Numlock News: January 18, 2023 • Rewards, Goats, Movies
By Walt Hickey
The consumer credit card market is full of pitfalls and opportunities, with the savvy traveler able to find an ideal rewards card that makes their lives genuinely easier while most others overpay for benefits they don’t actually use often enough for it to be worth it. The cards inherently favor richer customers: According to research on the credit card market, people with super-prime credit, or with a score of 780 to 850, get an average of $9.50 in rewards every month and pay $7.10 less in interest compared to typical cards. Meanwhile, consumers with a credit score south of 660 earn $1.80 in rewards and pay $6.40 more in interest, and the researchers estimated that essentially it’s a $15 billion redistribution annually from consumers who lose out on credit cards to consumers who benefit from the system.
ServSafe charges cooks, waiters and bartenders $15 to complete an online class in food safety that many restaurants require prior to work. Over 3.6 million workers have taken the training, paying an aggregate $25 million for the privilege of learning to wash their hands. Uniquely, ServSafe then routes that worker money into the National Restaurant Association, the national lobby that wants to make sure the minimum wage stays low. Essentially, workers are subsidizing the lobbying that undermines their own wage growth, accounting for 2 percent of the National Restaurant Association’s total revenues since 2010 and paying in more than the organization has spent on lobbying over the same period.
The population of China fell for the first time since 1961, declining by 850,000 last year to 1,411,750,000. This is an unexpected development: China’s population was on track to keep growing for the next several years, and had been expected to start declining 9 to 10 years from now. China’s birthrate was 6.77 births per 1,000 people, down from 7.52 per 1,000, and there were fewer than 10 million births last year, which is below the number of births in India. China had attempted to avert this by in 2016 changing its one-child policy to a two-child policy, which in 2021 was upped to a three-child policy.
This is a great time of year for goats, which are known to devour all kinds of vegetation regardless of how spiky or poisonous it might be. The reason it’s a great time is that it’s the time of year when people recycle Christmas trees, which goats find delicious and their caretakers will gladly take off the hands of people willing to contribute a tree. The Philly Goat Project will take trees for $20 apiece to feed to the goats, as pine needles are rich in Vitamins A and C, contain tannins that deter parasites, and help with protein. Roughly 600 trees have already been donated in January to the Philadelphia goats, which should feed them through late spring.
Last year’s box office was down 35 percent compared to the pre-pandemic average, and the reluctance to return for cinema-goers aged 40 and over — who bought 40 percent of movie tickets in 2019 — are one reason why the recovery is still yet to fully materialize. As of December, 72 percent of Gen X respondents and 85 percent of baby boomer respondents had not been to a movie theater in the past month, significantly higher compared to 55 percent of millennials. Some of this is likely the saturation of superhero films, as 59 percent of baby boomers and 42 percent of Gen X said they do not enjoy them, compared to just 22 percent of millennials.
The deal to take Twitter private is reaching an inflection point for Elon Musk. Musk put about $26 billion of his own money into the Twitter deal, and after accounting for a few more shareholders, the balance of it was in $13 billion worth of debt to fund the takeover. The annual interest payments on that debt are $1.5 billion, and the first installment may be due as soon as the end of the month. There might be some restructuring, exchanging $3 billion of debt that has an interest rate of 11.75 percent for loans backed by Musk’s stake in Tesla, but even that reservoir of assets is drawing down; he’s already pledged 63 percent of his stake in Tesla as collateral for loans, and the stock is down 65 percent as of last year. Worst of all, Twitter itself is probably not worth what was paid for it, as equity analysts put it closer to $15 billion today than the $44 billion Musk paid for it.
A new study sought to find out how much sedimentation — the process by which sediment builds up in the reservoirs behind dams, reducing the maximum volume they can contain — is undermining the overall capacity behind dams in the world. The study looked at 47,403 dams across 150 countries, and estimated that the accumulated trapped sediment has eliminated 13 percent to 19 percent of the original storage capacity of the reservoirs, essentially dropping the capacity from 6.3 trillion to 4.7 trillion cubic meters of water. That sediment can damage turbines in hydroelectric facilities, hamper the ability to deal with floods, and undermine the ability to sustainably grow food in arid areas.
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