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Significant Digits for Tuesday, June 30, 2015

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

2/3 in each chamber

The Post and Courier in South Carolina called up state legislators and asked how they’d vote on a proposal to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds. In order to get it passed, a two-thirds majority is required in each chamber of the state legislature. Yesterday, by the paper’s count, that threshold was reached. [The Post and Courier via @jaspar]

6 fires

Up to six fires have taken place at black churches in the south in the past week and a half. The FBI is investigating. [NPR]

53 percent

70 percent of academic papers in social science and 53 percent of papers in natural and medical science are published by the top five for-profit journal publishers. This is potentially an issue because the for-profit journals limit access compared to open source counterparts. [CBC]

70 percent

Rare-earth metals — the weird ones on the middle chunk of the periodic table that sound like sensible Targaryen names and make your phone work — exploded as a commodity investment a few years ago due to perceived scarcity. In retrospect, the high prices for the commodities and the rush of companies trying to exploit that scarcity were symptoms of a bubble. China controls 70 percent of the supply of rare-earth elements. [Bloomberg]


President Obama’s Labor Department intends to announce a plan to mandate overtime pay for more workers. Mandatory overtime pay could now potentially be owed to people making as much as $52,000, up from its current level of $23,660. Until now those people have not been assured time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. [NPR]


Gawker is trying to get emails pertaining to the incident in McKinney, Texas where a police officer brandished a weapon at several unarmed black teenagers and subsequently resigned. They filed a Public Information Act request, and the city said fulfilling the request for records and emails would cost $79,229.09. That’s a lot of money for what is essentially a “Ctrl+F,” “Ctrl+C” and “Ctrl+V” operation. [Gawker]

$2.75 million

That’s the amount of money transferred from Phil Mickelson, the golfer, to a sports gambling handicapper working for an illegal gambling operation. Mickelson has not been charged with anything, but the handicapper has pleaded guilty to money laundering. [ESPN]

$14.5 million

The archdiocese of Los Angeles is trying to sell a former convent to Katy Perry for $14.5 million. The nuns who used to occupy that convent claim that’s not possible because they sold the property two weeks ago to a restaurant owner. I had a whole sentence of Katy Perry song puns ready here, but I’m holstering it. Not worth the roar in my inbox. [Gawker]

26 million

The number of people who have emblazoned a rainbow flag on their Facebook profile to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision to extend marriage rights to all Americans. [The Washington Post]

$470 million

Uber doesn’t make money, which isn’t particularly shocking — companies like Uber are motivated by growth and not profit at this stage of existence. But wow, does it not make money. According to a report distributed to prospective investors, during an undefined time period the company incurred $470 million in losses while bringing in $415 million in revenue. Uber says the numbers are out of date. [Bloomberg]

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If you see a significant digit in the wild, tweet it to me, @WaltHickey.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.