Numlock News: June 25, 2020 • Segway, Sherlock Holmes, Toilet Paper

By Walt Hickey

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No Sis, Sherlock

The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is suing Netflix, Legendary Pictures, Random House and more over a forthcoming film about the sister of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle’s famous detective had the bad luck of being created well before modern copyright laws would cover him, and in 2014, the estate was dealt a blow when all stories written before 1923 were made public domain, as was the character himself. The Doyle Estate still has hold of the last 10 stories written by Conan Doyle between 1923 and 1927, and in this suit the Estate is basically arguing that the character underwent some fundamental change related to his emotional development, and somehow a more empathetic portrayal of Holmes is protected by copyright. Let’s see how this goes for them!

Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter

Plastic

The cost of the recycled plastic used to make drink bottles has been increasing significantly compared to the price of making brand new virgin plastic, and that’s a problem for a world trying to use less new plastic. In Europe, the cost of recycled PET was 1.95 times that of new PET as of May 2020, which is significantly larger than the 1.35 times as much it cost in May 2019 and more than twice the 0.93 cents on the dollar it cost in May 2018. In the U.S., the cost has been closer to even, but still elevated with recycled stuff costing 1.22 times as much as the new plastic, up slightly from the 1.07 times as much it was in May 2019. In the U.S., over 100 municipalities halted curbside recycling when the pandemic struck.

Saabira Chaudhuri, The Wall Street Journal

The Segue

Segway, which manufactures a self-balancing two wheeled device designed to make a human being look ridiculous — with the secondary function of moving them around an amusement park or mall — announced it will discontinue the iconic Segway PT, which I have to say feels like a really generous use of the word iconic, but I’m going to roll with it. The company said that it has sold 140,000 Segway PTs since they first rolled off the lot in 2001. Segway was acquired by Chinese electric scooter juggernaut Ninebot in 2015, which combined the engineering precision of Segway with a product people would actually ride in public. In a testament to the mobility revolution that the Segway kicked off for global transportation, the Segway PT made up a hilariously paltry 1.5 percent of Segway Inc. revenue in 2019. Mostly, people have bought the scooters.

Johnny Diaz, The New York Times

Africa

Fully 40 percent of smartphone sales in Africa in the last quarter of 2019 were with a company called Transsion, which since it first came on to the continent in 2008 has surged to dominate the market. Its market cap is $7.14 billion, and it moved 137 million mobile phones in 2019. The company carved off such a big slice of the African market by understanding what consumers needed most there, namely easy versatility with SIM cards. To avoid costly fees and get the best coverage in spottily-covered area, many need more than one SIM card. So, in 2008, Transsion became the first to sell a phone that could have two SIMs well before competitors like Nokia, and today they sell up to four-SIM phones. They’ve also built an in-house designed camera that has better exposure on darker skin, an area where their rivals have disappointingly lagged.

Andrew Deck, Rest of World

TP

In the United States, about 60 percent of at-home toilet paper comes from virgin material, mainly trees logged and clear cut from Canada’s forests that immediately becomes toilet paper. Office buildings — where until a few months ago, lots of Americans spent lots of their day — tended to buy toilet paper that used recycled fibers. The unexpected environmental side effect of the shutdowns of large office buildings has been a surge in the toilet paper that requires clear cut forests and a collapse in the toilet paper that uses recycled fibers. Logging in the Canadian boreal forests emits 26 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually.

Gerald Porter Jr., Bloomberg

Fraud

Fully 23 banks are owed $4 billion from failed Singapore oil trader Hin Leong Trading Ltd., and an audit found that it has assets of just $257 million against some $3.5 billion in liabilities. The company collapsed in April after oil prices flopped and the extent of the fabrications on its balance sheet were revealed in all their gory glory, including forged documents used to get money out of banks, fake profit reports, and double-counted cargo in a doomed attempt to keep the credit coming. Audited financial statements revealed the company overstated its assets by just over $3 billion.

Alfred Cang and Chanyaporn Chanjaroen, Bloomberg

Roundup

Bayer agreed to settle approximately 75 percent of the current litigation around Roundup, a weed killer that attracted approximately 125,000 filed and unfiled claims related to cancer. The company will pay between $8.8 billion and $9.6 billion to resolve current litigation around Roundup — which was introduced by Monsanto, since purchased by Bayer — and will allocate $1.25 billion to address a separate class agreement about possible future litigation. Bayer admits no liability or wrongdoing. Of the three Roundup lawsuits that have gone to trial, all broke in favor of the plaintiffs, with juries finding Roundup was a substantial contributing cause to the plaintiffs’ cancer, though Bayer has appealed those verdicts and will continue to do so separate from this settlement. Bayer continues to sell Roundup and asserts it is safe when used as directed.

Holly Yan, CNN

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