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Interest in veganism is surging

Interest in veganism is surging

FOR YEARS Britons intent on a virtuous start to the year have pledged to observe an alcohol-free “”. These days, however, a trendier resolution is to swear off meat. This month, according to Google Trends, there were about as many British searches for “Veganuary”—in which participants adopt a vegan diet for a month—as for “Dry January” for the first time. Veganuary UK, the charity behind the annual campaign, says 350,000 signed up this year, up from 250,000 in 2019. Just how many have stuck to their commitment is anyone’s guess.Enthusiasm for veganism is not limited to Britain. If Google...

economist.com
Jan 29
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Why a dawn of technological optimism is breaking

Why a dawn of technological optimism is breaking

OR MUCH of the past decade the pace of innovation underwhelmed many people—especially those miserable economists. Productivity growth was lacklustre and the most popular new inventions, the smartphone and social media, did not seem to help much. Their malign side-effects, such as the creation of powerful monopolies and the pollution of the public square, became painfully apparent. Promising technologies stalled, including self-driving cars, making Silicon Valley’s evangelists look naive. Security hawks warned that authoritarian China was racing past the West and some gloomy folk warned that...

economist.com
5d ago
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Donald Trump faces an array of legal trouble when he leaves office

Donald Trump faces an array of legal trouble when he leaves office

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4d ago
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New research shows the robots are coming for jobs—but stealthily

New research shows the robots are coming for jobs—but stealthily

HE YEAR is 2021, and honestly there ought to be more robots. It was a decade ago that two scholars of technology, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, published “Race Against the Machine”, an influential book that marked the start of a fierce debate between optimists and pessimists about technological change. The authors argued that exponential progress in computing was on the verge of delivering explosive advances in machine capabilities. Headline-grabbing breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) seemed to support the idea that the robots would soon upend every workplace. Given that,...

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5d ago
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Removing space junk

Removing space junk

UMAN BEINGS are messy. They tend to leave rubbish behind them wherever they go—and to expect someone else to clear that rubbish up. This is true even in outer space. The problem of orbiting debris, and the concomitant risk of it colliding with and damaging an active and probably expensive satellite, has been around for a while. But it is rapidly getting worse. There may now be as many as 1m bits of debris measuring 1cm or more across in orbit. Of larger objects, more than 20,000 are being actively tracked from Earth. And, according to Daniel Oltrogge, an expert who advises the Space Data...

economist.com
Jan 12
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The conscience of some conservatives

The conscience of some conservatives

O PARAPHRASE Samuel Johnson, nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of being hanged. And so it has proved inside the Republican leadership. A week after Donald Trump’s MAGA mob erected a gallows besides the Capitol reflecting pool then invaded the building, the president’s party is for the first time seriously reviewing its loyalty to him. Liz Cheney—the number three Republican in the House—was among ten in her party to vote to impeach Mr Trump. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, has let it be known he might be supportive. In that case Mr Trump—the first...

economist.com
7d ago
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The science of networking

The science of networking

UCCESS IN MANUFACTURING depends on physical things: creating the best product using the best equipment with components assembled in the most efficient way. Success in the service economy is dependent on the human element: picking the right staff members and motivating them correctly. If manufacturing is akin to science, then services are more like the arts.Motivating people has an extra complexity. Widgets do not know when they are being manipulated. Workers make connections with their colleagues, for social or work reasons, which the management might not have anticipated.Marissa King is...

economist.com
Jan 5
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America's approach to command and control goes peer to peer

America's approach to command and control goes peer to peer

N OLD PROVERB says you should not put all your eggs in one basket. That is a particularly good maxim for matters military. America’s armed forces, for example, use modified Boeing jumbo jets, called JSTARS, as airborne control centres for surveillance and operations. These planes are packed with sensors and their job is to orchestrate combat by detecting targets, tracking them and then assigning them to others to deal with. They have done this well for decades. But times change. With its big electronic signature, a JSTARS aircraft now amounts to “a sluggish flying bull’s eye”, according to...

economist.com
Jan 9
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Could the pandemic cause economists to rethink welfare?

Could the pandemic cause economists to rethink welfare?

