Numlock News: December 13, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Legally Speaking, Technically Shoplifting?

Jersey City police and Amazon have planted bait boxes at homes across the city in an attempt to trap package thieves who have been raiding stoops for Amazon loot. One box lasted a whole three minutes! Online sales in November and October are up 14.8 percent from last year, and the USPS projects it’ll handle 900 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas while UPS said it’ll handle 800 million. Given that a collective $124.1 billion is sitting on doorsteps for some period of time in the two months at the end of the year, it’s only a matter of time before the Grinch lines up VC funding to industrialize.

David Porter, The Associated Press

Degree

A new study looks at just how significant going to a marginally better college is, and it doesn’t look great for the conventional wisdom I was taught that it’s essential for 17 year olds to be constantly stressed out for two years if it means they will get into a slightly better school. Attending a school with a 100-point higher average SAT score did not have any impact on long-term earnings for men. For women, the upward mobility is actually quite huge: that 100-point difference in SAT scores increased earnings by 14 percent and reduced marriage rates by 4 percent.

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Firetrucks

Do firetrucks need to be that big? Really? Only 3 to 5 percent of fire department calls in the U.S. actually are related to building fires, but sending those enormous 80-ton trucks out on the road for every call has actual consequences. While heavy-duty vehicles — trash haulers, commercial freight haulers, and firetrucks — make up only 4 percent of all vehicles, they’re involved in 7 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 11 percent of bike fatalities. Rather then dispatching the cavalry for a kitty cat stuck in a tree, a shorter batch of fire trucks that are 25 feet long rather than 33 have been tried out in some cities, packing an equally functioning pump but also with a 25 percent smaller turn radius. Not like they’re going to be in any Fast and Furious movies but still a big improvement.

Laura Bliss, CityLab

Representation

A new survey asking if people felt well-represented in Congress has turned up absolutely hilarious results. Sure, some are quietly devastating: a mere 28 percent of women said their gender is even somewhat well-represented in Washington, a low morale level befitting a subgroup routinely under-served by the political establishment. But in some cases the cognitive dissonance is actually stunning. For instance, only 36 percent of people in households making more than $100,000 a year feel their income bracket is adequately spoken for. Literally 40 percent of people in Congress are millionaires, a group that is only 4 percent of the public. Even funnier is that the group that feels least represented is those over 65, with 71 percent saying the 65 and up crowd wasn’t represented on Capitol Hill. This outcry is from a group that accounts for 35 percent of the House and a mere 15 percent of the population.

Ariel Edwards-Levy, HuffPost

Trade Deals

The E.U. has finalized a massive trade deal with Japan that will create an enormous free trade zone on February 1, 2019. Taken even in the broader context of global trade, the arrangement is still quite stunning in scope: the deal covers 40 percent of global trade and 30 percent of Earth’s GDP. The deal will abolish 94 percent of Japan’s tariffs and 99 percent of the European Union’s tariffs. Weird how they were able to solve a minor trade dispute without launching a ridiculous and kneejerk trade vendetta.

Manabu Morimoto, Nikkei

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Countermeasures

In addition to being a scourge that is fueling a national plague of overdoses, fentanyl — a drug far more powerful than heroin that’s been linked to 29,406 deaths last year — is also freaking out people who monitor terrorism. Basically, 118 pounds of fentanyl is enough to kill 25 million people. While $3,000 to $5,000 can buy a kilogram wholesale in China, that can later be flipped for $1.5 million in the U.S. The U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (Barda) is working on medical countermeasures to terrorist attacks that use fentanyl. This year, Barda inked a $4.6 million contract with Opiant Pharmaceutical to produce a reliable one-dose antidote.

Anna Edney, Bloomberg

Grooming

Procter & Gamble has bought Walker & Company Brands for somewhere between $20 million and $40 million. Walker & Company sought to replicate the P&G model for a multicultural audience, and the buy lets the conglomerate rival Unilever’s purchase of Sundial Brands, which targets women of color. There’s lots of advantages to being under a consumer behemoth rather than a VC-funded shop, namely the $1.9 billion R&D expenditure and $7 billion advertising budget. P&G has spent the past decade listening to podcasts and hearing ads for subscription startups specifically attempting to eat its lunch, so buying up the scrappy competitors is often easier than building from scratch.

Jason Del Ray, Recode

CORRECTION: Today’s headline was a misprint, it’s December 13.


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