The du und du waltz
Nov 26th 2009 | BERLIN
From The Economist print edition
The complex etiquette of du and Sie in Germany
“AT 2.12 our work was finished. At 2.15 we called each other Horst and Guido. This is the beginning of a great friendship.” That is how Guido Westerwelle, the Free Democratic leader in Germany’s coalition government, broke the news that he and Horst Seehofer of the Christian Social Union would henceforth address each other by the familiar du rather than the formal Sie. Since Mr Seehofer had called Mr Westerwelle a crybaby just weeks earlier, it was a touching reconciliation. But how much warmth does the intimate du convey?
It used to be so simple. Relatives, friends, children and dogs were du; everyone else was Sie. The offer of du, usually by an older interlocutor, was not made lightly. But this formula has become scrambled during the past 40 years. Germany is not America, where everyone is on first-name terms except in the doctor’s surgery. The rules are now confusing, so that instead of guarding the borders between friendship and acquaintance, Sie and du often now smuggle coded messages across them.
It started with 1968ers who impudently called their professors du. Later generations of students reverted to Sie. But with each other, indeed with everyone of student age, du predominates. Bouncers at Berlin’s clubs are gesiezt but bartenders are geduzt. Shoppers at upmarket KaDeWe are Sie but in shops packed with young Germans even those not so youthful may be called du. Annett Louisan, a pop singer, laments the passing of Sie: “This distance adds a little more/to something that would be a bore/‘What can I do for Sie?’/stimulates wild fantasy.”
最初是六八年学运的那一代开始轻浮地称他们的教授为“你”的，之后的几代学生又恢复为使用“您”。但在学生之间，事实上是在每个年轻人之间，“你”这个称呼是居统治地位的。柏林酒吧里的保镖被称为“您”，而吧台侍者则被称为“你”。高档商店，比如Kadewe（注：Kaufhaus des Westens 西部商城，欧洲最大的百货商店）的顾客们是“您”，而那些充斥着年轻人的商店，即使不是那么年轻的顾客，都可能被称作“你”。流行歌手安耐特?路易珊在她的歌中哀叹“您”这个称谓的消逝：“再多一点点距离/就少一点点空虚/‘很乐意为您效劳’/是最狂野的刺激”。
In less erotically charged settings Sie holds sway. Banks, law firms and ministries remain bastions of Sie, though egalitarian companies like Sweden’s IKEA have converted to du. It is easier to sack a Sie than a du. Sometimes du can even be dangerous: try it on a policeman and you may end up paying a fine for insulting an officer.
Politics has its own rules. In the Social Democratic Party (SPD) it would be an insult to siezen a “comrade”. Communists in East Germany were du to each other, which gives it a sinister ring to some Ossis. In conservative circles and across party lines du is not yet automatic. Angela Merkel, the Christian Democratic chancellor, never said du to Frank-Walter Steinmeier, her SPD foreign minister, though she apparently already does so to his successor, Mr Westerwelle.
In Mr Seehofer’s case, as the older man, he almost certainly made the first move with Mr Westerwelle. But that has not stopped him repeatedly sniping at the new foreign minister. In this case du seems less a profession of friendship than a screen for hostility.
发表于00:32 | 阅读全文 | 评论 0 | 编辑 | 分享 0尼日利亚：专门绑架本国富豪2009-12-04Kidnapping in Nigeria
Go for the locals
Nov 26th 2009 | LAGOS
From The Economist print edition
A new scourge is afflicting the rich
IT COULD not have happened to a more colourful character. Nkem Owoh, a Nollywood film star is famous for a song about financial fraud entitled “I Go Chop Your Dollar”. While driving along a highway in eastern Nigeria earlier this month, he was kidnapped. His abductors originally demanded 15m naira ($99,000). He was freed a week later for an unknown ransom, though the local press say the gang was beaten down to a mere 1.4m naira plus the actor’s fancy car.
