Numlock News: March 17, 2023 • Moldova, Rivals, Uranium
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Slightly On The Outsider Trading
A new analysis of IRS data about the stock trades of ultra-wealthy business executives found a pattern among some wealthy people who not only bought and sold stocks of companies they directly compete with, but also did so with suspiciously excellent timing. One, the CEO of toymaker MGA Entertainment — which sells Bratz dolls — traded hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of rival toy company stocks from 2005 to 2019, and made a tidy return in doing so. Over one five-year span, he made $28 million in profit trading Mattel stock, an 11 percent return over a period in which Mattel's stock declined 57 percent.
United Nations inspectors said Thursday that 2.5 tons of natural uranium in Libya has gone missing. Natural uranium is not immediately useful for energy production or bombs, but a ton of it can be refined to 12 pounds of weapons-grade material, so it's not exactly awesome that 10 drums of it have gone missing. In what is the closest thing approaching "good news" in the situation, forces allied with a warlord currently battling the Libyan government claim that they have successfully recovered it.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Mediterranean
Over 4,000 species of bird migrate, and many of them do so over oceans. Many migrating birds would use islands and other landmasses to take a breather on the course of their journey, but today the commercial shipping fleet stands at 90,000 ships, and so large ships are now seen as a potential rest stop for birds on their journeys. One study of animals hitchhiking on one ship found that when birds stopped for a break, the average stopping time was 42 minutes. Extrapolating to all the ships in the Mediterranean, the researcher estimated 4 million birds rest on ships during the spring migrations.
Lawmakers in Moldova voted on Thursday to replace references to their official national language from "Moldovan" to "Romanian." Overall, 58 lawmakers voted in favor of the measure out of the 101 seats in the legislature, with most of the vote coming from the Party of Action and Solidarity, the pro-Western party. Moldovans in favor of changing the language to Romanian — which a majority of the 2.6 million Moldovans speak — argue that "Moldovan" as a language was imposed on them by the Soviet Union, which wanted their Romanian tongue written in Cyrillic. Moldova's 1991 Declaration of Independence from the Soviet Union set Romanian as the national language, and the legislation brings the Constitution in line with that.
As it stands, the Billboard album rankings favors albums with more individual tracks on them, owing to the streaming data inputs that inform popularity figures now that streaming has replaced physical media sales as the dominant distribution mechanism of the music business. It should come as little surprise then that Morgan Wallen's album One Thing At A Time, which was padded out to 36 tracks, hit No. 1. It presents an interesting case study in how album length informs performance: The least-streamed half of the album, that is the 18 songs with the worst performance, accounted for 36 percent of the streams, while the 10 most popular songs accounted for 41.8 percent of the streams. The most-streamed song, "Last Night," accounted for 9 percent of the streams. This means that if the album had only been the most popular 18 tracks, it would have logged 360,000 album-equivalent units, rather than the 501,000 album-equivalent units it logged in its first week.
Import and Export
Despite the ongoing supply chain crises, the rising cost of materials, the disruption of the pandemic, the difficulties in getting reliable labor forces amid a tight job market, and the war in Ukraine, despite the impact of inflation on consumer wallets and the difficulties faced by small mom-and-pops in light of rapid industrial consolidation, and even in light of the increased regulatory scrutiny applied to the industry as a whole and heat coming down from multiple governments skeptical of the business, it has been an absolutely banner year for the global cocaine industry. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, coca cultivation rose 35 percent from 2020 to 2021, dominated by Colombia.
The West Coast's precipitation-heavy winter is expected to ease a lot of the water stress at parched reservoirs, with Lake Powell projected to gain 35 feet of water as snow melts over the next three months and that water wends its way into the Colorado Basin. That would only increase the level of the reservoir to a third full, which is a move in a positive direction even if it doesn't solve the water problems faced by the West. Groundwater storage levels remain at historic lows and will take years to recover. Lake Mead, which is between Arizona and Nevada, will potentially take more than a year before a change is noticed.
This week in the Sunday Edition, I spoke to James Temple, who wrote “This geothermal startup showed its wells can be used like a giant underground battery” for MIT Technology Review. Geothermal is a really interesting and arguably undercovered technology in the field, and this story profiles a fascinating breakthrough in it. James can be found at TechnologyReview.com and on Twitter @JTemple.
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