By Walt Hickey
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Much like the coworker who seemingly disappears for weeks on end after cashing in all their vacation at once, Japan is gonna take a little time off from being part of the world economy for a bit this year. From April 27 to May 6, Japan will commemorate an extra-long Golden Week. Typically given the arrangement of holidays — Showa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day — Japanese workers would still have to work on April 30, May 1 and May 2. But this year Japan is under new management with Crown Prince Naruhito taking over as Emperor, so all ten days are booked and markets are closed. It’ll be Japan’s largest stock market shutdown ever, domestic travel will rise ¥332.3 billion above last year’s ¥1.15 trillion, 24.67 million will travel in Japan and a bunch of hospitals will close.
The Champion brand — owned by HanesBrands — hit jackpot, as the teens have bestowed their favor upon it. Last year Champion booked $1.4 billion in sales, and the company hopes to dial those up to $2 billion by 2022. Male teens consider it a top-15 brand, and Champion is worn by 9 percent of upper income boys and 5 percent of girls. Once known as basic gym attire, throwback streetwear styles with noticeable logos is hot right now: the market for streetwear is $100 billion, and three-quarters of Gen Z wear it all the time. Given that Champion checks all those boxes, is at least somewhat affordable, and is stocked by 56 online retailers, the brand that the tighty-whitey built is now inexplicably in the in-crowd of fashion.
Today Indonesia votes, and that’s a staggering undertaking in and of itself. The nation is spread across a 17,000-island archipelago, with nearly 200 million eligible voters on about 900 permanently inhabited islands. Over the course of a single day, voters will go to one of 800,000 polling stations. By comparison, the U.S. had 117,000 polls in 2016. Moreover, the manpower involved in securing the election is herculean: 17 million people are involved, with 6 million running the polling stations and others guarding or witnessing the operation, and roughly 250,000 candidates are running for 20,000 positions. Okay, never complaining about having to schlep to some charter school in Woodside again.
Ever on brand, an analysis of 298 complaints filed through New Jersey’s state vehicle abuse hotline since 2018 found that no fewer than three motorists claimed someone driving an official vehicle on state business gave them the middle finger. A perk allocated to just a few, getting a government employee to flip you off on the parkway is considered good fortune for Garden Staters. Good government advocates will be quick to note that merely three incidents where New Jersey residents got flipped the bird among 5,718 state-owned vehicles is abysmally low, and residents are probably questioning what their tax dollars are even for if not having some environmental protection department jabroni tell you exactly where to stick it in that merge near exit 15X.
The possession of marijuana has become increasingly legal in some parts of the country, but in 2017 still accounted for about 5.7 percent of all arrests in the United States. In some parts of the country — mainly a swathe of conservative counties stretching from North Dakota to Texas — marijuana possession can account for over 10 or even 20 percent of arrests. Dooley County, Georgia appears to be the single worst place for smokers in America, with 54.5 percent of the 422 arrests in 2016 being for marijuana possession. Regardless of convictions or prison time, the arrests can add up financially and in lost productivity from days missed at work.
Balls and Strikes
Umpires call balls and strikes as they see them, and are actually fairly good at it when compared to computerized systems that can perfectly designate precisely where a ball was in the strike zone. Last season, 9.2 percent of called pitches were inaccurate. The umps are actually getting better: the bad call rate has decreased every year studied since 2008, when 16.4 percent of calls were wrong. But while older umps may have more experience, the younger umps actually call balls and strikes better. The average age of the 76 full-time Major League Baseball umps is 49, while their younger counterparts in Triple-A performed better when called up to the bigs. So how far are we from robot umps? This is baseball, that’ll never happen, though watching a manager have a screaming match with a Cylon and then getting ejected would definitely get Gen Z in the seats.
Aid groups have to balance all sorts of development goals and trade-offs, and a new study illustrates how not taking all of the factors into consideration can make things way worse. In the 1970s, agencies helped poor people in Bangladesh build 86 million tube wells. In 1999, arsenic contamination of those tubes was discovered, prompting a subsequent campaign to get people to stop using the wells. That became a case study in screwing up, but there’s more. The research now suggests that in areas where people were pushed away from the wells, child mortality jumped a gut-wrenching 45 percent and adult mortality rose as well, because arsenic-laced well water was still way better than the contaminated surface water. There is no detectable difference in mortality from arsenic among populations that did not get scared off the wells in the ‘90s.
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