Economist 4/20/14

  1. Queues, traffic jams, missed deadlines and other delays have been so ubiquitous for so long that “Brazilians have become anaesthetised to them”, says Regis Bonelli of Fundação Getulio Vargas, a business school.Apart from a brief spurt in the 1960s and 1970s, output per worker  in Brazil has either slipped or stagnated over the past half century, in contrast to most other big emerging economies (see chart). Total-factor productivity, which gauges the efficiency with which both capital and labour are used, is lower now than it was in 1960. Labour productivity accounted for 40% of Brazil’s GDP growth between 1990 and 2012, compared with 91% in China and 67% in India, according to McKinsey, a consultancy.Brazil invests just 2.2% of its GDP in infrastructure, well below the developing-world average of 5.1%. Of the 278,000 patents granted last year by the United States patent office, just 254 went to inventors from Brazil, which accounts for 3% of the world’s output and people.rotectionism weighs on productivity in other ways, too. Punitively high tariffs on imported technology—such as the whopping 80% cumulative tax slapped on foreign smartphones—make many productivity-enhancing gizmos prohibitively expensive.Agriculture was deregulated in 1990, allowed to consolidate and gain access to foreign machines, fertiliser and pesticides. A few years later, financial services enjoyed far-reaching institutional reforms to boost the supply of credit and bolster capital markets. Both were left in peace—and became roughly 4% more efficient each year in the decade that followed. Brazilian soyabean producers are now the envy of the world.
  2. AT A recent school careers fair, one stall stood apart. Its attendant touted a job that involves 60-hour weeks, including weekends, and pays £24,000 ($40,000) a year. God’s work is growing more difficult. Attendance on Sundays is falling; church coffers are emptying. Yet more young Britons are choosing to be priests.Cynics suggest the recession may have aided these efforts, by making other graduate jobs more difficult to get. And the prospect of free accommodation is not to be sniffed at. Yet youngsters say the work has become more appealing. One reason is that a steady exodus of middle-class churchgoers has left smaller but more committed and vibrant flocks.Urban ministry appeals particularly to the idealistic young. It may involve running projects for homeless people and giving advice to refugees.
  3.  Today it’s hard to avoid—and as a result, the digerati love to condemn Big Data. The backlash began in mid-March, prompted by an article in Science by David Lazer and others at Harvard and Northeastern University. It showed that a big-data poster-child—Google Flu Trends, a 2009 project which identified flu outbreaks from search queries alone—had overestimated the number of cases for four years running, compared with reported data from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC). This led to a wider attack on the idea of big data.First, there are biases inherent to data that must not be ignored. That is undeniably the case. Second, some proponents of big data have claimed that theory (ie, generalisable models about how the world works) is obsolete. In fact, subject-area knowledge remains necessary even when dealing with large data sets. Third, the problem of spurious correlations—associations that are statistically robust but only happen by chance—increases with more data.
  4.  Shortly before Russia annexed Crimea, the Bakhchisaray museum, north of Sevastopol, lent some valuable artefacts to an exhibition in the Netherlands. Who is the rightful owner? On legal grounds, Kiev has the upper hand because the Allard Pierson signed a loan agreement with the Ukrainian state. And as the Netherlands does not recognise Russia’s annexation, Ukraine still owns the property. Yet the Dutch also signed contracts directly with the lending museums.The Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, does not wish to meddle but he also wants to avoid being seen to accept a new form of art looting.
  5. Writing 25 years later, the Los Angeles 2020 Commission discloses a darker vision for America’s second city.In 2012 the official poverty rate for Los Angeles County was 19.1%; in 2011, on a broader measure that takes the cost of living and government benefits into account, it stood at 26.9%. In 2003 retirement costs accounted for 3% of the city’s general fund; now they gobble up 18%, a figure that will rise further without action. Los Angeles’s public schools, which mainly serve Latino children, perform poorly, raising fears of stratification along ethnic as well as economic lines. Rising house prices drive so many Angelenos out that the population of the metropolitan area grew by only 3.7% between 2000 and 2010, slower than every other big metro area bar New York. House prices in Los Angeles rose by 17% last year, and last October Trulia, a real-estate website, found that Los Angeles was the second-least affordable city for middle-class.

