Numlock News: October 12, 2020 • Wolverine, Beer, Canadian Drama

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Prop 22

California is voting on Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that would carve out an exemption for rideshare and delivery workers in the AB-5 law that exempts the companies from paying a minimum wage. It’d remove their eligibility for unemployment insurance, overtime, and sick leave, and most significantly, it’d do so pretty much permanently, as any amendment would require a seven-eighths majority vote in the legislature to pass. This is rapidly becoming the marquee election in the state of California, which remains fond of plebiscites long after even the ancient Greeks were like, “ah jeez, we gotta tap the brakes on that.” The campaign fighting Prop 22 and upholding the unemployment law as it stands has been funded with $10 million, while rideshare and delivery startups have contributed $184 million to pushing the proposition’s passage. The reason for the investment is dollars and cents: Uber and Lyft avoided paying $413 million into the state unemployment insurance fund since 2014 through the worker classification regime pre-AB-5.

Alexander Sammon, The American Prospect

Imports

American broadcast networks have embarked on a spending spree to buy up internationally-produced television programming to fill the pandemic-induced gaps in U.S. television schedules. The U.K. and Canada have long produced homegrown content that would later hit big in the States — case in point, Canada’s Schitt’s Creek cleaning up at the recent Emmy Awards — but this year the networks have been looking north and across the Atlantic at a pace never seen before. The CW picked up Devils from Italy and Killer Camp from the U.K., and NBC scored the biggest hit with Canadian medical drama Transplant, which is averaging Law & Order: SVU-tier numbers with 6 million total viewers.

Will Thorne, Variety

Birds

October is a rough month for migratory birds passing through New York City, with bird strikes of buildings becoming more common as new-in-town fowl, unfamiliar with the landscape, make deadly contact with gleaming towers of glass and steel. This year, New Yorkers stuck at home are working double-time to help the injured birds. In the first weekend of October, the Wild Bird Fund took in a record 220 injured birds, and since April, the center’s taken in more injured animals year-over-year than any previous. The birds are fed, cared for, and if they don’t die of injuries and become additional victims of 2020, they recover and are on their way. Of the 220 brought in last weekend, over a hundred have recovered and many have been released in Brooklyn, where they’re able to fly south over water. Get ‘em south of La Guardia and the Gowanus and give them a clear shot to the sea.

Natasha Daly, National Geographic

Hops

Over the past 15 years, craft brewing’s rising popularity meant that 85 percent of Americans live within ten miles of a brewery, and in the American beer scene one of four ingredients in beer — water, yeast, hops, malted grain — stands above: the hops. The acreage of hops planted in the United States has almost doubled since 2010, and the type of hops has transitioned from alpha hops — once 80 percent of the hop crop, used to make beer more bitter — to aroma hops, now two-thirds of the hop crop, which have intense, evocative scents on top of that bitterness. Craft brewers, though they make just 14 percent of the beer, use 32 percent of the American hop crop, the rest of which is exported or sent to the big brewers. This means the difficulties the craft brewers are facing these days may reverberate back to the hops farmers.

Christopher Solomon, Outside Online

Computers

Earlier this year, there was a supply crunch for computers, but in the third quarter it got much easier to get your hands on a laptop or desktop according to a new analyst report. Overall, in the three-month period computer manufacturers moved 79 million personal computers, up 13 percent year-over-year, with 19.3 million of them from Lenovo, 18.6 million from HP, 11.9 million from Dell and 6.3 million from Apple. During the first quarter of the year shipments of PCs were down 12.3 percent amid the chaos, but for now things are back on track and adjusting to the new demands.

Kim Lyons, The Verge

Sorry, Bub

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service decided last week that wolverines in the lower 48 states do not require special protections given stable populations, though previously there had been concerns about the future of the species given they require snow to form their dens, and warming temperatures could imperil that. Just 300 wolverines live in the contiguous United States — they mostly live in Alaska and Canada despite what those folks in Ann Arbor would have you believe — and they were largely wiped out in the 1920s by trappers who prized their fur and by poison intended for wolves and coyotes to protect livestock. Listing wolverines as threatened or endangered was opposed by farm bureaus, snowmobile associations, and the American Petroleum Institute, so, you know, all the important environmental lobbies given who’s running the shop these days. Though California and Colorado would like to reintroduce the animals, the decision Thursday makes that difficult from a financial and regulatory perspective.

Catrin Einhorn, The New York Times

Electrics

New research from Consumer Reports argues that, despite higher costs up-front, both battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are cheaper to operate than internal combustion engine vehicles per mile. It comes down to lower maintenance and repair costs as well as cheaper fuel cost given the lower price of electricity to gasoline. For the first 50,000 miles, the maintenance and repair costs for a battery electric vehicle come out to $0.012 per mile, for plug-in hybrids it’s $0.021 per mile, and $0.028 for an internal combustion engine. In terms of fuel, a battery electric will save $790 over 15,000 miles compared to an internal combustion engine car, a savings that rises to $1,020 if the internal combustion vehicle is an SUV and $1,310 if it’s a pickup. This really makes a difference, according to Consumer Reports, in the used market, where it’s smarter to buy a five-to-seven-year old electric vehicle than a comparable gas car.

Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica

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