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Stacey Abrams’s historic win

yesterday  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
THIS WEEK, Stacey Abrams became the first African-American woman ever to win a major-party nomination for governor when she beat Stacey Evans in Georgia’s primary. Ms Abrams is a (Bill) Clintonian figure: deeply versed in policy, fizzingly intelligent, ambitious and a superb retail politician. As minority leader in Georgia’s Republican-dominated House, she has worked effectively across the aisle. And she has a compelling personal story: raised in a family of modest means in Gulfport, Mississippi, she graduated from Spelman College and Yale Law School, became Atlanta’s deputy city attorney before she was 30-years-old and has been a legislator since 2007 (she has also written several romance novels under the pseudonym Selena Montgomery).The primary tested two competing theories of the electorate. Ms Evans, who is white and was raised in rural Georgia, believed she could attract more support in the general election from disaffected Republicans and conservative Democrats. Ms Abrams built t..
                 

A German museum puts the questionable provenance of its art on display

yesterday  
Business / The Economist/ Culture  
BETWEEN 1933 and 1945, in a systematic effort, Germany’s Nazi party stole or forced compulsory purchase of a vast number of artworks, both from museums around Europe and from Jewish collectors. The exact figures are impossible to know, but estimates suggest the number of looted paintings alone totalled 650,000—a fifth of all paintings in Europe at the time. Restitution efforts for private claims in particular have been slow, and it wasn’t until 1998 that an international set of principles to deal with the problem of Nazi-looted art was created. Forty-four countries came together to establish the Washington Principles, which encourage public collections to undertake provenance research, and if necessary, return stolen artworks in their possession to the rightful owners or their descendants, particularly in the case of Jewish collectors who were forced to flee. Time is of the essence: these processes become more and more difficult as trails grow colder and original owners (and their..
                 

Donald Trump cancels his meeting with Kim Jong Un

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
IF THERE is one foreign policy goal to which President Donald Trump is unswervingly committed, it is to make America safe from Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons. That was the message the president’s foreign policy team quietly transmitted for most of the past year. Where, in light of Mr Trump’s announcement on May 24th that he had decided to cancel a historic summit with Mr Kim, which was scheduled to take place in Singapore next month, does that ambition now stand?  For context, it is worth noting that Mr Trump’s decision in March to meet with Mr Kim seemed ill-considered but, on balance, probably justifiable. His decision to cancel the meeting, after recent indications that the North Koreans were making a fool of him, had come to seem almost inevitable. And almost everything else about the president’s approach to, ostensibly, the biggest foreign policy challenge of his tenure has appeared uninformed, ill-considered and potentially disastrous.Mr Trump agreed to meet Mr Kim after..
                 

Barbados’s mucky election

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ The Americas  
PUDDLES of sewage dapple the potholed road into Hastings, a tourist hub on Barbados’s southern coast. Tanker lorries parked by the roadside suck up stinking waste. The liquid forming one large pool at nearby Accra beach is not seawater. The governments of the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany recently warned tourists about raw sewage. Hotels complain of cancelled bookings, and a few businesses have shut.The stench comes at an inconvenient time for Barbados’s prime minister, Freundel Stuart, who faces an election on May 24th. If the opinion polls are correct, his Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which has governed for ten years, will be thrashed by the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP). The parties do not disagree much on ideas or policies, so they fight each other with accusations of corruption and incompetence. The sewage crisis has given Mia Mottley, the opposition leader, plenty of muck to fling.A BLP government completed the south-coast sewage system in...Continue readi..
                 

What is an audit for?

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Economics  
AUDITS get noticed only when things go wrong. Last week British MPs issued a scathing attack on KPMG, an auditor, for failing to avert the collapse of Carillion, a contracting company. South African authorities are looking into Deloitte’s audit of Steinhoff, a retailer. PwC, another auditor, could face a court-damages verdict for hundreds of millions of dollars for not spotting fraud at Colonial Bank, a failed American lender. It is also fighting a $3bn lawsuit in Ukraine and a two-year ban in India.Investors are also waking up to audits. They almost never vote against management’s choice of auditor. But last month over a third of shareholders at General Electric, an industrial conglomerate, voted against the reappointment of KPMG. Investors in Steinhoff are suing the company and Deloitte for $5bn for their losses.These actions challenge an industry dominated by four big firms: Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC. Between them they earned $47bn from auditing most of the world’s largest...Contin..
                 

Dear oil helps some emerging economies and harms others

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Economics  
When they are not fretting about the American dollar or Chinese debt, policymakers in emerging economies keep a close eye on the oil market. The price of Brent crude has risen by nearly 50% in the past year to around $80 a barrel. It ranks as the 11th-biggest spike in the past 70 years (adjusted for inflation), according to UBS, a bank. So should emerging markets now worry that oil prices will carry on rising above $100, or that they will tumble below $50? The answer is yes.Many emerging economies import oil; others export it. As a rule, higher prices hurt the first group and lower ones hurt the second. But it can be more complicated than that. Indonesia, for example, is a net importer of oil, but a net exporter of “energy”, more broadly defined, including coal and palm oil. Since coal, palm and oil prices tend to rise roughly in tandem, Indonesia would benefit overall from $100 oil, according to UBS. Mexico, like America, is also a net importer of crude. But in both countries a higher..
                 

How stress echoes down the generations

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Science and technology  
THE effects of child abuse can last a lifetime. Neglected or abused children have a higher risk of developing all sorts of ailments as adults, including mental illnesses such as depression but also physical ones like cancer and stroke. In fact, the effects may last even longer. Emerging evidence suggests that the consequences of mistreatment in childhood may persist down the generations, affecting a victim’s children or grand-children, even if they have experienced no abuse themselves.Exactly how this happens is not well understood. Rigorous experiments on human subjects are difficult. Scientists have therefore turned to rats and mice. But now Larry Feig of Tufts University and his colleagues have shown that psychological stress seems to cause similar changes in the sperm of both mice and men. Their study is published this week in Translational Psychiatry.Biologists know that traits are carried down the generations by genes. Genes encode proteins,...Continue reading..
                 

A southern-hemisphere Stonehenge is found in Chile

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ The Americas  
Smarter than the average pile of rocksON THE winter solstice in 2017, a team of researchers waited in the pre-dawn chill of the Atacama desert. Before them stood two square piles of stones, each about 1.2 metres (four feet) high. A row of three other cairns stretched out 500 metres to the east. This line of saywas—roughly, “markers” in Quechua, an indigenous Andean language—intersected diagonally with an ancient path, part of a road network built five centuries ago by the Incas. The sun rose directly behind the closest columns, appearing to rest briefly atop them.“It was an extremely moving experience,” says Cecilia Sanhueza, a historian at Chile’s Pre-Columbian Art Museum in Santiago. Her findings were made public last month. The alignment of the stones with the sun’s rise supported her thesis that they were not just milestones. At least some of northern Chile’s saywas had the “astronomical function”...Continue reading..
                 

As Tesla’s share price falls, it becomes an inviting takeover target

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
A RECENT tweet from Elon Musk, the boss of Tesla, an electric-car firm, shows footage of a Model X undergoing rollover testing. The SUV is propelled rapidly sideways on a trolley before encountering a sand trap that stops it suddenly, tipping the car. The Tesla teeters between ending up on its roof or settling back on its wheels. It is an apt metaphor for a firm hovering between fulfilling its promise and succumbing to financial woes.In April Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley, a bank, said the next three months would be the “most critical time in Tesla’s history” since launching its upmarket Model S six years ago. The move from a niche in expensive electric cars to bringing battery power to the masses has been troublesome, to say the least. The firm had once hoped to be making 10,000 of its cheaper Model 3s a week by the end of 2018. But difficulties with a highly automated production line mean that just over 2,000 are rolling out of the factory each week. Even a revised goal of 5,000...Con..
                 

Foreign firms are taking over Britain’s railways

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Britain  
Out of steamMANY issues divide Britain’s right- and left-leaning newspapers, but hacks across the political spectrum seem united in their fury at the idea of foreign state-owned firms running trains in Britain. “British taxpayers are subsidising European train fares,” roars the left-wing Daily Mirror. “The great train robbery,” echoes the right-wing Daily Express. Yet increasingly, foreign rail firms face opposition to their British operations at home, too.The decision on May 16th by Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, to renationalise rail services on the East Coast mainline highlighted how few of Britain’s trains are these days run by domestic companies. Mr Grayling pulled the plug on the franchise after Stagecoach and Virgin, the two British firms that ran it, made heavy losses. Two-thirds of Britain’s train franchises are now owned or part-owned by state-run railways from France, Germany, Italy, the...Continue reading..
                 

Mohamed Salah, a footballer, has given Egyptians something to cheer

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Middle East and Africa  
Salah strikes againIN THE run-up to Ramadan artisans set to work on fawanis, the lanterns that hang in Egyptian homes and streets throughout the month-long holiday. Many are adorned with geometric patterns or the crescent-and-star symbol of Islam. This year some customers want a different model: a grinning face with a tangle of curls and a Liverpool jersey.Much has been said about Mohamed Salah’s influence on Britain. At a moment of rising xenophobia, a foreign-born Muslim footballer has become a national sensation. “If he scores another few, then I’ll be Muslim too,” fans chant. To the extent that they care about his religion, it is only to fret that the Ramadan fast could hurt his performance in the Champions League final in Kiev on May 26th.His influence runs even deeper in his native Egypt. His face is everywhere, not just on lanterns but on T-shirts, bumper stickers, even the wall of a downtown café. Cairo’s relentless...Continue reading..
                 

