Numlock News: December 15, 2023 • Debt, Elf, Everest
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
In the debt world, a "frontier market" is a developing country with a small domestic market that tends to go to global lenders in order to get the money to build things like roads and schools and hospital infrastructure. The value of all that debt in developing countries is up from $764 billion as of June 2005 all the way up to $3.47 trillion dollars as of June 2023. It's caused the interest payments to surge to levels where 3.3 billion people now live in a country where they spend more on debt payments than they spend on education and health care, and the cuts to services necessary to service the debt are increasing instability. In Pakistan, for instance, the country spends $28 billion a year on interest payments alone, eight times the amount it spends on health care.
We Hear For You
Automatic content recognition, or ACR, is a system that is able to capture an image of what a smart TV is playing and then use that image to determine what precisely is being played, which allows television operating systems to discern viewership data and to fuel ad recommendations. Modern televisions can capture 7,200 images per hour and then identify what's on, whether it's from a cable box, a streaming service or a game. The televisions have made this into a remarkable business, as advertisers spent $18.6 billion on smart television ads last year. I guess this explains why all my personalized advertisements are pushing me to either vacation or buy real estate in Roku City.
Officials at the Food and Drug Administration said they intercepted containers of 1.4 million illegal electronic cigarettes from China including the banned Elf Bar series of vapes. The value of the seized items at LAX was $18 million, and the containers were mislabeled as toys and shoes in order to smuggle them into the country. It's the first successful interception of the vapes, which have still managed to flow into the country despite an import ban on several of Elf Bar's products, which come in fruity flavors considered desirable by teens; a survey found 56 percent of teens who vaped used Elf Bar.
Pile driving an offshore wind turbine into the ocean floor is loud work, and the sound can disturb whales and dolphins. Developers of offshore wind farms have begun using new technology that can help lower the sound, using a wall of bubbles around an underwater construction site to dampen the noise by a factor of 80 to 90 percent. It takes about a half-hour for a crew of approximately 30 to fire up the bubble curtain, they reduce sound levels by anywhere from 11 to 23 decibels, depending on what precisely is making the noise and where it's being measured from.
Arctic seals boast an intricate schnoz compared to their subtropical cousins, and a new study published in Biophysical Journal looks at their funky nose bones to figure out what the perks of a complicated snout truly are. An arctic seal has a maze-like, porous nose bone, and the advantage comes in water retention and heat. Comparing bearded seals to Mediterranean monk seals in a simulation of breathing in cold and mild conditions, the arctic seals shed 23 percent less energy per breath than their southern cousins, and retained 94 percent of the water they breathed. That's important because arctic animals get water through food – the fresh stuff is obviously otherwise frozen – so the nose helps retain that valuable moisture.
Mount Everest is melting, and that's a serious problem, as the mountain is pretty much the foundation of a $2.4 billion tourism industry that constitutes literally 6.1 percent of the country's GDP. At issue is the Khumbu Glacier, which is on the mountain's slopes, and through its Khumbu Icefall climbers ascend. Everest Base Camp is on the glacier, and its very existence appears to be melting the ice upon which it sits. One estimate of the aggregate propane gas used in base camp would be good enough to melt 3 billion kilograms of ice every season, and just the urination of its residents alone contributes 4,000 liters of warm liquid to the struggling glacier each day. It's hit the point where moving base camp down the mountain, to an area near Gorak Shep, might be necessary at some point.
Full-time academic enrollment at U.S. colleges is down, from 11.5 million in 2010 to 9.5 million in 2021. That decline in demand has mostly impacted smaller schools with less reliable funding, and it's pushed them to be less selective about who they admit and offer admission to a much higher percentage of applicants. The fiscal situation is dire: Based on five metrics of financial distress, an analysis of 973 small, nonprofit colleges found that 44 percent of the schools had none of the five red flags in 2008, a figure that has dropped to just 20 percent as of 2021. Since then, 46 of the schools closed or merged, and as it stands 18 percent of the schools that remain have three or more signals of serious distress. Fitch Ratings predicts that annually there will be closures of 20 to 25 schools per year, double the rate seen over the past decade.
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