Hollywood Is Betting on Fear

Hollywood Is Betting on Fear

Hollywood, once again, is resorting to scare tactics.

Producers and studio chiefs say we’re headed into a horror-movie boom, as they rush to sign big-ticket deals with top writers and directors in the genre and load their theatrical slates with scary thrillers.

Major studios including Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures’ New Line Cinema and Universal Pictures have recently poached A-list horror writers and directors and launched new divisions to bolster their spooky offerings.

Horror films—which are typically made with much lower production budgets than superhero epics or science-fiction sagas—have long operated on a boom-and-bust cycle. When a scary movie becomes an unlikely hit, studios will try to replicate that success by making a flurry of similar titles. Then comes the bust: Quality inevitably suffers and audiences get fatigued by how many mediocre scary movies are coming out, leading studios to pull back.  

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Vince McMahon Reimburses WWE for Costs Tied to Sexual-Misconduct Probe

Vince McMahon Reimburses WWE for Costs Tied to Sexual-Misconduct Probe

Executive chair paid $17.4 million, and will incur any additional costs, tied to investigation

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Minnesota nuclear plant shuts down for leak; residents worry

Minnesota nuclear plant shuts down for leak; residents worry

MONTICELLO, Minn. — A Minnesota utility began shutting down a nuclear power plant near Minneapolis on Friday after failing to stop the release of radioactive material it says is not dangerous but has prompted concerns among nearby residents.

Xcel Energy started shutting down the plant in Monticello, and after it cools over the next few days, workers will cut out a pipe that is over 50 years old and had been leaking tritium, said Chris Clark, the utility’s president. The utility will then have the pipe analyzed in hopes of preventing similar leaks in the future, he said.

“We could have continued to safely operate the plant and simply repair the catchment, but then, of course, there is always a risk that it would spill over again and have more tritium enter the groundwater,” Clark said during a news conference near the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis. “We didn’t want to take that chance, so we’re bringing the plant down.”

Clark said the tritium isn’t a risk to the drinking water of Monticello or the nearby city of Becker. He said Monticello takes its water from the Mississippi River above the plant, and Becker’s intake is across the river. Even if the tritium reached the river, which Clark assured wouldn’t happen, it would dissipate within a few yards, he said.

Clark said the spill had not left the utility’s property.

Xcel discovered in November that about 400,000 gallons (1.5 million liters) of water containing tritium had leaked. The utility made a temporary fix but learned this week that hundreds more gallons of tritium-laced water had leaked, leading to the shutdown decision.

PHOTOS: Minnesota nuclear plant shuts down for leak; residents worry

The utility reported the leak to state and federal authorities in late November but didn’t make the spill widely public until last week, raising questions about transparency and public health issues. State officials said they wanted to wait for more details before sharing information widely.

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that occurs naturally and is a common byproduct of nuclear plant operations. It emits a weak form of beta radiation that does not travel far and cannot penetrate human skin, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Cindy Remick, of Becker, attended an information session about the leak Friday and said she still has concerns that nearby residents, especially those who rely on well water, will be safe. Remick also worries about whether the radioactive material could hurt wildlife along the Mississippi River.

“We have a very large population here of eagles, and I would like to make sure they’re not impacted,” Remick said. “Minnesota is known for our wildlife, and if that (tritium) escapes their plant into the Mississippi, that could be very damaging.”

Tyler Abayare, who was fishing at the Mississippi River not far from the plant Friday, said he’s been coming to the river every day for five years and he usually sees about 15 to 20 others fishing as well.

“Typically this time of year, there’s a lot of families that come out and fish with their children,” he said. “Now, after the media released what happened, there’s not a soul in sight, and it just takes away from the recreation and passion of fishing.”

He said he doesn’t believe that tritiated water hasn’t made it to the Mississippi River. He doesn’t eat the fish he catches and said he no longer ties his line with his teeth but makes sure to only use his hands so he doesn’t get sick.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors are monitoring the shutdown and repairs, said Victoria Mitlyng, a spokesperson for the agency.

