Numlock News: June 9, 2021 • Hallucinogenic Toads, Liechtenstein, Ganymede

By Walt Hickey

Hallucinogenic Toads

Incilius alvarius, also known as the Colorado River toad, is a trafficked species of amphibian that has attracted attention owing to their secretions, which contain a hallucinogenic substance 5-MeO-DMT. The toad’s listed as threatened in New Mexico and believed to be extinct in California, but it’s abundant in Arizona, where a valid Game and Fish license lets someone bag 10 of the hallucinogenic toads a year. Demand for the hallucinogenic experience — retreats cost between $200 and $3,000 for all-inclusive packages in some resort towns in the region — have pushed some to poach the toad, which is not considered endangered or threatened but is staring down the kind of over-collection and urbanization where that’s potentially in the cards. That happened to peyote, which became popular outside of Indigenous communities, and the black market led to a serious threat to the cactus.

Jessica Kutz, High Country News

Secure

In what is likely the first time in the history of digital communication that someone wishes they had been contacted on Facebook Messenger, a secure messaging platform that specifically catered to the criminal underworld has turned out to be overseen by the FBI, and you can imagine how well that went down for the criminal underworld. Tuesday, law enforcement agencies announced that, following police raids in 16 countries, over 800 suspects have been arrested, with 32 tons of drugs, 250 firearms, 55 luxury cars and $148 million in cash and crypto being seized. The FBI had recruited the creator of ANOM, a messaging app explicitly for crime, and after two other apps — EncroChat and Sky ECC — preferred by drug traffickers were taken down, and the FBI gave out phones to 300 gangs, by 2019, the FBI had cataloged 20 million messages from 11,800 devices, with 9,000 active users. If you’ll excuse me, I need to invent “LinkedIn But For Crime,” and I have a pitch meeting in Quantico to prepare for.

Mike Corder and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

We Will Rock Liechtenstein

Following Brexit, the British musicians who had earned a crust touring the great venues of Europe are now facing down visa requirements that will bog down what was once a premiere cultural export for the U.K. — their music business. Friday, the Culture Secretary announced a huge advantage for the ability of live musicians to tour the continent, after ambitious negotiations announcing that he had secured the rights for British musicians to tour Liechtenstein without a visa. Absolutely huge. The government also announced that Iceland and Norway were available without the costly permits it will now cost British musicians to tour in most European countries. Needless to say, the response has been muted: over the past decade, the top 10 touring acts of the U.K. have played a cumulative 31 shows in Norway, 2 shows in Iceland and zero shows in Liechtenstein. Now, zero shows is slightly less than Germany (214 shows over the same period) or Italy (77 shows), but I hear the music scene in Schaan is… yeah, I have never heard of Schaan.

Mark Savage, BBC News

Ganymede

Monday, the Juno probe carried out a flyby of the moon Ganymede, the first time a spacecraft has gotten a close-up of the solar system’s largest moon since 2000 when Galileo took a peek. The spacecraft flew 645 miles above the surface of Ganymede at about 12 miles per second — or 43,200 miles per hour — and by Tuesday, Juno was on its 33rd pass of Jupiter above the cloud tops at speeds of 36 miles per second, or about 129,600 miles per hour. The expectation was that Juno would be able to take five images of Ganymede over the course of the 25-minute encounter, the first of which have already dropped and look suitably stunning.

Meghan Bartels, SPACE.com

The Rich

According to documents provided to ProPublica, while the top tax bracket is 37 percent, the top 25 richest Americans paid an average tax rate of 15.8 percent on their reported income from 2014 to 2018. The documents reveal how the richest of the rich are able to skirt taxes in a way that the rest of the country cannot. As of the end of 2018, the 25 people were worth $1.1 trillion, which would require 14.3 million ordinary wage earners put together to compare. The personal federal tax bill for those 14.3 million ordinary wage earners would come to $143 billion; for those 25 people combined, it came to a paltry $1.9 billion in 2018.

Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen and Paul Kiel, ProPublica, and Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen and Paul Kiel, ProPublica

PPM

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere averaged 419 parts per million in May, which was a new high. While the pandemic briefly slowed emissions — not even particularly that much, just a slip of 6 percent — it didn’t reverse them, and right now CO2 levels are on par to what they were 4 million years ago, when average global temperatures were 7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter.

Justine Calma, The Verge

Lobster

Due to limited supply and high demand, lobster’s back to being rather expensive compared to the cheap shellfish of last year’s pandemic-era glut in supply. The wholesale price of live, 1.25 pound lobsters in New England was $9.01 per pound on May 1, which was up $2.70 per pound compared to May 1, 2020. The season’s getting off to a slow start, and most lobster fishing goes down in summer, so that’s all bound to change; still, it’s good news for fisherman who saw business stumble in 2020, seeing the lowest haul last year since 2010.

Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press

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