Numlock News: May 2, 2022 • Urban, Micro-Hydroelectric, Missing Bullion
By Walt Hickey
Next week, the summer blockbuster movie season kicks off in earnest with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, meaning that this weekend at the box office was a bit of a calm before the storm. The top-grossing film was again DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys with another $16.1 million domestically, followed by Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with $11.4 million. While most films tend to decline over the course of their run, A24’s Michelle Yeoh-starring indie movie Everything Everywhere All at Once actually was up 2 percent compared to last week, grossing another $5.5 million and adding to the $25.5 million domestic cume. The only new movie released this week, a Liam Neeson shoot-em-up geezer teaser, debuted in eighth place with $3.1 million.
Costs for synthetic fertilizers are through the roof right now. Most commercial nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas, which has been increasing in price, while sanctions on a major Belarusian exporter of potash for potassium fertilizer has restricted that supply. China has restricted exports of phosphate fertilizers, attempting to build its own stockpile. Couple that with the various supply chain difficulties, and the chemicals that make food happen are getting expensive and harder to get a hold of. The benchmark spot price for diammonium phosphate in the port of New Orleans hit $950 per ton at the end of April, up from $702 per ton at the beginning of February, $565 per ton this time last year, and $270 per ton in May of 2020.
In lighter news, this year the federal government plans to wipe out thousands of cities with the stroke of a pen, razing urban areas in favor of farmland, at least on paper. The U.S. Census Bureau will change the definition of “urban,” and in doing so 1,300 small cities and towns that were considered urban will be counted instead as rural. The designation changes access to some kinds of funding. Previously, a place that had 2,500 people was urban, which led to 80 percent of the people in the United States living in an “urban” area. Now, it needs 2,000 housing units to be a city, which is about 5,000 people. Census blocks, the smallest geographic unit, are considered “urban” if they have 425 housing units per square mile, which before the change were urban if they had 500 people per square mile.
Sunday saw the end of the 2021–22 regular NHL season, and with the playoffs looming this year it was a massive one for offense. Teams averaged 6.2 goals per game, which is the highest level since the 1995–96 season and up 6.9 percent over last year. Part of that was some rusty goalies: Because of COVID-19, 86 different people played goalie in January, up from 65 over January of 2020, and those backups and elevated minor leaguers didn’t do as well at stopping pucks. That, plus a renewed emphasis on offense across the league as a whole, means that there have just been lots of goals, which has the NHL pretty thrilled at all the highlights they’re churning out.
Only 20 percent of population has reliable access to electricity in Democratic Republic of Congo, one place lacking in reliable power. The country of some 90 million people is prone to constant blackouts, getting its electricity from a mismanaged hydropower system. In one eastern town — Miti, population 300,000 — a 55-year-old nun started raising money and, over three years, got the $297,000 necessary to construct a micro-hydroelectric plant that generates 0.05 to 0.1 MW to power a school, a medical center and the convent.
With many prestige television seasons having just eight to 10 episodes, and with Emmy eligibility requiring that shows premiere most of their season before May 31, there is now a massive glut of excellent television about to crash into America’s cable and streaming so that it can ride into Emmy season with maximum buzz. For the typical consumer, though, this is bracing: Over 30 returning shows are about to drop their new season, and they’ll also be joined by another 60 or so new series all gunning for Emmys. In 2021, there were 559 original scripted series on networks and streaming services, and it would appear that a solid percentage of this year’s crop are dropping right now.
Sudan produced about 100 metric tons of gold bullion in 2019, of which 21.7 tons were exported through official export channels. That means that about 80 percent of the country’s gold left the country through unofficial channels, meaning it was smuggled out or sold on the black market, some $4 billion in unaccounted gold. This is an international problem, as it certainly looks like groups with ties to Russian mercenary organizations are selling the gold in off-the-books transactions, sending Sudanese minerals to Russia and flouting sanctions.
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Correction: A previous edition mistakenly said that the percentage of the population without reliable electricity applied to the global population.
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