Economist 2/3/15

  1. One, by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think-tank named after the chancellor who negotiated with Israel’s David Ben-Gurion, found that 70% of Israelis see Germany positively. That makes Germany their favourite country in Europe, as thousands of Israelis in Berlin would agree.Germans and Israelis have drawn different lessons from the Holocaust, says Stephan Vopel of Bertelsmann. The Israeli one is never to be a victim again; the German is never to make war again.Mrs Merkel has lost faith that Mr Netanyahu is honest about wanting a two-state solution.Some 100,000 Jews now call Germany home (most are Russian immigrants). But Germany also has 4m Muslims. In some cities, it is Muslims who are increasingly anti-Semitic.
  2. AMERICA’S labour market boomed in 2014. The job market is hot largely because of a cold-hearted Republican reform, it concludes. Before the financial crisis, jobless workers in most states qualified only for 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. In June 2008 that was extended, thanks to a new federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) programme. By the end of 2013 the average unemployed American could expect benefits to last 53 weeks; in three states they could get 73 weeks’ worth.The study looks at what happened after Congress refused to reauthorise EUC in December 2013. The average limit on benefits plunged to 25 weeks, cutting off roughly 1.3m Americans immediately.However, only a minority of the new jobs were filled by people moving off unemployment benefit. Some 1m were taken by people who were previously not in the labour force.
  3. Fewer people have died in Colombia’s armed conflict than in any other month in the past 30 years. That is a result of the declaration of an indefinite ceasefire by the FARC guerrillas. The negotiators have reached agreements on the first three items of a six-point agenda, concerning rural development, the guerrillas’ participation in politics and steps to curb drug-trafficking. Since July they have been locked in discussions on the most delicate point of all: “transitional justice”—in other words, striking a balance between truth, justice and reconciliation.Several small Colombian guerrilla groups disarmed in the 1980s in return for an amnesty and democratic reforms, which culminated in a new constitution in 1991. But the FARC carried on fighting.Colombia’s conflict is unusually messy. What began as an ideological battle shaded into criminality. In the 1980s the FARC turned to drug-trafficking, kidnapping, extortion and, more recently, illegal gold mining to finance itself. The world no longer accepts amnesties. The International Criminal Court claims a mandate to try those accused of war crimes.
  4. On January 26th the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, appeared on television to announce that she would propose a law to scrap the main intelligence agency, the Intelligence Secretariat (SI), and replace it with a new body whose directors would be named by her and approved by the Senate.This happened while the SI is at the centre of a furore set off by the death from a gunshot of Alberto Nisman, a prosecutor who had accused Ms Fernández and other senior officials of trying to thwart his investigation into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s worst terrorist attack. Argentines are as wary as the president of the intelligence services, whose structure has changed little since the end of dictatorship in 1983. They still fear illegal eavesdropping and suspect it is used for political ends.
  5. Production of crude oil represents just 3% of Canada’s GDP.  Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada pulled Canada out of the Kyoto protocol on climate change and promoted the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry Alberta bitumen to refineries in the southern United States.The weakness in the energy sector prompted a surprise cut in interest rates by the Bank of Canada on January 21st.Canada is hardly Venezuela, whose oil-dependent economy is expected to contract by 7% this year. The central bank predicts growth of 2.1% this year and 2.4% in 2016.  Oil-rich Alberta, which has grown faster than the rest of Canada for the past 20 years, will enter recession this year says one tink-tank.Ontario and Quebec, which account for more than half of Canada’s GDP, see less reason to worry. They are home to large manufacturing industries, such as cars and aerospace, which have long complained that the oil-fuelled rise in the Canadian dollar was damaging their competitiveness.
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