thomas.kochi + economist   99

The perils of learning in English
When winston churchill was at Harrow School, he was in the lowest stream. This did not, he wrote in “My Early Life”, blight his academic career, for “I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer boys. They all went on to learn Latin and Greek and splendid things like that...We were considered such dunces that we could learn only English...Thus I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence—which is a noble thing.”Research demonstrates that children learn more when they are taught in their mother tongue than they do when they are taught in any other language (see article). In a study of children in the first three years in 12 schools in Cameroon, those taught in Kom did better than those taught in English in all subjects. Parents might say that the point is to prepare children for the workplace, and that a grasp of English is more use than sums or history. Yet by year five the children taught in Kom outperformed English-medium children even in English. Perhaps this is because they gain a better grasp of the mechanics of reading and writing when they are learning the skills in a language they understand.After all, it was a good education in his mother tongue, rather than in the classics then favoured by the British aristocracy, that won Churchill the Nobel prize for literature.
Economist  education  language 
12 weeks ago by thomas.kochi
How Britain embraced referendums, the tool of dictators and demagogues
n the latest of a series of essays we are running on the pros and cons of a second Brexit referendum, Robert Saunders of Queen Mary University of London explains how the vote in 2016 reduced a complex question to an abstract proposition onto which voters could project incompatible versions of Brexit. A vote on a concrete proposition, he says, would focus debate on the strengths and weaknesses of a specific policy, not on the utopias (and dystopias) that predominated before
Economist  referendums  Britain 
january 2019 by thomas.kochi
The problem with “Roma”
“Roma” is one of the most lauded films of the year. Universally praised by critics, it won the Golden Lion, the top prize at Venice, and it is tipped to appear both in the Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film categories at the Oscars. If there is anything wrong with it, it may be that Mr Cuarón reveres his central character so much that he ends up distancing himself from her. That is, he is so determined to view Cleo as an angel that he doesn’t always view her as a human being. The film is not just beautiful, it is carefully, self-consciously beautiful in a way that seems designed to inspire religious awe. A heart-stoppingly tense scene on a beach ends with Cleo, Sofia and the children huddled together in the sand, with the setting sun positioned precisely behind them. It is a stunning example of Mr Cuarón’s mastery of timing and staging, but the heavenly lighting and the pietà pose turn Cleo almost into a saint. .. patronising portrayal taints Mr Cuarón’s gorgeous and heartfelt film. “Roma” leaves you in no doubt that he worships and adores the self-abnegating woman who was a second mother to him. But as a writer-director, he has a lot in common with the entitled family he depicts: he cannot imagine Cleo wanting to be anything more than a faithful servant.
Economist  movies 
december 2018 by thomas.kochi
China’s two-child policy is having unintended consequences
the government’s announcement in late 2015 that it was relaxing the policy, after 35 years, was good news. Yet the two-child-per-couple policy that replaced it may bring different kinds of problems. Officials are encouraging childbirth because they worry that the fertility rate (the number of children a woman can expect to have during her lifetime) has sunk well below 2.1, the level required to keep the population stable in the long term.Decades of being told that small families are glorious has not helped. Helen Gao, a 30-year-old writer who works at China Policy, a think-tank in Beijing, says that having one child has become an ideal in China, just as some Americans might regard a couple with two children and a dog as the perfect-sized unit.75% of companies were more reluctant to hire women after the two-child policy took effect.Over the past two years most Chinese provinces have extended paid leave beyond the 98-day minimum mandated under national law,southern province of Jiangxi became the latest of several local authorities to say that it would start requiring women who are more than 14 weeks pregnant to secure the approval of three doctors in order to procure an abortion. Health officials have taken to discouraging women from having Caesarean sections, arguing that they increase the risk of complications during a second pregnancy. Chinese courts are also beginning to tighten divorce rules by enforcing “cooling-off” periods after applications are filed—including, say critics, in some cases where a woman’s safety might be at risk.Whether the government is restricting family sizes or trying to boost them, “it is always about control,” says Mei Fong, a journalist and the author of “One Child”, a book about China’s family-planning policies.
Economist  China  population  policy 
december 2018 by thomas.kochi
Ageing Japan
In Japan there are approximately 400,000 more deaths than births every year and over 28% of the population is older than 65, compared with 15% in America. The demographic crunch is creating labour sho...
Economist  Japan  from notes
november 2018 by thomas.kochi
The papacy is working hard to combat the sex trade
EVEN THE Holy See’s greatest defenders would acknowledge this much: this is not an easy time for the Vatican to be burnishing its credentials as a defender of vulnerable youngsters from exploitation. As a colleague wrote recently, there is good reason to expect the fallout from clerical abuse scandals to get worse.But, in what is one of the great paradoxes of the current papacy, Pope Francis has repeatedly returned to the issue of people-trafficking, and the closely related problem of sexual exploitation, especially of minors. In the thinking of the Vatican, the manipulation of vulnerable individuals for the sex trade is the epitome of a darkly materialistic age, when everything can be monetised and intangible values are cast aside. Over and above these philosophical assertions, it is acknowledged by people who work in the field (including those who are far from the church) that Catholic-inspired projects and charities have a role to play in combating people-trafficking and the sex trade, one that cannot easily be matched by their secular counterparts.Over and above these philosophical assertions, it is acknowledged by people who work in the field (including those who are far from the church) that Catholic-inspired projects and charities have a role to play in combating people-trafficking and the sex trade, one that cannot easily be matched by their secular counterparts.Whatever motivates the individuals involved in these Christian charities (who may be religious professionals or lay-people, devout or otherwise), it is probably not the desire to improve the Holy See’s image, or even to put into practice some theological principle about the dignity of the human person. There is simply a job to be done and they get on with it.Vatican has other failings. Here, at least, it is sincere
catholic  Economist  charity  Vatican  pope 
november 2018 by thomas.kochi
China v America The end of engagement How the world’s two superpowers have become rivals
For the past quarter century America’s approach to China has been founded on a belief in convergence. Political and economic integration would not just make China wealthier, they would also make it more liberal, pluralistic and democratic. There were crises, such as a face-off in the Taiwan Strait in 1996 or the downing of a spy-plane in 2001. But America cleaved to the conviction that, with the right incentives, China would eventually join the world order as a “responsible stakeholder”.Today convergence is dead. America has come to see China as a strategic rival—a malevolent actor and a rule-breaker .Mr Trump and his administration have got three things right. The first is that America needs to be strong. Mr Trump is also right that America needs to reset expectations about Chinese behaviour.Third, Mr Trump’s unique ability to signal his disregard for conventional wisdom seems to have been effective. He is not subtle or consistent, but as with Canadian and Mexican trade, American bullying can lead to dealmaking.For what comes next, however, Mr Trump needs a strategy, not just tactics. A starting point must be to promote America’s values. The strategy should leave room for China to rise peacefully—which inevitably also means allowing China to extend its influence.And America’s strategy must include the asset that separates it most clearly from China: alliances. In trade, for example, Mr Trump should work with the eu and Japan to press China to change. In defence Mr Trump should not only abandon his alliance-bashing but bolster old friends, like Japan and Australia, while nurturing new ones, like India and Vietnam. Alliances are America’s best source of protection against the advantage China will reap from its increasing economic and military power.Perhaps it was inevitable that China and America would end up rivals. It is not inevitable that rivalry must lead to war.
Economist  US  China  Trump 
october 2018 by thomas.kochi
Can liberal democracies survive identity politics?
Almost two decades ago Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the victory of liberal democracy. Today he’s seeing the system shattered in large part by identity politics—the subject of his latest book.Identity politics describes when people adopt political positions based on their ethnicity, race, sexuality or religion rather than on broader policies. Though it started on the left, it has been more potent on the right: it fueled Donald Trump’s election and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.During most of the 20th century, the main divisions were based on economic issues surrounding how much the state should intervene to promote equality, versus how much freedom to permit to individuals and the private sector. Today politics increasingly centers around assertions of identity. There has been a widespread populist revolt against globalization, based partly on its unequal economic consequences, but also on the threats to traditional national identities arising from high levels of migration.The modern concept of identity is built around self-esteem—that is, the idea that we have hidden selves that are undervalued by other people, leading to feelings of anger, resentment, and invisibility.By the mid-20th century, it was less priests and ministers to whom people turned for solace, but to psychiatrists seeking to raise people's self-esteem. This therapeutic mission spread throughout society, to schools, universities, hospitals, and the social services offered by the state itself.This therapeutic turn coincided with the great social movements of the 1960s, which increasingly saw low self-esteem linked to the marginalization of African-Americans, women, gays and lesbians, and the like. The fights that we have today over issues of race, gender, gender orientation, and the like, are often more over offended dignity than over material resources.A creedal national identity is one based on a creed or idea, rather than on biology. An example of the latter is Hungary's Viktor Orban, who has said that Hungarian national identity is based on Hungarian ethnicity. That is an exclusionary identity that makes no room for citizens who live in Hungary but are not Hungarian.
