Numlock News: July 22, 2020 • Bribery, Theft, Kimchi
By Walt Hickey
The ABQ BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque has been attempting to raise funds for operations and animal enrichment, and has begun selling art made by elephants, ocelots, gorillas and other residents to buyers for amounts ranging from $25 to $600. The work varies in quality. Take the contemplative, agrarian and — dare I say humanist? — piece called 20,000 Leagues by Huerfanita, a western lowland gorilla with an inspirational, effervescent brushstroke betraying a nuanced view of gorillakind’s place in an arbitrarily verdant scenery within an otherwise cemented and restrained environment. Or Born to Run, an acrylic on canvas by Mr. Blue and Mr. White, two emus, who are daring and improvisational young talents in the Cy Twombly school. Or On Wings by Irene, an Asian elephant and total hack. Congratulations to the zoo on successfully raising the $3,000 goal.
The speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives as well as four other politically-connected people were arrested Tuesday by the FBI in what the U.S. Attorney alleged was the largest bribery and money laundering scheme in the history of Ohio. The matter relates to a new fee added on to every Ohio electricity bill in the state, which steers $150 million per year through 2026 to two nuclear electricity plants located near Cleveland and Toledo. The FBI alleges that the bailout — which also eliminated renewable energy incentives — was pushed through by the speaker in exchange for $60 million for a political group he controlled.
South Korea’s exports of kimchi are looking to be higher than ever in 2020, with 20,259 tons of kimchi shipping internationally in the period from January to June — 68.3 percent of the total exports in 2019. Japan was the biggest buyer, bringing in 10,349 tons, with the United States following up with 3,024 tons. The biggest exporter — Daesang Corp, which makes the top-selling brand Jonggajip — moved $30 million worth of product in the first half of the year, approaching the $43 million sold abroad in the entirety of 2019. In related news, I am now extremely hungry for kimchi and sometime this week I’m probably going to get a little drunk and impetuously purchase a significant amount of it.
Diebold Nixdorf, the ubiquitous ATM manufacturer, is warning banks and customers about a hardware hack that can lead to what the industry describes as “jackpotting,” an incredibly descriptive term that probably gives you a solid sense of the coolest thing an ATM could ever possibly do. The company — which sold $3.3 billion worth of ATMs and services last year — warned that thieves can connect a black box device to an ATM and issue commands that would result in the dispensing of 40 bills in just 23 seconds.
People have become more comfortable doing activities outside that once took place indoors, but the question of how much more comfortable depends on what the activity is. A Morning Consult poll found 37 percent of respondents were comfortable dining out indoors, compared to 44 percent who were comfortable dining out outdoors, a 7 percentage point difference that is about in the middle of the pack. Contrast that with seeing a movie, where just 22 percent are comfortable seeing a film in a cinema, whereas 34 percent are content to do it outdoors, a 12 percentage point gap that should give the theaters pause. On the other end of the spectrum, going to sports is pretty much out of the question regardless of if it’s in an arena or a stadium: 18 percent were comfortable doing that indoors and just 22 percent outside, a marginal 4 percentage point difference.
If those numbers led you to think that perhaps there may be a large group of people with a vastly different appetite for risk than you, this will assure it: people are really, really excited to get back on cruise ships. UBS found half of cruise travelers plan to book again in the next 18 months, and 85 percent will cruise again at some point. It’s not just the faithful returning to the ships: according to Royal Caribbean, 60 percent of the 2021 bookings made in the first three weeks of June were not people just cashing in credits from cancelled 2020 trips, but rather brand-new customers excited to book a cruise next year. The industry — which grew 30 percent in the previous five years — does not appear to be going anywhere.
Last Saturday, the flooding of the Yangtze River in China’s western provinces saw the river notch a record-setting flow of 61,000 cubic meters per second flow. In addition to flooding across Sichuan and Chongqing, the surge of water is leading to problems at the Three Gorges Dam, where the operator says parts of the 2.4 kilometer dam have deformed slightly. The state-owned enterprise that manages the dam says that the parts of the dam that have buckled are non-structural and peripheral, with some outside structures being displaced and some seepage in the outlet walls over an 18-hour period over the weekend. The reservoir behind the dam holds 39.3 billion cubic meters of water.
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