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China Miscalculated Its Way to a Baby Bust


Thursday, February 15th, 2024


Today’s newsletter is: 928 words; 4 min.


Another day, another American shooting, this time at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade. This American shooting claimed one life and sent at least 22 others to the hospital, including 11 children ages 6 to 15, some with gunshot wounds. As a reminder, here’s what an AR-15 does to a human body.

Elon Musk’s X may be violating U.S. sanctions by accepting money from accounts linked to Hezbollah and other sanctioned groups. The Tech Transparency Project investigation identified 28 accounts linked to Hezbollah and state-run media in Iran and Russia that had either blue or gold checkmarks, indicating they’ve paid for or been gifted X Premium or Verified Organization status. 

Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer (ND) called the House impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “the worst, dumbest exercise and use of time.” Cramer, who’s an ally of former President Donald Trump, also called the impeachment “dead on arrival” in the Democratic-led Senate.

Germany is now the world’s third largest economy. Japan’s economy contracted for the second consecutive quarter to close out 2023, government data showed Wednesday, dropping it to fourth behind Germany in dollar terms.


A new report found Americans hold $220 billion in medical debt, largely in rural areas and the South


Southern and Rural Americans Have the Most Medical Debt

A new report by the Peterson Center on Healthcare and KFF found 20 million Americans (about 1 in 12 adults) owe medical debt, with the largest shares concentrated in the South and rural areas. 

  • Why it matters: The report suggests Americans owe at least $220 billion in medical debt, and around 14 million people owe more than $1,000, predominantly impacting people with disabilities or worse health, lower-income households, and uninsured people. 



A new analysis found China is on its way to a baby bus


China Miscalculated Its Way to a Baby Bust

A new analysis by researchers at Victoria University in Australia and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences shows China’s population has shrunk for the second consecutive year, losing about 2.08 million people over the past year. 

  • Why it matters: The team, which was one of the first to predict China’s 2022 population decline, believes China’s population will shrink from around 1.4 billion today to just 525 million by 2100, including a working-age population of just 210 million, one-fifth of the country’s 2014 peak.



A new study found the Amazon could hit a “tipping point” by 2050


The Amazon Could Hit a Tipping Point by 2050

A new study by researchers at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil found global warming, water stress, and deforestation is pushing the Amazon rainforest toward collapse, potentially reaching a crucial “tipping point” as soon as 2050. 

  • What it means: When scientists say an ecosystem could reach a “tipping point,” what they mean is that the ecosystem will be at a point under such stress that any disturbance could lead to sudden and unexpected shifts, resulting in a devastating loss of biodiversity.


Great Apes Tease Each Other, Just Like Humans

Unless you birth an unfunny kid (sucks to suck), most parents know human babies learn how to playfully tease well before learning how to speak.

  • They stick to the basics, like offering and withdrawing an item or interrupting a minor task, but, as early as eight months old, babies indeed learn the cognitive precursor to joking. 

Teasing is key because joking, as funny as it sounds, is a vital part of human interaction, and lest you want your child to turn out like Russell Brand or Greg Gutfeld, it’s important they develop the social intelligence required to recognize and appreciate teasing and joking at an early age.

  • Setting aside unfunny comedians who should have been put to the professional pasture long ago, it turns out we aren’t the only species that knows how to tease, as a new study by researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany documented evidence of playful teasing in all four great ape species (orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas).  

What to know:

The researchers documented 18 distinct intentional teasing behaviors displayed by great apes, which were frequently accompanied by characteristics of play, like smiles or gestures signaling their intent to play.

  • The behaviors included poking, hindering movement, and pulling each other’s hair, among others.

  • The teasing also mainly happened when apes were relaxed, similarly to humans.

Why it matters:

The researchers say their study is the first to systematically study playful teasing in apes, and the presence and similarity to teasing in humans suggests the cognitive prerequisites for joking may have been present in our last common ancestor, at least 13 million years ago.


  • 52% - The percentage of people across 67 countries that think researchers should be more involved in policymaking, according to a new preprint survey – the largest post-pandemic survey about people’s trust in science – by researchers at Leibniz University Hannover in Germany. Reminder: preprint studies have yet to be published or peer-reviewed.


Long Video. Where exactly did Earth’s water come from? (12 min) 

Short Video. Watch NASA’s Perseverance rover capture a Martian moon crossing the Sun. (1 min)

Fun Video. Learn the economics of Pantone, the color company that makes a killing. (8 min)

Good Read. A historical read on how being “woke” used to just mean being smart. (1,086 words; 5 min)

Neat List. Check out 13 of the world’s oldest artworks created by humans and our extinct relatives.


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Written by Ryan Wittler