Numlock News: September 9, 2020 • Oscars, Battle Royale, Mighty Mice
By Walt Hickey
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The Japanese government rolled out a suite of subsidies to bring supply chains that had been exported to China back home. The first round — allocated in June — awarded 57.4 billion yen to 57 projects from companies that will bring supply chains back to Japan. The second round had significantly more interest, with 1,670 applications worth 1.76 trillion yen ($16.6 billion), which is approximately 11 times the amount of money remaining in the program’s budget. The awards will go out in October, and while the government has no sturdy plans to expand the program, the contenders vying to replace outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have been variously interested in supply chain diversification.
Take To The Skies
The TSA notched 968,673 people passing through security at U.S. airports this past Friday ahead of Labor Day weekend, which was 44.1 percent of the level seen on the equivalent Friday of last year and the highest level year-over-year seen since the middle of March. Over the past seven days, passenger levels were 35.7 percent of last year, when an average of 2 million people moved through airports per day. This number is the quantitative equivalent of a pandemic Rorschach test, because I have absolutely no idea if I should be encouraged or deeply worried about this kind of information.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars, has announced new requirements starting in 2024 concerning eligibility for the best picture category. To be eligible for nomination, a film must satisfy two of four requirements related to diversity and inclusion in front of or behind the camera. To satisfy onscreen representation, either one lead actor must come from an underrepresented group, or 30 percent of actors in secondary roles must be women or from an underrepresented group. The other three requirements can be satisfied through offscreen creative leadership, apprenticeship opportunities, or diversity in marketing and distribution departments. On one hand, using prestigious award shows to set up incentives for commercial filmmakers to pursue lasting changes in the industry has proven to be a reliable way of moving the needle in other countries’ film industries, on the other hand, these are incredibly low bars and it would be really hard for a movie to miss the mark the way the rules are proposed.
A new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences monitored the health of 32 mice sent to space, 24 of whom were untreated and eight of whom were genetically engineered to have double the muscle mass. The untreated mice lost considerable amounts of muscle and bone mass, in some cases up to 18 percent, while the incredibly swole mice remained so, with their rockin’ bods enduring the rigors of orbit with no difficulties, remaining comparable to other, equally ripped mice that stayed behind. Anyway, I expect any day now NASA will reveal that New York City was merely an elaborate experiment set up in the late ‘70s to engineer the perfect astronaut, at the time posited to be an incredibly powerful and un-killable rodent.
Apple and Epic Games are continuing their blockbuster court battle, and the future of the concept of the “app store” is at stake. So far the legal fight has been a war of attrition: despite the broadsides from the Fortnite game maker slamming the tech company’s considerable slice of the profits from games, Apple’s blocking of an August 27 update of the game has been brutal for the free-for-all battle royale. Fully 116 million registered users have accessed Fortnite through iOS, making it the most popular way to play the game. But last Friday, Epic said that daily active users of Fortnite on iOS were down 60 percent since Apple removed the game from the app store.
A new report from the EU's environment agency found that pollution — air, noise and other environmental factors — were contributors to 13 percent of all deaths in the bloc, with an estimated 630,000 premature deaths on the continent stemming in some part from pollution in 2012. Air pollution was the top offender, contributing to 400,000 deaths annually, with extreme weather making up the bulk of the difference. The good news is that the impact of air pollution on the population has decreased amid improvements in emissions, as 1 million premature deaths stemmed in part from air pollution in 1990.
Corn harvest season is here, which means that basically everything that is consumed or made in America is about to get its raw material. Less than 1 percent of corn grown in the United States goes to sweet corn, and less than 1 percent goes to popcorn. Mostly it’s commodity corn, also known as dent corn, or field corn. About 40 percent of that feeds chickens, pigs and cattle, and the rest forms the chemical raw material for any suite of consumer products from high-fructose corn syrup to ethanol to starch. Even all the weird ingredients on the bottom of the list like xanthan gum, lysine and lecithin are derived from corn.
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