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    America is on track to admit the fewest refugees in four decades

    21740774 at https://www.economist.com

    DURING the Iraq war, Suleiman’s family worked closely with the American army in Mosul, as interpreters. When Islamic State took the city over—and its fighters began driving around the city to search for them—they fled east to Erbil, before IS came there, too. Suleiman (not his real name) is now in Amman, Jordan, waiting to hear about his long-stalled refugee case. Without a work permit, he is running out of cash. “Someone needs to tell me whether to go to jail, go to hell, or go to the United States,” he says.

    For Iraqis seeking to flee to America as refugees, Suleiman’s story is a typical one. In his first week in office, Donald Trump hastily signed a travel ban, suspending all refugee admissions for 120 days, which plunged travellers’ plans into chaos and triggered mass protests. The travel ban has been withdrawn and resuscitated several times in response to legal challenges. Its third incarnation, which is still in effect, will be challenged before the Supreme Court next...Continue reading

    Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:48:20 +0000

    Bitter attack on Trump by the FBI’s former director

    21740767 at https://www.economist.com

    THROUGH the first half of 2016, James Comey, then FBI director, wrestled with what he considered to be an awful problem. For almost a year his agents had been investigating Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information as secretary of state. Were this to result in a criminal charge, America would face a crisis, for Mrs Clinton was the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate. And like many Republicans back then, Mr Comey, a devout Christian interested in ethics, considered her Republican opponent unfit to be president. Yet this was not Mr Comey’s worry.

    Mrs Clinton, as he acknowledges in his memoir, “A Higher Loyalty”, was never in serious danger of being indicted. Former officials are charged with mishandling intelligence rarely and only if they are shown to have done so knowingly, and there was little evidence that she had. The trouble was, millions of Republicans, deceived by decades of anti-Clinton conspiracy theories, were already convinced of her guilt. Mr Comey’s...Continue reading

    Thu, 19 Apr 2018 09:33:23 +0000

    Donald Trump is more popular than ever with white evangelicals

    21740852 at https://www.economist.com


    IN CASE anyone should think American white evangelicals are actually in favour of extra-marital affairs with porn stars, Robert Jeffress, a well-known pastor from Texas, offered a helpful explainer last month. “Evangelicals still believe in the commandment, Thou shall not have sex with a porn star”, he told Fox News. “However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.”

    It was useful to have this cleared this up. Since Stephanie Clifford, a porn star who is also known as Stormy Daniels, alleged that she had had a sexual tryst with Donald Trump only months after his third wife gave birth, the president appears to have become even more popular among white evangelicals than he was before. A survey by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), published this week, suggests support among white evangelicals for Mr Trump is, at 75%, at the highest level ever...Continue reading

    Sat, 21 Apr 2018 04:45:21 +0000

    Hiral Tipirneni is unlikely to win a special congressional election in Arizona

    21740382 at https://www.economist.com

    THE Democratic wave that propelled the party to surprise victories in special elections in Alabama and Pennsylvania seems unlikely to reach Arizona’s eighth congressional district. In a special election on April 24th, voters will choose a successor to Trent Franks, who resigned in December following revelations that he had discussed surrogacy with two female staffers. This week, a poll by Emerson College showed the candidates neck-and-neck. But early voting, by which a majority of votes in this election will be cast, suggests a much higher turnout among Republicans than Democrats.  

    The Republican Party has a clear advantage in Arizona’s eighth, a suburban area north and west of Phoenix: it has 80,000 more registered members than the Democratic Party. The area hasn’t sent a Democrat to Congress since 1980 and in 2016 Donald Trump won the district by 21 percentage points. That’s about the same margin by which Mr Trump won Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, where Conor Lamb, a Democrat, stormed to surprise victory in...Continue reading

    Thu, 19 Apr 2018 18:44:15 +0000

    Sean Hannity shares a lot with Donald Trump, including an attorney

    21740777 at https://www.economist.com

    You pretend to grill me and I’ll pretend to be angry

    WHEN Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, was raided by the FBI last week, it was the biggest story in America. But the news moves fast in Trumpland. By April 16th it was only the third-biggest sensation in the Manhattan courtroom where Mr Cohen and his and the president’s lawyers had gathered in a losing bid to stop the FBI reading his documents. The second-biggest was the arrival of the porn star Stormy Daniels, who is suing Mr Trump and Mr Cohen to be shot of a hush agreement designed to stop her discussing an alleged affair with the president. The biggest sensation was a revelation, wrung from Mr Cohen’s lawyers by the judge’s order, that one of his three legal clients was Sean Hannity.

    Mr Hannity, whose Fox News show was until recently the most popular on cable-TV news, downplayed the relationship. He said he had consulted Mr Cohen only on minor issues, chiefly involving real estate. So not, he...Continue reading

    Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:48:20 +0000

    High prices in America’s cities are reviving the suburbs

    21740775 at https://www.economist.com

    JUST as Cody Butler and Joey Trombetta were searching for a spot to open a second branch of their Austin-based fitness boutique, Heat Bootcamp, they began losing business. Their clients weren’t trading their kettlebells and TRX bands for some other form of corporal torture; they were leaving town. “Every few months someone would come up to us and say ‘Love you guys, but we need more space and can’t afford it in Austin so we’re moving to the suburbs in Hays County’,” Mr Trombetta recalls. The buff business partners decided to follow their customers. After outfitting an expansive space formerly occupied by a grocery chain with rubber floors, mirrors, and red and blue mood lights befitting a nightclub, Heat Bootcamp opened up in San Marcos, the quaint seat of Hays County.

