Economist 1/16/15

  1. All large political parties agree: there has been too much immigration into Britain. More people now tell Ipsos MORI, a pollster, that immigration is the most important issue facing the country than say the same of the economy, jobs, health or any other issue. But at least Britain has the right kind of immigrant. More are of productive age than in any other large European country; most are in their 20s and 30s. And unlike in, say, France or Sweden, immigrants to Britain are scarcely more likely to be unemployed than are natives.
  2. New PhDs in maths and physics are earned mostly by men, while—in America at least—half of those in molecular biology and neuroscience are awarded to women, it is equally true in the social sciences and humanities, where art history and psychology are dominated by women, and economics and philosophy by men.It could indeed be that recruiters from disciplines which think innate talent important are prejudiced about who they select for their PhD programmes. It could instead, though, be that women and black people themselves, through exposure to a culture that constantly tells them (which research suggests it does) that they do not have an aptitude for things like maths and physics, have come to believe this is true.If that is the case, it suggests that a cultural shift in schools and universities, playing down talent and emphasising hard work, might serve to broaden the intake of currently male-dominated and black-deficient fields, to the benefit of all.
  3. The effect of the swelling influx is apparent as the Islamic State (IS), a brutal extremist group in Syria and Iraq that has attracted most foreign fighters.Fighters from as far afield as Afghanistan and Sweden have brought their wives and children to the town and moved into the houses of residents who have fled. “Milk”, says a European fighter in northern Syria when asked what he misses about home.But junk food is in ample supply, tweets a Swedish fighter, more happily. Yet Western fighters do not shy away from battle. Some have taken part in slaughtering those labelled kuffar (unbelievers), including Sunnis deemed too moderate as well as Shia Muslims, who are all deemed apostates. They help fight for dams, military bases and oilfields. Foreign jihadists can e-mail the families of hostages in their own language to ask for ransoms. The Soufan Group, a New York-based intelligence outfit, reckons that by the end of May as many as 12,000 fighters from 81 nations had joined the fray, among them some 3,000 from the West.Poverty does not explain the lure of jihad for Western fighters. Many of them are quite middle-class. More plausible explanations are the desire to escape the ennui of home and to find an identity.Many of Belgium’s fighters come from the dullest of cities, where radicals have concentrated their efforts to get recruits.Getting to Syria has generally been easy, though Turkey has tightened its border.All a fighter needs is a one-way ticket to Istanbul. From there, most take domestic flights to one of the border towns along Turkey’s frontier with Syria that runs for 822km (511 miles): locals dub these internal flights the “jihadi express”. While the overwhelming majority of foreign fighters in Syria are Arabs, Britons make up one of the biggest groups of Western fighters. But Belgians, Danes and others have a higher rate per person  France, which has tighter laws against extremism, has also seen more of its citizens go off to wage jihad.America has cracked down on anyone it suspects of going to fight. It can afford to do so, argues Mr Hegghammer, because its Muslim population is smaller than that of many European countries, as is the fear of a political backlash.
  4. LESS than two years after opening the first of 133 stores in Canada, Target, an American retailer, is packing up and going home. Target’s decision to put its Canadian assets under bankruptcy protection, announced on January 15th, leaves 17,600 people without a job and the firm nursing a $5.4 billion loss.Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive, said the retailer had never impressed Canadians from the start. Industry consolidation also ate away at Target’s selling point as a one-stop shop. For instance, last year’s takeover of Shoppers Drug Mart, a pharmacy, by Loblaw Companies, a grocery giant, made it easier for consumers to shop for food, clothes and drugs all in one place. It did not help that the retailer did not offer online shopping in Canada, in contrast to its rivals.
  5. Gaza has been broken by three Israeli offensives in five years; eight years of economic blockade; one-party rule by Hamas, an armed Islamist group; and a distant Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who has largely forsaken the territory that he lost to Hamas in 2007. The rickety social system that somehow held Gaza together is falling apart.Last summer Ismail Haniyeh, the then Hamas prime minister, formally surrendered his bankrupt enclave to a “unity government” under Mr Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. But the power-sharing agreement left Hamas’s forces in charge of security, so Mr Abbas was always distrustful. He dithered over forwarding funds from Qatar to pay the salaries of Gaza’s civil servants. Hamas’s employees show up for work even though they have received only three partial salary payments in 18 months.Efforts to persuade Egypt’s strongman, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, to relax the border restrictions have also failed.Gaza’s children dream of escape. At weekends, their parents take them to visit from afar the sole crossing to Israel.
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