News Feed: Leaders

“I CAME of age in the 60s and 70s, when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different,” said Harvey Weinstein in response to allegations of sexual harassment, by now dozens of them since the New Yorker and New York Times published the first this month. The film producer is an “old dinosaur learning new ways”, said a spokeswoman. Mr Weinstein is reported to be seeking treatment for “sex addiction”.

A throwback who loves women too much, then; a sly old rogue who doubtless holds doors open for women, too? Nonsense. What Mr Weinstein is accused of was never acceptable. It has never been good form to greet a woman arriving for a business meeting while wearing nothing but an open bathrobe. His accusers say he made it clear that rebuffing his overtures would harm their careers. Some accuse him of rape. American and British police are investigating. Mr Weinstein has apologised for his behaviour in broad terms. He denies engaging...


THIS should be a time for rejoicing. The jihadists of Islamic State (IS), driven out of Mosul in Iraq in July, were defeated this week in their Syrian capital, Raqqa. Little remains of the “caliphate” but a few pockets and a bankrupt ideology.

Alarmingly, the scramble for spoils is bringing forth old rivalries and new conflicts across the Fertile Crescent. One clash has come in Kirkuk, where explorers struck Iraq’s first oil gusher in 1927. The city is home to many groups, among them Kurds, Arabs and Turkomans. It lies outside the Kurds’ official autonomous enclave but had been held by them. On September 25th Kurdish leaders held a referendum on independence that included voters in Kirkuk. The affronted Iraqi government, led by Shia Arabs, ordered its forces to retake the city and other disputed lands on October 16th. They did so swiftly. Even with Kirkuk’s oil the Kurdish enclave is broke; without it, dreams of independence have been dashed (see...


WHEN Mauricio Macri won Argentina’s presidential election in November 2015, his victory appeared to signal the turning of Latin America’s “pink tide” of left-wing government. The election ended eight years of rule under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a political heir of Juan Perón, an irresponsible populist president of the mid-20th century. In other countries, setbacks for the left followed. Venezuela’s opposition won control of the legislature from the ruling socialist party in December 2015. Brazil’s left-wing president, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached last year; her successor, Michel Temer, is a pro-business centrist. Better economic policies ensued in both Argentina and Brazil, though not in Venezuela, where the autocratic government squashed the legislature.

On October 22nd Argentina’s voters will render a judgment on Mr Macri in a mid-term congressional election (see...


TO UNDERSTAND how grim things are for Myanmar’s Rohingyas, consider what passes for good news amid the Burmese army’s two-month pogrom in northern Rakhine state, where most of them live. The flood of refugees to neighbouring Bangladesh must soon dwindle, charity workers say, because the Burmese army is running out of Rohingya villages to burn. For the moment, however, terrified Rohingyas continue to pour across the border. In the week to October 14th some 18,000 arrived. In less than two months a total of at least 582,000 of them have taken refuge in Bangladesh. That makes the current crisis one of the most rapid international movements of people in modern history, eclipsing in its intensity, for example, Syrians’ flight from civil war over the past six years.

Bangladesh has permitted the hungry, exhausted and traumatised Rohingyas to enter, and has set aside land for vast refugee camps. But aid agencies, by their own admission, are swamped. A third of the refugees are not receiving a...


POPULISM’S wave has yet to crest. That is the sobering lesson of recent elections in Germany and Austria, where the success of anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation parties showed that a message of hostility to elites and outsiders resonates as strongly as ever among those fed up with the status quo. It is also the lesson from America, where Donald Trump is doubling down on gestures to his angry base, most recently by adopting a negotiating position on NAFTA that is more likely to wreck than remake the trade agreement (see article).

These remedies will not work. The demise of NAFTA will disproportionately hurt the blue-collar workers who back Mr Trump. Getting tough on immigrants will do nothing to improve economic conditions in eastern Germany, where 20% of voters backed the far-right Alternative for Germany. But the self-...


WHEN Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, launched the battle a year ago to retake Mosul from the jihadists of Islamic State (IS, or Daesh in Arabic), he declared: “God willing we will meet in Mosul...all religions united. And together we shall defeat Daeshand rebuild this dear city.”

The first part of his promise, the defeat of IS, is almost done. Mosul was liberated in July by an alliance of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, supported by America, Iran and other powers. The fight to eject IS from Raqqa, its Syrian capital, is drawing to a close.

Rebuild or rearm

But the second part of Mr Abadi’s promise, the reconstruction of Mosul, has been woefully neglected. The fate of Iraq’s second city matters—not just to its people, but as a symbol of the reintegration of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority. Unless Sunnis feel they have a stake in the country, another incarnation of IS will surely emerge from the ruins of Sunni cities.

The reconquest of Mosul has...


CONSPIRACY theorists who support President Donald Trump fulminate against the so-called “deep state” that is trying to thwart him. The federal bureaucracy of Washington, they believe, is the main source of resistance. But this claim exaggerates the influence of bureaucrats and fails to do justice to Mr Trump’s achievements. The president may not have repealed Obamacare or passed tax reform, but he has overseen, as he promised, a historic slowdown in rule-writing by federal agencies. Since Mr Trump’s inauguration, the flow of new rules has slowed by about 60% (see article).