这本不应发生在一个颇有争议的人物身上。 Nkem owoh，一个诺莱坞(Nollywood)电影明星，以一首讽刺财务欺诈的歌“去抢你的钱（Go Chop Your Dollar）”而出名。 这个月早些时候，当Nkem owoh驾车行走在尼日利亚东部的一条高速公路上时，他被绑架。绑架者最初提出15万奈拉（99,000美元）的赎金要求。一周以后他被释放，赎金不为外人所知。但据当地媒体报道，他付出的赎金仅为14万奈拉，外加他的那辆名贵小汽车。
The abduction sounds like a far-fetched script from one of Nigeria’s popular outlandish films. But kidnapping is a serious business. Nabbing prominent Nigerians is becoming increasingly common, as gangs shift their focus from foreign oil workers to their own rich compatriots.
这起绑架案听起来好象是尼日利亚充满异国风味的电影里面的一个蹩脚片段。 但是绑架一个严重的社会问题。 当犯罪团伙转移绑架重点，从绑架外国石油工人转移到绑架他们国内那些富豪时，尼日利亚的社会名流正日益成为他们的绑架对象。
An American security firm ranks Nigeria in the world’s top eight kidnapping hotspots, alongside such violent places as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. According to the State Department, more than 50 foreigners were kidnapped between January 2008 and July this year, most of them in the Delta region, home to Nigeria’s oil industry. Attacks on foreigners were even more frequent in 2007. Insurgents sought ransoms to draw attention to political grievances and to make cash.
But, as foreign oil giants such as Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil have tightened security and shifted professional staff out of the Delta, attackers have started looking for softer targets. Nigeria’s authorities are most worried by the spread of kidnapping beyond the Delta.
The father of Chukwuma Soludo, a former central-bank chief, was seized at the end of October in Anambra state, where his son hopes to become governor. Simeon Soludo, in his late 70s, was freed some days later. His family denies that it paid the kidnappers a ransom. A senior official in the predominantly Muslim north was also recently abducted. Yakubu Lame, Nigeria’s minister of police affairs, said in July that 512 kidnappings had been reported in the first half of this year, against 353 for the whole of 2008.
Chukwuma Soludo的父亲simeon soludo是前任中央银行总裁，十月底在阿南布拉（Anambra）州被绑架，， Chukwuma Soludo有望成为该州州长。 过了一些天后，快80岁的simeon soludo被释放 , 他的家人否认给绑架者支付过赎金。还有一个政府高官员最近在以伊斯兰教徒为主要人口的北部地区，遭遇绑架。 尼日利亚警察部长Yakubu Lame在今年7月份时说，今年前半年，上报到警察部的绑架案有512件，而2008年全年这一数字为353件。
Not so bad if you’re white
At the same time, the rate of abducting foreigners is going down. Staff who remain in the Delta, rather than in smart new offices in Lagos, the commercial capital, travel in convoys and stew in guarded compounds after dark. A recent fragile peace deal in the oil-producing states, following an amnesty for rebels this summer, has also reduced the abduction rate. Of the 35 Britons known to have been snatched in the Delta since 2006, only four were taken this year, says the British government.
Western embassies and security firms in Nigeria agree that the shift towards local victims takes the heat off them a bit. Locals are not only easier targets but also give criminals the chance to demand ransoms from emotional families rather than from an oil company’s hard-headed anti-kidnapping team or insurance firm.
Nigeria’s government has responded to the surge with an anti-kidnapping bill, which, if passed, would mean life sentences for abductors and their accomplices. This year, to the dismay of Amnesty International, six of the country’s 36 states have adopted the death penalty for the crime. More are considering it.
针对猖獗的绑架案，尼日利亚政府提出了一项反绑架法案，如果获得通过，绑架者和同谋者将被判无期徒刑。 今年，针对绑架犯罪，尼日利亚36个州的6个州采用了死刑，这令特赦国际（Amnesty International）大为沮丧。 而还有更多的州正考虑采用。
However, it is by no means certain that tougher penalties will stem the tide. Despite the huge oil and gas reserves of Africa’s second-biggest economy, many Nigerians have no work, are on a daily hunt for cash, and are pumped up by the idea of instant wealth acquired by snatching a film star from his car.
