• In the Balkans, the forces of pious chauvinism speak louder againIn the Balkans, the forces of pious chauvinism speak louder again

    DURING the Balkan wars of the 1990s, old fault-lines of religion and ethnicity seemed to be opening up across Europe, with tragic results. Muslim nations lined up to support Bosnia; Europe’s Catholic heart rediscovered old links with the Croats; and Serbia received moral support from an Orthodox fraternity linking Russia, Greece and Cyprus.But after 1999, when NATO bombing forced Serbia to back down, talk of civilisational clashes in the Balkans receded as the region fell under broadly Western influence. Every country in the neighbourhood was either in the European Union or wanted to be. Recently though, religiously inspired nationalism and ultra-nationalism have returned to south-eastern Europe—not yet as a dominant force but as a spectre that is growing more visible.For a symptom of that, glance at a video which has just been posted by Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party, whose...Continue reading

    The Economist / 2 d. 17 h. 25 min. ago more
  • The Museum of the Bible opens in Washington, DCThe Museum of the Bible opens in Washington, DC

    WHEN plans for the Museum of the Bible, which opens to the public in Washington, DC on November 18th, were first unveiled many predicted it would be a big, glossy advertisement for fundamentalist Christianity. The museum was founded and part-funded by Steve Green, a prominent evangelical and president of Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft shops that in 2014 persuaded the Supreme Court that it deserved a religious exemption from a requirement in Obamacare that employers provide their workers with certain contraceptives. Later that year Mr Green, who has said that the Bible is “a reliable historical document” tried, unsuccessfully, to insert a Bible course into public schools in Oklahoma City, where his company is head-quartered.That did nothing to reassure those who worried that a privately-funded $500m Bible museum only three blocks from Capitol Hill would seek to press conservative evangelicals’ already-huge influence unduly. Nor did the institution’s original mission statement, which was to “inspire confidence in the absolute...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 2 d. 17 h. 29 min. ago more
  • “Mudbound” is an earthy, compelling portrayal of 1940s Mississippi“Mudbound” is an earthy, compelling portrayal of 1940s Mississippi

    “WHEN I think of the farm, I think of mud,” intones Laura McAllan (Carey Mulligan) in the opening scene of “Mudbound”. “I dreamed in brown.” It’s true that Dee Rees’s new film for Netflix has a palette reminiscent of a painting by Rembrandt. The omnipresent sticky, sodden earth of the Mississippi Delta exerts a force over the characters that is seemingly irresistible. Land is a burden—always on the brink of becoming waterlogged; always needing breaking, sowing, hoeing; always fickle, dragging its owners to their knees with toil and financial woe. And yet it has a fascination for the men and women of “Mudbound”, too. They are indeed bound to it, owning it, craving it, their lives encircled by the same few acres of claggy clods.On this land, two families work cheek-by-jowl in 1940s Mississippi, but in vastly different circumstances. One family—the McAllans—are white. The Jacksons, Hap (Rob Morgan) and Florence (Mary J. Blige) and their children, are black. The story is an adaptation of a novel by Hillary...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 2 d. 17 h. 56 min. ago more
  • Another look at East German artAnother look at East German art

    NOVEMBER 9TH marked the 28th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, meaning that Germany has nearly been without the wall as long as it was with it. But disparities between East and West remain, particularly in terms of wages, business clout and political power. According to a recent poll, 74% of East Germans and 53% of West Germans say that the differences between them are “big” or “very big”. The “wall in the mind” still makes many former East Germans feel like second-class citizens, their achievements unacknowledged in the united country.This is true of East German art as well. All too often dismissed as propagandistic “state art”, thousands of paintings, sculptures, prints and other artworks were removed from public buildings in the East after the wall fell. Museums left them to fester in their storage facilities. National exhibitions of German modern art have often excluded these artworks, or hung them without chronological or thematic context.   Critics say that this shows a lack...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 2 d. 21 h. 8 min. ago more
  • Transcript: An interview with Doug JonesTranscript: An interview with Doug Jones

    Doug Jones spoke to Lexington in Mobile, Alabama, on November 10th. The previous day the Washington Post had published a report alleging that Roy Moore, his Republican rival for an Albama Senate seat, had a history of pursuing and molesting teenage girls. Mr Jones, seated in the office of a friendly law firm and wearing his trademark “Doug Jones: US Senate" white sports shirt, was enjoying a pit-stop between a Veteran’s Day parade and joint appearance before a black crowd with Congressman John Lewis. He seemed a bit warier than a more seasoned politician, but was engaging nonetheless.The Economist: What is at stake in this contest?Doug Jones: I think there is a lot at stake for Alabama. People put it in a broader context but I think for Alabama, in particular as it stands now, Alabama has a choice of either going forward or backwards...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 3 d. 13 h. 12 min. ago more
  • Wine-making existed at least 500 years earlier than previously knownWine-making existed at least 500 years earlier than previously known

    ACCORDING to the ancient Greeks, wine was first discovered by Dionysus, and proved so popular that he was rewarded with godhood. The ancient Persians credit it to a woman who had been banished from the presence of the legendary King Jamshid. Despondent, she wandered into a warehouse where she found a jar containing the remains of some spoiled grapes. Thinking this was as good a method of suicide as any, she drank the liquid. The effect was not quite what she had expected.For archaeologists, as opposed to mythmakers, untangling the history of wine is particularly hard, partly because the product is perishable and partly because the technique is simple enough to have been invented independently by early settlers in different parts of the world. It did not help that, until recently, archaeologists would wash any ancient pottery they unearthed in hydrochloric acid to strip off any accumulated gunk, which also removed any organic compounds that might have given a clue about what was once stored in the pots.Fortunately, bits of wine-stained pottery still turn up. As reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds at two sites have pushed the origins of large-scale winemaking back to 6,000 BC, half a millennium or more before the previous date. A team of researchers led by Patrick McGovern from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 19 min. ago more
  • Timelier provisions may make banks’ profits and lending choppierTimelier provisions may make banks’ profits and lending choppier

    IN THE first quarter of 2018 thousands of banks will look a little less profitable. A new international accounting standard, IFRS 9, will oblige lenders in more than 120 countries, including the European Union’s members, to increase provisions for credit losses. In America, which has its own standard-setter, IFRS 9 will not be applied—but by 2019 banks there will also have to follow a slightly different regime.The new rule has its roots in the financial crisis of 2007-08, in the wake of which the leaders of the G20 countries declared that accounting standards needed an overhaul. Among their other shortcomings, banks had done too little, too late, to recognise losses on wobbly assets. Under existing standards they make provisions only when losses are incurred, even if they see trouble coming. IFRS 9, which comes into force on January 1st, obliges them to provide for expected losses instead.Under IFRS 9 bank loans are classified in one of three “stages”. When a loan is made—stage one—banks must make a...Continue reading

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • ABP, a Dutch pension giant, is more admired abroad than at homeABP, a Dutch pension giant, is more admired abroad than at home

    EUROPE’S largest pension fund, a scheme for Dutch public-sector workers called ABP, is much feted abroad for its efforts in “sustainable” investing. At home, however, where it provides pensions to one in six families and manages nearly one-third of pension wealth, it is suffering a crisis of confidence.By international standards, Dutch pensions are extremely generous overall, offering 96% of career-averagesalaries (adjusted for inflation), compared with an OECD mean of 63%. And they are solid. Thanks to mandatory, tax-deductible saving, the Dutch have stored up a collective pension pot of nearly €1.4trn ($1.6trn), roughly double GDP. Mercer, a consultancy, marks the country as second only to Denmark in a global ranking of schemes.Yet Dutch people’s faith in their pensions has sunk as low as their trust in banks and insurers. In March a political party for older voters, 50+, won four seats in the Dutch parliament, largely thanks to its promise to “stop the pension raid”. ABP’s own members mark it at just...Continue reading

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • What annual reports say, or do not, about competitionWhat annual reports say, or do not, about competition

    What explains the remarkable strength of corporate profits and the sluggish growth of real wages in recent years? One explanation is that industries are getting less competitive. Work by The Economist found that two-thirds of American industries were more concentrated in the hands of a few firms in 2012 than in 1997.Research by AXA Investment Managers Rosenberg Equities into the language used in American annual reports points in the same direction. Sherlock Holmes famously talked of the significance of the dog that did not bark in the night. It may be similarly important that companies refer to rivals much less than they did; usage of the word “competition” in annual reports has declined by three-quarters since the turn of the century. Business is less cut-throat than it used to be.

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • The rules on allocating take-off and landing slots favour incumbentsThe rules on allocating take-off and landing slots favour incumbents

    LAST year nearly 3.7bn passengers took to the sky on commercial jets. Few would have given much thought to exactly why their flight was scheduled at the time it was. Even fewer know about the tussles between regulators and airlines over how landing and take-off slots are allocated.For the past 70 years the business of thrashing out timetables at international airports has been the job of the Slot Conference, a semi-annual meeting of airlines and airport co-ordinators run by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an airline trade group. The 141st meeting, held last week in Madrid to set next summer’s schedule, attracted over 1,300 representatives from 250 airlines and nearly 300 airports around the world. Sitting around tables (with one for each country’s airports) in a massive hall, airlines negotiate and reschedule their slots to maximise their network’s efficiency. It is like “speed dating for airlines”, says Lara Maughan, the conference...Continue reading

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • The rich get richer, and millennials miss outThe rich get richer, and millennials miss out

    Early contender for the 2047 listBUOYANT financial markets meant that global wealth rose by 6.4% in the 12 months to June, the fastest pace since 2012. And the ranks of the rich expanded again, with 2.3m new millionaires added to the total, according to the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s global wealth report.The report underlines the sharp divide between the wealthy and the rest. If the world’s wealth were divided equally, each household would have $56,540. Instead, the top 1% own more than half of all global wealth. The median wealth per household is just $3,582; if you own more than that, you are in the richest 50% of the world’s population.America continues to dominate the ranks of millionaires with 43% of the global total. Both Japan and Britain had fewer dollar millionaires than they did in June 2016, thanks to declines in the yen and sterling. Emerging economies have been catching up in the millionaire stakes; they now have 8.4%...Continue reading

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • InternshipInternship

    Applications are invited for a Marjorie Deane internship in our New York bureau. The award is designed to provide work experience for a promising journalist or would-be journalist, who will spend three to six months at The Economist writing about economics, business and finance. Applicants are asked to write a covering letter and an article of no more than 500 words, suitable for publication in The Economist. Applications should be sent by December 14th to deaneinternny@economist.com.

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Fuelled by Middle East tension, the oil market has got ahead of itselfFuelled by Middle East tension, the oil market has got ahead of itself

    ONLY one thing spooks the oil market as much as hot-headed despots in the Middle East, and that is hot-headed hedge-fund managers. For the second time this year, record speculative bets on rising oil prices in American and European futures have made the market vulnerable to a sell-off. “You don’t want to be the last man standing,” says Ole Hansen of Saxo Bank.On November 15th, the widely traded Brent crude futures benchmark, which had hit a two-year high of $64 a barrel on November 7th, fell below $62. America’s West Texas Intermediate also fell. The declines coincided with a sharp drop across global metals markets, owing to concern about slowing demand in China, which has clobbered prices of nickel and other metals that had hit multi-year highs. (In a sign of investor nervousness after a sharp rally this year in global stock and bond markets, high-yield corporate bonds also weakened significantly this week.)The reversal in the oil markets put a swift end to talk of crude shooting above $70 a barrel, which had gained strength after the detention in Saudi Arabia of dozens of princes and other members of the elite, and increasing tension between the Gulf states and Iran over Yemen and Lebanon. The International Energy Agency (IEA), which forecasts supply and demand, said on November 14th that it doubted $60 a barrel had become a new floor for oil....Continue reading

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • A new class of startup is upending America’s consumer-goods industryA new class of startup is upending America’s consumer-goods industry

    Tommy John’s got the consumer coveredIN MANY ways, Tommy John, a startup based in Manhattan, resembles a tech company straight out of Silicon Valley. On its website the venture-backed firm touts its innovative materials and patented designs. When recruiting talent, it describes itself as “disruptive” and “revolutionary”. But Tommy John does not deal in computer hardware, software or any other kind of technology. It makes men’s underwear.Following the example of successful e-commerce brands such as Warby Parker, a glasses firm, and Casper, a mattress-maker, a growing number of startups are reimagining everyday household items—from pants and socks to toothbrushes and cookware. These “direct-to-consumer” (DTC) companies bypass conventional retailers and bring their products straight to customers via their online stores. They began several years ago to catch the attention of venture-capital (VC) firms, which have poured in more than $3bn since...Continue reading

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Who needs America?Who needs America?

    REVIVING the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal between 12 countries around the Pacific Rim, is technically impossible. To go into force, members making up at least 85% of their combined GDP had to ratify it. Three days into his presidency, Donald Trump announced that America was out. With 60% of members’ GDP gone, that deal was doomed.But on November 11th, another began to rise in its place, crowned with a tongue-twisting new name: the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Ministers from its 11 members issued a joint statement saying that they had agreed on its core elements, and that it demonstrated their “firm commitment to open markets”. The political symbolism was powerful. As America retreats, others will lead instead.The CPTPP is still far from finished, however. This inconvenient truth is unsurprising. Resuscitating the deal without its biggest member was always going to be hard. Without America, uncomfortable concessions made in the old TPP...Continue reading

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • How common is sexual harassment?How common is sexual harassment?

    FOR social scientists the apparent epidemic of propositioning, pinching, groping and flashing that is gripping America brings a rare opportunity to observe a new norm, around how men behave towards women, being created in real time. First though, they must figure out the extent of the problem. The most extreme example—rape—is hard enough to count. Government statistics produced by the Centres for Disease Control and Protection suggest that one in five women and one in 60 men have been a victim of rape or an attempted rape in their lifetime. On the other end of the scale, sexual harassment—a charge that rarely carries criminal punishment—is far more common, and harder still to count.It is also a fairly new phenomenon, in the sense that there was no phrase that described it until the late-1970s. That coincided with women’s growing importance in the labour force as their share of jobs rose from 33% to 42% over the preceding two decades. A formal legal definition arrived in 1980 when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency, stated that unwelcome sexual advances which affected an individual’s work were grounds for a complaint.The law was slow to take hold. Just 16 cases of sexual harassment were received between 1980 and 1985. But after a Supreme Court ruling in 1986 decided that sexual harassment was covered by the...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • So called “pass through” firms may soon get a big tax cutSo called “pass through” firms may soon get a big tax cut

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP broke with convention by not releasing his tax returns during his campaign for office. One reason might be his involvement in around 500 “pass-through” firms. The profits (and losses) of such businesses, unlike those of traditional corporations, flow directly onto the tax returns of their owners. So Mr Trump has good reason to pay attention as Republicans in Congress try to decide how such firms should be treated.Rich countries typically allow sole traders to pay income rather than business taxes—think of taxi drivers and handymen. America is unusual in also offering this option to large firms. So-called S-corporations, one type of pass-through entity, can be huge. FMR, the parent company of Fidelity, an asset manager with $2.4trn under management and 45,000 employees, is reportedly an S-corporation. So are many sports teams. The main requirements for the status are that a firm issues only one type of share and has no more than 100 shareholders, all of whom must be tax resident in America. Owners enjoy...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • China imports a farm from IowaChina imports a farm from Iowa

    THE buddy seat on Rick Kimberley’s combine-harvester is a fine vantage point from which to observe precision farming. The combine’s satellite navigation allows farmers to make the most of good weather and to reap in the dark during peak harvesting periods. It is precise enough to trace the most efficient path to scoop up yellow, crinkly corn stalks to within a couple of centimetres. This enables Mr Kimberley, a 67-year old who farms near Maxwell, Iowa, to harvest about 100 acres in a 14-hour day, helped only by a big trailer into which he discharges his corn.Almost by accident, the silver-haired Mr Kimberley has become a sought-after ambassador for modern farming methods in China. He travels there regularly to talk about precision farming and other tricks of his trade. Mr Kimberley has been to 40 Chinese cities in ten provinces during more than a dozen visits in the past five years. In September he was in China to break ground on a “Friendship Farm” in Hebei province, which is...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • The price of cannabis is falling, suggesting a supply glutThe price of cannabis is falling, suggesting a supply glut

    AFTER he was busted in 1974, Jeffrey Edmondson, a small-time dealer of marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines in Minneapolis, faced a daunting bill from the taxman for all his illicit income. He argued that he should be allowed to deduct $100,000 worth of business expenses, and a court agreed. Enraged, Congress revised the tax code in the early Reagan years, forbidding tax exemptions for drug traffickers. One unintended consequence of Mr Edmondson’s audacity persists four decades later: cannabis operations, now legitimate in many states, are forbidden from the usual business deductions and face crippling tax bills of as much as 70% of revenue.That is just one of the weird results thrown up by the unique regulatory bind in which cannabis companies find themselves. For decades theirs was an underground enterprise, run by pacifist hippies and murderous drug cartels. And although 29 states have legalised marijuana—seven of them and the District of Columbia permit recreational use—the federal government...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Explaining turnout in Latin American electionsExplaining turnout in Latin American elections

    THE flurry of elections coming up in Latin America will not only choose new leaders. It will also provide a check-up on the health of democracy itself, which in most countries on the continent has been in place for only a few decades. Latin Americans appear to be losing some of their enthusiasm for it. In the latest edition of the region-wide survey conducted annually by Latinobarómetro, a pollster based in Chile, the share of respondents saying democracy is the best form of government hit its lowest level in a decade, at 53% (in 2010 it was 61%). The proportion saying they had no preference for democracy over other systems reached an all-time high of 25%, up from 16% in 2010.How worrying is this for Latin American democracy? One indicator will be voter turnout. Participation is only a rough proxy for political vibrancy. Some citizens might stay home because they are satisfied with their government and confident that its policies will continue. Others might vote because they expect that a clientelistic government will reward its...Continue reading

    Americas - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Chile’s voters are in no mood for reckless radicalismChile’s voters are in no mood for reckless radicalism

    A WEEK before national elections, Chileans would normally be cursing the billboards and posters cluttering up their cities. On the eve of this year’s presidential and congressional elections, scheduled for November 19th, there is much less to complain about. Restrictions on campaign spending imposed in 2016 after a party-financing scandal have kept much of the pesky propaganda off the streets.This has not cheered up voters. “People are very disappointed with politicians,” says Beatriz Díaz, a teacher of English in Pirque, on the outskirts of Santiago. “They keep stealing.” The crackdown on campaign hoopla, meant to curb such behaviour, may deepen voters’ apathy. Pollsters expect turnout to be low.Yet voters are likely to endorse the political establishment that has governed since the 17-year dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet ended in 1990. The strong favourite to win the presidency is Sebastián Piñera (pictured left), a billionaire businessman who was president...Continue reading

    Americas - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Latin America’s voteathonLatin America’s voteathon

    IN THE annals of Latin American democracy, Marcelo Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction magnate, will occupy a place of unique infamy. From Mexico to Argentina and many places in between, his Brazilian construction company bribed presidents, ministers and candidates to win public contracts, setting a nefarious example that other firms followed. The damage to the public purses in padded contracts ran to over $3bn. The intangible cost to the credibility and prestige of democratic politics in Latin America is incalculable.The reverberations from the Odebrecht scandal come at the worst possible time. Starting with Chile on November 19th, seven Latin American countries will choose presidents over the next 12 months. They include the two regional giants, Brazil and Mexico. An eighth, Venezuela, is due to vote by December 2018, though its dictator, Nicolás Maduro, is unlikely to allow a fair contest. A further six presidential ballots are due in 2019, not least in Argentina. The region’s...Continue reading

    Americas - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Iran and Saudi Arabia take their rivalry to LebanonIran and Saudi Arabia take their rivalry to Lebanon

    Hi stranger. It’s been a whileSAAD HARIRI is an unlikely hero for Lebanon. Despite inheriting a powerful surname—not to mention a vast construction company, Saudi Oger—he often bemoaned his lot. He seemed to live in the shadow of his father, Rafik, a former prime minister, whose assassination in 2005 (probably at the behest of Syria) propelled Saad into politics. But during his own two turns as prime minister (from 2009 to 2011, and 2016 to the present) he accomplished little, as the power of Sunnis, like himself, waned. When Saudi Oger shut down this year, his countrymen had little sympathy.But since his odd televised resignation on November 4th, perhaps under some form of duress in Saudi Arabia, Mr Hariri (pictured) has seen his popularity rise. Many Lebanese, including the country’s president, Michel Aoun, believe he was held against his will in the kingdom. Across Lebanon’s sectarian divide, politicians have championed his return. A website...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Making sense of the culture war over transgender identityMaking sense of the culture war over transgender identity

    A BEAUTIFUL man with high cheekbones, fluttering eyelashes and a galaxy of silver glitter in his hair strides into the room. He is wearing a wedding dress and dirty trainers. The gender-bending at this club night in east London is not new: Shakespeare’s comedies are filled with cross-dressers; Gladys Bentley stomped the boards of 1920s Harlem in a tuxedo; Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie’s ambiguous interstellar alias, landed in the 1970s. What is new, though, is that convention-defying statements of gender identity are moving from stage and dance floor to everyday life.The word “gender” is used by prudes to avoid saying “sex”, and restricted by purists (and, until recently, The Economist’s style guide) to speaking about grammar. In the 1970s feminists described the restricted behaviour regarded as proper to men and women as “gender roles”. But in recent years “gender identity” has come to mean how people feel or present themselves, as distinct...Continue reading

