Numlock News: November 17, 2021 • Kidneys, Sharks, John Cena

By Walt Hickey


A year away from the office has made workers downright excited to rat out their companies to the SEC alleging financial malfeasance. The Securities and Exchange Commission received 12,200 whistleblower tips in fiscal year 2021, up from 6,900 tips in 2020 and more than double the 5,300 tips received in 2018. Opportunities to work from home have made it easier for whistleblowers, who no longer run the risks of getting caught taking pictures of their work computer. So far the SEC has paid out $564 million to 108 whistleblowers as part of a program enacted in Dodd-Frank to reward those who report wrongdoing with a portion of the proceeds.

Matt Robinson and Benjamin Bain, Bloomberg

Some Things You Do Just To See How Bad They Make You Feel

It’s well-studied that marine animals like to brush up on sand and rocks, possibly to remove skin contaminants. A new study published in Ecology examines a subset of this kind of behavior — namely, fish that brush up on sharks. Shark chafing is reportedly widespread and downright common among multiple species of fish. The report found 47 incidents involving 8 different kinds of shark being brushed by 13 different species of fish across 13 different locations from Massachusetts to the Galapagos. The chafing events lasted between 8 seconds and 5 minutes, and some sharks seemed to think it was fine while great whites really seem to hate it. No shark was found trying to eat the offending fish, however, despite the ironclad evidence I can’t help but think this sounds like some overhyped teen trend invented by a local television news affiliate for fish, like is your teenager going to shark chafing parties? More on the dangerous FishTok challenge at 11.

Rachel Nuwer, Scientific American


New data from Pew Research Center describes how different kinds of users — low-volume users who account for about 28 percent of users, and daily users who account for 58 percent of those surveyed — view Twitter and its impact on its userbase. About 21 percent of respondents visit the platform “too many times to count” each day. Those daily users — which I’ll term Significantly/Intensely Contributing KPIs of Service, or SICKOS for short — tend to be more actively political and are more likely to have experienced harassment; however, they have far more familiarity and comfort with the overall tone of the hellscape that is Twitter discourse. For low-volume users — to use the technical term, Naturally-Occurring Reverted-Mean Individuals Enjoying Service — 42 percent said that the tone or civility of discussions on Twitter is a major problem, compared to just 27 percent of the Sickos who think it’s an issue worth caring about.

Colleen McClain, Regina Widjaya, Gonzalo Rivero and Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center


Film and television producers had argued that the costs of COVID compliance on film sets had increased the production costs by anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent, but new data from the California film and TV tax credit — which requires production budgets to be submitted — brings the number down a bit. For films with budgets higher than $20 million, about 5 to 6.5 percent of their budgets went to COVID compliance. Lower budget television and films averaged 4.25 percent of budget. Altogether, 40 percent of that cost goes to labor and 60 percent to materials, like quarantine stipends, PPE and testing vendors.

Gene Maddaus, Variety

Chicken Out

Earlier this month, the mayor of Fitzgerald, Georgia, was ousted by voters following a colossal municipal effort to construct a 64-foot, 10-inch tall topiary chicken within city limits. That would be enough to clinch the record for tallest topiary, currently held by a Mickey Mouse in Dubai, but is also absurd for a city of 9,000 residents. The structure has cost $300,000 to build so far, derived from a special local sales tax that is designed to promote tourism, and right now constitutes a 16-ton steel shell. The incumbent mayor secured just 5 percent of the vote. The chicken is inspired by yet another scheme, this one in the 1960s, when the state dumped a bunch of South Asian jungle fowl in a nearby forest in an attempt to develop a hunting scene; the chickens preferred Fitzgerald, ditched the forest for the town, and now hundreds roam the city.

Cameron McWhirter, The Wall Street Journal


Celebrities attempting to cash in on cachet have flocked to NFTs, digital entities that can be sold to fans. It’s actually gone rather badly for some of them, though. They’re not exactly money in the bank: when the WWE and John Cena tried to hawk 500 Cena-themed NFTs for $1,000 a pop, they only actually managed to sell 37 of them, rendering their effort practically invisible. Musician Grimes sold 303 NFTs at $7,500 a pop in February for a grand total of $5.8 million, but recently one unit resold for $1,200, an 84 percent loss for the buyer. Perhaps the only financial advice one should take from celebrities is “conservatorships are extremely bad.”

Olga Kharif and Kim Bhasin, Bloomberg

Kidney Now

About 7,000 people in New York need a kidney, but at the current rate of kidney donation, only 1,500 will get one, and of the other 5,500 about 400 will die. The state legislature is weighing a number of options to get donation numbers up. One of them is health care: the median cost of surgery for kidney donors is $1,254 without reimbursement, and one bill in the state senate would reimburse donors for all costs associated with donation, including childcare and lost wages and medication. It’d cost the state $3 million a year, but would also save the state $2 million a year by eliminating the need for Medicaid to pay for dialysis in recipients. Another bill from 2019 would give free lifetime health insurance to donors, and bribes work: when Israel started giving $10,000 and a week’s paid vacation to donors, donation increased 64 percent the following year and death from kidney disease declined 17 percent.

Abie Rohrig, City & State New York

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