Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Numbers

Numbers and words calculated to be of interest on a wet Monday evening...

50 millionaires: Roll Call publishes their annual list of the fifty richest members of Congress.
28 Democrats, 22 Republicans. Of the top ten wealthiest, 7 are Democrats, 3 are Republicans.
At over $188,000,000, John Kerry "... is the richest Member of Congress for the 13th time in the 15 years since his 1995 marriage to Teresa Heinz Kerry, widow of the late Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.), the scion of the ketchup fortune."

60,000 words: 58 year-old John Basinger turned a regular workout routine on his treadmill into an opportunity to exercise his mind while exercising his body. After 3,000 hours spread out over nine years of running, he wound up memoring Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost:

JB didn't use the mnemonic techniques favoured by memory champions, but neither, the researchers say, should we see his achievement as a 'demonstration of brute force, rote memorisation'. Rather it was clear that JB was 'deeply cognitively involved' in learning Milton's poem. JB explained:
'During the incessant repetition of Milton's words, I really began to listen to them, and every now and then as the whole poem began to take shape in my mind, an insight would come, an understanding, a delicious possibility. ... I think of the poem in various ways. As a cathedral I carry around in my mind, a place that I can enter and walk around at will. ... Whenever I finish a "Paradise Lost" performance I raise the poem and have it take a bow.'

23,000 religious prostitutes: The devadasi, an ancient Hindu tradition made illegal in India in 1988, serves as the subject of a documentary on one of the many forms of human trafficking still plaguing our long-suffering world:
Out of those she interviewed, nearly all cited economic need rather than religious tradition as the main reason behind their chosen path.
“Many devadasi are sold into the sex trade by their families,” she says. “The parents know that they’re not really giving their children to be religious servants, but they turn a blind eye.”
When the devadasi become older and can’t attract the same business, they end up trafficking, and taking girls from the small villages to big cities like Bangalore, where they set up brothels. Most of the girls chosen are illiterate agricultural workers, who go because they think they’ll make more money as devadasi than if they work on the land.”
Do any make their fortune? “A few can - a client might pay a few thousand pounds for a night with a virgin devadasi. But a lot of devadasi in their 30s or 40s are selling sex for about thirty or forty pence. The strange thing is that though they see themselves as superior to non-religious prostitutes - and even though they often dress to look different, with distinctive jewellery and clothes - I don’t think the clients see much difference.”