Economist 12/1/15

  1. In fact, China’s big state firms were largely a bloated, inefficient and cosseted lot. The real dynamism in the Chinese economy has long come from its entrepreneurial private firms, which now account for perhaps two-thirds of all economic output.A report released on November 30th by Standard & Poor’s, a credit-rating agency, looks at 200 public and private Chinese firms in 18 industries and warns that the creditworthiness of many big state firms has worsened significantly.
  2. THIS year, newspapers have been filled with dramatic headlines about a supposed surge in murders. Many cities saw large jumps in crime during the first half of the year: the murder rate rose 48% and 59% compared to the same period the previous year in Baltimore and St Louis, respectively.The study looks at crime statistics for 25 out of the 30 largest cities in America and finds that the actual picture is far more muddled: homicides are projected to increase in 14 out of 25 major cities, while crime in general is rising in just eight out of 19. In aggregate, homicides in the cities studied are up 11%, while overall crime is actually down 1.5%.
  3. While an 11% increase in homicides is significant, it hardly justifies the alarming noises being made by politicians and the media.Many police departments release their data in the form of scanned documents, while others publish none at all.The FBI Uniform Crime Report is the only reliable national database on crimes, but it isn’t released until the autumn following the given year. While economic debates can seem silly because they’re based on three-month-old data, debates on criminal justice are often based on data that are either over a year old or simply cherry-picked.Another reason there might appear to be large upticks in crime rates in certain cities is purely mathematical. America is as safe as it has been in decades. In 1993 there were 9.5 murders per 100,000 people; today there are just 4.6.
  4. In February the United Nations Security Council formally listedthe traffic in antiquities from Syria as well as Iraq as one of the ways in which terror was being financed, and it enjoined member states to stop the trade by any means possible.America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, at least, took that instruction seriously. In August, it issued a dire warning to American art dealers, saying that if they traded in cultural objects looted from sites in Iraq and Syria, they might be prosecuted under laws designed to stop people supporting terrorists.The Art and Antiques Unit at the British capital’s Metropolitan Police Service is committed to stopping the sale of stolen art by terrorists and other wrongdoers. But it has only a tiny fraction of the resources of the FBI.
  5. And in some ways it has: a year after protesters ousted Blaise Compaoré, Burkina Faso’s president of 27 years, the small west African nation finally chose his successor, and elected a new parliament, on November 29th. Of the 14 presidential candidates, the favourite, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, won comfortably, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, defying predictions of a second-round run-off.The turnout was around 60%, higher than at previous polls. The campaign was peaceful, and there have been few reports of electoral fraud.Members of the former ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), were effectively barred from running for the presidency, as were members of the interim government led by Michel Kafando, a former diplomat. Analysts warn that this could cause problems down the line. Yet others have pointed to the ubiquity of the CDP old guard at the top despite the ruling.

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