Numlock News: May 14, 2021 • Oysters, Extortion, Drug Sniffing Dogs
By Walt Hickey
Have an excellent weekend!
McDonald’s announced it’ll raise the wages of the 36,500 hourly workers in its direct employ by an average of 10 percent over the next few months. Most of the 13,900 McDonald’s are franchised, but their 660 company-owned stores will see non-managerial workers earning from $11 to $17 after the hikes, with supervisors earning $15 to $20. The median hourly wage for a fast food worker in the middle of last year was $11.47, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and McDonald’s wants to hire 10,000 people in the next three months, so it looks like they’re ready to get a little competitive on comp.
Colonial Pipeline turns out to have gone ahead and reportedly paid the desired ransom that a group of Eastern European hackers demanded last Friday, paying up $5 million and contradicting subsequent chest pumping statements that they had no intention of submitting to extortion. Fuel shipments resumed late Wednesday, and while the FBI discourages people from paying ransoms to hackers, the whole situation definitely has the Eastern Seaboard, which does rely on Colonial for a substantial chunk of its energy needs, breathing a sigh of relief. If anything, Colonial got a bargain; ransoms are usually $25 million to $35 million for a company of their weight, so it seems like all parties involved just kind of wanted to move on from this particular mess.
Next week Roku will unveil the initial wave of Roku Originals to be made available on their platform that has long served as the technological intermediary between streaming services and fans. They may look a bit familiar because when you rip the mask off, guess what, it’s just Quibi! The 30 shows in the initial wave are just shows picked up at fire sale prices from the doomed shortform streamer Quibi, over 75 completed programs for less than $100 million. Congratulations to the real winners, everyone who got a solid beach house or kitchen renovation out of the Quibi experience.
Out Of The Frying Pan And
Some new fresh hell just dropped in the world of moving stuff around by boat: a cracked steel beam on the I-40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge over the Mississippi has cut off the primary route of American agricultural exports, leading to a pile up of 700 barges near Memphis, Tennessee while the Coast Guard inspects the highway bridge. The New Orleans Port Region moved 47 percent of waterborne agricultural exports as of 2017, mostly bulk grains. The hope is that it’s a short-term disruption and that the ships can move once the literally crumbling infrastructure is assessed.
Karma was a police dog that worked in Republic, Washington near the Canadian border as a drug sniffing dog. Karma was terrible at his job, and was actually more of a vehicle-detecting dog. From January 2018 to the time his handler stepped away from the department in 2020 to pursue political office, Karma gave an alert that he detected drugs in 100 percent of his roadside sniffs of vehicles. This was a problem because the government gained access to every one of those vehicles, and the vast majority didn’t have drugs in them, with cops actually finding drugs only 29 percent of the time. This is a critique of the way dogs are used by police, in that they can serve as “probable cause on four legs,” which was incidentally Numlock editor Maureen’s and my duo nickname for much of college.
A program called Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration or SOAR was launched back in October and is spending $2 million to buy more than 5 million oysters from New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Washington state to restore shellfish reefs in 20 locations. It’s a win-win all around; oyster farmers lost as much as 90 percent of their business during the pandemic, as the cuisine is highly dependent on restaurants and raw bars. The surplus was awful for prices and the entire market was imperiled, but SOAR agreed to pay a 20 percent discount on pre-pandemic prices in order to get their hands on oysters that could be put to good use. Oyster reefs have declined 85 percent globally owing to pollution and development, which is bad for many reasons but also leads to a large decline in water quality as the larger oysters can filter 50 gallons a day.
ESPN is slashing its baseball coverage, slimming down its annual count of telecasts from about 90 regular-season games down to just 30, 25 of which will be on Sunday Night Baseball. Over their previous $5.6 billion contract, ESPN was shelling out an annual $700 million average payment over the past eight years. The new deal has ESPN paying set to pay $4 billion over seven years, with an annual payment of $575 million. The MLB has other deals, mainly with Fox and Turner.
Last week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to James Temple of MIT Technology Review who wrote “The Climate Solution Actually Adding Millions of Tons of CO2 Into the Atmosphere” with ProPublica’s Lisa Song. It’s a fascinating piece that drills down what the heck is exactly being measured, and in doing so discovers ways that the system can be improved and finds things it’s failing to capture. James can be found at MIT Technology Review and on Twitter.
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