Numlock News: August 27, 2021 • Fake Antiquities, Ducks, Cinnamon Toast Cereal

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!

Antiquities

Earlier this month the Manhattan District Attorney’s office charged an antiques dealer with scheming to defraud, grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument, forgery, and criminal simulation after the dealer allegedly hawked fake antiquities that were, in fact, modern copies he fussed up and “aged” in a backroom. The marks were novice collectors, and investigators say the showroom was packed with hundreds of counterfeit artifacts and the storage room full of thousands at various points in an assembly-line process of distressing. Some items for sale on the website late last year and early this year include a $5,000 sarcophagus mask dated to 663-525 B.C., a $1,500 nickel fragment of a meteorite, and a $9,000 mummified falcon. While it’s possible these could be real, seems like it’s entirely possible it’s just a Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat prop, a shiny rock and a deeply unfortunate pigeon.

Colin Moynihan, The New York Times

Facial Recognition

South Korea’s government data protection agency has hit Facebook with a 6.46 billion won ($5.5 million) fine for storing facial recognition templates of 200,000 users without appropriate consent and another 26 million won ($22,000) penalty for illegally collecting social security numbers. That’s the second-largest fine from the agency — the first was also lodged at Facebook — and came alongside a 220 million won ($188,000) fine for Netflix for collecting data on 5 million people without consent, and a slap on the wrist for Google over its data handling practices.

Laura Dobberstein, The Register

Ducks, Just Ducks

Since the 1930s, waterfowl hunters have had to buy a now-$25 duck stamp to hunt game, a program that has over the course of its lifetime generated $1.1 billion for conservation and preserved 6 million acres of wetlands. The Federal Duck Stamp contest is annual event in which the best painters of ducks in the country compete for the right to be on that year’s stamp. For a few years, though, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had required the submissions in the contest “celebrate our waterfowl hunting heritage,” namely, they can’t just be pretty paintings of ducks, they also have to allude to the fact that people hunt them for sport, say by including a hunter or a spent casing or a decoy. This year, Fish and Wildlife dropped the requirement.

Michael Phillis, The Associated Press

The annual back-to-school sale on paid subscriptions to Numlock is back, it’s the best deal of the year, 30 percent off your first year, must redeem it by September 5.

E-Cigs

The Food and Drug Administration received applications for some 6.5 million tobacco products from over 500 companies as part of a September 2020 deadline for new tobacco products, specifically electronic nicotine delivery systems, the legal term for “vapes and vape accessories.” Yesterday, they announced they shot down 55,000 flavored products from three applicants — JD Nova Group LLC, Great American Vapes, and Vapor Salon — because there wasn’t enough evidence they benefit adult smokers enough to overcome the threat of youth use. This makes sense when you learn what the flavors were, which included “Apple Crumble,” “Dr. Cola” and “Cinnamon Toast Cereal.”

Alison Hunt, FDA

China

In 2018, Hollywood movies were the top grossing films in mainland China for 25 weekends of the year, and China’s domestic industry won 22 weekends. This prompted a lot of investment in Hollywood for movies that executives thought would get a wide release in the highly lucrative market. Today, however, the easy money is over: so far in 2021, Hollywood movies have won the weekend just 8 times, and the American share of the Chinese box office is down to 9.5 percent.

Patrick Frater, Variety

Europe

The European Union rolled out a continental vaccination-certification system, and their air travel scene has rebounded mightily at the same time that the U.S. and Chinese domestic air travel markets, once roaring back, have begun to stymie. Intra-European flights were down just 27 percent last week compared to the same week in 2019, the smallest gap since March of 2020. In the U.S., flight capacity was just 7.6 percent shy of pre-pandemic levels in July, but is now down 15 percent compared to 2019. China’s seen an even steeper decline: in July their domestic capacity was 10 percent higher than it was in 2019, but last week flights were down 45 percent. Europe’s recovery — discount airline Wizz Air is 103 percent of what it was in 2019 — has been fueled by cheap flights and the successful rollout of the digital certification system.

Benjamin Katz, The Wall Street Journal

Batteries

A global team of researcher led out of Stanford have described a new rechargeable battery that can store six times as much charge as the commercially available ones on the market right now, according to a paper published in Nature. The capacity of a commercial lithium-ion battery now is up to 200 milliamp hours per gram. The new design — alkali metal-chlorine batteries, which use the back-and-forth conversion of sodium chloride or lithium chloride to chlorine — has hit 1,200 milliamp hours per gram of electrode material. It’s still just a prototype, and they’ve been able to cycle up to 200 times, but it could be useful in situations where frequent recharging is impractical.

Andrew Myers, Stanford University

Last Sunday featured a really wonderful interview with Ahmed Ali Akbar, who wrote “Inside the Secretive, Semi-Illicit, High Stakes World of WhatsApp Mango Importing” for Eater. I loved this story, it’s all about the unique position of mangoes from Pakistan, renown for their flavor and damn near impossible to get stateside, and the interview is a personal favorite. Akbar can be found at the podcast See Something, Say Something. You should also check out Delivery Wars and his Twitter.

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