Special Report: ‘Digital Finance’ – The Economist


The Economist – Special Reports (May 20, 2023): The fight over payments systems is hotting up around the world. There may be surprising winners, says Arjun Ramani.

As payments systems go digital, they are changing global finance

The fight over payments systems is hotting up around the world. There may be surprising winners, says Arjun Ramani

Payment is one of the most fundamental economic activities. To buy anything, you need something the seller wants. One option is barter, but that is beset by friction (what are the chances of having something your counterparty wants at any exact moment?). Early forms of money, from cowrie shells to beads to metal coins, offered a solution: they were always in demand to settle transactions.


TV: Inside The Hollywood Film And TV Writer’s Strike

Wall Street Journal (May 15, 2023) – The Hollywood writers’ strike has more than 11,000 movie and television writers in the Writers Guild of America on strike for the first time in 15 years.

Video timeline: 0:00 Writers’ strike has brought productions to a halt 0:50 How streaming has transformed the industry 4:20 The 2007-2008 writers’ strike 4:59 The writers’ demands 7:13 The strike’s impact on the entertainment industry

WSJ sat down for exclusive interviews with the showrunners of “Abbott Elementary” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” to understand the key sticking points that led to the writers’ strike and what’s next for the entertainment industry.

Nature Reviews: Top New Science Books – May 2023

nature Magazine Science Book Reviews – May 15, 2023: Prejudice in technology, and the necessity of time. Andrew Robinson reviews five of the best science picks.

More Than a Glitch

Meredith Broussard – MIT Press (2023)

An artificial-intelligence (AI) ‘glitch’ is a problem neither expected nor consequential. Bias, by contrast, is baked in and disastrous, argues data scientist Meredith Broussard, one of very few Black women in this field, who focuses on AI and journalism. “Tech is racist and sexist and ableist because the world is so,” she says. Vivid examples in her disturbing book include that of a man arrested by US police using facial-recognition technology — purely because both he and the suspect in a blurry surveillance photo were Black.


Eckart Frahm – Basic (2023)

The world’s first empire flourished in Assyria in the eighth and seventh centuries bc, and has long been seen as the epitome of barbarism. But, as Assyriologist Eckart Frahm reveals in his deeply informed, challenging history, Assyria produced many features of the modern world. Its innovations included long-distance trade, sophisticated communications networks, mass deportations and widespread political surveillance. Unlike most later empires, he writes, it was at least honest in its “open celebration of plunder, torture, and murder”.

Hands of Time

Rebecca Struthers –  Hodder & Stoughton (2023)

‘Time’ is “the most commonly used noun” in English, according to Rebecca Struthers, the first professional watchmaker in the United Kingdom to earn a PhD in horology. Each chapter of her exquisitely crafted history explores a pivotal moment in watchmaking from the past 500 years. Mechanical timekeepers, she argues, have influenced human culture as much as the printing press. Imagine trying to catch a train by depending on the Sun’s position, or to perform an organ transplant without measuring the patient’s heart rate precisely.

The Deep Ocean

Michael Vecchione et al. Princeton Univ. Press (2023)

“For most people, the deep ocean is out of sight and out of mind,” write three zoologists and an oceanographer. The zone starts where penetration of sunlight can no longer support photosynthesis, about 200 metres down. This guidebook dissipates ignorance with superb colour photographs of astonishing organisms, accompanied by detailed captions and brief essays. For example, the vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) is neither vampire nor squid, but was so named because its black ‘cloak’ reminded scientists of Dracula.

Tenacious Beasts

Christopher J. Preston –  MIT Press (2023)

Humans and domestic animals make up 96% of the mass of the world’s mammals. The outlook for wildlife “remains dire”, writes philosopher Christopher Preston. But he describes signs of hope in his well-travelled, thoughtful study of recoveries. Populations of humpback whales in the western Indian Ocean have surged since the mid-twentieth century; those of Californian black bears have quadrupled in a few decades. He visits farmland, prairie, river, forest and ocean, exploring why only certain species are recovering.

Business: Inside LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton

CNBC (May 15, 2023) – The luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton controls 75 Maisons, or brands, including Tiffany & Co., Sephora, Dior, Givenchy and TAG Heuer. At the helm of the luxury empire is the richest person in the world,

Chapters: 0:00 – Introduction 2:20 The Rise Of Louis Vuitton 8:45 A Culture Company, Not Just Luxury 16:46 The Future Of Luxury

Bernard Arnault, whose five children all hold senior executive roles within the company. With a keen eye for luxury, ruthless negotiation skills and an effective business acumen, Arnault has acquired some of the biggest names in the world. Most recently, in 2021, the company bought Tiffany & Co. for $15.8 billion after a bitter dispute about price due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to salvage the luxury sector’s biggest-ever deal.

