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Could the U.S. be the world's most populous country in 2100?

The United States, currently the world's third-most populous country behind China and India, could have the largest population in the world by 2100, according to new projections by Joseph Chamie, the former director of the United Nations Population Division.

There's one hitch: If the United States is to rise to first place and not fall to fourth (after being surpassed by Nigeria in 2050), it will need an eightfold increase in annual immigration -- a compelling data point to consider as the Senate takes up bipartisan legislation on immigration reform. This graph, compiled by Chamie with U.N. data, shows two different scenarios for U.S. population growth. One, in red, traces the U.S population to 2100 with current immigration rates (1.2 million immigrants annually). The other, in blue, shows how U.S. population would grow if the country increases its influx of immigrants to 10 million a year.

You may ask: Is 10 million immigrants a year a realistic goal? Some have expressed doubt about America's ability to continue attracting immigrants. But Chamie is optimistic. In a recent article for the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, Chamie writes, "Global opinion polls show that many people at virtually all skill levels would like to emigrate, and the number-one destination is overwhelmingly the United States."

Chamie is hopeful that the United States can achieve high population-growth rates (even as China and India's populations plateau and begin to decrease), and thus fend off the typical problems -- aging population, dwindling workforce, shrinking economy, increasing burdens on taxpayers -- that often affect countries with low fertility rates. But he is also proposing a somewhat radical solution: Come one, come all.

By "opening America's doors wide to immigrants," the demographer argues, "the issue of illegal immigration would no longer be a sensitive political matter occupying valuable time and resources of the U.S. president or Congress. Unauthorized immigrants residing in the U.S. -- 60 percent currently from Mexico -- would be granted amnesty and welcomed as new citizens. Enforcement, border patrol, legal/judicial hearings, incarceration and deportations would be negligible, saving the nation billions of dollars that could be used for rebuilding America's ailing infrastructure."

Not only would this approach save resources, he argues, but it would also reinforce the U.S. commitment to family values (by reuniting separated immigrant families); greatly increase U.S. GDP, work wages, and tax revenues; enlarge the country's pool of "workers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and consumers"; and, "strengthen [America's] capacity to continue promoting democracy, freedom and development, thereby ensuring peace, stability and prosperity for every region of the world." Plus, it's hard for Americans to say no to a plan that would keep them ahead of China, right?

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The Texan who stole the show at Margaret Thatcher's funeral

After being carried through the streets of London in a flag-draped coffin aboard a gun carriage, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was laid to rest this morning in St. Paul's Cathedral. But the big story of the day wasn't Maggie. No, it was a 19-year-old Texan who stole the show from the deceased Iron Lady.

With a poise reminiscent of the elder Thatcher, Amanda Thatcher, Margaret's granddaughter, delivered a reading from Ephesians that has the British media agog. Amanda, who lives with her mother in Texas, chose a rather militant passage that calls on believers to "put on the whole armour of God." But the reading was a good one, delivered with remarkable grace by a young woman suddenly thrust into the international spotlight. In a tweet that nicely summarized the breathless British media reaction, Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland couldn't help but speculate "whether somewhere a Texas Republican operative is watching Amanda Thatcher thinking 'Wonder if she has political ambitions...'"

Here's the clip:

So who is Amanda Thatcher, and how did Maggie Thatcher's granddaughter end up in Texas of all places? Amanda is the daughter of Mark Thatcher and the Texas heiress Diane Burgdorf, who underwent an ugly, highly public divorce from Mark (Diane went so far as to detail her ex-husband's history of infidelity in a broadside published in a British paper). When Amanda's father became embroiled in an acrimonious business dispute, Diane agreed to move her family to South Africa. But after Mark was arrested in 2004 over his alleged involvement in a coup in Equatorial Guinea, the marriage finally dissolved. Amanda now lives in Texas with her mother, stepfather, and brother Michael. She is reportedly deeply religious, has carried out missionary work in China, and attends the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Voted "most likely to change the world" by her high school classmates, Amanda was a favorite of the Iron Lady. The former British prime minister reportedly kept a portrait of her two grandchildren on a mantle alongside a picture of Sir Denis, her beloved late husband. Maggie, the daughter of a fervent lay Methodist preacher, approved of Amanda's turn toward evangelical Christianity, and she cherished her relationship with her granddaughter during her ailing later years. As the Guardian notes in its excellent profile of the young Thatchers, Amanda's religiosity lined up nicely with Maggie's hard-nosed political and social conservatism. 

Poised, eloquent, the descendant of conservative royalty, evangelical Christian, and Texas-bred: It all seems to add up to a promising political future. She certainly hit it out of the park in her introduction to the world, and isn't it pretty easy to picture a clip of Amanda's speech at her grandmother's funeral playing a role in a future campaign commercial?

The Republican Party could certainly do worse.

An earlier version of this post referred to the Biblical passage from which Amanda Thatcher read as the Epistles. She read from Ephesians, which is one of the Epistles.

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