Economist 8/20/15

  1. THE slogan of Ashley Madison, a website that arranges extramarital liaisons, is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Its home page shows a woman holding a finger to her lips. So much for promising to keep secrets. Last month a group of hackers called Impact Team stole the site’s user database and transaction history going back to 2007, and this week they released it online: more than 30m users’ names, addresses and personal details, along with GPS co-ordinates and sexual preferences.The truth is that the internet is bad at keeping secrets. The theft of personal information from large companies and government agencies has become so routine that most such breaches are quickly forgotten.
  2. JAPAN’s centenarians are no longer to depart this life with a silver dish in their mouths. This month the health ministry said it would stop giving commemorative silver cups for drinking sake as 100th birthday gifts, because Japan’s super-ageing population has made the tradition too expensive for the state. Each silver sakazuki dish costs around ¥8,000 ($64).n 1963, when the practice began, the government sent out just 153 of the little dishes, which are officially from the Prime Minister, and are engraved with the Japanese kanji for celebrating longevity. The cups are sent every year on Senior’s Day on September 15th to thank the aged for their achievements in society. Most go to elderly women, for whom life expectancy is highest of all. It startled the government that over 29,000 were called for last year, costing ¥260m ($2.1m).There are now more than 55,000 living centenarians in Japan, up from just a few hundred for most of the 20th century.
  3. ON MOST measures Britain is doing well: last year its economy grew faster than any other G7 country, while overall unemployment is 5.6%, compared with 10% in France. But according to the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, on one measure Britain still lags behind. The rate of those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) is, at 12%, around the OECD average. But British youngsters who leave school early are the most likely to be unemployed in the rich world.Britain has the third-highest share of youngsters with poor literacy and numeracy skills, and the fourth-highest share who are bad with technology. British NEETS are the most illiterate and innumerate in the rich world.This may reflect high levels of immigration into the country.But it also points to a more worrying trend among British youths. In a trend not seen anywhere else in the European Union, children of native-born Britons are more likely to be unemployed than the offspring of immigrants.
  4. The real curse for commodities producers is over-supply in almost all raw materials. Yet they continue to act as if they are blithely unaware of it. Capital is still pouring into holes in the ground, creating a hangover that may last at least a decade. So far this year, almost all major commodities—energy, industrial metals and agriculture—have fallen in a 10-20% range, a fairly homogenous performance. What’s more, the supply glut is being fed by three common factors. Cost-cutting has led producers to think they can bear the pain of falling prices for longer. Heavy hitters, whether OPEC princes or global miners, still yearn to increase market share. And funding is still available.
  5. A new technology promises to make it possible to edit genetic information quickly and cheaply.The technology is known as CRISPR-Cas9, or just CRISPR. It involves a piece of RNA, a chemical messenger, designed to target a section of DNA; and an enzyme, called a nuclease, that can snip unwanted genes out and paste new ones in.That is a Rubicon some will not want to cross. Many scientists, including one of CRISPR’s inventors, want a moratorium on editing “germ line” cells—those that give rise to subsequent generations. America’s National Academy of Sciences plans a conference to delve into CRISPR’s ethics. The debate is sorely needed.A harder question is whether it is ever right to edit human germ-line cells, to make changes that are inherited. This is banned in 40 countries and restricted in many others. There is no reason for a ban on research or therapeutic use
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