Economist 11/16/15

  1. FACEBOOK recently issued its latest report on the number of requests it received from governments around the world for data about its users’ accounts in the first half of 2015. This is the social network’s fifth report since 2013 and shows the demand for such information is rising. Requests in the United States have jumped by a third since the first report. Britain, the third highest for total requests, has experienced an increase of 92% over the same period. Although these numbers are small (American requests to Facebook for account information represents just 16 per 100,000 of its users).In July Facebook lost a case in New York where it contested 381 search-warrant requests; mostly on the grounds that legally only a defendant can contest a search warrant.
  2. The lads’ mags are in trouble. In the first six months of this year, sales of 11 of the 15 titles classified as men’s magazines, including Loaded, dropped from the same period last year.Part of this decline could simply be due to the economic slow-down. Women’s titles, such as Marie Claire,Cosmopolitan and Tatler, have taken a battering this year too. But the fall at the lads’ mags has been steeper: Loadedhas lost nearly 13% of its circulation. Even FHM, owned by Emap, a British publisher, which remains the market leader with a circulation of over 700,000, was down by 2%.
  3. SOUTH AFRICANS eat about 1.8m tonnes of chicken a year.Chicken, the cheapest meat here, is the main source of protein for poorer South Africans. But demand is growing, and a weak currency has sent prices soaring by 13% over the past two years.All of this makes the South African government’s slowness in resolving a trade impasse with America over imports of chicken, beef and pork all the more baffling.American producers complain that their access to the South African market is frustrated by high duties (imposed ostensibly because American producers have been “dumping” chicken at below the cost of production.Now Barack Obama, America’s president, has stepped in with tough talk and an ultimatum. Unless South Africa removes barriers to American meat within 60 days it could lose preferential access to America’s markets that was granted under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).This would affect South African exports of citrus and wine.In June, Mr Obama renewed AGOA, which lets African countries sell many goods tariff-free to America. South Africa was included despite critics within Congress arguing it was rich and mature enough not to need a leg up.
  4. ON NOVEMBER 6th the British government proposed a series of reforms to higher education. Amid a long list of suggested changes, one measure stood out: those universities that passed muster on a new rating system would be allowed to raise tuition fees in line with inflation.In 2010, when a Conservative-led coalition was preparing to raise the cap on tuition fees (from £3,290 to £9,000 a year), as many as 50,000 protesters hit London’s streets and critics lined up to pronounce the move a blow to social mobility.Five years on, it is clear the critics were wrong. In 2014, just under one-fifth of 18-year-olds from the poorest backgrounds went to university, more than ever before.Without financial support for those from poor backgrounds, such a rise would almost certainly have led to fewer going to university. But tuition fees are rarely paid up front. Instead, the government offers loans to students heading off to university for the first time.
  5. African migrants encounter as much undisguised hostility in Malta as anywhere in Europe.In the early 2000s, when thousands of African asylum seekers began landing here annually, it came as a shock.Malta is both the EU’s smallest state and its most densely populated one. Maltese feel they should have to take fewer migrants than larger states.Malta is barely 200 miles from Libya, still a major transit country for refugees though no longer as important as Turkey. But the flow to Malta has virtually shut down—and no one knows why. Over 140,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea in the year to November 10th; in Malta, since the end of January, the number is just 20.The Maltese economy grew in the second quarter at an annual rate of more than 5%. Unemployment is the third-lowest in the EU. The budget deficit this year is expected to be 1.6% of GDP.At the EU-Africa migration summit, European leaders pleaded with African countries to help them to bring their migrant problem under control.Locals say some asylum-seekers who have been accepted in other Mediterranean countries, like Spain, are coming to Malta in search of jobs. The country even offers passports to anyone who invests €1m.
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