Numlock News: January 9, 2023 • Shrink, Havana, Yellowstone
By Walt Hickey
In a huge relief for the box office, movies are doing pretty well at cinemas right now. Avatar: The Way of Water made $45 million domestically in its fourth weekend at the box office and another $132.5 million overseas, bringing its total to a global cume of $1.7 billion. In second place in the U.S. was M3gan, which put up the best opening for a PG-13 horror movie since A Quiet Place Part II and the best January opening for a horror movie since 2012 with $30.2 million. All told, the box office was up 70 percent over the same weekend of 2021.
In May 2019, the Trump administration ended the suspension of Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which opened the door to U.S. nationals that once owned properties that were confiscated by the Cuban government after 1959 to sue companies that operate on those properties. So far, just 44 such suits have been filed, but one of them came to an inflection point on December 30 when a judge in Miami ordered four cruise companies — Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC Cruises — to pay a total of $436 million in damages to a company that owned the Havana Cruise Port Terminal prior to the Cuban Revolution. Last month the judge signaled she agreed with the plaintiffs that the use of the port would be considered trafficking in confiscated property, but the companies said they will appeal.
In 2021, 5 million kilograms of antibiotics were sold for use in livestock for beef and pork production, a massive volume of drugs that regulators and onlookers fear may be causing bacteria to develop resistance. Agriculture companies are a massive consumer of antibiotics, responsible for up to two-thirds of medically important antibiotic usage. Two decisions — one from the FDA that required farmers to get prescriptions for antibiotic usage, and the other that banned antibiotics in the interest of making animals grow faster — meant sales of such antibiotics for livestock fell 42 percent from 2015 to 2017, however from 2017 to 2021 sales of antibiotics were up 7 percent in livestock, reversing the trend.
Walgreens released its earnings report last week, and after several years of bellyaching about shoplifting, executives have conceded it’s not actually that much of a problem right now. Shrinkage — the industry term for inventory damaged, lost, stolen by employees or shoplifted — is down from 3.5 percent of sales last year to just over 2 percent this year, and as a result the company is considering moving away from employing private security guards, which it considered to been ineffective in actually addressing shrink. More acute of an issue for the retailer is report of $3.7 billion in losses last quarter after the pharmacy agreed to a $5.2 billion settlement regarding its role in the opioid crisis.
The EPA issued a long-awaited draft rule regarding tighter regulations of soot, an air pollutant which is linked to tens of thousands of deaths per year. The new draft come short of what expert advisers recommended, cutting the annual exposure limit for soot down from 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air down to 9 micrograms or 10 micrograms, but leaving the daily limit of 35 micrograms per cubic meter unchanged since 2006. The trade-off is pretty clear; the 9-microgram standard will cost $400 million annually to bring power plants, refineries and 18-wheelers into compliance, but would avoid 4,200 premature deaths by 2032 and bring about health benefits up to $43 billion. According to a study released last year, exposure to soot killed 120,000 annually in the U.S.
Paramount’s show Yellowstone is a massive hit, and the company has been throwing anything at the wall to try to expand interest in the program on its streaming platforms. The pickle for Paramount is that they already hawked the streaming rights to Yellowstone to Peacock and now in order to capitalize on the hit on its own platform they’ve embarked on a series of expensive period piece prequels. The first proof of concept was prequel 1883, and then the greenlight for 1932, a sequel to that prequel, which was eventually revised to 1923 after some brief dynastic arithmetic. Far from a mere bargain-bin Bonanza, this thing is expensive as hell, starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren and costing $22 million an episode, so expensive that Paramount greenlit another batch of eight episode to spread some costs around and get that second batch down to $17 million an episode.
Turkish Hair Ways
Turkey is a hotbed of cosmetic surgery, with tourists traveling the world over to get some work done at a slightly cheaper price point. Thanks to the weak lira and the solid medical expertise in the country, business is booming, so much so that Turkish health care companies are hiring polyglot sales reps to offer their services from Asia to the Americas, and it’s working: In 2022, 1 million foreign patients got a hair transplant in Turkey, which is twice the number in 2018 and generated $2 billion in revenue. Apparently medical tourism to address the malady is so well-established that in the aviation industry Turkish Airlines is known as "Turkish Hairlines."
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