November, 2017


Despots’ jackpots: Why it is so difficult to hold kleptocrats accountable

Print section Print Rubric:  Why it is so difficult to hold kleptocrats accountable Print Headline:  Despots’ jackpots Print Fly Title:  Corruption UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems Fly Title:  Despots’ jackpots Main image:  20170225_BKD001_0.jpg The Despot’s Guide to Wealth Management: On the International Campaign against Grand Corruption. By J.C. Sharman. Cornell University Press; 261 pages; $29.95 and £20.95.
CORRUPTION is never far from the front page. In recent weeks, thousands of Romanians protested against plans to decriminalise low-level graft, and Rolls-Royce was hit with a £671m ($835m) penalty for alleged bribery. Meanwhile, long-running corruption scandals continue to roil political and corporate leaders in Brazil and Malaysia. The growing attention has spurred governments to pledge …

Digital news outlets are in for a reckoning

GREAT expectations attended digital journalism outfits. Firms such as BuzzFeed and Mashable were the hip kids destined to conquer the internet with their younger, advertiser-friendly audience, smart manipulation of social media and affinity for technology. They seemed able to generate massive web traffic and, with it, ad revenues. They saw the promise of video, predicting that advertising dollars spent on television would migrate online. Their investors, including Comcast, Disney and General Atlantic, an investment firm, saw the same, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars each into Vice Media, BuzzFeed andRead More

Hands off their DNA: Huge protests force Romania’s government to reverse itself on corruption

Print section Print Rubric:  Romania decides that, on reflection, corruption should still be illegal Print Headline:  People v pilferers Print Fly Title:  Corruption in Romania UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Donald Trump seeks a grand bargain with Vladimir Putin Fly Title:  Hands off their DNA Location:  BUCHAREST Main image:  20170211_eup001.jpg AFTER just three weeks in power, Romania’s new prime minister, Sorin Grindeanu, could look out of his window and see a huge crowd carrying banners reading: “You have succeeded in uniting us.” Unfortunately for Mr Grindeanu, they did not mean it in a good way. For over a week, throngs estimated in the hundreds of thousands have turned out to protest against the passage of an emergency ordinance that could sabotage the country’s much-praised …

China’s largest online publisher enchants investors and readers alike

WHENEVER Xu Jie goes to the cinema to watch mystery and detective films, she leaves disappointed: to help stamp out superstition, China’s censors excise ghosts and zombies from the screens. So for her fill of phantoms, she turns to the flourishing online-literature scene. There, authors are allowed to take liberties from which most of China’s state-owned publishing houses would recoil. Homophones stand in for forbidden words. Danmei, a new online class of homoerotic story, is especially popular among young women. Readers can choose from over 200 established genres such asRead More

The “Star Wars” anthology: “Rogue One” is faithful to the original trilogy—but lacking in force

Warning: this article contains plot details of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” WHEN George Lucas sold the rights to the “Star Wars” franchise to Walt Disney a few years ago, the space opera’s devotees were almost as excited as Disney’s accountants. The sale meant that there would, at last, be three more Episodes of the blockbuster saga which Mr Lucas began in 1977. And that wouldn’t be all. Never a company to under-exploit its intellectual property, Disney announced that it would release one new “Star Wars” Episode every twoRead More

Tech giants will likely dominate speakers and headphones

MUSIC lovers do not typically go to the opera to buy a speaker. But at the Palais Garnier in Paris they now can: Devialet, a local maker of high-end speakers, on November 29th opened a store in the 19th-century music venue to sell its most sophisticated product, called Phantom. Looking like a dinosaur egg, this supercomputer for sound (priced at $3,000) is considered one of the best wireless speakers available. It also comes with a dedicated streaming service for live performances, including some at the Palais Garnier. This Phantom atRead More

As bitcoin’s price passes $10,000, its rise seems unstoppable

MOST money these days is electronic—a series of ones and zeros on a computer. So it is rather neat that bitcoin, a privately created electronic currency, has lurched from $1,000 to above $10,000 this year (see chart), an epic journey to add an extra zero. Upgrade your inbox Receive our Daily Dispatch and Editors’ Picks newsletters. On the way, the currency has been controversial. Jamie Dimon, the boss of JPMorgan Chase, has called it a fraud. Nouriel Roubini, an economist, plumped for “gigantic speculative bubble”. Ordinary investors are being temptedRead More

Ethics and the electorate: Conflict-of-interest allegations may not damage Donald Trump

Main image:  THE LIST of Donald Trump’s potential conflicts of interest is long. The president has sought to promote his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line using his official POTUS Twitter account. In January, the Trump Organisation doubled membership rates at Mar a Largo (otherwise known as the Winter White House), where the president played golf with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, on February 11th. This week, it was reported that the National Confectioners Association, which is hoping for a rollback of government sugar subsidies, had booked venues at Trump Organisation hotels for a number of conferences. In an interview after the election Mr Trump said that, "I don’t care about my company… The only thing that matters to me is running our country.” Will the electorate care if his actions continue to suggest otherwise? Evidence around alleged corruption and political prospects suggests it may not.Mr Trump has set up a trust for his business interests run by his son Donald Trump Jr. Critics are unassuaged: the trust’s tax ID number is the same as the president’s social security number and he can revoke it at any time. But while court challenges have begun, allegations of corruption remain that: allegations.  And past experience suggests even charges or convictions around corruption can …

Plant-based “meat” is so tasty that Europe’s meat industry has to bite back

THE “kapsalon” is a healthy mix of chips, melted Gouda cheese, shawarma, lettuce and garlic sauce and is a tried and tested hangover cure in the Netherlands. So naturally, a butcher’s shop on the Spui, in The Hague, put it on its takeaway menu, alongside burgers and sausage rolls. As two young women walk out, tucking into their steaming kapsalons, an elderly gentleman asks how to prepare the steak he has just bought. The scene would have most carnivores fooled. For this butcher deals only in meatless “meat”. “We wantRead More

Unilever dodges the Brexit crossfire

IN 1929 the Lever Brothers, a British soapmaker, merged with Margarine Unie, a Dutch margarine manufacturer, to form Unilever. The company has an annual turnover of over €50bn ($59bn), and a portfolio of brands that is recognisable worldwide, from its Flora spread to its Persil detergent. It has retained dual nationality for nearly 90 years, with holding companies and share listings in both Britain and the Netherlands. Now Unilever says that for the sake of its business, it needs to pick a side. But it is hesitating. On November 28th,Read More