Numlock News: February 19, 2019

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back! The Oscars are imminent. Want to have the inside track on who’s ahead? Check out the awards coverage in the Numlock Awards Supplement, and if you’re just tuning in start here.

Three Buckets of Uranium

A new report shows that unknown numbers of visitors to the Grand Canyon may have been exposed to radioactivity over a 20-year period because some bright spark in the Park Service left three paint buckets full of uranium ore in a museum collection building. The specimens were moved to the building in 2000 after decades in a basement and stored next to a taxidermy exhibit up until June 2018. The building sees 800 to 1,000 visitors per year, many of whom are minors. The radiation levels of the buckets were 13.9 millirems per hour in the storage area, when making contact with the ore the radiation increased to 800 millirems per hour. The maximum safe dosage is 2 millirems per hour or 100 for the whole year. This is either a grotesque oversight issue at the Parks Service or the hasty conclusion of a failed 20-year government experiment attempting to discreetly create Spider-Man.

Dennis Wagner, Arizona Republic


I know we’ve all been burned by shoe stores having “closeout liquidation sales” that were anything but, but this one is for real: Payless is throwing in the towel and will close all 2,100 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico between March and May. Payless has over 18,000 employees at 3,600 locations worldwide. The international stores are staying open. Liquidation begins immediately, so they really mean it when they claim “closeout prices” this time. If you’re a Queens-based writer who has been saying he hasn’t been going to the gym because his sneakers suck, you are now entirely out of excuses.

Ahiza Garcia, CNN Business


Moving forward, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund will pay out pending claims at 50 percent of their prior value. New claims received after January will be paid out at 30 percent of their value. The $7.3 billion fund has paid out $5 billion to 21,000 claimants so far, and it’s running out of money to compensate for the illnesses and deaths stemming from toxin exposure. There are still 19,000 further unpaid claims. Concerns were raised by fund administrators in October, which then led to 8,000 new claims, and the number will continue to rise as latent cancers continue to be discovered. Some in Congress have been pushing for the fund to extend the mandate past the 2020 cutoff.

Shannon Van Sant, NPR

The TV Rights

A major under-the-radar source of revenue for films is the subsequent television licensing. For instance, TV licensing for the Last Jedi accounted for 16.4 percent of total revenue, and that number can get much higher: for Get Out it accounted for 37.1 percent of the revenue. The studios have first-run deals with television networks. They’re negotiated ahead of time, and the price the studio gets paid is often linked to box office performance. This has some interesting effects, as can be seen with the film Goosebumps, which was released under the Sony Animation logo rather than the Sony Pictures logo despite being overwhelmingly live-action. Why was that? This seemingly arbitrary distinction between release banners dictates the movie’s future TV licensing. Standard Sony releases went first to Starz, while Sony Animation releases went to Netflix. Once a film passes $70 million at the box office, the Netflix deal pays more than the Starz deal. As a result, by making Goosebumps an “animated” movie, they’d get $17.25 million from Netflix compared to $15.4 million from Starz, a $1.85 million bonus thanks to a legal stroke of the pen.



Movements to avoid vaccinating children can produce serious public health concerns, as is seen in a series of dangerous measles outbreaks in the U.S. right now. While many are working towards reducing the percentage of people who don’t vaccinate their children, Facebook instead identified a market. The company allowed advertisers to promote ads to about 900,000 people who the site identified as interested in “vaccine controversies.” Following the report — and a subsequent letter from a House committee chair — Facebook said it removed some automatically generated targeting categories. Anyway, as it increasingly looks like we’re going to have a new generation scarred by easily preventable scourges, you’ll know who didn’t lift a finger until absolutely necessary.

Julia Carrie Wong, The Guardian

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Justice Reform

Early reports from Louisiana are highly promising when it comes to criminal justice reform. Less than two years ago, the state’s government implemented a suite of laws to release non-violent offenders earlier, steer those people away from prison to begin with and reduce prison terms for non-violent offenses. The results have been really good initially: since implementing the laws, the re-arrest rate of those covered by the law is 19 percent — nationwide, the three-year recidivism rate is about 68 percent — and their reincarceration rate is down by 10 percent.

James Lapeyre, Pres Kabacoff, Michael Cowan, The Times-Picayune


Today’s the final day of the New York Toy Fair and a lot of attention is being paid to the robust Chinese market. China has 236 million kids aged zero to 14 and right now stands as the second largest toy market on earth. Those kids have an aggregate $58.25 billion in pocket money, and the nation as a whole posted $11 billion in toy sales in 2017. While lots of the licensing comes from abroad — think Lego and Avengers toys, which are massively popular in China, as is Japanese property Ultraman — the country still makes the most toys on earth. They exported $44.15 billion worth of toys in 2017, which made up 70 percent of the world’s toy sales.


The Oscars are imminent! Want to have the inside track on who’s ahead? Check out the awards coverage in the Numlock Awards Supplement, and if you’re just tuning in start here.

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores