Economist 7/20/15

  1. Adult section of, a classified advertising website, which includes subdivisions that range from “escort”, “domination & fetish” to “body rubs”. Prostitution is illegal in the United States, in all but a few counties in Nevada, but Backpage, which is run by two former journalists, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, is by most estimates the biggest online marketplace for buying and selling sex in America. Backpage has defended itself with reference to the Communications Decency Act, a federal law passed in 1996 that says that internet-service providers are merely hosts and not publishers, which means they cannot be held liable for whatever is posted on them by a third party.The site became the market leader after, another classified ad site, was pressed into shutting down its adult division in 2010.) In just one recent month in spring posted more than 1.4m ads in its “adult escort” section, of which perhaps less than 1% are for something other than sex.According to conservative estimates, Backpage rakes in $9m-10m every month from its adult section.
  2. Today companies are competing in their own hunt to control the future of mapping technology.A coalition of carmakers, including Audi, BMW and Daimler of Germany, appear to be the favoured purchasers of Here by Nokia, though price is reportedly a sticking-point. Nonetheless, they are likely to drive ahead with the deal: they do not want to surrender the future of mapping to Google.Uber, a taxi-hailing company, and Baidu, a Chinese internet giant, reportedly teamed up for their own bid (although the most recent whispers suggest they may be out of the running).Whichever buyer wins will pay much less than the $8.1 billion that Nokia paid for Navteq, the mapping business that became Here, in 2008, just before the peak of the financial crisis. One reason is that since then the technology to draw digital maps has got better and cheaper.Recently Uber acquired engineers, cameras and mapping patents from Microsoft.
  3. When the red flag came down, Russians flew off en masse on exotic forays to Turkey or Thailand. Now the pleasure of holidaying closer to home is perforce being rediscovered by an ever-growing category of citizens who, to use a very Soviet term, are nevyezdniye: forbidden, by virtue of their state employment or access to secrets, from going abroad.The number of nevyezdniye Russians may surpass 4m.That is a change from the early years of Vladimir Putin’s presidency, when the means as well as the right to travel were hailed as benefits of his rule.That began to change in 2010, says Andrei Soldatov, an investigative journalist, when America uncovered a network of Russian spies who had lived in America for years.The Russian state began to curb the right of those with state secrets to roam the world.So demand has risen for Russia’s few seaside resorts, such as Sochi, the site of the Winter Olympics in 2014, and Anapa on the Black Sea—and Crimea. Operators of package tours to Egypt and Turkey have begun organising similar trips to Sochi:
  4. UPON joining a panel mulling new regulations for London’s financial industry in 2010, Martin Taylor was confronted with “an operatic chorus” of bankers threatening to move elsewhere if oversight became too strict. Moneymen from all sorts of firms told the former boss of Barclays, a big British bank, that they were on the verge of decamping to Switzerland, apparently a paradise of low taxes and sympathetic regulators.In recent months, the same chorus that greeted Mr Taylor has joined a new crescendo, complaining of everything from a new tax surcharge on banks’ profits to London property, which is apparently too expensive even for finance types.Britain is more open to trade and capital than most, and London is a more exciting place to live than mooted rivals such as Frankfurt and Singapore.
  5. London’s trading floors dominate the selling of bonds and currencies: twice as many dollars are exchanged there as in America and twice as many euros as in the euro zone. A fifth of cross-border lending is booked in Britain, more than anywhere else in the world. The City boasts more foreign banks than any other financial centre, but banking is just one of its elements.The financiers are supported by a dense network of professionals: London is teeming with lawyers, accountants and consultants of all stripes. Around 8% of Britain’s economic output comes from finance. It generates net exports of $95 billion, almost three times the size of the American industry’s.Yet the City is not as impregnable as all this suggests. It has lost chunks of its business in the past. Bits of insurance have largely relocated to Bermuda and other warm spots. Fund-management is gravitating to Dublin and Luxembourg. Switzerland continues to attract private-banking clients, despite no longer offering banking secrecy.The centre of financial gravity is shifting, too. As Asia grows richer and its markets gain heft, companies there will presumably chafe at the use of intermediaries half a world away.

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