Economist 2/5/15

  1. BY 2030nearly 9% of the world’s population will be living in just 41 megacities (those with more than 10m inhabitants), according to the UN. London earned megacity status in 2013, whereas Tokyo is estimated to be home to 38m people. This year, Asia will account for over half of the world’s 29 megacities, and in 2030 the UN forecast that Lagos in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous city, will have over 24m residents.
  2. TIME is up for the Dread Pirate Roberts. Ross Ulbricht, the 30-year-old Texan physics graduate accused of setting up the first major drugs marketplace on the web, the Silk Road, has been found guilty of all seven drugs-trafficking charges in a Manhattan court room today. The only surprising thing about Mr Ulbricht’s conviction is that it came so quickly.  Mr Ulbricht’s computer, which was seized in an unencrypted state when he was arrested, turned out to contain not only Mr Ulbricht’s sizeable stash of Bitcoin, but also a journal and chat logs about how the site was run.
  3. Google Translate’s update does two nifty things. One is that when you point your camera at a foreign-language text (a book cover, sign or menu), optical-character-recognition and translation software instantly work together to try to render the text into your language—on your camera screen, so you can see the words in context. The second update is to make the voice-recognition and voice-synthesis parts of Google Translate recognise languages, instantly convert spoken words into text, translate the text, and then say the words in the target language. This looks closer to our Universal Translator than anything yet devised.The camera-based optical recognition works rather better.Speech recognition is vastly harder than optical-character recognition. Speech is full of false starts and mumbles, throwing much more garbage into the translation engine.
  4. DETROIT may be one of the only cities in the rich world where it is possible for someone on a fairly modest income to buy a street.Together with more obvious problems such as poor schools and high crime, it is one of the reasons why despite all of the investment in downtown Detroit (which is thriving), gentrification is unlikely to repopulate much of the city soon.Car insurance in the city can cost more than $10,000 annually according to one survey—vastly higher than anywhere else in America. This is partly because of a Michigan law which forces insurers to pay up regardless of who caused an accident.Parking in a place where your car is not likely to be taken away by a criminal tow-truck enterprise and stripped for scrap metal however can cost as much as $100 a month.. In the whole of the city there are just 38 grocery stores, almost all of them independently owned.. In most of the best remaining neighbourhoods, neighbourhood watches are key institutions—keeping direct watch on the streets against thieves and burglars.
  5. A SMALL peaceful protest was all demonstrators could muster near to Tahrir Square to mark the fourth anniversary of Egypt’s revolution, and even that faced lethal force.After four roller-coaster years, many Egyptians meekly welcome a bit of calm. Some have begun to see dividends. More than 9m tourists brought much needed hard currency to Egypt last year, a 4% increase on 2013, according to government figures. The International Monetary Fund forecasts economic growth this year of 3.5%, up from 2.2% in 2014.

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