Numlock News: July 31, 2019 • Cherries, Lead, Dehydrated
By Walt Hickey
The U.S. tart cherry market is having a rough time of it thanks to Turkey importing cheap cherries and driving down prices. Michigan is the epicenter of the fight: the state produced 300 million pounds of tart cherries worth $56 million last year, an amount of cherries worth about $107 million in 2014. They’re used for pie filling and juice, while sweet cherries are a much larger $638 million, 344,400 ton crop. Turkey imported 1.5 million pounds of tart dried cherries in 2018 for $0.89 cents per pound, compared to the $4.60 per pound charged by U.S. processors.
The fire that consumed the ceiling of Notre Dame also had a devastating secondary health effect for the area of Paris around it. Confidential documents leaked to the French press indicate that lead contamination in the area around the cathedral is 500 to 800 times the official safe level. This is because the ceiling was held together in part by 450 tons of lead, which promptly melted or even vaporized. The level of lead in nearby Place Saint Michel reached 28,400 micrograms per square meter, six times the typical Parisian level, which is already quite high, given the age of the City of Lights and how in vogue designing lead into architecture was for quite some time.
The population of Puerto Rico fell 3.9 percent in 2018, a significant jump compared to the preceding years. Today the population stands at just 3.2 million, the lowest level since 1979 and the largest percentage drop since data was available. All told, 123,000 more people left Puerto Rico than moved to it last year, compared to the 78,000 loss the previous year. This long-running exodus has made Puerto Rico older as well, with the median age jumping from 36 in 2008 to 43 in 2018.
Hobbes & Shaw
This summer has been a massacre for sequels and spin-offs at the box office, with only Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home and Avengers: Endgame making a dent, while entries in the Godzilla, Men in Black, and X-Men franchises bombed. Hobbes & Shaw, a spin-off featuring the two most violent and ill-tempered characters in the Fast & Furious franchise, may be poised to break that trend, with estimates forecasting it’ll make $60 million on its opening weekend in North America, and god only knows what riches abroad.
Sure, robotic cars, moon bases and jet packs may have taken a little longer than promised by the heady science fiction of old, but a combination of cost savings and environmental efficiencies may be putting one future-staple back on the table: dehydrated consumer goods. According to one analysis, over 90 percent of a standard bottle of cleaning product is water. It’s all a bit inefficient to be hauling all that water around on trucks and in packaging when, in fact, generally water is available all over. About 20 percent of global disposable packaging by weight could be replaced with reusable packaging if we only sold active ingredients, and had consumers add water at home to make their shampoo or cosmetics or dish soap or what have you.
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In 2017, the American fishing industry hauled in 9.9 billion pounds of fish and shellfish. That’s 344 million pounds more than the year before, a 3.6 percent increase. The U.S. also imported 5.9 billion pounds of shrimp, salmon and tuna. Once ships began to have their own refrigeration the whole game changed, and today on average seafood caught by a large commercial producer travels an average 5,000 miles before it hits the plate. The long-term health of fisheries is a serious point of consternation, with a possible global fishery collapse by 2048. The economic effects can be crushing when that happens: when North Carolina saw fish stocks decline, the catch fell from 432 million pounds in 1981 to 79 million pounds in 2005, the value which nearly halved from $108 million to $64 million.
A new study from Pew finds that between 2015 and 2019, the percentage of people who said tech companies had a positive impact on the way things are going in the country fell 21 percentage points, from 71 percent to 50 percent. I know, I was also trying to think of something, anything that may have happened between 2015 and 2019 that may have possibly diminished the public’s trust in the social contributions of tech companies, but it’s a real enigma. What’s very interesting is that trust fell among both Democrats and Republicans by serious margins, whereas many other institutions saw one party lose faith while the other gained it.
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