Archive for month: February, 2019

Uh Oh, The Young and the Restless, and the Old and the Healthy

As part of our knee rehab, we are required to lie in a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine which slowly bends and straightens our knee. We do this many, many hours each day. It appears to be helping although it is no substitute for the strengthening exercises we also do multiple times each day  To pass the time on Wednesday morning in the CPM machine, we tuned into Michael Cohen’s appearance before Congress. There representatives passively made statements and asked questions according to their place in the political register. While the TV lights burned brightly on the scene, the members’ statements and questions illuminated nothing, as the Continuous Political Machine passively moved their lips and minds. We wonder whether Members of Congress need to step out of their CPMs and do some actual exercises. And while we wonder, prone in our CPM machine, we strengthen our mind on India and Pakistan’s underreported military engagements, do another rep on world demographics and ice ourselves with which is the most healthy country. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, like Bradley Cooper, performing a duet with our Lady Gaga world.

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

Uh Oh

While we were all obsessing over an actor making up a crime and whether Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are an item, one nuclear power attacked another with conventional weapons. Yes, earlier this week India “launched an airstrike” in PakistanI territory. This was ostensibly in retaliation for a suicide bombing in Kashmir a few weeks ago. India asserted it destroyed a terrorist camp in Pakistan that was planning additional strikes in Kashmir. Pakistan claims India’s planes were intercepted and “released their payloads early without any casualties.” Pakistan’s foreign minister called India’s action a “grave aggression” and said it reserves the right to a “suitable response and self defense.” It now claims it has, shooting down one of India’s planes over Pakistani territory. We get the allure of Michael Cohen’s testimony, and the focus on the U.S. and North Korea, but it is remarkable nonetheless how little coverage or comment there have been on these incidents. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Have a nice day.

The Young and the Restless

Long time readers know we are somewhat obsessed with demographics, but in a good Stephen Curry practicing three pointers way, not in an Alfred Hitchcock Vertigo disturbing manner. So imagine our data joy when we stumbled upon a map in Visual Capitalist of the median age of every continent’s population. Europe (really part of Eurasia—read Bruno Marceis’ thought provoking book, the Dawn of Eurasia) is the oldest with a median age of 42. Africa is crazily young, with a median age of only 18. That’s where economic growth, and perhaps trouble, given all the young men, is likely to be found over the next few decades. In fact, the top five youngest countries in the world are all to be found in Africa. Three of the oldest countries in the world are in Europe with Germany, Italy and Greece the 3rd, 5th and 6th oldest countries in the world. Contrast this to 1950 when Europe’s median age was just below 30 and in Asia it was in the low 20s. Look at today’s data and you can get a pretty good picture of our world’s future.

The Old and the Healthy

Bloomberg released their annual Healthiest Country Index this week and lists Spain as the healthiest country in the world (clearly not referring to their economy). The index “grades nations based on variables including life expectancy while imposing penalties on risks such as tobacco use and obesity. It also takes into consideration environmental factors including access to clean water and sanitation.” Spain has the third-longest life expectancy, behind only Japan and Switzerland who are both ranked in the top five in the Index. Clearly we should be eating more nuts, fish and olive oil per the Mediterranean Diet. We note that Singapore is ranked eighth, whose health care system, for reasons we don’t understand, continues to be ignored as a model by those wanting to reform the U.S. system.

The Most Popular App, the Key to Solving Climate Change, and Who is Most Connected

You may remember a few weeks ago when we wrote about DJ Marshmello playing a live set in the online video game Fortnite to 10 million people. It turns out this was not uncontroversial in the electronic dance music (EDM) world. Our expert on EDM is the nice young man who staffs the front desk of the physical therapy place we go to for our knee rehab (which is going well thus far, thanks be to the joint gods). Over the last year he has kept us informed on a variety of EDM shows he attends. He informed us that other DJs were criticizing Marshmello for “selling out” by performing in Fortnite. Our young EDM expert, to his credit, thought this was silly. If, as we have asserted in this space, 75 percent of the world’s problems are due to people having the wrong definition of winning, it is also true that 17 percent of the world’s problems are due to people (83 percent of whom are young men) trying to be cool. We can remember in our youth similar arguments to the Marshmello one today about bands and artists and who was cool and who was not. Nearly 91 percent of those arguments, in hindsight, were hogwash, to use an uncool term. Such a mindset infuses the current story about Ryan Adam’s treatment of women and how Mandy Moore is perceived. So we coolly tell you about the most popular app in the world, don our leather jacket as we determine what climate change’s fate hinges on, and lower our sunglasses to name the most connected country in the world. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, the Fonzie of international information and data e-newsletters.

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

The Most Popular App in the World

Tired of Yelp? Haven’t used Ocarina or your fitness app in years? Well it’s time to get with the masses and download the most popular app on the Apple platform—Xuexi Qiangguo, which teaches “Xi Jinping Thought” to its users. According to the South China Morning Post, “Xuexi Qiangguo requires users to sign up with their mobile numbers and real names. Study points are earned by users who log on the app, read articles, make comments every day and participate in multiple-choice tests about the party’s policies.” The article notes Communist Party member are “required to use the app every day and accumulate their scores,” which might be a way to get your kids to finally put down their smart phones during family dinners. So download the app now. It’s free…unlike the country.