Is this an achievement to be proud of? The number of rules is a crude gauge of the burden of red tape. But it belies a much deeper shift in regulatory philosophy. The Trump administration claims that it will no longer use regulations as a substitute for legislation;...


YOU don’t get to be the world’s longest-serving prime minister by leaving your future up to voters. Instead Hun Sen, who has led Cambodia since 1985, relies on curtailing their options. His government is petitioning the courts to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the only opposition group that threatens his grip (see article). As it is, the leader of the CNRP, Kem Sokha, is in jail, on charges of treason. His predecessor, Sam Rainsy, has fled the country, as have about half of the party’s 55 MPs.

The head of the only other party bar Mr Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win control of any local councils in commune elections this summer is also behind bars. The evisceration of the opposition ensures that the CPP will romp home in next year’s parliamentary election. The prime minister recently said that he...


ONLY six months ago Theresa May seemed all-powerful. Yet the snap election that was supposed to deliver a landslide for the Conservatives instead took away their majority, and with it every shred of the prime minister’s authority. The minority government is paralysed: it lacks the numbers to get anything meaningful through Parliament; the cabinet is unable to agree on anything, or to disguise the fact; and the party is terrified of ousting its feeble leader, lest the subsequent civil war let in the newly rampant Labour Party.

Zombie governments like Mrs May’s can stagger on for a long time. John Major spent most of his six years in office in the 1990s fighting assassination attempts by his own backbenchers, yet the ship of state chugged on. The difference today is that Britain is steaming towards the Niagara Falls of Brexit. If Mrs May does not take charge, Britain will plunge over without a deal in March 2019. She should start by replacing her mutinous, incompetent cabinet with a...


AMERICAN presidents have a habit of describing their Chinese counterparts in terms of awe. A fawning Richard Nixon said to Mao Zedong that the chairman’s writings had “changed the world”. To Jimmy Carter, Deng Xiaoping was a string of flattering adjectives: “smart, tough, intelligent, frank, courageous, personable, self-assured, friendly”. Bill Clinton described China’s then president, Jiang Zemin, as a “visionary” and “a man of extraordinary intellect”. Donald Trump is no less wowed. The Washington Post quotes him as saying that China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, is “probably the most powerful” China has had in a century.

Mr Trump may be right. And were it not political suicide for an American president to say so, he might plausibly have added: “Xi Jinping is the world’s most powerful leader.” To be sure, China’s economy is still second in size to America’s and its army, though rapidly gaining muscle, pales in comparison. But economic heft and military...


THEY “do the same work, are exempt from no rules or duties, and most of them have fathers, mothers, sisters or brothers dependent upon them. Why, then, should women not receive the same salaries?” This question was asked in a circular sent by equal-pay suffragettes to female teachers in New York’s public schools in 1905. At the time, teachers’ starting annual salaries were set at $900 for men and $600 for women.

In most rich countries such outright discrimination is history. A woman doing the same job for the same employer earns 98 cents to the dollar paid to a man. Yet the gender pay gap persists. In the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, the median full-time wage for women is 85% of that for men.

Women earn less than men because their careers differ in two ways (see article). The occupations that...


AFTER the worst mass shooting in recent American history, in which 58 people were killed and 489 wounded, both the president and the majority leaders in Congress sought to keep talk about new gun laws to a minimum. In Vegas that kind of reticence is called a tell. Had Stephen Paddock used a new technology—an armed drone, say—to kill from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, or had he been an immigrant from the Middle East, lawmakers would be rushing to legislate or tighten borders. But he was a retired white man who used some of the 49 guns he owned, so it is the price of freedom.

There is a weariness to America’s gun debate and the familiar ritual after mass shootings, which are more frequent than in any other rich country. One study counted 166 of them in 14 countries in 2000-14; 133 were in America. Yet, nothing happens, partly because the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has evolved from an armed version of the Boy Scout movement into the foremost mouthpiece for a...


BY THE time its stop-start civil war ended in 2003, Liberia had all but collapsed. Fourteen years of barbaric fighting had killed some 250,000 people, or roughly 8% of the population. Many more Liberians were displaced by the violence. The economy had shrunk by 90%. Schools, hospitals and government buildings lay in ruins. Children ate tree bark to survive. This was the catastrophe that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf inherited when she was elected president in 2005.

Liberia will hold an election on October 10th (see article), presaging its first transfer of power from one elected president to another since 1944. Ms Sirleaf will step down next year. Her tenure has been imperfect, as Liberians will complain. Her successor will have his hands full. Even so Ma Ellen, as she is called, deserves praise for putting Liberia back on its feet....


IN HIS classic, “The Intelligent Investor”, first published in 1949, Benjamin Graham, a Wall Street sage, distilled what he called his secret of sound investment into three words: “margin of safety”. The price paid for a stock or a bond should allow for human error, bad luck or, indeed, many things going wrong at once. In a troubled world of trade tiffs and nuclear braggadocio, such advice should be especially worth heeding. Yet rarely have so many asset classes—from stocks to bonds to property to bitcoins—exhibited such a sense of invulnerability.

