Economist 5/21/14

  1. On March 19th the FBI charged five members of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with breaking 31 laws, from relatively minor counts of identity theft to economic espionage, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years. This is the first time the government has charged employees of a foreign government with cybercrime. The accused are unlikely ever to stand trial in America. Even so, the Justice Department produced posters with mugshots of the men beneath the legend “wanted by the FBI”. Last year Mandiant, a cyber-security firm based in Virginia, released a report that identified Unit 61398 of the PLA as the source of cyber-attacks against 140 companies since 2006.Hackers stole designs for pipes from Westinghouse, an American firm, when it was building four nuclear power stations in China, and also took e-mails from executives who were negotiating with a state-owned company
  2.  The Polio virus looked close to extinction: just five countries reported new instances of polio in 2012. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that by 2018 it should be history, alongside smallpox, another once-feared killer. And in March of this year India, which five years ago accounted for nearly half of all cases, was declared polio-free. So far this year 77 polio cases have been reported, up from 33 in the same period of 2013, despite it being the disease’s low season. These are spread across eight countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Syria and Nigeria. Laboratory analyses of faecal samples show that three of the countries (Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon) have recently transmitted the virus to neighbours—particularly alarming for the WHO. Pakistan is the big backslider, accounting for the vast majority of cases (61 out of 77) this year, compared with just eight during the same period in 2013.In recent years Pakistan has allowed some of its most lawless regions to become havens for the virus.
  3. In 1914 half of Buenos Aires’s population was foreign-born.Argentina ranked among the ten richest in the world in 1914, after the likes of Australia, Britain and the United States, but ahead of France, Germany and Italy. Its income per head is now 43% of those same 16 rich economies; it trails Chile and Uruguay in its own back yard.The country’s dramatic decline has long puzzled economists The first explanation is that Argentina was rich in 1914 because of commodities; its industrial base was only weakly developed.The landowners who made Argentina rich were not so bothered about educating it: cheap labour was what counted. That attitude prevailed into the 1940s, when Argentina had among the highest rates of primary-school enrolment in the world and among the lowest rates of secondary-school attendance.Without a good education system, Argentina struggled to create competitive industries.The divide between farmers and workers endures. Heavy export taxes on crops allow the state to top up its dwindling foreign-exchange reserves; limits on wheat exports create surpluses that drive down local prices. But they also dissuade farmers from planting more land, enabling other countries to steal market share.
  4. Hamid Reza Mazaheri-Seif, head of the Spiritual Health Institute in Qom, said that yoga’s new-age spiritualism was corrupting Islam and urged all decent Iranians, particularly members of the baseej, to protect the Islamic Republic against the “irreversible damages” yoga could cause. According to Iran’s Yoga Association, the country has around 200 yoga centres, a quarter of them in Tehran, the capital, where groups can often be seen practising in parks—to the chagrin of religious hardliners.
  5. Critical to this $2.5m techno-Eden, run by a firm called Green Sense Farms, are the thousands of blue and red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) supplied by Philips, a Dutch technology firm. The light they give off is of precisely the wavelength craved by the crops grown here, which include lettuce, kale, basil and chives.The idea of abandoning the sun’s light for the artificial sort is not new. It offers plenty of advantages: no need to worry about seasons or the weather, for instance, not to mention the ability to grow around the clock.Philips reckons that using LED lights in this sort of controlled, indoor environment could cut growing cycles by up to half compared with traditional farming.
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