Economist 7/31/14

  1. Satiated diners have a one-track mind: pay for the meal and leave as quickly as possible. It was discovered that it can take more than ten minutes for a party to pay for the food at the end of a meal. For groups bigger than six, each diner adds another 90 seconds to the transaction., Flypay, claims to cut that time down to a minute. Integrating with restaurants’ existing payment systems, Flypay allows customers to pay with their phones by downloading an app and scanning a QR code on their table, or waving their handset over a near field communication (NFC) tag.Using wireless (Bluetooth) technology, Cover recognises when a diner enters a participating restaurant. Connected to a pre-registered credit or debit card, the app allows diners to add a tip, split their bill, and pay for their food without waiting. Cover do not disclose the precise share of the bill it takes, but Mr Egerman explains it is equal to or less than the standard New York card handling fee, between 3.2% and 4.7%.
  2. IT WAS in a rather brusque and unceremonious fashion that the Cenci Journalism Project, a crowdsourced and volunteer-run media translation site, was systematically removed this month from the Chinese internet. Its website was blocked and erased from domestic search engines. Its private discussion forums were shut down; the personal social media accounts of its founder and executive editor were deleted;Mr Kang soon discovered that, in the new and tightly restricted media environment of the Xi Jinping administration, it is no longer the content that matters. It is the format and the concept: citizen journalists providing diverse perspectives. Since Xi Jinping took over as China’s president in March 2013, Chinese journalists have operated under increasingly tighter media restrictions.
  3. The border  is unmarked around the lake, which abutted Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria until it began to dry up and shrink over the past few decades.Boko Haram, the equally murderous Nigerian outfit that is striving to expand its base beyond its original area south-west of Lake Chad.. Chad is sending ever more troops to the border. Checkpoints and military vehicles are visible on the roads outside N’Djamena, which is close to the lake.Oil-rich Chad has one of the fiercest armies on the continent. It has deployed peacekeepers in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR). Nigeria’s armed forces are plagued with corruption; its rates of desertion are high. Niger is poor even by regional standards and militarily unable to cope. The weakest link in the region, however, is Cameroon.Nigeria closed its border with it in February and has called its government negligent. Unlike Chad and Niger, it does not allow troops from neighbouring countries the right of hot pursuit across its border. That may be partly because Cameroon and Nigeria lack an agreed frontier due to a long-running territorial dispute; the UN’s attempt to mark the 2,100km boundary, which cuts across mountains and deserts, may be the biggest project of its kind in the world. In May Cameroon at last deployed a thousand troops to the border region.
  4. Whole Food’s shares have fallen by more than 40% since hitting a peak last October, in a period when stockmarkets have been strong.The problem is that at Whole Foods, shoppers have been paying way over the cost of regular produce, and its success in getting them to do so has now attracted a lot of competitors, from rival organics chains like Sprouts and Trader Joe’s to mass-market retailers like Walmart and Costco. As a result, the price premium for organic produce is crashing down.
  5. Reliance invests more in India and pays more corporation tax there than any other firm. Without Reliance, which generates 15% of the country’s exports, the balance of payments would be a wreck.Yet in other ways, Reliance is a rotten role model for corporate India. Reliance is a patriarchy with a lightweight board. Although a listed firm, it makes payments equivalent to a quarter of its pre-tax profits to related entities, mainly privately held by the Ambani family. Its ultimate ownership and beneficiaries are obscured by a mesh of holding vehicles that India’s securities regulator says it does not fully understand. The regulator accuses the firm of making illegal gains from trading derivatives linked to its own subsidiary’s shares (an accusation Reliance is contesting). Some foreign investors, put off by the lack of transparency, shy away. Mr Ambani seems to believe that Reliance does not need to reform. He is wrong, for two reasons. First, India’s economy is opening up, and the firms most exposed to global competition—tech giants, for instance—have the world-class governance and open cultures. 

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