FACEBOOK, Amazon, Twitter and a host of other big companies in today’s “data-driven economy” share one thing in common: they make a living from harvesting personal data. Such issues have long troubled Jennifer Lyn Morone, an American living in London (pictured). So to regain some ownership and control of her data (and other assets related to her existence) she decided to become Jennifer Lyn Morone™ Inc (JLM), registered like all savvy corporations in Delaware. To do this, Ms Morone and a group of computer-geek friends are developing a multi-sensor device that she will wear almost all the time (“it’s not yet waterproof,” she muses), and a software application known as the Database of Me, or DOME, which will store and manage all the data she generates. JLM’s eventual goal is to create a software “platform” for personal-data management; companies and other entities would be able to purchase data from DOME via the platform, but how they could use it would be limited by encryption or data-tagging. The software, then, would act as an automated data broker on behalf of the individual. some of JLM’s most valuable data, such as financial transactions and health records, are by definition controlled by other organisations (such as banks), although Ms Morone will be able to re-package and resell them (data can be sold many times without losing their value).
Under some traditions in South Africa, women are still treated as chattels. One practice is known as ukuthwala, whereby a young girl is abducted and taken to the family home of a man, usually a lot older than herself, who wants to marry her.d. But many South Africans were outraged by the notion of a young woman being used as a gift; some even compared the practice to the kidnapping of schoolgirls by Boko Haram.A controversial Traditional Courts Bill, proposed in 2012, would have handed greater judicial powers to male traditional leaders. Though introduced in Parliament, it was never—after sharp criticism from women’s groups—approved. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has a history of promoting gender equality, using rough quotas for members of parliament.
Cannabis has always been rife in West Africa, but a rise in the pace of drug trafficking has brought in harder stuff such as cocaine and heroin. In the past decade, drug barons have been peddling their goods through west Africa to feed hungry markets in Europe and North America.The UN reckons that cocaine worth $1.25 billion passes through west Africa every year. There are almost no data on drug abuse, but experts agree it is increasing.. In Nigeria alone, the authorities claim to have seized 200kg of heroin in 2012, more than five times the amount recovered the year before.d. While some high-level arrests are being made, it is mainly small-time dealers and people buying drugs for their personal use who are thrown into prison to make the statistics look good, while the men at the top go untouched—thanks to corruption.
BRITAIN’S National Health Service (NHS) was recently judged the “world’s best health-care system” by the Washington-based Commonwealth Fund in its latest ranking of 11 rich countries’ health provision. The Commonwealth Fund tends to give the NHS a pretty clean bill of health in its assessments (it also scores Switzerland, Sweden and Australia highly).What the NHS is good at is providing cost-efficient care. It spends $3,405 per person per annum, less than half America’s outlay of $8,508. Alas, that does not mean the NHS is financially secure: a £2 billion ($3.4 billion) shortfall looms from 2015 and NHS England is struggling to implement £20 billion in savings.The Commonwealth Fund most values equity and access, and so rewards the systems where it finds these
There is fast-expanding three-way alliance between Germany’s Daimler, Japan’s Nissan and France’s Renault. Renault and Nissan first paired up in 1999, with Daimler making it a ménage à trois in 2010 after it divorced Detroit’s Chrysler. But last week the Japanese and Germans went a step further: they announced that would jointly build an assembly plant worth about $1.4 billion in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The factory will make 300,000 cars a year when it reaches full capacity in 2021 and employ about 5,700 people. The plan is to produce compact luxury vehicles that will be sold under both Nissan’s Infiniti brand as well as a Mercedes-Benz marque.f. Infiniti and Daimler’s models will share an “platform”, meaning that they will use a common design for such things as the power train and the steering mechanism.
