Numlock News: April 16, 2019 • Mystical Services, Llamas, USPS
By Walt Hickey
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Investors are now flocking to the $2.1 billion market for mystical services, which encompasses the astrological reading and miscellaneous psychic industrial complex. There are apps that for like $20 per month will grant users custom readings, allow people to compare charts, or simply motivate people to read their own horoscopes. These apps are now attracting serious money such as the $5 million invested in Co-Star. Now I don’t mean to go all Virgo here, but based on the estimates from the chief executive of Sanctuary, there are 100,000 self-employed psychics out there, and this is pretty much just Silicon Valley money lining up to make them gig workers, right?
Back in 2002, there were 144,782 llamas in the United States. By 2017, that figure fell to 39,599 llamas. And while I wish there were an easy answer to this conundrum — perhaps a new predator or the declining relevance of The Emperor’s New Groove — the reality is that when the housing market imploded so did the domestic llama market. Indeed llamas became a fluffier version of the very economic bubble that would lead to the Great Recession, with outsized and inflated prices preceding a collapse in the value of the beasts. The diminished supply is actually helping the llama market recover, with llama auctioneers — a job that exists — saying prices have steadily recovered.
The finale season premiere of Game of Thrones hauled in 17.4 million viewers, setting a new record viewership by a half-million viewers and beating previous season openers by a major margin. The live airing saw 11.8 million viewers, beating the previous season’s opener’s 10.26 million initial viewers. The program has truly come a long way from the 2.52 million nerds, myself included, who watched the initial airing of the pilot all those many years ago. We’ve grown, we’ve watched, we haven’t come a single word closer to the release of Winds of Winter, and we’ve all aged a distressing amount. But that’s what prestige television is for, to remind us of death.
Based on Uber’s S-1 filing, the company conceded that a full 24 percent of its business in 2018 was derived from just five cities: LA, New York, San Francisco, London and São Paulo. This is a fairly consequential concession: its 3.9 million drivers would make it the largest employer on earth, but if a full quarter of Uber’s business comes from just five municipalities this grants those metropolises a considerable amount of leverage over the company just as it attempts to broach the public markets. After all, it would take just one of those cities reclassifying its gig workers as “employees” to jeopardize its “friendly regulatory environment.”
In sixteen days, the United States Postal Service delivered more mail than UPS and FedEx do combined in a year. Its half-million career employees in 31,000 locations form an enormous enterprise, and if it were a private business it would basically be 40th on the Fortune 500. It handles 47 percent of the mail on earth, a breathtaking statistic, some 150 billion mail pieces annually. It’s beloved by Americans — 88 percent have a favorable view, the rest are presumably puppies or in Congress — and the only reason it’s struggling is that it’s forced to pre-fund pension obligations in a way no other enterprise is. That obligation, forced by Congress in 2006, is responsible for 90 percent of the red ink for the agency since.
Yesterday was tax day, but in reality most people were way ahead of that deadline. Of 154 million households who paid taxes in 2018, only 12 percent paid in the last week due, and 11 percent paid late, meaning 77 percent paid at least two days before the deadline. The median taxpayer filed by March 16, about a month ahead of the April 15 due date.
Women’s turnout at the polls in India has been steadily rising. In 1962, 47 percent of women voted; by 2014, 66 percent did. While female turnout rose 19 points, male turnout over the same period rose only 5 percentage points. This cycle, it’s possible that women may even make up more than half of the electorate. In the past, there were allegations of electronic voter machines tampering with the votes of Muslims and Dalits. One estimate had as much as 65 million women missing from the voter rolls based on comparisons between the census and the electoral rolls. Another, more conservative analysis put it at 21 million women missing from the rolls, which is still a substantial portion of the electorate.
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