Numlock News: March 17, 2021 • Fireflies, Frenchies, Submarines

By Walt Hickey

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Uncollected

A new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that the IRS has only recouped 39 percent of the $4 billion in unpaid back taxes collectively owed by rich people who make $1.6 million on average per year. That means that there’s $2.4 billion that hasn’t been collected among those who owe back taxes alone, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A 2019 analysis of the taxpayers who had incomes of over $5 million found that 1,014 owed less than $100,000 in taxes, and 632 of those taxpayers owed less than $10,000 each.

Laura Davison, Bloomberg

French Revolution

Last year, 66,500 French bulldogs joined the registry of the American Kennel Club, making them the second-most popular breed of dog in the U.S. behind only Labrador retrievers. More than 98,300 Labs joined the registry in 2020, cementing 30 years atop the charts. The Frenchies have been ambling towards the top since the 1990s — in ‘91, when Labs first topped the charts, the bulldogs were 82nd — and have been in striking distance of second since 2017, at which point they had adorably climbed to fourth.

Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press

Salt

Winter snow can lead to a lot of wasted time, money and serious injury, with slushy or icy pavement resulting in 117,000 injured people in the U.S. every year, and winter weather costing $500 million per day and 544 million vehicle-hours in terms of delays a year. Road salt is a simple investment that saves a ton of lives, time and money: it decreases collisions by up to 88 percent, and deicing salt pays for itself 25 minutes after it is spread. This is all pretty great, but there’s a problem. Two colossal companies that make salt — Morton’s Salt and Kissner, a company that bought Central Salt and Lion Salt — have both been bought by the same private equity firm, which now owns a substantial chunk of the market. In the Great Lakes markets, the number of suppliers to governments will fall from four to three and in some areas down to two, likely costing municipalities more money.

Matt Stoller, BIG

Subs

Last Friday, Spanish police announced the seizure of a homemade submarine, a 9-meter-long, 3-meter-wide watercraft built in Málaga on the coast of southern Spain. Now, there’s no such thing as a bad submarine, only a bad submarine owner, and these cops seem to insist that this beautiful craft — with twin 200-horsepower engines, a fiberglass and plywood chassis, three portholes, a cargo hold that is believed to hold 2.2 tons of cargo, and lovely powder blue paint job — was being built to smuggle all sorts of cocaine into Europe.

The Associated Press

Fireflies

A new type of tourism uses acres of millions of fireflies as a photogenic draw, encouraging crowds to traipse through wooded areas home to the beetles and take in the bioluminescent wildlife. There are about 2,200 species of fireflies, and a new analysis of 12 countries that collectively draw in 1 million annual visitors with firefly tourism finds that sometimes a hundred thousand people is not the best thing in the world for an ecological system. The nine-day Muju Firefly Festival in Korea drew 200,000 visitors in 2019, several sites in the Alishan National Scenic Area in Taiwan attract 346,000 people annually, and Hong Kong’s Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve draws 5,000 to 10,000 visitors during July and August to see the fireflies. How those sites wrangle the tourists and keep the larval fireflies underground safe from their feet is critical to keep the lights on so to speak.

Ellie Shechet, Popular Science and Conservation Science and Practice

Olympics

A March survey found that 56 percent of respondents in Japan opposed having the Olympic Games as planned, the highest level of opposition among the six countries surveyed. Opposition to the games going on as planned was 55 percent in the United Kingdom and 52 percent in Germany while in the U.S. opposition was only 33 percent, incidentally tied with the level of support for the games going on.

Rurika Imahashi, Nikkei Asia, KEKST CNC

SAT

Standardized testing is at a crossroads, with many institutions eliminating the necessity of taking the SAT or ACT and many students obliging their disinterest by opting out of the exam. The annual volume of SAT tests was down 800,000 last year, which made a big dent financially — at $55 per test, that’s a lot of money — but it’s not just the College Board that stands to lose if standardized testing falls out of favor. The test prep industry — Princeton Review and Kaplan among the giants — may be in a pickle. Kaplan made $1.5 billion in 2018, but in 2020 its test prep revenues were down 16 percent.

Adam Bluestein, Marker

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