Numlock News: February 4, 2021 • Wings, Whales, Manks
By Walt Hickey
Yesterday the Golden Globe nominations came out, and while I am on record calling them paperweights, this year is probably one in which to pay closer attention to them given the incredibly weird award season to come plus some genuine improvement in their apparent forecasting ability lately. This year Mank led with six nominations, followed by The Trial of the Chicago 7 which had five nominations. All told that helped Netflix notch a seriously good slate, scoring the most nominations across both film and television with a combined 22.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case where a private company is attempting to use eminent domain to seize state-owned land for a natural gas pipeline. As it stands, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that PennEast Pipeline Co. cannot take land from the state of New Jersey, as it would violate the state’s rights under the 11th Amendment. The 3rd Circuit blocked the project in 2019 when Penn tried to seize 42 parcels of land for a 116-mile pipeline.
There’s a new whale! After two decades of collecting tissue samples from 36 different individuals in a population of what appeared to be Bryde’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico, researchers have now determined that the group of baleen whales constitutes an entirely different species, named Rice’s whales. The population is estimated to be less than 100, and they’re a bit of an enigmatic species, preferring to feed deep underwater in DeSoto Canyon, 100 kilometers south of Mobile, Alabama. Bryde’s whales typically forage near the surface.
Chicken wing prices are up 59.9 percent since March 2020, a record $2.71 per pound this week, much higher than the usual $2 per pound seen at peak demand time. The Super Bowl is the single largest day for wings in the United States, just narrowly edging out “any day I need to stress eat and am near a Wingstop.” The number of wings consumed for the game is projected to be 1.42 billion, up 2 percent year-over-year. Chicken in general is ascending while beef is faltering: per capita, Americans at 96.1 pounds of chicken last year, up 60 percent in the past three decades, much more than the 58.9 pounds of beef per capita.
The construction of a border wall across the United States’ southern border has facilitated permanent destruction of pristine natural landscapes, as well as areas specifically allocated for protection. Conservation areas including Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the San Pedro National Riparian Conservation Area, and Cabeza Prieta and San Bernardino national wildlife refuges were all directly cut through for some wall. In addition to dynamiting cliff faces, wildlife such as bobcats, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, deer and javelina now have an impassable barrier constructed bisecting their habitat, a fence that will affect these species in untold ways. Water use has been impacted in the arid areas, with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection pulling out 45 million gallons of water from around Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Walling off 75 percent of the continent from the Rio Grande to the Pacific Ocean will have irrevocable and uncontrolled consequences for the ecology of North America. If, that is, they are allowed to remain intact.
While many large coastal cities have seen vacancies surge over the course of the pandemic, it’s Houston, Texas that has seen the highest vacancy rate of any major American city, with 24 percent of office space vacant as of the end of last year. Over the course of 2020, tenants vacated a net 3.2 million square feet of office space in Houston, a city which incidentally will add 3.1 million square feet of new office space over the next 18 months. Difficulties in the oil industry combined with the pandemic rigors all municipalities are contending with has dealt Houston a rough hand. While Texas has seen several high-profile companies announce moves, many tech firms are heading to Austin, and Dallas’ more diversified economy has softened the hit for that town.
Car insurance rates dropped an average of 3.9 percent in 2020 to $1,483 annually after reduced traffic volume and the commutes of lots of workers fundamentally changed the risks of driving. In the United States, annual premiums came to $248 billion in 2019. Despite the price cut, car insurers still made large profits last quarter, and at the end of December, the Consumer Federation of America and Center for Economic Justice pushed state insurance departments to require car insurers to dole out a second round of refunds for consumers who were driving vastly less.
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