Economist  books  democracy  ideas 
october 2018 by thomas.kochi
The decline of Asian marriage Asia's lonely hearts
In the words of Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore and a keen advocate of Asian values, the Chinese family encouraged “scholarship and hard work and thrift and deferment of present enjoyment for future gain”.On the face of it his claim appears persuasive still. In most of Asia, marriage is widespread and illegitimacy almost unknown. In contrast, half of marriages in some Western countries end in divorce, and half of all children are born outside wedlock. The recent riots across Britain, whose origins many believe lie in an absence of either parental guidance or filial respect, seem to underline a profound difference between East and West.Yet marriage is changing fast in East, South-East and South Asia, even though each region has different traditions.What's happening in Asia is a flight from marriage.The mean age of marriage in the richest places—Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong—has risen sharply in the past few decades, to reach 29-30 for women and 31-33 for men.Almost a third of Japanese women in their early 30s are unmarried; probably half of those will always be. Over one-fifth of Taiwanese women in their late 30s are single; most will never marry. In some places, rates of non-marriage are especially striking: in Bangkok, 20% of 40-44-year old women are not married; in Tokyo, 21%; among university graduates of that age in Singapore, 27%. So far, the trend has not affected Asia's two giants, China and India. But it is likely to, as the economic factors that have driven it elsewhere in Asia sweep through those two countries as well; and its consequences will be exacerbated by the sex-selective abortion practised for a generation there. By 2050, there will be 60m more men of marriageable age than women in China and India.
Economist  marriage 
october 2018 by thomas.kochi
Rousseau, Marx and Nietzsche The prophets of illiberal progress
Terrible things have been done in their name.LIBERALISM is a broad church.. ranged from libertarians such as Robert Nozick to interventionists such as John Maynard Keynes..Small-government fundamentalists like Friedrich Hayek have rubbed shoulders with pragmatists such as John Stuart Mill.Liberals believe that things tend to get better. Wealth grows, science deepens understanding, wisdom spreads and society improves. But liberals are not Pollyannas. They saw how the Enlightenment led to the upheaval of the French revolution and the murderous Terror that consumed it. But there are limits. Our last brief seeks to sharpen the definition of liberalism by setting it in opposition to a particular aspect of the thought of three anti-liberals: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a superstar of the French Enlightenment; Karl Marx, a 19th-century German revolutionary communist; and Friedrich Nietzsche, 30 years Marx’s junior and one of philosophy’s great dissidents. Each has a vast and distinct universe of ideas. But all of them dismiss the liberal view of progress.The illiberal view of progress has a terrible record. Maximilien Robespierre, architect of the Terror, invoked Rousseau; Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong invoked Marx; and Adolf Hitler invoked Nietzsche.The path from illiberal progress to terror is easy to plot. Debate about how to improve the world loses its purpose—because of Marx’s certitude about progress, Rousseau’s pessimism or Nietzsche’s subjectivity. Power accretes—explicitly to economic classes in the thought of Marx and the übermenschen in Nietzsche, and through the subversive manipulation of the general will in Rousseau. And accreted power tramples over the dignity of the individual—because that is what power does.Liberalism, by contrast, does not believe it has all the answers. That is possibly its greatest strength.
Economist  philosophers  philosophies 
september 2018 by thomas.kochi
A counter-argument to the “clash of civilisations”
America has just elected a president who speaks pointedly of “Islamic terrorism”; his predecessor balked at connecting Islam with violence and said those who did, including terrorists, were misreading the faith.In Western intellectual debates, meanwhile, some maintain that Islam stultifies its followers, either because of its core teachings or because in the 11th century Islamic theology turned its back on emphasising human reason. Others retort indignantly that the Islamic world’s problems are the fault of its Western foes, from crusaders to European colonists, who bruised the collective Muslim psyche.Christopher de Bellaigue, a British journalist and historian of the Middle East, hews to the latter side, but with an unusual twist. He describes how Islam’s initial encounter with modernity, two centuries ago, had some benign consequences and he sees that as a basis for hope. The author succeeds in his main purpose, which is to show that in Cairo, Istanbul and Tehran, prominent figures embraced aspects of Western thought and technology with discernment and gusto while remaining good Muslims
Economist  Islam  history  books 
september 2018 by thomas.kochi
The dangers of illiberal liberalism
Liberals who repress speech to prevent harm risk inviting authoritarianism..being a liberal these days is confusing. I continue to take inspiration from John Locke, John Stuart Mill and those more recent freedom fighters of the 1960s who challenged conformism and repression. In Britain this led to partial decriminalisation of both homosexuality and abortion in 1967, and a more open, tolerant, permissive society. These are the liberal values which I recognise and admire.In contrast, today’s so-called progressive liberals are often intolerant, calling for official censure against anyone perceived as uttering non-progressive views. They openly despise everyone from Trump-voting “Deplorables” and Brexit-voting ”Gammons” (those “others” who dare to vote the wrong way and won’t espouse their “tolerant” values) to those in their own ranks who refuse to toe the liberal line
Economist  policy  conflicts 
september 2018 by thomas.kochi
The arrest of Bobi Wine has shaken Uganda
THE video for his song “Freedom” imagines Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, trapped in a jail cell. Mr Wine has become the unofficial spokesman for young people disillusioned with Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s ageing president. Calling himself the “Ghetto President”, Mr Wine rose to fame as a dreadlocked pop star who drove fast cars and dissed his rivals. He sang about girls, naturally, but also about mistreated street traders. He calls his songs “edutainment”, music with a message. By resorting to violence, the state only accelerates his transformation from weed-smoking celebrity to populist icon. “When leaders become misleaders,” he sings, “then opposition becomes our position.”
Economist  Uganda  leaders  politics  music 
august 2018 by thomas.kochi
What would William Gladstone champion today?
WILLIAM GLADSTONE dominated 19th-century British politics and helped shift government away from the preserve of the aristocracy to something approaching a meritocracy. In a career spanning seven decades, he pursued an ethical foreign policy, extended voting rights (to men), proposed home rule for Ireland and freed up the economy by removing duties and tariffs. He was prime minister four times between 1868 and 1894 and served in Parliament for 62 years.Gladstone brought liberal values to public policy. He sought to “rescue and rehabilitate” prostitutes; tried to establish a new university in Dublin open to Catholics and Protestants; and punished unfair landlords.Gladstone would be calling for religious tolerance and freedom of belief. His own spiritual journey started narrowly in an almost fundamentalist Christian household but widened by the end of his life to embrace all Christian denominations, all religions and ideologies.“I was brought up to hate and fear liberty. I came to love it. That is the secret of my whole career.”
Economist  statesmen  politics 
august 2018 by thomas.kochi
Einstein’s general theory of relativity
ONE hundred years ago, on November 25th 1915, Albert Einstein presented his freshly finished general theory of relativity to the Prussian Academy of Sciences. It was the outcome of nearly a decade's dedicated work. He showed that the theory solved a 150-year-old problem: each year, Mercury's closest point of approach to the Sun was moving forward more than it was expected to. In 1916, Einstein predicted that relativistic effects would cause the apparent positions of stars to change during an eclipse, as the sun bent the distant stars' rays. That prediction was proved right in 1919, in a widely publicised expedition
Economist  scientists  physics  theories 
august 2018 by thomas.kochi
Tales of transgression and escape from a master of Icelandic fiction
Sjón’s trilogy, “CoDex 1962”, combines Surrealism, folklore and pop culture
Economist  fiction  books  Iceland 
august 2018 by thomas.kochi
Cheer up, Deutschland
Pessimism comes easily to Germans. Gloom stalked their literature even before the traumas of the 20th century. “Simplicius Simplicissimus,” the first great German novel, describes a peasant wandering the devastated Holy Roman Empire after the Thirty Years War; Goethe and his contemporaries imagined love-struck romantics killing themselves in dark forests; Wagner’s Ring Cycle ends with Valhalla in flames. Few Germans ever quite believe that calamity is not just around the corner, reckons John Kornblum, a former American ambassador. He relays a tale of a woman who came up to him in the street unbidden and warned him that he would trip over and die if he failed to tie his shoelace.Mainstream politicians will not halt the rise of the AfD by parroting its inaccurate portrayal of the country as an unruly shambles. The country does not invest enough—threatening its competitiveness and contributing to international economic imbalances—but pessimists do not invest. For its own sake and that of others, it is time for Germany to lift its gaze from its navel, grasp the bigger picture—and cheer up.
Germany  Economist 
august 2018 by thomas.kochi
Europe’s civil war of sovereignty is tearing its soul apart
The antagonists do not fall neatly into geographical camps. Here in the liberal platoon is Donald Tusk , a former prime minister of Poland, shoulder-to-shoulder with Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor. Glaring at them across no man's land, alongside Mr Orban, stand Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-Islam fanatic, and Marine Le Pen, the French nationalist. Mr Orban and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland's de-facto leader, thrive on such polarisation, denouncing their domestic opponents as traitors, cretins or effete vegetarian cyclists...the “illiberal democracy” framing has its limits.Mr Orban’s regime is demolishing Hungary’s institutions while lining the pockets of his pals. His latest wheeze is to present himself as the champion of European Christian democracy, but a better label for his rotten regime would be authoritarian kleptocracy. Similar dynamics may be observed, to lesser and varying degrees, in countries such as Romania and Slovakia, and potentially the Czech Republic.To avoid that prospect, defenders of Europe’s rules must pick their battles. Democratic backsliding is a serious problem in a club membership of which is supposed to provide the kitemark for good governance. Resisting that, rather than fretting about illiberalism, must be where the opponents of Mr Orban and his ilk devote their efforts. Identify a culture war, and you may find yourself waging one.
