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  • The Economist explains

    What’s at stake in Turkey’s elections

    by P.Z. | ISTANBUL

    ON JUNE 24TH, for the first time in their country’s history, Turks will head to the polls to elect both parliament and president on the same day. The vote, which will take place under a state of emergency now entering its third year, has been billed as the most important in decades. But does the opposition stand a chance against Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Justice and Development (AK) party?

    No one has ever made any money by betting against Mr Erdogan. Prime minister since 2003 and president since 2014, he has won 12 elections and referendums. This time around, however, the Turkish leader faces a disciplined and increasingly galvanised opposition.

  • The Economist explains

    Why tipping in America is up for debate

    by K.W.

    TIPPING is a hallmark of dining out in America. But it is controversial. The gratuity system ensures that it is the diners who determine a server’s pay. Those who support the practice say it rewards dutiful service; others call it capricious and argue that a professional server’s wages should not be discretionary. They maintain that the price of a good—in this case, a meal—should encompass workers’ pay. Some in the industry contend that working for tips enables a culture of harassment. Female servers may tolerate inappropriate behaviour by customers just to earn a living.

  • The Economist explains

    Why so many World Cup sponsors are from China

    by A.C.

    CHINA’S footballers have only qualified once for the finals of the men’s World Cup and that appearance—in South Korea and Japan in 2002—was forgettable. The Chinese team failed to score a goal and conceded nine, crashing out of the tournament at the group stage. But even though China is sitting out the current tournament in Russia, it is still having a considerable impact. Seven of the 19 corporate sponsors are Chinese. Why so many?

    The World Cup is the marquee tournament for FIFA, the Zurich-based multi-billion-dollar enterprise that governs world football.

  • The Economist explains

    Why most refugees do not live in camps

    by A.R.

    THERE are more refugees than at any time since the second world war. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that 66m people worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Of these, 23m are refugees—people who have fled their home country.  Across the world, giant camps have sprung up to accommodate them, including Zaatari in Jordan, Dadaab in Kenya, and Kutupalong in Bangladesh. These sprawling tent cities are what most people picture when they think of refugees. But most refugees do not live in camps. Why is this, and where do they live instead?

    Camps make it easier to take care of refugees, largely by concentrating them all in one place.

  • The Economist explains

    What is GitHub?

    by E.H.

    STEVE BALLMER, Microsoft’s former chief executive, became an internet meme when he gave a speech to employees in which he bounced across the stage shouting “developers” over a dozen times. While much has changed since Mr Ballmer’s chant, developers remain central to Microsoft’s strategy. Earlier this month his successor, Satya Nadella, announced that Microsoft would acquire GitHub, a platform for hosting software code—especially “open-source” projects—for $7.5bn. Developers took to the internet in outrage, predicting a slow death for the service. Many non-coders, meanwhile, were left wondering what all the fuss was about.

  • The Economist explains

    Why Germany’s rent brake has failed

    by M.S.

    WHEN Germany’s then minister of justice, Heiko Maas, introduced a “rent brake” in 2015, many applauded. Impoverished renters in London stared enviously eastwards. The brake was supposed to cap the price of new leases in markets with a tight supply of rental property (as defined by the relevant federal state) at 10% above what local authorities considered reasonable. But three years later, instead of stopping, or at least slowing, the rise in rents, the brake seems to have accelerated the process. Between 2015 and 2017, rents in central Berlin shot up by almost 10%. Before the introduction of the rent brake they had been rising by just 1-2% each year.

  • The Economist explains

    How to turn a footballing wasteland into a World Cup winner

    by J.T.

    FOR the next month football fans all over the world will huddle around televisions, listen craftily while at work and watch endless replays on their phones. Barely a fifth of them actually live in a country whose national team has made it to the World Cup. The rest will tune in enviously—both from countries that usually qualify, including Italy, America and Cameroon, and from those that rarely come close, such as China, India and much of the Middle East. Supporting a team in the tournament could well be a precursor to more heartache, as any Englishman will tell you. Just 6% of the world’s population have lived to see their national team lift the coveted trophy.

  • The Economist explains

    Who owns what in outer space

    by K.W.

    IN 2015 Congress passed a law to legalise mining in outer space—the first of its kind in the world. Firms that some day manage to mine asteroids for resources like water or precious metals would henceforth be allowed to own, process, and sell anything harvested. The nascent space-mining industry was thrilled. The boss of a firm called Planetary Resources compared it to the Homestead Act of 1862—a law that gave up to 160 acres in the American West to any plucky settler willing to venture forth.

