Graphic detail

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  • Daily chart

    Violent Islamist groups are gaining strength in Africa

    by THE DATA TEAM

    MAIDUGURI, Nigeria’s main north-eastern city, is at the centre of a series of jihadist campaigns stretching in two broad belts across Africa on either side of the Sahara. The northern one hugs the Mediterranean, from Egypt through Libya and Tunisia to Algeria. The southern one extends from Somalia and Kenya in the east through Nigeria and Niger and on to Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal in the west. Such vast distances separate the different battlefields, that Dakar, in Senegal, is almost as close to Miami as it is to Mogadishu in Somalia.

    Much of the conflict is barely reported on, even though last year it claimed more than 10,000 lives, almost all of them civilian.

  • Daily chart

    Mainstream election-forecasting could be improved by a popular academic approach

    by THE DATA TEAM

    UNPRECEDENTED, unbelievable and earthquake: three words used in book titles to describe the outcome of America’s most recent presidential election. Pundits are fond of blaming quantitative forecasters, trafficking in polls and probabilities, for their failure to foresee Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency. The forecasters, for their part, have argued that the median voter (and the median pundit) misinterpret their methods, and that a few bad apples should not spoil the bunch. Should forecasters adopt a new statistical method, such unpleasant post-mortems could become rarer.

  • Daily chart

    Are Britain’s overtures to Donald Trump worth it?

    by THE DATA TEAM

    DONALD TRUMP, America’s 44th president, has been afforded all manner of pomp and ceremony during his visit to Britain this week. The president was greeted by a marching band at Blenheim Palace, has visited the prime minister’s country residence, and has met the Queen at Windsor Castle. There have been protests, too: thousands have marched in opposition to his visit, and a six-metre tall balloon depicting the president as a man-baby has flown above Westminster.

    Advocates of the visit say that courting the president, however divisive he may be, is a necessary part of maintaining Britain’s “special relationship” with America.

  • Daily chart

    Arab states are losing the race for technological development

    by THE DATA TEAM

    RICH countries tend to produce more scientific, cultural and technological innovation than poor ones do. Wealth is most often created in countries with stable institutions and a firm rule of law. It can be used to fund research-and-development, and to build human capital through public education and health care. However, a new ranking of innovation in 126 countries highlights a striking exception to this trend: oil-rich Arab states states are far less innovative than their prosperity would suggest.

    Countries like Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates enjoy many of the advantages that generally lead to innovation.

  • Daily chart

    Are today’s young football stars worse than those before them?

    by THE DATA TEAM

    IT HAS been a bad World Cup for the old guard. Both Cristiano Ronaldo (aged 33) and Lionel Messi (31), widely regarded as two of the greatest footballers ever, departed the stage early, as Portugal and Argentina were eliminated in the round of 16. According to Simon Gleave of Gracenote Sports, an analytics company, 17 squads arrived at the tournament with an average age of 28 or above, the point at which players in most positions start to decline from their peak ability. None of those countries made it to the semi-finals. The French and English squads that progressed to the final four are both notably youthful, with an average age of 26.

  • Daily chart

    Ceasefires in South Sudan seldom last

    by THE DATA TEAM

    CEASEFIRES in South Sudan’s civil war tend to be short. At least nine such agreements have been signed since the war started in 2013. Only one has lasted longer than a month. The latest ceasefire, agreed to on June 30th, is already in danger of falling apart. On paper it sets the stage for power-sharing talks between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, a former vice-president. But hours after it took effect both sides reported violations. Analysts say Messrs Kiir and Machar have lost full control of their forces, which have splintered into factions.

  • Daily chart

    London has excellent universities—but unhappy students

    by THE DATA TEAM

    LONDON’S top universities are underperforming, in terms of student satisfaction at least. The International Student Barometer, which measures the views of students around the world studying outside their home country, finds that international students in London would be significantly less likely to recommend their university than would those in Britain’s other cities.

    That is, no doubt, in part the consequence of their location, for big cities tend to be unfriendly and pricey. Yet New York’s top universities compare better with their compatriots than London’s do with theirs. Indeed, Columbia, one of America’s best, also has one of its highest student ratings.

  • Daily chart

    Companies appear to be gaining market power

    by THE DATA TEAM

    COMPETITION forces companies to keep prices low to attract customers. But if a few firms become powerful enough, they can see off competitors and charge more. A new working paper by Jan De Loecker of the University of Leuven and Jan Eeckhout of University College London presents evidence that this is happening across the rich world.

