Friday, 26 August 2016

The Weekend Edition:
Goldman Sachs Loves Gen-X


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We publish the Enterprise Morning Edition in English and Arabic from Sunday through Thursday before 7am, with a focus on the business, economic and political news that will move markets each day. What you’re reading now is our Weekend Edition, which is light on news and heavy on stories to read, videos to watch, and podcasts to which you may want to listen on Friday and Saturday (that being the weekend for the vast majority of our readers). The Weekend Edition comes out each Friday between 9:00am and 9:30am CLT. We’re in beta and in English only right now.

We’ll be back on Sunday at around 6:15am with our usual roundup. Until then: Enjoy the weekend.

Speed Round, The Weekend Edition

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Six ministers set to exit stage left in cabinet shuffle? Yes, we know, we promised you Weekend Editions free of news, but: As many as six ministers are set to leave cabinet in an upcoming shuffle in the wake of the resignation of embattled Supply Minister Khaled Hanafy, Reuters reports, citing one government official and one source at Ittihadiya, both of them unnamed. The brief story does not speculate on which ministers may be exiting government service.

** This Weekend Edition of Enterprise is brought to you by hawawshy. From Zooba, to be specific. And yes, for breakfast. With copious quantities of black coffee. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

CB Insights’ inimitable Anand Sanwal (Twitter) recently penned an email to his staff about why an exit strategy is the last thing on his mind right now. Read “What’s your exit strategy? We don’t have one.” If you’re not as passionate about your business as this guy is about his, you may not be in the right business at all.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger “has shown little in the way of a conscience. And because of that, it seems highly likely, history will not easily absolve him,” The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson writes scathingly. Anderson asks if Kissinger has a conscience altogether, putting forward the late Christopher Hitchens’ demands to prosecute Kissinger for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of international law. Up until today, there have been “no legal consequences whatsoever to Kissinger for his actions in Chile, where three thousand people were murdered by Pinochet’s thugs, or for those in Vietnam and Cambodia, where he ordered large-scale aerial bombardments that cost the lives of countless civilians,” Anderson says. Following the military coup in Argentina in 1976, Kissinger told the foreign minister there “winkingly,” as Anderson puts it: “We are aware you are in a difficult period. It is a curious time, when political, criminal, and terrorist activities tend to merge without any clear separation. We understand you must establish authority. . . . If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.”

Reading from declassified documents, “the latest revelations compound a portrait of Kissinger as the ruthless cheerleader, if not the active co-conspirator, of Latin American military regimes engaged in war crimes… Kissinger was shown not only to have been aware of what the military was doing but to have actively encouraged it. “ Anderson contrasts Kissinger’s unremorseful stance and “steadfast support for the American superpower project,” regardless of the cost in lives, to Robert McNamara, the Vietnam War-era Defence Secretary. When asked about McNamara’s expressed remorse near the end of his life, Kissinger “did an extraordinary thing. He began to cry. But no, not real tears. Before my eyes, Henry Kissinger was acting. ‘Boohoo, boohoo,’ Kissinger said, pretending to cry and rub his eyes. ‘He’s still beating his breast, right? Still feeling guilty.’ He spoke in a mocking, singsong voice and patted his heart for emphasis.” Yale has digitized and put online some of the less salacious pages here. (Best viewed on you laptop, but it will work on your iPad reasonably well.)

Goldman Sachs says: “Hello, Generation X.” You love (or endured) the ‘80s and probably remember where you were the first time you heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Atari and Coleco were your PlayStations and Xboxes. You had an Apple I (or II or IIe or a Commodore 64 or a VIC-20). And unlike your kids, you were allowed to walk or bike to school without your parents’ giving it a second thought. After decades fawning over (first) the baby boomers and (lately) the Millennials, Goldman Sachs and their like have awoken to the fact that Gen-Xers — people aged 36-51 this year — are not just starting to change consumption patterns, they’re moving into leadership positions at companies and countries alike. Goldman’s most recent “Fortnightly Thoughts” focuses on Gen-X: Why the demographic matters, how they’re changing retail, why they’re more risk-averse investors, why they’re buying fewer cars and how to market to them, among other topics. You can hit the landing page (with a short video interview) here, or you can jump straight to the pdf here.

