Economist 4/30/14

  1. Mr Steve Nelson contends that charters are not more efficient with money, as charter proponents say, but just have more of it.  Research has been mounting that shows that charter schools have in fact less money than their public rivals. This financial imbalance is confirmed by a new report from the University of Arkansas, published in the Journal of School Choice.Across the 48 major urban areas examined (where charter schools are more common), the deficit between public and charter schools was about $4,352 per pupil. The gap is smaller if averaged across all charter schools in the country, at $3,814. Still, this is a funding gap of 28%.The new mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, entered office demanding that charter schools pay rent for their space inside public buildings. The administration has since backed down, but the city council has not.
  2.  School systems were being swamped by data—like every other sector of the economy.They created a computer system to store data in a secure, common format that gave the schools complete control over what data they collected, how it was used and with whom that data was shared. A non-profit organisation was formed to run it, backed with $100m from the Gates and Carnegie foundations. And so inBloom was born. But on April 21st, less than two years later, the group announced it is shutting down.Yet inBloom was grossly unprepared for the backlash against its technology. Instead of fighting critics directly, they left it to their customers—the school districts—to educate parents and make the case.
  3. TWO titans of religious life in the late 20th century are being canonised—recognised as saints—at a grand ceremony in Rome this weekend. Popes John XXIII (1958-63) and John Paul II (1978-2005) were both charismatic figures who, in multiple ways, transformed the world’s largest spiritual institution.Under his given name of Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John served as the Vatican envoy to Turkey from 1935 to 1944. He saved the lives of thousands of Jews, particularly in Hungary, by issuing them with false baptismal certificates. As pontiff he is credited with starting the process that led to Nostra Aetate, a landmark document which renounced Christian anti-Semitism and the idea that Jews bore any collective responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ. As for the Polish pope, he broke new ground by establishing full diplomatic ties with Israel and, in 2000, visiting Jerusalem, where he deplored the Christian persecution of Jews over the centuries and prayed at the Western Wall.
  4. On April 28th a deal was clinched between Slovakia and Ukraine to send natural gas from west to east, as part of efforts to reduce Kiev’s dependence on Russian gas. Ukraine receives about half of its 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) annual natural gas supply from Russia. In recent months Gazprom nearly doubled the price Ukraine pays for it. Slovakia recently renegotiated the terms and price of its own Russian gas and such contracts frequently include limitations on what Gazprom’s customers can do with gas once it is purchased.Bluntly, the Slovaks are not in full control of what they can do once the gas reaches their territory. About 40% of Russian gas imported by Europe comes through Slovakia.
  5. The fourth amendment requires a specific search warrant, with probable cause, before law enforcement can rifle through a suspect’s home, papers or effects. But there are exceptions, and cases have set precedents permitting warrantless searches of purses, briefcases, address books and pagers, where incoming messages might overwrite earlier ones. Now the Supreme Court justices are being asked to determine how mobile phoes fit into this legal landscape. The court seems to lack both a majority for a rule banning warrantless searches of mobile phones by police and a majority for a rule permitting them.The justices are expected to announce their decision in June.
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Economist 4/29/14

  1. FROM modest beginnings as the local mafia of Calabria, at the toe of the Italian boot, the ’Ndrangheta has spread far and wide. It has penetrated Italy’s financial and industrial heartlands, Lombardy and Piedmont, more than any other organised-crime group. It has a dominant position in the transatlantic cocaine trade, building on alliances with Colombian and then Mexican mobsters. One study put its turnover in 2013 at over €50 billion ($69 billion).But who controls the ’Ndrangheta? The question is central to one of Italy’s longest-running mafia trials, which is expected to end shortly after almost three years.As the judges who convicted Mr Altomonte and others noted, his remarks open up “an entirely new scenario” in which there exists a separate (and perhaps higher) level of ’Ndrangheta leadership previously unknown to investigators.
