Economist 3/30/15

  1. When United Auto Workers union (UAW) last negotiated a big pay deal, it was in 2011 and General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were still crawling out of the worst recession in memory.That deal expires this year, just as the motor industry is booming again. The big-three car firms complain that their wage bills are still higher than those of foreign rivals, and say they will resist pay rises.Carmaking is not the only industry where there is upward pressure on pay. In February Walmart, known for its stingy wages and lack of unions, said it would pay junior staff at least $9 per hour, which is above the federal minimum wage of $7.25. This week Target, another retailer, was reported to have raised its minimum pay to $9 an hour. It so far refuses to confirm this.
  2. Myanmar is a developing a tech industry. With wireless towers now popping up across the country, the government thinks 80% of citizens may have a mobile phone with a data connection by 2016. Small, local firms are racing to benefit: MySQUAR, a social network, said on March 22nd it was hoping to raise $2.5m by listing in London. There is Rebbiz, which runs property and jobs portals; Bindez, a search engine; and NEX and Technomation, which design smartphone apps.With little proficiency in foreign languages, Myanmar’s web users are clamouring for local content. But Yangon’s tech entrepreneurs—who include home-grown talent and returning emigrants—face many hurdles. Good programmers remain sparse.Making online payments is another difficulty, notes James Chan, an angel investor, because most Burmese are unbanked.he shop would download each app to the buyer’s smartphone from an encrypted memory stick provided by its designers. More recently, scratch-cards bearing download codes have become popular.Perhaps the greatest uncertainty is how many local tech firms will survive once foreign rivals move in. Already, Facebook is probably Myanmar’s most-visited website; Viber, an Israeli messaging app, is following behind. Rocket Internet, a German firm that builds e-commerce sites for emerging markets, is testing the water; and in February Google launched a local-language version of Gmail, its e-mail service.
  3. At least 224,000 Dengue cases had been registered across Brazil by March 7th, 162% more than in the same period in 2014, when the dry weather left fewer stagnant puddles in which mosquitoes could breed. A MOIST March, combined with the wettest February in 20 years is the main reason.The situation is gravest in the state of São Paulo, where 124,000 people have been diagnosed since January, an eightfold increase on last year. Infections have reached epidemic levels in nearly half the state’s municipalities. The rain is not the only reason for the current outbreak. Paradoxically, another cause is last year’s drought. Faced with the threat of rationing, people have been storing rainwater, often in open containers, which make good breeding-grounds for mosquitoes.
  4. This is an unhappy time for Jewish-Americans, and that is unusual. No other Jewish community is as visible and successful, outside Israel. American Jews feel forced to choose between competing loyalties.  With the exception of Jimmy Carter in 1980, since 1972 Democratic contenders for the White House have received between 64% and 80% of Jewish votes. East Hampton lies at one end of New York’s first congressional district, a moderate seat which in last year’s election was snatched from the Democrats by Lee Zeldin, a hawkish Iraq war veteran who is now the only Republican Jewish member of Congress. The district is home to about 33,000 Jews.Jewish support for Democrats has slipped ten percentage points since 2008, with very religious and male Jews leading the shift rightwards. But support fell from sky-high levels. And with only 5m Jewish-Americans, depending on how they are counted, they routinely swing elections in only a few places, of which Florida is the most important. The Democrats’ problem is that Jewish supporters stiffen the party’s “organisational backbone” and donate a lot of money.Since the terror attacks of 2001, support for Israel has united Republicans.
  5. The practice of charging young people as adults gained momentum in America in the 1990s, as youth crime spiked. Between 1990 and 2010 the number of juveniles in adult jails went up by nearly 230%. Now about a tenth of confined young people are in an adult prison or jail. This is bad for two reasons. It is costly: more than $31,000, on average, to incarcerate an adult for a year. And it tends to turn young tearaways into serious criminals. Young people who are charged as adults are nearly 35% likelier to be rearrested than those who are tried as juveniles, according to the Centres for Disease Control.Whether a child is judged as an adult depends more on the state than the crime. In Pennsylvania any child accused of homicide must begin in adult court. In Mississippi a 13-year-old accused of a felony will be sent to adult court.When judges and prosecutors have discretion over how to charge a juvenile, they use it unevenly. In 2012 black youths were 40% more likely to be charged as adults as their white peers.Arguing that young people have an “underdeveloped sense of responsibility”—no kidding—the justices banned putting them to death in 2005. In 2010 the court struck down mandatory life sentences without parole for minors charged with crimes other than murder, and in 2012 the ruling was extended to all juveniles.
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