Economist 4/19/14

  1. Speaking on a panel at the 4th Beijing International Film Festival, Mr Oliver Stone savaged the Chinese film industry for failing to confront the last century of China’s history, especially the catastrophes under Mao’s rule.He has also applied a critical (critics say distorted) lens to American history to make some of his most memorable films: “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July” about the Vietnam war and its aftermath, and “JFK” and “Nixon” about an alleged conspiracy to assassinate one president and the conspiracies concocted by another. Some interpreted Mr Feng’s remarks as a show of solidarity with director Jia Zhangke, whose film, “A Touch of Sin” , a critically acclaimed feature film about violence and other social ills in present-day China, has not been approved for cinematic release.
  2. Bangladesh’s government banks are normally fleeced at street level during opening hours, in plain sight. In 2012, in the biggest of many banking scandals since the banks were nationalised 40 years before, Sonali Bank revealed that one of its branches in Dhaka had granted a particular firm almost 27 billion taka in loans on false premises. All but 4 billion taka subsequently disappeared without trace.Bangladesh is no exception: in December the central bank estimated that 166 billion taka of loans at the four big state-owned banks were in default—roughly 20% of the total. The government injected 41 billion taka into them that month, 20 billion taka of which went to Sonali Bank. The government issued nine new banking licences in 2012, bringing the total number of banks to 56. That should bring new capital to the industry, and spur lending.Bangladesh’s private banks, in turn, have helped boost garment-making, its main industry.
  3.  If yogurt is strategic for the French, olive oil has the same exalted status in Spain. Four savings banks wanted to sell their combined 31% stake in Deoleo, the country’s largest producer. Olive oil accounts for a mere 0.8% of Spain’s exports. Yet it is an extra-sensitive matter. The country is the world’s largest producer of the oil, but one-third of its exports are sent in bulk to Italy where it is bottled and sold, often for a significant markup, under Italian labels.t is a similar story for wine. Spain has overtaken France and Italy to become the world’s largest producer, but sells almost half of its exports in bulk to markets like France, some of which is retailed under French labels. 
  4. David Cameron said earlier this month that he was launching an investigation into the Brotherhood—its aims, activities and structures. Since then it has been reported—but strongly denied by Brotherhood representatives—that the organisation is moving its European operating base from London to Graz in Austria. It’s not a secret that many of the movement’s leaders moved to London after last year’s coup in Egypt which overthrew a Brotherhood-backed government .But the announcement seemed like a prudent response to pressure from Saudi Arabia, and in particular the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for a crackdown on the Brotherhood. Both Gulf States have long been wary of the group; Both countries have poured thousands of dollars into Egypt to prop up the post-Brotherhood interim authorities.the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), a panel of clerics who opine on the issues facing Muslims living in the West, from personal hygiene and sexual behaviour to matters of family finance. It even has a Facebook pageIts head is Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Qatar-based preacher who is sometimes called the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood;
  5. Calling yourself a diaosi in China  has also become a proud statement of solidarity with the masses against the perceived corruption of the wealthy. The word itself entered the language only recently, appealing to office grunts across the country, especially in the IT industry. A mostly male species, diaosiare often daydreamers with poor social skills and an obsession with online gaming.Mr Zhu says what makes him a diaosi is that he is the son of factory workers. He is not fu er dai—second-generation rich—or guan er dai—the son of powerful government officials (it does not escape a diaosi’s notice that those two categories often overlap). He and hisdiaosi colleagues feel that, with connections or cash, they might have attended a better university and found a better job.