Dear assets are hardly the product of euphoria. No one would mistake the bloodless run-up in global stockmarkets, credit and property over the past eight years for a reprise of the “roaring 20s”, or even an echo of the dotcom mania of the late 1990s. Yet only at the peak of those two bubbles has America’s S&P 500 been higher as a multiple of earnings measured over a ten-year cycle. Rarely have creditors demanded so little insurance...


WHEN a democracy sends riot police to beat old ladies over the head with batons and stop them voting, something has gone badly wrong. Catalans say that almost 900 people were hurt by police in the referendum for independence on October 1st. Whatever the provocation from Catalan leaders in staging an unconstitutional poll, the reaction of Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, has thrown Spain into its worst constitutional crisis since an attempted coup in 1981.

If Mr Rajoy thought that cracking heads would put a stop to secessionism, he could not have been more wrong. He has only created a stand-off that has energised his enemies and shocked his friends (see article). On October 3rd Catalonia, one of Spain’s richest regions, was paralysed by a protest strike. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have marched to express their outrage.



LIKE the clubs it sometimes resembles, the financial industry tends to discriminate against non-members—such as bank depositors, retail investors and small firms. The most pervasive form of discrimination is opacity: it is nearly impossible, say, for an average investor to know how much of the money in his pension pot is lost in transaction costs. As well as helping institutions milk their clients, opaque markets can cause or exacerbate crises when investors flee risks they cannot assess; witness the fate of mortgage-backed securities in 2007-08. So it is welcome that much post-crisis financial regulation aims to make markets more transparent. That was true both of the Dodd-Frank reforms in America and a huge new law in the European Union. As with Dodd-Frank, however, the benefits of Europe’s reform risk being drowned in its complexity.

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID 2), which comes into force in January, is a child of the crisis, and is at least as broad and...


CLERICS in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, have long struggled to justify the kingdom’s decades-old ban on women driving. Often they resorted to strange excuses. Some said women were too stupid to drive. Some worried that male drivers might be dangerously distracted by female ones, or that mobility would make it easier for wives to commit adultery. One suggested that driving damages the ovaries. None was able to cite a verse in the Koran to justify barring women from the wheel, because there isn’t one. On the contrary, reformers note, in the early days of the faith women rode donkeys, unsupervised, without bringing death and destruction.

So the kingdom’s decision on September 26th to lift the ban is as welcome as it is overdue. It will give Saudi women a freedom that others take for granted. It will have economic benefits, too, sparing families the cost of hiring a (male) driver and making it easier for women to get out of the house and into the labour market. It makes Saudi...


JAPAN’S economy has been so sickly for so long that many have stopped looking for signs of recovery. And yet, on close examination, they are there. Years of massive fiscal and monetary stimulus seem to be having some effect. Unemployment is below 3%—the lowest rate in 23 years—and wages are rising, at least for casual workers. Prices are creeping up, too, albeit by much less than the Bank of Japan’s 2% inflation target. To outsiders, this may sound underwhelming. But for a country that has suffered from almost 30 years of on-and-off recession and deflation, it holds out the prospect of deliverance. The past 18 months of modest expansion constitute the longest stretch of uninterrupted growth in more than ten years.

The architect of this semi-revival, Shinzo Abe, has been prime minister for nearly five years—close to the record for the era since Japan’s massive asset-price bubble burst in 1990. This week he called a snap election, with the vote set for October 22nd. The result is not...


OWNERSHIP used to be about as straightforward as writing a cheque. If you bought something, you owned it. If it broke, you fixed it. If you no longer wanted it, you sold it or chucked it away. Some firms found tricks to muscle in on the aftermarket, using warranties, authorised repair shops, and strategies such as selling cheap printers and expensive ink. But these ways of squeezing out more profit did not challenge the nature of what it means to be an owner.

In the digital age ownership has become more slippery. Just ask Tesla drivers, who have learned that Elon Musk forbids them from using their electric vehicles to work for ride-hailing firms, such as Uber. Or owners of John Deere tractors, who are “recommended” not to tinker with the software that controls them (see article). Since the advent of smartphones,...


WHO leads Europe? At the start of this year, the answer was obvious. Angela Merkel was trundling unstoppably towards a fourth election win, while Britain was out, Italy down and stagnating France gripped by the fear that Marine Le Pen might become the Gallic Donald Trump.

This week, it all looks very different. Mrs Merkel won her election on September 24th, but with such a reduced tally of votes and seats that she is a diminished figure (see article). Germany faces months of tricky three-way coalition talks. Some 6m voters backed a xenophobic right-wing party, many of them in protest at Mrs Merkel’s refugee policies. Having had no seats, Alternative for Germany, a disruptive and polarising force, is now the Bundestag’s third largest party.

Yet west of the Rhine, with a parliament dominated by his own new-minted and...