Sunday, July 7, 2019


The global fear of 'too few young people'
A new concern is taking hold across the developed world: rapidly aging populations that scare policymakers.

Why it matters: Population growth is key to maintaining demand for housing, filling jobs yet to be automated, and paying into pension systems pressed by demographic realities and slowing economic growth.

"You basically have a very large portion of mankind that is aging and then the workforce is shrinking. But I would say the G20 in particular are aging faster," said Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The big picture: Some countries--like the U.S.--are feeling these issues less thanks to immigration. Others--like China and Japan--are more restrictive, and feeling the bite in projected growth.

As societies get richer and women get more rights, they work more and have increased access to contraceptives.  While Europe and East Asia are already projected to lose population by 2050, the Western Hemisphere will mostly add people, and Africa's population is projected to soar, per UN projections.  The developing world is predicted to bear the brunt of climate change impacts, including potential political instability, meaning many more people might want to move to developed countries.

As we've seen in Europe and the U.S. in recent years, that isn't going well.
The bottom line: Earth has plenty of workers to do the jobs we need, just not in the countries where the jobs are right now. Fixing that mismatch is shaping up to be a central political challenge for the upcoming decades.
--Axios PM
Trump is right about China
Nearly all of the United States presidents and foreign policy experts have been wrong about China.  But President Trump has gotten this one right: The U.S. and China “are locked in a competitive struggle” that may define the 21st Century.  In recent decades, Beijing has proved that its state-run economy is at least the equal of the West’s capitalism:  “Beijing has lifted more than 850 million people out of poverty and sustained the fastest economic growth in human history.” 

Most experts believed that growing wealth and modernization would inevitably liberalize Chinese society. But when the Soviet Union fell and communism went into retreat, “the ‘end of history’ skipped China.” Instead of succumbing to the liberal international order, Beijing exploited it to create “unfair trade advantages for its favored domestic corporations.” China also stole so much intellectual property from the West that former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander called it “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

 Trump’s determination to address these unfair practices “doesn’t get the praise or attention it deserves.” Forging a more realistic China policy will be difficult, but it must start with recognizing that our interests are “at odds” with theirs.
--Amy Zegart,
When your eyes and ears lie to you
Deepfakes are coming , and  we can no longer believe what we see.  Several weeks ago, pro-Trump online activists circulated a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that appeared to show her “drunkenly slurring her words.”  The video was created by taking a real clip, slowing it down, and adjusting the pitch of her voice to make her seem drunk and incoherent.  We are now entering an era when knowing the origin of an internet video is crucial, because anyone can doctor videos with easily available tools--while highly skilled dirty tricksters can create “full-body animations,” making politicians or famous people “appear to say things that they’ve never said at all.” 

Fake news will be far more powerful when gullible millions see and hear with their own eyes and ears what partisans or foreign hackers want them to believe.  That’s why it’s legitimate for journalists to start tracking down creators of mysterious web content” and publicly identifying them. To know whether a disputed video is real, we’ll need to know who made it”--and why.
--Regina Rini, New York Times
White meat’s cholesterol risk
Eating white meat may raise your cholesterol levels as much as eating red meat.  Scientists at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute recruited 113 adults, ages 21 to 65, to eat three rotating month-long diets: one centered on lean cuts of beef, the second on lean cuts of chicken and the third on plant proteins.  Half the participants’ diets--irrespective of their main protein source--were high in saturated fats, found in foods such as butter and cheese, while half were low.  At the end of each month, researchers measured the participants’ levels of LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol that clogs arteries.  They found that white meat raised LDL levels just as much as red meat, even when saturated fat levels were equal.  Only the plant-based diets produced healthy cholesterol levels. 

Study author Ronald Krauss cautions that his research does not rule out the possibility that other effects of red-meat consumption could contribute to heart disease.  Further research is needed, he said.
No need to walk 10,000 steps
If you rarely walk your daily step target, don’t sweat it. New research has found that the 10,000 steps–a-day standard--a popular benchmark for adequate fitness and the default goal for many popular wearable activity trackers--is on the high side.   Harvard researchers gave fitness trackers to 16,000 women ages 62 to 101, recorded their step counts for seven days, and then monitored their health for a roughly four-year follow-up period. After adjusting for diet, lifestyle and other factors, the researchers found that the women who walked about 4,400 steps a day had a 41 percent lower risk of premature death than the least active, who logged about 2,700 steps.  Walking more than 4,400 steps further decreased the risk level only moderately--and the benefits plateaued at around 7,500. 