Economist 4/18/14

  1.  China’s urban population has risen by more than 500m, the equivalent of America plus three Britains. China’s cities, already home to more than half the country’s people, are growing by roughly the population of Pennsylvania every year.By 2030 they will contain around a billion people—about 70% of China’s population,  Chengdu, whose population has grown by 50% since 2000, boasts the world’s largest building: the New Century Global Centre, which includes a shopping mall and a 300-metre-long indoor artificial beach. Zhengzhou now claims the largest bullet-train station in the world.Two flaws in the Chinese model of urbanisation are causing these strains. The first is economic. Farmers in China have no property rights, so officials are able to grab agricultural land on the peripheries of urban areas and make money for themselves and their cities by selling it to developers. This is not only unjust; it has also led to a relentless pouring of concrete that has given rise to “ghost cities”.The second flaw in the urbanisation model is a social one. China’s cities are now largely made up of two classes, each with a population roughly the size of America’s: a property-owning middle class which enjoys new social freedoms (see article), takes holidays in Europe (see article) and spends like its Western counterparts; and a migrant underclass which toils in factories and menial jobs but is denied public services because its hukou(household registration) is still in the countryside.
  2. THE Peugeot group (PSA) , second-largest European carmaker, in volume terms, is struggling to escape from losses topping €7 billion ($9.7 billion) in the past two years. A €3 billion capital increase agreed on in principle in March, which hands both Dongfeng, a Chinese carmaker, and the French state 14% stakes in exchange for €800m apiece, will help PSA secure its future.he first aim is to distinguish more clearly Peugeot’s high-end family cars from Citroën’s cheaper, trendy ones, pulling out Citroën’s DS range as a stand-alone premium brand. PSA thinks car sales will grow by 38% globally between now and 2022 but by just 20% in Europe, where it now makes almost three-fifths of its sales. Riding this wave means above all that PSA must follow its rivals and expand in China, already its second market. Nissan was a sad case when Renault took a stake in 1999 and whipped it into shape, closing plants and cutting costs
  3. RANBAXY has brought Daiichi Sankyo nothing but trouble. The Japanese drugmaker paid $4.6 billion for Ranbaxy in 2008. Daiichi Sankyo wanted to expand into the burgeoning market of generic medicines.. American regulators have banned imports from four of its factories. Last year America’s Justice Department fined Ranbaxy $500m for, among other things. . On April 7th Sun Pharma, another Indian generic-drug maker, said it would buy Ranbaxy in a deal valuing it at $3.2 billion, 2.2 times its annual sales. Sun is an experienced shopper—it has snapped up 16 companies over the past 20 years—and has improved the performance of a recent target, Taro. With margins greater than 40%, it is popular among investors. Sun’s expertise in formulating copycat drugs helped it ink a deal with Merck, a much bigger American pharmaceutical firm, to develop and sell generic medicines to emerging markets.The combined company will still be half the size of the world’s largest generics maker by sales, Teva of Israel.Before the Ranbaxy deal, Sun earned only 17% of its revenue in markets beyond India and America. Now it will have broader reach, with that share rising to 31%.
  4. IT IS one thing to see Russia’s hand in the disruption in eastern Ukraine, quite another to muster the strength to arm-wrestle it back. Europe says meekly that it will expand its list of Russian citizens subject to travel bans and asset freezes. America, which faces less economic blowback from sanctions, is showing more resolve.Having targeted senior Kremlin figures, an oligarch and Vladimir Putin’s favourite bank in three earlier rounds of measures, America is preparing to add more of the president’s allies to the list. It has been reported that Igor Sechin, the president and chairman of Rosneft, a giant state-owned oil company,  America’s central role in the clearing of cross-border bank and credit-card transactions, and the American-led globalisation of money-laundering compliance. Bank Rossiya, the only bank sanctioned so far, has been cut off by Visa and MasterCard and forced to cease foreign-currency operations.Sanctions will have collateral damage; hit Rosneft and you hurt BP, which owns 20% of it, and ExxonMobil, its partner in various projects around the world. . JPMorgan Chase has plenty to lose by annoying Moscow; it earned $51m in Russian investment-banking fees last year, according to Thomson Reuters. It has nevertheless been blocking transfers first and asking questions later if there is the slightest hint of a link to sanctioned parties.
  5. Over the past three years other activists at unregistered NGOs have received similar phone calls from the authorities about the sensitive issue of registration, an apparently mundane bit of administrative box-ticking which in fact represents real change. China has over 500,000 NGOs already registered with the state. The number comes with a big caveat. Many NGOs are quasi-official or mere shell entities attempting to get government money. Of those genuine groups that do seek to improve the common lot, nearly all carry out politically uncontentious activities. But perhaps 1.5m more are not registered, and some of these, like Mr Zeng’s, pursue activism in areas which officials have often found worrying. These unregistered NGOs are growing in number and influence. They are a notable example of social forces bubbling up from below in a stubbornly top-down state.he new rules apply only to some types of NGOs, notably those providing services to groups such as the poor, the elderly and the disabled. Those engaged in any kind of political advocacy continue to be suspect. Human-rights organisations remain banned, as do most groups promoting religious, ethnic or labour rights.Until 2012, any NGO that wanted to register—and so be legal—had to have a sponsoring official organisation, typically a government agency that worked in the area of the NGO’s interest. This ensured firm government control over all NGOs, or “social organisations”, as the party likes to call them . Foreign NGOs could operate in China only under strict conditions. The nascent sector has a long way to go. The biggest problem is funding. Some local governments finance NGOs directly: the government of Guangdong province gave 466m yuan ($75m) in 2012; Yunnan spent 300m yuan. Those numbers are expected to increase. But, although many groups no longer need an official sponsor and are free to receive public donations, they are not allowed to raise money publicly. Fundraising activities must go through a dreaded GONGO, which means the government can control how much publicity an NGO receives and therefore its sources of income. Control over foreign funding has even been tightened.