Secure, authenticated identity is the birthright of every Estonian: before a newborn even arrives home, the hospital will have issued a digital birth certificate and his health insurance will have been started automatically. All residents of the small Baltic state aged 15 or over have electronic ID cards, which are used in health care, electronic banking and shopping, to sign contracts and encrypt e-mail, as tram tickets, and much more besides—even to vote.Estonia’s approach makes life efficient: taxes take less than an hour to file, and refunds are paid within 48 hours. By law, the state may not ask for any piece of information more than once, people have the right to know what data are held on them and all government databases must be compatible, a system known as the X-road. In all, the Estonian state offers 600 e-services to its citizens and 2,400 to businesses.Estonia’s system uses suitably hefty encryption. Only a minimum of private data are kept on the ID card itself. Also issued are two PIN codes, one for authentication (proving who the holder is) and one for authorisation (signing documents or making payments).
Monotype, an American firm founded in 1887, is the industry’s biggest owner of fonts. Its customers, who are mostly technology companies and designers of printed material and websites, pick from a catalogue of 18,000 fonts, which include classics such as Arial, Times New Roman and Helvetica.. In its early days it sold ingenious machines that enabled Edwardian printers to cast lines of type in seconds; now, as well as the right to use its fonts, it sells software that renders text on screen. That makes it both supplier and competitor to Adobe, a Californian software giant that owns more than 2,000 fonts, and to the plethora of independent font publishers that round out the industry.Printer firms and computer-makers have long paid for the right to use fonts in their gadgets; such licensing deals are getting more common as manufacturers add flashy displays to car dashboards, televisions and even white goods.Web developers rent them from retailers such as Typekit, a site owned by Adobe that offers bundles of typefaces for an annual fee.
The argument was that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, had got most of what he wanted in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, not least a big boost in popularity at home. Partly thanks to two rounds of sanctions against individuals close to him, he had blinked: hence his decision to pull troops back from the border and more or less to accept Petro Poroshenko as Ukraine’s legitimate president after his election on May 25th. The government’s unilateral ceasefire announced this week looks unlikely to work (see article). Evidence of deeper Russian involvement is ever clearer: not just rising numbers of Chechen and other Russian mercenaries but also the supply of weapons, including missiles that may have been used to shoot down a Ukrainian military aircraft, and even tanks that have rumbled over the border.
FOR years, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, has been playing with diplomatic fire over a sordid part of wartime history: the herding of thousands of women across Asia into Japanese-army brothels. An investigation he ordered into a landmark apology to the “comfort women” might have helped end the controversy. Instead, it has further muddied the waters. That may indeed have been Mr Abe’s intention.The 1993 apology, known after its author as “the Kono statement”, acknowledged the army’s role in forcing women into sexual slavery. On June 20th a government panel set up by Mr Abe said the facts used to draft the statement were accurate and there are no plans to change it. But the panel also revealed that it was the product of months of secret negotiations with South Korea.
GE snatched Alstom from the jaws of Siemens, its German archrival, which had been encouraged by the French government to make an alternative offer, and which had enlisted the help of another of GE’s main competitors, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan.Mr Immelt had surprised investors and some of his own executives by pursuing Alstom in the first place, He did so because the deal allows him to make a leap in executing his most important strategic goal, to transform GE from a misfiring finance-heavy conglomerate into a more focused maker of industrial equipment. If all goes well later this year with the initial public offering of Synchrony Financial, as its credit-card business is now known, GE will be on track to earn less than 25% of its profits from finance in 2016, down from 45% in 2013.GE back to its inventive roots, with the boost in research and development. Under Mr Welch, such spending slipped to 3% of revenues. Mr Immelt raised it to 4% in 2010 and 5% in 2011 and the years since.GE has built a new research centre in San Ramon, a short drive from Silicon Valley, which now has around 1,000 employees working on aspects of what GE has christened the “industrial internet” because it connects physical machinery to a digital network.
Before April 2013 Scotland had eight police forces. Eight have since become just one. The mass merger was partly intended to save money: £64m ($109m) in the first year. It was also supposed to improve crime-fighting.Meanwhile England and Wales plod on with 43 forces, from the colossal Metropolitan Police (with 30,631 officers) to tiny Warwickshire (796). Smaller forces struggle to provide the breadth of services–from dealing with anti-social behaviour to cybercrime–that larger ones can. Smaller forces are trying to collaborate with each other.Such partnerships can improve policing and cut costs.
It HAS been the hottest May ever, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The world’s average surface temperature was 0.74°C above its 20th-century average.It looks at three areas where the weather makes the biggest difference: coastal property, farming and the effect of heat on work. It points out that, if the oceans go on rising at current rates, the sea level at New York city will rise by 27-49cm by 2050 and by 64-128cm in 2100.Inland, the big problem is the effect of heat and drought on farming. Drought in North Dakota in 2006, for example, wiped out 10% of the value of the state’s wheat crop. On current trends, by 2050 America’s most productive cereal-growing region, the Midwest, will have between nine and 28 days a year in which average daytime temperatures will be 35°C (95°F) or above.The heat could cut yields in the Midwest by a fifth, the study reckons—though that assumes farmers do not adapt by planting heat-tolerant crops.
Houston was not Japan’s first go at garden diplomacy. As trade tensions built in the 1970s, Japanese authorities helped to build a fine garden in Missouri and—to mark America’s bicentenary in 1976—sent scores of priceless bonsai to the National Arboretum, a park and research station in Washington, DC.It was an early display of soft power: a term coined by Joseph Nye of Harvard .Now it is China’s turn. In the past decade and a half, Chinese classical gardens have opened in Staten Island in New York, St Louis, Seattle, San Marino in California and Portland, Oregon—often with help from Chinese authorities.As China rises, its officials have promoted ever-grander projects, culminating in a 12-acre Qing-dynasty garden that China has offered to build in the National Arboretum.A first letter of intent to build the Washington garden was signed in 2003, 11 years after talks began, all that could be seen on a recent morning was an untouched meadow. China is to donate all structures above ground and will send workers to assemble them. But the Department of Agriculture, which runs the National Arboretum, must prepare the foundations and water features, a task expected to cost $35m.To mounting dismay on the Chinese side, the foundation’s only substantial funding to date is $1.7m.
Apples are one of Poland’s most successful exports. Last year the country overtook China as the world’s biggest apple exporter. One-third of Poland’s crop, or about 1.2m tonnes, went abroad, with Russia taking 57% of the total. Poland’s entire farm sector, from cereals to meat production, is surging ahead.Agriculture is probably the biggest single beneficiary of Poland’s membership of the EU. Polish agriculture received a bountiful €40 billion ($55 billion) in 2007-13 and will get another €42.4 billion between now and 2020.Over the past ten years Poland has doubled its poultry production and become Europe’s leading producer of soft fruit and cultivated mushrooms.Polish agriculture remains highly fragmented. It accounts for only 3.4% of GDP but 12.4% of employment. In a recent report on Poland the OECD was especially critical of the highly favourable social-security system for farmers, KRUS, as well as some of the tax advantages they enjoy. Many farmers hold on to tiny plots of land just to remain eligible for KRUS.Farmers are an important political constituency. The rural population makes up around 39% of the total.Polish farmers’ most immediate worry is about the Ukrainian crisis.Most farmers depend on Ukrainian workers during the harvest.
China has sent ships to Hawaii to take part in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military drills for the first time. RIMPAC, which began on June 26th, is the largest naval exercise in the world, with 25,000 personnel from 23 countries, including America, Australia, India, Indonesia and South Korea. hough RIMPAC will not solve today’s tensions, it is part of an attempt to improve communication between regional armed forces.
In America government funding per student fell by 27% between 2007 and 2012, while average college tuition fees, adjusted for inflation, rose by 20%. In Britain tuition fees, close to zero two decades ago, can reach £9,000 ($15,000 a year). According to a study from Oxford University, 47% of occupations are at risk of being automated in the next few decades.MOOCs will disrupt different universities in different ways.Rather than propping up the old model, governments should make the new one work better. They can do so by backing common standards for accreditation. In Brazil, for instance, students completing courses take a government-run exam. In most Western countries it would likewise make sense to have a single, independent organisation that certifies exams.
Khat is a mild narcotic popular with Ethiopians, Somalis and Yemenis.On June 24th the sale of khat was prohibited in Britain, almost a year after Theresa May, the home secretary, told the House of Commons that she intended to ban it. The government argues that since the leaf has been banned elsewhere.Users must chew great wodges of the leaf, which loses its potency just a few days after being picked Unlike cannabis, khat cannot be grown easily in Britain. Before the ban, loads were flown in from Africa and distributed from warehouses near Heathrow airport.
SINCE the mid-1990s people in Yulin, a city in the southern region of Guangxi, have gathered on the summer solstice (June 21st this year) to drink lychee wine and savour dog. Served on skewers, roasted or sliced into steaming hot pot, dog meat is considered tasty and detoxifying. South Korea is renowned for its fondness for dog meat, but eating dogs (and cats) is also considered unremarkable in parts of China. Even in Beijing and Shanghai, the biggest cities, some restaurants serve the meat. Activists are concerned about the cruelty associated with an unregulated industry. A proposed law would make the illegal consumption or sale of dog- or cat-meat punishable by a fine of up to 5,000 yuan ($800).Today some 33m households keep a cat or dog. Analysts attribute the popularity of pets to demographic factors, including the soaring numbers of elderly people wanting companionship and the prevalence of families with only one child.
Nonetheless, the jihadists who have taken over swathes of Iraq pose a bigger threat to Iran than to the United States. They seek to kill Shias, who make up most of Iran’s people. By conquering much of Iraq, they may soon be menacing Iran’s border. Like the Americans, the Iranians are loth to let ISIS knock him over.Iran’s leaders are wary of sending Mr Maliki large-scale, overt military aid. For one thing, they can hardly afford to. Their support for Hizbullah, Lebanon’s Shia party-cum-militia, and for Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria has been costly.Yet if ISIS were to threaten Baghdad or the shrines revered by Shias in the Iraqi cities of Najaf or Karbala, which are visited by hundreds of thousands of Iranian pilgrims every year, that would be another matter.
Yet of the 818 SWAT cases that the ACLU studied (largely between 2011 and 2012), only 7% were for these purposes. Most (62%) were to serve search warrants for drugs.Funding for SWAT teams is abundant; oversight, less so. One Pentagon programme has seen equipment transfers from the military to state and local law-enforcement agencies worth $4.3 billion. It doled out only $1m in 1990 but $450m last year.Maryland and Utah are the only states with laws requiring regular reports on SWAT raids. (Though Maryland’s will sunset this year.) In other states, police just have to fill out a couple of forms explaining why they are about to mount one. The most common reason is that officers expect to meet an armed suspect. In more than a third of drug raids officers returned empty-handed.In deployments where the race of those affected was recorded (which only happened two-thirds of the time) 49% were either black or Hispanic and just 19% were white. Her research casts new light on SWAT teams and their tactics—but the broader picture is still murky, as just 141 of 255 agencies approached for information provided it. And America has more than 17,000 of them in total.
Since 2009 employment in the London’s technology and information businesses has grown by 11%, according to a recent estimate, which represents a threefold acceleration. Funding from venture-capital firms has also tripled (see chart), to $1.2 billion in the last financial year. Its location, between America and Asia, makes a handy base for globetrotting entrepreneurs; EU membership means firms can hire whizz-kids from across the continent. But Britons are also unusually keen on the internet: per person they spend about 50% more on online shopping than Americans.The third major draw is an enthusiastic government, which has provided tax breaks for investors and made it easy for some foreign entrepreneurs to get visas. In April Just Eat, a website that helps takeaways to sell food online, became the first company to list on the London Stock Exchange’s high-growth segment, which makes it unusually easy for a young firm to sell shares.The rising cost of office space risks strangling young firms;Britain is too inaccessible to the clever dicks from America, India and China that the industry needs.
AMERICANS are giving more to charity than ever before—but a smaller proportion of this money is going to religious organisations. Though the amount given to religious charities has risen from an inflation-adjusted $89 billion in 1987 to $105.5 billion in 2013, that represents a fall from 53% to 31% of the total. One is that religious charities are not as good at fundraising as secular ones.Probably crucial—factor is that the sharp overall rise in charitable giving has been driven by the very rich, who tend to favour secular charities.
The Good Country Index, released on June 24th by Simon Anholt, an independent policy advisor, ranks countries based on how much they do for others globally. Ireland and Finland come on top; Libya is rock bottom. The measure is based on 35 datasets broken down into seven areas, such as technology, health and culture. The idea is clever but the execution is tricky. The index often scales countries on a GDP basis to give poor countries a chance against rich ones. That’s nice, but is Cyprus really a tech leader or Malta a cultural paragon? And the “peace and security.
TWO nights of terror attacks on Kenya’s coast on June 15th and 16th left at least 65 people dead, prompting the Shabab, a Somali militia of extreme Islamists, to boast that it had turned the country into a “war zone”.Yet Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, seems to be blaming his political opponents at home for encouraging the violence.n the aftermath of the attacks on Mpeketoni, the Shabab achieved both aims. Kenya’s tourism, which has provided 15% of GDP in recent years, is in tatters. Warnings last month by the British and other foreign governments prompted flustered tour companies to evacuate clients from Kenya’s coastal tourist hub, Mombasa. The luxurious resorts and hotels on Lamu island stand virtually empty. No high-level officials have been sacked as a result of the disastrous handling of September’s assault by the Shabab on the Westgate Centre, a smart shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, when at least 67 people were killed.
WITH elections due at the end of the year in Tunisia, A handful of new parties is rallying the old guard. The largest of them is Nida Tounes (“The Tunisian Call”), founded two years ago by a veteran politician, Beji Caid Sebsi (pictured), now 87, who was briefly the interim prime minister after the fall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the long-serving authoritarian ruler who was overthrown in January 2011. Nida Tounes has the support of family-run business groups who were glad to see the back of Mr Ben Ali’s parasitical in-laws, the Trabelsi family, but were alarmed by the victory of the Islamist party, Nahda (“Renaissance”), in the election to a constituent assembly in October 2011.All the same, opinion polls suggest that Nahda may again emerge as the most popular party, though probably with a much narrower winning margin.
VOLKSWAGEN’s plan is to dethrone Toyota as the world’s biggest carmaker. It has already nosed past rival General Motors and has plenty of momentum in China, the world’s largest car market. But one key country is holding them back is America. And in the first five months of 2014, as rivals such as GM, posted some of their best numbers in a decade, the VW brand’s sales dropped another 15%.Opinions differ about why VW has lost ground. More fundamentally, China “took precedent” over America, in the words of an insider. Resources were shifted, models for the American market delayed.Mr Horn, for his part, just wants the new utility vehicles, whether they are built in Tennessee or a plant in Mexico, where the new Golf is now rolling off the assembly line.
THE abduction of three young Jewish settlers on June 12th near the city of Hebron, in the south of the West Bank, has stirred Israeli emotions.As a result, the Israeli security forces have embarked on their widest sweep of the West Bank’s towns in almost a decade, broadening their mission from a manhunt for the students to an attempt—in the words of Israeli’s army radio—to “uproot” Hamas, which has shown signs of revival on the West Bank since the unity deal was struck.A week into the manhunt, during which at least one Palestinian has been shot dead, Palestinian leaders worry that violence may erupt and spread.
Today Winsor & Newton, a British art supplier founded in 1832, has 119 standard oil colours. How did artists’ palettes become so varied?From antiquity until the 19th century the majority of pigments were either mined from the earth (as in the case of ultramarine), squeezed from the carcasses of invertebrates (cochineal; tyrian purple), or produced through simple chemical reactions (verdigris). None was completely pure. Another problem was that many pigments weren’t stable.. By far the most stable and brightest blue, it had to be painstakingly extracted from lapis lazuli mined in the Sar-e-Sang mines in northern Afghanistan and then shipped along the Silk Road to Venice. This made it exorbitantly expensive.Without the explosion of aniline-, chrome- and cadmium-based colours, many fledgling industries would have been severely handicapped.
