Numlock News: October 2, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Instagram Backgrounds

A $15,000-per-month 2,400 square foot apartment in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood has become the setting-of-choice for discerning Instagram influencers attempting to hawk their crap in an apartment slightly better lit than their Bed-Stuy studio with the Billy book case, Christmas lights and four cats. Operated by a marketing company and honestly impressively lit, this is how your Spon-con sausage gets made. You know how if you squint at street signs and buildings during movies set in New York you notice pretty quick it’s all in Toronto? The same thing, but with lots of pleasant blond women on Instagram all in a single condo in SoHo.

Sapna Maheshwari, The New York Times

Polygraphs

The United States carries out an estimated 2.5 million polygraph tests every year, a $2 billion industry. With tests potentially costing north of $700 — particularly for applicants to become police officers, troopers, firefighters and paramedics — one would expect that there’s bona fide science under-girding the findings from a machine nearly unchanged since the 1950s. But the reality is that polygraph findings are more on the “suggestive” and “linked to” end of the certainty spectrum rather than the “definitive lie detection” end of it.

Mark Harris, Wired

License Plates

Those trailer-mounted speed displays — you know, the ones that you think will tell you “congratulations on your high score” but instead just flash and say “SLOW DOWN” — may actually be DEA snitches, new federal contracting data reveals. The agency is expanding its surveillance network by adding licence plate readers to speed displays, because as we all know people who have drugs in the trunk are thrilled to exceed speed limits. While the DEA doesn’t say how much data it collects is connected to actual crimes, similar dragnets have had low hit rates: the ACLU of Maryland reported that only 47 of every million plates Maryland police scanned in the state were linked to a serious crime, and Atlanta’s 128.5 million license plates scanned found only 0.6 percent suspected of being linked to a crime.

Justin Rohrlich, Quartz

Baseball

Regular season baseball has ended, thank god. Once fun to watch, this year the sport averaged 8.48 strikeouts per game to every 8.44 hits per game, meaning that the exciting part of baseball has now become less common than the part that is boring. Also in the 2018 season, 1,921 players were hit by a pitch, an all-time high in the history of baseball. Like there was an entire era of baseball where pitchers were popping uppers like Tic Tacs, and even they manage to bean fewer batters than this year’s crop.

High Heat Stats

IRS Agents

Since 2011, the IRS has seen its enforcement staff fall by a third, down to 33,200 people working to investigate tax cheats. The IRS estimates that business owners don’t pay $125 billion in taxes that they owe every year, however the reduced staffing has led to the audit rate falling 42 percent since the start of the budget cuts. This means that last year, prosecution of tax fraud was down to 795 cases where that was the primary offense, which is down a quarter from the level of prosecutions in 2010.

Jesse Eisinger and Paul Kiel, ProPublica

The Hermit Crabs Living Inside The Abandoned Shells of Sears

This year a quarter of mall space in the United States is occupied by non-retail and non-restaurant companies, up from 19 percent in 2012. When the department stores fold, what takes their place? Lately, it’s experiences and new community services like gyms, theaters, super markets and big box stores.

Hayley Peterson, Business Insider

Identities

Days after a hearing in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleged sexual misconduct of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds stark divides in who identifies with which party. Overall, 20 percent of Americans identify with Ford and 19 percent identify with Kavanaugh. But digging a little deeper, the real crux is that 59 percent of male Trump voters identify with Kavanaugh while 56 percent of female Clinton voters identify with Ford.

Ariel Edwards-Levy, HuffPost

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