Economist 10/20/15

  1. For the past month the e5 Bakehouse, an “artisan” bakery in London, has been offering more than its staple sourdoughs: it has also been providing a future for enterprising refugees.This summer the bakery teamed up with the Refugee Council, a charity, to launch a subscription-based bread-delivery service run by refugee women from around the capital. The e5 Bakehouse shares its ovens and ingredients with the refugees. They bake enough bread to satisfy the small number of subscribers who have signed up to the service for a fee of £35 ($55), which entitles them to a loaf of bread a week for seven weeks.
  2. The best hope for greater transparency lies with an emerging global standard known as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which has grown to include 48 members (either compliant or candidate countries) since it was formed 12 years ago. But the EITI has reached a crossroads: it must now choose either to push ahead with bold disclosure requirements first floated in 2013, or back away under pressure from those who argue that revealing the true (“beneficial”) owners of companies involved in extractive deals with the state is not as straightforward as it seems.Tracking beneficial ownership is important because opaque shell companies are the vehicle of choice for those seeking to divert public oil wealth into private pockets.Ownership is just one of several thorny issues with which the EITI is having to wrestle. It must also decide whether to encourage or force commodity traders, such as Trafigura, Glencore and Vitol, to disclose more about their purchases from state entities.A third concern is the link to human rights. Azerbaijan’s status was recently downgraded from “compliant” to “candidate” because of its harsh treatment of civil-society campaigners, who see the EITI as a platform that helps them speak out about corruption.
  3. Cannabis is now legal for recreational use in four states and the District of Columbia, and for medical use in another 21. Colorado collected $44m in recreational marijuana taxes last year, and $72.5m in the first eight months of 2015.Even so, those hoping to take the drug mainstream know they have to get mothers on their side. One way to do so is to emphasise the health benefits of the weed.According to a recent estimate, a third of American adults use alternative medicines. More and more research papers now promote cannabis as a natural substitute for pharmaceuticals. Winning over mothers has long been a ploy to turbocharge sales, according to Maria Bailey and Bonnie Ulman, co-authors of “Trillion Dollar Moms”. Mothers control $1.6 trillion of direct consumer spending and influence the buying habits of their entire household.
  4. LAST week Amazon quietly pulled the plug on its hotel-booking service. Amazon Destinations had only been running for six months, so the news came as something of a surprise.Amazon, one would have thought, should have had some distinct advantages in its quest. It is a trusted online operator with a well-earned reputation for customer service. It also has the financial clout to disrupt what has become a duopoly.That is bad news for hoteliers, who don’t like the bargaining power that the big two hold over them and would prefer more competition.TripAdvisor announced plans to beef up its “instant booking” service.It has recently announced that Priceline, which owns the brand, is also on board, massively increasing its scope. Wyndham Hotels, too, is another recent big signing.
  5. If any prosperous European country has been left untouched by Europe’s migrant crisis, it is Switzerland. The government of the Alpine country had planned to admit about 29,000 asylum-seekers in 2015.Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, and thus is not part of the mandatory relocation scheme for asylum applicants which most EU members now face.The country’s mountainous terrain and lack of major rail hubs seem to have kept it off of the major migrant routes. Nevertheless, voters handsomely rewarded right-wing politicians who had campaigned hard on immigration issues. The Swiss People’s Party (SVP), already the biggest in the federal assembly, pushed its share of the popular vote to 29%, surpassing its previous record in 2007.The SVP is still short of a majority in the federal assembly. Its triumph is less likely to translate into radical policy shifts than to move the centre of Swiss politics to the right on issues ranging from social benefits to energy policy and the environment.But the SVP’s success was not just a product of fear. It also ran the most effective campaign.

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