🔎 Picks of the Week — July 17

World Population, Business of News, Potsdam 75th Anniversary, Bubonic Plague, Macron Under Fire, Ethiopia Violence

Hello! It’s that time… Happy Friday and welcome to another Picks of the Week. Today we traverse the globe to dissect news that the world’s population could peak 2 billion less than the UN’s original 2100 forecast, the latest Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute has encouraging news for publishers, to Mongolia where a teenager has died from the bubonic plague, to France where President Emmanuel Macron is facing pressure from all sides, to Ethiopia whose Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister is killing protestors in the street, and lest we forget the 75th anniversary of the Potsdam Conference, which ultimately set up the Cold War over the next half a century. Don’t forget to check this week’s election roundup which saw Poland and Singapore’s democracy head in opposite directions. See you next week! 🤓

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Peak Population

Let’s start with a recent study in The Lancet that suggests the world’s population in 2100 could be 2 billion below UN forecasts. It’s widely thought the world’s population will virtually stop growing by the end of this century, and UN data predicts this number will plateau around 11 billion. But the new study led by scientists at the University of Washington says this figure will be nearer nine billion. Reasons behind the stunted growth include greater access to contraception and birth control, increased education and more opportunities for women. There are obvious benefits of having a declining population — a better chance of stemming damage from the climate emergency springs to mind. But global economic success is mostly based on unabated growth, and it’s feared certain governments will restrict the rights and freedoms of women in order to continue to fuel said growth.

Source: The Guardian

Future of News

The Reuters Institute at Oxford University recently published their annual Digital News Report, and some of the trends are fascinating. Among those I found most interesting are firstly the four percent increase in the U.S. in the number of people who pay for news. While that might sound modest, and the majority of people in other countries continue to not pay for news at all, it’s an encouraging sign that one day we can all be more like our friends in Norway.

Source: Reuters Institute

Also encouraging is the news that more and more people are receiving their news via newsletters!! While the format is far from the most popular medium in any country, more than a handful of countries now have at least a fifth of its people accessing newsletters.

Source: Reuters Institute

Explore the Data

Boy Dies of Bubonic Plague

A 15-year-old boy has died in Mongolia from the bubonic plague, one of a growing number of cases in the country and inside neighbouring China. The teen caught the disease after he hunted and ate a marmot, according to Mongolia’s health ministry. The death comes a few days after Mongolia quarantined the border with its other neighbour Russia, who subsequently banned marmot hunting in fears the disease would spread within its borders. And in Colorado, a squirrel tested positive for the disease. According to the World Health Organization, between 600 cases are reported annually, but unlike in the 14th century when the plague killed around 20 million people, today we have the antibiotics to kill the disease if treated immediately.

Macron Under Fire

President Emmanuel Macron is under the cosh as France moves into the next phase of its strategy to limit the spread of Covid-19. Masks in enclosed pubic spaces will become mandatory in the next few weeks in preparation of a return of the virus. France has been one of the world’s worst-hit countries, with as many as 7,600 daily cases back in March. But as the country appears to have ‘controlled’ the virus for now, events relating to changes in Macron’s government, including popular prime minister Edouard Philippe resigning and Macron appointing small town mayor Jean Castex as his new PM, and a renewed effort to reform the country’s pension system have led to depressing approval ratings. Macron is set to face re-election in April, 2022.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Ethiopia’s Iron Fist

Moving to East Africa now as critics accuse Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister of not being that peaceful, and creating a new system built around his personal authority that has led to fatal clashes with protestors. Abiy Ahmed was elected prime minister in 2018 and earned praise for ending a 20-year conflict with its northern neighbour Eritrea, as well as freeing thousands of political prisoners and allowing the return of hundred exiled dissidents. But just in the past week, 239 protestors have been killed by security forces and around 3,500 more arrested. And Ahmed is testing the patience of Egypt and Sudan, who dispute Ethiopia’s decision to fill the Grand Renaissance dam on the River Nile, which the former two say will restrict their water access and could lead to more violent conflict in the region.

Potsdam Conference 75th Anniversary

And finally, today marks the start of the Potsdam Conference held near Berlin 75 years ago, which was the last meeting between the “Big Three” heads of state — American President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin — during World War II. Discussions centred on how to divide Germany and its economy, as well as issuing an official order to Japan to surrender. Unbeknown at the time, the Big Three’s decisions would tee up the Cold War that would play out over the next half a century, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Source: History.com | (from left to right) Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin