Numlock News: June 8, 2020 • DC, MPD, MiLB

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


Nine out of thirteen members of the Minneapolis City Council — a veto-proof majority — announced Sunday they will defund and dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department, shifting funding to other needs and establishing a replacement law enforcement arm after a transition period. Besides the acute recent issue — one officer has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in relation to the death of George Floyd, and three others were charge with aiding and abetting — the Minneapolis Police Department has been mediocre at best, clearing just 56 percent of killings in 2019 and just 22 percent of rapes in 2019. The troubled department also last year announced the discovery of 1,700 untested rape kits from the past 30 years.

Jay Willis, The Appeal, and Dakin Andone and Christina Maxouris, CNN

Tear Gas

An open letter signed by 1,300 medical professionals and public health experts urges that police stop using tear gas, smoke, and other respiratory irritants due to the increased risk of spreading coronavirus and increased risk of developing severe respiratory symptoms. The military has conducted scientific research linking exposure to o-chlorobenzylidene — the irritating molecule in tear gas that makes exposure to tear gas really, really suck — to exacerbated acute respiratory illnesses. One 2014 study looked at 6,723 U.S. Army recruits exposed to the gas during basic training, finding that recruits exposed to tear gas were 2.44 times as likely to be diagnosed with acute respiratory illnesses following exposure compared to the period prior to exposure.

Lisa Song, ProPublica


Previous research indicates that swearing has the effect of alleviating pain. A 2011 study asked participants to immerse their hands in a bucket of ice water, and then were instructed to either swear repeatedly or say a neutral word repeatedly. Those who swore were able to keep their hands in the bucket 40 seconds longer than those who didn’t. At the time, this finding rendered me functionally immortal. A new study found that the F-word has powerful palliative quality in particular, with a group of participants tested on pain endurance when prompted to say either “fuck,” or one of two invented “swear” words, or a neutral word. Conventional swearing was linked to a 32 percent increase in pain threshold and a 33 percent increase in pain tolerance compared to the neutral words. Anyway, I have a great new concept for a superhero, but I think the SEO and the censors may be a problem here.

Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica


DC Comics is ending its relationship with Diamond Comic Distributors, which for over two decades served as the lone middleman between companies that produce comic books and the hundreds of small shops that sell comic books. This is, as far as the comics business goes, a massive deal: DC had turned to two upstart distributors when the pandemic shut down Diamond, and on Friday announced it’ll be leaving for good. In 2019 DC represented 29.23 percent of Diamond’s sales in dollar terms, which is approximately $155 million retail, about $60 million of which would end up at DC. Growth has been flat — while rivals at Marvel and Image saw a sales bump in the 2010s, DC was flat, and Marvel has well over double DC’s sales.

John Jackson Miller, Comichron

Chuck E. Cheese

It has been a troubling year for Chuck E. Cheese. No longer even the first entity one thinks of when prompted with “pizza rat,” the chain of combination arcades and mediocre pizzerias has been dealt a tough blow, and the company is weighing whether to make a payment on its nearly $1 billion in debt while also mulling taking out a $200 million loan. Listen, Chuck E. Cheese is in bad with some rough customers, and its 610 locations do not lend themselves well to a delivery transition when the key appeal is more “the skee-ball” and less “pizza that makes Little Caesars look like Papa John’s.”

Soma Biswas and Heather Haddon, The Wall Street Journal

Papers Please

Idemia, a French company that specializes in things like facial recognition, fingerprinting and iris resolution, has won a new European Union contract that will have it process images linked to the identities of 400 million people. Their algorithms will be used by the block to verify the identities of EU residents as part of the Shared Biometric Matching System, which will at some point be joined with existing systems already operated by Idemia. In addition to that batch, Idemia also runs TSA PreCheck, is a facial recognition company used by the NYPD, and contracts with the U.S. Department of State to manage the passport database. Kit and caboodle, Idemia is now in control of whether 800 million people can enter the U.S., E.U., and Australia. There’s also a great chance this is the first time you are hearing about this company, because it was definitely mine!

Dave Gershgorn, OneZero

Minor League Ball

Under perfectly normal conditions, the ownership and operation of a minor league baseball team is a financially perilous course of action, as fluctuating attendance, difficulties in dealing with the Majors, and fluidity of talent make it a hard ballpark to play in. The conditions now are even worse, and as a result interested buyers are keen on snapping up ball clubs at a discounted price. According to the MLB, the typical AAA baseball team is worth $20 million, the typical AA team is worth $15 million, A+ is worth $10 million, A- is worth $8 million, and Rookie is worth $6 million. This is a lovely fantasy and I congratulate Major League Baseball on their promising career in fiction writing because those are proposed valuations, not market rates, and also the discussion around eliminating 40 of the 160 teams is not exactly making investors salivate.

Brandon Kochkodin, Bloomberg

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