Economist 4/17/14

  1. EBOLA is back. As of April 14th the virus had infected 168 people in Guinea, in west Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). At least 108 have died. Humans have no immunity against the disease, which is thought to be native to bats. The virus is transferred in bodily fluids, most commonly blood. Once inside a host it incubates for between two days and three weeks before causing flu-like symptoms.The virus was discovered in 1976 when two strains hit Sudan and what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), infecting a total of 602 people and killing 431.Sudden and deadly though it is, ebola can be contained, for three reasons. The first is transmission: the virus is not airborne. It is transferred only through direct contact with someone who is visibly sick.
  2. GOOGLE splashed out an undisclosed sum of money on April 14th to buy Titan Aerospace, whose solar-powered drones it plans to use to help deliver wireless internet access to remote parts of the world. Like Google’s new drones, which can reach impressive heights, tech shares soared in the early part of this year.
  3. NOT surprisingly for a country that lost a million people in its struggle for independence in 1954-1962 and perhaps another 200,000 in its later civil war at the end of the century, humour in Algeria tends to be darkly cynical. And not surprisingly the presidential election set for April 17th has prompted plenty of bitter laughs. The almost certain winner, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has been president for the past 15 of his 77 years.  But the oil-rich Algerian state, with its legacy of one-party rule and legions of officials all carefully vetted for loyalty by an omnipresent secret police, tilts the outcome heavily towards the candidate anointed by “Le Pouvoir”, as Algerians call the circle of senior generals and security chiefs who actually run the country. Small wonder that Mr Bouteflika won his last two elections, in 2004 and 2009, with 85% and 90% of the vote, amid meagre turnouts and a strong whiff of fraud.The widely whispered answer is that divisions within Le Pouvoir make it hard to agree on an alternative: someone who could present a façade of democratic legitimacy and benign governance, while quietly letting the country’s ensconced nomenclatura manage its fiefs. the man long seen as the kingmaker, General Muhammad “Toufiq” Mediène, head of the feared military intelligence service.Launched only last month, Barakat, meaning “enough” in Algeria’s Arabic dialect, is modelled on peaceful civil movements that helped topple such rulers as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Its internet presence and public rallies have yet to attract more than a few thousand, but its leaders say they are planning for the longer run. Le Pouvoir is worried: a newspaper that hosted a Barakat press conference was quickly punished by the withdrawal of all government advertising, a vital source of revenue in a country whose oil wealth and socialist policies have stunted private business.
  4. Although $91 billion is spent on them every year, that is nowhere near enough to keep the YSA’s 4.1m miles (6.6m km) of public roadways in good nick. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that $170 billion in capital investment is needed every year. Last year a report from a civil-engineering group said that 32% of America’s major roads were in poor or mediocre condition. Main roads through cities were in worst shape: almost half the miles travelled over urban interstates in 2013 were a bumpy ride.Highway finance comes from two main sources: cities and states, and the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The HTF spends $46 billion a year and is funded by a tax of 18.4 cents on each gallon of petrol. But revenues are declining: the young drive a bit less and cars burn fuel more efficiently. Illinois recently won planning approval for a $1.3 billion toll road to Indiana. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia now have some sort of tolling authority. These are increasingly popular ways of financing new roads, although the slight decline in driving, and an unwillingness to pay high fees, have threatened this model in some cases.States also levy their own taxes, and some, such as Michigan, have been able to increase their road budgets. Massachusetts, together with Maryland and Wyoming, has managed to put up its petrol tax.
  5. Coal  is cheap and simple to extract, ship and burn. It is abundant: proven reserves amount to 109 years of current consumption, reckons BP, a British energy giant. They are mostly in politically stable places. Peabody, the world’s largest private coal company (which unlike some rivals is profitable, thanks to its low-cost Australian mines).. But opencast mining, now the source of much of the world’s coal, rips away topsoil and gobbles water. Transporting coal brings a host of environmental problems.By some counts, coal-fired power stations emit more radioactivity than nuclear ones. Yet despite America’s shale-gas boom, the federal Energy Information Administration reckons that by 2040 the country will still be generating 22% of its electricity from coal (compared with 26% now).In Germany power from coal now costs half the price of watts from a gas-fired power station. It is a paradox that coal is booming in a country that in other respects is the greenest in Europe.A $5.2 billion taxpayer-supported clean-coal plant in Mississippi incorporates all the latest technology. But at $6,800 per kilowatt, it will be the costliest power plant yet built (a gas-fired power station in America costs $1,000 per kW).

Economist 4/16/14

  1. When Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter as CEO, just after being appointed, the world’s oldest multinational was in crisis.The first is a classic lesson in core competences. Francis has refocused his organisation on one mission: helping the poor. One of his first decisions was to forsake the papal apartments in favour of a boarding house which he shares with 50 other priests and sundry visitors. He took the name of a saint who is famous for looking after the poor and animals. He washed and kissed the feet of 12 inmates of a juvenile-detention centre.One is a brand repositioning. He clearly continues to support traditional teaching on abortion and gay marriage, but in a less censorious way than his predecessors (“Who am I to judge?” he asked of homosexuals). The other is a restructuring. He has appointed a group of eight cardinals (“the C8”) to review the church’s organisation and brought in McKinsey and KPMG (“God’s consultants”) to look at the church’s administrative machineryand overhaul the Vatican bank.
  2. The American tax code is a “known unknown”, in Rummiespeak. It is 70,000 pages long and might as well be written in Klingon. Few Americans have a clue whether they are complying with it. Some 90% of them (including Mr Rumsfeld) pay a tax accountant or use commercial software to help navigate it.
  3. AFTER 223 years New Hampshire is about to make adultery legal. A law in 1791 called for convicted adulterers to be paraded on the gallows for an hour and then “publicly whipped not exceeding 39 stripes” before being sent to prison and fined 100.More than 20 states still have laws against adultery. Colorado (the state of Gary Hart, whose adultery cost him dear in the 1988 presidential race) did not decriminalise it until last year. ? In the General Social Survey, 15% of wives and 21% of husbands admitted to it. But a separate survey found that 74% of men and 68% of women said they would indulge in an affair if they knew they wouldn’t get caught.
  4. Rocket scientists have therefore long dreamed of making something able to fly more than once. Such a reusable machine, they hope, would slash the cost of getting into space. The only one built so far, America’s space shuttle, proved a dangerous and costly disappointment, killing two of its crews and never coming close to the cost savings intended. The furthest advanced is SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, an internet mogul. On April 18th it is due to launch one of itsFalcon 9 rockets on a cargo-carrying trip to the International Space Station (ISS), something it has done twice before. The most notable are the four landing legs folded up along the side of its first stage. If everything goes to plan, once that stage has finished its job and detached itself from the rest of the rocket, it will fire its engines again.Instead of crashing into the sea, it will make a controlled descent, deploy its legs, slow almost to a stop off the coast of Cape Canaveral SpaceX already offers some of the lowest prices in the business. Itslaunch costs of $56m are around half those of its competitors. Mr Musk has said in the past that a reusable rocket could cut those costs by at least half again.
  5.  the heart of the Golden Triangle, where the three South-East Asian countries of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos adjoin their giant northern neighbour. It is an area that has long been synonymous with one thing: drugs.In 2013 poppy cultivation in Myanmar rose by 13% on the previous year, to 57,800 hectares (143,000 acres). This is well over double the total acreage in 2006, the year with the lowest level of cultivation. The combination of more cultivation and higher yields has resulted in a rise of over a quarter in opium production in Myanmar just since 2012, to some 870 tonnes.This quantity is worth about $500m—quite a lot in such a poor country.Cultivation has also increased, albeit more modestly and from a much lower base, across the border inLaos. Overall, whereas in 2005 the two countries produced 326 tonnes of opium, or 7% of that year’s world total, last year they produced 893 tonnes, or 18% of the total.Afghanistan continues to produce the lion’s share. China and various UN agencies to lure the hill farmers of Shan state away from cultivating poppies, the region accounts for more than nine-tenths of Myanmar’s poppy harvest.Furthermore, Shan state is also home to the largest number of “meth labs” in the region, makeshift and virtually undetectable premises that churn out methamphetamines; the most popular kind goes by its Thai name, yaba.Many households in Shan state are so poor that, given the chance, growing poppies remains the best financial option, whatever the risks. UNODC estimates that poppies provide typically half of a household’s annual income, or $920. China has at least 2m heroin addicts and possibly as many as 10m. Nearly all the supply comes through Yunnan province from the Golden Triangle.Yaba is cheap (about $1.50 a tab) and readily available. It is an easy shot of escapism for young women with few prospects other than becoming karaoke singers or prostitutes

