Numlock News: December 21, 2021 • Swears, Back Taxes, Mariah Carey
By Walt Hickey
Last week, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” logged 37.6 million streams in the U.S., 26.1 million impressions on radio, and sold 7,400 downloads, a festive cocktail of music consumption that was good enough to put the Christmas staple at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This will be the song’s 13th overall week at No. 1 after first hitting the top of the list in 2019. It’s also given Carey a record, in the longest span of time between when a song first hit the top of the Hot 100 to the last time, 2 years and 4 days, which beats the record set by Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” between September 19, 1960 and January 20, 1962. Carey has now spent 85 weeks at number one, the most of any artist, with the closest runner up Rihanna with 60 and The Beatles at 59. Over the course of its lifetime, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has notched 4.3 billion listens in radio audience, 1.4 billion streams and 3.7 million downloads.
A Chinese livestreamer Viya has been slammed with a $210 million fine for tax evasion, a sign both that the real-time livestream video sales business in China has gotten massive as well as an indication that the government is taking an increased interest in the entertainers-slash-hawkers. The sales format combines groupchat, infomercial and entertainment, and this year they’re expected to lead to 1.2 trillion yuan in sales, up from 19 billion yuan in 2017. Viya alone notched sales of 31 billion yuan in 2020, the most of any streamer, and she’s been accused of avoiding taxes totaling 643 million yuan, which prompted the 1.34 billion yuan back taxes and fine. For perspective, that fine is vastly larger than the one that hit actress Fan Bingbing in 2018.
Kratom is a psychoactive drug made from a Southeast Asian plant, a substance you probably recognize as the thing that is for sale in gas stations that pretends it’s weed but is not, in fact, weed. It’s a $1.3 billion industry in the United States, mostly online and in smoke shops, and is also one of the most seized substances in the world, undoubtably because I have never met someone capable of offering kratom discretely. While the feds have sought to ban it for years, they have been unsuccessful in doing so, and kratom fans evidently have friends on the Hill who have stymied attempts to ban it. It’s illegal in just six states, and this month the World Health Organization said it didn’t merit the kind of review that could lead to U.N. restrictions, a decision that has drawn the attention of entrepreneurs and pharmaceutical companies considering moving into the kratom business. Congratulations to everyone’s favorite college friend, The Guy Whose Entire Personality Is Constructed Around Encouraging People To Try Kratom, on what is undoubtably the single best news since the day they successfully convinced me to try some gross tea.
Starting next July, the number to reach a suicide hotline in the United States will shift from a ten-digit number, 800-273-TALK, to 988, a number that can also handle texts as well. Monday, federal officials announced $282 million in funding to ensure a smooth transition to the three-digit code. Mental health experts think the transition to a memorable three digits will lead to a substantial increase in calls from people in crisis and an increase in utilization of the counselors in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. Of the allocation, $177 million will expand the operations and telephone infrastructure, helping to centralize text response and add backup capacity, while the other $109 million will increase staff at call centers. Since 2005, the line has received over 20 million calls, 2.4 million last year alone.
The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for launch on the morning of Christmas Eve, a long-awaited event that hopes to set in motion the next generation of astronomy. The 7-ton telescope will be heading towards a Lagrange point, a gravitationally ideal spot far from Earth where it can get spectacular views — that is, provided that it can successfully unfurl itself. Yes, while many will be kicking off the Twelve Days of Christmas, the entire astronomy community will actually be kicking off their 29 Days of Terror, the period of time after launch over which the telescope will unfurl.
The current “shortage” of truck drivers is reportedly around 80,000, which is interesting given the 1.85 million truck drivers in America and the reality that a productivity increase of just 4.3 percent would eliminate it. In reality, it’s not a shortage of truck drivers, but rather a shortage of adequate compensation for drivers. Truckers are legally allowed to drive 11 hours per day but average just 6.5 hours, meaning 40 percent of the capacity is just idling. The reason is that after the Federal Motor Carrier Act of 1980, truckers were paid by the mile instead of the hour, and spend lots of time just waiting around not getting paid outside of distribution centers. Those ports and distribution centers have been a mess lately thanks to the ways that carriers operate, but the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021, which passed the House a week ago and enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate, may fix some of the issues. It empowers the Federal Maritime Commission — which oversees ports — to act to make sure that carriers can only charge fees if those fees are designed to make the system run smoother, not just extract fees from traffic jams.
Ah, Gently Caress
Mounting evidence shows that people are cursing much more than they were prior to the pandemic, thanks to some combination of reduced work-life boundaries, stress and a rise in casualness. An analysis of tweets from Storyful has found that the use of expletives has increased 27 percent between 2019 and 2021, and has increased 41 percent on Facebook. Another profanity-filtering service run by Inversoft found that the volume of filtered words has tripled in the past 18 months on the forums and message board it monitors.
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