Numlock News: October 23, 2019 • Diamonds, Rye, Hitmen
By Walt Hickey
Following a three year trial, six men have been convicted of attempted murder in a plot that illustrates the difficulties inherent in subcontracting out work. According to prosecutors businessman Tan Youhui paid a hitman, Xi Guangan, ¥2 million, the equivalent of $282,000, to kill a competitor. However, the hired gun instead subcontracted out the job to a second hitman, Mo Tianxiang, for ¥1 million. Here’s where it begins to get fairly ridiculous: the job was then pawned off on Yang Kangsheng, who’d do it for ¥770,000, who in turn offered it to Yang Guangsheng for ¥700,000, who in turn paid a fifth and final hitman, Ling Xiansi, ¥100,000 to kill the target. This fifth one promptly narced on everyone else, alerted the target and kicked off a court battle that’s lasted since 2016, and presumably a Coen Brothers movie that will last immortally.
Currently, over a million Americans work in the warehouse industry, where automation isn’t so much eliminating jobs as making those jobs more demanding and lower-paying. From 2014 to 2017, employment rose 37 percent in the warehouse business, and the BLS anticipates 21 percent growth from 2016 to 2026. The issue is that wages are, in fact, down, with the median wage ranging from $13.71 to $16.96 per hour, as unionization rates fell from 14 percent in 1990 to 6 percent in 2018.
Diamonds Are Not Forever
If you’ve seen or own a pink diamond, chances are good that it originates from the Argyle mine in Western Australia, which since 1983 has produced 865 million carats of rough diamonds, and 90 percent of the world’s overall production of pink diamonds. However, the mine’s kicked, and will close next year as the company is down to just 150 carats of polished pink diamonds. The Argyle mine in general is responsible for a global oversupply of cheaper diamonds, so its closure has been projected to cause a price increase as the market adjusts. Prices for pink diamonds have risen 300 percent in the past decade, going for $1 million to $3 million per carat. Pink stones are found in other mines, but not as reliably as in the Argyle mine.
This year the ozone hole over Antarctica — which grows in size each September and October only to contract again later — was the smallest since 1982, NASA and NOAA reported. Weather patterns in the upper atmosphere limited ozone depletion. On September 8, the hole peaked at 6.3 million square miles and subsequently shrunk to 3.9 million square miles, while in a typical year the hole will grow to 8 million square miles. The unusually good year is thanks to those weird weather patterns, but nonetheless the ozone layer has steadily rebounded from the poor shape it was in before the Rocco’s Modern Life episode about chlorofluorocarbons that I assume constituted the inflection point for earth and not just my own environmental impulses.
Rye’s had a renaissance as bartenders aim to recreate older, iconic cocktails that depend on the liquor, and even more than its peers in the whiskey aisle has had a truly stellar shift in fortunes over the past decade. Since Prohibition, rye had been in steady decline, and in 2006 just 150,000 nine liter cases of rye were sold in the U.S., compared to 14.7 million cases of bourbon. Since 2009, sales are up 1,100 percent, to 1.1 million cases sold in 2018. You’re welcome.
Chinese audiences love drama, and today more than half of the world’s new television dramas are from China, according to a new report on the global content pipelines. Chinese broadcasters and streaming services commissioned about 300 new drama series last year, which is about the same as the combined number of drama series made by the rest of earth. Fully 67 percent of upcoming mainland Chinese shows are dramas, compared to just 16 percent of U.S. programming. Crime shows and thrillers are underrepresented in the middle kingdom compared to the rest of the world, but I bet if you wrote a check large enough Dick Wolf would make Law & Order: Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.
Such Great Fights
California and New York City have sued the U.S. Postal Service, alleging that foreign smugglers are using the mail to ship tens of thousands of cigarettes and evade taxes while postal employees look the other way. The federal suit cites Vietnam, China and Israel as the origin of many of the smokes, and argue that the USPS is failing to enforce the law about cigarette mail deliveries. California claims it’s lost $19 million annually and New York $21 million annually due to the USPS facilitating the delivery of untaxed cigarettes, with an estimated 6 million packs mailed to California and 5 million to New York annually.
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