The Economist: Better to be born in Israel than in Italy, Japan, France, Britain, Spain

December 03, 2012

* The Economist magazine: Babies born in Israel in 2013 will have a better life than those born in Italy, Japan, France, Britain, Spain and most other countries

* At Harvard, “Jews need not apply”

* Syrian regime may be preparing to use chemical weapons


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1. UN Twitter feed calls for “one-state” solution (i.e. elimination of Israel)
2. The Economist: Babies born in Israel will have a better life than those born in Italy, Japan, France, Britain, Spain
3. Israel ranked 14th in the World Happiness Report, and as world’s 6th healthiest country
4. Western Intelligence: Syria may be preparing to use chemical weapons
5. New terror organizations
6. At Harvard, flyer for new student club tells students “Jews need not apply”
7. “The lottery of life: Where to be born in 2013” (The Economist magazine)
8. “Campus reacts to inflammatory flyers” (Harvard Crimson, Dec. 1, 2012)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


The UN twitter feed sent out a tweet at the end of last week saying:

“On Day of Solidarity with Palestinians, Ban Ki-moon stresses urgency of reaching 1-state solution”

The twitter feed has since been deleted, but you can view it below:



In an extensive new study compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister company of The Economist, and published in The Economist, Israel ranks 20th in the best countries to be a baby born in 2013.

The detailed study included factors such as education, health and safety.

Switzerland came top of the list, followed by Australia.

America only ranked in 16th place (down from first place in the 1980s).

In the 2013 list, Israel was ahead of Italy (which ranked 21), Japan (25), France (26), Britain (27), Spain (28) and Russia (72).

Health, education and lifestyle rank very highly in Israel, which also has a low rate of violent street crime.

Here is the graph:

(The full article from The Economist is attached further down this dispatch.)



As I have pointed out previously, Israel was ranked:

* 14th in the World Happiness Report.

* The world’s 6th healthiest country.

That list was topped by Singapore.

Israel in 6th place was well ahead of countries like Germany, France, Britain and the U.S.



The New York Times reported yesterday that Western intelligence officials have observed what appears to be activity by the Syrian regime at facilities used to house chemical weapons.

The Times quoted a source identified only as a “senior U.S. intelligence official” as saying that the Syrians “are doing some things that suggest they plan to use the weapons. It’s not just moving things around. These are different kinds of activities.”

Syrian stockpiles include chemical and biological weapons like sarin, VX and tabun.

Syria is believed by some intelligence officials to have the biggest stockpile of these weapons in the world, after China.

Anti-regime rebels have intensified their activities in and around the Syrian capital Damascus in recent days.

The Obama administration has also been embarrassed by new reports that Iraq has emerged as the key country that is helping Assad re-arm his troops. Rockets, anti-tank missiles, RPGs and mortars are being flown to Syria via Iraq.



In an announcement yesterday, the Israeli Cabinet decided as follows:

Pursuant to Article 8 of the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, to declare that the following bodies of persons or organizations, according to the names included herein or by any other name by which they may be known, including any faction, branch, center, committee, group, faction and institution of said organization, are terrorist organizations:

* “The Al-Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards”
* The Change and Reform List or “Al-Atzlach v’Al-Tajair”
* The Charity Coalition (Atlaf Alchayir)
* The Iranian (or) Palestinian Humanity Support and Coordination Staff, the Popular Committee for Support of the Palestinian People, and the Iranian Popular
Committee for Support of the Palestinian Intifada.
* The Al-Quds Institution and Al-Qods International Institution
* The Palestinian and Lebanese Families Welfare Trust
* The Popular Resistance Committees and its military arm, the Saladin Brigade
* The IHH (“Insan Haklary ve Hurriyetleri”), Vakfi International Humanitarian Relief Organization, “Internationale Humanitere Hilfsorganisation”

“The declaration applies to these organizations even if they are known by other names, nicknames or acronyms, or translation into any other language, whether permanently or occasionally, and all of their factions and attached bodies.”



