Numlock News: January 14, 2020 • Wine, Tortoises, Entertainment

By Walt Hickey

Home Entertainment

Americans spent $25.2 billion on home entertainment in 2019, a record level that rose 8.4 percent compared to the previous year. Streaming subscriptions accounted for the largest slice of that pie, encompassing $15.9 billion of that spending for a total of 63 percent of the entire market. Digital movie sales were up 5 percent to $2.6 billion, and digital movie rentals were up 9 percent. Overall, Americans spent $5.9 billion buying movies, but disc sales — Blu-rays, DVDs and what have you — are in a delirious slide, down 18.2 percent to $3.29 billion. Video rental stores made just $250 million in 2019, down 21.1 percent from 2018.

Thomas K. Arnold, Variety

Red in the Face

Based on contracts posted on a federal spending database, the U.S. military is spending $4.5 million on a type of facial recognition technology. The goal is to identify individuals from infrared images, able to function at a distance of anywhere from 10 to 500 meters, and be able to match people against a database. Currently, most facial recognition tech only works from a standard camera image so determining identity from how heat emanates from the face is a big step. Naturally, it’s entirely conceivable to think of ways that tech originally designed for the military could be put to civilian use. For example, it could hypothetically clock at a distance a newsletter writer being totally embarrassed and extremely red in the face because he sent out a newsletter with “2019” in the subject line, despite the fact that it had been 2020 for almost two weeks, that huge dummy, gosh, what a dork. I bet he’s gonna think about that for like weeks right before he tries to go to sleep, and you know what? This tech could probably spot that.

Dave Gershgorn, OneZero


The volume of wine consumed in the U.S. declined 0.9 percent in 2019, which is the first time since 1994 that Americans consumed less wine year over year. In 2019, the U.S. consumed 369.7 million nine-liter cases, down from 373.3 million cases in 2018. That falloff is inconsistent with overall drinking trends, as Americans drank 0.3 percent more alcoholic drinks in 2019 bucking two years of decline. Wine — which once opened goes bad, and is primarily sold in a volume that has to be shared or really knocks off an afternoon — is losing ground to hard seltzers and canned cocktails, which saw volumes rise 50 percent, and long-lasting spirits, which grew 2.3 percent.

Saabira Chaudhuri, Wall Street Journal


Gen Z, the heroes we don’t deserve but are lucky enough to have, trust the average brand about as much as year-old milk, bringing a plucky distrust of established figures according to a new survey. The analysis found that Boomers said they trusted the average American brand 63 percent of the time and tended not to trust it just 26 percent of the time. By comparison, among those 18 to 22, just 38 percent trusted the average American company and 42 percent said they tend not to. The single-most trusted brand in America, though? The U.S. Postal Service.

Morning Consult


Diego, a tortoise whose sexually epic life saved his species, will retire this year. The 100-plus-year-old reptilian was one of 15 tortoises in a captive breeding program that began in Ecuador as his species — native to the Galápagos — stood on the precipice of extinction. Friday, the Galápagos National Park announced that the program had competed its mission and Diego was free to go home. In 1976, Diego was deployed from the San Diego Zoo to join the last two males and 12 females of his species as they tried to make a go of it. The population now stands at around 2,000, with Diego responsible for about 40 percent of the offspring and another male, E5, responsible for 60 percent.

Aimee Ortiz, The New York Times

Lack of Access

A new report illustrates the drastic cost of internet shutdowns, and surprisingly it’s not only by totalitarian governments, but even democracies resorting to repressive tactics at enormous economic costs to their own people. Myanmar cut its internet for 4,880 hours, Chad for 4,738 hours and India for 4,196 hours. India lost $1.3 billion to the internet restrictions, a sizable chunk of the $8.05 billion lost in productivity or commerce worldwide during state-sanctioned disruptions.

Archana Chaudhary, Bloomberg


South Africa is dealing with a serious poaching crisis that seemed to spring out of nowhere, and it’s forcing park rangers who just want to keep some areas safe for wildlife to convert into a paramilitary — if not straight-up military — to counter poachers with deadly force. In 2007, South Africa lost 13 rhinos to poaching, which jumped to 83 in 2008 and then spiraled upwards, peaking at 1,215 in 2014. In 2018, there were 769 rhinos killed by poachers, and the sad reality is we’re just not dealing with a lot of rhinos in the bank: the country is home to 93 percent of the 20,000 white rhinos and 39 percent of the 5,000 critically endangered black rhinos. The military force is taking a toll: the International Ranger Federation reported 269 rangers were killed from 2012 to 2018, mostly by poachers, while the former president of Mozambique estimated 476 Mozambican poachers had been killed by South African rangers from 2010 to 2015.

Cathleen O’Grady, The Atlantic

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