Ireland looks set to decriminalise abortion

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Europe  
WHAT links Ireland with Venezuela, Somalia and Afghanistan? All four countries forbid abortions, except to save the mother’s life. Ireland’s eighth constitutional amendment, which 67% of people voted for in 1983, prohibits terminations even in rape cases. Yet that could change soon. On May 25th Ireland will hold a referendum on whether to repeal the amendment, thus allowing parliament to legalise abortion. Polls suggest that half the population favour doing so, with 30% disagreeing and 20% unsure.Statistical analysis of global abortion rules reveals that almost no rich country has a greater mismatch between its law and its demographic profile than Ireland. True, a large Catholic contingent and high levels of piety are both associated with stricter rules. But a hefty GDP per head and high rates of women working are linked to greater laxity (as is a history of communist government, notes Jessica Hyne of the UN). Overall, Ireland resembles Austria or Spain, which both allow abortion on.....
                 

A bizarre new government takes shape in Italy

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Europe  
IN MANY another country, Giuseppe Conte would be politically a dead man walking. Instead, on May 23rd, he was asked to form Italy’s next government.Despite a controversy that cast doubt on Mr Conte’s truthfulness, President Sergio Mattarella asked the little-known law professor to seek the backing of parliament for western Europe’s first all-populist cabinet. He is likely to succeed. The 53-year-old Mr Conte, who vowed to be “the defence counsel of the Italian people”, was a compromise candidate chosen by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the hard-right Northern League after it became apparent that neither would let the other have the top job. Together, the M5S and the League have a solid majority of 37 in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies, though a slimmer edge in the Senate.Luigi Di Maio, leader of the M5S, and Matteo Salvini, head of the League, brushed aside evidence that Mr Conte had padded his professional CV with courses abroad that he had neither taken...Contin..
                 

Taiwan’s president has upset both business and workers

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Asia  
LIKE a nervous candidate in a job interview, shy yet formal, she fielded questions ranging from how to handle Chinese infiltration to why she always wears trouser suits. Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s usually plain-speaking president, marked her second anniversary in office with a rare live interview with a critical website.Ms Tsai badly needs to restate her case to the people. In two years her approval ratings have slumped from almost 70% to as low as 26%, according to a broadcaster, TVBS; the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation says 48% of her compatriots disapprove of her performance, against 39% in favour. She has lost ground especially with the young, whom she has eagerly courted.Elected in a landslide in 2016, Ms Tsai blazed a trail as the first female leader of a Chinese-speaking country in modern times. Her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also won a majority in Taiwan’s parliament for the first time, finally ending the grip of the Kuomintang (KMT) that began when...Continue reading..
                 

Who will be the main loser from Europe’s new data-privacy law?

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
“PLEASE don’t leave us.” From the dozens of e-mails in people’s inboxes, begging them to give their consent to be sent further messages, you could deduce that the senders of newsletters and the like are hardest hit by the European Union’s tough new privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect on May 25th. But the main loser may well be an industry that few have ever heard of but most have dealings with every day: advertising technology, or ad tech. In fact, the GDPR would probably not exist at all were it not for this collection of companies, which have an insatiable hunger for personal data.Ad tech emerged because advertising is the internet’s default business model. Since targeted ads tend to be more efficient and targeting requires personal data (sites previously visited, searches in online stores and the like), these data became the fuel of a new industry to automate online advertising. It is so complex that even experts often resort to what is..
                 

How psychotherapy improves poor mothers’ finances

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Economics  
IN 2005 and 2006, in northern Pakistan, some 900 pregnant women took part in an unusual experiment. All were in their third trimester and suffering from depression. Most families in the area rely on subsistence farming. Almost none of the women worked outside the home. This kind of life is hard. Perinatal depression (depression around the time of giving birth) is more common in poor countries than in rich ones.As part of one of the largest psychotherapy trials ever run, the women were split randomly into two groups. Those in one received weekly visits from a health worker for the month before the birth, and less frequent visits during the ten months after. The rest received the same number of visits, but from health workers who had been trained to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) during the visits, too.CBT is a talking therapy that aims to break the cycle of self-reinforcing negative thoughts. It focuses on the present, rather than trying to uncover the causes of...Continue ..
                 

Gun massacres seem to change minds

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
ONE of the awful things about America’s latest mass killing, in Santa Fe High School near Houston on May 18th, is how quickly people slipped into familiar roles. Pupils and teachers cowered. Reporters and photographers tried to portray survivors’ grief and explain the shooter’s motives. Some politicians and officials lamented the toll of gun violence, while others blamed everything except guns (violent video games, abortion and too many doors in the high school were all bewailed). “A familiar tragedy sparks a familiar debate”, sighed the Texas Tribune.Two things are changing, however. First, mass killings have become more common and deadlier. A database maintained by Mother Jones, a magazine, suggests that deaths in shootings with multiple victims has risen since 2006, albeit erratically. Last year was the worst yet. After just five months, the toll from mass shootings in 2018 is higher than in any full year between 1982 and...Continue reading..
                 

Germ-free children may be more prone to leukaemia

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Science and technology  
THE long struggle to cure acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), a childhood blood cancer, is a stand-out tale in the history of medicine. It was a massive endeavour, over decades, with many toxic drugs being tested in different combinations on dying children. It succeeded in the end. Half a century ago, survival rates were less than 0.1%. Today they are about 90%. Yet the cure brings unpleasant side effects, including problems with memory and concentration, and sometimes even other cancers. Globally, rates of ALL seem to be rising by about 1% a year. Yet it is almost non-existent in the poorest countries.Its causes remain unclear and even controversial. A charity called Children with Cancer UK, for instance, still suggests the disease is connected to electromagnetic radiation from power lines. Into this debate comes Mel Greaves, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London. In a paper in Nature Reviews Cancer, Dr Greaves has marshalled decades of research into ALL...Continue reading..
                 

Anthony Beevor’s new history of Arnhem

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Culture  
He did for them all by his plan of attackArnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944. By Antony Beevor.Viking; 480 pages; £25. To be published in America as “The Battle of Arnhem: The Deadliest Airborne Operation of World War II” in September; $35.THERE is a particularly British tendency to romanticise valiant military failure. The retreat to Corunna, the charge of the Light Brigade and the death of General Gordon at Khartoum are remembered as much as famous victories. The “Battle of the Bridges” of 1944, fought predominantly in the Netherlands, fits into this category. Two films celebrate the heroics of what was the biggest airborne battle in history—“Theirs is the Glory” (made in 1946, immediately after the second world war) and “A Bridge Too Far” (1977).Sir Antony Beevor avoids this trap. In the meticulous narrative style he first employed in “Stalingrad”, he recreates the operation from the...Continue reading..
                 

Why are Dutch-Americans so different from the Dutch?

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
May your windmills spin for everPETE HOEKSTRA seemed a good choice for America’s ambassador to the Netherlands when President Donald Trump appointed him last year. Mr Hoekstra, a former congressman, was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Holland, a largely Dutch-American town in Michigan. Unfortunately, Mr Hoekstra had baselessly claimed in 2015 that politicians in the Netherlands were “being burned” by Muslim radicals. A Dutch television reporter in Washington duly asked him what he had meant. Mr Hoekstra denied having said it, prattling about “fake news”. The Dutch press corps was livid. Mr Hoekstra waited three weeks before formally apologising. The Dutch were also irritated by his opposition to same-sex marriage.As it turns out, appointing a Dutch-American ambassador to The Hague was a diplomatic and cultural misstep. The Netherlands is among the most liberal countries in the world. Most Dutch-Americans, like Mr Hoekstra, are conservative....Continue reading..
                 

How the career of the British bobby is changing

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Britain  
BEFORE he first put on his uniform, Paul Clements had never seen a bar fight, still less joined in one. Fisticuffs had sometimes seemed inevitable when he was negotiating bail-outs at the European Commission, but they never broke out. “I hadn’t had any exposure to the police except for a speeding fine in 1996,” he says. But after only a few weeks as a constable and a year’s training, the former Bank of England official was put in charge of 100-odd cops.He is one of a new breed of policemen who could reshape the service. The new home secretary, Sajid Javid, gave his first big speech to the conference of the Police Federation, a cops’ union, this week, assuring officers that he would be “standing with you”. But reforms carried out by a previous home secretary—Theresa May, who is now prime minister—could soon overturn the service’s make-up.As well as allowing outsiders like Mr Clements to be appointed as inspectors and superintendents, Mrs May set up a College of...Continue reading..
                 

