Numlock News: November 8, 2022 • Superyachts, Loot, Wire Fraud
By Walt Hickey
Last week a 32-year-old Georgia man pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud after stealing a quantity of bitcoin from the Silk Road a decade ago. The amount of cryptocurrency — 50,491 bitcoin — is today worth $3.36 billion. It’s been missing for a decade, but the lovely thing about cryptocurrency is that the fundamental basis of the asset is that it’s based on an irreversible and immutable ledger that is by definition public for literally anyone and everyone to see. Given that, it’s actually rather difficult to offload stolen crypto.
In 1897, British troops looted the Royal Palace of Benin, and the artifacts pilfered since then have made their way around the world. A new effort called Digital Benin is trying to compile a record of where the looted artifacts are in the world. The archive currently encompasses 5,246 historic Benin objects across 20 countries and 131 institutions. Yet again, attention turns to the British Museum, home to 944 of the pieces, and Berlin’s Ethnological Museum, where 518 are held.
Buyers who bought homes in the year from June 2021 to June 2022 moved a median of 50 miles away from their previous residences, which is pretty much as far off the charts as one can get. For perspective, over the preceding five years it was pretty much flat at a median of 15 miles, which was the highest going back to 2005. Many folks are leaving for the country: 48 percent were in small towns and rural areas, up from 32 percent going to the country in the year from June 2020 to June 2021.
There are 12 unions representing 115,000 workers that must vote on the terms of a labor deal with the carriers, and this week a seventh of them voted to approve the deal. The margins were fairly slim: The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, 4,900 strong, had 59 percent of members voting and the ratification passed with 52 percent of the vote. Two of the 12 unions — the 6,000-member Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and the 11,000-member Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees — have voted against the deal, and BMWED could start a work stoppage as soon as November 19.
Royal Caribbean said that it has hit 96 percent occupancy in the third quarter of the year, meaning that the floating petri dish industry has pretty much fully rebounded from the coronavirus pandemic. They logged $3 billion in revenue, up from $460 million in the same quarter of last year. In the Caribbean market, ships were at 105 percent occupancy.
As Western governments have confiscated the conspicuous, hyper-luxurious yachts owned by Russian oligarchs following the invasion of Ukraine, they’ve had to deal with an under-the-radar anxiety: It’s extremely expensive and annoying to own and maintain a superyacht. Of the 153 in existence, about 30 belong to Russians. Western governments have seized over a dozen superyachts worth minimum $4 billion, with some pretty impressive impounds; Italians seized a $650 million and a $550 million yacht, and Germany has impounded a $600 million yacht. The problem is that it costs — extremely conservatively — 3 percent of a ship’s value to maintain it for a year. This means that the U.S. and Italian governments are on the hook for something like $50 million a year minimum to maintain the seizures.
When engineers want to assess the safety of bridges, they generally rely on either visual inspections or sensor data detecting vibrations and movements. A new method developed out of West Point Military Academy tested the efficacy of the sensors within smartphones to do a similar analysis of the health of bridges. They tested this on the Golden Gate Bridge and a concrete bridge in Italy, and found the data was as accurate as around 240 stationary sensors. The hope is that by gathering the data in the aggregate, researchers can monitor the health of the 600,000 bridges in the U.S. in general.
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