Numlock News: May 25, 2023 • Mermaids, Robocalls, F-35 Lightning
By Walt Hickey
Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia are suing Avid Telecom, alleging that the company was responsible for transmitting millions of robocalls into the American phone system, alleging they made 8.4 million calls that were spoofed to appear as if they were coming from government or law enforcement agencies, alleging 7.5 billion calls to numbers on the Do Not Call list. Incidentally, Avid is also the company that facilitated the 5 billion calls from June 2020 to February 2021 on behalf of Sumco, which is now the subject of a potential $300 million FCC fine over those pesky auto warranty scam calls. According to the states suing Avid, of 24.5 billion calls they sent from December 2018 to January 2023, fully 93 percent lasted less than 15 seconds, significant evidence of robocalling.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office found that the Pentagon is unable to account for $85 million worth of F-35 spare parts that were lost, damaged or destroyed. The F-35 is a plane designed to be exported, with its parts manufactured around the world by several allies as well as the United States, and as a result those spare parts are held in over 50 facilities around the world. The auditors looked into a test case, a subcontractor who managed to lose over 1 million spare parts worth $85 million, of which only 60,000 losses worth $19 million were even reported to the Pentagon. Given the number of subcontractors working on the F-35, the true number is likely vastly higher.
The Little Mermaid live-action remake is projected to bring in $120 million to $125 million over the course of the four-day holiday weekend, and current tracking puts its as likelier one of the more successful remakes the Mouse is churning out. It’s based on the film that started the Disney Renaissance, and given that it’s one of the Howard Ashman-scored films it’s pretty hard to screw up on a baseline level. The film has a budget of $250 million, and tells the story of an incredibly talented cast fighting against a director who appears to have a total disinterest in lighting any of the scenes they appear in.
Air travel this summer is poised to rebound in a major way, with AAA forecasting that 3.4 million Americans will fly over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, with 313,000 flights over the period. That’s slightly fewer flights than in the pre-pandemic 2019 Memorial Day weekend, but potentially more people because the average plane would be bigger. United is already projecting that Memorial Day weekend will be its busiest in a decade, and Delta’s projecting 17 percent more passengers than last year. After the hellish, Kafkaesque summer of 2022 in air travel, the passenger airlines say they’re better prepared with 486,000 workers, up 10 percent over pre-pandemic times.
This week Microsoft announced an AI model catalog which includes a Hugging Face hub, a major win for a company that has become a core repository of AI code and the main home for machine learning models. Hugging Face had a $2 billion valuation last year, which many considered a bit rich given the code hub had annual recurring revenues of $7 million to $10 million, but if anything the past year has borne out their pitch that they stand to be the GitHub of AI. Incidentally, the actual GitHub was bought for $7.5 billion by none other than Microsoft, so Microsoft’s ambitions in AI combined with their new connections with Hugging Face are interesting indeed.
While many places purport to collect and recycle plastic shopping bags, a new investigation found that in reality it’s rare that bags make it to designated recycling centers even when properly returned to retailers who claim that they’ll recycle them. ABC and nine local stations and affiliates across the country dropped 46 bundles of plastic bags fitted with electronic trackers into drop-off locations associated with the American Chemistry Council’s Wrap Recycling Action Program, which has 18,000 drop-off points nationwide. The trackers were superglued inside multiple layers of clean plastic bags, and were monitored over the course of their journeys. After months of tracking, as of May, half of the trackers last pinged at landfills or incinerators, seven last pinged at refuse transfer stations that don’t recycle plastic bags, and six still remain in the store where they were dropped. Another three are now thousands of miles overseas in Malaysia or Indonesia, exported to Asia, and three were inconclusive. Only four of the 46 bundles last pinged in a facility that recycles plastic bags.
When Polynesians first arrived to Hawaii, they brought with them red jungle fowl, the bird that is the wild ancestor of modern chickens. These birds eventually mixed with the domesticated chickens brought over by European colonists, and after several hurricanes that destroyed chicken coops the chickens are now a sustained, crafty feral population, with few predators. They have stronger parasite resistance than your typical domestic chicken, take better care of their eggs, and are effectively wild. In 2022 the legislature attempted to pass a bill that would introduce avian birth control to manage the population, but it failed, and other attempts to curtail the population have failed repeatedly. Oahu recently spent $7,000 on traps but only managed to bag 67 birds.
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