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Significant Digits For Wednesday, May 30, 2018

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news. I’m Oliver Roeder, a staff writer here and your humble new Significant Digits host. I also live on the internet here. It’s Wednesday — let’s do this thing.


4 straight seasons

Whether you see it as sparkling rivalry or tedious monotony, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will face each other in the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive year. FiveThirtyEight’s projections have the Warriors as a 77 percent favorite. Their best-of-seven series begins Thursday. [ESPN]


516 spellers

The Scripps National Spelling Bee began this week with a record 516 spellers, aged 8 to 15, converging on a convention center on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. The bee is very hard — and very good. The spelling finals, just like the NBA Finals, begin Thursday evening. Talk about your classic television viewing dilemmas. [Scripps]


5,000 estimated deaths

The official death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria is 64. But new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine claims that number is closer to 5,000. The researchers surveyed over 3,000 randomly selected homes across Puerto Rico, asking if anyone in the household had died as a result of the storm. Extrapolating from that survey, they concluded there was a 95 percent chance that the true number of storm-related deaths was between about 800 and 8,500, and that 5,000 was a likely figure. [NPR]


80,000-120,000 political prisoners

According to a new report from the State Department, North Korea houses between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners “in remote areas under horrific conditions.” Meanwhile, confusion about the on-again-off-again summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un continued; a top North Korean nuclear weapons negotiator was bound for New York on Tuesday. [Fox News]


175,000 employees

If you sensed a sort of sluggish vibe on the streets of America yesterday, that’s because every Starbucks was closed for the afternoon. They were closed for a half-day of mandatory training for the company’s nearly 175,000 employees, aimed at reducing racial bias and discrimination, as my colleague Maggie Koerth-Baker explained. The training was scheduled after two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks and accused of trespassing when in fact they were there for a business meeting. Research on the effectiveness of such trainings is generally shoddy, but there is one thing we do know, Maggie wrote: “A single-day training session isn’t going to cut it.” [FiveThirtyEight]


$3 billion worth of luxury goods

Rich people have lots of things I don’t have. But what’s even worse than that is that rich people have lots of things that I didn’t even know existed. For example: private space in a “museum-quality bunker” protected by armed guards and retinal and vascular (?) security scans. (And lit by $1,000 light bulbs.) Apparently, these bunkers are where rich people keep those things I do know about but don’t have: Picassos, jewels, first-growth Bordeaux wines. Ah, the life of luxury. Some of these special bunker-warehouses offer another benefit: They are “free ports,” free from burdensome customs duties and taxes. One of these rarefied places, Arcis Art Storage — “Arcis” is Latin for “fortress” — recently opened in Harlem, sandwiched between a historic black church and a daycare center. It’s a tiny island no longer within U.S. customs territory and is insured to store goods valued up to $3 billion. And it gets a whole lot weirder than that. Give it a read. [Longreads]


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

Oliver Roeder is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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