Economist 3/3/15

  1. THE WORLD’s ten most expensive cities are all found in Australia, Asia and Western Europe, according to the bi-annual cost of living index from the Economist Intelligence Unit, our corporate sibling. Singapore retains the top spot, while weak inflation and the yen’s devaluation have pushed Tokyo and Osaka to 11th and 16th place respectively. Seoul has risen from 50th place five years ago to joint ninth at the end of 2014. Asia is also home to many of the world’s cheapest cities: Karachi and Bangalore are the joint cheapest locations among the 133 cities in the survey, and five of the six cheapest cities surveyed are in Pakistan and India. Caracas’s descent from top ten to bottom five is due to the survey’s use of an alternative exchange rate. The cost of living in New York has risen by about 23% over the past five years.
  2. Israeli prime ministers have regularly spoken before Congress, an unsurprising fact given the close relationship between the two countries. But this address will be Mr Netanyahu’s third (he previously spoke in 2011 and 1996), an honour rarely afforded foreign heads of state. The only other foreign leader to appear three times was Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime leader. And Mr Netanyahu’s invitation from John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, was made without consulting or informing the White House, an unusual breach of protocol.The timing of the speech is also awkward. Talks on a nuclear deal with Iran are inching towards a conclusion and Mr Netanyahu faces an election in two weeks.President Barack Obama has said he will not meet Mr Netanyahu, in what many think is a thinly veiled snub.
  3. It was found they could treat certain infections with bacteriophages—viruses that attack bacterial cells but not mammalian ones.Phage therapy, as this practice is known, fell out of favour in the West after the development of antibiotics, although it continued in parts of the old Soviet sphere of influence.The phage work is run by Sammy Farah, head of the firm’s vaccines and therapeutics unit. His team is developing phages for use against antibiotic-resistant strains of Pseudomonas, a bug that causes skin infections, sepsis and.Dr Farah and his colleagues, by contrast, are able to synthesise viruses from scratch, using off-the-shelf chemicals. They can thus design them precisely, down to the last atom.Dr Farah also hopes to add what might be called resistance to resistance, for—just as has happened with antibiotics—natural selection will inevitably shape how the target bacteria respond to viral attack.
  4. On March 4th the Council of Europe, the continent’s human-rights body, is expected to reprimand France for not outlawing the corporal punishment of children. As a signatory of the European Social Charter, France has to ensure that “domestic law must prohibit and penalise all forms of violence against children”. But the council, ruling in response to a complaint brought by a British charity, is expected to judge that French law is not “sufficiently clear, binding and precise” in doing so. Up to a point, such views are part of a culture of French child-rearing, where discipline and authority prevail. The firm slap is seen as part of a repertoire of sanctions that distinguishes the unsentimental French approach to parenting from the permissive, child-centric Anglo-Saxon variety.So far, the French Socialist government seems set against criminalisation. 
  5. LATE on February 27th Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition leader and former deputy prime minister, was shot four times in the back just a stone’s throw from the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, condemned the killing and promised to investigate. Analysis of 758 assassinations suggests that 15 political targets were murdered each year from 1970 to 2013, up from just 5 per year from 1945-1969. A fifth of those in the more recent period took place in the Middle East and North Africa region. Killings in South-Asian countries have seen the biggest spike in recent years. Over three-quarters of them occurred after 1985 as Afghanistan and Pakistan became less stable.

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