On Friday morning, Harvard University students living on campus woke up to discover that flyers that had been slid under their doors for “The Pigeon, Harvard’s Newest Finals Club,” stated “Jews need not apply”.

The leaflet went on to say: “Seriously, no fucking Jews. Coloreds OK”.

The dean of Harvard College, Evelynn M. Hammonds, emailed students to say: “As Dean of the College, and as an educator, I find these flyers offensive. They are not a reflection of the values of our community.” (There is a full report in an article from The Harvard Crimson, at the end of this dispatch.)

Tom Gross adds: Many think that Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, would not have been spurred into founding the social networking site Facebook if he had not been effectively shunned by another student club at Harvard that discriminated against “geeky Jews” and tried to exclude him on that basis.

-- Tom Gross



The lottery of life: Where to be born in 2013
The Economist magazine
November 21, 2012

Warren Buffett, probably the world’s most successful investor, has said that anything good that happened to him could be traced back to the fact that he was born in the right country, the United States, at the right time (1930). A quarter of a century ago, when The World in 1988 light-heartedly ranked 50 countries according to where would be the best place to be born in 1988, America indeed came top. But which country will be the best for a baby born in 2013?

To answer this, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister company of The Economist, has this time turned deadly serious. It earnestly attempts to measure which country will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead.

Its quality-of-life index links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys – how happy people say they are – to objective determinants of the quality of life across countries. Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too. In all, the index takes 11 statistically significant indicators into account. They are a mixed bunch: some are fixed factors, such as geography; others change only very slowly over time (demography, many social and cultural characteristics); and some factors depend on policies and the state of the world economy.

A forward-looking element comes into play, too. Although many of the drivers of the quality of life are slow-changing, for this ranking some variables, such as income per head, need to be forecast. We use the EIU’s economic forecasts to 2030, which is roughly when children born in 2013 will reach adulthood.

Despite the global economic crisis, times have in certain respects never been so good. Output growth rates have been declining across the world, but income levels are at or near historic highs. Life expectancy continues to increase steadily and political freedoms have spread across the globe, most recently in north Africa and the Middle East. In other ways, however, the crisis has left a deep imprint – in the euro zone, but also elsewhere – particularly on unemployment and personal security. In doing so, it has eroded both family and community life.

What does all this, and likely developments in the years to come, mean for where a baby might be luckiest to be born in 2013? After crunching its numbers, the EIU has Switzerland comfortably in the top spot, with Australia second.

Small economies dominate the top ten. Half of these are European, but only one, the Netherlands, is from the euro zone. The Nordic countries shine, whereas the crisis-ridden south of Europe (Greece, Portugal and Spain) lags behind despite the advantage of a favourable climate. The largest European economies (Germany, France and Britain) do not do particularly well.

America, where babies will inherit the large debts of the boomer generation, languishes back in 16th place. Despite their economic dynamism, none of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) scores impressively. Among the 80 countries covered, Nigeria comes last: it is the worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013.

Quibblers will, of course, find more holes in all this than there are in a chunk of Swiss cheese. America was helped to the top spot back in 1988 by the inclusion in the ranking of a “philistine factor” (for cultural poverty) and a “yawn index” (the degree to which a country might, despite all its virtues, be irredeemably boring). Switzerland scored terribly on both counts. In the film “The Third Man”, Orson Welles’s character, the rogue Harry Lime, famously says that Italy for 30 years had war, terror and murder under the Borgias but in that time produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance; Switzerland had 500 years of peace and democracy – and produced the cuckoo clock.

However, there is surely a lot to be said for boring stability in today’s (and no doubt tomorrow’s) uncertain times. A description of the methodology is available here: food for debate all the way from Lucerne to Lagos.

