March, 2018


China wants to reshape the global oil market

TRADITIONALLY, to count as an oil power a country had to be a big producer of the black stuff. China is the world’s biggest importer but still wants to break into that exclusive club. On March 26th it launched a crude futures contract in a bid to gain more clout in the global market. Some think that, if successful, the yuan could start to displace the dollar in oil trading. For now, though, that is fanciful. A previous attempt by China to introduce oil futures, in the early 1990s, failedRead More

Getting a handle on a scandal

A POPULAR riff doing the rounds in tech circles is that, if data are the new oil, then Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica fiasco is the equivalent of Deepwater Horizon. That was the name of an oil platform that exploded in April 2010, coating the Gulf of Mexico and the reputation of BP, the firm responsible, in a toxic slick. Yet just how damaging are “Deepwater” incidents for firms and their owners over time? Perhaps they cease to matter after the initial burst of media purgatory, grovelling by executives, celebratory cant fromRead More

America’s trade strategy has many risks and few upsides

AMERICA’S president claims to view China as a friend. But the friendship is going through a rocky patch, to say the least. America’s trade deficit with China, “the largest deficit in the history of our world”, is “out of control”, Donald Trump groused on March 22nd. “A tremendous intellectual-property theft situation” also irks him. And so, after laying out his concerns, he announced plans for some tough love. Litigation against China at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), investment restrictions and tariffs are all on the cards. The announcement early inRead More

Donald Trump ousts David Shulkin as VA secretary

“WE’LL never have to use those words on our David” said Donald Trump last June. He was referring to his reality-television catchphrase, “You’re fired”, and David Shulkin, his secretary of veterans affairs.

The Supreme Court struggles with partisan redistricting

THE toughest part of being a Supreme Court justice is not deciding who wins. It is writing the opinion explaining why the winning party should prevail. And since Supreme Court decisions serve as guides to courts in future cases, a majority opinion needs to do more than provide a justification for why A wins over B.

Technology has upended the world’s advertising giants

IN BUILDING the world’s largest advertising company over the past 30 years, Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, has weathered two recessions and survived a global financial crisis. His firm nearly went bankrupt in the early 1990s. Now he must make his hardest advertising pitch yet, to convince the corporate world that image-making agencies like his are not dinosaurs on the brink of extinction. The world’s advertising giants are struggling to adapt to a landscape suddenly dominated by the duopoly of Google and Facebook. Some of their biggest clients,Read More

Mexico switches on its government-run wholesale mobile network

JAWS dropped when earlier this year a White House memo argued that the American government should build and run its own 5G mobile network. The reason given was national security. The memo cited Huawei, a Chinese maker of telecoms gear, as a strategic threat. Many assailed the idea of such massive state intervention and the idea was quickly squashed. South of the border, Mexico is experimenting with something that could be a more sensible version of the American officials’ suggested venture: a wholesale mobile network. Red Compartida (“shared network” inRead More

Uber makes a tactical retreat from South-East Asia

BEING a commuter in much of South-East Asia requires reserves of patience. In city after city, bar Singapore, jams confine people in taxis for hours, or force them onto the back of motorbikes that weave precariously through traffic. These qualities of perseverance are not shared by Uber, an American ride-hailing firm. This week it announced that after five years and $700m of investment in the region, it would be selling its business there to Grab, a Malaysian startup based in Singapore. South-East Asia is not known for giving birth toRead More

A long overdue disruption in menstrual products

THE disposable sanitary pad debuted in the late 19th century. It was such a taboo that a purchase involved dropping the exact sum in a box at the chemist’s counter. The pack was handed over, no words uttered. Menstrual products could not be advertised on American television until 1972. In 2015 an ad showing a runny egg yolk was questioned by New York’s subway for being too suggestive of period flow (which was the point). Squeamishness has hampered innovation. The applicator tampon, invented in 1931, was the last big noveltyRead More

Mediapro offers a combustible mix of sport and politics

LIKE Jaume Roures and Gerard Romy, two of its founders, Mediapro is proudly Catalan. Too proud, according to the Spanish police. The television company, which launched in 1994, has been investigated for paying for a press centre for foreign journalists during an unconstitutional independence referendum in the region last October, and for producing a sympathetic documentary on the vote. Mediapro denies wrongdoing. At Madrid’s main annual contemporary art fair last month its third co-founder, Tatxo Benet, purchased a contentious set of photographs which labelled the plebiscite’s jailed Catalan organisers asRead More