Britain’s apprenticeship levy is causing a boom in MBAs

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Britain  
AT 42 and as the chief lawyer for an investment firm, Michael Bennett makes an unusual apprentice. He is studying for a part-time MBA at Aston Business School in Birmingham, funded by his firm. The course—an MBA apprenticeship—is far removed from most apprenticeships, which tend to provide a path into a first job through in-work training. The qualification, which is increasingly popular, is a surprising consequence of the apprenticeship levy, a policy designed to make companies invest more in training.Organisations with wage bills of more than £3m ($4m) a year pay a 0.5% tax on salaries. The money is held in an online account, and can be spent by the employer on a government-approved apprenticeship of its choice over the next two years, after which leftover cash is lost. A year in, thanks to a combination of excessive bureaucracy and slow adjustment, 92% remains unspent. The government’s promise to create 3m new apprenticeships from 2015 to 2020 looks...Continue reading..
                 

A faked video of Donald Trump points to a worrying future

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Leaders  
“DEAR people of Belgium. This is a huge deal. As you know, I had the balls to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, and so should you.” It sounds like Donald Trump—a bit, anyway. It is definitely a picture of Donald Trump. But the person in the video, produced by sp.a, a left-wing Belgian political party, is not quite the American president. It is a computer-tweaked facsimile, into whose mouth has been put a not-entirely serious homily about Belgium’s carbon emissions.Faked images are not new. Stalin airbrushed his enemies out of history by having them removed from official photographs. Visual-effects studios in Hollywood transpose actors’ faces onto the bodies of fitter, more disposable stunt doubles. But tinkering with video is hard. Doing it well requires specialists who are scarce and expensive.Technology is making things cheaper and easier. The video by sp.a is a “deep fake”—which draws on “deep learning”, an artificial-intelligence technique used in...Continue reading..
                 

“Heavenly Bodies” mixes metaphors at the Met

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Culture  
TWO diverging meanings of “divine” underpin “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This, the largest show in the history of the Met’s Costume Institute, and one of the biggest at the Met overall, is in large part “just divine, dahling,”—an exuberant and luscious treat. In contrast, the rare loan of some 40 ecclesiastical garments and objects from the Sistine Chapel Sacristy at the Vatican—all “dedicated to worship”—are divine in the traditional sense. To unite these two meanings is the goal of Andrew Bolton, the exhibition’s curator. The hint that this was an over-reaching ambition was there from the start, with the organiser’s repeated references to taking a tour of the show as going on a “pilgrimage”. Of course the two meanings of divine can merge, and often do, when High Mass in performed in a magnificent cathedral, for example. Other denominations can achieve this, too, as was evident in Windsor at the royal wedding. “Heaven..
                 

How volunteer cartographers are mapping epidemics and atrocities

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Middle East and Africa  
ON MAY 9th, the day after the first cases of Ebola were confirmed in Bikoro, an urgent request came into the headquarters of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international charity. Maps of this part of the Democratic Republic of Congo were needed to deliver vaccines and medical help. Yet accurate ones did not exist.MSF turned to the crowd for help. Volunteers, trained using an online tutorial, started analysing satellite pictures and drawing maps. About 450 volunteers have already managed to plot some 67,000 structures and 1,000km of roads in the area of the outbreak, completing in days a task that could have taken months. Some of these new maps (see above) are already in the field.This is not the first time humanitarian organisations have turned to crowdsourcing to help gather data. When Ebola spread through parts of west Africa in 2014, more than 3,000 people around the world helped add some 16m features to maps of the affected area.Crowdsourced mapping is also proving useful...Con..
                 

What life is like for ordinary North Koreans

3 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Asia  
THEY have vanishingly few opportunities to speak to foreigners and, even when they are allowed to, risk landing in a labour camp if caught saying the wrong thing. Yet North Koreans are full of curiosity about the outside world. On a recent visit, your correspondent was asked about the place of civil servants in capitalist society, about how Western manufacturers keep costs down and, inevitably, about Brexit. Any information about foreigners is highly prized. “We want to know how you think,” said one inquisitive local, “so that when things change, we’re ready.”“Things changing” has seemed like a tantalising possibility ever since Kim Jong Un, the North’s leader, embarked on a diplomatic charm offensive earlier this year. In Pyongyang, where most people can access accounts of the rapprochement with America and South Korea in the state media, some are allowing themselves to dream. One woman said she wanted to go to Britain and South-East Asia. Another asked your correspondent to help her...
                 

The Supreme Court sides with companies over arbitration agreements

3 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
ON May 21st, the Supreme Court issued an employer-friendly ruling that could affect the rights of at least 25m American workers. In a 5-to-4 vote, split along ideological lines, the court ruled that companies may use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to prevent workers from banding together in lawsuits over workplace disputes. The youngest and the oldest members of the court sparred, with 50-year-old Neil Gorsuch writing the majority for his four fellow justices appointed by Republican presidents and 85-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting on behalf of the four Democratic appointees. She took the rare step of reading part of her dissent aloud from the bench, clad in the special collar she reserves for such occasions.  Epic System v Lewis gives employers a powerful tool to shield themselves from time-consuming, costly litigation. When in 2008 Sheila Hobson, a petrol-station worker, charged that she and three co-workers had not been paid overtime wages, the company..
                 

Gazprom is enjoying a sales boom in Europe

3 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
                 

Could Democrats take Virginia’s 7th district?

4 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
FOUR years after he defeated Eric Cantor, then the second most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, in the primary for Virginia’s 7th congressional district, Dave Brat (pictured) has himself become the target of an uprising. National Democrats, energised by voters’ distaste for President Donald Trump, have their sights on the seat, which was last won by a Democrat in 1963. The 7th district, which covers some of the suburbs of Richmond and surrounding countryside, includes a Trump-friendly, thinly populated farm belt where Mr Brat is certain to win comfortably. But the vote-rich suburbs could pose more of a challenge. Leafy neighborhoods south and west of Richmond are becoming less reliably Republican, a trend that has accelerated since Mr Trump became president.These bedroom communities—white, affluent and moderate, in part, because of a burst of out-of-state newcomers—are in two counties that tipped Democratic in last year’s governor’s election. In 2016, Henrico f..
                 

Exploring German Wanderlust

5 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Culture  
WHEN spring arrives, the first rays of sunshine begin to tempt people off their couches and into nature for a walk. But few can top the Germans when it comes to Wanderlust. The Megamarsch, founded two years ago, sees hikes of 100 km in 24 hours in seven big German cities, attracting a growing number of participants (sometimes, as this year in Munich, more than logistics will allow). The annual “Tag des Wanderns” (Hiking Day), held on May 14th, promotes hiking in tours and workshops all over the country. And with 1.2m members, the Deutscher Alpenverein (DAV), founded in 1869, is the biggest mountaineering sports association in the world. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, pulls on her boots with her husband nearly every summer holiday, often heading to South Tyrol. Naturally, this is reflected in the culture. Where else would hiking books top the bestseller lists? Christine Thürmer has hiked 40,000 km in Europe, America and Australia since she left her job, her flat and her norma..
                 

A series of reversals forces India’s newest chief minister from office

7 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Asia  
LITTLE did B.S. Yeddyurappa know when he was sworn in as chief minister of the Indian state of Karnataka on May 17th, but his tenure was destined to be brief. Two days later Mr Yeddyurappa, the leader of the local branch of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), resigned. The reversal was a humiliation for the BJP, which also runs India’s central government, and a rare moment of hope for beleaguered opposition parties.The drama began on May 15th, when the results of the recent state election were declared. Three competing parties had each won a sizeable share of seats in the assembly, leaving a hung parliament. The BJP emerged as the biggest single party, with 104 seats, but fell short of the 113 needed for a majority. The party’s only national rival, Congress, which came in second place, immediately locked arms with the third force, a regional outfit called the Janata Dal-Secular (JDS). Together they commanded 116 seats. The pairing of Congress and JDS thus claimed the right to form the.....
                 

A devastating and brilliant adaptation of the “Patrick Melrose” series

8 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Culture  
THE curtain-raising moments of “Patrick Melrose” hurl the viewer into the world of their eponymous hero with brisk efficiency. A phone—black, with a rotary dial—rings. When Patrick (Benedict Cumberbatch) picks up the receiver he is slow and slurring. Unsteady on his feet. “I’m afraid I have rather bad news,” the tinny voice on the other end of the line says. “Your father died the night before last.” Patrick sways and grasps hold of a shelf to stop himself from keeling over, but not from shock. A syringe—its plunger shot home—has fallen to the floor. There’s a spot of blood at the inner elbow of his crisply striped shirt. Then heroin hits his system; he smiles and begins to laugh.The drama is based on five novels published between 1992 and 2011 by Edward St Aubyn, a British novelist who bears more than a passing resemblance to his protagonist. Like Patrick, Mr St Aubyn came from a wealthy, upper-class family. Like him, his upbringing was nightmarish. Patrick’s father (grippingly played ..
                 

A Chinese football club seeks to be the new Barcelona

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ China  
Ooh! Aah! Cantonese!IN A modest stadium built into a hillside at Yuexiu Park in Guangzhou, around 10,000 fans were supporting their club on a recent evening by waving blue flags, beating drums and shouting encouragement to their team in the local Cantonese tongue. The club, Guangzhou R&F, plays second fiddle in this huge southern city to its more illustrious crosstown rival, Evergrande, which has many more fans and a much larger stadium. But the owners of R&F (it stands for “rich and force”, the meaning of the two Chinese characters that form the name of its sponsor, a property company) think they know how to turn the club into a winner. In a country where officials are often suspicious of regionalism, club bosses are trying to appeal to the pride of Cantonese speakers.Football in China is in a sorry state. The country has qualified only once for the World Cup, in 2002, when it was quickly knocked out without scoring a goal. The main national league has been...Continue reading..
                 

