Economist 8/14/14

  1. AMERICA’S last two presidents have got things wrong in Iraq in opposite ways.AMERICA’S last two presidents have got things wrong in Iraq in opposite ways.Mr Obama’s gamble has been to withhold all but minimal military support in order to force political change in Baghdad. That strategy has come at a cost. IS has consolidated its hold on Iraq’s second-biggest city, Mosul. In all events, Western leaders must prepare the public for a lengthy military engagement in this part of the world. Even if confronted by America’s full military might, the extremists could melt back into the population of Mosul, a city of 2m people where they have had a strong underground presence for years. They could also slip back across the nearby border with Syria, where they have a safe haven in swathes of land they have seized during the civil war.
  2. RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey’s prime minister, certainly knows how to win elections. On August 10th he made it nine, winning Turkey’s first direct election to the presidency, with a crushing 52% of the vote. His achievements in over 11 years as prime minister are equally impressive. Since AK came to power in November 2002, economic growth has averaged some 5%. Inflation has been tamed. The army has been brought under greater civilian control. Mr Erdogan has made more progress than any previous political leader in giving Turkey’s Kurds greater rights.What makes this more troubling are Mr Erdogan’s plans to give the presidency, hitherto a ceremonial job, far more power. He wants to turn it into an executive position, as in France.That would put Mr Erdogan in sight of his goal of an enhanced presidency, backed by a pliable prime minister, in which he could stay up to and beyond 2023. 
  3. The main source of new infectious diseases is animals. Ebola, which was identified only in 1976, is thought to be spread by fruit bats. HIV was originally a chimpanzee virus. Boosting efforts to monitor wild animals, and those who routinely come into contact with them, such as hunters and butchers of “bush meat”, to see which viruses are jumping species, might help stop further plagues before they get started. The American government’s Emerging Pandemic Threats programme is already doing this, in collaboration with independent groups such as Metabiota.
  4. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, a lobby group, at least 23,000 migrants have lost their lives trying to reach Europe since 2000. From January to July alone around 100,000 undocumented migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Italy, already much more than the record 60,000 who made the crossing in all of 2011. In the same period, the number of illegal migrants arrested by the Greek authorities at the border with Turkey rose by 143%. That puts a big strain on the countries on the geographical front line. Italy spends €9m ($12m) a month on Operation Mare Nostrum, a laudable search-and-rescue effort in the Mediterranean, which was launched in October 2013 in response to the drowning of 360 migrants off Lampedusa. Italian patrol boats picked up around 5,000 people on a single weekend in June; Spanish ones over 1,200 in two days earlier this week. Malta has more asylum-seekers per person than any other rich-world country. Greece spent €63m in 2013 to prevent illegal immigration; just €3m came from Europe’s border agencies.That is unfair and short-sighted. Unfair, because migrants themselves see a place like Greece as a way station, not a final destination.
  5. Uniquely among major team sports, the top leagues in basketball (the NBA) and American football (the NFL) do not recruit from lower professional circuits. Instead, they delegate training to universities: the NFL requires new players to finish three seasons in college, and the NBA’s minimum age is 19. This has helped turn the schools into entertainment juggernauts. At $10.5 billion a year, college sports revenues—mainly from TV, attendance and merchandise—exceed those of any single pro league. Even this understates the profitability of college sports, because the NCAA maintains an amateurism policy that caps athletes’ compensation at the cost of their education. But the income elite players produce far exceeds the price of their scholarships—which colleges are free not to renew in case of injury or violations of the NCAA’s stringent rules on gifts.They are recruited with little regard for grades, spend too much time on sports to attend class, and often depend on school-sponsored academic fraud to retain eligibility to compete. Just 44% of male basketball players at leading programmes graduate within six years. At present, young athletes have no choice but to take a raw deal from colleges, because pro teams refuse to sign them. If players could go pro straight from high school, those with truly valuable talent could earn a fair market wage. For the rest, attending university for free would be reasonable compensation—so long as the NCAA instituted reforms to make the “student-athlete” slogan a reality.

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