The Taliban have already made massive territorial gains in Afghanistan since the Biden administration announced that it would withdraw all US forces by September of this year. In many instances, Afghan security forces have abandoned their bases and handed over territory rather than confront Taliban fighters directly. Recently, Taliban militants gained control of the Islam Qala crossing between Afghanistan and Iran, which generates $20 million in monthly revenue for the Afghan government. Days later, the critical Wesh-Chaman border crossing with Pakistan fell to Taliban control as well. With the US withdrawal already more than 90 percent complete, the Taliban already control more than half of all Afghan districts. So as the last few US forces prepare to leave, we take a look at who controls what in Afghanistan. Spoiler: it's a significantly different state of play from when we last mapped it out less than two years ago.


UPDATE: The graphic and text were updated on July 14, 2021 to include theTaliban capture of the Wesh-Chaman border crossing with Pakistan.

A recent spate of extreme heat waves has killed scores of people around the world. But, why is this happening? According to a recent study, 37 percent of all global deaths from heat can be attributed directly to climate change, as a rapidly warming planet caused by industrial pollution makes heat waves more frequent, intense... and deadly. We take a look at where climate-linked scorchers kill the most people, as well as carbon dioxide emissions per capita in those places.

It's been 50 years since President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in the United States, a campaign underscored by punitive policies aimed at eradicating everything to do with illicit drug use. Since then, the US government has spent over $1 trillion on the campaign, roughly a 1,090% increase in spending in just 39 years. But all this money hasn't stopped drug use from surging in recent decades, along with overdose deaths. In fact, the war on drugs' main legacy is that of mass incarceration; severe penalties for drug-related offenses resulted in mostly Black and Latino Americans being thrown into prison. We take a look at government spending on drug control and the prison population size in recent decades.

In 2017, then-US President Trump rallied against NATO, complaining that European member states weren't pulling their weight to bolster the alliance, whose cornerstone is that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. NATO was formed in the wake of World War II as a counterweight against Soviet dominance in Europe and beyond. But this week, when US President Biden met fellow NATO members in the UK, the emphasis was on how to adapt the alliance to counter China's increasing belligerence. Indeed, disagreements over sharing the cost of maintaining military readiness have caused frictions in recent years, and as a result, the bloc agreed that all member states would spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024. So, how are they tracking? Here's a look at who pays what.

In response to an influx of migrants arriving at the US southern border in recent months, the Biden administration has tried to incentivize Central American governments to stop the flow of migrants. Biden recently pledged to invest $4 billion in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador over four years. But these sorts of gestures from the White House often come with strings attached. China, on the other hand, has steadily tried to up its investment in Central America in recent years, and — unlike the Americans — doesn't demand human rights and rule of law reforms in exchange for cash. We take a look at China's direct foreign investment in Central American countries since 2007.

US inflation is now at its highest level since the 2008 financial crisis, and (as always) economists are divided as to why that is, and what to do about it. Conservative deficit hawks blame big spending by the Biden administration, while liberals who defend Biden's economic agenda believe it's more likely caused by short-term pandemic-related bottlenecks in supply chains. Meanwhile, there's also growing concern that the Federal Reserve is overheating the US economy by keeping interest rates low despite rising inflation, but the Fed is betting that the current spike will be short-lived. Whatever you think, we compare US inflation and interest rates over the past half century, a period in which America has suffered double-digit figures more than once.

China is no stranger to using social media networks to influence public opinion. But as Chinese foreign policy becomes increasingly assertive, they are doing a lot more to win foreign hearts and minds on Facebook and Twitter. A joint investigation by the AP and the Oxford Internet Institute has revealed how Chinese diplomats and state media outlets are coordinating on social media to strategically amplify messages from Beijing — which are then further amplified by an army of fake accounts that Facebook and Twitter keep playing whack-a-mole with. We take a look at China's public diplomacy activity, reach, and engagement on Facebook and Twitter over the span of a few months since mid-2020.

COVID has officially killed almost 3.5 million people around the world since the beginning of the pandemic. But some public health experts believe that the real number could be more than twice as high, because of challenges to accurately reporting the death toll in many countries around the world. A new study from the University of Washington contends, for example, that actual deaths are nearly 60 percent higher than reported in the US, almost triple as high in India, more than five time as high in Russia... and a staggering ten times higher than the official tally in Japan. Here's a look at how official figures compare to actual estimated deaths in the 20 countries where COVID has claimed the most lives.

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