Economist 5/16/14

  1.  WHAT do Arkansas and Idaho have both have just legalised gay marriage. If the new rules in Arkansas and Idaho stand, that would make it 19 states plus Washington, DC that now recognise marriage equality. Over 70 lawsuits, in nearly every state that does not yet allow gay marriage, are working their way through the courts, encouraged by a Supreme-Court ruling last year striking down the federal Defence of Marriage Act.
  2. EVEN before France signed a deal in 2011 to build two Mistral-class assault ships for Russia, the idea prompted widespread unease.. The first of the two ships, named the Vladivostok, will be ready for delivery to Russia in October this year.At a moment when Europe and America are trying to co-ordinate sanctions against Russia, the timing is nonetheless embarrassing. The mighty Mistral-class vessels, 199m long, are not gunships. But they have capacity to carry and land hundreds of soldiers and over a dozen armoured tanks.There are 400 jobs directly at stake at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard (which also built the Queen Mary 2 cruise liner), and over 1,000 that depend on the contract.. At a time when unemployment is high, President François Hollande can ill afford to put more jobs in peril. 
  3. THE high-street takeaway is a British fixture. It bends to local preferences: in Yorkshire, chips are served with gravy; on Teesside people eat a thing called a “Parmo”, a sort of cheese-covered schnitzel. But tastes are changing. In 2007 independent takeaways sold £4.6 billion (then $9.1 billion) of food, according to Horizons, a market-research firm. In 2013 their sales were just £3.3 billion.Many of their customers are the sort of young working-class men who have been hit by declining wages and benefit cuts. They are also drinking less alcohol and, as a result, eating less salty fried food.
  4. Reacting to pressure from the investment-management industry, on May 8th the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), a British regulator, announced new rules about payments for equity research. From the start of June, asset managers will only be allowed to spend their clients’ dealing commissions on “substantive research” and the cost of executing trades. More importantly, the bar about what this actually constitutes has been raised: investment funds will now have to justify in detail what they spend on research to regulators. And payments to equity researchers for facilitating meetings with company managements, called corporate access, will be completely banned as failing to meet the new “substantive research” benchmark. lobal equity-research budgets have dropped from $8.2 billion in 2007 to $4.8 billion last year; this will now drop down to just $3.4 billion by 2017, according to Frost Consulting. \
  5. A MOOD of workmanlike optimism was palpable as negotiators from Iran and the P5+1 (the UN security council’s permanent members plus Germany) arrived in Vienna this week.Iran appears to be sticking to the undertakings it gave last November under the terms of an interim agreement that provided it with respite from some less painful sanctions. Iran has stopped producing 20%-enriched uranium, which can be quickly turned into weapons-grade stuff, and has converted half its stockpile to low-enriched uranium (LEU), concentrated to 5%; by the end of July the other half will be turned into oxide, which cannot easily be converted to fuel for a weapon.The Iranians have offered to redesign their research reactor at Arak, which was due to go online this year and could otherwise offer an alternative plutonium path to a bomb. They propose to have it fuelled with LEU rather than natural uranium, which would reduce its potential plutonium output by 80%. But Iran wants to keep all 19,000 of the centrifuges it has already deployed and to be able to move up to 50,000 in a few years or substitute IR-1s with newer IR-2ms. The West is looking for an accord with Iran to last between ten and 20 years. Iran is talking about five years as an absolute maximum, after which it would be treated as a normal NPT signatory.The Iranians argue that, once an agreement is reached, all sanctions should be removed for good. The UN and European Union might accept that, but the Americans will not.

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