Numlock News: January 20, 2022 • North Korea, Cognac, Staten Island Ferry
By Walt Hickey
Fun news, a comic I edited came out yesterday at Insider. It’s all about how Britney Spears got out of her conservatorship, you should check it out.
The John F. Kennedy, which served as one of the Staten Island ferry boats for 50 years, went up for auction yesterday starting at $125,000. The Kennedy was the oldest operating boat in the fleet, but was removed from service in August 2021 because, while the hull’s still in great shape, the ship’s guts are pretty screwed up, and its mechanical issues were no longer worth the cost of repair. The ship, with a gross tonnage of 2,109 tons, was built in Texas in 1965, and was listed as being sold “as is” and “where is,” meaning that you do have to schlep it out of 1 Bay Street in Staten Island. The final selling price was $280,100 for the ship, meaning that someone bought an entire Staten Island Ferry for the cost of approximately three and a half fully loaded F-150s.
Last year was an incredible year, a record-setting period for the key North Korean industry of stealing cryptocurrency, with North Korean hackers stealing at least $395 million worth of crypto across seven different intrusions of cryptocurrency exchanges and investment groups. That’s an increase of over $100 million over the total posted in 2020, making it one of the most vibrant and fast-growing sectors of the brutal totalitarian hermit kingdom. It’s still a far cry from the best year on record when the nation’s formidable hackers pilfered $522 million in crypto in 2018. They’ve also embarked on a bit of diversification, with only 20 percent of this year’s performance derived from staid, vanilla cryptocurrencies like bitcoin while 58 percent was in ether and 11 percent was in ERC-20 tokens. The thefts were orchestrated by Lazarus, a group believed to be the breadwinners of the North Korean government.
Netflix released season two of Cheer, a popular reality show all about a highly competitive cheerleading program at Navarro College in Texas and their massive crosstown rivalry with Trinity Valley Community College. Cheer season two was also about some other stuff but I don’t really want to get into that now. Anyway, new details about the deal that the producers signed with Navarro show that the streamer is getting the show for a song: The school agreed to the first season in exchange for just $30,000 to shoot the doc, which is even the same amount that their rival Trinity Valley got. The series, which was supposed to bring attention and revenue to Navarro, could not have been released at a worse time for a small college, particularly the start of a pandemic, and as a result despite any bump from the show, enrollment’s actually down. What’s more, the deal was inked for five additional academic years for the same fee, and carries with it exclusivity.
Seven-Foot Frame, Rats Along His Back
The song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” hit No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, making it the highest-charting song from a Disney animated film in 26 years, the best showing since “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas. Those of you keeping score at home will observe that means that “Bruno” has defeated “Let It Go,” the incorrigible earworm, which peaked at No. 5 on the list in 2014, a coup that at most only one person could have predicted. The film premiered in cinemas in November to a modest box office but since has seriously popped as it hit streaming.
The Port of Long Beach moved a record 9.38 million cargo containers in 2021, absolutely shattering its previous record of 8.1 million containers. The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles handle around 40 percent of inbound U.S. container traffic. The port kept a brisk pace trying to keep the main logistical hub for Asian imports in motion, with imports jumping 14.6 percent to 3.58 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), while exports were down 2.6 percent. Remarkably the port moved 3.36 million empty containers through its docks, an increase of 27.5 percent.
Cognac is having a comeback, with the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac reporting that the 12-month period ending in November of 2021 saw 113 million bottles exported to the United States, up 9.2 percent compared to the same period a year prior. That rising demand is also fueling interest in a few unconventional cognacs. Right now 98 percent of all grapevines in the Cognac region of France — yes it’s one of those — are ugni blanc, an Italian strain grafted onto American roots. The reason for that was in the mid-1800s an insect named phylloxera wiped out 85 percent of France’s grapevines, and it became commercially untenable to use the varieties of grape that had previously gone into cognac. Now that a bunch of liquor nerds are buying it up, though, the market detects a niche, and several brands are reinvesting in the other, more fickle grapes for the kind of brandy that Napoleon once partied on.
Part of an infrastructure bill signed in November allocated $4.7 billion to plug and reclaim abandoned oil wells, and in response the Department of the Interior released a new memo about the current state of orphaned wells, which are the oil wells that belonged to companies that went under and have no successor firm to handle the cleanup. The 2019 estimate for these wells was 56,000; the new estimate as of this month is 130,000, a number of holes that will cost between $2.6 billion and $19 billion to plug, likely on the higher end. That’s also probably an underestimate: Last year, the EPA estimated there might be 3.4 million abandoned wells.
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