World’s Climate Change Fate Hinges on the World

The current U.S. Administration’s negligence on climate change is disheartening. But, Noah Smith reminds us that no matter what the U.S. does, the real climate game revolves around the rest of the world as you see in Smith’s graph below. U.S. CO2 emission have been relatively flat since 1981. The rest of the world, on the other coal-darkened hand, has more than doubled its CO2 emissions since 1980. A small portion of this increase is due to the U.S. importing more of its goods but most of it is not. The much discussed Green New Deal is only worthwhile for as much as it can also help the rest of the world decrease its carbon emissions by creating new technologies and implementing effective, replicable policies. Here’s a thought provoking Twitter thread on where our real challenges lie in addressing climate change. Hint: agriculture and industry will be a bigger challenge than transportation and electricity.

How Globalized is the World?

Globalization, or at least the immigration part of globalization, has caused angst and shot-in-foot moves in both Europe and the U.S. But just how much is the world “globalized?” According to DHL’s Global Connectedness Index, the world has become more connected but is still not particularly globalized. The report issued earlier this week states the “Global Connectedness Index rose to a record high in 2017. For the first time since 2007, trade, capital, information, and people flows all intensified significantly.” But still, only “20% of economic output around the world is exported, roughly 7% of phone call minutes (including calls over the internet) are international, and only 3% of people live outside the countries where they were born.“ The Netherlands, which has been a major trading country for centuries, is the most connected country in the world, followed by Singapore. There is much to digest in the index. Start dining.


Billy Beane Trade Data, Parallel Worlds II, and Who Jails the Most Journalists

As we type, we gaze at a snow-draped lawn (which means there may be typos in this, we should really be looking at the computer screen). Weather is the great humbler of humans. Whether Napoleon in Russia, the winds destroying the Spanish Armada or our flight from San Diego earlier this week much delayed due to the Seattle snow. In the airport bar we listened to people’s plans stymied by the mathematical chaos that are meteorological conditions. After midnight we made it home and flashlight in hand trudged carefully towards the hobby house in our backyard where we could not remember if we had plugged in the pipe heater (a few years back a pipe burst with all the accompanying expense and chaos). We stopped in our tracks when we came across large animal pawprints in the snow. They seemed too large for a dog or even a raccoon, although if it was the latter it must have been some ancient monster raccoon thought only to exist in myth. We searched around the yard, followed the footprints to the back fence, then satisfied we were safe, opened the hobby house to find we had indeed plugged in the pipe heater earlier in the winter. Which is all to say life brings many unexpected moments, including that a year ago we would not have anticipated our fourth knee surgery in 13 months this coming Monday. So though we would have loved to, there will be no International Need to Know next Thursday on Valentine’s Day.* But, we do provide you a sweetheart of services trade data, a Marshmello treat of Parallel Worlds and a sour candy of jailed journalists. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, a snow flurry of important international data and information.

*We hope to be back February 21st.

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

Services are Billy Beane of Trade

We often compare international trade data to pre-Sabermetrics baseball statistics, simple to understand, but crude, misleading and prone to error. Even the current data we have is generally presented incompletely. When you see trade data in the news it is often only referring to “merchandise” trade, items you can touch and feel like cars, computers and caviar. It usually does not include services trade such as education, software and engineering services. But services trade is growing while merchandise trade wanes like an aging right-handed pitcher. According to VisualCapitalist, services trade in 2017 grew 60 percent faster than merchandise trade. From 2007 to 2017, telecom and IT services exports increased the fastest. In fact, McKinsey and Company calculates that services trade may already be larger than merchandise trade, now totaling $13.4 trillion. The Billy Beanes of China understand this and it helps explain a variety of China’s policies. Get with the trade Moneyball, folks.

Parallel Worlds II: The Wrath of Marshmello

Following up on last week’s revelation of the parallel world of fashion vloggers, this week we discover how live music is gravitating to online video games. According to, last weekend DJ Marshmello (his super group S’mores is awesome) played a live set to 10 million people in the video game, Fortnite. Tencent, the Chinese IT powerhouse based in Shenzhen, owns 40 percent of the company that makes Fortnite, which has over 200 million users. That’s as many as Spotify and thus a good entrée into the live music business. MusicBusiness Worldwide reports, “DJ star Marshmello played an exclusive in-game concert in Fornite at 2pm ET. Fortnite players could watch the virtual show for free, so long as they made sure their avatar was available at the concert’s location (Pleasant Park).” Virtual concert attendees’ avatars could dance at the concert. We were at a concert last weekend in a Parallel World—Trombone Shorty. We tried to dance as adeptly as an Avatar. We probably failed. But, again we are all living in parallel worlds that rarely collide (not even on the dance floor).

Who Jails the Most Journalists?

The world has become a more dangerous place for journalists in recent years with more reporters being killed and imprisoned. But as Ian Bremmer recently pointed out, a mere five countries are responsible for jailing 70 percent of the world’s journalists. Your cowardly five are in order Turkey, China, Egypt, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia. So we could solve a large part of the problem if those five countries would grow up. If we look at where journalists are being killed the most it’s no surprise that it’s predominantly in war zones with that ever ending battle in Afghanistan leading the way with 13 journalists killed in 2018, followed by Syria (9), India (5), the U.S. (4) and Mexico (4).