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This week's edition is 1,795 words, which should take you just under 7 minutes to read, depending on how much time you spend looking at Laz Gamio's amazing demographics chart in item 5. I'm still uncomfortably above my boss' target of 1,500 words, though.
1 correction from a couple of weeks ago. I said that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA, is the largest free trade area in the world by population. But Jonah Bader, a producer for CNN's Fareed Zakaria, has found a bigger one: The treaty between China and ASEAN. (AfCFTA is still the biggest by number of countries, though.)
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Facebook's new cryptocurrency, reportedly known internally as GlobalCoin, will be in "about a dozen countries" by this time next year, per the BBC. And it's going to be about more than just payments, according to an FT rep0rt this week — although the payments space alone is enormous.
"It should be as easy to send money to someone as it is to send a photo," says CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Given how many photos are shared across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp every day, it's clear that he sees an enormous opportunity here.
But, but, but: You don't need to invent your own cryptocurrency in order to get into payments. Just ask Alipay — or, for that matter, Tencent, the owner of WeChat. Both of them are happy using China's fiat currency. And Facebook itself has incorporated dollar payments into Messenger since early 2015. So why create GlobalCoin?
What to watch: GlobalCoin has the promise of being a vastly more useful and sophisticated version of Reddit Coins — or, for that matter, airline miles. "Reward points are dumb," says Jeff Bandman, a crypto consultant and former CFTC official. "I’m not saying they’re a dumb idea. But a cryptocurrency is programmable digital software that you can put intelligence into."
The bottom line: The most important currency in the world, if you're a social media network, is attention. If Facebook ever dies, it will be because its users desert it for some other network, taking their attention with them. And so Facebook wants to give them incentives to keep coming back.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Theresa May announced her resignation as prime minister of the U.K. this week, after finding herself unable to deliver a Brexit deal "hard" enough to satisfy the nationalists within her own party.
Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP party won the world's largest election this week, after running a negative campaign focused on attacking opponents and talking up national security. One of its winning candidates, Pragya Singh Thakur, says that she is fighting a holy war with Muslims. She spent 8 years in prison for her role in a lethal bombing campaign and is still awaiting trial on terrorism charges.
Why it matters: International cooperation is a necessity of existential proportions, thanks in part to climate change. But you'd never guess that from this week's election results. The rise of nationalism continues, after already establishing itself in Putin's Russia, Bolsonaro's Brazil, Netanyahu's Israel — and, of course, Trump's America.
Go deeper: Columbia University historian Adam Tooze has a spectacularly good essay in the latest NYRB, examining the rise of nationalism on both the right and the left. Internationalist or cosmopolitan politics, he writes, are effectively impossible right now.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
When is a loan not a loan? When it's a "nonrecourse cash advance," writes Axios' Courtenay Brown.
Why it matters: By advancing money while calling the interest a "fee" or a "tip," companies like Earnin and Wagestream can skirt regulations that cap interest rates.
What's happening: Earnin is an app that fronts users as much as $100 per day. When you sign up, you hand over your bank account information and tell Earnin when you get paid. Earnin automatically debits your bank account for the amount it lent (they would say "advanced"). This week, the company said it would start helping users negotiate down their health care bills.
The bottom line: In principle, your credit isn't damaged, and these companies can’t come after you, if they can’t recoup their money. Plus, the CEOs of both Earnin and Wagestream tell Axios that their companies aren't lenders, because they are giving you money you've already worked for. But then: If it’s already your money, it’s unclear why you would need to pay for it.
More CEOs than ever lost their positions in 2018, according to a new study by PwC. Among the world's 2,500 largest companies, a record-high 17.5% of CEOs lost their jobs last year, thanks in part to the number of "forced turnovers" — involuntary departures in which the CEO was effectively ousted by the board.
Half of the world's countries, including Russia, Brazil and China, now have a fertility rate below the level needed to keep the population constant without immigration. But relatively few are actually shrinking, writes Axios' Stef Kight.
The big picture: Populations change slowly. Humans are living longer, and many rich countries still attract lots of immigrants. That said, Italy, Portugal, Japan and 19 other nations are already seeing population declines.
What to watch: Immigration is increasingly important in terms of boosting rich nations' populations and sustaining GDP growth.
The bottom line: Insofar as rich countries are willing to welcome more foreigners into their workforces and societies, they will reap trillions of dollars of wealth, growth and corporate profits.
Go deeper: Where populations are booming and shrinking
American women are having fewer babies than ever, adds Stef.
Behind the numbers: America's population will continue to grow until at least 2050, according to the Census projections. But this growth will increasingly rely on immigration.
What to watch: If fertility rates remain low or fall further, maintaining high levels of immigration could become even more important.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
President Trump is in Japan until Tuesday, writes Courtenay. He’s expected to talk trade with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The U.S. stock market is closed tomorrow for Memorial Day, while markets in London are closed for a bank holiday.
Photo: David Mitchell
Waiting for an Uber outside an airport hotel is rarely a glamorous experience — unless, that is, you're standing under Eero Saarinen's glorious overhang at what is now JFK Airport's TWA Hotel.
Elsewhere: Eskom, the South African power monopoly, is looking for its 11th CEO in 10 years. The "toxic culture of ego and ruthlessness" at Australia's ANZ Bank. Iceland's economy is forecast to shrink this year, now that WOW Air has shut down. The 2020 centenary of women getting the vote will not see Harriet Tubman appearing on the $20 bill. Robinhood's valuation is over $7 billion. America's upzoning debate.