and philanthropies, and it’s goal is to sell generic drugs at low prices and as a steady supply for hospitals as a way to do an end-run around the current generic market. As it stands, about 90 percent of prescriptions are generic, but nevertheless the market remains oddly competitive given the few participants in the space, leading to accusations of price gouging and allegations of price fixing schemes.

Beth Mole, Ars Technica

Last Sunday, I spoke to writer Dani Leviss about ghost gear, the discarded fishing equipment that’s causing a whole lot of problems the world over. The original story in Hakai Magazine can be found here. It was a really great interview — with an unexpected twist!and I’ve dropped the paywall for a bit if you want to check it out.

Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

The very best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.


Now when you tell a friend to sign up for Numlock, you’ll get some free Numlock stickers and magnets if you go to swag.numlock.news. It’s a great way to reach new readers organically.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at walt@numlock.news. Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at copy@numlock.news.

2020 Sunday special editions: Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors

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Numlock News: January 23, 2020 • Offshore, Impossible Burgers, Djibouti

By Walt Hickey

Emotional Support Animals

The Department of Transportation announced a plan to hike the eligibility requirements for what’s considered to be an emotional support animal for the purposes of flying. The new rules will slim the definition to dogs that have received training to perform tasks for a person with a disability, including dogs that are psychiatric service animals. According to the airline industry, the number of emotional support animals riding flights jumped from 481,000 in 2016 to 751,000 the following year, and the designation of “service animal” on unaccredited beasties has led to altercations and, at times, injuries. Airlines, which absolutely do not want to have to call the shots on what is and what isn’t “emotional support” but were also tiring of the menagerie in coach, are presumably delighted.

Lori Aratani, The Washington Post

Impossible

Burger King has seen sales slow down for the Impossible Whopper, and the chain will cut the price of the imitation meat burger amid the decline. The sandwich had been retailing for a suggested price of $5.59 per sandwich but now has been added to a two-for-$6 promotion as it. According to the largest franchisee in the U.S., sales had declined from 32 daily Impossible Whoppers sold per store to 28 sold per store per day, on average. The trend is heating up, though: McDonald’s is testing a fake meat burger in Canada and Sysco, the food distributor, is introducing a plant-based patty in the U.S. soon.

Leslie Patton and Deena Shanker, Bloomberg

Peacock

Comcast’s NBC Universal makes $11.8 billion from cable revenue annually, and the company — which, again, sells cable — is attempting to thread the needle of how one designs a viable, profitable streaming service without cannibalizing the main offering. That’s the mission behind Peacock, the NBC streaming service that will come out this year. The plan is a tiered strategy: One costs $0 per month, has 7,500 hours of programming on it, has ads, offers next-day streaming of NBC shows in their first season and has some movies and classic shows. The next tier up costs $5 per month with advertising, or $10 per month without, and contains 15,000 hours of programming, and full seasons of original programming, Olympics and sports coverage plus the whole library. That puts its offerings shy of the $15 per month HBO Max, with 10,000 hours of content, but ahead of Disney+, with 7,500 TV episodes, 500 movies at $7 per month.

Natalie Jarvey, The Hollywood Reporter

No Will

The billionaire founder of the fifth-largest conglomerate in South Korea died over the weekend at 97. Not only did he pass without establishing which of his two sons would succeed him, he also died without a will. Follow this: The younger brother, Shin Dong-bin, owns 11.7 percent of Lotte Corp directly and, when accounting for companies he controls, 21.2 percent. If the elder son, Dong-joo, were to inherit his father’s shares and then spent all his cash buying the rest, he’d have 19.07 percent. However, 11.1 percent in Lotte is held by Hotel Lotte. That’s crucial because 28 percent of that hotel’s stock is held by an employee union, which — if Dong-joo manages to win them over, and convince them to throw their weight behind him — could keep him in the mix for control of the company.

Shuli Ren, Bloomberg

Fish

There are about 200 species of freshwater megafauna, enormous catfish and aquatic creatures that roam rivers. This includes massive stingrays and 600 pound catfishes. New research shows how at-risk these enormous animals are, as a new paper says the population of freshwater megafauna was down 88 percent between 1970 and 2012. That included a 94 percent decline in fish megafauna, and Southern China and South Asia saw a wipeout: a 99 percent decline in freshwater megafauna fish.

Rachel Nuwer, New York Times

Trade

Djibouti has the largest and best-equipped port on the East Africa coastline, the Doraleh terminal. In 2004, DP World (a Dubai-based port owner) signed a 25-year deal to operate the terminal and own a third of it, but two years ago Djibouti nationalized the port, took control, forced DP World out and went into business with China Merchants Ports Holdings. There’s been an ongoing suit about that, but what’s at stake is access to one of the most important trade routes in the world. The Horn of Africa is strategically important to access the Red Sea — about 12 percent of all seaborne trade passes through en route to the Suez Canal — and Djibouti is home to both U.S. and Chinese military installations.

Costas Paris, The Wall Street Journal

Offshore

The IRS and Microsoft are locked in legal combat over the company’s ambitious tax minimization strategy. In 1989, Microsoft opened a CD manufacturing facility in Humacao, Puerto Rico, which opened as a result of a tax break due to expire in 2005. In 2004, the company was convinced by KPMG to double down: Puerto Rico has an autonomous tax system despite being a U.S. territory, and Microsoft convinced Puerto Rico to grant them a tax rate near 0 percent. That’s when things really got going: Microsoft sold their intellectual property to the subsidiary, and routed the North American profits to them, rather than being in the U.S. where they’d face a 35 percent tax. In 2006, Microsoft had stashed $1 billion offshore. By 2017, that had accumulated to $140 billion.

Paul Kiel, ProPublica

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2020 Sunday special editions: Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors

2019 Sunday special editions: 2019 · TI-84 · Heated · Hemp · Kylie Cosmetics · Secondhand · Biometrics · Voting Machines · Open Borders ·  WrestleMania ·  Game of Thrones ·  Concussion Snake Oil ·  Skyglow ·  Juul ·  Chris Ingraham ·  Invasive Species ·  The Rat Spill ·  
The Sterling Affairs ·  Snakebites ·  Bees ·  Deep Fakes ·  Artificial Intelligence ·  Marijuana ·  Mussels · 100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner · Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·  Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite
2018 Sunday Editions:2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

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