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Forced sales are the wrong way to deal with Chinese tech

Forced sales are the wrong way to deal with Chinese tech

N DECEMBER 2017 a Chinese technology firm called ByteDance bought Musical.ly, an app which let its young users dance and lip-sync to music videos. This did not, at the time, look like a recipe for geopolitical strife. ByteDance merged Musical.ly with a similar app called TikTok, which started growing at a blistering pace. Today TikTok has 100m users in America, and competes with Facebook and Snap. With growing popularity has come growing scrutiny, as Sino-American tensions spread from trade to tech, and a barrage of invective from President Donald Trump. This looks set to culminate in a...

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4d ago
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A region with outsized punch

A region with outsized punch

WICE RECENTLY an eruption in middle America has sent shock waves across the country and the rest of the world. Four years ago Midwestern voters were decisive in putting Donald Trump in the White House, to global consternation. Two months ago, residents of Minneapolis took to the streets after a white policeman had killed George Floyd, an African-American. The resulting protests shut down much of urban America for a spell, then provoked demonstrations and debate on racism everywhere.Both events were reminders that the Midwest can pack an outsized punch. That is most obvious in politics: the...

economist.com
Jul 23
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Guy Standing on how lockdowns make the case for a basic income

Guy Standing on how lockdowns make the case for a basic income

by Guy StandingEditor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily . For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our THE COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a surge of interest in basic income as a way of compensating people for the economic hardships imposed by lockdowns. As a modest, regular, equal payment to all individuals, regardless of income or employment, basic income is fair, non-discriminatory and comprehensive—unlike the emergency safety-net schemes that governments have scrambled to put in place.However, some converts see basic...

economist.com
May 20
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Researchers revive bacteria from the era of the dinosaurs

Researchers revive bacteria from the era of the dinosaurs

AR FROM the life-sustaining light of the sun, the deep sea floor appears barren and desolate. Its appearance, however, belies a thriving bacterial ecosystem that may contain as much as 45% of the world’s biomass of microbes. This ecosystem is fuelled by what is known as marine snow—a steady shower of small, nutrient-rich particles that fall like manna from the ocean layers near the surface, where photosynthesis takes place.Not all of the snow is digestible, though. And the indigestible parts build up, layer upon layer, burying as they do so the bugs in the layer below. To look at how well...

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Aug 1
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Google has outgrown its corporate culture

Google has outgrown its corporate culture

T MAY BE just 21 years old, but Google is in the midst of a mid-life crisis. As so often in such cases, all seems well on the surface. Every day its search engine handles 6bn requests, YouTube receives 49 years’ worth of video uploads and Gmail processes about 100bn emails. Thanks to its dominance of online advertising, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, made a profit of $34bn last year. Beyond its core operations, it is a world leader in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and self-driving cars. Along with the bosses of Amazon, Apple and Facebook, its chief executive, Sundar...

economist.com
Jul 30
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What if nuclear power had taken off in the 1970s?

What if nuclear power had taken off in the 1970s?

Editor’s note: This scenario is set in a different 2020 from the one we now inhabit, on a timeline that diverged in 1974T IS NOT a date that means much to most people. But hindsight suggests that March 6th 1974 may have been a turning-point in human history. The decision announced on that day by Pierre Messmer, France’s prime minister, may have saved the world from a dangerous rise in temperatures—an obscure phenomenon known in scientific circles as “global warming”.In other circumstances, that decision might have proved just one more example of France’s desire to be different. Though...

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Jul 4
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Turkey is wielding influence all over the Arab world

Turkey is wielding influence all over the Arab world

ZAZ HAS experienced quite the turnaround. The city in northern Syria was once controlled by Islamic State (IS), which continued to terrorise it even after leaving in 2014. That is when other jihadists and rebels swooped in. Today, though, Turkey is calling the shots. It keeps the lights on and supplies the local shops. The list of Turkish projects under construction ranges from schools and universities to hospitals and roads. “The infrastructure is better than before the revolution,” says an architect who is building new housing as part of another Turkish project.Turkey is expanding its...

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Aug 1
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Americans are getting more nervous about what they say in public

Americans are getting more nervous about what they say in public

TO UPSET THE twittersphere often takes no more than sharing your thoughts. For David Shor, a data scientist who until recently worked for Civis Analytics, a Democratic polling firm, all it took was sharing someone else’s. On May 28th Mr Shor tweeted a straightforward summary of a paper by Omar Wasow, a Princeton professor, which argued that, in the 1960s, violent protests were less effective than non-violent ones at swaying American public opinion in favour of the civil-rights movement. (Several news outlets, including , covered the study when it was published.) Ordinarily such a tweet...

economist.com
Jul 28
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Back pain is a massive problem which is badly treated

Back pain is a massive problem which is badly treated

ETE MOORE was 43 when he woke up one autumn morning with back pain so excruciating that he struggled to dress himself. His doctor in Romford, an English town, referred him to hospital for an MRI scan; this showed that some of the spongelike discs that separate the spine’s vertebrae were bulging out of the slots into which they customarily fit. Such “slipped” discs can be caused by an injury; but they are also the sort of thing which can just happen with increasing age.Mr Moore received a prescription for opioids to help him cope with the pain; but the pain persisted, and he found himself...

economist.com
Jan 18
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What if carbon removal becomes the new Big Oil?

What if carbon removal becomes the new Big Oil?

Editor’s note: Each of these climate-change articles is fiction, but grounded in historical fact and real science. The year, concentration of carbon dioxide and average temperature rise (above pre-industrial average) are shown for each one. The scenarios do not present a unified narrative but are set in different worlds, with a range of climate sensitivities, on different emissions pathwaysT IS HARD to envisage now, but the Permian basin in Texas and New Mexico used to be America’s biggest source of crude oil. At its peak it accounted for more than half of national production. Today the...

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Jul 4
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Indian IT consultancies struggle against technological obsolescence

Indian IT consultancies struggle against technological obsolescence

ANY OF THE world’s multinationals claim to be technology companies. In fact, their increasingly digitised operations often rely on a handful of Indian firms. Few people outside their home country have heard of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, Wipro, HCL Technologies or Tech Mahindra, India’s five biggest information technology (IT) consultancies. Yet even when enterprise software to manage marketing, production, inventory and the like comes from Oracle of America or Germany’s SAP, it is often the Indian companies that install and maintain software for clients. They create the...

economist.com
Jul 23
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The covid-19 pandemic is forcing a rethink in macroeconomics

The covid-19 pandemic is forcing a rethink in macroeconomics

Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily . For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our N THE FORM it is known today, macroeconomics began in 1936 with the publication of John Maynard Keynes’s “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money”. Its subsequent history can be divided into three eras. The era of policy which was guided by Keynes’s ideas began in the 1940s. By the 1970s it had encountered problems that it could not solve and so, in the 1980s, the monetarist era, most commonly associated with the work of Milton...

economist.com
Jul 25
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TikTok’s Chinese parent is scrambling to hang onto its hit app

TikTok’s Chinese parent is scrambling to hang onto its hit app

N MAY BYTEDANCE, the world’s most valuable startup, leapt further ahead of other technology “unicorns”. It was valued at $140bn on the secondary market, up by nearly half from a funding round in the spring. The reason? TikTok, a short-video app that has been downloaded 2bn times. The “last sunny corner” of the internet, as it is known thanks to jolly user-generated content, is China’s first worldwide internet sensation. For ByteDance’s 37-year-old founder, Zhang Yiming, it is part of an ambition to build a global software giant.Now that ambition is in jeopardy. On June 29th India banned...

economist.com
Jul 23
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Analysing waste water may assist census takers

Analysing waste water may assist census takers

OU ARE what you eat, the saying goes. It therefore follows that what you excrete gives away a lot about you. Writ large, that information might yield useful demographic clues about particular neighbourhoods. This, at least, is the thinking behind a study by Saer Samanipour of the University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Dr Samanipour has been analysing sewage, and has shown that it gives a pretty good profile of an area’s population.To make sure that his analysis reflected the most up to date demographic information Dr Samanipour timed it to coincide with a census. The one he chose was...

economist.com
Jul 18
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America’s war on Huawei nears its endgame

America’s war on Huawei nears its endgame

Editor’s note: Sign up and listen to Checks and Balance, our and on American politics, and explore our N MAY 15TH the American government announced a startling escalation in its campaign against Huawei, a Chinese company which is the largest provider of telecoms equipment in the world. American politicians and officials have long expressed concerns that mobile networks which rely on Huawei could allow snooping and sabotage by China. In May 2019, citing alleged violations of sanctions against Iran—charges Huawei denies—America used powers designed to stop the transfer of military technology...

economist.com
Jul 16
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Central and southern China are being ravaged by floods

Central and southern China are being ravaged by floods

N A RECENT rainy afternoon the owner of a small riverfront fish restaurant on sleepy Kaisha island, in the middle of the Yangzi river, was worried and bemused by the steadily rising waters. On a spit of land near the riverbank stood a cluster of trees, their trunks half-submerged. A wooden boardwalk leading out to a fishing pier remained only just above the murky water. “There is usually a metre of clearance under the walkway,” she said. “Yes, I have seen the water this high before, but never this early in the rainy season.”Residents of the island, 160km upstream from Shanghai, where the...

economist.com
Jul 18
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Donald Trump ends the career of his former chief ideologue, Jeff Sessions

Donald Trump ends the career of his former chief ideologue, Jeff Sessions

HOUGH A FAN of Confederate monuments, Donald Trump could not have taken down Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a living memorial to the rebel South and the president’s first attorney-general, more ruthlessly. This week the Republican veteran named after two Confederate heroes (Jefferson Davis and General P.G.T. Beauregard) suffered his first electoral defeat, in a primary for the Alabama Senate seat he occupied for 20 years. When he last defended it, in 2014, Mr Sessions won an uncontested race with 97% of the vote. But against a Trump-backed rival—a former college-football coach and...

economist.com
Jul 18
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The end of the Arab world’s oil age is nigh

The end of the Arab world’s oil age is nigh

HEIR BUDGETS don’t add up anymore. Algeria needs the price of Brent crude, an international benchmark for oil, to rise to $157 dollars a barrel. Oman needs it to hit $87. No Arab oil producer, save tiny Qatar, can balance its books at the current price, around $40 (see chart).So some are taking drastic steps. In May the Algerian government said it would slice spending in half. The new prime minister of Iraq, one of the world’s largest oil producers, wants to take an axe to government salaries. Oman is struggling to borrow after credit-rating agencies listed its debt as junk. Kuwait’s...

economist.com
Jul 18
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A new material helps transistors become vanishingly small

A new material helps transistors become vanishingly small

HERE IS AN old joke in the semiconductor business that the number of people predicting the death of Moore’s law doubles every two years. This refers to another prediction, made in the 1970s by Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, a giant chipmaker, that the number of transistors which can be crammed onto a silicon chip doubles every two years. When that number exceeded 1m in the mid-1980s, some said the rate of progress had to slow down. By 2005 the number of transistors on a chip rose above 1bn, which many thought was unsustainable. But there are now around 50bn transistors jostling...

economist.com
Jul 18
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Poland’s populist ruling party clings to the presidency

Poland’s populist ruling party clings to the presidency

NCUMBENT PRESIDENTS will often go to great lengths to be re-elected. In the case of Andrzej Duda, Poland’s president, who hails from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party (though he formally left it after being elected president in 2015), this includes denouncing gay people, attacking the independent media and accusing Germany of meddling in the election.It worked, but only just. He won the election run-off on July 12th, beating Rafal Trzaskowski, Warsaw’s liberal mayor, by 51% to 49%. The president has little executive power, but can veto laws, which would matter a lot if the opposition...

economist.com
Jul 16
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Siberia’s heatwave would not have happened without climate change

Siberia’s heatwave would not have happened without climate change

THIS HAS been a sweltering year in the Siberian Arctic. Between January and June, temperatures across the region were more than 5°C warmer than the recent average (calculated between 1981 and 2010). In some spots they were more than 10°C above average. On June 20th in the town of Verkhoyansk in north-eastern Siberia thermometers read 38°C—the highest ever recorded north of the Arctic circle, according to Russia’s meteorological service.This extraordinary heatwave has drawn the attention of the World Weather Attribution (WWA) project, a collaboration among climate researchers who specialise...

economist.com
Jul 15
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Could Democrats pick up a Senate seat in Kansas?

Could Democrats pick up a Senate seat in Kansas?

TALIN RULED the Soviet Union. George V occupied the British throne. America’s public was awed by a young Kansan, Amelia Earhart, who had become the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic. The year 1932 was memorable for many. But Democrats in Kansas recall it for a special reason: that was the last time their state elected a Democratic senator.Could it happen again in November? Kris Kobach, a Republican and former secretary of state in Kansas, scoffs at the idea. He campaigned this week in Topeka, the state capital, after a weekend of attending Independence Day parades and...

economist.com
Jul 11
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How speedy lockdowns save lives

How speedy lockdowns save lives

S SUMMER ARRIVED, Europeans and Americans might have hoped for a covid-free spell, with the deadly peaks of spring a distant memory. That now looks unlikely. New infection hotspots have emerged in Britain’s Midlands, Germany’s west and throughout America. Even as the virus is rampaging through developing countries, people in the West are worried about a second wave.It is too soon to predict how severe such outbreaks will be. Yet data from the first wave show how important it is for governments to respond quickly. Most East Asian countries with existing contact-tracing systems and experience...

economist.com
Jul 4
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Why SMIC is surging

Why SMIC is surging

IMES SEEM tough for China’s chipmaking champion, the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC). Over the past year America has attacked its supply chains, cutting it off from essential high-tech tools. It has slapped export controls on SMIC’s customers and enacted new rules which threaten to designate the firm as subservient to the People’s Liberation Army. The company’s sales slumped by 7% in 2019 to $3.1bn—not the kind of performance expected of a Chinese high-tech titan.SMIC is one of many corporate casualties in the escalating conflict over access to advanced...

economist.com
Jul 11
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The mark of Cain

The mark of Cain

EW THINGS about Donald Trump’s rise are harder to explain than the fact that some of the most religious Americans were behind it. In 2016, 81% of white evangelicals voted for him. It seems no one was more astonished by this than those who knew him best. “He has no principles. None!” marvelled his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, according to a forthcoming family exposé by Mary L. Trump, the president’s niece.The popular explanation for this strange nexus is that white Christians overlooked the president’s failings because of his willingness to fight their corner, by nominating conservative...

economist.com
Jul 11
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