Numlock News: October 4, 2022 • Robocalls, Liquid Death, Railways
By Walt Hickey
Liquid Death, the proactively-branded company that sells canned water, has brought in a $70 million investment round that now values the company at $700 million. The company launched in 2019 and will likely bring in around $130 million in revenue this year, up from the $45 million it brought in last year. The company is aiming to fill the niche of something more environmentally friendly than bottled water — aluminum cans are recycled at a far higher rate than plastic bottles — while also appealing to the concert and startup set.
In a major shift, the FCC has announced it may kick seven voice-over IP phone providers out of the database of trusted carriers unless they roll out robocall prevention safeguards. As it stands, a key reason that robocalls are able to proliferate is that all a robocaller needs to get into the American phone system is one VoIP provider willing to take the money and look the other way, after which the calls are indistinguishable from any other call being made. The FCC is now threatening to boot problematic VoIPs from the system entirely, which would be a significant escalation. The seven companies — Akabis, Cloud4, Global UC, Horizon Technology Group, Morse Communications, Sharon Telephone Company and SW Arkansas Telecommunications and Technology — have two weeks to justify to the FCC why they shouldn’t be expelled from the U.S. phone system.
In 1980, there were 40 major rail companies operating in the United States and Canada, a level that today is down to seven companies. That could become six, as Calgary-based Canadian Pacific is trying to get approval to buy Kansas City Southern for $27 billion. The merger would increase the rail traffic by over 300 percent in some areas, but the real money for the merger is in shipping oil. As the political appetite for pipelines wanes in some areas, producers trying to get Alberta crude down to Gulf refineries have been loading the fuel onto massive trains, which is riskier than piping it. Since 2013, at least 20 oil-freighting trains have derailed.
A lottery in the Philippines has 433 winners, who will split a 236 million-peso ($4 million) jackpot. It’s triggered a call for a Senate investigation, given the unusual number of winners, but the coincidence may be a little more basic: The winning numbers went 9, 18, 27, 36, 45 and 54, so if you for whatever reason just picked the first six numbers that are divisible by 9 as your go-to lottery numbers, congrats.
It’s taken nearly two years, but it’s downright reasonable to ship a container full of stuff from Asia to the West Coast of the United States again. In 2021, daily freight rates at times cost upwards of $19,000 for a container, at the beginning of the year it was $14,500, and right about now it’s just $3,900 to get a box across the Pacific. Indeed, with large retailers sitting on lots of inventory and not exactly in a huge hurry to get more of it from Asia, the number of sailing trips is actually beginning to decrease, with container capacity in September down 13 percent year over year, the equivalent of 21 ships with 8,000 containers each just not voyaging.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Kim Kardashian with failing to disclose she was paid $250,000 to shill EthereumMax, a cryptocurrency, to her 200 million Instagram followers. The coin was nearly worthless before the post, and then it increased its value by 82 percent to $0.00000051 per coin, and then within several days it had once again collapsed, now down 99.99 percent off its peak. In addition to the SEC charge — Kardashian agreed to pay $1.26 million to settle the charges and agreed to not promote crypto securities for three years — she’s also facing down a class-action lawsuit over the coin pitch.
A fascinating side effect of two years of coronavirus mitigation strategies including masking and social distancing is that it appears that one strain of the seasonal flu virus may be on the brink of extinction. There are four main variants of seasonal flu in humans in recent years: an H1N1 subtype, an H3N2 subtype, and then B/Victoria and B/Yamagata. There were over 51,000 detections of the B/Yamagata strain of flu in 2018 according to the WHO FluNet surveillance system. After two years of public health pushes, that strain of flu is nearly gone; there were just 43 reports of B/Yamagata in 2021, and then there have been just eight cases from four different countries in 2022. It’s entirely possible that those might be erroneous detections, too, and now flu researchers want to up the efforts to find B/Yamagata cases to see if it’s well and truly gone, as fewer varieties of flu viruses make it easier to match vaccines to the circulating strains.
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