“It is important to note that while NRC inspectors are closely monitoring the plant’s actions to address the leak per requirements, this leak does not present a safety challenge to the public, to drinking water supplies, the plant or the environment,” Mitlyng said in a statement. “The leak did not exceed any NRC limits and the company is meeting NRC requirements.”

Clark acknowledged some local officials and residents were unhappy the utility didn’t immediately report the spill to the public, although the utility made required notifications to state and federal authorities. He said the call for more transparency was one reason he was holding a news conference and inviting residents to the information session.

Although there is a cost to shutting down the plant, Clark said electricity demand is lower at this time of the year and that other power plants can meet customer demand. The utility already had planned to shut down the plant April 15 for nearly a month for refueling, and Clark said it wasn’t clear if it would immediately reopen after the leak is fixed.

Clark said the pipe that leaked is part of the original plant, which opened in 1971. Xcel has applied to extend its operating license at Monticello through 2050.

“We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars as we have run Monticello over those 50 years, and so as we ask the NRC for permission to add additional years to the plant’s operation, we want to inventory the age of everything in the plant and be sure we’re dealing with whatever we need to update.”

Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the fact there was a second tritium leak at the Monticello site “shines a light on the problem of maintaining aging pipelines” underground at older nuclear plants such as Monticello.

“It’s bad timing for them” to have multiple tritium leaks as they are seeking a license renewal, Lyman said.

The temporary plant closure could be out an abundance of caution, “or it could be sign they don’t know how bad the problem is, and they need to do a deep dive to find out what’s going on,’’ he said.

Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, a group that opposes nuclear power, said the second leak at the plant “is obviously concerning,’’ adding that if tritium gets into groundwater, it can spread rapidly.

Judson and Lyman both said public concerns about the possible health risks of the tritium leak are exacerbated by the recent toxic train derailment in Ohio. East Palestine residents remain concerned about possible health effects despite pledges by government officials that air and water near the train derailment and explosion are safe.

“People are seeing what happened in Ohio, and they are distrustful of the government response,’’ Judson said.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.

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Space companies Spire and Momentus get stock exchange delisting warnings

Space companies Spire and Momentus get stock exchange delisting warnings

Spire Global at the New York Stock Exchange, August 17, 2021.

Source: NYSE

A pair of space companies received delisting warnings on Friday, according to securities filings, as both ventures’ stock prices stood below $1 a share.

Small satellite builder and data specialist Spire Global received a notice from the New York Stock Exchange, while spacecraft delivery company Momentus received a notice from the Nasdaq.

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Under the respective exchanges’ compliance rules, the companies have 180 days, or about six months, to get their stock prices back above $1 a share.

Spire’s stock closed at 69 cents a share on Friday, having first slipped below $1 a share on Mar. 7.

Momentus’ stock closed at 63 cents a share, slipping below $1 a share on Feb. 7.

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Both companies noted the possibility of conducting a reverse stock split to regain compliance.

Spire debuted on the public markets in August 2021, after completing a SPAC merger. The company hit $100 million in annual subscription revenue, it announced during its Q4 results, and has continued to shave its losses as it aims to be free cash flow positive in about a year.

Momentus also debuted in August 2021, following its own SPAC merger. After a turbulent leadership changeover, the company has struggled to ramp up its spacecraft platform business. In Q4, it saw minimal revenue, but hopes to fly multiple missions this year.

The warnings come as fellow space company Astra seeks an extension from the Nasdaq to regain compliance after it received a delisting warning last year.

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Beef wholesaler recalls ground chuck over potential food poising

Beef wholesaler recalls ground chuck over potential food poising

The Food Safety and Inspection Service on Friday announced a recall of 3,436 pounds of ground chuck sold in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and six other states.

The recall was due to possible contamination by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O103, which causes food poisoning.

