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Asia’s Recent Past Catches Up With It; Federal reserve ‘tapering’ is merely exacerbating problems created by earlier failures to reform

September 5, 2013, 12:39 p.m. ET

Asia’s Recent Past Catches Up With It

Federal reserve ‘tapering’ is merely exacerbating problems created by earlier failures to reform.

FREDERIC NEUMANN

As investors cast around for someone to blame for recent market turmoil in Asia, it’s easy to point the finger at the U.S Federal Reserve. Hints that the Fed may taper its massive monetary easing, the thinking goes, has pushed up interest rates in America. That, in turn, is drawing capital away from emerging economies. There’s just one problem with this conventional wisdom: The current turmoil in emerging markets, above all Asia, has mostly local roots. It’s true that easy money provided a cushy ride since 2009. With rising interest rates in the United States, those days are now over. Still, the scale of the current sell-off, such as in India and Indonesia, suggests that something more profound is going on. After years of policy neglect, emerging Asia no longer offers the returns in growth and profits that investors seek. Only far-reaching reforms can pull the region out of its malaise. Read more of this post

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Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of a Best Seller; A literary agent told him a book about the universe could never become popular

September 6, 2013, 8:35 p.m. ET

Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of a Best Seller

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking describes the rocky origins of his popular science book

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Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, around 1988. A literary agent told him a book about the universe could never become popular.

STEPHEN HAWKING

I first had the idea of writing a popular book about the universe in 1982. My intention was partly to earn money to pay my daughter’s school fees. But the main reason was that I wanted to explain how far we had come in our understanding of the universe: how we might be near finding a complete theory that would describe the universe and everything in it. If I was going to spend the time and effort to write a book, I wanted it to have as many readers as possible. I contacted a literary agent and gave him a draft of the first chapter, explaining that I wanted it to be the sort of book that would sell in airport bookstores. He told me there was no chance of that. It might sell well to academics and students, but a book like that couldn’t break into best-seller territory. I gave the agent a first draft of the book in 1984. He sent it to several publishers, and I decided to take an offer from Bantam Books. Bantam’s interest was probably due to one of their editors, Peter Guzzardi, who took his job very seriously and made me rewrite the book so that it would be understandable to nonscientists. Each time I sent him a rewritten chapter, he sent back a long list of objections and questions. At times I thought the process would never end. But he was right: It is a much better book as a result. Read more of this post

Thais Debate Rising Cost of Living: Perception or Reality

September 7, 2013, 3:27 PM

Thais Debate Rising Cost of Living: Perception or Reality

By Warangkana Chomchuen

BANGKOK–For Thai consumers, September has delivered a triple whammy. The costs of cooking gas, electricity and expressway tolls rose at the start of the month. Electricity went up 0.07% per unit used. Drivers using Bangkok’s elevated highways can expect to pay about $10 more a month. Cooking gas prices will increase incrementally every month over the course of 12 months. By August next year, the cooking gas will have risen by 38% to 25 baht (80 U.S. cents) a kilogram of gas from 18 baht. These increases might not seem a big deal, and that’s what the government officials have been telling the public. The increases, they said, would barely budge the country’s inflation rate. But the new price increases have nevertheless stirred up public anger – and whipped up a debate over whether it will lead to a sharp increase to living costs. Read more of this post

Clever cities: The multiplexed metropolis; Enthusiasts think that data services can change cities in this century as much as electricity did in the last one. They are a long way from proving their case

Clever cities: The multiplexed metropolis; Enthusiasts think that data services can change cities in this century as much as electricity did in the last one. They are a long way from proving their case

Sep 7th 2013 | AMSTERDAM AND BARCELONA |From the print edition

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EVEN thieves, it seems, now have a smartphone app. Makkie Klauwe (it means something like “easy pickings” in Amsterdam slang) reveals the city’s best places for pilfering—for instance Reestraat and Tuinstraat, where bicycles appear to be a good target. The app depends for its dark arts on pulling together publicly available data on disposable income, crime levels and other problems reported in a district. A good place to steal might, for instance, have high income, low reported crime and broken streetlights. Read more of this post

Five Years Later, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Remain Unfinished Business; Fixing the Mortgage Giants Remains the Largest Single Piece of Unfinished Business From the Financial Crisis

September 6, 2013, 8:04 p.m. ET

Five Years Later, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Remain Unfinished Business

Fixing the Mortgage Giants Remains the Largest Single Piece of Unfinished Business From the Financial Crisis

NICK TIMIRAOS

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WASHINGTON—Of all the temporary patches the U.S. government slapped onto the sinking financial system in September 2008—from pumping money into banks to rescuing insurer American International Group Inc. AIG -1.01% —none was more urgent to then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson than saving mortgage giants Fannie Mae FNMA +0.81% and Freddie Mac FMCC -0.88% . Read more of this post

Faces of Life

James Dyson: Britain’s next industrial revolution

September 6, 2013 7:20 pm

Britain stands on the cusp of a new industrial revolution

By James Dyson

British engineers could be building power stations across the globe, writes James Dyson

After a buoyant summer, the economy seems to be returning to health. Manufacturing is coming to the fore as a driver of the economic recovery. We need to nourish, not ignore, the power behind exports and the creator of long-term and sustained wealth: exportable technology. The data ought to be good for confidence (as well as headlines), but short-term numbers must not alter long-term thinking. That is what got us into this mess. National economic output is still a long way below the levels of 2008 and our export markets are more competitive than ever. Let’s stick to the plan. We must remain steadfast in our ambition to put the development of exportable technology back at the core of the economy, and once again kindle the ambition that made the Victorians world-beaters. Our total focus must be on developing the best products and technologies of our own – to sell to the world. Read more of this post

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