The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to release rulings on key cases over the next week, including the much-awaited decision on the Affordable Care Act.
The court has seen its workload decrease over the last 50 years. Last year, for example, the court issued just 71 rulings, the fewest since at least 1946, the earliest date in the Supreme Court Database. (It decided 197 cases in 1967). This chart shows the trend over time:
The U.S. Postal Service is still struggling to compete in an era of declining paper mail, and as private industry and Congress have resisted its efforts to reform, according to this story in today’s The New York Times.
The agency’s troubles, which could result in the closing of thousands of post offices and hundreds of mail processing centers as early as next month, have many sources. Some are the inevitable result of technological changes, and others are the result of missteps by the Postal Service.
But top Postal Service officials and outside experts say that another, underappreciated factor has been an insistence by Congress that the service not compete directly with private companies, even as companies like FedEx and U.P.S. have encroached on the Postal Service’s turf.
This chart shows the historic growth, and recent decline, in the number of post offices:
See larger version | Data source: USPS
The Associated Press captures the performance well:
Tiger Woods arrived at Augusta National as a favorite to win his fifth green jacket. Instead, he left with his worst score as a pro.
This chart, made with data from the Augusta Chronicle, shows his four-round average scores at the Masters since he turned pro in 1997. This year was the highest (which, in golf, if a bad thing):
It should be noted that weather conditions vary each year. Tiger finished second in 2007 when low temperatures and wind made scoring difficult, for example. Still, it’s a general indicator of performance. Another measure is the leader board position: Tiger finished 41st this year, by far his worst effort.
Tiger Woods struggled off the tee yesterday at the Masters, a key reason he’s tied for 29th in a tournament in which many picked him as the favorite.
Tiger’s driving accuracy has also contributed to the general decline in his performance since its peak in 2000. He’s looked better this season, though, leading to his first PGA Tour win since 2009 two weeks ago.
This chart shows his driving accuracy over time, according to tour statistics:
Here’s how Woods’ performance yesterday compares to his career — and the rest of the field at the Masters:
See driving accuracy for all players on tour since 1980.
The two NFL conferences have split victories almost evenly in their annual Hawaii showdown/snoozefest known as the Pro Bowl, with the NFC holding a 21-20 record against the AFC. This chart, perhaps as interesting as the game itself, shows how the two sides have scored over the years:
Larger version | Data source: Wikipedia
Tonight President Obama gives his third “State of the Union” speech, an address that dates back to George Washington. Over time, the length and format of the speech has changed, according to the The American Presidency Project.
Bubbles in this view are sized the represent the number of speeches given by each president, with colors representing format (purple = oral; green = written).
This shows the total number of words used during each president’s tenure in both formats. Teddy Roosevelt needed 174,000 to deliver his thoughts, leading all presidents.
A better view is to look at the average number of words used, given that presidents have had varying term lengths over time. Jimmy Carter led all presidents, with an average of 33,000 words, though that’s skewed by one long written address as he left office.
Bill Clinton had the longest average oral speeches since 1966, at 1 hour and 14 minutes. Richard Nixon gave the shortest speeches, averaging about 35 minutes.
View interactive version | Download data
The Washington Post this morning reports on Army Spec. David Hickman, who died last month in Bagdad, the victim of a roadside bomb. The paper notes that Hickman could very well be the last last of the 4,474 Americans to die in Iraq:
With the final U.S. combat troops crossing out of Iraq into Kuwait, those who held Hickman dear are struggling to come to terms with the particular poignancy of his fate. As the unpopular war that claimed his life quietly rumbles to a close, you can hear within his inner circle echoes of John F. Kerry’s famous 1971 congressional testimony on Vietnam:
How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
The story is accompanied, both online and in print, by a column chart visualizing day-by-day fatalities during the eight-year war. This version shows all deaths:
This version shows soldiers who, like Hickman, died from improvised explosive devices:
Last night Robert Griffin III became the first Baylor football player to win the Heisman Trophy, the college game’s highest honor. Griiffin was the 76th player to receive the award — and the 28th quarterback — since the tradition began in 1936.
The winner is selected from ballots cast by hundreds of sports journalists, and past honorees. Each votes for three players, and ranks them on scale from first place (three points) to third place (one point). The higher the points received by a player, the more unanimous his selection as the winner.
Griffin received 1,687 points, slightly above the average winner over the years. Here’s how players have compared since the start (colored in Baylor green):
View the full list of past winners here.