Economist 6/2/16

  1. THE UN’s first peacekeeping mission, which started in 1948, was to keep a truce after the creation of Israel. Seven decades later, that mission continues, and the total number of peacekeeping operations worldwide has grown to 16, deploying more than 100,000 military personnel. Most are in Africa; the largest, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, involves 18,900 blue helmets.Later this year China will double its payments to more than 10% of the global total, overtaking Japan as the second largest contributor. America shells out more than a quarter, and together the top ten countries account for four-fifths. But when it comes to manpower, the pattern is very different. Since 18 American soldiers died when a helicopter was shot down in Somalia in 1993, the United States has almost stopped sending troops. It now has only 74 military personnel involved in peacekeeping, only half of them soldiers.
  2. Altogether, the ten biggest budget contributors supply only 6% of peacekeepers. China is the only country to feature on both top ten lists. But it is African and Asian countries that provide the lion’s share of troops. The UN pays countries $1,330 a month per soldier, meaning that peacekeeping can be lucrative for poor nations. Tiny Rwanda contributes 6,146 military personnel and pays just $16,500 to the budget annually, about as much as it receives for supplying one soldier.
  3. One part of airline industry may be hurt by cheaper oil: leasing firms, which invest in planes and hire them out to airlines and other operators.Given the daunting commercial outlook, many preferred to lease their new jets, leaving the leasing firms to stump up the capital required to buy planes. Leasing firms are now responsible for about 40% of the big planemakers’ sales.As a result, leasing has become voguish. Cheerleaders claim that average annual returns have topped 10% in recent years—an astronomical figure in a world of low yields. Investors have been keen to pile in, allowing the leasing firms to raise money for new jets directly by issuing bonds, rather than via bank loans.The leasing firms themselves insist they are not short of customers. Although demand for cargo planes has stalled, that for passenger aircraft is still rising.Airlines, meanwhile, are beginning to ask whether it makes sense to keep leasing planes. Most of them are now profitable enough to borrow cheaply; and interest rates are extremely low.
  4. IN 1863, London became the first city in the world to build an underground train system. The line, which ran from Paddington to Farringdon, used coal-powered steam trains. For passengers, that made the daily commute a grimy and unpleasant one.Today’s tube network runs for an impressive 402 kilometres, through 270 stations.In the 2015/16 fiscal year, Londoners took 1.34 billion tube journeys.Much of the network of 11 lines that runs deep beneath central London’s streets was built in the 50 years after that inaugural journey.So Transport for London (TfL), which runs the tube, has been busy overhauling its creaking infrastructure, upgrading signals (some of which dated back to 1920), tracks, trains and stations.On May 23rd Sadiq Khan, London’s new mayor, announced that the capital’s long-awaited all-night tube service will begin running in August, initially on two lines on Fridays and Saturdays. The unions that represent many tube workers have proved quick to strike whenever modernisation has been deemed a threat to its members’ cushy contracts. (A newly qualified tube driver typically earns £50,000 a year for a 36-hour week, and gets 43 days annual leave.)
  5. DESPITE its name, the Copa America has never been played north of the Rio Grande before. On June 3rd Copa America kicks off in Santa Clara, California. Games will take place in ten cities across the country over the next four weeks.According to a poll for ESPN, soccer has become the second-most popular sport for 12-24 year olds, after American football, and is the standout leader among Hispanics of the same age. Last year soccer-playing among boys in high school grew more than any other sport, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.Until recently, the challenge had been to keep people interested between World Cups. A rise in the number of games from other countries that are broadcast live has helped.There is also depth to this growth among fans.In 2015, newly formed New York City FC sold 15,000 season tickets before they had kicked a ball. The league is set to grow from 20 to 24 teams over the next two season.

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