July, 2017


Video: Fact Checker’s guide to the debt ceiling

With a deadline of Sept. 29 looming and Congress nearing their summer recess, the debt ceiling is primed to be a big issue when they return. Here’s what you need to know. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post) In May, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged Congress to raise the debt ceiling before lawmakers recessed for the summer. Yet with lawmakers’ attention turned to health care for so long, there was little movement on the issue. And now, summer recess is here. Mnuchin’s urging wasn’t without cause. Technically, the country has already hit theRead More

Many business travellers prefer not to interact with others when on trips

AS ANYONE who flies regularly for work can attest, business travellers are not constantly being doted upon. Flights are not all booked by a travel manager, nor are never-ending drinks being poured by dutiful attendants. Indeed, corporate travel might be becoming a more independent affair. According to a recent survey, a growing number of business travellers would prefer to avoid interaction with people when on the road, at least until something goes wrong. The research by Egencia, Expedia’s business-travel arm, questioned nearly 5,000 business travellers in Europe, America and Australia. Half ofRead More

The link between poor harvests and violence

LAST year over 102,000 people died in nearly 50 armed conflicts across the world, according to the Peace Research Institute Oslo, a think-tank. Much of this violence is caused by tensions between ethnic groups—two-thirds of civil wars have been fought along ethnic lines since 1946. Yet historians differ over whether cultural differences or economic pressures best explain how tensions explode into violence. A new study* by Robert Warren Anderson, Noel Johnson and Mark Koyama suggests that, historically, economic shocks were more strongly associated with outbreaks of violence directed against Jews thanRead More

The wage gap between men and women varies depending on job types

IT HAS been a turbulent few days for the BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster. On July 19th it published the names of those to whom it pays £150,000 ($195,000) or more a year. The ensuing furore was less over the level of pay, but the differences between men and women. Some female presenters discovered that they earned much less than their male peers. Of the 96 people listed, two-thirds are men; across the BBC, just over half are. In a petition, female presenters said this was evidence that women at theRead More

Foreign executives need to get their feet dirty to succeed in Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya’s capital, is also known as the “Green City in the Sun”. It might as well be called the city of malls: it has never had such a wide choice. The newest outlet, named Two Rivers, sits on a road near the American embassy and contains no less than three different malls in the space of a square mile or so. Here, you can scoff a Burger King before wandering around a huge new Carrefour supermarket to stock up on French cheese, British-made breakfast cereals and Turkish-made clothes. TheRead More

The closing of American bank branches

WINDSOR, a community of 6,200 people two hours outside Albany in New York state, offers many of the amenities commonly found in a small town, including a bakery, a car-repair outfit and several restaurants. There is just one thing missing: a bank. The town’s only financial institution, First Niagara Bank, shut its doors in October. Towns like Windsor are becoming ever more common in America. Since the financial crisis, banks have closed over 10,000 branches, an average of three a day. In the first half of 2017 alone, a netRead More

Making Bitcoin work better

IN DIFFERENT circumstances the two people could be good friends. Each is rather shy and very smart. And each is passionate about bitcoin, a digital currency. One invented hashcash, which foreshadowed components of the crypto-currency; the other is the author of the first Chinese translation of the white paper in which Satoshi Nakamoto, the elusive creator of bitcoin, first described its inner workings. Adam Back is the chief executive of Blockstream, a British startup, which employs some of the main developers of the software that defines bitcoin’s inner workings. JihanRead More

Get real: A reality check for virtual headsets

JUSTIN WILLIAMS takes off a virtual-reality (VR) headset and wobbles away from a demo area at E3, the world’s largest gaming convention, in Los Angeles. The bottoms of his feet and calves are “on fire,” he says. Mr Williams, a 32-year-old former marine, was playing “Sprint Vector”, a VR running game: players swing hand-held controllers to simulate motion. Though he has been standing in one place, his brain believes he has just run for several miles. This sensation of complete immersion is called “presence”. Boosters of VR say it isRead More

Pandemic bonds, a new idea

WHEN the Ebola virus hit west Africa in 2014, it took months to get together the money needed to combat the outbreak. Donors ended up committing more than $7bn. But the money came too late and too inefficiently, says Tim Evans, who directs the World Bank’s global health practice. Lives that could have been saved were lost. The bank estimates that GDP in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone was reduced by $2.8bn. Such outbreaks are likely to become more common: they have increased in frequency and diversity over the pastRead More

Can data predict fashion trends?

IN THE film “The Devil Wears Prada”, the character of Miranda Priestly, whose role is based on a feared Vogue editor, scolds her new assistant for not understanding fashion. Fashion, she tells her, is whatever a select group of designers and critics says it is. What she does not say, however, is that their judgments are themselves often influenced by another group: fashion forecasters, who predict what will be “in”. Might these seers of style in turn be undone by artificial intelligence (AI)? Fashion forecasting has always been a peculiarRead More