Economist 7/3/14

  1. THE app Yo, which simply sends the two-letter word between friends, has been touted as an example of the app economy’s silliness and evidence of a frothy tech bubble, after its founders raised $1m in funding. What is its business model? No one is quite sure, despite more than 4m yos sent. Many free apps quietly raid users’ personal data to sell to marketers. A look at Yo’s privacy policy, however, shows that it resists the temptation.Textual analysis reveals that yo doesn’t appear once in Shakespeare, whereas hey crops up a plethora of times across seven plays, from “Hamlet” to “King Lear” (usually as part of a song). Only in the 19th century did yo become popular in folk songs and as an abbreviation of “you”. The app was recently announced by Matt Gray and Tom Scott of the podcast Technical Difficulties. It only sends cute smiley characters and other symbolic icons; ordinary text is banned.
  2. These days the most annoying thing about attending any tech, trade or “ideas” conference is the certainty that some short-haired individual will be strutting around a stage yammering about disruption.The Innovator’s Dilemma”, the 1997 book by Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, that originally popularised the idea of disruptive innovation.One problem is simple overuse: as Kevin Roose writes, “disruptive innovation” has been adopted and championed to egregious excess by the modern management class, particularly in Silicon Valley. But in the long run, the most important change in the valence of “disruption” is political.In Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Cairo, prison sentences, tear gas and bullets have turned out to be effective means of deterring and controlling IT-enabled political activism. Meanwhile, the same disruptive innovations that empower people who want to organise nonviolent political action also empower people who want to organise violent political action. 
  3. A MONTH after Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s triumphant election as president of Egypt (against no real opposition), his politics-weary people are still not sure what they are getting.conomists as well as investors generally like Mr Sisi’s realistic appraisal of Egypt’s dire economic straits, but are wary of his populist, statist remedies, Attempts to stifle dissent have also meant the sacking of thousands of mosque preachers, the banning of television stations and programmes deemed too independent, and the quiet blacklisting of critics, including Egypt’s best-known novelist, Alaa al-Aswani, a fierce secularist and early supporter of Mr Sisi. A complex new law expands Egypt’s legislature to an unwieldy 567 members, 120 of them to be elected under a winner-takes-all party list system, 27 appointed by the president and the rest as individual candidates. 
  4.  Poland remains the most Catholic country in Europe: some 95% of the country’s 38m people are baptised Catholics, and at least one-third of them say they attend Mass weekly. Father Lemanski had dared to criticise the church’s rigid opposition to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), and had repeatedly condemned what he saw as the lenient treatment of clerics accused of sexual abuse. John Paul II welcomed the Solidarity trade-union movement and treated Lech Walesa, Solidarity’s co-founder, like a long-lost son. Mr Walesa would later say that the pope contributed “at least 50%” to the collapse of communism.With such a heroic past, the church found it hard to return to a more workaday role after communism had gone. The church was at its most political and aggressive during the debate on abortion in 1991. Under communism abortion had been available on request; the church was in favour of introducing a blanket ban. After a heated discussion, a compromise was reached in 1993: abortion would be allowed, but only if the life of the mother was at risk, her pregnancy resulted from rape or incest or the foetus was severely malformed. 
  5. PUERTO RICO has put on a brave face during its year-long debt crisis.As an overseas American territory, it uses the dollar and the national minimum wage. That makes labour costly and exports uncompetitive. From 1976-2006 firms on the island were exempt from federal tax on their local profits. But once that carve-out expired, the economy fell into an eight-year recession.However, the government also bears its own share of the blame. It has spent too little on infrastructure and too much on pensions. And it has grossly mismanaged PREPA, which still generates 65% of its power using expensive fuel oil. Not only did the company cost the state $276m in 2013 but its high prices serve as a tax on most economic activity.As the 51st state, its state-owned firms would be covered by the federal bankruptcy code. As an independent country, it could set its own rules. Under the status quo it may be stuck with neither.

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