New on F&O this week:
VERBATIM: The prescriptive Happiness Report. By Michael Sasges
The recently released World Happiness Report 2015 both describes and prescribes. The people of Togo and Burundi and Syria and Benin and Rwanda are the unhappiest people in the world, and the people of Switzerland and Iceland and Denmark and Norway and Canada are the happiest. The unhappy, however, can change their circumstances, by emulating the experiences of the happy, in the opinion of one of the three editors of the report, Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University.
TV Comedy for Intelligent Viewers: Bob Newhart. A Brief Encounter, by Brian Brennan (paywall)
“I last played here 18 years ago,” Bob Newhart told the reporters at a Toronto press conference in 1978 when he announced his return to stand-up comedy. “I think the act went over well because, as you can see, they invited me back.” It was the kind of dead-panned wisecrack one would have expected from Dr. Bob Hartley, the stammering psychologist Newhart played for six years on television from 1972 onwards. That’s where his press conference shtick began and ended, however. Like many comedians, Newhart saved his best jokes for his stage and screen performances. Now in his 80′s, Newhart continues to perform.
Eritreans take perils of the Mediterranean over torment at home, analysis by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)
Something has gone desperately wrong in Eritrea since the promise of the early 1990s, when the Eritreans stood out as one of the most remarkable people and societies in Africa. Now, among the hundreds of people dying in the sinking of rickety boats being used by people traffickers to take refugees from Africa to Europe are many Eritreans. The United Nations reckons that at least 4,000, almost all of them young, Eritreans a month are fleeing their country. What happened? To put it simply, Eritrea’s zealously Maoist President Isayas Afewerki is what happened.
The end is NOT nigh, commentary by Tom Regan
It’s enough to give a person permanent hypertension. Russian president Vladimir Putin likes to flex his military muscles more than a steroid pumped-up body builder. China wants to challenge the United States for dominance in Asia. North Korea’s top leadership is, well, crazy. Al-Qaeda and ISIS are messing up the Middle East and threatening citizens around the world. And what ISIS and Al-Qaeda aren’t doing to destabilize the region, Iran is. It looks like the world is more dangerous that it has ever been for Uncle Sam, and Canada. Except that … it’s not.
Why Comcast Walked Away, report by Leticia Miranda
Comcast announced that the company is walking away from its proposed $45.2 billion merger with Time Warner Cable. Comcast had recently met with the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission. The deal had been troubled for weeks. The Justice Department and FCC had reason to carefully evaluate the merger, which was first announced in Feb. 2014 and had been expected at the time to be completed by the end of 2014 or early 2015.
Said the late Carl Sagan, “There is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” To remind us of our place in the universe on Earth Day, April 22, NASA presented a gallery of space images, Celebrating Earth’s Beauty.
Long Live Europe, by Roger Cohen, New York Times
The doomsayers about Europe are rampant. But, writes Cohen, Europe is very much alive. An excerpt:
(Europe) looks more like 2015, a borderless market of more than half a billion people between whom war has become impossible, so attractive to much of humankind that thousands die trying to get into it, a Continent where entitlements including universal health care are seen not as socialist indulgence but basic humanity, and a magnet to states outside the European Union that long to be part of this security-conferring entity.
Entities are unsexy. They do not send a shiver down the spine or cause a telltale tremor. But the entity without precedent that is the 28-member Union has delivered. It has delivered peace above all, prosperity however frayed, and freedom to former inmates of the Soviet imperium. It has also created an awareness of European identity that falls short of European patriotism but is nonetheless a counterweight to the primal nationalism that stained the Continent with so much blood.