Economist 5/20/14

  1. AT 3AM Thailand’s army, the institution that determines the fate of the country’s civilian governments, declared martial law. It invoked a draconian 100-year-old law that was most recently used by Sarit Thanarat, a military dictator, following his second coup in 1958. This time the army took up positions in key areas in the capital, Bangkok, but kept a light footprint. The army insists this is not a coup, and that the civilian government is still in placeThe army will be keen to keep it regarded as a “non-coup” to prevent Thailand’s being cut off from international capital markets, and to prevent its officers’ prosecution at a later date.So what are the more immediate possible outcomes? One idea is that martial law will create a face-saving exit for Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the anti-government protests. He has led the movement for six months now and so far failed to topple the elected government.
  2. Credit Suisse would admit guilt in helping American clients sidestep their country’s complex tax regime, and that the financial penalty would dwarf that imposed in 2009 on UBS, another big Swiss bank, for offenses that may have been far more extensive. When the settlement was finally announced on May 19th, the tally was $2.6 billion for Credit Suisse compared with $780m for UBS. Yet the most important difference with 2009 is not the money, but the charge and the plea. UBS was permitted to enter a deferred-prosecution agreement, enabling guilt to be expunged. Credit Suisse was forced to plead guilty to aiding tax evasion—making it the first big firm with ties to the financial industry to be tagged with a criminal charge since Arthur Andersen in 2003.Two aspects of the agreement will surely prove controversial. One is the survival of current senior management. Only five lower-level employees, who had been indicted for their involvement in the tax scheme but were still being paid, will be terminated.The other aspect that will certainly provoke criticism is a provision allowing the American clients who dodged taxes to remain protected. 
  3. MERGERS can be tricky. The biggest challenge facing “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, which brings together the illustrious cast of the first batch of films—Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto, Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor X, et al—with those of the 2011 reboot, “X-Men: First Class”—Michael Fassbender as a young Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique. The story comes from a 1981 two-issue special of the comic series, in which it is actually Ms Pryde who goes back to rewrite history.
  4. THE tiny island of Kish off the southern coast of Iran resembles a building site.With its spotless beaches, Kish was a playground for Iran’s Shah and was later designated as one of the country’s free zones in 1989. Visitors can enter without a visa and the authorities charge no taxes. Yet until now this has failed to lure tourists and businessmen. Currently only 20% of the companies in Kish’s free trade zone involve foreign partners. Visiting foreigners are mainly migrant workers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who make the half-hour plane hop to renew their visa. Visitors are still expected to adhere to Iran’s stringent dress code, but both hijabs and morals are a bit looser on the island. Couples can be seen canoodling close at the viewpoint over a stranded Greek ship, with no morality police in sight. This makes the island an attractive destination for Iranians, who still make up the bulk of the island’s 1.5m visitors each year.
  5. Mr Gabriel was responding to last week’s European Court of Justice ruling regarding Google and the “right to be forgotten”. The court ruled that under certain circumstances, Google must remove links to (even accurate and legal) information about people if the information is old or irrelevant and yet damaging to the individual.. A convicted owner of abusive child pornography has also asked for links to be deleted, as has a criminally convicted celebrity relative. Whatever the merits of link deletion, Google is in an awkward position to be able to judge them. If it says no and the requester than successfully convinces a national privacy body, Google will face big fines. This weights the scales towards near-automatic link deletion.

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