(Laza Kekic: director, country forecasting services, Economist Intelligence Unit)



Campus Reacts To Inflammatory Flyers
By Rebecca D. Robbins
Harvard Crimson
Updated version published December 1, 2012

Students in at least six River Houses found this flyer for “The Pigeon” under their doors early Friday morning. The flyer featured inflammatory language regarding minority students, race, and religion, sparking controversy across campus.

Students in all nine River Houses received sealed invitations under their doors early Friday morning professing to come from “Harvard’s Newest Final Club” – with the inflammatory statements that “Jews need not apply” and “Coloreds OK.”

The enclosed flyer, bearing a crest of a griffin encircled by a laurel wreath, invited recipients to the first introductory punch event of the purported social club “The Pigeon.”

The invitation listed three virtues, each with asterisked notes. The first principle, “Inclusion,” came with the footnote, “Jews need not apply.” The second, “Diversity,” was followed by the words, “Seriously, no fucking Jews. Coloreds OK.” And the third, “Love,” directed readers to the term “Rophynol” – a misspelled rendering of rohypnol, the date rape drug better known as roofies.

The flyer also instructed aspiring members to wear “Semi-Bro Attire” to the punch event, to be held at frozen yogurt shop Berryline at 11:02 p.m. – two minutes after closing time – on Dec. 13, or to send their regrets to a room in Mather House.

One student who lives in the five-person suite that includes the room specified in the flyer said that she and her suitemates were not involved in creating or distributing the invitations. The Matherite, who was granted anonymity by The Crimson because she said she did not want to be associated with language that she finds offensive, added that she and her suitemates have no knowledge of who was behind the flyers.

Also in the wee hours of Friday morning, two Northeastern University students vandalized a menorah on Northeastern’s campus. They were later identified in a surveillance video and will face disciplinary action at Northeastern. No evidence has been reported to suggest a link between the two incidents.

The mock invitations distributed at Harvard drew a swift response from College administrators, who summoned at least one student organization leader on Friday as they began investigating the incident.

Owen T. L. Bates ‘13, president of the Harvard Lampoon, adamantly said his organization had “nothing to do with” the flyers, which he said were “basely crass” in a tone inconsistent with the Lampoon’s style of “pretentiously crass” humor. Still, he said he received an email and a phone call from the Office of Student Life on Friday morning asking him to meet with Interim Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich. When they met midday on Friday, Bates said, Friedrich indicated that the conversation was prompted in part by speculation in the comments section of an earlier version of this article that the Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine, may have been responsible for the incident.

Though many Harvard community members guessed that the flyers were an attempt at satire of the exclusive all-male final clubs, they roundly condemned the inflammatory references in the invitations.

Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds wrote in an emailed statement on Friday that the flyers were “deeply disturbing” to her and others in the Harvard community.

“As Dean of the College, and as an educator, I find these flyers offensive. They are not a reflection of the values of our community,” Hammonds wrote. “Even if intended as satirical in nature, they are hurtful and offensive to many students, faculty and staff, and do not demonstrate the level of thoughtfulness and respect we expect at Harvard when engaging difficult issues within our community.”

Christopher H. Cleveland ‘14, president of the Harvard Black Men’s Forum, wrote in an email that he thought the invitations, regardless of their intent, had gone too far.

“As students of a university with a very peculiar history concerning ethnic and racial relations, we should be working together to build up each other,” Cleveland wrote. The first final club to admit a black member was the Spee, in 1965; the Porcellian had no black members until 1983.

“Publications that alienate specific ethnic and racial groups are not aligned with that goal,” Cleveland added.

The invitations are not the first of their kind. In 2010, a group of undergraduates distributed flyers under doors, in the tradition common to real final clubs, encouraging students to refrain from joining the clubs or attending their parties. Organizers claimed that Harvard’s eight male and five female final clubs, which are not recognized by the University, promote an exclusive and dangerous social environment. And in a similar campaign in 2011, organizers slipped letters under the doors of sophomore men asking them not to participate in punch in part due to the “unequal access to social space” enjoyed by the male clubs over the female ones.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.