Numlock News: January 4, 2021 • Prince, Wonder Woman, Florida
By Walt Hickey
Welcome back, and happy New Year!
At the dawn of the new year, dog racing came to an end in Florida, the result of the passage of Amendment 13 in 2018 by a popular plebiscite. Florida had long been a bastion of the sport — at the time of the vote the state was home to 11 of the 17 remaining dog tracks in the United States. Following tracks in Texas and Alabama folding during the ensuing period, today there are just four greyhound racing tracks left in three states, Arkansas, Iowa and West Virginia. In the 1980s, there were over 60 tracks in operation in the U.S.
The omnibus spending bill signed on December 27 also saw the creation of the 63rd national park, New River Gorge in West Virginia. The park designation will be an upgrade for a parcel of land that has been a national river since 1978. Redesignation as a national park is projected to increase the number of visits by 21 percent, according to one of the state’s senators who pushed for the upgrade. The area will include about 6,000 acres of the 73,000 acres of federal land in the area.
The Internal Revenue Service has found that the executors of the estate of iconic musician Prince undervalued the assets by 50 percent. Much like anyone who has gone into the broader catalog of the musician beyond his most well-regarded hits, the IRS found a whole lot of undervalued assets after its investigation. The feds determined the estate was worth $163.2 million, which is twice the $82.3 million the estate’s administrator said. Prince died without a will causing what’s considered one of the “largest and most complicated probate court proceedings in Minnesota history,” an enviable legacy on its own. The IRS ordered a $6.4 million penalty on the estate related to the discrepancy.
Ticket seller Ticketmaster has agreed to pay a $10 million fine which will help resolve five charges of computer intrusion and fraud. Federal prosecutors alleged that employees and executives illegally logged into a rival’s computer system — a U.K.-based company identified by analysts as Crowdsurge, now a Songkick subsidiary — to gather information on the rival from 2013 to 2015, with Ticketmaster employees monitoring the rival’s draft web pages in order to poach artists. In 2018, Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster, paid a $110 settlement with Songkick’s parent company, but this federal scrutiny is not the end: the New York Attorney General is looking into issues surrounding refunds for postponed shows, and last year, Live Nation reached a settlement with the Department of Justice over its business practices.
A proposal for a 720 billion yen ($6.97 billion) 31-kilometer tunnel connecting Japan’s main island of Honshu with the northern island of Hokkaido is under consideration by the Transport Minister, a colossal public works project that would link up the sole big island not currently connected to Honshu by bridge. Right now the only way to get there is the Seikan tunnel, which is only for bullet and freight trains, so you can’t get a car or truck through it. The economic benefits of the second tunnel are projected to be 87.8 billion yen a year, with most of that in increased tourism, but agriculture would also be a serious boost. Right now, it’s 34 percent more expensive to get a truck the 1,150 kilometers from Hokkaido’s capital to Tokyo compared to the same distance to the Fukuoka in the south.
Wonder Woman 1984 has made $28.5 million in the U.S. and Canada and about $90 million overseas, a bit shy of expectations. Obviously predicting anything in 2020 was a total crapshoot, but it helps put a cap on an unthinkably bad year for the box office. Box office revenue was down 80 percent in 2020 in North America, while globally revenue was down 70 percent. Domestic movie tickets were $2.3 billion for the year, down from $11.4 billion in 2019, and the worst in at least four decades. Globally, movie ticket sales are expected to be somewhere between $11.5 billion and $12 billion, down from $42.5 billion last year.
Recent years have seen enormous swaths of ancient rosewood trees — some centuries old — cut down in Namibia, loaded on to trucks by Chinese-owned companies and then exported. While no new three-month harvesting permits have been issued since late 2018, reporting indicates that wealthy elites have facilitated enormous industrial illegal logging. Once illegally logged lumber makes it into the international market, it’s incredibly difficult to tell it apart from the sustainably logged lumber. According to a report from the Namibian government, 75,000 tons of rosewood valued at N$94 million ($6.1 million) were exported in January and February of 2019. That price of $65 per cubic meter is a pittance compared to the true value of $500 per cubic meter on the open market.
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