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The Economist - Leaders
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     ISSN (Online) 1358-274X
     Published by The Economist Group Homepage  [4 journals]
  • Ceasefire in Gaza: A war without winners
    • Abstract: THE chances are that the latest of more than half a dozen ceasefires in Gaza will hold—at least for a month or so, while the sides talk. The pause may even guide the Gazans and the Israelis to a more lasting accommodation. Yet the skies have fallen silent out of exhaustion and the futility of fighting on, rather than because the conflict has reached a resolution. Barring an unlikely change of heart—on both sides—war will probably begin all over again, sooner or later.More than 2,100 people have died in the tiny enclave, most of them civilians and many of them children. At least 230,000 of Gaza’s 1.8m people have been displaced, says the UN. The likelihood that this war just sets up the next renders their suffering even more tragic. Hospitals, schools and the main electricity plant may take years to rebuild, only to be smashed yet again. The sole glimmer is that this bleak picture may concentrate minds to seek the distant prospect of two states—Israel and Palestine—living side by side in peace (see ...
      PubDate: Thu, 28 August 2014 14:55:28 G
  • NATO’s summit: Mr Putin’s wake-up call
    • Abstract: THE fighting in Ukraine, which Vladimir Putin further escalated this week by sending Russian forces over the border, provides a sombre backdrop to the NATO summit in Wales. But it ensures that the meeting on September 4th will not have to spend time agonising over what the 65-year-old alliance is for (see article). The timing was originally meant to coincide with the end of combat operations in Afghanistan in January. Around 14,000 American and NATO troops may remain in the country to “train, advise and assist” Afghan security forces for a few years more. But the summit’s main task, thanks to Mr Putin, is a return to NATO’s old business: ensuring that when it pledges to defend its members, it can do so.The alliance was hesitant, at first, when Russia forcibly annexed Crimea in March. It took a few modest steps to reassure the new members closest to Russia that NATO stood by its obligation under Article 5: an attack on one is an attack on all. But despite the energetic leadership of the...
      PubDate: Thu, 28 August 2014 14:55:28 G
  • India in Asia: Eastern promises
    • Abstract: AT THEIR nearest points, India and Indonesia are barely 160 kilometres (100 miles) apart across the Malacca Strait. Yet almost nobody thinks of these two big countries as neighbours. One reason has been India’s historic isolation. Distracted by Pakistan, India long fretted over its western border. Under Nehru, its leader after independence, a principled policy of non-alignment led to moralising that was of little relevance to the rest of Asia. Under his protectionist daughter, Indira Gandhi, India looked to the Soviet Union and closed itself to foreign capital and trade, spurning the policies that made East Asia rich. As long as India’s economic and military muscle atrophied at home, it wielded little influence abroad.There have been steps forward. Back in 1991, a reformist prime minister, Narasimha Rao, started to open the economy and laid down a policy of “looking east”. In 2009 India signed a free-trade deal in goods with the Association of South-East Asian Nations, which has helped lift trade with those countries to a handy $80 billion a year, potentially rising to $280 billion in a decade. Two-way trade with China is up from $7 billion ten years ago to $65...
      PubDate: Thu, 28 August 2014 14:55:28 G
  • Corporate settlements in the United States: The criminalisation of
           American business
    • Abstract: WHO runs the world’s most lucrative shakedown operation? The Sicilian mafia? The People’s Liberation Army in...
      PubDate: Thu, 28 August 2014 08:03:09 G
  • The euro zone: That sinking feeling (again)
    • Abstract: JUST a few months ago the euro zone’s leaders believed that, having weathered the storm, they were set fair at last. Buoyed by the promise of Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, to do “whatever it takes” to support the currency, confidence had seeped back into the continent. Growth seemed to be returning, albeit at a slow pace. Troubled peripheral countries were recovering, after bail-outs and painful measures to cut budget deficits and improve competitiveness. Unemployment, especially among the young, was still desperately high, but at least in most countries it was falling. And bond spreads had narrowed sharply, as financial markets stopped betting that the euro would fall apart.It was an illusion. In recent weeks the countries of the euro zone have begun to take in water once again. Their collective GDP stagnated in the second quarter: Italy fell back into outright recession, French GDP was flat and even mighty Germany saw an unexpectedly large fall in output (see article). The third quarter looks...