Why Argentines are wrong to scapegoat the IMF

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ The Americas  
IN THE early months of 2002 Argentines were gripped by rage, fear and a deep sense of loss. They had suffered years of austerity and slump and finally the corralito, in which the government halted a run on the banks by barring savers from withdrawing their money. None of this could save “convertibility”, as Argentines called an arrangement under which the peso had been pegged at par to the dollar since 1991. As four presidents came and went in a week over Christmas 2001, Argentina devalued and defaulted on $82bn of bonds, the largest sovereign default in history. Incomes plunged, unemployment soared and the poverty rate rose to 56% in a country that a century before had been one of the ten richest in the world.These events seared the Argentine soul. Many blame the IMF for them. That is why the decision by Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s president since 2015, to counter a run on the peso this month by seeking a standby loan from the IMF, though economically sensible, is...Continue reading..
                 

Islamists in Indonesia deploy their own children in suicide attacks

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Asia  
Neither churches nor children sparedALL terrorist attacks are sickening, but some more so than others. On May 13th a family of suicide bombers killed 13 people and wounded more than 40 others in attacks on Christian churches in the city of Surabaya in eastern Java. The father drove a car packed with explosives into one Sunday service. His two sons, aged 16 and 18, struck a second. The mother and two daughters, aged just 9 and 12, blew themselves up at a third. It was Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack since 2005 and the first to involve women or child bombers.Later that day another family apparently plotting a similar attack accidentally killed themselves at their home near Surabaya. The next day a third family wounded 10 people when they blew themselves up at the gates of Surabaya’s police headquarters. The father, mother and two sons were killed but an eight-year-old daughter survived. CCTV images showed her stumbling around after the blasts. And on May 16th an...Continue reading..
                 

The life-insurance industry is in need of new vigour

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
LIFE insurance is among the oldest financial products. The Amicable Society, founded in London in 1706, charged members a set contribution and paid out annually to widows and children of those who had died in the previous 12 months. Today it is a vast industry: life and health insurers employ over 800,000 people in America alone. It protects hundreds of millions against the risk of dying early, through death benefits, or the risk of living longer than expected, for example through annuities. According to Allianz, a German insurer, total life-insurance premiums are above 5% of GDP in many rich countries, including Britain, France, Italy and Japan. In America, the world’s biggest market, annual premiums total more than $550bn.But life insurers are struggling as never before. Those parts of the industry that have not evolved fast enough, says Clive Bannister, the head of Phoenix Group, a “closed” life insurer that buys and manages old policies but issues no new ones, have experienced a.....
                 

An Italian populist government looks likely, and risky

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Europe  
LUIGI DI MAIO (pictured, left) is only 31, but as leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S), he is poised for a decisive role in Italy’s next government. After coming first in the general election on March 4th, the M5S appeared close this week to sealing a coalition agreement with the far-right Northern League and its leader, Matteo Salvini (pictured, right). That would give Italy, and western Europe, its first all-populist government. Mr Di Maio, a university drop-out, is known for his grammatical howlers, but he can concoct a good soundbite. “Obviously, history is being written,” he declared on May 13th, as he left another round of the interminable coalition talks. “So it takes a bit of time.”One problem the two sides had not resolved, as The Economist went to press, was finding a prime minister. (A possibility was that each party’s choice might serve half a term.) Yet the programme on which they were toiling may indeed be historic. If they...Continue reading..
                 

A cleric who once tormented America seems to have won Iraq’s election

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Middle East and Africa  
MUQTADA AL-SADR is a master at tapping Iraqi discontent. The firebrand Shia cleric (pictured) directed his supporters to attack the American troops who invaded Iraq in 2003. More recently he has led campaigns against corruption and foreign influence. His supporters ransacked government offices in 2016. And in the election on May 12th they gave his nationalist bloc, Sairoun (“Marching to Reform”), the most seats in parliament. Unofficial results put it unexpectedly ahead, with 55 seats.The bloc led by Iraq’s mild-mannered prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, came second, with 51. A coalition led by Hadi al-Amari, the gruff commander of the Iranian-backed Badr Brigades, came third, with 50. The surprising result signals growing discontent with Iraq’s sectarian old guard. But it is unlikely to sweep it away.It may yet take months to determine who has actually won the election. Claims of irregularities need resolving before results are final. Parliament then has to elect a president,...Continu..
                 

Zimbabwe launches a second state-owned airline

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Middle East and Africa  
HAVING one loss-making state-owned airline is bad enough. What, then, of a government that wants two?Earlier this year Zimbabweans were startled to learn that the government had concluded a secret $70m deal to buy four second-hand Boeing jets from Malaysia to form the core of a new national airline, Zimbabwe Airways. This venture is supposed to compete with Air Zimbabwe, the flag carrier, which ran up huge debts thanks to poor management and ex-President Robert Mugabe’s habit of commandeering its planes so his wife could shop abroad.The government hopes to stimulate tourism and business by reopening long-haul routes that are closed to Air Zimbabwe, whose planes can be impounded as soon as they land on foreign runways. It suspended flights to London’s Gatwick airport in 2011, for instance, after one of its planes was seized over an unpaid debt. It has since been banned from European skies because of concerns over the safety of its creaking planes.Critics questioned...Continue reading..
                 

California’s primaries are the most unpredictable in America

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
LOTS of things come with warnings in California. Signs in parking garages admonish drivers that they could be exposed to carbon monoxide gas. Recently a judge ruled that coffee-sellers must warn of cancer. Voting instructions also come with an alert. Under a bold exclamation mark, a mail-in ballot insert sent to Los Angeles voters in anticipation of California’s primary elections on June 5th reads: “There are 27 candidates for governor” and “There are 32 candidates for US senator”, adding: “If you vote for more than one candidate, your vote will not count for that contest.”In many states, primary elections are simple affairs. Voters who are registered with a party pick a champion from their side to contest the general election. But in 2010 Californians approved a “top-two” primary system, in which all voters receive the same ballot and can choose anyone they like. The two most popular candidates move on to the general election.Eight years ago California was...Continue reading..
                 

Portugal’s energy giant may sell to a Chinese state-owned utility

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
SHOULD Europeans worry that China Three Gorges (CTG), a state-owned firm, wants to buy EDP, a utility that is Portugal’s biggest company? It is three years since one local banker, Fernando Ulrich, called Portugal “a Chinese aircraft-carrier in Europe”—back then, Chinese buyers were already snapping up stakes in “strategic” local companies as quickly as the government could privatise them. CTG’s offer of €9.1bn ($10.8bn) for EDP, which was made on May 11th, will further unsettle those suspicious of China’s desire to snap up European assets.The country is unusually welcoming to investors from the east. Its national airline, TAP Air Portugal, and Redes Energéticas Nacionais, the monopoly power transmitter, both have Chinese investors. CTG is already EDP’s largest owner, with a stake of 23%, after a €2.7bn investment in 2012. Now the Chinese want outright control.To get that, CTG will probably have to raise its offer; EDP’s board rejected the price...Continue reading..
                 

Britain’s rural Muslims are a minority within a minority

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Britain  
A new island storyBRITAIN’S newest mosque has neither a dome nor a minaret. Only a crescent on the gate and a heap of shoes outside the door suggest the pebbledash cottage is any different from its neighbours. Yet worshippers and curious locals peeping in on its first Friday prayers—just before the holy month of Ramadan, which began this week—have no difficulty finding the place. Word travels fast on the Isle of Lewis, population 21,000, a blustery Scottish outcrop which has traditionally churned out tweed and hardy evangelical Christians. The island’s 60-odd Muslims sit cross-legged on the carpet, facing towards the sea and Mecca, 3,400 miles beyond. Aihtsham Rashid, a Leeds businessman who raised funds for the mosque, welcomes the crowd: “There’s plenty of Irn-Bru for everyone.”The vast majority of Britain’s 2.8m Muslims live in cities; half are in London, Birmingham and Bradford. By contrast, nobody described themselves as Muslim in 4,781 of the...Continue reading..
                 

The monarchy is at its strongest in years, unlike the government

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Britain  
A ROYAL wedding is as good a time as any to conduct an audit of the British constitution. Walter Bagehot, the editor of The Economist in 1860-77, argued that the constitution was divided into two branches. The monarchy represents the “dignified” branch. Its job is to symbolise the state through pomp and ceremony. The government—Parliament, the cabinet and the civil service—represents the “efficient” branch. Its job is to run the country by passing laws and providing public services. The dignified branch governs through poetry, and the efficient branch through prose. Today, the dignified branch is adapting to an age of populism much better than the efficient branch.Twenty-odd years ago it looked as if the monarchy was in an advanced state of decomposition. The ill-starred marriage of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer undermined the monarchy’s claim to unify the country through dignity. The couple’s squabbles divided supporters of Diana from a much smaller group...Continue reading..
                 

