Figuratively Speaking for March 08, 2009

Estimated amount of money that U.S. employers will be required to contribute into their defined benefit plans this year, according to Watson Wyatt Worldwide: $108.7 billion

Estimated amount of money that employers would have had to contribute without the passage of a new pension-funding relief law late last year: $125.1 billion

Source: Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

Percentage of all travel in the U.S. accounted for by corporate meetings, events and incentive travel programs, according to the U.S. Travel Association: 15

Amount of spending generated: $244 billion

Amount of tax revenue at the federal, state and local level generated: $39 billion

Source: U.S. Travel Association.

Number of U.S. residents who claim Irish ancestry, according to the U.S. Census Bureau: 36.5 million

Estimated population of Ireland itself: 4 million

Percentage of Massachusetts residents who are of Irish ancestry: 24

Percentage of the nation as a whole who are of Irish ancestry: 12

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

Rank of Randy Jackson on scales of likability, believability, sincerity and fairness among "American Idol" judges, according to a study conducted by HCD Research: 1

Source: HCD Research Inc.

Rank of Canada (with rating of 90 percent favorable) among a list of 19 nations, according to a Gallup survey of Americans: 1

Ranks of Great Britain (89 percent), Japan (81 percent), Germany (79 percent), and India and France (64 percent): 2, 3, 4, 5 (tie)

Number of years that Canada has topped the list since 2006: 4

Source: Gallup.

Percentage less likely that people were to develop memory loss if they participated in social activities and read magazines during middle age than those who did not do those activities, according to a study to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Seattle: 40

Percentage decrease in the risk of developing memory loss in later years by those who enjoyed reading books, playing games, participating in computer activities and doing craft activities such as pottery or quilting: 30 to 50

Source: American Academy of Neurology.

Number of cell phones collected and processed for reuse and recycling in 2008 by ReCellular, the world's leading electronics sustainability firm: 5.5 million

Percentage increase this represents year-over-year: 35

Number of Boeing 747-400s it takes to equal the weight of these recovered phones: 3

Source: ReCellular.

Percentage of young adults aged 18 to 30 who plan to get married and stay married for life, according to a survey by National Healthy Marriage Resource Center: 82

Estimated percentage of first marriages that end in divorce: 40

Ranks of "love" (87 percent) and "lifelong commitment" (72 percent) on the list of reasons to get married: 1, 2

Percentage who said "having children": 31

Source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center.

Eight years ago, percentage of Americans who reported that they slept less than six hours a night, according to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation: 13

Percentage of Americans who say that today: 20

Percentage drop over the last eight years in those who reported sleeping eight hours or more: 10 (38 percent to 28 percent)

Percentage of Americans who agree that sleep is as important as diet and exercise to overall health and well-being: 40

Source: National Sleep Foundation.

Percentage of new parents who rank money worries as their greatest challenge, ahead of sleep depravation and the rigors of caring for their baby, according to survey results released by Visa: 21

Percentage who said being responsible for someone else is their greatest challenge: 15

Estimated cost for a middle-class family to raise a child until the age of 17, according to computations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture: $195,000

Source: Visa Inc.

Idle Thought

"What is philosophy but a continual battle against custom?" -- Thomas Carlyle, historian and essayist

(Readers can contact John MacIntyre at johnmacintyre(at)bwr.eastlink.ca.)

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