Numlock News: November 19, 2020 • Tegus, Christmas, Honda Civic

By Walt Hickey

Buy The World A Coke

The beverage company Coca-Cola will owe most of a $3.4 billion IRS bill linked to an IRS investigation that found Coke inappropriately kept profits offshore by arbitrarily giving a sweetheart deal to foreign manufacturing affiliates, a court has found. Here’s what went down: Coke’s affiliates in Brazil and Ireland paid Coca-Cola for the rights to use their intangible property — the secret formula and brand names that make Coke what it is — but the IRS found that the American company reallocated profits to keep them in places where they would see considerably less taxation. Had they done the appropriate thing in the analysis of the IRS, their taxable income would have increased $9 billion from 2007 to 2009, leading to a $3.4 billion tax bill that Coca-Cola fought out in court.

Aysha Bagchi, Bloomberg

dinero, l’ argent, geld

Duolingo, a language learning app whose popularity has popped considerably during the stay-at-home periods of 2020, has closed a $35 million funding round that would value the company at $2.4 billion. This year — lots of bored people, plenty of time to yearn to travel, a relentless urge to emerge from this year with a token of personal advancement, however small — has been great to be in the language instruction business, and Duolingo is poised to double annual revenue this year to up to $200 million. The company makes about 80 percent to 85 percent of its revenue from the 4 percent of users who pay for the subscription, with the rest coming from ads. These newfangled apps are completely ruining the way my generation learned other languages, which mostly entailed watching anime with unofficial, fan-generated and error-laden subtitles.

Maureen Farrell, The Wall Street Journal


The tegus is a dog-sized lizard from South America, beloved by fans of exotic pets for its docile nature and striking look. The really bad news is that many of the omnivorous, hardy animals have escaped or been released and are poised to be the hot new exotic reptile invading the fragile ecosystems of the Southeastern United States. From 2000 to 2010, over 79,000 live tegus were imported from South America, and there’s lots of breeders making more of them. They’ve been in South Florida for over a decade forging a scaly clawhold in the wild, and since have been spotted in two counties in Georgia, four in South Carolina, and isolated reports in Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. They eat absolutely anything, can withstand wide temperature variations, reproduce reliably and are now a rising target of government wildlife officials.

Rebecca Renner, National Geographic



Sturdy, reliable, and in its own way iconic, the Honda Civic has long been a stalwart in a declining breed, the four-door sedan. Honda announced Tuesday that it will roll out a redesign to its vehicle in order to appeal to younger buyers, who will regard the car as pretty much the definition of Normcore. Like a critical species in a complicated ecosystem, the noble Honda Civic is worthy of study for any number of reasons: accounting for a quarter of Honda’s sales right as most domestic automakers have all but phased out their sedan models in favor of more aggressive, expensive SUVs, crossovers and pick-ups. The Civic has seen sales hold while the rest of the compact category folded. In 2010, compacts were 14.7 percent of U.S. light vehicle sales, in 2020 they were half that at 7.2 percent. The Civic isn’t just a sedan, it’s a survivor: in 2015, there were 340,000 Civics sold and 1.93 million other compact cars. Last year, there were 330,000 Civics moved off the lot, while its brethren in the compact sector were gone, with just 1.18 million other compacts sold. This year, the bottom fell out and yet the Civic remained: just 630,000 other compacts were sold through October, but still the Civic held with 220,000 in sales.

Ben Foldy, The Wall Street Journal

Deck The Halls

Though many celebrations will be abridged or cut back, the percentage of Americans who plan to decorate their homes for the holidays is steady and unchanged since 2019, when 70 percent said they decorated their homes compared to 69 percent this year. According to the survey from Morning Consult, 41 percent of Americans plan to buy new decorations this year, up from 34 percent who do so typically, and 33 percent plan to buy a new tree this year compared to just 29 percent who do typically. Overall, 54 percent of Americans reuse an artificial tree, while 17 percent said they buy a real tree, and Christmas tree farmers are anticipating a surge in interest for the genuine article this year as people will be spending more time in the home and will have an interest in spending time outside to obtain a tree.

Alyssa Meyers, Morning Consult


The 2020 election is in the books, and people will be poring over the results to determine the prevailing winds of politics in the U.S. for years to come. One immediate point of interest: the suburbs, which have long been more than just a liminal space between the dense urban cities and the sparse open country and have developed an independent character of their own that was on full display this year. Based on an analysis of results in various zip codes, population density has emerged to be the dividing line in American politics. Indeed, it’s a line, and it moves: in 2012, it was somewhere around 800 people per square mile as the inflection point between blue and red America, but a 2020 analysis puts the point at 700 people per square mile, with denser areas leaning Democratic and less dense areas leaning Republican.

Richard Florida, Marie Patino and Rachael Dottle, Bloomberg CityLab


Gout’s back with a vengeance, as the disease once pegged as an affliction of the affluent has gone thoroughly mainstream, impacting people of all social classes. According to a government health survey in 2016, about 9.2 million adults — 5.9 million men and 3.3 million women — were living with gout, or approximately 3.9 percent of the U.S. adult population. Furthermore, another 32.5 million had hyperuricemia, or high levels of the uric acid that causes the painful crystals to form within joints and cause incredibly painful inflammation.

Ligaya Mishan, The New York Times Style Magazine

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