Numlock News: November 30, 2020 • Wolves, Minks, Croods
By Walt Hickey
The median rent for a studio apartment in Manhattan fell 17 percent year over year in October to $2,245, the lowest it’s been since July 2011. Indeed, that’s even an understatement, as factoring in new incentives like free months and comped brokers’ fees, the median is actually closer to $2,069. As recently as March of this year, rents hit a high of $2,800 per month for a Manhattan studio. The decrease is prompting some longtime New York City roommates to seize this moment to break up now that they independently qualify for the 40-times the monthly rent income requirement regularly cited as the general ballpark of eligibility.
The U.S. District Court of Northern California ruled in favor of five litigants who sued the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles after being prevented from incorporating coarse language into vanity license plates, which the court held is obviously a violation of their First Amendment rights. The plaintiffs, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, included a gay businessman who wanted the license plate ‘QUEER,’ a metal fan who desired the plate ‘SLAAYRR,’ one who wanted the plate ‘BO11LUX,’ and two slightly more esoteric plate puns — ‘DUK N A’ and ‘OGWOOLF’ — whose negative connotations escape me. The last one was banned because “OG” could imply gang associations, but was from a guy named Ogilvie who just enjoyed wolves. Anyway, the court agreed this is all incredibly stupid, and while the DMV can still probably deny obscene and profane speech, these objections related to “good taste and decency” are a First Amendment no-go.
There’s Going To Be A Party When The Wolf Comes Home
By 2030, a rural area of the European Union that’s about the size of Italy will likely be unattended and unrestrained, allowing it to be reclaimed by wildlife as the people who used to farm it will have moved to cities. The return of some of these spaces has meant the return of some creatures pushed to the brink in Europe, specifically large carnivores. There are 9,000 lynx believed to live on the continent, about 17,000 brown bears, and about 12,000 wolves. That’s more wolves than in the contiguous United States, and they’ve been documented in every mainland country on the continent. Germany now has over 100 wolf packs, and the return of an apex predator has been good for the local ecosystem, so much so that Scotland — notoriously not on the continent — has been eyeing those wolves with a bit of envy, particularly given the population of red deer increased from 155,000 in 1959 to 400,000 today. In the absence of wolves, the apex predator has been landowners forced to cull the deer by the thousands.
The Croods: A New Age made $14.2 million over the course of the five-day Thanksgiving weekend box office, a surprisingly high figure. It’s the largest studio picture released since Tenet, and actually beat the opening weekend of that Christopher Nolan thriller comparing their three-day returns, despite only appearing in 2,211 theaters. Thanks to a deal Universal cut with the theaters, the movie will be available on VOD in three weeks, well short of the traditional theatrical window. About 41 percent of ticket buyers for the film were under the age of 17, according to PostTrak, showing there’s an appetite for family films in an ongoing pandemic. That, or maybe the kids are really into Nicolas Cage movies. Could really go either way with this one, we should probably put some more Nic Cage movies in cinemas to test this out.
Niobium is an element with significant technical applications like turbines, magnets, pipelines and lithium-ion batteries, and infrastructure like steel and skyscraper components. When added to steel, it makes it more resistant to cracking, and the rare earth element has applications in all sorts of hi-tech. This is important because 98 percent of the active niobium reserves on Earth are in Brazil, and 75 percent comes from a private Brazilian company named Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração, or CBMM. The company has production ties to China, which has become increasingly invested in Brazil’s niobium business: a Chinese consortium bought 15 percent of CBMM in 2011, and in 2016, China Molybdenum Co. Ltd bought two Brazilian mines responsible for 10 percent of global niobium production.
Friday, Just Friday
According to retail tracker Sensormatic Solutions, visits to stores in the United States dropped 52 percent year over year on Black Friday, as part of a calibrated strategy by retailers to cut down on crowds by spreading out sales, cutting hours, limiting doorbusters and pushing shoppers online. That appears to have worked out — Adobe Analytics estimated that Americans spent $9 billion on retail sites on Friday, up 22 percent over the 2019 figure of $7.4 billion. Friday will probably still be the biggest retail shopping day of the year when all is said and done, but it was definitely weirder. The biggest drop? On Thanksgiving, traffic to stores was down 95 percent, so glad we got that out of our system. That was a pretty bleak trend for a few years there.
Remember the 15 million to 17 million minks that Denmark killed? Yeah, well, they’re back. The government announced Friday they are weighing a plan to exhume the millions of culled minks (a mutated version of the coronavirus was spreading among the mammals, which were raised for their fur), and cremate their carcasses after their quick disposal led to worries of enormous quantities of nitrogen and phosphorous being released into the soil around the enormous tombs in which they were interred. Most of the Danish parliament supports the idea, which makes sense because earlier this week everyone got real freaked out after the decomposition process made a whole scene in Holstebro. The good news is that the Danish government thinks the potential threat to vaccine efficacy is most likely handled.
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