Numlock News: December 13, 2022 • Cherokee, PSR, Bad Bunny
By Walt Hickey
I’m hosting a show at Caveat in NYC on December 15th. I would love to see you there! There’s also a livestream option for out of town folks.
The top-grossing touring act of 2022 is Bad Bunny, who grossed $373.5 million across 65 shows, a figure that doesn’t even include his most recent 20 Latin American stadium shows. It’s a colossal achievement for a lot of reasons — the artist is the first act to not perform in English to top the top-grossing tours list — but also the result of several innovations in touring, particularly in Latin America. A typical tour of this size might have 20 cargo trucks, while Bad Bunny had up to 36 hauling 100 tons of equipment. He worked with independent and local promoters throughout Latin America, and rather than scale down his show for Latin American venues that lacked the state-of-the-art tech in many American stadiums, he flew all that necessary state-of-the-art equipment into a 747 and flew it around Latin America. That’s a big upfront cost, but the results speak for themselves.
Several companies in mainland China that offer test prep for the Educational Testing Service’s Test of English as a Foreign Language (Toefl) exam, the GRE grad school exam and the GMAT are sometimes little more than test-taking services, according to a new investigation into how online at-home testing has affected test integrity. One test prep company in China said they offer a service to answer questions for students using remote access software for 12,000 yuan ($1,678) with a guarantee they’ll get 85 points out of 90 on the Toefl. A student said that she was able to get texted answers during the Toefl for 15,000 yuan ($2,124). A 160 out of 180 on the LSAT sets a buyer back 40,000 yuan ($5,662), or 60,000 yuan if they want a 170 out of 180.
The Joint Pathology Center is a facility at a U.S. military base that contains 55 million pathology slides of tissue samples which contain skin, tumor and organ samples from members of the armed services and veterans. It’s an archive really unlike any other, and in the world of pathology it’s an important resource. For instance, the first genetic sequencing of the 1918 Flu came from a sample in this collection. Naturally, many in the industry consider it a potentially valuable public resource to mine, which is why companies like Google are competing to land contracts to digitize the collection, and reap financial rewards by analyzing them algorithmically. The ethics around that are, needless to say, complicated.
The Cherokee Nation was promised a delegate in Congress as part of the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, the same treaty that led to the Trail of Tears. That has not been honored by the American government, and a renewed push from the Cherokee Nation wants to get a delegate into the House of Representatives soon. The effort was renewed following the 2020 Supreme Court case McGirt v. Oklahoma, which affirmed that a lapse in time in enforcement is not a valid reason to end Native American treaty rights. If successful, the nominated delegate, Kimberly Teehee, would be seated with delegates from Puerto Rico, Guam and the District of Columbia as nonvoting members. The Cherokee Nation is composed of 440,000 citizens, which is greater than the population of Guam.
Though the massive rail conglomerates have evaded a strike, the labor dispute that has consumed the past several months is reportedly a reality check for the industry and its investors. The transition to precision scheduled railroading beefed up profits substantially, but the accumulated effects of the transition to leaner operations has had negative impacts on workers, customers and marketshare and may not be entirely sustainable. Railroads have reduced their workforce by 28 percent over the past decade. Before the implementation of PSR, which cut costs substantially, the five largest railroads had profit margins of 15 percent, profits that rose to a margin of 41 percent in 2021. That’s causing issues for customers; for instance, roughly one out of every 10 carloads of potatoes has had quality issues this year because of issues on railroads, which have become less dependable than trucking.
Physicists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will reportedly announce a new advance in fusion, a long-sought energy source that would produce large amounts of zero-carbon power through the same kind of reaction that fuels the sun. The longtime goal of fusion experiments is to get more energy out of a reaction — basically shooting a pellet of hydrogen plasma with the largest laser in the world — than you put into it. Last year the National Ignition Facility got the closest to net gain when it got 70 percent of the energy put into a reaction back out of it. Reportedly, the U.S. government will announce that the latest test got 2.5 megajoules out of a 2.1 megajoule input, or 120 percent.
Twitter, which was recently taken private by its most ardent and ill-equipped fan, has seen a disastrous impact on its ad business since exiting public markets and coherent corporate governance. The traffic to Twitter’s ad platform declined 74 percent in October year over year, 85 percent year over year in November, and as of December the traffic to Twitter’s ad platform is so low it no longer meets Similarweb’s threshold to measure it. This follows reports that the service’s advertiser roster was down 42 percent in October compared to May. Never fear: If there’s one thing that blue chip advertisers can’t get enough of in a business partner, it’s a platform governed by impetuous orders of a capricious narcissistic profligate for whom the only thing that can’t be disrupted day in and day out is his nigh-pathological thirst for attention by absolutely any means necessary. They famously love dudes like that.
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