“The Era Of Negative Population Growth Is Coming Soon”

Submitted by Nicholas Colas of DataTrek Research

Guess which country’s preeminent social sciences think tank wrote in a recent report: “The era of negative population growth is coming soon”. That “soon” is a tell, because this is not from researchers in Japan, Italy, Portugal or Greece. All those countries already show negative population growth.

The country in question is China. Using expected future fertility rates from the United Nations (which must comport with their own analysis, or they would have used their own numbers), the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reported that:

  • The Chinese population will peak at 1.442 billion people a decade from now in 2029.

  • From 2030 on, the population base will shrink by 0.3% annually until 2050, at which point it will be 1.364 billion.

  • The trend to a smaller Chinese population will extend to at least 2065, at which point the country will be back to levels last seen in 1996 (1.248 billion).

  • All this assumes fertility rates increase from the current 1.6 children per woman to 1.77 by the end of the forecast horizon. The researchers note that if fertility rates remain constant, China’s population will decrease to 1.172 billion people by 2065, the same as it was in 1990.

  • Link to the report at the end of this section. Google Translate works well here.

All this stands in stark contrast to United Nations projections for many regions of the world (2000 – 2050):

  • Asia as a whole: +0.7% per annum

  • Africa: +2.3%

  • South/Central America/Caribbean: +0.8%

  • North America: +0.7%

  • Oceana: +1.2%

  • Only Europe is expected to show population declines on a regional basis, at -0.3%.

China’s “one child” policy, which ran from 1979 – 2015, is one cause of the country’s current demographic challenge. After it was changed to a “two child policy” in 2016, fertility rates did pick up for a year but declined again in 2017 and 2018. Demographers use 2.1 children/woman as a “replacement rate” for the existing population. In 2018, China’s fertility rate was 1.6 children/woman, below the Chinese Academy’s worst-case long-term scenario mentioned above.

Now, you’re no doubt aware of the demographic challenges facing the other countries we mentioned at the top of this section, and how those inform macroeconomic policy and long run growth potential. Japan and much of Europe are already shrinking, a significant issue for policymakers from local officials all the way to the European Central Bank. Add to that an associated increase in median age of the population, and you get a gale of headwinds that are hard to redress.

What’s also interesting to us about the Chinese data: compare the expected median age of the population there in 2050 (30 years from now) to some of the countries/regions we know already face the issue of a shrinking and aging base of citizens:

  • Japan: 48.6 years median age of the population today

  • Europe: 42.7 median age today

  • China’s current median age: 35.6 years

  • China’s median age in 2030: 41.1 years (close to Europe today)

  • China’s median age in 2050: 45.2 years (close to Japan today)

  • Worth noting: North America’s median age is currently 37.5 years, 5% older than China’s current reading. By 2050 projections have it at 42.1 years, 7% younger than China’s population.

The upshot to all this in 3 summary points:

#1: Demography is not destiny, but it is always a factor to consider when assessing a country/region’s long-term growth rates. Recent economic history in Europe and Japan shows that when population growth goes negative and median age rises, a host of economic and political stresses come to the fore.

#2: A country’s potential GDP growth is a function of population and productivity growth, and nothing else. Chinese policy makers know that the impending decline of the local population must come with significant advances in productivity to assure future growth. While the country has scaled back on its “Made in China 2025” rhetoric, it must continue to invest in disruptive technology to enable future productivity gains. Population growth will soon be an outright negative to the GDP equation.

#3: Unlike China, Japan and Europe, US population growth should remain positive through 2050 and beyond. The US Census Bureau does have a slow decline in percentage terms in their numbers, from 0.70%/year now to 0.40%/year in the out years. That may not seem like much, but it is a notable difference when other major economic centers around the world will be shrinking. Score one more point for favoring US equities, our current (and long-standing) investment position.

Sources:

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences report: http://ex.cssn.cn/zx/bwyc/201901/t20190104_4806519_1.shtml

A New York Times article published just after the report was issued, with more information: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/01/17/world/asia/china-population-crisis.html

Median Age Projections: https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/median-age-projections

Off-Duty Pilot Saved Doomed Lion Air 737 From Nosedive Day Before Deadly Crash

An off-duty pilot hitching a ride in the cockpit jumpseat of a doomed 737 Max 8 last October reportedly saved the plane just one day before it crashed off the coast of Indonesia while being operated by a different crew, killing 189 onboard. 

Lion Air Boeing 737-8 MAX

According to Bloomberg, the ‘dead-head’ pilot on the earlier flight from Bali to Jakarta was able to explain to the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system by cutting power to a motor driving the nose of the plane down. 

