Economist 7/14/16

  1. Official statistics suggest that divorce is exceedingly uncommon in Nigeria. Just 0.2% of men and 0.3% of women have legally untied the knot, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. And well under 1% of couples admit to being separated. Yet such counts exclude the vast majority of Nigerians, whose traditional marriage ceremonies are not governed by modern law, says Chief Robert Clarke, a barrister.In the mostly Muslim north of the country, men may take up to four wives (so long as they obey the Koranic injunction to treat all equally). Often the younger wives are not yet 18.Couples also marry young farther south, but women there tend to be a little more empowered. Olayinka Akanle, a professor of sociology at the University of Ibadan, reckons that when things fall apart they demand separations more readily than in the north.Deal-breakers include a wife’s failure to bring cooking utensils from her father’s house.
  2. The Government of Zimbabwe is broke. In 2009 Mr Mugabe’s inept and murderous regime printed so much money that inflation topped 500 billion per cent at its peak.When no one would accept Zimbabwe dollars that did not even make good tissue paper, the government abandoned its own currency and adopted the American one instead.But then Mr Mugabe’s cronies rigged elections in 2013 and took back full control of the country.After three years of misrule and dazzling corruption, the treasury is bare again.Government employees have not been paid for weeks. Soldiers and police are restless.The government cannot print money any more, and commercial bankers would rather be buried in a fire-ants’ nest than lend it any.So, its finance minister is asking for aid to borrow about $1 billion to pay off Zimbabwe’s arrears to the World Bank, the IMF and the African Development Bank, which in turn could then start lending to Zimbabwe again.
  3. The IMF estimates that Zimbabwe’s economy has grown slowly but steadily since 2013 and is now about 7% bigger than it was then.Delta, a brewer that sells 98% of the lager in Zimbabwe, now sells about 30% less than it did in 2012, despite having cut the price several times.It seems unlikely that this is because ordinary Zimbabwean drinkers have traded up to champagne.The IMF says the Zimbabwean authorities have “met their commitments” under an IMF staff-monitored programme. But these “commitments” consist mostly of promising to enact reforms, such as curbing public spending and making procurement more transparent, rather than actually doing so.History teaches that aid money cannot buy reform unless the recipient government actually believes in it. Does that apply to Mr Mugabe’s regime? These are the same people who have been in charge of the country, alone or in coalition, for 36 years.The last time the Mugabe regime ran out of money, it lost an election and ended up sharing power. This time, donors risk helping it prolong its misrule.
  4. AMERICA’S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating the fatal crash in May of a Tesla Model S electric car.According to Tesla, neither the Model S’s driver nor the car’s own sensors noticed a large articulated lorry crossing the road ahead. The car therefore failed to brake, and it ended up careering under the lorry’s trailer. That ripped off its roof, killing the driver.One possibility is that the vehicle’s cameras, working in combination with its forward-facing radar, wrongly concluded that the lorry was an overhead sign with space beneath it. Some reports have suggested the driver might have been watching a video at the time.For Tesla and other firms developing autonomous vehicles, the systems now available are more akin to intelligent cruise control than robot chauffeurs.. A new facility, at the University of Warwick, in Britain, offers an alternative approach. It is a driving simulator specifically designed to test “intelligent” vehicles. It can thus interact with the sensors of an autonomous car and put that car through its paces without its needing to go on the road.
  5. THE self-proclaimed caliphate of Islamic State (IS) is weakening fast.In total, IS is now thought to have lost half of the land it seized in Iraq and 20% of its territory in Syria.The biggest fights are still to come: for Raqqa and Mosul, in northern Iraq, the two biggest cities under IS control.As it loses that land, and any chance of building an Islamic Utopia, its appeal to disaffected Muslims may dwindle. So the group is adapting.In an abrupt and remarkable shift, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the group’s spokesman, said in May that IS does not fight for territory.And Mr Adnani repeated an appeal for followers to hit the group’s enemies abroad.Several individuals and groups have responded to his call. Attacks in places such as Orlando, Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad and Jeddah have killed hundreds in the past month.All have distracted attention from the group’s failures in Iraq and Syria, leading some to predict that the attacks will increase.Many analysts think that a completely stateless IS would lose most of its appeal.
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