    The county, where builders have transformed farmland into gleaming new subdivisions with slogans like “Where Austin goes to grow”, expanded by 5% between July 2016 and July 2017. It is an extreme example of...Continue reading

    Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:48:20 +0000

    The racist origin of state laws on juries is encouraging change

    21740771 at https://www.economist.com

    TWO of the jurors who sat in judgment at Willie Dunn junior’s murder trial in 2011 thought he had a plausible claim to self-defence, and voted to acquit him. The other ten thought Mr Dunn was guilty not of murder but of the lesser crime of manslaughter, and in Louisiana that’s good enough. Mr Dunn is now about midway through a 20-year stretch in prison.

    Whereas split verdicts are acceptable in England, in America they can convict people only in Louisiana and Oregon, each of which allows convictions in most felony cases when ten of 12 jurors agree. Now in Louisiana a proposal to put the question of reforming the law before voters has cleared the state Senate and is pending in the House; and in Oregon prosecutors, the law’s staunchest defenders, are talking about supporting a change.

    The shift of sentiment comes amid renewed discussion of the law’s shameful history and troubling effects. The Advocate, Louisiana’s largest newspaper, recently...Continue reading

    Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:48:20 +0000

    Donald Trump alienates farmers

    21740769 at https://www.economist.com

    Bringing home less bacon

    “EVERYONE in pork production is more anxious than they have been for 20 years,” says Jimmy Tosh, a pig farmer from north-western Tennessee. As for the grain farmers, he reckons things are worse than at any time since the 1980s. The farmers’ latest worry is the five-yearly Farm Bill, which was submitted to Congress on April 18th. But Donald Trump, whom they overwhelmingly supported for the presidency, has provided them with plenty of other reasons to grouse.

    Times were already tough. Farm income has halved from a peak of $124bn in 2013 to a forecast $60bn this year (see chart) because the supply of global grains is outstripping demand, the Chinese economy is slowing and demand for ethanol based on corn (maize) is slack.

    Continue reading

    Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:48:20 +0000

    The Supreme Court seems divided over sales tax on online purchases

    21740727 at https://www.economist.com

    BILLIONS of dollars and long-standing interstate e-commerce rules are at stake in a case that came before the justices on April 17th. The case revisits an old Supreme Court rule that retailers shipping goods to states where they have no physical presence cannot be forced to collect sales tax from their customers. This standard is outdated, South Dakota's attorney-general told the justices, and deprives states of “massive sales tax revenues that we need for education, healthcare and infrastructure”. 

    The conflict in South Dakota v Wayfair Inc arose in 2016 when the Midwestern state noticed that more of its residents were shopping online. In defiance of a quarter-century-old Supreme Court precedent, South Dakota tried to shore up its declining revenues by imposing sales-tax collection on far-flung stores doing more than $100,000 of business, or conducting more than 200 transactions, in the state. 

    When the conflict hit the lower courts, South Dakota’s law was struck down as a violation of the...Continue reading

    Wed, 18 Apr 2018 19:51:57 +0000

    James Comey against the president

    21740667 at https://www.economist.com

    IN A televised interview on April 15th, James Comey tore into the president who sacked him as FBI director last year. Donald Trump, he said, in an appearance intended to publicise his forthcoming book, “lies constantly”, runs his administration like a mob boss, treats and speaks of women like they are “pieces of meat” and is, for these and other reasons, “morally unfit” to be president.

    Mr Trump also has “average size” hands, “orange” skin, hair that appears on close inspection to be real, but which must “take a heck of a lot of time in the morning” to arrange, and always wears his ties too long, said Mr Comey, whose projected self-image as a dispassionate and dutiful public servant has always been undermined by a relish for political drama.

    The president, characteristically, had got his defence in early. Hours before the interview was broadcast on ABC, he referred to Mr Comey on Twitter as a “slimeball” for the second time in three days. He also said Mr Comey, a former Republican, though he was appointed...Continue reading

    Mon, 16 Apr 2018 17:03:35 +0000

    America, Britain and France strike Syria

    21740584 at https://www.economist.com

    AMERICA, Britain and France fired a barrage of missiles at targets inside Syria on April 14th. The early-morning strikes aimed to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical-weapons attack that killed dozens of people in the city of Douma a week earlier. More than 100 cruise missiles, launched from warplanes and gunboats, struck three Syrian facilities: a scientific research centre used to produce chemical weapons near the capital of Damascus and two military bases further north.

    American officials and their European allies were careful to characterise the attack as a one-off strike designed to deter Mr Assad from using chemical weapons again. America’s defence secretary, Jim Mattis, who urged caution in the lead-up to the attack, said: “We were not out to expand this; we were very precise and proportionate.” No more attacks are planned, said Mr Mattis, unless Mr Assad uses chemical weapons again. “This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about...Continue reading

    Sat, 14 Apr 2018 12:02:18 +0000

    Tough love falls out of fashion in America’s schools

    21740467 at https://www.economist.com

    WHEN the gunshots sounded outside Houston Elementary School, Rembert Seaward and Darryl Webster, the principal and the school social worker, scrambled to the ground and ducked for cover. But one young pupil remained standing and then started to laugh—“It’s nothing but some gunshots,” they recall him saying. He told them that he would regularly play with his father’s TEC-9, a brand of semi-automatic pistol. “You think they’re just six, what life experiences could they have?” says Mr Webster. “You’d be surprised. There’s no normalcy.” Nearly every pupil attending Houston Elementary in Washington, DC, is poor and many have a parent in jail. Some live in homeless shelters and have never had a birthday party, until Mr Webster hosts one. Unsurprisingly, misbehaviour is common. But unlike many other schools, disruptive pupils are hardly ever suspended. “We need to teach them that there is some degree of love in the world,” Mr Seaward says.

    Across the country school...Continue reading

    Thu, 12 Apr 2018 14:54:49 +0000