Numlock News: September 5, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Fake Buttons

Of the roughly 1,000 crosswalk buttons in New York City, only about 100 actually function. The buttons — which at minimum grant users the illusion of self-determination in a callous automated world — are somewhat vestigial in a modern complex traffic control system. That’s down from 750 operational buttons in 2004. In many cities, the buttons have been phased out entirely.

Jacopo Prisco, CNN

Overwatch League Teams

In a major beat of expectations, the Overwatch League — an esports operation with buy-in from major sports financiers — will increase in size from 12 teams to a reported 20 franchises, up from the previous goal of 18 teams. The franchises are selling for between $35 million and $60 million after one season of operation, and new host cities for the teams so far include: Washington, Atlanta, Toronto, Paris and the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Hangzhou.

Jacob Wolf, ESPN

Hearing Aids

While many things have changed in medicine and technology over the past 60 years, the way Americans get hearing aids have not. Most insurance providers and basic Medicare don’t cover hearing aids, meaning that those who need one need to shell out an average of $4,700 per pair. Most hearing aids are only made by six companies, and they’re only sold through an audiologist or doctor. There’s no Warby Parker for hearing aids or over-the-counter system. The end result? Only 20 percent of adults with hearing loss actually use a hearing aid.

David Pogue, Scientific American

Male Cosmetics

Retail sales of men’s beauty products will see 7 percent growth in 2018 and will reach roughly $2 billion. That’s a faster rate of growth than the global male grooming market, which is projected to grow to $166 billion by 2022, a 5.4 percent growth rate. This may come as a surprise to some of the guys that have matched with my friends on Tinder: according to recent eyewitness reports they are unanimously unaware that there are grooming products sold for men.

Ziyi Tang, Quartz


Theranos — one of the few company where “inappropriately using human blood” was not even near the top of the list of stuff they did bad — will soon dissolve. The company was living on a $65 million loan they were using to stay above water. They breached part of their contract requiring minimum cash reserves. The company’s leadership has been indicted on counts of fraud and conspiracy related to false claims the company was using cutting-edge tech to test blood. They were mostly testing on regular machines, which is pretty bad for a company once valued at $9 billion for its claimed blood testing innovations.

John Carreyrou, The Wall Street Journal


This year there have been 4,480 retail store closures across the United States, a catastrophe that is still somehow not as bad as the 5,700 store closures that had occurred at this point last year. Still, that’s enough devastation for scavenging beasts — such as the Spirit Halloween stores roaming the American strip mall — to feed on to survive the winter. Plus, hiring is up in retail, with about 50,000 retail jobs being added monthly.

Michael Corkery, The New York Times

Where Meat Comes From

Right now, 25,000 contract farms raise the overwhelming majority of American chickens. Farms work with an integrator, a company that gives contract farmers chicks and a fee and expects a certain number of healthy chickens at the end of the term. This is financially perilous, as contract farmers assume the majority of the risk, but frequently the only game in town. According to the USDA, 20 percent of growers say there’s a single integrator in the area and another 30 percent say there’s only two. This has led to vertical integration across the sector which can hurt wages.

Annie Lowrey, The Atlantic

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Previous Sunday special editions: Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

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