发表于00:31 | 阅读全文 | 评论 2 | 编辑 | 分享 0全国气候：政治搭台，科学唱戏2009-12-04Climate change 气候变化
A heated debate 激辩
Nov 26th 2009
From The Economist print edition
Why political orthodoxy must not silence scientific argument
Illustration by Claudio Munoz
“WHAT is truth?” That was Pontius Pilate’s answer to Jesus’s assertion that “Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.” It sounds suspiciously like the modern argument over climate change.
A majority of the world’s climate scientists have convinced themselves, and also a lot of laymen, some of whom have political power, that the Earth’s climate is changing; that the change, from humanity’s point of view, is for the worse; and that the cause is human activity, in the form of excessive emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
A minority, though, are sceptical. Some think that recent, well-grounded data suggesting the Earth’s average temperature is rising are explained by natural variations in solar radiation, and that this trend may be coming to an end. Others argue that longer-term evidence that modern temperatures are higher than they have been for hundreds or thousands of years is actually too flaky to be meaningful.
Such disagreements are commonplace in science. They are eventually settled by the collection of more data and the invention of more refined (or entirely new) theories. Arguments may persist for decades; academics may—and often do—sling insults at each other; but it does not matter a great deal because the stakes are normally rather low.
The stakes in the global-warming debate, however, could scarcely be higher. Scientific evidence /that climate change is under way, is man-made, and is likely to continue happening/ forms the foundation for an edifice of policy which is intended to transform the world’s carbon-intensive economy into one which no longer spews greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. A lot of money, and many reputations—both academic and political—are involved.
Sceptics claim that this burden of responsibility is crushing the spirit of scientific inquiry. Scientists, they maintain, are under pressure to bolster the majority view. The recent publication of embarrassing e-mails from the University of East Anglia, an important centre of climate science (see article), revealing doubts about data and a determination not to air such concerns publicly, has strengthened these suspicions.
There is no doubt that politics and science make uncomfortable bedfellows. Politicians sell certainty. Science lives off doubt. The creation /of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to establish a consensus on the science /was an excellent idea for policymakers, who needed a strong scientific foundation for their deliberations, but it sits uncomfortably with a discipline that advances by disproving accepted theories and overturning orthodoxies.
The danger of dissent
Some would argue that, in matters of great public import, scientific dissent should be silenced. It can, it is true, do harm. When AIDS first reared its ugly head, no one knew what caused it. Gradually, the virus responsible was isolated, identified and then attacked successfully with drugs designed specifically to inhibit its reproduction. A few scientists, though, refused to accept the evidence, and some politicians used their arguments to justify inaction. Since one of those politicians was Thabo Mbeki, then president of South Africa, hundreds of thousands who might have been saved by an anti-AIDS policy grounded in scientific reality died as a result of his policies.
Yet the damage in that case was done by the politicians. A leader who is determined to pursue a wrong-headed course will always find some scientist to support him. A world in which that were not true would be one in which a dangerously narrow consensus had taken hold.
This newspaper believes that global warming is a serious threat, and that the world needs to take steps to try to avert it. That is the job of the politicians. But we do not believe that climate change is a certainty. There are no certainties in science. Prevailing theories must be constantly tested against evidence, and refined, and more evidence collected, and the theories tested again. That is the job of the scientists. When they stop questioning orthodoxy, mankind will have given up the search for truth. The sceptics should not be silenced.
发表于00:30 | 阅读全文 | 评论 0 | 编辑 | 分享1传统零售与网络零售 美国对决2009-12-04Retail v e-tail in America
Nov 26th 2009 | NEW YORK
From The Economist print edition
Bricks-and-mortar shops struggle to win customers back from virtual ones
SHOPPERS on Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season in America, which falls on November 27th this year, are notoriously aggressive. Some even start queuing outside stores before dawn to be the first to lay their hands on heavily discounted merchandise. Last year berserk bargain-hunters in the suburbs of New York City trampled a Wal-Mart employee to death. Despite the frenzy at many stores, however, the recession appears to have accelerated the pace at which shoppers are abandoning bricks and mortar in favour of online retailers—e-tailers, in the jargon. So this year Black Friday (so named because it is supposed to put shops into profit for the year) also marks the start of many conventional retailers’ attempts to regain the initiative.
