Economist 2/10/16

  1. Russian repression is unlike that of the Soviet regime, which had a monopoly on violence. Mr Putin outsources his terror to thugs like Mr Ramzan Kadyrov, who ensures that Mr Putin routinely draws over 99% of the vote in elections in Chechnya. In December 2014 Mr Kadyrov paraded some 20,000 of his own well-armed troops through Grozny, Chechnya’s capital.Once groomed for the job of Russia’s president, Nemtsov was assassinated near Red Square in February 2015 by Zaur Dadaev, the former deputy head of a battalion controlled by Mr Kadyrov. The investigation sheds little light on who ordered the killing, or why.Rank-and-file security officers resent Mr Kadyrov, seeing him as one of the rebels they fought during the first Chechen war. But Mr Kadyrov enjoys protection from Mr Putin, who responded to his protégé’s latest provocations by calling him an effective worker.Kremlin awarded Mr Kadyrov a medal the day after Nemtsov’s murder, and he continues to receive ample funding from Moscow. Last year, while overall budget transfers to Russia’s regions declined by 3%, funding for Chechnya rose by 8%.
  2. Bloomberg estimates that nearly 30% of the global government bond market is trading on a negative yield; there are even some corporate bonds in the same position.So why on earth should investors sign up to lose money? There are three main groups of bond buyers. The first is those investors who have to own government bonds, regardless of the financial return on offer. This category includes central banks, which hold bonds as part of their foreign exchange reserves; insurance companies, which need to hold bonds as part of their reserves; pension funds, which own bonds to match their liabilities.The second group of bond buyers are those who think that it is possible to make moneydespite the negative yields. Japanese bonds are denominated in yen. Foreign investors might be happy to own the bonds if they think the yen is going to rise.The third source of buying comes from anxious investors who prefer a small loss on government bonds to a much bigger loss elsewhere.
  3. Britain’s National Travel Health Network and Centre is urging “pregnant women to consider avoiding travel to areas reporting active Zika transmission”. The American Centers for Disease Control, meanwhile, suggests travellers “practice enhanced precautions” in more than 20 countries.So much about Zika remains unknown. Most alarming seems to be a spike in microcephaly—abnormally small heads in babies born of women who contracted the virus. But even here, the World Health Organisation doesn’t go so far as to establish a definite link between the two, saying that “more investigation is needed”.Zika’s transmission also remains poorly understood. There is growing evidence that the mostly mosquito-borne virus may also be passed on through sexual contact.
  4. Companies that advise businesses on human-resource practices have so far urged caution rather than a complete abandonment of trips to Latin America.All HR organisations seem to agree on one point: companies shouldn’t bar pregnant employees from traveling to Latin America for work.The airline industry offers an instructive example of how businesses are addressing the threat. A growing number of carriers have offered refunds or are rebooking customers who bought tickets to affected areas—but airlines are also giving their own employees a break. United, American, Delta, Lufthansa and Air France are allowing flight attendants and pilots to change their routes if they have concerns.
  5. ON THE migrant trail at the border between Greece and Macedonia, everyone is scared. Refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are scared that Europe’s doors are closing. Economic migrants from Morocco and Algeria, trying to pass themselves off as refugees, are frightened that they will be turned back and forced to take deadly risks to evade border guards. The Greeks are worried that if the Macedonians seal the border, the refugees will be trapped in Greece.The point of arrival for migrants in Macedonia is a transit camp set up last year among the vineyards outside the dusty town of Gevgelija.The Macedonians built the camp next to the railway line that comes up from the Greek port of Thessaloniki.Since November only Iraqis, Afghans and Syrians have been allowed through. They show the border guards the travel documents given to them by Greek authorities when they arrive in Greece. At the moment 50 to 100 migrants are rejected every day because the Macedonians say they have fake papers, or can tell (by accent or other clues) that they are not from eligible countries. In both camps everyone wants to move as fast as possible, terrified that the path to Germany could be closed any day.

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