Economist 6/24/14

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.
  4. 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.
  5.  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,
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