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Trump and Sanders win New Hampshire

the economistMié, 10/02/2016 - 11:11

ICY New Hampshire on February 9th was supposed to be where America’s convoluted primary contest got simpler. On the Republican side, Donald Trump was expected to win in a state where he has led in over 70 straight opinion polls. But in Marco Rubio, who almost pipped him to second place in Iowa and had high hopes for New Hampshire, the Republican establishment was hoping to have found an able adversary for the rabble-rousing tycoon. Similarly, among the Democrats, Bernie Sanders, a septuagenarian left-wing populist had looked likely to beat Hillary Clinton—for New Hampshire is packed with the white liberals who love him, and borders his own Vermont. Yet Mrs Clinton, buoyed by her narrow victory in Iowa, hoped to limit the damage—then advance with confidence to the more diverse states of the West and South. In the event, however, Mr Trump and Mr Sanders simply won huge victories. Mr Rubio and Mrs Clinton did horribly. If New Hampshire has simplified the contest, it is not in any way that Republican or Democratic party leaders will relish.

In a windy victory speech, Mr Sanders promised his victory would send a message that “will echo...Continue reading

The Supreme Court puts the Clean Power Plan on hold

the economistMié, 10/02/2016 - 03:52

AMERICA’S most ambitious effort to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants is in danger. On February 9th the Supreme Court, divided 5-4 along partisan lines, put the brakes on the Clean Power Plan: a move that surprised many. Barack Obama’s flagship environmental policy, the Clean Power Plan forms the core of America’s recent commitments to cut emissions made at UN climate talks in Paris. By staying the rule, the court heeded the concerns of more than two dozen mostly red states and energy companies that oppose it. It is now on hold until the Supremes decide on the legal merits of the case this summer.

Power plants are America’s largest source of greenhouse gases, accounting for just under a third of all emissions. The Clean Power Plan, under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), gives orders to each state that, when considered together, should amount to removing 870m tonnes of CO2 from emissions by power stations by 2030 (as measured against 2005 levels). The regulations give states some flexibility over how and when to cut emissions. But each one is required to submit plans by 2018 and to show some...Continue reading

How much do presidential candidates’ policy positions matter?

the economistMar, 09/02/2016 - 21:39

DONALD Trump has thus far put forward unusually sketchy policy proposals. His website offers an overview of his stances on only five issues. Other candidates for president have floated more specific proposals. Bernie Sanders has a small raft of them, ranging from a single-payer health-care system to free tuition at all public universities and a $15 per hour minimum wage. Hillary Clinton and others have criticised Mr Sanders for trumpeting ideas that are as realistic as proposing that unicorns dance a jig on the White House lawn.

Mr Sanders’ stock defence of his agenda is the stuff of inspiration or delusion, depending on your point of view. “A future to believe in”, his campaign slogan, is Barack Obama’s “Change we can believe in”—minus the smidgen of realism. When pressed to explain how his ideas could plausibly come to fruition, Mr Sanders invokes the need for a “political revolution”. Here are his closing words from his Continue reading

New Orleans society and history are on display at Carnival

the economistMar, 09/02/2016 - 18:03

IN NEW Orleans, they call Carnival “the greatest free show on earth”—a three-week season of parades full of satirical floats, high-school marching bands, dance troupes and walking clubs. It’s the only place in America that does the pre-Lenten celebration on such a scale. Besides being a fantastic spectacle, Carnival, which culminates with Mardi Gras on February 9th this year, offers a fascinating glimpse into the city's society. Almost every New Orleans resident participates in some way, except for a few grouches who flee when the parading season starts. 

There are the blue-blood organizations—“krewes,” in Carnival parlance—that have been parading since the late 1800s, when the festival was introduced to the city by French settlers, and whose membership is generally limited to those born into the right (always white) families. There are many less-snooty krewes, which are larger and more diverse. Joining might require an invitation from a friend, membership money and plenty of “throws”: plastic trinkets to chuck from floats, which might total $3,000.

Fat Tuesday is ushered in by the city’s oldest...Continue reading

The former mayor of Providence helped lift his city only to fall himself, repeatedly

the economistLun, 08/02/2016 - 22:13

LINES of police officers and firefighters; a horse-drawn carriage led by a bagpiper; a service in the cathedral celebrated by the bishop: the funeral of Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, the former mayor of Providence, on February 8th, was big, like the personality that had dominated the city for decades. Mr Cianci's escapades (often thuggish and sometimes illegal) and his quips (which also became famous) frequently overshadowed his accomplishments. But the city's renewal in the 1990s can be largely attributed to the leadership of Mr Cianci, who died on January 28th aged 74. 

When he took office in 1975, Providence, once known as "the beehive of industry", was in decline. The city's once vibrant textile industry had all but disappeared. “On the night of my inauguration the police got an emergency phone call that several monkeys were escaping from our zoo. You know you’re in trouble when your monkeys are trying to get out of town,” wrote Mr Cianci in his memoir “Politics and Pasta”.

During six terms in office, over two separate stints, Mr Cianci did much to revitalise the city. Struggling neighbourhoods were rehabilitated...Continue reading

The Republican primary contenders have a big televised dust-up

the economistDom, 07/02/2016 - 09:45

SUCCESSFUL in Iowa and surging in New Hampshire, Marco Rubio went into the televised Republican debate on February 6th knowing two things. He was due a pasting—especially from the three governors, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Jeb Bush, who are vying with him for the mainstream conservative vote. Second, if he could cope with their attacks well, he would have a gilded opportunity to impress both New Hampshire voters, ahead of the state’s primary election on February 9th, and the Republican moneymen looking anxiously for an antidote to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. In the event, Mr Rubio flunked his chance.

In the predicted pile-on it was Mr Christie, also predictably, who landed the most stinging blows on the fresh-faced senator from Florida. “You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable. You just simply haven’t,” he harangued Mr Rubio—and the senator’s response to Mr Christie’s onslaught was toe-curlingly bad.

Accused by the New Jersey governor of too easily resorting to a “memorised 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end,” Mr...Continue reading

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