Numlock News: July 5, 2023 • Wiretaps, Dial of Destiny, Orchids
By Walt Hickey
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny made just $2.3 million from Friday to Sunday in China, which is a disastrously low opening that fell short of even the lowest expectations. It’s expected to make $3.8 million there according to Maoyan, which is not the kind of numbers you want to see out of China on a $295 million tentpole. By comparison, the top film at the Chinese box office over the weekend was Lost in the Stars, a local hit in its second weekend that beat its own opening with a $116.8 million weekend, followed by preview screenings of Never Say Never which made $25.6 million. Whether Hollywood has any juice left in China will be tested yet again in mid-July when Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One opens.
The CFTC settled a massive metals fraud case with two companies that allegedly ran a scam of $112.7 million. The hustle was that First State Depository Company operated what it called private depositories where it’d store precious metals owned by customers, purportedly thousands of gold and silver coins. The CFTC found that those boxes often were empty but had IOU slips in them, meaning that over 500,000 American Silver Eagle Coins and over 9,000 gold coins are missing from customer accounts. The settlement will force the companies involved in looting those items to pay back defrauded customers and also pay another $33 million civil penalty.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is doing excellent in India, with one character in particular — Pavitr Prabhakar, a localized Indian twist on the iconic web-slinger that many know from their childhood — fueling it. In 2004, a company called Gotham Comics licensed Marvel and DC comics characters to produce Indian versions of those heroes, and Pavitr Prabhakar and Meera Jain became the local versions of Peter Parker and Mary Jane. The books sold a million copies but the license expired and so comics stopped being produced after four issues. Flash forward to today, and the $2.8 million opening weekend is the highest debut for an animated film in India, where a ticket costs 120 rupees or $1.45.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has filed the annual wiretap report, reporting that 2,406 wiretaps were authorized in 2022, up from 2,245 wiretaps in 2021. State courts were pretty much flat year over year when it came to authorizing wiretaps, with the increase mostly fueled by a 16 percent increase in wiretaps authorized by federal courts. Portable devices, predominantly cell phones, were responsible for 96 percent of intercepts, and drug offenses accounted for 51 percent of wiretap applications, followed by conspiracy with 12 percent of applications citing it. Fun fact, the average wiretap cost $101,837 last year to execute and monitor.
Music’s share of the audio pie is shrinking as podcasts and audiobooks become more popular. In 2014, spoken-word audio was 20 percent of the pie, with the rest of listening being music; in 2022, spoken-word audio was up to 29 percent of total listening hours, according to Edison Research, with 131 million people listening to some kind of spoken-word audio on a daily basis, 46 percent of Americans over the age of 13. It’s been a disastrous slip for radio, though: AM/FM radio was 79 percent of all spoken-word listening in 2014, but today it’s down to 47 percent as podcasts and audiobooks chew up marketshare.
Orchids are fascinating plants, with each plant producing millions of seeds the size of a speck of dust. There are 25,000 species of orchid worldwide, the most variety of any plant family, representing 10 percent of all plant species on Earth. That said, their reproductive habits are intricate, and require strange relationships with the fungi in soil to thrive. Orchid seeds rely on consuming different kinds of fungi to provide them with nutrients to actually sprout leaves, which is unique among plants. Most species need a specific species of fungi to actually sprout, which is one reason that the plants themselves produce millions of seeds so as to give them the best chance to accidentally land on the right kind of fungal dinner.
The State Department is fielding 500,000 passport applications per week, which will put 2023 on a glide path to obliterating the record 22 million passports issued last year. This means added wait times for travelers, though, as during the height of the pandemic the government let contract workers go and reassigned staff out of handling the then-useless passport system. Passports are also in high demand; the number of passports in America was three per 100 people in 1989, and today stands at 46 passports per 100 people. Overseas, the wait times to get a visa to visit is brutal: In New Delhi, the wait time is 451 days to get a visa interview as of mid-June, it’s over 600 days in Sao Paulo, 750 days in Mexico City and an estimated 801 days in Bogota.
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