Numlock News: September 3, 2019 • X-Rays, Taylor Swift, Chinese Box Office
By Walt Hickey
China Box Office
For Hollywood, the big news out of the Chinese cinema this weekend was Hobbes and Shaw taking a massive dip after its first week opening, making a cumulative $164.9 million in China over two weeks, which means it won’t get anywhere near the roughly $390 million made by both Furious 7 and Fate of the Furious. The big story though is Ne Zha, an animated film that’s made $664.5 million over five weeks in China, which is now good for not only top-grossing film of the year but is also now the second-biggest film ever in China. It’s the biggest animated film in China by a mile (Zootopia made $236 million) and tells a story of classical mythology, but think more Pixar-esque than Hercules in style. The movie drops stateside this weekend.
Though the wealth of U.S. households has eclipsed $100 trillion, the wealthy have primarily accrued the post-recession gains. Those in the top 1 percent of U.S. households have seen their wealth double and now hold over $30 trillion of that. The next 9 percent of households hold about $40 trillion. As for the half of households outside of the top 50 percent, things are worse than they were before the recession. In 2002, the bottom 50 percent of households held $2 trillion in wealth. By 2006, that fell to $1.2 trillion. It went negative from 2010 to about 2013, and today is just at $1.3 trillion. The share of families in the bottom half fell to 37 percent in 2016, from 43 percent in 2007.
[String of Snake Emojis]
Taylor Swift’s Lover sold 679,000 copies in the week ending August 29, which was fully 27 percent of all albums sold in the United States. This is surely a feat, even if it’s hardly the first time one album accounted for so much of a single week of sales: Swift’s reputation scored 29 percent of the market in its first week while Adele’s 25 scored 41 percent. Still, Lover is now the top-selling album of the year, beating out the previous reigning titleholder, the soundtrack to A Star Is Born, which moved 447,000 copies in 2019 through the end of August.
Ryan Kaji is a YouTube fixture whose series of toy review videos launched a licensing empire. His brand — controlled by his family — now has seven channels with 30 million subscribers, a Nickelodeon series, a universe of characters, a range of toys and endorsements and what the company that manages the brand estimates to be about 80 unique licenses. One analysis of kids aged six to eight in the U.K. put Ryan at 1.75 times as popular as Disney. A Forbes estimate said Kaji was the highest-earning YouTuber in the world last year with $22.5 million, lots of that in savvy partnerships that fly well within the margins of existing legislation about what can and can’t be marketed to kids.
Americans spend $100 billion on diagnostic imaging each year, but lots of that is unnecessary. Though MRI scans for lower back pain rose 50 percent from 1995 to 2015, they’re specifically seen as often unnecessary. One study found up to 35 percent of the scans were inappropriate. The average dose of radiation from a spinal X-ray is 75 times as high as one from a chest X-ray. This is just one of many low-value tests or treatments — 80 medical societies have called out 540 such interventions, with lower back pain being a regular reason for them — that lead to $241 billion wasted in 2016 on over treatment.
Research that was touted as precision genetic engineering, and held up as a strident example of the nosy FDA holding back glorious scientific progress, has hit a bit of a speedbump, as it turns out that when a company made hornless cows by swapping out 200 genetic letters, they also, whoopsie-daisy, added genetic material from antibiotic-resistant lab material. This would be but a mere hiccup were the cows not held up as a paragon of genetic editing, and if the gene-editing company didn’t use the cows as an argument against oversight by the FDA, which would necessitate extensive testing and approval before they became hamburger.
Weight Loss Surgery
A new study tracking diabetic patients who had weight-loss surgery found substantially better outcomes than peers who didn’t. The research compared 2,287 patients who had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic from 1998 to 2017 with 11,435 people who didn’t. After eight years, 48 percent of people who didn’t have the surgery had experienced a serious complication of diabetes like heart disease, stroke, heart failure, kidney damage, an erratic heart rate or death, compared to 31 percent of those who had surgery. The chance of dying was reduced by 41 percent among diabetics who pursued the surgery, and the risk of heart or kidney disease fell roughly 60 percent. About 1 percent of Americans who qualify for weight-loss surgery undergo it.
High School Sports
As the prospect of an athletic scholarship is dangled in front of quality high school athletes, parents are motivated to spend more and more money on getting their kids in top form through pricey travel teams, coaching and amenities that lock kids from poorer backgrounds out of the top tier. In the 1990s, Division I and II colleges gave less than $300 million in scholarships, a figure that is now up to over $3 billion. The money is going to disadvantaged students less, though. In 2010, 28 percent of Division I basketball players were first generation college students, a figure that fell 9 percentage points in the following five years. Overall today, just 14.2 percent of all Division I athletes are first generation college students.
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