Numlock News: June 4, 2019 • Durians, Corn, Critics

By Walt Hickey

This Should Be Bigger News?

Corn growers haven’t been able to plant due to constant rain, and we are rapidly approaching the deadline for many states under the terms of crop insurance. Typically, as of May 27 about 90 percent of intended corn acres have been planted. This year, only 58 percent of those acres have been planted. Past a certain date, insured growers can file for payment. For Illinois, Ohio and Indiana that date is June 5. A poll from Farm Journal Plus found 34 percent of corn growers will file on at least some of their acreage, 21 percent are weighing their options, and less than half — 45 percent — don't plan to file for any prevent plan payments.

John Herath, Farm Journal


The latest edition of a study that looks at film critics found that men made up 66 percent of working critics at online, broadcast or print outlets, while 34 percent were women. Radio and television approached closer to parity than print, with 58 percent of critics as men, and Rotten Tomatoes, a site that purports to generate a score that defines the quality of movies, is predicating its numbers on an even more weighted sample, with 72 percent of top critics being men. The percentage of women in the category declined 6 percent compared to the previous year.

Katie Kilkenny, The Hollywood Reporter


If faced with an unexpected $400 expense, Americans are on better footing than they were a few years ago: 61 percent would be able to scrape together the dough through some combination of cash, a quick credit card hit paid off next cycle, savings, or raiding the First National Bank Of Couch Cushion. A further 27 percent would borrow money, rack up credit card debt or sell something, and 12 percent would not be able to cover the expense whatsoever.

Allison Schrager, Quartz

Drug Phones

A new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper suggests that one major source of the decline in homicides between 1990 and 2000 resulted from the rise of the cell phone. Not that people were using the phones to report more crime or anything, more that cellphones made it much easier to effectively manage a burgeoning drug business without the necessity of turf-based gang violence. By moving the industry of drug sales to phones, the human resources headaches like vicious drug homicides and territory management became less a course of day-to-day business. The researchers estimate the spread of phones was responsible for anything from 19 to 29 percent of the decline in homicides. Burner phones save lives, people.

Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic

Oversold Drugs

Two studies published in JAMA look at the ultimate insult to injury: what if the extremely expensive drug you're paying for just doesn't work? One study found that of 93 cancer drugs granted accelerated approval, only 19 actually showed improvements in survival rates, overall. The other found that the threshold for approving cancer drugs is pretty low, with 40 of 85 cancer drugs approved after shrinking tumors and doing so by less than 40 percent. As a result, people are paying millions, maybe billions for drugs with unproven effectiveness.

Peter Coy, Bloomberg


The China trade conflict is solved! For Malaysia. Not the U.S., that’s just getting worse every day. But Malaysia? Times are great. The durian is a football-sized thorny fruit that smells awful and tastes, well, it's an acquired flavor. China has just approved Malaysia for importing whole frozen durians, and it could be a big deal for the country. China imports 300,000 metric tons of durian every year, and Malaysia until now has missed out on that, exporting only 17,000 tons — 5.8 percent of their annual production—- to buyers in Southeast Asia and the Americas.

Anuradha Raghu, Bloomberg


Churches are realizing that one way to maximize their investment in their communities is to buy up medical debt for pennies on the dollar and forgive it. For instance, Pathway Church used $22,000 to buy up $2.2 million worth of debt owed by 1,600 people (every Kansan facing imminent insolvency) and forgive it. Working with RIP Medical Debt, 18 churches have been able to abolish $34.4 million in debt since 2018.

Roxie Hammill, Kaiser Health News

Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at

The very best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.

Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores