Economist 9/12/14

  1. Many Saudis turn to YouTube and other online broadcasters for light relief. In the glassy offices of UTURN Entertainment in Jeddah, men and abaya-clad women play table-football and squeeze putty between commissioning and recording videos for their YouTube channel. UTURN Entertainment now has over 300,000 subscribers—not surprising, seeing that a recent survey found that Saudis watch an average of seven YouTube videos a day. Online videos are not the only fad. There are so many Twitter users among the 60% of Saudis who use the internet that the country has the world’s highest penetration of the microblog; the number of users rose by 45% between 2012 and 2013. About 8m of the country’s 31m people use Facebook. An overwhelming 87% of Saudi users of social media are men. 
  2. Following a sustained campaign by President Xi Jinping to discourage lavish spending on state-funded business trips—a campaign which domestic carriers blame for a sharp fall in profits—the airline has simply re-branded its premium cabin. High-ranking officials can still book the same luxury seats as before on domestic narrowbody flights, but now their expense forms will read “Business”, not “First Class”. China Southern Airlines has chosen the path of least resistance in adapting its product.In January, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported that 56 of the country’s 680 five-star hotels had requested downgrades, presumably to side-step the austerity drive. Many others had suspended applications for the top ranking.
  3. If Scots vote for independence on September 18th, as opinion polls suggest they may, it will be the end of the union. If they vote against it, Mr Cameron and his political rivals promised, Scotland will get significant new powers, with talks on a fresh constitutional deal to start the day after the vote.Even before this week’s polls suggested the gap between the separatist Yes and unionist No campaigns had closed, from around 20 points in favour of the union to next to nothing, there had been signs of a nationalist surge. A gambit from Alex Salmond, Scotland’s nationalist first minister, to present continued rule from Westminster as a risk to Scotland’s public services has worked. Cameron . He gave the go-ahead for the referendum, after Mr Salmond’s Scottish National Party (SNP) won a majority in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, and set its terms.They hope for a rerun of Quebec’s 1995 referendum, when a last-ditch promise of more devolution helped turn back the separatists and leave Canada intact, by a tiny margin.
  4. IN AMERICA, one in three workers does some work on the weekend. Europeans are more likely to treat Saturday and Sunday as sacred: only one in five workers in France, Germany and the Netherlands buck the trend. American workers are rather nocturnal, too. One in four works between 10pm and 6am. In France and the Netherlands, one in every fourteen does so.Why? The obvious explanation is longer working hours. Average hours are higher in Anglo-Saxon countries than in other advanced economies.This paper exemplifies the problem facing economists who research time-use. Beyond some highly aggregated OECD numbers, there is a pathetic amount of data available. In this paper, the economists were forced to use French data from 1999 and British data from 2001. The “American Time Use Survey”, began in 2003. Data are released annually and offer some lovely little nuggets of information. (Did you know that each day in 2013 the average American spent 17% longer on the phone than they had done in 2003?).
  5. LATINO immigration advocates are furious at Barack Obama for reneging on his pledgeto take executive action on immigration before the end of the summer, reports Dara Lindat Vox. The question is how to get Democrats to pay attention to Latino demands for immigration reform, when doing so could alienate white voters in crucial Republican-leaning constituencies, and Latino voters already tend to vote for Democrats.The flow of Central American immigrants across America’s southern border has shrunk dramatically in recent months, but the beast they were fleeing hasn’t gone away. Central America’s weak states are being torn apart by gangs, whose sources of revenue (drugs, protection rackets and criminal cartels) and ability to deploy armed force often rival those of governments. Typically, because state failures of this sort create regional problems of crime, terrorism, and refugee flows, neighbouring powers often step in to re-establish order.

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