Numlock News: August 26, 2019 • Hybrids, Rhinos, Canadian Lobster
By Walt Hickey
New tariffs have jeopardized a once symbiotic trade between Maine lobstermen and Chinese palates that love those crustaceans. America exported 2.2 million pounds of lobster to China through June for $19 million, down from about 12 million pounds over the same period of 2018. The big winner? Canada, which is right next to Maine and catches those same lobsters. Through June, Canadian lobster exports to China hit 33 million pounds, which is about the entire weight exported in the whole of 2018. The value of that export was nearly $200 million (USD), meanwhile the American export is $70 million behind what it was last year by June 2018.
Last week, the chicken chain Popeye’s had an enormously successful product launch for a new chicken sandwich that mimics the pickles-chicken-butter-bun offerings from places like Chick-fil-A. The sensation certainly crushed expectations, but that a chicken sandwich of that kind would succeed is thoroughly borne out of market trends of the past few years. The average American consumed 10 more pounds of chicken per year than they did 10 years ago, and Chick-fil-A has reaped that reward: the average restaurant in the chain brought in $4.6 million, three times the revenue of the average KFC.
Amazon has a safety problem, a new Wall Street Journal analysis determined, stemming largely from the lack of moderation or enforcement of federal safety requirements on participants in its marketplace. The analysis of the site’s offerings found some worrisome oversights: of 3,644 toy listings analyzed on the site, 2,324 lacked choking-hazard warnings found on listings for the same toy on Target’s website. They found 1,412 electronics listed that either didn’t meet industry safety standards or couldn’t provide information to prove they did. Even things for human use or consumption were troubling: 52 supplements matched an FDA list of illegally imported drugs, 43 listings of a pain reliever lacked FDA warning labels, and 44 motorcycle helmets failed federal safety tests in 2018. If you’ll excuse me, I recently purchased a coffee cup warmer from Amazon and I need to hurl that directly into a black hole.
There are just two surviving northern white rhinos in Kenya, both of whom are female and both of whom are unable to breed. The last surviving male of the species died in early 2018. In an unprecedented procedure, veterinarians have successfully harvested 10 eggs from the rhinos and, using the frozen sperm of dead males, hope to save the species from a certain extinction. This complements earlier efforts to use tissue samples to develop viable embryos of the species — hybrids with the southern white rhino — to secure some measure of genetic diversity in the desperate event the creature can be saved.
Major League Baseball allowed players to wear a uniform bearing a nickname of their choice over Player’s Weekends, and it ended up being a chance for major leaguers to fail magnificently at expressing their creativity. Of the 832 names analyzed, only 24 percent went with a bona fide nickname. Roughly a third went with just a twist on their name, hence five different players with the last name Smith all going with Smitty. Straight up, 5.6 percent declined to participate. Shout out to the 2.6 percent who inserted a literal emoji, the 1.7 percent that befuddled the Journal so substantially they described the name as “utterly inexplicable,” and specifically Tampa Bay Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who managed to sneak a little something past the censors.
The plug-in hybrid was essential to laying the groundwork for consumers interested in electric vehicles, but new trends appear to show that their time is coming up as fully electric cars come into their own. Through July, Americans bought 8,649 plug-in hybrids per month over the past year, which is down 15 percent from six months ago. Sales of electric cars with no gas engine grew 15 percent, to over 23,000 per month. Plug in hybrids like the Chevy Volt succeeded hybrids like the Toyota Prius, which could not be plugged in, but eventually automakers basically came to the conclusion that any dollar applied toward hybrid or plug-in hybrid tech was probably better spent just going for the win in the electric sector.
Turkey is angling to be the vacation destination for Saudi Arabia, owing to a scenic, temperate climate and a shared religious and cultural history that the country is leaning into in their pitch to the Peninsula. Last year, 750,000 Saudis visited Turkey, up 15 percent year-over-year, and far higher than the 120,000 who visited in 2011. Granted, geopolitically the two Sunni powers are each vying for power in the region, but Turkey is leaning on soft power strategies — television dramas, tourism investments, ample flights and so on — to appeal to citizens of the Kingdom.
The decline of religiosity in parts of the U.S. has led to a glut of religious buildings hitting the market as churches and religious schools fold, move, or attempt to offload underused facilities that serve as an undue burden on congregations that no longer need the real estate. In the past five years, 6,800 religious buildings have changed hands, and currently there are roughly 1,400 for sale. Some will go private, becoming coffee shops, apartments or homes with ridiculous heating bills. Some will change hands between religious institutions, like the church directly across the street from my apartment did, becoming whatever faith piano players with no sense of tempo belong to.
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