Numlock News: June 12, 2019 • Venom, Noobs, Trash

By Walt Hickey

Scorpion

Findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show how researchers have isolated two compounds in scorpion venom that kill some drug-resistant forms of bacteria, and further have managed to synthesize them in a lab. Scorpion venom is essentially the printer ink of the animal kingdom, with a cost of $39 million to produce a gallon of the stuff, if you’re into that kind of thing. The fact that the compounds can be synthesized in a lab means that researchers can forego milking a bunch of scorpions, which is the kind of sentence pharmaceutical developers really, really love to hear.

Ker Than, Stanford News Service

Tobacco

Sri Lanka is poised to ban the production of tobacco by 2020, and that’s putting farmers in peril and desperate to find alternatives. It costs 45 Sri Lankan rupees ($0.26) to produce a tobacco plant that can be sold for 150 rupees ($0.85), and other alternative crops pushed by the government don’t come near those margins. Potatoes cost 65 to 75 rupees to grow a pound, and the sale price is fixed by the government at 40 rupees per pound. Now, I’m no economist, but I do believe I can determine the issue at stake here.

Vijayatharsiny Vijayakumar, Global Press Journal

Noobs

According to the annual report from Mary Meeker, 3.8 billion people were internet users last year, a full 51 percent of the world, and up from 3.6 billion people in 2017. Welcome to all the new users! Don’t click the ads, the Nigerian prince’s checks bounce, and do not read the comments. This ends orientation. As for the more established users, we’re spending more time with digital media than ever: Americans hit 6.3 hours per day consuming digital media in 2018, up 7 percent compared to the previous year.

Rani Molla, Recode

For Whom The Pass Tolls

The number of trips taken on toll roads by U.S. drivers increased 14 percent between 2011 and 2015, from 5 billion to 5.7 billion. Every highway toll dollar costs 8 to 11 cents to collect, making it a less efficient way to tax road use than, say, a gas tax that costs a penny of each dollar it brings in. Complicating the process even further is how tech like E-ZPass make it possible for states to charge higher rates for out-of-staters, a grift that’s entirely possible thanks to a political science doctrine best described as “out-of-state drivers don’t vote so screw them.” E-ZPass is used in 17 states, of which at least eight have some sort of two-tiered pricing system to benefit locals.

Elaine S. Povich, Pew Charitable Trusts

Rights

According to a new survey, 62 percent of Americans said they’ve become more supportive toward transgender rights compared to their views five years ago, compared to 25 percent who said their views have grown more opposed in the past half decade. Majorities of every age group, religious affiliation, and all but one political affiliation reported their support for increased trans rights, with the largest gains among 18 to 29 year olds, among whom 68 percent said their support rose. About a quarter of respondents said they had a close friend or family member who is trans, and just like with the other consonants of the LGBT community, those who did know someone had much broader views on the nature of gender identity. While that quarter is considerably less than the 68 percent of respondents who reported having a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, it’s crucial to remember that latter number only got high recently because a bunch of people got kind of cool about some stuff.

Daniel Greenberg, Maxine Najle, Natalie Jackson, Oyindamola Bola and Robert P. Jones, Public Religion Research Institute

Tenants

New York City passed a law that guaranteed tenants the right to an attorney, and in the 15 ZIP codes it’s been introduced in the measure has had a dramatic effect of keeping people from homelessness. While landlords have had little problem obtaining legal representation, in those areas tenants were represented by a lawyer in an eviction case only 1 percent of the time — a figure that rose to 56 percent after the first year. This caused evictions to drop 27 percent in that time period, and over the next three years the program will expand to the rest of the city.

J. Brian Charles, Governing

Waste

India is deep in a trash crisis, with some 80 billion pounds of trash at four dumping sites rising so high that one pile now requires warning lights for aircraft visibility. The trash mound at Ghazipur opened in 1984, hit capacity in 2002, and continues to grow, standing now at 213 feet high, and projected to hit 240 feet in height within the next year, thanks to 2,000 tons of new trash each day. It’s nicknamed “Mt. Everest,” presumably because it’s covered in trash and responsible for several deaths per year. Also, it’s tall, I guess.

Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics

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