  2. A TRADITIONAL English breakfast features bacon, sausages and eggs—in other words, a whole lot of salt.The more salt we eat, the more water our body retains. This increases blood pressure, at least until our kidneys flush out the salt and water.A much-cited study carried out by America’s National Institutes of Health in 2001, called the DASH-sodium study, found that participants put on diets that were lower in sodium than the control group ended up with significantly lower blood pressure. This study forms the basis for many of the public-health pronouncements that demonise salt.The body of evidence, though, is rather weaker than the American government lets on. The DASH study is one of many that have looked at the effects of salt intake on health. Others have failed to produce similar results. The English study mentioned above finds a correlation, but other factors—such as a simultaneous decline in smoking—seem more likely to account for the improved health outcomes.
  3. The London Underground strike has been called by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT). It is perhaps the most successful labour organisation in the country. Under Bob Crowe, its recently-deceased leader, the RMT’s willingness to down tools led its members to become among the best paid public workers in the country. In a deal struck last year, tube drivers’ salaries will rise to £52,000 ($87,000) in 2015. Not surprisingly, the RMT is one of the few unions whose membership is growing. Some suspect the current strike has much to do with the posturing of the candidates who hanker after the vacant position at the top of the union, keen as they are to prove that militancy is safe in their hands. 
  4. America’s General Electric wants to buy Alstom, maker of France’s totemic high-speed trains (pictured) and of turbine generators.Take Alstom first. It emerged from the 1920s marriage of an Alsatian engineering company with the French subsidiary of Thomson Houston, an American firm which merged with Edison’s business to form GE (hence the confected name—originally Alsthom—to reflect its origins. This became a sprawling conglomerate Compagnie Generale d’Electricite (CGE), which started to be broken up once it was privatised after a spell in state hands in the Mitterrand 1980s. Ironically, one of its constituents, Alcatel, grew briefly fat in telecoms equipment by swallowing the European end of America’s  ITT conglomerate, one of the first of those giants to fall apart. The other big part of CGE was Alsthom, which merged with the train and power generation bits of Britain’s General Electric Company (GEC), formed (you’ve guessed it) originally from the British end of Thomson Houston. So if the GE deal goes through that will have all gone full circle.
  5.  Thanks to a civil-activist outfit, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), much is made public about them. It won two Supreme Court rulings just over a decade ago, forcing would-be parliamentarians to give details of their education, wealth and criminal past.For example, of 6,672 aspiring MPs whose details have so far been assessed by ADR, 90 declared themselves illiterate. It is also revealing how much money entwines with politics. Over a quarter of all candidates say they are crorepatis, with 10,000,000 rupees to their name or more ($164,000), quite a lot in a country still mostly poor. The richest of the lot is Nandan Nilekani, with assets of $1.5 billion,An analysis in Mint newspaper finds that as a group “artists”, meaning actors, musicians and writers, have the poorest attendance record in parliament. In Phulpur, the constituency of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, a lawyer and hero of the independence movement, Congress now puts forward a former batsman of the national cricket team, Mohammad Kaif. The president, Pranab Mukherjee, the finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, and the agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, all have children contesting parliamentary seats. Bloodlines in democracy may be no worse than celebrity, criminality or ill-explained wealth.

Economist 4/28/14

  1. BARACK OBAMA is winding down his four-country tour of Asia this evening with a banquet in Manila.To varying degrees all four of the Asian governments were all looking for beefed-up military and diplomatic commitments from Mr Obama—in view of the rise of China and, in South Korea’s case, the threat from North Korea too. In return Mr Obama was pressing Japan and Malaysia to commit further to his cherished Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, a new block that would encompass 12 countries on both sides of the Pacific—not including China.Japan welcomed a clear declaration by America’s president that the Senkaku islands, called the Diaoyu islands by the Chinese, are covered by Article Five of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Co-operation and Security. Likewise the Philippines’ government welcomed the signing of a new ten-year defence pact, what is called the “enhanced defence co-operation agreement”. This will give America a significant military presence in the country (and its waters) for the first time since its giant bases at Subic and Clark were shut down in the early 1990s. The most substantive outcome of Mr Obama’s two-day trip to South Korea was also military-diplomatic in nature. This was an agreement on the binational defence team, a command which would place South Korean troops under American control in the event of war. 
