Numlock News: February 26, 2021 • Leaks, Lent, Invasive Reptiles

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!

Fish on Fridays

Right now backlogs at U.S. ports are stranding frozen fish just offshore at the worst possible time. It’s Lent, when many Christians avoid meat and turn to fish for protein, and as a result of the slowed imports, fish prices are up and fishmongers are often getting stuck holding the bag — a bag which is presumably full of shrimp they wanted to sell ahead of the Super Bowl. Chicken of the Sea’s frozen food division is seeing 30 cents a pound added to fish costs, and the average price per seafood item in grocery stores is up 13 percent from a year ago. Long John Silver’s costs are up 5 percent year-over-year, and franchisees are looking to hike prices as a result. The cost of wholesale pollock, the eponymous fish in the all-timer Lent classic McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish, is up 5 percent.

Jesse Newman and Heather Haddon, The Wall Street Journal


The United States Postal Service announced it has chickened out, and that only 10 percent of the new fleet of mail trucks will be battery powered. The trucks, which will be made by defense contractor Oshkosh and will presumably pollute for decades, will go into production by 2023. Oshkosh will build between 50,000 and 165,000 of the vehicles, and will get $500 million to kick it off. The current trucks on the road dearly need a replacement and have been delivering for over two decades, occasionally bursting into flame and costing the USPS a fortune in repairs and upkeep. Multiple companies pitched all-electric or hybrid options, which are particularly well-suited for short range delivery systems.

Sean O’Kane, The Verge

The Nominees Are?

The Golden Globes are bearing down upon us, and according to a new Morning Consult poll, most Americans are not up on the movies in the awards mix despite a full year locked down with their televisions. A majority of people have heard nothing at all about some of this year’s contenders, including The Trial of the Chicago 7 (62 percent heard nothing at all), Promising Young Woman (72 percent), Nomadland (73 percent) and, in a particularly rough pill to swallow, 78 percent of respondents indicated they have heard nothing at all about Netflix’s Mank. It was a tough year to break through film-wise, where if audiences are anything like me they’ve just been re-watching Porco Rosso (1992) nonstop just to ride out the evening. Fear not, if there’s anything we know about the Golden Globe voters, there’s a solid chance that lots of them aren’t exactly up on the content of the movies either.

Sarah Shevenock, Morning Consult

If you like awards coverage and want to see more, you should check out the Numlock award season supplement.


Last summer, the 5,500-mile Colonial pipeline spilled 1.2 million gallons of gasoline into a nature preserve in Huntersville, North Carolina, leaking for days to weeks in what’s now the largest gasoline pipeline spill outside of a tank farm. It highlights a critical flaw of pipelines: they’re really long, leaks can happen anywhere, and they’re really hard to find and detect. As is, Colonial can flag leaks down to 3 percent of a day’s flow, which sounds precise until you discern that 3 percent of daily flow is 1.8 million gallons, and the pipeline runs from Houston to New York. Leak detection systems themselves are buggy, with a 2012 study finding when pipelines had leak detection tech in control rooms they only flagged a leak 28 percent of the time. Now far be it from me to judge, but if I were a bus driver, and I only managed to notice a red light at an intersection 28 percent of the time, at some point the government may do something to me to ensure my reign of terror came to an end.

Mark Soraghan, E&E News


The cost of lumber may be soaring, but those high prices are to the benefit of saw mill operators, not the people who sell the timber that becomes lumber. While lumber prices are north of $1,000 per thousand board feet and trading over 50 percent the record high, timber prices are flat. The price of a ton of Southern pine saw timber was $24.03 in the last quarter of 2020, basically even with the $24 per ton from a year ago and even flat with the $23.30 a ton of pine ran in the last quarter of 2012.

Ryan Dezember and Vipal Monga, The Wall Street Journal


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has signed off on a ban of the sale, ownership and breeding of 16 reptile species that include all species of tegu lizards, the green iguana, green anacondas, Nile monitor lizards and six different types of pythons. The rule bans the import of these species as well, given that they pose a serious threat to the Everglades and other fragile ecosystems across Florida and already hold a foothold in the wild in the state.

Adriana Brasileiro, Miami Herald


A web accessibility organization analyzed the COVID-19 vaccine websites of all 50 states and D.C., and found accessibility issues on almost all of the 94 webpages. In at least seven states, visually impaired and blind people seeking a vaccine would be unable to register through their state and local government web portals, and would have to rely on jam-packed phone lines with onerous waits and finite hours of operation. This issue extends to the CDC’s own Vaccine Administration Management System, which is inaccessible for blind users.

Lauren Weber and Hannah Recht, Kaiser Health News

Last Sunday, I spoke to Abraham Riesman, the author of the electric new book True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee. I’m a huge fan of Abraham’s, and the topic could not be more prescient. It’s a complicated portrait of a complicated guy, and is deeply reported at every stage. If you want to listen to it, I threw the interview up as a podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts — anyone can check that out. Riesman can be found on his website and on Twitter.

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