Numlock News: March 5, 2019

By Walt Hickey

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Please Do This

A Colorado congresswoman will introduce a bill banning electronic cigarette flavors on a national level. The effects if passed will be two-fold: the enticing flavors that attract children to consume the tobacco products will no longer be available, and best of all perhaps one doofus will be unable to make a subway car permanently smell like industrially approximated mango with a single Juul rip. I welcome this legislation. For whatever reason, I’ve been unable to train my brain that randomly smelling cotton candy is not a sign of a bioweapon attack or a stroke, it’s just some dumb teens vaping eight blocks down. A study last year counted 15,600 unique e-cigarette flavors sold online. Can you imagine laboring through half-a-decade of organic chemistry just to have your life’s work amount to “made the 14,328th unique vape juice smell?” This madness must be stopped.

Michael Nedelman, CNN

Age

It’s worth seriously considering about how we think about aging, a new Urban Institute study suggests. See, for years the red line for “aging” was 65 years old, so when we see studies that claim America is getting older, they typically phrase it as the population over the age of 65. But a 2019 age 65 isn’t the same as a 1989 age 65. So instead it suggests viewing age through the prism of life expectancy, and that twist makes America look a little more spry than previously estimated. From 2010 to 2050, the percentage of people age 65 and older is projected to rise 11.6 percent. But the percentage of people with a life expectancy of 15 years or less is projected to rise only 6.4 percent, and the percentage with 10 years or less on the clock will rise only 4.5 percentage points.

Eugene Steuerle and Damir Cosic, The Urban Institute

Change Is Stewing

The company behind the smash-hit Instant Pot is merging with the company behind Pyrex, CorningWare and Corelle. The company isn’t disclosing financial terms, but it’s been reported the combined firm will have a value of over $2 billion. It’s a convenient merger: Ottawa-based Instant Brand’s pressure cooker is the hot new thing, but is only in about 20 percent of American households. Corelle is in over 80 percent of households. As an avid consumer of kitchen gadgetry and fervent user of a slow cooker and a pressure cooker, I look forward to the next big trend in kitchen mechanisms, which I assume will be either an easy-to-use sous vide or, more likely, a combination immersion blender-slash-oyster shucker and cooking blowtorch contraption. If anyone knows how to get a patent for this swirling, pointy and fiery appliance of death, uh, comments are below.

Miriam Gottfried, The Wall Street Journal

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Skiers

The ski business is prone to boom years and bust years, based on how much snow is involved in a given season. This means that the business has traditionally attracted owners who were either families willing and able to weather a few lean years or companies that were basically condo sales firms operating a ski business as an enticement to move units. But now, two different companies are trying to be the bundle, with both Epic and Ikon buying up resorts and offering season passes that let skiers go to any resort in their portfolio. The fundamentals of the market are fairly consistent: last year there were 9 million skiers, logging 53 million days on a mountain and the industry hauled in $8.4 billion. The primary threats to the biz are boomers aging out of their ski boots and climate change causing erratic winter weather.

Kyle Stock, Bloomberg

Lovin’ It

A new study of 1,787 fast food entrees from Arby’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Dairy Queen, Hardee’s, Jack in the Box, KFC, Long John Silver’s, McDonald’s and Wendy’s between 1986 and 2016 finds that fast food menus are — despite the addition of new menu options aimed for healthier consumers — still getting worse for you! Because for every side salad rolled out to please the FDA crowd, there was a legion of Baconator spinoffs added to cheap plastic trays near you. In 1986, the average entree was 162 grams and 326 calories. By 1991, that increased to 169 grams and 341 calories. In 2016, the entrees clocked in at 201 grams and 416 calories. That means the average entree gained 39 grams and 90 further calories.

Tiffany Hsu, The New York Times

Eggs

Thanks to advances in tech and a strong advertising push, the number of women in the United States who froze their eggs jumped from 475 in 2009 to 7,300 women in 2016. Sure, the industry has been marred by high profile incidents where eggs were lost due to catastrophic cooling failures, and the rush of investors into the medical space is giving some people pause. But I don’t see affordable childcare coming down a legislative pipeline near me, and too often working women are caught between a biological rock and a career hard place. After all, it’s nice to have one business at least attempting to make life easier for women who seek to delay motherhood.

Mary Pflum, NBC News

Players

Apex Legends has passed the 50 million user milestone, presenting a new challenge for established competitor Fortnite. The latter game took a few months to hit 45 million players, whereas the newcomer from EA took just 28 days. And while these kill-or-be-killed battle royale games may seem like only one can survive, the reality is that Fortnite is still notching user records, such as the 7.6 million players online just two weeks ago.

Allegra Frank, Polygon

Toxic Groundwater

A new analysis of the ponds and landfills holding coal waste at 250 power plants in the U.S. found that 91 percent are contaminating nearby groundwater with toxic chemicals. There were elevated levels of charming chemicals like arsenic, chromium and lithium in the groundwater, which is pretty bad: 90 million people in the U.S. get their water from groundwater. Coal ash is one of the largest industrial wastes in America, with utilities turning 800 million tons of coal into energy and subsequently into 110 million tons of coal ash in 2012. Gosh, if only there was literally any other way to get energy besides coal.

Steven Mufson and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post


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