Numlock News: October 30, 2020 • Ancient Dogs, Detroit, GMO

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!


Tupperware Brands Corp. saw a 35 percent increase in their stock price Wednesday after reporting they made $34.4 million in profit in a single quarter, which is quadruple the business they had been doing. All told, they had $477.2 million in revenue, up 14 percent over last year and 30 percent higher than forecasted. Shares of Tupperware were going for $1 in March, but on Wednesday it closed at $28.80. While lots of companies have seen their stock pop in the dark times — Netflix, Amazon, Peloton — Tupperware is comparatively ancient, first sold in 1948. The boost in sales is due to the surge in home cooking and ordering in and the commensurate decline in eating out.

Matt Ott, Associated Press


A new study published in Science gives us an even better understanding of the ancestry of ancient dogs. Prior to publication, just six ancient dogs and wolves had had their genomes published, but the new research sequenced and published 27 genomes of ancient dogs. The findings present a shift in thinking: the new study would suggest that domestication began 20,000 years ago, dogs evolved from an extinct type of wolf, ancient dogs were more genetically diverse than modern dogs, and that they are good boys, deserve scratchies, that they are — wait, what the heck, who is Professor Woof Barkington, and what are these late additions to the paper doing in here?

James Gormon, The New York Times


In 2019 there were only 1,691 mortgages for single-family primary residences in the entire city of Detroit, a dismal figure that is still somehow the highest number of mortgages in the city since 2007, when 4,160 were lent. In 2005, 8,973 mortgages were lent, juiced by the then-brewing subprime mortgage lending crisis, but the level has remained so low in part because lenders are unwilling to make mortgages on cheap properties because there isn’t that much profit in it. Lenders avoid small mortgages less than $70,000, but the problem is that in the city of 670,000 there are lots of vacant homes worth less than that and would-be buyers simply need financial buying to obtain them, but the lenders want no part of it. For perspective, that 1,691 mortgages is a sixth as many as Oklahoma City or Vegas, which are both smaller than Detroit.

Ben Eisen, The Wall Street Journal

Asteroid Stuff

The Osiris-Rex probe went to the asteroid Bennu with a simple goal: obtain and send back 2 ounces of asteroid. On October 20, the probe took a dip down to the asteroid to grab some regolith, and the results are in: Osiris-Rex grabbed 4.5 pounds of rubble, which is a full load. The capsule will return to Earth in 2023 with a planned landing in Utah, and won’t leave the orbit of Bennu until March at earliest. The other finding: Bennu is weird as hell. The robot arm pressed down 9 to 19 inches during initial contact with the asteroid, indicating that underneath the surface of the asteroid the interior is “sandy or flaky.”

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


Next week — not sure if you’ve heard, it’s kind of flown a little under the radar here and may be a tad niche of a story — there’s an election. I know, it just popped up in my calendar, wild to see it, when there were no Olympics this year it totally threw it off my radar, that’s on me. Anyway, the financial tailwinds of the election are throwing a lot of things off for retailers — many of whom are hurting very badly and banking on a solid holiday to stay in the game — at pretty much precisely the wrong time. In the past two presidential election cycles, consumer spending dropped 6 percent year over year during the week of Election Day, not bouncing back until a week later. It’s also throwing off the ad market: right now a lot of businesses want to sell you stuff for Christmas because they’re worried if they sell it to you in three weeks the logistical quagmire anticipated in December may mean it just doesn’t get to you. The problem is that on Facebook the cost of 1,000 ad impressions was up 23 percent between July and September, with similar gridlock observed on YouTube, causing problems with breaking through the noise.

Hilary George-Parkin, Vox


Corn and cotton plants were among the earliest to see genetic modifications to protect them from the assaults of insects in the late 1990s. The crops — called Bt crops — were made to be poisonous to insects like the corn rootworm and cotton bollworm. This meant that farmers could cut back on pesticide use, which was good, but the issue now is that the bollworms and rootworms are becoming resistant to the crops, and so the Bt crops are losing their efficacy. If current farming practices don’t stop, Bt genes currently sold will stop reliably working within one decade. One proposed change would work to preserve a specific Bt gene, called Vip3A, from losing efficacy by cutting back on using it. Independent advisors to the Environmental Protection Agency unanimously advised the agency to prohibit the use of Vip3A in corn in the American South two years ago with the goal of preserving its efficacy in cotton, which they triaged to be more valuable.

Dan Charles, NPR

Legal in New Jersey

Marijuana is up for a statewide referendum in New Jersey, and if it passes and pot becomes legal in the Garden State it could be a significant boost to state coffers that were severely cleaned out by COVID-19 budget constraints. Jersey plans to issue $4.5 billion in debt in the current budget year to cover for those issues, but marijuana could come to save the day here: it’s expected to generate $1.9 billion in sales according to the Office of Legislative Services, which would lead to $126 million in sales tax revenue.

Michelle Kaske, Bloomberg

Last Sunday, I spoke to Halden Lin and Aatish Bhatia who wrote stories for Parametric Press’s issue 02 that were featured in Numlock. Halden wrote The Hidden Cost of Digital Consumption and Aatish wrote Your Personal Carbon History.

I’m a huge fan of the project and loved their stories, you should check them out! Halden can be found on Twitter and at his website, Aatish can be found at his site, on Twitter and he has a cool newsletter about climate called Rate of Change, and Parametric Press can be found at their website.

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