Hard Numbers

800,000: Flooding in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the worst in a century, has displaced some 800,000 people and killed more than 350. Officials have put estimates of storm damage at nearly $3 billion.


700,000: South Korean President Moon Jae-in wants to set up rail links with the North, a project that could create more than 700,000 jobs in South Korea over the next five years, according to the IBK institute. Moon, whose approval rating has hit its lowest level since he took office in 2017, is eyeing the economic dividends from détente with Kim Jong-un.

90: More than 90 percent of Ethiopians hold a favorable view of the newly installed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, according to local research firm WAAS International. That may well make Mr. Abiy – who has pledged broad reforms and pulled off a historic peace overture with neighboring Eritrea – the most popular leader in the world.

37.3: Since being thrown behind bars, Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva has only seen his popular support grow. Recent polls give him 37.3 percent of voter intentions – a 5 percentage point bump from the previous month – ahead of October’s pivotal election. The closest contender is far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro with 18.3 percent of voter intentions.

5: The Venezuelan government moved this week to create a new currency, the “Sovereign Bolívar,” by simply wiping away five zeros from its existing legal tender. Not bad if you compare it with Hungary, which shed 29 zeros from its currency between 1945 and 1946, and Yugoslavia, whose currency dropped 27 zeros from 1990 to 1994.

Ferrera Erbognone, a small town in the northern Italian province of Pavia, is home to one of the most cutting-edge computing centers in the world: Eni's Green Data Center. All of the geophysical and seismic prospecting data Eni produces from all over the world ends up here. Now, the Green Data Center is welcoming a new supercomputing system: HPC5, an advanced version of the already powerful HPC4. Due to be completed by early 2020, HPC5 will triple the Green Data Center's computing power, from 18.6 to 52 petaflops, equivalent to 52 million billion mathematical operations per second.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

A few days ago, the New York Times published a bombshell report on the Chinese government's systematic oppression of Muslims in Western China. The story was about many things: human rights, geopolitics, Chinese society – but it was also about technology: Beijing's repression in Xinjiang province is powered in part by facial recognition, big data, and other advanced technologies.

It's a concrete example of a broader trend in global politics: technology is a double-edged sword with sharp political consequences. Artificial intelligence, for example, can help develop new medicines but it can also support surveillance states. Social media helps nourish democracy movements and entertains us with cat memes, but it also feeds ISIS and 4Chan.

More Show less

Increasingly violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong have dealt a major blow to the city's once booming economy. Tourism – an economic lifeline in that city – has dropped, and retailers are suffering from a sharp decline in sales. Now, six months since the unrest began, Hong Kong has recorded its first recession in a decade, meaning its economy has contracted for two consecutive quarters. Here's a look at how Hong Kong's quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) growth has fared during the past two years.

Tehran's Next Move: "We don't want an Islamic Republic, we don't want it," was the chant heard among some protesters in Tehran over the weekend after the government announced a 50 percent fuel price hike meant to fund broader support for the country's poor. Under crippling US sanctions, the country's economy has plummeted, unleashing a "tsunami" of unemployment. What started Friday as nationwide economic protests took on a political coloring, as protestors in some cities tore up the flag and chanted "down with [Supreme Leader] Khamenei!". The unrest seems to be related, at least indirectly, to widespread demonstrations against Tehran-backed regimes in Iraq and Lebanon as well. Economically-motivated protests erupt in Iran every few years, but they tend to subside within weeks under harsh government crackdowns. So far, the authorities have shut down the internet to prevent protestors from using social media to organize rallies. But Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps has warned of more "decisive action" if the unrest continues.

More Show less

13 billion: Building a single state-of-the-art US aircraft carrier costs about $13 billion, a figure that exceeds total military spending by countries like Poland, the Netherlands, or Pakistan. But as China's ability to hit seaborne targets improves, the Economist asks if carriers are "too big to fail." (Come for that, stay for the many strange Top Gun references in the piece.)

More Show less