The cost-of-living crisis as a result of the lingering pandemic — and more recently Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine — is being felt acutely around the globe. In advanced economies like the US and UK, the cost of food has increased dramatically because of logistical problems getting commodities out of Black Sea ports, as well as disruptions to harvesting in the region. Even before the pandemic, the US, which has a more dynamic economy than Europe’s — and a Federal Reserve that pursues policies favoring full employment — had a higher base inflation rate than many of its European counterparts. The Consumer Price Index is used globally to measure the average change over time in prices paid by consumers and is widely used to measure inflationary trends. We look at the CPI of breads and cereals in the UK and US since 2003.

In many low- and middle-income countries, availability of safe, drinkable water remains scarce. Though access has improved significantly in many places over the past two decades – by 152% in Afghanistan, for instance – the very low baseline means that still only 28% of that population has access to high quality drinking water. Meanwhile, countries like the Central African Republic, Zambia, Nepal, and Pakistan saw their access reduced over the past two decades. Here’s a snapshot of the relative change in access to safe drinking water around the world from 2000-2020.

While the debate over fetal rights versus a woman’s right to choose is particularly ferocious in the US, it’s also a divisive issue in many parts of the world, particularly in countries where the Roman Catholic Church holds influence. We take a look at abortion laws globally, as well as countries with the highest official abortion rates.

Ari Winkleman

Elon Musk aside, does anybody else love Twitter? The platform’s 280-character tweets are an essential tool for governments, institutions, politicians, and journalists — as well as eccentric billionaires, of course — but in the grander scheme, not a lot of regular folks are hooked. We look at the brave — and scary — user numbers of social media, where not many care whether you RT’d or simply liked their thread.

Ari Winkleman

For arms manufacturers, war is great for business. Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, global military spending was already on an upswing, to the tune of $2 trillion last year. Now, the US and its allies are splashing around a lot of dough to send the Ukrainians weapons to defend themselves against the Russians — to the delight of anyone who owns shares of the companies that make those arms. We take a look at how the stock prices of the world's top defense companies have performed in 2022 so far.

According to several indicators, the US economy is doing fine. Joblessness, for instance, is way down, with fewer Americans collecting unemployment benefits than at any time since the 1970s. Still, inflation has caused the cost of food and fuel in the US to soar to a 40-year high. Polling shows that Americans’ sense of financial security and economic stability is waning – a massive problem for President Joe Biden ahead of the midterm elections. Biden says American companies should help tackle inflation by lowering costs, not wages. But Fed Chair Jerome Powell signaled plans to take action this week, raising expectations of an interest rate hike in May. We take a look at US consumer confidence, which reflects general sentiment about the state of the economy, since 2000.

Consumers’ perceptions of the economy can cause big shake-ups in European politics. After the sovereign debt crisis (2012-2015), and the subsequent migrant crisis, many Europeans became more susceptible to eurosceptic, populist messages. The effects of the war in Ukraine are being felt acutely in the European Union. The energy sector is in a tailspin, driving fuel prices through the roof. Many analysts say that Europe is experiencing a cost of living crisis. Unsurprisingly, Europeans are gloomier about the state of the economy than at any time since the 2008 recession. We take a look at perceptions of the economy in the EU over the past 22 years.

Ari Winkleman

Lithuania made headlines in recent days, announcing that it’s ending all imports of Russian natural gas. Indeed, this shift has been seven years in the making. Spooked by Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Lithuania – which at the time got almost 100% of its natural gas imports from Russia – began diversifying its energy procurement methods. Fast forward to 2022, and it's ditching Moscow entirely. The other Baltic states are on a similar trajectory. What efforts have other top EU importers of Russian natural gas made to reduce reliance on Moscow during that same time? We take a look here.

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