Numlock News: August 17, 2022 • Queen, Kingdom, Sky Rivers
By Walt Hickey
The Inflation Reduction Act, while broadly a climate, health care and tax bill, also steers $15 million to study how the IRS could implement a public system that would enable millions of Americans to file their taxes for free without having to shell out for tax prep software annually. The report is now due within nine months. Many other rich, developed countries have free tax filing systems for taxpayers with a fairly vanilla return. We don’t, in no small part due to extensive lobbying from the corporations that sell tax prep software. Researchers from the Treasury, Minneapolis Fed and Dartmouth found that something like 41 percent to 48 percent of all tax returns could just be pre-populated with current year tax information and still be correct.
The Fees To The Kingdom
Disneyland will restart its annual pass sales after pumping the brakes on the system that was thought to cause congestion problems at the resort. The new passes can be renewed starting Thursday, and the primary change is that they’re now all more expensive. The Imagine-tier pass for Southern California residents will jump 13 percent to $449, the Enchant-tier pass with blackout dates on holidays and summer vacations will increase 8 percent to $699, and the Inspire-tier pass will replace the $1,399 Dream Key pass and now sell for $1,599.
War of the Three Queens
In 2020, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” hit No. 1 in the U.K. charts for the first time ever, all after 69 weeks in the top 40. That year was a triumphant one for Carey, who saw Christmas chart success on both sides of the Atlantic that had previously eluded her. The following March, in 2021, Carey evidently began to eye the throne: A trademark bid was filed by Carey’s people to trademark the phrase “Queen of Christmas.” This, however, has raised the ire of not just one but two other claimants to the throne. One, Elizabeth Chan, who performs Christmas music only, filed a formal objection that has now launched this war in the press. Another, the iconic Darlene Love who sang “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” also shared qualms about the claims of the pretender, as she ascended the throne when David Letterman crowned her “Queen of Christmas” 29 years ago. At press time, the queens are raising their levies, making their list, checking it twice, gathering the bannermen and preparing for a protracted campaign.
One measure of car ownership in New York City found that the rate increased 224 percent in 2021, and given the many working from home, those cars aren’t always moving as much as they used to. This is causing protracted parking problems, which is weird because we have a working subway that’s really cheap so I’m not really seeing the issue? This also happens as the city resumes twice-a-week street cleaning, which mandates moving street-parked cars two-times per week. It’s unclear if the trend will abate: Last year there were 579,811 new vehicle registrations in the city, and already this year as of July there have been 421,758 newly registered vehicles.
On Friday, the USDA cut the forecast for the U.S. cotton crop to 12.6 million bales. That’s down 28 percent from last year, thanks to a severe drought and hot weather that’s made the USDA believe that farmers will cull 40 percent out of 12.5 million acres sown with cotton. The issue is especially acute in Texas, where the USDA is projecting the worst ratio of acres harvested to acres planted since 1986.
The FDA will allow over-the-counter hearing aid sales for some hearing aids. The move is designed for adults with mild and moderate hearing loss, while devices for adults with severe hearing loss and children will still be prescription-only. The hope is to slash the price and offer more inexpensive devices to a segment of the market that isn’t well-served when prescription hearing aids can cost up to $5,000. The FDA estimates that the over-the-counter devices could reduce the price by $2,800 a pair and could hit shelves as soon as October. About 30 million adults have hearing trouble but only 20 percent use a hearing aid.
Meteorologists are working to develop better systems to track and monitor atmospheric rivers, which are conduits of water vapor that can move serious volumes of water around. Some can grow to be 2,000 miles long, 500 miles wide and two miles deep, and the average atmospheric river can move the vapor equivalent of 25 times the flow of the Mississippi. The good news is this is a great way to get water to regions that are normally arid — California gets 30 percent to 50 percent of its rain and snow through atmospheric rivers across just 10 days a year — but the bad news and a main motivation for research is atmospheric rivers are also major causes of flooding.
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