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Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Population 101

Don't know much about geography? Well then, what about some basic population stats? In my own case, I was quite surprised by just how little I knew. It all started when I read Philip Shishkin's article "Afghans Are Free, Market Isn't" in the October 8th Wall Street Journal. The article was about Nizar Habibi, a man charged with one of life's more difficult tasks -- trying to set and enforce price controls in the Afghan capital. What really surprised me was that the population of Kabul was quoted as "nearly three million." So I pulled out my Merriam Webster's Geographical Dictionary (the hopelessly outdated Third Edition from 1997) in which the population of Kabul is quoted as 1,424,400 (1988 figure). It's obvious that until I can update my geographical dictionary, I would have to rely on the internet for more up to date statistics. What I found was positively shocking (from www.citypopulation.de).

At 290,342,600, the population of the US looks pretty healthy. But did you know that if you added the populations of Afghanistan (28,717,200 by itself) to the populations of Iraq, Iran, Korea and Pakistan, the total easily surpasses us. Of course, that is positively dwarfed by the populations of both India and China which are each over a billion! As a minority, maybe we should heed the pages of history (I've got quite a few of those books too!) which are littered with the tales of countries and leaders who o'erleaped their ambitions. Maybe that's the global test we've been hearing about lately. Oh yeah, can anybody tell me why there hasn't been a fourth edition of the Merriam Webster Geographical Dictionary yet? Oh, and those population statistics from www.citypopulation.de? It seems they come from something called CIA -- The World Factbook 2003. The graphic on my monitor isn't all that clear but it looks like the logo on that "factbook" is that of the (gasp!) Central Intelligence Agency.

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