UK economy poised to stay on A-list; Culture war aids Hong Kong democracy move; Prince, FB in effort to bridge digital divide

1 UK economy poised to stay on A-list (Phillip Inman in The Guardian) Forecasters have good news for those fearing that Britain faces a long, slow decline into economic mediocrity: the UK will still stand tall among the world’s biggest economies in 2030, having overtaken France and even made progress on closing the gap with Germany.

Only India will leapfrog the UK on the rich list of nations, according to the report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as the previously fast-growing countries Russia and Brazil struggle to make ground on the global league table. According to the report, the youthful vigour of the UK economy, with its high birthrate and flexible labour market, will contrast markedly with the ageing populations of mainland Europe.

Ignoring the potential for Scotland to spoil the party by voting to separate in September, the report forecasts that Britain will remain “a significant member of the global economic A-list”.

Only a couple of years ago there were forecasts that Britain would rapidly become a second-class economic power and would need to defer to the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China in the near future. China has ranked above Japan for a decade as the world’s second-biggest economy. By some calculations Brazil leapfrogged the UK in 2012, with Russia and India close behind.

2 Culture war aids Hong Kong democracy move (Adam Minter in Straits Times) Political freedom is not the only impetus for the hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters who this week marched through central Hong Kong. True, the immediate cause was the Chinese government’s recent efforts to assert greater control over Hong Kong. But that is not all of it, by any means.

Tension between citizens of Hong Kong and mainland China has been increasing for several years now, metastasising into cross-border online shouting matches that have made strong impressions on people – and governments – in both places. Earlier this year, mainland Chinese were shocked by a deplorable incident in which Hong Kong locals sprayed mainland tourists with water from bottles labelled “locust insecticide”.

As almost every mainland Chinese knows by now, “locust” is what tens of millions of Chinese tourists who visit Hong Kong annually were labelled in a notorious 2012 advertisement in Hong Kong’s most ardent pro-democracy newspaper, the Apple Daily. (It was paid for by 800 donors responding to a Facebook campaign.) It was an ugly message, and it served little purpose beyond highlighting an intractable cross-border culture war – all the while convincing many Chinese that to be pro-democracy is to be anti-Chinese.

The contrast of world views, and the hate it engenders, is profound. In the eyes of many Hong Kong residents, mainland Chinese are uncouth buffoons with bulging wallets, no manners and no deference to Hong Kong’s status as a more highly developed and cultured gem. For mainlanders, Hong Kong residents are snobs who fail to accept that they belong to One China.

3 Prince, FB in effort to bridge digital divide (Joe Garofoli in San Francisco Chronicle) Prince is headlining the 20th annual Essence Festival in New Orleans this weekend — but he only agreed to do so if the organizers held a hackathon to call attention to the digital divide.

Only 6 percent of US tech workers are African American and 7 percent are Latino; 15 percent are Asian American and 71 percent are white, according to 2011 census data. Despite its claims of meritocracy, tech’s demographic breakdown is comparable to the white-collar finance and insurance industries, according to 2012 data from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The biggest challenge to diversifying the tech world is creating a pipeline from low-income communities to Silicon Valley. But how do low opportunity kids find out where they can learn how to code? On Saturday, Facebook will roll out a new searchable database of all the organizations nationwide teaching low-opportunity youth to code. So far, 70 nonprofits are in the mix. The Prince-ordered hackathon starts Friday night — co-sponsored by Facebook — and will end Sunday with $10,000 worth of prizes for the winning team.


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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