A publisher is about to print copies of a manuscript that no living person can understand — and that has driven more than one codebreaker crazy. An obscure Spanish publisher is about to reproduce the Voynich Manuscript, described by Yale University (which owns the manuscript) as a “scientific or magical text” dating to 1401-1599. The book is c. 250 pages of “[unclothed] women, imaginary plants and astrological charts” and is written in a language that one of the twentieth century’s greatest cryptographers has called “totally made up.” It has also led “some of the smartest people down rabbit holes for centuries,” Folger Shakespeare Library exhibit curator Bill Sherman told the Washington Post in 2014. “I think we need a little disclaimer form you need to sign before you look at the manuscript, that says, ‘Do not blame us if you go crazy.’” The publisher plans to print 898 full replicas of the book, which it’s selling at USD 8k each.

“Horror of debt is particularly marked in the elderly, perhaps out of an ancient feeling that one should not meet one’s maker with a negative balance sheet,” Robert Skidelsky writes for Project Syndicate about the “scarecrow of sovereign debt. Most people are worried about national debt than about taxation, he says, but while national debt, in nominal value, is increasing, the tax base is growing as well. People tend to rely on a “gut feeling” that when nominal levels of debt increase to a big number we should all be afraid and that it’s “a very bad thing.” “One website features a clock showing the [UK’s national] debt growing at a rate of [GBP 5,170] per second. Although the tax take is far less, the UK government still collected a hefty [GBP 750 bn] in taxes in the last fiscal year. The tax base grows by the second, too, but no clock shows that.”

The argument that expanding national debt will add to the “burden on future generations,” has also been disproved, Skidelsky posits. “The economist A. P. Lerner pointed out its fallacy years ago. The burden of reduced consumption to pay for government spending is actually borne by the generation which lends the government the money in the first place. This is crystal clear if the government simply raises the money it needs for its spending through taxes rather than borrowing it. Furthermore, the idea that additional government spending, whether financed by taxation or borrowing, is bound to reduce private consumption by the same amount assumes that no flow of additional income results from the extra government spending – in other words, that the economy is already at full capacity. This has not been true of most countries since 2008.”

The climate change chart we wish we’d never seen: Sitting here with the a/c running, CNBC on the television in the background, a PlayStation running in the other room, two cars parked in the driveway and a nagging feeling we left lights on in the office when we left last night, it’s increasingly easy to see how we played our part in making July 2016 the hottest month ever since they started recording temps with instruments in 1880. (See the chart here.)

Now that the Rio Olympics are over, the Rio Paralympics are just around the corner, 7-18 September, but only 12% of tickets have been sold, a Rio 2016 spokesperson said, out of 3.3 mn tickets on sale since May, according to BBC. A funding problem is also threatening the participation of 10 countries, as travel grants worth GBP 7 mn were not delivered to all countries. But the Director of Media and Communications for the Paralympics Craig Spence told Sputnik, “There will be no downscaling, those 10 countries that said they cannot make the games, we have been in contact and they will be able to travel.” Worth noting is that Russia will be banned from participating after a World Anti-Doping Agency report said doping had been undergone with state sponsorship between 2011 and 2015 – a decision which was not taken by the International Olympics Committee which did not issue a ban. The Paralympic Games consist of 22 sports and 165 countries. Egypt is participating, with 44 competitors set to enter events in athletics, powerlifting, swimming, men’s sitting volleyball and table tennis, the Egyptian Paralympic Committee said. Watch “We’re The Superhumans,” the Rio Paralympics 2016’s trailer.

The Economist tries to answer the question on man an Egyptian’s mind: Why is squash not an Olympic sport? Egyptians could then guarantee their chances to win at least one Olympic medal at every games, given that six out of the top ten squash players in the world are Egyptian. The sport, represented by the World Squash Federation, has bid since 2005 to join the games, but has been refused repeatedly, with its exclusion from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in favor of climbing, surfing and skateboarding being the most recent. The Economist claims “bad timing” is the main reason behind the sport’s failure to win Olympic acceptance. Its 2016 bid has been outshined by more lucrative sports such as golf and rugby, while the bid for the Tokyo games has been cast aside in favor of regional sport Karate. Adding to that is the issue of not being “television-friendly”, as there were complaints that ball is hard to see and the courts are difficult to film, which is an issue being addressed with the launch of “Squashtv”. So will it have better chances for the 2024 games? A professor of sports enterprise at the University of Salford, Simon Chadwick, doesn’t think so, claiming that “so long as it continues in its current position, the sport is at a significant strategic disadvantage and is losing market territory to rivals sports”, as the IOC bases its decision not on the popularity of the sport but on its potential to grow.