The case against non-compete clauses

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Leaders  
THE non-compete clause has been causing trouble for over 600 years. In 1414 an English court heard the case of John Dyer, an apprentice whose master had stopped him from plying his trade for six months. The judge was having none of it. “The contract is contrary to common law,” he ruled. Individuals should be free to pursue the livelihood of their choice.That principle has been diluted in the intervening centuries—most countries give businesses some leeway to use non-compete clauses, whereby workers promise not to start or join firms that go head-to-head with their ex-employer. But their prevalence in America is striking (see article). According to a study by the Treasury in 2016, almost 20% of American workers are bound by a non-compete agreement, and almost 40% have been subject to one at some point. Efforts to rein them in are...Continue reading..
                 

A Samsung executive is accused of union-busting

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
ON THE face of it Samsung, South Korea’s biggest chaebol, as the country’s family-controlled groups are known, has had a good couple of months. In April it was name-checked in a report by the country’s antitrust body for good progress on corporate reform. It also posted record profits for the fourth quarter in a row, thanks mainly to its booming memory-chip business as well as its Galaxy range of smartphones. But on May 15th prosecutors spoiled the mood. They raided Samsung’s offices outside Seoul and arrested Choi Pyeong-seok, head of human resources at the after-sales subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, the group’s main earner, on allegations that he had been involved in sabotaging labour-union activities and might destroy evidence unless he was jailed (he has not responded to the allegations).Mr Choi’s arrest is part of an attempt by prosecutors to prove systematic breaches of labour law at the company’s highest levels. (Samsung says it is unable to...Continue reading..
                 

Why it makes sense to invest in Treasury bonds

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Economics  
JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, a quotable economist, observed that one of the deeper mysteries is why, in a falling market, there is still a buyer for every seller. It is a conundrum that bond investors must now contemplate. Since January the yield on a ten-year Treasury bond has risen (and thus bond prices have fallen) with scarcely a backward step. It is above 3% for the first time in years.In part, the fall in bond prices reflects a growing acceptance that the Federal Reserve will raise short-term interest rates to 2.75-3% by the end of 2019, as its median rate-setter expects. In part it reflects worries that tax cuts and rising oil prices will fuel higher inflation. And there is anxiety that the supply of Treasuries is about to increase (in order to pay for tax cuts) just as buyers may become scarcer. The Fed itself is running down its holdings. The higher cost of hedging currency risk in dollars is putting off some foreign buyers.If sellers outgun buyers, prices will continue to fall. Wh..
                 

A planetary census puts humans in their place

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Science and technology  
BILLIONS of years ago a star began to die. In the process, it created something new: 65,500 billion tonnes of carbon that would later be incorporated into the nascent planet Earth. That carbon is still there, and nowadays a fair chunk of it makes up the bodies of living beings. A new study, published this week by Yinon Bar-On and others from the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel, provides a comprehensive estimate of how the Earth’s carbon stock is distributed among its inhabitants.By estimating the amount of carbon stored in organisms, otherwise known as biomass, the scientists were able to compare the relative abundance of different kinds of Earth’s life, weighing both the microbes beneath the soil and the giraffes walking above it on the same scale. The mammals known as human beings like to imagine themselves the lords of the planet. But in terms of raw biomass, the results—published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—tell a different...Continue reading..
                 

Colombians hope for change in the first post-war presidential election

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ The Americas  
EVERY afternoon in Samaná, a small coffee-growing town in the Colombian Andes, prosperous townspeople mount Paso Fino horses to ride from bar to bar, where they down shots of aguardiente, Colombia’s most popular tipple. Their tongues loosened by the anise-flavoured drink, they become garrulous on the subject of the country’s presidential election, the first round of which is scheduled for May 27th. Álvaro Uribe, a right-wing former president, “is a horseman just like us”, declares Brayan López, a horse-dealer. He, and almost everyone else in Samaná, it seems, will vote for Iván Duque, Mr Uribe’s protégé, who is leading in the polls.As president from 2002 to 2010, Mr Uribe sent the army to expel from the area around Samaná the 47th Front, a unit of the FARC, a guerrilla group that had fought the state since 1964. The front’s leader, Elda Neyis Mosquera, known as “la negra Karina”, was one of the FARC’s few female commanders and is thought to have been...Continue reading..
                 

Labour laws in 104 countries reserve some jobs for men only

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Economics  
EVEN as rich countries seek to rid workplaces of subtle gender bias, in many developing ones discrimination remains overt. According to the World Bank, women are barred from certain jobs in 104 countries (see map).“Gender equality in labour law is associated with more women working and earning more relative to men,” says Sarah Iqbal of the Bank. Yet some countries publish lists of jobs deemed too dangerous for women (Russia’s 456 include driving a train or steering a ship). Others stop women from working in entire sectors, at night or in “morally inappropriate” jobs (in Kazakhstan women cannot bleed or stun cattle, pigs or small ruminants). In four countries women cannot register a business. In 18 a husband can stop his wife working.The aim is often to protect the “weaker sex”. Some laws put women in the same category as children; they concern jobs seen as physically tough, such as mining, construction and manufacturing. Others relate to broader safety fears. In Mumbai, for...Continue ..
                 

A woman who ran against Rwanda's president is on trial

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Middle East and Africa  
PAUL KAGAME, the president of Rwanda, thinks there is nothing odd about how he won re-election for a third presidential term last year with 98% of the vote. “It could have been 100%,” he told the Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank in New York a few months later.It is hard to tell how popular Mr Kagame really is. Serious candidates who tried to stand against him were barred from doing so—and then ruthlessly punished. One of them was Diane Rwigara, a young businesswoman who appeared in court this week with her mother, charged with “inciting insurrection or trouble among the population”. The government has also brought charges against her aunt and brother, who live abroad.The prosecution says the charges against Ms Rwigara relate, in part, to comments she made at a press conference last year. “She intended to smear the country and its leadership with lies,” Faustin Nkusi, the prosecutor, told the court. “She said that people are dying of poverty in...Continue reading..
                 

America’s strategy against Islamic State is storing up trouble

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Middle East and Africa  
AS THE territory held by Islamic State (IS) shrivelled in Syria, American generals spoke of “stabilisation” and “consolidation”. But seven months after an American-led coalition drove the jihadists from Raqqa, their putative capital, “stable” is not how residents describe the city. Mines, booby-traps and bombs continue to kill and maim. Bodies are still being pulled from the rubble. The lights are off and there is no running water. “The Americans have given us nothing,” said Omar Alloush, a member of the city council, weeks before he was shot and killed in his apartment by unidentified gunmen.The goodwill that first greeted the coalition is fading as popular anger mounts, especially in the Arab heartlands south of Raqqa, along the Euphrates river. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led militia that America relies on to fight IS, are increasingly viewed as occupiers. Tribal leaders in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor mutter openly about taking up arms to drive...Continue r..
                 

Vladimir Putin’s latest pet project: a school for clever students

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Europe  
Selfies with the tsarAFTER talking to India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, in Sochi earlier this week, Vladimir Putin took him to one of his favourite places: the Sirius Centre for Gifted Education. “We discussed regional and international issues,” Mr Modi said. “But when we were talking about Sirius, he had a special look on his face.”The centre offers intensive month-long courses to Russian students who demonstrate special talent in maths, science, sport or the arts. They live in a former four-star hotel and work in top-of-the-line laboratories in the former press centre built for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Elena Shmeleva, Sirius’s director, speaks proudly of its project-based learning and focus on new technologies. A full-time school will open in the autumn. The goal, Ms Shmeleva says, is to set an example for the whole country.The project has had Mr Putin’s attention from the start; he is said to have come up with the idea, and even the...Continue reading..
                 

The growing strains between Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Europe  
WHEN Emmanuel Macron won the French presidency last May, many hailed a new Franco-German dawn. Like Angela Merkel, he was a bookish centrist with few tribal allegiances. Like the chancellor, he saw Europe through the lens of the euro-zone crisis. “A little magic dwells in each beginning,” proclaimed Mrs Merkel at their first meeting as leaders in May 2017, quoting Hermann Hesse. The concept of “Merkron” was born.A year on, the sheen has worn off. Flashes of irritation now mark the relationship between the two leaders, particularly over euro-zone reform. Allies of both Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel let it be known that their bosses are bridling at each other. The former considers the latter plodding and overcautious, the latter regards the former as rash and unreasonable.At heart are two different understandings of the Merkron project. Mr Macron believes in the need for big-bang reform of the EU, with an overhaul of the currency union at its core, and has set out his agenda in speech...Conti..
                 

No country resorts to IVF more than Japan—or has less success

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Asia  
THE sterile façade of Kato Ladies Clinic gives little hint of the fecundity inside. Nestling among a plantation of high-rises in a business district of Tokyo, the clinic implants fertilised eggs in an average of 75 women a day. That makes it one of the busiest fertility hospitals in the world, says Keiichi Kato, the medical director.Japan has come a long way since journalists were warned off the taboo story of Princess Masako’s visits to fertility clinics 20 years ago. The wife of the crown prince, then in her late thirties, was being nudged to produce an heir to the throne (in the end, she disappointed traditionalists by having a girl). Today Japan has less than half America’s population, but more than a third more hospitals and clinics that offer fertility treatment. Over 50,000 babies were born last year with the help of in vitro fertilisation (IVF)—5% of all births.Nearly a fifth of Japanese couples struggle to have children, says the health ministry....Continue reading..
                 

Bad loans remain a concern in Italy and across southern Europe

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Economics  
ITALY’S next government, a coalition between the populist Five Star Movement and the far-right Northern League, is giving investors plenty to worry about. Leaked plans, hastily abandoned, suggested it might want to leave the euro or ask the European Central Bank to forgive €250bn ($292bn) of Italian debt. But less attention has been paid to what it might mean for Italian banks, and in particular for their biggest burden: non-performing loans (NPLs). Over €185bn of NPLs were outstanding at the end of 2017, the most for any country in the European Union (see chart).By comparison with Greece, where NPLs are 45% of loans, Italy looks manageable, with just 11.1%. And it has made progress: in late 2015 NPLs were 16.8% of loans. But any wild policy lurches would put that progress in question. The clean-up of banks’ books has relied on openness to foreign investors. Huge volumes of NPLs (€37bn in 2016 and over €47bn in 2017, according to Deloitte, a consultancy) have been sold by banks, often ..
                 

We think the Democrats are favoured to take the House

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
ALTHOUGH they lack the intense personal drama of a presidential race, America’s mid-term elections in November will be hugely important. Every seat in the House of Representatives is up for grabs, along with 35 out of 100 Senate seats. A Democratic takeover of either chamber would unleash a flurry of investigations into President Donald Trump and wreck his hopes of passing more conservative laws on a partisan basis. If the Democrats take the House, Mr Trump might also be impeached.This year’s mid-term campaign is extraordinary in another way. It is expected to be closely fought. Thanks to Americans’ tendency to separate into like-minded communities and to deliberate gerrymandering, most individual House races are one-sided. Historically, control of the lower chamber has been a foregone conclusion as well. In every contest from 1954 to 1992, the Democrats won at least 232 seats, well above the 218 needed for a majority. Since 2002 the winning party has always claimed at least 229...Cont..
                 

America is losing the war against robocalls

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
“I AM not the kingpin of robocalling that is alleged.” So Adrian Abramovich, a telemarketer from Florida, assured American senators in April. Accused of making nearly 100m illegal “robocalls” in 2016 as part of a campaign to sell discounted holidays, Mr Abramovich has denied criminal wrongdoing. Nonetheless, on May 10th the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), America’s telecoms regulator, fined him $120m, the largest penalty in the agency’s history.The skirmish over Mr Abramovich is part of America’s long, mostly unsuccessful war against robocalls, the pre-recorded phone messages peddling debt-reduction and timeshares that have irritated consumers for over a decade. According to YouMail, a call-blocking service, 3.4bn robocalls were blasted out in April, equivalent to nearly 1,300 every second. The Federal Trade Commission receives 500,000 complaints about such calls every month (see chart). Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, says Americans are “mad as hell”. Robocalls...Continue reading..
                 

Another way to recycle plastic

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Science and technology  
Dinner is servedPLASTIC production has tripled over the past 25 years, and the mess it causes has risen commensurately. Recycling is one option. Another is biology, and with that in mind researchers have been hunting for creatures that can digest plastics. Several species of fungi and bacteria can do the job, but only slowly. Now Anja Brandon, a student at Stanford University, and her research supervisor, Craig Criddle, have found that bacteria in the guts of mealworms can break down polymers much more quickly.Other researchers had already found that mealworms can digest a particular plastic called polystyrene. Ms Brandon and Dr Criddle wondered whether polystyrene was uniquely palatable, or whether the bacteria in the worms’ guts might be able to eat other sorts of plastic, too. To check, they turned to polyethylene, which is both more common than polystyrene and very different in chemical terms. If the worms found it nutritious as well, that would suggest...Continue reading..
                 

Satire is booming after Robert Mugabe’s fall

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Culture  
ON A stage in a park in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, Carl Joshua Ncube, perhaps the country’s most famous comedian, is coaching a novice. Imitating her act, in which she pretends to deliver a baby, he mimes a doctor slapping its bottom. “People love to hear about bottoms,” he tells her. An hour or so later, he introduces her—and three other wannabe female comics, one of whom is his wife—to a big audience. “In Zimbabwe we only have one female comedian,” he says, mock-solemnly. “We need some competition for Grace!” Feigning anxiety, he adds: “Although we know what happens when people try to introduce their wives to the profession!”By Grace, Mr Ncube of course means Mugabe, the couture-loving wife of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s leader until his removal last November. Before the coup de Grace, jokes at her expense were a bit risqué. These days they can be told anywhere, loud and clear. “Operation Restore Regasi”, a play crudely satirising the Mugabes, sold out repeatedly...Continue reading..
                 

The primeval tribalism of American politics

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
A RUDE but incoherent comment by President Donald Trump last week revealed the damage partisanship has done to America’s body politic. The president described a group of Hispanic gangsters, or illegal immigrants at large, or maybe both, as “animals”. It is impossible to know whom he was referring to. Yet most Americans thought they knew. Republicans heard Mr Trump’s comment as tough talk on a bunch of killers, while Democrats heard it as a dehumanising slur against migrant parents and their children. Partisanship has altered Americans’ hearing.It has also changed their view of what is required to be human. No longer able to fathom how their partisan rivals can hear, and also see, think and say the things they do, Americans are increasingly liable to consider them lesser beings. Research by Alexander Theodoridis and James Martherus and colleagues finds that 77% of respondents considered their rivals to be less evolved humans than members of their own side. Americans are also prone, surv..
                 

Ocado, the tech startup you thought was a supermarket

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Britain  
The long arm of the storeIN A cavernous shed on an industrial park in Hampshire, hundreds of robots are at work in the “hive”. In Ocado’s latest Customer Fulfilment Centre (CFC), 65,000 orders a week are prepared for some of the grocer’s 645,000 online customers. It is probably the most technologically advanced such centre in the world.Instead of ferrying crates on a long line of conveyor belts, as many CFCs do, it uses a three-dimensional grid system, or hive, to assemble customers’ orders. Washing-machine-sized robots whizz this way and that on the top of the grid, pausing only for a second to pick up products and ferry them to “pick stations”, where people put the orders together. An air-traffic-control-style system choreographs the movements of the 700 bots scurrying over an area the size of three football pitches, with just half a centimetre to spare between them.This is the operating platform that has turned Ocado, founded in 2000, into...Continue reading..
                 

The faulty front-runners for Colombia’s presidency

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Leaders  
THE last time Colombia elected a president, in 2014, the country was at war. Its army was fighting the FARC, a Marxist guerrilla group dedicated to overthrowing the state and to making money from drug-trafficking and other crimes. In 50 years 220,000 people died and 7m were displaced. This year’s presidential election, the first round of which is scheduled for May 27th, is the first since the war’s end. President Juan Manuel Santos negotiated a peace deal with the FARC in 2016 and won the Nobel peace prize for it but cannot run again.Candidates in this year’s vote are rejecting his legacy. The front-runner is Iván Duque (pictured left), an ally of a conservative former president, Álvaro Uribe, who was the peace accord’s most ferocious critic (see article). His closest competitor is Gustavo Petro (on the right), a former mayor of Bogotá who was...Continue reading..
                 

Government data are ever more important to economic research

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ International  
BESIDES brains, the only tools an economist used to need were a pen and notebook. But massive improvements in computing power have turned the dismal science into an increasingly empirical one. Research by Daniel Hamermesh at Royal Holloway, University of London, finds the share of economics papers in leading journals focused on pure theory fell from 58% in 1983 to 19% in 2011.Three types of empirical papers have taken their place. The first sort feeds on publicly available data, such as household surveys. The second relies on data from experiments, such as randomised controlled trials. Most leading empirical papers, however, now rely on other data, often administrative and acquired through extensive negotiation with government officials. Analysis by The Economist of work from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that at least 28 papers it released last year featured the use of administrative data. Before 2000 hardly any did (see...Continue reading..
                 

Olga Tokarczuk has finally found major recognition in English

2 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Culture  
EVERYTHING in “Flights” is lucidly, if fragmentarily, recounted by its narrator. “My spatial reasoning is particularly advanced, almost eidetic, though my laterality is lousy. Personality unstable, or not entirely reliable. Age all in your mind. Gender ungrammatical. I actually buy my books in paperback, so that I can leave them behind without remorse on the platform, for someone else to find. I don’t collect anything.” Moments of such surprising self-revelation recur, like staccato mantras, throughout the book. It is this originality of voice that made Olga Tokarczuk, the author, and Jennifer Croft, who translated the work, the latest recipients of the International Man Booker prize. The judges noted that the novel “guides the reader beyond the surface layer of modernity and towards the core of the very nature of humankind”.The prize is awarded each year to a work of foreign fiction translated into English. “Flights” appeared in Poland in 2007, winning the Nike prize there, and was qu..
                 

