Economist 9/11/14

  1. Last week China’s TV regulator said that, from April, any foreign series or film would need approval before being shown online. Chinese media say that regulators are also considering limiting the number of foreign series shown online to a specific proportion of total output. The new rules appear aimed at closing one of the biggest loopholes in China’s control of its media: on terrestrial TV, for example, foreign dramas are banned in prime time. Many are forbidden altogether.Earlier this year Chinese websites were ordered to remove several American TV series; at least one of these, it was announced, would be shown, edited, on state TV instead.The new controls may simply push younger viewers away from authorised providers and towards pirate sites instead, says a Chinese academic specialising in media studies.
  2. On September 8th revised figures showed that Japan’s GDP shrank by 1.8% in the second quarter, or by 7.1% on an annualised basis, even worse than the initial estimate of 1.7%.Architects of Abenomics had issued dire warnings against raising the consumption tax from 5% to 8% in April.The government also misjudged the effects of the Bank of Japan’s huge asset purchases.It is buying ¥7 trillion ($65 billion) of Japanese government bonds a month, and now owns a fifth of the government’s outstanding debt. In a few years Japanese carmakers will be making more vehicles elsewhere in Asia than at home. The waning appeal of electronic gadgets from the likes of Sony, Panasonic and Sharp has also weighed on exports.Unless growth continues to disappoint, Mr Abe will probably stick with a second scheduled rise in the consumption tax, from 8% to 10%, in October of next year. A reversal might stir alarm about Japan’s huge public debt, which stands at more than 240% of GDP.
  3. Although sex makes serious demands on the spine, no one has taken the time to study how different sexual positions can accommodate different back problems.But Stuart McGill and Natalie Sidorkewicz of the University of Waterloo in Canada rose to the challenge.They used eight infra-red motion-capture cameras to track the movements of reflective dots placed strategically on the participants’ bodies.When the data were crunched, the researchers found that—contrary to popular belief—spooning was not a good idea for men with bending-induced lower back pain. Nor was a variant of the missionary position with the man supporting himself on his elbows.
  4. The prissiest Americans are haunted by a different fear: that they may buy cheese made by someone whose opinions they do not share. To help people avoid this calamity, a new app called BuyPartisan reveals whether any given product is made by Republicans or Democrats.Latte-sipping, iPad-toting liberals will be relieved to hear that the directors of Starbucks donated five times as much to Democrats as to Republicans; those of Apple gave 30 times as much.
  5. There are countries with fewer than 1.5m people. About 29m people live in the 48 small states, according to the World Bank’s classification. In the last five years GDP per capita in the small states has shrunk by 2.3%. Some little countries have done well: the Marshall Islands has seen per-capita growth of 8%. Others have done appallingly: St Kitts and Nevis saw a 12% fall. Antigua and Barbuda suffered a 21% drop. Small states have long faced problems. First, they struggle to find economies of scale. Imagine trying to provide public services in the Federated States of Micronesia—where over 600 islands are spread across 1m square miles of ocean. Second, trade is more difficult for small, isolated countries. Kiribati, an island nation of 100,000 people, is slap-bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (and a five-hour flight from Hawaii). The fixed costs of trading with Kiribati are high but the market is small. First, big fixed costs in the public sector mean that small states have higher spending-to-GDP ratios than big countries.In an attempt to break into global markets, small states often focus their energies on exporting a single good or service. Without export diversification, such states are vulnerable to economic shocks.
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