VERY JANUARY a curious migration occurs. Thousands of economists from around the world flock to a big American city for the annual meetings of the American Economic Association (AEA). The pandemic upended the rite this year, and instead enabled conference attendees to peer into the living rooms and offices of scholars as they presented their work, much of it focused on the consequences of covid-19, on Zoom. The events of 2020 drew attention to the importance for prosperity of factors that economists often neglect, such as state capacity and social trust. Perhaps in a sign of change to...

economist.com
Jan 6
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Wikipedia is 20, and its reputation has never been higher

Wikipedia is 20, and its reputation has never been higher

YING DRUNK in a field outside the Austrian city of Innsbruck in 1971, inspiration struck Douglas Adams, a science-fiction writer. He looked at his copy of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe”, and then up at the stars, and came up with the idea for a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. It would be a (fictional) mixture of travel book and encyclopedia, but with an absurd-seeming twist: instead of being written by experts, anyone could contribute.Adams played his idea for laughs. But today it looks as prescient as it was funny. On January 15th Wikipedia—“the free encyclopedia that anyone can...

economist.com
Jan 9
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Nearly half of Republicans support the invasion of the US Capitol

Nearly half of Republicans support the invasion of the US Capitol

IT IS SHOCKING to think that an American president would end his time in office by inciting his supporters to —especially one who in his re-election campaign played on fears that his rival would let America lapse into lawlessness. Shocking, but not surprising. Even after a mob of his supporters overwhelmed police to ransack the legislature on January 6th, President Donald Trump continued to stoke the conspiracy theories that motivated them, insisting that November’s presidential election was “stolen” and “fraudulent”.Such ambivalence about the mayhem that unfolded in Washington, DC,...

economist.com
Jan 7
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The number of Muslims in Japan is growing fast

The number of Muslims in Japan is growing fast

VERY FRIDAY scores of Muslim men and women stream into a mosque in an unassuming four-storey building in Beppu, a hot-spring mecca on Kyushu, the most southerly of Japan’s big islands. Many are students who study nearby at Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University (APU) and work part-time at the hotels around town. Others have come to man the fishing boats and shipyards that the ageing and shrinking local population can no longer fully staff.The ranks of worshippers have grown in recent years, as the government has sought to attract more foreign workers and students. The number of Muslims living...

economist.com
Jan 7
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Can basketball heal South Sudan?

Can basketball heal South Sudan?

HE PEOPLE of South Sudan are among the tallest in the world. That helps explain why several of them have had stellar careers playing basketball abroad. One is Luol Deng, a former all-star in America’s National Basketball Association (NBA). Mr Deng, who retired in 2019 after 15 seasons on the hardwood for the Chicago Bulls and other teams in the NBA, took over as coach of South Sudan’s national team in November. Now he is using the sport to try to mend his war-torn motherland.In December, for the first time in its history, South Sudan won enough games to qualify for the African basketball...

economist.com
Jan 9
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Why lasers are so brilliantly useful

Why lasers are so brilliantly useful

HE MCGUFFIN in the 1940 Warner Brothers B-movie “Murder in the Air” was an “Inertia projector”—a new name for a device, the ray gun, already established as a science-fiction staple. As a helpful admiral explains, this particular ray gun “not only makes the United States invincible in war, but in so doing promises to become the greatest force for world peace ever discovered”.In 1983 the actor who starred in that film as secret agent “Brass” Bancroft, Ronald Reagan, echoed the admiral’s conflation of an indomitable America with world peace in a presidential address which called on the...

economist.com
Jan 7
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China prepares to launch the world’s first official e-currency

China prepares to launch the world’s first official e-currency

by Simon Rabinovitch: Asia economics editor, The Economist HERE IS A good chance that the digital yuan will enter circulation in 2021. It is a debut that will initially make little difference, but could, over time, change the way central banks conduct monetary policy.The People’s Bank of China has filed more than 100 patent applications for a digital currency and has overseen a range of trials, putting the e-yuan into use in a few cities and on several apps. So far the experiments have gone smoothly, and soon people will have the option of downloading a government-issued digital wallet....

economist.com
Nov 17
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Nearly half of America’s states are increasing their minimum wage in 2021

Nearly half of America’s states are increasing their minimum wage in 2021

JOE BIDEN, America's president-elect, campaigned on a promise to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour. Although the odds of such an outcome are slim, especially if the Democrats fail to win a Senate majority in the run-off elections in Georgia on January 5th, it may not matter. According to a new by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), an American lobby group, efforts to raise the minimum wage at the state and local level continue apace.Over the course of 2021, two dozen states will have increased their minimum wage rates. Virginia will apply the biggest boost....

economist.com
Jan 5
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What to expect in 2021 according to prediction markets

What to expect in 2021 according to prediction markets

OHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, an economist, once quipped that “the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” With normal life thrown off course by covid-19, you might be forgiven for ignoring economists and studying the stars instead.Prediction markets, which harness the collective wisdom of the crowd, offer another guide to the future. We consulted several platforms—Betfair, Metaculus, PredictIt and Smarkets—for signals on what 2021 will hold for business, politics, covid and culture. Many of these events are one-offs, so a lack of historical data makes...

economist.com
Jan 2
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How malaria has shaped humanity

How malaria has shaped humanity

WO CENTURIES ago, at Anna Pépin’s house on Gorée Island, off the coast of Senegal, ladies with fashionably pointed hats sashayed up the stairs to sip fine wines in an airy salon with a stupendous view of the Atlantic. Under the staircase was a windowless punishment cell for recalcitrant slaves. Young, fertile women were separated from the other slaves, for reasons as obvious as they are odious.Pépin, an Afro-French trafficker, must have heard her captives rattling their shackles as she shared canapés with her guests. If she looked down from her balcony, she must have seen them being pushed...

economist.com
Dec 19
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America’s former defence secretaries sound the alarm over Trump

America’s former defence secretaries sound the alarm over Trump

DICK CHENEY—vice-president to George W. Bush, architect of the Iraq war and a pantomime villain for liberals—is an unlikely candidate to lead a bipartisan charge against President Donald Trump. Yet it was Mr Cheney who corralled all ten living former defence secretaries in an extraordinary open letter published in the Washington Post on January 3rd.“Efforts to involve the US armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory,” they warned. “Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be...

economist.com
Jan 4
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Laws to catch human-rights abusers are growing teeth

Laws to catch human-rights abusers are growing teeth

HE BALDING figure looks frail and harmless, sitting in the dock behind a Perspex screen in the German town of Koblenz, where the rivers Rhine and Moselle unite. But appearances can deceive. Anwar Raslan, 57, once a Syrian policeman, has been charged with torturing more than 4,000 people and murdering at least 58 between 2011 and 2012, when Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, set about crushing the initially peaceful demonstrations that shook his regime as the Arab spring took off.Mr Raslan is on trial because, by his own lights, he made a mistake. Having fallen out with the regime, in 2012...

economist.com
Jan 2
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Japan’s new prime minister drags government into the digital era

Japan’s new prime minister drags government into the digital era

IRAI TAKUYA keeps a tablet computer propped on his desk and an Apple Watch on his wrist. It is an unusual look for a Japanese politician. As Japan’s new minister of digital reform, his task is to make the stubbornly analogue Japanese government work a bit more like him.Japan has some of the world’s best digital infrastructure, with top-notch mobile and broadband networks. Yet interacting with government agencies often involves slogging through labyrinthine offices and leafing through paperwork. In a survey of 30 countries in the OECD, a club mostly of rich countries, Japan ranked last in...

economist.com
Jan 2
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How housing became the world’s biggest asset class

How housing became the world’s biggest asset class

N 1762 BENJAMIN FRANKLIN set sail from England to Philadelphia after several years away. On his arrival he was shocked by what he saw. “The Expence of Living is greatly advanc’d in my Absence,” he wrote to a friend. Housing, he thought, had become particularly expensive. “Rent of old Houses, and Value of Lands…are trebled in the last Six Years,” he complained.After the second world war, however, housing markets underwent a revolution. Governments across the rich world decided that they had to do more to care for their citizens—both as a thank-you for the sacrifices and to ward off the...

economist.com
Jan 16
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Which is The Economist’s country of the year?

Which is The Economist’s country of the year?

N MOST YEARS most countries improve in various ways. In 2020, however, premature death and economic contraction became the new normal, and most countries aspired only to dodge the worst of it. Inevitably, our shortlist of most-improved countries includes some that merely avoided regressing much.Few people would argue that life in New Zealand was better in 2020 than in 2019. But the virus has been contained. When only 100 cases had been detected, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, closed the borders, locked down the country and urged its “team of 5m” (ie, the whole population) to be kind to...

economist.com
Dec 19
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Why Iran abducted and hanged Ruhollah Zam

Why Iran abducted and hanged Ruhollah Zam

VEN BY IRAN’S standards the justice was rough. Four days after sentence was passed, Ruhollah Zam was hanged. The judge said he had spied, incited violence and “sown corruption on earth”. Most Iranians took that to mean that he had simply disagreed with the right of the ayatollahs to rule.Mr Zam had been a remarkable dissident. In 2011 he went to Paris to escape the regime and, four years later, launched Amad, a news channel on Telegram, a messaging app. At its peak Amad had more subscribers than the BBC’s Persian service, which many Iranians rely on. He exposed the sexual and financial...

economist.com
Dec 16
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Lessons from the year of online events

Lessons from the year of online events

Published December 8th 2020Lanyards. Noisy conference halls. Bad coffee. Branded mugs and pens. These familiar and little-lamented aspects of in-person events have given way in recent months to a new set of clichés. Forgetting to unmute. Arcane sign-up processes. Over-complicated technology platforms. Connectivity snafus. But you can’t blame event organisers for the imperfections. For the past few months, everyone has been trying to reinvent online conferences on the fly. And in some cases, they’ve provided the moments of inspiration, illumination and revelation delivered by the best...

economist.com
Dec 17
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