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.

On the latest episode of Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Ken Burns explores the opportunity to come out of this moment as better versions of ourselves — and reveals whether a film about this year is in the cards.

Listen to the new episode here.

The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Former Spanish King Juan Carlos I's decision to leave the country after being investigated for corruption has reignited the debate over the future of the monarchy in Spain. Opinions are divided between mostly older Spaniards who defend the institution's role as a symbol of national unity, and the younger generations and nationalist regions who want Spain to become a republic. More than three quarters of the world's countries are now republics, but 44 still have a king or queen as their head of state — among them the 16 Commonwealth countries officially ruled by British Queen Elizabeth II and 5 countries where the sovereign is all-powerful. We take a look at which countries remain monarchies today, and those that sent their royals packing in the post-World War II waves of decolonization and republicanism.

Modi riles up his base: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday set the first stone for a new Hindu temple to be built over the remains of a Mughal-era mosque in Uttar Pradesh state. The site, in the town of Ayodhya, has been disputed for decades by Hindus and Muslims, but the Supreme Court last November ruled, based on archeological findings, that construction of the temple could begin. The ruling dismayed many of India's 180 million Muslims, who worry that Modi — who was accompanied at the ceremony by Mohan Bhagwat, an ultranationalist Hindu activist whose followers helped to destroy the old mosque amid a wave of sectarian violence in 1992 — wants to replace India's secular foundations with his more explicitly Hindu vision of the country's identity. Although months ago Modi saw sizable protests over a controversial new citizenship law that discriminated against Muslims, he has so far proven to be extremely resilient and remains widely popular in India.

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280 million: Democratic candidate Joe Biden plans to spend $280 million on campaign ads in his battle against US President Donald Trump. Although Trump trails the former vice president by 7 points in an average of national polls, the incumbent has set aside less than half that amount for ads of his own.

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