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Latvia’s top banking official has been accused of taking a bribe

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ILMARS RIMSEVICS, governor of Latvia’s central bank for the past 17 years, had been due to retire next year. Instead, he is facing calls to resign. On February 17th he was detained by Latvia’s anti-corruption authority on suspicion of taking a bribe of at least €100,000 ($123,000). The prime minister, Maris Kucinskis, says the allegations are so serious that Mr Rimsevics cannot possibly return to work. Mr Rimsevics, for his part, is staying put. Released on bail on February 19th, he denies the allegations, saying he was set up and is facing death threats.Just a few days earlier, in an unrelated case, the US Treasury had proposed sanctions on ABLV, one of Latvia’s largest banks. It claimed ABLV had “institutionalised money laundering” and facilitated transactions with North Korea, which is

Indian teaching startups make work for idle thumbs

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TO ANY outsider it looks as if the children have been hypnotised by yet another smartphone game. As the spying elders in a TV ad try to break the spell, the sprogs flash a grin at their screens. “It’s maths, dad,” giggles a fifth-grader to her father. The company behind the ad, Byju’s, sells an educational smartphone app which has been downloaded 14m times since its launch in 2015.Byju’s is one of many education technology (or “edtech”) startups that have emerged in India in the past few years. Their target is vast—some 260m pupils in schools and over 30m graduates who train in order to pass entrance tests for a seat in medical, engineering and elite management institutes. KPMG, a consultancy, reckons the industry will grow eightfold to be worth around $2bn by 2021.Much of the expected gro

The world’s largest-ever tech deal now depends on Qualcomm

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Hock Tan hones the art of the dealVALENTINE’S DAY might seem like a good time to discuss a proposal. But whether it brought luck to Broadcom’s attempt to woo its rival chipmaker, Qualcomm, is still unclear. As The Economist went to press, a meeting between the boards of both firms to discuss Broadcom’s bid of $146bn (including debt) proved inconclusive. Having rejected an initial approach in November, Qualcomm’s board will soon meet to discuss next steps.Should the board reject Broadcom’s offer, the fate of the largest-ever tech acquisition would then lie with Qualcomm’s shareholders. The deal could still proceed if they elect a majority of Broadcom’s nominees to the board at Qualcomm’s annual investor meeting on March 6th. But it would have a complicated course to run.Neither firm may be

Japanese businesses are struggling to keep up standards

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KUMIKO HIRANO has noticed a disquieting change when she goes to her neighbourhood konbini, one of Japan’s ubiquitous convenience stores. “No one is around and I have to use a loud voice to get someone to serve me,” says the 48-year-old worker in Tokyo. “It irritates me.”This might not seem a big problem, but Japan prides itself on the standard of customer service, which approaches the level of bespoke attention elsewhere. Taxi drivers, who often wear white gloves, sometimes get out to bow when they drop off a passenger. Staff in shops and restaurants are unfailingly polite. Shoppers can order on Amazon and take delivery reliably the same day. Now Japanese are having slowly to adapt to levels of service long suffered by the rest of the world.The human touch is becoming rarer. Lawson, anothe

Ten years on from Norway’s quota for women on corporate boards

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THE centrepiece of the opening-bell ritual at the London Stock Exchange on February 2nd was a roll call to honour 27 global investors. They were lauded for pledging allegiance to the “30% Club”, a group which campaigns for precisely that proportion of women on corporate boards globally. Membership is a hot ticket, judging by the club’s expansion. Behemoths including BlackRock, J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Standard Life have joined, and are voting against boards that fail to appoint more women.In much of western Europe, such efforts follow a decade-long push by governments. In 2008 Norway obliged listed companies to reserve at least 40% of their director seats for women on pain of dissolution. In the following five years more than a dozen countries set similar quotas at 30% to 40%. In B

Will Comcast try to outbid Disney for Fox?

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WHEN Disney struck a deal just before Christmas to buy much of 21st Century Fox for $66bn, it was a career-defining moment for the two firms’ bosses, Bob Iger and Rupert Murdoch. A third media mogul, Brian Roberts of Comcast, was left out in the cold. Having tried and failed last autumn to get Mr Murdoch to take a higher offer, Mr Roberts may now be preparing a still richer bid to upend the deal.It is not hard to understand his motivation. Comcast is in an awkward position at a time when the media landscape is shifting. With millions of consumers dropping pay-TV for the likes of Netflix, media companies have suddenly become either buyers, to achieve scale, or sellers, to exit. Mr Roberts has always been a buyer, building the cable business his father started into a diversified empire throu

Opportunities are opening for electrified commercial vehicles

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Pulls a heavy weight of expectationELECTRIC commercial vehicles were once a common sight in Britain’s towns and cities. A fleet of 25,000 battery-powered milk floats roved the early-morning streets delivering a crucial part of the nation’s breakfast. Short ranges and low top speed were unimportant for a milk round but near-silent running meant customers could sleep. Their demise came as supermarkets expanded, but electrification of business vehicles is gathering pace anew.Just as better battery technology is bringing down the cost and boosting the range of passenger electric vehicles (EVs), those advances are making electrification of commercial vehicles more appealing. The purchase price is still far higher than a comparable vehicle with an internal combustion engine (ICE). But businesses

The markets still have plenty to fret about

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BULL markets always climb a wall of worry, or so the saying goes. For much of 2017, the main concerns were political and the markets seemed to surmount them as easily as a robot dog opens doors (the latest internet sensation).But February has shown that the market is still vulnerable. The immediate trigger seems to have been the fear that inflationary pressures would cause bond yields to rise and central banks to push up interest rates; this week’s surprisingly high American inflation numbers will only add to the worries. In a narrow sense, that makes bonds look cheaper, compared with equities. In a broader sense, it increases the discount rate investors apply to future profits, lowering the present value of shares. (A caveat is needed: if higher rates reflect stronger growth, then estimat

Recent tax reforms in America will hurt charities

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DESPITE its oft-professed pro-market orthodoxy, America has always had an unusually large non-profit sector. Americans gave $390bn to charity in 2016, with the bulk of contributions coming from individual donors. Historically, revenues at non-profits tend to track GDP growth. The recent tax reforms imply that despite strong economic growth, charitable contributions in America are poised to fall for the first time since the financial crisis.The most significant threat to charities comes from changes to income tax. American taxpayers can choose either to “itemise” specific expenses, such as charitable gifts or mortgage payments, or take a “standard deduction”. In an effort both to simplify the tax code and to lower overall tax rates, the Republican-led Congress almost doubled the standard de

Going out need no longer be a headache for teetotallers

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BARS and pubs have not usually been the non-drinker’s friend. Knocking back pint after pint of juice or fizzy drink quickly gets boring. But beverage manufacturers are now showing more sympathy for their plight. Many companies regard non-alcoholic drinks as the “biggest opportunity in the market”, says Frank Lampen, who runs Distill Ventures, which helps small producers with investment and advice, and is backed by Diageo, a British drinks giant.One of the fund’s recent investments, for example, is in Seedlip, a British firm that makes distilled, non-alcoholic “spirits” flavoured with botanicals, and which last year launched in America. Low-alcohol beer, once maligned for its paucity of flavour, is also in fashion. Technological advances mean alcohol can be filtered out of the beer without