Economist 6/27/14

  1. Before April 2013 Scotland had eight police forces. Eight have since become just one. The mass merger was partly intended to save money: £64m ($109m) in the first year. It was also supposed to improve crime-fighting.Meanwhile England and Wales plod on with 43 forces, from the colossal Metropolitan Police (with 30,631 officers) to tiny Warwickshire (796). Smaller forces struggle to provide the breadth of services–from dealing with anti-social behaviour to cybercrime–that larger ones can. Smaller forces are trying to collaborate with each other.Such partnerships can improve policing and cut costs.
  2. It HAS been the hottest May ever, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The world’s average surface temperature was 0.74°C above its 20th-century average.It looks at three areas where the weather makes the biggest difference: coastal property, farming and the effect of heat on work. It points out that, if the oceans go on rising at current rates, the sea level at New York city will rise by 27-49cm by 2050 and by 64-128cm in 2100.Inland, the big problem is the effect of heat and drought on farming. Drought in North Dakota in 2006, for example, wiped out 10% of the value of the state’s wheat crop. On current trends, by 2050 America’s most productive cereal-growing region, the Midwest, will have between nine and 28 days a year in which average daytime temperatures will be 35°C (95°F) or above.The heat could cut yields in the Midwest by a fifth, the study reckons—though that assumes farmers do not adapt by planting heat-tolerant crops.
  3. Houston was not Japan’s first go at garden diplomacy. As trade tensions built in the 1970s, Japanese authorities helped to build a fine garden in Missouri and—to mark America’s bicentenary in 1976—sent scores of priceless bonsai to the National Arboretum, a park and research station in Washington, DC.It was an early display of soft power: a term coined by Joseph Nye of Harvard .Now it is China’s turn. In the past decade and a half, Chinese classical gardens have opened in Staten Island in New York, St Louis, Seattle, San Marino in California and Portland, Oregon—often with help from Chinese authorities.As China rises, its officials have promoted ever-grander projects, culminating in a 12-acre Qing-dynasty garden that China has offered to build in the National Arboretum.A first letter of intent to build the Washington garden was signed in 2003, 11 years after talks began, all that could be seen on a recent morning was an untouched meadow. China is to donate all structures above ground and will send workers to assemble them. But the Department of Agriculture, which runs the National Arboretum, must prepare the foundations and water features, a task expected to cost $35m.To mounting dismay on the Chinese side, the foundation’s only substantial funding to date is $1.7m.
  4. Apples are one of Poland’s most successful exports. Last year the country overtook China as the world’s biggest apple exporter. One-third of Poland’s crop, or about 1.2m tonnes, went abroad, with Russia taking 57% of the total. Poland’s entire farm sector, from cereals to meat production, is surging ahead.Agriculture is probably the biggest single beneficiary of Poland’s membership of the EU.  Polish agriculture received a bountiful €40 billion ($55 billion) in 2007-13 and will get another €42.4 billion between now and 2020.Over the past ten years Poland has doubled its poultry production and become Europe’s leading producer of soft fruit and cultivated mushrooms.Polish agriculture remains highly fragmented. It accounts for only 3.4% of GDP but 12.4% of employment. In a recent report on Poland the OECD was especially critical of the highly favourable social-security system for farmers, KRUS, as well as some of the tax advantages they enjoy. Many farmers hold on to tiny plots of land just to remain eligible for KRUS.Farmers are an important political constituency. The rural population makes up around 39% of the total.Polish farmers’ most immediate worry is about the Ukrainian crisis.Most farmers depend on Ukrainian workers during the harvest.
  5. China has sent ships to Hawaii to take part in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military drills for the first time. RIMPAC, which began on June 26th, is the largest naval exercise in the world, with 25,000 personnel from 23 countries, including America, Australia, India, Indonesia and South Korea. hough RIMPAC will not solve today’s tensions, it is part of an attempt to improve communication between regional armed forces.
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