  2. Camisea is Peru’s most important source of energy, pumping 1.6 billion cubic feet of gas a day. Since 2004 it has provided the government with more than $6 billion in royalties. Gas from Camisea’s Block 88, which has the biggest probable reserves in the Peruvian Amazon, is sold at a regulated price of $1.80-3.30 per million British thermal units, which has helped fuel Peru’s stellar economic growth of the past dozen years.But most of the block lies in the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti reserve, created by the government in 1990 to protect Amerindians who have shunned contact with the outside world.So Camisea has become a test of whether hydrocarbon exploitation can coexist with fragile environments and native peoples.
  3. ONE of the most arresting things about “Capital in the 21st Century”, the best-selling economics book by Thomas Piketty, is that it caused far less of a stir in his native France when it came out last year than it has in the English-speaking world.Why did the French version of “Capital” not make the same splash? One review last year, in the left-leaning Libération newspaper, suggested that the book was not left-wing enough. A more serious explanation could be that Mr Piketty was too closely linked to a proposal by François Hollande, France’s Socialist president, during his 2012 election campaign to introduce a now-discredited 75% top income-tax rate. In short, drawing attention to resurgent inequality has a sense of novelty in America, but in France it is a political given.
  4. Alstom, a French engineering giant with global operations in power generation and transport, is concerned. Last week America’s GE put in a formal bid for Alstom’s energy arm, offering around $10 billion. Then on Saturday night Siemens came up with a proposition of its own: an asset swap. Alstom would cede to Siemens its power-generation activities and in exchange take over Siemens’s German high-speed rail and locomotives (plus an unspecified amount of cash). The idea has some appeal: Alstom virtually fathered high-speed rail, or TGV, in Europe. The idea is to build two European giants, one in transport and the other in energy.No bid involving a prominent French company would be complete without the country’s economy minister making his view of the matter plain.In fact, some such asset-shedding by Alstom has been on the cards for at least half a year. Alstom returned to profit in 2007 from four catastrophic years in the red. Its biggest sector, thermal energy, is also the most profitable (renewables are another story).
  5. MEXICO CITY shook and rattled on April 18th, as a 7.2-magnitude earthquake sent people scurrying under tables for shelter.Nowhere else in the world is able to forecast earthquakes in this way. How do the Mexicans do it? The epicentre of earthquakes hitting Mexico City, which lies roughly in the centre of the country, is usually to the south, where the North American continental plate rubs up against the Cocos plate. This means that quakes are felt first in states such as Oaxaca, on the Pacific coast. So seismologists installed sensors in the south of the country that detect the first tremors and send a warning to the capital. The seismic wave moves at about 7,000 miles per hour. That sounds fast, but it means that it takes the quake nearly two minutes to travel the 200 miles from Oaxaca to Mexico City. Meanwhile the sensors’ signal arrives virtually instantaneously in Mexico City, where alarms are sounded, giving people just enough time to scamper out into the street before the earthquake arrives.The reason is that Japan and California—and indeed most earthquake-prone places—sit right on top of faultlines, so earthquakes strike moments after the first tremors are felt.

Economist 4/27/14

  1. The struggle for access to public services in South Africa is far from over—at least for middle-class drivers.Late last year Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, mounted gantries above highways to collect tolls. Motorists are meant to install an electronic wallet on their dashboards. The proceeds are supposed to help pay for new roads that are easily the best in Africa.Unpaid tolls already amount to more than $50m, says the transport ministry.
  2. THE Pearl river delta ( China) in the southern province of Guangdong is no stranger to strikes, most of them small and quickly resolved.But a walk-out by workers at factories owned by a Taiwanese company, Yue Yuen, the world’s largest maker of branded sports shoes, including big names such as Nike and Reebok.Angry workers watched by riot police rage about an issue few cared much about until recently: their pensions. The workers accuse Yue Yuen of failing for years to make due contributions to their pensions, which are administered by the local government. Lax application of social-security laws is common.
