Numlock News: October 6, 2021 • Sharks, Time Bomb, South Dakota

By Walt Hickey

Shipping

For the past year, the price of shipping a container from China to the United States has been eye-popping bad, with a pre-pandemic Shanghai to West Coast price of $1,500 exploding to as a level of $15,000 as recently as last week. Good news, though, as a Shanghai shipping freight executive reported Thursday that the spot cost of sending a 40-foot container to the west coast is down to $8,000, obviously still seriously elevated, but a bit of a relief. Contributing to the price drop is China’s seven-day holiday and the suspension of factory production.

Jia Tianqiong and Zhang Yukun, Caixin

SOS

In June 2020, the Coast Guard and the town of New Shoreham spent over $100,000 on a search and rescue operation off the coast of Block Island after seeing maritime distress flares. The Coast Guard deployed two helicopters and a boat in the search. Well, it was just several idiots who were trying to celebrate a friend’s wedding by shooting off three flares, and this week they agreed to pay $5,000 each to settle the federal case.

The Associated Press

South Dakota

Newly revealed documents from the cache of financial revelations called the Pandora papers has shown South Dakota now stands alongside Switzerland, Panama and the Cayman Islands as a beloved tax haven for the global rich. South Dakota’s trust industry rose from $75.5 billion in 2011 to $367 billion in 2020, and the state’s become desirable to the mega-rich owing to its ability to shield money from governments, taxes and spouses. Over 200 U.S. trusts appear in the Panama papers, and 81 of them are in South Dakota.

David Pegg and Dominic Rushe, The Guardian

In Stock

Inventories are down at U.S. retailers, who have been scrambling to get enough in stock for the holidays. Pre-pandemic, merchants had typically around 1.5 months worth of merchandise on hand. During the initial months of the pandemic, that dipped down to around 1.2 or 1.3 months, but right now it’s down to 1.1 months of inventory, which has retailers anxious.

Matthew Townsend, Jordyn Holman and Eliza Ronalds-Hannon, Bloomberg

Cohabitation

A significant shift over the past three decades has been the changes to how Americans live. The percentage of adults aged 24 to 54 who were married in 1990 was 67 percent, a figure that in 2019 is down to 53 percent. In lieu of marriage, the percentage who are cohabiting rose from 4 percent to 9 percent over the same period, and the percentage who are simply unpartnered increased from 29 percent to 38 percent. To cater to this market, Numlock is thrilled to announce a new app that platonically matches singles who need people to kill a scary bug they found in their apartment with other singles who are willing to do that.

Richard Fry and Kim Parker, Pew Research Center

Safer

It’s become increasingly likely that the F.S.O. Safer, a massive oil tanker off the coast of Yemen that since 1987 has served as a stationary storage and off-loading facility for oil piped in from Marib, is going to cause some manner of disaster in the Red Sea. It’s currently full of a million barrels of oil — four times that of the Exxon Valdez — and following a coup in 2014 it has been a dead ship. The state firm that owns the ship, SEPOC, saw annual maintenance funding of $20 million slashed to pretty much zero, and while 50 people worked on Safer before the war, now it’s a skeleton crew of seven just making sure it doesn’t explode from gaseous hydrocarbon buildup. The decay is getting severe, the engine is shot, and it’s being functionally held hostage by the ruling entities of Yemen as a bargaining chip with the U.N., with the combined oil and scrap metal worth $100 million, making this one very valuable bomb.

Ed Caesar, The New Yorker

Baby Shark

At least three groups throughout the Mediterranean are scouring fish markets for sharks and skates that got caught as bycatch to try to collect embryos from female sharks to hatch, raise and release. About a third of the 1,147 known shark and ray species in the world face extinction and populations of oceanic sharks and rays fell 71 percent in the past 50 years, and it’s acute in the Mediterranean, where large shark populations fell 97 percent in the past two centuries. Associació Lamna in Spain estimates it’s released 120 small-spotted catsharks and 150 viable egg cases in the past two years alone, while Sharklab-Malta’s raised and released 316 sharks over their run.

Claudia Geib, Hakai Magazine

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