Economist 5/11/14

  1. A global survey by Queen Mary University in London in 2010 of general counsels and legal-department heads found that 40% most frequently did business using English law and another 22% American, generally the law of New York state.Of the world’s 100 highest-grossing law firms, 91 have their headquarters in one of the two. America’s legal sector is bigger than the GDP of Peru; though much of that is because of Americans’ litigiousness, a good chunk comes from foreign workParties to a cross-border deal must decide not only which country’s law governs it but how disputes should be resolved. Firms are increasingly opting for private arbitration, which promises confidentiality, speed and lower costs than going to court—and here London and New York are less dominant.The Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce is among the world’s biggest centres, and Stockholm was a popular venue during the cold war. Among the most successful is Singapore, whose dedicated arbitration venue, SIAC, opened in 1991. Singapore’s government exempts arbitrators from income tax and expedites entry for participants in hearings.Last year they were parties to a third of its 259 new cases.With 260 new cases last year, Hong Kong matches SIAC for size. Arbitration is essential for cross-border deals involving China.English law remains prevalent in Asian arbitration, accounting for 32% of cases at SIAC (most of the rest are under Singaporean law and involve at least one local party).
  2. The emergence of Nigeria’s Boko Haram (an armed group whose name literally means “Western education is forbidden”) reflects “dynamics” which are common to Muslim communities all over the world, writes Ms Hirsi Ali.Meanwhile a prominent religious-freedom advocate has denounced the State Department for being slow to designate Boko Haram as a “foreign terrorist organisation” (it did so last November) and reluctant to accept that the group’s motivation was religious.
  3. Many gamblers believe winning streaks, known as “hot hands”, are real, and that if they are in such a streak it makes sense to keep on betting. Conversely, many also believe bad luck is sure to reverse itself not merely by reverting to the mean, as a statistician would predict, but to the extent that the gambler will recoup his losses. This is known as the gambler’s fallacy.The explanation of the puzzle, Ms Xu and Dr Harvey found, was not that Lady Luck actually does smile on winners and frown on losers. Rather, as winners’ winning streaks increased in length they started choosing safer and safer odds, which led them to win more often, though less profitably. In contrast, those who had experienced a losing streak went for ever riskier bets, making it more likely the streak would continue.
  4. WAR often makes people patriotic. But Yemeni, on the whole, have recently been sceptical of it. They tend to condemn American drone attacks on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local offshoot of the jihadist group, deeming them counter-productive and a violation of Yemen’s sovereignty. Moreover, many Yemenis distrust their own army, seeing it as divisive and ineffective.But they seem to be reacting more favourably to the latest offensive against AQAP’s strongholds in the south, which started on April 29th. This time ordinary Yemenis seem to have rallied behind their national army.Many Yemenis admit that AQAP thrives on the poverty and unemployment that have long dogged the country.
  5. South Sudan,Kerry warned on arrival in neighbouring Ethiopia on April 29th, was at risk of sliding into genocide.In the meantime the UN has tried to persuade Mr Kiir and Mr Machar to meet face to face. Among other things, a 30-day “tranquillity period” has been suggested. A ceasefire agreed to in January broke down almost immediately.Western diplomats privately blame Mr Kiir for overreacting to provocations by his ambitious former deputy but do not think Mr Machar launched a coup. American officials have endorsed Kiir as South Sudan’s rightful leader.But some diplomats suggest a compromise figure may have to emerge. Mr Amum hails from the Shilluk, one of South Sudan’s minority tribes, so he is seen as relatively neutral between the two largest ethnic groups, Mr Kiir’s Dinka and Mr Machar’s Nuer, who together have done most of the killing.

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