Economist 6/1/16

  1. The 1Malaysia Development firm (1MDB) was created in 2009, shortly after Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, took office. The idea was to attract investment into Malaysia by forging joint ventures with foreign firms. Yet by 2014 it was struggling to service debts of over $11 billion. Its affairs are complex, but two deals in particular have raised eyebrows. The first is a partnership with a small Saudi oil company, into which 1MDB injected around $1 billion in 2009, some of which, investigators think, is now unaccounted for.Another focus is a deal from 2012 in which IPIC, an Abu Dhabi state fund, agreed to act as a guarantor for 1MDB: funds due under that arrangement are said to have been paid not to IPIC’s subsidiary but to an unrelated firm in the British Virgin Islands.The scandal widened in July 2015, when the Wall Street Journal reported that around $700m had entered bank accounts belonging to Mr Najib shortly before a general election in 2013, which his coalition narrowly won. Mr Najib firmly denies claims that the cash came from 1MDB.Meanwhile protesters in Malaysia have called for the prime minister to resign. But Mr Najib has hung on to his job.The country’s attorney-general agrees, and says there is no reason for the prime minister to face charges.
  2. THE latest dispatch from the war on HIV, the “Global AIDS Update 2016”, just published by UNAIDS, the UN agency responsible for combating the virus, brings qualified good news. Last year, it estimates, there were 1.1m AIDS-related deaths, down from a peak of 2m in 2005 and a value of 1.2m in 2014. Last year also saw 2.1m new infections, down from a peak of 3.4m in 1998 but up from 2014’s estimate of 2.0m. By the end of 2015 some 17m people were taking anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs—2m more than the target number for that year, set by the UN in 2011. This accounts for the falling death rate.The next target UN target is that by 2020, 90% of those infected should have been diagnosed and know their status, 90% of those so diagnosed should be on ARVs, and 90% of those on ARVs should have suppressed viral loads.
  3. TIME is running out for PC users who have delayed taking advantage of Microsoft’s free offer to upgrade their computers from Windows 7 or 8.1 to the latest all-singing-and-dancing version of the Redmond company’s operating system. Doughty souls who have stuck with Windows 8 will first have to upgrade to Windows 8.1 before being able to participate in the deal. However, come July 29th, anyone wishing to upgrade to Windows 10 will have to pay upwards of $119 for the privilege.Upgrading any PC or tablet running Windows 8.1 to the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system is a no-brainer. But that is not necessarily true for Windows 7. Over the years since its release in 2009, Windows 7’s robustness, user friendliness and low maintenance cost has made it a firm favourite among PC users, especially those in business. Four years after it was officially replaced, the old workhorse continues to run on over 50% of all Windows PCs, while fewer than 15% use Windows 8/8.1.
  4. Companies are understandably reluctant to upgrade the hordes of Windows 7 machines they have installed over the years, because of the cost and hassle of retraining employees to cope with Windows 10’s idiosyncrasies. Also, to get the full benefit of Windows 10 means investing not just in fresh software but also in new hardware, especially touch-sensitive tablets, laptops and desktop screens. Besides, planning an enterprise-wide migration from one operating system to another is no trivial task.As enterprise customers call the tune, Microsoft has promised to provide security patches for Windows 7 on old computers until January 2020.However, there is another reason why one might wish to give Windows 10 a miss. Major architectural changes are in store for operating systems over the next few years.By 2020, the most widely used operating system is likely to be something resembling a blend of today’s mobile and desktop systems.Microsoft is aware that it has more to lose than most from this rapid convergence of phone and computer system software. Though mobiles using the company’s Windows Phone operating system (now branded as Windows 10 Mobile) have a minuscule 0.7% share of the market, Microsoft has pressed on with plans to develop a universal architecture aimed at letting Windows 10 run on all sorts of devices.
  5. Perhaps 40,000 people died in Chad during Mr Hissene Habré’s reign of terror between 1982 and 1990. Armed by America (and supported with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid because of his opposition to Muammar Qadaffi’s regime in Libya), his political police crushed any tribe they deemed a threat to his rule.On May 30th, a court in Senegal found him guilty of crimes against humanity, rape and torture and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The court that finally tried him, known as the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC), is the first in Africa to sentence an African leader following due process. And it is the first anywhere in which a national court has used the principle of universal jurisdiction (meaning it can hear a case regardless of where the crimes took place) to convict an ex-head of state for human-rights abuses.Usually war crimes are investigated by international tribunals such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), rather than national courts.But the ICC is unpopular with African governments, which (wrongly) accuse it of racism. It also costs a fortune (the annual budget is more than $100m) and has a dismal record for convictions (two so far).

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