By Walt Hickey
Just A Flesh Wound
Avengers: Endgame was finally unseated from its perch at the top of the domestic box office, with the aggressively punctuated John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum making $57 million in North America, a beat of expectations. The film tells the heartwarming story of a beloved former employee going back to his job and meeting all sorts of new people who respect and appreciate his work, and the zany circumstances our friend Johnny finds himself in while trying to settle a conflict! It’s fun for the whole family, as long as your entire family is of age for hard-R rated films. Meanwhile, Detective Pikachu held its place atop the international box office for the second consecutive week, earning another $53.8 million and bringing its global total to a respectable $287.4 million.
Last night, one of the biggest cash cows for HBO came to its conclusion. If you’ve been watching Game of Thrones, I’m sure you’ve also seen the pre-roll ads for all the rest of HBO’s forthcoming television, and the reason is that HBO is fairly concerned about the future of the pay-TV network in the aftermath of losing its most prominent signature anchor program. The network boosted its original programming slate by 50 percent this year in a push to get ahead of subscriber bleeding, boosting scripted programming production from 100 hours in 2018 to 150 hours for 2019. Of the 50 million U.S. subscribers, 7 million subscribe directly through HBO Now, and the network needs to convert Game of Thrones fans into HBO fans fast.
As of today, the definition of a kilogram has formally changed. Previously, the kilogram was a physical object known as the International Prototype Kilogram, a chunk of platinum-iridium alloy located at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures since 1889. All other kilograms have been derived from that specific entity. But as the necessity of increasingly precise units of mass became important, we ran into the problem of having a physical manifestation representing a common unit. Namely, its mass was slightly changing. It’s lost about 50 micrograms since its creation, which is not great. That’s why the kilogram is now defined in relation to a physical constant of the universe, much as how the length of a meter has been anchored to the immutable speed of light since 1983, when it was decided that a meter is the distance traveled by light in 1/299,792,458 of a second. After years of research determining with precision the value of Planck’s constant, today the transition takes full effect.
Right to Repair
From consumer electronics to industrial machinery, there’s lots of corporate opposition to a “right to repair.” The reason is simple: when product manufacturers make it hard or impossible for a buyer to repair their own equipment, that buyer has to pay the original manufacturer a lot of money to fix the product, as anyone who’s replaced the dead battery on a 2013 MacBook Air can attest. Market researcher IBISWorld estimated repair spending in the U.S. last year to be $39.1 billion for heavy machinery and $22.4 billion for cellphones, an important reminder that it’s not just Apple opposing end-user repair, it’s also John Deere and Caterpillar opposing farmers repairing their own tractors. The finances are cut-and-dry for the equipment manufacturers: Deere made $37.36 billion in revenue in 2018, and $5.8 billion was from parts sales, and growing.
Aldi is a German supermarket with 1,800 stores in 35 states, and it has a legion of fans who like the grocery store thanks to its zero-frills shopping experience and resulting low prices. It’ll become the third-largest grocer in the U.S. behind Kroger and Walmart soon enough with a projected 2,500 stores by the end of 2022. A basket of common goods at a Houston, Texas Walmart in July 2017 cost $77.61, but when the Aldi moved in across the street that basket cost only $58.91 at the new store. By March 2019, Aldi’s prices stayed about the same at $55.83, while Walmart was forced to drop prices to $68.16 just to keep up. Aldi requires customers to put down a deposit ensuring the safe return of carts and maintains a stripped-down selection, 1,400 items compared to the 40,000 at a traditional supermarket and 100,000 at a Walmart Supercenter.
The cost of preserving sperm or eggs is substantial, with the cost of preserving sperm costing $1,000 for collection and up to $500 per year for storage and the cost of preserving eggs costing up to $25,000 for collection and up to $1,000 per year for storage. Those costs are before even the people acting on those cold-storage solutions. Medical necessity is often the case with young people who suffer from cancers, with a 2010 study finding 25 percent of young adults with cancer taking steps to pursue fertility preservation ahead of treatments that can damage or remove the responsible organs. Insurers now can also expect an influx of claims from transgender patients who also may face infertility after undergoing treatments. It’s still quite early — as it stands, less than 5 percent of transgender youth pursue fertility preservation — but it’s a growing area of coverage.
A six-week election has finally come to a close, and with it exit polls showing a strong victory for incumbent Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been publicly released. His Bharatiya Janata Party is projected to secure something between 280 and 315 seats, which is well-above the 272 seats needed to secure a majority. A fifth exit poll put BJP’s seat count at 267 seats. There are 900 million eligible voters who, over the course of 39 days, attend 1 million polling stations. The results will be announced Thursday.
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