Economist 6/29/14

  1. FACEBOOK, Amazon, Twitter and a host of other big companies in today’s “data-driven economy” share one thing in common: they make a living from harvesting personal data. Such issues have long troubled Jennifer Lyn Morone, an American living in London (pictured). So to regain some ownership and control of her data (and other assets related to her existence) she decided to become Jennifer Lyn Morone™ Inc (JLM), registered like all savvy corporations in Delaware. To do this, Ms Morone and a group of computer-geek friends are developing a multi-sensor device that she will wear almost all the time (“it’s not yet waterproof,” she muses), and a software application known as the Database of Me, or DOME, which will store and manage all the data she generates. JLM’s eventual goal is to create a software “platform” for personal-data management; companies and other entities would be able to purchase data from DOME via the platform, but how they could use it would be limited by encryption or data-tagging. The software, then, would act as an automated data broker on behalf of the individual. some of JLM’s most valuable data, such as financial transactions and health records, are by definition controlled by other organisations (such as banks), although Ms Morone will be able to re-package and resell them (data can be sold many times without losing their value).
  2. Under some traditions in South Africa, women are still treated as chattels. One practice is known as ukuthwala, whereby a young girl is abducted and taken to the family home of a man, usually a lot older than herself, who wants to marry her.d. But many South Africans were outraged by the notion of a young woman being used as a gift; some even compared the practice to the kidnapping of schoolgirls by Boko Haram.A controversial Traditional Courts Bill, proposed in 2012, would have handed greater judicial powers to male traditional leaders. Though introduced in Parliament, it was never—after sharp criticism from women’s groups—approved. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has a history of promoting gender equality, using rough quotas for members of parliament.
  3. Cannabis has always been rife in West Africa, but a rise in the pace of drug trafficking has brought in harder stuff such as cocaine and heroin. In the past decade, drug barons have been peddling their goods through west Africa to feed hungry markets in Europe and North America.The UN reckons that cocaine worth $1.25 billion passes through west Africa every year. There are almost no data on drug abuse, but experts agree it is increasing.. In Nigeria alone, the authorities claim to have seized 200kg of heroin in 2012, more than five times the amount recovered the year before.d. While some high-level arrests are being made, it is mainly small-time dealers and people buying drugs for their personal use who are thrown into prison to make the statistics look good, while the men at the top go untouched—thanks to corruption.
  4. BRITAIN’S National Health Service (NHS) was recently judged the “world’s best health-care system” by the Washington-based Commonwealth Fund in its latest ranking of 11 rich countries’ health provision. The Commonwealth Fund tends to give the NHS a pretty clean bill of health in its assessments (it also scores Switzerland, Sweden and Australia highly).What the NHS is good at is providing cost-efficient care. It spends $3,405 per person per annum, less than half America’s outlay of $8,508. Alas, that does not mean the NHS is financially secure: a £2 billion ($3.4 billion) shortfall looms from 2015 and NHS England is struggling to implement £20 billion in savings.The Commonwealth Fund most values equity and access, and so rewards the systems where it finds these
  5. There is fast-expanding three-way alliance between Germany’s Daimler, Japan’s Nissan and France’s Renault. Renault and Nissan first paired up in 1999, with Daimler making it a ménage à trois in 2010 after it divorced Detroit’s Chrysler. But last week the Japanese and Germans went a step further: they announced that would jointly build an assembly plant worth about $1.4 billion in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The factory will make 300,000 cars a year when it reaches full capacity in 2021 and employ about 5,700 people. The plan is to produce compact luxury vehicles that will be sold under both Nissan’s Infiniti brand as well as a Mercedes-Benz marque.f. Infiniti and Daimler’s models will share an “platform”, meaning that they will use a common design for such things as the power train and the steering mechanism.

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