Numlock News: October 22, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Good morning!

Edible Cotton

The USDA has approved the commercialization of a genetically altered variety of cotton that makes its normally toxic seeds edible. This would allow cotton farmers to sell cotton for both food and the current use as fiber. The project — in the works for 23 years — to make cottonseeds edible could be huge: if all the cotton in the world were replaced with this edible variety, the daily protein requirement of 600 million people could be satisfied by cottonseed. It apparently tastes kind of like hummus.

Lydia Mulvany, Bloomberg

Transgender Americans

There are an estimated 1.4 million Americans who opt to recognized themselves as a gender other than the one they were born into. Right now, the legal concept of gender in federal programs recognizes it as an individual choice and — given the inordinate difficulty and invasive nature of rolling out a state-sponsored biological investigation task force — not strictly linked to the gender an individual was assigned at birth. Now, the Department of Health and Human Services is working to define the legal concept of gender as explicitly determined by genitalia at birth and immutably either male or female, with disputes resolved through the use of genetic testing.

Erica L. Green, Katie Benner and Robert Pear, The New York Times


Halloween made $33.3 million on Friday, forcing forecasters to up their domestic box office estimate from $60 million to $80 million, where it finished at about $77.5 million. Box office is up 10.6 percent this year compared to the same point last year. Horror movies have been crushing it at the box office — It opened to $123 million last year, A Quiet Place made $334 million globally on a $17 million budget, Get Out made $255 million off a $4.5 million budget, the list goes on. The multiplier in horror tends to be huge, because corn syrup, red food coloring, hockey masks and unknown actors come pretty cheap compared to, say, CGI mustache removal.

Frank Pallotta, CNN Business


China’s government has built a $58 million Baijiu University to teach students how to make the nation’s iconic grain spirit. China would like to see baijiu up there with whiskey, tequila, gin and other native liquors that have international appeal. Wuliangye, the Chinese liquor conglomerate that makes baijiu, made $4.4 billion in sales and is working on expanding its footprint beyond China, where a re-branding of baijiu as a drink for the people rather than an elite has led to double-digit sales growth annually since 2012. As a person who spent an enormous amount of time in college doing what I would generously call “a self-directed independent alcohol research project,” Baijiu University sounds like a party.

Danielle Paquette, The Washington Post

Tractors and Tractor Accessories

While brick-and-mortar retailers are often struggling, not so for Tractor Supply Co., which has 1,900 stores across rural America. They sell everything from llama kibble to live chicks ($1.99 each, $2.99 if the sex is known) and have seen sales grow 56 percent in the past five years to $7.3 billion. The retailer collects $257 in sales per square foot, a massive figure next to the $195 per square foot that Macy’s gets.

Kyle Stock, Bloomberg

Japanese Taxes

The population of Tokyo rises by about 100,000 people per year while the rest of Japan’s population is in decline. Essentially, municipalities were investing a bunch of money to educate their kids, only for them to grow up, move to the big city and pay taxes there. To help, the government introduced the Hometown Tax System, which allows people to donate up to 40 percent of next year’s income-based residence taxes in advance to any city or prefecture of their choice in exchange for a credit the following year. Individual residence tax is roughly $30 billion a year for Tokyo, so we’re talking about a fair bit of money! And smaller municipalities realized that any city could be selected as a “hometown,” and have been sending gifts and valuable incentives to urbanites should they select them. In 2008, 33,000 people participated in the program, but by 2016 that rose to 2.2 million donating $2.5 billion, many driven by the bidding war for their tax dollars fueled by commercial brokers.

Patrick McKenzie, Kalzumeus


Europe, long the global leader in commercial aerospace launches, has taken a backseat to the United States, a recent underdog in the sector that has come back with a vengeance. From 2000 to 2009, Europe launched more commercial rockets than the U.S. in 7 of those 10 years. In 2011, when the space shuttle was retired, U.S. spaceports didn’t launch a single commercial rocket, while Europe blasted out 4. Since 2013, the U.S. has beaten the European commercial rocket launch numbers every year, with 46 American launches to 29 European ones.

Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics

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Previous Sunday special editions: Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

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