A threatened trade war between China and America may be on hold

3 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ China  
WANG XINGXING taps the back of his dog which, on command, stands tall, shakes its legs and struts forward. It is not a well-trained pooch so much as a well-built one. Laikago, its name, looks like a miniature version of the robo-dogs that propelled Boston Dynamics, an American robotics company, to fame. Mr Wang, a boyish 28-year-old, started work on his dog as a graduate student. It can walk on uneven surfaces, carry small loads and steady itself when kicked lightly. Laikago is a far cry from the Boston Dynamics breed, which is sturdier, swifter and smarter. That has not stopped China’s patriotic media from asking whether the firm Mr Wang founded, Unitree, could now rival the American one. But Boston Dynamics has been at it for more than two decades. Unitree is just getting going. It plans to open its first factory soon. For now it has a cluttered workshop in the city of Hangzhou, a tech hub west of Shanghai.Unitree is not alone in China. The government has declared robotics a...C..
                 

Why corporate America loves Donald Trump

3 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Leaders  
MOST American elites believe that the Trump presidency is hurting their country. Foreign-policy mandarins are terrified that security alliances are being wrecked. Fiscal experts warn that borrowing is spiralling out of control. Scientists deplore the rejection of climate change. And some legal experts warn of a looming constitutional crisis.Amid the tumult there is a striking exception. The people who run companies have made their calculations about the Age of Trump. On balance, they like it. Bosses reckon that the value of tax cuts, deregulation and potential trade concessions from China outweighs the hazy costs of weaker institutions and trade wars. And they are willing to play along with President Donald Trump’s home-brewed economic vision, in which firms are freed from the state and unfair foreign competition, and profits, investment and, eventually, wages soar.The financial fireworks on display in the first quarter of this year suggest that this vision is coming true. The...Contin..
                 

Philip Roth was one of America’s greatest novelists

3 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Culture  
IF THERE is one detail of Philip Roth’s biography that is worth knowing, it is not that he was Jewish or that he had no children or that he was born in New Jersey—it is that he preferred to write standing up at a lectern. There are pages of his work where the irrepressible vitality of his writing seems to glow on the page as if charged with some kind of existential incandescence—the great and persistent question of his novels being no less and no more than: what the hell do human beings think they are doing here on Earth?  Mr Roth died on May 22nd. His work will forever be synonymous with verve, energy, wit, ontological wrath and—above all—a total commitment to both subject and style. His career began in 1959 when he was accused of being anti-Semitic following the publication of one of his early short stories, “Defender of the Faith”, in the New Yorker. The row nearly overwhelmed him. “What is being done to silence this man?” wrote a...Continue reading..
                 

Markets may be underpricing climate-related risk

3 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
AS A citizen, Dave Jones worries that climate change may imperil his two children, and theirs in turn. What exercises him, as California’s insurance commissioner, is the way in which a transition to a low-carbon economy might affect the financial health of his other charges—the state’s 1,300-odd insurers. On May 8th Mr Jones unveiled an examination of how well the investment portfolios of the 672 insurers with $100m or more in annual premiums align with the Paris climate agreement of 2015, in which world leaders vowed to keep global warming below 2°C relative to pre-industrial times.The answer is, not very. In the next five years carbon-intensive firms in the insurers’ portfolios plan to produce more internal combustion engines and coal-fired electricity than the maximum the International Energy Agency (IEA) reckons is compatible with meeting the 2°C goal (see chart). Meanwhile, investment plans in renewable energy and electric vehicles lag behind the IEA’s projections of what is neede..
                 

Shoemakers bring bespoke footwear to the high street

4 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Science and technology  
AMONG the boutiques in the canal district of Amsterdam is a shoe shop, called W-21, that has a selection of stylish footwear in the window. A select group of customers were recently invited there to have their feet scanned by a laser, and then to spend 30 seconds walking on a modified treadmill in a special pair of shoes stuffed with accelerometers, pressure gauges, thermometers and hygrometers. All this generated a wealth of data, which was displayed on a large screen along with a model of how the walker’s feet were moving.From these data an algorithm determined the ideal soles for the customer’s shoes. Upstairs, a couple of 3D printers began humming away to make those soles. In about two hours they were ready to be fitted to a new pair of shoes, uniquely tailored to each person’s feet.Some level of customisation is nothing new for buyers of apparel. But there is a big difference between clothes, which are relatively straightforward to tailor and alter, and shoes, which are...Continue..
                 

The sexual harassment of flight attendants is a massive problem

5 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
OVER the past year, there have been myriad stories in the press about airlines mistreating passengers. Last April David Dao, a passenger on a domestic United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville, was violently dragged off the plane to accommodate crew for another flight. This month United hit the headlines again when a Nigerian passenger accused it of racial discrimination after she was thrown off a flight. But among the sea of shocking headlines about how flight crews abuse passengers, it is easy to forget that the reverse occurs far more frequently.A new study published earlier this month shows just how common the harassment of flight attendants by flyers is. The Association of Flight Attendants, the union representing American cabin crew, asked more than 3,500 flight attendants from 29 airlines about their experiences. In the past year alone, one-third of flight attendants said that they have experienced verbal sexual harassment by passengers and one-fifth said that they have ..
                 

Donald Trump’s self-defeating war against abortion

8 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
THE best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Family-planning clinics, which provide contraception, are good at that. In the past four decades they have helped slash America’s abortion rate. Yet on May 19th President Donald Trump’s administration said it would begin the process of curbing abortions by cutting funding to some clinics. This is obviously self-defeating.The administration plans to introduce a new rule under which clinics that provide abortions, as well as contraception, would lose federal funding through “Title X”, a federal grant programme for family-planning. The rule wouldn’t prevent federal money being used for abortions. That is already banned, in almost all cases, by the so-called Hyde Amendment, a measure that has been passed annually by Congress for the past 40 years. Instead, the administration means to cut Title X funding to any clinic that provides abortions—or even refers women to abortion providers.The move is intended to fulfil one of ..
                 

Surging numbers of Chinese people going abroad should be welcomed

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ China  
IN 1979 America’s then president, Jimmy Carter, met Deng Xiaoping in Washington for talks about how to restore normal diplomatic relations between their two countries, which had been frozen since the Communist takeover of China 30 years earlier. Dutifully, Carter raised a human-rights concern. He asked that China lift its virtual ban on people going abroad. “How many Chinese nationals do you want?” Deng is said to have quipped. “Ten million? Twenty million? Thirty million?”Deng knew that he could play on American fears of a tidal wave of Chinese immigrants. He was ready to open China’s doors, but only gradually—the Communist Party was still afraid of letting its people see the West’s prosperity, and democracy’s success, for themselves. What a different world it is today, and what a different China. Last year the country recorded 130m exits by its citizens from the Chinese mainland. By the end of the decade the number is expected to exceed 200m. Around 600,000 Chinese are...Continue rea..
                 

China is becoming more tolerant of some regional Han languages

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ China  
LI SIYI tucks her hair behind her ears and takes a deep breath. The high-schooler and aspiring journalist sits in a mock television studio in a basement of China’s most prestigious broadcasting university, practising scripts of the sort that she will soon have to tackle as part of its entrance exam. When the time comes examiners will grade her poise and delivery. They will also assess the quality of her putonghua, or “common language”, the official version of Mandarin that is supposed to represent its purest form. The pronunciation is based on the Beijing dialect, but even natives of the city, like Ms Li, find it tricky to attain the flawless accent that newsreading requires.The languages spoken by ethnic-Han Chinese, who are more than 90% of the population, belong to half a dozen main groups (see map). Since the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty in 1911, successive regimes have been obsessed about popularising just one of them: Mandarin. The Communist Party...Continue reading..
                 

As Venezuelans go hungry, their government holds a farcical election

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ The Americas  
IF VENEZUELA were a democracy, President Nicolás Maduro’s bid to win re-election would certainly fail. He leads a regime that has been in power for 19 years. Its economic policies have made life intolerable for most of the country’s 34m citizens. Food is in short supply, and nearly 90% of Venezuelans say they do not have enough money to eat properly. The contraction of the economy is the biggest in the history of Latin America. Prices are doubling nearly every month. At least a million people have left the country in the past four years.Yet almost nobody thinks the president, who looks as well fed as ever, will lose the one-round election scheduled for May 20th. At rallies of loyalists and dragooned state workers held in barricaded streets, Mr Maduro talks of getting 12m votes, even more than Hugo Chávez, the charismatic founder of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian revolution”, who died in 2013. To suffering voters he promises relief. “I am ready to make a change,” he said on May...Continue read..
                 

Myanmar’s government sits by while the army goes on the offensive

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Asia  
Giving peace a chargeAFTER fighting flared in April between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an insurgent force controlling much of Myanmar’s northern extremes, thousands of civilians fled into the jungle. Some trekked for weeks before reaching Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state, where they have taken refuge in a local church. Plenty more are still trapped in the hills. According to the Red Cross, almost 7,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of April, to add to 100,000 already displaced.Violence is nothing new in this part of Myanmar. The war in Kachin state has rumbled on since a ceasefire broke down between the Burmese army and the KIA in 2011. Dozens of similar guerrilla groups representing downtrodden ethnic minorities have been fighting the central government for decades, demanding greater autonomy. Many agreed to a nationwide ceasefire in 2015, but the KIA, with at least 10,000 troops, has...Continue reading..
                 

