Economist 6/26/14

  1.  In America government funding per student fell by 27% between 2007 and 2012, while average college tuition fees, adjusted for inflation, rose by 20%. In Britain tuition fees, close to zero two decades ago, can reach £9,000 ($15,000 a year). According to a study from Oxford University, 47% of occupations are at risk of being automated in the next few decades.MOOCs will disrupt different universities in different ways.Rather than propping up the old model, governments should make the new one work better. They can do so by backing common standards for accreditation. In Brazil, for instance, students completing courses take a government-run exam. In most Western countries it would likewise make sense to have a single, independent organisation that certifies exams.
  2.  Khat is a mild narcotic popular with Ethiopians, Somalis and Yemenis.On June 24th the sale of khat was prohibited in Britain, almost a year after Theresa May, the home secretary, told the House of Commons that she intended to ban it. The government argues that since the leaf has been banned elsewhere.Users must chew great wodges of the leaf, which loses its potency just a few days after being picked Unlike cannabis, khat cannot be grown easily in Britain. Before the ban, loads were flown in from Africa and distributed from warehouses near Heathrow airport.
  3. SINCE the mid-1990s people in Yulin, a city in the southern region of Guangxi, have gathered on the summer solstice (June 21st this year) to drink lychee wine and savour dog. Served on skewers, roasted or sliced into steaming hot pot, dog meat is considered tasty and detoxifying. South Korea is renowned for its fondness for dog meat, but eating dogs (and cats) is also considered unremarkable in parts of China. Even in Beijing and Shanghai, the biggest cities, some restaurants serve the meat. Activists are concerned about the cruelty associated with an unregulated industry. A proposed law would make the illegal consumption or sale of dog- or cat-meat punishable by a fine of up to 5,000 yuan ($800).Today some 33m households keep a cat or dog. Analysts attribute the popularity of pets to demographic factors, including the soaring numbers of elderly people wanting companionship and the prevalence of families with only one child.
  4. Nonetheless, the jihadists who have taken over swathes of Iraq pose a bigger threat to Iran than to the United States. They seek to kill Shias, who make up most of Iran’s people. By conquering much of Iraq, they may soon be menacing Iran’s border. Like the Americans, the Iranians are loth to let ISIS knock him over.Iran’s leaders are wary of sending Mr Maliki large-scale, overt military aid. For one thing, they can hardly afford to. Their support for Hizbullah, Lebanon’s Shia party-cum-militia, and for Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria has been costly.Yet if ISIS were to threaten Baghdad or the shrines revered by Shias in the Iraqi cities of Najaf or Karbala, which are visited by hundreds of thousands of Iranian pilgrims every year, that would be another matter. 
  5. Yet of the 818 SWAT cases that the ACLU studied (largely between 2011 and 2012), only 7% were for these purposes. Most (62%) were to serve search warrants for drugs.Funding for SWAT teams is abundant; oversight, less so. One Pentagon programme has seen equipment transfers from the military to state and local law-enforcement agencies worth $4.3 billion. It doled out only $1m in 1990 but $450m last year.Maryland and Utah are the only states with laws requiring regular reports on SWAT raids. (Though Maryland’s will sunset this year.) In other states, police just have to fill out a couple of forms explaining why they are about to mount one. The most common reason is that officers expect to meet an armed suspect. In more than a third of drug raids officers returned empty-handed.In deployments where the race of those affected was recorded (which only happened two-thirds of the time) 49% were either black or Hispanic and just 19% were white. Her research casts new light on SWAT teams and their tactics—but the broader picture is still murky, as just 141 of 255 agencies approached for information provided it. And America has more than 17,000 of them in total.

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