Economist 4/14/16

  1. Perched between the Russian, Ottoman, and Persian empires, Armenia and Azerbaijan have a long history of tension. After a brief jostle for independence in the wake of the first world war, Armenians and Azerbaijanis came under  Bolshevik control; Soviet commissars declared Nagorno-Karabakh a part of Azerbaijan, though a majority Armenian population remained. In 1988, Nagorno-Karabakh voted to secede from then-Soviet Azerbaijan and join Armenia. As the Soviet Union collapsed, a bloody war broke out over the territory. Some 30,000 were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced before a 1994 ceasefire halted the combat. Armenian forces took Nagorno-Karabakh and several surrounding regions, leaving Azerbaijan around 15% smaller. But despite the ceasefire, low-scale fighting continued along the line of contact.. If allowed to spin out of control, Nagorno-Karabakh could morph into a wider regional war, one that could pit Russia (which has a military base in Armenia and a treaty obligation to defend it against external attacks) and Turkey (which backs its ethnic brethren in Azerbaijan) against each other.
  2. On April 10th, after weeks of vacillation, the prime minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, whose popularity had plummeted along with Ukrainians’ living standards, offered to resign. His two-year term produced mixed results. His government managed to raise the absurdly low price Ukrainians are charged for gas, and reduce the country’s dependence on Russian supplies. Public procurement—a big source of corruption—became more transparent. But his administration was tarred by corruption scandals and stalled reforms.Mr Yatseniuk’s offer of resignation was followed by dissension and backroom horse-trading.On April 14th the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, voted in a new government led by Volodymyr Groisman, the speaker of parliament and a close ally of President Petro Poroshenko.
  3. The energy of the Revolution of Dignity has not dissipated. Instead it has carried over into civil society.Some 50 of the leading non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have formed a coalition, oddly styled the “Reanimation Package of Reforms” (RPR) in English, that is pushing bills, staging protests, monitoring reforms and holding weekly meetings with MPs.RPR includes two dozen groups with expertise on reforms such as decentralisation and the fight against corruption.But although civil society has scored important victories in the information war, the main battle is over law enforcement. Unable to break up corrupt structures such as the prosecutor’s office,Ukrainian civil society is helping to build parallel institutions.The victory of Ukraine’s civil-society movement is far from guaranteed. It will depend partly on the efforts of Western donors to enforce strict conditions for the funds they disburse in Ukraine.
  4. IN AMERICA in 1970 one child in 14,000 was reckoned to be autistic. The current estimate is one in 68—or one in 42 among boys. Similarly high numbers can be found in other rich countries: a study in South Korea found that one in 38 children was affected. Autism is a brain condition associated with poor social skills.In France, almost 90% of autistic children attend primary school, but only 1% make it to high school. Figures from America, which works harder to include autistic pupils, suggest that less than half graduate from high school.Globally, the United Nations reckons that 80% of those with autism are not in the workforce.Early screening is essential. There is no definitive test for autism. It can be diagnosed only by observing behaviour. Most babies learn by watching their parents smile, hug, eat and bicker; autistic children often fixate on inanimate objects or play with their toys in an oddly repetitive way.If parents fill in a detailed questionnaire about what their children can and can’t do, doctors can usually spot the symptoms by the age of two. Speech therapy and other intensive treatments can help an autistic toddler cope and encourage learning and interaction at an age when the brain is at its most plastic.
  5. A second aim should be to provide autistic children with schooling that suits them. A debate rages about when and how to include autistic children in mainstream classes. The evidence argues against blanket rules. Maximizing the returns from this investment in education means ensuring that autistic adults find work. Not all such people can hold down a job. But the high-functioning among them tend to be deft analysts.Even less gifted autistic people often have an extraordinary capacity to focus and an eye for detail that make them effective workers. Their desire for routine and dislike of change make them loyal ones, too.Even less gifted autistic people often have an extraordinary capacity to focus and an eye for detail that make them effective workers. Their desire for routine and dislike of change make them loyal ones, too.The amount of public money spent studying autism is shockingly modest.America shells out around $200m a year—about what it costs to look after 100 severely autistic people for a lifetime.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s