Numlock News: May 19, 2020 • Melatonin, Meth, Meat

By Walt Hickey


About 25 percent of children and adolescents have problems falling and staying asleep, and in times when families are in tight quarters for extended periods of time, those problems are seeming a bit more acute. Children’s melatonin supplements — chewable gummy bears laced with one milligram or so of the sleep aid — saw sales pop 87 percent in March 2020 compared to the same month of 2019. And while many gasp and say they would never use a pharmaceutical to compel a child to sleep, 10 weeks in it seems like a whole lot of parents revised that parenting belief to something like, “listen, I’ll probably never use ether to knock them out.” The maximum dosage of melatonin for kids under 88 pounds is three milligrams if you’re looking for the scoop on the Mother’s Little Helper of 2020.

Christina Caron, The New York Times


Tough times lead some to desperate measures, as seen in the 3.8 percent increase in the volume of Bud Light sold in both March and April compared to 2019 levels. That bump in popularity comes after months of year-over-year decline in Bud consumption. The crisis has challenged the small craft brewers to their core, while the bigs — Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light — are seeing their downward sales trajectory turn around. Anheuser-Busch InBev’s U.S. sales are up 1.9 percent, and sales of mainstream beers are up 10.7 percent year-over-year. Meanwhile, of 8,000 craft breweries in the U.S., 400 had been expected to fold pre-pandemic, but now as many as three-in-five could go under barring an intervention.

Jennifer Maloney, The Wall Street Journal

Free TV

Ad-supported streaming broadcast TV is having a moment, with Pluto TV seeing its number of monthly active users jump 55 percent in March compared to the prior year to 24 million people. Downloads of their app — which can simulate the over-the-air television available to people with a television antennae — tripled in April to 3 million compared to 900,000 in January. Similar pops were seen for rival Tubi (4 million sign ups over the same period, up 30 percent) and Vudu (673,000, a 55 percent jump). This could revive a model — ad-supported free streaming — that had previously been difficult to sell while rivals were reaping serious subscription revenue.

Christopher Palmeri and Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg


The amount of money Americans owe on their vehicles has been rising rapidly over the past decade. In March, there were nearly 116 million car loans that totaled $1.3 trillion, an average of $11,476 each. And while they’re generally lower in size, there are now more car loan accounts than mortgages. The total outstanding value owed is up 54.7 percent since 2009, up $395 billion, outpacing every other debt category that isn’t student loans. It’s always wild to see how many Americans are throwing money at vehicles when they could be investing in more useful assets, like bankrupt movie ticketing services whose remains have been put up for auction in an attempt to compensate creditors.

Joseph W. Kane, Brookings


A series of stories about reduced meat production owing to supply chain difficulties led to another run on meat in the week ending May 3, with meat department dollar sales up 51.3 percent and volume up 37 percent. Some stores enforced purchase limits as supply slowed — though both have rebounded slightly, pork production is still down 24 percent compared to 2019 and beef is down 32 percent — but total meat department sales were over $1.6 billion in the week.

Anne-Marie Roerink, Winsight Grocery Business

Supply Chain Difficulties

Police in Myanmar have seized a truly breathtaking amount of meth in the largest drug bust in Asia in decades. Thirty-three people were arrested and police seized 200 million methamphetamine tablets, 500 kilograms of crystal meth, and 990 gallons of liquid methylfentanyl. They also seized 163,000 liters and 35.5 metric tons of precursor chemicals. Synthetics have become particularly fashionable in the drug trade as global drug enforcement has made it difficult to grow fields of opium or coca and the laboratory-made stuff is easier to mass produce, if dicier for the end user.

Joshua Berlinger, CNN


From 1840 to 1990, the north magnetic pole moved about 15 kilometers per year, beginning in northern Canada and meandering towards the proper pole. The magnetic pole is a result of Earth’s magnetic field, and two enormous blobs of material in Earth’s mantle — one under Canada, the other Siberia — make it so the magnetic pole is situated between the two. Well, the Canadian blob reconfigured, and starting in the ‘90s the pole began shifting at 60 kilometers per year, sprinting towards Russia and crossing the International Date Line in late 2017. Such movements happen, and the current estimate is it’ll keep moving towards Siberia for another 390 kilometers to 660 kilometers at which point it’s anyone’s guess.

Phil Plait, SyFy Wire

This week in the Sunday edition I concluded my two-part interview about the comic business with John Jackson Miller. He’s the archivist behind Comichron, an outstanding resource for historical comic sales data, as well as the author of a number of books, including the forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery - Die Standing out on June 14. See all his books here.

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