Economist 5/8/14

  1. This weekend the latest installment of English Premier League that has run since 1888, with a couple of brief pauses for world wars, will conclude. In all likelihood, Manchester City will be crowned champions. Victory will have come at a huge cost.  Then in 2008, a team that had been languishing in the third tier of English football less than a decade before, with little chance of competing for league honours, was bought by Sheikh Mansour (pictured), a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family. Backed by the emirate, Mr Mansour has since invested £1 billion ($1.7 billion) to turn the club into the best in the land. Wisely, it spends significantly more on wages than any other club in England. As research this week by The Economist shows, on-field success is highly correlated with the amount a club pays its players. City spent £233m on wages in the year to May 2013, £100m more than Liverpool, the only team that can now pip them to the title. In Germany, Bayern Munich, by far and away the richest club in the Bundesliga, are 19 points clear at the top. In Italy, Juventus, the club with the highest wage bill, according to La Gazetto dello Sport (link in Italian), sit atop Serie A. Indeed, of the big five European leagues, only in Spain is a club that does not spend the most on wages primed to win.UEFA, the body that governs the European game. It has introduced a new set of rules called Financial Fair Play (FFP), under which clubs must move towards breaking even. UEFA hopes this will mitigate against multi-billionaires and sovereign funds buying teams and distorting competition.Reports suggest nine teams have failed the FFP test, including Manchester City and PSG.
  2. VERMONT banned slavery before the rest of America, back in 1777. Vermont prepares to require labelling of foods containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients. As The Economist went to press Peter Shumlin, Vermont’s governor, was set to sign a bill that would come into force in July 2016. Vermont is a quirky mix: it has strict environmental rules, loose gun laws and America’s only self-proclaimed socialist senator. It also takes its food very seriously. Per capita, Vermont has more organic farms than any other state. Montpelier is America’s only McDonald’s-free state capital. Repeated studies have found no threat to human health from GM ingredients, which are found in up to four-fifths of processed food in American shops; nor have any ill effects appeared during the 20 years in which Americans have been eating the stuff. Some 64 countries, including the 28 of the European Union, require labelling. America does not, but that is changing. In 2012 and 2013 GM-labelling initiatives in, respectively, California and Washington state failed narrowly after biotech and food companies spent millions on ads to persuade voters that they would be costly and pointless.In 1992 the FDA ruled that since there was no material difference between GM and non-GM food, labelling was not required. et if the government requires labels, consumers may assume that this is an official health warning, even if it isn’t.
  3.  on May 7th, left in disarray after the Constitutional Court of Thailand demanded that the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra (pictured), step down with nine members of her cabinet over her decision to remove the country’s head of national security in 2011, in favour of a relative. in kicking out Ms Yingluck, the court accomplished what months of anti-government street protests in Bangkok, led by a firebrand populist, Suthep Thaugsuban, had failed to bring about. It is far from the first time the court has ruled against her. To break the impasse on Bangkok’s streets, she had called a February election, but the opposition Democrat Party boycotted it, and the court struck down the results. Ms Yingluck had been limping on as a caretaker.   For Mr Thaksin’s supporters, his emergence in 2001 marked a welcome break from decades of rule by corrupt coalitions or military juntas. Helped by a new democratic constitution in 1997, he gave a voice to Thailand’s majority, many of them in his northern and north-eastern heartland. In their view, he transformed the lives of the poorest with health and education programmes. . The starting point is the devolution of Thailand’s highly centralised system of governance. At the moment only the capital has a democratically elected governor, yet all 76 provinces should also have one.
  4. WHEN Vladimir Putin justified his annexation of Crimea on the ground that he owed protection to Russian speakers everywhere, this newspaper took a dim view of his line of argument, pointing out that since linguistic borders do not match those of states, it would lead to chaos.Under Mr Putin’s dispensation, things look up for the old colonial powers. Portugal gets to reclaim Brazil, Spain most of the rest of Central and South America and France most of west Africa, which would probably be fine by the locals, since many of their current governments are not much cop. . Dozens of segments would peel away from Mandarin-speaking China. Mayaland would agitate for autonomy in Central America. Swahililand would demand independence in Africa. The world’s 7 billion people speak more than 7,000 languages.
  5. South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye has been enthusing about the benefits of reunifying her country with this surly belligerent.Then, in February, she announced the formation of a committee to prepare for reunification. In March she visited Germany, long watched by South Koreans as a model of national reintegration between thriving capitalists and struggling communists.Younger Southerners seem to be less emotionally attached to the idea of a united Korea. In a poll taken in March only 14% of those in their 20s saw a Northerner as “one of us”. A big problem, for example, will be what to do with the estimated 1.2m soldiers in North Korea’s army. Mass demobilisation might be dangerous. But South Korea’s armed forces will surely not want to enlist them. South Korea’s close ally, America, with nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea, will be concerned above all about securing the North’s weapons of mass destruction

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