Economist 5/31/16

  1. Fast-tracking passengers through security is all well and good, but in reality saves precious little time for additional work. Equally, a few inches more legroom and metal cutlery are pleasant, but not essential for a flight that lasts such a short time. And beyond those small things, the benefits become even less apparent.The real utility of flying business class on such journeys has little to do with the plane at all, but the access it grants to airport business lounges while waiting to board. These comfortable, relatively quiet spaces with fast WiFi are a good place to get things done away from the chaos of the departure lounges—especially if delays or the need to make a connecting flight mean spending hours in limbo. But as any road warrior knows, you don’t need to fly premium to gain access to these havens.
  2. THE murder of a 23-year-old woman in Seoul, the South Korean capital, on May 17th is shocking for at least two reasons. The crime, in which the suspect stabbed the victim to death in public toilets in the bustling district of Gangnam, was a heinous one. But it is also a very uncommon one: South Korea’s homicide rate, at 0.8 murders per 100,000 people, is lower than that of Australia, Norway and France. About 70% of South Korean women say they feel safe walking alone at night.The circumstances of the tragedy have sparked intense public debate. Although the police have tentatively concluded that the murder was not a hate crime—the suspect was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2008, and had been in psychiatric care as recently as last year—the man’s explanation to the police that he “hated women for belittling him” has stunned South Koreans.
  3. Whatever the suspect’s motive, South Korean women have been quick to identify with the discrimination. Many of their pinned notes ponder the state of sexual equality in South Korea. That is not surprising in a country that ranks a dismal 115 of 145 countries for gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum, putting it close to Burkina Faso and Zambia, and coming in well below stubbornly patriarchal Japan. South Korea’s gender wage-gap is the largest of any rich country. From January to August last year, 87% of the victims who reported violent crimes were women. By law camera phones must produce a shutter sound (as in Japan) because up-skirt filming is so common.
  4. This week the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), a network that thousands of banks around the world use to move money, described a recent spate of cyber-heists, which netted $90m.Investigators are still trying to piece together how thieves pulled off a spectacular hack that siphoned $81m out of Bangladesh’s central bank in February, let alone who was behind it. This was one of the biggest-ever bank robberies, but it could have been worse: $850m of the bogus transfer requests were blocked.The scam sent banks and SWIFT scrambling to check for other infiltrations.Ecuador’s Banco del Austro is suing Wells Fargo for waving through fake transfers of $12m ($3m of which was later recovered) to accounts in Hong Kong.
  5. In each of the cases that have come to light, the thieves hacked into the bank’s system, used malware to log on to the SWIFT network using the bank’s unique code, and re-routed transactions to new beneficiaries.SWIFT, a co-operative owned and used by 11,000 financial firms, processes 25m messages a day, covering half of all big cross-border transfers. Were it to be compromised, trust in the global payments system could evaporate. SWIFT insists its network and core messaging services were not breached; the security problems were at the banks themselves.Nevertheless, calls have grown for SWIFT to do more.But SWIFT has no power over banks. That is down to regulators, whose performance in this area varies greatly. Among the most switched-on is the Bank of England, which runs a widely respected resilience-testing programme for big banks that includes mock attacks. British banks that fail to beef up their defences may even be forced to hold extra capital.
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