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Significant Digits For Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.

4 countries

A Facebook pilot program described by Australia’s eSafety Commissioner probably sounded far better on paper. Available in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia, Facebook’s intention is to cut back on the spread of revenge porn. However, their way of getting out ahead of the spread of the illicit material is to have potential victims send Facebook the potentially shared images over Messenger so the company can use image matching technology to prevent people from sharing it. This, as if you think about it for more than a minute will become clear, has some inherent privacy downsides. [CNBC]


12 tons

Colombian police seized over 12 tons of cocaine Wednesday in the largest ever drug bust in the country. The blow was stored under “four farms in a banana-growing region,” which is certainly one way to obtain a second income in a difficult banana economy. Colombia produces 910 tons of cocaine per year, so this is literally more than one percent of all the cocaine in one raid. [Reuters]


36 undisclosed ships

An American Public Media investigation has found Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is financially linked to 36 ships he did not earlier disclose. This would bring the total number of ships Ross has a financial stake in to 75, mainly moving oil and gas around the world. This is an issue given the cabinet member has a large degree of influence on the international shipping industry he apparently directly benefits from. [APM]


90 percent

That’s the percentage of crashes that are caused by human error. As it stands, RAND forecasts 2.4 million road deaths over the next 50 years under current human drivers. With driverless cars that reduce error, that number will decrease. So with fully autonomous cars en route, we need to have a serious discussion of how safe we’ll require vehicles to be before allowing them on roads. On one hand, we can insist the cars would be perfect; the RAND analysis assuming nearly perfect autonomous vehicles hitting roads in 2040 would save 580,000 lives over the next 50 years. But introducing less perfect cars far sooner — say, cars that are 10 percent safer than the average human hitting streets in 2020 — you’d save 1,100,000 lives over the same 50 year period. [RAND]


6,752 store closings

That’s the number of announced retail locations in the United States that were scheduled to close in quarters 1 through 3 of 2017. That’s double last year’s total already, and it’s not like new retail locations are taking over: in the same period there were 3,044 location openings. [Bloomberg]


51,000 displaced Texans

According to mayors and county leaders who spoke at a Texas House subcommittee hearing, the long term response from the federal government to Hurricane Harvey has come up short. Over 51,000 Texans were still living in hotel rooms as of last week as they had been displaced from their homes and 26,000 are in temporary housing of their own selection. [The Texas Tribune]


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Walt Hickey is FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

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