Numlock News: August 23, 2023 • K-Pop, Ranked Choice, Bees
By Walt Hickey
Ranked choice voting has made a splash in a number of cities and states, with 51 different jurisdictions encompassing 13 million Americans — from New York City to Alaska — allowing voters to express more nuance in their votes by asking them to rank candidates rather than merely select the one. This has attracted some establishment opposition, because it threatens the ability of party machines to more directly influence outcomes of elections. While there has been some pushback, this year there were more bills in state legislatures that supported ranked choice voting (74 bills) compared to those opposing it (17 bills).
North American tour legs for K-pop acts are getting longer, as the Korean labels increasingly try to build up interest in acts in America and sometimes even send an emerging acts to the U.S. to try to get them to break out stateside before returning to Asia. Once, K-pop acts touring in America only averaged two to four shows, exclusively in major markets. Today, your standard K-pop act is averaging eight to 12 shows, dipping into smaller markets outside of the biggest cities. K-pop consumption, as measured by album equivalent units, is up 43.9 percent the year so far, the single best performing niche in the music business.
Wild bees are essential pollinators not only for crops — which also often bring in honeybees as freelancers to facilitate pollination — but as the foundation of the pollination for wild flora. A 2022 study of 72 wildflower and agriculture locations in the mid-Atlantic found that bee species that were in decline were responsible for 86 percent of the pollination in some areas. Agriculturally, wild bees have around the same pollination contribution to the value of produce sold as domesticated bees. Wild insects increase the rate that flowers turn into fruit, and things like kiwi, melons, pumpkins and watermelons yields would decline 90 percent without the pollinators.
In 2010, Taiwan launched a strategy called Tian-Tian 120 to address rising rates of myopia among youth, pushing kids to spend 120 minutes outside, given that spending time outdoors is pretty much the only thing linked to reducing rising rates of nearsightedness. It’s worked: Nearsightedness peaked in 2011 at 50 percent among Taiwanese primary school children, and has declined to 46.1 percent. That could be a framework for the rest of the world; in 2012, 96.5 percent of 19-year-old men in Seoul were nearsighted, in the U.S. and Europe myopia rates have risen sharply, and by 2050 half the world is expected to need glasses.
State Farm has dumped New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, declining to renew a contract that ended with the 2022 NFL season. The deal had been worth an estimated $3 million per year, and is one of the more prestigious endorsement deals in the league, putting the player front and center during many if not most games for the past 10 years. State Farm was the fifth-highest spender when it came to NFL commercials last year. Patrick Mahomes will now be expected to be the main pitchman for State Farm moving forward.
In 2026, the European Space Agency is planning to embark on the ClearSpace-1 mission, which will be the first to capture and remove a piece of space junk, VESPA, from orbit. It’s a serious issue, as the U.S. Department of Defense is currently tracking 27,000 pieces of debris in orbit. A complication has emerged, as VESPA — which was left over from a Vega rocket launched in 2013 — has itself been hit by a smaller, faster piece of space junk, resulting in additional pieces of space junk in the vicinity of VESPA. The ESA is trying to investigate how that might affect their mission.
Passages, which has frank same-sex sexual content, has grossed just $172,609 across a few movie theaters nationwide, and has faced serious hurdles in obtaining distribution to mainstream cinemas. The reason is that the film received a rare NC-17 rating from the ratings board, which led the distributor to release it unrated instead. This is the latest flash in a debate over what generally film ratings are intended to do, and what specifically the point of an NC-17 rating is beyond censoring content that gets a little too intense for movie raters. The NC-17 rating is overwhelmingly deployed against sexual content rather than violent content: Of 77 films that have been rated X or NC-17, only seven of them were rated for violence alone.
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