Numlock News: February 28, 2023 • Reality TV, Fake Metal, Lions
By Walt Hickey
It was a banner year for the North Korean cryptocurrency theft industry, which hauled in a bumper crop of $1.7 billion in crypto last year. That’s out of a total $3.8 billion stolen last year, more than the $3.3 billion the industry pilfered from crypto in 2021 and one accomplished despite a massive drop in the value of the crypto market. The hacking industry is a growth one for North Korea, which had a GDP of $18 billion or so in 2019, meaning that stolen crypto is a pretty remarkable chunk of the economy as a whole.
When people want to get cast on reality television programs as contestants, many are turning to the reality TV coaching business. One company, Casting Reality, charges $150 to review a written application, $250 to review an audition video, and $500 for a full-service consult. This may prompt questions as to whether contestants are truly there for the right reasons — they never are! — but it can be a profitable second act for former reality contenders or producers. It does work: Former Survivor contestant Adam Klein said 9 percent of clients got a callback in 2021 and 13 percent scored one in 2022.
Battle lines are being drawn over the response to the derailment outside of East Palestine, Ohio. The Biden administration wants the railroads to adopt electronic brakes — ECP, or electronically controlled pneumatic — that can get trains to stop in shorter distances and which the industry has resisted over cost concerns, given the 1.5 million cars on the rails that would need to be overhauled. The industry is coalescing around a counteroffer, which would place sensors on railcars that would flag malfunctioning equipment, a process currently being tested on 400 railcars with an intended rollout for the end of the year. That would cost $400 to $900 per railcar, which the industry thinks could be their way out of a daunting regulatory hammer about to drop. The NTSB report found that one wayside detector 20 miles before the crash site recorded a wheel bearing at 103 degrees Fahrenheit above ambient temperature, which by the time the wheel bearing was measured at the next detector had risen to 253 degrees above ambient and was too late to save.
The metals trading house Trafigura accused metals trader Prateek Gupta of selling it hundreds of millions of dollars of nickel that was, in fact, not nickel. The fiasco is still being figured out, and so far inspections of 156 containers that were supposed to be full of nickel have found them to actually be full of carbon steel, other steel, iron, but conspicuously not any nickel and not any nickel alloy. Making matters worse in coming to some kind of settlement is that a bunch of the containers involved in the deal — an estimated 1,100 containers — are actually still at sea, and they won’t know what’s in all of them until May at earliest.
About 106 million metric tons of onions are produced worldwide, making them the most consumed vegetable after only the tomato. It’s a critical ingredient in most cuisines, and unfortunately there’s a real shortage on. Onion prices are up 719 percent in Turkey, 139 percent in Pakistan, 125 percent in Morocco and 260 percent in Ukraine. Some countries have taken extreme steps, halting exports of some kinds of fruits and vegetables. The price jump and shortage is the result of a confluence of weather and geopolitics, with floods in Pakistan, droughts in North Africa, frosts in Central Asia, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine jeopardizing production.
Lions in Namibia used to feast on the coastlines, but in the 1980s the desert lions left the coast after farmers killed lots of the prey in Torra Bay, like Cape fur seals, beached whales and cormorants. They’ve come back to the coast starting in 2002, but didn’t hunt marine prey as scientists believed they forgot and lost the social knowledge to carry out the hunt. Then, starting in 2015, three enterprising lionesses started hunting coastal species again after a drought hilled the zebras, oryxes and ostriches they subsisted on. By 2018, they were back at it, hunting fur seals, the first lions to do so in four decades. The knowledge is back: In an 18-month study, marine foods accounted for 86 percent of the lionesses’ diet.
The National Advertising Division is an ad industry self-regulatory organization that adjudicates disputes between advertisers. Recent cases include AT&T having to stop using the phrase “5G evolution” or Verizon being told to stop saying “You need a better network.” In the middle of last year, AB Inbev launched a challenge against a Molson Coors ad for Miller Light that said “light beer shouldn’t taste like water.” Given the highly consolidated state of the beer industry, it wasn’t exactly an enigma which rival beers they were referring to, and the National Advertising Division has ruled that the ad did make a measurable claim without evidence. Molson Coors plans to appeal. To be clear, this isn’t an actual court — 90 to 95 percent of advertisers participate, they get 100 to 150 cases per year, and something like 15 percent to 20 percent appeal. When advertisers don’t comply, they get referred to the FTC. If you’ll excuse me, there’s got to be a television procedural drama somewhere in here, and I’ve got a pilot to write.
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