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China’s economic growth slows amid global turmoil

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China’s economy expanded at its slowest pace in more than three years as dire problems overseas started to hit home, official data showed Friday, fuelling expectations of more stimulus moves.

The world’s second-largest economy grew 7.6 percent in the second quarter year-on-year, the National Bureau of Statistics said, the weakest since 6.6 percent during the depths of the global financial crisis at the start of 2009.

“(The slowdown) was mainly due to the continued deterioration in the international environment, which further dampened foreign demand,” statistics bureau spokesman Sheng Laiyun told reporters.

“Domestic demand eased also as macro-economic tightening, particularly controls on the real estate sector, continued.”

The weak second-quarter expansion dragged down growth to 7.8 percent for the first half of the year, a period when the debt crisis in Europe has deepened and the US economy has continued to struggle.

Sheng expressed confidence that the economy would stabilise and China would meet its full-year growth target of 7.5 percent.

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“I believe China’s economy will continue moderate and steady growth in the second half of the year,” he said, citing the potential for investment, consumption and exports to propel expansion the rest of the year.

“We are very confident in achieving the full-year growth target.”

Nevertheless, the target growth rate of 7.5 percent is well down on the 9.2 percent achieved last year, and 10.4 percent in 2010.

Stock market reaction in China to Friday’s data was muted, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ending a mere fraction higher.

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Some other markets, including in Hong Kong, South Korea and Australia, showed stronger gains amid general relief that China’s growth figure was not worse.

Tang Jianwei, economist at Bank of Communications in Shanghai, said the second-quarter result was in line with expectations and that China’s planners would be able to speed up the economy.

“We expect economic conditions in the second half of the year will be slightly better than the first half,” Tang told AFP.

“We’ve already seen stabilisation in investment from June’s data thanks to government stimulus policies.”

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The government last week took the rare step of slashing interest rates for the second time in a month. That came after three cuts since December in banks’ reserve requirements, or the amount of money they must keep on hand.

Such cuts are meant to free up funds for lending and thus boost the economy.

Chinese leaders have vowed to take further measures. Premier Wen Jiabao this week called stabilising economic growth the government’s “top priority”.

Slowing growth in China is also casting a further cloud over the broader global economy, which is still suffering the effects of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

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Employment figures in the United States, the world’s biggest economy, remain weak and Europe is struggling to overcome its sovereign debt crisis.

Ren Xianfang of IHS Global Insight said in a report that China’s second-quarter figure marked the sixth straight three-month period of slower growth, and highlighted that the country’s economy risked losing momentum.

Still, she said that the government retained ample tools — including another interest rate cut, more loosening in bank reserve requirements and exchange rate stability — to spur activity.

“We are expecting about 7.9 percent growth this year,” she said.

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Besides the growth figures, the bureau released a slew of other economic statistics Friday that backed up the broader slowdown.

Growth in retail sales, the main gauge of consumer spending, continued to slow in June, rising 13.7 percent in June compared with the same period a year earlier, marginally down from growth of 13.8 percent in May.

Output from China’s millions of factories and workshops also continued to slow, growing by 9.5 percent year-on-year in June, the bureau said, down from 9.6 percent in May.

However, indicating that some government measures to revive growth were starting to kick in, China’s urban fixed asset investments rose 20.4 percent in the first half of 2012 compared with a year earlier, the bureau said.

The investments for the half year compared with growth of 20.1 percent in the first five months of the year, signalling a slight increase in June.

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How Teach for America evolved into an arm of the charter school movement

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When the Walton Family Foundation announced in 2013 that it was donating $20 million to Teach For America to recruit and train nearly 4,000 teachers for low-income schools, its press release did not reveal the unusual terms for the grant.

Documents obtained by ProPublica show that the foundation, a staunch supporter of school choice and Teach For America’s largest private funder, was paying $4,000 for every teacher placed in a traditional public school — and $6,000 for every one placed in a charter school. The two-year grant was directed at nine cities where charter schools were sprouting up, including New Orleans; Memphis, Tennessee; and Los Angeles.

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Quantum physics experiment shows Heisenberg was right about uncertainty — in a certain sense

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The word uncertainty is used a lot in quantum mechanics. One school of thought is that this means there’s something out there in the world that we are uncertain about. But most physicists believe nature itself is uncertain.

Intrinsic uncertainty was central to the way German physicist Werner Heisenberg, one of the originators of modern quantum mechanics, presented the theory.

He put forward the Uncertainty Principle that showed we can never know all the properties of a particle at the same time.

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Why do conservatives hate Oberlin College so much?

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When I was an undergraduate at Oberlin in the mid-Aughts, there was a student in my class year who was obsessed with 19th-century British Royal Naval culture. Every Friday evening, he would host a sing-along in a dorm lounge, for which he would bring xeroxes of historical sea shanty lyrics and pass them around so that we could sing along, waving our glasses of “grog.” This was a semi-established event — he had distributed flyers around campus advertising the weekly British Royal Naval sea-shanty singalong and grog-drinking event, which would extend late into the night. Though he was not a resident of the dorm where it took place, he was welcomed into the lounge by its members, and became a fixture of sorts.Like many well-endowed liberal arts schools in rural areas, Oberlin College functions as a sort of de facto social welfare state, and is designed to encourage and cultivate one’s passions, even if they are not strictly academic. Thus, after writing up a proposal for the student-run activities board, the same student, the British Royal Navy culture guy, was able to plan, organize and execute a ticketed Royal Naval Ball, held in the atrium of the science center. The event featured 20 dishes of authentic British era-appropriate cuisine, cooked by student chefs, several courses of wine and port, and a violinist present to play period-specific music. The whole affair culminated with a traditional, British partner line dance — its sole inauthenticity the fact that we didn’t pay attention to our dance partners’ genders the way the Brits would have.
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