Economist 2/23/16

  1. Mr Bill Gates says his wish for more energy for the world encompasses three broad issues. The first is getting energy to people who do not have it. The second is limiting climate change—which will hit many of the same people hardest, since they are subsistence farmers in semi-arid regions, which will become drier and perhaps also more prone to extreme weather events. The third, since some climate change is now inevitable, is finding ways to mitigate its impact.Time and energy are linked, says Mrs Gates: much of women’s unpaid labour is on tasks that could be automated. But to give women more time, she thinks, more than energy innovation is needed: their unpaid work must start to count, both in the sense of being included in national statistics and in the sense of being recognized as work.
  2. THE misery indexadding together America’s inflation and unemployment rates—has been a popular way of expressing national economic performance since the 1970s. Ronald Reagan won the 1980 presidential election (taking office in 1981) with the help of the slogan “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”. Whether the president can take sole credit for improvements in these measures (or blame for their deterioration) is another matter; Congress and, even more so, the Federal Reserve, have a big impact.Of course, a lot depends on the starting point; Reagan followed Jimmy Carter, the second-worst performer (Richard Nixon was bottom of the rankings).The incumbent president, Barack Obama, ranked a respectable fourth in the table as he began his final year in office.Indeed, if presidents were ranked purely in terms of unemployment reduction, a stark political divide emerges; Democrats take five of the top six places, and Republicans the bottom five. On inflation reduction, by contrast, Republicans have the top four places. The gap indicates the different priorities of the two parties.
  3. In recent years, top museums have parted with such prized relics and repatriated Cambodian artefacts to their homeland. Three tenth-century examples—two Kneeling Attendants from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013, a Bhima statue from California’s Norton Simon Museum in 2014, and a Hanuman statue from the Cleveland Museum of Art the following year—are among 97 pieces that the American embassy reported as returned in the past two decades.Indeed the murkiness of artefact acquisition and ownership remains a hot topic among historians, curators, archaeologists, and politicians. This applies to both objects taken today, which are in clear violation of the law, but also the ethics of objects removed from their homes before such definite laws existed.
  4. LAST week Icelandair unveiled what it described as Europe’s first “gate-to-gate” Wi-Fi service on most of its routes. It says onboard internet will now be switched on from the moment passengers board the plane to when it reaches the gate at the other end—including during takeoff and landing. Meanwhile Lufthansa is to trial a service that allows flyers to connect to their 4G networks on their devices. If successful the technology will likely be taken up by other European carriers in 2017. Another system being developed jointly by Inmarsat, a satellite-maker that is also involved in the Lufthansa trial, and Deutsche Telekom, will allow phones to link to ground masts when at low altitude and to satellites when not.All of which means that, whether over Wi-Fi or a 4G network, the air will soon be abuzz with people making and receiving calls.
  5. AMPLE evidence shows that regular exercise reduces the risk of cancer. Similarly, those who have survived the disease are less likely to see it return if they engage in lots of physical activity after treatment. All this suggests that such activity triggers a reaction in the body which somehow thwarts cancer cells, but the details of the process have remained murky. Now, a team led by Pernille Hojman at Copenhagen University Hospital, in Denmark, has reported in Cell Metabolism that the key to the mystery is adrenalin.To try to understand why exercise does this, Dr Hojman and her team put some of the tumours they had induced under a microscope. They found that those from well-exercised mice contained more immune cells than equivalent tumours from animals that were not as active.Dr Hojman’s findings, then, suggest that epinephrine and interleukin-6 could be used as anti-tumour drugs. She is not proposing that they should be a substitute for exercise in those who are merely lazy—not least because exercise brings benefits beyond curbing oncogenesis.
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