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Niggling distinctions

the economistMar, 06/05/2014 - 19:17

“IN LANDMARK decision,” Andy Borowitz wrote of the justices’ 5-4 ruling in a religion-infused tiff in upstate New York, “Supreme Court strikes down main reason country was started”. Permitting a town to kick off its monthly board meetings with Christian prayers, for Mr Borowitz and the dissenters in Town of Greece v Galloway, is an abandonment of the rule against the “establishment of religion”, the first command of the first amendment to America’s constitution. In the eyes of a majority of the Supreme Court justices, however, the town’s tradition simply pays homage to the nation’s hallowed heritage of prayer in legislative settings. Tevye would be proud.

Only in America would a two-minute benediction at sparsely attended town meetings inspire 80 pages of heated and starkly contrasting judicial...Continue reading

Not so smart

the economistMar, 06/05/2014 - 06:45

SINCE January 1st 3,551 people have been killed by gun violence in America, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The victims include Endia Martin, a 14-year-old girl, who was shot in the back in Chicago last week after an argument with a former friend over a boy. The weapon that was used to kill Martin, a .38 special revolver, began as a legal gun, reports the Chicago Tribune, but somehow it made its way to into this adolescent tussle, turning a flare up between young girls into a deadly tragedy.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands? Sure, second-amendment hawks aren’t terribly keen on comprehensive background checks for buyers, but what if there was a way to build such safety measures into the guns...Continue reading

Revenge of the tiger mother

the economistLun, 05/05/2014 - 20:59

WHEN measured in terms of academic achievement, Asian Americans are a successful bunch. Forty-nine percent have a bachelor's degree or higher. This compares favourably against white Americans (30%), African-Americans (19%) and Latinos (13%). These racial disparities can be seen in school as well, and they increase when postgraduate degrees are thrown into the mix.

Amy Chua, a self-declared "tiger mother" who became famous for promoting the benefits of harsh parenting, would put this down to culture. She has argued that Chinese-American children statistically out-perform their peers because they are pushed harder at home. This is an argument she reiterated in a recent book, “The Triple Package”, written with her husband Jed Rubenfeld, a fellow law professor at Yale, in which she ascribes the success of different cultures in America...Continue reading

What you didn't miss

the economistSáb, 03/05/2014 - 20:50

SINCE arriving in Washington to write about politics, I have spent much more time trying to explain to people why things are not happening than why they are. This week has been no different. A plethora of things did not happen: there was no movement on immigration reform, nothing was done to improve the country's long-term fiscal outlook or to mend its crumbling roads and underperforming schools. Among these non-happenings was the Senate vote on raising the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 an hour. Democrats were unable to muster the votes to bring the question to the chamber, a disappointment softened by the knowledge that they can use Republican opposition on the campaign trail.

Raising the minimum wage is broadly popular: a Pew poll conducted last month found over 70% in favour of a rise to $10.10, as Democrats propose; a more recent Continue reading

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