    The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Toutiao, a Chinese news app that’s making headlinesToutiao, a Chinese news app that’s making headlines

    WHEN rumours swirled in August that Baidu, a Chinese online-search giant, was buying Toutiao, the scrappy news-aggregation platform reportedly quipped in response that reports had mistaken the buyer for the seller. The firm is proud with good reason. Toutiao’s growth since its launch in 2012 has been stellar: it says it has already drawn 700m users to the personalised newsfeeds on its smartphone app. Its valuation has shot up, to $22bn in its latest funding round (see chart).Toutiao’s parent company, Bytedance, is definitely a buyer now. This month it snapped up Musical.ly, a lip-syncing video platform that has captivated American teens, for a reported $1bn. It looks like a good match. Musical.ly, based in Shanghai, is the first Chinese firm to build an app that has been so admired in the West; Bytedance, which has developed sophisticated artificial-intelligence (AI) technology to customise Toutiao’s newsfeeds, can provide it with winning algorithms.Those algorithms are...Continue reading

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • What five years of Abenomics has and has not achievedWhat five years of Abenomics has and has not achieved

    IN TOKYO’S Iidabashi district, north of the Imperial Palace, young salarymen and women gather after work to enjoy grilled chicken and a drink at Torikizoku, a chain of budget restaurants. They tap out their orders on touch-screen terminals, which the company has installed on many tables in an effort to economise on waiters, whose wages are hard to contain. Last month the company was forced to raise its price by over 6%, to ¥298 (about $2.60) plus tax, for two skewers of locally reared chicken yakitori. It was the firm’s first price increase in 28 years.Chicken skewers are not commonly seen as a macroeconomic indicator. But Torikizoku’s decision exemplifies the underlying logic of “Abenomics”, a campaign to revive Japan’s economy, named after Shinzo Abe, its prime minister. His economic strategy aimed to stimulate spending and investment through vigorous monetary easing. That would create jobs, driving up wages. Higher wages, in turn, would push up prices. Success would be measured by the defeat of deflation, which had...Continue reading

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Allergan’s unusual legal tactic attracts political scrutinyAllergan’s unusual legal tactic attracts political scrutiny

    “BRAZEN” and “absurd”: Allergan certainly drew a reaction from American lawmakers when it transferred its patents for Restasis, a dry-eye drug, to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in September. Last week a congressional committee held a hearing on the deal, which, if recognised as valid, risks undermining the American patent-review system.As entities granted sovereign status, Native American tribes enjoy legal immunity and so, Allergan hopes, can ward off challenges to the patents by rival drugmakers. The tribe, which is based in New York state, wants to reduce its reliance on revenues from its local casino. It received $14m when it acquired the patents, and will relicense them to Allergan for a yearly fee of $15m.Tribes are targeting other industries, too. The Mohawk tribe holds patents for SRC Labs, a tech firm, and says it expects to earn a “significant amount of money” by suing other firms for infringement. It has already sued Amazon and Microsoft. Another patent-holding company, owned by three Native...Continue reading

    Business - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Growing tiny tumours in the lab could help treat cancerGrowing tiny tumours in the lab could help treat cancer

    Giving up their secretsALMOST half a century after Richard Nixon declared war on cancer, there has been plenty of progress. But there is still no cure. One reason is that “cancer” is an umbrella term that covers many different diseases. Although the fundamental mechanism is always the same—the uncontrolled proliferation of cells—the details vary enormously. Leukaemia is not the same as colon cancer. Even within a particular type of cancer, one patient’s disease will differ from another’s. Different mutations, for instance, will affect different genes within a tumour. The result is that cancer can be frustratingly difficult to treat.Medicine, though, is getting better at accounting for these differences. In a paper just published in Nature Medicine, a team led by Meritxell Huch, a biologist at the Gurdon Institute, a cancer-research centre at the University of Cambridge, describes a technique that could, one day, help doctors design bespoke treatments for their patients,...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • New surgical robots are about to enter the operating theatreNew surgical robots are about to enter the operating theatre

    ROBOTS have been giving surgeons a helping hand for years. In 2016 there were about 4,000 of them scattered around the world’s hospitals, and they took part in 750,000 operations. Most of those procedures were on prostate glands and uteruses. But robots also helped surgeons operate on kidneys, colons, hearts and other organs. Almost all of these machines were, however, the products of a single company. Intuitive Surgical, of Sunnyvale, California, has dominated the surgical-robot market since its device, da Vinci, was cleared for use by the American Food and Drug Administration in 2000.That, though, is likely to change soon, for two reasons. One is that the continual miniaturisation of electronics means that smarter circuits can be fitted into smaller and more versatile robotic arms than those possessed by Intuitive’s invention. This expands the range of procedures surgical robots can be involved in, and thus the size of the market. The other is that surgical robotics is, as it were,...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • more news
  • A modern history of IranA modern history of Iran

    Iran: A Modern History. By Abbas Amanat. Yale University Press; 1,000 pages; $40. To be published in Britain in January; £30.ABBAS AMANAT is an authority on Iranian culture and political history. In his new book he presents the past five centuries of Iran’s history in its Persian, Shia context. At 1,000 pages, it is not for the fainthearted. But Mr Amanat is a skilful narrator whose use of sources and anecdotes is illuminating. His book should be read by anyone who is curious about the history of political philosophy and ideas.It is especially strong on cultural, literary and intellectual history and the role this has played in Iran’s interpretations of political and clerical authority. Mr Amanat dips into the lives and works of key figures, from those who articulated the country’s responses to European imperialism, such as Mirza Malkom Khan, a prominent modernist who died in 1908, to the ideologues of the Islamic revolution of 1979. These include Jalal Al-e Ahmad...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • The rise and rise of performance artThe rise and rise of performance art

    BY THE late 1990s, the small and marginal world of performance art seemed stunted by nostalgia and self-parody. “I would go to [New York’s] Lower East Side and see these scruffy works that felt like a repeat of the 1970s,” says RoseLee Goldberg, a South African-born curator and art historian in New York. “I was seeing works by visual artists like Shirin Neshat, Gillian Wearing and Steve McQueen, and I was wondering why aren’t we seeing this kind of power or beauty in performance? Why are we still doing monologues?”As a former director of the Royal College of Art in London who went on to shape New York’s performance-art scene in the 1970s, Ms Goldberg was well-placed to diagnose artistic torpor. She worked with artists such as Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Robert Longo, Meredith Monk and Cindy Sherman as a curator at the Kitchen, a renowned downtown venue. But New York in 2000 seemed to have little interest in art that couldn’t be bought or sold, and experimental artists were increasingly decamping to Berlin,...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • What does America’s Second Amendment really say?What does America’s Second Amendment really say?

    JUST weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, in Las Vegas, America faced its fifth-worst attack, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5th. Both assailants were armed with military-style rifles. Why does American law let people buy such weapons?The answer is the Second Amendment to the constitution, which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (Commas were used differently in the 18th century, but these do not affect meaning.) Gun-rights advocates insist the second half of that sentence is absolute.Those in favour of tighter regulation insist that the framers used the first clause to tie gun-rights to the need for a militia. Since no American state has the sort of militia that existed in the 1780s (consisting of all able-bodied men, subject to call-up at any time and expected to bring their own weapons), this would make wider curbs...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • A British travel writer evokes the magic of the Baltic SeaA British travel writer evokes the magic of the Baltic Sea

    Ice trapIcebreaker: a Voyage Far North. By Horatio Clare. Chatto and Windus; 213 pages; £14.99.“ICEBREAKER” by Horatio Clare, a British nonfiction writer, is an encounter with the void. It describes ten winter days on a Finnish icebreaker, one of a fleet that works at perilously close quarters with ice-trapped cargo ships in the Bay of Bothnia at the northern limit of the Baltic Sea. It is a silent region, almost empty of birds and animals, tideless and still. He writes of seeing silence, and the ship itself seems to him no more than “the tip of a pencil line trailing off into empty space”.By the end of the journey, the “shuddering emptiness” has got to Mr Clare. He describes a nightmare in which he foresees a world populated solely by humans and machines: “no bird…no flourish of being in landscape, no iteration of spirit in form”. It is the culmination of a steady drumbeat through the book about...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Jaron Lanier’s memoir recalls a life spent in virtual realityJaron Lanier’s memoir recalls a life spent in virtual reality

    Dawn of the New Everything. By Jaron Lanier. Henry Holt; 351 pages; $30. Bodley Head; £20.WHAT is virtual reality (VR)? Over 21 chapters and three appendices, Jaron Lanier, a tech pioneer, puts forward 52 definitions. Some are geeky: “a media technology for which measurement is more important than display”. Others are poetic: “the technology of noticing experience itself”. And a few are terrifying: “a training simulator for information-age warfare”. VR is all of these things and more besides. Yet at a time when the malign influence of social media is grabbing headlines, it is the last of these that seems most urgent.Mr Lanier is a Silicon Valley grandee. In 1984 he started the first VR firm, VPL Research, which sold early headsets and accessories, and is widely credited with popularising the term “virtual reality”. He has seen the tech industry go from being a bunch of start-ups run by counterculture idealists to global companies....Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • The Trump administration’s latest misdemeanoursThe Trump administration’s latest misdemeanours

    Cut-out and keepAN ADVISER allegedly involved in a plot to force a migrant to return to his home country. An attorney-general who seems conveniently forgetful when testifying before Congress. A president’s son exchanging messages with an agent of a hostile foreign power. In past administrations any of these things would have caused shock, hand-wringing and, probably, Congressional hearings and sackings. But it’s just another week in Donald Trump’s America.On November 11th the Wall Street Journal reported that Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, is looking into allegations that Michael Flynn, Mr Trump’s former national-security adviser, was involved in a plan to return Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania, to the Turkish government in exchange for $15m. Turkey accuses Mr Gulen of masterminding last year’s failed coup (charges the cleric...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Doug Jones against the darknessDoug Jones against the darkness

    IF DOUG JONES becomes the first Democrat in a quarter of a century to win a Senate seat from Alabama on December 12th, the state will have followed his own political evolution. The grandson of a coal miner and a steelworker, Mr Jones was born into a family of Democrats. But when the South went Republican, after Lyndon Johnson ended segregation in 1964, most of the Joneses went too. “Most everybody voted Republican more than they voted Democrat in recent years,” reflects the avuncular 63-year-old, during a recent campaign pit-stop in Mobile. In other words Mr Jones, who cast his first vote for Johnson’s Republican successor, Richard Nixon, is a Democrat by choice, not cultural inheritance, which in turn gives him an unusual grasp of the passions aroused across America’s political divide. Given that he must woo thousands of Republican voters to have a prayer of victory in a state that picked Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by 28 percentage points, this is a useful advantage.A...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • The EPA is rewriting the most important number in climate economicsThe EPA is rewriting the most important number in climate economics

    CLIMATE economists refer to it as “the most important number you’ve never heard of”. The social cost of carbon (SCC) tries to capture the cost of an additional ton of carbon-dioxide pollution in a single number—around $47 in present dollars. Using it, more than $1trn worth of benefits have been calculated in economic-impact assessments that accompany environmental regulations. But now that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is headed by Scott Pruitt, a climate-change sceptic who is friendly with fossil-fuel firms, the maths is likely to be redone. In its recent proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, a contentious Obama-era rule that sought to curb CO2 emissions from power plants, the EPA buried a significant haircut to the cost of carbon. The new calculations place it anywhere between $1 and $6—a cut of between 87% and 98%. Mr Pruitt, who has zealously applied himself to undoing the work of the past administration, could use the revised number to justify wiping away reams of environmental regulation that...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • British retailers cool on “Black Friday”, the American sales bonanzaBritish retailers cool on “Black Friday”, the American sales bonanza

    Pink FridayJUST as Christmas seems to come earlier each year, so it is with Black Friday, the post-Thanksgiving frenzy of discounts and fisticuffs in the aisles. This year it falls on November 24th. But that didn’t stop Argos, a big catalogue retailer, from launching its own two-week Black Friday season of “amazing” prices on November 15th. Amazon, an online giant, kicks off on November 17th. Currys, an electrical-goods shop, is already discounting its vacuum cleaners. And anyone who misses Black Friday can always catch up on “Cyber Monday”, three days later.Black Friday was introduced to Britain only in 2010, by Amazon. Since then it has come to challenge Christmas as the most hallowed marketing pretext of the year (see chart). In 2016 Britons spent a record £5.8bn ($7.6bn) between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 15% more than in the same period the previous year. Argos recorded its biggest-ever day of sales. John Lewis, a chain of department...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Pharmaceutical firms trigger contingency plans for a no-deal BrexitPharmaceutical firms trigger contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit

    ONE of the first tangible consequences of Britain’s exit from the European Union will be made clear on November 20th, when the EU announces the new home of its drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, which is currently based in London. The agency will have less than 17 months to pack its bags before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, whereas by its own reckoning it needs a transition period of at least two to three years.The agency’s relocation is not the only worry facing one of Britain’s most important and most globalised industries. Pharmaceutical firms on both sides of the English Channel warn that time is running out for the EU and Britain to reach an agreement that allows them to continue operating without a hitch after 2019. Companies would need several years to adjust if such a deal were not made. Even agreement on a transition period, to smooth the first years after Brexit, may come too late to be of use to an industry with long production timelines. Firms are thus...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Why has Iran imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe?Why has Iran imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe?

    Zaghari-Ratcliffe, prisoner of PersiaBEHIND the grimy frosted windows of an abandoned shopfront in the backstreets of central London lies a plush modern office, full of banks of computer screens monitoring Iran’s internet output. The office is one of many Western media projects working to outwit the censors who seek to suppress all but the official discourse of Iran’s Islamic Republic. Much of the funding comes from America’s Near East Regional Democracy programme, which allocates about $30m a year to promoting democracy and human rights in Iran.The camouflage is well merited. Iran’s secretive regime has long hounded the country’s journalists. It is one of the world’s worst abusers of press freedom. It restricts visas for foreign reporters and assigns “translators” to those who visit, to monitor their every word. Fearful of regular round-ups, many Iranian journalists have fled to Europe. But the regime has pursued them into exile. Earlier this year it ordered the seizure of the Iranian...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • British politics is being profoundly reshaped by populismBritish politics is being profoundly reshaped by populism

    BRITAIN should have been better placed than any other country to fight off the populist fever that is spreading around the world. The House of Commons is one of the oldest representative institutions on Earth. The country’s last violent revolution was in the middle of the 17th century. With politicians as different as Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher denouncing them as “a device for dictators and demagogues”, Britain avoided nationwide referendums until 1975 and has only used them three times. The British erect statues to statesmen and women in Parliament rather than to “the people”.Yet British politics is currently being reshaped by populism. The essence of populism is the belief that society can be divided into two antagonistic classes—the people and the powerful. The people are presumed to have a single will. The powerful are presumed to be devious and corrupt: determined to feather their own nests and adept at using intermediary institutions (courts, media companies,...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Even as the Brexit clock ticks, many choices remain openEven as the Brexit clock ticks, many choices remain open

    OVER 500 days have passed since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, and fewer than 500 days are left until Britain is due to leave the European Union. Yet progress in the Brexit negotiations has been agonisingly slow. It is still uncertain whether next month’s European Council will agree even to begin the second phase of talks, on transitional arrangements and future trade relations. Frustrated Brexiteers are increasingly advocating walking away with no deal at all.One explanation for the delays is ill-preparedness and the slow process since the referendum of learning precisely what leaving such a complex organisation entails. But another is excessive rigidity and a premature closing down of options. This has often made the talks between David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, needlessly confrontational.The EU 27 are by no means blameless in this. Pretending that Brexit was a problem for Britain alone and that they had...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Britain may be through the worst of its bout of inflationBritain may be through the worst of its bout of inflation

    SINCE November 2015 the pound has depreciated by over 15% against other currencies, mainly because of worries caused by last year’s Brexit referendum. As the cost of imports has risen, inflation has jumped. Monthly figures released on November 14th showed that in October consumer-price inflation was 3%, the joint-highest level since 2012. Mark Carney, the Bank of England’s governor, was only just spared the embarrassment of having to write an explanatory letter to the chancellor, which he must do if inflation is more than a percentage point away from the bank’s target of 2%. Yet there is some good news for Mr Carney: inflation may soon be on its way down again.In the 1970s inflation was a...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Children are victims in the latest identity-driven culture warChildren are victims in the latest identity-driven culture war

    THE first question asked of any new parent is: “Boy or girl?” Across the developed world, the answer matters far less than it used to. Both girls and boys are less constrained by their sex than ever before. Women can not only vote and own property, but stand for election and run companies. Men can care for children—and for their appearance. Both sexes are free to love, and in many countries marry, whomever they wish.But for some, even today’s capacious gender roles do not fit. The number of transgender adults—those who do not identify with the sex on their birth certificates—seems to be rising (see article). More are changing their names, clothing and pronouns, taking cross-sex hormones and seeking gender-reassignment surgery. Their rights and status have become the casus belli for the latest culture war.The fiercest fire is left-on-left. Some...Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • The system for allocating airport slots is brokenThe system for allocating airport slots is broken

    YOU may think that an airline’s most valuable asset is its planes. But with Monarch, Britain’s fifth-biggest carrier, which went bust in October, creditors were keenest to claim slices of airspace at particular times of day. Monarch’s landing and take-off slots at British airports are a big enough prize to have caused a court battle. That is a sign of how much the system for allocating them harms competition and consumers.Slots have been sought-after since the 1960s, when airports began to fill up. In response IATA, an airline-industry body, developed a set of guidelines which state that an airline can keep a slot from the previous year if it has been used at least 80% of the time. Those that are not are put into a pool and reallocated; half are supposed to go to new entrants. Over 190 congested airports—103 of them in Europe—follow rules that IATA describes as “fair, neutral and transparent” (see

    Leaders - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Local-government finances in China are a dangerous messLocal-government finances in China are a dangerous mess

    AS CHINESE officials admit, one of the biggest threats to the country’s financial stability is a reckless build-up of local-government debt. What they are less keen to admit is that local governments’ thuggish behaviour, such as grabbing land to sell to developers, and failing to provide the services expected of them, has become a cause of unrest.One reason local governments in China are dysfunctional is the way their finances work (see article). They have very limited tax-raising powers of their own....Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • A challenge to Turkey’s ErdoganA challenge to Turkey’s Erdogan

    TO STEP into the ring with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s bruiser of a president, takes courage and self-belief. Meral Aksener has plenty of both. At the launch of her new political party on October 25th, some of Mrs Aksener’s supporters broke into chants of “Prime Minister Meral!” She replied: “No, not prime minister. President.” A prominent nationalist and former cabinet minister, she has not yet declared her candidacy for elections that are due to be held in 2019. However, everyone assumes she will. “My friends really want me to run,” she says, referring to colleagues from her newly unveiled, innocuously named Iyi (Good) party. “I might have no other choice.”Those who challenge Mr Erdogan tend to pay. The last to do so, Selahattin Demirtas, joint leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a candidate in the 2014 presidential election, was thrown in prison last year on spurious terrorism charges. Mrs Aksener herself got a taste of Mr Erdogan’s...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Charting a new German foreign policyCharting a new German foreign policy

    IT WAS a heart-warming moment in the freezing wind of the Alsatian mountains. On November 10th the presidents of Germany and France, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Emmanuel Macron (pictured), shared a hug as they opened a French-German war memorial at Hartmannswillerkopf, where 30,000 soldiers died during months-long battles for control of the peak in 1915. Every generation had to be reminded anew, said Mr Steinmeier, why the task “to lead Europe into a hope-filled, better future” fell to Germany and France.Mr Steinmeier’s remarks underscored a commitment to European union, one of the twin pillars of German foreign policy since 1945, alongside participation in a multilateral world underwritten by America. But warm words cannot disguise the fact that these days both pillars are shaky. America under Donald Trump is retreating from its role as underwriter, in favour of a doctrine of national self-interest. Europe faces a number of simmering crises. East and west are divided over...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • France’s political extremes have fallen on hard timesFrance’s political extremes have fallen on hard times

    Unsubmissive Mélenchon“MAKE the most noise possible,” urged Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a radical-left politician, before a crowd this autumn. Saucepan-banging protesters would make a nationwide ruckus, he said, referring to a centuries-old method of protest known as les casserolades. They would tell Emmanuel Macron that his economic reforms “ruin our life and keep us from dreaming, so we stop you from sleeping”.In the event Mr Mélenchon disturbed nobody’s repose. At the appointed hour, at two locations in central Paris, just a handful of sheepish supporters from his France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France) movement turned out. Other marches, against labour-law reforms, have been bigger, but achieved equally little. More nationwide protests were due on November 16th, involving unions and students, but looked unlikely to cause serious disruption.For months Mr Mélenchon, despite having just 17 MPs, has in effect led...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • Calculating behaviour: The EPA is rewriting the most important number in climate economicsCalculating behaviour: The EPA is rewriting the most important number in climate economics

    Print section Print Rubric:  The EPA is rewriting the most important number in climate economics Print Headline:  Calculating Print Fly Title:  Environmental policy UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The army sidelines Robert Mugabe, Africa’s great dictator Fly Title:  Calculating behaviour Location:  WASHINGTON, DC Main image:  20171118_USP504.jpg CLIMATE economists refer to it as “the most important number you’ve never heard of”. The social cost of carbon (SCC) tries to capture the cost of an additional ton of carbon-dioxide pollution in a single number—around $47 in present dollars. Using it, more than $1trn worth of benefits have been calculated in economic-impact assessments that accompany environmental regulations. But now that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is headed by ...

