Numlock News: November 12, 2020 • Punts, Sesame, Textbooks

By Walt Hickey

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Punters, one of the few occupations devoted entirely to giving up, are imperiled by a new offense-heavy NFL. This season there have been 929 punts, which is down 18 percent from the 1,134 punts kicked over the course of nine games last year. This rate puts us on track to an NFL season with 1,788 punts, which would be strikingly low as there hasn’t been a season with 2,000 punts or fewer since 1991. For many punters, this has led to a marked decrease in their output, with many seeing fewer than two dozen punts over the course of the first half of the season. Good money, if you can get it.

Nora Princiotti, The Ringer


Ships are headed for the scrapyard as this weird year pushes owners to reassess their fleets and weigh the usefulness of their vessels against rising prices for scrap metal. Through October, 557 ships were slated for demolition, ahead of the pace that saw 889 demolitions in 2019 given the three-month closure that scrapyards endured with the rest of us. Though we’ll finish below the 1,996 vessels recycled in 2012, this year is seeing significant turnover in a few specific types of vessels like cruise ships and car carriers, but particularly ore carriers, of which 22 have been sent to scrap, just shy of double last year’s annual total. Operators can get about 20 percent of the original purchase price of a 25-year-old ship selling it to a recycling company, and India is offering $370 per ton of steel, up 30 percent from Q2.

Costas Paris, The Wall Street Journal

Textbook Problems

New data from an eagerly awaited report dropping fully in December shows that the college textbook market was completely hammered this year, with average student spending on textbooks and course materials falling 7 percent year over year. The average student spending on course materials for this term was $186, down from $199 in Fall 2019. Part of this shift came from a switch to rented or subscription textbooks, or a move from hardcover texts to e-books. This declining spend has been a trend for the past several years, and good riddance.

Publishers Weekly

Name Image Likeness

There is broad support for college athletes becoming able to earn money from their name, image and likenesses, a new poll found. Last month, the Division I Council proposed an overhaul to NCAA regulations about the ability of amateur student-athletes to make money off of their accomplishments, proposals widely anticipated to sail through a vote in January and see approval by the 2021-22 school year. Fully 70 percent of college sports fans agree that athletes should be able to profit from their name or likeness, a figure more intense than the general public (62 percent). There’s an age skew in the responses, with respondents 18 to 54 supporting it by 69 percent compared to just 52 percent of those 55 and up.

Lev Akabas, Sportico


ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, will make something on the order of $27.2 billion in ad revenue in China alone this year, putting it in line with its $30 billion revenue goal for the year. This means it would pass Baidu to become the second largest digital ad company in China, behind only Alibaba Group. Interestingly, American TikTok contributes an incredibly small fraction of the revenue for ByteDance: about 60 percent of its ad revenue comes from Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, about 20 percent from Jinri Toutiao, a news aggregator, and 3 percent from Xigua, a long-form video platform.

Julie Zhu and Yingzhi Yang, Reuters

Open Up About Sesame

This week the FDA will put out a draft guidance about sesame seeds, asking manufacturers of food products to voluntarily disclose sesame as an ingredient instead of bundling it under “natural flavors” or “spices.” Last year, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that as much as 0.49 percent of the American population, or 1.6 million people, could be allergic to sesame. The long-term view of this is that sesame could be bound for the vaunted list of top allergens, which now stands at eight: milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish — accounting for 90 percent of severe food allergies. The severity of reactions to sesame is of particular interest: 38.8 percent of children and 44.7 percent of adults with sesame allergies have had a severe reaction to the seed.

Megan Poinski, Food Dive


Siemens Energy announced they will not take on any new business to put their turbines into coal-fired power plants. Based on their 2020 figures, this accounted for about 820 million euros worth of business that they’re walking away from. The company makes 30 percent of its sales providing heavy equipment to fossil fuel power stations, but also owns two-thirds of Siemens Gamesa, which makes wind turbines.

Christoph Steitz, Reuters

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