By Walt Hickey
The Netherlands is a major exporter of potatoes, producing some 4 million tons annually and exporting about a quarter of those. However, all the restaurants of Europe that serve patat or pommes frites or, I don’t know, French fries have closed down since the middle of March, and the country is facing a tater glut the likes of which has been unseen in ages. Growers are staring down a stock of 1.5 million tons of potatoes, and about two-thirds of them won’t be sold. A Dutch farmer who normally sells potatoes at around 18 euro cents per kilogram now has to sell for 0.01 euro to a dairy farmer.
Crime in New York is down, but commercial and residential burglaries were up 26 percent in March to 942 burglaries. A high-profile heist at the Singer Laren museum in the Netherlands of Spring Garden, the Parsonage Garden in Nuenen in Spring by Van Gogh has many on edge that thieves may exploit the ongoing outbreak as an opportunity to execute heists at museums. That’s disgraceful; everyone knows the only good timing for a massive heist is on a fight night, because The Nevada Gaming Commission stipulates that a casino must hold in reserve enough cash to cover every chip in play on its floor, which on a week day means it has to carry anywhere between 60 and 70 million dollars in cash and coin, on a weekend between 80 and 90 million, and on a fight night at least 150 million.
The dairy industry is urging its farmers to start dumping milk down the drain amid major disruptions in the supply chain. The closure of schools and restaurants means that the wholesale market has collapsed while the grocery market has been thirstier than ever for milk. This is a fiasco for the companies that process milk, butter and cheese, and the trucking companies that connect farmers and processors are facing staffing shortfalls. This is a problem in dairy, especially, because milk can’t be frozen or siloed. So even though retail milk purchases were up 53 percent in the week ending March 21, butter was up 127 percent and cheese was up 84 percent, it’s not like factories can just convert overnight from commercial production to grocery. That’s why retail prices for milk can be up 11.2 percent year over year while farmers also have to dump.
The 500 wineries in Napa Valley depend on tourists for lots of their sales. The region feted some 3.9 million visitors in 2018, and typically about 30 percent of their sales come through their tasting rooms. Naturally, those aren’t operational — hotel occupancy in Napa was at 13 percent of the typical from March 15 to 21 — nor are the restaurants, which are responsible for another 20 percent of Napa wine sales. That’s pushing wine sales digital, and since vintners mostly have about enough cash on hand for 90 to 120 days, they’re putting some of the good stuff on sale.
Luckin Coffee is China’s homegrown rival to Starbucks, a Nasdaq-listed company with 3,680 stores, but it’s currently in the grips of a stock collapse after an internal investigation determined its sales from the second quarter of last year to the fourth had been fabricated, with about 40 percent of its annual sales — 2.2 billion yuan, or $310 million — not actually happening. Earlier this year, their stock soared as high as $50 a share, but they wrapped at $6.40 last Thursday.
A Colorado State University researcher’s forecast indicates a heightened hurricane season this year, with a projected 16 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. That’s up from the 1981-2010 average of 12.1 named storms, 6.4 hurricanes, and 2.7 major hurricanes annually. A weak La Niña developing over the summer could increase cyclone activity, and the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico is warmer than typical this year, which could fuel tropical storms. We’re about two months away from the kickoff of the season.
A leading service for videoconferencing is Zoom, which allows users to access meetings with a specialized URL. Here’s the problem: Zoom URLs use a meeting ID with 9 to 11 digits, and by randomly guessing IDs within that realm of digits, hackers can obtain access to unprotected meetings. This has led to hackers, pranksters, or bored jerks popping into all sorts of conferences and wrecking havoc. This is a pretty glaring security issue: a simple software program designed to sniff out different Zoom URLs was able to find 100 meetings per hour. It might not even require that sophisticated of software — the instance found a success rate of about 14 percent — meaning that just random digit dialing can produce a one-in-seven party crashing success rate. Zoom’s responded by making passwords the default on future meetings, but that’s not going to solve the problem for meetings — like AA, for instance — that are necessarily open.
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