Numlock News: August 3, 2020 • Earth, Water, Fyre

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

It Came, They Sawed, They Charged More

Lumber use across the United States is through the roof, with the price of a thousand board feet of lumber skyrocketing since mid-June from $357 per thousand board feet on June 2 to $587.60 as of July 31, hitting records across the country. In June, there were 1,258,000 new building permits, a significant rebound from the low points seen in April. The only time that futures contracts were above $500 in the history of wood was a brief spell in 2018 when wood-boring beetles, wildfires, and a Canadian trade dispute screwed up the supply. UFP Industries, which sells pressure-treated wood to places like Home Depot, saw June sales up 47 percent year over year.

Julia-Ambra Verlaine and Ryan Dezember, The Wall Street Journal


The Fyre Festival, a wannabe Woodstock intended to take place on a beach in the Bahamas that collapsed from sheer mismanagement and became the defining fiasco of the influencer era, has some merch on the auction block. Well, more specifically, the good people at the U.S. Marshals Service are auctioning off 126 items — shirts, tokens, hats, bracelets — of Fyre Festival Merchandise with the proceeds to benefit the victims of the fraud. Proprietor Billy McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to forfeit $26 million, and honestly, the government charging over $260 for a cheap, underwhelming sweatshirt for the benefit of the bamboozled is pretty much a perfect conclusion to this humiliating saga. If you’re thinking of throwing out a bid, as someone who once paid $54.98 for a Moviepass sweatshirt, allow me to assure you it is absolutely worth it.

Ashley Carman, The Verge

They’re Back

Two astronauts returned to Earth in the first splashdown landing by American astronauts in 45 years. The SpaceX capsule landed in the Gulf of Mexico 40 miles off the coast of Pensacola, slowing from a 17,500 mile per hour orbital speed to 350 miles per hour during reentry and down to 15 miles per hour at landing, and hitting a maximum temperature of 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The mission as a whole was the first time a private company launched people into orbit and the first time in a decade that NASA astronauts took off from American soil, long a goal for the space administration following the shuttle’s retirement.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


Last week Reuters reported that drug store Rite Aid had rolled out facial recognition software to 200 of its stores. That’s merely the tip of the iceberg though, as retail chains are a significant customer of facial recognition technology: Walmart uses the tech in over 1,000 of its stores, 7-Eleven’s got it in 700 stores, and some fast food chains like KFC and McDonald’s are already experimenting with the tech in China and Japan. It’s like a dragnet, but of places I am deeply ashamed to gorge myself at.

Dave Gershgorn, OneZero


Bangladesh, home to 165 million people, is seeing awful flooding covering a quarter of the country. At this time 24 percent to 37 percent of Bangladesh’s landmass is submerged underwater, with a million homes affected and 4.7 million people displaced or impacted. The floods may last thorough mid-August as rains upstream of the Brahmaputra River continue. Poor countries like Bangladesh are poised to bear the brunt of climate-related disasters, despite the average resident being responsible for a tiny fraction of the carbon emissions of a person from a rich country. If average global temperatures rise just 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial average, flooding along the Brahmaputra will increase a projected 24 percent, and if the warming is 4 degrees, flooding will increase 60 percent.

Somini Sengupta and Julfikar Ali Manik, The New York Times

Theme Parks

The nation’s parents will make good on their promise to turn this car around, I swear to god, according to a new poll. The Morning Consult survey asked how interested 962 parents would be to take their kids to a theme park at various points in time, and the answer was we’re pulling over at the next exit and turning around and going straight home, mister. Just 18 percent were interested in visiting a theme park in summer 2020, rising to just 28 percent by this coming winter. As of next Spring, only 41 percent would be willing to go to the park, and it’s not until summer 2021 that more would go — 47 percent — than would not (42 percent).

Sarah Shevenock, Morning Consult


A new study from researchers at the University of British Columbia found traces of the 460 tons of lead that burned the night the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris caught on fire. The lead has made a measurable appearance in the outer environment. Honey samples collected downwind of the fire contained three times as much lead on average than those samples taken from before the fire, with the honey having a lead concentration of 2.3 nanograms of lead per gram of honey. That’s well within the tolerance for human consumption, which is good news for Paris as a whole, where there are an estimated 1,000 urban hives. Notre-Dame itself was home to 200,000 bees on its roof that survived the fire, but I cannot say this strongly enough: please do not try to eat that honey.

Elian Peltier, The New York Times


Wine producers in France’s Champagne region estimate they have lost $2 billion in sales this year, with turnover falling by a third. That’s the worst time for Champagne since the Great Depression, and just a note, France had a particularly rough patch shortly after that one, so that truly is saying something. Producers anticipate 100 million bottles will go unsold by the end of the year. Remember it’s only a global recession if it’s from the Récession region of France, otherwise it’s just Sparkling Broke.

Thomas Adamson, The Associated Press

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