McKinsey manages to get itself sued for racketeering

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
MOBSTERS, gangsters and bent cops have all been tried under America’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act. Might consultants be next? McKinsey, a management consultancy, is being sued under the law by Jay Alix, the founder of AlixPartners, a competitor in the field of bankruptcy advice. Mr Alix alleges that McKinsey knowingly misled courts in order to land clients. The firm denies any wrongdoing.Bankruptcy is lucrative, for those doling out the advice. According to Debtwire, a data provider, corporate bankruptcies generated $1.3bn in fees in 2016, with lawyers taking home over half, and the rest going to consultants, accountants and financiers. McKinsey is a relative newcomer: it set up its restructuring arm, which turns around companies in financial distress, in 2010. Though its share of the market is smaller than those of the top players, AlixPartners and Alvarez & Marsal, its entry has stiffened competition. Its clients have included American Airlines,...Co..
                 

Young Georgians fight for their right to party

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Europe  
Keep your billy clubs out of our night clubsBACHO CHALADZE, a DJ, had just settled into his set at Cafe Gallery, a nightclub in Tbilisi, when a group of unwelcome guests burst through the door. “They rushed in with rifles and masks,” he recalls. “They ran to me to turn off the music”—at that moment, a bass-heavy track by Fumiya Tanaka, a Japanese producer. Nearby at Bassiani, a cavernous club in the bowels of a football stadium, a similar scene unfolded as armed Georgian police stormed in, pushing patrons against the walls and the floor. As Kate Beard, a photographer visiting from London, puts it: “The vibe got very dead very quickly.”The government said the raids on May 12th targeted drug dealers, in response to at least five recent drug-related deaths. Yet the standoff, Mr Chaladze says, is about something bigger: a struggle between Georgian traditionalists and a growing movement of social liberals in Tbilisi. (Both tendencies are represented inside the...Continue reading..
                 

Europe has few good options for dealing with Donald Trump

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Europe  
REMEMBER “Love Actually”? Back in 2003, in the heat of the Iraq crisis, British hearts were lifted by Hugh Grant’s portrayal of a prime minister publicly humiliating a bullying American president. In 2018 Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran is inspiring Europeans to their own moments of Grantian hauteur. “Do we want to be vassals who obey decisions taken by the United States while clinging to the hem of their trousers?” asked Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister. German diplomats are spitting blood. One magazine urged Europe to join the anti-Trump “resistance”.If that seems a trifle overcooked, the strength of the fury shows the value of the Iran deal for Europeans. In one neat package it diminished a security threat, bolstered multilateralism and strengthened the transatlantic bond. The Europeans fought desperately to assuage Mr Trump’s concerns, and earned only humiliation. Their current efforts to stop him slapping...Continue reading..
                 

Zimbabwe’s new president may not be able to fix the economy

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Middle East and Africa  
Green, but not backedUNTIL recently Priscilla Magaya was an administrator in a printing firm in Harare, Zimbabwe’s sunny capital. Today she spends her days on the side of a street, clutching a thick bundle of different banknotes. A few weeks ago, after two years of not paying her wages, her employer went bust. Ms Magaya turned to money trading, swapping real American dollars for Zimbabwe’s confusing profusion of local paper. For $100 in actual greenbacks, buyers get $120 in bright green “bond notes”—a Zimbabwean currency introduced in 2016 that is meant to be pegged to the dollar—or $140 in mobile money, which is also meant to be on a par with real dollars. Her earnings are “not something that I can survive on”, she says, but she has no other option.Two years ago money in Zimbabwe was simple: everyone used the American dollar, introduced in 2009 after hyperinflation destroyed the Zimbabwean version. Since then, however, banks have run out of real dollars...Continue reading..
                 

Iran braces for economic war with America

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Middle East and Africa  
TEHRAN’S grand bazaar, a weathervane of politics, is on strike again. Shutdowns there foreshadowed Iran’s 1979 revolution. In 2012 they pushed the government into talks that eventually resulted in a deal, signed in 2015, that restricted Iran’s nuclear efforts in exchange for sanctions relief. And Donald Trump’s pull-out from that deal on May 8th drew an instant reaction from traders, who sense something ominous. “Tehran feels like it did before...1979,” says Pejman Abdolmohammadi, an Iranian lecturer at the London School of Economics.Iran’s business world was already glum. America’s continued curbs on dollar transactions had muted the effect of the lifting of global sanctions in January 2016. But now, merchants say, America is moving from containing the regime to trying to change it. Mr Trump has told firms worldwide that they have three to six months to cut ties with Iran or face sanctions, too. Oil exports, which rose as a result of the deal, are already falling. Maersk,...Continue r..
                 

Donald Trump wants tough justice—with one exception

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ United States  
IN 2015 Jeb Bush, who was competing with him for the top job, warned that Donald Trump would be “a chaos president”. In many respects he has been proved right. President Trump has failed to keep many of the promises he made on the campaign trail. The White House leaks like a colander. The administration has suffered rapid staff turnover while weathering scandal after scandal. Mr Trump often appears capable of remaining on-message for no more than 280 characters.But ineptitude and inconsistency are not quite the same as inaction. Mr Trump is transforming the federal government—and one department in particular. With Jeff Sessions, the attorney-general, he has radically reoriented the Department of Justice (DoJ), undoing many changes made under his predecessor, Barack Obama. At the same time, he has relentlessly attacked Mr Sessions and the department for failing to protect him from Robert Mueller, the special counsel charged with investigating alleged links between Russia and Mr Trump’s...
                 

Lawmakers are trying to curb contracts that make it harder to change jobs

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
IN 2011 Kathleen started work at an insurance-and-benefits consultancy in Boston. A couple of years later the firm gave her an ultimatum: sign a “non-compete” agreement within 30 days or wave goodbye. She signed, which meant that, if she left, she would be barred for three years from working for a rival or any firm that had been contacted as a potential client, and from starting a competing business. In 2015, when she accepted a new job in a different industry at an unrelated company, her former bosses threatened to sue. The job offer was withdrawn, and reinstated only when she offered to pay any legal costs that resulted. The matter never came to court, but the fear of legal action has kept her out of her old industry ever since.Non-compete agreements are widely used to stop ex-employees walking out of the door with valuable know-how, or poaching suppliers and customers when they move jobs. Sometimes a great deal of money and intellectual property is at stake. When Paul English, an en..
                 

How Turkey fell from investment darling to junk-rated emerging market

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Economics  
MANY of the most famous hedge-fund trades have been bets that things were about to go wrong. Think of Enron’s bankruptcy or the souring of subprime mortgage bonds in America. The best trade made by “the Professor” was very different. It was a bet that something was starting to go right.A visit almost 20 years ago convinced him that Turkey was serious about fixing its economy. The yield on its one-year Treasury bills was then above 100%. “It was a serious mispricing,” he tells Steven Drobny in “The Invisible Hands”, a book of interviews with pseudonymous hedge-fund managers. The IMF gave its approval to Turkey’s reforms soon afterwards. The price of T-bills surged. The one-year interest rate fell to 40%.The wheel has since turned almost full circle for Turkey, which now seems to attract more sellers than buyers. The lira is sinking. S&P has cut the country’s credit rating from junk to junkier, partly because of concerns about its reliance on foreign capital. The...Continue reading..
                 

World economic growth is slowing. Don’t worry—yet

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Economics  
                 

Italy’s populists are more dangerous than they seem

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Leaders  
ITALY has gone without a government for more than two months. That is no great shock. At elections on March 4th, Italians deserted mainstream parties and backed radical populist ones whose leaders have never had to haggle to form a coalition. The surprise has been the belated reaction of the financial markets, which this week suddenly woke up to the looming threat. The men who, as The Economist went to press, were on the verge of taking power in Italy cannot be trusted to run it.One reason for the delay—and for general concern—is that the populist parties that won the most votes have conflicting policies. The far-right Northern League promised a flat tax rate of 15%, which would lower revenues. The Five Star Movement (M5S), which claims to transcend left-right divisions, promised a universal basic income of €780 ($920) per month, which would require huge outlays. Bridging the gap between these two parties, in office as well as in the coalition talks, would be hard for...Continue readin..
                 

For European firms, resisting American sanctions may be futile

9 days ago  
Business / The Economist/ Business and Finance  
“DONALD TRUMP is the sort of guy who punches you in the face and if you punch him back, he says ‘Let’s be friends’. China punched back and he retreated. The Europeans told him how beautiful he was, but they got nothing.” This is how an American official-turned-executive describes the latest twists in the Trump administration’s sanctions policy, which this year has roiled business from America to Europe, Russia, China and Iran. What business leaders see, analysts say, is a punitive approach that is capricious, aggressive and at times ill-prepared. But unless companies or their governments take the fight all the way to the White House, they have little choice but to abide by the long—and sometimes wrong—arm of American law.The capriciousness was evident on May 13th when President Trump executed a handbrake turn on ZTE, the world’s fourth-biggest telecoms-equipment maker, which is strongly supported by the Chinese government. It had been brought to the brink of bankruptcy after the...Cont..