Economist 3/6/15

  1. Aberdeen Fisherwomen Association is one of about 160 farming and fishing organisations which fill 60 of the 1,200 seats in the committee that selects the chief executive. The same farming and fishing groups also elect one of the 70 members of Hong Kong’s legislative council, or Legco. Granting special voting rights to businesses and professions is a practice dating to Hong Kong’s days as a British colony. Pro-democracy politicians want to end the system, but neither China’s ruling Communist Party, nor the interest groups themselves, are keen.A frequent complaint about the voting system is that it gives disproportionate representation to certain occupations.On August 31st China’s parliament announced that, in the election for the post of chief executive due in 2017, the winner would be chosen by popular vote for the first time. But candidates must be pre-approved by a committee comprising representatives of much the same interest groups as before.Next month the government is expected to publish a bill that will be needed to implement these changes.If the bill fails to pass, the current system will be preserved at least until 2022.
  2. GRUMBLING about the semi-permanent smog that cloaks Chinese cities has grown louder in recent years. But discussion has been muted by the reluctance of officials to wag fingers too often at large state-owned enterprises (SOEs), or the government itself, for their roles in fermenting the toxic brew. That changed on February 28th with the release of an online video-documentary pointing precisely at these culprits.Intriguingly, government officials and state-controlled media have been among those singing the praises of the 104-minute video, “Under the Dome”.Such signs of official backing for a work that blames state entities and the government itself for a huge public-health problem has led to speculation about politics at work.
  3. An Ebola patient wracked with acute symptoms may shed as much as ten litres a day of highly infectious blood and other body fluids, faeces and decomposing tissue. It makes caring for patients suffering from this dreadful disease difficult and dangerous. Odulair put a modular Ebola-isolation unit on the market. The firm says it can be manufactured, air-freighted and set up within a month. The unit maintains a differential air pressure between rooms to help prevent the virus from spreading;. The air in each room is purified up to 36 times an hour with filters that trap almost all particles larger than a third of a micron.The doors in the unit can open automatically, allowing a “telepresence” robot to patrol. It displays live video of a doctor or nurse, allowing them to speak to a patient.All fluid and solid waste, including things like needles and mattresses, is fed into a cylindrical chamber housed in a shipping container. This grinds it up with a macerator and then cooks it with scalding steam under high pressure until all that is left is a sterile greyish powder. Odulair’s isolation unit also incorporates a fogging system that sterilises unoccupied rooms with hydrogen-peroxide vapour.But only two Odulair isolation units have been sold.An Odulair unit to house ten confirmed and eight suspected patients costs about $900,000—robot not included.Cost is not the only reason high-tech solutions are failing to be deployed in Ebola hotspots. Repairing and servicing mechanical and electronic systems is tricky.Another difficulty is that Ebola field clinics typically must generate their own electricity.
  4. Why are girls performing better at school than their male classmates?First, girls read more than boys. Reading proficiency is the basis upon which all other learning is built.Second, girls spend more time on homework. On average, girls spend five and a half hours per week doing homework while boys spend a little less than four and a half hours.Boys, it appears, spend more of their free time in the virtual world; they are 17% more likely to play collaborative online games than girls every day. They also use the internet more.Third, peer pressure plays a role. A lot of boys decide early on that they are just too cool for school which means they’re more likely to be rowdy in class. Teachers mark them down for this.Boys in countries with the best schools read much better than girls. And girls in Shanghai excel in mathematics. They outperform boys from anywhere else in the world.
  5. THE Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs the West Bank under Israel’s wary eye, is nearly broke. Israel collects $100m-plus every month on the PA’s behalf in customs dues and other credits from abroad and is supposed to hand over the money to the PA in Ramallah, its headquarters. But earlier this year, after the Palestinians applied to join the International Criminal Court, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, froze such transfers to mark his annoyance.By scraping together some loans, the PA managed to pay 60% of its public-sector salaries in January and February.Gaza, the other slice of Palestinian territory, which is controlled by Hamas, an Islamist movement, is even worse off. Its security forces have not had their salaries for the past eight months.Israeli security forces rely on the PA to co-operate with them on security.Already violence has risen. Car-bombings and attempted assassinations have increased.

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