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TWENTY-EIGHT years ago, in a forgotten corner of New Orleans, a rich oilman, Patrick Taylor, promised a class of 13-14-year-olds that he would pay their college tuition fees as long as they could keep a B average through high school. The idea caught on, and soon expanded to cover poor pupils across Louisiana. Eventually the private funding was replaced with taxpayer dollars. Then, in the late 1990s,... (more...)

“It’s all about the Benjamins,” rapped Puff Daddy, using slang for the $100 bill. But the real value of a “Benjamin” depends on where you live. The Tax Foundation, a think-tank, looked at federal data to determine the cost of buying goods in each state relative to the national average. A $100 bill goes furthest in Mississippi, where it is worth $115.34, giving the state 36% more purchasing... (more...)

Obama aide explains new drug policy EVER since November 2012, when Colorado and Washington state became the first jurisdictions in the world to legalise marijuana for recreational use, the big question has been how the federal government would respond. The drug remained illegal under federal law; would Barack Obama’s administration tolerate the states’ deviation?History provided bong-lovers... (more...)

On September 16th a former navy reservist, Aaron Alexis, shot 12 people dead at a military base in Washington, DC. Though rare, such tragedies are increasingly common in America. The past 30 years have seen 67 mass shootings (in which four or more people were killed by a gunman not involved in a conventional crime), says Mother Jones magazine. There have already been five this year, after seven... (more...)

AMERICA’S fiscal outlook may be grim, but it is less grim than it was. On September 17th the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said that the deficit, which hit a peacetime record of 10% of GDP in 2009, would fall below 4% of GDP this year and hit 2.1% by 2015. The federal debt is still on a long-term upward trajectory but that trajectory is lower than the CBO thought it was last year (see chart),... (more...)

COULD America survive the end of the American Dream? The idea is unthinkable, say political leaders of right and left. Yet it is predicted in “Average is Over”, a bracing new book by Tyler Cowen, an economist. Mr Cowen is no stranger to controversy. In 2011 he galvanised Washington with “The Great Stagnation”, in which he argued that America has used up the low-hanging fruit of free land,... (more...)

LIKE a poolside daydream, Barack Obama’s plan to get Congress to authorise the use of force in Syria, announced during the Labour Day holiday, did not survive two weeks back at work. Before a deal was struck on September 14th between John Kerry, the secretary of state, and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, it looked unlikely that the president would get the votes he needed in the House... (more...)

THE Arab street hates Barack Obama. Many angry Egyptians accuse him of secretly supporting the Islamists who ran the country until July. Many others (equally angry) accuse him of backing the generals who overthrew the Islamists. Both charges cannot be right. Indeed, neither is. Yet loathing of Mr Obama runs wide and deep in the Muslim world, though he came to office vowing to mend relations with... (more...)

STARTING pre-school poses tests for any four-year-old: sitting still, the risk of a yucky lunch, missing home. The stakes are still higher for 700 small Texans due to enter pre-kindergarten centres being opened by the city of San Antonio on August 26th. They are pioneers who will be watched all the way to the White House.Not so long ago there was broad, bipartisan support for government provision... (more...)

A Red Sox fan woos New Yorkers ON AUGUST 18th thousands thronged a street festival called Harlem Day. Tyrese, a popular R&B singer, got the teens screaming, a gospel choir got the crowd clapping and Bill Thompson, who is running for mayor of New York, got them all singing. Flanked by two Harlem stalwarts, Charles Rangel, congressman for the 13th district, and Hazel Dukes, head of the New York... (more...)