Hard Numbers

10,000: Over the past year, 10,000 Afghan security forces were killed, making it one of the most violent periods for the war-torn nation. About 10 civilians were killed every day on average in the first 9 months of 2017, according to the UN. Fifteen years on from the US intervention there, the country remains wracked by violence and instability, with slim prospects of improvement.


716: The Trump administration plans to request a $716 billion dollar defense budget for 2019, a 13 percent increase from 2017. To put that in perspective, the US will spend more on defense than the next dozen countries combined. In fact, the proposed increase between 2017 and 2019 alone, $82bn, is more than Russia’s entire defense budget.

48: As many as 48 million of Twitter’s active users — nearly 15 percent of the Twitterverse — are automated accounts designed to simulate real people. The company claims that number is far lower, but the point remains: social media has become a decisive platform for commerce and politics — and its increasingly defined by people who aren’t even people.

34: Thirty-four percent of Latin Americans were considered middle classin 2015, the latest year for which data is available, up from 21% in 2003. The heightened expectations of this group — in terms of clean government, economic growth, and public safety — are both a driving and disruptive force in a massive election year for the region.

0: North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un has met zero world leaders since taking power in 2011. He hasn’t even had a sit-down with his closest ally, Chinese President Xi Jinping. When thermonuclear war is on the agenda, a little face time could go a long way.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

What do people think is driving the stock market's recent record high gains?


Well, there's really no precise answer, but analysts point to several factors. So, number one is strong third quarter earnings. Companies have reported stronger than expected results so far this season. The second is the jobs market. You saw the October jobs numbers exceed economists' expectations. And the third is the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates three times this year. That lowers borrowing costs for consumers and businesses and encourages them to spend more.

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In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 220 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least 19 Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

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Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that NATO was experiencing "brain death," citing a lack of coordination and America's fickleness under Donald Trump as reasons to doubt the alliance's commitment to mutual defense. NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – was formed in the wake of World War II as a counterweight against Soviet dominance in Europe and beyond. Its cornerstone is that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. But disagreements over sharing the cost of maintaining military readiness have caused friction between the alliance's members in recent years. In 2014, the bloc agreed that each member state would increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective GDP over the next decade. But so far, only seven of 29 members have forked out the money. Here's a look at who pays what.