Economist 12/10/15

  1. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s billionaire boss, wants to be a global media mogul. He is already one at home, thanks to a flurry of recent acquisitions. His firm bought control of China Vision Media (renamed Alibaba Pictures), and has a stake in Huayi Brothers, another studio. It controls Youku Tudou, a leading online-video portal. Mr Ma has also put his own money into Wasu Media, a digital-media firm rumoured to have held talks with Netflix, which hopes to enter the China market.Mr Ma is busy adding news businesses to his media empire. Alibaba has invested in a number of mainland publications, including the respectedChina Business News. Now it is in talks to buy the South China Morning Post, a 112-year-old English-language daily in Hong Kong.The Post, like Hong Kong, is still seen by foreign businesspeople as a gateway to China.Officials in Beijing have clamped down on mainland news media, while tolerating more openness in the former British colony.
  2. Mduduzi Mbuya and Jean Humphrey of Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, who work with children in Zimbabwe,children eating dirt can be very harmful indeed.They suspect, as they write in Maternal and Child Nutrition, that in places like Zimbabwe, where chickens roam freely and what is on the ground is thus full of their droppings, it is responsible for stunting infant growth.One child in five is so afflicted. And stunting’s effects are not merely physical. Stunted children also do badly at school, affecting both their own futures and those of the countries they live in.
  3. South Korea is the only advanced country that exempts its clergy from all taxation. Still, many Buddhist monks and Protestant pastors pay dues voluntarily on their personal incomes; all Catholic priests have done so since 1994. In September the Presbyterians said that they would join them. Priests who support the new tax say it is only fair: everyone is doing God’s work, whether reverend or farmer. But others scorn the idea. They say taxes reduce the godly work of the clergy to mere labour.There is a widespread belief that some churches are averse to tax because they do not want closer scrutiny of the huge sums that cross their collection plates.The capital, Seoul, is home to 17 mega-churches with over 2,000 members each. Ministers manage them like businesses—and sometimes live like tycoons. Yoido Full Gospel Church, founded by Cho Yong-gi, has interests in a national daily and a university (with 830,000 worshippers, it is the world’s largest Christian congregation). Last year Mr Cho was convicted of tax evasion and of embezzling 13 billion won ($12m) in church funds.
  4. For years Sri Lankans have helped to meet foreign demand for cheap domestic workers. This has benefited the country, as it has Asian neighbours such as Indonesia and the Philippines. Sri Lankan migrants sent home $7 billion in 2014, equivalent to 9% of GDP; remittances to the Philippines now amount to around $27 billion, much of it from domestic workers.Yet dangers are rife, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which hired nearly 40,000 Sri Lankan maids in 2014. In 2013 a Sri Lankan worker in Saudi Arabia was convicted of killing a baby and beheaded; two Indonesian maids, also accused of murder, were put to death this spring. Far more common are abuses by employers, including physical assaults and withholding of wages.The failure of maid-hiring countries to give better protection to their paid guests has been fuelling demands in the sending countries for curbs on such labour flows. Since August Sri Lankan authorities have required would-be migrant maids to secure a certified “family background report” proving that they have no children under the age of five.
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