Lead author I-Min Lee says the 10,000-step goal should be lowered to encourage more people to get walking.  “If you’re someone who’s sedentary,” she says, “even a very modest increase brings you significant health benefits.”  She found that the 10,000-step target isn’t actually based on research--it stems from a 1960s marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer that played on the fact that the Japanese character for 10,000 resembles a man walking.
The 100-day smell test
A wave of startups are designing clothes for people who loathe doing laundry.  Countering decades of marketing from the cleaning industry that have conditioned many people to overwash their garments, several brands are extolling the virtues of recycling your attire--without the odoriferous consequences.  Unbound Merino “creates wool travel clothes that can go weeks without being washed.”  A brand called Pangaia boasts “$85 seaweed-fiber T-shirts that are treated with peppermint oil to keep the shirts fresher between washes.”  

Mac Bishop, founder of Wool & Prince, another no-wash outfitter, said he wore one of his company’s shirts for 100 days without washing it. The company offered a free $128 dress to women who would do the same with it--and received such an influx of women eager to take the challenge, it had to limit the free dresses to 50.
--Elizabeth Segran, Fast Company
Trump fires up base for 2020
Don’t be fooled by Trump’s theatrics.  This is not the ham-fisted Trump campaign of 2016. The president’s team has spent 2 1/2 years building “a robust, modern, professional operation” with operatives in nine regions.  He had a $40 million war chest even before the kickoff and raised $24.8 million on his first day running.  Plus, this time he has the Republican Party behind him. Don’t forget the moment in history we’re at, either, said Jon Gabriel in the Arizona Republic. If you think America will dump Trump, consider the tide of like-minded politicians in Australia, Britain and Brazil who have triumphed.  “Take a look around the globe. Trump is the new normal."
--Gabby Orr,
The reverse reference check
Too many hiring managers lie to job candidates about what a job demands.  It used to be easy to make a job sound better than it was.  No longer. In the era of Glassdoor and LinkedIn, savvy candidates will research the good, bad and ugly about your company before interviewing.  Lying results in hires who are likely to be disappointed with the job and leave.  To avoid that, one senior film executive, Vincent Szwajkowski, asks candidates if they would like to conduct reverse reference checks on him.  If they accept, he gives the names of two people who worked for him--usually including one person who did not work out.
--Atta Tarki and Jeff Weiss, Harvard Business Review

Retail pain means lost jobs, too
Retail continues to suffer--and the trade wars don’t help.  From January through mid-June, U.S. companies announced plans to close some 7,000 brick-and-mortar stores, more closures than in all of 2018.” Many of the dark or soon-to-be dark storefronts are household names such as Payless ShoeSource, Gap, J.C. Penney, and Family Dollar, and the industry has lost 160,000 jobs since 2017.  

Yet for some reason retail’s demise hasn’t inspired nearly the same level of sympathy as have similar challenges in other industries.  Perhaps it is because there’s no Rust Belt–like locus for presidential candidates to pander to.  Or perhaps it’s because retail isn’t as ‘manly’ as manufacturing: About half of retail employees are women. 

Unfortunately, President Trump’s tariffs are kicking these companies while they’re already down.  His plan to levy new duties on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods will stress already-thin profit margins and raise prices on cellphones, clothing, toys, shoes, and so on.  Retail companies, understandably, are freaking out.  They source much of their inventory from China and can’t reroute their supply chains easily, cheaply, or quickly.  Trump has cushioned the impact of the trade war for other industries through taxpayer-funded bailouts and subsidies.  But no such rescue seems in the offing for retail.  After all, how would you bail out nearly every taxpayer in the country?
--Catherine Rampell, Washington Post

Mega-farms get a sweet trade bailout
Rich farmers, not mom-and-pop farms, will be the big winners in Trump’s $28 billion tariff bailout.   Soybean exports have cratered, thanks to the China trade war, and pork, corn, grain, and dairy producers are all worried anew, now that the president has announced plans to impose tariffs on Mexican imports.  

To cover most of their losses, Trump issued a $12 billion farm bailout last year and an additional $16 billion bailout [recently].  But most of that money will go not to the small holdings that account for 89 percent of American farms, but to large industrialized operations.  Most of them are already major beneficiaries of federal crop support programs that steer billions in subsidies and low-priced crop insurance--including insurance that already covers some of their losses in the trade war.   
Meanwhile, reports from the prairie states indicate that the trade war is driving many small farmers out of business.  Trump tweeted recently that “our great Patriot farmers have been forgotten” for many years.  That’s not true:  U.S. agriculture has been among the most heavily subsidized sectors of the economy.  It’s just that with the tariff bailout, as with other farm subsidies, the biggest payments will go to those  who need them least.
--Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times

No comments: