Economist 5/26/16

  1. Student protests are not just a Nigerian problem: across Africa, unrest has prevented universities from functioning, with many forced to close for weeks at a time. Classes at Fourah Bay College, part of the University of Sierra Leone and the oldest institute of higher education in sub-Saharan Africa, were suspended in March after student strikes.Soaring tuition fees, overcrowded buildings and rising living costs have prompted students to mobilise across the continent. There are several reasons why many African universities, both public and private, are cash-strapped. In oil-producing countries such as Nigeria, the drop in the price of oil has slashed government revenues by as much as 30%. China’s slowdown has damaged exporting economies like Sierra Leone. There, as in neighbouring Liberia and Guinea, the Ebola epidemic has battered the economy, reducing government subsidies for education.University enrolment remains relatively low in Africa, but demand for higher education is taking off as Africa’s young and increasingly well-educated population swells.
  2. A report by an internal watchdog of the State Department, the inspector-general, into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account for official business, suggests it could be. The report, which was released on May 25th, does not allege Mrs Clinton broke any law: that would have stoked fears of a campaign-ending indictment by the FBI, which is also investigating the matter. Yet it raises concerns about her conduct and uncandid response to the scandal—upon which Donald Trump, her unconscionable Republican rival, will now feast.Ever since Mrs Clinton’s e-mail server became a matter of public debate last year, she has said she broke no rules. To the contrary, the State Department report says she was under an “obligation” to seek clearance for her e-mail system, did not, and it would have been denied if she had done, due to “security risks”.On the evidence available, that says a lot about the origins of this scandal. Out of a neuralgic concern for confidentiality, Mrs Clinton overrode rules that her advisers considered to be less important than they were.
  3. Mr Obama has made progress on nuclear-arms reduction and non-proliferation. He signed a strategic-arms-control treaty (New START) with Russia in 2010. A series of nuclear-security summits helped stop fissile material getting into the wrong hands. Most important, he secured a deal in July to curtail and then constrain Iran’s nuclear programme for at least the next 10-15 years.On Mr Obama’s watch the nuclear-weapons and missile programme of North Korea has become steadily more alarming. Its nuclear missiles already threaten South Korea and Japan.The taboo against nuclear weapons rests on three pillars: policies to prevent proliferation, norms against the first use of nukes and deterrence.No country in history has spent such a large share of its wealth on nuclear weapons. North Korea is thought to have a stockpile of around 20 devices. Every six weeks or so it adds another.Deterrence is based on the belief that states act rationally. But Mr Kim is so opaque and so little is known about how decisions come about in the capital, Pyongyang, that deterring North Korea is fraught with difficulty.
  4. China does not want to overthrow Mr Kim. It worries that the collapse of a regime on its north-eastern border would create a flood of refugees and eliminate the buffer protecting it from American troops stationed in South Korea. About 90% of North Korea’s trade, worth about $6 billion a year, is with China. It will continue to import North Korean coal and iron ore (and send back fuel oil, food and consumer goods) as long as the money is not spent on military activities—an unenforceable condition.Protected by China, Mr Kim can pursue his nuclear programme with impunity. The sanctions are unlikely to stop him.Without any good options, what should America’s next president do? A priority is to strengthen missile defence. New THAAD anti-missile systems should be sent to South Korea and Japan, while America soothes objections that their radar could be used against China’s nuclear weapons. China should also be cajoled into accepting that sanctions can be harsher, without provoking an implosion.
  5. A crackdown on corruption by the government of President Xi Jinping has made it risky for officials to schmooze with businessmen over bottles of baijiu (a liquor distilled from sorghum).Sales of China’s national spirit (and the world’s most popular hard liquor), which rose at double-digit rates from 2007 to 2012, were dealt a big blow. Annual growth in sales plunged to barely 3% in 2014 as purchases for official banquets and other forms of ostentatious boozing plummeted.Baijiu is now making a comeback. Sales last year rose by roughly 7%. baijiu continues to outperform beer on sales volume growth, “suggesting that Chinese consumers’ preference for baijiu remains intact.”Fully half of all baijiu purchases in 2012 were made by the government, but that figure had collapsed to just a small fraction of the total by last year. But Mr Luo also observes that many younger patrons prefer to sip wine at business dinners, even rebuffing their elders’ offers of baijiu.
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