Numlock News: March 1, 2019

By Walt Hickey

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Come On Barbie Let’s Go Party

Hasbro and Mattel are twin giants locked in a fight to the death for control over the toy market. They’re evenly matched: Mattel made $4.5 billion in 2018, Hasbro made $4.6 billion. But where Hasbro pulled off an edge is in its extremely successful film franchises, namely Transformers. Now, after a number of false starts, Mattel will attempt to move in on the film business, with Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Masters of the Universe properties getting a serious push. Mattel is even working on big screen treatments for the Magic 8 Ball (which sounds like a great Jumanji-style adventure picture), View-Master (which could be a great horror flick if the View Master is cursed) and Uno (which I have no idea how to possibly import to a cinematic medium.)

Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter

What Is Art, Though?

In 2018, Salesforce chairman Marc Benioff donated a $7.5 million wooden statue to the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The sculpture depicts a Hawaiian war god and was estimated by Christie’s to be about 200 years old, and is now the centerpiece of an exhibit at the museum. The problem? Some experts have, on further analysis, said they believe the piece may be considerably more recent — like, 20th century recent — and worth less than $5,000. In fairness, none of this is on Benioff, who did a cool thing, but more so reflects badly on the auction house, which said the sculpture of ku ka ’ili moku was from 1780 to 1820 and was estimated to sell for 2 million to 3 million euros.

Scott Reyburn, The New York Times

Hulu’s Paternity Test, Revealed!

Disney is in talks to buy 10 of the remaining 40 percent of Hulu it doesn’t already own from AT&T, which got the stake through its acquisition of WarnerMedia. Disney initially owned 30 percent of the streaming video service and in buying 20th Century Fox it picked up another 30 percent. Comcast/NBCUniversal owns another 30 percent — while Disney wants to buy that, Comcast isn’t itching to exit — but AT&T is most definitely down to flip its dime in Hulu. Last summer, Disney put Hulu’s value at $9.296 billion, which would put WarnerMedia’s chunk at around $930 million. That’s a pretty good 16 percent return on the total $783 million the company has dumped into Hulu since 2016.

Todd Spangler, Variety

To Cease and Desist a Mockingbird

Lawyers representing the estate of author Harper Lee are in a dispute with the Dramatic Publishing Company, which sells the theatrical rights to put on the play To Kill a Mockingbird. The dispute has seriously jeopardized a number of community theater productions of the play due to a Broadway revival that opened in December. Several productions have received cease and desist letters from attorneys. As part of a 1969 contract between the Lee estate and Dramatic, any production within 25 miles of a city of 150,000 or more is blocked while a production runs in New York or on tour. The Broadway play — which cost up to $7.5 million to capitalize — is expected to announce a plan to tour.

Michael Paulson and Alexandra Alter, The New York Times

Wells Full Of Disease

The top 50 Facebook pages talking about vaccines generated 46 percent of the top 10,000 posts for or against vaccinating children against deadly illnesses. Those same 50 pages generated 38 percent of the total likes over the past two years. Looking specifically at the misinformation pages spreading smears against vaccinations, just seven pages were responsible for about 20 percent of the top 10,000 vaccination posts. The U.S. vaccination rate for measles has plateaued at 91.5 percent since 2015.

Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic

San Francisco, Technology Hub

The San Francisco tax assessor is a perfect example of the irony at the heart of municipal government in technology hubs. Despite being at the heart of one of the most sophisticated technological hubs on the planet, the assessor is still stuck using a Cobol-based system called AS-400, which is basically like if NASA’s employee shuttle bus system was a horse-driven carriage or if your bank paid its employees in denarii. This has caused a world of issues for the city: the tax rolls jumped 22 percent over the course of two years, but the systems were so antiquated they fell behind by three years just to keep track of the changes.

Romy Varghese, Bloomberg

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As part of a funding deal back in 2015, Congress allocated $750,000 to develop a nonpartisan report on halving child poverty in the U.S., and now that report has finally arrived. The report estimated that child poverty costs $800 billion to $1.1 trillion every year due to increased crime, worse health and lower earnings. It recommended four possible policies, the most ambitious of which would cost $111.6 billion per year and which would lift 4.8 million kids out of poverty, cutting the child poverty rate by 12.6 percent to 6.1 percent. And while $111.6 billion sure does sound like a big number, just remember that $800 billion is a much bigger number, and in this case the smaller big number is better than the bigger big number. Also fewer kids will go to sleep hungry in the richest country on earth, which would be nice.

Dylan Matthews, Vox


The FBI said it found 2,000 human bones in a rural Indiana home as part of a collection of over 40,000 artifacts accumulated by a former engineer. The homeowner died at age 91 and was never charged with a crime, but the FBI has determined that half of the collection was Native American artifacts and that it contains human remains. The government regularly prosecutes people who illegally obtain such artifacts, and the FBI has been working to identify and return the objects for quite some time.

Lauren Aratani, The Guardia

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