Numlock News: September 25, 2020 • Beaked Dive, Fish Crime, Beef Fine

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!


In October 2018, two fishermen competing in a two-day largemouth bass fishing tournament in Lake Powell, Utah beat out 24 other teams to win the prize for biggest fish and came in second overall on the first day. But then tournament officials developed a hunch, noting that the fish looked different from the others pulled from the depths that day, observing a reddish color. Any sane society would just say “huh, weird fish, cool catch,” but there was $2,500 on the line and something was not right. A biologist was phoned, the men were questioned, a wildlife agency learned the men had been fishing at Quail Creek Reservoir just before the tournament, and the basic groundwork of a Coen Brothers film appeared to congeal on the shores of Lake Powell that day: something, dare I say, was fishy. The results from the University of Utah laboratory came in: based on the level of strontium in the beasts they could not have come from Lake Powell. Last month brought the thrilling conclusion, when both pleaded guilty to counts of tampering to influence a contest, unlawful release of wildlife, and captivity of protected wildlife, agreeing to pay a $500 abeyance fee, do 48 hours of community service, pay $2,500 in restitution and were sentenced to 24 hours probation.

Derrick Bryson Taylor, The New York Times


In 2019, American Barbell did approximately $1 million to $1.5 million in business online of its $30 million in sales. The rest of it, $28.5 million, was to gyms and other establishments. When everything began to shut down, this led to a collapse in the barbell business, but then it led to an overnight explosion as gym rats attempted to get their hands on weights for their garage. American Barbell said they had $4 million in internet orders basically immediately. Today, barbells are in high demand on the secondary market, with weights that once sold for $0.50 to $1 per pound now fetching $2 to $2.50 per pound on the secondary market.

Alex Abad-Santos, Vox


Regulators are cracking down on businesses that were cavalier with the lives and health of their employees, with Iowa slamming a meatpacking plant with a large coronavirus outbreak with a citation. The outbreak resulted in 338 of the plant’s 850 workers testing positive, which is 80 higher than previously acknowledge. Naturally, the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration was prepared to drop the hammer, slamming Iowa Premium Beef with an earth-shattering fine of… $957. As if that were not bad enough, the paltry fine was double that until Iowa’s OSHA administrator stepped in. Literally the idiots who faked the fish had to pay more in penalties.

Ryan J. Foley, The Associated Press


Palm oil is basically in every consumer commodity, but the working conditions under which it is harvested are often miserable and border on abusive. The annual crop of palm oil has grown from 5 million tons in 1999 to 72 million today, with the U.S. alone seeing a 900 percent increase in demand over the period. The crop is fueled by powerful Western financial institutions and pension funds — Deutsche Bank, BNY Mellon, Citigroup, HSBC and the Vanguard Group among them, with $12 billion invested by Western investors into plantations in the past five years alone — but the conditions on the plantations are intolerable, according to an AP report based on interviews with over 130 workers for dozens of palm oil companies in eight countries. Indonesia and Malaysia produce 85 percent of the $65 billion palm oil supply, but forced labor practices and dangerous conditions mean that the rapidly growing industry has a human cost.

Margie Mason and Robin McDowell, The Associated Press

Beaked Whales

Based on existing calculations, beaked whales should be able to dive for about 33 minutes. However, researchers who managed to tag two dozen Cuvier’s beaked whales off the coast of North Carolina followed the mammals over 3,680 foraging dives from 2014 to 2018. They found the average dive lasted about an hour, with a few dives going on for over two, and the whales were not particularly fazed by their ridiculous dives. One whale in particular stood out, doing two eye-popping dives that still have the researchers searching for an explanation, pulling off one two hour 53 minute dive and another three hour 42 minute dive.

Katherine J. Wu, The New York Times

Pull The Plug

A new Pew survey found 54 percent of Americans said social media companies shouldn’t allow political advertisements on the platform, and 77 percent said that it was not acceptable for the companies to use data about their users to show them ads for politicians. Only 26 percent of Americans said that all political ads should be allowed on social media, while 19 percent said that the sites should only allow some. In 2019, Twitter said it would ban all sponsored political content, and it’s not like Twitter stopped being a place where people discuss American politics. Even the iconic Numlock News banned political ads approximately one second after thinking about it and heaving at the prospect in complete revulsion because no amount of money would let them sleep at night.

Brooke Auxier, Pew Research Center


In 2009, the Fraser River in British Columbia was home to a disappointing shock when only 1.6 million of an anticipated 10.6 million sockeye salmon projected to return from the Pacific Ocean to swim up river to spawn actually came. This number was enormously distressing, as that’s below what it takes for the fish to replace themselves, and it provoked a federal commission to try to turn the tide. Things got even bleaker though, as this year only 288,000 sockeye came back, the lowest on record. One possible factor is fish farms along the coast of British Columbia, specifically the risks posed by the sea lice that accumulate in fish farms.

Frances Backhouse, Hakai Magazine

This past Sunday, I spoke to Lenika Cruz, a culture editor at The Atlantic, who wrote “BTS’s ‘Dynamite’ Could Upend the Music Industry.” We talked about what it takes to succeed on the American music charts and why that’s different from succeeding in music, and why BTS is so fascinating because the most popular band in the world could not catch a break from Billboard. Lenika can be found at The Atlantic and on Twitter.

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