Numlock News: May 27, 2021 • Drug Tests, Venues, Hoosiers
By Walt Hickey
The Save Our Stages Act guaranteed $16 billion in federal relief to independent venues across the country who were dealt devastating blows owing to the pandemic, with tens of thousands of venues submitting Shuttered Venue Operators Grant applications. The Small Business Administration has acted decisively, electing to blow this entire thing off, not actually give out any money, and fail fundamentally at providing pandemic relief in a timely manner. So far, the SBA has paid out a whopping $0 to venues as part of the act. They tentatively expect Priority 1 awards to go out next week, but this is the SBA we’re dealing with — it took them until late April to actually accept an application without crashing — so don’t hold your breath.
Amazon will pay $8.45 billion to acquire MGM, the storied studio with an enviable library but limited current financial resources. The past decades have been rough for the once-mighty studio. In the ‘80s it sold off most of its pre-1948 catalog, its studio lot in California is now the Sony lot, and it’s seen multiple owners in the past decade. Still, MGM’s library is desirable for a streamer with the scope of Amazon, and it still has some winners, most of all the suave, enduring, consummately British Ian Fleming-penned classic — you know it by the classic cars, the odious villains, the square-jawed hero, the memorable songs — the one and only Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Little Engine That Could
Yesterday, shareholders held a vote on the board of Exxon, with an insurgent activist shareholder campaign pushing the oil major to shift towards greener energy and reduce emissions winning at least two seats out of the 12 on the board of directors. The move was orchestrated by the firm Engine No. 1, which has a 0.02 percent stake in Exxon and successfully wooed major pension fund players like CalPERS, calSTRS, and the New York State Common Retirement Fund. The two-seat victory for the long shot campaign is huge, but it could go further: the votes are too close to call for a possible third seat.
In 2016, according to federal disclosures Amazon did not have a single executive who was Black, Native American, or multiracial, and employed only one Hispanic or Latino executive. By 2017, they employed 22 Black executives, 51 Hispanic and Latino executives and 22 multiracial executives. Their secret? They actually just made an additional 1,662 people “executives,” changing the definition of the term in their reporting to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to expand the 105 U.S. senior executive leadership roles to a class of 1,767 upper management figures. After 2017, Amazon stopped releasing its EEOC reporting.
A Dutch court has ordered Royal Dutch Shell Plc to cut emissions faster than it had originally planned. Shell had planned to cut emissions by 20 percent within the decade and to net-zero by 2050, but a local environmental group sued and accused the company of violating human rights by not adhering to the Paris Agreement. Shell emitted the equivalent of 1.65 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2019, or about the same amount as Russia. The court in The Hague ruled that Shell must cut emissions by 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2019 levels.
Americans are racking up new high scores on drug tests, with about 2.7 percent of the 7 million drug tests Quest Diagnostics conducted for employers in 2020 coming up positive for marijuana, up from 2.5 percent in 2019 and 2 percent in 2016. The overall positivity rate slipped slightly to 4.4 percent in 2020, down from 4.5 percent in 2019. That decline is largely due to the fall in oxycodone positivity, which has dropped from 0.69 percent in 2016 to 0.24 percent in 2020. The overall rate of failed drug tests dropped from 4.7 percent in 2000 to a nadir of 3.5 percent from 2010 to 2012, before steadily rising over the following decade to current levels.
Indiana, hardly a hotspot of green energy innovation in the past, even going so far as to categorically ban wind farms in 30 of its 92 counties, has seen an explosion of interest in solar energy. Projects totaling 22,000 megawatts of capacity are trying to plug into PJM Interconnection and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the two grids that cover the state. This is a remarkable amount of energy. It’s 50 percent greater than the current Hoosier coal capacity, it’s more proposed solar capacity than California last year, and it’s behind just Texas and Arizona in terms of gigawatts of solar added to queues. It’s actually a rather good match: the state has the acreage, and solar arrays can go up on nutrient-depleted farmland that once used corn to soak up the sun but is no longer productive enough to do so.
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Correction: An earlier version of this wrote million when it should have said billion in relation to the MGM sale.
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