Three Myths About the World’s Poor
Bill and Melinda Gates call foreign aid a phenomenal investment that’s transforming the world and tackle three myths that perpetuate the false idea that everything is getting worse.

MYTH ONE: Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
They’re really not. Incomes and other measures of human welfare are rising almost everywhere—including Africa.

MYTH TWO: Foreign aid is a big waste.
Actually, it is a phenomenal investment. Foreign aid doesn’t just save lives; it also lays the groundwork for lasting, long-term economic progress.

MYTH THREE: Saving lives leads to overpopulation.
Anxiety about the size of the world population has a dangerous tendency to override concern for the human beings who make up that population. When more children survive, parents decide to have smaller families. This pattern of falling death rates followed by falling birthrates applies for the vast majority of the world.

85 Richest People Own As Much as Bottom Half of the Population
Meanwhile at the opposite end of the scale, a new report says that “the 85 richest people on earth have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the population.”

We’re going to hear a lot about income inequality over the next two years – looks like the Democrats are going to run on this – so we might as well know the facts:

  • The richest 1% of the population owns about 46% of global wealth.
  • The richest 1% had $110 trillion in wealth — 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population
  • That bottom half of the population owned about $1.7 trillion, or about 0.7% of the world’s wealth (the same amount as owned by the 85 richest people).
  • The percentage of income held by the richest 1% in the U.S. has grown by nearly 150% since 1980.
  • The top 1% in the USA has received 95% of wealth created since 2009, while the bottom 90% of Americans have become poorer.

Does all this really matter? Well, according to the World Economic Forum, “widening income inequality was the risk most likely to cause serious damage in the next decade,” and “President Obama recently called the expanding gap between rich and poor a bigger threat to the U.S. economy than the budget deficit.”

Personally, I believe the greater danger comes from the envy and anger that politicians will stir up by using these figures not to help the poor but simply to win votes.

MTV Reduces Teen Pregnancy
Not a headline you’d expect to read is it? TV has been rightly blamed over the years for increasing promiscuity and teen pregnancy. But if it’s so influential, why not turn it to good? That’s what seems to have happened (unintentionally) in areas where MTV’s 16 And Pregnant has been broadcast.

The authors found that the show “led to more searches and tweets regarding birth control and abortion, and ultimately led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following its introduction. This accounts for around one-third of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that period.”

5.7% may not sound like a lot but it means thousands of fewer teen births per year. The teen birth rate in the U.S. decreased 25 percent between 2007 and 2011, and the preliminary data for 2012 shows that teen births are at a record low.

The Second Machine Age
Despite widespread talk of worldwide economic stagnation due to demographics, globalization, and a slowdown in technological innovation, two professors from MIT have come forward to claim that “the global economy is on the cusp of a dramatic growth spurt driven by smart machines that finally take full advantage of advances in computer processing, artificial intelligence, networked communication and the digitization of just about everything.”

Their optimism springs from the idea of exponential growth — in the computing power of machines, in the amount of digital information that is being created and in the number of relatively cheap devices that are continually talking to each other.

To illustrate the point, Brynjolfsson and McAfee cite the example of Instagram and Kodak. Instagram is a simple app that has allowed more than 130 million people to share some 16 billion photos. Within 15 months of its founding, Instagram was sold to Facebook — a company with 1 billion users — for $1 billion. It was only a few months later that Kodak, the Instagram of its day, declared bankruptcy. The authors use this little vignette to illustrate two points. The first is to point out that the market value of Facebook/Instagram is now several times the value of Eastman Kodak at its peak, creating, by their calculation, seven billionaires, each of whom has a net worth 10 times greater than George Eastman ever had. Such is the “bounty” of the second machine age.