Economist 7/12/14

  1. American Bridge 21st Century (“Bridge”), which was set up in 2010 and is backed by George Soros, a financier, and others. Bridge prepared dossiers on prominent Republicans and sent staffers to film Republican candidates’ every move, waiting to pounce on ill-chosen words.After Mr Romney lost, Republican grandees were determined to build a national rival to Bridge. Matt Rhoades, a former Romney campaign manager, joined Tim Miller and Joe Pounder, former Republican National Committee officials, to lead the way. They took $100,000 from the remnants of a pro-Romney campaign fund and more cash from big donors, and set about hiring researchers and “trackers” (staffers with cameras).More or less every word a candidate says now lives online somewhere. So groups like Rising and Bridge can build enormous, searchable databases of their opponents’ statements and systematically search for contradictions.
  2. WHEN it comes to international jobs, Scandinavia does well. Sweden, Denmark and Norway have only 20m people, yet their nationals often run global organisations. Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, is taking over from a former Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as NATO’s boss. Thorbjorn Jagland, another former Norwegian prime minister, has just won a second term at the Council of Europe.What gives the Nordics a head start? One answer is that they are unthreatening to big countries. Another is that a history of parliamentary compromise gives them the ability to cross ideological divides. It has been a long time since any Nordic country had a single-party majority government. Mr Katainen’s 2011-14 cabinet was a six-party patchwork.
  3. Academics, security researchers and teams from software firms unearth hundreds of vulnerabilities each year. But there will always be “zero-days”, or brand new vulnerabilities that software makers do not know about and for which no patch yet exists.Another technique is “fuzzing”, which involves pushing random data into the inputs of a program. If it crashes or signals an anomaly, that indicates a bug is present which may offer a way in.The use of such vulnerabilities by Western intelligence agencies has sparked a debate about the wisdom of stockpiling digital weapons that weaken the security of cyberspace. 
  4. New research suggests that kids who are unable to delay rewards are also more likely to become criminals later. 13,000 children aged 13 were asked whether they would prefer to receive $140 now or $1,400 in five years’ time.They found that the 13-year-olds who wanted the smaller sum of money at once were 32% more likely to be convicted of a crime during the next 18 years than those children who said they would rather wait for the bigger reward. Individuals who are impatient, they believe, prefer instant benefits and are therefore less likely to be deterred by potential punishments.The four researchers offer a remedy. When the respondents’ education was included in the analysis, they found that higher educational attainment was linked to a preference for delayed gratification.
  5. Sales of Levi Strauss, the 161-year-old parent company, peaked at close to $8 billion in the 1990s; by 2009 they were about half that. Consumers are defecting to cheaper jeans, sold by “fast-fashion” retailers like Zara and H&M, and to trendier labels like Diesel and True Religion.Among American men, Levi’s most important customers, there is a trend to greater formality at work: they are wearing tapered trousers to the office rather than 501s. There is another, more menacing trend, “athleisure”—wearing gym kit as everyday attire. The brand is “trapped in its denim heritage. One answer would be to redouble its bet on tradition by emphasising Levi’s American roots, shifting production back home and moving upmarket. t is loth to raise prices, which would cede the middle of the jeans market to rivals like Wrangler. Instead, it is taking almost the opposite tack: a new marketing strategy shifts the brand away from rust-belt edginess and toward a cheerier mainstream.Levi’s is trying to correct these imbalances, by opening more stores and by striking deals with sports teams like the San Francisco 49ers, hoping to sell more men’s shirts. It is also trying to become more “athleisurely”. New jeans for women add yogic stretch to the denim. 

 

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