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Significant Digits For Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019

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

39 million people

Nearly 39 million Americans depend on the food stamp program administered by the Department of Agriculture, but as the government shutdown has entered its third week, the department “won’t say” how long it will be able to keep paying these benefits. Some officials in Washington fear that the program could run out of money “in coming weeks if Congress doesn’t act.” [Politico]

60 percent of study participants

Democrats have announced plans to hold 12 — yes, 12 — primary debates ahead of the 2020 presidential election, with the first to happen this June. And it turns out that these things actually matter. A study by communications professors found that nearly 60 percent of people “experienced a shift in their candidate choices after watching a debate,” my colleague Geoffrey Skelley writes. In theory, one of the 12 scheduled debates could “trip up a front-runner or jump-start the campaign of a relative unknown.” [FiveThirtyEight]

25 years

For the first time in her 25-year career on the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has missed a day of oral arguments. She was working from home Monday while recovering from surgery to remove cancerous lesions from her lung. [ABC News]

$1 trillion

Banks and other financiers have moved at least $1 trillion out of Britain and into other countries in the European Union in anticipation of Brexit, according to an Ernst & Young report. That ($1,000,000,000,000) is roughly 10 percent of the total UK banking sector. [CNN Business]

0 games

Last season, the Dallas Mavericks lost exactly zero games to illness — a league low — while the league average was 7.1 games per team. The Mavs’ secret, reportedly: blood tests performed by an Irish company called Orreco, which provides players recommendations about workload and diet. [The New York Times]

43 people

Speaking of Dallas, the Dallas Morning News, the largest newspaper in Texas, laid off 43 employees Monday, with half of those cuts coming from the newsroom. An investigative reporter for the paper tweeted that the layoffs came “after a hedge fund named Minerva gobbled up stock.” [KXAN]

Love digits? Find even more in FiveThirtyEight’s book of math and logic puzzles, “The Riddler.” It’s in stores now! I hope you dig it.

If you see a significant digit in the wild, please send it to @ollie.

Oliver Roeder was a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied game theory and political competition.