Numlock News: June 1, 2023 • Coconuts, Panthers, Psychedelics
By Walt Hickey
War of 1812
In 2012, Maryland inexplicably decided to release a vanity license plate design commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, best known in popular culture as the one that prompted an unplanned gut renovation of the White House. This became the default plate in Maryland from 2012 to 2016, and there are currently 798,000 active War of 1812 license plates on the road, helpfully directing Marylanders to a convenient website — StarSpangled200 dot org — where presumably they could learn more about that war. Anyway, someone forgot to renew that domain, which now redirects to an online casino in The Philippines.
The U.S. Geological Survey oversees a database called the National Pesticide Use Maps, which pretty much does exactly what it sounds like in tracking pesticide use since it began in 1992. This has lots of scientific applications, with its data fueling over 500 peer-reviewed studies, and has been used before by researchers to trace incidence of cancer to use of certain pesticides. However, due to budget constraints, the USGS is scaling back the program, will no longer publish annual preliminary data, and is significantly reducing the tracking from over 400 chemicals at peak to just 72 compounds that the USGS considers especially important. The schedule change will save the agency $100,000 per year, but scientists expect that will undermine the efforts to understand where the 540 million kilograms of pesticides used in the U.S. every year end up.
Consider The Coconut
Coconut water does $600 million sales annually in the United States, and 50 percent of that is Vita Coco, which has expanded its marketshare from around 42 percent over the course of just three years. Sales were up 18 percent at Vita Coco in 2022, and following the path blazed by the cranberry juice people in the 1940s, the company is trying to get its product into more bars in order to expand beyond the roughly 11 percent of homes that keep coconut water in the fridge. It’s a pretty auspicious time to be hawking coconut water, as the rest of the beverage aisle is dealing with fairly fearsome inflation; sport drink prices are up roughly 70 percent year over year, but thanks to a significant decline in shipping costs Vita Coco prices are up just 6 percent.
There’s renewed interest in psychoactive and psychedelic drugs from a clinical or scientific standpoint, with drugs such as MDMA, ketamine and even LSD the subject of scientific inquiry regarding their possible efficacy in treating things like major depressive disorder or PTSD. The problem is, it’s actually pretty hard to effectively run a double-blind randomized clinical drug trial when you’re talking psychedelics, as the placebo group is pretty good at discerning they’re in the control group based on the mere fact that they’re not tripping balls. One analysis looked at randomized trials of psychedelics conducted from 1940 to May 2020 and found that while 94 percent claimed to be blinded, only 17 percent actually assessed whether the blinding worked.
Sweden has the lowest smoking rate in the EU, with 5.6 percent of Swedes over 15 smoking every day as of last year, well below the 18.5 percent rate over the whole EU and down substantially from the 20 percent who smoked 20 years ago. While decades of anti-smoking campaigns and laws bear some credit, Sweden is also the place that invented snus, a smokeless tobacco product that’s banned everywhere else in the EU but Sweden gets to keep because when it joined the EU the country successfully secured an exemption given its cultural history there.
Tanned, Rusted and Ready
This Saturday begins the Stanley Cup, with the Vegas Golden Knights facing down the Florida Panthers, the latter after a Cinderella run through the playoffs that finished with a 4-0 sweep of the dominant Carolina Hurricanes. The thing is, that victory happened 10 days before the puck drops in the finals, and there’s a worry that may make the Panthers a littler rustier compared to the Golden Knights, who just wrapped on Monday. The rest might not be as important as the rust: Including Florida, there have been nine teams in NHL history with 10 or more days of rest before game one in a best-of-seven series, and those previous teams won the series just 37.5 percent of the time, and had a win percentage that was 17.6 percent lower than their expected win percentage.
The truth continues to pay, with a whistleblower who flagged bribery at the Swedish telecom Ericsson to the SEC receiving a $279 million whistleblower award based on the $1.1 billion settlement that the company reached with authorities in 2019. Under SEC rules, whistleblowers can get 10 percent to 30 percent of fines collected in civil enforcement actions that stem from a tip in cases where the SEC collects over $1 million, and it’s led to many stepping forward to flag corporate malfeasance for a healthy fee. This $279 million award beat out the previous record, a $114 million award issued in 2020, and are so high because Ericsson paid one of the highest ever monetary sanctions for a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.
Previous Sunday subscriber editions: Working · Cable · Ringmaster · Hard Seltzer · Enhanced Geothermal · Hoop Muses · Subsea Cables · Wrestling · Tabletop Renaissance · BTS · Baby Boom · Levees · Misdirection · Public Domain