Dr Anthony Fauci says the US is again "going in the wrong direction" as COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to rise across America. Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations — an apt indicator of serious illness from COVID — have spiked in 45 out of 50 states as a result of the contagious delta variant and rejection of vaccines, which are leading many US states to now have a vaccine surplus. We take a look at the 10 states where hospitalization rates have increased the most in recent weeks, and their corresponding vaccination rates — and unused vaccine rates.

The COVID delta variant — which first surfaced in India earlier this year — is spreading rampantly throughout every continent, and is now the most dominant strain globally. But low- and middle-income countries, particularly in regions where vaccines have been scarce, are bearing the brunt of the fallout from the more contagious strain. We take a look at the 10 countries now recording the highest number of daily COVID deaths (per 1 million people), and their corresponding vaccination rates.

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is in hospital in "serious condition" after contracting COVID-19 in the wake of a European Union summit. Bettel now joins a host of world leaders who got the virus in the course of their usual business of handshaking, speechmaking, and in-person meetings. Here's a map showing all the countries where a head of state or government has become a confirmed COVID case since the pandemic began.

South America has emerged as the world's hardest-hit region by the pandemic, suffering about one-third of all global COVID deaths despite accounting for less than 6 percent of its population. A slow vaccine rollout in some larger countries such as Brazil is part of the problem, though as a whole the region is still inoculating people faster than Asia, where the mortality rates are much lower. The situation in South America is so dire that the World Health Organization recently called for wealthy nations to prioritize donating vaccines to South American countries, rather than to the global COVAX facility. We take a look at global COVID death rates per 1 million people and vaccination levels.

As anyone who's spent time in Russia or studied the language a bit knows, Russians have a particular concept of "friendship." The Russian word for friend, droog, suggests a relationship vastly deeper, more intimate, and durable than what usually passes for a "friend" in English. Russians have a different word for that — znakomiy (acquaintance). So what countries do Russians consider their "friends" and "enemies?" The latest poll from the independent Moscow-based Levada Center has answers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the US tops the "enemy" list these days. But right there in second place is Ukraine — a country where many Russians have strong family and historical ties. Things have soured since a 2014 popular revolution ousted a Kremlin-friendly president, prompting Russia to annex Crimea and provoke a civil war in the East. But who would you guess tops Russians' droog list? Have a look here.

Most US politicians, and according to polling a majority of Americans, don't like China much these days, as the bilateral relationship has soured to its worst point in decades. But what do Chinese people think about the US? Turns out that a majority of Chinese have an unfavorable view of the US, too. A recent Eurasia Group Foundation survey shows that less than 35 percent of Chinese people now have a positive opinion of the US, compared to almost 57 percent just two years ago. We take a look at Chinese attitudes towards the US and its global and regional influence.

Different factors shape popular attitudes towards LGBT communities within a given country. In states with heavy religious overtones, like Poland and Russia for instance, the general population is less likely to accept that gay people should be broadly accepted by society. Meanwhile, residents in nations where right-leaning politics dominate are also less likely to support the LGBT community's rights, according to a Pew study. But global attitudes are shifting somewhat: in Japan, where conservative ideas about gender identity and sexual orientation have long dominated, 68 percent of Japanese now think gay people should be fully accepted by society, up from 54 percent in 2002. We take a look at attitudes in select countries from 2002-2019.

Six years after China relaxed its one-child policy in place since 1978, Beijing announced this week that it will now allow parents to have three children. The ruling Communist Party, which half a century ago was worried about overpopulation, is now desperate for Chinese couples to have more babies to bolster the country's sluggish population growth rate, which has plummeted in recent years due to the rising cost of living. For Beijing, this is a very big deal, as a declining and aging population could make it very hard for the country to maintain the strong economic growth needed to rival other economic powerhouses, like India or the US. We take a look at China's population growth, fertility rate, and GDP per capita over the past 70 years.

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