Economist 1/13/16

  1. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), which grant special rights to resources such as fishing and mineral extraction in an area extending 200 nautical miles (370km) from a country’s coast, are enshrined in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which has been ratified by 167 countries. Article 76 of the convention allows any state to extend its EEZ up to 350 miles if their application is accepted. But the extension only applies to the seabed and so excludes fishing rights. France demonstrated an increase was appropriate to its territories of French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, New Caledonia and the Kerguelen Islands, adding a total of 579,000km2 to its surface area.These special areas are potentially very valuable so there are plenty of disputes.Canada and America have overlapping claims in the Beaufort Sea. In the South China Sea tension has risen over disagreements between China and several neighbouring countries.
  2. Travelodge, a British hotel chain, recently released its annual list of some of the bizarre items forgotten by its guests. The list includes a bag full of prosthetic limbs, a suitcase of designer Jimmy Choo shoes, a house made out of bread and a Shetland pony named Pudding. People have also checked-out without remembering to take companions with them, leaving friends or relatives stranded in hotel rooms.More mundanely the 12,000 laptops, tablets and mobile phones Travelodges discovered must make a sizeable dent in expense and insurance claims.Another hotel room staple, it seems, are sex toys and dolls. According to a survey by last June, these accounted for 30% of items that are left behind.
  3. A more useful bit of counsel would be that buying a lottery ticket is fun but financially foolish. A punter buying a Powerball ticket has a 1 in 292m chance of winning the jackpot. Buyers are around four times more likely to be killed by an asteroid impact this year. Lotteries are designed to be a bad deal, hoovering up participants’ money in order to plug state budgets and fund good causes.What’s more, the designers are getting better at their jobs.After a particularly big prize is won, there is a halo effect, whereby ticket sales remain high even though the jackpot has reverted to the norm. So lottery designers go to great lengths to boost the size of the big prize.
  4. One easy trick is to make the jackpot seem bigger than it is. The sums advertised by Powerball represent the expected pre-tax value over a lifetime of an annuity that winners can opt to receive. If they choose a lump sum instead, they get just over 60% of that, on which they would have to pay tax of at least 40%.Another approach is to boost the jackpot by expanding a lottery’s geographic scope, and thus its potential pool of participants. Powerball and Megamillions, the two largest American lotteries, have both taken this tack. By forging alliances among state lotteries, they are both now available to residents of 44 of America’s 50 states.. Both Powerball and the British national lottery changed their rules to this effect in October, by increasing the number of balls in the draw.In Britain the change slashed the chance of a winning guess from 1 in 14m to 1 in 45m. In America it fell from 1 in 175m to 1 in 292m.
  5. When Ethiopia completes construction of the dam in 2017, it will stand 170 metres tall (550 feet) and 1.8km (1.1 miles) wide. Its reservoir will be able to hold more than the volume of the entire Blue Nile, the tributary on which it sits.This boon for Ethiopia is the bane of Egypt, which for millennia has seen the Nile as a lifeline snaking across its vast desert. The river still provides nearly all of Egypt’s water. Egypt claims two-thirds of that flow based on a treaty it signed with Sudan in 1959. But even that is no longer enough to satisfy the growing population and sustain thirsty crops. Annual water supply per person has fallen by well over half since 1970.A more legitimate concern is over the dam’s large reservoir. If filled too quickly, it might for a time significantly reduce Egypt’s water supply and affect the electricity-generating capacity of its own Aswan Dam.A potential wild card in the negotiations is Sudan, which long sided with Egypt in opposition to the dam, some 20km from its border. But as the potential benefits to Sudan have become clear, it has backed Ethiopia.Short on energy itself, Sudan will receive some of the power produced by the dam.

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