Economist 4/21/15

  1. AMERICA’S teenage-pregnancy rate is seven times higher than Switzerland’s . About 50 in 1,000 American women aged 15-19 get pregnant each year, of whom 60% give birth.But only 7% of those use the most effective methods, which include hormonal implants (tiny rods inserted under the skin) and intrauterine devices (IUDs).Four in ten unplanned pregnancies in America result from the slapdash use of contraception. Many of these could be averted by IUDs. Their failure rate is 0.2%, compared with 9% for the pill and 18% for condoms, the two most popular methods among teenagers. Long-acting contraceptives cost more to begin with: $800-1,000 apiece. But they work out cheaper over time, since they last for three to ten years. They are covered by Medicaid, the public health scheme for the cash-strapped.The main obstacle is not cost but knowledge. A survey last year by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 77% of Americans aged 18-45 knew “little or nothing” about implants; 68% said the same about IUDs .Some of the mistrust has stemmed from the debacle of the Dalkon Shield, a flawed IUD that caused some infections.Some of the mistrust has stemmed from the debacle of the Dalkon Shield, a flawed IUD that caused some infections.
  2. There are at least 25 new superhero films scheduled for release over the next five years, including many that are set up in this film (including the 2018 and 2019 follow-ups, “Avengers: Infinity War”, Parts 1 and 2) and those from Marvel’s rival, DC Comics, which is trying to catch up with its own expansive multi-role universe, such as next year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and the later Justice League rallies.
  3. Coca-Cola committed to using at least 25% recycled plastic in its containers by 2015, but revised this downwards owing to scarce supply and high costs. Low landfill fees and a fragmented waste-management system have kept the America’s recycling rate at around 34% for two decades—far lower than most rich countries. This waste comes at a cost. Making cans from recycled aluminium, the most valuable container material, requires 95% less energy and creates 90% less greenhouse-gas emissions than virgin stock, yet more than 40 billion aluminium cans hit America’s landfills every year.Around 9,800 different municipal recycling plans operate around the country, and they all follow different rules. Most recycling facilities were built in the 1990s, and the machinery is often ill-equipped to handle changes in the country’s waste stream.Diverting recyclable materials from landfills can save some money; cities spent about $5 billion on landfill fees in 2013. But this requires big capital investments, which cash-strapped governments are often disinclined to make.Walmart, Coca-Cola and eight other big companies have created a $100m Closed Loop Fund, which offers zero- and low-interest loans to cities and recycling companies for everything from better bins to more efficient sorting plants.$100m is a good chunk of change, but industry analysts say $1.25 billion is needed to fully modernise America’s recycling infrastructure. 
  4. GAZPROM revels in its untouchability. It is the main supplier of imported gas to the European Union, benefiting both from close Kremlin patronage (the Russian state is its largest shareholder) and from a web of business and political relationships in the countries to which it sells its gas—notably Germany. Alternatives to Russian gas are scant, as is customers’ appetite for resisting Gazprom’s dominance.. Europe’s latest blow fell on April 22nd, when the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, announced a much-awaited “statement of objections” (europarlance for charge-sheet) listing the firm’s allged market abuses.The reaction from Moscow was not promising. The company said the dispute should be settled within the framework of existing agreements between the EU and the Russian government.Winter is over, and Europe is in far better shape than ever before to withstand a Russian tantrum. It has improved storage, and built north-south gas links, so that a cut in shipments across, say, Ukraine, can be made up with supplies from other pipelines, such as the German-Russian Nord Stream across the Baltic Sea.
  5. INTERNATIONAL Business Machines (IBM) must rank as a case study in corporate survival. Founded in 1911 as a manufacturer of punch-card machines, more than a century later it remains one of the largest technology companies in the world.Many companies that supplanted IBM during the 1980s and 1990s, such as Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, now find themselves in eclipse.

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