Friday, August 11th, 2017


Hizbullah’s armoury is growing

FROM a rocky outcrop overlooking a limestone quarry in the desolate valley below, a fighter from Hizbullah surveys what just days before had been territory controlled by militants linked to al-Qaeda. “There were snipers behind every rock,” recalls the young man with a wispy moustache. The operation to drive the jihadists from their mountain lair on Lebanon’s north-east border with Syria began on July 21st. It took only a week for Hizbullah to defeat its militant rivals, adding yet another victory to its growing list of military achievements since warRead More

Binyamin Netanyahu’s legal troubles are mounting

Don’t bother me, I’m reading the fake news THERE seems to be no end to the legal troubles piling up around Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, his family and close circle. In the space of a week his former chief of staff, Ari Harow, signed a witness deal with the prosecutor’s office and police confirmed that they are investigating a case of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in which Mr Netanyahu is a suspect. His wife Sara has been questioned by police over allegations of misuse of public fundsRead More

A referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq carries grave risks

THE enormous new statue of a peshmerga soldier, overlooking the Baba Gurgur oilfield, just outside Kirkuk, is a stark indication of the Iraqi Kurds’ aspirations to establish an independent state with borders that stretch beyond their historic homeland to encompass some of Iraq’s richest oilfields. A referendum on independence scheduled for September 25th will probably move the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) further down that path. But the timing of the poll has been questioned, not least because it is unclear what will come after. Some fear that a vote forRead More

The offspring of Africa’s strongmen are living it up

THE Mugabe brothers are having a night out again. Here they are showing off their outfits: distressed white denim, high-top sneakers, statement sunglasses. Now they’re in a VIP booth at a club, swaying and swigging from bottles of Moët & Chandon while the music pumps. At some point they will post a flame emoji, indicating that the evening is “lit”. Like many millennials, Robert Mugabe junior and Bellarmine, his younger brother, shamelessly chronicle their days (and late nights) on Instagram, a social-media site for sharing pictures. Uniquely, however, their 93-year-oldRead More

Kenya’s election may turn nasty as the opposition disputes the count

IN KIBERA, a slum in the south of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, the tyres were burning by mid-afternoon. Across the country five people had been killed in protests and other violence. Several of them were shot by the police. A day after Kenyans voted for president, this was a hint of the menace that often lurks beneath the country’s elections. “It seems clear that somebody hacked this election,” said Kennedy Mhando, a 34-year-old clothes seller. “We want the actual results…If they are credible, we will accept them.” If not, “we willRead More

Why the world’s best footballers are cheaper than they seem

A head for figures FOR football clubs, August is often the costliest month, when they make vast bids for each other’s players. This year has been particularly lavish. On August 3rd Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), a French team, signed Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, a Brazilian forward, from Barcelona for €222m ($264m), more than double the previous record price for a footballer. With three weeks of the transfer “window” left, teams in Europe’s “big five” leagues—the top divisions in England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France—have paid €3.2bn, just short of theRead More

Investment in American infrastructure is falling

IT IS not a number to tweet about. President Donald Trump plans to plough $1trn of spending into America’s crumbling infrastructure. And a dearth of capital is not a problem: investors are keen on such assets. But investment seems to be falling. Government infrastructure spending in the second quarter fell to 1.4% of GDP, the lowest share on record (see chart). According to Thomson Reuters, investment by American municipalities in the first seven months of this year, at $50.7bn, was nearly 20% below the same period in 2016. Private-sector infrastructureRead More

Investors are not great at predicting politics

FINANCIAL markets are supposed to be the font of all wisdom, weighing up the information available and condensing it into a set of prices. Investors are presumed to have an insight into the future—falling bond yields are seen as a sign that the economy is slowing, for example. But are investors that clever when it comes to politics? Gambling markets show how they assess political risk. They expected the Remain campaign to win the Brexit referendum and Hillary Clinton to become America’s president, and were proved wrong. Indeed, on Brexit,Read More

Helen Alexander, former CEO of The Economist Group, died on August 5th

Circulation wizard ROLE models for women in business are still too rare, not least in Britain. Last November an independent review backed by the government urged FTSE 100 companies to raise the share of women on their boards from 27% to 33% by 2020. Sadly, that push this week lost one of its leading champions, Helen Alexander, the deputy chair of the review. Business had no better ambassador. She was self-effacing but a world-class networker—a winning combination that helps explain, along with her intelligence and charm, why all sorts ofRead More

Chasing higher yields, investors pile into risky countries

WHERE can you find a 7% interest rate on a sovereign dollar-bond? You would have to take a time-machine to the mid-1990s to find such a yield on a ten-year American Treasury. Alternatively, you could slip back a few days to August 2nd and bid for the $1bn of five-year bonds sold by the government of Iraq. The yield was expected to be 7%, but it was trimmed to 6.75% once orders rose above $6bn. Such eagerness for hard-currency debt from a country still reeling from a civil war showsRead More