The ground chuck was sold by Elkhorn Valley Packing to distributors, wholesale and retail stores, federal establishments, hotels and restaurants. The other impacted states are Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York.

There have been no reports of adverse reactions or illness linked to eating the recalled beef.

The meat was packed on Feb. 16 and was shipped in corrugated boxes of varying weights marked “Elkhorn Valley Pride Angus Beef 61226 BEEF CHUCK 2PC BNLS; Packed on 2/16/23.” Boxes 51 through 100 of the lot are subject to recall.

The beef’s establishment number, inside its mark of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection, is “EST. M-19549.”

The issue was discovered when FSIS found the bacteria, called STEC 103 for short, in a sample of Elkhorn Valley ground beef. Many clinical labs, the agency explains, do not test for STEC O103, because it is harder to detect than the related STEC O157 bacteria.

Customers are urged to throw out or return the recalled product. 

Elkhorn Valley Packing has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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Rocket Lab targets $50 million launch price for Neutron rocket to challenge SpaceX's Falcon 9

Rocket Lab targets $50 million launch price for Neutron rocket to challenge SpaceX's Falcon 9

Rocket Lab is building a bigger, reusable launch vehicle called Neutron, and it’s targeting a price point near $50 million per launch to challenge Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

“We are positioning Neutron to compete directly with the Falcon 9,” Rocket Lab Chief Financial Officer Adam Spice said earlier this week, speaking at a Bank of America event in London on Tuesday.

The company announced Neutron when it went public in 2021, with Spice saying the rocket remains on track to debut in 2024. During its fourth-quarter report last month, Rocket Lab said it had begun producing the first tank structures of Neutron, as well as construction of the launch pad for the rocket. The company plans to conduct the first “hot fire test” of an Archimedes engine, which will power Neutron, “by the end of the year,” Spice said.

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SpaceX advertises a Falcon 9 launch with a $67 million price tag, and Spice says Rocket Lab is aiming to match that on a cost-per-kilogram basis for satellite customers. That means Neutron is targeting a “$50 million to $55 million launch service cost,” Spice said.

Spice also noted that Rocket Lab expects to fly the reusable Neutron boosters “10 to 20 times” each, in range with the current reuse performance of a Falcon 9 booster.

“We ultimately expect the margins to be in around the 50% range” for Neutron launches, Spice added. He estimated the cost of goods for each Neutron to be at $20 million to $25 million, with “close to half of that” coming from the upper, non-reusable second stage of the rocket.

Additionally, with SpaceX pushing hard to develop its massive Starship rocket, Spice alluded to the potential for the company to pivot away from flying Falcon 9 missions.

“We don’t have any hard data on that but certainly, if that was to happen, that’d be an incredibly bullish thing for Neutron,” Spice said.

In the meantime, Spice said Rocket Lab looks to maintain its position as “a dominant player” in the market sub-sector of launching small satellites with its Electron vehicles. The company expects to launch three Electron missions in the second quarter, with two already completed, and is “on track” to launch 15 missions this year, Spice said.

More than rockets

Spice also emphasized to the Bank of America audience that Rocket Lab is “much more than” just a rocket company. Indeed, the company’s acquisitions and expansion into building satellite components and spacecraft has become the bulk of its quarterly revenue.

“All of this leads towards the biggest opportunity in space, which is really on the application side,” Spice said.

As CEO Peter Beck has previously noted, Rocket Lab aims to create an “end-to-end platform for customers” who need space-based services. Spice said the company wants to be operating satellites and “delivering data to our customers and developing a recurring revenue stream from that,” essentially eliminating the need for other companies to build and operate their own satellites.

“A lot of the companies that we’re [launching to orbit on Electron] now are very unnatural owners of space assets,” Spice said, adding that “the best owner of a space asset is somebody who can launch.”

Rocket Lab CEO on what the U.S. Space Force contract means for the company

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