Monday, July 09, 2007

By the numbers

By Carol Gee

Awful numbers today: 9 Iraqi soldiers , Reuters reports, were killed by a roadside bomb near Balad in northern Iraq. Twenty others were wounded. As of July 8, 2007, there have been 3606 U.S. military casualties/deaths in the Iraq war.

Astonishing numbers of Iraqis displaced by the war - The (07/09/07) story from IRIN: Number of IDPs tops one million. According to an Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) report, 142,260 families -- about 1,037,615 individuals -- have become internally displaced persons (IDPs) since 22 February 2006.

There are still too many unsolved civil rights cases from the 1960's and 1970's. The good news is that about 100 might be solved as a result of Congress' pending recent legislation. Trying old civil rights cases has been a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center and Representative John Lewis. Assistant Atty. general Grace Chung Becker will be overseeing the Justice Department's efforts. The story on 6/21/07 carried the headline, "Legal eagles - House passes bill to reopen civil rights cases." It was carried in MyWay News. To quote:

The House passed a bill Wednesday to establish a new division of federal prosecutors and FBI agents focused strictly on cracking unsolved murders from the civil rights era.

The bill, which is also moving swiftly through the Senate, would authorize $10 million a year over the next decade to create a unit at the Justice Department to pursue cases that have sat cold for decades. It also would earmark $2 million per year in grants for state and local law enforcement agencies to investigate cases where federal prosecution isn't practical, and another $1.5 million to improve coordination among investigating agencies.

The bill, passed 422-2, is named in honor of Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago who was beaten and murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman. His killers were never convicted.

Today's post is all about numbers in the news. I began with really bad news; I conclude on a much lighter numbers note - beginning with the 7/7/07 phenomenon.

"The Madness of 7-7-07" photo from Mauritoruiz @ Flickr.

Yesterday was 7/7/07. Because of those numbers it was supposed to be a very lucky day. The New York Times called it "A Date With Destiny." Their story is the best 7/7/07 coverage I found, "everything you ever wanted to know," if you are a trivia buff. To quote just a bit:

— the almost numerically perfect 7/7/07 — is being sought after by couples around the country as the ideal day for a wedding. More than 31,000 couples have already signed up with, a wedding-planning Web site, saying they plan to marry that day, a figure that is roughly triple the number for any other Saturday that month —

Pennsylvania's numbers - The Philadelphia Inquirer carried their local story about the numbers, from which I quote:

The Almighty created the universe, and on the seventh day he rested. So it is written.

Yesterday, on the seventh day of the seventh month in a year ending in 07, some might have seen significance in the confluence of numbers. Many married. Many played the lottery.

The number of lottery tickets purchased overwhelmed the state. Pennsylvania had to close its lottery. I missed winning with my own lottery ticket by only one number.

Beginning with our heart-breaking military casualty figures and ending with much lighter and happier news, the numbers do tell the story. Many times the numbers actually drive the story. The main thing of which I remind myself, is that the numbers do not tell the whole story. Every loss of a soldier, Marine, sailor or airman sends shockwaves out in that fallen person's personal circle. That is absolutely true and real and deserves to be remembered. The little blip in lottery and marriage numbers - caused by the confluence of number sevens - is an oddity, nothing more. It is already on the way to being forgotten today.

(Cross-posted (full version) at South by Southwest.)

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