    Environment - The Economist / 3 d. 17 h. 31 min. ago more
  • How Robert Mugabe held on to power for so longHow Robert Mugabe held on to power for so long

    IT WAS the dismissal and flight abroad of Robert Mugabe’s oldest and trustiest lieutenant that finally led to his downfall. Grace Mugabe, the 93-year-old president’s avaricious wife, was thought to be behind the sacking. Younger than her husband by 41 years, she plainly sought to inherit the throne. Yet she overplayed her hand. Within a week the armed forces’ commander, alongside an array of generals, declared, without naming her, that Mrs Mugabe must be stopped. He demanded, also without naming names, that her nemesis, Emmerson Mnangagwa, must be reinstated as heir apparent. Mrs Mugabe’s allies were denounced as “counter-revolutionaries” who had played no part in the “war of liberation” that 37 years ago had brought Mr Mugabe (pictured) to power.A few days later armoured troop carriers rolled into Harare, the capital. Soldiers took control of the state broadcaster and surrounded Mr Mugabe’s residence. In the small hours of the morning another general announced on television that the army was in charge. But the coup was not a coup, he insisted. Various traitors had merely been rounded up and the Mugabe family detained for their own safety. Mr Mnangagwa was set to return from his brief exile. The Mugabe era was at last ingloriously over. As The Economist went to press, events were still unfolding...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 3 d. 22 h. 11 min. ago more
  • What they don’t tell you about climate changeWhat they don’t tell you about climate change

    TWO years ago the world pledged to keep global warming “well below” 2°C hotter than pre-industrial times. Climate scientists and campaigners purred. Politicians patted themselves on the back. Despite the Paris agreement’s ambiguities and some setbacks, including President Donald Trump’s decision to yank America out of the deal, the air of self-congratulation was still on show among those who gathered in Bonn this month for a follow-up summit.Yet the most damaging thing about America’s renewed spasm of climate-change rejection may not be the effect on its own emissions, which could turn out to be negligible. It is the cover America has given other countries to avoid acknowledging the problems of the agreement America is abandoning.The Paris agreement assumes, in effect, that the world will find ways to suck CO2 out of the air. That is because, in any realistic scenario, emissions cannot be cut fast enough to keep the total stock of greenhouse gases...Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 3 d. 23 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Negative-emissions technology: What they don’t tell you about climate changeNegative-emissions technology: What they don’t tell you about climate change

    Print section Print Rubric:  Stopping the flow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is not enough. It has to be sucked out, too Print Headline:  What they don’t tell you Print Fly Title:  Negative-emissions technology UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The army sidelines Robert Mugabe, Africa’s great dictator Fly Title:  Negative-emissions technology Main image:  20171118_LDD002_0.jpg TWO years ago the world pledged to keep global warming “well below” 2°C hotter than pre-industrial times. Climate scientists and campaigners purred. Politicians patted themselves on the back. Despite the Paris agreement’s ambiguities and some setbacks, including President Donald Trump’s decision to yank America out of the deal, the air of self-congratulation was still on show among those who gathered in Bonn this month for a follow-up summit. Yet the most damaging thing ...

    Environment - The Economist / 3 d. 23 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The army sidelines Robert Mugabe, Africa’s great dictatorThe army sidelines Robert Mugabe, Africa’s great dictator

    CALIGULA wanted to make his horse consul. Robert Mugabe wanted his wife, Grace, to take over from him as president of Zimbabwe. The comparison is a bit unfair. Caligula’s horse did not go on lavish shopping trips while Romans starved; nor was it accused of assaulting anyone with an electric cable in a hotel room. Grace Mugabe’s only qualification for high office was her marriage to Mr Mugabe, a man 41 years her senior with whom she began an affair while his first wife was dying. Her ambitions were thwarted this week when the army seized power, insisting that this was not a coup while making it perfectly clear that it was (see article).Thus, sordidly, ends the era of one of Africa’s great dictators. Mr Mugabe has misruled Zimbabwe for 37 years. As The Economist went to press, he was in detention...Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 3 d. 23 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Sucking up carbon: Greenhouse gases must be scrubbed from the airSucking up carbon: Greenhouse gases must be scrubbed from the air

    Print section Print Rubric:  Cutting emissions will not be enough to keep global warming in check. Greenhouse gases must also be scrubbed from the air Print Headline:  Sucking up carbon Print Fly Title:  Combating climate change UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The army sidelines Robert Mugabe, Africa’s great dictator Fly Title:  Sucking up carbon Location:  BONN Main image:  20171118_FBP001_5.jpg SWEDEN’S parliament passed a law in June which obliges the country to have “no net emissions” of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by 2045. The clue is in the wording. This does not mean that three decades from now Swedes must emit no planet-heating substances; even if all their electricity came from renewables and they only drove Teslas, they would presumably still want to fly in ...

    Environment - The Economist / 4 d. 0 h. 11 min. ago more
  • How to send a message to another planetHow to send a message to another planet

    Rendez-vousIN 2029 the inhabitants, if any, of the planet GJ 273b will receive a message that will change their lives forever. Encoded in radio signals emanating from an innocuous-looking blue-green planet 12.4 light-years away, will be tutorials in mathematics and physics, followed by a burst of music. The import of the message, however, will be clear: “Let’s talk.”Or so Douglas Vakoch hopes. For on November 16th Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), the group that he heads, and the organisers of Sónar, a music festival in Barcelona, announced they had sent a series of missives towards Luyten’s star, the red dwarf around which GJ 273b orbits.“Sónar Calling GJ 273b”, as the initiative is called, sent its message in mid-October from a radar antenna at Ramfjordmoen, in Norway. The antenna, run by EISCAT, a scientific organisation based at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna, is usually used to study Earth’s...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 4 d. 12 h. 56 min. ago more
  • Hybrid models are changing the piano market, tooHybrid models are changing the piano market, too

    HYBRID is all the rage. Buyers want the reliability and beauty of the traditional product but are also keen on the flexibility, cost-effectiveness and modernity provided by electric innovations. With a hybrid, they can have it both ways.We are, of course, talking about pianos. Sales figures for acoustic pianos have long made for depressing reading. Over the past decade, sales of upright pianos have dropped by 41.1%, while grand piano sales plummeted by 61.1%. That decline is accelerating. Last year, sales of grand pianos in America—a key market—fell by 15.8%, according to the National Association of Music Merchants. Sales of upright pianos fell by 5.7%. One might assume that the piano is falling out of favour.But the figures do not reveal the whole picture. Sales of piano books in the US are enjoying an uptick, suggesting that there are still plenty of keen pianists. Sales of digital pianos look promising, too. Last year Americans...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 4 d. 14 h. 56 min. ago more
  • Australian voters approve gay marriageAustralian voters approve gay marriage

    FINALLY, after voting that lasted two months, November 15th brought a result. To the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” almost 62% of Australians said yes; 38% said no. The Yes vote prevailed in all six of Australia’s states and its two main territories. Barely hiding a sense of relief, if not triumph, Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister, called the result “overwhelming”. He promised that a parliamentary vote to legalise gay marriage would follow by Christmas.At rallies around the country, supporters of change cheered the prospect. But the issue has long divided Mr Turnbull’s conservative Liberal Party. The Marriage Act originally left the meaning of marriage undefined. John Howard, a Liberal prime minister, had it amended in 2004 to specify “the union of a man and a woman”.A leader of his party’s progressive wing, Mr Turnbull once favoured reversing this change with a parliamentary vote. But as a delaying tactic Tony Abbott, Mr Turnbull’s predecessor, proposed...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 4 d. 15 h. 5 min. ago more
  • Britain’s 1970s retreadBritain’s 1970s retread

    THE strange 1970s revival in Britain has another twist. The main focus has been on the Labour party which, under Jeremy Corbyn, wants to return to the era marked by nationalisation and higher taxes. But in a sense the Brexiteers want to take Britain back to the 1970s too; to the “golden era” before 1973 when the country was outside the EU. In fact, the early 1970s were marked by strikes, power cuts and rapid inflation. They were presided over by Edward Heath (pictured left), the prime minister whose main achievement was to take Britain into what was then the European Economic Community. And it is striking how many similarities he had with the current prime minister, Theresa May (pictured right).Both PMs were/are (Heath died in 2005) loners with few friends in the party and rather “buttoned-up” personalities. Both were uncomfortable on the campaign trail, finding it hard to connect with voters. Both talked of relaunching their party’s political philosophies but struggled to turn their principles into...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 4 d. 17 h. 40 min. ago more
  • Zimbabwe’s army mounts a coup against Robert MugabeZimbabwe’s army mounts a coup against Robert Mugabe

    AS DAWN broke over Harare this morning residents looked out of their windows to see soldiers patrolling the streets. After a day and night of frayed nerves, with rumours of a coup and sightings of troop movements, the plotters struck. At 4:00am local time Zimbabwe’s generals appeared on television to say they had taken control of the country. Shots were heard from the neighbourhood housing the family of Robert Mugabe, the 93-year-old tyrant who is the only leader most Zimbabweans have known and who has ruled the country since its independence in 1980.Appearing on state television in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Major-General Sibusiso Moyo said the action was “not a military takeover of government” but instead a temporary act to prevent conflict. Mr “Mugabe, and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed,” he said. “We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country ... As soon as we have accomplished our...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 4 d. 18 h. 22 min. ago more
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  • Northern Ireland hasn’t had a government since JanuaryNorthern Ireland hasn’t had a government since January

    All talks and no action“HOW good it will be to be part of a wonderful healing in this province,” declared Ian Paisley, Northern Ireland’s first minister, when the Stormont Assembly was reopened in 2007 after nearly five years of direct rule from Westminster. And how long ago that now seems. On November 15th Northern Ireland’s annual budget was passed—but in London, not Belfast. It was the first time in more than a decade that politicians on the mainland had set the budget. Some in Northern Ireland described it as the first step on the road back to direct rule.Westminster’s reluctant intervention was caused by the fact that Northern Ireland has lacked a government of its own since January. Back then the late Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s leader in the Assembly, resigned from his post as deputy first minister in protest at the “crude and crass bigotry” shown towards his fellow republicans by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), with which Sinn Fein was sharing power. Without a republican...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 4 d. 18 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Hungary’s Jobbik party tries to sound less extreme Hungary’s Jobbik party tries to sound less extreme

    AS A firebrand leader of Hungary’s nationalist Jobbik party, Gabor Vona once railed against “Gypsy crime” and “Israeli conquerors”. He even attended parliament in the outfit of the Magyar Garda, Jobbik’s now disbanded and, to many, deeply sinister, uniformed wing.But as Hungary starts to gear up for an election due by next April, Mr Vona and Jobbik claim to have mellowed. They now declare that they want to move beyond the old left-right divide and instead try to build social consensus. “Our goal is to get the support of all constructive forces who want to build rather than destroy,” says the new Mr Vona. The state and business leaders should work together to boost wages and the economy. There is no room for anti-Semitism or racism against Roma people, he says—although not all party supporters are likely to stick to that. Mr Vona even sent Hanukkah greetings last year to a Budapest rabbi.Mr Vona, 39, is following the example of Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, reckons Tamas Boros,...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 4 d. 19 h. 12 min. ago more
  • The justices dive into new abortion controversyThe justices dive into new abortion controversy

    IT IS a heady time for First Amendment lawyers at the Supreme Court. Every year, between October and April, the justices hear about 65 cases. Of the 44 so far this term, six—including three added on November 13th—address the meaning of the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee. The newly listed cases involve a man arrested after lambasting public officials at a city council meeting; a ban on political apparel at polling places in Minnesota; and a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centres to alert visitors of state-subsidised family planning and abortions. Unlike Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a Christian baker’s objection to making wedding cakes for gay couples that will be argued on December 5th, the California case will not be fought on religious liberty grounds. The justices nixed that issue when they decided to take on National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v Becerra. But a wrinkle in the free-speech dispute may spell trouble for another part of the pro-life agenda...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 5 d. 1 h. 40 min. ago more
  • Criticism of index-tracking funds is ill-directedCriticism of index-tracking funds is ill-directed

    INDEX funds were devised in the 1970s as a way of giving investors cheap, diversified portfolios. But they have only become very popular in the past decade. Last year more money flowed into “passive” funds (those tracking a benchmark like the S&P 500) than into “active” funds that try to pick the best stocks.In any other industry, this would be universally welcomed as a sign that innovation was coming up with cheaper products to the benefit of ordinary citizens. But the rise of index funds has provoked some fierce criticism.Two stand out. One argues that passive investing is, in the phrase of analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein, “worse than Marxism”. A key role of the financial markets is to allocate capital to the most efficient companies. But index funds do not do this: they simply buy all the stocks that qualify for inclusion in a benchmark. Nor can index funds sell their stocks if they dislike the actions of the management. The long-term result will be bad for capitalism, opponents argue.A...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 5 d. 15 h. 42 min. ago more
  • Blue-collar wages are surging. Can it last?Blue-collar wages are surging. Can it last?

    IF THERE was a defining economic problem for America as it recovered from the financial crisis, it was stagnant wages. In the five years following the end of the recession in June 2009 wages and salaries rose by only 8.7%, while prices increased by 9.5%. In 2014 the median worker’s inflation-adjusted earnings, by one measure, were no higher than they were in 2000. It is commonly said that wage stagnation contributed to an economic anxiety in middle America that carried Donald Trump into the White House.Yet Mr Trump’s rise seems to have coincided with a turnaround in fortunes for the middle class. In 2015 median household income, adjusted for inflation, rose by 5.2%; in 2016 it was up by another 3.2%. During those two years, poorer households gained more, on average, than richer ones. The latest development—one that will be of particular interest to Mr Trump—is that blue-collar wages have begun to rocket. In the year to the third quarter, wage and salary growth for the likes of factory workers, builders and drivers easily...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 5 d. 16 h. 2 min. ago more
  • A new party for Cyprus’s Russian exiles and expatsA new party for Cyprus’s Russian exiles and expats

    HUNDREDS of Western-trained Cypriot lawyers and accountants earn a living by handling the affairs of Russian and Ukrainian offshore companies. The relationship has flourished since the island became a base for proto-capitalists from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, thanks to a communist-era treaty on removing double taxation. A relaxed attitude to transactions involving cash-filled suitcases also helped.Nicosia, the island’s capital, and Limassol, its largest port, are these days home to an estimated 50,000-60,000 citizens of the former Soviet Union. Limassol’s once-seedy waterfront boasts smart blocks of flats, shopping malls and a gleaming marina for the billionaires’ superyachts. The wealthiest Russian and Ukrainian families flit between Cyprus, London and Paris.Although Russians are popular with Greek Cypriots as fellow members of the Eastern Orthodox church, a new party launched in September by two Russians holding Cypriot passports is raising eyebrows. Some 25,000 ex-Soviet citizens will be eligible to...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 5 d. 16 h. 39 min. ago more
  • Robin Hood Gardens and the divisiveness of brutalismRobin Hood Gardens and the divisiveness of brutalism

    IT HAS an almost mythical status in the canon of post-war British buildings. Clad in precast concrete panels, with apartments rising and descending from wide, raised decks (referred to as “streets in the sky”), Robin Hood Gardens embodies the brutalist desire to renegotiate the relationship between architecture, citizens and society. Built as two long concrete superstructures with a ceremonial mound at the centre of its ample public gardens, it is considered the realisation of the ideas that Peter and Alison Smithson, the great ideologues of brutalism, had promulgated through their teaching. The buildings, and its 252 flats, were to be a “demonstration of a more enjoyable way of living…of a new mode of urban organisation”. But by the time of the building’s completion in 1972, brutalism was already old hat. As with many public housing projects, the local authority budgets used to manage the estates were slashed in the late 1970s, and it fell into disrepair. Despite a campaign to have it placed on Historic England’s...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 5 d. 17 h. 11 min. ago more
  • Why Donald Trump’s wall won’t keep heroin out of AmericaWhy Donald Trump’s wall won’t keep heroin out of America

    THIRTY feet high, built of concrete and steel, eight prototypes for Donald Trump’s wall stand in the dusty ground near the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego. Later this month a private company will start testing the slabs to see how they withstand attempts to climb over or tunnel beneath them. On October 26th, when Donald Trump declared America’s opioid crisis a public health emergency, he said that his signature infrastructure project was a big part of the solution. “An astonishing 90% of the heroin in America comes from south of the border, where we will be building a wall which will greatly help in this problem”, he said. “It will have a great impact.” He had previously suggested that the wall should be see-through to prevent injuries from smugglers launching 60-pound bags of drugs over it (two of the prototypes are transparent). Mr Trump has long argued that a border wall would reduce undocumented immigration including that of drug dealers. But the available evidence suggests that a wall would have no effect...Continue reading

    U. S. - The Economist / 6 d. 13 h. 44 min. ago more
  • The defiance of Tove Jansson, mother of MoominsThe defiance of Tove Jansson, mother of Moomins

    ASK any Finn of their fondest childhood memory, and it is likely to involve the Moomins in some way. The affable, hippopotamusesque little trolls adorn collectible mugs, confectionaries, linens and anything worth branding, but they are also a key part of their native Finland’s national identity and cultural consciousness. For Tove Jansson, their creator, what started as a way to escape the horror and anxiety of the second world war turned into an accidental empire. A new retrospective at the Dulwich Picture Gallery—the first major show of her work in Britain—reveals the full breadth of her artistic output.   Many of the pieces on display have never been exhibited outside Finland. A prolific painter, illustrator and caricaturist, Jansson built her worlds in her attic studio in central Helsinki or in her cottage on the island of Klovharu in the Gulf of Finland. The show opens with her early self-portraits as a young woman in the 1940s. Drawn to the vibrant aesthetic of Matisse and other impressionists, she was...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 6 d. 21 h. 30 min. ago more
  • Jihadism and far-right fanaticism viewed as responses to the same malaiseJihadism and far-right fanaticism viewed as responses to the same malaise

    IS IT correct to find parallels between violent white supremacism and neo-Nazism on one hand, and the nihilist fury of ultra-militant Islam on the other? A Franco-American scholar, Scott Atran, is convinced that these deadly phenomena are two sides of the same coin. Unless people grasp that point, he thinks, our ability to cope with either scourge may be limited.Of course there are superficial resemblances which anyone can see. In August, when a fanatic drove his car into a group of liberal, anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, he was copying a tactic that had already been used by self-styled warriors for Islam in at least four European countries.But Mr Atran, who holds academic posts in Britain, France and America, sees deeper resemblances. He makes the point in an essay for Aeon, a forum for elaborate intellectual arguments, drawing on a series of his own academic investigations. In his view,...Continue reading

    The Economist / 7 d. 2 h. 3 min. ago more
  • How Iceland (population: 330,000) qualified for the World CupHow Iceland (population: 330,000) qualified for the World Cup

    IT HAS become a familiar ritual. A drum beats twice. A wall of blue-shirted fans grunts and lets rip a thundering clap. The pace quickens, like a Viking horde charging into battle. After every victory—and there have been many in recent years—Iceland’s football players and fans unite in performing the clap, which has become one of the sport’s most loved traditions. Last month it boomed out once again. After a 2-0 win against Kosovo on October 9th, Iceland, with a population of just 330,000 and a manager who doubles as a part-time dentist, became the smallest ever country to reach the 32-team finals of the men’s World Cup. They will be one of 14 European sides to compete in the 21st edition, hosted by Russia next year. “It means the world,” says Gudni Bergsson, a former national captain who is now president of the Icelandic Football Association. “For years we have watched the major tournaments on television. People would choose their sides and which countries to support. Now we are actually going there.”To the outside world, strakarnir okkar (“our boys”) must seem like the most improbable qualifiers in World Cup history. The sparsely-inhabited volcanic territory is home to a quarter as many people as Trinidad and Tobago, which previously held the record for the puniest finalist. Of the 54 European countries to have entered this year’s...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 7 d. 19 h. 34 min. ago more
  • Tariq Ramadan, a star of Europe’s Muslim intelligentsia, confronts accusations of rape Tariq Ramadan, a star of Europe’s Muslim intelligentsia, confronts accusations of rape

    ONE way or another, Europe’s Muslim landscape will be altered by the drama that is now swirling around one of the continent’s best-known Islamic thinkers. It was announced this week that “by mutual agreement” Tariq Ramadan was taking a leave of absence from his job as a professor of Islamic studies at Oxford University. The 55-year-old scholar, born in Switzerland to a famous Egyptian family, is facing multiple accusations of rape and sexual misconduct to which he has reacted with vigorous denials and counter-suits.The careful wording of the announcement suggested a painstaking negotiation between the university and Mr Ramadan, who commands a vast personal following, especially in francophone Europe. It said:“An agreed leave of absence implies no presumption or acceptance of guilt and allows Professor Ramadan to address the extremely serious allegations made against him, all of which he categorically denies, while meeting our principal concerns—addressing heightened and understandable distress...Continue reading

    The Economist / 9 d. 17 h. 34 min. ago more
  • How the taxman slows the spread of technology in AfricaHow the taxman slows the spread of technology in Africa

    AFTER a stunning economic expansion, sub-Saharan Africa has run out of puff. Last year GDP growth fell to 1.4%, its slowest rate in more than two decades. That was probably half the rate of population growth—meaning that, on average, its people got poorer. This year will be a little better, but not much. The IMF reckons growth will pick up to about 2.6% for 2017, but even that will not be enough to keep pace with the number of babies being born.Yet look beyond the downturn and one can see encouraging signs that a combination of new technologies promises to transform the region’s fortunes. Mobile phones, rooftop solar power and village Wi-Fi networks are helping to compensate for shoddy infrastructure. Corrupt governments are still terrible at building roads, and state-monopoly power utilities are still awful at providing electricity. But tech-savvy entrepreneurs are finding ways to connect people, electrify their homes and alleviate all manner of social problems (see our

    Middle East & Africa / 10 d. 17 h. 13 min. ago more
  • Mapping gay life in BritainMapping gay life in Britain

    The guys next doorWITH its cream teas and rolling gardens, Dartington Hall in Devon resembles a picture postcard of the conventional, conservative English countryside. Yet at the end of September the estate hosted the first Dartington Outing, a week-long jamboree of “queer arts and bent events”, featuring lesbian life drawing, a virtual-reality tour of a gay HIV-positive man’s body, and a “rainbow tea party”.Some Devonians may have been surprised to find such sexual colour in rural Britain. “The media perception of gay life is young, urban and hedonistic, which is what is received by the wider public,” says Justin Bengry, a historian of sexuality at Goldsmiths, University of London. But queer life beyond the city is increasingly visible, on screen and in real life. “God’s Own Country”, a recent film, depicts a romance between two young shepherds in Yorkshire. Pride parades trundle through towns from Colchester to Chesterfield. “Some local...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Should Queen Elizabeth pay tax?Should Queen Elizabeth pay tax?

    Royal rumbledTHE grandest name associated with the “Paradise Papers”, leaked documents that shine light on offshore transactions (see article), is that of Queen Elizabeth. The papers reveal that the Duchy of Lancaster, her private estate, invested millions in a Cayman Islands fund. Many of her subjects are nonplussed. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, implied that she should apologise, though there is no suggestion of wrongdoing. Yet despite her offshore dealings, the queen actually pays more tax than legally required, not less.As head of state, she enjoys lots of weird exemptions. Civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the sovereign under British law. Passports are issued in her name, so it is unnecessary for her to possess one.These oddities extend to tax, which is collected by an office called Her...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Parliament’s whips have lost their edge, just as their role becomes vitalParliament’s whips have lost their edge, just as their role becomes vital

    GIVEN the departure of two cabinet ministers within a week, a growing sexual-harassment scandal and the general air of pandemonium that permeates the party, it is easy to forget that the Conservatives still have a country to run. Yet the wheels of government have to turn. The people with the job of keeping the show on the road are the whips: the MPs who corral their colleagues into backing their party’s policies. But the “neglected toilers in the engine room of Parliament”, as one former whip calls them, are showing signs of flagging, too. A parliamentary institution whose origins stretch back to the 18th century is starting to creak.The multiplying allegations of sexual misbehaviour by MPs on all sides demonstrate the flaws of an ancient system in a modern age. A complaint to the whips is one of the few avenues available to young parliamentary staffers with little job security. The whips’ office has to fill the void where a proper human-resources department should be, says Rob...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Jair Bolsonaro hopes to be Brazil’s Donald TrumpJair Bolsonaro hopes to be Brazil’s Donald Trump

    IN THE arrivals hall of Belém’s airport the excitement is palpable. Hundreds of supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, a seven-term congressman and would-be president, gather under the steady gaze of a squad of policemen. Some hold banners with Mr Bolsonaro’s campaign slogan: “Brazil above everything, God above everyone”. A few wear “Godfather” T-shirts, with his face in place of Marlon Brando’s. When the candidate finally emerges through sliding doors the crowd surges forward, straining for a glimpse. While bodyguards forge through the scrum, the crowd hoists Mr Bolsonaro aloft as if he were a homecoming hero.The visit to Belém, the sweltering capital of the Amazonian state of Pará, is an early stop in Mr Bolsonaro’s campaign to win the presidential election due in October 2018. A religious nationalist and former army captain, he is anti-gay, pro-gun, and an apologist for dictators who tortured and killed Brazilians between 1964 and 1985. He rails against the political elite,...Continue reading

    Americas - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The FARC is now a political party. Get used to itThe FARC is now a political party. Get used to it

    A STORM that filled Bogotá’s streets with ice on November 1st was the second freakish event of the day in Colombia’s capital. The first took place in a hotel conference room, where the FARC, a guerrilla army turned political party, announced its candidates for presidential and congressional elections to be held in 2018. Before a screen emblazoned with the FARC’s pacific new logo—a rose with a red star at its centre—its leaders did their best to sound like normal politicians. Imelda Daza, the vice-presidential candidate, promised a “more inclusive model” of government that would overcome poverty, hunger and barriers to education.Most Colombians know the FARC as a lawless army whose 52-year war against the state was at the centre of a conflict that caused more than 200,000 deaths and displaced 7m people. The party is not trying hard to disguise its origins. Its new name, the People’s Alternative Revolutionary Force, uses the old bloodstained acronym. Its presidential candidate, Rodrigo Londoño, aka Timochenko, has led...Continue reading

    Americas - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The Communist Party is reasserting control in VietnamThe Communist Party is reasserting control in Vietnam

    NGUYEN CHI TUYEN, a human-rights activist, is used to government repression. Since 2011, when he took part in protests against Chinese military aggression in the South China Sea, he has been watched carefully by plainclothes policemen. Twice a year an official visits his office and talks to his boss. Sometimes, when foreign dignitaries are visiting, he is not allowed to leave his house. In 2015 he was brutally beaten up by a group of thugs. The authorities regularly break up the practice sessions of a football team that includes him and other dissidents. Yet even he is surprised by the recent crackdown on dissent, with around 25 people arrested or exiled this year alone. The government’s “heavy campaign” is puzzling, he says.Discussion of politics has long been heavily policed in Vietnam. But there used to be a little more leeway than in China, its northern neighbour and fellow Communist state. There is no equivalent of China’s Great Firewall, so locals have access to foreign news and Western social media. Perhaps half of the country’s 90m people use Facebook. Public criticism of economic policy has been possible, and protesters have been able to gather over issues such as the South China Sea, even if they are subsequently monitored by the police.Yet since early last year, when Nguyen Tan Dung, the prime minister, was forced to retire, the...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • African herders have been pushed into destitution and crimeAfrican herders have been pushed into destitution and crime

    AT THE start of every dry season fires creep southwards across the Central African Republic (CAR). Kasper Agger, a Dane who works for African Parks, a South Africa-based conservation group, can see them on his laptop thanks to a piece of NASA-made software that plots benign-looking flame symbols like boy scouts’ campfires onto a Google Earth map. Through December and January the fires edge close to Chinko, a vast nature reserve in the CAR. When the fires reach the park boundary, a light aircraft is dispatched to shower leaflets over the smoulder. Below, herders who come from hundreds of miles away receive illustrated messages in Sango (a local language), Arabic and French, warning them not to chop down trees, carry guns, hunt game or poach elephants within the park.For herders to encroach on government and private land is normal in Africa, but the size of the herds, the involvement of political and military bigwigs as cattle barons, and the proliferation of weapons have all got out of hand. They are increasingly fuelling conflict...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • A South African trader finds an artful way to protest about Jacob ZumaA South African trader finds an artful way to protest about Jacob Zuma

    JAMES GUBB was finishing off the knuckles when the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) shut him down. Trading single shares between two accounts, Mr Gubb had managed to “draw” the image of a fist with an upright middle finger onto the share-price chart for Oakbay Resources and Energy Limited, a company controlled by the Gupta brothers, cronies of President Jacob Zuma, that is at the centre of allegations of “state capture” in South Africa.Mr Gubb, a former hedge-fund manager, considers his middle-finger salute to be protest art. South Africa is in the grip of a sprawling corruption scandal; the Guptas are accused of abusing their close ties with Mr Zuma’s family to influence cabinet appointments and win government contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars (they deny allegations of wrongdoing). Mr Gubb created his artwork after Mr Zuma fired a respected finance minister. “Protest art has a very strong foundation in South Africa, crude as this might be,” Mr Gubb...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Someone to watch over them: Electronic surveillance may save the rhinoSomeone to watch over them: Electronic surveillance may save the rhino

    Print section Print Rubric:  Electronic surveillance may save the rhino Print Headline:  Someone to watch over them Print Fly Title:  Conservation UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The leapfrog model Fly Title:  Someone to watch over them Main image:  Collared Collared FOR EACH OF the past three years South Africa has lost more than 1,000 rhinos to poachers, despite intensive efforts to protect them using armed rangers, drones and specially trained tracker dogs. Guarding rhinos is particularly difficult because they roam across vast areas of veld where poachers can hide easily. But two novel approaches using artificial intelligence may help rangers catch their hunters. The first was developed by a group of computer scientists who had previously used artificial intelligence to detect roadside bombers in Iraq and insurgents in Afghanistan. In South Africa ...

    Computer - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Bish bash Bosch: A German hardware giant tries to become an ultra-secure tech platformBish bash Bosch: A German hardware giant tries to become an ultra-secure tech platform

    Print section Print Rubric:  A conservative German hardware giant tries to turn itself into a new kind of ultra-secure technology platform Print Headline:  Bish bash Bosch Print Fly Title:  The internet of things UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  America’s global influence has dwindled under Donald Trump Fly Title:  Bish bash Bosch Location:  GERLINGEN Main image:  Bosch mobilises Bosch mobilises BOSCH is everywhere. It has 440 subsidiaries and employs 400,000 people in 60 countries. Its technology opens London’s Tower Bridge and closes packets of crisps and biscuits in factories from India to Mexico. Analysts call it a car-parts maker: it is the world’s largest, making everything from fuel-injection pumps to windscreen wipers. Consumers know it for white goods and power tools synonymous ...

    Computer - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The troubling spread of plea-bargaining from America to the worldThe troubling spread of plea-bargaining from America to the world

    A PROTEST in Madrid about the cost of the pope’s visit in 2011, when Spain’s economy was moribund, was not the first Flavia Totoro had attended. Marching alongside families, she was unconcerned about her safety. But after an altercation with police she and seven others were arrested. She was charged with assaulting an officer. Just before her trial she was offered the chance to plead guilty, in which case she could avoid a possible 18-month prison sentence and merely pay a fine. If all the defendants pleaded guilty, none would be imprisoned, the prosecutor said. But if she insisted on going to trial, the others would go, too. Unwilling to jeopardise other people’s freedom, she accepted, though she still maintains she was innocent and could have proved it in court.In plea-bargaining, as the promise of a lesser penalty in return for a guilty plea is commonly known, prosecutors offer to drop some charges, to replace the original charge with a less serious one or to seek a lower...Continue reading

    The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Regulators begin to tackle the craze for initial coin offeringsRegulators begin to tackle the craze for initial coin offerings

    “I’M GONNA make a $hit t$n of money on August 2nd on the Stox.com ICO.” Written in July on Instagram, these words made Floyd Mayweather, a boxer, the first big celebrity to endorse an “initial coin offering”, a form of crowdfunding that issues cryptographic coins, or “tokens”. Stox, an online prediction market, went on to raise more than $30m, some of which seems to have gone directly into Mr Mayweather’s pocket. Other VIPs, including Paris Hilton, a socialite, followed suit and endorsed ICOs. But this source of easy cash may now be drying up: on November 1st America’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) warned that such promotions may be unlawful, if celebrities fail to disclose what they receive in return.The endorsements and the SEC’s attempt to rein them in are the latest episodes of token mania. Virtually unknown a year ago, ICOs are now more celebrated than initial public offerings (IPOs), the conventional way of floating a firm. Over the past 12 months...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The Paradise Papers shed new light on offshore financeThe Paradise Papers shed new light on offshore finance

    THIS week was uncomfortable for a host of well-heeled figures. In the frame were U2’s Bono, America’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, as well as some of the world’s most valuable companies, including Apple and Nike. All these, and many more, feature in the “Paradise Papers”, a trove of more than 13m documents, many of them stolen from Appleby, a leading offshore law firm. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its 95 press partners, including the BBC and the New York Times, began publishing stories based on the papers on November 5th. Dozens appeared this week, with more to follow after The Economist went to press.The ICIJ’s last big splash, the Panama Papers in April 2016, shed light on some of the darkest corners of offshore finance. In contrast, many of the activities highlighted by this leak are legal. But they would be widely seen as flouting the spirit of national tax laws by exploiting the gaps that open...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • America’s Republicans take aim at mortgage subsidiesAmerica’s Republicans take aim at mortgage subsidies

    IN THE 1980s Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were both proud of their efforts to expand home ownership. In Britain, Thatcher presided over a fire sale of state-owned homes to tenants. In America, Reagan deregulated financial markets and expanded mortgage lending. At the time both countries provided generous mortgage-related tax breaks, making it easier to flog homes to the masses.Britain’s 1980s housing boom turned to bust; the mortgage subsidies that helped to fuel it were abolished. America still subsidises mortgages to the tune of $64bn a year, by allowing homeowners to deduct interest costs from their tax liabilities. But a tax plan unveiled by Republicans on November 2nd proposes to limit the subsidy.Twelve European Union countries also include some form of mortgage-interest deduction (MID) in their tax code. The average European subsidy, however, is around a tenth of America’s—about 0.05% of GDP. The Netherlands is much the most generous, at 2% of...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • ING, a Dutch bank, finds a winning digital strategyING, a Dutch bank, finds a winning digital strategy

    GERMANY’S third-biggest retail bank has no branches. It is also Dutch. And it is highly profitable. ING-DiBa, an online bank owned by ING, the Netherlands’ biggest lender, looks after €133bn ($154bn) of deposits for over 8m customers. In a fragmented market—most Germans entrust their savings to small, local banks—that means a share of around 6%. ING-DiBa’s lack of branches keeps costs down, allowing it to resist charging for current accounts and offer savers a tad more than rivals, despite a recent cut; and it has won a name for good service in a country not renowned for it. While other banks struggle after years of ultra-low interest rates, ING-DiBa thrives. Its return on equity exceeds 20%.ING as a whole is in fair shape, too. On November 2nd it reported net third-quarter earnings of €1.4bn, slightly more than a year earlier. The group’s return on equity was a healthy 11%, nearly two percentage points up. Since 2014 the number of “primary” customers (with an active current account and another product) has...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Activist shareholders take on the London Stock ExchangeActivist shareholders take on the London Stock Exchange

    Rolet: who knows?ACTIVIST hedge funds like Elliott Management, Cevian Capital or The Children’s Investment Fund (TCI) are famed for pushing for change at the companies they buy into. A favoured tactic is to install a new chief executive at a floundering firm. So it is odd to find a fund lobbying for an existing boss to stay on, as TCI has done in a spat with the London Stock Exchange (LSE).In over eight years at the LSE, Xavier Rolet has transformed it from a share-trading venue to a clearing and data-services powerhouse, through acquisitions such as Russell, an index-maker, and a majority stake in LCH, a clearing-house. His hope of merging with the LSE’s big German rival, Deutsche Börse, fell through, largely because of Britain’s vote to leave the EU. But Mr Rolet remains widely respected. So eyebrows were raised when the LSE’s announcement on October 19th that Mr Rolet would leave in 2018 gave no reason.In a fiery letter penned on...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
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  • More English children are being excluded from schoolMore English children are being excluded from school

    They don’t need no thought controlIT GOT to the point, says Susan, where dropping her child off at primary school was “heart-wrenching”. She would go to work, knowing to expect a call asking her to return because of another problem. Eventually, she gave up her job, but it wasn’t enough to stop things deteriorating. When, during another row, her eight-year-old daughter asked a teacher, “Why don’t you just kill me?”, the school decided that exclusion was the only option. It said it could do no more to help.Her daughter joined a growing cohort: according to the most recent official figures, there are 6,685 pupils in England who have been permanently excluded from school, a rise of 44% since 2012-13. Head teachers say that children are kicked out only as a last resort or because of dangerous behaviour, such as bringing a weapon to school. In such cases exclusions “are not an evil”, says Tom Bennett, a government adviser on school behaviour....Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • What fax machines and floppy disks reveal about Britain’s productivity problemWhat fax machines and floppy disks reveal about Britain’s productivity problem

    Stay on the scene, like a fax machinePERHAPS the greatest problem facing the British economy—bigger, even, than Brexit—is weak productivity growth. During the 20th century the output per hour of British workers steadily increased. In the past decade, however, it has barely budged (see chart). That in turn has kept wage growth in check. The government says it will offer bold solutions to Britain’s productivity problem in its long-awaited “industrial strategy”, on which it is expected to publish a paper shortly. Yet take a look at the technology that British firms use, and it becomes clear that politicians have a huge task on their hands.The technology at a firm’s disposal influences how productive it is. Some British companies use the whizziest stuff available. Funding Circle, a peer-to-peer lender based in London, uses machine-learning programs alongside more conventional methods to assess the creditworthiness of potential borrowers. In such firms,...Continue reading

    Britain - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Close to retiring, China’s central-bank chief warns of financial riskClose to retiring, China’s central-bank chief warns of financial risk

    ZHOU XIAOCHUAN sometimes sounds more like a zookeeper than a financial official. China’s central-bank governor has recently spoken of a menagerie of beasts stalking the economy, from black swans to grey rhinos and crocodiles. Chinese investors know what each refers to: swans are unforeseen risks; rhinos are neglected dangers; crocodiles prey on financial weakness. And they have surely all heard Mr Zhou’s warnings by now. In the past month he has commented publicly four times, making the case that debt is too high and that, without stricter regulation, China could face trouble.Always a straight talker, Mr Zhou has been blunter than usual. To be sure, he insists that the economy is in good shape. But at a news conference last month on the sidelines of a Communist Party congress, he spoke of the threat of a “Minsky moment”—a concept named after Hyman Minsky, an American who postulated that stable economies end up crashing because of overconfidence that benign conditions will prevail indefinitely. In an article published on the...Continue reading

    China - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • How to make the Republican tax plan workHow to make the Republican tax plan work

    THE last time Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress, under President George W. Bush, they passed a package of temporary tax cuts. This time they are displaying more ambition. The tax bill unveiled in the House of Representatives on November 2nd can properly be called a reform. It would slash deductions that distort the economy: for debt and mortgage interest, state taxes and manufacturers. The savings would go towards reducing most marginal tax rates.The principle of scrapping deductions in order to lower rates is exactly the right one. But the House bill is flawed. Despite leaving the top rate of personal income tax unchanged, the bill’s...Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The meaning in the madness of initial coin offeringsThe meaning in the madness of initial coin offerings

    MARKETS and manias go together. The latest frenzy is for all things crypto. The price of the best-known digital currency, bitcoin, has risen by nearly 700% this year and is now about $7,500; one enterprising firm recently quadrupled its share price simply by adding the word “blockchain” to its name.But nowhere do alarm bells ring more loudly than in the realm of “initial coin offerings” (ICOs), a form of crowdfunding in which firms issue digital “coins” or “tokens” in return for a payment (typically in ether, another crypto-currency). ICOs have raked in more than $3.2bn this year, rivalling the money flowing to internet startups from early-stage venture capital. Although most of these tokens are supposed to be used in exchange for the companies’ products, as in a corporate loyalty scheme in the offline world, investors scent something different: the chance to be in at the birth of another bitcoin.It is tempting to dismiss ICOs as nothing but a fraud’s charter....Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Italy’s party-hopping MPsItaly’s party-hopping MPs

    ONE Italian commentator compares them to so many Tarzans, gliding from tree to tree through the jungle of Italian politics. The latest was Giovanni Piccoli. On October 31st the 59-year-old senator swung back to Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, a mere 21 days after deserting it. According to Openpolis, an NGO, Mr Piccoli’s rethink was the 533rd time an Italian parliamentarian had changed sides since the start of the current legislature in 2013. Of the 945 deputies and senators elected then, 342 have felt moved by conscience, or other considerations, to change parliamentary groups; in many cases, more than once.The phenomenon is so common that there is a word for it: trasformismo (also used in Italian to describe the art of the theatrical quick-change artiste). Though a prime source of political instability and an important reason why Italian voters find it so difficult to decipher their country’s politics, trasformismo is seldom a subject for public discussion. But then the...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Why Iranians take holidays in turbulent TurkeyWhy Iranians take holidays in turbulent Turkey

    You can’t do that in TehranTWO women in their 60s, one boasting a shock of bleached hair, the other in a loose headscarf, are dancing alongside a teenage girl in a white tube top. Families crowd behind tables weighed down by narghile pipes, glasses of overpriced beer and plates of sliced carrots and cucumbers. When a popular song comes on, a little boy begs his mother to join him on the dance floor. The venue is an underground nightclub in Van, a dusty, unremarkable city in Turkey’s south-east. But everyone inside, from the DJ to the barmaids to the patrons themselves, is from Iran.Rocked by a series of terror attacks, a failed coup attempt and an ongoing crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, Turkish tourism has been suffering. Foreign arrivals slumped from 36m in 2015 to just 25m last year. Westerners were especially likely to stay away. Though business has picked up this year, many hotels in Istanbul and along the Mediterranean have...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Germany is missing its emissions targetsGermany is missing its emissions targets

    THE PR arm of Germany’s environment ministry has had a busy autumn. Over the past two weeks, colourful posters advertising the government’s global initiatives against climate change have gone up all over the country. In Bonn, where thousands of delegates gathered this week for the COP23 round of international climate-change talks, journalists are being encouraged to tour the area’s green projects. Barbara Hendricks, the environment minister, opened proceedings by pledging additional funds to help developing countries adjust to global warming. The world is supposed to see a pioneering green nation “ready for the future”, as the poster campaign has it.But look more closely, and that is only half-true. In October the government was forced to concede that Germany will probably break its commitment to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions (to 40% below the 1990 level by 2020) by a wide margin: without drastic adjustments, emissions are predicted to fall by only 32%.The main reason for...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Renaming Balkan airports to annoy the neighboursRenaming Balkan airports to annoy the neighbours

    ACROSS the western Balkans, gleaming new airport terminals are being built—and named in ways that upset the neighbours. A futuristic new facility opened in March in Zagreb, the Croatian capital. It has been renamed Franjo Tudjman airport, after the father of Croatia’s independence movement. He fought a vicious war with Croatia’s Serbs who, backed by Serbia, set up a short-lived breakaway Serbian republic on a third of Croatia’s territory. In 1995 most of the Serbs in Croatia were sent packing.Among those victims of ethnic cleansing were relatives of the world’s most famous Serb, Nikola Tesla, an inventor. Tesla was born a Serb in 1856 in what is now Croatia, but emigrated to America; both Serbs and Croats claim him. Since 2006, Belgrade airport has annoyingly (to some Croats) borne his name.There is more. Eighteen years after the end of the Kosovo war you still cannot fly from Nikola Tesla to Adem Jashari, in whose honour Pristina airport has been named since 2010....Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Opposition from eastern Europe threatens to scupper refugee reformsOpposition from eastern Europe threatens to scupper refugee reforms

    YOU would be hard-pressed to find a more unlikely supporter of Geert Wilders, an anti-immigrant Dutch politician, than Khalid Jone, a Sudanese asylum seeker. Mr Jone lives in an empty office building in Diemen, near Amsterdam, where 60 failed asylum-seekers have been squatting since April. In 2002 he fled to the Netherlands from his native Darfur, escaping ethnic cleansing. He was denied asylum and has been in limbo ever since, filing appeals.There are hundreds of thousands of migrants like Mr Jone across Europe, caught in the gears of asylum systems. He is so fed up with the uncertainty, he says, that he wishes Mr Wilders had won the Dutch election in March: “At least he is not lying to me.” More important, Mr Wilders wants to pull the Netherlands out of the European Union, and Mr Jone hopes that this would “get rid of the Dublin agreement”—the EU rule that migrants can apply for asylum only in the first member state where they set foot.On this point many...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Pakistan’s government is fixing a power shortagePakistan’s government is fixing a power shortage

    Power to the peopleHOVING into view behind a row of eucalyptus trees, the twin cooling towers of the Sahiwal power plant, a 1,320-megawatt facility in central Pakistan, are so large they seem other-worldly. Yet it is not only size that makes an impression. Labourers built the entire plant in a record 22 months, a year faster than is typical. “Even at home we don’t work this hard,” says the chief engineer of the Chinese power company that operates Sahiwal, describing how floodlights were hung from cranes so construction could continue through the night.Pakistan’s government is hungry for power. Last month the chief minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, announced that his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which also runs the national government, will shortly fulfil its campaign promise to end blackouts.Fridges and fans still cut out without warning, but far less often, and for less time: in August the gap between supply and...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The Saudi hand in Saad Hariri’s resignation as Lebanese prime ministerThe Saudi hand in Saad Hariri’s resignation as Lebanese prime minister

    Can I go now?AS IF shuffling one government were too slight a task, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious young crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, has changed two. On November 4th, the same day as the Saudi purge, Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, unexpectedly appeared on television to announce he was resigning. Although he said he was stepping down because his life was in danger—he denounced Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally, Hizbullah—there was little to disguise the Saudi hand in his statement. The announcement was recorded in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and broadcast on a Saudi television channel. Since then he has stayed out of reach under Saudi guard and possibly under arrest.A few days earlier the kingdom’s Gulf-affairs minister, Thamer al-Sabhan, had promised “astonishing” developments to topple Hizbullah, a Shia militia-cum-political-party that calls the shots in Lebanon.At first glance Saudi Arabia’s desire to oust Mr Hariri, a...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Bibi Netanyahu has some ideas for the Iranian nuclear dealBibi Netanyahu has some ideas for the Iranian nuclear deal

    NO LEADER was more vocal in his opposition to the nuclear deal signed in 2015 by Iran and six world powers than Binyamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister gave a speech to America’s Congress denouncing the pact, under which Iran accepts limits on its nuclear programme in exchange for the removal of sanctions. But Mr Netanyahu has changed his tune of late. The day after celebrating the centenary of the Balfour Declaration in London on November 2nd, he said that he favoured “fixing” the deal, not “nixing” it.The decision by Donald Trump to “decertify” the deal in October has raised the possibility of new American sanctions on Iran, which could scuttle the deal. The other signatories, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, want to save it. So, given Mr Netanyahu’s influence in Washington, they are now willing to consider his proposals. He has discussed them with Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.Mr Netanyahu...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Louvre Abu Dhabi is the Gulf’s new go-to cultural destinationLouvre Abu Dhabi is the Gulf’s new go-to cultural destination

    Build it and they will comeAS EMMANUEL MACRON and Muhammad bin Zayed, the president of France and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), walked towards the Louvre Abu Dhabi (LAD) for its grand opening on November 8th, their eyes were fixed on the magnificent silvery domed roof—as heavy as the Eiffel Tower—that appears to float above the galleries. They might more usefully have gazed down at the floor.For there, in the entrance, is a map of the UAE’s coastline. All along the shore, listed as if they were ports on an old parchment, are the names of towns around the world that manufactured the hundreds of objects on display inside. Each one is spelled out in its own language; 26 in all. There is Greek, Spanish, German, Chinese, Russian and Arabic. There is even one in Hebrew, for Qa al-Yahud, the old Jewish quarter in Sana’a, Yemen, where the LAD’s medieval Torah was made.Designed by Jean Nouvel, the building is a triumph. A...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The Saudi purge will spook global investors and unsettle oil marketsThe Saudi purge will spook global investors and unsettle oil markets

    DOING business in Saudi Arabia has long involved accepting a trade-off between stability and sclerosis. Although power-sharing among the ruling family has kept the kingdom united, rule by elderly monarchs and a corrupt system of cronyism, or wasta, has made change agonisingly slow.Last weekend’s purge of princes, officials, billionaires and businessmen by King Salman and his 32-year-old son and crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, tears the old rulebook to shreds. Some businessmen welcomed it, hoping that a reduction in graft and cronyism will create space for young entrepreneurs. “This is the closest thing in the Middle East to glasnost,” says Sam Blatteis, a former head of public policy in the Persian Gulf for Google.But others drew wary parallels with the assault by Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, on oligarchs for political ends. Above all, they expressed concern that it would make the prince the sole arbiter of important economic transactions in the kingdom,...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Muhammad bin Salman has swept aside those who challenge his powerMuhammad bin Salman has swept aside those who challenge his power

    NO ONE is quite sure what to call it. The arrest of scores of people in Saudi Arabia on November 4th has been variously dubbed a coup, a counter-coup and a purge. Those detained range from billionaire businessmen, such as Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, to a contender for the crown, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah. “Saudis do not know what happened,” says a professional in Riyadh, the capital. “It is a shock.” One thing, at least, is clear: power is now concentrated in the hands of the young crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, who orchestrated the blitz in the name of his frail 81-year-old father, King Salman.For decades, Saudi kings tried to forge consensus within the sprawling royal family. Change was incremental and power was balanced delicately, particularly among members of the so-called Sudairi Seven branch—the sons of King Abdel-Aziz, the founder of the state, by his favourite wife, Hussa bint Ahmed Al Sudairi (see family tree). One Sudairi, Prince Sultan, served as defence minister...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Huffing and puffing: Germany is missing its emissions targetsHuffing and puffing: Germany is missing its emissions targets

    Print section Print Rubric:  As climate talks open in Bonn, Germany’s green credentials suffer Print Headline:  Huffing and puffing Print Fly Title:  Climate-change policy in Germany UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  America’s global influence has dwindled under Donald Trump Fly Title:  Huffing and puffing Location:  BERLIN THE PR arm of Germany’s environment ministry has had a busy autumn. Over the past two weeks, colourful posters advertising the government’s global initiatives against climate change have gone up all over the country. In Bonn, where thousands of delegates gathered this week for the COP23 round of international climate-change talks, journalists are being encouraged to tour the area’s green projects. Barbara Hendricks, the environment minister, opened proceedings by pledging additional funds to help developing countries adjust to global ...

    Environment - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Venezuela seeks the restructuring of its massive foreign debtsVenezuela seeks the restructuring of its massive foreign debts

    Maduro has a cunning plan. MaybeINVESTORS have long seen a default on Venezuelan sovereign debt as a question of when, not if. Its bonds have been priced at levels implying imminent bankruptcy, but somehow the cash-strapped oil exporter has stayed afloat. Until now. On November 2nd Nicolás Maduro, the country’s authoritarian president, announced that he would order a “refinancing and restructuring” of foreign debt worth about $105bn. The prices of government bonds fell by up to half. Markets braced themselves for one of history’s most complex sovereign-debt renegotiations.Mr Maduro’s brief statement was cryptic as to the concrete steps he will take. He invited “everyone involved in foreign debt” to talks in Caracas, the capital, on November 13th. Many creditors want a neutral venue. Moreover, Mr Maduro appears to have pre-emptively dashed any hope of a voluntary agreement by naming his vice-president, Tareck El Aissami, as head of his debt-restructuring committee. America’s Treasury...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Equity valuations are high. But other options look even worseEquity valuations are high. But other options look even worse

    EVERY investor would like to find the perfect measurement tool to tell them when to get into, and out of, the stockmarket. The cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio (CAPE), as calculated by Robert Shiller of Yale University, averages profits over ten years and is used by many as an important valuation indicator. Currently it shows that American shares have hitherto been more highly valued only in 1929 and the late 1990s, periods that were followed by big crashes.That seems ominous. But as a paper by Dylan Grice and Gregor Obrecht of Calibrium, a Zurich-based private-investment office, makes clear, it is far from conclusive. The CAPE is not much use as a short-term indicator; it has been well above its long-term average for several years now, as it was in the late 1990s.The main argument for the CAPE is a long-term one. If you divide all past CAPE values into quintiles, the annual returns earned over the subsequent decade by investing in equities when the CAPE was in its...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • South Korea is making up with China, but a sour taste remainsSouth Korea is making up with China, but a sour taste remains

    IT IS China’s least edifying diplomatic strategy, and it is certainly not from “The Analects” of Confucius or from Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”. Call it the doghouse approach. If China does not like what you are doing, it bullies you until you change. If you don’t, it punishes you by putting you in the doghouse. If you still refuse to change, it pulls you out again after a suitable term of punishment, pretends all is normal, and expects you to be grateful.South Korea is the latest country to endure the cycle. This year its holiday island of Jeju, along with the best-known scenic spots in Seoul, the capital, have been free of the usual throngs of loud, jostling Chinese tour parties. The emptiness has been, let’s be frank, a delight. But for South Koreans, it is a sour pleasure because China wilfully ordered the tourists and their spending power away—a sort of reverse punitive mission.The Chinese government also found ways to punish South Korea in China itself....Continue reading

    China - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Plea bargains save time and money but are too easily abusedPlea bargains save time and money but are too easily abused

    THE elements that make up a criminal-justice system are familiar from a thousand courtroom dramas. Detectives interview witnesses and examine crime scenes. Forensic scientists coax secrets from bloodstains and cigarette ash. Judges and juries weigh the facts and pronounce on guilt and innocence.But in many countries, behind this system lies a quicker, rougher one. It is plea-bargaining, in which prosecutors press lesser charges or ask for a lighter sentence in return for a defendant pleading guilty or incriminating others. Long crucial to the operation of American justice, this shadow system is now going global (see article). One study of 90 countries found that just 19 permitted plea bargains in 1990. Now 66 do. In many countries, including England and Australia, pleas now account for a majority of guilty verdicts. In American federal...Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The world should push the crown prince to reform Saudi Arabia, not wreck itThe world should push the crown prince to reform Saudi Arabia, not wreck it

    IN A kingdom where change comes only slowly, if at all, the drama of recent days in Saudi Arabia is astounding. Scores of princes, ministers and officials have been arrested or sacked, mostly accused of corruption. Many of those arrested are being held in the splendour of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. About $800bn-worth of assets may have been frozen. At the same time a missile fired from Yemen was intercepted near Riyadh, prompting Saudi Arabia to accuse Iran of an “act of war”.Upheaval at home and threats of war abroad make a worrying mix in a country that has, hitherto, held firm amid the violent breakdown of the Middle East. The world can ill afford instability in the biggest oil exporter, the largest Arab economy and the home of Islam’s two holiest sites.At the centre of the whirlwind stands the impetuous crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, son of the aged King Salman. The prince has staged a palace coup—or perhaps a counter-coup against opponents seeking to...Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The Macron plan for EuropeThe Macron plan for Europe

    YOU might think Emmanuel Macron deserves a moment to catch his breath. Just half a year ago he pulled off one of the most audacious political coups in recent European history, trouncing a tired political establishment to become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon. He created a political party from scratch and took it to a triple-digit majority in parliament. He has energetically set about reforming France’s labour market and tax system. Yet having pulled off all this at home, Mr Macron now hopes to repeat the trick across the European Union.Surveying the continent, Mr Macron spots similar dysfunction to that he observed in France and wants to apply similar remedies. Allow globalisation to run untempered, he reckons, and you generate vicious backlashes à la Brexit and Donald Trump. Animated by a mission to save the EU from populists like Marine Le Pen, whom he bested in the presidential election on the most pro-European platform French voters had seen for a...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Japan dilutes rules obliging married couples to use the same nameJapan dilutes rules obliging married couples to use the same name

    A YOUNG professional wants to marry the father of her two children. But if she does, one of them would have to take the other’s surname. Japanese law requires married couples to share a family name. That would lead to confusion: they have almost the same first name and work for the same organisation.Theirs is a rare case. But there are plenty of practical reasons, let alone ones of principle, why people might not want to change their names. Married female employees are often allowed to use their maiden names at work. But the bureaucracy, which has long enforced the law for official documents (for the names both of employees issuing them and of ordinary citizens mentioned in them), is only just beginning to be more flexible.Female judges have recently been allowed to sign rulings using either their maiden name or their married one. For certain tasks, the patent office is giving workers a choice too. From next year the government will allow people to use their preferred name...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • A campaign to legalise abortion is gaining ground in South KoreaA campaign to legalise abortion is gaining ground in South Korea

    Society is coming aroundWHEN So-yeong, a pupil in secondary school, found out she was pregnant in January, she was at a loss. She knew abortion was illegal, and that she could be sent to jail for a year for getting one (doctors providing them risk two years behind bars). But she also knew that she could not keep the baby if she wanted to continue her education. Eventually she told her parents. Her mother arranged for a surreptitious abortion at a hospital, paying in cash. So-yeong (she asked that her real name not be used) tried to return to school in March “with a heavy heart”, only to find out that she was being expelled for “setting a bad example” to her peers.In September a petition appeared on a government website, calling on the government of Moon Jae-in, the president (and the first liberal to hold the office in ten years), to amend the law. In particular, it called for the government to approve the sale of mifepristone, an abortion pill that is...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • What there is to learn from the Soviet economic modelWhat there is to learn from the Soviet economic model

    IN 1955 Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister of India, embarked on a 16-day tour of the Soviet Union. He was like a “kid in a candy store”, according to one editor of his letters. Besides the Bolshoi ballet and the embalmed corpse of Stalin, he visited a Stalingrad tractor works, a machinery-maker in Yekaterinburg and an iron-and-steel plant in Magnitogorsk. In a letter, he wondered if the Soviet Union’s economic approach, “shorn of violence and coercion”, could help the world achieve peace and prosperity.The answer, of course, was “no”. But Nehru concluded otherwise, incorporating Soviet ideas into India’s five-year plans and welcoming Soviet aid, equipment and expertise. In the year of his visit, the Russians set up a steel factory in what is now the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. It became India’s main supplier of rails.Nehru was not alone. The Soviet model impressed many leaders in the poorer parts of the world. Even today, according to Charles Robertson of...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Enhanced understanding of the microbiome is helping medicineEnhanced understanding of the microbiome is helping medicine

    WHEN, at the turn of the century, the first human genomes were sequenced, many biologists felt they had had delivered into their hands the keys to unlocking numerous puzzles about disease. Since then there has indeed been a fruitful effort to understand how the thousands of human genes which control hormones, enzymes and other molecules of the body serve to regulate health. But, in an unexpected turn of events, it is also now apparent that the human genome is not the only one to which attention should be paid. Human guts contain microbes, lots of them. Added together, the genes in these bugs’ genomes amount to perhaps 150 times the number in the human genome alone. If the bacteria in question were doing little more than swimming around digesting lettuce, this would be of small consequence. But they are doing much more than that.The members of the microbiome, as this community is known, are, to a surprising extent, partners of humanity. And when that partnership goes wrong, the results...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Smelly farms may succumb to subtle scienceSmelly farms may succumb to subtle science

    I love the smell of para-cresol in the morningFARMYARDS smell. There is no getting away from that. They smell because of the excrement produced by the animals which live there. And however carefully this excrement is dealt with—whether by modern versions of the time-honoured process of muck-spreading that inject it below the surface of the fields it is fertilising; or by anaerobic digestion, in which it is used to make methane that can, in turn, be employed to generate electricity—it is still the case that the buildings housing the animals themselves stink.Besides being unhealthy for farmworkers (not to mention the neighbours, if the farmyard is near a village), such smells are bad for business. Research has found that improving the air quality of the places where pigs and other livestock are housed makes for healthier and more productive animals. The question is, how to do that cheaply? Jacek Koziel of Iowa State University reckons he has the answer:...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • What makes a Jewish joke JewishWhat makes a Jewish joke Jewish

    You don’t have to be JewishJewish Comedy: A Serious History. By Jeremy Dauber. W.W. Norton & Company; 364 pages; $28.95.The Jewish Joke. By Devorah Baum. Profile Books; 184 pages; £9.99. To be published in America by Pegasus in May.Feeling Jewish. By Devorah Baum. Yale University Press; 296 pages; $26 and £18.99.IS JEWISH humour a laughing matter? Perhaps not. Students of Jewish jokes have certainly revealed dark sides to Mr and Mrs Goldberg, their long-suffering rabbi and the implausibly articulate beggar at their door. Freud, for instance, found that the humour of the Jews was especially self-denigrating. His analysis was unscientific—the data set was nothing more than his own favourite jokes—but his conclusion rings at least true-ish. Ruth Wisse, a Harvard professor of Yiddish, suggested in 2013 that too much joking may in fact be bad for the Jews. And,...Continue reading

    Culture - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Derek Robinson died on October 31stObituary: Derek Robinson died on October 31st

    BRITAIN’s biggest carmaker exemplified the country’s misery in the 1970s. British Leyland, state-owned and subsidy-sodden, produced underpowered rust-buckets—when it was working at all. At the heart of the company’s misfortunes were the anarchic industrial relations at its biggest plant, Longbridge in Birmingham, stoked by an unofficial union leader who revelled in the nickname “Red Robbo”.Derek Robinson was indeed as red as red could be, taking a self-study Marxism course as an apprentice toolmaker in his teens, joining the Communist Party in 1951, and standing four times as a parliamentary candidate. After reformers booted him out in 1985 he co-founded a hardline successor party, which still struggles on.The class-ridden incompetence of British post-war industrial management offered easy pickings for left-wingers. Capitalism looked as inefficient as it was unfair: surely workers knew best who should make what, how and where? Britain’s mighty motor industry...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 10 d. 17 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Xi and Trump look friendly, but anti-US feeling stirs in ChinaXi and Trump look friendly, but anti-US feeling stirs in China

    CHINA’S leader, Xi Jinping, welcomed Donald Trump on the American president’s first visit to Beijing like a Chinese emperor receiving a barbarian potentate, with a mixture of flattery and disdain. The government closed to the public the 9,000-room Forbidden City—the vermilion-walled former imperial palace at the heart of Beijing—so the visitor could have his own tour and dinner there. The courtiers of the Communist Party have lost little of the ancient art of feigned deference.The Chinese also bore gifts: trade deals worth over $200bn, covering everything from jet engines and car parts to shale gas. Most of the pledges were memoranda of understanding: expressions of intent, not enforceable contracts. Many concerned things the Chinese would have done anyway. Still, Mr Trump seemed pleased, as he also was by Mr Xi’s (reiterated) pledge to enforce UN resolutions on North Korea.The question is how long the summit’s bonhomie will last. Under Mr Xi, China has become...Continue reading

    China - The Economist / 10 d. 22 h. 41 min. ago more
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  • America’s global influence has dwindled under Donald TrumpAmerica’s global influence has dwindled under Donald Trump

    A YEAR ago this week Donald Trump was elected president. Many people predicted that American foreign policy would take a disastrous turn. Mr Trump had suggested that he would scrap trade deals, ditch allies, put a figurative bomb under the rules-based global order and drop literal ones willy-nilly. NATO was “obsolete”, he said; NAFTA was “the worst trade deal maybe ever”; and America was far too nice to foreigners. “In the old days when you won a war, you won a war. You kept the country,” he opined, adding later that he would “bomb the shit out of” Islamic State (IS) and “take the oil”.So far, Mr Trump’s foreign policy has been less awful than he promised. Granted, he has pulled America out of the Paris accord, making it harder to curb climate change, and abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a big trade deal. However, he has not retreated pell-mell into isolationism. He has not quit NATO; indeed, some of America’s eastern European allies prefer his tough-talk...Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 10 d. 23 h. 41 min. ago more
  • A bird’s alarm calls do not always come out of its beakA bird’s alarm calls do not always come out of its beak

    Nice primaries, dahlingCHARLES DARWIN was fascinated by bird communication. In “The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex” he devoted equal space to both the sorts of sounds that emerge from birds’ beaks and the more percussive noises that they make with other parts of their bodies, such as their feet and feathers. He speculated that both types of sounds were important for sending signals to others, but was unsure if this was true. In the years that have passed since his death, ornithologists have proved time and again that birds’ songs, squawks and shrieks are used for sending signals to their kin, their rivals and sometimes even their predators. In contrast, their more percussive sounds have received almost no attention at all. A study published in Current Biology by Trevor Murray at the Australian National University, in Canberra, however, suggests that is a mistake. At least one bird creates a specific, audible warning...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 11 d. 11 h. 41 min. ago more
  • A randomised trial shows that the power of the press is realA randomised trial shows that the power of the press is real

    MALCOLM X, an American political activist, described the media as the most powerful entity on Earth, “because they control the minds of the masses”. Some journalists may find this proposition flattering, but though those who study such things agree newspapers exert some influence over their readers, the effect has proved devilishly difficult to quantify. Now, Gary King of Harvard University and his colleagues have measured the impact of stories from almost three dozen different news sources on the American public, as judged by the content of posts on Twitter, a microblogging service. Their study, published this week in Science, found that even stories from the news sites that formed part of the study, which were small compared with, say, the New York Times or the Washington Post, increased Twitter discussion of the issues in those stories by about 60%. They also shifted the nature of the views expressed in those tweets towards those of the published...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 11 d. 11 h. 41 min. ago more
  • The first universal museum of the Arab world opens in the UAEThe first universal museum of the Arab world opens in the UAE

    AS EMMANUEL MACRON and Muhammad bin Zayed, the president of France and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), walked towards the Louvre Abu Dhabi (LAD) for its grand opening on November 8th, their eyes were fixed on the magnificent silvery domed roof—heavy as the Eiffel Tower—that appears to float above the galleries. They might have got a better sense of the project if they had gazed down at the floor.For there, in the entrance, is a map of the UAE’s coastline. All along the shore, listed as if they were ports on an old parchment, are the names of towns around the world that manufactured the hundreds of objects on display inside. Each one is spelled out in its own language; 26 in all. There is Greek, Spanish, German, Chinese, Russian and Arabic. There is even one in Hebrew, for Qa al-Yahud, the old Jewish quarter in Sana’a, Yemen, where the LAD’s medieval Torah was made.As a work of design, the museum, created by Jean Nouvel, a Pritzker prize-winning architect, will count as one of the great...Continue reading

    Middle East & Africa / 11 d. 12 h. 22 min. ago more
  • A new nerve-cell monitor will help those studying brainsA new nerve-cell monitor will help those studying brains

    SCIENCE is a mixture of the intellectual and the practical. And the practical requires tools. Until the invention of the telescope, astronomy had been stuck in a rut for millennia. Until the invention of the microscope, microbiology did not exist.Neuroscience, too, has advanced recently on the back of some powerful tools, particularly techniques for scanning whole brains. But the devices that look at the nitty-gritty of how nerve cells themselves work are still Heath-Robinson affairs. These are the electrodes that record the impulses of individual cells, ideally simultaneously with lots of others, in order to try to work out how networks of cells process information.That may change with a device described this week in Nature. The business end of Neuropixels, as the new tool is known, is a probe made in the way that computer chips are made, by photolithography. This probe (see picture) is 1cm long and 70 microns across—about the width of a human hair. It is capable of recording signals from 384 nerve cells at the same time. These signals are gathered individually by electrodes 12 microns across that cover the probe’s surface. The electrodes are made from titanium nitride, a material chosen because it is both amenable to photolithography and can survive for at least six months inside a...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 11 d. 15 h. 24 min. ago more
  • Two years after Bataclan, France ponders how to fight terrorismTwo years after Bataclan, France ponders how to fight terrorism

    IT WILL be a sobering tour. Emmanuel Macron is to place flowers at the Stade de France, the Bataclan theatre and elsewhere in Paris on November 13th, marking the places where gunmen killed 130 people and injured over 400. Two years and several murderous assaults later, France’s president says such Islamist extremists remain the greatest threat to internal security. He argues, too, that a country ill-prepared in 2015 to fight “jihadist terrorism” is improving its capacity.He is probably right on both counts. Mr Macron’s government plans to recruit an extra 10,000 police by 2022. After years of neglect, it will promote community policing—sensible, because day-to-day encounters, for example with immigrant groups in poor districts, should provide helpful intelligence. As important, in June it created a National Centre for Counter-Terrorism in the Elysée Palace, led by a well-respected ex-chief of counter-espionage, Pierre de Bousquet de Florian.That new body co-ordinates all intelligence work and passes advice...Continue reading

    Europe - The Economist / 11 d. 15 h. 51 min. ago more
  • The New York Fed’s president announces his retirementThe New York Fed’s president announces his retirement

    He never really took the bull by the hornsAPPLICATIONS sought for leading Wall Street post. Duties: important role in setting interest rates (some vaguely defined other responsibilities). Perks: lovely office in Italianate palace; large staff. Requirements: eligibility for highest-level security clearance; tacit support in Washington, DC. Desirable but optional: broad knowledge of banking.This week the New York Federal Reserve Bank announced that its president, Bill Dudley, will retire next year. He will leave a mixed legacy. He is thought to have given important help to Janet Yellen, the outgoing chair of the Federal Reserve. But he also presided over a steep decline in his institution’s influence over the banks that used to revere and fear it.Located in America’s financial centre, the New York Fed has powers not vested in the country’s 11 other reserve banks. Its president has a permanent seat on the Fed committee that sets interest rates. Its trading desk puts board policies into...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 11 d. 15 h. 55 min. ago more
  • Malaysia’s prime minister will call an election soonMalaysia’s prime minister will call an election soon

    THE opposition, naturally, has been making hay out of the goings-on at 1MDB, a Malaysian state-owned investment fund. Over the past few months it took a road show, complete with snazzy slides on shell companies and international transfers, to rural areas to explain how almost $4bn of taxpayers’ money was siphoned out of the firm—quite a lot of it, American investigators say, by Najib Razak, the prime minister. But in the two years since the scandal first broke, Mr Najib (pictured) has worked assiduously to bury it, while purging opponents and distracting voters. He now looks ready to call—and win—an election.Mr Najib does not dispute that roughly $700m entered his personal bank accounts shortly before the previous election, in 2013. But he says it was a gift from an unnamed Saudi royal, and that most of it was returned. (The donor, Mr Najib’s allies say, was Prince Turki bin Abdullah, who was recently arrested for alleged corruption.) America’s Justice Department, however, says the money was looted from...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 11 d. 16 h. 1 min. ago more
  • Where economic power goes, political power will followWhere economic power goes, political power will follow

    BACK in 1992, in his book "The End Of History and the Last Man", Francis Fukuyama argued that liberal democracy had triumphed. The return of authoritarianism in Russia, and the growing power of absolutist China, has undermined the argument at the geopolitical level. And events in recent years have caused questions on the ability of liberal democracy to flourish in some countries where it seemed established. The new nationalists that have emerged in Turkey, Poland and Hungary tend to regard disagreement with their policies as unpatriotic and are quick to brand opponents as being in the pay of foreign powers. What used to be called "the Whig theory of history" saw civilisation steadily moving in a more open, liberal direction. In the late 19th century and early 20th centuries, countries became more democratic, first allowing most men and then women to vote. There were setbacks in the 1920s...Continue reading

    Economics - The Economist / 13 d. 18 h. 6 min. ago more
  • Tingles of the transcendent don’t always prompt people to go to churchTingles of the transcendent don’t always prompt people to go to church

    MOST of us have come across individuals who are somehow spiritual but not formally religious: people who would rarely if ever attend an act of worship but seem sensitive to their human and physical environment and exude a sort of connectedness with the world. Nor is it hard to think of people who are religiously observant but not in any obvious way spiritual: characters are deeply invested in the externals of faith, from fasting to tithing, but don’t seem to gain much serenity or satisfaction. An American research institute has just produced a survey that tries to quantify these intuitive observations. Its starting point is a fact familiar to all watchers of religion in the Western world: the number of people who acknowledge no formal religious label is surging, but that certainly doesn’t mean that these free-ranging folk have lost interest in the transcendent.In the United States, whose population is more devout than that of most rich democracies, the number of people who identify with no religious group has...Continue reading

    The Economist / 14 d. 0 h. 46 min. ago more
  • Venezuela asks its creditors to renegotiate its vast debtVenezuela asks its creditors to renegotiate its vast debt

    INVESTORS have long seen a default on Venezuelan sovereign debt as a question of when, not if. They have consistently priced its bonds at levels implying that a bankruptcy was imminent, only to be surprised when the cash-strapped oil exporter somehow managed to stay afloat. Now the game at last appears to be up. On November 2nd Nicolás Maduro, the country’s authoritarian president, announced that he would order a “refinancing and restructuring” of foreign debt worth about $105bn, roughly ten times Venezuela’s foreign-exchange reserves. It would be the second-biggest sovereign default in history; in 2012 Greece restructured $261bn of liabilities. Bonds issued by the government and PDVSA, the state oil company, fell by 25%-40% on the news. Analysts are scratching their heads as to what Mr Maduro has in mind—or if he has a plan at all. In the same speech in which he declared his intent to refinance the debt,...Continue reading

    Americas - The Economist / 16 d. 12 h. 48 min. ago more
  • Demand for wives in China endangers women who live on its bordersDemand for wives in China endangers women who live on its borders

    HUONG was only 15 when she went out to meet a friend in Lao Cai, a city in northern Vietnam on the Chinese border (see map). She thought she would be gone a few hours, but it was three years before she managed to return home. Her friend had brought with her two acquaintances—young men with motorcycles. They squired the girls around town and took them to a karaoke bar, where their drinks were spiked.When the girls grew drowsy they were hoisted back onto the bikes, each sandwiched between two male riders. They were driven into the hills and across the Chinese border to a remote house in the countryside. There they were told they would be sold. The girls screamed and cried but were subdued by two men, one of them wielding a stick. The traffickers told Huong that by crossing the border she had sullied her reputation, but that if she behaved well they would find her a Chinese husband. After marrying she might find a way home, they said. If she refused she would stay stranded in the...Continue reading

    China - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Washing whiter: Increasingly, hunting money-launderers is automatedWashing whiter: Increasingly, hunting money-launderers is automated

    Print section Print Rubric:  Software is patrolling the financial system, looking for crooks Print Headline:  Washing whiter Print Fly Title:  Anti-money-laundering technology UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Do social media threaten democracy? Fly Title:  Washing whiter Main image:  20171104_FND002_0.jpg KEEN, no doubt, to stay alive, drug traffickers tend to be prompter payers than most. For software firms, this is just one of many clues that may hint at the laundering of ill-gotten money. Anti-money-laundering (AML) software, as it is called, monitors financial transactions and produces lists of the people most likely to be transferring the proceeds of crime. Spending on this software is soaring. Celent, a research company, estimates that financial firms have spent roughly $825m on it so far this year, up from $675m last year. Technavio, another ...

    Computer - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Climate-change lawsuitsClimate-change lawsuits

    IN FEBRUARY a tribunal in Kirkenes, in Norway’s far north, ruled that oil extraction in the Barents Sea was illegal. The courtroom—an auditorium sculpted from 190 tonnes of ice, pictured above—and the verdict were fictitious, staged as part of a festival. But the legal question is real.On November 14th a district court in Oslo, Norway’s capital, will begin hearing the case that inspired the theatrics. Greenpeace and another pressure group, Nature and Youth, allege that by issuing licences to explore for oil in the Arctic, Norway’s government has breached its constitutional obligation to preserve an environment that is “conducive to health” and to maintain environmental “productivity and diversity”. Their case rests not on local harms, for example to wildlife or water quality, but on the contribution any oil extracted will make to global warming which, under the Paris accord of 2015, Norway and 195 other countries have pledged to keep to “well below” 2°C compared...Continue reading

    The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • The meaning of the man behind China’s ideologyThe meaning of the man behind China’s ideology

    THERE is really only one intellectual pursuit as unhealthy as a burning drive to reach the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, and that is a morbid fascination with the apparatchiks—their faces pasty and most of their hair unnaturally black—that compose it. But bear with this column. For in the new seven-man line-up at the top of China’s leadership that was unveiled last week is a striking character: a 62-year-old, Wang Huning.It is probable that Mr Wang will be put in charge of the party’s ideology and propaganda. He, along with Huang Kunming, the head of the propaganda department, whom Mr Wang will oversee, are loyal supporters of China’s paramount leader, Xi Jinping. Perhaps that is not a surprise, but it is worth stating, because through Mr Wang, Mr Xi now has even greater control of a vast and essential part of the Communist Party apparatus, something that is not foreordained for the ruler.The fascinating part is that Mr Wang is...Continue reading

    China - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • How Canada’s unique research culture has aided artificial intelligenceHow Canada’s unique research culture has aided artificial intelligence

    AI’s nerve centreROBOTS controlled by remote supercomputers. Self-driving cars on narrow, winding streets. Board-game players of unimaginable skill. These successes of artificial intelligence (AI) rely on neural networks: algorithms that churn through data using a structure loosely based on the human brain, and calculate functions too complex for humans to write. The use of such networks is a signature of firms in Silicon Valley. But they were largely invented not in California but in Canada.How did this breakthrough emerge from the land of moose and maple syrup? Canada cannot compete with America in research funding. Instead, it has made a virtue of limited resources, developing an alternative model of innovation based on openness to unorthodox ideas.The roots of Canada’s contributions to AI reach back decades. In 1982 Fraser Mustard (pictured, centre), a doctor, founded the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). He envisioned it...Continue reading

    Americas - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Mexico’s presidential front-runner misunderstands his role modelMexico’s presidential front-runner misunderstands his role model

    WHEN Latin America zigs, Mexico seems to zag. In the mid-2000s a political “pink tide” swept left-of-centre leaders into power across the region, while Mexico elected two conservative presidents. Now that tide has ebbed, as Brazil, Argentina, Peru and others have swung to the right. But Mexico may again prove an exception. The front-runner in its presidential contest in 2018 is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a left-wing populist.He is no policy wonk, and prefers fiery speeches to ten-point plans. As mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005, he focused on motorways and local pensions. Even so, it is hard to predict how he might govern as president. He lists three former presidents—Benito Juárez, Francisco Madero and Lázaro Cárdenas—as his heroes. Of these, Cárdenas, Mexico’s foremost leftist, appears uppermost in his mind.Tata (“Papa”) Lázaro is remembered above all for two achievements. In 1938 he seized British- and American-owned...Continue reading

    Americas - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • How long can Venezuela avoid default?How long can Venezuela avoid default?

    THE mere mention of Venezuela should make most investors shudder. Its president, Nicolás Maduro, says that capitalism has “destroyed the planet” and vows to build a socialist Utopia. The country’s economic output has shrunk by more than a third since 2014, and it is suffering from dire shortages of food and medicine.Nonetheless, one class of Venezuelan assets has delivered returns in recent years that would leave any investor licking his chops: bonds issued by the government and by PDVSA, the state oil company. Since January 2015 they have risen in value by nearly 60%, while every coupon has been paid at sky-high interest rates. “There has never been a bondholder’s better friend than Venezuela,” says Ray Zucaro of RVX Asset Management, a Florida-based investment firm.The spectacle of foreign creditors growing fat off Venezuelan debt while the country’s people go hungry—on average, respondents to a recent survey said their weight had fallen by 9kg (20lbs)...Continue reading

    Americas - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Should regulators block CVS from buying Aetna?Should regulators block CVS from buying Aetna?

    AMERICA has a competition problem. Market concentration has risen in more than three-quarters of industries since the late 1990s. Concentration has led to higher profits and higher returns for shareholders at the expense of consumers. Antitrust authorities have become more supine: between 1970 and 1999, regulators brought an average of 16 cases a year in order to prevent big firms from becoming even bigger; between 2000 and 2014, that number fell below three.Health care is one of the industries that has been marked by bouts of consolidation. The annual number of hospital mergers in America doubled between 2005 and 2015; the national market share of the four...Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Donald Trump’s agenda in Asia is a mysteryDonald Trump’s agenda in Asia is a mystery

    FOR those concerned about American neglect of Asia, it is an accomplishment of sorts that Donald Trump is coming to the region at all. A creature of habit, America’s president is uncomfortable spending nights away from his own bed. And now, with the first indictments in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election that put Mr Trump in office, foreign policy is likely to have fallen even lower down his list of priorities. Yet on November 3rd Mr Trump begins a 12-day trip, his longest foreign excursion as president and his first to Asia. He will take in (via Hawaii) Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.The first rule in Asian politics, where form trumps content, is just showing up. So far, so promising. What is more, although one of Mr Trump’s first moves as president was to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country free-trade deal—“the greatest self-inflicted wound on American regional influence since the Vietnam...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Kazakhstan wants Kazakh written in Latin, not Cyrillic scriptKazakhstan wants Kazakh written in Latin, not Cyrillic script

    Apostrophe-free but humiliatingRARELY has the humble apostrophe caused such commotion. Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s president, wants the punctuation symbol to play a much bigger part in public life. Ordinary Kazakhs are objecting. Some feel so strongly that they have launched an anti-apostrophe campaign on social media, adorning their Facebook pages with crossed-out apostrophes.At issue is the apostrophe-peppered alphabet that the government wants to introduce over the next eight years, to replace the current rendering of the Kazakh language in Cyrillic—the alphabet used to write Russian, among other languages. The new script is a modified form of the Latin alphabet, which is used to write not only English but many other languages, including Turkic ones related to Kazakh, such as Turkish.Officially, the switch is about equipping Kazakhstan for the digital age. (The new script should be easier to type and to render online.) But the...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • India’s previously unstoppable ruling party loses momentumIndia’s previously unstoppable ruling party loses momentum

    IF SUCCESS is the sweetest revenge then the makers of “Mersal”, a Tamil-language action-romance, must be feeling smug. Supporters of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vented fury when the film was released in mid-October. Some shouted that it should be banned, unless a scene mocking government policy was cut. Others sniffed that the film’s lack of patriotic spirit might reflect the fact that its star, Thalapathy Vijay, is Christian. But for “Mersal” all this ugly talk was just good publicity: it has already grossed over $32m, close to a record for Tamil cinema.The backfiring of this attack might be read as a parable for the troubles facing the BJP. It had seemed an unstoppable juggernaut, set to roll through a string of state polls up to the next general election in 2019 and beyond. It still holds trumps that any party would envy: a network of more than 110m members, generous funding, a largely sympathetic press and an energetic, charismatic leader in Narendra Modi, the prime minister. His government can...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Donald Trump has friends, but few ambitions, in South-East AsiaDonald Trump has friends, but few ambitions, in South-East Asia

    Mr Trump and his favourite prime ministerAMONG recent guests to the White House, Donald Trump has welcomed Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Thai general who overthrew an elected government in 2014, and Najib Razak, the prime minister of Malaysia, whom America’s Justice Department has accused of participating in the theft of as much as $3.5bn from a Malaysian government fund. Mr Trump has referred to Mr Najib as “my favourite prime minister”. Mr Trump’s presidency has coincided with a lurch towards authoritarianism around South-East Asia. Such matters seem to be far less of a concern to him, however, than they were to his predecessor, Barack Obama. For the region’s democrats, the discrepancy stings.On his visit to Asia next week, Mr Trump will call on Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, who has boasted about killing people and has instituted a campaign against drug dealers and users that has led to perhaps 9,000 deaths. Mr Trump apparently...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • An antiquated rule claims another scalp in Australia’s parliamentAn antiquated rule claims another scalp in Australia’s parliament

    A fair dinkum battling ex-KiwiWHERE will it end? On October 27th the High Court stripped four senators and an MP of their seats, adopting a strict interpretation of the rules on eligibility for parliament. The MP was Barnaby Joyce, the deputy prime minister, whose ejection has cost the government its majority in the lower house. Then on November 1st Stephen Parry, the president of the Senate, announced that he, too, suffered from the same affliction: he was a dual national, able to claim British citizenship as well as Australian. He resigned the following day.Mr Joyce was one of the “citizenship seven”, parliamentarians who discovered that they were deemed to be citizens, variously, of Britain, Canada, Italy and New Zealand, even though they had not formally claimed citizenship. Australia’s constitution bans from parliament anyone who is under “acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power”, or who is a citizen of a...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • New Green advocates: Climate-change lawsuitsNew Green advocates: Climate-change lawsuits

    Print section Print Rubric:  The battle against global warming is increasingly being waged in courtrooms Print Headline:  New green advocates Print Fly Title:  Lawsuits against climate change UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Do social media threaten democracy? Fly Title:  New Green advocates Main image:  20171104_IRP001_0.jpg IN FEBRUARY a tribunal in Kirkenes, in Norway’s far north, ruled that oil extraction in the Barents Sea was illegal. The courtroom—an auditorium sculpted from 190 tonnes of ice, pictured above—and the verdict were fictitious, staged as part of a festival. But the legal question is real. On November 14th a district court in Oslo, Norway’s capital, will begin hearing the case that inspired the theatrics. Greenpeace and another pressure group, Nature and Youth, allege that by issuing licences to explore for oil in the Arctic, ...

