Economist 6/23/14

  1. Russia-Kazakhstan relations look rock-solid. On May 29th Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s president, played genial host in Astana, his futuristic capital, to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus was also on hand to sign a pact creating the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a free-trade group soon to open to other former Soviet states (starting with Armenia and Kyrgyzstan).Along Kazakhstan’s 7,000 km border with Russia lie towns with large ethnic-Russian populations.Mr Nazarbayev, however, keeps repeating that the union is economic, not political.
  2. Bratophobia is not confined to New York.One pair of parents asked for the music to be turned down because their five-month-old was trying to sleep. Unattended sprogs have fallen after climbing on bar-stools Other pubs plagued by prams have taken to excluding children. Double Windsor bans tots after 5pm. Union Hall, a hipster hot-spot, put a “No Strollers, Please” sign on its door in 2008 (though it does allow kiddies in a few afternoons a week). Greenwood Park, which has a lovely beer garden and pitches itself as “family friendly”, closes its doors on kids under 21 after 7pm.Balancing the interests of parents and non-parents is hard.
  3.  In 2011 there were 6.7m domestic workers among the Brazil’s 201m people. In April 2013 a constitutional amendment was passed to give domestic workers the same rights as everyone else. The new law defined basic entitlements, such as an eight-hour working day, a maximum of 44 hours work per week, the right to the minimum wage, a lunch break, social security and severance pay. Most of these changes have been implemented relatively easily; but seven points remain stuck in Congress.Two issues are especially controversial. The first is about the Fundo de Garantia do Tempo de Servico (FGTS), a government severance fund into which an employer must pay 8% of their employee’s total salary each month.The second contentious issue relates to how many months’ pay workers will be entitled to should they be made redundant.Of the changes that have been enacted, the one that has made the most difference is the regulation of working hours.
  4.  Drone pilots experience mental-health problems at the same rate as fighter pilots deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a 2013 study by researchers for the Pentagon.Unsurprisingly, the air force has trouble attracting and keeping drone pilots, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an official watchdog. In December 2013 it had only 85% of the number it needed, which puts pressure on serving pilots. Many complain of long hours (nearly 60% say they work more than 50 hours a week), long commutes, open-ended assignments and few opportunities for promotion. Some say they were trained to fly manned aircraft, but were shunted to the “chair force” with empty promises that it would be temporary. A typical air-force stint is three to four years; some drone pilots have been serving for over six. Morale is low and burnout, high.For the Pentagon to meet its goal of at least 1,650 drone pilots by 2017, it will need to do a better job of keeping them content. The air force has already hired more psychiatrists and chaplains. The GAO suggests signing bonuses wouldn’t hurt, particularly as it costs only $65,000 to train a drone pilot, rather than the $557,000 needed to fly manned aircraft.
  5. On June 15th Sinhala Buddhist mobs rampaged through three towns on the southern coast, burning and attacking Muslim businesses and homes.The mobs were incited by an inflammatory speech from a Buddhist monk named Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara. A rabble-rouser like the Burmese monk, Wirathu, whom he recently visited, Mr Gnanasara leads an organisation called Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or Buddhist Power Force, that supports militancy against minorities to preserve the dominance of the Buddhist majority. Muslims have been particular targets. Although Muslims are just 10% of the population, they are making headway in business and finance.
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