Numlock News: December 7, 2020 • Stevie Nicks, Hayabusa 2, Mount Everest

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


Stevie Nicks has cashed out, selling 80 percent of the copyrights of her music to publisher Primary Wave for $100 million. This came just as Fleetwood Mac was charting yet again, thanks to a fascinating incident with a skateboarding man and some cranberry juice on a popular Chinese social media app — it’s kind of a long story. Owning music rights is back in vogue again after the tumult of the Napster era and the difficult transition to financially viable digital music has pretty much concluded. Songwriter catalogs are fetching between 10 to 18 times their annual royalties, compared to a more modest figure of eight to 13 times annual royalties seen in previous years.

Anne Steele, The Wall Street Journal


JBS USA will pay $24.5 million in damages to purchasers who were affected by alleged fixing of pork prices, according to new details revealed in a settlement agreement the company worked out with the government. The lawsuit accuses JBS and rivals Smithfield, Tyson Foods and Hormel Foods of fixed prices, and as part of the settlement JBS will cooperate with the Feds against the other large pork processors. There are still unresolved consumer and retailer class action suits, though JBS has not publicly admitted to anything.

Jessi Devenyns, Food Dive

Guelph Treasure

Monday, the Supreme Court will hear a case with wide-ranging implications for the art world, and it’s all about 42 religious art objects made between the 11th and 15th century called the Guelph Treasure. Since the 1960s, the treasure has been in the Berlin Museum of Decorative Arts, but how it got there is at issue: bought by four Jewish art dealers for 7.5m reichsmark in 1929, the items were sold for 4.25m reichsmark five years later. The plaintiffs, descendants of two of the art dealers, argue that it was a coerced sale, while the foundation that owns the items says that the stock market crash of 1929 devalued the items and the negotiations at the time were fair. It’s an incredibly complicated situation, more so because the treasure is estimated to be worth $260 million today, but the implications of the case are even bigger: the only reason this is happening in an American court is due to an interpretation of the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and if the plaintiffs win out, lots of international cases that have basically no reason to be tried in the U.S. will have standing.

Philip Oltermann, The Guardian


Hayabusa 2, a Japanese space probe sent to the asteroid Ryugu to collect surface samples, has successfully delivered its payload back to earth, dropping a capsule from orbit to a landing spot in Australia. The journey was over 3.2 billion miles, and Hayabusa’s work isn’t yet done, as it’s staying in space to rendezvous with another asteroid in the summer of 2031. The mission hopes that the capsule will contain at least 0.1 gram of material, and intend to study the presence of amino acids in the asteroid dust.

Peter Landers, The Wall Street Journal


While many bemoan the deaths of independent restaurants and bars, don’t be confused, these are not deaths, they are murders. Around the world, other governments have fought for insurance programs to cover these businesses: the German government paid 70 percent of business interruption costs and forced insurers to pay another 15 percent, the main business insurer in France agreed to pay claims of restaurants, the U.K. sued eight insurers until they finally got around to paying claims, and American restaurants got tossed to the wolves. With 827 registered lobbyists working for the insurance business in D.C. alone, the lack of pressure on the insurers to pay claims has been clear. Insurers circulated an analysis arguing that covering closure losses related to COVID-19 would cost them $393 billion to $668 billion per month, and decided to navigate that problem by just declining to pay any of it. The 100,000 restaurants that closed permanently were not killed by a virus, they often were killed because their insurance thought it was cheaper to let them die from a virus than to pay any claims.

Moe Tkacik, Marker


“How tall is the tallest mountain on Earth?” is a surprisingly divisive question that this week will reach a single, agreed-upon solution. The first official measurements of Everest in 1855 put it at 29,002 feet. A 1954 survey by Nepal’s neighbor India put it at 29,028 feet, though a 1975 measurement by China had its height at 29,029 feet. A 2005 Chinese survey had its height at 29,017 feet, though that’s its “rock height,” which refers to just the bits of stone that constitute Everest and ignores the snow. Nepal has held with the earlier assessment, though that’s a snow height, and the 11-foot difference between the Chinese and Nepalese estimates was pretty annoying for decades. On Tuesday, the countries will announce the results of a combined assessment of the peak, one based on satellite positioning and classic surveying techniques.

Eric Bellman and Krishna Pokharel, The Wall Street Journal

Pied A Terre

The New York City budget is staring down a $3.75 billion budget gap next year, and the long-proposed pied-a-terre tax is looking pretty dang good right now. That’s especially given the flight of wealthy people who keep a pad in the city to a cheaper tax jurisdiction, which has been a massive side effect of the past few months and direct contributor to that shortfall. The tax would go as follows: condos and co-ops that are secondary residences in New York and have an assessed value of $300,000 or more would face a 10 percent to 13.5 percent tax. A $300,000 assessed value translates into market values of $5 million or more, so, no, this probably doesn’t mean you. Multi-family homes worth over $5 million would also see an annual tax of 0.5 percent to 4 percent. It’d raise about $390 million annually. Other cities like Paris, London and Sydney have enacted this tax, and they’re not exactly dried-up real estate markets.

Oshrat Carmiel, Bloomberg

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