  • The Economist explains

    Why the date of Eid is up for debate

    by S.H.

    THE month of Ramadan can be arduous for fasting Muslims, and Eid al-Fitr, the celebration of the month’s culmination, is eagerly anticipated. To mark a return to prandial normality, Muslims will feast and revel with family. But if previous years are anything to go by they will not be united in celebration. Muslims will celebrate on different days (June 15th is most popular this year), with divisions arising not only between countries, but within communities and even families. There are even anecdotal stories of calendrical fistfights breaking out in mosques. It seems bizarre that the simple determination of a religious festival is marred by such intense controversy.

  • The Economist explains

    Why people are working longer

    by C.S.

    THE golden years of retirement, when decades of toil are traded for some downtime, are starting later. In the mid-1980s, 25% of American men aged 65-69 worked; today, nearly 40% do. The situation is the same for younger men. In 1994, 53% of 60- to 64-year-olds worked; now 63% do. American women are working longer too, and similar upticks have been witnessed in Japan and other parts of western Europe. Since unhealthy workers tend to retire earlier, many attribute the ageing workforce of today to improvements in health. Mortality rates for American men in their 60s have declined by 40% since 1980; for women, they have fallen by 30%. Education and occupation are also relevant.

  • The Economist explains

    Why athletes vanish

    by E.W. | SYDNEY

    HALFWAY through the weightlifting competition at the Commonwealth games in Australia in April, the Rwandan coach, Jean Paul Nsengiyumva, excused himself to go to the bathroom. He never came back. Mr Nsengiyumva was one of 250-odd competitors and support staff to have disappeared over the course of the games. Cameroon (the team pictured) lost a third of its delegation in three night-time absconsions. Peter Dutton, the conservative minister in charge of Australia’s crackdown against asylum-seekers, said that he would find those remaining in the country illegally and “lock them in a local watch house”. But organisers did not seem surprised.

  • The Economist explains

    How to do the most good possible

    by W.Z.

    IMAGINE you are walking in a park and come across a boy drowning in a pond. Chances are, you would not hesitate to jump in to save him, even if it meant ruining an expensive pair of shoes. Yet, if you read a news report about thousands of children drowning because of a flood in a distant country, you may not feel compelled to act at all. What could explain this seemingly incongruous gap in empathy? One reason is that you, as a human, are simply hard-wired to care more about those in your immediate vicinity. But another is that you might believe that you have no ability to meaningfully affect the lives of distant strangers.

  • The Economist explains

    Why France’s government has not caved in on the railway strikes

    by S.P. | PARIS

    FOR the past ten weeks French cheminots, or railway workers, have been on strike for two days out of every five. This unusual pattern of rolling industrial action, which gives commuters a three-day respite before the disruption returns, is particularly confusing. Because of their ability to cause chaos, and the popular affection that cheminots enjoy in a country where railways are part of the collective imagination, railway strikes are usually an efficient way to force a capitulation. This time, however, it looks as if the French government is going to get its reform through parliament without ceding much ground. Why?

  • The Economist explains

    Why America still has “dry” counties

    by A.V.

    TODAY is National Moonshine Day, when American tipplers lift a mason jar to the illegal liquor that got them through Prohibition. For most drinkers, that world of bootleggers and secret stills is just a part of history. But roughly 18m Americans still live in “dry” counties or municipalities, where the sale of alcohol is banned by law. How have these holdouts survived into modern times, and what are the consequences for people who live there?

    Parts of the United States were dry even before the start of Prohibition. Maine implemented its own anti-booze rules as early as the 1840s. In 1919, the 18th amendment spread these restrictions nationwide.

  • The Economist explains

    What may happen in November’s mid-terms

    by E.H.

    IN NOVEMBER, as they do every two years, Americans will go to the polls to elect a new Congress. The Republicans enjoy majorities in both chambers and a president who is usually sympathetic to their agenda, but the current Congress has been long on drama, with some unexpectedly tight votes. Major legislative initiatives, such as health-care reform, have failed; even a tax-cut measure passed by only a handful of votes. The Democrats, buoyed by energetic opposition to Donald Trump’s presidency, will believe they can win control of one or both chambers. Republicans will hope that a strong economy and a low unemployment rate will help them hold on. What will determine the winner?

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