By Walt Hickey
People who sell labyrinths — they do exist, there’s a whole Daedalus Industrial Complex out there for institutions and rich folks installing custom mazes and labyrinths on their property — are seeing a surge in demand. One California business charges $600 for a consultation and $25,000 for a full installation, and business is popping despite lagging demand from the college campuses and religious sites that typically spring for the boutique labyrinth installation. There are globally about 6,000 labyrinths around the world according to the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator, a site that seems to miss the point of labyrinths entirely. Sales of handheld, more contemplative labyrinths are up 300 percent according to one seller as people look to find ways to puzzle and play outside. I get the appeal, like the worst thing that could possibly happen in a labyrinth is what, you get lost? A mild Minotaur attack? You get to meet David Bowie? Sounds awesome.
Chile has agreed to a proposed undersea fiber-optic cable stretching 13,000 kilometers from Sydney, Australia to New Zealand and then along to Chile. They landed on a Japanese proposal over two proposed Chinese-sponsored cables that would connect the South American nation to Shanghai and Hong Kong. Japan had just completed a cable connecting Tokyo to Sydney, and Chile was under pressure from the United States to reject a cable that would be installed by Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company. Initial investments are estimated to be $500 million. Undersea cables carry 95 percent of intercontinental internet traffic.
Over the past decade there’s been a shift in the way milk is delivered to Americans. Overall milk consumption is down 40 percent over four decades, but another change has happened: the $40 billion milk industry has been moving away from national brands like Dean Foods and Borden and shifting towards store brands — which are kept low-priced to draw consumers in — and agricultural cooperatives. As of 2017, the eight largest dairy cooperatives marketed 54 percent of the country’s milk.
A Lotta Lattes
Starbucks will owe $1.25 billion in rent over the next year at its 16,000 company-owned stores, and with sales taking a significant dip that could be a serious issue for the coffee chain, whose core conceit was providing a place to work in public. The company demanded reduced rent from landlords back in May, and analysts don’t think coffee sales will hit pre-pandemic levels until 2024. Starbucks controls about 40 percent of the United States coffee market, followed by Dunkin’, which had 26 percent of sales.
With yesterday’s deal between the studio Universal and the theater chain AMC laying the groundwork for the future of direct-to-consumer sales of first-run films, now the hard part begins: what the heck do you charge for the right to watch a brand-new movie from the comfort of home? Nobody really agrees on this point: You can watch The Old Guard as well as everything else on Netflix for $12.99, or rent The King of Staten Island for $19.99, or pay $5.99 for a month of Hulu to watch Palm Springs, and all of those are brand-new movies. Television tracking app TV Time surveyed 6,981 users about pricing expectations for paid video on demand and found that users reported being willing to pay an average of $14.17 for a superhero film, $12.38 for a drama rental, $11.12 for a horror film and just $9.45 for an art house picture.
A survey from the Guttmacher Institute of 2,000 American women in April and May found 34 percent wanted to delay pregnancy or have fewer children because of the pandemic, about double the rate of the 17 percent who wanted children sooner or to have more of them. An analysis from the Brookings Institution projected there will be 300,000 to 500,000 fewer children born in the United States in 2021 than would have been otherwise born, a decrease of 10 percent compared to 2019.
The need for personal protective equipment in medicine is hardly a pandemic-era specific necessity, but prices are skyrocketing amid high demand and a need for domestic supply. China supplied a quarter of the world’s face masks pre-pandemic, and the U.S. imported $1.9 billion in PPE last year from China alone, about 30 percent of imports. When China was hit with its own outbreak that kicked off a shortage worldwide, and prices are spiking as a result. In December, Johns Hopkins Medicine paid 40 cents per gown from a supplier in China, but today are paying $9 per gown from a domestic supplier, a twenty-fold increase. Listen, when somebody who works at an American hospital says something has gotten way too expensive even for them, I say we hear them out.
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