Coming Up in CQ Researcher

Financial Crisis
The shaky subprime mortgages creating widespread turmoil in the U.S. housing market are also feeding a worldwide credit crisis. Deploying complex computerized models, lenders have pooled credit instruments of all sorts – mortgages, credit card debt, corporate and government bonds – and sliced and diced the packages for trading in lightly regulated financial markets. The banks, investment funds and other players that trade in these markets say that “securitization” promotes economic liquidity by spreading and diversifying risk. Critics say the practices actually allow dubious loans to uncreditworthy customers to spread virus-like through worldwide financial markets. Banks in the United States and elsewhere are taking big write-offs as they are forced to revalue their holdings. The U.S. Treasury Department is proposing a major overhaul of financial markets regulation, but the sweeping plan offers little by way of immediate relief. In any event, any proposals for additional regulation will face stiff resistance from the financial community.
By Kenneth Jost

Debating Prostitution
Governments around the world are challenging traditional approaches to dealing with prostitution in an effort to eliminate the harms of prostitution, including minors being forced into sex work and attacks on prostitutes. In Sweden, the act of selling sex has been decriminalized, and police now target johns for arrest and prosecution. The plan wins plaudits from traditional feminist groups who say its focus on snuffing out demand is the surest way to eliminate the sex industry, which they argue inevitably promulgates violence against women. Germany, New Zealand and several Australian states have legalized certain forms of prostitution, such as brothels in specified districts. But advocates of sex-workers’ rights are skeptical of both approaches, arguing that only complete decriminalization and recognition of sex work as a form of labor like any other can end the social stigma that leaves prostitutes unprotected from disease and violence and unable to seek help for fear of arrest or harassment by authorities.
By Marcia Clemmitt

America’s Changing Electorate
Demographics have played nearly as large a role in this year’s presidential race as health care, war and the economy. The Democratic field has come down to an African American man dominating voting among blacks, the young and highly-educated voters and a white woman winning older voters, Hispanics and the white working class. Regardless of whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is the nominee, the Democratic candidate’s first order of business will be reuniting party supporters against Republican John McCain. Many trends favor Democrats, including increased support among Latinos and voters under 30. But states that have supported George W. Bush are gaining in population and will gain electoral votes by 2012. As the American electorate changes shape, the big question is which party stands to gain the most.
By Alan Greenblatt