Economist 5/17/14

  1. IN ONE week Ukrainians are to vote in a presidential election scheduled for May 25th.  In one dramatic development the commander of rebel forces railed that he had less than 1,000 men to fight the entire Ukrainian army. He complained that many of those who did volunteer only wanted to defend the areas around their own homes. Many want to use the resistance, he says, as a cover for banditry.The rebels do not have enough men to defeat the Ukrainian forces deployed around town, while the army does not seem to know how to retake it without causing major civilian casualties.
  2. Popular protests against China broke out in Vietnam on May 14th after CNOOC, a Chinese oil giant, installed a mobile oil-drilling rig just 220km off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea. Vietnamese authorities have since clamped down on the rioting and arrested more than 1,000 people.But an exodus of sorts is already under way.A Cambodian lieutenant in Bavet, Prak Vibolochey, explained how the sudden migration of Chinese civilians appeared at his post.Cambodia has long enjoyed unusually cordial relations with China, with whom it does not share a border. By contrast the ethnic majority of Cambodia, the Khmers, have a tradition of hostility towards Vietnam, their country’s powerful neighbour next door. 
  3. FOR 134 years New York Community Bancorp was a neighbourhood depository in the borough of Queens. In the 1990s, however, it began a caffeinated expansion, completing ten mergers in short order as brought it sudden attention: with $48 billion in assets as of March 31st, it is the first bank since the financial crisis to approach the $50 billion threshold at which the Federal Reserve can declare it a “systemically important financial institution”.That would subject it to a series of regulatory torments under the Dodd-Frank law of 2010, which overhauled financial regulation. The agonies would include multifaceted “stress tests”, a requirement to draw up a detailed dissolution plan and an implicit veto on all activities by unpredictable bureaucrats.Earlier this month Daniel Tarullo, a governor of the Federal Reserve, gave a speech calling for the $50 billion threshold to be scrapped. Instead, he proposes a far more graduated system of regulation, tied not only to a bank’s size but also to the activities it undertakes.
  4. TO ECONOMISTS, an “optimal currency area” is one in which the gains from sharing a single currency outweigh the costs. Countries tying the monetary knot give up the right to slash interest rates or devalue when stormclouds gather. A slump focused on just one region of the currency zone can therefore last a long time: until falling wages make hiring there attractive once more.In the 1990s a few prescient critics noted that “fluidity” was not a characteristic commonly used to describe European labour markets. Just 0.35% of Europeans migrate across borders each year, compared with the nearly 2.5% of Americans leaving one state for another. The problem, they note, is that departing migrants take their purchasing power with them when they go. 
  5. Licensing a gun is cheap in UK. Owners pay only £50 to register for five years, a fee that has not risen since 2001 (some trout fishers, by contrast, must cough up £360 over the same period). Police chiefs say the cash they collect covers barely a quarter of what it costs them to run the licensing scheme. The number of guns held by civilians in England and Wales has risen by 14% to 1.8m, the highest number since detailed record-taking started two decades ago.These healthy figures surprise those who thought strict gun laws brought in after a mass shooting in Scotland in 1996 would fatally wound Britain’s shooting culture. That horror, and the ban on handguns that followed, encouraged gun ownership to decline for five consecutive years. But a gradual increase in the popularity of rifles, both for shooting targets and for killing deer and other animals, has since reversed the trend.

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