Economist 11/19/15

  1. In 2014, the number of migrants arriving by boat fell by a third between September and October as the voyage became more dangerous. This October, the opposite happened. A record 218,953 migrants arrived, a 27% increase on September.Last year, most migrants arrived in Europe via a dangerous 300km journey from Libya to Lampedusa, an Italian island in the Mediterranean.Rougher seas and a shortage of boats saw arrivals in Italy fall by half last month to just 8,500 arrivals (4% of the total). But migrants now overwhelmingly take the eastern Mediterranean route from western Turkey to the Greek islands.The Aegean Sea is choppy and windy in October, but with journeys as short as 10km—the destination is visible through binoculars.
  2.  Last year 32,700 people were killed in terror attacks worldwide, nearly twice as many as in 2013.Most of the deaths last year (and every year) are in the Middle East and Africa—not the West. Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan together account for three-quarters of the global total.Western countries suffered under 3% of all deaths in the past 15 years. Boko Haram, an Jihadist group that operates mainly in northern Nigeria and Cameroon,was responsible for over 6,600 deaths.That is more than any other group in the world—even IS.67 countries saw at least one death last year compared with 59 the year before.
  3. since 2007 Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest publicly listed oil company, is proposing a carbon tax, and has already put a shadow price on each tonne of CO2 it emits. And in the lead-up to the climate-change summit that starts in Paris at the end of this month, six European oil majors have advocated carbon-pricing systems.Cynics start from the premise that this is a public-relations exercise, rather than a commitment to wean the world off fossil fuels—which still account for 87% of the global energy mix.First, it enables them to launch a stealth attack on coal—usually a dirtier but cheaper fossil fuel.Bob Dudley, the boss of BP, a British major, says switching just 1% of power generation away from coal-fired plants to those fired by natural gas would cut global CO2 emissions by as much as increasing renewable energy capacity by 11%.
  4. FOR the first time in 40 years, junior doctorsin the National Health Service have voted to go on strike for several days next month. The government is proposing a new contract to hit its declared target of a fully staffed seven-day service, including in the evenings and at weekends.But the British Medical Association, the doctors’ trade union, has broken off talks, claiming that some juniors will lose pay under the new contract.Yet the impending junior doctors’ strike shows how hard it is to depoliticise health, because underlying it is one big issue: money. Since it is almost entirely taxpayer-financed, the NHS budget must be set by the government. The Tory manifesto promised to maintain health spending in real terms, ring-fencing it from public-spending cuts.That is in part because demand for health care increases inexorably every year. An ageing population, new technology and drugs, and a rise in obesity and alcohol consumption all play a part.
  5. The market for rice is more distorted than that for any other staple. Rice growers pocketed at least $60 billion in subsidies last year, according to the OECD, twice as much as maize (corn) farmers, the second-most-coddled lot.Rice feeds more people than any other crop. Almost half the world’s population eats it every day. It accounts for more than 20% of the calories consumed by the average Asian, and 50% of the intake of the poorest 500m.All subsidies breed inefficiency and raise costs, whether for consumers, producers or taxpayers.This is bad enough in rich places like Japan, which levies an average tariff on imported rice of 322% and spent roughly $12 billion last year on handouts to rice farmers.the same cannot be said of consumers in China, Indonesia and the Philippines. All three countries have high tariffs on rice to protect local farmers. The three also set a minimum price for home-grown rice, and restrict imports in various ways. The result is domestic prices that are 50-100% above international ones.When prices were falling in 2012-13, Thailand, then the world’s biggest exporter, wasted $16 billion on a failed effort to boost them through hoarding.

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