Economist 3/9/15

  1. THE DOWNSIDE of buying a cheap Windows computer these days is the amount of pre-installed junk it comes loaded with.None of this junkware is there for the user’s benefit. It gets installed in the factory strictly to bolster the maker’s bottom line.Some manufacturers sell “clean” versions of their computers for $20 to $30 more. Others offer to decrapify a purchased machine for an additional fee.To show its Windows operating system in the best possible light, Microsoft offers junk-free “Signature Edition” versions of many popular PCs through its online store. On average, Signature Edition PCs start up 104% faster and can be shut down 35% quicker than equivalent machines stuffed with the usual junk.That was when researchers found that some of Lenovo’s laptops sold between last September and this January contained a serious security flaw. The source: a preloaded piece of adware called Superfish—a visual search engine that captures images users see online, and then shows them adverts of similar products.Unfortunately, Superfish replaced the security certificates used by websites with a universal and easily cracked one of its own, allowing attackers to steal users’ credit-card details and other personal information.
  2. On March 2nd the New York Times revealed that when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she used a personal e-mail account rather than a government one for all her official business.Federal rules require all e-mails sent for government business to be stored by departments. Mrs Clinton’s evidently were not. They were in fact stored on a personal server set up in her home in Chappaqua, New York.For Republicans, the finding is politically convenient. The investigation into Benghazi had all but died for lack of anything interesting to say. The idea that Mrs Clinton may have kept back e-mails could help to revive the allegations.
  3. Federal police captured Mr Gómez on February 27th, ending one of the biggest manhunts conducted under the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto.Servando Gómez Martínez, “El Profe”, a former primary-school teacher who became head of the Knights Templar, one of Mexico’s most ruthless drug gangs in Mexico.The drug lord’s only consolation is that five days later security forces also seized Omar Treviño Morales, the head of his gang’s biggest rival, the Zetas, in a swanky suburb of Monterrey, in northern Mexico.More than a dozen of Mexico’s worst drug lords have been captured or killed during Mr Peña’s 27-month tenure, and almost all the famous ones are now behind bars. Though the subsequent splintering of their gangs does not necessarily reduce crime.
  4. One of NATO’s founding principles was that of collective self-defence, embodied in the crucial fifth clause of the 1949 Washington Treaty. It says that “an armed attack on one or more [members] shall be considered an attack on all” and that members will assist the victim(s) of such an attack “forthwith”. Article 5 seemed something of an anachronism after the Soviet collapse.Article 5 says that the response may include armed force, but it does not mandate it. All that NATO actually promises is to take “such action as it deems necessary” to restore and maintain security.Three tricky considerations would determine the precise nature of any NATO response to foreign aggression. The first is geography: in places where an aggressor can quickly complete and consolidate an invasion, NATO’s options are very limited.A second and related problem is dealing with escalation.
  5. The Palace of Westminster is crumbling.The palace is in a bad way. In a speech on March 2nd John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, argued that it is decaying faster than it is being repaired. He claimed that fixing Parliament could cost some £3 billion ($4.6 billion). It came to only about a third more to build a new terminal at Heathrow Airport.The efficient option would be for MPs to move somewhere else while workers revamp the palace, yanking out thickets of wiring and replacing the lot, for example. But politicians do not warm to the prospect of being far from government departments.Parliament is expected to vote on the matter not long after the general election. It may consider leaving for good.

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