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Significant Digits For Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015

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

43 percent

On Monday night, Dallas defeated Washington in a game that started with 58 minutes of boring and ended with a two-minute display of great and terrible football. Still, this means we need to talk about the NFC East, a wide-open division where every team has a losing record. It could produce a 6-10 playoff team. The Cowboys are 4-8, while Philadelphia, Washington and the Giants are each 5-7. One of these teams, in four weeks, will advance to the playoffs. FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Elo model currently gives Philly a 43 percent chance of going to the postseason, New York a 28 percent chance, Washington a 19 percent chance and Dallas a 10 percent chance. As a Giants fan, I’ll take those odds, but this division is the football equivalent of a cigarette butt somehow still smoldering in a puddle of horse pee on 59th Street on a humid New York day. [FiveThirtyEight]

45 percent

The El Niño cycle has all sorts of effects on agriculture, but its impact on one crop in particular may hit America’s insatiable sweet tooth by next year. Sugar prices are up 45 percent since August as droughts in India and Thailand and rain in Brazil ravage the supply. Demand for sugar is soon expected to exceed supply, so make like those kids from “Heavy Weights” and assemble your stockpile now, America. [Bloomberg]

49 percent

Percentage of Republicans who oppose a religious test for Syrian refugees to come to the U.S., according to a Fox News poll. On Monday, Donald Trump floated the idea of banning all Muslims from entering the U.S., which is probably unconstitutional, definitely extreme, and honestly just kind of terrifying coming from the leading candidate from a major American political party. [FiveThirtyEight]

57 percent

Percentage of Republican caucus-goers in Iowa who identified as born-again or evangelical Christians in 2012. This group has a complex relationship with the Republican Party, to say the least, but one potential bit of good news for the mainstream GOP is that they could serve as a willing firewall against an early Trump win in Iowa. [FiveThirtyEight]


That’s the average American’s yearly legal expenses. Given how much legal services typically cost, Americans don’t really fight the small stuff: Only 5 percent of traffic tickets go to court, for example. A suite of legal apps are out to change that. [Bloomberg]


That’s where the Beijing municipal air-quality index stood on Monday. Anything over 200 is considered “very unhealthy” in the U.S., and Beijing has issued its first-ever air quality red alert, meaning schools are closed, car travel is restricted and barbecuing is banned. [The New York Times]

$500 per day

An Ohio couple has built a zombie-themed Nativity scene for the second year in a row, and some of their neighbors are not happy. The couple has been threatened with a fine of $500 per day by local zoning officials if they keep it up, but so far they haven’t heard anything since the deadline. Honestly, knowing how that whole saga ends, if you ask me, this isn’t blasphemy so much as heavy-handed foreshadowing. [The New York Times]

12,500 seats

Brazil’s problems getting ready to host the 2016 Summer Olympics continue: Because of a last-minute construction change, the Olympics Aquatic Stadium will have to shed 1,250 seats, dropping its capacity to 12,500 people. The stadium’s construction is already about $2.8 million over its budget, and losing the seats will cost about the same amount in lost ticket revenue. [SwimSwam]

15,000 tons

The U.S. Navy’s largest destroyer ever launched for sea trials on Monday. The USS Zumwalt is 600 feet long, weighs 15,000 tons, and cost a cool $4.4 billion. There were originally 32 ships planned in the Zumwalt’s class, but only three will be built thanks to cost overruns and a change in plans. Still, the story about the launch reports that the ship’s skipper is named Capt. James Kirk, so I assume the USS Zumwalt will explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, boldly go where no man has gone before. [The Associated Press]

1.4 million people

Food deserts — areas without supermarkets where fresh, healthy food is scarce — were a major target of first lady Michelle Obama’s nutrition initiatives. Still, in the past four years, only 1.4 million of the 18 million people living in a food desert got a new supermarket. [The Associated Press]

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Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.