Hard Numbers

0 and 0 and 0: The State Department has spent zero of the $120 million that has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in US elections or sow distrust in democracy. Furthermore, zero of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center — which has been tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign — speak Russian. A departmental hiring freeze means zero of the computer experts needed to track foreign cyber-activity will be hired any time soon. Unless this is some kind of judo move or Jedi mind trick, it’s hard to see how this bolsters US defenses against election meddling in this fall’s midterm elections or beyond.


13: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who over the weekend secured a fresh mandate as head of a grand coalition, has been in power for 13 years. During that time Japan has had eight prime ministers, Italy has had seven, and Australia six. France, Argentina, and South Africa have each elected four different presidents during that span, while the US, Turkey, and Brazil have each gone through three. If there is a single German word for “outlasting your political counterparts” we would like to learn it.

58: Since the electoral season in Mexico officially began last September, 58 politicians have been assassinated, or nearly 10 every month. Security is a critical issue as Mexicans head to the polls for a pivotal presidential election this summer.

82: In a Pew survey conducted last fall, 82% of Italians said they distrust parliament, and an equal share said the national economic situation is bad despite recent improvements. About three-quarters of Italians said politicians don’t care what ordinary people think — not surprisingly, the anti-establishment parties did molto bene in the elections over the weekend.

1 billion: Chinese venture capital investment into Latin America jumped to $1 billion this year, up from a paltry $30 million in 2015, according to data collected by Preqin, a market research firm. China’s investment in Latin America has until now focused overwhelmingly on infrastructure and natural resources, but startups, particularly in tech, are a new focus as China’s state and private investors expand their economic presence in the region.

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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