Economist 3/8/16

  1. This week Google is expanding the European Union’s “right to be forgotten”. Europeans may ask search engines to remove certain links from results generated by queries for their names, and Google has done so for more than 500,000 web pages. Hitherto the company delisted links only from the national versions of its search service (like or Now it is removing them from the lot, including, for European visitors identified using location data such as IP addresses. The change follows demands from European privacy regulators, who think that deletion only from national sites made a mockery of the right to be forgotten. But it means Google searches will take place within national borders.
  2. In recent years, male power over female actions in Saudi Arabia has begun to erode. Under King Abdullah, who died last year, men stopped receiving automatic text messages reporting the coming and going of their women outside the country.An increasing number of malls, gated communities and private beaches, where women swap burqinis (the all-envelopping swimwear Saudi women must wear) for bikinis, were put off-limits to the prying eyes of the religious police.In 2012, the courts licensed their first female lawyers and last December, women for the first time stood for election to local councils.The numbers, though, remain paltry. Only 18% of working-age Saudi women are employed (against 65% of men), one of the world’s lowest rates. And for all the headlines, the kingdom has only 67 female lawyers (out of 3,400), and 21 female councillors (out of 3,150).The kingdom’s joyless gender segregation persists. Banks maintain separate entrances for men and women, Starbucks restricts women from its open-air balcony and McDonald’s makes men and women queue separately for its burgers.At the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a private co-ed college in Jeddah, male and female students attend the same lectures and mingle freely. Architects of new office blocks locate male and female toilets on the same floor.
  3. But worryingly, King Abdullah’s incremental reforms seem to be drying up and even going into reverse under his successor, King Salman.Many of King Abdullah’s reformers have been shifted; and a host of hardliners are back. The only female minister, in the education ministry, was dismissed soon after Salman took the throne.Four women who publicly defied the still unreformed ban on female driving were barred from contesting local elections. Shoppers in Jeddah report that the religious police are back, demanding that department stores black out any glimpse of unveiled women on their packaging.
  4. Today’s migrant crisis gives many Albanians mixed feelings. As a country of emigrants Albanians are sympathetic to others who flee war or who just want better lives. Just under 3m people live there; at least 1m Albanians, the largest part of the diaspora, live in Greece and Italy. Last year just under 55,000 tried their luck at escaping poverty by joining the flow from the Middle East and applying for political asylum in Germany (nearly all will fail).The Albanian authorities have started to worry that Albania is going to have to deal with people arriving rather than leaving. Some now predict that refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq—many of whom are blocked in Greece from entering Europe through Macedonia—may now try their luck through Albania.Although the country has experienced a sudden influx of migration before—during the Kosovo war of 1998-99 around 500,000 Kosovo Albanians went there and stayed until the war was over—in many respects it is ill-prepared. Albania is now deploying extra police to guard its borders.
  5. Britain as a country has a diversity problem of its own: the disproportionate success of the privately educated.The benefits of independent schooling are evident in all sections of British society. Private schools teach just 7% of pupils, but top jobs such as the country’s senior civil servants, cabinet ministers and leading journalists are dominated by the privately educated, according to the Sutton Trust, a charity.In the mid-1980s, and even a decade ago, half Britain’s doctors were privately educated; today the figure is 61%. In law the share of judges and barristers from fee-paying schools has also risen in recent years, returning to the levels of three decades ago.Even in the arts, going private pays. Since the Academy Awards began in 1929, Brits have won 41 times in the three categories of best actor, actress and director. Of these winners 67% were privately educated; most of the rest attended state-funded schools that select their pupils by academic ability.

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