Numlock News: October 7, 2020 • Chile, Chilly, Shill

By Walt Hickey

The Chilean Job

According to a wide-ranging investigation by Chilean customs authorities, at least $12 million in mislabeled raspberries originating in China were illegally sent to Canada through the South American nation from 2014 to 2016. The frozen berries were routed from Heilongjiang Province in China to New Zealand, and then on to Chile where they were trucked to a different Chilean port and labeled as “Organic” and “Product of Chile” when finally exported to Canada. The investigation that busted the illegal berry smuggling ring was prompted by a norovirus outbreak in July 2016, and is deeply troubling to Chile where the export fruits business is worth $7 billion. By mislabeling the berries they were able to enter Canada tariff-free thanks to the 1997 Canada-Chile trade pact, evading a 6 percent levy.

Dave Sherwood, Reuters

Please Clap

As a result of guidelines implemented by the New York State Department of Health, television shows are not allowed to host live ticketed audiences, and ticketed events have been prohibited since March 16. Live shows can have an audience composed of its paid employees, cast and crew, but it can’t be more than 100 people. Which brings us to the studio audience for Saturday Night Live, which technically speaking was not, in fact, a studio audience, but rather a paid group of people who were cast to play a studio audience as part of the television show Saturday Night Live. This Nathan For You-style legal interpretation means that while the live studio audience for last weekend’s Saturday Night Live was there voluntarily, they were in fact, technically speaking, cast onto the show and subsequently paid a sum of $150 from Universal Television when the show was over.

Julia Jacobs and Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times

Digital Advertising

The market for digital advertising was $325 billion in 2019 and is projected to rise to $525 billion by 2024. The proceeds of that industry — ads are 80 percent of Google revenue and 99 percent of Facebook’s — fuel lots of other Silicon Valley ventures and valuations, but a new book calls into question the very fundamental premise of targeted advertising, comparing the extent of automation and fraud in the industry to the mortgage-backed securities market of the 2000s. Ad tech middlemen take up to 50 percent of all online ad spending, with the premise that the money goes towards better targeting promotions for consumers, but research has demonstrated that targeting can be less effective than random guessing. About $21.8 billion worth of ads every year are blocked, according to Adobe, and a 2017 study found that as much as 56 percent of all ad dollars spent in 2016 were lost to fraud or unviewable inventory.

Gilad Edelman, Wired


The annual “hole” in the ozone layer over Antarctica was the largest and deepest it’s been in many years, extending to a maximum size of 9.2 million square miles from August to the beginning of October, and will now begin to return to its normal size when temperatures begin to rise in the atmosphere of the Southern Hemisphere. The degradation of the ozone layer thorough chemical emissions has largely been contained and reversed — last year the hole was its smallest maximum size since its discovery — and abnormal weather in Antarctica was the reason for this year being more pronounced than typical. Also, it’s just extremely on-brand for 2020.

Julia Jacobo, ABC News


On October 3, a high tide of 135 centimeters was forecasted in the city of Venice. Normally that would flood about half the city — St. Mark’s Square floods at 90 centimeters — and would be the first acqua alta of the season, peaking at 12:05 p.m. at high tide. This time, though, the city did not flood. After decades of corruption, delays, and implementation issues, the city managed to raise all 78 gates in barriers of the Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico (MOSE) system installed in the Venetian lagoon, a variable dam that can stop the Adriatic from flooding the city. The next test for MOSE will come during poor weather conditions. Moving forward, the barrier will be raised each time the tide hits 130 centimeters, and once the city takes over the program at 110 centimeters.

Julia Buckley, CNN


A new report published in the journal JAMA Network Open found that American adults are drinking 14 percent more often during the pandemic than typical, with women in particular drinking 17 percent more than last year. The study was conducted among 1,540 adults aged 30 to 80 based on drinking habits in the spring. This confirms retail reports from earlier in the year — stores sold 54 percent more booze in March 2020 than they did in March 2019 per Nielsen — and assures that the demand rose to meet the supply.

Reese Oxner, NPR


The hottest thing in real estate is cold storage, with the temperature-controlled warehouse business seriously shining as the U.S. food production system endured an enormous pivot earlier this year when the commercial sector was wiped out and the retail side of food distribution popped overnight. Cold storage — where lots of that stuff was held over the course of the transition — is pretty indifferent to where the stuff ends up, and as supermarkets expand their delivery offerings, having chilly bases of operation is very useful. Two companies — Lineage Logistics and Americold Realty — control about 59 percent of the cold storage business in the U.S., and each are growing quickly this year, with the former raising $1.6 billion last month and the latter seeing a 6 percent rise in net income the second quarter.

Esther Fung, The Wall Street Journal

Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

The very best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends. Go to to claim some free merch when you invite someone.

Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at

Check out the Numlock Book Club and Numlock award season supplement.

2020 Sunday subscriber editions: Streaming Summer · Dynamite · One Billion Americans · Defector · Seams of the Grid · Bodies of Work · Working in Public · Rest of World · Worst Quarter ·Larger Than Life · Streaming · Wildlife Crime · Climate Solutions · Blue Skies ·

UV · Facial Recognition · Vaccine Development · The Pudding · Burmese Pythons · Comics Future · Comics History · Streaming · COBOL · Esoteric Political History ·
Instagram · Weird · Copper · Transit · Shakespeare · Hot Hand · 2020 Movies · AB5 · Sharing · Astronauts · Casper · Minimalism · Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors
2019 Sunday Edition Archive
2018 Sunday Edition Archive