Numlock News: October 6, 2020 • Decoys, Tasmanian Devils, Kanye West

By Walt Hickey

Decoys

Researchers and a conservation non-profit are reporting back after a successful trial run of the InvestEGGator, which are decoy sea turtle eggs that contain a GPS tracker authorities can use to follow the routes of poachers and high-level wildlife traffickers after they rob a nest. The researchers planted 101 “eggs” across four beaches in Costa Rica, one in each clutch they could locate. Of the 101 eggs, 25 were taken by poachers. Six of the fakes were immediately discovered by poachers and left behind, but the team managed to receive tracking data from five of the decoys, one of which moved 137 kilometers inland according to the report published in Current Biology.

Lucy Hicks, Science Magazine

Tasmanian Devil

Australia has introduced 26 Tasmanian Devils on to the mainland in a sanctuary in New South Wales near Barrington Tops National Park. Tasmanian Devils, which have not lived on the island of Australia in 3,000 years, are marsupials that are fierce predators, and the authorities want to see if they can reduce the population of another introduced species — feral cats — that are responsible for killing 1.8 million reptiles a day and 316 million birds and 800 million mammals a year. The cats have pushed the ecosystem to the brink, and the introduction of 26 Devils into an enclosed park is done with the hope of seeing if a new predator can rebalance the ecosystems they inhabit, as was seen when wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone or when bison were brought back to parts of the Midwest. This is also my favorite way to solve all problems, introducing a population of wild animals to control the population of the problem species.

Brian Kahn, Gizmodo

My Brand!

In Utah, ranchers have officially registered 16,000 cattle brands with the state’s Department of Agriculture. The brands are important, helping identify owners, but they can also present problems given that there are thousands of them and nobody can expect to identify any brand off the dome. In past years, Department of Agriculture employees would have to spend time poring through databases to track down possible brand conflicts prior to registration or after a lost animal has been found. This is why Utah began to incorporate AI image recognition technology into their business this year, which even allows uploaded photos to be compared to the state database. The state has been keenly interested in AI tech, and will be rolling out the image recognition tech to other departments as well. This is all great news because nothing bad ever happened combining ranch life, natural splendor, and the world of the West with artificial intelligence and robotics tech— Westworld, ah jeez, I just remembered, this is the plot of Westworld, shut it down people.

Laura Maggi, Route Fifty

Possession

Last year, police across the United States logged 545,600 marijuana arrests, which was down from 663,400 arrests in 2018. Fully 92 percent were for possession of cannabis rather than attempts to manufacture or sell it. Those figures are down enormously — down 37 percent from the peak of marijuana arrests in 2007, when 873,000 were logged — and the risk for a user to be arrested for possession has decreased significantly. That 2007 figure represented about 3 percent of marijuana users that year being hit with some sort of arrest, while the 2019 figure — combined with more users —puts the risk of arrest at about 1 percent.

Jacob Sullum, Reason

Yeezy LLC

Kanye West is attempting to run for the presidency of the United States, and while that may be a good bit of fun for all those involved — his path to the presidency is, to say the absolute least, a difficult one given he’s not actually on the ballot in most states — because he’s going for it, he has to submit a personal financial disclosure to the FEC just like every other Joe running for the job. West’s makes for good reading, valuing three entities he controls — Yeezy LLC, Yeezy Apparel LLC, and Yeezy Footwear LLC — at more than $50 million each, and valuing West’s relationship with Adidas at $25 million to $50 million, and his deal with Nike at $5 million to $25 million. He’s also got $25 million to $100 million in debt (mainly in mortgages) and is a trustee, director or manager of 29 different corporate entities. Regrettably for those attempting to keep up with the Kardashians, the form about his spouse’s assets was left blank.

Dave Levinthal, Business Insider

Trials

I regret to be the bearer of bad news here, but the viruses are working together. Two weeks ago, the company eResearchTechnology was hacked by ransomware that locked employees out of their data and held it hostage until a ransom was met. The issue is that eResearchTechnology is the software used in hundreds of clinical trials — the company claims it was used in three out of four drug trials that led to FDA approval last year — and is used by a number of companies developing vaccines for coronavirus. Patients were not at risk, according to the company, but researchers had to track patients with pen and paper if affected.

Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times

Money

Venezuela has imported about 71 tons of security paper from an Italian printer, paper which could fuel the production of new bills of currency starting at 100,000 bolivars, a new highest denomination that — due to hyperinflation in the country — would be worth $0.23. In the past year, Venezuela saw an estimated 2,400 percent inflation, which has rendered lots of its current notes essentially worth less than the paper they’re printed on. Some 60 percent of all purchases are carried out with U.S. dollars, and authorities have turned a blind eye to the rise in that number. The average family requires 100 times the official minimum wage to meet basic needs.

Patricia Laya and Fabiola Zerpa, Bloomberg

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