Numlock News: June 30, 2022 • Minions, Butter, North Korea
By Walt Hickey
Researchers attempting to track seals in Casco Bay, Maine, were able to train facial recognition tech they've termed SealNet into a seal identification system. They brought in 2,000 pictures of seals from around the bay over a two-year period and, when testing the software with 406 different seals, found that SealNet was able to identify the correct seal 85 percent of the time. This means that they've got a database of 1,500 seals, and while the service isn't perfect yet, it's designed to improve the more imagery it gets. This is fantastic news, at least until the creep of the sealveillance state begins to infringe on seal-vil liberties, according to otter-nies at the A.Seal.L.U. Please do not unsubscribe from my newsletter.
10/10 With Rice
While the rest of the world's global food security has had a bit of a hiccup with the erratic pricing of wheat (up 37 percent since January) and corn (up 27 percent), one staple crop, rice, has been doing a necessary job of keeping the price of food worldwide somewhat anchored in reality. The price of rice is down 17 percent since January. It's abundant — harvests have been magnificent in the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia and China — and last year's record rice crop of 521 million metric tons will likely be matched this year, when a projected 520 million metric tons will be harvested. African countries will import a projected 10 percent more rice this year, hitting 19.4 million metric tons, and commercial operations raising pigs are switching from corn and wheat feed to rice.
A major crypto investor is having a meltdown amid the collapse in the price of cryptocurrency, which normally would not be news if not for the fact that the investor in question is geopolitical pariah and wannabe nuclear power North Korea. The country has built a thriving sector of their economy predicated on state-sponsored hacking of crypto, and in March alone stole $615 million in digital currency. However, the crypto crash has caused serious fiscal problems for Pyongyang, which uses the stolen crypto to fund their nuclear weapons program. Analysts estimate crypto losses have cost North Korea $620 million this year, based on unrealized gains, with one analysis finding that funds from 49 of their hacks decreased in value from $170 million to $65 million. Kim "Diamond Hands" Jong-Un has funded his $640 million-per-year nuclear program based largely on such hacks, which provide a crucial source of income for a country with a GDP of $27.4 billion.
Once out of nutritional fashion, the global market for butter is expected to rise from $37 billion last year up to $49 billion in 2028, and butter makers are finding new ways to hawk their butter. One new way of distribution coming from Land O'Lakes, the member-owned cooperative with $16 billion in annual sales, is pre-portioned butter balls that are each a half tablespoon and come in a resealable bag. The target audience is home cooks who find the process of slicing a measured amount of butter tedious, and would rather just grab the correct number of pre-measured balls from the bag while cooking.
2020 Ends This Weekend
The new Minions: Rise of Gru movie will hit cinemas this weekend, so it's a great week for Facebook meme pages that take things that would have appeared on a someecard 10 years ago or a Garfield mug 20 years ago and put it up on an image of several Minions. The new film is projected to open to $65 million to $75 million over the long weekend, which would be down from the $115 million three-day weekend the first movie made in 2015 but still tracking higher than the $50 million made by Lightyear. Most importantly, this closes the book on 2020 for the movie business. The film was originally slated to come out on July 3, 2020, but like pretty much every major release slated for 2020 it was punted until studios perceived pandemic conditions had improved. Since then, every single major studio feature scheduled for 2020 has come out in some fashion, except for the damn Minions movie. It follows the penultimate 2020 film to come out, Top Gun: Maverick, reminding us of the twin pillars of American society: Tom Cruise and the Minions.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is launching a campaign to rebrand several species of invasive carp in a way that makes them appealing to diners, in the hopes that they can eat their way out of their serious environmental problem. Despite hundreds of millions spent trying to keep the fish in check — money spent building barriers, poisoning them, and pulling the classic "what if we released a bunch of other things that eat it into the ecosystem" gambit — resource managers have struggled to rein in the species. The new plan is to spend $600,000 over the next five years to get "copi" on the menu, starting with an initial batch of over 30 restaurants and a number of retailers and distributors. Commercial anglers can harvest 20 to 50 million pounds of copi (derived from “copious”) from the Illinois River alone.
H&M, the fast fashion retailer that produces 3 billion garments a year, regularly touts to environmental and sustainability bona fides of its products on its website using an industry-derived metric called the Higg Index, which scores the impact of making an article of clothing. However, a new analysis found that it appears H&M's website is at times overstating the actual sustainability of its clothing: Of 630 garments with a Higg Index that Quartz analyzed on their site, 326 of them didn't actually have an improved impact on the environment, 136 items were displayed as being better for the environment than they in fact were, and just 168 were correct in their assertion that they had an improved impact on the environment.
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