Numlock News: May 16, 2023 • Coyotes, Rupees, Plastics
By Walt Hickey
Russia has become a global pariah economically, as many governments allied or sympathetic to Ukraine are cutting Russia out of global financial networks. One country that’s still buying Russian oil and gas is India, and even that’s causing problems for Russia. India’s imports of Russian crude are up from practically nothing in March of 2022 to over 1.5 billion barrels per day, with India spending $41.5 billion on Russian imports in total in the first 11 months of the 2022-23 fiscal year. There’s a problem for Russia, though, in that India exported just $2.8 billion worth of goods to them, which means that Russian entities have a gigantic pile of Indian rupees in their bank accounts and cannot actually find a way to spend them. They could exchange them for UAE dirhams or Chinese yuan, but the issue is that India and China are in the midst of a border dispute and India would not accept yuan in the trade settlement, and pressured Indian businesses to not use yuan to pay Russia for imports. Dirhams are an option, but one that won’t last long under threat of Western sanctions.
New York City’s free universal pre-K program, long the envy of the nation, has been buckling under mismanagement of the Adams administration. The program costs the city $700 million a year, and with the expansion to 3-K to add another 30,000 seats for 3-year-olds will cost $1 billion per year. Today it serves 90,000 3- and 4-year-olds, and has inspired similar programs in Philadelphia and Seattle. The latest budget from the Adams administration would gut the program, cutting it by $570 million over the next two years. Making matters worse is current mismanagement, as under the mayor’s oversight the city owes providers $400 million, and has been regularly late.
The EPA is one of 7,000 groups or individuals who weighed in on the Federal Trade Commission’s plans to update its Green Guides, which advise companies about how to not cross the line into false advertising when it comes to discussing environmental and carbon impacts. The specific comment from EPA: It’s time to kill the recycling symbol around the resin code stamped on plastic items, as it gives the false idea that most of that plastic is actually recycled. Plastics with codes 1 (polyethylene terephthalate) and 2 (high-density polyethylene) are recycled most often, but plastic types 3 through 7 — your plastic films, trash bags, packing foam, the rest of ‘em — are rarely if ever recycled, so stamping them with three arrows chasing one another is pretty misleading.
The pitch clock rule in Major League Baseball is working, not only having dramatic effects on the field — games were 28 minutes faster on average compared to last season as of May 9 — but also, more importantly for baseball, in the minds of viewers. A new survey found that 50 percent of viewers of at least one 2023 game found the game more enjoyable as a result of the pitch clock compared to just 14 percent who said it made the game less enjoyable. When asked about interest in watching a baseball game with a pitch clock, just 42 percent of U.S. adults said on March 19 they would find that of interest, a level that jumped to 51 percent by the time the question was posed again on May 3.
The IRS has developed a prototype system that would allow Americans with basic returns to complete their taxes digitally and free of charge, a potentially massive disruption of an industry built around charging for what many other countries do for free. It’ll be available to a small pilot group next year. The massive companies that dominate the tax prep industry are clearly worried as they’ve been beefing up their lobbying lately: Intuit, which makes TurboTax, increased lobbying by 18 percent in the first quarter of the year compared to the Q1 of 2022, while H&R Block upped its lobbying costs by 29 percent.
Last year Google announced that 24 new languages were added to its translation software, one of which was Sorani Kurdish. That was the result of years of efforts and lobbying from speakers who worked to connect Google’s engineering team with the speakers of the language in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It’s spoken by 8 million people, and getting it digitally translatable was seen as a major step for preserving the tongue, which is actively suppressed in the Kurdish areas of western Iran.
The lackluster Arizona Coyotes are in a desperate battle to find a home, and the wealthy owners are trying to win voters to their cause through three propositions that would hand over land to the team and fork over a $100 million tax abatement, as well as a $208 million bond paid over 30 years through a community facilities district. The team left their arena in Glendale on bad terms — their previous arena situation is doing better as a music and event venue than it ever did as a hockey arena in a desert — and is currently posted up in Arizona State’s venue, which is a fraction of the size of the next-smallest NHL venue. While backers claim that a hockey team in Tempe will add all sorts of value, an independent economic analysis from the Grand Canyon Institute found that Tempe will gain a dollar in revenue for every $2.70 dumped into the community facilities district, a money loser. Polls close at 7 p.m. local time tonight.
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