Economist 2/25/14

  1. BINYAMIN NETANYAHU after an anti-semitic attack killed a Jew in Copenhagen urged his coreligionists to leave “the soil of Europe” and to go to their real home: Israel. Many Jews are irked by being told they must respond to terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen by fleeing to Israel.Yet in some ways such appeals are not new.Ben-Gurion drafted a policy that has guided relations between Israel and the Jewish diaspora since the 1950s, saying that “Israel speaks only on behalf of its own citizens” and not Jews elsewhere. Jewish community organisations abroad felt that a corollary of this was that they should avoid criticism of the Israeli government of the day.Both ends of this bargain are being upset, particularly with the emergence of vocal, if still small, Jewish advocacy groups such as J Street in America, which campaign for Israel to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.In 2014 26,500 Jews came to Israel, the highest figure for a decade. Despite a doubling of emigration from France, that is still barely 0.3% of the total diaspora.
  2. IN THE only interview he ever gave, to La Stampa, Michele Ferrero did not once remove his sunglasses. This was not just to shield his weak eyes, but to conceal himself. Modesty was a habit.His love of privacy also had a commercial purpose. He needed to keep secret the recipe for his hazelnut-chocolate spread, Nutella, of which 365m kilos are now consumed each year round the world, and which along with more than 20 other confectionery lines made him Italy’s richest man, worth $23.4 billion. He laughed when he heard that the recipe for Coca-Cola was known to only a few directors of the company. Even fewer knew exactly what went into each jar of Nutella. The basic gianduja paste, ground hazelnuts with a little cocoa, had been known in northern Italy since Napoleonic times. His father Pietro, who ran a corner café and pastry-shop in the small town of Alba, had revived this idea in the second world war when cocoa was hard to get. Finding the perfect blend became a passion. Michele, taking over the recipe after his father’s death in 1949, did what no one else had, and added enough drops of vegetable oil to make it beautifully spreadable. The result was revolutionary. By not going public, he could also resist outside pressure. He waited until 1983 to take Nutella to America, sending his tiny white Tic-Tac mints first, because he did not want to compete with the national staple, peanut butter.He insisted in 1974 on introducing Kinder Surprise, little chocolate eggs with plastic toys inside, though everyone around him objected that eggs should only be large and only for Easter.Each product was exhaustively researched in his two labs, one in Alba and one in Monaco where he lived later, and tested out on board member. At the centre of his business strategy were two women. The first was “la Valeria”, his name for the typical housewife, mother, nonna or aunt who had to decide what to buy every day. The second woman was Maria, the Virgin Mary. He could achieve nothing without her. Each morning he prayed to her and placed his business in her hands. Every year he went on pilgrimage to Lourdes, and arranged for his workers to go.
  3. NEXT week the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could fatally undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health-care law also known as Obamacare.Of the thousands of petitions for certiorari they have considered thus far during the present term, which began in October, the justices have agreed to hear only 69. How does the winnowing work?The culling process occurs in 28 closed-door sessions each year. The largest reaping is the so-called Long Conference, a meeting at the end of September during which the nine justices consider dozens of petitions that have piled up over their summer break. The justices’ clerks, crack graduates of elite law schools, will have already read through the petitions and summarised them in writing, recommending whether to grant or deny “cert”. It takes five justices to decide a case, but four are enough to agree to hear one. The justices tend to grant review in cases where two or more of the 13 US courts of appeals have issued contradictory rulings on significant matters of federal law.
  4. IT IS not hard to find reasons why disaffection with the European Union might be growing within Europe. GDP in the euro area has declined for the sixth successive quarter and unemployment is running at record levels in many countries.As the table shows, when asked to name the most trustworthy nation, every country voted for Germany except for the Greeks. Instead, they awarded themselves that accolade, while casting Germany as the most arrogant and least compassionate nation. (In the 2012 poll, Greeks considered themselves to be the most hardworking, to general bemusement.)Indeed, Germany’s economic dominance is reflected in its several nominations as the most arrogant and least compassionate country.
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