  3. Ms Liu was a forerunner of a new wave of Chinese immigrants to Australia’s oldest and biggest city. Hong Kong once supplied most of Australia’s Chinese settlers, but over the past few years the pattern has shifted. Now it is the rising middle classes from mainland China who go there, looking for a cleaner, more relaxed lifestyle. About 4% of Sydney’s 4.6m people were born in China. Hurstville’s China-born population is about a third of its total and almost half its residents claim Chinese ancestry.But China’s emergence as Australia’s biggest trading partner, and its largest source of foreign university students, has revolutionised the relationship. In the fiscal year 2011-12, more than 25,000 Chinese people obtained permanent residence in Australia.Then in late 2012 Australia launched a “significant investor” visa, aimed at China’s super-rich. To get one, people need A$5m ($4.6m) to sink in “qualifying” investments.More than 90% of 702 applicants so far have been Chinese.
  4. Chinese emigrants are leaving good jobs, cashing out their high-priced homes (or investment properties) and leaving China’s rat race behind. In the past decade 1m Chinese have obtained permanent-resident status in Canada or America, placing Chinese migrants first in Canada and second in America behind Mexicans. And the pace has quickened (see chart). About 80,000 Chinese every year are gaining permanent residency in America, almost five times the rate of the 1980s. Chinese also made up the largest group of immigrants in Australia with 80,000 arriving in the three years to 2012.. The number of Chinese long-term residents in Italy almost doubled in two years, to nearly 120,000 by the end of 2012. Chinese migrants also ranked first in new residencies in New Zealand last year, at about 6,000. Canada recently suspended its investor-visa programme with an estimated 45,000 Chinese nationals on the waiting list, 70% of the entire backlog. Officials may feel that they set the bar too low. A qualifying property investment is C$800,000 ($725,000)—a two-bedroom flat in Beijing sells for that much. For a bit less money than Canada’s cancelled programme, you can buy residency in Portugal or residency for two in Italy or Greece—and you don’t even need to live there. In America the number of investment projects that can accept immigration-investor cash has doubled in two years on the strength of Chinese demand—to 440 as of February 1st. Claire Gao, a stylish 26-year-old who works for an investment firm in Shanghai, just bought a flat in suburban Milan for €200,000 ($276,000), the minimum for an investor-visa there, after her second brief visit to Italy in January. 
  5. Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) revolutionised share-trading in the European Union, by allowing new competitors to take on dear and dozy national stock exchanges. Earlier this month the European Parliament approved MiFID 2, an even more ambitious law, which aims to change how trillions of euros-worth of stocks and bonds, derivatives and commodities are traded, cleared and reported.Its main thrust will be to force trading across all asset classes into open and transparent markets—not just equities, the focus of MiFID 1, or derivatives, the focus of EMIR’s clearing rules.nder MiFID 2, if trading in a particular share in dark pools exceeds certain caps, the pools will be barred from handling it for six months (although the darkness makes it hard to know when caps are hit).Automated trading, too, has provoked heated debate, especially the high-frequency sort which ESMA thinks accounts for over a fifth of European share-trading by value. A proposal for a mandatory half-second freeze on orders was dropped. 

Economist 4/26/14

  1. This was the scene at a recent event in London to promote “Hour of Code”, an initiative organised by Code.org, a non-profit, aimed at rousing interest in computer programming—or “coding” in the language of the digital cognoscenti. In September, when computer science becomes part of England’s primary-school curriculum, such games are likely to become a common sight in the country’s classrooms. Many other places are beefing up computer-science teaching, too. Israel was an early adopter, updating its high-school syllabus a decade ago; New Zealand and some German states recently did the same. Australia and Denmark are now following suit.  Israel has about 1,000 trained computer-science teachers, and Bavaria more than 700. Mathematics and computer-science graduates generally choose more lucrative trades.
