Numlock News: October 26, 2020 • James Bond, Pope Francis, OSIRIS-REx
By Walt Hickey
MGM reportedly lost $30 million to $50 million because they had to delay the new James Bond movie just after blowing a gigantic amount promoting the film. A new report has MGM subsequently shopping the movie around, with No Time To Die reportedly offered to the likes of Apple and Netflix before eventually being punted to 2021. The studio wanted a deal of about $600 million, which was too pricey even for the flush streamers. My proposal — for MGM and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson to seize an unprotected shipment of lithium en route from Australia to a refinery in China and demand $600 million and a digital distribution deal from the United Nations lest they make good on their threats to contaminate the critical shipping lane in the Strait of Malacca — was also passed on by the major studios, but did get a bite from SPECTRE, so I’ve got that going for me now.
The OSIRIS-REx mission to the asteroid Bennu successfully nabbed its desired payload of asteroid rubble on its first attempt at a touchdown, taking in so much that the sampler is so full of rocks and dust that some are slowly escaping from the sampler head. The team is now moving to stow the sample as quickly as possible. All the data collected so far suggests that the collector head contains more than 2 ounces of regolith, which was the baseline goal of the mission. There will be more opportunities to collect asteroid material on the mission.
Independent bookstores have struggled during the pandemic, as their brick-and-mortar presences, dearth of in-person events that typically drive foot traffic, and higher costs when it comes to shipping have made the pivot to online difficult for even the best-capitalized shops. The American Booksellers Association is openly begging customers to do their holiday shopping in October as the smaller operations are less logistically seasoned to deal with an all-digital holiday rush. Interestingly, many stores are looking to a single book to save the day: The first volume of President Obama’s memoir will come out November 17, and is projected to be a blockbuster, with the publisher ordering a first printing of 3 million copies and a sticker price of $45. For many of the indies, that book alone is seen as a possible ticket to survive a few more months. Still, it’s not all bad: despite the pandemic, 30 bookstores opened this year so far, down from the 104 openings in 2019, but still moving in the right direction.
Every year, worldwide, about 5.3 million students study outside their home countries, a figure that has doubled since 2001. Last year, 21 percent of them studied in the United States, down from 28 percent in 2001. New international students studying in the States have declined each year since 2016, for some reason, with the latest numbers this fall showing a 13.7 percent drop in undergrad international students. Winning these students, often, is Canada: in 2018, 90 percent of Indian students studying abroad chose the U.S. and 5 percent chose Canada, while in the 2021 school year, 77 percent plan to study in the U.S. and 14 percent in Canada.
On Sunday Pope Francis named 13 new cardinals, four of whom are over the age of 80 and are not eligible to vote for the next pope were the need to arise, and the other eight eligible to be able to vote in such a conclave. Those figures are arguably important for a pope hoping to secure a legacy that will not be immediately reversed by a different faction within the diverse, globe-spanning church administrative structure. When the newly-appointed group become full-fledged cardinals, there will be 128 cardinal electors, 57 percent of whom were chosen by Francis himself, 30 percent of whom were selected by his papal predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, and 13 percent chosen by Pope John Paul II. The conclave that elected Francis was 52 percent European (24 percent Italian) and after November it’ll be 41 percent European (and just 17 percent Italian). The global south — Asia, Africa, and Latin America — holds 45 percent of the electors, up from 35 percent when Francis was installed.
In Brazil — which sees more plastic surgeries than any other country in the world — the demand for cosmetic work has exploded. Dermatologists are reporting a rise in the use of Botox treatment, especially for foreheads that are now uniquely visible on masked faces and Zoom calls. Producers of eye creams sold 30 percent more in the first six months of the year compared to 2019, searches for skin care were up 66 percent from February to April, demand for beauty treatments rose despite a 10 percent dip in the economy in Q2, and men now account for a fifth of the Botox patients in one large clinic, up from around 5 percent pre-pandemic.
There’s now an insurance policy available to the 1,200 NCAA schools to cover their athletic departments in the event that any of the 450,000 student athletes are hospitalized for COVID-19. Many schools cancelled or postponed sports due to the ongoing pandemic, but others opted to allow intercollegiate play, and this policy is intended for them. Schools have two options: one, for $65 per athlete, will cover COVID-19 related medical expenses for up to $150,000. The other, for $85 per athlete, sees that limit rise to $250,000. It includes a death benefit of $10,000, which is an awesome number that I’m sure the NCAA would love for people to talk about. For a Division I school with 500 athletes across a number of sports, the first plan would come to $32,500. It’s unclear which will win out, the risk management of opting for the insurance policy or the utter revulsion American universities have for compensating the athletes that make them millions.
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