Economist  EU  Europe  democracy 
july 2018 by thomas.kochi
A grammatical analysis of Donald Trump’s double negatives
FEW grammatical issues in history can have been quite as consequential. In Helsinki, Donald Trump rhetorically sized up the statements of his own director of national intelligence against those of Vladimir Putin, the former KGB spy standing a few feet away. Did Russia interfere with the election of 2016? “My people came to me. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”Then yesterday, Mr Trump issued what is, for him, a unicorn-feather of a statement, the rarest of things: a retraction. “The sentence should have been ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative.”But was it a mistake? Could the president have plausibly said the exact opposite of what he meant at such a critical moment?It is possible—but highly unlikely—that the president misspoke
Economist  language  Trump 
july 2018 by thomas.kochi
The legacy of Germany’s student protests in 1968
An unfamiliar polarisation is roiling a country used to consensus. It was 1967; the Shah of Iran was at a performance of “The Magic Flute” at the nearby Opera; crowds of protesters had been forced into side streets; a shot rang out. Benno Ohnesorg, a 26-year-old, lay bleeding on the ground, his head cradled by another student in a photo that shocked the young Federal Republic and radicalised the movement for the demonstrations that swept German universities over the following year.Many “68ers” ended up running things. In one movie, “The Edukators”, a gang of juvenile anti-capitalists are discombobulated when Hardenberg, the millionaire they kidnap, turns out to have been a major figure in the 1968 protests.Arrayed against this nostalgia are two sources of dissent, the first more objectionable and the second more influential. The former is centred on the right-wing Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which often lambasts the “foul, red-green, 68er generation”,The second group of 1968-critics comprises Merkel-sceptics on the centre-right. Their proposed remedy seems to take the form of tighter refugee policies, restrictions on abortion advice and a more confident sense of German identity. It is in this direction that mainstream German conservatism may well evolve once Mrs Merkel goes.... Michael and Bruno, the nihilistic brothers who rebel against their hippy mother in “The Elementary Particles”, a darkly humorous German film based on a French novel.
Economist  Germany  poltics 
june 2018 by thomas.kochi
An eerie dystopian prophecy by a disillusioned Bolshevik
We. By Yevgeny Zamyatin.Yevgeny Zamyatin’s parable looked forward to climate change and surveillance culture.At the end of “We”, D-503 attends the annual re-election of the OneState’s Benefactor. For as long as anyone can remember, the vote has always been a unanimous “yes”. Not this time.All this took the hundredth part of a second, a hair’s breadth of time. I saw a thousand hands shoot up—‘opposed’—and come down.A revolution has begun.
Economist  books 
june 2018 by thomas.kochi
The death—or reinvention—of the French intellectual
FOR aspiring and often penniless intellectuals, the Café de Flore on the left bank in Paris, with its Art Deco interior and bow-tied waiters, was once, recounts Agnès Poirier, “a university”.“Conversations were not loud; the air was serious, books stood between glasses, and the lighting was decidedly dim…Men wore corduroy jackets, turtlenecks, dirty trench coats, their hair a little too long, while women wore no make-up. Nobody was dressed fashionably, but everyone had style.”Left Bank”—Ms Poirier’s delightful account of the writers, artists and painters who shared beds, cigarettes and column inches on a few streets in the 1940s—returns frequently to the Café de Flore. Today, the Café de Flore sits next to a Louis Vuitton store.But these days the signature apéritif is a glass of champagne with caviar. The only writers who frequent the place, says the day manager, tend to be celebrities with deep pockets. Is it just too pricey for aspiring artists? “Probably.”The Flore is not Paris, and Paris is not France. But the moment the locals recolonise the café at night is a reminder that this neighbourhood remains home to much of the capital’s elite—a group that continues to shape the country’s intellectual mood. And last year the French elected a president who has a degree in philosophy and can cite Molière by heart. France may have lost its great intellectuals, but it has certainly not lost its intellectualism.
Economist  hotels  philosophers  books  France 
june 2018 by thomas.kochi
The weasel voice in journalism
ON MAY 14th, as Palestinians massed at the Gaza Strip’s border, Israeli soldiers fired on them, killing around 60 people. Shortly afterwards, the New York Times tweeted: “Dozens of Palestinians have died in protests as the US prepares to open its Jerusalem embassy.” Social media went ballistic. “From old age?” was one incredulous reply. #HaveDied quickly became a hashtag campaign.To diagnose what readers did not like about the Times’s summary, you need semantics, not syntax; the description of meaning, not form.
Economist  language 
may 2018 by thomas.kochi
The world almost ended in 1983
Ronald Reagan’s soaring anti-communist rhetoric, terming the Soviet bloc an “evil empire”, inspired freedom-lovers on both sides of the Iron Curtain, but panicked the Politburo gerontocracy. As communication had shrivelled, misunderstandings mushroomed.NATO’s “Able Archer” exercise was also wildly misinterpreted. If the Soviet misreading of NATO intentions was a colossal intelligence failure, so was the inability of Western intelligence to realise just how jittery and ill-informed the Communist leadership had become.As the Soviet Union put its nuclear forces on high alert, Lieutenant-General Leonard Perroots, the American air-force intelligence chief in Europe, reacted with puzzlement. A quid pro quo might have triggered an all-out nuclear war, which would, as Mr Downing puts it, leave only “cockroaches and scorpions” alive. Luckily, Perroots did nothing. After a sleepless night, the Kremlin leadership, huddled in a clinic outside Moscow with the ailing general secretary, Yuri Andropov, realised nothing was going to happen.
Economist  catastrophes  books  nuclear  geopolitics 
may 2018 by thomas.kochi
How to change emotions with a word
DIPLOMATS the world over know that a well-chosen turn of phrase can make or break a negotiation. Michal Reifen-Tagar and Orly Idan, two researchers at the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya, in Israel have confirmed that a good way to use language to reduce tension is to rely, whenever possible, on nouns rather than verbs.. employing nouns (“I am in favour of the removal of settlers”), rather than verbs (“I am in favour of removing settlers”), to convey support for policy positions would have a calming effect. The one is more like a statement of an abstract belief. The other is more like a prescription of a course of action and is thus, they hypothesised, more likely to arouse emotions.
Economist  language  psychology  semiotics 
may 2018 by thomas.kochi
Who are the Samaritans and why is their future uncertain?
Like Jews, they trace their lineage to Abraham. But the enslavement of the Jews by the Babylonians complicated matters. The Samaritans claim that, after returning from Babylon, Jews forgot their early customs. For centuries a healthy number of Samaritans, who consider themselves distinct from Jews, fought to preserve them. Several hundred thousand Samaritans lived in the Holy Land at the time of Christ. But a war with the Byzantines, between 529 AD and 531 AD, decimated their population. The subsequent arrival of Islam depleted their numbers further; most ethnic Samaritans are now pious Muslims.Mount Gerizim, near the Palestinian town of Nablus, is held by Samaritans to be holier than Jerusalem. These unique religious practices have proven useful politically. Samaritans can claim Israeli citizenship. They serve in the Israeli army. But their disinterest in Jerusalem means they shun aspects of Zionism. “We want East Jerusalem for Palestine, and West Jerusalem for Israel,” says Hosni Cohen, a Samaritan priest. This has made coexistence with local Palestinians easier. In the Samaritan village of Kiryat Luza, on Mount Gerizim, shopkeepers happily sell beer and arak to both thirsty Palestinians and Jewish settlers. Language also helps: many Samaritans can shift gracefully between Arabic and Hebrew.
