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The Big Ideas: The friendship formula, stupid economy, and the tricky Chinese consumer

AP Photo Kin Cheung
In Hong Kong, anti-Japanese protestors hld signs of disputed islands in South China Seas.
By Lauren Alix Brown, S. Mitra Kalita
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The formula to friendship. Steven Strogatz in The New York Times answers the question of why your Facebook friends always seem to have more friends than you. In a colossal study of millions of Facebook users, researchers found “the average number of friends of friends is always greater than the average number of friends of individuals.” No duh, you say? To reach that conclusion, though, involved invoking algebraic equations like:

Just to prove that you are not alone—even if it looks like you are.

It’s the stupid economy. Martin Wolf in the Financial Times argues that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke had no choice but to act boldly last week. “Is this riskless? No. Does it make sense? Yes, because the results of doing nothing would be far worse.”

Brazil’s Belo damned. Alfonso Stefanini in The Rio Times reveals that a large portion Belo Dam’s energy output will be eaten up by the mining industry. There are also big questions about the project’s environmental impact and displacement of thousands of workers undercutting any promise of sustainability. “Brazil is hungry for more energy …. The country has to increase its energy matrix to include more wind, solar and geothermal sources.”

The “goat islands” dispute. William Pesek in Bloomberg View criticizes China and Japan for their silly feud over a bunch of low-value island filled with goats. China’s trying to deflect attention from its domestic politics and Japan is flexing at a time of waning influence. “Asia should be signing free-trade agreements; linking stock markets and bond markets; harmonizing immigration, tax and accounting standards; and discussing what to do with the trillions of dollars of U.S. treasuries sitting unproductively on government balance sheets.”

The tricky Chinese Consumer. Suzanne McGee in The Fiscal Times points out that Home Depot is not alone in its failed strategy to court the new middle class in China. Wal-Mart, Estee Lauder, and Fossil, companies that have seen success, are predicting a slowdown. “It may be time for investors to think twice before they ascribe any kind of premium to companies that have trumpeted their success in building a presence in China.”

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