Numlock News: November 21, 2019 • Trains, Whales, Frozen
By Walt Hickey
A new study identified whales as a major source of carbon sequestration, with a single whale sequestering 33 tons of carbon dioxide at their deaths, compared to a tree which sequesters 48 pounds of CO2 in a year. Phytoplankton capture about 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, about 40 percent of all CO2 produced, or the equivalent of 1.7 trillion trees or four Amazon rainforests. Whales not only eat phytoplankton, but their waste contains the iron and nitrogen needed to make more. The whale population stands at just 1.3 million, and researchers argue that were the population to rise to 4 million or 5 million, 1.7 billion tons of CO2 would be captured annually.
Industry estimates put the domestic box office for Frozen 2 to be somewhere between $90 million and $135 million, with a further $120 million to $140 million abroad. The first film made $93.9 million over its first five days, and its sequel will hit cinemas for preview screenings Thursday night. The film’s rollout will be aided by kids being off of school next week, as 41 percent of colleges and 14 percent of K-12 schools are out on Monday and all will be out on Thursday and Friday in observation of Black Friday and, of course, Black Friday Eve. That opening would put it in striking distance of the current record for an opening of an animated film, held now by Toy Story 4 with $240.9 million.
Amtrak, a system formed when the railroad companies sold their money-losing passenger rail systems to the federal government in the early 1970s, is approaching profitability. Last year it lost $171 million, but most of that red ink is in the vast stretches of country outside the Northeast Corridor. The 457-mile track from Boston to D.C. is unique in that Amtrak owns the track and controls the dispatching on it, which is one reason it had an operating profit of $524 million. The other 21,400 miles are worse off, and just 43 percent of those trains outside the Northeast Corridor operated on time. That’s in many ways due to the fact that they’re riding on Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX or Norfolk Southern rail, not Amtrak rail, and one reason that the routes had $543 million in operating losses last year. The new chief executive is an ex-Delta Airlines CEO and is trying to make Amtrak a travel force to be reckoned with, and the preliminary results are promising: Amtrak’s financial loss in fiscal 2019 was just $30 million, down from $171 million, and ridership was up 800,000 to a record 32.5 million trips. In 2020, it may even hit a profit.
In the U.S. flu shots may be provided at no direct cost to insured recipients, but that doesn’t mean they’re free. Self-insured employers and insurers paid between $28 to $80 for the same type of flu shot in 2017, according to an analysis of 19 million claims. That cost gets passed on to the consumers in one way or another through higher premiums. Meanwhile, Medicaid manages to pay far less for a flu shot, ranging from $15 in D.C. to $19 in Connecticut. The lack of price transparency and subsequent ripoff — hallmarks of the U.S. medical system — mean that preventative care can cost wildly different things because consumers don’t actually care where the injected dead viruses originate from so long as they work.
The government of Ontario is cancelling or rolling back 751 green energy projects underway, even ones that will leave the provincial government on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars contractually. Take the White Pines Wind Farm project in Prince Edward County, where the company signed a 20-year contract with the province. Cranes are now tearing down the completed turbines, and Ontario is on the hook for $7 million per year of the contract, or $141 million. The total cost of all the cancelled projects to the province will be $231 million for 2018-19 as conservative Premier Doug Ford sought to eliminate the renewable energy sources.
The MORE Act, which removes cannabis from the controlled substances list and expunges the records of people with a federal cannabis conviction, cleared its first hurdle in the House of Representatives. The House Judiciary Committee voted 24 in favor, 10 against — with two Republicans joining Democrats in favor — to advance the MORE Act to the House floor. As it stands, 47 states have adapted some sort of marijuana law, 33 states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana and 11 states and D.C. allow adult use.
In the year ending in March, merely 9.8 percent of Americans moved. That’s the smallest fraction of Americans who moved in the entire history of the Census tracking the statistic, which goes back to 1947. In the 1950s, a fifth of Americans moved in a given year. It’s the first time that stat has fallen below 10 percent. Young people have been the main movers, but high costs of movement meant that while 29 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds moved from 2005 to 2006, just 20 percent of that cohort moved last year.
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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Secondhand · Biometrics · Voting Machines · Open Borders · WrestleMania · Game of Thrones · Concussion Snake Oil · Skyglow · Juul · Chris Ingraham · Invasive Species · The Rat Spill · The Sterling Affairs · Snakebites · Bees · Deep Fakes · Artificial Intelligence · Marijuana · Mussels ·