Economist 7/25/16

  1. THE decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to impose a blanket ban on the Russian Olympic team, as recommended by the World Anti-Doping Agency, was met with disappointment yesterday.Russia is not the only culprit. Thirty-six athletes from 17 nations tested positive for a variety of banned substances including clenbuterol, stanozolol and methylhexaneamine at the 2012 games.Of all the summer Olympics held since 1968 only one has resulted in no drug violations being discovered, Moscow in 1980. Independent analysis since then has suggested that 19 podium placed winners used banned substances.
  2. BACKSTAGE at many of Britain’s summer music festivals, suspicious pills and powders seized from tents are analysed by lab technicians. Usually it is to advise on-site doctors and police on what symptoms to look out for in people who become unwell. But this year, a non-profit organisation called The Loop manned a tent where partygoers could drop off their drugs anonymously, before returning later for the results. As police turned a blind eye, technicians analysed nearly 250 drug samples, mostly of ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine.Or at least, that was what they claimed to be: in reality the bags of “MDMA crystal” being sold for £50 ($66) per gram turned out to be brown sugar; some suspiciously hard, grey pills were made of concrete; and several samples of “cocaine” and “ketamine” were in fact ground-up anti-malaria tablets.But does the testing encourage more drug use? It is too early to say, but there is some evidence that it does the opposite. After getting their results back, only half of those at the Secret Garden Party said they would take the drugs.
  3. Last week an Afghan refugee stabbed and axed four train passengers and another on a platform. Then a depressed German teenager of Iranian descent went on a shooting rampage in Munich, wounding more than 30 and killing nine, then himself.Later, another Syrian refugee, fearing deportation, swore allegiance to Islamic State and blew himself up outside a concert, injuring 15 others. Naturally, there is panic every time. But Germans catch themselves quickly after each disaster. Embodying this stoicism is Marcus da Gloria Martins, Munich’s police spokesman, who has resisted a tsunami of disinformation on social media, calmly sorting fact from fiction.Some of this is terrorism, some of it violence even more senseless; Germany’s sober and measured responses are becoming a model for dealing with all of it.
  4. HOW do you measure the well-being of a country’s citizens? Looking at wealth alone is clearly not enough.Boston Consulting Group (BCG) attempts to answer this question with its “Sustainable Economic Development Assessment” (SEDA). This year’s report, published on July 21st, encompasses 163 countries or territories and looks at each country’s performance across three measures: economics, investment and sustainability.The usual suspects occupy the top spots, with Norway reaching the maximum of 100 in the normalised scoring system, as it has every year since SEDA was launched in 2012. It is followed by northern European states and other developed countries. Petro-states such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, two of the wealthiest countries in the world, come in at 25th and 26th respectively. The United States’ relatively poor standing at 19th reflects its high income inequality as well as its low health and education scores.BCG also compared financial inclusion (the percentage of individuals aged 15 or over with a bank account) against each country’s SEDA score, revealing a clear relationship.The report’s authors found that countries with higher financial inclusion generally had higher well-being than their peers at a similar income level.
  5. As recently as the mid-2000s, Mr Xi was still little-known. His glamorous folk-singing wife was far more famous. The somewhat liberal leanings (by the party’s highly illiberal standards) of Mr Xi’s late father, a party grandee, provided one of the few available clues. It has proved highly misleading. Mr Xi has presided over the toughest crackdown on dissent in years.His wish to purge the party of the egregious corruption that has permeated it at every level seems evident: his campaign against graft has been the most sustained and wide-ranging of any waged by a Chinese leader since the party seized power in 1949.Mr Xi may in the end turn out to be more of a reformer than his frequent hardline rhetoric, his hammering of civil society and his tiptoeing round all-powerful state firms may suggest.A dwindling band of optimists pin their hopes on a crucial party congress late next year, at which Mr Xi will preside over sweeping leadership changes and set out the party’s goals for the remaining five years of his rule (assuming he accepts the norm of a ten-year limit on the general-secretaryship).
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