      PubDate: Thu, 28 August 2014 08:03:06 G
  • The jihadists in Iraq and Syria: Stop them in both places
    • Abstract: BARACK OBAMA has struck the jihadists in Iraq and—even if the action was belated and modest—he has so far been successful. But the Islamic State (IS) needs to be thwarted, so he must strike it in Syria, too. And that will prove much harder.In Iraq the advance of fanatics bent on devastation has, for now, been halted (see article). The Yazidi minority which fled up a mountain near Sinjar in the north has mostly been saved. Iraq’s Kurdish region, the only reasonably governed part, is no longer in imminent danger. The great dam that threatens to inundate Mosul, Iraq’s second city, captured by IS in June, has been secured for the government by a combination of American air power and Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces.Meanwhile, Iraqi politics has taken a welcome turn with the forcing out, after eight disastrous years, of Nuri al-Maliki, the sectarian Shia prime minister. By keeping Iraqi Sunnis out of his ruling circle and packing the senior posts in the army and security service with fellow Shias, Mr Maliki drove...
      PubDate: Thu, 21 August 2014 15:15:12 G
  • Race relations in America: The lessons of Ferguson
    • Abstract: AFTER more than a week of rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, what can America learn? The first and simplest lesson is that cops should wear cameras. Knowing that they are being recorded, the police would be less likely to shoot suspects, and vice versa. Also, had Officer Darren Wilson been wearing a camera on August 9th, Americans would know what happened just before he shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. As it is, there are two conflicting stories and no way to choose between them. The police say that Mr Brown attacked Mr Wilson and tried to wrestle away his gun. In the ensuing struggle the officer, fearing for his life, shot and killed the teenager. Mr Brown’s friend, who was with him at the time, gives a completely different account: he says the officer grabbed Mr Brown by the neck and later shot him as he was trying to surrender. Early autopsy results show that Mr Brown was hit by at least six bullets but do not settle the dispute.His death sparked protests that soon turned violent. Looters smashed up shops and picked them clean. The police responded with a staggering display of force, rolling military-style armoured cars onto the streets...
      PubDate: Thu, 21 August 2014 15:15:12 G
  • Monetary policy: Be bold, Mario
    • Abstract: CENTRAL bankers from around the world gather this week in the foothills of the Teton mountains to hike trails and share gossip and ideas. It is an apposite time to swap notes: the rich world’s economies have taken divergent paths and the bankers at Jackson Hole have much to learn from one another about which policies work best.In America and Britain, output and employment have surpassed their pre-crisis peaks and are growing solidly. But the picture in the rich world’s other two big economies is darker. In the second quarter Japanese output shrank sharply, largely because consumers had accelerated purchases in the first quarter in order to avoid a consumption-tax rise. The euro zone’s woes are harder to dismiss: second-quarter output was flat, and it remains no higher than it was in 2011.European policymakers should study their peers. America’s Federal Reserve and the Bank of England were quick to deploy unconventional stimuli such as quantitative easing (QE), the purchase of government bonds with newly created money. They have also worried less about resurgent inflation, using “forward guidance” to reassure markets that they will take their time...
      PubDate: Thu, 21 August 2014 15:15:12 G
  • The rise and rise of Xi Jinping: Xi who must be obeyed
    • Abstract: THE madness unleashed by the rule of a charismatic despot, Mao Zedong, left China so traumatised that the late chairman’s successors vowed never to let a single person hold such sway again. Deng Xiaoping, who rose to power in the late 1970s, extolled the notion of “collective leadership”. Responsibilities would be shared out among leaders by the Communist Party’s general secretary; big decisions would be made by consensus. This has sometimes been ignored: Deng himself acted the despot in times of crisis. But the collective approach helped restore stability to China after Mao’s turbulent dictatorship.Xi Jinping, China’s current leader, is now dismantling it. He has become the most powerful Chinese ruler certainly since Deng, and possibly since Mao. Whether this is good or bad for China depends on how Mr Xi uses his power. Mao pushed China to the brink of social and economic collapse, and Deng steered it on the right economic path but squandered a chance to reform it politically. If Mr Xi used his power to reform the way power works in China, he could do his country great good. So far, the signs are mixed.Taking on the partyIt may well be that the decision to...
      PubDate: Thu, 18 September 2014 08:03:0
  • Advertising and technology: Stalkers, Inc.
    • Abstract: THE potent combination of three-martini lunches and creative genius in “Mad Men”, a television show about...
      PubDate: Thu, 11 September 2014 14:54:2
  • Fighting Islamic State: The long haul
    • Abstract: WHEN Barack Obama spoke to the American public on September 10th, his words had a bearing on more than just Islamic State (IS). His scheme to deal with the “cancer” of IS, the gravest terrorist threat since al-Qaeda, will work only if the Middle East can begin to overcome the chaos that has engulfed it. Equally, America can act as the leader of an enduring coalition against IS only if it can recover some of the status it has lost during years of retrenchment in foreign policy. What the president called “American leadership at its best” is thus both a fight against terrorism and a riposte to those who doubt American power.Mr Obama’s scheme calls for a coalition of Western and Arab countries to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS militarily, financially and ideologically. Even if there is no UN approval, the coalition will gain legitimacy by virtue of its Arab and Muslim backing. America will attack IS from the air in Iraq and, when necessary, in Syria. America will help the Kurds and restore Iraq’s army, weakened by its pro-Shia bias and battered by defeats at the hands of IS. It will also build up the forces of moderate rebels in Syria. There will be no marines, but American trainers...
      PubDate: Thu, 11 September 2014 14:54:2
  • Foreign funding of NGOs: Uncivil societies
    • Abstract: THE International Committee of the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International: to most people these and thousands of other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) sound like outfits whose work should be welcomed and encouraged. But that is not how it looks to plenty of governments. In the last few years, around 20 countries have planned or passed laws restricting the freedom of NGOs to raise funds abroad (see article). Some echo the language of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, and now require foreign-funded NGOs to register as “foreign agents”—a phrase that since the cold war has carried the connotation of espionage and treachery.Many of the new laws grant officials wide discretion in applying them. Russian NGOs face surprise inspections seeking evidence of foreign influence; Hungary’s president, Viktor Orban, is “auditing” groups that receive foreign money as part of his self-declared mission to turn his country into an “illiberal state”....
      PubDate: Thu, 11 September 2014 14:54:2
  • Emerging economies: Hold the catch-up
    • Abstract: THE financial crisis was grim, but the most important global economic development in the early 21st century was a positive one: the dramatic acceleration of growth in the emerging world. Between 2000 and 2009 output per person in poor countries excluding China grew an average of 3.2 percentage points a year faster than rich ones—an unprecedented pace of catch-up. Global poverty rates tumbled. Were that pace of convergence to be sustained, average income in those countries would reach America’s in about 44 years.Unfortunately, the era of rapid catch-up already seems to be over (see article). Growth has fallen sharply in many emerging economies. Despite the rich world’s feeble recovery in the wake of the financial crisis, emerging economies excluding China are now catching up more slowly, if at all. In 2013 their output per person, on average, grew just 1.1% faster than that in America. At that pace convergence would take more than a century. And the growth outlook is darkening further....
      PubDate: Thu, 11 September 2014 14:54:2
  • Share buy-backs: Corporate cocaine
    • Abstract: FINANCIAL excess is more commonly associated with banks than with blue-chip companies. While the rich world’s finance industry—supposedly the brain of the economy—went berserk in the run-up to the 2007-08 crash, other big firms behaved sensibly, avoiding too much debt, keeping their costs under control and their eyes on long-term opportunities in emerging markets. But in the era of weak growth and low interest rates that has characterised the aftermath of that crash, there is growing evidence that the blue chips are engaged in their own kind of financial excess: a dangerous addiction to share buy-backs.Over the past 12 months American firms have bought more than $500 billion of their own shares, close to a record amount. From Apple to Walmart, the most profitable and prominent companies have big buy-back schemes (see article). IBM spends twice as much on share repurchases as on research and development. Exxon has spent over $200 billion buying back its shares, enough to...
      PubDate: Thu, 11 September 2014 14:54:2
  • Scottish independence: UK RIP?
    • Abstract: SCHOOLCHILDREN once imagined their place in the world, with its complex networks and allegiances, by writing elaborate postal addresses. British youngsters began with their street and town (London or Manchester, Edinburgh or Cardiff), followed by England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland; then came the United Kingdom (and after that Europe, the World, the Universe…). They understood that the UK, and all its collective trials and achievements—the industrial revolution, the Empire, victory over the Nazis, the welfare state—were as much a part of their patrimony as the Scottish Highlands or English cricket. They knew, instinctively, that these concentric rings of identity were complementary, not opposed.At least, they used to. After the referendum on Scottish independence on September 18th, one of those layers—the UK—may cease to exist, at least in the form recognisable since the Act of Union three centuries ago. As the vote nears, Scotland’s nationalists have caught up with the unionist No camp in the opinion polls, and even edged ahead (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 11 September 2014 09:03:1
  • Germany’s digital future: Googlephobia
    • Abstract: VERBOTEN! This seems to be Germany’s default reaction to digital disrupters. A court in Frankfurt has just imposed a temporary injunction on Uber, the popular ride-sharing service founded in Silicon Valley. The case was brought by the German taxi industry, which argues that the service poses safety risks and flouts the country’s passenger-transport laws.By itself, the ban of Uber would be no big deal. The company is enraging incumbent taxi drivers in plenty of other countries. But it is another sign of Germany’s growing hostility to American technology firms. Google (whose executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, is a member of the board of The Economist’s parent company) has been a particular focus for increasingly hysterical criticism. Mathias Döpfner, the head of Axel Springer, Germany’s biggest newspaper publisher, has compared Google to the giant Fafner in Wagner’s “Ring of the Nibelungen”. Newspaper articles refer to it as an “octopus” that keeps adding tentacles. When it emerged late last year that Google was operating a fleet of barges mounted with containers, speculation abounded over whether it was building a floating empire beyond the...
      PubDate: Thu, 04 September 2014 15:08:0
  • Brazil’s presidential election: The measure of Marina
    • Abstract: LESS than a month ago, Marina Silva was a vice-presidential candidate on a campaign heading for defeat in the first round of Brazil’s election on October 5th. It now looks increasingly possible that she will end up as the country’s leader. The tragic death in a plane crash of Eduardo Campos, the first choice of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), sprang his running-mate to the top of the ticket. She is running neck-and-neck in the polls with Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent, and stealing support away from Aécio Neves, a centrist candidate who had looked like Ms Rousseff’s biggest rival (see article). Even if Ms Silva’s surge falters, she is poised to make it to the second round of voting, which she is predicted to win.Ms Silva is no novice. She was a founder of the Workers’ Party (PT) that Ms Rousseff now heads, an environment minister in the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and came third in the 2010 presidential race. She appeals to the poor, from whose ranks she came; to the markets, which like...
      PubDate: Thu, 04 September 2014 15:08:0
  • The future of cars: Wireless wheels
    • Abstract: SINCE Henry Ford turned it into a mass-market product a century ago, the car has delivered many benefits. It has boosted economic growth, increased social mobility and given people a lot of fun. No wonder mankind has taken to the vehicle with such enthusiasm that there are now a billion automobiles on the world’s roads.But the car has also brought many problems. It pollutes the air, creates congestion and kills people. An astonishing 1.24m people die, and as many as 50m are hurt, in road accidents each year. Drivers and passengers waste around 90 billion hours in traffic jams each year. In some car-choked cities as much as a third of the petrol used is burned by people looking for a space to park.Fortunately, an emerging technology promises to make motoring safer, less polluting and less prone to hold-ups (see Technology Quarterly). “Connected cars”—which may eventually evolve into driverless cars but for the foreseeable future will still have a human at the wheel—can communicate wirelessly with each other and with...
      PubDate: Thu, 04 September 2014 15:08:0
  • Democracy in China: The struggle for Hong Kong
    • Abstract: CHINESE officials have called it a “leap forward” for democracy in Hong Kong. Yet their announcement on August 31st of plans to allow, for the first time, every Hong Kong citizen to vote for the territory’s leader has met only anger and indifference. Joy was conspicuously absent. This is not because Hong Kong’s citizens care little for the right to vote, but because China has made it abundantly clear that the next election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, due in 2017, will be rigged. The only candidates allowed to stand will be those approved by the Communist Party in Beijing, half a continent away.At its worst, this risks provoking a disaster which even China cannot want. Democrats are planning protests. It is unclear how many people will join in, but the fear is that the territory’s long history of peaceful campaigning for political reform will give way to skirmishes with police, mass arrests and possibly even intervention by the People’s Liberation Army. That would disrupt one of Asia’s wealthiest and most orderly economies, and set China against the West. But even if, as is likely, such a calamity is avoided, this leap sideways is a huge missed opportunity not...
      PubDate: Thu, 04 September 2014 08:03:1
  • Ukraine, Russia and the West: The long game
    • Abstract: IN HIS undeclared, unprovoked, grisly war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin enjoys several telling advantages. Unlike the bickering Western leaders who have failed to deter him, he is answerable only to himself. He has no real allies, and, because he silences his critics as ruthlessly as he violates his neighbours’ sovereignty, few domestic constraints. Nor, plainly, is he constrained by shame: witness his staggering lies over Russia’s role in the fighting, and his decision, even after flight MH17 was shot down by his proxies, to send in more tanks and troops.Above all, Mr Putin cares more about the outcome than the West does. His geopolitical paranoia, his obsession with the territory lost at the end of the cold war, and the personal prestige he has staked on victory make it essential. And he has a modern army he is willing to use. Because of these imbalances Mr Putin is winning, at least by his own warped calculus. Yet in doing so he has forfeited another edge that he held until too recently, namely the willingness of some Western dupes to see him as a reasonable interlocutor, even a partner. Even the most purblind now know him for what he is: less a statesman than a...
      PubDate: Thu, 04 September 2014 08:03:0
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