Numlock News: July 10, 2023 • Elemental, Electricity, Mail
By Walt Hickey
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The $16 million budgeted Insidious: The Red Door won the box office weekend, pulling in $32.6 million, well over the $26.5 million hauled in by the $294 million budgeted Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in that film’s second weekend. The win for the Insidious film cements reasonably-budgeted horror films as the luminary of the movie business, with that film also raking in $31.4 million overseas, a record for the pandemic era and one that makes this film exceptionally profitable in mere days. One interesting fact from down the box office is that Pixar’s Elemental, which was considered a bit of a disappointment upon release, has been slowly chugging along and holding reasonably well week over week, now with $109.2 million domestically and $251.9 million total worldwide. That’s still far from profitable — it cost $200 million — but is nevertheless better than things looked at first blush.
Subway has spent $80 million putting something in its shop that pretty much every other sandwich joint in the world possesses: a deli slicer. That $80 million tab is all in service of a newly-announced line of sandwiches, the Deli Hero sandwiches, which they can for the first time claim are made “with freshly sliced meat.” For a company of Subway’s size, this was a pretty massive logistical endeavor: Subway had 20,576 stores in the United States as of last year, and it literally took nine months to get all of them a deli slicer.
After 119 years, a copy of An Elementary Treatise on Electricity by James Clerk Maxwell was returned to the library it was withdrawn from on February 14, 1904. A curator of rare books at West Virginia University Libraries spotted the book in a recent donation, and found that it had not been stamped “withdrawn.” Upon reaching out to New Bedford Public Library in Massachusetts, the book was returned. Conveniently for all involved, while New Bedford has a 5 cent per day late fee, it’s capped at $2.
The United States announced Friday it has finally destroyed its last stockpile of chemical weapons, making it the last of eight countries that had declared stocks under the Chemical Weapons Convention to destroy them. The destruction on Friday of the last remaining rocket containing sarin nerve agent means that the vast arsenals of chemical weapons once held by great powers has been finally eliminated. The U.S. once had 30,000 tons of chemical agents and Russia had at least 40,000 tons; today, it’s just a few rogue states with isolated chemical weapons.
In what experts are calling the most disappointing thing the Postal Service has done since the failure to follow up the acclaimed album Give Up, the price of a First-Class Mail stamp is going up from 63 cents to 66 cents, the second price hike of the year since the stamps cost just 60 cents as of January. Setting aside the acknowledged reality that the USPS is essentially a daily logistical miracle that all of us should be awed by, the postal service is dealing with problems far beyond their work in Death Cab for Cutie taking up too much of their attention: The volume of First-Class Mail declined 4.8 percent last year and is down 42 percent since 2007, and accounts for 31 percent of USPS revenue. Basically, load up on those Forever stamps: 60 cents was just a visitor here; it is not permanent.
A massive investigation by The Wall Street Journal found over 2,000 lead-covered cables from the old Bell System regional telephone network that are a source of lead contamination. Samples from over four dozen locations exceed EPA recommendations, and documents and interviews suggest that the telecoms knew the cables were risks to their workers. The leaded cable network included 1,750 underwater cables, and in 80 percent of sediment samples there were elevated levels of lead. An analysis of the five most densely populated states found 250 lead-covered aerial cables near schools and bus stops.
The U.S. Department of Defense estimated that $7.12 billion worth of arms and vehicle stockpiles were left behind in Afghanistan, a massive chunk of the $18.6 billion spent since 2002 on arming the Afghan security forces. Well, those aren’t just rotting away in stockpiles; in fact the Taliban has embarked on a brisk trade selling American weaponry to whomever would like some. The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction estimated that 600,000 weapons of all calibers, 300 aircraft and 80,000 vehicles were left behind. A Taliban official claimed that they took possession of 300,000 light arms, 26,000 heavy weapons and 61,000 military vehicles. An M4 rifle can sell for up to $2,400, a massive premium on the $130 that a Pakistan-made AK-47 knockoff sells for.
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