It's been a wild 18 months in Europe. Countries like France, Italy and Spain, once the epicenters of the pandemic, now boast strong vaccination rates and have enjoyed bustling summer revivals. There's been lots of Brexit drama in the UK, while the entire continent also braces for a post-Merkel Europe. So how have Europe's leaders stacked up against the ups and downs? We take a look at the approval ratings of leaders from Europe's top five economies over the past 10 months.

The pandemic brought the global economy to its knees, disrupting supply chains and causing a surge in unemployment. The economic volatility also sent many major currencies into a tailspin. While already-weak economies have been hit hardest by inflation, many medium and high-income countries have also seen their currencies depreciate over the past 18 months amid protracted lockdowns, border closures and supply chain constraints. We take a look at which major currencies have depreciated the most in 2021 when measured against the US dollar.

Global food prices have jumped by one-third since a year ago, as a result of pandemic- and climate-related supply chain disruptions as well as export restrictions. While the situation isn't (yet) as bad as in 2007-2008, when sharp increases in food prices triggered civil unrest across many parts of the world, the trend isn't a good one. Food price inflation and, in more extreme cases, the risk of famine will only exacerbate the challenges of economic collapse and mass unemployment left behind by COVID. We take a look at how the global prices of five key food products have changed since the pandemic began.

Germany's conservative CDU/ CSU party and the center-left SPD have dominated German politics since the 1950s. For decades, they have vied for dominance and often served in a coalition together, and have been known as the "people's parties" – a reference to their perceived middle-of-the-road pragmatism and combined broad appeal to the majority of Germans. But that's all changing, as evidenced by the fact that both performed poorly in this week's election, shedding votes to the minority Greens and pro-business Free Democrats. We take a look at the CDU/CSU and SPD's respective electoral performance over the past 60 years.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen a lot during her 16 years in power. She's navigated a global economic recession, multiple wars in the Middle East which sparked an EU refugee crisis, and now a once-in-a-generation pandemic. Often the only woman in the room, Merkel has had to learn to tactfully deal with dozens of idiosyncratic world leaders. Many have come and gone since 2005, but Merkel has won elections again and again. We take a look at who she's dealt with from the top democracies (by economic size) throughout her tenure.

Ahead of the 76th UN General Assembly, the US and the EU both agreed to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by the end of the decade to reduce global warming. Will they convince other top emitters like China, Russia and India to do the same before the COP26 climate summit in November? This would be a big deal, because methane emissions, one-quarter of which come from agriculture, are the biggest contributors to climate change after carbon dioxide — and 80 times more potent in warming the planet. We take a look at the world's top methane emitters, compared with their respective carbon dioxide emissions.

Five months after halting vaccine exports amid a catastrophic COVID wave, India now plans to resume vaccine exports next month, vowing to produce some 300 million vaccine doses in October alone. Until then, India had exported more than 66 million doses, which were sold, given as grants or snapped up by COVAX, the UN-backed initiative to vaccinate low- and middle-income countries. COVAX had been relying on Indian manufacturers to deliver the bulk of its supply, and the export ban has been a massive blow to the program, which is well behind its target. We take a look at which countries have gotten the most shots from India to date, and their respective vaccination rates.

Taiwan now says it needs to spend a lot more on its military to defend itself from China — and that could mean sourcing more American-made weapons. For decades, the US has sold weapons to Taiwan over China's strong objections. While Beijing claims the island is part of the People's Republic of China, Washington does not take a position on the question of Taiwan's sovereignty, holding that the issue should be resolved peacefully by both sides — while supporting Taiwan's self-defense capabilities. But tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan have been rising recently as the US-China relationship deteriorates more broadly. If China were to someday invade Taiwan — which it regards as a renegade province that sooner or later will be brought under mainland China's control — would the US come to the island's defense? A 1979 law provides "strategic ambiguity" on whether America would have to. In the meantime, US arms sales have bolstered Taiwan's defense deterrent while China's military budget has skyrocketed. We take a look at US military sales to Taiwan compared with China's own defense spending over the last 31 years.

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