Hard Numbers

7,329: A high-profile arm of China’s anti-corruption campaign, run by the oddly Orwellian-sounding Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, set an all-time monthly record by disciplining 7,329 party members in December.


China’s campaign to deal with graft has been a key pillar of Xi’s success and popular appeal to date. As he look to solidify control ahead of a possible third term as president, expect more heads to roll in the Communist Party.

1,400: A former employee of Russia’s now-infamous Troll Factory, which conducted the social media campaign meant to sow division in the US ahead of the 2016 presidential election, says he got a paycheck of $1,400 a week for his labors. To put that in context, the average salary in St Petersburg in early 2016 was just $740 a month. Trolling democracy is good work if you can get it.

87: When dictators die in office, their cliques retain power 87 percent of the time, says a Washington Post study. And even when a death at the top does change things, it leads to democracy only 30 percent of the time. A reminder that nothing is inevitable, least of all liberal democracy.

45: The percentage of Americans who are happy with the US position in the world has hit a 13-year high of 45 percent, according to Gallup. In fact, America’s mood has improved over the past year when less than a third of Americans felt good about position of the US globally. A reminder that for all the international handwringing about US leadership, a significant bloc of voters at home just isn’t concerned.

43: A survey shows that 43 percent of Ital­ians think im­mi­grants rep­re­sent a dan­ger to pub­lic or­der and peo­ple’s safety, up ten points since 2015. This coincides with a rising number of migrants reaching Italian shores. There’s just one problem: the crime rate in Italy has actually fallen by 17 percent in the last two years, ac­cord­ing to the In­te­rior Min­istry. Perception is reality at election time these days, and fear is a powerful emotion as Italians head to the polls.

In the southern Italian region of Basilicata, home to the Val d'Agri Oil Centre known as COVA, hydrocarbon processing has undergone a radical digital transformation. COVA boasts one of the world's first fully digitized hydrocarbon plants, but why? Two primary reasons: infrastructure and information. Val d'Agri has the largest onshore hydrocarbon deposit in mainland Europe. The site is expansive and highly advanced, and the plant features a sophisticated sensor system built to capture massive amounts of data. Maintenance checks, equipment monitoring, inspections and measurements are tracked in a fully integrated digital system designed to prevent corrosion and ensure cleaner, more sustainable natural gas processing.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

For a president gearing up for a fierce re-election fight next year, President Trump has a lot to worry about. Democrats are now taking more of the US political spotlight. The latest opinion polls don't look good for him. There are signs that the strong US economy, Trump's top selling point, may begin to wobble.

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Chinese Pigs – Beyond a trade war with the US and unrest in Hong Kong, now Chinese officials are wrestling with an even more basic political problem. Pork is the favorite meat for many of China's 1.4 billion people, and some analysts treat pork consumption as an important indicator of the financial well-being of China's middle class. A serious outbreak of African Swine Flu is expected to push pork prices 70 percent higher over the second half of this year, which will hit ordinary Chinese pockets hard. By some estimates, half of China pigs have been culled, but there are also reports that some farmers have avoided the expense of slaughtering infected pigs, raising fears that the disease will continue to spread. The central government takes this problem seriously enough to call on local officials to boost large-scale hog farming. So far, China's "Year of the Pig" is just not going well.

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Buy or sell: The iPhone

I'll make both arguments. First, buy. The new iPhone 11 didn't blow people's mind. But it's a pretty good phone. But what is most impressive is they lowered the prices on many of their phones and they offer a really good trade ins. So you can take your old iPhone, trade it in, get a discount on a new one. It's a pretty good deal. On the other hand, if the question is more: Is the iPhone still the unadulterated leader in innovation? Maybe not. The event was not quite as transformative as some of these events have been.

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1.2 million: Surging jihadist terrorism in Burkina Faso has pushed the country to the brink of humanitarian crisis, as attacks displace people from their homes and destroy critical infrastructure and hospitals. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, 1.2 million Burkinabe are threatened with famine and malnutrition, and access to healthcare has dwindled. Experts say the violence is a spillover from the scourge of jihadism in neighboring Mali.

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