Numlock News: April 22, 2022 • Refs, Bradford Pears, Edibles
By Walt Hickey
Have an excellent weekend! Sorry if you were one of the readers who had a late email delivery yesterday, I have been told the issue has been fixed once and for all.
Boss Makes A Dollar, I Make A Dime
A new analysis of the pay practices of 22 major American companies found that over the course of the pandemic, the overwhelming majority of the gains made went to shareholders rather than workers. In the first 22 months of the pandemic, the average real wage gain was between 2 percent and 5 percent through October of 2021, though recent inflation probably means that wage gain is actually a bit of a wash. The 7 million workers for those companies, all told, received $27 billion in aggregate pay, which at first sounds neat, until you hear that the shareholders of the 22 companies all told grew $1.5 trillion richer — 57 times the worker pay hikes — and that just 13 individual billionaire founders and heirs of those companies got $160 billion richer. That’s over 12 times the extra pay of the workers employed by them.
The popular Bradford Pear tree is a spikeless mutant of the Callery pear developed in the 1950s and then made commercially available in 1962. The Callery pear isn’t native to North America, but it’s spawned over 24 other varieties that have become very popular. In New York City, 58,000 out of the 650,000 trees planted along its streets are Bradford or other Callery pears, but the city’s stopped planting them, as have many other cities because it turns out the Callery pear has broken loose and is now spreading across North America at a distressing rate. North Carolina is offering free native trees to landowners that kill the Callery pears on their property, and Missouri and Alabama are asking homeowners to cut and herbicide the ones they have. Right now, invasive descendants of the Callery pears have been reported in over 30 states.
A new study published in the journal Earth’s Future reported that 57.6 billion metric tons of topsoil from the U.S. Midwest have eroded, and the current erosion rate is double what the USDA considers sustainable. The researchers investigated a number of sites where the existing native prairie ecosystem has endured and compared it to places where agriculture has happened, and on average farmed fields were 1.2 feet lower than the prairie, and that topsoil is eroding about 1.9 millimeters per year. That may sound slow, but it takes 1,000 years to generate an inch of topsoil.
Ignore This Message
A new study looking at the impact of road signs in Texas argues that digital highway signs that inform drivers about the number of road fatalities on a stretch of highway are actually probably distracting and in aggregate may in fact lead to more crashes. In the 6.2 miles following a digital sign with statistics about road fatalities, on average the number of vehicle crashes was 4.5 percent higher compared to the same stretch of road without a digital sign. From 2012 to 2020, at least 28 states displayed the PSAs, which were seen by an estimated 100 million drivers, though the number of states still doing that is down to around 20 now.
Referees for high school athletics are typically young, doing it for a love of the game, and perhaps a bit inexperienced, but they’re dealing with incredible demands and verbal abuse from overzealous parents and coaches. From 2018 to 2021, some 50,000 high school referees quit according to the director of officiating services for the National Federation of State High School Sports, or about 20 percent of the officials. It’s not like the pay is outstanding — $35 to $150 per game, depending on experience — but the pressure is intense, as one survey of 19,000 officials found 60 percent said verbal abuse from parents and fans would be their top reason for quitting. It’s not even from the kids on the field: 39 percent said parents caused most of the problems with sportsmanship, and another 29 percent said coaches were.
In 1985, 30 percent of Americans said they had tried cannabis, a figure that today stands at 49 percent of Americans. While the number of people who think marijuana should be legal is a pretty robust consensus, and 18 states and D.C. have legalized it for recreational use, it does remain illegal federally. That hasn’t stopped business from moving on the market: Pandemic pot sales were elevated, and right now sales of marijuana on the legit market are expected to reach $45.9 billion by 2025. This has led to lots of innovation in the edibles market — people may not want to smoke it, but gummy bears are a slightly easier sell to the curious — and the THC snack marketplace is booming. The hope is that they can change the reputation of edibles from “bad trip” or “Maureen Dowd melting in a hotel room” or “the events of April 27, 2012, on or around the Sunken Garden at the College of William and Mary” and into just a fun thing that you can do for one evening where you don’t feel like you’re going to be high for the rest of your life.
NOAA has released a new tool to track the moving ranges of fish species, many of which have changed considerably over the past several decades as species have to go further north in order to find temperatures that they can tolerate. They have data for over 800 marine species based on bottom trawl surveys off the coast of the U.S., and the hope is that it becomes easier to manage fisheries that for the first time are actually changing really substantially right underneath the waves. For example, the distribution of Atlantic black sea bass has moved about 140 miles north from 1974 to 2019.
This week in the now-unlocked Numlock Sunday edition, I spoke to Sophia Smith Galer, the author of the new book Losing It: Sex Education for the 21st Century. Galer’s an outstanding journalist who you may know from her work on TikTok. Her new book explores all the urban myths about sexuality that thrive in an information-poor environment, how the lack of comprehensive sex ed causes pervasive and at times lifelong hangups, and how other places are able to secure better long-term outcomes through different approaches. She can be found at Twitter, TikTok, and the book is available wherever books are sold. Check out the interview.
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