Is Australia really the happiest country in the world?

Slow down, Aussies: Australia certainly has plenty to be happy about, but the OECD's new Better Life Index didn't just declare living in the Land Down Under the best lifestyle in the world. Still, you wouldn't know that from this week's headlines, which include, "Australia Tops List of Happiest Countries," "Australia Tops OECD Better Life Index, Leading Sweden, Canada," "Australia is the happiest industrialised nation. But are you happy?" and the self-congratulatory "Australia: Happy is as happy does."

You can chalk the misunderstanding up to lies, damn lies, and subjective statistics. Apparently, news outlets missed the part in the index's FAQs where, in answer to the question "Which country is #1?," the OECD explicitly states, "The OECD has not assigned rankings to countries."

It's easy to see how the report could be misleading. The Better Life Index ranks the quality of life in OECD countries based on 11 categories of metrics -- housing (including data on "rooms per person," "dwellings with basic facilities," and "housing expenditure"); environment ("air pollution" and "water quality"); and work-life balance ("employees working very long hours" and "time devoted to leisure and personal care"), among others. The default index (shown below) weights each of these 11 categories equally, and Australia does rise to the top of the list. But the OECD's goal is to learn what quality-of-life indicators matter to you.

The Better Life Index, in other words, is designed to be toyed with. The OECD's interactive chart allows you to weight the metrics to your liking and then compare your index to those of others. As of right now, the average user-submitted weighted index emphasizes education, health, and life satisfaction, and deemphasizes civic engagement, bumping Switzerland up a notch to the happiest country, narrowly beating out Canada, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Australia. That could change, though, as more people submit their weighted indices. You can make your own index here.

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Pakistan is planning its own version of 'Glee'

Glee, the hit U.S. TV show, has won fans the world over for its ability to tackle the hard issues of adolescence -- homosexuality, bullying, teen pregnancy -- through the ever-accessible music of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. And it seems Pakistani television producers have taken note. As AFP reports today, the country will release its own version of the show, Taan, this fall. The news agency has more on the 26-episode series, which will include music from artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (the photo above shows a rehearsal for the program):

'Taan' follows the lives and loves of a group of young people who regularly burst into song. But this time they attend a music academy in Lahore, instead of an American high school.

Taan - which is a musical note in Urdu - tackles subjects considered off limits in Pakistan's deeply conservative Muslim society.

For example, a love affair "between a Taliban extremist and a beautiful Christian girl" promises to give Rachel and Finn's tortured romance a run for its money. And even more controversial is a planned storyline depicting a gay relationship.

The show's creators have come up with creative ways to avoid angering authorities. Take the aforementioned plotline of two male lovers. "Let's say in a certain scene, there are two boys talking to each other, they are not allowed to show their physical attachment to each other," explains director Samar Raza, particularly since homosexuality is illegal in Pakistan. "So I bring a third character who says: 'God designed Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.'" This third conservative character will theoretically enable Raza to discuss homosexuality while evading censorship.

Concern about censors isn't the only factor distinguishing Pakistan's version of Glee from its U.S. inspiration. As the Telegraph points out, Taan will include a dark side that isn't exactly applicable to the lives of U.S. tweens:

One of the characters, Annie Masih is described as losing all her family in the 2009 attack on a Christian enclave in the town on Gojra, a real episode in which seven people were burned alive.

Another storyline involves Fariduddin, a member of the Pakistan Taliban intent on blowing up the academy before he is eventually seduced by music.

Then again, Glee hasn't shied away from the dark side of life either.

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