Economist 11/20/15

  1. According to research published by the Pew Forum, a pollster and think-tank, there was an impressive rise, between 2007 and 2014, in the proportion of religious Americans who agree that “homosexuality should be accepted by society“. Among Catholics the rise was from 58% to 70%, among mainline Protestants there was a jump from 56% to 66% and among Mormons (starting, as you’d expect, from a low base) there was an even faster increase from 24% to 36%.To put it simply, the Mormons are radically committed to religious liberty, including the (often contentious) liberty of sub-cultures to live by their own particular norms.
  2. Since 1980 South Carolina voters have an almost-perfect record of picking the candidate who goes on to win the Republican nomination. Local grandees call their state a microcosm of conservative America.That conservative diversity has long made South Carolina more representative than either Iowa.The one blot on South Carolina’s perfect record of picking a winner: 2012, when state Republicans chose Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, over the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney.The Republican who wins South Carolina will earn timely momentum. Its primary will be followed by a flurry of more than a dozen contests, many in the South.
  3. The World Bank estimates that it takes about 4.3 years, on average, to resolve a bankruptcy case in India, more than twice as long as in China. The recovery of debts is just 25.7 cents on the dollar, one of the worst rates among developing countries. Take Kingfisher, once India’s second-biggest airline, which was grounded in 2012 with debts of more than $1.5 billion. Only this year did its creditor banks manage to seize its former headquarters in Mumbai. Unlike most other countries, India has no unified bankruptcy code, and its courts have to interpret a variety of sometimes conflicting laws that touch on insolvency.At the moment, creditors cannot take any legal action against a defaulter until a restructuring plan is in place, which usually takes between three and ten years.To be declared sick, and qualify for court protection, firms have to apply to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction, a government agency, which will not act until the firm has frittered away half of its net worth in losses. By then it may be too late to save it.
  4. Why are strongly left- and right-wing parties so popular on social networks? One reason is that they are prolific. In October Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, tweeted 626 times. Italy’s Northern League posted on social media once every six minutes this month, on average. Populists also interact with supporters better than mainstream parties do, says Jamie Bartlett of Demos, a think-tank in London.Social media reward starkness, not subtlety. Ms Le Pen’s tweeting “Bye Bye Schengen” in September was shared 600 times. By contrast, a message from Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, calling for more co-ordination between Europe’s home and foreign policies went largely unnoticed.
  5. A WEEK after the carnage in Paris, terrorists struck again, this time in an attack on a hotel in Bamako, the capital of Mali.The first characteristic of this form of terrorism is that the main weapon used is guns, rather than bombs. This is partly because assault weapons are relatively easy to obtain. East Africa is awash with guns that have come down from Somalia.Bomb-making, on the other hand, requires either access to explosives (whether commercial or military, both of which are tightly controlled) or the ability to make explosives from commonly available materials—a dangerous and difficult job.A second characteristic of this style of attack is that the perpetrators have no expectation of coming out alive.The advent of suicidal attackers, on the other hand, means there is less scope for negotiation. Often the main reason such attackers have for taking hostages is to complicate efforts by security forces to regain control of the site, since hostages may be killed in the crossfire.The recent attacks suggest two responses. The first is the need to do more to tackle gun-smuggling. In Europe is should be possible, for instance, to prevent the legal sale of decommissioned assault rifles that can be converted back to lethal use.The second is that the rich world needs to do more to build up special forces and hostage-rescue capabilities across Africa and the Middle East.
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