HARD NUMBERS

300,000: Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, have recovered large portions of the strategically vital Deraa province near Jordan and Israel in the past three weeks. This offensive has forced more than 300,000 people from their homes, the single largest displacement of the war. Israel and Jordan have refused to allow in refugees.


300: Some 300 anti-government protesters have been killed in Nicaragua since April, according to human-rights groups, almost all of them by paramilitary thugs loyal to Daniel Ortega. Today, the private sector is planning a one-day general shutdown, with support from the Catholic Church, to put pressure on the government to meet a set of their demands.

94.8: Of the 154,557 murders committed in Mexico from 2010 to 2016, 94.8 percent remain unpunished. Compare that figure with 52 percent in Asia and 20 percent in Europe.

17: Seventeen of the 23 players on France’s World Cup team are children of first generation migrants. Once again, the white-hot politics of migration, citizenship, and national identity are making their way onto the pitch ahead of the World Cup final on Sunday.

5: Venezuela’s latest shortage? Banknotes, most of which are imported. The central bank’s own printer produces less than 5 percent of the country’s cash. Given an annual inflation rate now estimated at 46,000 percent, it’s also hard to keep workers, who are paid with the same worthless notes they’re hired to print.

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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