Numlock News: November 21, 2018
By Walt Hickey
Normal Numlock will return Monday. Have an outstanding weekend and a happy Thanksgiving. I’m taking Thanksgiving and Friday off for the holiday, but subscribers will still get the Sunday special and free readers can expect an email Friday opening up some of the subscriber archives for the long weekend. Thanks for reading.
The National Retail Federation projects 116 million shoppers will buy in-store or online on Black Friday alone, and 164 million will the whole weekend. The power of the day after Thanksgiving as a shopping event is waning, or more accurately dissipating throughout late November. Last year 174 million people shopped the weekend after Thanksgiving, but 58 million shopped exclusively online and 61 million split their time between the store and online. The decline of the once-mighty holiday is to some extent sad, but it’s not sacred or anything not like Small Business Saturday.
Fire departments around the U.S. fielded an estimated 2,090 reports of home fires on Thanksgiving 2016, two-thirds of which were cooking related. That’s roughly double the daily average and way above the next-closest holiday, the Fourth of July. The average fire-related cost of Thanksgiving fires is $19 million annually. There’s something truly American about the fact that of the eight top fire days in the U.S., four of them — Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Eve, and Super Bowl Sunday — are days when no where else on earth is randomly catching on fire. All of those were our ideas, and entirely on us.
Disney’s princess business grew from a $300 million division in 2000 to a $4 billion juggernaut by 2009. The company has spent an enormous amount of time and resources in refining the laws of the princess brand — for instance, characters can never look in the same directions when they appear on posters or lunch boxes because that’s the rules — but recent cheekier attempts to humanize the characters as normal young women, like in the forthcoming Ralph Breaks The Internet, have forced serious reflection about the royalty business.
Banks cut back on lending to small businesses in the wake of the financial crisis, letting less scrupulous lenders move in and offer “merchant cash advances,” which legally aren’t loans but serve effectively the same purpose. Last year, this slice of the financial industry — which contains some familiar characters from sub-prime mortgage crisis and 90s stock swindles — extended $15 billion in credit at often ridiculous interest. They’re also using pre-signed confessions of judgement that allow lenders to instantly seize assets with the mere accusation of non-payment. In New York, the nexus of this business model, 350 lenders have secured over 25,000 judgments worth $1.5 billion since 2012, making the Empire State the debt collector of choice for sketchy lenders.
U.S. consumption of sheep meat is up about 40 percent since 2011. Prices are on the rise as more Americans become familiar with versions of mutton that go beyond the tough, neutral version many were exposed to, and are introduced to new preparations through North African, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The U.S. imported $806.6 million worth of lamb and mutton last year, and rising demand has been great for sheep producers in Australia and New Zealand.
Six years ago, Canada walked away from a deal to buy new F-35 jets and elected instead to buy 18 secondhand CF-18s from Australia and maintain its current CF-18s to the tune of $3 billion. The issue? Canada now has 64 percent of the pilots they need to fly the things, and its current training system can only produce 115 new pilots per year, only some of whom are fighter pilots and who as a whole are not enough to even replace pilots who leave the air force. For the record, Independence Day is not an instructional feature on how to manage an air corps and having someone able to fly planes is an under-acknowledged necessity of modern flight, but at least the CF-18s work compared to the F-35.
Monday Night was easily one of the best NFL games in years, with the Kansas City Chiefs playing the Los Angeles Rams in a game that eventually hit a breathtaking 105 points. Las Vegas initially set the over under — that is, the bet on how many points would be scored — at 64, already the highest such value of any NFL game since at least 1986. Rams-Chiefs beat that by 41 points, and Vegas bookies took a seven-figure loss as 69 percent of customers correctly bet on the game beating the over under.
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