    Environment - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • The founding of Maple Valley: How Canada’s unique research culture has aided artificial intelligenceThe founding of Maple Valley: How Canada’s unique research culture has aided artificial intelligence

    Print section Print Rubric:  How Canada’s unique research culture has aided artificial intelligence Print Headline:  The founding of Maple Valley Print Fly Title:  Innovation in Canada UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Do social media threaten democracy? Fly Title:  The founding of Maple Valley Location:  TORONTO Main image:  AI’s nerve centre AI’s nerve centre ROBOTS controlled by remote supercomputers. Self-driving cars on narrow, winding streets. Board-game players of unimaginable skill. These successes of artificial intelligence (AI) rely on neural networks: algorithms that churn through data using a structure loosely based on the human brain, and calculate functions too complex for humans to write. The use of such networks is a signature of firms in Silicon Valley. But they were ...

    Computer - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Mammoth society seems to have been like that of modern elephantsMammoth society seems to have been like that of modern elephants

    All for one and one for allELEPHANTS live in social groups of up to a dozen, led by a matriarch. At least, they do if they are not mature males. But once a male becomes sexually potent, he leaves his native band and sets up shop by himself. The only males present in these groups are therefore juveniles. This arrangement is common to all living species of elephant (of which there are either two or three, depending on which taxonomist you ask). But elephant biologists would like to know if it was also true of extinct elephant species. And for one of those, the mammoth, this week sees the publication of data suggesting that it was.One advantage elephants gain from living together is that the groups are repositories of information that gets handed down the generations—for example, what parts of a home range are best avoided, because they are dangerous. Males may not have time to learn of all these hazards (for elephants may range over tens of thousands of square...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • The latest unmanned drone is a version of an existing manned oneThe latest unmanned drone is a version of an existing manned one

    Look! No hands...IN THE future, the skies of cities may belong to aerial drones. These are spiderlike devices with four or more propellers (thus often known as quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters and so on) that provide both lift and thrust. The hope is that autonomous, self-guided versions of these will deliver anything from pizzas to passengers from door to door without being held up by terrestrial traffic jams.Delivering goods, and particularly people, to and from a battlefield is, though, a bit different. Aircraft have to be hardened against enemy action, and also need the capacity to transport large payloads. A flying spider is unlikely to cut the mustard. Instead, Lockheed Martin, the maker of one of the world’s best-known military helicopters, the Black Hawk, is working on a drone with those specifications—made from a Black Hawk helicopter.Turning existing helicopters into drones is not a new idea. Northrop Grumman’s RQ-8 Fire...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Fats Domino died on October 24thObituary: Fats Domino died on October 24th

    THE fact that Fats Domino in 1957 played 355 shows in America, travelling 13,000 miles, was misleading. He never left New Orleans, or rather New Orleans never left him. The fact that he was praised by Elvis Presley as the real king of rock ’n’ roll, named as chief inspiration by Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon and Neil Young, and hailed as the man who started a cultural revolution deemed so dangerous, in some parts of America, that bottles flew and fights started, was pretty mystifying to him. When the rage took off in the early 1950s, he had been playing that music in the honky-tonks and bars of the Big Easy for fully 15 years.He was New Awlins through and through, beginning with his girth and the rolling, languid gait it gave him. Both showed such a love of red beans, gumbo and jambalaya that he couldn’t find food worth eating anywhere else, but took his own pots, pans and hot sauce to cook them up wherever he was. One of his stunts was to play standing and, with his...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 17 d. 17 h. 38 min. ago more
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  • Why you should remember Mueller’s job descriptionWhy you should remember Mueller’s job description

    ACCORDING to NATO’s handbook, the preferred tactics in Russian information warfare can be summarised as “dismiss, distort, distract, dismay”. That is a fair description of the response in America when Robert Mueller, the special counsel, unsealed charges against Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and two others. The president’s most enthusiastic supporters denounced Mr Mueller, saying he should be fired or, failing that, redirected to investigate Hillary Clinton instead. Meanwhile, some of the president’s opponents took Mr Mueller’s move as the prelude to impeachment. Both views are wrong and unhelpful.To think clearly about what Mr Mueller is up to, it helps to recall the terms of his appointment. The special counsel has been told by the Justice Department to investigate links or co-ordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with Mr Trump’s presidential campaign, and any other matters that arise directly from that endeavour....Continue reading

    Leaders - The Economist / 17 d. 23 h. 41 min. ago more
  • A new chamber has been detected in the Great Pyramid of GizaA new chamber has been detected in the Great Pyramid of Giza

    ANCIENT Egypt has held the world in thrall for so long that some of those once enthralled are now ancient history themselves. Well-to-do Romans of the early Empire, for instance, would tour the place to look at antiquities older to them than the Colosseum is to a tourist today. Yet Egypt keeps secrets still. Its royal tombs, both those underground and the skyward-reaching pyramids, are rife with stories of hidden chambers. And, in the most famous tomb of all, the Great Pyramid of Giza, one such has just been shown to be real.It was discovered by Kunihiro Morishima of Nagoya University, in Japan, and his colleagues. They searched not by the time-honoured archaeological techniques of digging with trowels and knocking down walls with hammers, but by muon tomography—an esoteric way of looking inside things using the fallout from cosmic rays that have hit Earth’s atmosphere. Muons are heavy kin to electrons. They are able to penetrate solid matter to some degree, but are eventually absorbed by it. By measuring the absorption rate of...Continue reading

    Science - The Economist / 18 d. 11 h. 26 min. ago more
  • Green investors and right-wing sceptics clash on the meaning of scriptureGreen investors and right-wing sceptics clash on the meaning of scripture

    WHEN the Western Christian world divided down the middle exactly 500 years ago, both the Catholic and Protestant sides became adept at using scripture to bolster their arguments. This week, holy text was being cited by people who have diametrically different ideas about how to look after the planet, and are in a strong enough position to make a difference.In the Swiss town of Zug, a high-powered gathering of faith leaders, investment gurus and environmentalists met to consider how bodies with ample funds at their disposal, including religious organisations, could use that wealth for the benefit of life on earth. One of the star speakers was Cardinal Peter Turkson (pictured), a Ghanaian who was recently put in charge of a powerful new Vatican agency (an amalgamation of four others) that is charged with “promoting integral human development”.The agency's job, he explained, covers human rights, development, the environment and the economy. It...Continue reading

    The Economist / 18 d. 18 h. 30 min. ago more
  • Arcane arguments about Russia’s sovereigns could go mainstreamArcane arguments about Russia’s sovereigns could go mainstream

    AS A colleague writes in this week’s print edition, Vladimir Putin is in certain ways more comparable to an absolute monarch than to a constitutionally elected political leader, who might be hemmed by checks and balances. In the eyes of critics and admirers, and perhaps in his own too, he has positioned himself as a kind of tsar, charged perhaps with some divine mission and answerable only in an intangible way to the Russian people.Whatever may be unfolding inside Russia, matters to do with the country and its monarchy, its past and possibly future, are also on the minds of some devotees who live thousands of miles away. Throughout the dark years of communism and the turbulence which has followed, small but passionate clusters of people in the Russian diaspora continued to cultivate the memory of the Romanov dynasty. They fall into two overlapping categories: members of the extended Romanov...Continue reading

    The Economist / 21 d. 6 h. 23 min. ago more
  • An Australian court’s verdict leaves Turnbull in a pickleAn Australian court’s verdict leaves Turnbull in a pickle

    WHEN his deputy was recently outed in a row about legislators who are dual nationals, Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, downplayed the potential consequences for his conservative coalition government. He may now be feeling less confident. On October 27th the country’s highest court ruled that Barnaby Joyce was ineligible to hold his seat because he was also a citizen of New Zealand when he was elected. As a result, Mr Turnbull has lost his lower-house majority of just one. At least until a by-election is held in December, he will have to rule with a hung parliament.They have been dubbed the “citizenship seven”: legislators from both houses of parliament whose eligibility to hold foreign passports came to light two months ago. The seven, variously, were citizens by descent of Canada, New Zealand, Italy and Britain. The constitution bars those with foreign citizenship, or people who are entitled to it, from competing for parliamentary seats. The seven say...Continue reading

    Asia - The Economist / 22 d. 22 h. 26 min. ago more
  • Monte dei Paschi gets to its feet: Italy’s fourth-biggest bank returns to the stockmarketMonte dei Paschi gets to its feet: Italy’s fourth-biggest bank returns to the stockmarket

    Print section Print Rubric:  Italy’s fourth-biggest bank returns to the stockmarket Print Headline:  Getting up again Print Fly Title:  Monte dei Paschi di Siena UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  A tsar is born Fly Title:  Monte dei Paschi gets to its feet Location:  MILAN Main image:  20171028_fnp502.jpg A TELEVISION advertisement for Monte dei Paschi di Siena begins with a toddler tumbling and a gymnast stumbling. “Falling is the first thing we learn,” declares the voice-over. “The second is getting up again.” Italy’s fourth-biggest bank and the world’s oldest, which was bailed out by the Italian government in July, has had several bruising falls over the years. On October 25th it returned to the stockmarket after a ten-month hiatus—the latest stage of its plan to get back on its ...

    Banking - The Economist / 24 d. 18 h. 42 min. ago more
  • Shuffle and deal: For American Express, competition will only intensifyShuffle and deal: For American Express, competition will only intensify

    Print section Print Rubric:  Competition in the credit-card business will only intensify Print Headline:  Shuffle and deal Print Fly Title:  American Express UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  A tsar is born Fly Title:  Shuffle and deal Location:  NEW YORK Main image:  20171028_FNP001_0.jpg HE IS leaving with the share price rising and the announcement, on October 18th, of earnings that were largely well received. Better still, Kenneth Chenault, American Express’s chief executive for 16 years, accomplished a feat rare in the upper reaches of American finance: to stand down without an obvious helping shove. No grandstanding senators hounded him out (see Wells Fargo). No boardroom coup hastened the end (Citigroup). The financial crisis left him untouched (take your pick). His successor, ...

    Banking - The Economist / 24 d. 18 h. 42 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Cornelia Bailey died on October 15thObituary: Cornelia Bailey died on October 15th

    THEY had always grown red peas, so Cornelia Bailey thought nothing of it. She and her husband dropped the seed in the spring, Frank hoeing and she following. They planted on a growing moon, not a wasting one, and when the tide was coming in; if a pregnant woman could do the sowing, so much the better. They waited, too, until the pecan trees put out their blossom. It was safe then to plant what you liked. Nothing could fool the pecans.Generally the peas were eaten up by the family, which included a crowd of adopted and foster children as well as her own. But one day a chef from Atlanta asked for some and paid her a cheque for them. Sapelo red peas, it turned out, were not only pretty to look at but a gourmet taste and rare. More customers came along, so she expanded the plot. She then thought she could make a business out of it, and that this might save her island.For Sapelo was dying. Hog Hammock, where she lived, was the last community of Saltwater Geechee on the island,...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 24 d. 18 h. 42 min. ago more
  • Above boards: Scott Pruitt seeks to weaken independent scientific review at the EPAAbove boards: Scott Pruitt seeks to weaken independent scientific review at the EPA

    Main image:  TWO days ago, October 23rd, three scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were to present at a conference on the health of the Narragansett Bay estuary (pictured). They were to unveil a 500-page report, which found that “stressors associated with climate change are increasing rapidly”—but the agency abruptly cancelled the presentation without explanation. Critics pointed to it as the latest example of meddling and muzzling by the agency’s new leadership. Scott Pruitt, the industry-friendly administrator, is sceptical of the scientific consensus on climate change. The agency has also furiously scrubbed references to climate change from its website, and encouraged the creation of a “red team” to play devil’s advocate to established climate science. Mr Pruitt is set to continue his campaign against science he does not much like, by upending several critical advisory boards that the EPA relies on for independent scientific advice.Mr Pruitt is expected to announce today that scientists who currently receive research grants from the EPA will be barred from sitting on important committees like the Science Advisory Board, which reviews the scientific evidence used to undergird environmental regulations. The professed aim is to prevent conflicts of interest. But the proposal ...

    Environment - The Economist / 25 d. 22 h. 42 min. ago more
  • Artificial intelligence: A better way to search through scientific papersArtificial intelligence: A better way to search through scientific papers

    Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Artificial intelligence Main image:  20171021_stp505.jpg ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) is not just for playing games. It also has important practical uses. One such is in Semantic Scholar, a system developed by researchers at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, in Seattle, for the purpose of ferreting out the scientific papers most relevant to a particular problem. This week Marie Hagman, the project’s leader, and her colleagues have launched an updated version of the system. They have added 26m biomedical-research papers to the 12m previously contained in its database, and upgraded the way that the database’s contents can be searched and correlated. Instead of relying on citations in other papers, or the frequency of recurring phrases to rank the relevance of papers, as it once did and rivals such as Google Scholar still do, the new version of Semantic Scholar applies AI to try to understand the context of those phrases, and thus achieve better results. Like most AI systems, the new Semantic Scholar relies on a neural network—a computer architecture ...

    Computer - The Economist / 31 d. 18 h. 20 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Joseph Schmitt died on September 25thObituary: Joseph Schmitt died on September 25th

    WHEN he was growing up in rural southern Illinois, each member of Joseph Schmitt’s large family had their own job to do. Aunt Katie baked for everyone; he remembered the big pie-safe on her porch. His brother did the hog-butchering, while an uncle made all the family’s shoes. And he, as a boy, also had his special jobs. He delivered clean washing to his widowed mother’s customers, pulling it along in his little four-wheel wagon, and he shined shoes and cleaned spittoons in his brother-in-law’s barbershop. At a dime a shine, it took 300 of them to get enough money to buy his mother a new cooking stove. But even his pocket-change contribution kept the family going.His grown-up career was the same to him: just playing his small part. By a real piece of luck, and because he was good with his hands—especially at mending flightsuits and rigging parachutes—he was taken on by NASA as a spacesuit technician in the most exciting years of America’s space project, and saw the first of...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 31 d. 18 h. 32 min. ago more
  • Letters: Letters to the editorLetters: Letters to the editor

    Print section Print Fly Title:  On Italy, the “right to repair”, China, racism, the comma, Hugh Hefner UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The right way to help declining places Fly Title:  Letters Italy’s role in foreign wars You put forward a couple of reasonable explanations for why Italy has not yet been struck by a serious terrorist attack (“Safe so far”, September 30th). But one unmentioned factor is Italy’s low profile during the recent wars in the Middle East. We never bombed the Syrians the way France did. The terrorist blowback, the number of Italian foreign jihadists and the resentment against Italy in the Middle East are, therefore, much more limited. Moreover, you aired the view that the Mafia may have deterred the jihadists. There is no evidence to support this. Today’s Mafia lacks both the strength and the will to care about terrorism, because it is too busy searching for ways to survive in a largely hostile environment. What is true is that the instruments we used to defeat Cosa Nostra turned out to be very effective in tracing and ...

    Computer - The Economist / 31 d. 18 h. 32 min. ago more
  • Mind the app: Crafty app developers are ripping off big-name brandsMind the app: Crafty app developers are ripping off big-name brands

    Print section Print Rubric:  Crafty app developers are making money by ripping off big-name brands Print Headline:  Mind the app Print Fly Title:  Smartphone security UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  China’s Xi Jinping has more clout than Donald Trump. The world should be wary Fly Title:  Mind the app Main image:  20171014_WBD001_1.jpg THE new app for an upmarket British department store certainly looks the part. Released on Google Play, a shop for Android software, on September 5th, it has the right logo, the correct vibrant colour and offers fashionable clothes and accessories. But the app is not authorised by the brand, is littered with pop-up ads and is painfully slow (furious users gave it one-star ratings). Its developer, Style Apps, has also launched apps for other clothing brands that are household names in America. Such fake apps are designed ...

    Computer - The Economist / 38 d. 18 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Lady Lucan was found dead on September 26thObituary: Lady Lucan was found dead on September 26th

    YOU could always spot a thoroughbred. Veronica Duncan knew at once what to look for in a pony or a horse, after all those gymkhanas and point-to-points. And she could spot it in this man: the imposing height, the military moustache, the cavalry twills and tweed cap. This was John, Lord Bingham, ex-Eton and Coldstream Guards, the heir to a fortune and to the title of 7th Earl of Lucan. She was 26, still dreaming of a god, or at least the coup of marrying a peer of the realm. And there he was.Her sister warned her off. He was a professional gambler, his parents were socialists, and he was said to be queer. Very “not so”. She didn’t care. He drove her round in his green Aston Martin, took her out in his power boat, and after a while simply carried her into his bedroom, thereby putting paid to sisterly warning number three. In a few months, they were married. Within a year she, a middle-class country girl, petite and with no confidence, was the Countess of Lucan, and her husband the...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 38 d. 18 h. 38 min. ago more
  • The missing link: Technology is revolutionising supply-chain financeThe missing link: Technology is revolutionising supply-chain finance

    Print section Print Rubric:  Technology is reshaping the financing of firms that sell to other firms, and leading banks into new alliances Print Headline:  The missing link Print Fly Title:  Supply-chain finance UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  China’s Xi Jinping has more clout than Donald Trump. The world should be wary Fly Title:  The missing link Main image:  20171014_FNP001_0.jpg IN 2015 Kiddyum, a small company from Manchester that provides frozen ready-meals for children, won a contract from Sainsbury’s, a big British supermarket chain. Jayne Hynes, the founder, was delighted. But sudden success might have choked Kiddyum’s cashflow. Sainsbury’s pays its suppliers in 60 days; Ms Hynes must pay hers in only 30. In fact Kiddyum gets its cash within a few days. Once approved by Sainsbury’s, its invoices are loaded onto the supermarket’s supply-chain ...

    Banking - The Economist / 38 d. 18 h. 38 min. ago more
  • In the eye of the storm: Why McKinsey is under attack in South AfricaIn the eye of the storm: Why McKinsey is under attack in South Africa

    Print section Print Rubric:  The consulting giant is in trouble for working with a firm tied to the Guptas Print Headline:  In the eye of the storm Print Fly Title:  McKinsey in South Africa UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  China’s Xi Jinping has more clout than Donald Trump. The world should be wary Fly Title:  In the eye of the storm Location:  JOHANNESBURG Main image:  An unfamiliar sight for McKinseyites An unfamiliar sight for McKinseyites MCKINSEY, a global management consultancy known for its discreet profile and rarefied air, is unused to the sort of tub-thumping popular revolt it is experiencing in South Africa. Such is public outrage over the Guptas, an Indian-born business dynasty accused of growing rich off their relationship with President Jacob Zuma, that a few ...

    Computer - The Economist / 38 d. 18 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Schumpeter: American efforts to control Chinese firms abroad are dangerousSchumpeter: American efforts to control Chinese firms abroad are dangerous

    Print section Print Rubric:  America’s politicians try to control Chinese firms abroad. It is a dangerous game Print Headline:  The nuclear option Print Fly Title:  Schumpeter UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  China’s Xi Jinping has more clout than Donald Trump. The world should be wary Fly Title:  Schumpeter Main image:  20171014_WBD000_1.jpg WARS are fought with weapons, but also with money. To understand the global balance of power in the coming decades, it helps to pay attention to the commercial subplot of the North Korean crisis. For the first time, America is attempting to use its full legal and financial might to change the behaviour of Chinese companies and banks, which it believes are propping up North Korea by breaking UN and American sanctions. Some American politicians have concluded that, as China’s firms have integrated with the global ...

    Banking - The Economist / 39 d. 0 h. 26 min. ago more
  • Up in smoke: Scott Pruitt signs a measure to repeal the Clean Power Plan Up in smoke: Scott Pruitt signs a measure to repeal the Clean Power Plan

    Main image:  TIE off and collar open, Scott Pruitt unveiled his plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan to loud applause in Hazard, Kentucky, a sleepy coal town in the state’s mountainous south-east. “The war on coal is over,” said Mr Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on October 9th. The next day, in Washington, DC he signed a rule aimed at rescinding the Obama-era policy, which seeks to curb carbon emissions from power plants by 32% in 2030, compared to 2005 levels. But far from being the end of the Clean Power Plan, Mr Pruitt’s announcement is an opening salvo in a battle which could last for years.The plan, which was drawn up more than three years ago, has never gone into effect. Just days after it was finalised, energy companies marshalled an impressive legal offensive, even recruiting Mr Obama’s mentor at Harvard Law School to claim that his protégé  was “burning the constitution”. A federal court delayed implementing it until the EPA, now under new management, could issue a revised plan. Mr Pruitt’s move is also likely to prompt legal action. The attorneys-general of New York and Massachusetts have already announced plans to sue the agency. That could spell years of regulatory uncertainty for energy firms; a greener candidate could occupy the White House before the ...

    Environment - The Economist / 40 d. 12 h. 43 min. ago more
  • From freezers to finance: A Chinese carmaker agrees to buy a Danish investment bankFrom freezers to finance: A Chinese carmaker agrees to buy a Danish investment bank

    Print section Print Rubric:  A Chinese carmaker agrees to buy a Danish bank Print Headline:  Freezers to finance Print Fly Title:  Chinese acquisitions UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  It is not too late to stop the break-up of Spain Fly Title:  From freezers to finance Main image:  20171007_fnp505.jpg A COMPANY that moves up the value chain from refrigerator parts to cars is impressive but not that surprising. A car company that buys an investment bank is audacious. But Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, a conglomerate based in Hangzhou, China, did not become big by paring its ambitions. Having successfully made the fridge-parts-to-cars transition at home, it went global in 2010. It acquired Volvo, a Swedish carmaker, from Ford of America. Now Geely is back in Scandinavia for another acquisition. This time it is buying one of Denmark’s biggest banks. Saxo ...

