Numlock News: August 24, 2023 • Pumpkin Spice, Octopus, Tornado
By Walt Hickey
Starbucks Corporation has announced that summer is over and that the season once previously known as autumn, Pumpkin Spice Season, is now in effect as of today. Yes, Pumpkin Spice Season — those crisp months that separate Negroni Season and The Holiday Season — is here, and it’s a massive business. On August 30, 2022, when Starbucks brought back its fall menu last year, foot traffic popped 25.7 percent, and when Dunkin rolled out its fall pumpkin spice menu on August 17, 2022, foot traffic jumped 9.5 percent. The spice must flow, and it’s also vastly more expensive than it was upon introduction: A Pumpkin Spice Latte cost $3.35 in 2005, whereas today you won’t get it for less than $5.75.
The founders of Tornado Cash, a privacy service designed to obscure the ownership of cryptocurrency, were charged with three conspiracy counts in the Southern District of New York, with the U.S. Attorney alleging they helped launder $1 billion in criminal proceeds and violated U.S. sanctions. Tornado Cash was allegedly used by none other than the North Koreans to launder $615 million in tokens that were stolen from the Ronin Network. The very concept of Tornado Cash is illegal, the indictment alleges, arguing that by design it operated without know-your-customer laws, anti-money laundering programs, and never registered with FinCEN as a money transmitting business.
In a massive national win, India’s Chandrayaan 3 mission was a success, landing the Vikram lander very near to the southern polar region of the moon. The 6-foot-tall lander is now at 69 degrees south latitude, which is closer to the south pole of the moon than ever before, though not far south enough to study craters that are permanently in shadow and where water ice is thought to be potentially present. The lander will function for around 12 days, which is how much daylight the lander’s got at the landing site, at which point power levels and temperature will dip below sustainable levels.
Approximately 2,100 New Jersey power customers lost electricity for a little under two hours last week, but the cause has been found to be, in a new one, a fish on a power transformer. Fish rarely cause power outages, but in this case it’s thought that one of the many ospreys in the area is responsible for dropping the fish onto a transformer. Let’s be real, this is a lose-lose-lose situation all around: The osprey lost a meal, Sayreville lost power, and the fish had easily one of the top five weirdest experiences ever endured by a fish.
The Justice Department has announced 718 law enforcement actions connected to $836 million stolen through fraudulent use of coronavirus aid programs, a huge swathe of criminal charges and sanctions that are the result of a three-month federal sweep. In 2020, approximately $5 trillion in coronavirus aid was distributed, primarily to workers unable to work as a result of the pandemic. The speedy rollout, while necessary to confront the extent and immediacy of the pandemic, did open it up to potential abuse, and these 718 actions are only the latest efforts from the federal government to chase down bad actors; to date, the Justice Department has launched investigations into a total of $8.6 billion in alleged fraud.
A new study investigated recently described nesting sites used by octopuses, which are normally solitary creatures with little in the way of community. That’s why it was weird when, in 2018, researchers found 6,000 octopus nesting at a site some 2 miles down, which they’ve since discovered is a place where heat from an extinct underwater volcano helps the eggs hatch faster. Typically, an octopus egg takes around four years to hatch. At the site, eggs hatch in about 21 months.
The Renew America’s Schools program came about thanks to the infrastructure bill passed in 2021, and seeks to direct money to schools to improve their HVAC systems, upgrade insulation and more. In June, the Department of Energy allocated their first $178 million from the program, considerably more than the $80 million originally planned for the first tranche, owing to higher than expected demand, with over 1,000 places requesting $5.5 billion in funding. Of those funding requests, 90 percent were for HVAC upgrades. According to the Government Accountability Office, 36,000 buildings across 41 percent of public school districts are in need of HVAC upgrades.
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