Think our “New Cities” are a bit too ambitious? Then you haven’t heard of Fordlandia, Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford’s failed utopian city in northern Brazil. Business Insider picked up a piece from the Guardian that tells the tale.

How un-liveable is Cairo? The Economist Intelligence Unit’s ranking of the world’s most and least liveable cities is out, with Melbourne, Vienna, Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary holding down the top five posts. At the bottom of the list: Damascus is the world’s least-liveable city, the EIU says (probably because they’ve never been to Raqqa), followed by Tripoli, Lagos, Dhaka and Port Moresby. Where does Cairo rank? Although the EIU’s highlights of the report have been published, we’ve yet to find the full ranking online. Our score of 53 this year is the same as last — which saw us ranked #121 out of 140 cities last year — but we have the distinction of being on the list of “10 cities where living standards have gone through the floor in the last 5 years.” Or check out the 10 top and bottom cities on the list, and take heart that at least we’re ranked higher than Algiers…

Not many people get to attend their wake before they die. Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie is Canada’s answer to Bruce Springsteen, and he got to do just that after he opted to rage against the dying of the light when he found, at age 52, that has an incurable brain tumor. Their farewell tour has transfixed Canada — and earned notices around the world — culminating in a concert last weekend that saw much of Canada shut down for a few hours. Wrote the New York Times: “In an unparalleled moment of national pride laced with sorrow, Canada stopped for a few hours on Saturday night to venerate the Tragically Hip, the band that for many has come closest to defining that country’s cultural identity.” Said the New Yorker about that final concert: “Then Downie came out onstage to rapturous applause. He is fifty-two years old, and ragged. Who wouldn’t be, coming off a craniotomy and six weeks of chemo and radiation? His sparkly, baggy clothes and wildly befeathered hat covered what must be an utterly ravaged body. He wore a “Jaws” T-shirt, the one with the monster rising to eat the oblivious swimmers.” The whole thing had normally mild-mannered Canadians sounding positively American as they penned posts such as “The World Can Learn a Thing or Two From Canada” in the wake of the concert. H/t to all of you who brought the concert to our attention.

We leave you with two versions of one of our favourite Hip songs: New Orleans is Sinking, the original video and the live performance from their final concert in Kingston, Ontario, both on Youtube.

Read This

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a weirdo, but in a good way, meaning there is a good chance you are some sort of intellectual, defined by Politico contributing editor Michael Lind as “a category that includes academics, opinion journalists, and think tank experts,” and which for Egypt we would add prominent members of the private sector, who are often called upon to comment on economic or political issues. As many of our readers may feel shy or modest about identifying themselves as intellectuals, they should consider the following:

For our readers in the United States: Do you have at least a four-year university degree? You’re in the minority, representing only 30% of the population. University degree holders in Egypt make up about 15% of the population, according to some estimates. To overcome one’s alienation from society in a positive manner, it has to first be acknowledged.

Lind writes: “The fact that we members of the intellectual professions are quite atypical of the societies in which we live tends to distort our judgment, when we forget that we belong to a tiny and rather bizarre minority.”

Peter Beinart writes on how the isolation experienced by the intelligentsia (consciously or subconsciously) can often be a vulnerability that leaves many tempted to rationalize and become apologists for fascism, out of a desire to fit in with the rest of society. “In 1953, Czeslaw Milosz published The Captive Mind, which described how a series of Polish intellectuals came to embrace Stalinism… ‘To belong to the masses is the great longing of the ‘alienated intellectual,’ Milosz argued. Beinart advances his argument to address intellectuals supportive of Donald Trump’s candidacy, but his arguments could be applied to most societies. “For intellectuals, therefore, the Trump campaign poses two tests. The first is of their ability to push the American political system to address the combustible economic despair of the working-class… the second is of their ability to declare — no matter how many Americans gravitate toward Trump—that his supporters are wrong.”

Both Lind and Beinart’s articles should be read in tandem — while they both take very different perspectives, they both broadly argue that individuals should not fool themselves about who they are or the nature of the world around them. (Read Intellectuals Are Freaks by Michael Lind followed by Why Are Some Conservative Thinkers Falling for Trump? By Peter Beinart)

Drink coffee and pretend you understood “Citizen Kane”: Humor writer Sarah Hutto has some advice for you in her New Yorker piece, Eight Habits of Highly Successful People You Can Try Today. From “The best way to get some politics is from the comment sections under controversial articles,” to “You can find people with whom you can have a relationship on dating apps, or, if you’re a thrill seeker, also occasionally in actual life. But heads up: you cannot swipe left in real life, so always be ready to change towns if need be,” this one is a pretty good Friday morning laugh.