THE sentencing by an Egyptian court on June 23rd of six international journalists (three of them in absentia) to between seven and ten years in prison has prompted a chorus of condemnation. Human-rights groups and Western governments describe the rulings as a travesty. The evidence against the men, all employees of the Al Jazeera English television network, included such things as professional editing software (held to be proof that they had “tampered” with news footage so as to besmirch Egypt’s image), video tape of a horse show, a music clip, and the family photographs of one defendant, Peter Greste, an Australian who happens to be an award-winning former BBC correspondent and had been in Egypt for only two weeks at the time of his arrest. The charges against the journalists were also absurd-sounding. The three men’s most serious offence seems to have been attempting to interview members of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
ON JULY 9th the Indonesian presidential election will pit a charismatic, down-to-earth, former furniture-maker against a retired general dogged by allegations of past human-rights abuses. The military man is Prabowo Subianto, the former son-in-law of Suharto, the country’s one-time dictator. If, as (just) seems likely, the former businessman, Joko Widodo, wins, then for the first time since Suharto fell 16 years ago, Indonesia will be led by someone from outside its entrenched elite.13,466 islands with over 360 ethnic groups, speaking 719 languages. Yet it has held together remarkably well, helped by the imposition of a national language, Bahasa Indonesia, and 32 years of centralised dictatorship under Suharto,
Russia-Kazakhstan relations look rock-solid. On May 29th Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s president, played genial host in Astana, his futuristic capital, to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus was also on hand to sign a pact creating the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a free-trade group soon to open to other former Soviet states (starting with Armenia and Kyrgyzstan).Along Kazakhstan’s 7,000 km border with Russia lie towns with large ethnic-Russian populations.Mr Nazarbayev, however, keeps repeating that the union is economic, not political.
Bratophobia is not confined to New York.One pair of parents asked for the music to be turned down because their five-month-old was trying to sleep. Unattended sprogs have fallen after climbing on bar-stools Other pubs plagued by prams have taken to excluding children. Double Windsor bans tots after 5pm. Union Hall, a hipster hot-spot, put a “No Strollers, Please” sign on its door in 2008 (though it does allow kiddies in a few afternoons a week). Greenwood Park, which has a lovely beer garden and pitches itself as “family friendly”, closes its doors on kids under 21 after 7pm.Balancing the interests of parents and non-parents is hard.
In 2011 there were 6.7m domestic workers among the Brazil’s 201m people. In April 2013 a constitutional amendment was passed to give domestic workers the same rights as everyone else. The new law defined basic entitlements, such as an eight-hour working day, a maximum of 44 hours work per week, the right to the minimum wage, a lunch break, social security and severance pay. Most of these changes have been implemented relatively easily; but seven points remain stuck in Congress.Two issues are especially controversial. The first is about the Fundo de Garantia do Tempo de Servico (FGTS), a government severance fund into which an employer must pay 8% of their employee’s total salary each month.The second contentious issue relates to how many months’ pay workers will be entitled to should they be made redundant.Of the changes that have been enacted, the one that has made the most difference is the regulation of working hours.
Drone pilots experience mental-health problems at the same rate as fighter pilots deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a 2013 study by researchers for the Pentagon.Unsurprisingly, the air force has trouble attracting and keeping drone pilots, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an official watchdog. In December 2013 it had only 85% of the number it needed, which puts pressure on serving pilots. Many complain of long hours (nearly 60% say they work more than 50 hours a week), long commutes, open-ended assignments and few opportunities for promotion. Some say they were trained to fly manned aircraft, but were shunted to the “chair force” with empty promises that it would be temporary. A typical air-force stint is three to four years; some drone pilots have been serving for over six. Morale is low and burnout, high.For the Pentagon to meet its goal of at least 1,650 drone pilots by 2017, it will need to do a better job of keeping them content. The air force has already hired more psychiatrists and chaplains. The GAO suggests signing bonuses wouldn’t hurt, particularly as it costs only $65,000 to train a drone pilot, rather than the $557,000 needed to fly manned aircraft.
On June 15th Sinhala Buddhist mobs rampaged through three towns on the southern coast, burning and attacking Muslim businesses and homes.The mobs were incited by an inflammatory speech from a Buddhist monk named Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara. A rabble-rouser like the Burmese monk, Wirathu, whom he recently visited, Mr Gnanasara leads an organisation called Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or Buddhist Power Force, that supports militancy against minorities to preserve the dominance of the Buddhist majority. Muslims have been particular targets. Although Muslims are just 10% of the population, they are making headway in business and finance.