Economist 1/22/16

  1. On July 1st 2015 Britain’s hottest ever day was recorded there: 36.7ºC. New data from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now declare that 2015 was, globally, the hottest year on record.Ten of 2015’s monthly global temperatures either tied or broke existing records; overall the year proved 0.90ºC warmer than the average recorded between 1901-2000. The 20th century truly began to sizzle in its final decades. And the 21st has been scorching: 15 of the 16 warmest years have occurred since 2001. Until now, 2014 had been held as the toastiest year to date, but globally averaged temperatures in the 12 months after it rose another 0.13ºC.Kevin Trenberth of America’s National Centre for Atmospheric Research says El Niño could account for “most of the difference” in warmth between 2014 and 2015. And as the water-holding capacity of air increases by about 7% per 1ºC of warming, many of El Niño’s impacts will be more brutal as a consequence. But the world is getting hotter, even without El Niño’s handiwork. A new study published in Nature Climate Change suggests that the oceans have absorbed as much heat in the past 18 years as in the previous 130 years.
  2. The inquiry into the lethal poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko( a fugitive former KGB officer who was advising Britain’s spy service)came about only after a dogged legal battle by Mr Litvinenko’s widow, Marina. Its report, published on January 21st, vindicates her husband, who on his deathbed accused the Russian state of ordering his murder. Sir Robert Owen, a retired high court judge, firmly identified the longtime suspects in the case, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, as the people who put polonium into Mr Litvinenko’s tea.It found that the two men worked on behalf of the Russian security service, the FSB, and that their actions “probably” had the direct approval of not only the then head of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, but also the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. In reaching this conclusion, the inquiry heard secret evidence, probably including eavesdropped Russian government communications.Having largely refused to co-operate with the British inquiry, Russia has dismissed its findings, calling it “politicised”.
  3. A global Gallup poll found that 19% of 15-29-year-olds wanted to move permanently to another country—more than twice the proportion of 50-64-year-olds and four times the share of over-65s who felt the same way.Young adults are more footloose within their own country, too. The average American moves house 6.4 times between the ages of 18 and 45 but only 2.7 times thereafter, the census shows.And in developing countries, young people are 40% more likely than their elders to migrate from the countryside to a city.Movement within countries follows a similar pattern. Migrants, again mostly young, go where the best jobs are. This has led to rapid urbanisation. Today 54% of the world’s people live in cities, up from 30% in 1950. The UN predicts that by 2050 the proportion will rise to 66%.Westerners looking at the crowded shantytowns around Manila or Nairobi cannot imagine why anyone would leave a picturesque village to live there. Migrants see it differently. They are giving up lives of back-breaking toil, stifling tradition and periodic hunger. They are moving to places with bright lights, better wages and infinite variety.In rich countries young people—especially the brightest—are clustering in big, vibrant cities.Nearly half of Canada’s immigrants live in Toronto, for example, and 40% of America’s live in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago or San Francisco.
  4. There are 1.8 billion young people in the world, roughly a quarter of the total population. (This report defines “young” as between about 15 and 30.) All generalisations about such a vast group should be taken with a bucket of salt.But the young do have some things in common: they grew up in the age of smartphones and in the shadow of a global financial disaster. They fret that it is hard to get a good education, a steady job, a home and—eventually—a mate with whom to start a family.This report takes a global view, since 85% of young people live in developing countries, and focuses on practical matters, such as education and jobs. In some respects the young have never had it so good. They are richer and likely to live longer than any previous generation. On their smartphones they can find all the information in the world. If they are female or gay, in most countries they enjoy freedoms that their predecessors could barely have imagined. They are also brainier than any previous generation.
  5. Yet much of their talent is being squandered. In most regions they are at least twice as likely as their elders to be unemployed. Over 25% of youngsters in middle-income nations and 15% in rich ones are NEETs: not in education, employment or training. The job market they are entering is more competitive than ever, and in many countries the rules are rigged to favour those who already have a job.Education has become so expensive that many students rack up heavy debts.For both sexes the path to adulthood—from school to work, marriage and children—has become longer and more complicated. Mostly, this is a good thing. Many young people now study until their mid-20s and put off having children until their late 30s.Throughout human history, the old have subsidised the young. In rich countries, however, that flow has recently started to reverse.Politicians in democracies listen to the people who vote—which young people seldom do. Only 23% of Americans aged 18-34 cast a ballot in the 2014 mid-term elections, compared with 59% of the over-65s. In Britain’s 2015 general election only 43% of the 18-24s but 78% of the over-65s voted.

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