E-commerce holds particular appeal in straitened times as it enables people to compare prices across retailers quickly and easily. Buyers can sometimes avoid local sales taxes online, and shipping is often free. No wonder, then, that online shopping continues to grow even as the offline sort shrinks. In 2008 retail sales grew by a feeble 1% in America and are expected to decline by more than 3% this year, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade body. In contrast, online sales grew by 13% in 2008 to over $141 billion and are predicted to grow by 11% in 2009, according to Forrester, a consultancy.
Online sales now account for 6% of all retail sales in America (up from 5% in 2008) and that figure is expected to reach 8% by 2013. E-commerce is also growing in Europe and Asia, where online sales in 2008 totalled $60 billion and $40 billion, respectively. In Britain, internet shopping now accounts for nearly 4% of total retail sales, according to Planet Retail, a research firm.
Online-only shopping sites such as Amazon and eBay, two e-commerce giants, have thrived in the downturn. Amazon’s sales rose to around $5.5 billion in the third quarter of the year, up by almost 30% from a year before. Listings, chiefly from commercial vendors, have surged so rapidly on eBay that its website briefly crashed on November 21st.
The range of items available online is also growing. Amazon has started selling groceries. Consumer-goods companies such as Procter & Gamble (P&G) are encouraging the sale of things like nappies (diapers) and laundry detergent online. At the opposite extreme, the internet is also being used to sell luxury goods. Fabergé, a defunctjewellery-maker known for its gem-encrusted eggs, relaunched in September. It will not open any shops but will instead operate only online.
The shift in spending to the internet is good news for companies like P&G that lack retail outlets of their own. But it is a big concern for brick-and-mortar retailers, whose prices are often higher than those of e-tailers, since they must bear the extra expense of running stores. Happily, however, conventional retailers are in a better positionto fight back than last year, when overstocking forced them to resort to ruinous discounting. Inventories are about 15% lower this year. Some big retailers, such as Saks and Target, have recently reported rising revenues and margins.
The most obvious response to the growth of e-tailing is for conventional retailers to redouble their own efforts online. The online arms of big retailers are performing well, on the whole. Saks, for example, saw online sales rise 9% in the nine months to the end of October while sales in its stores fell by 19%. The company expects online growth to outpace sales in stores for the “foreseeable future”, says Stephen Sadove, its boss.
The concept of “multichannel” shopping, where people can buy the same items from the same retailer in several different ways—online, via their mobile phones and in shops—is gaining ground, and retailers are trying to encourage users of one channel to try another. Growing online traffic may actually increase sales in stores too. According to a spokesman for Macy’s, a department-store chain, every dollar a consumer spends online with Macy’s leads to $5.70 in spending at a Macy’s store within ten days, because consumers learn about other products online and come into stores to look them over before buying them. Many online retailers offer tools that let people locate the nearest outlet that has a given item in stock.
Retailers are also trying to make shopping seem fun and exciting to counteract the economic gloom. One common tactic is to set up “pop-up” stores, which appear for a short time before vanishing again, to foster a sense of novelty and urgency. Following the lead of many bricks-and-mortar outfits, eBay recently launched a pop-up in New York where customers could inspect items before ordering them from kiosks.
Shoppers are increasingly looking for an “experience” when they go to stores, says Jack Anderson of Hornall Anderson, a branding and marketing firm, and are no longer interested in purely “transaction-based bricks and mortar stores”. Apple, which encourages customers to try out its devices in its stores, is considered a pioneer of this strategy, and has attracted many imitators. The Walt Disney Company, for example, is rumoured to be redesigning its stores to attract shoppers looking for entertainment, with new features such as “magic mirrors”, which will allow children to play with Disney characters.
消费者越来越倾向于“体验式”购物，“纯交易性实体商店”已经无法打动顾客的心了，品牌与营销公司Hornall Anderson的 Jack Anderson如是说。苹果公司在“体验式”购物方面是先锋，顾客可以在苹果店试用产品，引来许多商家跟风。迪斯尼公司便是其中之一。据传，该公司正在重新设计店铺吸引喜欢娱乐的顾客。店铺增加了诸如“魔镜”等特色项目，孩子们还可以和迪斯尼卡通人物一起玩耍。
Stores are also trying to lure customers by offering services that are not available online. Best Buy, a consumer-electronics retailer, has started selling music lessons along with its musical instruments. Lululemon athletica, which sells sports clothes, offers free yoga classes. The idea is to bring people back to its shops regularly, increasing the likelihood that they will develop the habit of shopping there.
