Economist 7/22/15

  1. France and Britain are comparably rich countries with broadly similar approaches to human rights and welfare. Yet charities say more than 1,000 people have made the risky crossing across the English channel in recent weeks.On July 14th it announced the construction of a new “secure zone” at Calais, with room for 230 lorries, removing them from the open road where illegal immigrants can climb aboard.Britain’s attractiveness is in contrast to its accessibility. Apart from the moat of the English Channel, the sceptred isle is buffered from less happier lands by not having signed the Schengen agreement. This allows free movement between its member states, which include most western European countries. Schengen is one reason why Britain receives fewer asylum applications than other countries. More than 625,000 people applied for refugee status last year in the 28 countries of the EU (Syrians made up one-fifth of them). Only 31,745 of them applied in Britain, half the number for France and one-sixth that of Germany.
  2. The 2014 Immigration Act in Britain, which gave landlords and banks new responsibilities to check applicants’ migration status, has made it harder for undocumented migrants to live and work. And the benefits for asylum seekers are very similar to those in France.Once they have lodged an appeal, single asylum seekers are given £36.95 ($58) per week, roughly the same as in France. In both countries they are offered housing, but cannot choose where. In neither are they eligible for many other benefits, although health care and some education are available. Both countries allow those with refugee status to bring their families, and both aim to give a first decision on asylum applications within six months—which often stretches to as long as 18.Though it keeps migrants out by not being a member of the Schengen group, Britain is a signatory of the Dublin Regulation, under which it is allowed to return asylum-seekers to the country where they first set foot in Europe. Officials in Italy and Greece sometimes do not fingerprint migrants, for the same reason.
  3. Pathways in Technology Early College High School, an unusual school in the Crown Heights neighbourhood of Brooklyn which blends a public high-school education with community college courses and paid work experience.P-Tech, which opened in the autumn of 2011, was developed by IBM in partnership with New York city and the City University of New York. It aims to shake up education and change what vocational education means. Unlike most American high-schools, it is a six-year programme instead of the usual four. At the end of six years, if not before, pupils will finish with an associate degree at no cost to the student. The technology giant helped develop the curriculum, which focuses on science, technology and maths. P-Tech teaches all the usual subjects, like English and history, but its pupils learn coding.What sets P-Tech apart is how hard-headed it is. Most of the pupils in Brooklyn’s P-Tech are the first in their families to go to college. And most come from low-income and minority homes–96% of the students are black and Latino. About 80% of the students qualify for free or cheap lunches. It has an open admissions policy and operates within the existing school district budget. IBM expects more than 100 schools with 100,000 pupils, will be operating by 2016. The company gives the “P-Tech formula”, which was designed to be replicable and scalable, away at ptech.org to encourage their spread.
  4. There have been 28 civilian aircraft crashes in Iran since the turn of the century, according to the Aviation Safety Network, claiming more than 500 lives. The average age of an aircraft operated by Iran Air, the country’s flag carrier, is 26 years. America will “allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran” states the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action released by the nuclear negotiating teams. As well as improving the lot of Iranian passengers, this could earn tens of billions of dollars for Western aircraft manufacturers, including American firms such as Boeing.Just as America and Iran enjoyed warm relations before the 1979 Revolution, so Iran Air and Boeing were once inseparable.Iran says the country needs to acquire 400 aircraft over the next decade—100 of which will go to the flag-carrier.
  5. When the Dodd-Frank Act was passed in 2010, the so-called Volcker rule was seen as one of its key provisions. But the rule only formally became operative on July 21st this year.The pertinent clause of the Dodd-Frank Act amounts to all of 165 words (with the key points covered in 40). Two activities are banned: proprietary trading and ties (through investment and relationships) to hedge and private equity funds. Putting that into practice involved a collaboration of five regulatory agencies: the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).The aim of the rule is to stop banks (and their worldwide affiliates) with access to American government funds from indulging in speculation and conflicts of interest. In reality, distinguishing such activities from more beneficial financial operations has proved daunting.Bank examiners will not only have to judge assets and liabilities, but also intentions. Some foreign banks, judging that they simply lack the political clout to navigate through such a complex regulatory environment, have cut back their American operations.
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