Economist 4/15/14

  1. KENYA’S long walk to middle-income status looks set to end in a sudden statistical leap. GDP estimates for east Africa’s biggest economy are expected to jump by up to one-fifth when a government-led statistical review reports in September.
  2. Blood-sugar levels and tolerance for one’s better half’s irritating foibles do, then, seem to be correlated. That does not prove causation—particularly in the case of the noise test, where higher or lower glucose levels over an extended period might be a reflection of something else significant and pertinent about the person in question. It may, though, be that one of the secrets of a successful marriage is to eat before you fight.
  3. According to IATA, an industry body, 2009 was the industry’s worst year since the second world war for the airline industry .Optimism is now growing that the global economy has entered a cyclical upturn. Worldwide passenger traffic grew by 5.2% last year. IATA expects it to rise another 31% by 2017. International premium traffic—those passengers who turn left when they embark—was up 4.2% last year. Such high-yielding business travellers are by far the most valuable for airlines. Overall, worldwide airline profits are forecast to reach $18.7 billion this year.   But with every extra Boeing 777 they operate, space for another 25 tonnes of freight is added to the marketplace. Surplus capacity in the bellies of passenger aircraft drives down freight yields, which damages the overall health of the cargo industry.In response, many global carriers are moving out of the dedicated freighter market. Next month, British Airways will stop operating its 747-8F freighters, instead relying on hold capacity in passe. Coyne Airways describes itself as a non-asset-based airline. It is the 91st largest freight carrier in the world, yet it neither owns nor leases aircraft. Sometimes it will charter flights, but more often it simply buys space on another carrier’s freighter.
  4. The Syrian conflict next door has divided residents in Lebanon who support Bashar Assad from those who back the opposition. Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia movement, is fighting alongside Mr Assad’s forces in Syria. Some Lebanese Sunnis have gone to fight alongside Syria’s rebels; others have been inspired to act at home.The army is the only institution that was largely considered to be a national body in a post-civil war system built on sectarianism. But the army’s recent actions have prompted accusations that it is not neutral. Unable to tackle Hizbullah, the authorities have tended to arrest Sunni militants, including those involved in car bombings in Lebanon in response to Hizbullah fighting in Syria.

