Numlock News: July 29, 2020 • Manga, Oranges, Chemicals

By Walt Hickey

Good morning!


Citrus greening is a disease that has had a terrible impact on orange groves in Florida. Production of oranges has collapsed from 300 million boxes in 2000 to just 70 million boxes in 2019, and the disease has further spread to groves in Texas and some trees in California. Still, researchers have found a compelling gene in a distant relative of the orange, the Australian finger lime. They grow on small trees in the rainforest, are rising in popularity as an exotic fruit (they’re tasty, sort of a roe-like texture with a fierce acidic and sour citrus taste), and most importantly for the Floridians, they’re resistant to citrus greening. The peptide they produce to ward off the bacteria has now been isolated and found to reduce symptoms when sprayed or injected, with the goal of federal approval soon.

Greg Allen, NPR

Rear Window

AMC, the largest chain of cinemas in the U.S., and Universal, the studio behind Trolls World Tour, have come to terms over a dispute they had about theatrical windows. Right now, the arrangement between studios and cinemas is that movies get released into cinemas and then, 70 days later, studios can release the films on DVD, Blu-ray or Video On Demand. That theatrical window guarantees that cinemas and studios can both profit from distribution, but the window was shattered earlier this year when Universal put Trolls World Tour on VOD and AMC subsequently swore off their films in retribution. Well, they’ve since come to terms, and it has the chance to change movie distribution forever: Universal’s new films will have 3 weekends, or 17 days of exclusivity, at which point it can release the films on VOD. In exchange, AMC gets a portion of the revenue from those VOD rentals.

Frank Pallotta, CNN Business


The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is a government agency under the Environmental Protection Agency that investigates industrial disasters and protects workers, determining what went awry during chemical incidents that can jeopardize human life. At least that’s technically what they’re supposed to do, but right now what they are doing is nothing because since May 2 there has been only one voting member out of five board members overseeing the organization, which is one short of a quorum. The White House has not announced replacements to fill the seats and has angled to eliminate the board, which means that the 13 pending investigations will be unable to move forward for the foreseeable future. There are 12,000 facilities that handle toxic or flammable chemicals in the U.S., 90 of which would put a million lives or more at risk in a worst-case scenario. Good luck!

Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox

Three Gorges

The flooding around the Three Gorges Dam in China remains severe. Tuesday, the inflow at the largest dam in the world had reached 60,000 cubic meters per second, with the Ministry of Water Resources warning the Yangtze River midstream would rise above its limit by 0.2 meters and cause flooding in Hubei Province near the dam. That’s on pace with the 61,000 cubic meters per second flow seen on July 20, a day when the water level rose to a record high of 164.2 meters, up from 149 meters on July 2 and nearing the maximum of 175 meters. The floods have had a disastrous impact, displacing 46 million people in 27 provinces.

CK Tan, Nikkei Asian Review


An examination of 15,000 Google searches found that 41 percent of the first page of Google search results on mobile directed users to Google products and Google-hosted answers. When concentrating on the top 15 percent of a page, that rose to 63 percent, and in 20 percent of cases, links to external non-Google websites didn’t appear on the first screen at all. Listen, all I’m saying is in retrospect Jeeves would never have done us dirty like this, that guy was on the level. A reason for this is likely financial: though Google makes money all over the internet through ads, they make five times as much on ads on their own services than they do on third-party website ads. Those numbers are great news for Google, but this one isn’t: 50 U.S. attorneys general are investigating it for possible antitrust violations.

Adrianne Jeffries and Leon Yin, The Markup


Every year, Unilever reaps $500 million in yearly revenue in India by selling skin lightening cream, a type of cosmetic that manipulates the insecurities of buyers and reinforces caste systems. All of this is bolstered by enormous nationwide advertisement campaigns playing off fears that darker skin is the cause of any number of social problems and implying that whiter is better. The brand — Fair & Lovely — will rebrand, removing words such as “fair,” “white” and “light” from marketing and renaming to “Glow & Lovely,” which I’m not entirely sure is all that much better. Still, this is hardly a standalone problem faced by one Western company in one country, as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals designed to whiten skin are pervasive worldwide. In South Korea, for instance, $283 million worth of whitening cosmetic products were made last year.

Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press


Japanese sales of print manga are about half of the entire $12 billion market for books in Japan, but the industry has been lagging a bit, with revenue down 5 percent in 2018. One issue coming up is that one of the best-selling series in Japan is concluding, with Shingeki no Kyojin, or Attack on Titan wrapping up sometime in the next year. A single franchise can be a formidable financial force, spawning not only popular books but also toy lines, television series, and with streaming services clamoring for raw material to adapt even lucrative global export opportunities. Kodansha Ltd., the largest publisher in Japan, has put out 100 million copies of the 31 serialized volumes over the past decade.

Joshua Hunt, Bloomberg

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