The next emergency in Europe is south of Rome

Originally posted on Quartz:

While Europe is busy dealing with Greece, there is another emergency that’s remained quietly unresolved over the past several decades. Mario Draghi called it (pdf, p.6, in Italian) “the largest and most populous backward territory of the Euro zone.” It’s southern Italy, called Mezzogiorno, where over 21 millions Italians live—over a third of the population—and are responsible for producing under a fourth of the country’s GDP. This area has historically been problematic in terms of its economy while the productive heart of the country lies in the north.

More than 25% of southern families report being in serious financial deprivation and more than half of the 6 millions Italians (link in Italian) who live in poverty are in the southern region. The south has been affected by the recession even worse than the rest of the country. This is all aggravated by the presence of several organized criminal groups: the Cosa Nostra,

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Europe doesn’t have a debt crisis—it has a democracy crisis

Originally posted on Quartz:

Europe might be listening to the wrong Merkel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is perhaps the most powerful figure among the constellation of European elites who now face an incredibly difficult series of decisions after Greece rejected the terms of yet another proposed bailout.

But it’s not Angela Merkel, but Wolfgang Merkel, whose thinking really gets to the heart of what’s gone so terribly wrong with the European project.

Wolfgang Merkel, a German academic who studies democracy, published a provocative essay last year entitled “Is capitalism compatible with democracy?” In it, he argues, essentially, that the fragile post-World-War II peace between markets and democracy—both of which have grown rapidly—seems to to be fraying. In the aftermath of the global financial collapse of 2008, “the crisis of capitalism threatens to turn into a crisis of democracy.”

That’s what’s happening to Greece. In a debt crisis that has already lasted a…

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Botswana’s hearing aid pioneers are betting on solar power to go global

Originally posted on Quartz:

Six years after developing the prototype of a solar-powered hearing aid, Deaftronics, a Botswana-based company, is readying to take its technology global.

Later this month, the company will pitch its pioneering solar-powered hearing aid at the Global Innovation Through Science and Technology (GIST Tech-I) in Kenya. The global contest–which takes place on the sidelines of US President Barack Obama’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES)–is an initiative of the US Department of State that seeks to find impactful science and technology companies making a difference in over 74 countries.

Since the launch of the company in 2009, Deaftronics has sold over 10 000 solar-powered hearing aids. Priced at $200 per unit, each unit hearing aid comes with four rechargeable batteries that can last up to three years and a solar charger for the rechargeable batteries. The product is cheaper than many popular hearings aids, that can start from around $600.

Deaftronics' hearing aid unit includes a digital rechargeable hearing aid, a solar battery charger and 4 rechargeable batteries Deaftronics’ hearing aid unit includes…

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Scientists say many worker ants are actually super lazy

Originally posted on Quartz:

We tend to think of ants, and other social insects such as bees and termites, as busy little workers, but it turns out some of them may actually be quite lazy.

A study (paywall) conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona observed five colonies of Themnothorax rugatulus—a common ant species found across western Canada and the United States—and tracked their movements for three random days over a three weeks. Before they began their observations, they painted certain ants so they could track their individual activities. The team recorded five-minute videos of the colonies at four-hour intervals, and categorized the type of work they were doing at a given time.

They were surprised to find that almost half of the ants were actually fairly inactive throughout the day. While their counterparts busied themselves with nest-building or foraging, these ants were “effectively ‘specializing’ on inactivity,” according to the paper.

Which raises the question: why?


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Dominating mobile money could lead to the break-up of Kenya’s biggest mobile network

Originally posted on Quartz:

The Kenyan government is introducing new regulations this week in parliament that could lead to the break-up of Safaricom, the country’s leading telecom company.

Fred Matiang’i, the cabinet secretary at the Ministry of Information, suggested that this is part of an effort to protect against monopolies. “Telecommunication firms need to be regulated to ensure some players are not strangled,” he said.

Safaricom, partly owned by the British mobile firm Vodafone, currently has more than 60% of Kenya’s 33 million mobile users.


If the new regulations pass parliament, Safaricom could be forced to separate its mobile money unit, M-Pesa, from its mobile phone services (voice and data) and infrastructure businesses, potentially weakening its position in the market. And it will mean victory for rival Airtel, which has long argued that Safaricom’s dominance is anti-competitive.

Last year, the Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK) ordered Safaricom to allow its mobile money agents to host services from other…

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