Economist 7/27/16

  1. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria is 31st from the bottom.Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, wants to change this.Many locals think the problem reached unprecedented heights under the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan. In March an official audit found that the state-owned oil company withheld over $25 billion from the public purse between 2011 and 2015.Since Mr Buhari came to power in May 2015, dozens of public officials and their cronies have been arrested by a beefed-up Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The most famous of those, the former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki, is charged with dishing out $2 billion worth of fake contracts for helicopters, aeroplanes and ammunition. Under new management, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has grown slightly less opaque: it now publishes monthly financial reports.
  2. His political opponents, who ruled Nigeria for 16 years until 2015, call the campaign a witch-hunt. The EFCC is yet to send down any of its most influential adversaries. Most government agencies, including the one that collects taxes, do not make their budgets public. Nor do most state and local governments, which suck up about half of public revenues.The finance minister, Kemi Adeosun has struck thousands of ghost workers off the public payroll. Her “treasury single account” may be the biggest coup of all. It replaced a labyrinth of government piggy banks, giving Nigeria more control of its earnings. Financiers reckon that it could serve as a lesson to others in West Africa as well.
  3.  In a bid to convince the country that his wife is a caring as well as a clever woman, Mr Bill Clinton combined folksy story-telling with patient exposition.There was politics in Mr Clinton’s decade-old memories, as when he described driving his future wife home to her family in suburban Illinois, and waxed lyrical about its post-war prosperity.Daring the crowd to lose interest, the former president told stories about his wife holding a listening tour of all 75 counties of Arkansas to investigate pre-school education. But all the folksiness was building up to a point. If the country is anxious and unhappy and longing for change: “She’s the best darn change-maker I have ever met in my entire life.”Will this work? Mr Clinton is a fine speaker and explainer of things. But is he tackling the right problem?But critics do not think his wife is lazy, or stupid. They think she is a crooked schemer, and a big-government liberal who wants to tax them, regulate business into ruin and take away Americans’ guns.
  4. Tens of thousands of Palestinians in Salfit and the surrounding villages are suffering through a months-long drought. Most of Israel’s water is artificially produced. About a third comes from desalination plants that are among the world’s most advanced. Farmers rely on reclaimed water for irrigation. Israel recycles 86% of its wastewater, the highest level anywhere; Spain, the next best, reuses around 20%.None of these high-tech solutions helps the Palestinians, though, because they are not connected to Israel’s water grid. They rely on the so-called “mountain aquifer”, which sits beneath land Israel occupied in 1967. The 1995 Oslo Accords stipulated that 80% of the water from the aquifer would go to Israel, with the rest allocated to the Palestinians. The agreement, meant to be a five-year interim measure, will soon celebrate its 21st birthday. During that time the Palestinian population in the West Bank has nearly doubled, to almost 3m. The allocation has not kept pace.On average they get 73 litres per day, less than the 100-liter minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation.Israel’s water authority sells the Palestinians 64m cubic metres of water each year. It says they cause their own shortages, because up to a third of the West Bank’s water supply leaks out of rusting Palestinian pipes.
  5. The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that, at least in America, the most common causes of Stress  are to do with money, work and family. Women report being more stressed than men and are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Men may also be more likely to conceal their distress. Black and Hispanic Americans, as well as poor people and parents, also report higher levels of stress. In 2015 half of Americans starting university reported being stressed most or all of the time.n 1979 Peter Nixon, a consultant at Charing Cross Hospital in London, described a “human function curve”: a moderate amount of stress, such as a deadline or race, was now understood as not just harmless, but beneficial.Recognising that stress can be beneficial seems to help in two main ways. People who have a more positive view of stress are more likely to behave in a constructive way: a study by Alia Crum of Stanford University’s Mind and Body Lab.In less extreme situations, the body and brain should react somewhat differently. When people perceive they are being challenged rather than threatened, the heart still beats faster and adrenalin still surges, but the brain is sharper and the body releases a different mix of stress hormones, which aid in recovery and learning.
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