Hobson's Choice

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Number of Russians in detention centres, prisons and labour colonies - an incarceration rate which, as a percentage of the population, is the same as US: 975,000

Amount US spends per day per prisoner: $70

Amount Russia spends per day per prisoner: $1

Russian prisoners not suffering from malnutrition:


Length in years of laojiao (labour camp) sentence given to Peter Xu Yongze for running the New Birth Church network, an "underground" Protestant church in China:


Conservative estimate of numbers attending Catholic and Protestant worship, legal and illegal, in China - more than Western Europe: 40 million

Estimated number of 100-year-olds who will be alive next year, worldwide: 100,000

Number of bottles of champagne sold in the UK in 1997: 22 million

Estimated value of annual maggot sales for medical purposes in the UK, by the Welsh company, Surgical Materials Testing Lab: $1.64 million

Number of queen ants in the Formica Yessensis colony on 2.7 sq km of the Ishikari coast, Japan: 1 million

Number of nests in the colony, housing the queens and 306 million workers: 45,000

People who went to Giggleswick, South Yorkshire, June 1927 to witness the last total solar eclipse over Britain: 3 million

Number of eclipse-chasers Cornwall can take in before roads are gridlocked: 1.5 million

Number of times, from the 18th century, planet Uranus was identified as a star: 22

Club 2000 prize - http://www.randi.org - to anyone proving the existence of psychic or occult phenomena: $1.2 million

Subscription to the Journal of Comparative Neurology: $13,900

Estimated languages spoken in the world: 6,500

Chance that one of them is spoken in Micronesia, Melanesia or Polynesia: 1 in 6

SOURCES: New Yorker (4), Religion, State & Society, TLS, Untold, Time, IoS, Guardian (2), The Times, James Randi Educational Foundation, New York Review of Books, New Yorker