Economist 10/29/15

  1. Chinese demographers had been worrying aloud for years about China’s rapidly ageing population and plunging birth rate and the impact these trends would have on the country’s economy. On October 29th the Communist Party finally ended the “one-child policy” that has been widely—often excessively—blamed for exacerbating these problems. Now couples will be allowed to have two.These have long allowed those living in the countryside to have two children under certain conditions—if the first child is a girl, for example. In urban areas, the party allowed couples to have two children if both parents were themselves only children. It relaxed this in 2013, allowing couples to have two if only one parent meets that requirement. Ethnic minorities (less than 10% of the population) are often allowed two or more.
  2. FOR the first time since Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011, the nuclear industry would have us believe it has something to celebrate. In October the United States licensed its first new plant in 20 years, in Tennessee, and Britain took a step further towards building its first nuclear-power station in a generation at Hinkley Point. Japan has recently restarted two of its 43 reactors that have been shut since 2011. And China, which put some of its nuclear building plans on hold after Fukushima, has unveiled plans to triple its nuclear capacity by 2020.But the nuclear landscape is divided in half. In parts of America—by far the world’s biggest user of nuclear power—the talk is of crisis, not celebration; in the north-east, fairly reliable nuclear-power plants are being shut. France, the backbone of Europe’s nuclear industry, plans to reduce the share of nuclear used to generate electricity from 75% to 50% in a decade. Germany intends to shut its remaining eight reactors by 2022, and this month Sweden closed four reactors in a week.The places where nuclear is more promising are those where it can find an ingredient almost as essential as uranium: state support.
  3. Its shiny, inflammable witch costumes probably have their origins in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, during which people marked the onset of winter by dressing up as evil spirits. Around the eighth century, the Christian church co-opted the festival. It became Hallows (or “Holy”) Day, on which Christians remembered dead relations and saints. Hallows Day began with a vigil held the evening before—hence Hallow E’en, a contraction of evening, which became Halloween. At this time, the poor would sing and pray for alms, a practice known as “souling”. Some think this was the precursor to modern trick-or-treating. After Hallows Day became frowned upon, as a Catholic festival, during the Reformation, the holiday was construed as a burst of pre-Winter revelry. It became known as Mischief Night, taking on an association with naughtiness that has stuck.
  4. Cops in America have had a tough year. Videos of perceived or real police brutality have gone viral at regular intervals, causing loud public outcry and leading to demands that all police officers should wear body cameras.Hence heated discussions there about the reasons for the sudden increase in violent crime and the tense relationship between the police and civilians.In a speech on October 26th James Comey, the boss of the FBI, said he had no conclusive answer. But “something has changed in policing”, he said. Officers feel besieged by videos of arrests and other procedures proliferating on YouTube, a video-sharing website. Cops get taunted by youths holding up their iPhones.Mr Comey seemed to be saying that police officers cannot do their job properly if they are under constant scrutiny.Some crime experts disagree.Brett Goldstein, a former officer who now teaches at the University of Chicago,thinks thathere is now no one reason to explain its rise.
  5. GIVEN that trade unions are banned in Qatar, it should come as no surprise that the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has never been the strongest supporter of Qatar Airways. The two sides have been at loggerheads since 2013, when the ITF obtained copies of an employment contract for the airline’s cabin crew. It was not impressed. Clauses prohibiting staff from getting married or falling pregnant proved particularly irksome, as did wider reports of overbearing treatment.Qatar Airways this year phased in new contracts that remove bans on getting married and falling pregnant. Employees are now free to get hitched whenever they wish.While the company claims to have rolled out its reforms in December 2014, news of the pregnancy U-turn only surfaced in August 2015—two months after the International Labour Organisation, the UN’s labour agency, turned up the heat.
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