Numlock News: September 1, 2020 • Monkeys, Firefighters, Derby

By Walt Hickey

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The 145th Kentucky Derby ended in chaos, with horse Maximum Security finishing first but being disqualified because he swerved out of lane and interfered with three other horses. The owners sued, alleging that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission violated their civil rights, and over the past 15 months the case has been winding its way through the court system. Last Friday, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decided 3-0 to affirm the case’s dismissal, backing the KHRC, relegating Maximum Security from first place (purse: $1.5 million) to last (purse: neigh) and affirming the victory of 65-to-1 long shot Country Horse.

Michael McCann, Sportico


From January through August 16, produce sales were up $4.5 billion ahead of the same period of 2019, meaning an additional 2.9 billion pounds of fresh produce have been sold. Week to week, demand is about 10 percent above last year’s level, and overall year to date sales of fresh fruits and vegetables are up 11.2 percent over the same period of 2019. Frozen fruits and vegetables are doing even better, up 27.2 percent for the year. Anyway, whichever one of you held the monkey’s paw and said, “I wish my kids would eat their vegetables,” you know what you did.

Anne-Marie Roerink, Winsight Grocery Daily


To contend with 1.4 million acres of fires California endured this year, and the millions of acres of fires that have become an annual recurrence, thousands of inmate firefighters are deployed to fight the flames. Despite the relevant, grueling experience they accumulate while incarcerated, those workers are unable to continue fighting fires when they get out of prison because their criminal records forbid them from doing so. Following years of effort, AB 2147 passed on Sunday in the California Assembly — the vote was 51 in favor, 12 opposed, 16 nonvoting — which would allow former prisoners who worked in a fire camp to petition a judge to expunge their record and waive parole time, then allowing them to apply for the EMT license necessary to become a full-time, year-round firefighter in the state. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom. By eliminating obstacles to gainful work, the bill also hopes to lower the recidivism rate in the state, which has stubbornly stuck around 50 percent.

Erika D. Smith, The Los Angeles Times


There is a monkey shortage in the United States. Medical research on primates, while controversial, is nevertheless necessary before moving on to human trials in many situations to ensure the human trials are safe. COVID-19 and the ensuing research push has caused unheard-of demand for monkeys, while the main exporter — China — cut supply significantly. Normally, China supplies 60 percent of the 35,000 monkeys imported domestically every year, and that lack of simian supply at the same time when primate research labs were already understocked has made it damn near impossible for researchers to get their hands on an ape, and the cost of a macaque has risen to nearly $10,000. Monkeys account for 0.5 percent of animals used in biomedical research.

Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic

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FX announced that directors who are women and people of color will make up 63 percent of directors on the network’s productions in 2021, the first time that a majority of directors will not be white men on the network. As of five years ago, white men accounted for 85 percent of directors on FX’s shows. The network said they accomplished this by not just hiring from other premium drama and comedy television shows but also by recruiting from theater and procedural directors.

Peter White, Deadline

Cost to Plant

As the companies that fuel the agriculture business consolidate, grow and make technological or chemical advances in the raw material of agriculture, it’s getting more expensive to plant. In 1996, corn seeds cost $26.65 per planted acre, fertilizer cost $51.21 per acre, chemicals took $27.42 per acre and other costs amounted to an average of $55.67 per acre. Today, those seeds cost $93.48 per acre, that fertilizer cost $114.46, the chemicals are $33.95 and all the other stuff cost $92.38. All told the $40 billion farm supply business had been resistant to online, speedy web-based suppliers compared to the rest of commerce, especially since the big players decisively refuse to play ball with the startups.

Jacob Bunge, The Wall Street Journal


Tenet, which saw its global release in places that are not the United States or China, saw a $53 million gross in its opening weekend across 41 territories. That beat expectations that, at the low end, were around $40 million. It’s the first major Hollywood tentpole film to dip its toe in the water at the global level, and the returns are encouraging as many countries around the world restore a sense of normalcy having wrangled their outbreaks. The film did best in the United Kingdom, where it made $7.1 million, lower than the $13 million brought in by Nolan’s Dunkirk in its opening. In France, Tenet actually did better than Nolan’s Dunkirk, Interstellar or Inception.

Tom Brueggemann, IndieWire

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