Good morning, Quartz readers!
“Minister,” said Humphrey, “I beg you not to refer to it as a tin-pot African country. It is an LDC.”
In the 1980s British comedy Yes, Minister, the hapless minister learns from his smooth-talking civil-service mandarin that poor countries used to be called “underdeveloped,” but this was deemed offensive; then “developing,” but that was patronizing. Now they were Less Developed Countries, or LDCs. And as soon as this started causing offense, they would be renamed Human Resource-Rich Countries, or HRRCs.
The joke, of course, was that the words might change, but the mindset did not. The world was forever divided into rich and poor, mature and immature, civilized and savage.
That’s why the World Bank’s decision this week to ban the term “developing countries” from its World Development Indicators is so important. It’s not replacing it with a new, less patronizing name, but abolishing the “developed/developing” distinction altogether.
As Quartz’s Tim Fernholz explains, this is in part because the distinction is just no longer statistically useful. Over time, “developing” countries have, in fact, developed. On key health indicators like infant mortality, the world is a lot more homogeneous than it was. In income terms, some “developing” countries are closer to the West than to their erstwhile peers. There are still gigantic gaps in both wealth and wellbeing, but increasingly, it is the gaps not just between countries but also within them that statisticians, and policy-makers, should attend to.
Broad groupings of countries are useful. But they can become crutches for simplistic thinking, and have a habit of lingering long after they become outdated. (Remember the BRICs?) In abolishing “developed/developing” from its data sets, the World Bank is signaling that it’s time to let go of a widely-held but greatly antiquated view of the world. Perhaps other agencies that still retain such distinctions should follow its lead.—Gideon Lichfield
Britain has turned its back on child refugees. Nine months before the start of the Second World War, Britain saved 10,000 child refugees from certain death in a remarkable humanitarian program, the ”Kindertransport.” Aamna Mohdin describes the dangerous journeys children fleeing conflict face today, and why the idea of giving them sanctuary in the UK now has become so controversial.
The Bayer-Monsanto deal is a merger 4,000 years in the making. Centuries of productivity gains in farming, combined with a finite amount of arable land, has led to a push for efficiency in modern agriculture, writes Oliver Staley. It’s also meant diminishing returns for the industry. As a result, consolidation between crop science companies is one of the few ways for the agriculture industry to wring out future growth.
US immigration data should not be for sale. At a time when US border policy is under close scrutiny, Quartz’s David Yanofsky asked the government for data about the flow of people into the country. The government offered to sell him five years of statistics for almost $175,000. So now Yanofsky is suing. He explains his case for why the data should be freely available.
It’s time to retire the “plus-size” label. A growing number of women are boycotting “plus-size” clothing, arguing that it is exclusionary and marginalizing. If retailers are smart, argues fashion reporter Marc Bain, they would kill the category and include a greater range of sizes in their core lines instead.
How a single word can cause a diplomatic row. Chinese officials are extraordinarily sensitive to language, as Zheping Huang explains in two recent cases. One was the inaugural speech by Taiwan’s new president, in which she omitted a crucial word that hints at China-Taiwan unity; the other, Beijing’s use of “inspection” to describe a visit by high-ranking official to Hong Kong.
In this episode of Actuality, we visit an auction house to see how a billion dollars of contemporary art can be sold in just a week. But this bubbling avant-garde market isn’t just for the global elite—public museums are now housing more recently-made art than ever before. Is this a chance to educate the masses about billionaire-level aesthetics, or a risky gamble on fickle tastes?
Germany is very, very tired. All of Europe’s problems—the refugee crisis, economic malaise, Russian belligerence—seem to land on Angela’s Merkel lap, observes John Micklethwait of Bloomberg. He predicts a vicious cycle: “As Germany gets ever more frustrated with Europe’s inability to change, it gets ever less likely to lead, so the change it wants becomes ever less likely to happen.”
The Ukrainian hacker who scammed the FBI. Lured to the US in a sting operation, a young Maksym Popov became a valued collaborator, helping the FBI catch other hackers. But it turned out he was playing a longer and cleverer game. From Kevin Poulsen in Wired, a remarkable true-life story of cyber-intrigue.
Why the TSA is so terrible. The US Transport Security Administration is trying to ramp up security even as it hemorrhages staff, and the result is long, long lines. Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle says the problem is bureaucratic psychology: Career-minded TSA officials have no incentive to admit their methods are inefficient, while the security staff serving eight-hour shifts have little reason to speed things up.
What we once wore. New York Magazine reminds us that “street style” is a centuries-old art in a city where clothing is the common language. Archival photos, essays, and remembrances from notable New Yorkers show how the city’s residents have used clothes to explore, express, and expose themselves—from the hat-topped three-piece suits of the 1800s to the coveted North Face parkas of the 1990s. (Plus: that time Margaret Trudeau went commando at Studio 54.)
Life as a heroin-addicted sex worker. For the newish (and to some, controversial) drug lifestyle site The Influence, Caty Simon, a former heroin-using sex worker, offers a brutally matter-of-fact portrait of the trade, based her own experiences and interviews with others, and argues for decriminalizing both drugs and prostitution to prevent people getting trapped in desperate vulnerability.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, US immigration data, and long-lost New York fashions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.