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What We Read Today 23 November 2014

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

  • House panel finds no intelligence failure in Benghazi attacks (Greg Miller, The Washington Post) Republicans officially conclude that there was appropriate State Department, U.S. military and CIA response to the attack on the Benghazi consulate in Libya which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, 11 September 2012. Allegations of interference by the Obama administration before, during or after the attack were dismissed. The Republican-led House Intelligence Committee found that the Obama administration did not seek to mislead the public after the event.

  • Strange Visitors From the Edge of the Solar System (Michael D. Lemonick, Time, MSN News) The Oort cloud is a giant spherical swarm of small objects extending from outside the extremes of the solar system for perhaps 1/3 to 1/4 the distance to the nearest star. The Oort cloud has been thought to be comprised of ice-clad bodies which become comets on the occasions that one is dislodged from solar orbit and penetrates into the inner solar system (where the planets are). In the past couple of years objects that clearly originated in the Oort cloud have been observed that are similar to inert rocky objects (asteroids). (Until now asteroids have been thought to occupy primarily interplanetary space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and other orbits within the inner solar system.) As these discoveries and recent theories have accumulated the mass of the Oort cloud has been growing. In 1983 it was estimated to be 1.9 earth masses. In 2012 the estimate (based on observations of comets) was estimated to be between 4 and 80 earth masses. In between (1988) another model calculated a much larger mass was possible, 0.03 solar masses or about 10,000 earth masses, which would be of the order of the entire planetary system before loss of volatiles. As more is learned will the amount of material in the Oort cloud turn out to be much greater than that which has been estimated using observations of comets? Will the planets of the solar system eventually be determined much less than half the total mass of matter orbiting our sun? Will mankind eventually be able to "harvest" the resources such a vast amount of material would have to offer? Some think so. See Planetary Resources.
  • Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


Officials Revise Goals on Containing Ebola After Signs of Wider Exposure in Mali (The New York Times)

U.S. officers mourn losing their 1st Ebola patient (USA Today)


Boko Haram kills 48 fish vendors in Nigeria (News 24)


Somalia's al-Shabab kills 28 non-Muslims in Kenya (Associated Press, MSN News)


US and Turkey discuss 'strengthening Syrian opposition' (BBC News)


Syria could be next target of Canada's CF-18s (CBC News)


Thousands of Iraq Chemical Weapons Destroyed in Open Air, Watchdog Says (The New York Times)

Sources: ISIS kills 25 Anbar tribesmen in Iraq (Al Arabiya)


Kiev says Russia has 7,500 troops in Ukraine (Al Jazeera)


Ukraine crisis: Lavrov warns over Russia 'regime change' goal (BBC News)

US, Canada & Ukraine vote against Russia’s anti-Nazism resolution at UN (RT)

There are 9 articles discussed today 'behind the wall', all addressing estimates of global demographic changes for the 21st century.

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  • No country for young people (The Economist) Secular stagnation is a condition of depressed interest rates (even negative "natural" rates) and little economic growth. Demographics may be a primary force that could create a half century, and by extrapolation, longer secular stagnation for the world's leading economies. Only the U.S. seems destined to escape this anchor, with Great Britain escaping as heavy a demographic drag as the others shown in the graph. Of course India is not shown and they will have a strongly expanding population for the next several decades. And in Africa, Nigeria is expected to grow into the world's third most populous nation in the coming decades. Will the top economies challenging the U.S. be led by India and Nigeria by 2050, rather than China? See following articles.


  • 10 projections for the global population in 2050 (Rakesh Kochhar, Pew Research Center) The populations under 15 and over 65 are classified as the "dependent cohort". These two groups are considered to be dependent on the production of those between ages 15 and 64 (inclusive). Of course there are those over 65 who are "producers" and some between 15 and 64 who are "non-producers" so the "dependency ratios" calculated from pure population age distribution numbers are really rough estimates. With that understood, the demographic issues facing the global economy with respect to producers supporting non-producers in 2050 will be very close to those in 1970. The peak dependency ratio came around 1960 at 40%. In 1970 it was 38%. The dependency ratio declined to a minimum in 2010 (~33%) and then is projected to grow again until 2030 to reach 39% where it is projected to remain until 2050.

  • Age invaders (The Economist) An aging demographic is not a situation which is all negative, at least not as negative as some doom and gloomers would have us believe. With the global population age 65 and older set to double over the next 25 years while the total population will grow about
  • A World With 11 Billion People? New Population Projections Shatter Earlier Estimates (Robert Kunzig, National Geographic) There are "dueling projections of population growth" which "present different visions of the world's future". Incorporating all models, there is a 95% likelihood of world population being 9.6 ±0.6 billion people by 2050 and about 11 ±2 billion by 2100. The largest uncertainties in the estimates come from India (to a lesser extent) and China as well as sub-Sahara Africa to the greatest extent.


  • World population to hit 11bn in 2100 – with 70% chance of continuous rise (Damien Carrington, The Guardian) This article offers little (and actually a little less) than the National Geographic article preceding. But it does have one vary informative additional graphic. It shows the extreme effects of missing the effective global fertility rate by 0.5 births per woman. The median projection from the UN still has global population rising (but very slowly) in 2100, so the estimated average fertility rate for the planet in that year is slightly larger than 2.1 (the population replacement rate). The projections are for a decline from the rates as of 2010 of 2.53, which were down from 3.04 in 1995 and 4.44 in 1975. But if the estimates are consistently 0.5 births per woman higher than estimated year-by-year throughout the century, the population estimate for 2100 swells by more than 50% to nearly 17 billion souls; and if the UN has overestimated fertility rates consistently by 0.5 births per woman for the 21st century the population of earth will be less than the 7 million people we have today. The global estimates are quite uncertain because of the high variability of birth rates from country. See next article.


  • New UN Population Projections Released: Pockets of High Fertility Drive Overall Increase (Elizabeth Leahy Madsen, New Security Beat) The fertility rate is widely variable across the globe with rates as low as 1/3 - 1.5 per woman in some industrialized countries and as high as 5 or 6 in some third world countries. The population replacement rate is about 2.1. Most projections have the average effective fertility rate for the entire planet remaining above 2.1 into the 22nd century. But missing this target by a small amount can dramatically change long range population estimates. See preceding article. For example, the revisions in the UN population estimates data for Nigeria in 2050 increased by 50 million people when the 2050 estimated fertility rate for the country was increased from 2.4 to 3.8.
  • Japan's Demographic Nightmare Illustrated In An Exquisite GIF (Shane Ferro, Business Insider) Japan's demographic problem could be called "peak people". By the way, China and much of Europe will be following the same path, just further out in time. Click left end of bar below graphic to repeat animation.

  • Adventures in Population Growth (Jim Laird, Laird Research) This is the source of the animated graphics in the preceding discussions. Go here to see graphics for other countries with big aging demographic problems (Germany and China) as well as those with relatively minor problems (India, France and the U.S.) The following graph shows a global summary of the projected changes from 2013 to 2030. The data changes going out another 20 years to 2050. Countries which improve relative to 2030 include the U.S. and India and those that get worse include China and Germany.

  • Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Economics Is a Dismal Science for Women (Bloomberg View)

Economics Is Really Hard, Even for Harvard Ph.D.s (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Here’s what Obama didn’t tell you on economics of immigration (MarketWatch)

What's the Economic Impact of Obama's Immigration Plan? (The Wall Street Journal)

Pope Francis Doesn't Really Understand This Economics Thing, Does He? (Forbes)

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