Economist 6/17/14

  1. SO ABSOLUTE was the rout of Iraq’s army in Mosul that soldiers stripped off their uniforms in the street and fled. Roughly 1,500 jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), outnumbered by more than 15 to one, reportedly seized six Black Hawk helicopters as well as untold plunder from the vaults of Mosul’s banks.ISIS is born of regional warfare and Islamic fundamentalism.  In the anarchy of Syria and Iraq, it has stuffed its robes with cash from kidnapping and extortion.  It is so zealous and bloodthirsty that other rebel groups in Syria have turned against it. Even al-Qaeda renounced it, partly because al-Qaeda does not approve of the idea of creating a state just now.But the blame also lies with Mr Maliki in Iraq and with Mr Obama. Mr Maliki has governed as a proto-dictator on behalf of the Shia majority. The army has rotted as he has purged independent-minded officers and put his own men in their place. 
  2. The huge rise in corporate pensions occurred only after the second world war, in the form of defined-benefit (DB) plans, in which retirement income is linked to a proportion of the worker’s final salary, depending on years of service.But companies have been retreating from DB plans because of the expense. Workers are living longer: in the mainly rich OECD group of countries, men now aged 65 can expect another 17.6 years of life, compared with 12.7 in 1960.As DB plans have become more expensive for employers to provide, there has been a big shift towards defined-contribution (DC) plans, where both employers and employees contribute to a pot, which the worker gets in retirement.But the effect is that these new DC plans aren’t “pensions” at all, just nest eggs akin to money in a savings account or equity in a home.
  3. OBESITY, according to a government-sponsored report, could make the current generation of Americans the first in history to live shorter lives than the previous one.Recognising that people’s dietary preferences develop at an early age, a recent study whether children can be “nudged” (or incentivised) to eat more fruits and less sweets.%. At locations where participants were nudged to select the cup, however, nearly 80% wanted the dried fruit. Enticing children with wristbands and the like thus led to more than a four-fold increase in the share of children who chose the dried fruit. In addition, the randomised evaluation provided evidence of a lasting effect; a significant number of children who presumably had selected the banana or mango to get the prize continued to opt for the cup even after the researcher stopped rewarding their behaviour.
  4. In the next few weeks the House of Representatives and Senate are due to decide the fate of a weapons system that cold logic has earmarked for scrapping: the 40-year old A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jet, better known as the Warthog.e: Pentagon bosses think killing the A-10 would save $4.2 billion in costs and upgrades over five years.the A-10 is horribly vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles, so it is only good in very specific circumstances. Close-air support is a vital mission, he adds, but modern commanders aim to minimise its use, preferring to engage foes at a distance.
  5. WHEN an offshore well stops producing oil, what should be done with the rig? One option is to haul it ashore, break it up and recycle it. This is expensive. For a big, deep-water oil or gas platform, it can cost $200m.“Reefing” typically involves bringing a platform’s above-water parts ashore and cropping the lower parts to leave at least 26m of clearance: deep enough for ships to pass over, yet shallow enough for photosynthesis to nourish organisms on its upper reaches (see picture). Oil-rig reefs may shelter and feed up to eight tonnes of fish. In 2009 Shell moved a jacket in the Gulf of Mexico ten kilometres (six miles) away. The fish followed.More than 490 platforms in American waters have become reefs in the past three decades. State coffers gain: oil firms typically hand over half the money they save by reefing.Yet the odds of preserving most oil-rig reefs look bleak. Public opposition is robust.Greenpeace, a pressure group, makes a different argument, because reefing saves the oil firms money and therefore encourage them to drill more.

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