Economist 2/25/16

  1. Most Europeans are, on average, at their happiest since the financial crisis. In 2008 76% of EU citizens said they were satisfied with their lives. That number is now 80%, according to the Eurobarometer survey, which has tracked self-reported happiness for over four decades. Those in northern European countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, are consistently the most content.But there are big differences between individual age-groups. Europeans are generally happier when they are younger. However, richer countries see an uptick of joyfulness in old age: Germans are happier when they are over 75 years old than when they are between 25 and 34, and the Swiss are happier when they are over 75 than when they are teenagers. (Britons, Swedes and Danes are happiest when they are between 65 and 74.)Of the cities surveyed, most are home to populations reporting an increase in happiness over the past few years. The highest correlation with life satisfaction in cities is a feeling of safety.
  2. Tim Cook, Apple’s boss, is in a heated battle with America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which wants the company to help it unlock a terrorist’s iPhone. Mr Cook says complying with the FBI’s request would have dangerous consequences, and is refusing to do so.The FBI has requested Apple to design a solution to bypass one of its security procedures, which deletes the contents of an iPhone if the password is guessed unsuccessfully ten times. A federal court has ordered the firm to comply with the request, but Mr Cook is refusing, on the grounds that doing so would have dangerous consequences. It would enable the FBI to gain access to the contents of the phone, which, granted, could provide helpful clues to law enforcement. But Apple says that such a tool does not yet exist and that building one could put its users at risk. Once a key exists, it could be used by law enforcement to unlock people’s private information in less justified cases.. However, Apple is right to be concerned that complying could trigger an avalanche of requests and potential privacy concerns.
  3. ON FEBRUARY 23rd, a committee of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, began debating a new law which will allow it to suspend its own members for “expressing support for terrorism”. While the law is not specifically directed at any political faction, its thrust is clear. It was tabled by the government in response to a meeting three weeks ago between three Israeli-Arab Knesset members and the families of a number of Palestinians who had been killed while attacking Israelis.Mr Netanyahu is surely aware that the law is unlikely ever to pass all the necessary legislative stages of the Knesset; if it does, it is liable to be struck down by the Supreme Court; and even if it gets past the court it is unlikely ever to be used because it requires a three-quarters majority of the Knesset to agree to any suspension.Yet it is part of a verbal campaign Mr Netanyahu stands accused of waging against Israel’s Arab minority since last year’s general election.Most Israelis take great pride in their democracy, which is committed to equal rights for Jews and non-Jews.Some argue that the suspension law undermines this.
  4. Most people have never heard of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which covers 26 African countries. It will create the biggest free-trade area on the continent, “from Cairo to the Cape”, as its supporters boast.The continent features 17 trade blocs. The TFTA aims to join up three of them: the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).An abundance of borders has long divided the continent’s 54 countries, limiting economies of scale.Average transport costs in Africa are twice the world average and are thought to harm trade on the continent more than tariffs and other barriers.An African firm selling goods on the continent still faces an average tariff rate of 8.7%, compared with 2.5% overseas.Nearly all African countries are party to more than one regional agreement. These overlapping allegiances can tie them in knots.Whether to protect their dominance or avoid hardship, most countries revert to protectionism.
  5. The volume of intra-African trade is so small that fixing these problems, and upgrading the continent’s infrastructure, may not seem worth the expense to some countries. So UNCTAD recommends creating an integration fund, financed by relatively rich African states, to pave new roads and build export capacity in poorer countries.In their zeal to integrate, African leaders may also be using the wrong model. Broad and shallow agreements are the norm, but the continent’s most successful economic bloc consists of just five countries. EAC members keep good data, and a public scorecard holds them accountable for non-tariff barriers.
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