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Most of America Is Talking About Racial Equality

Source: Pew Research Center

Nearly 70% of survey respondents report having conversations about race or racial equality in the U.S. amid the recent Black Lives Matter protests. And the topic surged across social media following George Floyd’s death: 37% report sharing social content addressing racial injustice. 

Pew Research Center collected this data between June 4 and June 10, 2020, from 9,654 participants. The survey found significant support for the current movement: 67% of respondents say they support Black Lives Matter, and 38% say they strongly support it. “Hispanic (77%), Asian (75%) and white (60%) adults also say they at least somewhat support the Black Lives Matter movement,” the survey states, with about 40% in each group expressing strong support. 

The majority of U.S. consumers believe that brands should publicly speak out. Younger generations, especially, are holding brands accountable, expecting actions in addition to words to address racial injustice.

Grocery Prices Rise Before Thanksgiving

Source: CNBC

Thanksgiving will be a more expensive affair this year as inflation and the effects of climate change push food — including turkey — costs higher. 

Consumer prices from gas to clothing rose by 7.7% over the past year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this month. Grocery prices rose even higher, with food items 12.4% more expensive than October 2021. Turkey alone costs 23% more than last year, while the cost of staples like eggs, butter and flour has increased by up to 32.5%.

Despite the significant gains over last year, the Consumer Price Index rose less than expected in October. Prices rose 0.4%, the same increase as September, instead of the Dow Jones’ estimated 0.6%. The slowdown has some economists saying that inflation is beginning to moderate, though it is still above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.

Qatar Hosts the Most Expensive World Cup Ever

Source: Statista

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which kicked off November 20, is the most expensive World Cup ever, with costs reaching $220 billion. The expenses included new stadiums, but the majority of the money was spent on new infrastructure like hotels, airports, and a metro system. Tickets are also the highest price they’ve ever been: football fans paid an average of $340 per match, roughly 40% more than for the 2018 tournament.

Host countries like Qatar, Russia, and Brazil hope to balance the cost with this investment in infrastructure, international exposure, and a boost in tourism. Qatar expects more than 1 million tourists to come for the event. But research shows that most mega-sporting events have a zero or negative effect on tourism.

That cost-benefit analysis doesn’t include attracting international attention, but Qatar has drawn international criticism for the human cost of the tournament. Human rights organizations have accused Qatar of exploiting hundreds of thousands of Nepali migrant workers who built the stadiums. Amnesty International reports thousands of those workers died while working in high heat and dangerous conditions, though the exact count is unknown because officials attributed most deaths to “natural causes.”

Ballot Measures Reveal the Importance of Civil Rights for Americans

During the recent U.S. midterm elections, Americans voted on a wide range of ballot measures in their states on issues such as abortion, voting rights, and slavery in prisons.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade put abortion on a number of ballot measures. Five states —  California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont — chose to support abortion access. In California, Michigan, and Vermont, voters added the right to an abortion to their state constitutions. In Kentucky and Montana, voters rejected ballot measures that would have further restricted abortion — despite having Republican-led legislatures in both states.

The widespread — and false — claims of voter fraud in previous elections prompted intense scrutiny of voting rights. Voters in four out of six states expanded their voting laws, or rejected voting restrictions. Connecticut, Michigan, and Arizona voting access, while Nevada opened primaries to all voters. Nebraska and Ohio limited voting access. 

A number of states voted to remove all language from their constitutions that allowed slavery to be used as a punishment for a crime. The U.S. Constitution technically still permits slavery to be used as a punishment, but Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont voted to ban slavery in all contexts, although Louisiana voted against a ban.

Central Banks Buy Gold in Record Amounts

Source: World Gold Council/Bloomberg

Central banks around the world are buying gold in record quantities, in a bid to weather economic uncertainty and rising inflation. Demand was up 28% year-over-year in the third quarter, and central banks purchased more gold this year than they have since 1967. 

The desire for gold is being driven by investors looking for safer assets amid rapid inflation and sanctions against Russia. “Gold is often called the ultimate fear asset,” said Travis Simon, alternatives investment specialist at Mercer, in a recent interview.

Countries with emerging economies were the most likely to stock up on gold as an inflation hedge. Turkey was the top reported buyer this year, as the country’s inflation rate rose to 85% in October, while the lira fell by 29% this year (and 44% in 2021). Turkey also purchased the most gold in the third quarter of 2022, followed by Uzbekistan, which has been hurt by sanctions against its largest trading partner. 

Venezuela has the highest percentage (82%) of gold holdings as a share of its reserves, a result of inflation rising above 300% and hyperinflation rates in previous years that rendered the bolívar almost worthless. Uzbekistan has the second-highest share of gold (65%), followed by Kazakhstan (63%).

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