Hard Numbers

125: China has authorized $125 billion of new rail projects since early December. Plans for 6,800 kilometers of new railways, including 3,200 kilometers of new high-speed rail, are part of a broader effort to stem the effects of an economic slowdown that's hitting as Beijing attempts to manage it standoff with the US over trade.

55: Plagued by under-staffed security forces, the government in Kabul controls just 55 percent of Afghanistan's territory, according to US government figures – an area containing just under two-thirds of the population. That leaves over 12 million people living under control of the Taliban and other groups and complicates any US attempt to withdraw from the country after 18 years of conflict.

48: If current trends hold, the world will boast 48 cities with populations over 10 million people by 2035, up from 33 today. Of the 15 contenders for mega-city status, 10 are in Asia, 2 are in the Middle East, 2 are in Africa, and 1 is in Europe. None are in the Americas.

3.4: US carbon dioxide emissions rose 3.4 percent in 2018 – the biggest increase in 8 years, according to an initial estimate – despite sharp reduction in the number of active US coal-fired power plants. A booming economy, including a strong performance by the energy hungry manufacturing sector, looks to be the main driver.

The 10-year challenge might actually be an attempt to improve facial recognition technology.

It's Tech in 60 Seconds with Nicholas Thompson!

And go deeper on topics like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence at Microsoft Today in Technology.

"Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." So said Winston Churchill in November 1947, a time when Soviet Communism was beginning to offer the world a new alternative.

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My high school history teacher Dr. Cohen once told me, as we shuffled through the school cafeteria, that computers would one day make socialism viable. Given that the Soviet collapse had already happened, and that Super Nintendo still seemed vastly more magical than anything you could put on your desk, this seemed far-fetched.

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Syria ISIS attack A suicide bombing in Syria claimed by ISIS killed 14 people including four Americans this week. Two questions we'll be watching: Will this attack impact the pace of President Trump's ordered withdrawal of US troops from Syria, and is the bombing part of a broader ISIS strategy to launch a wave of new attacks as US troops depart?

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