By Walt Hickey
It’s going down: they’re selling timber. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Forest Crime Investigation Unit has been sending out officers to investigate the rising rates of forest crime in British Columbia. In the past five years, natural resource officers logged 2,300 forest crimes, of which only 140 made it to the court system. The most common crimes were timber theft, illegal harvesting and arson. Prices are high — over $860 per thousand board feet last year — and the poaching of the trees is linked to poverty and the opioid epidemic.
The most dominant streaming service in India isn’t Netflix or Amazon, it’s Hotstar with 300 million monthly users, about 10 percent more than the second biggest video content platform, YouTube. Of those users, 3 million pay for it, which is more than the 2.5 million Indians who pay for Amazon Prime video and the 1.2 million who pay for Netflix. The price point is far easier — $1.19 per month, a figure Amazon since matched — compared to the $7.15 to $11.44 Netflix charges. India is the next big battleground for streaming as the U.S. market is fairly mature and China has boxed out streamers. Subscription and ad revenue are projected to jump from $500 million last year to $5 billion in 2023.
Pioneered largely by Japan, technology exists that make buildings more likely to survive and remain usable after a significant seismological event. In Japan, there are 9,000 structures with base isolation technology, an architectural feature that allows a structure to better endure earthquakes and tectonic shifts. While not all new structures in Japan have base isolation tech — a seven-story base isolated building costs 13 to 15 percent more than a conventional foundation, though some say the cost can be lowered — in general, construction favors preparing for possible events. On the other side of the Pacific, America is a bit more laissez-faire about the whole thing. Apple’s new headquarters became one of only about 175 American buildings with the tech, as developers here generally hold that the lifespan of a given structure doesn’t justify the upfront cost of the base isolation. And they’re right! So far. We’ll see.
For a while, America was lousy with wolves, to the irritation of people with farms and less situationally-aware relatives. It was decided that everything would be better sans the wolves, so people set about killing them. The coyotes, sensing a vacuum, then proceeded to take over, and now the east coast — once coyote-free, if home to an annoying number of wolves — is now lousy with coyotes, and they are impossible to control. Estimates now put the annual number of coyotes killed at 500,000, with North Carolina and Georgia (which never had coyotes pre-1990) reporting 40,000 killed each. To cause any discernible decline in the rapidly-repopulating coyote numbers, 90 percent would have to be removed. Quick point of order, if we wipe out the coyotes, how do we know that like bugbears or goblins won’t fill the vacuum left behind by them?
Just when you thought it could not get any worse, it actually can! In 2020, spending on political advertising is projected to hit $9.9 billion, up from $8.7 billion in 2018, and up $3.6 billion from the $6.3 billion spent the last time there was a presidential election. Political digital ad spending in 2018 — $2 billion — constituted a full 2 percent of all total digital ad spending in the U.S., and the $2.8 billion projected to be spent online in the 2020 cycle will constitute 2.2 percent of all digital ad spend. The previous two sentences are as concise an argument as I can muster that the internet was a grievous mistake and should be burned to the ground at the earliest opportunity.
Cities in Northeast Ohio are volunteering to be the pilot region for a return for the Postal Banking system, which would empower the USPS to do what post offices offer in France, Italy, Japan, and more by offering routine financial transactions and asset storage. About 22 percent of U.S. households are unbanked or underbanked, meaning that they use check cashing stores or payday lenders. This exacts a serious price, one that disproportionately impacts the working poor: payday lenders and storefront car title companies charge $8 billion in extra fees every year. It’d be a return to an earlier era, like when the Postal Savings System held $3.4 billion in savings in 1947.
Once the game developer of iconic titles like Half Life 2 and Portal, today Valve has seemingly gotten out of the game design game in favor of exploiting their first-mover advantage with the Steam game store. Steam made about $4.3 billion in revenue in 2017, taking a cut of indie games sold through the platform, up from $3.5 billion in 2016. Making that kind of money, I can understand being a little distracted from putting out Half Life 3. No writers who worked on Half Life remain, but there is hope for fans of that franchise: as other companies pop up shop as Steam rivals, perhaps Valve may be reminded of the value of having a beloved, centerpiece game franchise.
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Correction: In the original version of this newsletter, the Timber section mislabeled The Royal Canadian Mounted Police as the Royal Canadian Mountain Police.
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