Economist 8/5/14

  1. Just as the stockmarket was closing after a jittery day on August 5th, Rupert Murdoch said that 21st Century Fox, of which he is chairman and chief executive, was withdrawing the $80 billion bid in cash and shares that it had made for Time Warner on July 16th. A little later the Wall Street Journal reported that Sprint, America’s third-biggest mobile phone operator, was giving up its pursuit of the fourth-biggest, T-Mobile US. No formal bid had been made, but Masayoshi Son, boss of Softbank, the Japanese company that owns Sprint, had made no secret of his desire to buy his rival.
  2. Government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is making a broader effort to bring civil society to heel, using harsh new laws as well as old regulations that had hitherto gone unenforced.First to be hit were imams and preachers. Those not licensed by the government are banned from preaching. The main qualification for getting a licence is having studied at Al-Azhar mosque, a respected institution for the study of Islamic law. Anyone who defies the order risks a year’s imprisonment and fines of up to 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($7,000).The laws on mosques are plainly being used to squash dissent, which is strongest among Islamist groupings such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
  3. The BioEnergy Team, led by Ioannis Ieropoulos of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) in Britain have developed a new technique to turn urine into electrical power—or “urine-tricity” as they call it.People around the world produce an estimated 6.4 trillion litres of urine every year. At the core of urine-tricity are microbial fuel cells (MFCs), which contain live microbes. When urine flows through an MFC the microbes consume it as part of their normal metabolic process. This, in turn, frees electrons.. The low level of organic carbon in urine, combined with favourable acidity and electrical conductivity, made all the difference. Where earlier tests produced minimal power, urine had the vim to recharge commercially available batteries.
  4. . As sentences have gradually ratcheted up, England and Wales have acquired the largest prison population in western Europe. The ratio of prisoners to violent crimes is now four times what it was in the mid-1990s.At 149 per 100,000, the incarceration rate in England and Wales is still way below America’s 707, but it is far greater than Germany’s 78 and the Netherlands’ 75.  Some are at more than 180% of their official capacity. Inspectors catalogue multiple failings—filthy cells, widespread drug use, bullying, too few opportunities for work.Since 2008 the number of prisoners in the Netherlands has dropped by one-quarter. Bizarrely, that country now has more guards than convicts. . Increasingly, crimes are committed by ex-cons. In 2003, 20% of people sentenced had committed 15 or more previous crimes; in 2013, 33% had.
  5. Philippines’ president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s  Disbursement Acceleration Programme, or DAP was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme court.It ran from the last quarter of 2011 to the first of 2013, and financed programmes and projects worth 144 billion pesos ($3.3 billion).It ran from the last quarter of 2011 to the first of 2013, and financed programmes and projects worth 144 billion pesos ($3.3 billion). The problem was not what the money was spent on, but where it came from: mainly unreleased appropriations, funds reassigned from slow-moving to more urgent projects, and “unprogrammed funds” (ie, standby amounts to be released when revenue collections exceed targets).
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