Note: Some of us around here actually like Citizen Kane, though expectations for those who haven’t seen it may have been built up too much for a fair assessment. So please don’t feel like you are being targeted for scorn; we’re right there with you.

“Put down your headphone and make yourself available,” advises Senior Editor James Hamblin in a piece for The Atlantic exploring the sometimes awkward, albeit (arguably) essential practice of social interactions with strangers. In an embedded video, Hamblin tests the waters of connecting with a stranger through “triangulation,” making a remark on something external to both the speaker and the second party, which he calls “a little less boring” than making small talk about the weather. In “an increasingly polarized world,” he says, it’s on you if you don’t know anyone who’d vote for Trump.

Listen to This

Trying to explain what the multiverse is: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and theoretical physicist and cosmologist Paul Steinhardt attempt to explain the multiverse in response to fan-submitted questions to the StarTalk Radio podcast. “While there are plenty of intriguing questions, there aren’t many definitive answers when it comes to quantum physics and trying to understand how the universe moved from a quantum state to a classical one governed by general relativity.” Also among the issues discussed are concepts and ideas like parallel universes, cosmic inflation, quantum tunnelling, and whether the perception of time would be consistent across the multiverse. (Runtime 58:55)

Political dissent in Putin’s Russia: Russia will hold parliamentary elections in September. After the last elections, there were mass protests claiming the vote was rigged and that led to clashes in central Moscow. The events, taking place on Bolotnaya Square, were the biggest challenge President Putin has ever faced to his rule. In preparation for the upcoming elections, The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford talked to some of those caught up in the Bolotnaya protests, and asks what their stories tell us about Putin’s Russia today. (Runtime 29:45)

Health

Cancer in ancient fossils may be more prevalent than we think: A paper in the South African Journal of Science has found that cancer is actually at least 1.7 mn years old after researchers discovered what is the oldest known case of cancer in an early human ancestor. But the findings left the NYT’s George Johnson wondering just how prevalent cancer actually was in ancient specimens. Despite two Egyptologists making headlines with a paper showing “a striking rarity of malignancies” in the anthropological record, other researchers have rejected the notion. “In 2006, scientists studied the bones from two ancient Egyptian burial sites, dating to 3200 B.C., and a German ossuary, where bodies were deposited between 1400 and 1800 A.D. Those researchers concluded that cancer rates, adjusted for longevity, have probably held steady for centuries.”

As a wise little six-year-old once said: What the what? It’s already accepted that genomics can help physicians dial-in treatments for cancer and cardiovascular disease. And pharmacogenomics — a field of study that will help physicians choose which meds will benefit you as an individual — is a new “hot thing.” Next up: A growing number of researchers are convinced that knowing more about your genes could help you choose the best diet, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall).

You know how exercise increases the formation of new cells, crucial for learning and remembering? Well, an experiment suggests that exercise can make new cells that carry newly-acquired knowledge overwhelm old ones, hence affecting long-term memory, writes Gretchen Reynolds for NYT’s blog. That experiment, however, was conducted on mice. But another experiment on rats showed an unaffected long-term memory after exercising. Maybe certain types of long-term memory are affected by the birth of new cells after exercise than others, says Ashok Shetty, professor of molecular and cellular medicine at Texas A&M University. “But for now, he believes that the available evidence suggests that, unless you are a mouse, working out is going to be “quite beneficial” for your brain,” writes Reynolds.

Personal Tech

Because there isn’t enough invasion of privacy in our world, Wi-Fi signals can also spy on you: When a router communicates with a device, it gathers information about how the signals travel, which may then be used to identify humans from the way their bodies absorb or reflect the waves, writes Kaveh Waddell for The Atlantic. A number of experiments showed routers could identify someone from the shape of their body or the way they walk. “A pair of MIT researchers wrote in 2013 that they could use a router to detect the number of humans in a room and identify some basic arm gestures, even through a wall.