  2. PAKISTAN only country in South Asia that does not have high-speed mobile internet, because only this week, after eight years of delays and regulatory snarl-ups, did it at last hold an auction of the spectrum required to roll out 3G and 4G services. Successful bids were made by two local operators, Mobilink and Ufone, and two foreign ones, China Mobile and Telenor of Norway. So far less than 10% of the country’s 132m mobile subscribers have smartphones, according to industry figures.
  3. BRAZIL has the world’s biggest reserves of fresh water. That most of it sits in the sparsely populated Amazon has not historically stopped Brazilians in the drier, more populous south taking it for granted. São Paulo state, home to one-fifth of Brazil’s population and one-third of its economic activity, is suffering the worst drought since records began in 1930.On April 21st the governor, Geraldo Alckmin, warned that from May consumers will be fined for increasing their water use. Those who cut consumption are already rewarded with discounts on their bills.And not just in São Paulo; the national water regulator has warned that 16 projects in the ten biggest cities must be completed by 2015 to prevent chronic water shortages over the next decade.
  4. Thanks to personalised “family stickers”: tiny stick-figure depictions of an entire household (most typically displayed in one corner of a minivan’s rear-windscreen). Though the trend’s origins are obscure, there is a consensus that it began in Mexico several years ago and at first involved generic outline figures,Chroma Graphics of Tennessee, a supplier to such firms as Walmart, recently designed its first kits to celebrate households headed by same-sex couples. In Idaho a sign-maker, Woodland Manufacturing, has pioneered hyper-personalised stickers, www.familystickers.com, its online retail arm.
  5. On April 15th a court in Brussels prohibited drivers from accepting passengers through UberPOP, on pain of a €10,000 ($13,800) fine. Last month Seattle’s council declared that Lyft, SideCar and UberX should be limited to 150 drivers each at a time—though a petition has gained enough signatures to put this requirement on hold. A judge has already told Lyft to apply the brakes in St Louis, only a few days after it rolled into town. RelayRides shut down in New York almost a year ago, because it fell foul of the state’s insurance laws. In other states, explains Andre Haddad, the chief executive, the company’s insurance policy kicks in once a car is rented out. New York law, however, insists that the owner remains liable.Airbnb has thus come under fire from Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney-general. He is demanding that the company hand over information about hosts with more than one property listed on the site. According to Skift, a travel-industry website, there are 1,849 of these, accounting for 30% of Airbnb’s New York listings; 102 have seven properties or more.BlaBlaCar, a French ride-sharing company operating in several European countries. Its users share only intercity rides, and so do not annoy urban cabbies.Airbnb has said it is willing to collect hotel taxes in New York, Portland and San Francisco. It has recently revised its terms and conditions, spelling out in greater detail its hosts’ obligations to declare what they earn, as well as to honour their leases. San Francisco is considering the legalisation of some short-term letting. Hosts must live in the property at least three-quarters of the time, register with the city and pay the 14% hotel tax.

Economist 4/25/14

  1. Berkshire Hathaway is into all manner of business, from insurance to ice-cream parlours. Normally, such diverse groups suffer a “conglomerate discount”; but Berkshire’s shares trade at a 40% premium to the book value of its holdings. Mr Buffett’s proven formula has been to seek solid firms with good defences against competitors, leave their managers to run them as before, and hang on to them for the long term. His success over the past half-century makes him living disproof of the “efficient-markets hypothesis”.In any case, the best of Berkshire’s gains came in earlier decades, when it was easier to find small, nimble “gazelles” to satisfy its hunger for growth. Now to expand significantly it must hunt lumbering “elephants”.Mr Buffett says he has a succession plan, but Berkshire’s board may turn into a battlefield once he steps down (see article), with his replacement as chief executive torn between his son Howard, who will be the chairman, and strong-willed directors such as Bill Gates.Buffett should remind shareholders at the annual meeting of the examples of James Hanson of Hanson Trust and Henry Singleton of Teledyne. These two conglomerate-builders of the 1960s to 1980s ended their stellar careers by breaking up the empires they had created, having recognised that an orderly sale would realise more value than a long, sad decline. 
