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Poor countries struggling with debt fight to get help

ON THE MORNING of November 13th last year Zambia’s vice-president told parliament, “This country will not default.” Hours later the inevitable happened. Having destroyed its relationship with the IMF, struggled to provide clear data on its borrowing from China and failed to win a reprieve from bondholders, Zambia missed a deadline to pay interest and...

The pandemic made the world realise the importance of human contact

IT HAS BEEN 11 months since anyone hugged Larry. The 62-year-old accountant lives alone in Chicago, which went into lockdown last March in response to covid-19. He has heart problems so he has stayed at home since then. The only people to touch him have been latex-sheathed nurses taking his blood pressure. Larry describes himself as a “touchy-feely”...

Censorious governments are abusing “fake news” laws

DURING HIS final days Mohamed Monir, an Egyptian journalist, was so short of breath he could barely speak. In a video recorded in July last year, as his final hours approached, he begged for oxygen. He died in a hospital isolation unit after contracting covid-19 in prison while awaiting trial. He had been arrested the previous month after, among other...

Even before covid-19, nightclubs were struggling

IN NORMAL TIMES it is notoriously difficult to get past the bouncers at Berghain, a techno nightclub in eastern Berlin. But in September the establishment flung its doors wide: anyone could come in, not to dance, but to inspect work by 115 Berlin artists. The organisers tried hard to recreate the club’s forbidding atmosphere. Stickers were placed over...

Before covid-19 hit, life in rich countries was safer than ever. So why do some people risk their lives for fun?

LAURENT FRAT is standing on top of a ridge line in the French alps, preparing to leap down to the valley below. If something goes wrong, he will die. “If I can’t find the landing area it will find me,” he jokes. He claims not to be nervous, although he admits that he tries not to think about his family before he jumps. After checking that the photographer...

Messaging services are providing a more private internet

WHATSAPP, WHICH 2bn people use to send some 100bn messages a day, is rarely in the news. When it is, the stories are mostly about whether, in order to increase competition, it should be hived off from its corporate parent, Facebook—a company rarely out of the news. The difference in visibility is basic to the businesses involved. A social-media firm...

Political theorists have been worrying about mob rule for 2,000 years

LIBERALS HAVE become lazy when thinking about the mob. They have celebrated “people power” when it threatens regimes they disapprove of, in the Middle East, say, while turning a blind eye to the excesses of protesters who they deem to be on the right side of history—in Portland, Oregon, for example. In August 2020 a mainstream publisher, Public Affairs,...

Wikipedia is 20, and its reputation has never been higher

LYING DRUNK in a field outside the Austrian city of Innsbruck in 1971, inspiration struck Douglas Adams, a science-fiction writer. He looked at his copy of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe”, and then up at the stars, and came up with the idea for a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. It would be a (fictional) mixture of travel book and encyclopedia,...

Laws to catch human-rights abusers are growing teeth

THE BALDING figure looks frail and harmless, sitting in the dock behind a Perspex screen in the German town of Koblenz, where the rivers Rhine and Moselle unite. But appearances can deceive. Anwar Raslan, 57, once a Syrian policeman, has been charged with torturing more than 4,000 people and murdering at least 58 between 2011 and 2012, when Syria’s...

Covid-19 has posed new challenges to the world’s waste-pickers

Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our hub AT THE NORTHERN edge of Lusaka, in Zambia, the 24-hectare Chunga landfill smoulders in the midday sun, its sour smoke scalding the nose and throat. Wesley Kambizi works nine-hour days...

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