Numlock News: November 4, 2022 • Animals, Bribes, International Space Station
By Walt Hickey
Have an excellent weekend!
On Thursday a U.K. judge hit commodities trader Glencore with a £276 million fine ($308 million) after the U.K. Serious Fraud Office demonstrated that the company had paid out $28 million in bribes across several African countries over the course of five years in order to get their hands on raw materials like oil and minerals. They worked pretty quickly to capitalize on political turmoil by being ready to grease palms: Just four weeks after South Sudan became independent in 2011, a group of traders flew in with $800,000 in cash on hand to dole out for bribes to score contracts for oil extraction. The move from the U.K. comes on top of $1.1 billion Glencore paid related to similar cases in Brazil and the U.S.
A new study published in Nature Communications dropped underwater microphones into the captive habitats of animals that had been generally understood to be mostly mute in an attempt to find out if they did any kind of vocalized communication. They looked at 53 different species — overwhelmingly different kinds of sea turtles, but also lungfish, caecilian and tuatara — that were thought to be nonverbal. As it happens, none of them are: Every single one of the animals, after enough eavesdropping, was found to make some kind of sound, evidence that suggests that the ability to make some noise goes back to a common ancestor of at least 407 million years ago.
The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) system is an instrument on the International Space Station that uses lasers to deploy lidar systems the world over, predominately studying the health and height of tree cover in forests. It’s a refrigerator-sized thing that pings the Earth’s surface with 242 pulses per second, allowing scientists to produce a 3D forest image map that can help generate estimates of carbon stores. It’s also being evicted in February 2023 to make space for a Department of Defense sensor that will collect hyperspectral images, and that’s got many scientists arguing it hasn’t had a chance to actually do its full mission. The ISS orbit unexpectedly changed from 2020 to 2021, and that meant that GEDI was mapping the same forests twice over, and the data gap is considerable. NASA reviews its fate next month.
Sand is needed in all sorts of industrial, commercial and building resources, and it’s one of the most traded commodities in the world by weight. In Greenland, the melting glaciers are depositing major deltas of sand, and some want to mine it. Mining is controversial in Greenland — a lead-zinc mine in Greenland that operated from 1973 to 1990 left some areas permanently closed to fishing and another cryolite mine that operated through 1987 is still leeching unsafe levels of lead into a nearby fjord — but the sand extraction is appealing to residents. A survey of 1,000 adults — which is actually about 2.5 percent of the island’s population — found 84 percent supported sand mining, with 75 percent wanting Greenlanders in particular to have a chance to profit rather than outside mining concerns.
An analysis of 3,600 articles about missing people in the United States that appeared from January to November of 2021 found significant disparities in who gets news coverage when they go missing and who does not. For instance, a young adult white woman from New York would be expected to appear in 67 news stories across TV, radio, newspapers and online outlets, while a young Latino man would appear in 17 stories by comparison. People from large urban areas tended to garner more coverage than people missing from rural areas or smaller metros. This also allowed them to develop a morbid tool to estimate how much media coverage would be generated given a slate of demographic details if you were to go missing.
Egypt is a critical juncture for the infrastructure of the internet, with 16 subsea internet cables in the Red Sea touching land in Egypt and traveling through the country into the Mediterranean. It’s a critical conduit, connecting Asia and Europe, and something like 17 percent of global internet traffic passes through Egypt as a result. One reason besides geography is that alternate routes would require going through Syria, Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan, each of which has a geopolitical risk. That said, the Egyptian cables have had their share of problems, given the shallow depth of the Red Sea and high shipping traffic. For instance, the Asia-Africa-Europe-1 internet cable was cut on June 7, and immediately seven countries lost a massive chunk of their internet access.
Over the course of the Russian invasion, at least 550 Ukrainian cultural sites and monuments have been damaged or destroyed. Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine, alone saw at least 51 heritage sites damaged since the invasion. Amid the war efforts, cultural preservationists have been hard at work to safeguard the country’s cultural treasures to mixed success. When sites have been destroyed, activists will collect photography and evidence of destruction, some going so far as to build 3D digital models of the lost sites. Not even online cultural resources are safe from attack: A Ukrainian ethnomusicologist’s web archive of 500 Ukrainian folk songs was believed to have been hacked by Russians who deleted the songs, requiring them to reupload them about 20 times so far.
If you enjoyed that, you should subscribe and get the Sunday specials. They’re a great way to learn more about the most fascinating stories that appear in the weekday newsletter, and subscribers keep this operation humming along ad-free for the whole crowd. It’s an inflation-proof $5 per month, with a discount if you go yearly.
Consider becoming a full subscriber today.
The best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.
2022 Sunday subscriber editions: Mexican Beer · The Chaos Machine · [CENSORED] · Podcast Industrialization · Fantasy Shows · Law Dork · Chinese Box Office · Box Office Recovery · Giant Hornets · Graphic Novels ·