World Bank cuts global growth forecast; Culture war over Delhi gang rape; Facebook eyes Google turf on searches

1 World Bank cuts global growth forecast (BBC) The World Bank has cut its 2013 global growth outlook, blaming a slower-than-expected recovery in developed nations. In its twice-yearly Global Economic Prospects report, the bank said it expected world growth to be 2.4% this year, down on the 3% forecast in June. The bank also warned of the damage being done to confidence by the US budget battles in Washington. Although financial markets are calmer than they were last year, it is not reflected in growth, the bank said.

“What we are seeing is a recovery we anticipated in June being pushed a little further back in time, beginning closer to the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter of 2013, rather than beginning a little earlier,” said the bank in its report. “You can keep markets calm for one or two years, but if this is not backed up with real growth you could get another round of financial risks coming in.” The bank forecasts growth in the US this year of 1.9%, but says this is based on US politicians in Washington making progress in budget talks.

2 Culture war over Delhi gang rape (Jason Burke in The Guardian)
The Delhi gang rape case has provoked outrage and anger, coming against a background of rising violence to women in India. Reported cases of rape have more than doubled in the past 20 years, according to official data, with women being a high proportion of victims of soaring violent crime too.

India’s supreme court last week declared Delhi “unsafe” for women. But the gang rape case has also led to a fierce and unprecedented debate on attitudes to women in India. Those who say radical social change is essential to make women safer are clashing with conservatives who say the opposite. Some characterise the confrontation as a “culture war”.

“There is a conflict and its location is what women can do and not do,” said Shoma Chaudhury, managing editor of news magazine Tehelka. Many conservatives maintain “capitalism and consumerism and growing individualism” have led to “decay in the society”. Often “westernisation” is blamed. Since the rape, a series of village councils in northern India have banned girls from using mobile phones, wearing “decadent” dress or dancing at weddings.

Such attempts to control women’s behaviour are rooted in anxiety and the weakness of the Indian state to protect its citizens, said Reicha Tanwar, of Kurukshetra University, in the northern state of Haryana, where sex ratios are among the most skewed in India and there has been a spate of attacks on women.

3 Facebook eyes Google turf on searches (Evelyn M Rusli & Amir Efrati in The Wall Street Journal) After years of collecting photos and personal data from its billion-plus members, Facebook has unveiled a search tool that sifts through people’s profiles—and pushes the social network deeper into Google’s home turf. The two companies are vying to become the primary gateway to the Internet. Google has long served as a destination to find websites and information; Facebook, to share gossip and photos with friends. But those distinctions are increasingly blurring, and billions in advertising dollars are at stake.

The social network said it will enable members to conduct complex queries related to their friends’ profiles, such as “tourist attractions in France visited by my friends.” In doing so, Facebook is attacking Google’s core strength and its most lucrative product—search—in a bid to convince people they might not need to use Google to find information. Google generates the majority of its $40 billion in annual revenue world-wide from selling ads on its search engine. In the US, Google was projected to make more than $13 billion in search-ad revenue, or 75% of the entire market, in 2012, according to research firm eMarketer Inc.

Google’s repository of information remains unmatched. It said it has indexed 30 trillion unique Web pages across 230 million sites. Last year, Google changed its search engine to make it easier for people to quickly get detailed information about people, places and real-world things by displaying photos, facts and other “direct answers” to search queries at the top of the search-results page, rather than just links.

Having witnessed Facebook’s rise and anticipating its move into search, Google built its own social-networking service, Google+, in 2011 to obtain data about specific individuals by name, their personal interests and the identities of their friends. It then integrated Google+ with its Web-search service, so that people searching for a particular website, local restaurant or real-world product will be alerted if any of their Google+ contacts previously rated it positively or negatively.

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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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