Economist 5/1/14

  1. McConville, a widowed mother of ten children, was dragged from her Belfast home by an IRA gang, tortured and shot in the back of the head; her body was buried on a remote beach. She had been falsely accused of being an army informer. on April 30th Gerry Adams, the gravel-voiced president of Sinn Fein, the former IRA political wing which now shares power in Northern Ireland, was also arrested.Unlike other Sinn Fein leaders, including Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland’s government, Mr Adams denies having been an IRA member, though he refuses to “disassociate” himself from the group.There seems less prospect of Sinn Fein suffering. About half of its Northern Ireland assembly members have been jailed for IRA crimes. That this bloody history has not prevented the party’s advance, on both sides of the border.
  2. On April 28th President Hassan Rohani raised petrol prices by 75%, from 4,000 to 7,000 rials ($0.16 to $0.28) per litre. Increases in the price of staples are imminent, too.This second round of cuts to the subsidies on petrol, gas and electricity, as well as on staples, was due in June 2012. Iran, Like many oil-rich countries in the region that lavished funds on their people, Iran needs to cut the huge cost of subsidising its growing population of 77m. An estimated $40-100 billion is paid every year to keep Iranians, poor and rich, supplied with cheap energy, water, fuel and basic food. . In the first round of cuts in 2010, half the money saved was meant to be redistributed to the poor.Earlier in April the president stopped all payments. Supported by famous Iranian actors and sports personalities, he asked richer Iranians not to reapply. But the government says only 3mpeople have forfeited their right to apply for a handout; nearly 73m have asked for it.
  3. On April 24th Jack Ma, one of the wealthiest men of China’s Gilded Age, suggested he would start to do the same. Mr Ma and Joseph Tsai, co-founders of Alibaba, an online marketplace, announced the creation of philanthropic trusts that could be worth as much as $3 billion. he gift is a move taken straight out of a Silicon Valley public-relations playbook, ahead of Alibaba’s expected initial public offering this year, which could value the company at $150 billion.Of 122 billionaires around the world who have signed the Giving Pledge promoted by Messrs Buffett and Gates, promising to give away half their wealth by the end of their lives, not a single one is Chinese, even though China now has 358 billionaires, one-fifth of the global total.The main reason for this is fear: many have made their money in the shadows of a supposedly socialist country, so few of China’s rich are keen to identify themselves publicly.
  4. THERE are a number of ways to measure the might of a nation: military power, commercial clout, cultural influence. But ever since statisticians started rigorously calculating economic output in the 1930s, economists have fixated on one measure: gross domestic product (GDP). By one variant of that yardstick, China is on the verge of becoming the world’s mightiest country.  The most straightforward way is to convert GDPs into a single currency (usually dollars) at market exchange rates. This is a good way to gauge countries’ international heft, and by this measure China’s economy is still 43% smaller than America’s.  Indonesia, which was thought to be the world’s 15th-biggest economy, is now ninth. Indeed the six biggest emerging economies now produce goods and services of equal value to the six biggest rich countries.
  5. ELECTRONIC cigarettes made their American debut seven years ago. People have bickered about them ever since. Some praise e-cigarettes—which deliver a vapour with nicotine, but no tobacco—for helping traditional smokers to quit.The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rules for e-cigarettes. These would, among other things, ban sales to children and require firms to list ingredients, include warnings that nicotine is addictive and register new products with the agency. The FDA did not propose banning flavours or advertising, but may do so in future.Cities, states and even employers are testing their own rules, too.American sales of e-cigarettes reached $724m in the year to April 12th, 72% above what they were in same period last yea
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