Numlock News: September 11, 2023 • Vanilla, The Nun II, Alfalfa
By Walt Hickey
The Nun II, which is the latest horror entry in the long-running and hit The Conjuring franchise, made $32.6 million at the domestic box office and $52.7 million overseas, including $8.9 million from Mexico. This makes the film pretty much instantly profitable; the film, in which a nun fights demons, reportedly cost only $22 million to make. The original The Nun, which came out in 2018, opened to $53.8 million and went on to make $365.5 million. Given that the only thing that’s reliably delivering at the movies have been religious movies and horror, it stands to reason that The Nun II is poised to deliver.
Over 99 percent of the world’s vanillin is synthetic, rather than extracted from the vanilla bean, mostly produced from guaiacol. The real stuff is difficult to produce: Each bean has a yield of at best 2 percent vanillin (the compound that we associate with the vanilla flavor) and is subject to the whims of nature, too. Madagascar produces 80 percent of the world’s natural vanilla, and when it was hit by a cyclone in 2017 the price jumped to $600 per kilogram, which means that natural vanilla would cost $30,000 per kilogram.
The IRS announced it will investigate 1,600 millionaires and 75 large business partnerships, with the millionaires owing at least $250,000 each in back taxes and the partnerships all with assets averaging $10 billion. Investigating the especially rich and holding them accountable for taxes is a massive bang for their buck at the IRS: In July, the IRS collected $38 million in delinquent taxes from 175 taxpayers in high-income brackets, and in 2021 the agency’s research indicated that the top 1 percent of income earners fail to report 20 percent of their earnings.
The Bureau of Land Management reported that people visited federal land under their care 80 million times in 2022, which is up 40 percent over the past decade. That’s a lot of hiking, camping and recreation, and it makes an impact on the land that is the agency’s task to monitor and maintain for generations. The wear and tear from cars and ATVs adds up, and the BLM budget isn’t rising to keep up, as their recreation budget is up just 22 percent. The agency has prepared a response to the rise in recreation, which would make an accounting of all the trails and roads under their care, so that they can figure out what precisely it is they’re maintaining and forgetting to maintain.
Researchers took a CT scanner to a bunch of underground bee hives to get a sense for what in fact is going on with these guys, as 85 percent of bee species nest in the ground. Previously, the people who study bees had to excavate them by hand, which isn’t ideal because that necessitates destroying the hive in the process of studying it. The CT scans — essentially an x-ray from multiple angles that produces a 3D image — managed to not only capture one-time images, but also track the growth of the 14 burrows over time.
Without the 82-mile All-American Canal, the Imperial Irrigation District in California would not be able to actually grow the vast amounts of alfalfa grown there. With the decline of the Colorado River’s levels, alfalfa — which is a water-intensive crop that is used to feed cows around the world — is under scrutiny, with some leaders trying to get farmers to simply stop growing it. According to Sustainable Waters, irrigated agriculture accounts for 79 percent of water consumed in the Colorado River Basin, with 55 percent of that going to crops like alfalfa, grass hay, haylage and corn silage, which are produced exclusively to feed cows.
Early Wage Access
Cash advance apps for workers are on the rise, with workers getting an estimated $9.5 billion from companies like EarnIn, MoneyLion and DailyPay as of 2020, which was up from $3.2 billion in 2018. Many employers in quick service and restaurants have rolled out the programs — which give workers cash before they’ve earned it — and all indications are that they’ll roll out to more kinds of workers over the next several years. Critics say that they’re just payday loan apps with a mild rebrand, that they’re making people pay money to be paid, and from 2016 to 2023 workers have filed over 450 complaints regarding the “early wage access” providers with the CFPB. Fees for early wage access programs averaged out to effectively a 300 percent APR rate, according to the California Department of Financial Protection.
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