    The researchers examine markups—selling prices divided by production costs. At 1, products are sold at cost; above 1, there is a gross profit. Using the financial statements of 70,000 firms in 134 countries, the authors find average markups rose from 1.1 in 1980 to 1.6 in 2016.

    America and Europe saw the biggest increases (see chart).

  • Daily chart

    For 2018 World Cup predictors, football is coming home

    by THE DATA TEAM

    WITH Germany and Spain out and Russia still in at the World Cup, it is natural to wonder whether this year’s edition of the quadrennial football tournament has delivered an unusually high number of upset victories. After all, the Cup has repeatedly failed to follow the expected script in previous years. In 2014 Spain, the defending champion, suffered an early departure, alongside highly-rated England, Portugal and Italy. Back in 2002, Brazil had only the 13th-strongest team at the start of the tournament according to the Elo system, a statistical measure of performance. During 2001, they had endured a streak of just one win in ten matches.

  • Daily chart

    How Netflix became a billion-dollar titan

    by THE DATA TEAM

    WHEN Ted Sarandos joined Netflix in 2000, it was just a DVD-rental firm. In 2011, when Netflix was first moving into streaming video, he bought “House of Cards”, a television drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and produced by, among others, the film director David Fincher, for $100m. The nine-figure statement of intent was widely derided as profligate, showing that Netflix might be a source of cash but scarcely offered serious competition. A mail-order video store could hardly be expected to take on networks and studios that took decades to build and were notoriously difficult to run.

    Instead, Netflix has become an industry in and of itself.

  • Daily chart

    As America ages, it is sleeping longer and longer

    by THE DATA TEAM

    ON JULY 4th America will celebrate the 242nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The holiday might be an opportunity for weary citizens to catch up on sleep, too. America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the country’s health watchdog, declared sleep deprivation a national epidemic in 2014. It deems seven hours of shut-eye a day necessary to function normally, and worries that few people get a sufficient amount. 

    New data released by the Bureau of Labour Statistics show that, as a whole, the country appears to be getting more rest.

  • Daily chart

    The average job is less painful and less tiring than it was in 1950

    by THE DATA TEAM

    “MONEY often costs too much,” quipped Ralph Waldo Emerson. But a new study suggests that since 1950, the price of buying it with labour in America has fallen. Greg Kaplan of the University of Chicago and Sam Schulhofer-Wohl of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago have linked measures of how Americans today feel about various jobs to changes in employment.

    Both men and women are less likely to be farmers today, for example, than they were in 1950, and more likely to be in management. A smaller share of women are secretaries, and a greater proportion of men work in service-sector jobs.

  • Daily chart

    Penalty shoot-outs are basically still crap-shoots

    by THE DATA TEAM

    IN 1978 the World Cup scrapped its policy of choosing the winner of knockout-stage matches tied after 120 minutes with a coin flip, and introduced penalty shoot-outs to replace them. The idea was to have a result determined quickly, using a method that at least partly depended on skill. However, the evidence that shoot-outs actually favour the stronger team is extremely thin: sides with more impressive won-lost records and goal differentials (after accounting for the quality of their opposition) do not win an outsize share of shoot-outs against weaker rivals.

    Ironically, the best predictor of success in shoot-outs is still a coin flip.

  • Daily chart

    How smog affects spending in China

    by THE DATA TEAM

    WALK down the street in a Chinese city, and you are likely to see nearly as many kouzhao as eyeglasses or wristwatches. Anti-pollution masks that cover the nose and mouth have become ubiquitous on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai, especially during the winter months when coal is burned for heat. Chinese consumers, particularly those living in busy megacities, shell out 4bn yuan ($600m) on masks every year. Many are manufactured in Dadian, a town in Shandong province in eastern China known as “mask village”.

    Kouzhao may be the most visible expense caused by China’s toxic air, but they are far from the largest one.

  • Daily chart

    Opium and cocaine production has reached record levels

    by THE DATA TEAM

    PRODUCTION of plant-based illicit drugs has surged in recent years, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The world’s output of opium rose by 65% in 2017, reaching its highest level since records began. Of the 10,500 tonnes made last year, 9,000 came from Afghanistan, a country wracked by violent conflict and rural poverty. Global cocaine manufacturing also reached a record high in 2016 (the latest year for which data are available), rising by 25% year on year to 1,410 tonnes. More than half of this amount originated in Colombia.

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