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HOW good are computers at learning to play computer games? The chart shows the performance of a machine using artificial intelligence to play a selection of classic video games, compared with that of a professional human tester. The work—presented...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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“Horse and Groom” (c.1855), by Jean-Baptiste Frénet Source: All images courtesy of the Wilson Centre for Photography “Thought to be a Mother and Son” (c. 1855), by Jean-Baptiste Frénet Continue reading...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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MOST people are aware that the western world is ageing; that we are living longer, the baby boomers are now retiring, and, thanks to low fertility rates, the supply of future workers will be restricted. All this seems likely to have an effect on financial...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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NEVER ask your barber if you need a haircut, Warren Buffett has quipped. But even supposed dispassionate advisers turn out to have conflicts of interest. A new report from the US Department of Labor focuses on the financial advice given to American workers...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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“THANK you, Chicago. We have come a long way, and we have a little bit further to go,” said Rahm Emanuel at around 9:30pm last night. The results of Chicago’s mayoral election on Tuesday had indicated that he will be forced into a run-off with...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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REGULAR Gulliver readers (and most drivers) know that oil prices—and, by extension, jet fuel prices—have cratered in recent months. But despite this, as my colleague noted last month, many airlines are still charging sky-high fuel surcharges. Recently,...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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EVERY 250m years the sun, with its entourage of planets, completes a circuit of the Milky Way. Its journey around its home galaxy, though, is no stately peregrination. Rather, its orbit oscillates up and down through the galactic disc, the place where...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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BARACK OBAMA has vetoed only three bills in his time in the Oval Office: less than almost any president in recent history. His veto of a bill authorising the Keystone Pipeline yesterday suggests that number will be rising fairly swiftly. With Republicans...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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MOST OF us are familiar with film scenes in which a detective stands in front a corkboard covered in pictures of criminals. Bits of string join different pictures indicating that they are connected or related to each other. The detective analyses the...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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INFLATION rates around the world have been sinking over the last three years. Pervasive economic weakness in the rich world and a slowdown in Chinese growth drove the initial decline. Lately tumbling oil prices have helped to push inflation into negative...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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ON FEBRUARY 24th London's FTSE 100 reached an all-time closing high, at 6949.6. As the chart at right shows, however, its performance has been very disappointing relative to other markets in the developed world. America's S&P 500 has risen twice...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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EYELASHES, as any would-be femme fatale knows well, are seductive. But that is probably not their main purpose. Men rarely flirt by fluttering their eyelids, yet men have eyelashes, too. Moreover, the market for false lashes suggests that if seduction...
From: The Economist | Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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"There is no nonsense about me. I know what is right, I work hard, and I do my duty."SHOULD governments force parents to vaccinate their children? This question, which has been subjected to impassioned and sometime violent debate over the past two centuries,...
From: The Economist | Tuesday, February 24, 2015
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MEASLES is the greatest vaccine-preventable killer of children in the world today. Nine out of ten people who are not immunised will contract the virus if they share the same living space with an infected person. In 1980 the disease was responsible for...
From: The Economist | Tuesday, February 24, 2015
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THIS week our correspondents discuss the latest developments in Greece's euro zone bail-out negotiations and Janet Yellen's testimony to CongressContinue reading...
From: The Economist | Tuesday, February 24, 2015
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SMOKING cannabis becomes legal today in Alaska, the latest state to lift its prohibition of the drug after Colorado and Washington, which took the plunge last year. Alaskans over 21 can now grow up to six of their own plants, share up to an ounce (28g)...
From: The Economist | Tuesday, February 24, 2015
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ANYONE who has tried to get a visa for business travel in India will relate a similar story of red tape. The price—a priority visa in Britain costs £100 ($154)—can be enough to put people off. But there is also the tedious form filling—even photos...
From: The Economist | Tuesday, February 24, 2015
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“THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW”, Washington Irving’s 19th-century gothic classic, centres on a peculiar little American town on the banks of the Hudson river. Irving describes it thus:Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor,...
From: The Economist | Tuesday, February 24, 2015
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“I HONESTLY thought it was a joke,” says Sandy Pinney. She means the threat that Windsor, her hometown, along with 14 other towns along New York’s border with Pennsylvania, may secede and join Pennsylvania. But it is deadly serious. The towns are...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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THE prime minister, Shinzo Abe, clearly wants to convey a certain impression. In a policy speech to the Diet this month, he repeated the word kaikaku, or reform, no fewer than 36 times. Indeed, he promised “the most drastic reforms since the end of...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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Not much covering here SAMANTHA ELAUF, a young Muslim woman, did well in her interview for a job at a children’s branch of Abercrombie & Fitch, a casual-clothing store, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But when the interviewer told a manager about Ms Elauf’s...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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George Washington issued America’s first presidential veto in April 1792, having “maturely considered” that a bill to increase the number of seats for northern states in Congress was unconstitutional. This week Barack Obama vetoed the third bill...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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Selling more than cheese IN HIS book, “Unintimidated”, written after winning a recall election in 2012, Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, linked his victory to the fact that “we took our message to the persuadable segment of the...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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Nasheed: down but not yet out HIS arm wrapped in a makeshift sling symbolised the bruised state of Maldivian democracy. Mohamed Nasheed, a former president, was injured on February 23rd as police dragged him to court for a trial on charges of terrorism....
