Sunday, October 2, 2016

Opec cuts may have little impact; Sleep is the new must-have; Who inherits a selfie?

1 Opec cuts may have little effect (Grace Leong in Straits Times) The deal by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) would ideally put a floor under prices as the cartel produces more than 40 per cent of the world's supply, so coordinated output cuts could have an immediate impact.

But the euphoria has fizzled out because of the existing glut and the potential for more output from Iran, Libya and Nigeria, as well as from US shale players. Doubts over whether Opec's proposed cuts are deep enough to make a dent, and uncertainty over whether its members can agree on production quotas also capped the rally.

A committee will propose by the next meeting, on Nov 30, how the cuts could be carried out. This could mean that the production cuts - if members agree - would be implemented only next year. Further, the lack of credibility and accountability among some Opec members may undermine the proposed cuts.

Indeed, the surprise Opec consensus came as low oil prices - once seen as a boon - threaten to push the global economy into a tailspin. That's partly because the global economy relies far more today on oil- and commodities-rich emerging countries, which account for about 40 per cent of global gross domestic product. These countries' economies have slowed and many are even contracting.

So, while the consensus to reduce output by about one million barrels of oil a day is seen by most as being too small a cut, it shows Opec is willing to resume its role of propping up prices, which could change the dynamics of the energy sector.

Unless oil rebounds further and global growth picks up, it is unlikely that the battered oil and gas sector will stage a full recovery. Whether the Nov 30 meeting will be a game-changer remains to be seen.

2 Sleep is the new must-have (Eva Wiseman in The Guardian) Talking about sleep is as dull as talking about how much you drank the night before. And yet, here I am. Whereas once it was a mark of honour to exist on only a couple of hours’ sleep (it meant you were working harder), now the opposite is true. To boast of eight hours is to explain that you have invested in your body, a temple of wellness, to optimise the day.

Today, sleep is fetishised, marketed, precious and gold. Kickstarter is swollen with innovative pillows. Mattresses, once the most bovine of purchases, have become almost exciting.

But can good sleep really be bought? In direct opposition to the traditional advice to remove all screens and blue light from the bedroom (along with advice to drink water, to keep cool, be a cat), one of the ways we are sold sleep is through phone apps you take to bed.

By monitoring your REM and snoring in a more efficient way than your ex ever did, you can quantify your sleep and then, obviously, use it to compete with your peers (the point of all apps at all times). But, like a recent study that showed fitness trackers don’t work, surely there are more sleep-app customers who pay their money and then just… lie there, waiting.

Like weight-loss diets, isn’t the simplest, oldest, most boring solution to good sleep the only one truly proven to work? Less nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, more exercise, a regular routine – things that we wouldn’t have needed to emulate when our days were spent away from a fixed desk in a strip-lit room. Modern life is brilliant, but for all it gives, it takes away, too.

As the sleep industry gathers around our beds like a long-lost nephew angling for inheritance, I remember that even without technology, sleep comes. It always does. Perhaps I won’t get all the jokes tomorrow, but soon I will feel better. Losing sleep needn’t be anything to lose sleep over.

3 Who inherits a selfie? (San Francisco Chronicle) When a loved one dies, laws cover how their houses, cars, and other property are passed on to relatives. But the rules are murkier — and currently far more restrictive — when it comes to pictures on Facebook, emails to friends or relatives and even financial records stored in online cloud accounts.

Google, Facebook and other companies have said a federal privacy law approved decades before digital storage became common prevents them from releasing electronic memories or records unless the account owner grants permission — even if the person is dead. Without an estate plan, families must try to crack their loved one's passwords or take the costly step of litigating the matter to access photos and emails — and some have, with little success.

The laws governing how to divide belongings after someone dies have not caught up with the technological advances that have permeated the ways people communicate, but states have begun trying to bridge that gap. This year, Illinois was one of 19 states that passed similar laws to clarify what internet companies can release after someone dies and when information should remain inaccessible.

With the new laws, unless a person expresses otherwise, companies will release basic information from a user, such as the person's email contact list, to help find friends or gather an inventory of a person's assets. But to get the actual contents of the emails — even the subject lines — or photos and documents stored in a cloud service, people must proactively specify who they want to have their digital belongings.

Facebook allows users to choose a "legacy contact" to access their account, and Gmail has an "account trustee" option. In instances where people use those options, the companies' agreements with them will supersede the state laws. Even with the new laws, planning is necessary at a time when many still don't think about the contents of their internet accounts as property.

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