  2.  On April 24th a settlement was reached between 64,400 tech workers and Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe Systems, which stand accused of conspiring between 2005 and 2009 to restrict the pay of their staff by, among other things, agreeing not to poach rivals’ workers. Although the proposed settlement, rumoured to be worth $324m, should spare the firms from a court battle due to start next month, the legal jousting leading up to it has revealed evidence of discussions they would no doubt have preferred to keep secret.All of the firms had already settled a similar case brought by America’s Justice Department in 2010. And the risks grew even further last year when Pixar and Lucasfilm, two film studios, and Intuit, a software firm, reached a $20m settlement in a case involving claims that they had struck no-poaching agreements.
  3.  The scale of the massacre of civilians in South Sudan’s oil hub of Bentiu on April 15th-16th plumbed a new depth of hell. The rebel White Army (pictured), so-called after the ash its fighters sometimes smear on themselves, killed anyone they suspected of supporting the government.With each new offensive, large numbers of civilians from the two main ethnic groups, the Dinka, from which Mr Kiir hails, and Mr Machar’s Nuer, have found themselves caught in enemy territory.Uganda has backed Mr Kiir’s government with a large force. The rump state of Sudan to the north has sold weapons to both sides; Ethiopia is courted by the rebels, who accuse Egypt, with whom Ethiopia has sour relations, of backing Mr Kiir.Meanwhile, the UN has increasingly found itself in the line of fire. More than 50,000 civilians are sheltering in five of its bases. Some 10,000 UN peacekeepers are trying to protect them, but on April 20th they failed to do so when 58 people were killed by a mob. The roots of the conflict lie in a failure to build the basis of a functional state. When South Sudan got full independence from the north in 2011, its abundant aid money and oil revenue (virtually its sole domestic source of income) were used for two baleful purposes: to pay for an expanding army and to enrich the country’s new elite.South Sudan’s main international sponsors, such as the United States and the EU, have become less willing to pay off the warlords to keep the peace.
  4. THE Red Sea city of Jeddah is the most relaxed spot in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But its residents are worried by a rise in the number of people diagnosed with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, known as MERS. Few cases had been reported since the virus, a less infectious but deadlier version of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), was found in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. But Saudi officials announced on April 23rd that 11 new cases had been discovered that day alone, bringing the total to 48 cases in five days, compared with a total of 272 cases diagnosed in the past 18 months. Of those infected, 83 have died, including several foreigners of undisclosed nationalities.Though MERS first appeared in the oil-rich east of the country, possibly having passed to humans from camels.
  5. In 1967 the share of mothers who did not work outside the home stood at 49%; by 2000 it had dropped to just 23%.Taken as a whole, the group includes mothers at both ends of the social scale (see chart 2). Some are highly educated bankers’ wives who choose not to work because they don’t need the money and would rather spend their time hot-housing their toddlers so that they may one day get into Harvard. Others are poorer but calculate that, after paying for child care, the money they make sweeping floors or serving burgers does not justify the time away from their little ones.The first group is fairly small. Pew estimates that there are 370,000 highly educated and affluent stay-at-home mothers .That is 5% of all stay-at-home mothers with working husbands. How can women be taking over the workplace while simultaneously opting out of it? The answer is that men have been quitting the labour force even faster. Overall labour-force participation (for both sexes) has been declining since 2000, but for men it has fallen faster (from 75% to 69%) than for women (60% to 57%).  “The average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, Actually, it is a bit more complicated than Mr Obama pretends. If employers could really get the same work done for 77 cents on the dollar by hiring women, they would do so. Men in “full-time” work do indeed make more than women, but this is partly because they work longer hours (full-time here means 35 or more hours a week). Men also cluster in some of the better-paid professions: they are 87% of engineers but only 16% of teachers. They do more dangerous jobs: 92% of work-related deaths are of men. . Single, childless women earn 95 cents for every dollar a single, childless man makes, which is hardly the stuff of campaign slogans.

