Numlock News: June 27, 2019 • Mussels, Diamonds, K-pop
By Walt Hickey
There are 270 North American freshwater mussel species, or at least there were, but then a surge in the construction of dams from the 1920s through 1980s jeopardized or destroyed thousands of miles of habitat for the filter feeders. This has has disastrous consequences, with 30 varieties going extinct in the past century and 95 becoming endangered or threatened. Only about a quarter of those species are secure, and this is bad for the ecosystem as a whole, given the essential role that these mussels play in cleaning the waters. The Upper Mississippi’s population of mussels is fairly healthy, and cleans 14 billion gallons of water daily.
For the first time, solar, wind and hydroelectric plants generated more electricity than coal power generation plants in April, with the renewables churning out 68.5 million megawatt-hours of power compared to the 60 million produced by the coal plants. The current projection is that solar and wind farms could provide half the world’s power by 2050, but this might not last forever: several coal plants were down in April for routine spring maintenance, and even through 2028 hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass will probably combine to be slightly smaller than coal.
K-pop is having a moment, a moment catalyzed by a 2015 four-city tour of four-member group BigBang, which helped spark the 2018 BTS tour that kicked off at Citi Field and led to the Korean genre of pop music dominating music platforms and streaming services this year. In 2019, a full 68 venues hosted a K-pop concert, with demand for tickets up 1,700 percent from 2015 to 2019.
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Deliv, a California-based company that provides same-day delivery services for stores like Home Depot, Best Buy and Macy’s announced that it would onboard its independent contractors as employees. The move comes ahead of the proposed AB5 legislation that would make it harder for companies to claim that workers are independent contractors, a move that would overhaul the space referred to as the gig or sharing economy. Deliv’s California-based employees would get at least minimum wage, plus the IRS mileage reimbursement of 58 cents per mile. Though most work part time, those delivery couriers who work at least 30 hours per weeks would get subsidies for company health insurance, a key perk denied to independent contractors.
Diamonds Ain’t Forever
De Beers is coming off a miserable quarter, with its Anglo American Plc unit seeing sales fall 33 percent to $390 million. This is the quiet time of the year for diamond sellers, but still 2019 has been rough with weak demand and a large supply of smaller and cheaper stones putting lots of pressure on prices. De Beers conducts 10 sales of rough diamonds per year in Botswana to a small group of customers, who then go on to cut and polish the stones and sell them at a price set by De Beers. Moreover, for each of the past three years, De Beers had moved about $3 billion worth of diamonds through June, while now they’re still shy of $2.5 billion.
Over the past 20 years, worldwide the number of smokers has decreased. In the 2000, there were 1.14 billion and last year that number was 1.1 billion, thanks to the slow and steady work of a generations-long fight to eliminate a public health scourge lung by lung. Then a bunch of tech bros made nicotine taste like a slushie and sold it for cheap to a bunch of susceptible teenagers while the FDA was asleep at the wheel. In one year, e-cig use rose 78 percent among children in high school. As a result, the number of electronic cigarette users jumped from 7 million to 35 million users over the past five years. San Francisco voted to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes, essentially making the product sold by Juul illegal to sell in its own hometown.
By 2030, some 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide could be replaced by robotics, with each new industrial robot wiping out 1.6 manufacturing jobs. The U.S. manufacturing sector saw a 40 percent increase in the use of robotics between 2011 and 2016 outside of automobile manufacturing, which is tame compared to the 83 percent increase in South Korea or the 267 percent increase in robotics use in China in the same period. Since 2000, about 1.7 million manufacturing jobs were attributed to automation worldwide, 260,000 of which were in the U.S., 400,000 of which were in the EU, and 550,000 of which were in China.
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