Numlock News: September 9, 2022 • Scams, Luck, Pine Nuts
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend.
Romance scams are insidious, and the ability to make a digital footprint on a site like LinkedIn has only made the problem worse. For instance, as of mid-July there are 1,004 Tsinghua University graduates who work at SpaceX, which is pretty shocking, because if so they’d be the single largest alumni group at the private space company. No, turns out lots of them had identical resumes — a stint at USC and in Shanghai — and are likely fakes made with the goal of legitimizing fake, catfished online relationships with marks, which is called a pig-butchering scam, often targeted to Chinese nationals. And while the average scam in general caused financial losses of $500, according to a Global Anti-Scam Organization survey of 550 Chinese victims of a LinkedIn pig-butchering scams, the median loss was $52,000.
The New York Fleet
New York City is seeking a new vendor to operate its ferry system, an armada of 38 boats that move 6 million travelers a year around the best harbor on the continent. The agreement with the current operator, HNY Ferry LLC, ends at the end of next September. The routes cover 70 nautical miles and 25 landings and hit each and every borough. It’s also, in the interest of full disclosure, a gigantic money pit, but come on, this is a boat we’re talking about, on what planet would this be a profitable venture. If you’d like to be the admiral of New York, apply now, as the Economic Development System will pick the winner sometime by January.
Everything’s Coming Up Walter
A new study tried to figure out how people reacted in games of chance just after receiving a positive fortune foretold. It turns out that if you tell a man that, based on nothing more than his birthday and his favorite color, you can foretell that he’s likely to have some good luck in finance, the study found he’s statistically more likely to take financial risk and have a higher tolerance for games of chance. This is based on a three experiments — two online experiments with 693 participants and one in-lab experiment with 193 participants — the latter of which put college students in actual gambling settings after giving them positive or negative fortunes. The primer yielded increased risk-taking in men and a significantly smaller increase in women. It’s unclear if the converse holds.
According to Chinese state media reports, a man who was attempting to harvest pine nuts from trees in Heilongjiang province by means of a balloon flight became untethered from his moorings and spent two days in the sky. The reports say that he travelled approximately 320 kilometers in a hydrogen balloon after his partner successfully ditched from the vehicle and called for help. On one hand, that’s a ridiculous risk to take for pine nuts, but on the other hand I’m a sucker for pine nut pignoli cookies and those suckers are expensive as hell, and I would 100 percent support constructing a rudimentary hydrogen balloon for this kind of stunt.
Kia and Hyundais
There’s been a spike in thefts of Kia (model years 2011 to 2021) and Hyundai (model years 2016 to 2021) vehicles after people online pointed out the vehicles don’t come standard with anti-theft equipment that’s commonly found on other cars. In August of this year, 601 Kias and Hyundais were stolen in Chicago, up from 58 in the same month of 2021. In St. Louis out of 3,970 motor vehicles stolen this year, 48 percent are Kias or Hyundais, up from just 7 percent of the 2021 total of 3,784 thefts. More recent models are equipped with the immobilizer that makes it difficult to steal the car for joyrides or criminal use, but the companies are being sued by owners in multiple states.
Massive news out of the U.K.: huge finding out of the University of Oxford after a malaria vaccine that had been in trial on 409 children in Burkina Faso was found to have an 80 percent rate of protection when administered in three doses and a booster. This is a historically good discovery, as the vaccine is not only cheap but also the team behind it has a manufacturing deal already done to produce over 100 million doses a year. Malaria is a parasite and remains a scourge to this day, with 229 million cases a year, killing 409,000 people a year — mostly babies — and that’s after significant advances with mosquito nets and insecticides. The process of approval is now in motion, pending the results of a larger trial with 4,800 children with results coming up at the end of the year.
The 27,500-square-mile San Joaquin Valley in California produces $34 billion worth of food per year, but conditions there are getting untenable when it comes to water. In 2015, the state passed a law to regulate the irrigation and groundwater pumping in the region, and over the next 20 years the region will retire 500,000 acres of farmland. This is important, because right now water use in the area is unsustainable, but it’s also going to have some dusty consequences. Fallowing that acreage is going to cause lots of dust, and the San Joaquin Valley already has the worst air quality in the country. The dust has been a concern, with the region investing $13 million on nut harvesters that don’t kick up as much dust, and concerns about fungal spores in the dust causing Valley fever, a lung condition.
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