Economist 7/30/14

  1. JEANNE CALMENT (pictured), who lived for 122 years and 164 days (longer than any other person), said the secret to her longevity was a diet rich in olive oil, port wine and chocolate. She smoked until the age of 117.Old age is also a leading risk factor for many common illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. Tackling ageing, therefore, is seen as a way to combat many diseases at once. This is the motivation behind Google’s anti-ageing startup called Calico, which was founded last year and is led by Art Levinson.The chances of a person living to 80 are based mostly on behaviour—don’t smoke, eat well and exercise—but the chances of living beyond that are based largely on genetics. A more realistic hope is that anti-ageing research leads to lower health-care costs. One of the characteristics of the very old is that they tend to be healthy right up until their deaths. They therefore cost health-care systems less than most old people, especially those suffering from chronic diseases.
  2. INDA GREENHOUSE went “out on a limb” last week and predicted that the Supreme Court will refuse to hear a challenge to an appeals court’s ruling upholding the affirmative action admissions policy at the University of Texas.on July 15th demonstrated convincingly that the University of Texas pursued its goal of educational diversity with holistic, individualised assessments of candidates’ files and considered race in only highly circumscribed ways. This approach is consistent with the Supreme Court’s long-standing position that while rigid quotas are unconstitutional, using race as one “plus-factor” among many in a candidate’s file is a permissible way to advance the “compelling state interest” of educational diversity.
  3. The national brewers’ association declares Germany “European Champion”. It brewed 94.4m hectolitres last year, beaten only by China, America and Brazil.At unification in 1990, annual consumption averaged 148 litres per head; last year it was just 107 litres. Instead, they are turning to wine, which has a higher status.Rory Lawton, an Irish beer expert in Berlin, thinks Germany’sReinheitsgebot, or beer-purity law, is discouraging innovation. The 1516 law was intended to make it easier to tax beer, through levies on its permitted ingredients: malted barley, hops, water and, later, yeast. Centuries on, brewers began using the Reinheitsgebot as a marketing tool to promote their products as pure and authentic. If anything else is put into a brew made in Germany it cannot be called Bier, but must be labelled “alcoholic malt drink”. Since the restriction on experimenting with ingredients has meant that the country has largely missed out on the American-led “craft beer” craze.
  4. On July 22ndBill Ackman the billionaire boss of Pershing Square, a hedge fund, delivered a three-hour presentation that he said would kill off Herbalife, the seller of nutritional shakes and foods by showing it to be a criminal enterprise that preys on the poor. Neither side disputes that Herbalife’s main retail channel has a structure in which participants share in revenues generated by the salespeople they recruit, as well as revenues generated by the recruits of those recruits. But Mr Ackman says his investigations show that the vast majority of nutrition-club “customers” are people paying through their consumption of Herbalife products for training they need to qualify to open a nutrition club of their own, in the hope (for most, false hope, he says) that this will provide a decent living and perhaps one day make them rich.

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