Hard Numbers

72: The average age of Arab heads of state is currently a hoary 72, while the average age of their people is just 25, according to The Economist. Six years after the Arab Spring, that generation gap continues to fuel the sense that the region’s leaders are hopelessly out of touch with their own people. At a spry 32 years old, can Saudi Arabia’s headstrong Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman change that in the region’s most hidebound kingdom?


68: Back in 1989, 68 percent of Americans considered the economic power of Japan to be the most serious “threat to the future of the United States,” according to a poll conducted by Business Week. One of those Americans was a brash young real estate tycoon from Queens. By contrast, only 22% said they feared Soviet military power. How times change. And don’t.

40: Over the past two years, 40 current or former elected city officials have been killed in Brazil, according to a report by the Globo network. Of those, two have been confirmed as political killings and another nine are under investigation. The remainder were deemed the result of personal or business disputes.

36: Over the past three years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has replaced 36 of the country’s 85 regional governors. Twenty of those are under 50 years old. Putin is trying to create a new, younger generation of political leaders — though one that is loyal chiefly to him, of course.

9: Just nine percent of North Korean defectors leave because of the country’s ruthless political repression, according to Korea expert (and former diplomat) Victor Cha’s book on the country. Their main reason for fleeing is actually the lousy economy.

Error: Deli scales and credit card machines in Venezuela don’t have enough digits to calculate the right price for goods like a kilo of ham (1,480,000 Bolivars per kilo), a set of bedsheets (33,541,963), or a pair of Adidas kicks (10,500,000), according to a report from Bloomberg. Economic mismanagement and currency controls have driven up the inflation rate to 13,000 percent, stoking a humanitarian meltdown alongside the oil-rich country’s ongoing political crisis.

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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