Economist 6/4/15

  1. AFTER a spate of murderous attacks in Durban and Johannesburg on migrant workers from neighbouring countries, South Africa badly needs to improve its image on the continent.One ongoing mission is undiplomatically called Operation Fiela, a word meaning “sweep away dirt” or “clean up” in the Sotho family of languages. It has led to the arrest of at least 1,650 migrants without documents across the country, police say.Meanwhile, the home-affairs department hastily devised a competition to showcase the merits of “outstanding migrants”; and on June 7th Johannesburg will host an AU summit.
  2. ANTHONY DOUGLAS ELONIS may have won his Supreme Court case on June 1st, but no one would mistake him for Pennsylvania’s most charming resident. When Mr Elonis’s wife left him in 2010, he turned to Facebook to lambast her under the nom de plume “Tone Dougie”.These online scribblings, among others, earned him an indictment under a federal law that prohibits “any communication containing any threat…to injure the person of another”.In Elonis v United States, the Supreme Court reversed the appeals court. It was not enough, the justices said, for a jury to decide that reasonable listeners would interpret Mr Elonis’s nasty words as threats.But the court took no position on whether “recklessness”—knowing the words might frighten, and not caring—is enough to convict.
  3. AN UNUSUAL outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, has occurred in South Korea, where a few dozen people have tested positive for the disease and two have reportedly died. Hundreds of South Korean schools have shut down as a safety precaution.New human pathogens arise in two ways. They may evolve from old ones, or they may jump to humanity from other species. The second, more common route, is the one taken by both Ebola and MERS. Infections that jump in this way are called zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses. Bats also look like the origin of MERS, a viral illness that appeared in 2012 in the Middle East, and SARS, another virus, which burst upon the world from southern China at the end of 2002. HIV, meanwhile, came from other primates. The pandemic version, HIV1, was once a chimpanzee virus. HIV2, largely restricted to west Africa, came from the sooty mangabey, a monkey.Zoonoses are particularly likely to develop when people and animals live in close proximity to each other. One reason southern China often spawns them (SARS was not unique; a lot of influenza begins there, too) is that the region has a plethora of small farms, in which many species of animal live in close quarters with each other and with human beings.
  4. THE WORLD JUSTICE PROJECT Rule of Law index, a new global report that ranks countries’ adherence to the rule of law, puts Botswana in the top spot for Africa.the diamond-rich southern state has been regarded for decades as among the best-run on the continent. Botswana also placed near the top in the latestIndex of African Governance, published annually by Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-British telecoms magnate.Indeed, on a global scale, the World Justice Project (WJP) report puts Botswana 31st out of the 102 countries measured, one spot behind Italy and two ahead of Greece.The worst African performer in the WJP report, issued this month, was little surprise either: Zimbabwe. In the WJP index, Ghana comes a notable second, while in the Ibrahim index it places seventh. That marks it out as west Africa’s most creditable country in both listings. Another strong performer is Senegal, which comes an admirable fourth in the law index and ninth in Mr Ibrahim’s table.
  5. A recent IMF working paper estimated the subsidies to fossil fuels (including the uncompensated costs of air pollution, congestion and global warming) at $5.3 trillion. Perhaps more important, subsidies for renewables are dropping (at least on a per watt basis); America’s tax credit is being cut, and Britain is ending subsidies for onshore wind. Meanwhile renewables’ efficiency is rising fast. Unsurprisingly, renewable use is growing dramatically. According to the International Energy Agency (an energy agency created by the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries) renewables accounted for almost 22% of global electricity generation in 2013, a 5% increase from 2012. China and India are investing heavily in renewables (China, notably, in wind). Wind used to be the cheapest, but solar is now overtaking it in most markets.

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