Economist 7/16/15

  1. Several American cities, including Portland, have ordered Uber to suspend operations, while whole countries, such as Germany, have outlawed it. Objections tend to fall into one of two camps. The first is that, because the platform works out fares dynamically, it is a de facto metred service and so requires licensing.The latest report by Certify, which tracks business-expense claims, found that for the first time the majority of “ground transportation receipts” were for rides in Uber cars. In the second quarter of 2015, 55% of such business expenses emanated from that single company, compared with 43% on all other taxi services. According to Certify, whose respondents are overwhelmingly American, the cities in which businessmen are most likely to use an Uber car is San Francisco (79%), followed by Dallas (60%) and Los Angeles (54%).
  2. The protest in Westminster against government plans to relax the ban on fox hunting was in full swing, news came through that the vote in Parliament had been cancelled.The last-minute change on July 14th followed an announcement by the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) that it would vote with other opposition parties against the amendment. This was unexpected: the ban applies only in England and Wales, and the SNP claims to avoid votes not affecting Scotland. The about-turn put the Conservatives—their slender majority eliminated by rebels on their own benches—on track for a defeat.Cases like the hunting amendment, where Scottish MPs might have altered a decision not directly affecting Scots, are rare, because Scotland elects just 59 of Parliament’s 650 MPs. Between 2001 and 2015 Scottish MPs tilted only 25 of 3,773 votes. And most of these affected the entire United Kingdom. Yet as the government devolves new powers to Edinburgh to curb the pro-independence surge there, the number of such votes will probably rise.
  3. At the opening of this week’s Addis Ababa Financing for Development conference,the shift of focus from giving aid to helping countries generate jobs and investment has been broadly welcomed.But economic growth and tax reform take time—and the conference was short of pledges of resources to fill the gap.Donor countries are doing even less. But there is one way they could boost development that would not cost them anything: they could make sure that their money is going to the right places. The cost of lifting everyone in the world out of extreme poverty (living under $1.25 a day) is just $66 billion a year at the moment, according to the UN. Donor states currently spend $180 billion per year on bilateral aid. But only 5% of it goes to the poorest fifth of countries—and even this paltry share has been declining
  4. WHEN Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes in 1886, he would not have predicted his hero’s appearance on the stamps of Nicaragua, South Africa and Canada, or his role inspiring themed flashmobs in St Petersburg. Nor indeed would he have foreseen Holmes’s eventual appearance in the Guinness Book of Records.Yet Holmes has once again been successfully reborn, this time in “Mr Holmes”, Bill Condon’s latest film. Based on “A Slight Trick of the Mind”, a book from 2005 by Mitch Cullin, the plot follows a beaky Ian McKellen as a senescent Holmes during the winter of his life in post-war England.This reincarnation has been controversial, too, because of a lawsuit. Though the majority of Conan Doyle’s “Case-Book” stories are now in the public domain, later work published between 1923 and 1927 is still protected by American copyright laws. The Conan Doyle estate recently filed a suit against the film’s co-distributors Miramax and Roadside Attractions, Penguin Random House, which published Mr Cullin’s book.
  5. The Mexican government had hoped that its first-ever auction of shallow-water exploration blocks in the Gulf of Mexico would successfully launch the modernisation of its energy industry. In the run-up to the bidding, Mexico had sought to be as accommodating as its historic dislike for foreign oil companies allowed it to be.The results fell well short of the government’s hopes and underscore how residual resource nationalism continues to plague the Latin American oil industry. Only two of 14 exploration blocks were awarded, both going to the same Mexican-led trio of energy firms. Officials blamed the disappointing outcome on the sagging international oil market, but their own insecurity about appearing to sell the country’s oil too cheap may also have been to blame, according to industry experts.Mexico’s auction comes at a time when other Latin American countries—even socialist Venezuela—are rethinking their gut hostility to foreign oil firms, though still hesitantly.The rot started in Venezuela in the early years of this century when Hugo Chávez, its late leader, turned PDVSA, a world-class state oil company, into a piggy bank for his free-spending populism, and then scared off foreign investors.
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