Numlock News: April 12, 2019 • Lumpfish, Kids' YouTube, Fake Urine

By Walt Hickey

Have a wonderful weekend!


Uber and Lyft coordinate globe-spanning fleets of vehicles, but given the novelty of their business nobody is even remotely interested in insuring their cars until they figure out the baselines. This means that the companies have basically had to spool up in-house insurance wings in order to function: Uber’s insurance reserves stood at $2.94 billion at the end of 2018 and Lyft had $863.7 million in its captive insurance subsidiary at the same time. Those figures are way up: Uber only had $712 million in insurance reserves at the end of 2016, and Lyft only had $360.9 million at year end 2017. As for when the ceremonial transfer of the “Least Insurable” crown will occur, I imagine Uber can expect to receive the traditional call from Lindsay Lohan any day now.

Tatyana Shumsky, The Wall Street Journal


Norway’s farmed salmon industry is enormous, producing 1.1 million tonnes annually valued at over $7 billion. The top two farmed species in Norway are salmon and lumpfish, the latter of which isn’t really known for its culinary regard or elegance on a bagel. The reason the second largest crop of fish is small suckerfish is that they love to consume parasites, especially the sea lice that plagues salmon aquaculture farms. The lice attack the salmon, the lumpfish eat the lice, everybody’s happy, except the salmon long-term. But given how sensitive the googly-eyed do-gooders are, shipping them can cause stress or death, making it hard to see where the 50 million lumpfish the industry needs deployed annually can thrive. That’s why new anesthetics that chill the fishies out are so exciting, with sedatives like Aqua-S being studied by scientists.

Sarah Keartes, Hakai Magazine

Kids YouTube

The ten largest YouTube channels for children are CoCoMelon, Vlad and Nikita, Like Nastya Vlog, Toys and Colors, Kids Diana Show, Ryan Toys Review, El Reino Infantil, Toys and Little Gaby, Family Games TV, and TocToc Toys. The top channel, CoCoMelon, makes an estimated $120 million per year. These are massive networks connecting with thousands, if not millions of children. And we have no idea who the hell runs some of them, which is fairly wild. The Wall Street Journal could not speak with nine of the 10 entities — two declined, the other seven could not be found or did not respond to messages — and only one took their call. This seems like a bad situation.

Yoree Koh and Betsy Morris, The Wall Street Journal


Walmart is rolling out a bunch of robots into its stores, including 1,500 floor-cleaning autonomous robots, 1,200 delivery-sorting robots, 900 automated pickup towers, and 300 shelf-scanning robo-ssociates. The on-boarding of 3,900 such machines to their 4,600 stores is very clearly just a small rollout to find out if the tech actually ends up saving money or just creating a bunch of horrifying or depressing interactions with the regulars that end up on the bummer part of YouTube.

Kaitlyn Tiffany, Vox

Drug Testing

Pre-employment drug testing is now required by 56 percent of employers. This, naturally, has led to the near total elimination of drug use in working America. Nah, just kidding, actually drug tests are finding more weed than they have in years, but the really fascinating part is that this corporate obsession with garthering pharmacological intel on the staff has instead spurred an explosion of development of counterintelligence tools like synthetic urine and discreet means of distribution that would make even James Bond’s Q say, “you walked all the way here with what taped to the inside of your leg?” In reality, a 2014 academic review of 23 studies found drug testing does not significantly improve workplace safety. It is with all this being said that I will not be satisfied until review sites such as The Wirecutter alerts fans which imitation delivery specimen — the UPass, the Clean Stream, the Whizzinator, the Xstream, or the Monkey Whizz — are the most consumer-friendly choice.

Aditi Shrikant, The Goods


It can cost an estimated $2.6 billion to bring a single pharmaceutical product to market. When a pharma company thinks it has a winner on its hands, the market gets ambitious and even before approval the company can see large valuation gains. But when those drug trials fail, the craters they leave behind are a sight to behold: three failed lung cancer drugs for Bristol-Myers, AstraZeneca and AbbVie caused single-day market wipeouts that are breathtaking to look at: -$20 billion on Aug. 5, 2016 alone for Bristol-Myers, -$13 billion on July 27, 2017 for AstraZeneca and -$23 billion on March 22, 2018 for AbbVie. The latest company to eat a single-day hit on a failed trial was Biogen, which saw $18 billion of company value erased in a single day this past March after an experimental Alzheimer’s disease drug failed.

Eyk Henning, Jeremy Kahn, Bloomberg


Since 2011, a glitch in East Baton Rouge Parish’s jury database meant that it wasn’t updating, meaning that 150,000 people, including thousands of young people born after June 2, 1993, were possibly left of the jury roles. This is a potential constitutional issue: young defendants may have lost out on an opportunity to be tried in front of a jury consisting of their literal peers, and deprived of young jurors who could have potentially been sympathetic. About 15 percent of Americans are called for jury duty each year.

Alan Blinder, The New York Times

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Last Sunday I published the second half of my interview with Pat Garofalo, the author of The Billionaire Boondoggle. This edition was all about how states and cities waste money bribing Hollywood to film scenes in their towns. You should check out the book — I really liked it! — and consider becoming a subscriber to get more interviews with authors and writers behind some of the pieces you see here.

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: 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