Hard Numbers

410,000: The online shop of the French presidential residence sold around $410,000 worth of memorabilia, including mugs decorated with President Emmanuel Macron’s face, in just three days. Unfortunately, much coveted kitsch will do little to alleviate Macron’s woeful polling numbers, which recently hit a record low.


150: More than 150 new embassies have been established in sub-Saharan Africa since 2010, according to the University of Denver’s Diplomatic Project. While the US still leads the pack with embassies in 48 African nations, Turkey opened up 16 new diplomatic posts and Qatar 12 there in the past eight years.

95: Oil exports from the southern Iraqi city of Basra account for 95 percent of the country’s state revenues, and yet more than a quarter of young people in the area are jobless, higher than the national average of 20 percent. Such disparities have contributed to long simmering anti-government protests there that have turned violent in recent days.

80: Around 80 percent of Yemen’s people need some sort of humanitarian aid, according to the UN. The world’s worst humanitarian crisis continues to deepen, with around 8 million at risk of famine, including many children.

5: The reimposition of US sanctions on Iran has caused a drought of dollars in the Islamic Republic but proven a godsend for currency traders in neighboring Afghanistan. Every day, according to a Bloomberg report, they smuggle some $5 million into Iran, sell the greenbacks in exchange for Iranian rials at a huge markup on the black market, and then take those Iranian rials back home to Afghanistan where they fetch another premium of 30 percent.

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.

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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.

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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.)

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