Numlock News: April 20, 2020 • Beef, Lawyers, Disney Channel

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


North America once had 17,000 named varieties of domesticated apples, which I think we can all agree may be a bit much but is also pretty neat. Today, only 4,500 are known to exist. However, all is not lost: the Lost Apple Project, working from evidence that settlers planted several hundred varieties in the Pacific Northwest, has scoured their trails to try to find heirs of those trees. Think of it like Johnny Appleseed, only the exact opposite. A crack team of Lost Apple investigators rediscovered 10 apple varieties that had been thought extinct, found in 140-year-old orchards in canyons and forests in Idaho and Washington.

Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press

The Bar

Typically, the process of completing law school and entering the legal workforce is already one of the worst things that someone could go through in terms of sheer unpleasantness. Nobody looks back fondly on studying for the bar exam, and the process of attempting to obtain work at a firm is, even in good years, deeply professionally unpleasant at the absolute best. This year? Not a good year. About 46,000 upcoming law grads planned to take their state’s bar exam in July — the biannual test occurs in February and July — but many states are cancelling or delaying the event, given that it involves large groups of people congregating in a single room for two days.

Patrick Thomas, The Wall Street Journal


Lots of cable television networks are seeing massive viewership increases with folks staying at home, but not every network’s up. News networks are seeing significant year-over-year bumps, sure, but Lifetime saw viewership in the week ending April 12 up 68 percent, BET saw viewership up 42 percent, and TLC was up 38 percent, presumably since a population hungry for personal growth during a challenging time thought to check out the wholesome offerings of The Learning Channel. Other channels are hemorrhaging viewers: people don’t want to watch dramatic fictional murders, judging by the 28 percentage point decrease for USA, or grisly factual murders, judging by the 29 percent decrease in Investigation Discovery’s viewership, or character-defining tastefully handled parental figure murders, judging by the 37 percent decrease in Disney Channel viewership.

Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg


Birmingham, Alabama has accomplished the unthinkable: they pulled a corporate tax incentive after Topgolf, the high-tech driving range company, flunked one of the only requirements, rather than bending over backwards to appease them. In 2016, the city agreed to a minimum annual payment of $228,000, or 30 percent of sales tax up to $1.5 million, a solid rebate as long as 30 percent of the construction related costs went to firms owned by women and minorities. Turns out that just $601,919.99 went to minority or women owned firms out of the $24.6 million project, a measly 2.5 percent of total costs and 3.52 percent of construction costs. So the city yanked the agreement and didn’t pay the incentive, and now the $228,000 the city budgeted for Topgolf will go to a fund to support people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

Roy S. Johnson,


The slaughterhouses that process U.S. livestock and provide meat for the country are now seen as the weak links in the national protein supply chain. Today there are only around 800 federally inspected slaughterhouses in the United States. The close work environments put the workers at risk for communicable diseases. Indeed, it’s even more consolidated than that when you look at types of meat: just 50 cattle plants do 98 percent of beef processing in the Unites States, and shutting down one can ripple through the entire agricultural system. Last week, the number of head of cattle slaughtered was down 22 percent from last year, and hog slaughter was down 6 percent.

Michael Corkery and David Yaffe-Bellany, The New York Times

Dot Org

ICANN is delaying the sale of the entity that controls the .org domain — the Public Interest Registry, which today calls the Internet Society its parent — to the proposed buyer Ethos Capital, a private equity group. The delay was prompted by a letter from the Attorney General of California, which argued that the $300 million in debt the PIR would be saddled with following the sale jeopardizes the long-term viability of the entire enterprise. The transaction has been under particular scrutiny because a rapid increase in the cost of domains intended for non-profit organizations — an anticipated effect of the sale — could have negative consequences.

Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica


Much like setting a dumpster on fire is a destructive, yet effective way to reveal rats feasting within, market crashes are awful, but incidentally lead to a bunch of frauds being revealed. Looks like we may have a live one in Singapore. The son of the founder of Hin Leong Trading Ltd — a secretive juggernaut in the global oil market — said that $800 million in losses from futures trading had been hidden, and they may owe more oil than they have, with the family-owned company filing for court protection from creditors Friday. This month, creditors were told total liabilities hit $4.05 billion with assets of just $714 million, and a $3.34 billion hole. Though the company said in audited statements in October that it had $1.28 billion worth of oil products in inventory, the company has now informed its creditors it only had $141 million.

Serene Cheong, Alfred Cang, and Joyce Koh, Bloomberg

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