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The Economist

  • Do Britain’s railways need a Fat Controller?
    by The Economist online on June 16, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    ON MAY 20th, the biggest changes to train timetables in modern British history took place, affecting commuters and business travellers across the country. In the weeks beforehand, the train-operating companies had been spinning the changes as good news for passengers due to an increase in the number of services offered. Journalists were being hosted on training rides on the new routes. But in practice the changes turned into the biggest railway-management disaster in modern British history:It sounds more like an episode of “Thomas the Tank Engine” than a day in the life of a modern railway. But on May 25th an express train from Newcastle to Reading took a wrong turn, and got lost in Pontefract, 150 miles away. That might have been funny were it not part of a wider collapse in train services across northern England since a timetable change on May 20th. Shortages of rolling stock...Continue reading […]

  • Can refugees help to plug Europe’s skilled-labour gaps?
    by The Economist online on June 14, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    THE canteen of Stockholm University could scarcely be more Swedish. Young blond students sip coffee and tap away on Macs. In room 3.89, an outpost of the campus, is another, newer Sweden. Refugees, all of them teachers, from lands far to the south and east are preparing for the classrooms of their new home. Several keep their coats on as Khadije Obeid takes them through the basics of the curriculum and shows a YouTube clip about education law. “In Syria the teacher has much authority,” says Samer, an English teacher, as he raises his hand above his head. “Here he is equal to the students,” he adds as he lowers it.The ten women and seven men are on a “fast-track” programme for refugees with experience in occupations where labour is short. As well as learning Swedish, they get 26 weeks of daily classes, teaching practice and mentoring. The hope is that they will then train or, if their previous qualifications are recognised, go straight to the classroom. The government is running some 30...Continue reading […]

  • Google runs into more flak on artificial intelligence
    by The Economist online on June 14, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    DISCOVERING and harnessing fire unlocked more nutrition from food, feeding the bigger brains and bodies that are the hallmarks of modern humans. Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, thinks his company’s development of artificial intelligence trumps that. “AI is one of the most important things that humanity is working on,” he told an event in California earlier this year. “It’s more profound than, I don’t know, electricity or fire.”Hyperbolic analogies aside, Google’s AI techniques are becoming more powerful and more important to its business. But its use of AI is also generating controversy, both among its employees and the wider AI community.One recent clash has centred on Google’s work with America’s Department of Defence (DoD). Under a contract signed in 2017 with the DoD, Google offers AI services, namely computer vision, to analyse military images. This might well improve the accuracy of strikes by military drones. Over the past month or so...Continue reading […]

  • How open is America?
    by The Economist online on June 14, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    “JUSTIN has agreed to cut all tariffs and all trade barriers between Canada and the United States,” claimed President Donald Trump to laughter on June 8th, at the G7 summit in Quebec. The next day, in apparent seriousness, Mr Trump—who has slapped tariffs and quotas on imports of aluminium and steel from all the G7 countries, and others—called for unfettered trade within the group: “No tariffs, no barriers. That’s the way it should be.”Over the next two days a more familiar Mr Trump reappeared. After Mr Trudeau said, at a post-summit press conference, that Canada would not be pushed around, he fired off a barrage of tweets calling him “very dishonest & weak”. He blasted Europe too. And he tweeted: “Sorry, we cannot let our friends, or enemies, take advantage of us on Trade anymore.”Suspend disbelief and suppose that Mr Trump’s offer of a barrier-free world is serious. He may want to tear down tariffs and quotas out of a yearning for open markets and lower...Continue reading […]

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