Numlock News: January 9, 2020 • Sequoias, Cargo, Air Quality
By Walt Hickey
A conservation group raised $15.65 million to purchase 530 acres of the Alder Creek Grove of giant sequoias, purchasing the largest private holding of the trees in one fell swoop. The Redwoods League raised the money from 8,500 donors across the country and world, buying up the 483 giant sequoias, including one 3,000-year-old 25-story sequoia, Stagg tree, the fifth-largest recorded tree in the world, now permanently earmarked for conservation. The League intends to own the property, clean it up to guard against wildfire, then sell it to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Now, just 739 acres of giant sequoias remain in private hands.
Ticket sales at the Chinese box office were up 5.4 percent in 2019 compared to 2018, but the U.S. studios have seen diminishing returns. Results for U.S. movies flattened in 2019 compared to the prior year, up just 2.7 percent to $2.6 billion. That’s still a major part of the $9.2 billion that their box office hauled in. Of the 32 Hollywood films released in China, 12 belonged to Disney, which accounted for 53.6 percent of the studio’s financial haul.
Seizures of cocaine aboard commercial transportation ships and private vessels have tripled since 2017, when 22.4 metric tons were seized, to 73.2 tons of cocaine in 2019. Drug smugglers are attempting to jump in on the global supply chain that fuels intercontinental trade, and given that as a rule just one in 10 of all containers are checked in ports, it’s an excellent time to be in the cocaine business. On average, it can cost up to $1,500 to ship a box from South America to Europe or the U.S., one reason that the 50 tons of cocaine seized in Antwerp in 2018 was 22 percent higher than the amount seized in 2017 and six times as much as 2013. An estimated third of cocaine cargos leaving South America are on commercial vessels.
Following the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas leak, the Los Angeles Unified School District installed air filters in every classroom and common area in all schools within five miles of the facility. Air testing found that the schools never actually endured higher levels of pollution, but a subsequent study about the impact of the air filters was shocking compared to schools outside the immediate area of impact: math scores went up by 0.2 standard deviations and English scores increased by 0.18 standard deviations, an increase that held even after accounting for student demographics and controlling for pollution levels at home. That’s an enormous pop linked to a small HVAC fix that costs just a few hundred dollars: for perspective, cutting class size by one third has been linked to a 0.22 standard deviation improvement.
Once upon a time, there was a company named Walmart and a company named Jet.com, the latter of which had 29 million monthly visitors at its e-commerce website. Then, Walmart bought Jet. Things were pretty good for a while, with Jet.com hauling in some 33 million visits in December 2016 shortly after the acquisition. Following that point, Walmart basically stripped it for parts to push into its own digital commerce efforts. This past December, the Jet.com entity was a shadow of its former self, with just 1.4 million visitors, down 82.5 percent from the 8 million visitors in December 2018, down 93.7 percent from the 22.4 million visitors in December 2017, and down 95.7 percent from that heady 2016 December. Now, granted, it’s not failing per se. Jet was bought for $3.3 billion, a massive valuation compared to their actual business, and since the acquisition Walmart’s market cap rose over $100 billion to $330 billion making it a genuine e-commerce rival to Amazon.
This past weekend, 1917 won the Golden Globe for best drama. The Globes are not particularly useful when it comes to predicting the eventual winner of the Oscar, but what they are good for is plugging your movie to a national audience. This weekend, Universal will expand 1917 from 11 locations to more than 3,000 cinemas, and is projected to bring in somewhere between $20 million and $25 million. The movie cost $90 million to make, and since debuting on Christmas has pulled in $2.28 million on a very limited run. Awards notice can do wonders for a movie — Universal’s Green Book won Best Picture and made $321 million — but is no guarantee that the World War I movie will make a fortune.
Interested in the Oscars and award season? Every year, I do a little popup newsletter called Numlock Awards to host my Oscar model and my stat-y predictions about the race on the side. This is a great time to check it out and subscribe, it’s lots of fun and will help you win your Oscar pool.
White college graduates born in the 1930s were worth 247 percent more than non-college educated peers, and for black graduates that premium was over 500 percent. That’s an enormous advantage seen in pursuing higher-ed, and subsequently the notion that going to college is a ticket to higher-paying work is a consistent fuel for undergraduate ambitions. The issue is the boost evaporated. Among those born in the 1970s and 1980s, white graduates were worth just 42 percent more and black graduates were worth 0 percent more than peers. The case for college is weakening, especially in light of declining wages for grads and higher costs of pursuing it.
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