Economist  Israel-Palestine  Jewish  Jewry  Bible 
april 2018 by thomas.kochi
Charlemagne: the perky Portuguese Social democracy is floundering everywhere in Europe, except Portugal A small miracle on the Atlantic
ANTONIO COSTA, Portugal’s affable prime minister, greets your columnist with a broad grin as he settles his hefty frame into a sofa.. has a lot to smile about. Lisbon, among Europe’s hottest tourist destinations, is enjoying a mini startup boom. Portugal’s footballers are the European champions, and its politicians have nabbed a clutch of senior international jobs. And above all, he is the winner of a high-stakes political gamble.Foes nicknamed Mr Costa’s experiment the geringonça (“contraption”), and gave it six months at most Yet over two years later the contraption is grinding along and the sky has failed to fall in.“We showed that there is an alternative to ‘There is no alternative,’”..enjoys approval ratings most leaders would kill for. Little wonder Europe’s beleaguered social democrats are beating down his door.Does Portugal have anything to teach them? Mr Costa notes modestly that “every country is specific.” Still, he has one or two ideas. Grand coalitions play into the hands of populists because they signal to voters that political contests are redundant. “civilised conflict” helps keep politics, and parties, alive..a bracing message in an era of cosy political pacts.Portugal’s Socialists differ from many of their counterparts in Europe. The party sprang not from trade unions but from elites desperate to establish a bulwark against communism after the end of military rule in the mid-1970s The Left Bloc and the Communists hammer the Socialists on matters like foreign policy but hold fire when it matters, notably on the budget. Helpfully, the growth in Socialist support since 2015 has come largely at the expense of the right, soothing the leftists’ fear that the contraption would turn out to be their death warrant But his success has been oiled by a healthy squirt of good luck.. immigration, the issue tearing apart so many European parties, does not animate Portuguese voters. It is the departure of people that causes a bigger headache: during the crisis 250,000 Portuguese, disproportionately of working age, upped sticks in four years.. For now fixated on deficits and debt rather than investment and public services. A centre-right government would be doing much the same. And so, despite Mr Costa’s warm words, the contraption will surely prove to be a temporary marriage of convenience; his party is already said quietly to be putting out feelers to the Social Democrats
Economist  Portugal  economics 
april 2018 by thomas.kochi
Hollywood needs to fix its gun problem
..an atmospheric and original horror movie which has been getting gushing reviews from critics everywhere, me included. “A Quiet Place”, starring Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, who also directs and co-writes, may end up on my list of the best films of 2018. It’s disconcerting to realise that it could be on the NRA’s list as well.in the end, it’s the ability to squeeze a trigger that makes the difference between being a responsible parent and an alien’s breakfast.Jean-Luc Godard and D.W. Griffith are often misquoted as saying “All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun”, but, as far as Hollywood is concerned, even girls are surplus to requirements.NRA’s other spokespeople blame Hollywood’s glorification of violence whenever there is a mass shooting. What they ignore is that nearly every American film involving weaponry might as well be an NRA infomercial. On the big screen, guns rarely kill innocent bystanders, they don’t go off by accident, and they aren’t used to slaughter children in classrooms. Pick any action movie at random, and I’d wager it could be advertised using LaPierre’s catchphrase: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Economist  movies  debates  controversies 
april 2018 by thomas.kochi
The magic of Montevideo Uruguay’s record-setting economic growth streak
FTER long recessions, Brazil and Argentina still cheer when good economic news comes out. In tiny Uruguay, sandwiched between them, it is old hat. On March 22nd the central bank reported that GDP grew by 2.7% in 2017, bringing the country’s growth streak to 15 years, the longest expansion in its history. Uruguay’s growth since 2011, when global prices of commodities started to fall, puts its neighbours to shame (see chart). Its success shows the value of openness, strong institutions and investment in know-how
Economist  Uruguay 
april 2018 by thomas.kochi
Inside Warren Buffett’s deal machine
Berkshire Hathaway has evolved into an acquisition engine. The returns look pedestrian.Berkshire has three possible paths forward. One is that Mr Buffett and his partner, Charles Munger, return cash to shareholders and accept that Berkshire must be less ambitious. The two men do not seem ready for this. A second is that they do more big takeovers now, with stockmarkets high. That would likely depress Berkshire’s returns for years and make it more reliant on fireworks from its financial arm. The third path is that Mr Buffett and Mr Munger sit and wait, hoping for a stockmarket crash, when Berkshire’s war chest will let it pick up bargains that make better returns than its recent acquisitions have done. Twenty years ago this strategy would have been uncontroversial, but the two men are aged, respectively, 87 and 94. Berkshire is enough of a conundrum to perplex even the world’s greatest value investor.
Economist  investments  icons  magnates 
march 2018 by thomas.kochi
The known unknowns of plastic pollution
MR MCGUIRE had just one word for young Benjamin, in “The Graduate”(1967): plastics.. symbolised America’s consumerism and moral emptiness...ten rivers—two in Africa and the rest in Asia—discharge 90% of all plastic marine debris. The Yangtze alone carries 1.5m tonnes a year.Countries as varied as Bangladesh, France and Rwanda have duly banned plastic bags..anyone offering them in Kenya risks four years in prison or a fine of up to $40,000.. In the past two years .. an uptick in grants for plastics-related research.While researchers get a better handle on the science, campaigners badger politicians and browbeat consumers to kick the polymer habit. They often invoke the precautionary principle. If the impact of something is uncertain but could be great, the argument goes, better forestall it just in case. As the proliferation of plastic bans and strategies suggest, they are having some success.
Economist  environment 
march 2018 by thomas.kochi
History in the making, or a show made for TV? The pros and cons of a summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un
Now America is giving bluster and incoherence a go.But sceptics are also right to fear that Mr Trump—a man who boasts about his television ratings, and who is bored by briefings and scornful of foreign alliances—could end up being played like a gold-plated violin. And yet, as word of the summit pinged around the internet and barged onto newspaper front pages already crowded with Trump-news, a third camp made itself heard, arguing that maybe this time is different. What could be more satisfying than a sudden, historic deal to make all those mocking experts and diplomats eat their words? And to pull off a quick win, Mr Trump the salesman has long been willing to promise anything—especially when someone else will pay the price for failure.
Economist  Trump  N.Korea  US 
march 2018 by thomas.kochi
The incredible inventiveness of Hedy Lamarr
SHE was considered “the most beautiful woman in the world”, and had one of the most iconic faces of Hollywood. She provided the inspiration for Snow White and Catwoman. But Hedy Lamarr’s glamorous career overshadows her most significant achievements. “Bombshell”, a new documentary film from Alexandra Dean, restores Lamarr’s rightful place in the history not only of film, but of science as well. In 1940, she was determined to find a way to help the Allies in the war; the Nazis’ U-Boats were overpowering British ships. In collaboration with George Antheil, an avant-garde composer , she sought a solution to “radio jamming”—the deliberate disruption of radio signals—that was causing torpedoes to go off-course. Using paper tape, they created a device that would allow “frequency hopping” and secure communications. “Bombshell” shows us her original notes and diagrams, using animation to help with the explanation.Eventually, frequency hopping would form the basis for most of the world’s secure communications, including military satellites, Wi-Fi and GPS.
inventors  biopics  movies  Economist 
march 2018 by thomas.kochi
Both God and Mammon Protestantism might be good for the wallet, after all
CAN religion make people wealthier? In 1905 Max Weber, a German sociologist, argued that it had happened in Europe. Protestants did not invent capitalism in the 16th century, he suggested. But, by discarding monastic asceticism and embracing the notion that diligence and self-improvement are pleasing to God, they became particularly good at it... For now, anyone recalling nudges from grandma urging wakefulness through tedious sermons should consider that she may have been right.
Economist  religion  evangelism 
february 2018 by thomas.kochi
THE NOVEL OF THE CENTURY
As long as there are ignorance and poverty on earth”, wrote Victor Hugo in his preface to “Les Misérables” in 1862, “books such as this one may not be useless.” Never mind those self-help manuals urging that some classic novel may change your life: in this sparkling study of the birth, growth and afterlife of Hugo’s evergreen block-buster, The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables, David Bellos argues that “Les Misérables” already has.
Economist  books 
february 2018 by thomas.kochi
The rapid rise and fall of the Anbang empire
RARELY in corporate history has a giant come and gone so quickly. Anbang was founded in 2004 as a small Chinese car-insurance company. By the start of last year it ranked among the world’s biggest insurers with some $300bn of assets, including stakes in hotels and financial firms across America, Europe and Asia. Given another ten years, boasted Wu Xiaohui, its swashbuckling founder, Anbang’s scale would “exceed your imagination”. But then, just as vertiginous as its ascent, came its fall. Alarmed at its debt-fuelled expansion, regulators started blocking its overseas deals, reined in its insurance business and detained Mr Wu. On February 23rd its disgrace became complete: the Chinese government announced that it had taken over Anbang and would prosecute Mr Wu for economic crimes...Anbang could be all but wound up by next February. It would return to where it began barely a decade ago, a small player on the periphery of China’s financial system, not the colossus at its heart of which Mr Wu dreamed
Economist  corporates 
february 2018 by thomas.kochi
Too many prisons make bad people worse. There is a better way
Bastoy, an island prison in Norway..the “world’s nicest prison”..what is most unusual about Bastoy is not that it treats prisoners like human beings, but that it treats them like adults.Nelson Mandela once observed that: “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.Far too many fit the description of Douglas Hurd, a former British home secretary, who said that: “Prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse.”There are at least 10.3m people behind bars worldwide Perhaps.Prisons around the world use a variety of tools to prevent recidivism. the best tool is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Norway uses CBT a lot.. America uses it spottily.
Economist  prisons  crime  punishment 
february 2018 by thomas.kochi
A practitioner’s guide to hedonism
The best sort of life, says Epicurus, is one that is free from pain in the body and from disturbance in the mind. That sounds a rather negative credo for a 21st-century devotee of the good life. Were he writing self-help books today, Epicurus would probably acknowledge that you can aim a little higher than that. He might point out in his own defence that health and peace are essential preconditions of happiness, and are easy to belittle if you are lucky enough to have them. But perhaps his most useful observation for the discerning hedonists of today, when such an intoxicating variety of gratifications are dangled before them, is a reminder of caveat emptor: “No pleasure is in itself evil, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail annoyances many times greater than the pleasures themselves.”
Economist  philosophies  culture 
february 2018 by thomas.kochi
Catholics argue over the value of a breakthrough deal with China
TOUGH public arguments, including some colourful name-calling, are going on between influential figures in the Catholic church.Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of asianews.it, Father Bernardo Cervellera, has had a colourful public spat with an influential, Rome-based Argentine bishop who praised China’s social and environmental policies and said the communist state was the “best implementer” of the Vatican’s social doctrine.Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, had lauded Beijing for “defending the dignity of the person” and avoiding the influence of business over politics which existed in say, America.Father Cervellera retorted that such utopian naivety risked becoming an embarrassment for the church. “When my friends tell me they are going to China, I always advise them not to stop at the shopping centers, the ultra-luxury hotels and the skyscrapers, but also to go out to the peripheries to get a better picture of real China,” he wrote. The Argentine’s rosy-eyed impressions took no account of the Chinese authorities’ ruthless clearances of poor neighbourhoods, or indeed of religious persecution..as many Western countries are discovering, Beijing does not offer free lunches.
Economist  catholic  China  pope  controversies 
february 2018 by thomas.kochi
German politics is in revolt against the “Merkel method”
Since 2005 German politics has been governed by the “Merkel method”, a form of strategic inoffensiveness honed by the country’s chancellor. It is based on smoothing over divisions, offering little by way of vision, values or ideology. And it is a style against which the country’s politics is now in open revolt. At the heart of this method is strategic inoffensiveness. Mrs Merkel has succeeded by offering her opponents little to criticise: few overarching visions, even less ideology, a ponderously non-committal rhetorical style and an “überparteilich” (above-party) reluctance to be drawn into partisan debate or conflict. Her decision-making style is to leave options open until the last possible moment, then choose one and present it as alternative-less (her refugee gambit was a classic of the genre). All of which is elaborated in “The Godmother”, in which the anti-Merkel journalist Gertrud Höhler describes the essences of what she calls the System M: “value-abstinence”, “theme-shyness” and an elevation of Machtpolitik (the politics of power) over Sachpolitik (the politics of substance). The result is a leadership that has sanded the edges off German public life and smoothed over its divisions
Economist  leaders  politics  Germany 
february 2018 by thomas.kochi
Cads and dads
Promiscuity and fidelity seem to be specific biological adaptations. Their manifestations in men and women are not as different as you might expect.Cads succeed when dads are frequent, and vice versa. Neither can conquer and neither can vanish. Such equilibria are part of a branch of maths called game theory—a name both men and women might think eminently appropriate.
Economist  behavior  sexuality 
february 2018 by thomas.kochi
Why both I and me can be right
"I'M TALL, but my brother is taller than __" How do you complete this sentence? There are at least three ways. But only one is uncontroversial.The completely correct way to finish the sentence is "than I am." Many people think the only correct answer is I..many perfectly educated native speakers would prefer my brother is taller than me..1560 "Geneva Bible" translation ("a fool's wrath is heavier than them both"), Shakespeare ("a man no mightier than thyself or me"), Swift ("she suffers hourly more than me"), Samuel Johnson ("No man had ever more discernment than him") and so on.So choose the one that works with the style you're aiming for. And if someone tells you not to, cite Shakespeare, Swift and Johnson and ask the self-appointed scold if he thinks he knows better than them.
Economist  languages 
february 2018 by thomas.kochi
Democracy continues its disturbing retreat
More than half the countries in the latest update of a democratic-health index saw their scores decline
Economist  democracy 
february 2018 by thomas.kochi
India without Gandhi
The close association of modern nationalist and democratic ideas, imported from the West, with unworldly religious values has been the most striking peculiarity of recent Indian political development. Gandhi has not been unique in displaying this union of aspirations which, elsewhere in the modern world, have tended to draw apart; before him such influential personalities as Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore manifested a similar outlook. But it was in Gandhi that this special ideology first became a real political force. Through him the new, reformed Hinduism began to colour the liberal nationalism which had grown up among the English-educated intelligentsia, while in the reverse direction the new political doctrine began to take hold of the masses, whose attitude was fundamentally conditioned by their religion and who would not respond to propaganda framed in merely secular terms. Through Gandhi’s inspiration the Congress Party was able to produce a huge, popular mass movement, arousing intense enthusiasm and reaching into the villages, where no political consciousness had hitherto existed.Gandhi’s belief in the fundamental unity of all religions and their function of promoting human brotherhood, was in line with the views of Mr Nehru, derived from the very different doctrine that religious belief is irrelevant in social and political life. Hence the genuine, though in some ways unnatural, alliance between the Indian Prime Minister and the Mahatma.
Economist  obituary  icons  statesmen  India 
january 2018 by thomas.kochi
The rise and fall of bitcoin
THE great Sir Isaac Newton may have revolutionised our knowledge of the world but he still had his blind spots. He was sucked into the great mania of his day, the South Sea Bubble (pictured) and lost a lot of money. “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people,” he ruefully reflected. In retrospect, he should have pondered the popular saying that was used to define his law of gravity: “What goes up, must come down.”
currencies  Economist 
january 2018 by thomas.kochi
If hell is other people, Bulgaria is paradise
Bulgaria’s population is shrinking fast, and its people are reluctant to welcome immigrants.The UN projects that Bulgaria’s population will fall from 7.2m to 5.2m by 2050, making it the world’s fastest-shrinking country (the next nine are also in eastern Europe). This demographic catastrophe, concentrated in the countryside, finds its cruellest expression in Bulgaria’s neglected north-west, the poorest region of the poorest country in the European Union.Bulgaria presents perhaps the most extreme case of the depopulation that is ravaging much of eastern Europe.
Economist  Bulgaria 
january 2018 by thomas.kochi
Peace, or in pieces? How the 1967 war changed the shape of Israel A guide to the ABC of the conflict
THE SIX-DAY WAR increased Israel’s territory threefold.After the Yom Kippur war of 1973, when Israel was caught off-guard by Egypt and Syria, America mediated a limited “disengagement” in Sinai and the Golan. In 1979 Israel agreed to give back all of Sinai under a peace treaty with Egypt.The Oslo accord of 1993 set out a five-year period of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It left the hardest issues—borders, settlements, Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees—to be sorted out later. The interim arrangements created a crazy quilt of territories.Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank, a series of walls and fences, often runs close to the pre-1967 border. But it cuts deep salients into the West Bank to take in blocks of settlements and a swathe of territory around Jerusalem.Nearly 2m Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip and almost 3m in the patchwork of autonomous zones in the West Bank, where they are mixed with around 385,000 Jewish settlers. East Jerusalem has about 320,000 Palestinians and about 210,000 Jews. Within the old pre-1967 border, the “Green Line”, there are more than 6m Jews and 1.5m Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.Between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, the overall number of Palestinians has more or less caught up with the number of Jews: about 6.5m for each
Israel-Palestine  Economist  demographics 
january 2018 by thomas.kochi
Race relations Slavery’s legacies
Brazil took more African slaves than any other country, and now has nearly three times as many people whose ancestors left Africa in the past few centuries as America does. Yet black faces seldom appear in Brazilian newspapers outside the sports section. Few firms have black bosses. The government has not a single black cabinet member; its predecessor, which called itself progressive, had one—for equality and rights. On average black and mixed-race Brazilians earn 58% as much as whites—a much bigger gap than in America.Of the 12.5m Africans trafficked across the Atlantic between 1501 and 1866, only 300,000-400,000 disembarked in what is now the United States. They were quickly outnumbered by European settlers.In Brazil, unlike America, race has never been black and white. The Portuguese population—700,000 settlers had arrived at the start of the 19th century—was dwarfed by the number of slaves: a total of 4.9m arrived. Portuguese men were encouraged to consort with African women. Since most came without wives, such unions gained some legitimacy. Their offspring, referred to as mulatto, enjoyed a social status above that of pretos. They worked as overseers or artisans, but also doctors, accountants and lawyers. A mulatto, Machado de Assis, was regarded as Brazil’s greatest writer even during his lifetime in the 19th century. Mixing led to a hotch-potch of racial categories.But there are hints that an American-style black consciousness is emerging in Brazil
Economist  Brazil  racism 
january 2018 by thomas.kochi
Chronicles of chronology The power of seven
WHY does The Economist appear every seventh day? The answer is because we, like you, still regulate our lives by a septimal law that Mesopotamian star-gazers framed, and local warlords imposed, more than 40 centuries ago. Our weekdays and weekends and weeks off, our dress-down Fridays, hectic Saturday nights, Sundays sacred or profane, and Monday-morning blues all have their origin in something that happened around 2350BC. Sargon I, King of Akkad, having conquered Ur and the other cities of Sumeria, then instituted a seven-day week, the first to be recorded.Ur was probably using weeks, less formally, long before Sargon came marching in. The Sumerians were great innovators in matters of time. It is to them, ultimately, that we owe not only the week but also the 60-minute hour. Such things came easily to people who based their maths not on a decimal system but on a sexagesimal one.Why were these clever chaps, who went for 60 because it is divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30, fascinated by stubbornly indivisible seven? In ancient Egypt and ancient China, “weeks” of ten days were long in use—much more understandable, as people have ten fingers to count on, not seven. (And yet you have to wonder, if the Pharaohs' long week was intended to drive their workforce harder, whether it provoked the Exodus?)
Economist  chronology  numbers 
january 2018 by thomas.kochi
Double-plus effective
His tweets tend to follow the same structure: two brief statements, then a single emotive word or phrase and an exclamation mark. (On June 12th, after the Orlando shootings: “We must be smart!”) He invents playground nicknames for his opponents (Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary). His vocabulary is earthy: “big-league”, to describe how he would do things, or “schlonged”, for someone beaten badly. During the primary campaign, his swearing was so criticised that he promised to stop (and actually did). How did this man become the presidential nominee of the party of Abraham Lincoln? First, he keeps it simple. Another Trump tactic is repetition. This, too, may be incorrectly seen as childish. Mr Trump does often say exactly the same thing several times in a row in a crude, hammer-blow fashion. Yet the most effective way Mr Trump beguiles his audience is perhaps the simplest: he does not give speeches. Instead, he talks. ored reporters following ordinary candidates on the trail know that, even though they speak without notes, politicians reheat the same hash in town after town. This reveals a dangerous double edge to Orwell’s famous rules for clear and honest English. An honest speaker would do well to keep words and sentences short and concrete, and to avoid clichés, as Orwell advises.
Economist  Trump  language 
january 2018 by thomas.kochi
Albert Camus, 50 years on Prince of the absurd
WHEN Albert Camus was killed in a car crash 50 years ago on January 4th, at the age of 46, he had already won the Nobel prize for literature, and his best-known novel, “L'Etranger” (“The Stranger” or “The Outsider”), had introduced readers the world over to the philosophy of the absurd. Yet, at the time of his death, Camus found himself an outcast in Paris, snubbed by Jean-Paul Sartre and other left-bank intellectuals, and denounced for his freethinking refusal to yield to fashionable political views. As his daughter has said: “Papa was alone.”Today, by contrast, the French are proud to consider Camus a towering figure, while Sartre's star has faded. Several new books mark the anniversary of his death, including an elegant illustrated volume by Catherine Camus, one of his twin children and custodian of her father's estate.What Sartre and his friends could not forgive was the stubborn independent-mindedness which, today, makes Camus appear so morally lucid, humane and resolutely modern.
Economist  books  philosophers  France  anniversaries 
january 2018 by thomas.kochi
The world’s most liveable cities
Liveability is declining..COMING up with a list of the world’s best cities is a near-impossible task. The bustle and hum of megacities like São Paulo or Tokyo might be too much for some people; others might struggle with the pace of life in Cleveland or Frankfurt. A ranking released on August 18th by our corporate cousin, the Economist Intelligence attempts instead to quantify the world’s most “liveable” cities—that is, which locations around the world provide the best or the worst living conditions. The index, measured out of 100, considers 30 factors related to safety, health care, educational resources, infrastructure and the environment to calculate scores for 140 cities.Melbourne tops the list for the sixth year in a row, and six of the top ten cities are in Australia or Canada. But Sydney, Australia’s largest city, drops out of the top ten due to fears over terrorism.Damascus is the lowest-ranked city with a rating of just 30.2 out of 100, Kiev is the only European city in the bottom ten,
Economist  lists  cities 
december 2017 by thomas.kochi
Wise words Books of the Year 2017
The best books of 2017 are about music, nicotine and the tsunami in Japan.. The Retreat of Western Liberalism. By Edward Luce.Few doubt that something big has happened in Western politics over the past two years, but nobody is sure what. Turmoil in Washington and London contrasts with centrist stability in Paris and (mostly) in Berlin.. Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone. By Richard Lloyd Parry. The finest work of narrative non-fiction to be published this year..The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of “Les Miserables”. By David Bellos. Farrah, Straus and Giroux.. Lincoln in the Bardo. By George Saunders. One of the year’s most original and electrifying novels..Nicotine. By Gregor Hens. Smoking is bad for you, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.White Tears. By Hari Kunzru His imagery resonates with the racial politics of modern life.
Economist  books  lists 
december 2017 by thomas.kochi
Longevity in rich countries
Wealthy countries such as Japan, Switzerland and Australia have the highest life expectancies.By 2030, they think, South Korea will have seen the biggest gains in life expectancy for both men and women. A girl born there in 2030 is likely to live past her 90th birthday, seven years longer than one born in 2010. South Korean men are expected to live to just over 84, leapfrogging 18 other countries to the top of the ranking.South Korea’s trajectory has been remarkable. Its annual GDP per person is more than 20 times the level in 1960. America and Britain saw only a trebling over the same period. These economic gains have improved the nation’s health. In 1985 life expectancy in South Korea was more than four years lower than in America for both sexes; by 2010 it had caught up for men and risen to three years higher for women.The most striking outlier is America. The world′s biggest economy is among the bottom five countries in expected gains for both men and women. At 77 years for men and 81 years for women in 2010, American life expectancy is already among the lowest in the rich world. That is partly because America is the only country in the OECD that does not have universal health care, meaning poorer health for poorer people. It also has the highest maternal and child mortality rates, so fewer people reach old age. High obesity and homicide rates shorten lifespans as well.
Economist  longevity  mortality 
december 2017 by thomas.kochi
Mumbai plans the world’s tallest statue
When this idea was first cooked up, in 2004, the statue was planned to be 98 metres tall, to top the Statue of Liberty, which is a mere 93 metres. But then the neighbouring state of Gujarat decided to build a 182-metre figure of Vallabhbhai Patel, an independence hero. Maharashtra’s government resolved to make the statue of Shivaji the tallest in the world, at 192 metres. Alas, it turns out there is a Buddha in China that is 208 metres high. So now Maharashtra’s government is aiming for 210 metres The budget for the project is growing, too. It has risen from 1bn rupees ($16m) to 36bn—or so the government hopesThe state’s debt, meanwhile, is 3.7trn rupees. The sum budgeted for the statue is seven times what Maharashtra spends on building and maintaining rural roads each year
Economist  oddly  structures 
december 2017 by thomas.kochi
Migration and labour shortages in Asian countries
THE Asian “model” of migration tends to be highly restrictive, and often appears more dedicated to stemming immigration than to managing it. The continent′s governments frequently curtail entry severely, strongly discourage permanent settlement and keep citizenship out of reach. Although Asia is home to half the world′s population, it provides only 34% of the total number of emigrants and hosts a mere 17% of immigrants For now, China is still a net exporter of labour. But during the next 30 years its working-age population is set to shrink by 180m, and it will need 20m more domestic workers. Overall, East Asia would have to import 275m people between the ages of 15 and 64 by 2030 to keep the share of its population at working age steady. Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and especially Thailand need workers, while Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines have too many.India alone could send more than 80m abroad—without worsening its dependency ratio. China’s projected shortfall in 2030 is equivalent to 24% of its current working-age population
Economist  labour  migrants  Asia 
december 2017 by thomas.kochi
The pendulum of power swings back towards the state
Three reasons to expect a shift in the balance between governments and markets, predicts Zanny Minton Beddoes Here comes the techlash Macronism on the move A new progressive era?
Economist 
december 2017 by thomas.kochi
A corrective to northern-focused histories of India
British officers saw the south as a “sloth belt”. But its history is long, variegated and glorious.WITH all of the gods in the Himalayas celebrating Shiva’s wedding, goes the Tamil myth, the Earth started to tilt perilously towards the north. The sage Agathya journeyed south to restore balance, bringing with him water for the land, and the Tamil language for the people.“Coromandel”, too, seeks to redress imbalance.Hinduism gained dominance as it transformed from its abstract priest-led form into a more accessible one, with gods depicted as humans. The imperial Chola dynasty’s 1,500-year reign, Cholamandalam, provided the name Coromandel for the south-east coast. Under the Cholas, stunning images were carved in stone and cast in bronze. One of the earliest southern representations is now one of the most recognisable: Shiva as Nataraja, lord of the cosmic dance, one leg raised and “hair streaming across the firmament”.
Economist  history  India  books 
november 2017 by thomas.kochi
Britain loses its judge on the world court for the first time ever
ON NOVEMBER 21st Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, denied in Parliament that Britain’s loss of its place on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was a failure. “It has been a long-standing objective of UK foreign policy to support India in the UN,”His answer put a creative gloss on an unhappy state of affairs.Mr Johnson says that Brexit offers a chance to create a “global Britain” that strides beyond its “immediate European hinterland” and gets closer to the rising powers of the 21st century. Failing to retain its judge on the ICJ points to how hard that may prove.
Economist  Britain  India  India-Britain 
november 2017 by thomas.kochi
The making of Amsterdam Freedom of the city
DURING its rise in the 17th century, Amsterdam was an important haven for religious dissidents. It was also the publishing centre for the racy philosophical tracts that were too hot to be printed in France or England. The city’s economic fortunes were born of its embrace of international trade and of financial innovation. And the highly profitable Dutch East India Company was the world’s first joint-stock company, leading in time to the world’s first stock and options markets.Russell Shorto’s “Amsterdam” traces the evolution of the Enlightenment in a city that was one of its birthplaces, and analyses how Amsterdam has been wrestling with its ideas ever since.Amsterdam’s most famous philosopher, Baruch Spinoza was the progenitor of the “radical” Enlightenment, those thinkers who refused any accommodation with religion or traditional authority If the book has a weakness, it is that Mr Shorto often overstates his case. He contends, for example, that England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which a Dutch prince, William of Orange, and his wife peacefully acquired the British throne, should really be seen as a Dutch invasion and conquest of England. This, he thinks, was the main source of English liberalism. In the same vein, he regards the tolerant commercialism of New York City as springing from the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. It is surely too deterministic to think of intellectual influence in this way. In a quieter passage, even Mr Shorto acknowledges that “ideas can’t be pinned down like butterfly wings.”
Economist  cities  history  books  philosophers  Holland 
november 2017 by thomas.kochi
Prince of the absurd
WHEN Albert Camus was killed in a car crash 50 years ago on January 4th (1960), at the age of 46, he had already won the Nobel prize for literature, and his best-known novel, “L'Etranger” (“The Stranger” or “The Outsider”), had introduced readers the world over to the philosophy of the absurd. Yet, at the time of his death, Camus found himself an outcast in Paris, snubbed by Jean-Paul Sartre and other left-bank intellectuals, and denounced for his freethinking refusal to yield to fashionable political views. As his daughter has said: “Papa was alone.”Today, by contrast, the French are proud to consider Camus a towering figure, while Sartre's star has faded.The public recognition that Camus achieved in his lifetime never quite compensated for the wounds of rejection and disdain from those he had thought friends. He suffered cruelly at the hands of Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and their snobbish, jealous literary clique, whose savage public assassination of Camus after the publication of “The Rebel” left deep scars. “You may have been poor once, but you aren't anymore,” Sartre lashed out in print. What Sartre and his friends could not forgive was the stubborn independent-mindedness which, today, makes Camus appear so morally lucid, humane and resolutely modern.
Economist  philosophers  authors 
november 2017 by thomas.kochi
You may be higher up the global wealth pyramid than you think
IF YOU had only $2,220 to your name (adding together your bank deposits, financial investments and property holdings, and subtracting your debts) you might not think yourself terribly fortunate. But you would be wealthier than half the world’s population, If you had $71,560 or more, you would be in the top tenth. If you were lucky enough to own over $744,400 you could count yourself a member of the global 1% that voters everywhere are rebelling against.That lucky tenth now includes over 44m Chinese, about 4.4% of the country’s adult population.A far greater number (almost half of China’s adults) cluster in the next three deciles down. Closer to the bottom of the pyramid, there is a similar bulge of Indians in the second and third deciles (with wealth between $30 and $603). Below them, the bottom tenth is a peculiar mix. It is populated by poor countries, where many people have nothing, and rich ones, where people can own very much less than that. It includes a surprising number of Americans (over 21m), whose debts outweigh their assets. But most Americans are much better off. Over 40% belong to the top tenth of the global wealth distribution (and over 18m belong to the global 1%). Some of those railing against the global elite probably do not know they belong to it.
Economist  inequality 
october 2017 by thomas.kochi
Milk and economic development No use crying
HUMANS can digest lactose, the main carbohydrate in milk, only with the help of an enzyme called lactase. But two-thirds of people stop producing it after they have been weaned. The lucky third—those with “lactase persistence”—continue to produce it into adulthood. A recent paper* argues that this genetic quirk helps explain why some countries are rich and others poor.re-colonial countries in western Europe tended to have the highest rates of lactase persistence,The lowest levels were in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia.A one-standard-deviation increase in the incidence of lactase persistence, in turn, was associated with a 40% rise in population density. People who could digest milk, the theory goes, used resources more efficiently than those who couldn’t.
Economist  medical 
october 2017 by thomas.kochi
“The Death of Stalin” is a precarious comedic experiment
THE men guarding Josef Stalin at his dacha in the suburbs of Moscow were under strict instructions not to disturb him under any circumstances. The Soviet dictator would often watch Westerns into the small hours, reappearing at lunchtime the next day. He was also known to sleep on any one of a series of futons located in random bedrooms and offices throughout the building, supposedly to frustrate a would-be assassin. So when he failed to emerge on March 1st 1953, nobody looked for him. By the time he was discovered, he had spent hours on the floor of his study in a semi-conscious state, having succumbed to a burst blood vessel in the brain.The Death of Stalin” prevails as a rewarding, uniquely black comedy. Like most of Mr Iannucci’s work, it is essentially concerned with ambition and how it must be disguised from the public. Messrs Beale and Buscemi are consistently amusing as they attempt to outmanoeuvre one another while trying their best to appear solemn and mournful after the tragic loss of their leader. The result is a sharp satire of how and when intelligent people feel the need to justify acts of violence for “the greater good”.
Economist  movies  Russia 
october 2017 by thomas.kochi
Arthur Rimbaud Rebel, rebel
"Life is the farce we are forced to endure".HIS lover and fellow poet Paul Verlaine called him an “angel in exile”. It was a perception that few others shared. When Arthur Rimbaud arrived in Paris in 1871, 16 years old, filthy and unknown but clutching a draft of his first masterpiece, he quickly began making enemies. Those who offered the runaway bumpkin hospitality regretted it.What Rimbaud lacked in social skills, however, he made up for in sheer outrageous genius. In a poetic career that lasted barely five years he produced some of the most audacious, beautiful and influential poetry of the 19th century—arguably of any century. For Edmund White the Frenchman is nothing less than “the father of modern poetry”.
Economist  authors  literature  rebels 
october 2017 by thomas.kochi
The story of a good man How Mikhail Gorbachev ended the cold war
"A man who had brought drastic change to the world …was a helpless victim of the cruelty and capriciousness of history.”It was a history that Mr Gorbachev himself had set in motion. Ever since the end of the Soviet Union, the question of “why” has lingered in Western, Russian and Chinese minds. Why did a man at the head of a superpower undermine his own authority? Did he simply fail to understand the consequences of his actions, or did he act out of courage and vision? How did Mr Gorbachev, the peasant boy turned Communist Party boss in a fedora, become the statesman who liberated his people from 70 years of lies and fear, end the cold war and bury the Soviet Union? Was he a product of the Soviet system, as he claimed, or its “genetic error”, as Andrei Grachev, an earlier biographer described him..Mr Gorbachev’s dignified retirement—far more than his politics—helps explain what made Gorbachev Gorbachev: a good man from the Soviet Union.
Economist  leaders  Russia  events  history 
october 2017 by thomas.kochi
Time to bury Che Guevara for good
In death Che, with his flowing hair and beret, has become one of the world’s favourite revolutionary icons. His fans span the globe. Youthful rebels wear T-shirts emblazoned with his image. Ireland this month issued a commemorative stamp. But it is in Latin America where his influence has been greatest, and where his legacy—for the left in particular—has been most damaging.So occluded is the lens of anti-imperialism that much of the Latin American left has failed to detect that American meddling in the region largely ended with the cold war, and that most younger Latin Americans see the United States as a source of investment, opportunity and technological progress (or at least did so before the arrival of President Donald Trump)Guevara’s mistake was to deny the possibility of democracy, or the social progress it could bring, in Latin America. Most countries in the region are no longer controlled by a narrow oligarchy, nor under the yanqui thumb. Whatever their mistakes and failings, reformist governments in countries like Chile, Brazil and Colombia have shown that inequality, while still high, can be reduced by good policiesBy erecting anti-imperialism and equality as supreme values, too many leftists have been complicit in tyranny and corruption.
Economist  icons  communism  anniversaries 
october 2017 by thomas.kochi
Xi Jinping has more clout than Donald Trump. The world should be wary
The leader of the free world has a narrow, transactional approach to foreigners and seems unable to enact his agenda at home. The United States is still the world’s most powerful country, but its leader is weaker at home and less effective abroad than any of his recent predecessors, not least because he scorns the values and alliances that underpin American influence.The president of the world’s largest authoritarian state, by contrast, walks with swagger abroad. His grip on China is tighter than any leader’s since Mao. One-man rule is ultimately a recipe for instability in China, as it has been in the past—think of Mao and his Cultural Revolution. It is also a recipe for arbitrary behaviour abroad, which is especially worrying at a time when Mr Trump’s America is pulling back and creating a power vacuum. The world does not want an isolationist United States or a dictatorship in China. Alas, it may get both.
Economist  China  America  geopolitics 
october 2017 by thomas.kochi
A Nobel prize for medicine for the understanding of body clocks
Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young are, between them, responsible for working out how the endogenous clocks of fruit flies—and, by extension, of other organisms—run what is known as the circadian rhythm. This is the internal cycle (circa is the Latin for “about” and dies the Latin for “day”) that matches the body’s physiology to the alternation of light and darkness caused by Earth’s rotation. In human beings it controls, among many other things, sleep patterns. Hence the discovery, once the invention of the jet engine made rapid travel across time zones possible, that someone flying from, say, London to New York, will take several days to adjust to solar time as New Yorkers perceive it.Their first step, in 1984, was the isolation within the fruit-fly genome of a gene called period, which had previously been found to be important in controlling circadian rhythms..Dr Hall and Dr Rosbach then went on to measure the concentration in fly brains of the protein this gene encodes.The crucial part of the story is that the protein inhibits the action of period genes. The more of the protein there is, the less active the genes are.
Economist  awards  medical 
october 2017 by thomas.kochi
“The Florida Project” is a subtle film about poverty in America
FEW things open a film-maker up to criticism like telling the stories of the poor. Depict their lives as a string of endless indignities, and you will be accused of exploiting their suffering. Find and portray the joy in their communities, and critics will say you are ignoring systemic injustice and bolstering those who wish to deny them assistance. In recent years, films like “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (2012) and “American Honey” (2016) found utopian elements in poor communities and were criticised from the left. “The Florida Project”, a powerful and entertaining social drama about a child growing up poor in Orlando, Florida, may well suffer the same fate. That would be a shame: it features a rare compassion for underprivileged Americans. The film is the latest effort from director Sean Baker, whose lo-fi trans drama “Tangerine” (2015) offered an entertaining and non-judgmental look at a marginalised community.
Economist  movies 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
Fiscal multipliers Where does the buck stop?
Many governments turned to fiscal stimulus to get their economies going. In America the administration of Barack Obama succeeded in securing a stimulus package worth over $800 billion.As a new debate over multipliers flared, freshwater types stood their ground. John Cochrane of the University of Chicago said of Keynesian ideas in 2009: “It’s not part of what anybody has taught graduate students since the 1960s. They are fairy tales that have been proved false. It is very comforting in times of stress to go back to the fairy tales we heard as children, but it doesn’t make them less false.”The practical experience of the recession gave economists plenty to study, however. Scores of papers have been published since 2008 attempting to estimate fiscal multipliers. Most suggest that, with interest rates close to zero, fiscal stimulus carries a multiplier of at least one. The IMF, for instance, concluded that the (harmful) multiplier for fiscal contractions was often 1.5 or more.Even as many policymakers remain committed to fiscal consolidation, plenty of economists now argue that insufficient fiscal stimulus has been among the biggest failures of the post-crisis era.
Economist  economics 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
In Detroit, the end of blight is in sigh
“SPERAMUS meliora resurget cineribus”: the Latin incantation, offered by a French Catholic priest after a fire nearly destroyed the city in 1805, is Detroit’s motto—“We hope that better things may rise from the ashes”. The once-great city, the “arsenal of democracy” during the second world war and home of the world’s most innovative manufacturers, has almost been ruined a second time. National interest in Detroit has waned since its bankruptcy proceedings, brought on by decades of mismanagement, ended in December 2014. Most tales of the city now take one of two tacks. Either Detroit remains mired in poverty and unemployment, its doom merely forestalled by a few years. Or the hipsters flooding in are, with each overwrought coffee contraption and jam-jar cocktail, returning the city to something like its former glory..Mr Duggan thinks that at the current pace of demolitions he can clear the city’s long-standing blight within five years. Detroit would emerge smaller, but no longer a byword for decline.
Economist  cities 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
America’s Catholic bishops take on Donald Trump
Though the USCCB does not officially endorse political candidates, it seemed in the run-up to the election to back Mr Trump over outspokenly pro-choice Hillary Clinton. This reflects its uncompromising and increasingly-political focus on personal morality; the pope, by contrast, tends to stress the importance of social justice, a different strain in the Catholic tradition. Lobbying by American bishops has in particular become more strident since 2009, when many signed the Manhattan Declaration, an agreement between socially conservative Catholics and Protestants that they would work together for traditional family values—that is, against gay marriage and abortion.The clergy’s tacit approval of Mr Trump probably won him some crucial votes in a tight election. Catholics, who constitute a quarter of all voters in America and tend to swing between the Republicans and Democrats, backed Mr Trump by a small margin; he won a bigger majority of white Catholics. But while conservative evangelicals, who gave Mr Trump more resounding support, have since stuck by him, Catholic leaders appear to be peeling away.
Trump  Economist  catholic 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
Closing in on cancer
Cancer claimed the lives of 8.8m people in 2015; only heart disease caused more deaths. Around 40% of Americans will be told they have cancer during their lifetimes. It is now a bigger killer of Africans than malaria.Cancer has become more and more survivable over recent decades owing to a host of advances, from genetic sequencing to targeted therapies. The five-year survival rate for leukemia in America has almost doubled, from 34% in the mid-1970s to 63% in 2006-12. America is home to about 15.5m cancer survivors, a number that will grow to 20m in the next ten yearsBut cancer is not fought only in the lab. It is also fought in doctors’ surgeries, in schools, in public-health systems and in government departments. The dispatches from these battlefields are much less encouraging.Access to health care matters, too: the number of Americans whose cancers were diagnosed at the earliest possible opportunity went up after Obamacare was enacted. And prevention remains the best cure of all. Efforts to rein in tobacco use averted 22m deaths (many of them to cancer) between 2008 and 2014. Yet only a tenth of the world’s population lives in countries where taxes make up at least three-quarters of the price of cigarettes, as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Economist  medical  healthcare 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
A legal vulnerability at the heart of China’s big internet firms
“variable interest entities” (VIEs), a kind of corporate architecture used mainly by China’s tech firms, including two superstars, Alibaba and Tencent. Investors outside China have about $1trn invested in firms that use them.Few legal experts think that VIEs are about to collapse, but few expect them to endure, either. Since the 1990s private firms have sought to break free of China’s isolated legal and financial systems. Many have done so by forming holding companies in tax havens and listing their shares in New York or Hong Kong. The problem is that they are then usually categorised as “foreign firms” under Chinese rules. That in turn prohibits them from owning assets in some politically sensitive sectors, most notably the internet.The lawyers’ quick fix, first used in 2000, was to shift these sensitive assets, such as operating licences, into special legal entities—VIEs—that are owned by Chinese individuals, usually the firms’ bosses. The companies sign contracts with the VIEs and their individual owners, which the companies say guarantees them control over the VIEs’ assets, sales and profits. Abracadabra!
Economist  China 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
Two documentaries probe Myanmar’s religious strife
Sittwe” and “The Venerable W.” present the festering relations between the Rohingya and Buddhists.Animosity between Muslims and Buddhists in the country dates back to the 1940s, but tensions have heightened since 2012 when a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered—allegedly by three Muslim men. “Nobody knows if a Muslim or a Buddhist killed her,” says a protagonist in “Sittwe”..Ashin Wirathu, a Burmese Buddhist monk and the spiritual leader of the country’s anti-Muslim movement is the subject of “The Venerable W.”, the last instalment in Barbet Schroeder’s “trilogy of evil” (his previous subjects were Amin Dada, a Ugandan dictator, and Jacques Verges, a lawyer renowned for defending war criminals)..these films neatly complement each other..offer some insight into a social and religious quagmire. Were the country open to talking meaningfully about relations between Buddhists and Muslims, the films could form part of the discussion. As it is not, acts of violence are likely to continue.
Economist  documementaries  movies  Myanmar 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
As storms rage and waters rise, religions speak with many voices
First, religiously-inspired charities have been working hard to anticipate and ease the woes of the neediest victims.A second, narrower concern is that of faith groups which want to strike down the constitutionally-based bar on religious bodies receiving federal funds.Thirdly, some zealots (albeit fewer than usual) have claimed that the hurricanes are divine punishment for behaviour of which God disapproves. New Testament, apparently intended to warn people against second-guessing God’s judgement: “The Lord sends rain on the just and the unjust.” And others, including hard-pressed relief workers, might be recalling an elaboration on that line by a Victorian-era wit, Charles Bowen:“The rain it raineth on the just/And also on the unjust fella;/but chiefly on the just, because/the unjust hath the just’s umbrella.”
religion  Economist 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
Abraham's story shows the similarities and the differences between faiths
“The festival’s commemoration of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice for his faith is a reminder of the shared roots of the world’s great Abrahamic faiths.” In some ways, that is perfectly true. The story has always loomed large in the spiritual Early Christian commentators invariably see the story as a foreshadowing of the death and self-sacrifice of Jesus.consciousness of Christians, Muslims and Jews. It is told in the 22nd chapter of Genesis, part of the Hebrew Scriptures which are read by both Christians and Jews. But there are at least two awkward things. Significant differences exist in the way the three faiths tell and interpret the story. And whichever way you read the narrative, it can be a difficult one for the 21st-century mind.Many Jewish commentators, like Muslim ones, have seen the story as a tirade against human sacrifice, which had been a feature of many pre-Abrahamic religions.
Economist  religion 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
Caviar-free flying
Low-cost carriers in the Middle East are not as Spartan as you might expect “In this world, you don’t have a one-size-fits-all model,”The Middle East’s low-cost travellers don’t require legacy-carrier perks, Mr Boodai insists, but they do expect the “full package”. That also includes complimentary on-board meals. This emphasis on preserving quality is epitomised by the rise of business-class products. Jazeera reserves a section of its all-economy-configured aircraft for premium traffic, leaving middle seats vacant and separating the classes with a curtain.Tapping wealthier passengers for higher yields effectively allows Jazeera and FlyDubai to subsidise their economy fares
Economist  aviation 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
Mother Teresa
Several times in her last years, against her will, she was admitted to exclusive and expensive hospitals for heart surgery. She herself saw no point in taking care to prolong her earthly existence;Nor did she see any point in interventionist medicine: she would have been happy to die, as most of her patients did, on a thin pallet in a communal dormitory, having spent her last days on a diet of rice, water, weak medicine, and love.She got into trouble, too, for accepting Haiti's Légion d'Honneur from Baby Doc Duvalier, and for laying a wreath on the tomb of Enver Hoxha, the former Communist leader of Albania, where she was born. People supposed she was ignorant, or, worse, complicit in the tyranny or corruption of these men. The truth was simpler and more extraordinary: she saw Christ in them, and believed they could be redeemed.Mother Teresa believed it was not “things” her patients needed; they needed to feel wanted, and to die at peace with God. The secular view of death, as something to be resisted, met, in Mother Teresa, the religious view that death should be joyfully surrendered to. Neither side could hope to understand the other.She had most of the attributes of sainthood: a dauntingly selfless life, devotion to a higher cause, rude single-mindedness, a thick skin, and a capacity to wring the withers of the rich and powerful. Teresa of Avila would have embraced her as a sister. She was the secular West's adopted holy person; Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan all improved their moral standing by appearing in public beside her. Yet her unadulterated message, like the message of most saints and of Christ himself, was undoubtedly too difficult for most of her adoring public to take.
Economist  saints  icons  catholic 
september 2017 by thomas.kochi
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