Economist 7/24/15

  1. AFTER a year of hesitation, Turkey has come off the fence and joined the American-led coalition’s military operations against the Islamic State (IS). On July 24th Turkish F-16s carried out airstrikes for the first time against IS jihadists inside Syria.Also on July 23rd, Turkey announced it will let coalition aircraft use the NATO airbase at Incirlik to hit IS targets.On Friday Turkish police raided more than 100 properties in Istanbul and detained 252 people thought to be linked to IS.But the Turks had resisted, demanding in exchange that America declare a no-fly zone over Syria, help establish a safe haven on the Syrian side of the border and give as much military priority to removing Bashar Assad from power as to combating IS. A safe haven would help prevent further refugees from coming to Turkey, already home to nearly two million Syrians displaced by the conflict.
  2. But the immediate cause for the reversal appears to be Turkish fears that its reluctance was deepening America’s friendship with the Syrian Kurds. The People’s Defence Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia, has become America’s top partner against IS inside Syria. This worries Turkey because the YPG is closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the rebel group that has been fighting on and off for decades to establish Kurdish self-rule in Turkey.
  3. LAST week, physicists at the Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland, announced the discovery of a new particle called the pentaquark. Back in 2012 the same machine provided evidence for the Higgs boson—the final missing piece in what is called the Standard Model. This is essentially a cupboard of ingredients for the stuff that makes up the universe, a neat set of all the known fundamental particles and all the forces that mediate interactions among them.The phrase “atom-smasher” conveys the crux of the answer: with lots of energy.Depending on just how a collision occurs and how much energy ends up as mass, a host of processes can occur. Some well-known particles can be produced, decaying quickly into other “daughter” particles or flashes of light, all whizzing off at great speed with some of the energy of the collision.Proving one such particle has been created is tricky. Elusive beasts such as the pentaquark are never caught directly, like an animal in a trap; rather, they leave only tracks. A collider has layers of different kinds of detectors around the point of collisions, each designed to detect different kinds of tracks.
  4. As a country Singapore, it was acutely short of space. One solution has been to add some: since independence Singapore has expanded by over one-fifth, from 58,000 hectares (224.5 square miles) to nearly 72,000, by filling in the sea with imported sand. Marina Bay Sands itself, a number of massive office blocks and a golf course are all on land that used to be sea. The government expects the land area to grow by a further 8%, or 5,600 hectares, by 2030. But there is a natural limit to this growth. Wong Poh Kam, an economist at the National University of Singapore’s business school, points out that Johor, the Malaysian state just over the strait, could be to Singapore what southern mainland China has been to Hong Kong, offering land and labour at far lower prices. Every day an estimated 50,000 Malaysians commute to work in Singapore from Johor Bahru, the state capital. Nearby Indonesian islands also provide room for Singaporean investment.
  5. The shortage of land is compounded by government policy on how it is used. One-fifth of the total, mainly secondary jungle, is reserved for the armed forces. Once space is allocated for industry, reservoirs, housing, roads and parks (including golf courses, which cover about 2% of the country), the squeeze is obvious. Yet the population, of about 5.5m now, has doubled in the past 30 years and is still expanding.By 2030 the population of long-staying “permanent residents” would climb from about 500,000 now to around 600,000, and the number of “non-resident” foreign workers would increase from the present 1.6m to 2.3m-2.5m.Already, probably more than half the people living in Singapore were not born there. That proportion seems likely to rise.The government argued the proposed levels of immigration would be necessary to maintain even moderate growth because Singaporeans are not reproducing themselves. Last year the “total fertility rate” (TFR), a notional estimate of the number of babies a woman will have over her lifetime, was 1.25, way below the replacement rate of about 2.1.From 2020 the number of working-age Singaporeans will decline, and by 2030 there will be only 2.1 workers for every citizen over the age of 64.

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