Hard Numbers

200,000,000: Americans give each other around 200 million roses on Valentine’s Day, a majority of which are grown just outside the Colombian capital Bogota. Q’hubo mi amor… Feliz Valentine’s Day!


50: Since a landmark Chinese funded rail line linking landlocked Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti opened last month, more than 50 animals have been killed along the line. Fifteen camels were killed in a single incident. Chinese capital isn’t welcomed by everyone — desert quadrupeds, and their owners, are among the least enthused.

33: As of this year, Venezuela’s economy will have shrunk by 33 percent since President Nicolas Maduro took power in 2013. Part of that is lower oil prices, but most of it is awful economic policy. If, and how, Venezuela’s horrific humanitarian and political crises end is the most acute transnational issue for South America this year.

3.6: Traffic jams in Cairo cost Egypt’s economy more than 3.6% of GDP every year. Cairo is particularly bad, but across the developing world, rising wealth and rapid urbanization are outstripping cities’ infrastructure. That’s not only a daily headache and a national economic drag — lousy transport can also become a political issue fast, as Brazil learned in 2013.

3: In the past week, aircraft from three foreign countries — Israel, Turkey, and Russia — have been brought down as a result of the conflict in Syria. With ISIS largely defeated, things are heating up as the major parties to the conflict try to maximize their leverage ahead of any peace settlement.

In July, Microsoft took legal action against COVID-19-related cybercrime that came in the form of business email compromise attacks. Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a damaging form of cybercrime, with the potential to cost a company millions of dollars. Even the most astute can fall victim to one of these sophisticated schemes. The 2019 FBI cybercrime report indicates that losses from Business Email Compromise attacks are approximately $1.7 billion, which accounts for almost half of all losses due to cybercrime. As more and more business activity goes online, there is an increased opportunity for cybercriminals to target people in BEC attacks and other cybercrime. Their objective is to compromise accounts in order to steal money or other valuable information. As people become aware of existing schemes and they're no longer as effective, the tactics and techniques used by cybercriminals evolve.

To read about how Microsoft is working to protect customers, visit Microsoft on the Issues

"Go ahead, take it," President Putin says to you.

"Take what?" you ask.

"This Covid vaccine," he continues, turning a small syringe over in his hands. "It's safe. Trust me. We… tested it on my daughter."

Would you do it? Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that a lot of people will say yes. On Tuesday he announced that Russia has become the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine, and that mass vaccinations will begin there in October.

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The global race is on to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. While it usually takes many years to develop and widely distribute vaccines, scientists around the world are now trying to get one ready within an unprecedented time frame: 12-18 months. And while there is some international cooperation in that effort, there's also fierce competition among countries, as everyone wants to develop a vaccine on their home turf first, not only for prestige, but also to get their citizens at the front of the line for the shots when they are available. There are hundreds in development, but to date only eight vaccines have progressed to Phase III of the clinical trial process, meaning they are being tested on thousands of people and the results are compared with those who receive a placebo drug. Phase III is the final stage before approval. Who's gotten there so far?

45: A new poll says that 45 percent of Italians would support leaving the European Union if the UK economy remains in a "good state" five years after Brexit. Calls for a national referendum on "Italexit" are gaining steam in Italy, where a new anti-EU party is capitalizing on the sentiment that the EU abandoned the country at its darkest hour with COVID-19 (despite Italy later getting the lion's share of the EU's coronavirus rescue package).

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Anyone with a pulse and a smartphone probably knows by now that the US-China rivalry is heating up these days, and fast. (If you know anyone who doesn't, get them a Signal subscription.)

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