They could tell how many people were in a room from behind a solid wooden door, a 6-inch hollow wall supported by steel beams, or an 8-inch concrete wall—and detect messages drawn in the air from a distance of five meters (but still in another room) with 100 percent accuracy.” Another system called “WiKey” can tell what someone is typing by monitoring finger movements using only a router and codes created by researchers. Another technology can identify what someone is saying by analyzing distortions and reflections in signals when the mouth moves. Relax, this is not happening just yet: the lead researcher behind WiKey, Kamran Ali, said it only works in controlled environments and with a lot of training. “But as wi-fi “vision” evolves, it may become more adaptable and need less training,” writes Waddell. Let alone the possibility of hacking.

Tech

Could battery technology finally be getting a revamp? We all know battery technology woefully lags behind. But new battery tech from an MIT spinoff could actually, finally make a difference, showing promise that double-capacity batteries could enter production this year, according to Gizmodo. The difference this time is the new tech is just a minor variant on existing lithium ion batteries. “The battery essentially swaps out a common battery anode material, graphite, for very thin, high-energy lithium-metal foil, which can hold more ions — and, therefore, provide more energy capacity,” according to 9to5Mac. Let’s just hope this doesn’t just bring on thinner devices with exactly the same amount of battery power.

There’s a Tinder out there for women seeking to make new female friends: Hey! Vina asks its users a few basic questions upon signing up to help them find like-minded potential friends. Possible matches “thumbs-up” each other, the Hey! Vina equivalent of right-swiping, based on the information visible about another party’s interests or career information. The Cut has a review what this friend-dating app is really like, whatever that means in an age where most of us have at least a few hundred casual acquaintances listed as “friends” on various social media platforms.

This Week’s Most-Clicked Stories

The most-clicked stories in Enterprise in the past week were:

  • The 10 bestselling cars in Egypt (infographic) (Al-Borsa)
  • The ruining of the statue of Omm Kolthoum (photo) (tie)
  • Video research note on devaluation (EFG Hermes) (tie)
  • Egyptians Take to the Streets Again, Now in Workout Gear (New York Times)
  • Africa’s Next Big Devaluation Is Seen Unfolding in Egypt (Bloomberg)
  • Science Behind Why You Feel Sick When You Try to Read in the Car (Lifehacker)

On Your Way Out

Cigarettes are being replaced as prison money in the US by ramen noodles, according to a study. The research said the shift was a response to a decline in the quantity and quality of food on offer, BBC notes. "Because it is cheap, tasty, and rich in calories, ramen has become so valuable that it is used to exchange for other goods," the study’s author says. They are also replacing other “traditional forms” of currency in prisons like stamps and envelopes. “The noodles are exchanged for goods including other food items, clothing, hygiene products and even services such as laundry and bunk cleaning.” Ramen noodles are pretty popular and ubiquitous in prisons, Clifton Collins Jr and Gustavo "Goose" Alvarez co-authored a cookbook called Prison Ramen, that includes “more than 65 ramen recipes and stories of prison life from the inmate/cooks who devised them.”

Goodbye, Adam Schiff: If you were over the age of 10 between 1990-2000 or you’ve ever watched re-run TV, then you know his voice, his mannerisms, the cadence with which he speaks. But odds are reasonable you don’t know it was veteran character actor Steven Hill who played Adam Schiff, the “grouchy legal stickler” and US district attorney on Law & Order from 1990-2000. Hill was 94. Read the NY Times obit here.

Life expectancy in the Middle East and North Africa has declined across the board since 2010, University of Washington professor Ali Mokdad writes. In Libya and Syria the life expectancy has dropped by 5-6 years and “in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, it declined by 0.25 years between 2010 and 2013.” Expectedly, civil war is to blame in Libya in Syria as the destruction of infrastructure is generally indiscriminate, Mokdad says, but the negative health trends are also apparent even in countries that have been experiencing economic growth. He warns that “the rapid deterioration of health-care systems in the Middle East and North Africa in the last half-decade is alarming. But the progress many countries in the region made in prior decades provides grounds for hope that it can be reversed.”

We hate koshary so much, we’ve banned it from the office. So imagine our surprise when we read a story about the horribly smelly dish and liked it so much, we’re happy to have recently hired the reporter who wrote it. Hana Afifi’s “Egyptian Koshary: The taste of the USD crisis” uses the recipe for koshary to tell the story of inflation and devaluation. (Full-disclosure: In regard to the hatred of koshary, “we” means “the bosses” and not “all those of us who toil on Enterprise.”)

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