Matters of record

German skydiver Felix Baumgartner attempted to become the first man to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft when he dropped from a balloon at 120,000 feet over Mexico, reaching 690mph 40 seconds later. Other feats still to be achieved:

—Climbing Gangkhar Puensum in Bhutan, at 24,836 feet the highest mountain never climbed. But attempts have been banned since 1994 for religious reasons.
— Swim the Pacific, if you can beat Benoit Lecomte to it. He swam the Atlantic (in eight-hour stages) in 1998, and is about to embark on a crossing from Tokyo to San Francisco in a shark cage.
— Run a marathon in under two hours – the current record, held by Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, is 2 hrs, 3 mins, 59 seconds.

Working to rule

The Chancellor, George Osborne, suggested that employees be offered free shares in their companies if they agree to give up employment rights. What effect does regulation have on job creation?

Ranking for ease
of doing business
Adult male labour participation rate (%)
4 US 70
7 UK 69
13 Canada 72
19 Germany 67
29 France 62
87 Italy 60

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Source: World Bank

Tourists everywhere

The World Tourism Organisation predicts that the number of international tourist visits will this year surpass a billion for the first time. Where is most popular?

Number of arrivals in 2011 (million)

France 79.5
US 62.3
China 57.6
Spain 56.7
Italy 46.1
Turkey 29.3
UK 29.2
Germany 28.4

Last of the lepers

The 17 remaining residents of a leper colony in Hawaii were fighting to prevent the closure of their home – 43 years after quarantine restrictions were lifted on them. How big a problem is leprosy?

New cases in 2009 worldwide 228,000
India 134,000
Brazil 37,600
Indonesia 17,300
Bangladesh 5,240
Congo 5,060

Source: WHO

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated