Numlock News: August 16, 2022 • Antiquities, Crime, Sulfur Hexafluoride
By Walt Hickey
A court in New York issued a warrant for the arrest of a Lebanese antiquities dealer who had been a longtime tipster for art cops over smuggled artifacts. The 81-year-old is accused of trafficking hundreds of pieces out of Lebanon, Syria and Libya, and is alleged to be the first person to obtain a Sidon marble bull’s head that in 2017 was seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Valued at $12 million, that artifact was excavated in 1967 but stolen by a militia in 1981. It later reappeared in 2010 when it was loaned to the Met, and now authorities say that the person who fenced the bull’s head is the same person who has been tipping off cops to his rivals dealings.
The U.S. is seeing delayed flights all across the country — a fifth of flights were delayed on arrival in the first half of the year — and now we know it’s Florida’s fault. The FAA has attributed 1.6 million minutes of delays to issues at the air traffic control center near Jacksonville, which is four times the level Jacksonville’s control center had in 2019. Reasons for the delays are multiple space launches that are interfering with flights and rising private jet use. The two air traffic control centers based in Florida are behind only Atlanta in terms of the number of aircraft handled. In the first six months of the year, 20 percent of flights were delayed upon arrival, but that level was 25 percent in Miami International Airport, 27 percent at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, and 30 percent at Orlando International.
The D.C. circuit court has released a decision in a case where the FCC wanted back a chunk of spectrum it had allocated to automakers because it wasn’t being used. At issue is V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communications, which were hyped up to be a big deal in the late ‘90s but haven’t since materialized. In 1999, the FCC allocated 75 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.9-gigahertz band for this kind of tech, which had great promise. However, design has been slow, no commercially-marketed vehicle on American roads is really using V2V tech for safety features, and the demand for spectrum is so high that the FCC would like to put the band to actual use. The decision still leaves the automakers with 30 megahertz of spectrum, and the FCC gets back 45 megahertz for things like Wi-Fi.
As of July, consumer prices at grocery stores were up 13.1 percent compared to 2021, while consumer prices at restaurants were up 7.6 percent. That 5.5 percentage point gap is the widest it’s been since the 1970s, and restaurants have been trying to capitalize on the idea that it’s a marginally better value to eat out than in than it was a year ago, even if there’s still a difference. Among the top-watched restaurant ads in the period May through August, iSpot found 58 percent highlighted deals and prices, up from 46 percent in the January through April period. Groceries are more likely to be affected by fluctuations in prices of raw materials than restaurants, where labor costs are a more significant factor in overall costs.
Is crime down? Who can say. In 2021, the FBI moved to a new national crime database collection system. As a result, 40 percent of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States just didn’t report crime data to the FBI last year. That’s a massive gap that seriously jeopardizes the ability to actually talk about crime in America. For instance, in Florida and Pennsylvania fewer than 1 percent of agencies reported full data for last year, California’s law enforcement notched only 2 percent reporting, Maryland 4 percent, Illinois 12 percent and New York and New Jersey 13 percent.
The 9 p.m. hour of primetime cable news has been hemorrhaging viewers this summer compared to last year. Audience in May was down 38.1 percent year over year at CNN in the 9 p.m. hour and down 46.3 percent at MSNBC in the hour, and in June audience in the hour was down 24.8 percent at CNN, 10.5 percent at MSNBC and 1.2 percent at Fox News. On one hand, it’s a dire situation for the 24-hour cable news networks and the media conglomerates that own them. On the other hand, that’s millions of collective hours pried back to do stuff like socialize with other people, enjoy other entertainment, or spend the limited amount of time we have treading the earth not watching cable news.
A large ecology study called the National Ecological Observatory Network in the United States was designed to see ecological changes over three decades, and a component follows how greenhouse gases are captured or released by waterways. That last bit has been the subject of a riveting debate within the government over its research methods, which deliberately release sulfur hexafluoride into the atmosphere. This is scientifically useful because it’s not found in the environment, which means you get clean results when you bubble it into a river, but it’s also 22,800 more times as effective as CO2 in trapping heat. The 108 pounds of sulfur hexafluoride released so far is roughly the equivalent of burning over a million pounds of coal, so, not great! That said, on the global carbon ledger we’re talking a rounding error, but given that it’s environmental research destined to last another 30 years it’s rubbing people the wrong way.
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