Numlock News: August 18, 2022 • Dijon, Orchestra, The Gray Man
By Walt Hickey
The Department of Education announced it will forgive $3.9 billion in student loan debt owned by students of ITT Technical Institute, a now-defunct for-profit college that authorities say misled students about the quality of their offerings. This means that 208,000 students who attended the Institute from 2005 to 2016 will get a clean slate. This is the latest in a string of loan forgiveness for students who were duped into attending a for-profit college that was for-profit first and a college second; so far, the Education Department has forgiven $13 billion in loans related to institutions that took advantage of borrowers, including $6 billion in forgiveness for a half-million students of Corinthian Colleges this past June.
A federal judge in Ohio ordered that CVS, Walgreens and Walmart must pay $650.5 million to Lake and Trumbull counties for their part in the opioid epidemic. The judge ruled that the pharmacies are responsible for a third of the costs that the counties have to pay to address the damage caused by opioids. The companies have indicated plans to appeal, and argued that pharmacists fulfilled legal prescriptions from doctors for FDA-approved substances and aren’t responsible. Most of these types of cases have ended in settlements, such as the $400 million the three largest distributors settled with West Virginia counties, but the pharmacy chains have been reluctant to settle.
Germany’s Rhine river is too low at a key passage to facilitate anything more than empty barges, which is really bad for a key conduit for European trade. On Wednesday, about 20 ships were lined up when a ship with a 1,660-ton load broke down in a shipping lane, blocking the passage until it was eventually towed. The European drought is causing additional problems, with a projected loss of about 15 percent of the grain maize harvest. While Germany is having the most significant problems, water levels are low across the continent: Swiss lakes are well below average, France’s Loire river has massive sand banks and dry tributaries, and Italy’s River Po is in the worst drought in 70 years.
In the 2020–21 season, just 5 percent of compositions that were scheduled to be performed by 100 worldwide orchestras were written by women. Classical music by women has long been overlooked, one reason that a French cellist has decided to launch a new music label La Boîte à Pépites, which unearths and revives works by women who composed classical music but had since fallen into obscurity.
Fall From Gray
The Gray Man, a $200 million Netflix action movie starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, ended up spending a grand total of eight days at the top of Netflix’s Top 10, and so far has accumulated 245 million hours of viewing time. That’s good to make it the fourth-most watched film in the history of Netflix behind Red Notice, Don’t Look Up and Bird Box. Still, it’s tough to genuinely gauge if the movie is successful. Viewership dropped 60 percent in its second week of streaming and another 46 percent in its third week, and given the limited cultural penetration the movie had — and the breathtaking price tag — it’s not really clear if this is a hit or not.
Dijon mustard is what happens when you combine brown mustard seeds with white wine, and is linked to the Burgundy region of France — capital city Dijon — because historically mustard seeds were planted alongside grape vines because it increased the nutrients in the soil. However, that quaint bucolic origin was not enough to sustain global demand for Dijon mustard, and since then production of the seeds moved elsewhere, mainly Canada, which makes 80 percent of the global supply of mustard seeds. The problem is that Canada’s weather this year has made for a miserable mustard crop, leading to skyrocketing prices after the war in Ukraine took a large supplier of white mustard seeds off the market. Finally, we’ve returned to a situation where only rich guys can afford Grey Poupon again.
The companies attempting to carve out their chunk of the increasingly legal online sports betting craze will continue to dump a fortune into ads during the upcoming football season, but the investment might begin to level off as the digital casinos want to eventually become profitable. The companies are projected to spend $1.8 billion on advertising this year, up from $1 billion last year, and are estimated to spend about $1.9 billion next year unless California decides to legalize it. They’re specifically spending $300 million in the state of New York alone this year. This is great, I was getting tired of ads for homeowners insurance; it’s good to know the entire fall commercial slate for New York City’s NFL games will be sports betting ads and like a Staten Island congressional race or something.
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