实体商店也在竭尽全力吸引顾客，为他们提供网上购物无法实现的服务。消费类电子零售商百思买已经开始通过绑定音乐教学课来销售乐器。体育服装公司 Lululemon athletica开设免费瑜伽课（带动产品销量）。这种做法能够把顾客定期拉回到商店，进而增加了顾客在商店购物的可能性。
Another great hope is that mobile phones will come to the rescue of conventional retailers. Some consumers already use internet-enabled handsets to shop online. But many analysts think a technology called near-field communication (NFC) might boost sales at stores, by allowing shoppers to scan products with their phones to learn more about them, and then to pay by swiping their phones at the till. Unfortunately, NFC will not be widely available for some time—too late to help harried retailers through Black Friday.
发表于00:28 | 阅读全文 | 评论 0 | 引用1 | 编辑 | 分享 0远程感应电子设备：空中间谍2009-07-09[2009.06.04] Spies in the sky 空中间谍
Spies in the sky
Jun 4th 2009
From The Economist print edition
Military technology: Blimps equipped with remote-sensing electronics are cheaper than drone aircraft, and have many other advantages
SPYING is a sophisticated and expensive business—and gathering military intelligence using unmanned aircraft can be prohibitively so. Predator and Global Hawk, two types of American drone frequently flown in Afghanistan and Iraq, cost around $5,000 and $26,500 an hour respectively to operate. The aircraft themselves cost between $4.5m and $35m each, and the remote-sensing equipment they carry can more than double the price. Which is why less elegant but far cheaper balloons are now being used instead.
Such blimps can keep surveillance and ordnance-guiding equipment aloft for a few hundred dollars an hour. They cost hundreds of thousands, not millions, of dollars. And they can stay in the air for more than a week, whereas most drones fly for no more than 30 hours at a time. They are also easy to deploy, because no airfield is needed. A blimp can be stored in the back of a jeep, driven to a suitable location, launched in a couple of hours and winched down again even faster.
Unlike other aircraft, blimps do not need to form a precise aerodynamic shape. This means they can lift improbable objects into the sky, such as dangling radar equipment. At altitudes of just a few hundred metres, a blimp carrying 20kg of remote-sensing electronics (including radar and thermal-imaging cameras) can identify, track and provide images of combatants dozens of kilometres away, by day or night. It can also help commanders aim the lasers that guide their missiles.
Blimps often operate beyond the range of machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Even if they are hit, though, they do not explode because the helium gas that keeps them airborne is not flammable. (Engineers abandoned the use of hydrogen in 1937 after the Hindenburg, a German airship, was consumed by flames in less than a minute.) Moreover, they usually stay aloft even when punctured: the pressure of the helium inside a blimp is about the same as that of the air outside, so the gas does not rush out. Indeed, towards the end of 2004, when a blimp broke its tether north of Baghdad and started to drift towards Iran, the American air force had trouble shooting it down.
At least 20 countries use blimps—both global military powers, such as America, Britain and France, and smaller regional ones, including Ireland, Pakistan, Poland and the United Arab Emirates. Many are employed in Iraq. In November 2008 Aerostar International of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, began filling a $1.8m order for 36 blimps to be deployed by the American armed forces in Iraq. But Afghanistan may prove a bigger market. That is because it is difficult to pick up satellite signals in the valleys of that mountainous country. As a result blimps, adjusted to hover at appropriate heights, are often used to relay data to and from satellites.
As politicians around the world seek to cut public spending, the attractions of blimps are growing. In January America’s defence secretary, Robert Gates, told the Senate’s armed-services committee that the Department of Defence would pursue greater quantities of “75% solutions” that could be realised in weeks or months instead of “99% exquisite systems” that take more than a decade to develop. Barry Watts, an analyst at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think-tank in Washington, DC, says America’s air force has been criticised for not providing enough aerial data to “insatiable” ground forces. Blimps, Mr Watts reckons, will help them sate that appetite.