By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Universal’s theme parks have been a major bright spot on the earnings of Comcast, the cable company, responsible for $2.11 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2022, up significantly from the $1.56 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019. The company is betting big on the parks, too, with the West Coast park opening Super Nintendo World in just under a month and Epic Universe opening up in Florida in 2025. The company is tired of being second banana to Disney, and is investing accordingly: Epic Universe will double the size of Universal Studios Orlando and will cost $1 billion, a massive sum compared to the $600 million Galaxy’s Edge expansion of Disneyland in California. While that’s a lot of red ink, at least people spend money in theme parks; their streaming service, Peacock, is expected to lose up to $3 billion in 2023.
The ongoing campaign to ban books in the U.S. has been remarkably successful, with the efforts of at least 10 states that passed laws that give residents power over what books appear in libraries paying off in spades for the book banning crowd. OverDrive, which supplies e-books and audiobooks to 16,000 school districts, said that school library orders have nosedived, especially in Florida and Texas. While librarians have long held autonomy on what to stock provided they consult peer-reviewed journals, states’ attempts to give that decision to the mob has meant that some schools can’t have book fairs, others must have every book read and reviewed prior to purchase, and demand from students has declined in areas that can’t get new books. In Monroe County, Florida, school libraries have not been able to buy books for the past year. Student checked out 3,000 titles from August to December 2021, but just 1,800 books from August to December 2022.
The Columbus Washboard Company is the last manufacturer of washboards in America, having successfully navigated the past 128 years and deftly avoiding the washing machine-related doom that befell its once rivals. They sell 11,000 washboards a year, with one model going for $27.49, down from a million boards per year in the 1940s when the craft peaked. Because everyone lost their mind for a little bit there, sales were up 57 percent in 2020 year over year. Their utter domination of the market is in no small part thanks to folk music, where percussionists account for about 40 percent of their sales.
There are about 21,363 big-box stores in the Western United States, and if there were solar panels on top of all of them they’d produce on the order of 31 million megawatt-hours of energy output. Even just the 3,000 big-box stores in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming would produce something like 4,889 megawatts of generating capacity if their roofs were covered in solar panels, which is in fact considerably more than the 901 megawatts of existing installed solar generating capacity in those very states. This is of interest, because lots of solar right now is going into natural environments, when there are all sorts of commercial areas that could more than adequately supply power.
Vehicle exports out of China have been growing at a remarkable clip, buoyed by a steady business in electrics and a large footprint in Asia, Europe and South America. Last year China exported 2.5 million cars, which makes it the third-largest exporter of vehicles and merely 60,000 exports behind Germany. China now exports more cars than the U.S. and South Korea, despite being well behind both as recently as 2020. The country’s target is 8 million car sales overseas by 2030, which would be nearly triple the 3 million cars exported by Japan in 2022. About 29.9 percent of China’s exported cars are sold elsewhere in Asia, 27.7 percent in Europe, and about 21.2 percent in South and Central America.
A fire has been burning at a landfill in Moody, Alabama, since at least November 25, blanketing the area in smoke in a city just 15 miles out of Birmingham. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a new budget allocation to foot most of the bill of extinguishing it, which is estimated to cost $2,806,345 in total, with $1,529,316 covered by the feds. The landfill is supposed to handle only tree limbs and vegetative waste, but inspectors found it contained unauthorized material like roof shingles, tires and construction waste. After air samples in Birmingham showed elevated levels of dangerous chemicals in the air the EPA took over the job on the 19th.
The Food and Drug Administration announced that CBD products, which contain a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is common in all kinds of consumer goods, do not meet federal safety standards and require stricter regulations. People in the CBD industry — which had been expected to grow to $1.25 billion by 2024, at least until this ruling — had been hoping that the agency would not do that. The agency said that long-term use could cause potential liver harm and have interaction with medications. The U.S. Hemp Roundtable, which sounds like a place I got high at in college but in fact is actually a lobbying organization, is pushing for a legislative solution to keep the CBD business in the clear. I, for one, am shocked that a substance that was peer-reviewed by gas stations and Goop customers has had difficulties appeasing the FDA.
This week in the Sunday edition I spoke to Hannah Weinberger, who wrote “Battered by destructive floods, Grays Harbor bets on a $182M levee” for Crosscut. This is such a cool story, because it’s about a pervasive problem — how do we actually, really take care of expensive problems caused by climate change — and looks at a community that sees the various options before it and is making a substantial bet on itself as it tries to avert the worst. Hannah can be found at Crosscut, where she is a science and environment reporter, and also on Twitter.
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