Numlock News: July 23, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Home Renovations

New research has put a dollar value on all that crap you have to do to fix your stupid house and why it always costs like a thousand dollars to fix a dang pump in the frickin’ basement. A survey found homeowners consistently and significantly underestimated the costs of repairs and updates to homes. Participants estimated that an interior painting job — national average cost $1,744 — would only set them back $734, and also underestimated the costs of remodeling a bathroom ($2,406 estimated vs. $9,723 average) or a kitchen ($4,773 estimated vs. $22,134 average).

Ronda Kaysen, The New York Times and HomeAdvisor

State-Sponsored Hackers

Governments around the world are recruiting hyper-active online foot soldiers to push their goals on the internet using techniques traditionally associated with independent or loosely organized groups, according to new research. This is a global phenomenon. China has more than 2 million people posting something like 450 million fake comments per year; Vietnam has over 10,000 people policing views online; online groups of government-sponsored activists were considered or implemented in Venezuela, Turkey, Mexico, Russia, Ethiopia, Ecuador, India and Argentina. Goals range from influencing algorithms, intimidating or harassing journalists and opponents, and pushing state-sponsored narratives.

Michael Riley, Lauren Etter and Bibhudatta Pradhan, Bloomberg

Tuition Money

Nearly 30 U.S. universities have launched new programs where, rather than take out loans in order to pay for an overpriced higher education, instead students can sign away a percentage of their future salary to pay for school. The latest school to offer this program is Norwich University in Vermont which will provide students up to $5,000 per year and a $20,000 minimum income before payments start. I’m going to assume none of these schools have a Medieval Studies department that can break it to them that they have simply reinvented feudalism.

David Jordan, The Associated Press, WCAX

Box Office

Denzel Washington’s first-ever sequel “The Equalizer 2” narrowly won the box office with a $35.8 million haul. Still, fans of “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” probably don’t need to be that worried. Its $34.4 million is well above the $27 million from its predecessor a decade ago. What’s more, the sequel is essentially weaponized to hold #2 at the box office for quite some time.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Regurgitation Recompense

Uber’s policy is to charge you an $80 cleaning fee if you vomit during one of their rides, but that figure can rise as high as $150 if a passenger leaves a particularly shameful mess. Several users of the app, however, claim that the company has inaccurately levied fees against them on rides where they were entirely sober, indicating a possible scam from some of the company’s drivers. The grift is particularly common in boozy tourist areas, like Miami.

Catalina Ruiz Parra, The Miami Herald

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New York Exports

Every year, about 27,000 people move from New York City to Philadelphia, making that specific move one of the largest region-to-region migration flows in the United States. New York in general is often the first stop for immigrants coming to the U.S., and Philly is appealing to both young families trying to get a lower cost of living as well as immigrant populations seeking a long-term community after arrival. The number of Philadelphia residents born abroad has increased by 69 percent since 2000.

Matt Katz, The New York Times


A new study from the Directors Guild of America looking at feature films released in 2017 that made over $250,000 found that only 12 percent of those 651 films were directed by women and only 10 percent of directors were people of color. It’s a pretty significant step back for minority directors; in 2013, 17 percent of directors were people of color.

David Ng, The Los Angeles Times

Indian Manufacturing

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing an initiative to make manufacturing account for 25 percent of India’s economy by 2020. India has beaten France to be the world’s sixth-largest economy, but seemingly not due to manufacturing growth. While in 2006 the sector was around 17.4 percent of India’s GDP, by 2017 it was down to about 15 percent. One issue is that, unlike an actual state investment and subsidy strategy — such as the one espoused by manufacturing rival China — the “Make in India” campaign is more of an investment promotion strategy.

Iain Marlow and Vrishti Beniwal, Bloomberg

In this weekend’s Sunday edition, I spoke to Alex Kaufman about the next coming wave of fishing wars and how climate change is making a fraught geopolitical situation even worse. You should check it out and consider becoming a paid subscriber to receive all the weekend editions.

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