Economist 5/5/14

  1. WHEN measured in terms of academic achievement, Asian Americans are a successful bunch. Forty-nine percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. This compares favourably against white Americans (30%), African-Americans (19%) and Latinos (13%). These racial disparities can be seen in school as well, and they increase when postgraduate degrees are thrown into the mix.Amy Chua, a self-declared “tiger mother” who became famous for promoting the benefits of harsh parenting, would put this down to culture.  “triple package” comprised of a superiority complex, insecurity and good impulse control. In other words, certain groups tell themselves they are better than other groups, but learn that they have to work hard to succeed, and must resist temptation and distraction in proving themselves.When the pair looked at cognitive ability as measured by standardised tests, Asian-Americans were not different from their white peers.What might explain harder work? The authors point to the fact Asian-Americans are likely to be immigrants or children of immigrants who, as a group, tend to be more optimistic.We know that children who believe ability is innate are more inclined to give up if something doesn’t come naturally. An understanding that success requires hard work—not merely an aptitude—is therefore useful.
  2. Since Chávez’s death last year from cancer, the pretty revolution’s make-up has begun to peel in Venezuela. His successor, Nicolás Maduro, has none of the comandante’s famous charisma, and growth in oil income has stalled. Anger over food shortages and uncontrolled violent crime spilled over in February into nationwide protests. The government’s response has been a harsh crack-down that has seen over 2,500 people detained so far. Human-rights groups say excessive use of force, beatings and denial of due process have been routine. The Supreme Court has made it a crime to protest without permission.
  3. A large Protestant church in the city known as “China’s Jerusalem” was demolished on April 28th on the orders of local leaders. Sanjiang church, in the eastern city of Wenzhou, took six years and 30m yuan ($4.8m) to put up, but officials said it had violated building codes.Unregistered “house churches” have long been the target of government crackdowns, but Sanjiang was part of the officially approved church. Some Christians in Wenzhou believe that local party leaders were annoyed by the symbolism of such a large building. China probably has more than 80m Christians.
  4.  Sri Lanka is providing shelter to growing numbers of would-be refugees from Pakistan.The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, reports an increase in asylum-seekers arriving from Pakistan to 1,489 last year, up from just 102 in 2012. Most are Christians or members of Ahmadiyya, an Islamic sect that is regarded as apostate by Sunni Muslims in Pakistan.Sri Lanka’s attraction for the asylum-seekers is that they can enter the country on 30-day tourist visas, obtainable online, and stay on after registering with the UNHCR, while their cases are examined. Sri Lanka does not allow them to settle, but the process often takes up to two years.Sri Lanka’s government gives the asylum-seekers no financial help. Pakistan maintains they are economic migrants fabricating stories.
  5. In Italy, small- and medium-sized businesses pay 65.8% in corporate tax, more than any of their rich-country counterparts. Firms in Italy also come first when asked if their tax rate is a problem for doing business, according to data from the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness report, which surveys more than 13,000 business leaders in 148 countries. Businesses in Denmark and Finland face similar levels of grievance over tax rates—though at 21% and 40%. In the case of Colombia, corruption is cited as a bigger concern for businesses than tax rates; in India it is an inadequate supply of infrastructure. 

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