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Significant Digits for Monday, Dec. 9, 2019

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news. Today’s number is 8-feet-2-inches, for the height of Big Bird, the beloved Sesame Street Workshop character played and voiced by puppeteer Caroll Spinney for almost five decades. Spinney died on Sunday at the age of 85.

30,000 Guatemalan adoptees

Many Guatemalan adoptees in the United States and Europe, now adults, are learning that they were separated from their birth families under fraudulent circumstances, including outright theft. Adoption laws in Guatamala, prior to 2007, turned adoptions into big business. The State Department estimates that 30,000 Guatemalan children were adopted in the U.S. alone between the 1990s and mid-2000s, including Osmin Tobar, who was separated from his parents without their consent and was later adopted by a family in Pennsylvania. It took 14 years for Tobar to reconnect with his biological family. [NBC News]

At least 43 dead

At least 43 people are dead because of a fire that broke out early Sunday at a factory in central New Delhi. Approximately 100 people, many of them migrants and most of them workers at a bag and garment factory inside the building, were asleep between shifts when the flames first began. CBS News reports that the cause of the fire was an electrical short circuit. Sixteen people were being treated for smoke inhalation or burns. [CBS News]

21 million Chinese influencers

The live-streaming hours might be long and the sales still represent a small fraction of the total e-commerce in China, but the number of internet “influencers” in the country grew to 21 million last year, according to a market research firm, and many of them are taking on advertising. Concerns about counterfeit merchandise and trust in online celebrities are driving brands to turn to influencers like Wang Xizi to sell their products. She produced dozens of videos before “Singles Day” (China’s Black Friday). [Wall Street Journal]

65 percent increase in overtime

The spate of wildfires in California has also exploded state spending on overtime pay for firefighters, according an analysis of state payroll records by the Los Angeles Times. Annual wages for firefighters now total almost $5 billion — an increase of 65 percent in the last decade. And the number of firefighters earning more than $100,000 in overtime — on top of their salaries — has gone from 41 in 2011 to 1,085 in 2018. [Los Angeles Times]

0 refunds for Unicorn scooters

If you’re considering purchasing something off a Facebook, Google or Instagram ad for a loved one this holiday season, an electric scooter company named Unicorn (I am not making this up) is a good example of why it’s worth being extra skeptical of startups. The Verge reports that the company spent too much money on advertising and marketing, sold just 350 of its $699 two-wheelers, can’t deliver any of them and does not have enough resources to give refunds. [The Verge]

2 sets of DNA

Chris Long had leukemia, received a bone marrow transplant, and then something strange happened four years later: His DNA changed. The DNA in Long’s blood, on his cheeks and even in his semen included, or was completely replaced by, the DNA of his donor: a German man who lived thousands of miles away. “Mr. Long had become a chimera, the technical term for the rare person with two sets of DNA,” The New York Times reports. [New York Times]