The main and hardest tasks for businesses during political crises are, however, to survive and to keep trading: to fend off looters if law and order break down, and to persuade clients that they can still function. (Mr Stringer recalls hastily reorganising a lunch with an English customer after the planned venue was blown up.) Tycoons, who find it hard to avoid being sucked into power struggles, sometimes face particular difficulties. In Ukraine, oligarchs associated with Mr Yanukovych stampeded to disassociate themselves from him when he fell. Or consider the boost given by the upheaval in Egypt to, an online retailer. Internet penetration rose as people sought reliable news. And because the streets were rowdy, explains Mattia Perroni, Jumia’s boss in Egypt, people were less keen to shop on the street. Online retailers prospered.

Economist 4/14/14

  1. TOWN by town, eastern Ukraine is falling under the control of men hostile to the Ukrainian state. On April 14th it was the turn of Gorlivka (also known as Horlivka), a 45-minute drive from the regional capital of Donetsk. A couple of hours earlier a deadline had expired, set by Ukraine’s president, Alexander Turchinov, who demanded that men occupying government and police buildings leave them. The previous day Mr Turchinov had warned that the army would be deployed to regain control of the east.
  2. WHEN a new French law banned employers from checking work e-mails after 6pm, it was bound to grab headlines. In fact, there was no new piece of French legislation, but a labour agreement signed on April 1st by unions and employers in the high-tech and consulting field. It covers an estimated 250,000 “autonomous employees”, whose contracts are based on days worked, not hours, and so the 35-hour working week limit does not apply. The agreement does refer to an “obligation to disconnect communications tools”, but only after an employee has worked a 13-hour day. Such workers may work into the weekends too, but must be allowed to have one day off in every seven (24 hours + 11 hours). Nowhere does the agreement refer to a 6pm cut-off. By the standards of most French labour contracts, which have to apply the 35-hour working week, it is unusually liberal, and was designed to help global companies that deal across different time zones. Yet, with a 35-hour working week, entrenched union rights within companies, and a strict 3,500-page labour code, the reality remains that the country does not make it easy for firms to operate.
  3. Globally, about one in every 17,000 people is murdered every year.Most of them are men: women make up only two out of ten victims (and less than one in ten perpetrators). Of those women who are murdered, nearly half are killed by their partner or by another family member, according to figures published last week by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The global murder rate for women is about one in 37,000 per year. About one in 77,000 is killed by a partner or family member.And South Africa is among the most violent spots of all: one in 3,300 citizens is murdered each year, meaning that the country vies with Swaziland and Lesotho for the highest rate on the continent.
  4. BOSSES all over the Western world have been warned. Unless they make allowances for the religious faiths of their ever more diverse workforces, they will suffer lawsuits, official rebukes and protests from staff.  In America foreign-born workers are now nearly 15% of the total, up from 5% in 1970, says Joyce Dubensky of the Tanenbaum Centre for Interreligious Understanding, in New York.The judge endorsed the firm’s stance on the ground that the Civil Rights Act says religion must be accommodated as long as that does not cause “undue hardship” to the employer.
  5. Such a view would have been unimaginable only 12 years ago when Angola’s devastating 27-year civil war had just ended, leaving it a basket case. Crude production increased from 800,000 barrels a day (b/d) in 2003 to almost 2m b/d in 2008. The economy expanded by more than 10% a year, making it seem one of the most buoyant in the world. Today Angola’s GDP is the fifth-biggest in Africa. During and after a downturn in 2009 and 2010, caused by a crash in oil prices. Many think 5% GDP growth will be Angola’s lot for the time being. In the World Bank’s latest “ease of doing business” survey, the country ranks 179th out of 189. Enforcing a contract through Angola’s inefficient and sometimes corrupt courts can take years. Getting a visa is a hassle. A dire shortage of electricity means local firms struggle to compete with imported goods.