Numlock News: September 24, 2020 • Spies, Scares, Endzone

By Walt Hickey

Spyware

The Central Intelligence Agency is having serious difficulty recruiting technically savvy geek types with no compunctions about spying on people, namely, because if you’re a technically savvy geek type with no compunctions about spying on people, Facebook probably already hired you. The clandestine services have come up with a new solution to recruit technical talent with the knowledge they can’t really beat the salaries and the patents one might accumulate in the private sector: for the first time, CIA officers can now publicly file patents on IP they work on and collect a piece of the profits. Officers who make new tech at CIA Labs will be able to make 15 percent of the income from a new invention with a cap of $150,000 per year, functionally doubling agency salaries. It’s a shame that this came towards the end of Q’s run at MI-6 because I really want the Seiko with the laser gun in it and I want the Welshman to enjoy retirement.

Patrick Howell O’Neill, MIT Technology Review

Tea

The price of wholesale tea is up 50 percent since March, hitting $3.16 per kilogram, up from $2.13 per kilogram back in March. That’s beginning to have an effect on consumer prices: the price of liquid tea — bottled concentrates — is up 9.6 percent from a year ago, while packaged tea is up 1.7 percent. We’re still not at the $3.29 per kilogram demanded in October 2017, but the price hike is showing little sign of stopping. Every day 3.7 billion cups of tea are consumed, with half the U.S. population consuming tea daily, most of whom like it iced. Tea production is down in major producers like Sri Lanka and India.

Lucy Craymer, The Wall Street Journal

Junk

The International Space Station deftly avoided a piece of unidentified space debris, maneuvering for 150 seconds on Tuesday evening. NASA flight controllers were tracking the object, which was expected to come within 1.39 kilometers of the station. While the astronauts weren’t in any danger, the situation with space debris is getting increasingly annoying as this is the third time this year the incredibly valuable orbiting laboratory has had to move because of some junk in space.

Mary Beth Griggs, The Verge

Spooktacular

This Halloween increasingly looks to be scaled back, with the fraction of Americans celebrating Halloween decreasing from 57 percent to 42 percent per a new survey from Morning Consult. Just 7 percent of adults surveyed said they or their children will trick-or-treat the same way as usual. I know it’s disappointing, but maybe it’s just a year to remember the true meaning of Halloween, a meditation on the inevitability and irony of death punctuated by intense acts of petty vandalism. Listen after that springtime buying spree, everyone’s going to be too ashamed to ask any prying questions. If you’re a young person buying up a ton of toilet paper on Gate Night this year, it’s an all-trick-no-treat-2020, people, and silly stringing cars — the state sport of New Jersey — is the original socially distanced activity.

Alyssa Meyers, Morning Consult

Immigrants

A new study analyzing how 129 immigrant characters are represented across 97 episodes of 59 narrative television shows found that half were Hispanic or Latinx, 21 percent white, 12 percent Asian or Pacific Islander and 10 percent Middle Eastern. Despite the rich tapestry that is the immigrant experience in the United States, fully 29 percent of episode storylines for immigrant characters were about deportation, and 25 percent pertained to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In reality, just 24 percent of the U.S. immigrant population is undocumented, but 63 percent of all characters with an identifiable status were undocumented or asylum seekers on American television.

Danielle Turchiano, Variety

Cover

Many NFL teams realized that they may be lacking fans in the stands this year, but all those tarps over those seats may have a little value for advertising purposes. Realizing that NFL broadcast loves to pan across a crowd, many teams cut large deals with sponsors who paid to put their logo on those tarps. What they did not plan for is that obviously the directors of NFL games are not going to pan across a crowd that is not actually there, and so all these sponsors paid a ton of money for ads that will not be seen by anyone but the grounds staff. There is some value in the signs, but mainly the ones in the endzones and sidelines. The media value for the rest of the season for an endzone sponsorship is $2.5 million to $3 million, and the sideline spots go for $1 million to $1.25 million.

Ben Fischer and Terry Lefton, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Closures

Based on an analysis of businesses on Yelp, as of August 31, 163,735 businesses in the United States that had been open on March 1, 2020 have closed. That’s up 23 percent since July 10, and of those businesses marked closed 60 percent will not reopen, or 97,966 permanently closed businesses with 65,769 temporarily closed ones. The most affected are restaurants — 32,109 total closures — retail and shopping (with 30,374) and beauty and spas (16,585).

Carl Bialik and Daniel Gole, Yelp

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