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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Not quite Chol Pass, but it’s an improvement IN A fast-changing region, one thing has long been a constant: the utter disregard that the mafia dynasty ruling North Korea evinces for the welfare of ordinary people. So growing evidence of liberalising...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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INVOKING the spirit of the Blitz, Britain’s Conservative-led government says that, when it comes to austerity, Britons are in it together. Yet the group born under the shadow of the country’s wartime trials is largely exempt. Since 2010 the basic...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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VENEZUELA’S “Bolivarian” regime is lurching from authoritarianism to dictatorship. On February 19th it arrested the elected mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledezma. Then it moved to expel Julio Borges, a moderate opposition leader, from...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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THE scandals have come thick and fast. On February 18th news leaked that two NCOs in Peru’s naval intelligence agency were being tried in a military court for selling information to Chile. That came days after several political foes of Peru’s president,...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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THE Scott Walker model of tough-it-out conservatism (see article) may be proving most influential in a neighbouring state. The new Republican governor of next-door Illinois, Bruce Rauner, has just signed an executive order ending mandatory union fees...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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EVEN on a quiet Sunday morning, a steady stream of lorries trundles along the broad, pristine and otherwise deserted streets of Punggol Timur, an island of reclaimed land in the north-east of Singapore. They empty their loads into neat rows of white,...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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The comforts of home IN AUGUST 1880, eight Inuit from Canada’s north-eastern coast agreed to travel to Europe to be exhibits in a human zoo. They soon died of smallpox, pining for home. The skeletons of Abraham Ulrikab and most of his companions were...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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BAKU is humming with the customary accompaniments to showcase events: lavish new facilities are being finished, sponsors schmoozed, and human-rights activists and awkward journalists locked up. For June’s European Games—an unconvincing new tournament...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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IT WAS a military-style operation, of the kind you would mount to collar a dangerous drug lord. On the afternoon of February 19th dozens of agents of Venezuela’s state security service, Sebin, armed with automatic weapons and a sledgehammer (but no...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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NEAR the start of “The Originalist”, a new play about Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court, the judge is shown boasting that he could beat any liberal at poker, not least President Barack Obama. In card games as in life, left-wingers “lack...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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IN THE first week of March university students in China will return from a break of six weeks or more. They will find a new chill in the air. While they have been away, officials have been speaking stridently—indeed, in the harshest terms heard in...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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THE barren islets, cays, reefs, shoals and rocks of the South China Sea are witnessing an unprecedented building boom. Satellite pictures have revealed more about the reclamation work undertaken by China on features, especially in the Spratly archipelago,...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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AT A gleaming Rolls-Royce factory in Indianapolis (pictured), a team of workers produces “LiftFans”, gadgets that help fighter planes take off and land without needing much of a runway. This plant is a far cry from the hot, smelly, noisy places that...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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European government-bond yields in the periphery fell this week, as Greece reached a deal with its international creditors over extending its bail-out. Yields on Greece’s ten-year bonds had climbed to their highest since July 2013, when Greece was...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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THE dawn of the planet of the smartphones came in January 2007, when Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, in front of a rapt audience of Apple acolytes, brandished a slab of plastic, metal and silicon not much bigger than a Kit Kat. “This will change...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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IT IS easy for a visitor to Rio to feel that nothing is amiss in Brazil. The middle classes certainly know how to live: with Copacabana and Ipanema just minutes from the main business districts a game of volleyball or a surf starts the day. Hedge-fund...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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BRAZILIANS make up almost 3% of the planet’s population and produce about 3% of its output. Yet of the firms in Fortune magazine’s 2014 “Global 500” ranking of the biggest companies by revenue only seven, or 1.4%, were from Brazil, down from...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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THE Ood are an odd bunch. Among the more enigmatic of the aliens regularly encountered in “Doctor Who”, a television series about a traveller in time and space, they are mostly silent—though sometimes given to song—and disconcertingly squid-like....
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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AMONG the buskers on Avenida Paulista, São Paulo’s main thoroughfare, one act stood out on a recent Friday afternoon. A live rock band played spiffy renditions of “Blue Suede Shoes” and other 1950s classics; between numbers, six panellists sang...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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“FROM the beginning, Xiaomi has considered the mobile phone to be a converged gadget of software, internet services and hardware, not just a simple device.” So declared Lei Jun, the charismatic founder of Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone-maker with global...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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CAMPAIGNING for a second term as Brazil’s president in an election last October, Dilma Rousseff painted a rosy picture of the world’s seventh-biggest economy. Full employment, rising wages and social benefits were threatened only by the nefarious...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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FEW people had heard of Gemalto, the world’s largest manufacturer of SIM cards, until February 19th, when a story on the Intercept, a website, put it at the centre of the latest internet-security scandal. The story, based on documents from Edward Snowden,...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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EARTH is rapidly becoming a planet of the phones (see our leader and briefing this week). Today two billion phones are in use worldwide, and this number is expected to double by the end of the decade. By then nearly 80% of adults will have a device in...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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MOST stories about bitcoin, a digital currency loved and loathed in equal measure, focus on the future potential of the technology, rather than its present-day usefulness. This story is no different. Earlier this month, UATP, a payment network for airlines,...
From: The Economist | Thursday, February 26, 2015
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