By Walt Hickey
It’s finally happened: Lumber, which has been on a maniacal roller coaster of pricing over the past several years, has returned back to earth. Lumber futures on Monday finished at $410.80 per thousand board feet, a downright reasonable amount of money, down a third from a year ago and down 70 percent from the maddening highs as of March. That’s entering the territory of pre-pandemic normalcy, so much so that lumber mills in western Canada are actually starting to cut back output, given they tend to have a breakeven point of around $500 per thousand board feet.
Shocking absolutely nobody who paid even the slightest attention to the saga as it went down in real time, the Securities and Exchange Commission has filed suit against two former MoviePass CEOs, alleging they misled investors. The company’s strategy — lower the price to a completely unsustainable level, cause a mania as people realize they can bleed investors dry and see a ton of movies in the process for no marginal fee, and gesture vaguely in the direction of “advertising” and “data” to eventually bring about a profit for the company — may not have been entirely on the level. The suit alleges that the CEOs knew the $9.95 subscription price was not based on market or subscriber testing when they sold securities to raise $257 million, and further alleges they claimed that it was possible to be profitable at the ridiculous (and extremely awesome for me and many others) $9.95 price point. The SEC also alleged that when the company said it would lower the subscription price to $6.95 per month if paid in full up front, it was not actually a reflection of their ability to unlock new business, but was in fact a ploy to raise a bunch of money really quickly to take care of some truly outstanding debts about to come through. Shocking stuff.
A long-running suit sought to determine whether food grown hydroponically — that is to say, accomplished without the use of soil in a controlled environment — can actually be sold as organic foods in the United States, even if prepared in line with other requirements. The reason is that the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act established that crops must “foster soil fertility,” and obviously if you’re forgoing soil it’s not entirely clear you’re fitting the bill. The National Organic Standards Board voted 8-7 against banning hydroponic certifications in 2017, which led to the USDA clarifying the policy to include hydroponics in organic food in 2018, in turn leading to a lawsuit. The latest decision from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gives USDA the ability to consider hydroponic crops organic.
Against The Wind
After years of planning, Air New Zealand has introduced a New York to Auckland nonstop flight that comes in at 17 hours, 35 minutes. The route opened this month, and after a week of opening it became clear that the modeling that designed the route hadn’t accounted for some headwinds. The planned capacity would fly 215 people in the New York to New Zealand direction and a maximum of 260 passengers from New Zealand to New York. The problem is that seasonal winds in North America make the southbound flight take longer, which means they need to add more fuel, which means they need to reduce weight. It’s so far meant that bags and people have had to be left behind to make weight. Now, in an updated policy, capacity has been capped at 180 passengers. Anyway, for all the people who were like, “Hey why didn’t the eagles just fly the hobbits to Mordor?” well guess it turns out because they filmed those movies in New Zealand that could have caused some serious fuel problems.
Atoms for Peace
Reversing plans to shut down the reactors to appease the Green Party in their governing coalition, Germany’s government has announced that it will continue to operate two of its remaining three nuclear reactors through April 2023, an attempt to prevent an energy shortage this winter. The original intention was to shut down the Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim reactors before the end of the year. Complicating the European power situation is France’s nuclear fleet, which is undergoing a wave of repairs at an inconvenient time that has sent their nuclear production to a 30-year low.
An ambitious, multi-year international project to breed polyps of coral in a laboratory settings has been successful, with one laboratory producing about 400 specimens of elkhorn coral. After disease, coastal development and bleaching, 95 percent of Florida’s elkhorn coral has been lost, and even the reefs that remain have lost genetic diversity and might descend from a single individual. The in-laboratory corals that have been grown are genetically diverse, from sperm and egg rather than clones, and as a result could really help the ecosystems. This first batch won’t be — reintroducing organisms is a politically fraught process — but the demonstration that it’s possible is highly encouraging.
Large podcasting companies are reportedly buying up ads on mobile games that give players in-game assets in exchange for downloading a podcast. The gamer doesn’t actually have to listen to the podcast, and in all likelihood will just return to their game anyway and disregard it; however, the large podcasting company can notch another download that will be able to juice ad sales. For instance, Subway Surfers has been downloaded over 3 billion times, and Bloomberg found multiple publishers that were just using the game to rack up cheap purchased traffic that can, in turn, be monetized to their own advertisers. IHeartRadio has reportedly spent $10 million to gain 6 million unique listeners a month since 2018 in this manner.
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