Numlock News: November 14, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Cheap Beer

MillerCoors produces, packages and ships nearly all products made by the Pabst Brewing Company, but a new suit between the companies could mean the end of PBR. Every year, Pabst needs 4 million to 4.5 million barrels of beer from MillerCoors, but the conglomerate now wants $45 per barrel of PBR, which Pabst says is triple their ongoing arrangement. U.S. beer sales amounted to 204.2 million barrels in 2017, and MillerCoors accounted for 24.8 percent of that market share, behind Anheuser-Busch with 41.6 percent. Should PBR fail it could have widespread effects: for one, it is unknown how the hip residents of Richmond, Virginia will get their nutrients and hydration.

The Associated Press

A Pass That Was Once Used To See Movies

Helios & Matheson Analytics is the company that controls MoviePass, as much as any entity on the planet can claim to be capable of controlling MoviePass. This has been really rough for them, as their stock is now worth less than two cents per share. Nasdaq gets a bit fidgety when a company they list gets into penny stock territory, so the company proposed doing (another) reverse stock split and giving one new share for every 500 existing shares. This would’ve allowed MoviePass to remain on the Nasdaq, and also would’ve helped it look like a company that did not accidentally sign up 3 million people to bleed it dry over the course of six months. But because this is the company that invented MoviePass we’re dealing with, they said they did not have the votes to do this maneuver and will risk delisting.

Brent Lang, Variety

Jobs

While many companies said that they would use the savings from this past year’s tax cut to invest in new jobs, the 1,000 largest public companies have actually changed their plans slightly and would instead prefer to buy back stock, pay back investors and buy shiny new stuff. While those companies have announced 73,000 new jobs since the passage of the tax cuts, the top 1,000 have in the same period announced the elimination of nearly 140,000 jobs. Using sophisticated technical and economic analysis known as “subtracting the smaller number from the bigger number,” I have a hunch they were not being particularly up front about their intentions.

Jim Tankersley and Matt Phillips, The New York Times

Additives

Bad news for foodies: the FDA is ordering that six artificial flavors be phased out of the food supply over the next two years. The flavors are being eliminated because of a six-decade old rule prohibiting additives that have caused cancer in animals at high doses, despite being believed safe in the trace amounts they’re used in flavoring. Adventurous eaters craving forbidden flavors should be sure to stockpile foods containing synthetically-derived benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether (methyl eugenol), myrcene, pulegone, and pyridine. A food scientist hammered home the tiny amounts used by arguing that in 2015, a mere 40 pounds of one of the compounds was used in the entire food system. I feel for those pyridine and myrcene fans affected, as I remember when the feds did the same thing with Four Loko and how that affected my life by making me thinner and healthier overnight.

Candice Choi, The Associated Press, FDA

A Comatose Fir You Keep Inside Your House

Tree growers are looking forward to a great holiday season. In the past two years, the price of Christmas trees rose 17 percent, driven particularly by younger consumers. Live trees are rebounding as boomers who just bought an artificial tree are replaced by young people who the natural ones. Natural Christmas trees combine the two great loves of millennials: nostalgia, and buying decorative plants for their apartment that will absolutely be dead within a few weeks no matter how much they try to keep them alive. The average price for a natural tree rose from $64 in 2015 to $73 in 2017, a figure expected to hold steady in 2018.

Jen Skerritt, Bloomberg

G.I. Bill

As of Nov. 8, over 82,000 former service members were still waiting for their housing payments with mere weeks left in the school semester due to ongoing IT issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are believed to be affected by glitches that led to delays in education and housing payments. The error is thanks to a backlog stemming from 2017, when benefits were expanded but the technical infrastructure to deal with that added responsibility was not improved. Usually, at this point the department’s permanent Chief Information Officer would be canned or made to resign in shame, but that job is vacant as President Trump and the Senate have not yet appointed a person to that position.

Phil McCausland, NBC News

Landmines

Landmines are nasty things, surviving intact years after the conclusion of a conflict to render vast areas deadly and unproductive, even generations after peace. During the Persian Gulf War, American warplanes dropped 1,314 cluster bombs that cast an estimated 90,000 anti-vehicle mines and 27,500 antipersonnel mines into Kuwait and Iraq. They cost $39,000 each and it’s not entirely clear they played any role in protecting Americans in combat during the war. On Jan. 30, 1991, roughly 850 mines were scattered into the desert and while the U.S. never agreed to ban them, it was the last acknowledged mining of an area since: the “victim-operated weapon” was then essentially shelved. The State Department acknowledges only one use of landmines since then, a sole munition used in Afghanistan in 2002.

John Ismay, The New York Times

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