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Journalist Deaths Drop to Lowest Point in 16 Years, But Press Freedoms Continue to Decline

Map colors indicate the press freedom situation across the world from good to very bad.

The number of journalists killed worldwide reached a 16-year low in 2019, according to Reporters Without Borders. Forty-nine journalists were killed this year, down from 80 journalists killed on average over the past two decades.

In its annual Press Freedom Index, the NGO cited a de-escalation in several war zones, such as Syria and Iraq, as the main reason behind the drop. Deterioration of press freedom continues, however, across the world and is cause for alarm, the Paris-based NGO states.

Major economies in the United States, India and Brazil all saw their press freedom rankings slip as tense political climates created difficult working environments for journalists. The Asia-Pacific region, however, showed mixed results, with Australia sliding in the rankings and Malaysia seeing marked improvement. “Malaysia … highlight[s] the degree to which political change can radically transform the climate for journalists and how a country’s political ecosystem can directly affect press freedom,” the report read.

The Global Cities Most At Risk of a Housing Bubble

Frankfurt, Toronto and Hong Kong are the cities most at risk of a housing bubble, according to new research by Switzerland-based UBS. Its latest Global Real Estate Bubble Index found nine cities around the world that have a high index score. Meanwhile, Madrid, Milan and Warsaw are deemed to be cities with “fairly valued” housing, and Dubai has a negative index score, indicating that its housing is undervalued.

Overall, bubble risk has increased, along with the potential severity of a price correction, as a result of rising house prices across the world. UBS has found that growth in home prices increased 6% from mid-year 2020 to mid-year 2021 — the highest rate of growth since 2014.

To determine a city’s index score, UBS tracks whether a city shows symptoms of previous real estate bubbles, such as a decoupling of prices from local incomes and rents, and imbalances in the real economy, such as excessive lending and construction activity. In Frankfurt, for example, housing prices have increased steadily every year since 2016, in part due to a focus on building luxury housing, but the average price-to-income ratio has doubled in the last decade, leaving housing unaffordable for many. These trends point to a possible correction if the housing bubble were to burst.

Supporting US Airlines Could Recover 10% of GDP

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The U.S. aviation industry is seeing a moderate recovery from the pandemic, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. August saw a total of 592,760 flights, 84.1% of the number from August 2019, continuing its strong performance from July.

Despite the recovery in total flights operated, pandemic concerns and international travel restrictions have kept capacity down. Analysis by Oliver Wyman shows that seat totals are still down from pre-pandemic levels. Capacity for the top 15 airlines is 12.8% below 2019 levels, meaning the industry expects significant losses in 2021 — $38.7 billion, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Airlines have survived on government support, according to IATA, and only have enough funds to stay afloat for around 8.5 months. Supporting airlines’ recovery “is one of the most important investments that governments can make. It will save jobs and kick-start the recovery in the travel and tourism sector which accounts for 10% of global GDP,” says IATA’s CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.

Crypto Investment Surges by Nearly 400%

$15 billion. That’s how much funding has gone into blockchain/crypto startups in 2021, according to a new report by CB Insights. Over 800 deals were made, with U.S.-based CoinBase Ventures leading the pack with 24. Of the top 10 investors, just two are based outside the U.S. — Hong Kong-based Kinetic Capital and Japan-based SoftBank Group.

Two billion dollars were invested in NFT (non-fungible token) companies, a 6,427% increase from 2020, while almost $4 billion was invested in custody and wallet companies, which provide user-friendly crypto storage solutions. Crypto exchange companies such as FTX received $3.7 million in funding as well. This increase in investment shows a significant appetite for solutions offered by decentralized systems, such as opportunities in cybersecurity, privacy, control of confidential data and supply chain management, as well as new business models created by decentralized finance.

The U.S. leads the world in total funding with $2.96 billion in funding, followed by $1.43 billion funded by Asia-based companies and $1.14 billion from European-based companies.

EU Nears Employment Recovery While US Lags Behind

Impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, neither the United States nor the European Union is at pre-pandemic employment levels. The E.U., however, is closer to a full recovery than the U.S., according to BRINK analysis of OECD and U.S. Bureau Labor and Statistics data.

OECD data show that the European Union’s employment rate dropped less than 1% during the pandemic and has already recovered to nearly pre-pandemic levels. According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the limited impact was mainly “because governments were quick to expand their national job-retention schemes.”

The United States, on the other hand, suffered a substantial dip in the employment rate and — while its increase from 2020 is more dramatic than the E.U. — increased retirements among the great resignation and a mass refusal to work under “poor conditions” have contributed to a slow recovery in 2021, leaving 7.4 million Americans unemployed.

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