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The giant US retailer Sears, the “everything store”, offers a cautionary tale about how companies across the sector have failed to keep ahead of their customers’ needs and shopping behaviour. For Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, who explores the company’s bankruptcy filing in a column this week, it is not just a sad tale of a once-great American business fallen on hard times.

The demise of the “19th-century offline Amazon”, as Andrew describes it, is a warning to those other companies who have failed to come up with adequate strategies in response to the online retail threat. They needed, he argues, to reinvent their offering as “distinctive, appealing or relevant.”

Janan Ganesh analyses the reputational recovery of Obamacare, now an electoral asset for the Democrats in the US midterms rather than for the Republicans, who persist in ignoring its new-found popularity.

Wilbur Ross, the US commerce secretary, writes on the EU-US privacy shield, arguing that it is vital to trade.

Roula Khalaf exposes the enduring myth of the young Arab reformer, pointing out that the Saudi crown prince is not the first scion of a repressive regime to charm the west and then turn out to be as or even more brutal than his predecessors.

Zia Chishti of Afiniti warns that today’s AI is not much better at solving problems than its ancestors.

What you’ve been saying . . .

How astonishment was turned into repulsion: letter from John Alexander, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Gideon Rachman’s slow switch of gear in “US reliance on Saudi Arabia is dangerous” is telling. He begins by referring to Jamal Khashoggi’s “disappearance and probable death”, which then becomes an “apparent murder”, followed by the statement that the Saudi crown prince “clearly failed to understand the potential impact of an action that was so brutal and brazen”. He reflects the astonishment forcibly converted by the facts into repulsion that a country now claiming to subscribe to some semblance of decent values should use its diplomatic facilities for murder.

In response to “Workplace exhaustion is a vicious cycle in the UK” horsesatemymoney says:

These [employee engagement] questionnaires are commonplace but the questions are, as Sarah says, mostly crap. The alternatives suggested are a lot more meaningful. You could add: “Do you feel there is a culture of presenteeism? Do you spend too much time in meetings or producing reports which you consider useless?”

For and by the people is closer to the mark: letter from Jon Elster, Columbia University, US

Philip Cerny ( Letters) identifies democracy as the idea that public goods and services should be provided to the population in general, not just to special interests. This claim is consistent with the maxim of Emperor Joseph II of Austria: “Tout pour le peuple, rien par le peuple.” The idea of government for and by the people seems closer to the mark.

Today’s opinion

Lex: US banks: follow the money
Credit card and car loan specialists will reveal financial woes of typical consumers

Lex: Fresenius: kidney punch
Profits from the dialysis business are not flowing smoothly

Lex: Mediclinic: hospital pass
Middle East expansion makes sense in view of the area’s low tax and light regulation regime

Transatlantic privacy deal is vital to trade
European legal challenges to data agreements must not hamper information flows

Lex: Netflix: sub bubble
Streaming group’s ‘happy ending’ could yet prove just another plot twist

FT Magazine: The power of amputee marathon runners
The Paralympics is the world’s third biggest sporting event after the Olympics and the football World Cup

Lex: Asos: all-weather gear
Why online fashion store must sustain its stellar growth rate

Lex: Taiwan/Formosa bonds: yield to authority
Forcing insurers to invest more at home does not help with long-term obligations

Obamacare’s recovery defies the Republican death wish
The once-hated healthcare reform is now an asset for Democrats in the midterms

Sears: how a pioneering brand found itself left on the shelf
The retailer’s collapse shows even century-old companies need to earn their future

The enduring myth of the young Arab reformer
In the Middle East, westerners routinely confuse youth with a commitment to change

Artificial intelligence: winter is coming
Today’s AI is not much better at solving real world problems than its ancestors

beyondbrics: How to boost early stage deal flow in Africa
Tech hubs, accelerators and incubators need the tools to do their job

Fun facts about quantum computing
Our writer sets out to understand the mysterious technology. Here is what he learnt

FT Alphaville: Markets Live: Wednesday, 17th October 2018

Free Lunch: On public wealth, ignorance is not bliss
By managing assets well, governments can do better on debt too

The FT View: Grant Thornton’s chief executive is leaving before her time
Accountancy is losing a dynamic leader. It must not now lose its way

fastFT: Opening Quote: Asos growth ‘slows’, Crest finance director goes

FT Alphaville: Economic climate models are elegant, brilliant and, in the US, failing us

FT View

The FT View: The EU tries to jump-start its electric battery sector
Europe needs plants and technology to provide power cells for new generation of vehicles

The FT View: Grant Thornton’s chief executive is leaving before her time
Accountancy is losing a dynamic leader. It must not now lose its way

The Big Read

The Big Read: Vedanta’s London exit fails to stem scrutiny of Indian miner
The group has quit the LSE but faces growing domestic pressure over its environmental record

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