Economist 5/1/15

  1. ON SATURDAY May 2nd two of the world’s most marketable boxers, Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines and America’s Floyd Mayweather, will face each other in a fight. Undoubtedly both will go in to the match hoping to win it with a definitive strike. Mr Mayweather, an undefeated professional boxer, takes particular delight in flattening his opponents (26 of his past 47 wins were knockouts).A knockout blow is a form of cerebral concussion, a common scourge in other sports such as American football, football and hockey. But in boxing, to land the killer blow is a constant endeavour as much as it is an occupational hazard.The start of the process is easy enough to explain. In most cases, the impact from a punch or series of punches causes the brain to move inside and smash up against the skull. Roundhouse punches and hooks are particularly menacing. The arc at which the gloved fist meets the opponent’s jaw sends the head (and hence, the brain) into a spin.
  2. But even as one drug war begins to wind down, another is cranking up across Asia, Russia and the Middle East (see article). Echoing Nixon, China’s president has called for “forceful measures to wipe [drugs] out”; his Indonesian counterpart has declared drugs a “national emergency”, and in January sent six traffickers to a firing squad. This week Indonesia executed eight more, despite international pleas for clemency. Iran is executing five times as many drug-smugglers as it did a few years ago. Russia is arguing for the spraying of opium-poppy fields in Afghanistan.Those preparing to prosecute the next drug war need only look west to see what lies ahead of them: more violence and corruption; more HIV/AIDS; fuller jails—and still the same, unending supply of drugs.
  3. WHEN Joko Widodo came to power last year, he promised to be decisive and to stand up for Indonesia. On April 29th he seemed to fulfil both promises when Indonesia went ahead with the executions of eight convicted drug-smugglers, all but one of them foreign.In terms of its population (250m) and its economy ($870 billion), Indonesia is the giant of South-East Asia.If that counts as a kind of assertiveness, then it is on display along with another aspect of what is presented as Jokowi’s foreign policy, his new “maritime doctrine”. Millions of Indonesians live off the sea, mainly from fishing, while much of the vast archipelago’s trade moves by sea. Jokowi wants to spread prosperity by making fisheries more productive, assert control over Indonesia’s sovereign waters and build marine infrastructure to help bring Indonesia’s poor and far-flung eastern islands into Java’s relatively prosperous orbit. But that entails a crackdown on illegal fishing by other countries’ vessels—as many as 5,000 a day, according to the president.
  4. When Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, decided in 2013 to shut down 47 public schools that were half-empty and had atrocious results, he sparked protests that nearly cost him the next election. In New York Michael Bloomberg, who once ran the city, infuriated teachers’ unions because he sometimes allowed charter schools to replace traditional public schools that didn’t work.. People are attached to their neighbourhood schools. Parents worry that closure could disrupt their children’s education. Children do not want to lose their friends. Teachers worry about their jobs.However, a new report from the Thomas Fordham Institute, a think-tank, may encourage future closures of bad schools, because it suggests that they are good for students.Fordham study found that closures ultimately benefit pupils from wretched schools. Once a school had closed, most of the children ended up in better ones, where they eventually got higher grades.
  5. There is plenty of disaffection in poor, nominally Muslim but largely secular Kyrgyzstan. As in much of the former Soviet Union, the courts are a sham and jobs rely more on connections and kickbacks than merit. An unknown but considerable number of Central Asians have travelled to Syria and Iraq to wage jihad, most recently for the Islamic State (IS). Authorities say that most of those from Kyrgyzstan are ethnic Uzbeks, who officially account for 14% of the population. They suffered disproportionately in the 2010 pogroms, which left over 400 dead—both from the violence and from the show trials afterward.Central Asian leaders use claims of extremism and instability engendered by Afghanistan to justify repression and requests for military aid, from both Russia and the West.
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