Economist 4/23/15

  1. The bed-bath-bread crisis in Netherlands was triggered on April 15th, when the Council of Europe reaffirmed a decision that the Netherlands must offer decent humanitarian conditions to rejected asylum applicants until they leave the country. Applications for asylum in the Netherlands jumped from 13,000 in 2012 to 24,000 in 2014, leaving a fair number of such rejected applicants hanging about—perhaps 5,000 according to Vluchtelingenwerk. Many refuse or are unable to leave. Returning them forcibly to their home countries is expensive and presents legal hurdles. Dutch municipalities do not like to have rejected asylum-seekers living on the streets, so many offer them food and shelter in city facilities, despite the fact that they have no right to be in the country.e Liberal prime minister, Mark Rutte, and the Labour party leader, Diederik Samsom, announced that they had reached a deal. The shelters for rejected asylum-seekers would be restricted to the Netherlands’ five largest cities. Asylum-seekers could stay as long as they showed they were co-operating in finding a way to leave the country; otherwise, they would be kicked out after two weeks.
  2. ABOLISHING thalassaemia is a noble goal. This inherited blood disease, which can cause severe anaemia and consequent organ damage, sometimes fatal, is a scourge to those who suffer it. And abolished it could be, if the broken gene that causes it (which is called HBB and encodes part of the haemoglobin molecule) were itself to be abolished.A newish DNA-editing technique called CRISPR/Cas9 is able, at least in principle, to make precise changes in particular genes. Several groups of researchers are trying to work out a way to use it to clear up beta thalassaemia in individual sufferers, by genetically modifying the stem cells which generate red blood corpuscles. But it is theoretically possible to go further. By modifying HBB in a fertilised egg (known technically as a zygote), and letting that zygote develop into a human being, you would abolish the disease not only in the resulting individual but also in his or her “germ line”—the line of descent.
  3. A decade ago Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways were insignificant. But these three “super-connectors”, joined in recent years by Turkish Airlines, increasingly dominate long-haul routes between Europe and Asia. In 2001 Emirates and Qatar both flew from 17 destinations in Europe; they now serve 32. Last year all four super-connector carriers flew about 115m people into and out of their hubs in the Gulf or Istanbul, compared with 50m in 2008. Their combined fleet has swollen to more than 700 aircraft and they have a further 900 or so on order.
  4. The biggest cause of ungreenness is that biofuels made from food crops—or from plants grown on land that might otherwise produce such crops—hurt food supplies. A committee of the European Parliament agreed this week to cap the use of “first-generation” biofuels of this sort. The current European target is for renewables to make up 10% of the energy used in transport by 2020. The new proposal says only seven-tenths of this can come from first-generation fuels.Only two such advanced fuels, she thinks, are capable of large-scale production. One is turning waste cooking oil and other fats into diesel—a process for which Europe already has 2 billion litres of capacity. The other involves making ethanol from cellulose by enzymatic hydrolysis. Everything else, according to Ms Curry, is at least four years from commercial production. That includes the much-touted idea of renewable jet fuel.
  5. THE little pills of Tramadol are ubiquitous in Egypt. An opioid prescribed as a painkiller, Tramadol has a reputation for improving alertness and male sexual stamina—qualities much sought after in a country where people often have several jobs to make ends meet and where few women find it easy to experience orgasm because of widespread female genital mutilation.Until recently, Tramadol was selling for one or two Egyptian pounds a pill ($0.15-$0.3). It offers an affordable buzz in a country where average household income is less than $4,000 a year. Egypt is a transit point for pharmaceuticals shipped to nearby countries. Customs inspections under President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi have recently been tightened. In 2013 the government seized 35m pills which, it said, had been smuggled in.. The price of Tramadol has risen sharply, at one point reaching $1-$3 a pill.
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