Numlock News: March 17, 2020 • Motorcycles, Television, Fruit
By Walt Hickey
Golden Age of Television
Nielsen’s out with new projections that with lots of people staying at home, media consumption and television viewing could seriously pop. Nielsen’s analysis of other disruptive events — Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the Northeast blizzard in 2016 — found that media consumption goes up nearly 60 percent in affected areas during crises. Take this nugget: the average American who works in an office watches 21 hours, 56 minutes of television per week. Meanwhile, the average American who works remotely watches 25 hours, two minutes of television on average per week, just over three additional hours. We’ve discovered your secrets, work from home crowd, and now we fully understand why you have such nuanced, considered views on Joy Behar and Meghan McCain’s politics.
The largest U.S. airlines have spent the past decade spending all their available money buying back their stock in an attempt to reward their investors. They could have spent that money instead on things like equipment improvements, wage increases, or perhaps establishing a rainy day fund for a global travel shutdown, but they didn’t, so they don’t have those things, but the good news is that their investors got richer. From 2010 to 2019, the entire S&P 500 spent 52 percent of their free cash flow on stock buybacks. Combined, American Airlines, Alaskan Airlines, Delta, Southwest, and United spent 95.8 percent of their free cash flow on stock buybacks during that time rather than putting that cash to use in their businesses or preparing for adverse events. Also, they want a taxpayer-funded bailout right now. Airlines may want to buckle their seatbelts, they may be in for a bit of turbulence.
Cruise companies are also lining up for a little love from the feds, but the big secret of the cruise industry is they don’t really pay all that much in taxes anyway. The U.S. tax rate of major cruise companies was just 0.8 percent. The companies tend to be headquartered in Florida, but the ships are registered in foreign countries in attempts to skirt U.S. taxes, maritime laws, worker protections and environmental requirements. Those countries tend to be ones with favorable tax regimes, to say the least, so their global tax rate on over $17 billion in profit is estimated to be just 1.3 percent worldwide. It’s so interesting that all these Panamanian, Bahamanian and Liberian ships want money from Washington rather than their governments in Panama City, Nassau and Monrovia.
A new study published in Nature Food found that the state of California loses up to $1 billion in crops every year due to air pollution alone, an impressive amount in a state where agriculture reaps $50 billion a year. The hardest hit by pollution are grapes, which after dairy bring in the most money for the state. All told, fruit and nut crops lost between 2 percent and 22 percent of their yields due to smog based on an analysis of air pollution trends between 1980 and 2015. Though California has taken lots of steps to address its earlier environmental problems, even today 15 percent of some crops yields are lost to air pollution.
France’s Competition Authority announced it will fine Apple to the tune of €1.1 billion over several restrictions it had in contracts with its wholesalers, the single largest antitrust fine ever levied by France. In 2012, Apple re-seller eBizcuss lodged a complaint arguing Apple’s control over the markets for its products. In particular, the regulator said that Apple and two wholesalers, Tech Data and Ingram Micro, agreed not to compete, thus making the wholesale market for Apple products noncompetitive. Apple disputes this all and will appeal the fine.
Road Rash Jail Break
The motorcycle business is in a serious fight right now, with the re-emergence of Indian, a defunct motorcycle brand that was relaunched in 2014 in a bid to dislodge industry leader Harley-Davidson from its perch atop the market for rides. There’s less to go around — new registrations for motorcycles stood at 253,000 last year, half of what the peak was in 2006 — but Indian sees the established reputation of Harleys as a liability in reaching another generation of would-be bikers. Since Indian launched in 2014, they’ve grabbed about 10 percent of the market for large cruiser bikes and about 20 percent of the mid-sized business. Over the same period, Harley-Davidson flinched: their overall U.S. market share fell from 53.3 percent in 2014 to 49.1 percent last year. Indian is about to launch a seven-figure ad blitz to try to move that needle a little more.
The Shield That Guards The Realm
You’ve probably never heard of Shadowserver, but you’re definitely delighted they exist. Basically, they’re a small nonprofit that scans four billion IP addresses per day, functionally the entire public internet, and develops activity reports based on those findings. Those activity reports go to 4,600 network operators, not to mention 107 countries’ national computer security teams. They also are avid collectors of different taxonomies of malware, maintaining a repository of 1.2 billion samples of malware that the world can access and protect against, some 11.6 petabytes of free-to-access intel on the baddies. Here’s the issue: their benefactor, Cisco, is tired of picking up the check for the rest of the internet, and Shadowserver is now hard up for dough, needing $400,000 in the next few weeks and $1.7 million to make it through 2020. Let’s hope some other tech companies and governments kick in their share, because global society really, really, really doesn’t need another lesson about the tragedy of the commons at this time.
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