Numlock News: June 13, 2019 • Fines, Coffee, Lead
By Walt Hickey
El Pais is reporting that Spain’s soccer league La Liga was fined €250,000 by the Spanish data protection agency for not adequately notifying users they were recording them through their app. The gist was that the league used location data and the phone microphones to listen in during games and find which bars were illegally streaming games without paying La Liga. The league sued 600 bars in March for doing just that. La Liga copped to totally listening in to find out if people were pirating streams, but will nonetheless contest the fine, because international soccer, ethics-wise, makes Big Tech look like Sunday school.
Coffee as a commodity is inherently volatile, but the past ten years have been particularly bad for coffee farmers. Right now, coffee sells at $0.89 per pound, which is down from a peak of $2.20 per pound in 2015, a 60 percent drop that has devastated coffee farmers, who since 2017 have operated at a loss. Guatemala is a major producer of coffee, with 120,000 small-scale coffee farmers facing an increasingly desperate market situation, with the national coffee association estimating production costs per pound to be $1.93. This, in turn, is fueling the surge of migrants leaving Guatemala for better opportunities, so much so that the country is now the single largest source of migrants apprehended at the U.S. border.
An analysis of writers in late night television indicates a rough situation for women in the industry, with not a single show breaking more than 50 percent women in the writers room. The best performing shows were Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (five of 11 writers were women) and Desus & Mero (with four of nine credited writers women). Meanwhile, Real Time with Bill Maher and Conan each had only two women on staff of 11 and 12, respectively. In case you were wondering, it takes 23 people to write The Late Show With Jimmy Fallon, and only one man to ruin it.
Elsevier is the world’s largest publisher of academic journals, which number roughly 3,000 and can individually cost thousands of dollars per year to subscribe to. It’s but one of several corporations who lock down academic publishing behind pricey paywalls. The University of California’s 27,500 scientists are responsible for 10 percent of all U.S. academic papers, but the UC system has decided to drop their $11 million annual subscription to Elsevier — which controls access to 18 percent of earth’s research output — because of misgivings about how thoroughly a private corporation that does not actually conduct any research has cemented an iron grip on a fifth of human knowledge. Elsevier’s net profit margin was 19 percent in 2018, which is roughly double that of Netflix.
Back in April, Snapchat was pulling about 600,000 daily downloads, a modest success. But then they rolled out two features that went viral nearly instantaneously, two photo filters that either turned the user into a child or attempted to make them more stereotypically masculine or feminine. This caused an explosion of downloads, an estimated 41.5 million times in May, which is up from the 16.8 million downloads in April and the 17.6 million in May 2018. There were three separate days in May when Snapchat got more than 2 million downloads.
Lead poisoning makes society worse, with one study finding that the elimination of lead paint would generate $41 billion to $199 billion in reduced healthcare and education expenditures, and a further $25 billion to $35 billion in further tax revenue. A 10 percent reduction in crime linked to the removal of lead would generate an estimated $150 billion per year in benefits. The upfront costs would be intimidating —perhaps $400 billion over 10 years — but those benefits of mitigating lead would have long term positive impacts. If we could stomach it, $17 billion per year for lead paint removal, $10 billion per year for contaminated soil clean up, and up to $50 billion lock, stock and barrel to remove all lead pipes in municipal water supplies would go a long way towards long-term public health outcomes.
A USDA research team found that among 25 microgreen varieties — that is, the seedling versions of sunflowers, peas, carrots, broccoli, arugula, beets and their ilk — contain four to 40 times the vitamins and carotenoids as the more mature iterations of the veggies. They’re not really ideal for cooking — they sort of melt or fall apart — but are a powerful raw addition to a dish, with none of the whole “will give you ultra-salmonella” issues of sprouts, which are grown in water rather than soil.
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