Numlock News: December 10, 2021 • Volcanos, Dinosaurs, Kleptocracy
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
The most important story in the world right now is the national cream cheese shortage, by which I mostly mean the New York City cream cheese shortage, because that’s the bit that directly affects me personally. A new wrinkle in the crisis: As it turns out, a contributing factor to the nationwide shortfall in cream cheese is a cyberattack that took place in October. Schreiber Foods, the largest cheese manufacturer in the U.S., closed for several days after hackers compromised their plants, an attack that happened at the height of holiday cream cheese demand and sent ripples through the supply chain. Schreiber was running at full capacity at the time, and as a result of the shutdown, national cream cheese production was down 6.9 percent in October. That couldn’t come at a worse time, when at-home consumption is up 18 percent over 2019 and foodservice demand is up 75 percent over last year.
The pandemic forced civil courts to take their business online, and as a result it forced a major overhaul of the digital savvy of the court system and also resulted in significantly higher participation. Texas went from having never held a civil hearing over video to doing 1.1 million remote civil and criminal proceedings from March 2020 to February 2021. Pre-pandemic, 37 states let people without lawyers file court documents electronically; since March 2020, another 10 states have made e-filing available to everyone. In Arizona, June 2020 registered an 8 percent drop in the rate of automatic judgement, which happens when a defendant failed to appear in court.
Mt Semeru in Indonesia erupted on Saturday, and over 5,000 people have been affected, with the volcano’s ash plume reaching 15 kilometers into the atmosphere. It’s one of the most active volcanos on the archipelago, with volcanic activity happening in 74 of the last 80 years, though Saturday’s eruption was much larger than the general background activity. What’s particularly interesting is how it eluded volcano monitoring that typically focuses on unrest within the volcano, because this eruption was believed to be caused by a thunderstorm. According to the Geological Agency, rain eroded a part of the lava dome, which then collapsed, and triggered the eruption. Finding ways to monitor that kind of issue is a big problem for Indonesia, where 70 percent of the population lives within 100 kilometers of any of the 130 active volcanos on the islands.
A new study looks at the “golden” visa in the United Kingdom, which is permission to reside in the U.K. for investors. Such visas can attract wealthy people to a country, but are also possible sources of corruption given the pay-to-play nature of the visa. The U.K. has had this visa since 1994, and data suggests that it’s often served to give post-Soviet kleptocrats a free ticket to Britain. According to a corruption-study group, 6,312 of the golden visa holders have been reviewed as a possible national security risk by the Home Office, or roughly half the number of visas ever issued.
Ford’s stopped taking reservations for the hotly-awaited F-150 Lightning, the forthcoming electric pickup from the automaker that has a 230-mile range and towing capacity between 7,700 and 10,000 pounds depending on the selected kit. The company has collected 200,000 of the refundable $100 deposits on the $40,000 pickup, and anyone who doesn’t have one of those is likely going to have to wait a bit to ride their personal Lightning. The company hasn’t said the number they plan to build in 2022, but it’s been reported they’re aiming to build some 80,000 in 2023, a significant upward revision from the originally planned 40,000 per year.
Objects In Mirror May Be Closer Than They Appear
A new finding published in the journal Scientific Reports analyzed a sequence of dinosaur footprints found in Spain in 1985 to try to estimate a speed for the animal based on stride length and hip height. The footprints are from two dinosaurs: one therapod that ran somewhere between 20 and 28 miles per hour, and another dinosaur running 14.5 to 23.1 miles per hour, give or take. That would make them particularly agile animals, on par with the best human sprinters, and likely faster than T. Rex.
A new bill would slash the costs of accessing federal court records through PACER, which today stand at $0.10 per page with a cap of $3 per document. The federal judiciary made around $142 million in PACER fees in the last fiscal year and while surely a lot of that comes from large law firms, the financial barriers to access public records also hits citizens trying to understand their own cases, as well as journalists and researchers. The bill would still require high-volume PACER users — defined as those spending north of $25,000 per quarter and federal agencies — to pay for access.
This past week in the Sunday edition I had on Ernie Smith who writes the Tedium and Midrange newsletters about his great story ‘A Chart-Record Feast 🎶’. I really love Ernie’s newsletters, Tedium at this point is iconic and is a brilliant weekly dive into the kind of topics nobody else is writing about, and Midrange has been a great read into quicker topics, this story in particular is a great example of what I love about Smith’s work. Smith can be found at Tedium, at Midrange, and on Twitter at @ShortFormErnie.
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