Thursday, November 17, 2016

US Fed chief points to rate rise 'soon'; Saudi oil chief wants Opec to cut output; Dead teenager's body to be cryogenically frozen

1 US Fed points to a rate rise ‘soon’ (BBC) The chair of the US Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, has indicated that it could raise interest rates "relatively soon". She said the job market had made further improvements this year and that inflation, while still below the Fed's 2% target, had started to pick up.

Financial markets are expecting the Fed to take action at a meeting next month. She also defended the independence of central banks after criticism of the Fed by President-elect Donald Trump. It would be only the second rate rise since the bank pushed rates to a record low during the financial crisis.

In December last year, the Fed raised its benchmark rate for the first time in seven years, from near zero to its current level of between 0.25% and 0.5%. Ms Yellen said that further delaying a rate increase would present its own risks.

Turning to the independence of central banks, Ms Yellen said they need to be able to make long term decisions that are not always popular. In countries where central banks are subject to political pressures, there have been "terrible" consequences, she said.

2 Saudi oil chief wants Opec to cut output (Khaleej Times) The energy minister for top Opec exporter Saudi Arabia has said he was optimistic about the Opec's deal to limit oil output and mentioned the lower end of a previously agreed production target, helping spur a rally in the price of crude.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, at a meeting in Algeria in September, made a preliminary deal to limit oil output. The details are meant to be finalised when Opec ministers gather in Vienna on November 30.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih said the oil market was on a path towards becoming balanced and that "reaching [a decision] to activate that ceiling of 32.5 million barrels per day will speed up the [market] recovery and will benefit producers and consumers". The Opec agreed on September 28 to limit supply to between 32.5 million and 33 million bpd, with special conditions given to Libya, Nigeria and Iran, whose output has been hit by wars or sanctions.

A number of Opec energy ministers, including Al Falih, are expected to meet informally in Doha on the sidelines of a gas exporters' conference to try to build consensus. Algeria's Energy Minister Nouredine Bouterfa said the issue of Iran's production would not undermine a deal.

3 Dead teenager to be cryogenically frozen (Owen Bowcott & Amelia Hill in The Guardian) A 14-year-old girl who said before dying of cancer that she wanted a chance to live longer has been allowed by the high court to have her body cryogenically frozen in the hope that she can be brought back to life at a later time.

The court ruled that the teenager’s mother, who supported the girl’s wish to be cryogenically preserved, should be the only person allowed to make decisions about the disposal of her body. Her estranged father had initially opposed her wishes.

During the last months of her life, the teenager, who had a rare form of cancer, used the internet to investigate cryonics. Known only as JS, she sent a letter to the court: “I have been asked to explain why I want this unusual thing done. I’m only 14 years old and I don’t want to die, but I know I am going to. I think being cryopreserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up, even in hundreds of years’ time.

“I don’t want to be buried underground. I want to live and live longer and I think that in the future they might find a cure for my cancer and wake me up. I want to have this chance. This is my wish.”

Following the ruling, in a case described by the judge as exceptional, the body of JS has now been preserved and transported from where she lived in London to the US, where it has been frozen “in perpetuity” by a commercial company at a cost of £37,000.

The girl’s parents are divorced. She had lived with her mother for most of her life and had had no face-to-face contact with her father since 2008. She resisted his attempts to get back in touch when he learnt of her illness in 2015.

Since the first preservation by freezing in the 1960s the process has been performed only a few hundred times. The body has to be prepared shortly after death, ideally within minutes. Arrangements then have to be made for the body to be transported by a registered funeral director.

A child cannot make a will and the court had to decide where the girl’s best interests lay. The judge concluded that allowing the mother to make a decision about her daughter would be in her best interests. The girl died peacefully knowing that her body would be frozen, the judge recorded.

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