By Walt Hickey
U.S. Tax Court ruled that the concept of “Michael Jackson” is worth exactly $4.15 million, the result of a years-long dispute between the Internal Revenue Service and the artist’s estate. The IRS argued that Jackson’s likeness and image was worth $434 million, owing to his status as an enormously popular pop musician with global appeal and identification, whose estate can obviously make a fortune from him. The estate, which would prefer to not pay taxes on a multi-million dollar asset, countered that they believed Jackson’s image and likeness rights were worth only $2,000 at the time of his demise. The judge clearly went toward the lower anchor in this negotiation, making this a pretty significant tax win for the estate.
Container freight rates are up 10 percent since late March, when a ship got itself wedged in the Suez Canal. Spot freight rates from Shanghai to the U.S. West Coast hit $4,432 per 40-foot container, and those heading to the U.S. East Coast were at $5,452 — each the highest since the beginning of the survey in 2009 — while those headed to Europe hit $4,187 per 20-foot container, with a 100-ship backlog outside of the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
A Belgian farmer accidentally invaded France, moving a stone marker 2.29 meters out of the way of his tractor. The stone was in fact one delineating the borders of France and Belgium, a 390 mile stretch of territory that dates back to the Treaty of Kortrijk, and the stone was installed in 1819 to define the borders of the states. The Belgian authorities plan to ask the farmer to move the rock back to where it belongs before running it up the flagpole and initiating an international dispute.
This year’s crop of Best Picture nominees suffered from a distinct lack of name recognition, in large part owing to the muted movie season that was 2020. The average film nominated for the top prize at the Oscars this year was familiar to 19 percent of respondents according to a poll taken before the Academy Awards, a figure that rose to 23 percent following the broadcast. The most well-known going into the show were Judas and the Black Messiah (27 percent), The Trial of the Chicago 7 (26 percent) and eventual winner Nomadland (24 percent), which rose to 33 percent notoriety in the days after.
Saturn’s moon Titan is the only other world in the solar system where liquid exists in the form of lakes and seas. Titan’s largest sea — 500,000 square kilometers Kraken Mare — was an attractive target of study when the Cassini probe did a flyby in 2014. The data collected allowed researchers to actually develop an estimate for depth in some parts — 85 meters deep at one point in an estuary, but with no bottom detected in other parts, indicating possibly at least 100 meters of depth — but also enabled researchers to carry out a new study, recently published, about the composition of Kraken Mare. The estimates put it at 70 percent liquid methane, 16 percent liquid nitrogen and 14 percent liquid ethane, with a temperature of -182 degrees Celsius. So, you know, not exactly the Caribbean, but pretty neat!
From 2013 to 2017, a disease killed 5.75 billion sunflower sea stars from Mexico to Alaska, some 91 percent of the global population. This was catastrophic, but the effects of the sea stars absence are still being felt throughout the entire ecosystem today. The sea stars feasted on urchins, and with the species now functionally extinct, the urchins are running wild, devouring the kelp forests, with kelp cover down 95 percent since 2014 and causing problems all the way through the top of the food chain. The University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories is trying to bring the sea star back from the dead, establishing a breeding program to try to get them back on their many, many feet.
Jewelry retailer Pandora announced it will phase out mined diamonds and will transition to laboratory-developed diamonds. In 2020, demand for lab-grown diamonds rose to between 6 to 7 million carats, while the production of mined diamonds fell from a peak of 152 million carats in 2017 to 111 million carats in 2020. De Beers, which produces a fifth of the world’s diamonds, saw production of mined diamonds fall 18 percent. Last year, mined diamonds were in roughly 50,000 of the 85 million items Pandora sold.
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