Economist 6/16/14

  1. After years of overpromising and underfunding, Chicago has the worst pension gap of any big American city.On June 9th Mr Emanuel won a modest but encouraging victory when the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, signed a pension-reform bill the mayor had championed. It covers 61,000 city-government workers and retirees, out of a total of nearly 100,000. It will hurt: employees must chip in 29% more for a smaller pension, though the retirement age will not be raised.Mr Emanuel has a long record of getting things done. As a young man, he went to work for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign.As a staffer in the Clinton White House, Mr Emanuel bullied lawmakers into passing big reforms, including the North American Free-Trade Agreement of 1994, after which trade between Mexico and the United States soared more than sixfold.Mr Emanuel has been tireless—he gets up at 5.30am each day—and effective.Chicago Downtown is booming: its population, unlike the city’s, grew 36% between 2000 and 2010. Companies such as Motorola Mobility and United Airlines have decamped from the suburbs to the city centre. More broadly, Mr Emanuel has pepped up education. He demanded merit pay for teachers and a longer school day (Chicago’s was only 5 hours 45 minutes)., Mr Emanuel got the longer day, adding 2.5 years to each child’s schooling between kindergarten and high school.
  2. The average sale price of a single-family detached home in Vancouver is now around C$1m ($920,000). Over the past five years, Vancouver homes worth C$1m-2m have doubled in value, according to tax-assessment records.A Vancouver family earned a paltry $68,970 total median income in 2011, putting them 23rd out of the 28 major cities.The likely culprit is an influx of foreign, and especially Chinese, capital, as people move money from the mainland to a safe and pretty spot.. Although there are data on investor immigrants—those who have at least $800,000 to invest in order to fast track their application to get Canadian citizenship—there isn’t information on where they are investing their money or how much goes into property
  3. ON JUNE 17th the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta stamp, the only surviving example of a penny issue printed in the South American British colony in 1856, will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s. Pre-auction estimates are that it will fetch in the region of $20m, almost ten times as much as the price achieved by the current record-holder, the Treskilling Yellow, in 1996. That would make it the most valuable human artefact (by weight) ever sold, says the auction house.The broad reason is that number of extremely wealthy people in the world has soared in recent years. That means ever higher premiums are paid for the most covetable items over those that are merely good—from world-famous works of art, to the finest wines, to one-of-a-kind stamps.Chinese people held 17% of their assets in alternative investments, such as fine paintings and jade objets d’art, compared with 9% for America’s super-rich and 7% of Britain’s.. At least a third of the world’s stamp collectors are now in China; dealers say that auctions and shows in Hong Kong and Beijing are far more lively affairs,
  4. AS THE 20th FIFA World Cup kicks off this week in Brazil,More than 2,200 goals have been scored since 1930 (Brazil netted a tenth of them) with an average of 2.9 goals per game, including no-score draws. One can expect a rush of goals in the last ten minutes of normal time, but the 18th and 75th minutes have proved fertile.
  5. The main spur for the Japanese government is envy at South Korea’s outsize popular influence.  Video games sold well, but anime, manga, films and books never made it overseas on a commercial scale. Back then, anime and manga were regarded as a mediocrity in Japan, and the authorities paid little attention.Now the government of Shinzo Abe is in the midst of spending some ¥90 billion ($883m) to propel Japan’s creative industries abroad.Many of Japan’s hippest creators want nothing to do with the government’s initiative.Another difficulty is that the government seems to be confused about what it thinks is cool.This month Japan’s parliament is expected to pass a law that would criminalise possession of child pornography for the first time—yet such images in manga, anime and video-game graphics will be left exempt from its provisions, for the sake of freedom of expression. The prevalence of such content is one reason, some argue, why the industry’s offerings have not moved more completely into the commercial mainstream abroad
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