By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Today Netflix’s DVD service will mail out its final discs, with the original business model being shut down in favor of the streaming service. The DVD-by-mail service still claimed 1 million subscribers and generated $146 million in revenue last year, but as the company has grown into a $31.5 billion streaming operation the DVD business was not seen as worth maintaining. At its peak, Netflix’s DVD business had over 20 million subscribers, and once stood as the fifth-largest customer of the United States Postal Service, with almost 60 distribution centers. Now that’s dwindled to five, and by tomorrow, zero.
This year’s Asian Games is a two-week competition featuring all sorts of sports between 40 Asian nations and 12,000 competitors, which this year is held in Hangzhou, China. They also feature a category of “mind sports,” which include esports, chess and bridge. The bridge action is pretty exciting, as among the 200 competitors in the field there are no fewer than nine that are over the age of 70. The average age of competitors this year is 50, with the oldest a 78-year-old from Pakistan and the youngest a 22-year-old from India.
PFAS, also know as forever chemicals, are compounds where chains of carbon are bonded to fluorine, and one previously unknown origin of PFAS is from plastic that had been fluorinated, or strengthened through exposure to fluorine gas. Those plastics might be leaking out PFAS, and one company — Inhance Technologies — has been determined by the EPA to be the origin of most of the fluorinated plastics over the past several decades, and which has continued to fluorinate plastics despite an EPA order and a Department of Justice lawsuit trying to get them to stop. Inhance says it fluorinates 200 million plastic items every year, 25 million pounds of plastic packaging articles, doing business with 175 plastics suppliers and 500 brands.
About 90 percent of Florida’s coral is gone, and after a bad heat wave this year the reef on the Florida Keys is serious peril. One thing killing the coral is algae, which has been fueled by agricultural runoff and pollution, as the algae out-compete coral when it comes to sunlight and space. One solution being implemented is the classic “let’s just release a bunch of animals that eat the thing that we don’t want more of,” and the answer here is Caribbean king crabs. Reefs in the Keys that were filled with the crabs were found to have 85 percent less algae than reefs that didn’t get crabs added, so facilities are breeding hundreds and hopefully eventually thousands of crabs to try to save these reefs.
Switzerland has the most glaciers in Europe, but at the rate things are going at some point it sure looks like it’s going to be a rather low-scoring tie. The Swiss Academy of Sciences reported that the country saw 6 percent of its glacier volume disappear in 2022 and then again 4 percent of its glacier volume in 2023, which are the two largest single-year declines since thaw measurements began. More ice was lost from Swiss glaciers in the past two years than was lost from 1960 to 1990.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Agri Stats, which is a data company that sells information to large agriculture businesses. The DOJ argues that the weekly reports it issues on meat pricing and sales is responsible for anticompetitive practices in the meat industries, especially as some of its biggest customers have faced suits alleging price fixing based on reports from Agri Stats. Companies that use Agri Stats reports are responsible for 90 percent of broiler chicken production, 90 percent of turkeys and 80 percent of pork.
For all the attention paid to time spent on social media, group texts are where the action really is. WhatsApp gained 2.5 billion active users between 2012 and 2023 — it’s worth reading that number again, because it really is staggering — and by 2025 is projected to rise yet again by 18 percent. The app is the best proxy we have for group chats, as the overwhelming majority of its users rely on it for at least one group chat, with only 2 percent of users doing only one-on-one chats in WhatsApp. That’s only one service, and doesn’t even factor in other group chat services like iMessage, DMs, and that one group chat you’ve maintained for over a decade in GroupMe, an app that inexplicably still exists but for you is basically just one app used to talk to three people.
This week in the Sunday Edition, I spoke to Aaron Gordon, who wrote “U.S. Cities Have a Staggering Problem of Kia and Hyundai Thefts. This Data Shows It” for Motherboard. I loved the story because it has been absolutely wild to watch several local outlets report about how car thefts are exploding in their cities, and finding it’s only due to two specific makes that neglected to include a basic device and it’s a massive national trend. We spoke about what’s going on in car theft these days, New York City’s forthcoming attempt to implement congestion pricing, and what that means for the future of transit and open streets in New York. Aaron can be found at Motherboard, but also has a great newsletter that I like called Book Time.
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