Economist 10/5/15

  1. AFTER more than five years of negotiations, representatives from 12 countries in Asia and the Americas finally struck a deal today on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious and contentious free-trade pact. It is the biggest and deepest multilateral trade deal in years, encompassing countries that account for 40% of the world’s economy.Mr Froman’s office estimates that TPP will see more than 18,000 tariffs on American products reduced to zero.More important are the minimum standards for the protection of intellectual property, workers and the environment.The full implications of the deal are not yet known, however, since TPP has been negotiated under a thick blanket of secrecy.Moreover, lawmakers in the 12 participating countries must now approve the agreement.
  2. The three winners of the 2015 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine are William Campbell, Satoshi Omura and Tu Youyou. Drs Campbell and Omura were honoured for their discovery of avermectin, a drug that kills the parasitic worms responsible for river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, which between them infect about 125m people worldwide. Dr Tu—who originally trained in traditional Chinese medicine—discovered artemisinin, a drug that helps kill the parasite that causes malaria.Whereas avermectin is derived from bacteria, artemisinin comes from plants. Its discovery was the consequence of Project 523, a secretive military operation run by the Chinese government at the request of Ho Chi Minh during the Vietnam War. The hope was to find new treatments for malaria, which is thought to have killed more soldiers than the bullets and bombs of the war itself.
  3. INDIA’S monsoon is one of the world’s most important weather events. About half of the country’s population—that is, 600m people—depend directly on the rain it bears.Like all weather patterns, the monsoon is erratic. Four years in ten count as abnormal. But this year—in which total rainfall is 14% below the 50-year-average between June and September—is exceptional. Droughts of this sort happens about once every 18 years.Climate change seems to be making the variations more extreme.No one yet fully understands the link between the monsoon and El Niño, a warming of the waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. Over the past century, most climate scientists have argued that a strong El Niño is associated with a weak monsoon because, as the Pacific warms, the air rises and comes down again over the subcontinent, driven by prevailing wind patterns.
  4. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance, an annual report card of how African governments are faring, which is compiled by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, a body set up by a British Sudanese-born telecoms magnate turned philanthropist.The index itself, which takes into account a variety of indicators ranging from corruption and rule of law to infrastructure and sanitation, is little changed on average from 2011.In previous years the index had shown steady improvements by most countries. More worrying are signs of reversal at the top of the list. Of the ten countries ranked best, five have seen a decline in their governance scores since 2011.
  5. The US Supreme Court is likely to swing back to the right when the justices dust off their robes and return to work on October 5th.A blow to public-sector unions looms in Friedrichs v California Teachers Association. The Centre for Individual Rights, a libertarian law firm, is representing ten teachers in California who object to the union fees they must pay. No one can be forced to join a union, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that teachers, police officers and other public employees can be compelled to pay a “fair share” fee equivalent to membership dues.But the teachers say these fees violate their freedom of speech.Fisher v University of Texas offers the justices a chance to overturn precedents upholding race-based affirmative action at public universities.
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