Why is Russia So Big?

If you visit russianrailways.com, you can buy a ticket from Moscow to Vladivostok. It’s a journey of almost 6,000 miles that takes you across eight time zones all the way to the Pacific Ocean in seven days. Russia is much larger than any other country. The next three biggest—Canada, the USA, and China—are less than 60% its size. Why is Russia so big?

Why is the Israel-Palestine Conflict So Hard to Resolve?

“Look, this isn’t rocket science!” We hear the phrase from teachers when they want their students to know when an issue isn’t that complex. But there’s a problem with this phrase: it implies that rocket science represents the ceiling of human intelligence, and in using it we leave our rocket scientist professors without a complex problem of their own to which they can refer. So here’s a phrase that might be helpful: “Look, this isn’t the Israeli-Palestinian conflict!” Is it really that bad?

Why Are There Protests in Venezuela?

Daniela Ruiz rubbed her wet eyes and drank some more of her coffee. She was reading about yesterday’s demonstration on social media and in the international press. There was no point checking Venezuelan media—they had to be favourable to Maduro’s government so would either ignore the protests or make up some false story. But Daniela had been on the street yesterday and seen the blood. Her country had more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia but last year food had been so scarce that 75% of the population lost weight.

Why Don't Cuba and the USA Like Each Other?

For more than fifty years now, the US and Cuba have snarled at each other across the Florida Straits. Havana is one of the few airports in the world won’t come up on expedia. American credit cards don’t work there. US law prohibits all trade with the island—the United Nations has regularly said this is illegal, but the American government doesn’t care. The bad blood is thick and old. Why?

How Did China Become So Powerful?

Once upon a time there was a beautiful kingdom called China. It had stunning mountains, gorgeous valleys, and hundreds of miles of coastline. Its government was sophisticated and efficient. Its leaders dressed in silk.  It was the wealthiest country in the world. Alas, the beautiful kingdom’s glory did not last. Foreigners invaded the land and exploited it. The people tried to resist foreign domination—their failure only made their condition worse.

After a century of humiliation, China is once more a major player in world affairs.It is the world’s second largest economy. 700 million people have escaped poverty. How did China do it?

Why is Latin America Poorer than the United States?

It is hard to believe how much richer the United States is than Latin America. Each year, the US economy generates more than three times as much wealth as the twenty countries of Latin America combined. Before Columbus arrived in 1492, the largest, wealthiest, and most technologically advanced societies were in South America and modern-day Mexico. What changed? Why are garages in the US larger than many homes in Latin America?

Why is Africa Poor?

75% of the world’s poorest countries are in Africa. More than 25% of Africans are malnourished. 30% lack access to clean water. In 2016, Africa’s GDP per person was $1,809—barely 10% of the world average.

Why is Africa so poor?

Why is South Korea So Rich?

The competition for Korea’s most famous cultural export is now closed. With more than 3 billion views, Gangnam Style has done more to put South Korea on the map than anything else. The video portrays South Korea as confident, stylish, and prosperous—and that’s accurate.

What’s remarkable is how quickly South Korea became one of the most advanced economies in the world. In 1960, the average South Korean was poorer than the average person in Senegal, Honduras, or the Philippines. Today, they are more than ten times richer. How did that happen?

What is the Electoral College?

Every four years, people all over the world watch as the results of the American presidential election come in. By the end of the night, the result is usually clear but how the process actually works is anything but. The source of confusion is the Electoral College. To win, a candidate needs to have 270 votes in the Electoral College. But what is it? What is the relationship between the few hundred voters in the Electoral College and the tens of millions who went to the polls on election day? It seems a bizarre way of choosing the president of the most powerful country in the world.

What is Boko Haram?

When Boko Haram comes on the news, you may want to turn away. Boko Haram is an Islamic terrorist organization in Northern Nigeria that has killed hundreds in the past decade. The media largely ignores the steady stream of horrors, but the group received widespread attention in 2014 for the kidnapping of 276 girls from their school dormitory. The Nigerian police and army seem incapable of halting the atrocities. The international community seems not to care.

What’s behind the violence of Boko Haram?