Numlock News: November 2, 2022 • Bubbles, Bats, Beanbags
By Walt Hickey
No Longer Workin’ For A Living
Huey Lewis and the News has sold the rights to their musical copyrights, the latest act to cash out into the red-hot market for music royalties. The price for the full discography — which included songs like “Hip to Be Square” and “The Power of Love” — was $20 million. The company it sold to, Primary Wave, recently got $1.7 billion from an investment company to fund an acquisition spree, so this is not likely the last story in the ongoing saga of private investors obtaining the rights to popular music for bands looking to cash out. Needless to say, I’m not surprised that Huey Lewis and the News managed to find driven yet adamant fans among the Wall Street financier set.
The Federal Trade Commission has sued Chegg, a “homework help app,” regarding what the agency describes as a careless approach to cybersecurity. I, for one, am shocked that Chegg didn’t actually do the requisite work here, sharing important passwords that gave all sorts of employees and contractors access to its user account data, culminating in a 2018 theft of 40 million users’ data which included names, email addresses and passwords as well as in some cases data about religion and sexual orientation. Business has been good — Chegg’s market cap was $2.7 billion, and revenue in 2021 hit $776 million — but critics have long alleged that the site facilitates widespread cheating among students. The enforcement action against Chegg is being seen as a warning shot to the education technology business as a whole, not unlike the scarlet letter symbolizing the guilt and grief of Hester Prynne after she, too, was sanctioned by her community, potentially invoking larger moral questions, or so I’m told according to Chegg.
A Silent Guardian, A Watchful Protector
A new study highlights the important role that bats play in the development of forests, with their ravenous appetites for insects making them essential in eating the bugs that eat trees. The researchers built a massive mesh-enclosed structure in an Indiana forest to see what happens when the eight local species of bats can’t eat insects off trees. They found three times as many insects and five times more defoliation in the control plots compared to the forests, with oaks in particular experiencing nine times the defoliation without bats. Anyway, this pretty succinctly explains why supervillain Killer Moth has beef with Batman.
Another week, another niche competitive activity in the grips of a lurid cheating scandal. The American Cornhole League has been rent asunder after allegations that a top team in the doubles competition was using illegal beanbags, allegations that were proven to be too small after a live weigh-in. The officials then checked the competitors bags, which were revealed to be underweight as well, and it’s now known as BagGate. The sport is growing fast — the ACL has 155,000 members, up from 125,000 last year, and I can only presume grows larger with each new fraternity pledge class — and there are 22,000 events this year. Players at the highest levels will turn to all manner of innovation — boiling them, washing them in vinegar, hitting them with mallets — as lighter and thinner bags can provide an advantage.
Italy’s new far-right government has proposed a new law that would ban raves, creating a new crime of “invasion for dangerous gatherings” of over 50 people. If implemented, the crime would be punishable for up to six years in prison, and it also makes it possible to wiretap rave organizers. This is a potential legacy push for the incoming government of the notoriously politically stable peninsula, as we all know governments that ban dancing get positively glowing write-ups in the history books.
Air Lubrication Systems are neat technology that can be added to ships to reduce friction between the water and the hull by bubbling air through the water. This reduced the fuel consumption and, ergo, carbon emissions by about 5 percent per ship. Carnival, the largest cruise company, has it on four of its ships, and this week announced it plans to install the air lubrication technology on at least 20 percent of its fleet, including five more ships this year and then 10 more ships through 2027.
Many companies are making significant investments to directly reduce their climate footprint. Take, for instance, the home improvement company Lowe’s, which spent $68 million to upgrade the lighting and air conditioning equipment in its stores and in doing so cut its electricity use by 11 percent and cut its emissions by 9 percent. That’s a solid, direct investment in cutting emissions. Yeah lots of companies don’t actually want to bother with that, and instead use “market-based accounting” to make audacious claims by buying up credits from clean energy providers so they can say they are running on green power but in fact are not. An analysis of 6,000 climate reports found 1,318 using market-based accounting to (on paper) erase 112 million metric tons of “emissions” from their record.
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