Numlock News: November 29, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Baby Registry Fakes

Soon-to-be parents are furious over a new ad placement that Amazon has inserted into their baby registries without their permission. For $500,000 advertisers can buy one of three gauche and automatic insertions into all of Amazon’s baby registries for one quarter, as long as they’re also spending $500,000 to $3 million on other Amazon ads. The only marker indicating that the product was added by an advertiser and not those preparing for new life is an inconspicuous grey “sponsored” label. According to the company about 60 percent of the sponsored ads are left in the registries by parents-to-be, as they are likely unaware that a company would be so crass as to jam an ad into the pile of stuff they hope to acquire in order to keep their baby alive.

Rolfe Winkler and Laura Stevens, The Wall Street Journal

A quick plug for a friend: I don't try to cover the big day-to-day U.S. politics in Numlock, but my friend Judd Legum has a wonderful newsletter called Popular Information that does. Check it out at

Santa Won’t You Bring Me The One I Really Need

Since 2012, Billboard has allowed older songs to appear on their Hot 100 chart, a move that has been instrumental for Mariah Carey every December in her continued quest to remind younger artists of what success truly looks like. Carey has netted at least $60 million in royalties from “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” and the song itself is a reliable bellwether of Christmas creep, as the banger has charted earlier and earlier each year. Its first appearance on the Hot 100 was the week ending Dec. 13 in 2012, then each year it has gradually moved earlier and earlier: the week ending Dec. 12 in 2013, Dec. 11 in 2014, Dec. 10 in 2015, jumping back to the week ending Dec. 8 in 2016 and Dec. 7 in 2017. In 2018, the song first appeared at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the week of Nov. 16-22.

Dan Kopf, Quartz

The Land Previously Known As Oklahoma

A case before the Supreme court has enormous implications for the state of Oklahoma, as a murder case has courts realizing that Congress never, in fact, explicitly disestablished the Creek Nation’s reservation in the years leading up to Oklahoma’s statehood in 1907. In 2017, the Tenth Circuit of Appeals wrote in a 133-page analysis stating that since Congress never actually disestablished the reservation, half the state — some 44 counties and municipal jurisdictions of Oklahoma — is, in fact, under tribal jurisdiction. This reality has enormous implications for criminal justice and taxation. Justice Gorsuch has recused himself, so it would require five of eight justices to overturn the state court’s ruling in favor of the tribes.

Matt Ford, The New Republic


A study found that men may be more comfortable at temperatures as much as 5 degrees lower than women are. This is a fact that I’m sure everyone is really happy science got around to addressing, but it’s a discovery that could also be made by talking to literally any woman who works in an office where the thermostat is controlled by men. Like any office at all. With long-term exposure to cold, people’s average metabolic rates rise above average. People indigenous to northern climates have even higher average metabolic rates. That information is nice, but will be negligible when the sweater count on your colleagues averages roughly two and a half.

Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

The Extremely Online Kids Are Alright

Good news for my natural successor, as there is no observed difference in how often extremely online teens hang out in-person with friends compared to their unplugged counterparts. About 24 percent of teens who are online “almost constantly” get together in-person with friends daily or almost daily. Among those who are online less often, they hang IRL 23 percent of the time. That’s the beautiful thing, people: kids aren’t glued to their phone, they’re glued to the people that they get to connect with over that phone.

Jingjing Jiang, Pew Research Center


A survey of advertisers found that while a majority of them pay social media influencers in an attempt to hawk their wares, most of them do not enjoy doing so and think it’s a dumb use of money. The survey from the Association of National Advertisers found 75 percent currently work with influencers and 43 percent plan to hike their spending in 2019, but a mere 36 percent think bribing bronzed internet people is effective at selling their junk and 19 percent think it’s actually an ineffective use of funds. Paid engagement — fake numbers used to juice perceived response rates — have left advertisers burned. Because as we all know, television, print, digital and billboard advertisement effectiveness numbers are perfect, not at all B.S., and handed down from the almighty on stone tablets.

Seb Joseph, Digiday

Happy Christmas

A new survey of American adults found that the overwhelming majority did not care in the slightest whether a store or business said “happy holidays” or “merry Christmas,” presumably because this was a survey of American adults and not crybabies who need to be religiously coddled by some teenager running the checkout. Still, 14 percent of respondents said that a store using the term “happy holidays” made them less likely to shop there, meaning that one-in-seven people really needs to buck up and leave their safe space.

Joanna Piacenza, Morning Consult

Are You Ready For Some Inference?

In 2017, researchers published the findings that 110 of 111 NFL players who had donated their brain tissue to a study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) received that posthumous diagnosis. That figure, while shocking, raised clear questions of selection bias. A new paper published in Neurology untangles that question. Chiefly, even if selection bias was extremely high, at least 10 percent of NFL retirees would show signs of CTE on autopsy. Even if players with CTE were 461 times more likely to donate their brain to the study than those without CTE, a minimum of 20 percent of retirees would show signs of CTE, and if it were closer to 118 times more likely that figure could be closer to 50 percent.

Dr. Kathleen Bachynski, Zachary Binney, Neurology

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