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Paige Fusco

The US plays, of all countries, Iran (!) at the Qatar men's soccer World Cup on Tuesday in the most politically charged game of the most political edition of the tournament in decades. What’s more, if Team Melli — as Iran's team is popularly known — wins, it’ll advance to the knockout stage for the first time. (Not to mention that Iran won't miss a chance to beat Great Satan at anything.) USMNT, for its part, wants revenge from France '98, when Iran won 2-1 in a major upset that Tehran billed at the time as the "Mother of all Games." We take a look at how the two geopolitical rivals compare on some soccer and non-soccer metrics.

Luisa Vieira

Yes, it’s the World Cup. But only a small part of the world actually gets to have it: Since 1930, every edition of the tournament has been won by a team from Europe or South America. Indeed, no country from any other part of the world has even been a runner-up. The last non-European or non-South American team to make it to the semifinals was South Korea in 2002, when it was host along with Japan — unless you count Turkey as part of Asia, which FIFA does not. We explore the World Cup’s winners and runners-up throughout history, showing how two regions dominate the Beautiful Game.

Luisa Vieira

FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, has long been tainted with corruption scandals — and the 2022 edition of its top competition is no exception. The World Cup is being held in Qatar despite the fact that even FIFA itself "admitted" that bribes were exchanged before the tiny emirate with zero soccer tradition got the nod in late 2010. But what about the countries whose national teams qualified for the tournament? We take a look at how the most and least corrupt countries would play against each other as soccer teams on a pitch. Note: if you're missing Saudi Arabia, believe it or not it ranks as less graft-ridden than Croatia.

Ari Winkleman

It’s been almost three years since the COVID pandemic swung a wrecking ball through our societies, our economies, and our workplaces. But even now, with the most acute phase of the crisis behind us, many aspects of life still aren’t back to what they were in the B.C. (Before Coronavirus) era. One great example is the hours worked in our economies. When the pandemic struck, lockdowns and other restrictions caused the number of hours worked on a quarterly basis around the world to plunge by nearly 20% compared to the final quarter of 2019, the baseline for “last moments of pre-pandemic normalcy.” But since then, the world as a whole still hasn’t gotten back to pre-pandemic levels of hours worked — we’re still almost 1.5% below them. Lower-income countries are struggling more than rich ones to get back to where they were, and there is only one region of the world that shows more hours worked now than before the pandemic — can you guess which one it is?

Paige Fusco

The world's population hit 8 billion on Tuesday, according to UN projections. So, why should you care about this particular milestone? For one thing, population growth is slowing down, which means it'll take longer to reach 9 billion. That’s mainly a result of declining birth rates in Europe and East Asia. For another, 8 billion humans are now competing for increasingly scarce resources and territory in a planet already suffering the effects of climate change. Meanwhile, countries in sub-Saharan Africa are still having babies like there's no tomorrow — precisely where people have the least access to basic stuff like food, electricity, the internet, or water.

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China somewhat eases zero-COVID restrictions

Luisa Vieira

Change is afoot in China. Beijing’s zero-COVID containment strategy has been widely criticized at home and abroad, setting markets aflutter, and disrupting economies and supply chains worldwide. But now, just weeks after President Xi Jinping secured his norm-defying third term as CCP secretary-general, his new Politburo Standing Committee has issued changes to China’s zero-COVID policy. The news saw Hong Kong and mainland markets react positively, and online inbound flight bookings doubled overnight, but economists remain wary and are advising caution. We explore the differences between the two policies.

will us voters show up

Is Trump a demagogue or a revolutionary? Is Biden a consensus builder or a divider-in-chief? Most Americans already hold firm views of the Republican and Democratic parties, and their midterm votes have been set in stone for some time. In tight races, however, the difference will be decided by whether the politically indifferent demographic decides to vote. Getting out the vote is much easier for presidential races, which many voters see as more consequential than midterms. But that trend may be shifting. We look at voter turnout in presidential elections vs. midterms since 1980, and zoom in on the turnout in some key battleground states.

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Live digital event | Time for nature: Turning biodiversity risk into opportunity | Wed, Dec 14 | 8 am EST

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