Rescue team members carry wreckage from Lion Air Flight 610 at the Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Thursday. Beawiharta/Reuters

The previously undisclosed detail supports the suggestion that a lack of training is may be at least partially to blame in the March 10 crash of another 727 Max 8

The previously undisclosed detail on the earlier Lion Air flight represents a new clue in the mystery of how some 737 Max pilots faced with the malfunction have been able to avert disaster while the others lost control of their planes and crashed. The presence of a third pilot in the cockpit wasn’t contained in Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee’s Nov. 28 report on the crash and hasn’t previously been reported. –Bloomberg

As we noted last week, several pilots had repeatedly warned federal authorities of the Max 8’s shortcomings, with one pilot describing the plane’s flight manual as “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.” 

The fact that this airplane requires such jury-rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error-prone — even if the pilots aren’t sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know?” wrote the captain. 

After the Lion Air crash, two U.S. pilots’ unions said the potential risks of the system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, hadn’t been sufficiently spelled out in their manuals or training. None of the documentation for the Max aircraft included an explanation, the union leaders said. –Bloomberg

“We don’t like that we weren’t notified,” said Southwest Airlines Pilots Association president Jon Weaks in November. “It makes us question, ‘Is that everything, guys?’ I would hope there are no more surprises out there.” 

In the Lion Air crash, a malfunctioning sensor is believed to have tricked the plane’s computers to force the nose of the plane down to avoid a stall. Following the March 10 crash less than six months later – which followed a “very similar” track to the Lion Air flight, All Boeing 737 Max 8s were grounded by US regulators following dozens of countries and airlines doing so first. 

“After this horrific Lion Air accident, you’d think that everyone flying this airplane would know that’s how you turn this off,” said former FAA accident investigation division director Steve Wallace. 

Meanwhile, investigators are now looking into how the new 737 model was approved. The Transportation Department’s inspector general has begun an inquiry into the plane’s certification, while a grand jury under the US DOJ is also seeking records in a possible criminal investigation of the plane’s certification

“We will fully cooperate in the review in the Department of Transportation’s audit,” said Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers. 

The Reality Of Mind-Reading: Neuroscientists Can Predict Your Choices 11 Seconds Before You Make Them

Authored by Dagny Taggart via The Organic Prepper blog,

Does free will truly exist?

According to a new study, maybe not. It appears that we may have less control over our personal choices than we think. Unconscious brain activity seems to determine our choices well before we are even aware of them.

Researchers at the Future Minds Lab at UNSW School of Psychology in Australia were able to predict basic choices participants made BEFORE they consciously declared their decisions. Their findings were published last week in the journal Scientific Reports.

For the experiment, the researchers asked 14 participants to freely choose between two visual patterns – one of red horizontal stripes and one of green vertical stripes –  before consciously imagining them while being observed in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI).

They were given a maximum of 20 seconds to choose between the patterns. Once they’d made a decision, they pressed a button and had 10 seconds to visualize the pattern as hard as they could. Next, they were asked “what did you imagine?” and “how vivid was it?” They answered these questions by pressing buttons.

The results were unsettling.

Scientists were able to predict which pattern people would choose before their thoughts even became conscious.

Here is an explanation of the results, from the UNSW press release:

Not only could the researchers predict which pattern they would choose, they could also predict how strongly the participants were to rate their visualizations. With the assistance of machine learning, the researchers were successful at making above-chance predictions of the participants’ volitional choices at an average of 11 seconds before the thoughts became conscious.

The brain areas that revealed information about the future choices were located in executive areas of the brain – where our conscious decision-making is made – as well as visual and subcortical structures, suggesting an extended network of areas responsible for the birth of thoughts. (source)

Professor Joel Pearson said we may have thoughts on ‘standby’ based on previous brain activity, which then influences our final decisions without us being aware:

“We believe that when we are faced with the choice between two or more options of what to think about, non-conscious traces of the thoughts are there already, a bit like unconscious hallucinations.

As the decision of what to think about is made, executive areas of the brain choose the thought-trace which is stronger. In, other words, if any pre-existing brain activity matches one of your choices, then your brain will be more likely to pick that option as it gets boosted by the pre-existing brain activity.

This would explain, for example, why thinking over and over about something leads to ever more thoughts about it, as it occurs in a positive feedback loop.” (source)

The subjective strength of future thoughts was also dependent on activity housed in the early visual cortex, an area in the brain that receives visual information from the outside world. This suggests that the current state of activity in perceptual areas (which are believed to change randomly) has an influence on how strongly we think about things, the researchers explained.

This study isn’t the first to show that our thoughts can be predicted before we have them.

