Economist 9/24/14

  1. BRAZIL’S presidential race took a tragically unexpected turn on August 13th, when Eduardo Campos, a centrist candidate, died in a plane crash. Mr Campos had been trailing the left-wing incumbent, Dilma Rousseff, as well as Aécio Neves of the main centre-right opposition. Upon his death, however, his vice-presidential candidate Marina Silva (pictured), propelled to the top of the ticket, immediately surged past Mr Neves and nearly caught up with Ms Rousseff in first-round voting intentions.It became apparent that the election would be no cakewalk for Ms Rousseff and her Workers’ Party (PT) in June 2013, when more than 1m people took to the streets to vent anger at shoddy public services and corrupt, ineffectual politicians. The president’s approval rating, until then at a lofty 80%, halved overnight.In the eyes of many Brazilians it is Ms Silva who best embodies renewal. A black former environmental activist from a poor background, she served as Lula’s environment minister from 2003 until 2008, when she quit over ungreen policies pursued by others in the cabinet.
  2. The Communist Party of Vietnam developed a publicly financed health-care system even as it was fighting wars against France and then America. The provision of health care is supposed to be one of the pillars on which the party’s legitimacy is based. The 3% of GDP the state spends on the system (nearly half of total health spending) is not enough to improve health infrastructure. Though this is an authoritarian state, ordinary Vietnamese are remarkably outspoken about social issues. In health, they complain of the prevalence of “out of pocket” payments, which happen in around half of health-care transactions. Many of the payments are really bribes paid on top of formal hospital fees. They mean that affordability is often a larger factor than need, for all but the richest patients.
  3. LATER today, Finnair is planning to fly an Airbus A330 from Helsinki to New York partly powered by recycled cooking oil.The airline will not disclose the ratio of fossil fuel to cooking oil it has used until the plane touches down, but to be certified jet fuel must contain at least 50% of the traditional, dirty type. Some of the cooking oil that will be used is waste from restaurants. Before it is pumped into a plane, it has to be filtered to remove any impurities and then refined. Nonetheless, it could be a while before commercial planes are regularly powered by biofuel. It is still too expensive to collect and refine—it currently costs perhaps twice as much to produce as traditional fuel.
  4. MOST countries have armies, but in Pakistan the army has a country. The men in khaki have ruled directly for 33 of the country’s 67 years.The warriors in charge take the lion’s share of public spending.In 1973, she says, almost 90% of the federal budget went to military ends. By the late 1980s, around 80% of current spending either paid off debt or funded the army. The army’s record is not one to be proud of. Wars launched against India in 1947, 1965 and 1999, won little or nothing beyond international opprobrium.
  5. Some countries have decided that addresses are such an important part of their social and economic infrastructure that publishing and updating them is best done by a single, central body—and that access should be free, without conditions. Denmark has moved farther in this direction than most. Though it has long had a standardised system for creating addresses, until 2001 several government agencies and private firms kept separate, inconsistent registries. Denmark’s government compensated municipalities, which used to make money selling address lists. But it may make Britain the venue of a unique experiment. In what looks like damage limitation, the Cabinet Office has paid the Open Data Institute, a not-for-profit organisation, to build an open alternative. In America has got little further than creating a list of available address files; many counties have not been able to afford to digitise theirs.Concerns about privacy may also slow the creation of open-address registries. In Germany, for instance, it is not clear whether physical addresses and geographical co-ordinates count as personal data, even if no name is linked to them.

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