Hobson's choice

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The Independent Culture
Number of people listed by the International Red Cross as still missing from the Bosnian War: 18,000

Number of Muslims listed as still missing from the area of Srebrenica, after General Mladic attacked the town in 1995: 7,000

Number of people in Tibet and China being held without trial under "re- education through labour" laws: 200,000

Number of times Nigeria's military government has promised to hand over power and institute democracy since the coup of 1966: 8

Amount the deceased Nigerian head of state, General Sani Abacha - nicknamed "Mister Pocket Calculator" - is estimated to have stolen by

taking a percentage of oil export and import transactions: $3.5bn

Amount of US investment in Nigeria - the fifth largest importer of oil to the US - during General Abacha's five-year rule: $7bn

Percentage of Russians not being paid at their place of work: 57

Percentage of Russians relying on food from their own smallholdings to enable them to live through the economic crisis: 44

Amount the merchant bank Merrill Lynch hopes to save by cutting back on overseas travel, entertainment, mobile phone use and cancelling its Christmas party: pounds 150m

Number of treatments Optimax, a chain of eye laser clinics in the UK, has performed in the past six years: 42,000

Minimum number of hand transplants the University of Louisville in

Kentucky plans to perform this year: 10

Maximum amount of time, according to Big Bang theory, it took the universe to expand from the "false vacuum" - a point smaller than a proton - to its present cosmological size, which allows space for, at the last count, 40 billion galaxies: 1 second

Amount of wood - four times the world average - used annually, per person, in Sweden: 2.3 cubic metres

Last decade in which two of Plymouth's hospitals used carrier pigeons to transport blood samples, in recognition of the speed and efficiency of their service: 1980s

SOURCES: Army Quarterly & Defence Journal (x2), The Independent, New Republic (x3), The Economist (x2), The Independent, Nine To Five, New Scientist, Folklore, New Scientist, New Republic, Nine To Five, Polo