Numlock News: May 10, 2019 • Meth, Chumbox, Battle Royale
By Walt Hickey
Have a wonderful weekend!
Three Georgia women who bought a box of Legos were startled to find that the box was full of $40,000 worth of methamphetamines. The switch was discovered when the box of Legos was given to a kid, one who at Christmas will never again second-guess Santa and now knows he’s not messing around about the whole coal thing. In related news, a bunch of meth dealers expecting a delivery instead likely had a really wonderful afternoon of self-directed building play.
PlayerUnknown’s Battleground is one of those battle royale format games that’s been sweeping the youth around the world. Tencent, the official publisher of the game in China, has pulled the game in exchange for another battle royale format videogame, this one a Chinese military-themed battle royale called Game for Peace. China’s government really pushed the game and refused to grant a monetization license for Tencent for PUBG and its 70 million users. It’s now expected Game for Peace, the state-sanctioned ripoff, will generate $1.18 billion to $1.48 billion annually. Players who switched were returned to their same level, but there are some differences: for instance, dead players don’t bleed due to prohibitions on gore, but instead get up and wave goodbye.
Opioid prescriptions are down 43 percent since their peak in 2011 according to a new report, with the volume prescribed down 17 percent since last year. That’s the steepest drop in over 25 years. The issue, though, is that many addicted to opioids switch away from prescription narcotics and on to heroin or synthetics, so it’s not entirely positive. Moreover, the volume of pills dispensed remains absurd: there were enough opioid pills prescribed last year to give every American adult 34 pills, which is admittedly lower than the 72 pills per adults at the peak.
Are You Ready For Some Football?
The early forecasts are in: the teams with the best chance to win the Super Bowl this coming year are Kansas City (16 percent according to ESPN’s FPI), New Orleans (15 percent), New England (12 percent) and Los Angeles (12 percent). Sure, those may all be the teams that made their conference championship game last year, but there are some new shifts in probability that are actually exciting: the Cleveland Browns have a 3 percent chance to win the Super Bowl, which is unheard-of. They’re a 52 percent chance to make the playoffs, a probability improvement of 43 percentage points compared to a year ago. They’re back.
Edgewell Personal Care Co., which makes Schick razors, agreed to buy direct-to-consumer razor brand Harry’s Inc. for $1.37 billion. The market value of Edgewell alone is $1.8 billion, so this is a big move. The goal of the acquisition is to combine Harry’s direct-to-consumer model with the national distribution of Schick, because in the business of blades it’s tough to beat P&G’s Gillette. Edgewell has 10 percent of the men’s shaving market, Harry’s has 0.5 percent, and Gillette has 49 percent.
At the bottom of lots of news sites is an institution colloquially known as the chumbox. That’s where you see links to outrageous external stories about blood sugar and Weird Tricks and gross skin lesions and a gut doctor who tells you to stop eating this vegetable right now. It’s a shockingly popular business for what is pretty clearly not all that on-the-level. The two companies who dominate it — Taboola and Outbrain — are each funded to the tune of $160 million and $194 million, and at least 41 of the top 50 news sites include the boxes as a revenue source. Taboola serves some 20 billion ads per day.
Professional athletes are percieved as easy marks by scammers and fraudsters. They’re young, they came into enormous wealth very quickly and don’t have a lot of training on who to trust with that kind of money, and their rarefied position means that the slickest of the slick are specifically targeting them as a group. As a result, Ernst & Young estimated over a period from 2004 to 2017 pro athletes endured $500 million in fraud related losses, and one attorney, who specializes in fighting that fraud, estimates the figure to be over $1 billion. I knew I’d be a target of a bunch of financial scammers if I went pro, which is why I entered journalism so that would never ever be a problem.
In an attempt to stave off lawsuits, Uber has forced drivers who work with the company to enter into forced arbitration to settle disputes over pay. This may have been a significant tactical error, as Uber is on the hook to pay for all that arbitration, and over 60,000 drivers have done so — and could have presumably been paid off way cheaper — according to the prospectus. Given that the fees associated with a single arbitration are conservatively $10,000, but realistically closer to $20,000, this means that to settle all these arbitrations Uber is out a minimum of $600 million. Discretion may have advantages, but my god, $600 million is a hell of a price to pay for it.
In last week’s Sunday edition, I spoke to Lina Zeldovich all about the fascinating and controversial technologies that are making shipping a less polluting business. It was a great conversation about how it’ll be hard to simply innovate our way out of climate change and the kind of hard trade-offs necessary in the years to come.
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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Scrubbers · Saving the World · Summer Movies · No One Man Should Have All That Power · Film Incentives · Stadiums & Casinos · Late Night · 65 is the new 50 · Scooternomics · Gene Therapy · SESTA/FOSTA · CAPTCHA · New Zealand · Good To Go · California Football · Personality Testing · China’s Corruption Crackdown · Yosemite