Economist 9/18/14

  1. The OECD’s latest “Education at a Glance” report compares how well rich countries are faring in spreading educational opportunity, by ranking countries according to the proportion of 25- to 64-year-olds who are better educated than their parents. A striking feature is a strong correlation of socially mobile countries at the top of the table with excellent test results in secondary schools (as measured by the OECD’s regular PISA tests and others). So South Korea heads the education-mobility league, just ahead of Finland.Moreover France, the Netherlands and Poland fare well in terms of opportunity, though their educational performances differ: Poland and the Netherlands receive strong marks in PISA; France less so.At the bottom end of the table, there is bad news for Germany. It shows a low level of upward mobility—about the same as the Czech Republic’s. But because many Germans match their parents’ level of education.
  2. THE world’s biggest brewer, AB InBev (ABI), maker of Budweiser and Stella Artois, is also the most frugal. There are no company cars for senior executives. Carlos Brito, the boss, flies economy class. That is one reason why, with 18% of global beer sales, ABI has a third of the profits. SAB Miller seems to have been trying to defend itself against a possible takeover by ABI, which was said to be talking to bankers about raising £75 billion ($121 billion) to buy its rival.SAB is a tempting target. Though based in London, its origins are in South Africa; it has breweries and bottling plants in 15 African countries, where people still mainly guzzle moonshine. Nearly 70% of SAB’s sales are in emerging markets, many of which are still developing a taste for beer.
  3. The case Young v United Parcel Service concentrates on whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), a law passed in 1978 that fortified employment protections for pregnant women under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, requires companies to accommodate women like Ms Young. The PDA prohibits employers from discriminating “because of” pregnancy and holds that pregnant women must not be treated differently from other employees who are “similar in their ability, or inability, to work.” UPS defends its accommodation policy as “pregnancy neutral.” It excludes women carrying a fetus just as surely as it excludes employees injured off-site or requesting a new assignment for some other reason.But Ms Young and her defenders find animus in the the omission and argue that the PDA requires more than neutrality. It mandates that employers offer benefits to pregnant women if those benefits are available to employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.
  4. THE Supreme Court of Bangladesh has just rejected appeals by a former prime minister, Khaleda Zia, over the appointment of a judge in a corruption case against her. The ruling clears the way for Mrs Zia to stand trial.The court ruling reinforces the dominance enjoyed by the country’s most powerful woman, Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister. It comes eight months after she won an unprecedented second term in an election boycotted by Mrs Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).Some sympathisers argue that Sheikh Hasina’s rule is justified, if only because of her success in developing the economy. Poverty has fallen rapidly since her return to power in 2009. The economy is now twice as big as when the kleptocratic and incompetent rule of Mrs Zia’s government.After its coup, the army discovered that governing was less enjoyable than it had imagined. It has since taken a back seat. It earns a handy $500m a year from its UN peacekeeping missions, the arms budget has grown nicely.
  5. Xi Jinping, China’s current leader, is now dismantling it. He has become the most powerful Chinese ruler certainly since Deng, and possibly since Mao. Whether this is good or bad for China depends on how Mr Xi uses his power. Mao pushed China to the brink of social and economic collapse, and Deng steered it on the right economic path but squandered a chance to reform it politically. Mr Xi has grabbed it and run with it. He has taken charge of secretive committees responsible for reforming government, overhauling the armed forces, finance and cyber-security. Mr Xi needs to set up an independent body to fight corruption, instead of leaving the job to party investigators and the feuding factions they serve. He should also require officials to declare all sources of income, property and other assets.Mr Xi is making some of the right noises. Reforms are being tinkered with to make local courts less beholden to local governments. But he needs to go further by abolishing the party’s shadowy “political-legal committees”, which decide sensitive cases.
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