Numlock News: August 12, 2019 • Tax Havens, Accidental Legalization, Lion King
By Walt Hickey
Ohio appears to have accidentally de facto legalized marijuana, and the city of Columbus already announced it will no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases as a result. Here’s how this went down: on July 30, the governor signed Senate Bill 57, which legalized hemp. This changed the definition of what is considered marijuana in Ohio based on how much THC (which gets you stoned) is in the cannabis. Cannabis with a THC level of 0.3 percent or less is considered hemp, which is legal now, and cannabis with a THC level more than 0.3 percent is still illegal and considered marijuana. Well, I can’t eyeball marijuana and ascertain how much THC is in it, and cops definitely can’t, and Ohio crime labs can only detect if there is THC present, not how much of it is in there. And until Ohio figures that out, they can’t prosecute people for marijuana possession, because they can’t prove in court it’s not just hemp.
Though Uber is in absolutely no danger of turning a profit any time soon because their business model is — barring a fundamental shift in labor economics or an acceleration of AI technology seen in only the headiest Asimov novels — not great, they’re laying the foundation to carry on the corporate tradition of not paying any taxes in the spurious event they do manage to make some money. The San Francisco-based company moved some intellectual property holdings from a paper entity in Bermuda to a Dutch entity controlled by a Singapore holding company. This happened after European regulators targeted a previous tax minimization scheme favored by the company, where profits are routed through Dutch businesses with no employees into tax havens. Here’s the main outcome: Uber said that some intellectual property increased in value and took a $6.1 billion deduction in the Netherlands with no expiration date, meaning that if it ever does make a profit there — and the licensing and trademarks for Uber’s business in 63 countries are routed through there — it’ll be able to not pay taxes on those profits. Perfectly functioning society.
The Lion King made $20 million this past weekend, becoming the largest global release of all time from Disney’s “live action” studio, which is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to this particular film, but basically just means not the animation, Pixar, Marvel or Star Wars parts of the company. The movie has made $1.34 billion, which beats out the figure notched by Beauty and the Beast and also makes the remake the 12th largest movie of all time. Hobbes & Shaw, a film about two men who discover the power of friendship, won the weekend with $25 million, good for $332.6 million globally after two weeks.
Right now, if you want to buy an asset that is basically just linked to the overall state of the largest 500 public companies in the U.S., you’d probably buy shares of an exchange traded fund SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust, also known as SPY. It’s the largest such fund in the world, with $240.1 billion worth of assets in it as of 2018. It was a bit of a pioneer of the form — the first U.S. ETF — and so the way it was set up is somewhat quirky, specifically as a “unit investment trust,” but legally that meant that it required a termination date, which is annoying when you just want to make an investment vehicle. As a result, SPY will cease on the earlier of one of two dates: 125 years after its creation, on Jan 22, 2118, or 20 years after the last death of, get this, literally 11 essentially random people born between May 1990 and January 1993. At least 8 of the 11 millennials — who have no specific stake in the fund — had some sort of family connection to the firms that created the entity.
A new process extends the shelf life of milk past its current levels, increasing the time when milk stays good on the shelf from about 13 days to about 40 days. Though raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria, pasteurization kills off lots of those bacteria and keeps it stable for a little while by heating the milk to about 145 degrees for 30 minutes. The new tech, developed by a company called Millisecond Technologies and builds on some Soviet-era research, pairs that pasteurization with the application of pressure, which pushes the microbes to the edge of milk droplets and more effectively kills the bacteria. It’s a big deal in places like Puerto Rico, which lost 20 percent of its dairy market in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Tres Monjitas produces about 65 million quarts of milk per year and has 40 percent of the Puerto Rican market share, and about 13 percent of their milk produced by is now treated with the process.
By the end of this year, eMarketer estimates that there will be 86.5 million households with a traditional pay television subscription and 40.2 million households without one. In 2013, there were 100.5 million households paying for television and just 20.6 million homes had cut the cord. The projection doesn’t look like it’s going to get much rosier either: by the end of 2021, only 79.4 million households were projected to have television subscriptions, and in 2023 there are projected to be 72.7 million households with paid TV and 56.1 million without.
In 2018, it was estimated that there were 665 million adult salmon in the North Pacific, about 67 percent of which are pink salmon, 20 percent chums and 13 percent sockeye. In addition to the wild populations, Alaskan hatcheries release 1.8 billion pink salmon fry per year, and Asian hatcheries contribute another 3 billion fish. One question currently under investigation is whether the number of pink salmon being added to the oceans is too much, given the fragile state of the feeder fish ecosystem and the zero-sum nature of competition in the wild. As the pink salmon are bolstered, the higher-value and scarcer wild sockeye salmon may lose out: one study found that in years when the pink salmon are particularly abundant, sockeye come in a pound smaller.
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