    Banking - The Economist / 45 d. 18 h. 35 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Hugh Hefner died on September 27thObituary: Hugh Hefner died on September 27th

    WHENEVER Hugh Hefner mentioned that his strict Methodist mother had wanted him to be a missionary, he got a big laugh. He got a bigger one when he said he answered: “Mom, I was.” His listeners were thinking of the missionary position, no doubt, and the hundreds of women he had conquered with that irresistible saturnine charm. But he was absolutely serious. As the man who brought sexual liberation to America in the form of clubs, casinos, Bunny Girls and naked centrefolds, he too was a preacher and a prophet. But instead of “Thou shalt not”, the creed of Puritan killjoys down the centuries, his was “Freedom!”—and the loud tooting of a sports car, accessorised with beauties, driving at speed through America’s drearily conformist suburbs and its herds of sacred cows. Blessed is the rebel, he cried; no progress without him.(At this point Hef in his wolfish prime would pop another Dexedrine, take a couple of puffs on his ever-present pipe, spin round on his giant revolving bed...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 45 d. 18 h. 35 min. ago more
  • Take back control: How digital devices challenge the nature of ownershipTake back control: How digital devices challenge the nature of ownership

    Print section Print Rubric:  Digital devices are challenging the nature of ownership. It’s time to fight back Print Headline:  Take back control Print Fly Title:  Property in the digital age UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The spotlight shifts from Germany to France Fly Title:  Take back control Main image:  20170930_ldd010.jpg OWNERSHIP used to be about as straightforward as writing a cheque. If you bought something, you owned it. If it broke, you fixed it. If you no longer wanted it, you sold it or chucked it away. Some firms found tricks to muscle in on the aftermarket, using warranties, authorised repair shops, and strategies such as selling cheap printers and expensive ink. But these ways of squeezing out more profit did not challenge the nature of what it means to be an owner. In the digital age ownership has become more slippery. Just ask Tesla ...

    Computer - The Economist / 53 d. 0 h. 56 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Stanislav Petrov was declared to have died on September 18thObituary: Stanislav Petrov was declared to have died on September 18th

    OVER the years, Stanislav Petrov got used to those telephone calls. Typically they would come at night or at the weekend, just as he was unwinding. He would lift the receiver to hear the jaunty strains of “Arise, our mighty country!” in his ear, and know that he had to get dressed, now, and get to the the base. It was a pain. But in the nervy 1970s and 1980s, when an American attack on the Soviet Union might happen at any time, an alert might be a practice, or might be the real thing. Either way, the motherland had to be defended.“The base” was the secret Serpukhov-15 early-warning facility, near Moscow. He had worked there—since graduation, with top honours, from the Radio-Technical College in Kiev—monitoring surveillance by Oko satellites of the missile launch areas of the United States. Its core was a room of 200 computer operators over which, when he was on duty, he would preside from a glassed-in mezzanine office. On one wall of the computer room, an electronic world map...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 53 d. 16 h. 56 min. ago more
  • Germany’s Greens: “I don’t want the last car made in Germany to end up in a museum”Germany’s Greens: “I don’t want the last car made in Germany to end up in a museum”

    Main image:  LAST week I caught up with Cem Özdemir, lead candidate of Germany's Green Party, to talk about his country’s future. The latest polls put his party at about 8%. Mr Özdemir’s perspective matters, for two reasons.First, the polls suggest that Angela Merkel may have to choose between another “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats (SPD)—who are fed up with governing with her—and a three-way coalition with the centre-left Greens and the right-liberal Free Democrats (FDP). In the latter scenario (called “Jamaica” as the colours of the parties match those of country’s flag) Mr Özdemir might well become Germany’s foreign minister. That would make him the second Green to hold that job after Joschka Fischer and the first Turkish-German to hold any major government rank (his father moved to Germany from Tokat, north-east of Ankara).Second, Mr Özdemir is actually willing to discuss the big challenges facing Germany. Whether or not you agree with him, this is welcome in an election campaign marked and marred by the big parties’ inability to talk what Germans call Klartext, or frank sense, about the big issues. How should the Euro zone advance? What are Germany’s international responsibilities? How can the country’s business model be made fit for the future? How can the country’s car industry get ...

    Environment - The Economist / 59 d. 14 h. 14 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Peter Hall died on September 11thObituary: Peter Hall died on September 11th

    WHEN he was preparing a Shakespeare play—always with love and awe, though it might be for the 20th time—Peter Hall would mutter it to himself in Elizabethan. It sounded like a cross between Devon and Belfast, but it revealed the colours and made the words wittier. American, he thought, might be just the accent for it. But in his decades as the dominant figure in British theatre, his most famous hire from Hollywood was a disaster: the venerable Charles Laughton, as Lear, stressing every word that was capitalised in the First Folio, to ludicrous effect.Authenticity in Shakespeare was not one of his causes. Too much had changed, and would change. In 200 years the plays would probably need translating. And theatre itself was so ephemeral, like any living thing. A group of people combined for a spell to put on performances that were never the same twice, a bubble that had to burst as soon as they left the stage.The job of a director was therefore highly risky. Though he...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 59 d. 18 h. 45 min. ago more
  • Climate change: There is still no room for complacency in matters climaticClimate change: There is still no room for complacency in matters climatic

    Print section Print Rubric:  Changed estimates of how much carbon dioxide can still be emitted to meet climate targets leave no room for complacency Print Headline:  Breathing space Print Fly Title:  Carbon budgets UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Jeremy Corbyn: Britain’s most likely next prime minister Fly Title:  Climate change Main image:  20170923_STD001_0.jpg IN JUNE Christiana Figueres, the UN’s former climate chief who helped broker the Paris agreement in 2015, warned that the world has “three years to safeguard our climate”. It was a hyperbolic claim, even then. New research makes it seem even more of one today. An analysis published in Nature Geoscience on September 18th, by Richard Millar of Oxford University and his colleagues, suggests that climate researchers have been underestimating the carbon “budget” compatible with the ambitions ...

    Environment - The Economist / 59 d. 18 h. 45 min. ago more
  • Paradise lost: How Hurricane Irma will change the CaribbeanParadise lost: How Hurricane Irma will change the Caribbean

    Print section Print Rubric:  After one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the Caribbean, the region will have to change the way it plans for disasters Print Headline:  Paradise lost Print Fly Title:  Hurricane Irma (1) UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Closing in on cancer Fly Title:  Paradise lost Main image:  20170916_AMP001_0.jpg FOR three days in early September Hurricane Irma ground through the eastern Caribbean like a bulldozer made out of wind and rain. Tropical breezes became 300kph (185mph) blasts, turning “tin roofs into flying razor blades”, as Maarten van Aalst of the Red Cross put it. Placid seas reared up in giant waves and rainwater coursed through streets. Even when the sun eventually came out the nightmare did not end. Shortages of food and water sparked looting on some islands. Survivors were grateful that fewer than 50 ...

    Environment - The Economist / 66 d. 18 h. 35 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Nancy Dupree died on September 10thObituary: Nancy Dupree died on September 10th

    SHE cut a curious figure in the bazaars of Peshawar, in Pakistan, in the 1990s: a tiny figure in salwar kameez with fluffy white hair, a sweet doll’s face and, when needed, the mouth of a stevedore. Nancy Dupree was looking for papers. Any papers. Magazines, UN reports, newspapers produced by rival factions of the mujahideen, posters, comics, photographs. It didn’t matter if they had been used to light a fire, or wrap meat; if they were legible, she wanted them. Any goddamn thing, as long as it had to do with Afghanistan.Her task was one she would never have started on, had she not fallen crazily in love with that poor, war-ravaged, beautiful land. She was reconstructing, document by document, the recent history of Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion in 1979. Those were times to pass over in silence, as far as Afghanistan’s textbooks were concerned: the years of Soviet occupation, the rise of the warlords, the American invasion and the Taliban takeover, a...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 66 d. 18 h. 35 min. ago more
  • Travel sickness: Retail banks’ foreign ventures rarely pay offTravel sickness: Retail banks’ foreign ventures rarely pay off

    Print section Print Rubric:  Retail banks’ adventures abroad do not usually pay Print Headline:  Travel sickness Print Fly Title:  Cross-border banking UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Closing in on cancer Fly Title:  Travel sickness Main image:  20170916_fnp503.jpg NOT everybody—or every business—travels well. Retailers from Walmart to Tesco have faltered in forays into foreign lands. Banks, too, often fancy that success at home can be reproduced abroad. In meeting the needs of big companies, they are often right. Global corporations seem to want global banks. But in retail banking, serving households and small businesses, they are usually mistaken. Or so concludes a report by Lorraine Quoirez and her colleagues at UBS, examining the performance of seven international banks (BBVA, Citigroup, HSBC, ING, Santander, Société Générale and Standard ...

    Banking - The Economist / 66 d. 18 h. 35 min. ago more
  • Once more into the breach: The big data breach suffered by Equifax has alarming implicationsOnce more into the breach: The big data breach suffered by Equifax has alarming implications

    Print section Print Rubric:  The personal information of millions of Americans has been compromised Print Headline:  Once more… Print Fly Title:  The Equifax data breach UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Closing in on cancer Fly Title:  Once more into the breach UNTIL something goes wrong, few people give much thought to the surveillance they undergo by credit-reporting agencies (CRAs). Yet these agencies’ business is deeply intrusive: quantifying character. They assign individuals credit scores based on how they previously managed debt. The scores are then sold to lenders. In America, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the “Big Three” CRAs, have gathered credit histories and identifying information for nearly every adult. On September 7th Equifax admitted that something had indeed gone very wrong: hackers had gained access to personal information on about 143m people, mostly Americans. It reported that, from mid-May to ...

    Computer - The Economist / 66 d. 18 h. 35 min. ago more
  • Religion and climate change: The Dalai Lama’s planetReligion and climate change: The Dalai Lama’s planet

    Main image:  WHEN religious leaders speak out on matters of global policy, they often stick to lofty generalities and avoid making direct challenges to those who wield earthly power. Not so this week. In the space of barely 24 hours, Donald Trump and his perceived indifference to environmental concerns were the object of stern rebukes from two spiritual champions.One was the Dalai Lama, who was visiting one of his favourite charities (Children in Crossfire, which helps kids in war zones), based in Northern Ireland’s second city, known officially as Derry-Londonderry. Asked if he had a message to send to Mr Trump, he replied, “His view about ecology…he does not consider it important, and with that I disagree.” The Tibetan spiritual leader added, “Now I think America is learning lessons on the importance of ecology…on the east coast, floods, and on the west coast, [forest] fires. The most industrialised nation and the leading nation of the free world should [have] more respect regarding ecology.”The Dalai Lama said America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord made him “quite sad”. He was particularly concerned by the threat to the snows of the Tibetan plateau, one of the earth’s natural water tables, which are sometimes said to be as ecologically sensitive as the two polar regions.An almost ...

    Environment - The Economist / 68 d. 20 h. 1 min. ago more
  • Daily chart: Hurricanes in America have become less frequentDaily chart: Hurricanes in America have become less frequent

    Main image:  HURRICANE IRMA tore through Florida on September 10th, causing widespread flooding and wind damage. Although the unusually large storm unleashed its fury on the entire peninsula, its centre moved up the state’s west coast, striking the mainland with the greatest force when it made landfall at Marco Island, near the city of Naples. Preparations for Irma’s arrival were unusually frantic, with Gulf Coast residents given just two days’ warning that they would bear the brunt of the hurricane. It had previously been forecast to hug Florida’s Atlantic coast, and a week before was projected to take a more northerly track that could have missed the state entirely. The one-two punch delivered within the space of a few weeks by Irma and Hurricane Harvey, which deposited a whopping 33 trillion gallons of rain over four states, has sparked renewed interest in the relationship between climate change and extreme weather. Climate models predict that man-made global warming will not lead to a greater number of tropical cyclones overall, but will make those that do occur more intense. Tying such long-run trends to individual weather events is difficult, although the great amount of precipitation generated by Harvey may allow scientists to establish a direct link in its case. The average number of ...

    Environment - The Economist / 69 d. 12 h. 42 min. ago more
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  • Obituary: Richard “Dick” Gregory died on August 19thObituary: Richard “Dick” Gregory died on August 19th

    RACISM is no laughing matter. But ridicule can erode it. Until Dick Gregory broke into the mainstream, American black comedians had only two choices, playing to black audiences, or being the butt of white performers’ jokes.That changed at the Playboy Club in Chicago in January 1961. The young man took the wrong bus, and ran 20 blocks in shoes cold-proofed with cardboard to get to his first big break, only to be told to collect his fee and go. The audience was a convention-load of frozen-food industry types: male, Southern and white. An uppity black man would be jeered, or worse.But he was well prepared. A jealous redneck kicked in his front teeth when he was nine, as punishment for merely touching a white woman’s leg as he shined her shoes. His mother, a hardworking housemaid, kept the vital family telephone hidden in a cupboard: welfare cases weren’t allowed such luxuries. But amid the hunger and humiliation, she had taught young Dick that laughing was a better way...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 73 d. 18 h. 45 min. ago more
  • Johnson: Why companies don’t want you to take their brand names in vainJohnson: Why companies don’t want you to take their brand names in vain

    Print section Print Rubric:  Companies don’t want you to take their brand names in vain. But they can’t do much to stop you Print Headline:  Google a photoshopped hoover Print Fly Title:  Johnson UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  What machines can tell from your face Fly Title:  Johnson Main image:  20170909_BKD001_0.jpg WHAT else could you call a photocopier? If you answer “a Xerox machine”, you are one of the many people for whom the brand name and the generic item are one and the same. Like many brands that have gone generic, xerox is often lower-case and used as a verb. There are many more of these than people realise: aspirin was once Aspirin, a trademark of Bayer, which was forced to give it up as part of Germany’s reparations after the first world war. Most “universalised” brand names are really only regional. Visitors to the American South are ...

    Computer - The Economist / 73 d. 18 h. 45 min. ago more
  • The facial-industrial complex: Ever better and cheaper, face-recognition technology is spreadingThe facial-industrial complex: Ever better and cheaper, face-recognition technology is spreading

    Print section Print Rubric:  Ever better and cheaper, face-recognition technology is spreading Print Headline:  The facial-industrial complex Print Fly Title:  Visual computing UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  What machines can tell from your face Fly Title:  The facial-industrial complex Location:  BEIJING AND SAN FRANCISCO Main image:  20170909_WBP005_0.jpg TOURING the headquarters of Megvii in Beijing is like visiting Big Brother’s engine room. A video camera in the firm’s lobby recognises visitors in the blink of an eye. Other such devices are deployed around the office. Some of the images they capture are shown on a wall of video called “Skynet”, after the artificial-intelligence (AI) system in the “Terminator” films. One feed shows a group of employees waiting in front of an ...

    Computer - The Economist / 73 d. 23 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Nowhere to hide: What machines can tell from your faceNowhere to hide: What machines can tell from your face

    Print section Print Rubric:  Facial recognition is not just another technology. It will change society Print Headline:  Nowhere to hide Print Fly Title:  Facial recognition UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  What machines can tell from your face Fly Title:  Nowhere to hide Main image:  20170909_LDD001_1.jpg THE human face is a remarkable piece of work. The astonishing variety of facial features helps people recognise each other and is crucial to the formation of complex societies. So is the face’s ability to send emotional signals, whether through an involuntary blush or the artifice of a false smile. People spend much of their waking lives, in the office and the courtroom as well as the bar and the bedroom, reading faces, for signs of attraction, hostility, trust and deceit. They also spend plenty of time trying to dissimulate. Technology is rapidly ...

    Computer - The Economist / 74 d. 0 h. 56 min. ago more
  • Facial technology: Advances in AI are used to spot signs of sexualityFacial technology: Advances in AI are used to spot signs of sexuality

    Print section Print Rubric:  In the first of two stories about faces and technology, artificial intelligence is used to spot signs of sexuality Print Headline:  Keeping a straight face Print Fly Title:  Facial technology (1) UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  What machines can tell from your face Fly Title:  Facial technology Main image:  20170909_STP006_0.jpg MODERN artificial intelligence is much feted. But its talents boil down to a superhuman ability to spot patterns in large volumes of data. Facebook has used this ability to produce maps of poor regions in unprecedented detail, with an AI system that has learned what human settlements look like from satellite pictures. Medical researchers have trained AI in smartphones to detect cancerous lesions; a Google system can make precise guesses about the year a photograph was taken, simply because it has ...

    Computer - The Economist / 74 d. 13 h. 26 min. ago more
  • Frequency modulation: The likelihood of floods is changing with the climateFrequency modulation: The likelihood of floods is changing with the climate

    Print section Print Rubric:  Centuries ain’t what they used to be Print Headline:  Frequency modulation Print Fly Title:  The chances of disaster UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How government policy exacerbates hurricanes like Harvey Fly Title:  Frequency modulation IN 1979 it was Claudette; in 2001 it was Allison; now it is Harvey: in 50 years, the city of Houston has been hit by three separate “500-year floods”. A 500-year flood does not have to happen only twice a millennium. But a run of three in one place does make it feel as if the past climate were no longer a reliable guide to the present—as if the climate itself were changing. So, of course, it is. The world’s average temperature is between 0.6 and 0.7°C (1.1- 1.3°F) higher than it was in 1979. Scientists have understood since the 1850s that hotter air holds more water vapour; a law known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation states that for every degree Celsius of ...

    Environment - The Economist / 80 d. 18 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Wayne Lotter was killed on August 16thObituary: Wayne Lotter was killed on August 16th

    NO LANDSCAPE was dearer to Wayne Lotter than the savannah of southern Africa, and in particular one corner of it, the Selous-Niassa Wildlife Corridor round the Ruvuma river in Tanzania. He cherished it from the air, circling in a microlight over the dry rolling plains, the miombo woodlands, the white river bed and the bright-green hippo marshes; he surveyed it from lurching Land Rovers and on foot, brushing his way through the tall elephant grass. Sometimes he was the only human, and even he was in his khaki ranger’s camouflage. Almost invisible, he would listen to the voices of the elephants and lions that really ruled this place.Too often on his sorties, though, his stomach would start to knot. An elephant would scream out, alerting the herd. Or, on a breeze, he would catch that smell. It was a stench that hit you from 100 metres away: rotting elephant. And there, soon enough, would be the carcass, swollen in the sun, too much meat even for the scavengers to keep up with. The face...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 80 d. 18 h. 38 min. ago more
  • Natural disasters: How government policy exacerbates hurricanes like HarveyNatural disasters: How government policy exacerbates hurricanes like Harvey

    Print section Print Rubric:  The to-do list goes far beyond getting to grips with climate change Print Headline:  How to cope with floods Print Fly Title:  Natural disasters UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How government policy exacerbates hurricanes like Harvey Fly Title:  Natural disasters Main image:  20170902_LDD001_0.jpg THE extent of the devastation will become clear only when the floodwater recedes, leaving ruined cars, filthy mud-choked houses and the bloated corpses of the drowned. But as we went to press, with the rain pounding South Texas for the sixth day, Hurricane Harvey had already set records as America’s most severe deluge (see Briefing). In Houston it drenched Harris County in over 4.5trn litres of water in just 100 hours—enough rainfall to cover an eight-year-old child. The fate of America’s fourth-largest city holds the world’s ...

    Environment - The Economist / 81 d. 0 h. 41 min. ago more
  • Changing maps: How the shape of global banking has turned upside downChanging maps: How the shape of global banking has turned upside down

    Print section Print Rubric:  The shape of global banking has turned upside down Print Headline:  Changing maps Print Fly Title:  Banking UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Blanket repression is the wrong way to deal with political Islamists Fly Title:  Changing maps Location:  NEW YORK IN THE 1980s, when Citicorp was America’s largest bank and pursuing every avenue for international expansion, John Reed, the bank’s boss, would muse about moving its headquarters to a neutral location, notably the moon. Such sentiments are inconceivable today. Jamie Dimon, boss of JPMorgan Chase, Citi’s successor atop the league tables, recently said he is an American “patriot” first, head of a bank second. His strategy, though hardly shunning international markets, reflects this. Mr Dimon turned down several big foreign acquisitions before and during the financial ...

    Banking - The Economist / 87 d. 18 h. 44 min. ago more
  • Obituary: Bruce Forsyth died on August 18thObituary: Bruce Forsyth died on August 18th

    LET me tell you a little story. (It won’t take long, and by the time you wake up it’ll be over.) It’s about a fellow called Bruce. Skinny little runt, not much of a looker: far too much chin and not enough hair, though it’s wonderful what a good toupee and a comb-over will do. No matinée idol, more like your embarrassing Uncle Fred, who never quite decided whether he wanted that moustache. The sort of chap girls take pity on, but not enough pity on, if you take my meaning. Anyway, never mind all that.He was a lovely dancer. You can always tell a dancer by his walk: feet turned out. No, dear, I don’t mean sissy, though I daresay you might. And he dreamed of making a living tapping the boards, making that fantastic noise. But being prudent, and loving his mum and dad who had scraped and saved to give him dance lessons, he also trained as a teleprinter-operator when he was in the RAF, just so he had a proper trade to go to.Which was just as well, since for a long,...Continue reading

    Obituaries - The Economist / 87 d. 18 h. 44 min. ago more