While these findings might seem shocking, this study isn’t the first to show that thoughts can be predicted before they are conscious.

This study builds on previous research, reports Quartz:

As the researchers note, similar techniques have been able to predict motor decisions between seven and 10 seconds before they’re conscious,  and abstract decisions up to four seconds before they’re conscious. Taken together, these studies show how understanding how the brain complicates our conception of free will.

Neuroscientists have long known that the brain prepares to act before you’re consciously aware, and there are just a few milliseconds between when a thought is conscious and when you enact it. Those milliseconds give us a chance to consciously reject unconscious impulses, seeming to form a foundation of free will. (source)

The researchers say that their findings may have implications for mental disorders involving thought intrusions that use mental imagery, such as PTSD. They cautioned against assuming that all choices are predetermined by pre-existing brain activity.

“Our results cannot guarantee that all choices are preceded by involuntary images, but it shows that this mechanism exists, and it potentially biases our everyday choices,” Professor Pearson said.

This kind of research could benefit people with certain disorders – but at what cost?

This kind of mind-reading technology certainly appears to have the potential for abuse and manipulation if it falls into the hands of the wrong people.

What does this mean for ? What does this mean for those being interrogated by law enforcement?

The list of ramifications could go on and on.

This is only part of a growing problem with invasive technology.

Just last month, a team of neuro-engineers at Columbia University reported that they developed a system that can translate people’s thoughts into intelligible, recognizable speech.

If you are concerned about how far all of this research is going to go, you aren’t alone. As I asked in Science FACT: Mind-Reading Technology Is Now Reality:

With this rapid progression of technological advancement, one has to wonder…how close are we to technological singularity?

Oh, and on that note – Facebook is really into the idea of accessing user information directly from their brains. Yes, you read that correctly: Facebook wants to read users’ minds. During a February interviewwith Harvard law school professor Jonathan Zittrain, CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned a brain-computer interface (it would look similar to a shower cap) the social media behemoth is researching.

In response, Zittrain said, “Fifth Amendment implications are staggering.”

Zuckerberg’s reply will surprise no one: “Presumably, this would be something that someone would choose to use as a product.”

Despite years of bad press, public outrage over violations, and the loss of millions of users (and counting), Facebook remains determined to infect our lives whether we want it to or not. And if you believe you are safe from the tech giant’s creepy stalker tactics, think again: Even if you have deactivated all of your social media accounts – or never had any in the first place – your is not guaranteed.

Technology is progressing so rapidly it is difficult to keep up.

Nearly every day, reports of new and potentially invasive developments are being announced. Scientists and technology companies claim that this research is for the benefit of society, even while warning us about its potential dangers.

It sure seems like a dystopian nightmare is approaching.

Prosecutors Offer To Drop Robert Kraft Prostitution Charges, But There’s A Catch

Several weeks after America gasped in shocked amazement after prosecutors announced that some of the most wealthy and powerful people had been busted in a sting operation targeting a Jupiter, Florida strip mall spa where they paid about $70 for a rub and tug, and were charged with prostitution, on Tuesday Florida prosecutors offered to drop charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a number of other men – including several Wall Street legends – charged with soliciting prostitution… but there is a catch.

As the WSJ reports, the settlement offered calls for the men to admit they would have been proven guilty at trial, in other words, unlike a typical SEC settlement where a party can get away with neither admitting nor denying guilt, in this case, the “johns” have to admit guilt.

While the proposed deferred prosecution agreement calls for completion of an education course about prostitution, completion of 100 hours of community service, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and payment of some court costs, it also includes the unusual provision for the defendants to review the evidence in the case and agree that, if it were to go to trial, the state would be able to prove their guilt, a WSJ source said.

It isn’t clear whether Kraft and others would accept such a condition, especially since when the charges were announced, a spokesman for Mr. Kraft denied he engaged in illegal activity.

Perhaps the proposal is not that bizarre: a spokesman for the Florida attorney’s office said that it is the standard resolution for first-time offenders, or they go to trial.

While Kraft, whose Patriots won the Super Bowl in February, was one of more than two dozen men charged with solicitation last month in Jupiter as part of a multi-city investigation into multiple South Florida spas, and was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution, acts prosecutors say were caught on video surveillance.

Kraft has pleaded not guilty.

Meanwhile, legal experts have raised questions about the tactics Jupiter, Fla., police used in obtaining search warrants for an investigation they said was intended to stop a growing human trafficking problem.

Here’s why it is odd: prosecutors and law-enforcement officials described the investigation as a probe into human trafficking and portrayed the men who patronized the spas as contributing to the demand for sex slavery.

The front door of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa

In announcing the charges, Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, had called human trafficking “evil in our midst,” echoing the rhetoric of law-enforcement officials. And yet, several weeks later, not one person has actually been charged with human trafficking. In fact, prosecutors’ affidavits have not detailed evidence of human trafficking at Orchids of Asia Day Spa.

“The police are making this case that this is a major human trafficking ring, and that’s why it’s so serious,” said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor and managing partner of Tucker Levin, PLLC who is not connected to the case. “The fact that they had cameras installed in the locations for so long somewhat undermines the claim that there was an extraordinary danger to the people working in the establishment.”

As the WSJ further notes, the Jupiter Police Department began its investigation in October, according to affidavits and in January installed covert surveillance equipment.

Men who visited the spas, including Mr. Kraft, were seen engaging in sex acts and identified after their visits on traffic stops, according to court documents. Legal experts have said the traffic stops could be argued as pretextual.

Prosecutors alleged they saw Mr. Kraft, 77 years old, enter Orchids of Asia Day Spa, located in a small strip mall, on two occasions and saw him pay cash and receive sex acts, which while striking some as bizarre that a billionaire would frequent a low-grade strip mall rub and tug instead of hiring “perfect 10s”, is hardly the pinnacles of crimes being conducted in US society in recent years. Regardless of the ethical framing, Kraft was identified in a traffic stop after his first visit on Jan. 19, when he was the passenger in a vehicle, and visited the spa again the next day, before the Patriots played the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.

* * *

Even if he were to accept the agreement, Kraft could still face punishment from the NFL, which has said in regards to him that the league’s “personal conduct policy applies equally to everyone.” The league said it would “take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts.” The league has previously disciplined players in cases where they were not prosecuted.

“I think Kraft’s biggest problem is going to be NFL management,” David Weinstein, a Miami lawyer and former prosecutor in the Southern District of Florida, told the WSJ. “Their standards are far lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Ron Paul: Is Trump Really About To Invade Venezuela?

Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered the last of the US diplomats out of Venezuela, saying their presence was a “constraint” on US policy toward the country. The wording seemed intended to convey the idea that the US is about to launch military action to place a Washington-backed, self-appointed politician to the presidency. Was it just bluster, designed to intimidate? Or is the Trump Administration really about to invade another country that has neither attacked nor threatened the United States?

While US Administrations engaged in “regime change” have generally tried to mask their real intentions, this US-backed coup is remarkable for how honest its backers are being. Not long ago the National Security Advisor to the president, John Bolton, openly admitted that getting US companies in control of Venezuelan oil was the Administration’s intent. Trump Administration officials have gone so far as mocking the suffering of Venezuelans when a suspiciously-timed nationwide power failure heightened citizens’ misery.

According to media reports, Vice President Mike Pence is angry with the Venezuela coup leader, Juan Guaido, because he promised the whole operation would be a cake walk – just like the neocons promised us about Iraq. Guaido said hundreds of thousands of protesters would follow him to the Colombian border to “liberate” US aid trucks just over the border, but no one showed up. So Pompeo and the neocons made up a lie that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s thugs burned the aid trucks to prevent the people from getting relief from their suffering. Even the pro-war New York Times finally admitted that the Administration was lying: it was opposition protesters who burned the trucks.

Was the US behind the take-down of Venezuela’s power grid? It would not be the first time the CIA pulled such a move, and US officials are open about the US goal of making life as miserable as possible for average Venezuelans in hopes that they overthrow their government.

Congress has to this point been strongly in favor of President Trump’s “regime change” policy for Venezuela. Sadly, even though our neocon foreign policy of interventionism has proven disastrous – from Iraq to Libya to Syria and elsewhere – both parties in Congress continue to act as if somehow this time they will get it right. I have news for them, they won’t.

Even weak Congressional efforts to remind the president that Congress must approve military action overseas sound like war cries. In Rep. David N. Cicilline’s (D-RI) statement introducing his “Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Act” last week, he sounded more hawkish than John Bolton or Elliott Abrams! The statement makes all the arguments in favor of a US military attack on Venezuela and then – wink wink – reminds the president he needs authorization beforehand. As if that’s going to be a hard sell!

So is President Trump about to attack Venezuela? At a recent US House hearing, one of the expert witnesses testified that such an invasion would require between 100,000 and 150,000 US troops, going up against maybe three times that number of Venezuelan troops in a country twice the size of Iraq. With a lot of jungle. All for a “prize” that has nothing to do with US security. If the president makes such a foolish move he might find the current war cheerleaders in the Democrat Party changing their tune rather quickly. Let’s hope Trump changes his tune and returns to his promises of no more regime change wars.

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