Numlock News: July 30, 2021 • Scarlett Johansson, Never Gonna Give You Up, Barbecue

By Walt Hickey

Have a wonderful weekend!

Give It Up to Me

While the hips may not lie, the accountant might. A Spanish judge ruled that a case against Colombian musician Shakira regarding alleged tax fraud should move forward, writing that there exists “sufficient evidence of criminality” following a three-year investigation. In 2019, prosecutors charged Shakira with not paying 14.5 million euros ($16.4 million) from 2012 to 2014 when she lived officially in Panama but allegedly spent most of her time in Spain, meaning the singer’s preferred “whenever, wherever” school of thought on tax nexus would not apply. Shakira denied wrongdoing and her P.R. firm said she paid the money once she was informed of the debt. Shakira faces a possible fine and jail time if found guilty, but judges can waive prison time for first-time offenders.

The Associated Press


When the Supreme Court gave a greenlight to college athletes selling their name, image or likeness rights to brands as endorsers, the biggest beneficiaries so far appear to be local barbecue joints. The restaurants have offered endorsement deals to quarterbacks and, most significantly, their notoriously voracious offensive linemen, who can look very large and happy near some solid barbecue, feasting on it in order to bulk up to protect the QB. For instance, Wright’s Barbecue in Fayetteville made the University of Arkansas’ offensive linemen and two quarterbacks spokesmen for the restaurant in early July, spending about $5,000 to do so. That’s vastly cheaper than the $180,000 it would have taken to become The Official Barbecue of the University of Arkansas, plus it goes directly to the athletes. Sales jumped 40 percent at Wright’s Bentonville location and revenue from the sauces was up 12 percent at Walmart the week after the players posted about it.

Laine Higgins, The Wall Street Journal

Never Gonna

The video for Rick Astley’s song “Never Gonna Give You Up” passed 1 billion views on YouTube, hitting 1,001,264,871 as of midday on Thursday. It’s a huge milestone for one of the foundational artistic texts of the internet, responsible for the long-running internet prank known as “rickrolling.” Still, the song is such a cultural touchstone its impact has grown far beyond a simple goof; the song was at the center of a 2018 diplomatic standoff between France and Moldova, was voted the official song of at least thirteen different American cities, and was the backing track to a gold-medal winning figure skating performance.

BBC News


The Brazilian Institute of Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources is tasked with protecting the rainforest by enforcing fines and penalties against people who deforest the Amazon. They’re really, really awful at their jobs. From 1980 to 2019, they issued 74 billion reais ($14 billion) in fines. They collected just 3.3 percent of that total. Most ranchers hit with the fines shrug them off and don’t plan on ever paying them. They illegal ranchers subvert policies from big beef producers aimed at avoiding buying beef raised on ripped-out Amazon rainforest, and launder the beef into the supply chain. While beef companies claim they vet suppliers, the rainforest keeps on shrinking and the beef keeps being bought.

Jessica Brice and Michael Smith, Bloomberg


When a ship on the Great Lakes or from Canada is due to be scrapped, it is oftentimes hauled by a towboat to Turkey, which has been buying up the ships for its booming scrapyard business. This has caused a couple of problems, namely that it’s actually really dangerous to haul decrepit ships. Several high-profile incidents of towlines breaking and ships colliding with the shore — ships lousy with asbestos and oil — have Canadians unhappy with the exchange. Furthermore, hauling steel to Turkey has been abysmal for Canada’s domestic steal business. Overseas buyers pay $850,000 to $1 million and up for a decommissioned ship. In 2017, Turkey’s steel exports to the U.S. rose 238 percent, while Canada’s steel exports rose just 5 percent. Turkey’s steel production is dirtier than Canada’s, which produces 30 percent less emissions and is among the cleanest in the world.

Moira Welsh, The Toronto Star

Get Me Matt Murdock

Scarlett Johansson is suing The Walt Disney Company over the release of Black Widow, that she alleges cost her over $50 million by releasing the film directly on Disney+ the same day that it debuted in theaters. As early as 2019, Johansson’s reps reached out to Marvel to ensure that the film — the first solo title for the character, who entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2010’s Iron Man 2 — would have a theatrical-only release. The suit is a huge deal even beyond the Disney/Johansson scrap. Large media companies want to bolster their streaming offerings, but the popular artists, creatives, and technicians whose work actually drives people to those offerings want to ensure they’re not cut out of the profit participation they fought for.

Joe Flint and Erich Schwartzel, The Wall Street Journal


A new study published in Nature Communications found that, based on the latest research on climate change-related mortality, about 74 million lives could be saved before 2100 if humans cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, compared to the alternate scenario in which a 4 degrees Celsius warming occurs by century’s end. The study could be of particular note for a group in the federal government working on reassessing the social cost of carbon, which is the per-unit consequence of emitting 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide, and can be tied to trillions in federal spending.

Rebecca Hersher, NPR

Last Sunday I spoke to Julie Kendrick, who wrote “Shampoo Bars: What they are, how they work, and why we need them” for HuffPost.  Julie writes about what we eat and consume and I always find her work really fascinating, and this piece was no different. We spoke about why shampoo is mostly water, the plastic impact of all that waste, and how bottled shampoo may one day be seen as similar to smoking in restaurants. Kendrick can be found at her website and her Twitter.

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