Numlock News: October 15, 2021 • Banksy, Halloween, Nurses

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!


Britain’s seen a wave of financial crime, with £754 million stolen in the first half of the year according to the banking body, which is up 30 percent from 2020 and up 60 percent from 2017. That means their financial crime rate is approximately triple that of the United States, and a number of factors are contributing to the surge in fraud. The U.K. rolled out the Faster Payments network, which settles bank transfers instantly rather than the hours or days of the U.S., which is an accelerant for crime. And, in a deep irony, the global use of English as a lingua franca means that the country that shall-we-say popularized the language is now a hot test site for financial scams from the world over.

Lawrence White and Iain Withers, Reuters


The Banksy art piece “Love is in the Bin,” a painting of a girl with a heart balloon, was partially shredded the moment after auction by a device embedded in the frame. The work sold in 2017 for $1.4 million in the moments pre-shred, but now the completed work has gone for a great deal more. The painting was auctioned again yesterday at Sotheby’s, and fetched $25.4 million after nine people bid for ten minutes. The winner was an anonymous collector, and the sale is a Banksy record. That beats an estimate of $5 million to $8 million.

Sharon Pruitt-Young, NPR


In the first half of 2021, companies launched 383 new food and beverage projects which tout claims that they boost the immune health of the consumer, which is up from 326 new “immune-boosting” products in the same period of last year. Last year’s grand total was 31 percent higher than the 2019 levels, bearing out the idea that marketers see that the way to a consumer’s heart is through their immune system. Also, let me know if this fact makes you less likely to fall for immune-boosting claims; I would love to tout that Numlock boosts your immunity to immune-boosting boosters, that’s where the real money is.

Anne Marie Chaker, The Wall Street Journal

House Always Wins

An investigation found that Amazon’s own in-house products appear to have a considerable algorithmic leg up when it comes to being featured first on search results. A machine learning model looked to predict which product Amazon featured first in its search results. The number of reviews worked 52 percent of the time, and the star rating worked 55 percent of the time, each in the ballpark of a coin flip. But factoring in whether it was an Amazon brand or an exclusive really did the trick, successfully predicting which was featured 71 percent of the time.

Adrianne Jeffries and Leon Yin, The Markup


Despite a brutal year and a half and widespread burnout among nurses, applications for nursing schools are soaring as young people who saw the COVID-19 crisis firsthand sign up to work in healthcare. Nationwide, enrollment in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral nursing programs is up 5.6 percent in 2020 compared to the year before, with 250,000 students enrolled. While results for the 2021-22 school year won’t be revealed until January, interest has still spiked according to administrators. The timing is good: nursing faculty is projected to decline 25 percent by 2025 as nurses retire or leave.

Pat Eaton-Robb, The Associated Press

Killing Ticket Sales

The newest installment of the Halloween franchise, Halloween Kills, is projected to make $35 million to $40 million at the box office in its first three days of release. While horror has been one of the only reliable and lucrative genres lately, Halloween Kills is being simultaneously dumped on to streaming service Peacock, which might undermine the box office. That return, though less than the $77 million made by Halloween in 2018, wouldn’t be the end of the world given the film was made on a budget of $20 million and likely scares up a profit around $40 million. It’s up against the new Bond movie and also The Last Duel, a film by Martian duo Matt Damon and Ridley Scott that also stars Jennifer Lopez’ boyfriend.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety


An analysis of New York City’s property tax assessor valuations reveals a lack of rhyme or reason that regularly undervalues property owned by rich people, saving them a fortune on taxes, and overvalues smaller properties. In Brooklyn, the owners of rental apartments pay a rate about eight times the level of condos, which shifts an estimated $237 million in tax burden from condo owners to renters every year. Sometimes the valuations are ridiculous: in 163 cases, assessors set values for an entire condo building that was lower than the price of a single unit in the building.

Jason Grotto, Caleb Melby, Mira Rojanasakul and Paul Murray, Bloomberg

This week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to Dina Fine Maron who wrote “Criminals are stealing giant clams—and carving them like ivory. Here's why.” for National Geographic. Wildlife Watch, Dina’s team at National Geographic, covers wildlife crime and I really love the work they do. We spoke about this latest story as well as a story she wrote back over the summer, all about dolphin therapy and how they’re oftentimes oversold to desperate families. Dina Fine Maron can be found at Wildlife Watch at National Geographic and on Twitter.

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