Economist 3/18/15

  1. Japanese fans of sumo are so accustomed to foreigners’ dominance of Sumo wrestling that when in January the reigning Mongolian champion, Hakuho, carried off his 33rd Emperor’s Cup (beating not only his Japanese opponent in the ring but the formerly unbroken record of the legendary Taiho, from Hokkaido) only a few described the result as regrettable. Of the 26 most accomplished wrestlers in Japan, which is the only location of professional sumo contests, ten are non-Japanese, and seven of those are Mongolian.There would be many more foreigners in sumo—and probably near the top—were it not for a strictly enforced regulation that each of 43 stables in Japan may accept only a single foreigner, or gaijinThe chief reason is that the number of Japanese boys entering training to become sumo wrestlers has been plummeting for years. The typical, and far more successful, recruit of earlier centuries was a poor and often hungry youngster from a large family from Japan’s remote rural regions. Nowadays families are smaller and richer.Having refused properly to modernise its culture, the sport itself must also take much blame for its diminished appeal to Japanese youths.
  2. FOUR extra points of IQ, an extra year’s education and a significantly enhanced income at the age of 30. Those are the benefits of having been breast-fed, according a study just published in Lancet Global Health.But Dr Horta’s work is particularly persuasive because it looks at adults rather than children and teenagers,The participants in the study were among a group of Brazilians born in Pelotas in 1982.Comparing those who, as babies, had been breast-fed for less than a month with those who had been so fed for more than a year, Dr Horta found the latter’s IQ was 3.76 points higher than the former’s and that they had attended school for 0.91 years longer.
  3. Why is the oil price falling? Mostly because of increased supply from America—up by 4m barrels a day since 2009. Although most crude exports are still banned, American imports have plummeted, contributing to a glut on world markets.Why? The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries is dominated by Gulf producers, notably Saudi Arabia. They have huge reserves to cushion the impact of low prices. America’s shale production boom is based on new techniques—fracking and horizontal drilling—and unlike “big oil” involves small companies and small projects. These are flexible, meaning they will quickly respond to any price rise.Other producers such Nigeria and Venezuela are indeed hurting badly. But OPEC solidarity stretches only so far. Russia tried and failed to get OPEC support for a production curb—and is now ramping up its production in the hope of protecting the volume of oil revenues.What happens next?
    The debate about lifting America’s ban on crude exports is firing up. The petrochemical and steel lobbies are fighting a rear-guard action against big oil.The oil industry’s immediate reaction is to squeeze costs out of its supply chain. So wages and margins are falling fast.
  4. KLEINER Perkins Caulfield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious venture-capital firms, had promoted only one woman to the position of senior partner by 2011, nearly 40 years after the firm was founded. Indeed, these firms tend to be even less diverse than the technology companies they fund. The number of female partners in VC firms has actually decreased from 10% in 1999 to 6% in 2014, according to a recent report from Babson College.
  5. In 2011, in response to a wave of protests across the region, King Mohamed VI passed a new constitution and promised reforms in Morocco. He also co-opted the main Islamist party into government. Yet despite his lofty promises, most of the laws meant to give life to the new constitution are yet to be written. The press is muzzled and local human-rights groups are frequently harassed.The economy is expected to grow by 4.6% in 2015. Yet in this country of 33m, only 21,000 new jobs were created last year. Unemployment is, surprisingly, highest among young, urban, educated folk. The gulf between the cities and the countryside is staggering. Tens of thousands of vulnerable women toil for low wages as seasonal workers picking fruit to be exported to Europe, or as under-aged wives who are de facto servants in their husbands’ homes.
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