Though most companies struggled during the pandemic, LVMH’s stock steadily rose while it continued to report record revenue year after year as wealthy consumers participated in what McKinsey & Co. called “revenge spending.” For the first quarter of 2023, LVMH reported a 17% increase in revenue from the same period a year earlier. The Asia market, which had seen the most significant drop due to Covid-19 closures, had a 14% rise in revenue after an 8% decrease in the fourth quarter of 2022. In April 2023, LVMH became the first European company to surpass $500 billion in market value.

Art: ‘Anselm Kiefer-Hortus Conclusus’ In Hong Kong

abstract painting with gold leaf
Anselm Kiefer, Danaë, 2014

Gagosian (May 15, 2023) – Gagosian Hong Kong is pleased to announce  Anselm Kiefer: hortus conclusus, an exhibition that surveys four decades of the artist’s landscape paintings. Capping a year of exhibitions across Europe and the United States, this is the first to feature his work in Hong Kong for more than ten years.

ANSELM KIEFER – Hortus Conclusus
May 17–August 5, 2023

Rubble is like a plant’s blossoms; it is the radiant highpoint of an incessant metabolism, the beginning of a rebirth.
—Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer: hortus conclusus, Hong Kong, May 17–August 5, 2023 | Gagosian

Kiefer’s thirteenth solo exhibition at Gagosian since 1998, hortus conclusus follows Questi scritti, quando verranno bruciati, daranno finalmente un po’ di luce (Andrea Emo) at Palazzo Ducale, Venice (2022–23) and Exodus, a bicoastal exhibition presented at the gallery in New York (2022) and at Gagosian at the Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles (2022–23).

This coming October, Lille Métropole Musée d’art moderne, d’art contemporain et d’art brut (LaM) in France will present Anselm Kiefer: Photography at the Beginning, the first exhibition dedicated to the artist’s photographs.

Opinion: China’s Power Is Peaking, Jobs Safe From A.I., Mexico Criminal Gangs

The Economist ‘Editor’s Picks’ Podcast (May 15 , 2023) Is Chinese power about to peak? Why your job is (probably) safe from artificial intelligence (11:00) and how Mexico’s gangs are becoming criminal conglomerates (35:00).

Arts/History: Smithsonian Magazine – June 2023

Smithsonian Magazine    The Art of Memory   June 2023 image 1

Smithsonian Magazine – June Issue

Artist Joseph Stella Painted Nature in Vibrant Color

Opener - Flowers

Cities weren’t the only subject that fascinated this acclaimed Futurist

By Amy Crawford

He famously captured industrial America—the Brooklyn Bridge, Pittsburgh’s steel mills—with his monumental canvases. But the painter Joseph Stella (1877-1946) looked to nature for respite, escaping his Manhattan studio to visit the New York Botanical Garden and to paint in southern Italy, where he grew up. “My devout wish,” the artist wrote, “[is] that my every working day might begin and end—as a good omen—with the light, gay painting of a flower.”

Anne Frank’s Childhood Friend Recalls Their Years Before the Holocaust

After fleeing her native Germany, a young Jew found companionship and community as the Nazis approached

Spring 2023 Roses In Japan: Jindai Botanical GardenS

Japan BackpackersXpress Films (May 15, 2023) – Jindai Botanical Garden is a world-class 42 hectare (105 acre) garden in Chofu City, in the west of Tokyo, that offers seasonal beauty all year round. Jindai Botanical Garden is Tokyo’s main botanical garden, being the only one operated by Tokyo Metropolis.

It has the biggest rose garden in Tokyo, and is famous too for its plum and cherry trees, which blossom in spring. The Garden includes adjacent free-entry facilities like an aquatic plant area and a plant information center.

Jindai Botanical Gardens are creatively designed, immaculately maintained, and are well worth the trip from Tokyo, together with a visit to the neighboring Jindaiji Temple, Tokyo’s second oldest.

Previews: The New Yorker Magazine – May 22, 2023

R. Kikuo Johnsons “Perennial”

The New Yorker – May 22, 2023 issue

How Philipp Plein Became the King of Low-Brow High Fashion

Philipp Plein jumps on a white couch.

The maximalist designer has positioned himself as an underdog hero of the common man, who is successful despite the falsity and the snobbery of the élites.

By Naomi Fry

Earth League International Hunts the Hunters

Andrea Crosta oversees an operation in Costa Rica.

A conservation N.G.O. infiltrates wildlife-trafficking rings to bring them down.

By Tad Friend

How a Disaster Expert Prepares for the Worst

Lucy Easthope writing on a notepad surrounded by smoke and debris.

Lucy Easthope, who has worked on major emergencies since 9/11, says that small interventions can make a significant difference.

By Sam Knight

News: Turkey Elections Head Into Runoff, Ukraine Advances, China-Australia

The Globalist, May 15, 2023: Monocle’s Istanbul correspondent, Hannah Lucinda Smith, and the editor of Free Turkish Press, Yavuz Baydar, join Emma Nelson to discuss Turkey’s elections.

Also in the programme: Ukraine pushes ahead in its counteroffensive and Andrew Mueller explains China and Australia’s complex relationship. Plus, Eurovision’s winners celebrate in style with Fernando Augusto Pacheco.