Economist 1/14/15

  1. ACCORDING to data gathered by the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), deaths caused by cars in America are in long-term decline.New data to the end of 2012 support the view that guns will surpass cars this year as the leading killer of under 25s. Its compilation of the CDC data in December concluded that guns would be deadlier for all age groups.Black Friday on November 28th kicked off such a shopping spree that the FBI had to carry out 175,000 instant background checks (three checks a second), a record for that day, just for sales covered by the extended Brady Act of 1998, the only serious bit of gun-curbing legislation passed in recent history. Everytown for Gun Safety, a movement backed by Mike Bloomberg found that one in 30 users of Armslist classifieds has a criminal record that forbids them to own firearms. Private reselling of guns draws no attention, unless it crosses state lines. . By contrast, safety features on firearms—such as smartguns unlocked by an owner’s thumbprint or a radio-frequency encryption—are opposed by the National Rifle Association.
  2. Guantemala’s ex-dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt’s conviction and 80-year prison sentence imposed in May 2013 caused jubilation among Maya Indians who for 30 years have accused soldiers under his command of carrying out massacres. Ten days later, the first conviction for genocide of a former head of state in his own country was quashed on flimsy technicalities.His defence team continues to question the validity of the entire legal process because of a 1986 amnesty law (introduced by another dictator). The general’s enemies, backed by international legal organisations, argue that anything less than a genocide conviction would be a travesty.
  3. FOUR years after the beginning of what is now called the Arab spring only in a tone of bitter irony, almost all the countries involved are in a dire state. Nowadays Libya is barely a country at all. The factions that came together to fell Muammar Qaddafi have given up trying to settle their differences by negotiation. The east is under the control of a more or less secular alliance, based in Tobruk; in the west, a hotch-potch of groups in Tripoli and Misrata, once the symbol of heroic resistance to Qaddafi, hold sway, backed by hardline Islamist militias. Libya has two rival governments, two parliaments, two sets of competing claims to run the central bank and the national oil company, no functioning national police or army, and an array of militias that terrorise the country’s 6m citizens.Turkey, Qatar and Sudan favour the Islamist-leaning factions, while Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among others, back the more widely recognised eastern alliance.The West has tried to keep out of Libya.ibya is only 300 miles from southern Europe. A bloodbath there would launch thousands more refugee ships across the Mediterranean.In the end, it is for the Libyans to save Libya. Their task should be far easier than it is for, say, the Syrians, Iraqis or Yemenis, because Libya is a rich country with a small population that is fairly homogeneous in terms of religion, class and ethnicity.
  4. THE Connecticut Supreme Court has denied a young woman suffering from Hodgkin Lymphoma the right to refuse chemotherapy on the grounds that the 17-year-old lacks the maturity to make such a grave decision. The woman, identified in court documents as “Cassandra C”  has sought to avoid treatment due to a belief that the chemotherapy will poison her body and leave her permanently damaged. Doctors familiar with her case say that without chemotherapy Cassandra will likely die within two years. Her lawyers argued that Cassandra’s refusal of consent ought to fall under the mature minor doctrine“, a widely recognised legal principle that instructs medical providers to honour the consent, or the withholding of consent, of unemancipated minors bright enough to grasp the consequences of their considered decisions about medical treatment. Cassandra’s eligibility to make medical decisions on her own behalf as a “mature minor” arose only because her monther had been stripped of her custody of Cassandra after doctors reported her for neglect for “not attending to Cassandra’s medical needs in a timely basis”.If we are entitled to choose on our own behalf—or on our children’s behalf—only when we are deemed rational, and rationality is defined to mean a consensus with the authorities, then autonomy is a bad joke.
  5. Britain is famously open to overseas investment, with national brands like Cadbury and Rolls-Royce Motors in foreign hands; rather less famously, it is also a keen investor in other countries. In 2000 Britons held international assets worth 301% of GDP. Today, following a post-crisis retrenchment, overseas investments amount to just over 560% of GDP. Britain’s current account—a measure of national saving—is thus determined not just by the familiar trade deficit but also by the balance of overseas income and returns to foreign investors. From 2001 to 2007 this flattered the nation: Britons reaped more in interest and dividends from elsewhere than they paid out. But the returns are vanishing. Britain’s net investment income has fallen from a peak of 3% of GDP in the second quarter of 2005 to minus 2.8% today. o sustain this deficit without eroding its wealth, Britain needs more capital gains. But with the world economy slowing, banking on an asset-price boom is risky.
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