Brics plateau, new-wave economies soar; After 1781, British monarch attends cabinet; What drives suicidal mass killers; Dead man Bryan tells his tale to all smokers; After 14 years, Nokia is toppled

1 Brics plateau, new-wave economies soar (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) They are big. They have young and growing populations. They have invested in infrastructure and education. And they are growing at the sort of rates that make them the envy of the recession-hobbled west. These are not the famed Brics – the big emerging market economies of which much has been heard since the acronym was first coined by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs more than a decade ago.

Rather, they are a second wave of countries – some Asian, some Latin American, some African – coming up fast behind.
As the west remains mired in gloom and even the Brics start to plateau, attention is turning to this group of countries, many of which not so long ago were rudely dismissed as basket cases. Acronyms are hard to coin, as few of them start with a vowel. But when growth rates for 2013 are chalked up, these are the countries that will dominate the top 20.

By the middle of the 2000s it became impossible to discuss the future of the world economy without the presence of China and India, and when a second great depression loomed in late 2008 the G20 was formed. This included not just the G8 and the Brics but a sprinkling of the more strategically important emerging economies, such as Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Mexico, Argentina and South Africa. Recent developments suggest that more seats may be needed at the conference table before too long.

While some emerging countries, such as Vietnam, have been hard hit by falling western demand for their exports since the financial crisis of 2007-08, others have been sustaining strong growth rates. Bangladesh and the Philippines have been helped by remittances sent home from expatriates working overseas. Nigeria has been a beneficiary of the global commodity boom that has seen the cost of a barrel of Brent crude oil remain above $100 a barrel. Mexico and Indonesia have generated strong domestic demand from their large populations. John Hawksworth, chief economist at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), said: “There are countries beyond the Brics that have quite strong long-term growth potential.”

2 After 1781, British monarch attends cabinet meet (Patrick Wintour in The Guardian) Queen Elizabeth II became the first monarch to attend a full peacetime cabinet since 1781, when she sat in on a full-length discussion of the political and military situation in Afghanistan and advised ministers that the Queen’s speech next year should be “shorter rather than longer”. She is the first monarch to attend cabinet since George III, during the premiership of Lord North when the American war of independence was raging, and the first female monarch to do so since Queen Anne. The last time a monarch regularly attended was when George I chaired the cabinet in 1717.

In what was the penultimate official appointment of her diamond jubilee celebrations, the 86-year-old sat a little back from the cabinet table, as if to distance herself from democratic politics. She was placed between the foreign secretary William Hague and David Cameron – who gave up the seat he normally occupies as prime minister – with the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister Nick Clegg sat opposite. The request for her attendance at the cabinet, as opposed to the weekly audience between Queen and prime minister, was suggested as a way of saying thank you to her at the close of her diamond jubilee year.

Cameron is her 12th prime minister. Cameron opened the meeting by saying it was the first time a monarch had attended a full cabinet since George III in 1781. He said Anglo-American relations had improved since then. Apart from expressing the hope that the next Queen’s Speech would be shorter rather than longer, the Queen remained silent during her 45-minute appearance at the cabinet table but, according to the communities secretary Eric Pickles, she took a close interest in the discussion on the Afghan war.

3 What drives suicidal mass killer (Adam Lankford in The New York Times)
There appears to be a triad of factors that sets suicidal mass killers apart. The first is that they are generally struggling with mental health problems that have produced their desire to die. The suicide rate was 12.4 per 100,000 people in the US in 2010 (the highest in 15 years). Suicide is relatively rare, but it is rarer still in most Muslim countries.

The second factor is a deep sense of victimization and belief that the killer’s life has been ruined by someone else, who has bullied, oppressed or persecuted him. It makes little difference whether the perceived victimizer is an enemy government (in the case of suicide terrorists) or their boss, co-workers, fellow students or family members (in the case of rampage shooters). In many cases, the target for revenge becomes broader and more symbolic than a single person, so that an entire type or category of people is deemed responsible for the attacker’s pain and suffering.

The third factor is the desire to acquire fame and glory through killing. More than 70% of murder-suicides are between spouses or romantic or sexual partners, and these crimes usually take place at home. Attackers who commit murder-suicide in public are far more brazen and unusual. Most suicide terrorists believe they will be honored and celebrated as “martyrs” after their deaths and, sure enough, terrorist organizations produce martyrdom videos and memorabilia so that other desperate souls will volunteer to blow themselves up.

4 Dead man Bryan tells his tale to all smokers (Rachel Wells in Canberra Times) It is difficult to pinpoint which is most confronting – the image of Bryan Curtis’ corpse-like body, so emaciated it is hard to tell if he is dead or alive, or the photo taken just 10 weeks earlier of the then 33-year-old – seemingly fit, with a wide moustache and shining, blue eyes, unrecognisable as the man about to die.

Whichever it is, the pictures that stare out from a murky green cigarette pack are haunting. So much so, that of all the graphic images currently being splashed across the plain packs – there are seven in circulation and seven more to be introduced next year – this is the one smokers do not want to have to look at. The story of exactly how Bryan Curtis came to appear on our plain packs is unclear. The Department of Health will only say that Mr Curtis was a US citizen who died of smoking-related lung cancer. It entered into a confidential agreement with his family to use the images.

Fairfax Media believes it was Mr Curtis’ dying wish to prevent even one child sharing the same fate. An article published in the St Petersburg Times in Florida in June 1999, just weeks after he died, tells the story of the St Petersburg mechanic, roofer and construction worker, who smoked two packs of Marlboro Reds a day for nearly 20 years, until he died, aged 34.

In the weeks before his death, the father of two urged his mother to help him spread the anti-smoking message. She subsequently rang newspapers, radio and television stations seeking someone who would tell her son’s story. That person was Sue Landry of the St Petersburg Times. Since then, her article and the accompanying images have been shared across the internet. His shocking image is also believed to have been published in Time magazine and pinned on fridges, in schools and in factories around the world.

5 After 14 years, Nokia is toppled by Samsung (Straits Times) Samsung has overtaken Nokia as the top mobile phone brand for 2012 and has opened up a decisive lead over Apple in the smartphone market, a research firm said. This will mark the first time in 14 years that Finnish-based Nokia will not sit atop the global mobile phone business on an annual basis, according to IHS iSuppli.

Samsung is expected to account for 29% of worldwide cellphone shipments, up from 24% in 2011, according to the IHS, which said Nokia’s share dropped to 24% from 30%. This will mark the first time the South Korean electronics giant will occupy the top on a yearly basis, IHS said.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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