Numlock News: April 18, 2019 • Yogurt, Scrubbers, Pepsi
By Walt Hickey
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As air travel is becoming relentlessly commercialized, it was only a matter of time before even the simplest pleasures of flying were turned into a potential revenue stream. Despite the plethora of content available when it comes to in-flight entertainment, no single diversion appeals to travelers quite like pulling up that dumb map to find out what godforsaken stretch of wilderness lies beneath. According to FlightPath3D — which provides cartography for 50 airlines — about 60 to 65 percent of passengers check out the map at some point, and soon they’re rolling out more interactivity and ways to sell people stuff. While I don’t love the overt commercialism of it, I do look forward to fun facts about what I’m flying over such as “You are 20,000 feet above a particularly terribly Arby’s,” “Meriwether Lewis hated every moment of exploring the region below,” “technically this is the Bermuda Triangle,” and “you’re now flying over the part of America that was deemed useful only for nuclear testing.”
Microwave water vapor data has enormous uses for weather forecasting. The data returned by the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit on several weather satellites was estimated to reduce the error in weather forecasts by 17 percent, which is awesome. That’s because at 23.8-GHz, microwave radiometry helps solve the atmospheric puzzle that is weather prediction. The issue? Well, the FCC is selling 3,000 licenses for the 24-GHz microwave band so that wireless companies can roll out 5G data. The room for error is quite small, and researchers from NASA’s JPL have found historically commercial uses of the spectrum can cause excess microwave “noise” that interferes with weather satellites.
The negotiation between the 15,000 member Writers’ Guild and their talent agents has devolved into lawsuits and recriminations. The Guild believes that the agencies have, through new revenue streams called “packaging,” removed their incentive to advocate on behalf of their clients as the agency itself has a financial stake in the productions. After failing to come to an agreement — the agencies offered more money but declined to move on that larger issue — the 8,500 WGA members who have agents were directed to fire their representation. The Guild says a majority have, and more to the point the WGA launched a lawsuit against agencies WME, CAA, UTA and ICM alleging packaging deals constitute a breach of fiduciary duty and an illegal kickback.
This past week on the Sunday edition, I spoke to Amos Barshad, the author of No One Man Should Have All That Power. It’s all about the shadowy figures who operate behind-the-scenes to make pop stars, bestsellers and politicians. The book is really wonderful, be sure to check out the interview.
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Scrub A Dub Dub
The U.N. is lowering the maximum allowable sulfur content in container ship fuel down next year to 0.5 percent from the current level of 3.5 percent. This is generally a good thing: air quality around ports will improve, so much so that an estimated 570,000 premature deaths worldwide will be averted from 2020 to 2025. Some shipping companies will switch to low-sulfur fuel, which is more expensive and untested. The other option is to install scrubbers that turn the exhaust’s sulfur oxides into sulfuric acid and then subsequently into sulfate salts. A retrofitted scrubber for a Panamax ship (the size that can go through the Panama Canal) costs $2 million. That cost can be recouped after a few years, compared to the pricier fuel. An even cheaper option is an “open-loop” scrubber, which dumps the waste water into the ocean on route, which is bad. Naturally, of the 1,500 ship exhaust scrubbers on order or installed as of last May, 63 percent were open-loop.
For years, Americans have been presented with a question: “Sorry, we don’t carry that, is Pepsi okay?” The answer now appears to be a resounding “yeah, whatever, I guess Pepsi is fine.” PepsiCo reached its highest stock price since at least 1980 following news that Pepsi beverage sales grew 3 percent even while consumers avoided sugary beverages. Pepsi Zero Sugar sales were up 29 percent compared to the previous quarter.
A new report from the FBI said that tax-related extortion schemes — when a scammer robocalls a taxpayer and poses as the IRS — are on the rise. Extortion scams in general have become easier than ever to pull off with rapid increases in robocalling. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center fielded 51,146 complaints, a 242 percent year-over-year growth, with the total amount that people reported lost hitting $83 million. Remember folks, the telephone portion of your cellular device is mostly vestigial, and mainly serves as a way for Russian teenagers to coax financial information out of you by offering a cruise.
The average American ate 13.7 pounds of yogurt in 2017, the most recent year for which we have data. That figure has been declining since 2014, but there is hope for the dairy business: while U.S. sales were down 3.4 percent over the 12 months ending in February, the decline of Greek yogurt has allowed Icelandic style yogurt to gain a foothold. Over that same period, sales of the Icelandic style rose 24 percent to $173 million. The advantage to dairies is clear: it takes a pound of milk to make a pound of traditional yogurt, but it takes four pounds of milk to make a pound of Icelandic Europe. America has a massive glut of milk right now — the price of a gallon averaged less than $3 for the 15th consecutive month in March — so this is welcome news as Greek and Traditional yogurt slip.
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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: No One Man Should Have All That Power · Film Incentives · Stadiums & Casinos · Late Night · 65 is the new 50 · Scooternomics · Gene Therapy · SESTA/FOSTA · CAPTCHA · New Zealand · Good To Go · California Football · Personality Testing · China’s Corruption Crackdown · Yosemite