Numlock News: February 22, 2021 • Golden Globes, Coral Reefs, Cocaine Cornflakes
By Walt Hickey
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The Golden Globe Awards are a major revenue driver for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the quirky group of 87 journalists who decide who gets to have a bump going into the Oscars. The amount NBC pays the HFPA for the rights to broadcast the Globes has skyrocketed in recent years from $3.64 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year to $27.4 million last year. This is a fairly obscene haul for an organization with, again, 87 members, and the organization has been paying out some of those revenues to the membership through a number of ways, including a $2.15 million budget paid out to members who serve on committees, dealing out on the order of $100,000 per month. Further, the organization paid out $585,000 in the fiscal year ending last June for their members to write articles on the HFPA website. Tax experts consider this “unusual,” but let’s be honest this is the Globes, this barely breaks the top five weirdest things about that program.
February has been notorious for being the doldrums of the U.S. box office for years, typically coming in as one of the worst months for movies, but this February is truly something to behold. The top film at the U.S. box office this weekend — earning $1.7 million across 1,913 screens — was The Croods: A New Age, an animated film that came out in November and stars Nicolas Cage and some other people as cavemen. It is the top-grossing film at the cinema, and it is in its 13th week! With $50 million domestically (and $154 million globally), it’s $8 million shy of beating out Tenet as the top film of the coronavirus era domestically, and it might just pull it off!
There are about 2,700 people in the United States who report working full-time as models, and even under normal conditions it’s a grueling, exploitative and difficult industry to work in. With median earnings of $28,000 per year, even when the industry is strong it’s tough to scrape by. During an era when the retail business is in free fall — sales in 2020 at clothing retailers were down 26 percent year-over-year — it’s particularly rough for the models who make a living selling that product.
Australia is hearing out all sorts of angles to keep their iconic reefs alive and thriving as the climate warms, and, in service of that, carried out a $4.6 million feasibility study investigating 160 different interventions into how to help the reefs rebound. Last April, the government announced a $116 million investment in developing 43 of the most promising interventions, a suite of possible solutions that include spraying salt droplets into clouds to protect life, using 3D-printed structures to repair the damaged reef, and creating small bubbles to reflect more light and get shade on the corals. Another plan: transport cooled seawater and douse the corals with it. A simulation found that pumping water cooled 1 degree Celsius cooler on to the reef at five cubic meters per second would cool 97 hectares of reef by 0.15 degrees Celsius, which would prevent bleaching. One issue: 79 percent of Australia’s energy is from fossil fuels, so to cool the water would exacerbate the underlying problem.
Customs and Border Patrol agents in Cincinnati intercepted a package of cereal from South America that contained 44 pounds of cocaine-coated corn flakes, which is what I imagine the server brought you when you ordered “the Bowie” at Studio 54 at any point in the late 1970s. The breakfast of champions arrived on an incoming freight from Peru, and was bound for a private residence in Hong Kong before being discovered by a narcotic dog named Bico, who completely ruined Tony Montana’s breakfast.
Historically, if you want to catch lobsters you drop a trap connected by rope attached to a buoy, and then haul in the pot by grabbing the buoy and pulling up the rope. This works pretty well, except for the fact that those ropes pose a serious danger to North Atlantic right whales, of which there are just 370 remaining. Rope entanglement is the leading cause of death of the whales, and more than 85 percent of the whales have been entangled at least once. Enter a ropeless lobster pot: an air tank connected to a balloon attached to the dropped pots is activated by the fishing vessel through an acoustic signal, inflating the balloon and elevating the catch to the surface.
E-Commerce sales of alcohol in the United States have long lagged peer countries, with 2018 seeing just $2.3 billion in sales, about on target with the $2.2 billion in sales the lower-population U.K. saw in the period. This in many ways was due to the lasting scars of Prohibition, with the 21st Amendment leading to a system where you couldn’t produce, distribute and retail alcohol, with states adopting a three-tiered system that prevented consumers from buying alcohol directly from the people who make the alcohol. This remains the case today with exceptions for small breweries, distillers, and vineyards. As a result, all the incentives to set up a direct-to-consumer retail businesses that washed over every other sector skipped over alcohol, because the concept of DTC booze was in lots of places actively illegal. The pandemic, and a bunch of new startups seeing the vacant niche, has changed that: U.S. e-commerce sales of alcohol were estimated to hit $5.6 billion in 2020 and are projected to hit $19 billion by 2024.
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