Numlock News: September 27, 2019 • Nutria, Glacier, Heist
By Walt Hickey
New book club kicks off tomorrow! There’s still time to sign up. Have an excellent weekend!
A Brooklyn man has been arrested in connection to a heist that took place at JFK Airport on Tuesday. A bag containing $258,205 was brought to the Queens airport bound for Miami aboard a Delta flight, but it never made its connection and was purloined from the plane before takeoff. The arrested man is a Delta Airlines ramp agent who called out sick after the heist. The money is still missing. JFK has long been an attractive place for complicated heists, whether it’s the historic $5.8 million Lufthansa heist or simply an Auntie Anne’s with the temerity to charge $5.75 for a pretzel-wrapped hot dog.
A South American swamp rodent has invaded California, and a state that already has a testy relationship with water is being pushed to extremes to confront the threat that the burrowing pest poses to its reservoirs and aqueducts. Nutria weigh 20 pounds each, eat a quarter of their weight every day, multiply like rats and burrow into riverbanks, which is basically what the Devil looks like to a California Fish and Wildlife worker. The state’s allocated $10 million to assemble a crack team of killers to contend with the villains, which were believed to be eradicated in the state in the 1970s until one was caught in a beaver trap in 2017. Over 700 have since been trapped and killed. The danger is real: California’s central valley produced $29 billion worth of food in 2017, and damage to the water infrastructure would be catastrophic. The new funding will hire 46 staff dedicated to eradicating the nutria, including a complicated Judas Nutria scheme to capture, sterilize, tag and re-release nutria so California Fish & Wildlife can find the nest.
French unions have fought against extended opening hours for stores to guarantee time off for the workers. Two retail chains — Casino Guichard Perrachon and Carrefour SA — are now testing ways to have self-checkout available at all hours. The former will leave 200 outlets open after employees go home, with just self-checkouts and security guards manning the fort. The latter has already begun testing out a 24/7 market, locking the liquor, meat and cheese sections, which I will admit for me would really kill the fun of looting. France had 195,000 checkout clerks in 2014, down from 220,000 in 2005, and automated checkouts could accelerate that decline.
Who could have foreseen that one day workers would yearn for the claustrophobic and isolating space of cubicles over the agoraphobic and cramped workspace of the open office. The average worker now has about 194 square feet of office space per person, which is down 8 percent since 2009. WeWork, which is purportedly a going concern, has seen that density get even higher, with its newest offices offering workers less than 50 square feet of space.
Not since the Punic Wars have Italian officials been this concerned about movement on the Alps, with towns shutting down roads and cutting off access to hiking areas amid a distressing move from a 250,000 cubic meter part of the Planpincieux glacier. The 1,357 square kilometer glacier has been moving up to 50 centimeters per day, which in glacier context is functionally careening down the mountain. Parts of the glacier are at risk of collapse, prompting the emergency installation of a radar system on Thursday to provide constant streams of data on movement. It had previously been tracked by satellite but had a lag time of 6 to 12 days, typically a-ok when dealing with glaciers but not at these speeds. Worldwide — setting aside Greenland and Antarctica — glaciers are losing 220 billion metric tons of ice annually, and glaciers are expected to shrink 36 percent over the next 80 years. Smaller glaciers, like the ones in the Alps, are at unique risk, and could lose 80 percent of ice by 2100. Switzerland has lost 15 percent of its glacial volume in the past 10 years alone. Frankly it’s understandable Planpincieux seeks vengeance.
Fuel cells, whether running on natural gas or hydrogen to generate power with an electrochemical reaction, can be cleaner or more efficient than traditional engines. While fuel-cell automobiles have long been a goal, in reality, they’ve failed to gain traction. A new collaboration between Samsung Heavy Industries and Bloom Energy Corp. aims to take to the sea, speculating that large cargo ships are far better candidates for fuel cell tech than vehicles. The agency overseeing shipping wants to cut emissions by 50 percent by 2050, and estimates say powering a container ship with fuel cells and natural gas will cut emissions 45 percent, and hydrogen would essentially eliminate emissions altogether. Cargo ships energy needs can be as high as 100 megawatts — fuel cells today power whole buildings and data centers — and the cells would fit on the ship better than in cars.
A new report raises serious questions about the provenance of catches on the open water, and it comes down to transshipments. That’s when longliners meet up with a refrigerated carrier vessel on the open ocean and offload their catch. It’s one way fish gets to market quickly — fishing vessels don’t need to pop into port and back — and saves fuel, but it may also open the door for fraud. Illegal, unreported or unregulated seafood (called IUU) can be funneled into the legal marketplace during such transfers, and distressingly it sure seems like there’s some off-the-books parlays going down. A new analysis found that in 2016, 25 carrier ships reported 956 transshipments, but using transponders and satellite tracking scientists calculated as many as 1,500 transshipments actually went down. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for boats to intersect for non-nefarious purposes, but that’s a fairly large balance.
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