Numlock News: July 2, 2021 • Railguns, Wild Boars, Trading Cards
By Walt Hickey
Numlock is off Monday in observation of Independence Day.
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Smithfield Foods will pay $83 million to settle antitrust claims that it, along with several other massive pork suppliers, conspired to fix prices beginning in 2009. The settlement, which still needs to be approved by a federal judge, has Smithfield denying liability and trying to eliminate a bunch of their exposure. Other defendants in the case include Hormel Foods, JBS USA, Tyson Foods and Agri Stats Inc. This is separate from another, related price fixing lawsuit in Minneapolis from indirect purchasers of pork, like restaurants and delis. It’s also similar to the litigation where purchasers have accused Tyson, Perdue, and Pilgrim’s Pride of conspiring to fix chicken prices.
The Heart of the Cards
Blackstone, the largest alternative investment firm in the world, is buying a majority stake in Certified Collectibles Group, an acquisition that will value the company at over $500 million. It’s a bumper time for the company, which serves as an intermediary evaluating the quality and value of collectibles like coins, sports trading cards, comic books and stamps. Business has exploded at such appraisers as the pandemic led many to scour closets for such nostalgic collectibles, and led others to scour eBay for more.
Mercy Ships, the international charity, has take possession of what is now the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, Global Mercy. In the works for the past eight years, the 37,000 tonne vessel can accommodate 950 people on top of a crew of 641, and includes six operating theaters, 200 beds and more. It’ll first sail to Belgium where it’ll be outfitted with equipment and staffed up, then to Rotterdam to press the flesh with some sponsors, and then on to Senegal where it’ll serve in West Africa for the foreseeable future, expanding the size of the charity’s fleet back up to two.
A huge change to the global tax system would roll out a minimum tax that would ensure large multinational corporations pay an appropriate tax regardless of where they operate. As it stands, companies can tactically shift around their on-paper profits to minimize their taxes by routing them through jurisdictions that arbitrarily decrease their taxes. Thursday saw 130 nations sign on to a blueprint to combat that, which includes a 15 percent minimum corporate tax rate and a requirement that large global businesses pay tax in countries where goods and services are sold whether or not they have the physical presence that otherwise would trigger a tax obligation. Not yet signed on are a number of major tax havens, specifically a few Caribbean countries and also Ireland.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has invited 395 people to join the ranks of the people behind the Oscars, the fewest number of invitees in several years. It’s not unexpected — they could only add over 700 people a year for so many years, the industry simply isn’t that large — but the roster still continues to improve on the body’s attempt to better reflect the global industry they represent. Fully 53 percent of the new class is from outside the U.S. — from 49 different countries — and is also 46 percent women and 39 percent from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.
The U.S. Navy has mothballed its electromagnetic railgun program after spending around $500 million on R&D for the weapon, which uses electricity to fire projectiles at seven times the speed of sound. Instead, they’re funding hypersonic missiles, directed energy systems and electronic warfare, so the estate of Tom Clancy has little to fear — there will be plenty of expensive MacGuffins for decades to come. The key issue was that the operating range of 110 miles meant that a ship with a railgun would be in range of missiles, so, whoops. Another problem is that while a normal gun can be fired 600 times before needing a refurbished barrel, the prototype railgun had to be replaced anywhere between a dozen or two dozen shots.
It’s Just Theirs Now, OK?
A new study found that wild boar in the evacuated area around Fukushima have seen a massive increase in population and have hybridized with the domesticated pigs left behind. The 300 square kilometers — once home to 164,845 people in 2011 — saw wild boar expand from 49,000 in 2014 to 62,000 in 2018, including a recent invasion of 30,000 pigs from abandoned farmlands. Muscle samples were collected from 191 wild boar captured in or near the evacuated zone and compared to muscle samples of boar collected before 2011. The researchers found that the post-Fukushima boar had domestic pig ancestry, demonstrating that after the people all left, the pigs came to an accord and quickly combined forces.
Victoria Gill, BBC News, and Donovan Anderson, Yuki Negishi, Hiroko Ishiniwa, Kei Okuda, Thomas G. Hinton, Rio Toma, Junco Nagata, Hidetoshi B. Tamate and Shingo Kaneko, Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Last Sunday, I spoke to frequent Numlock guest Joanna Piacenza of Morning Consult, who published a deep report about travel and trust in the wake of COVID-19. It’s one of the monthly podcast versions of the Sunday edition, which you can find on Spotify or Apple, or read it free.
Joanna leads industry intelligence at Morning Consult, she can be found on Twitter.
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