Economist 4/24/14

  1. Over the next 20 years the global population of those aged 65 or more will almost double, from 600m to 1.1 billion.In the rich world, well-educated people increasingly work longer than the less-skilled. Some 65% of American men aged 62-74 with a professional degree are in the workforce, compared with 32% of men with only a high-school certificate.Policy is partly responsible. Many European governments have abandoned policies that used to encourage people to retire early. Rising life expectancy, combined with the replacement of generous defined-benefit pension plans with stingier defined-contribution ones, means that even the better-off must work longer to have a comfortable retirement.Wealthy old people will accumulate more savings, which will weaken demand. Inequality will increase and a growing share of wealth will eventually be transferred to the next generation via inheritance, entrenching the division between winners and losers still further.One likely response is to impose higher inheritance taxes. So long as they replaced less-fair taxes, that might make sense.Age should no longer determine the appropriate end of a working life. Mandatory retirement ages and pension rules that discourage people from working longer should go. Welfare should reflect the greater opportunities open to the higher-skilled.
  2. NEW HAMPSHIRE has just failed to abolish the death penalty—by one vote.Non-whites, who will one day be a majority, are solidly opposed. Six states have abolished it since 2007, bringing the total to 18 out of 50. The number of executions each year has fallen from a peak of 98 in 1999 to 39 last year .Some feel that death is the only fitting punishment for murderers: that it satisfies society’s need for retribution.  The murder rate is far higher in America than in the European Union, which has no death penalty. It is also higher in American states that carry out executions than in states that do not. The murder rate is far higher in America than in the European Union, which has no death penalty. It is also higher in American states that carry out executions than in states that do not. An unintended consequence of this is that executing a murderer is now perhaps three times more expensive than locking him up for life.
  3. But the number of corporate jets in China—fewer than 400—is smaller than in lesser emerging markets like Brazil and Mexico.he government, long the biggest obstacle to growth, is changing its attitude. Until now over-regulation has made importing jets costly, training local pilots complex and filing flight plans cumbersome. An anti-corruption drive by the newish government of President Xi Jinping has led state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to shun jets. An aviation-industry veteran says SOE executives once made up perhaps 15% of the local jet-leasing market before the crackdown, but that figure today is 5%.. China has fewer than 400 airports for civil use today, whereas small jets can land at 18,000 fields across America. The armed forces have recently given up some big blocks of air space they had previously reserved for training, and handed over about a dozen military airfields for civil aviation.Gulfstream, an American manufacturer of big business jets. His firm has sold over 100 in China, many of them top-end models, and holds the biggest market share. The mainland’s private-jet fleet has more than doubled in the past three years, and grew by roughly a fifth last year. Bombardier, a Canadian builder of business jets, forecasts that from 2013 to 2032 Chinese customers will take delivery of more than 2,400 of them.
  4. POLITICAL apologies are rarely so awkward. In 2012 Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, explained in a short film why he had broken a promise to vote against raising university tuition fees.When the coalition government raised fees paid by students in England (Scotland and Wales have their own policies) from around £3,300 to £9,000 a year, the idea was to boost universities’ incomes while cutting the amount of taxpayer cash spent on undergraduate teaching. State-backed student loans, repayable only when graduates begin earning, were extended to cover the cost of the higher fees.The system can save the government money only if students do indeed repay their loans. Under the rules, graduates repay 9% of any income they earn over £21,000. Meanwhile, debt accumulates interest at the rate of inflation plus up to 3%. If they are not fully repaid, loans are written off after 30 years. 
  5. The EUVOX voting tool is the brainchild of a group of academics whose original “Kieskompas” has become a staple in the Netherlands and Sweden, where a quarter of voters used it at the last national elections. The group has since created tools for elections in 40 other countries, including Egypt, Mexico and Israel, and now the European Commission has subsidised one as well. Questions are tailored per country but the themes are similar: the economy (for example should funds be redistributed to poorer areas), society (should gay marriage be allowed) and Europe (should immigration be restricted). Along with the “match”, the user can then click on what each party has said about each question and can filter according to the issues they care about.