Economist 2/2/15

  1. Now a group of right-wing businessmen in El Salvador have hired Mr Rudolph Giuliani to propose tough-guy solutions to crime in one of the world’s most gang-ridden countries.El Salvador’s murder rate dropped sharply during a truce between the country’s two main gangs in 2012-14, which was brokered by the government. It soared after the agreement broke down early last year. The number of murders rose 57% in 2014 compared with a year earlier, to almost 11 a day, according to the police. A rash of killings in early January 2015 took the number to a staggering 15 a day.Though such agreements reduce bloodshed they are deeply unpopular.One reason,although gang members stop killing each other temporarily, gang-related crime that afflicts ordinary people, such as extortion, continues unabated. So does violence between gangsters and police.
  2. Yangon, or Rangoon is booming.Since 1983 its population has tripled, to 7.4m. It has claimed much of the foreign investment that has flooded Myanmar since political reforms began in 2011.Office rents are as high as anywhere in Asia.Land acquisition and disposal are governed by archaic laws, barely enforced, which hinder investment. Yet land prices in Yangon and across the country are soaring—partly because speculators are holding out for huge payouts, but also because, with no functioning stockmarket and a shaky banking system, Myanmar offers few other places for the wealthy to park their cash.The public water supply is patchy throughout Yangon—most residents rely on rainwater, ponds or unregulated private wells, which deplete the city’s groundwater supply.. Even in districts that no longer suffer extended cuts, supply often fluctuates.
  3. One of the most sprawling cities in America, Atlanta covers 4,280 square kilometres and houses around 2.5m people. Sporadic stations line its light-rail network, MARTA, causing many to shun its services. All this means local commuters spend an average of over 50 hours a year stuck in traffic.Overall, transport around the city sees 7.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per resident released every year.Atlanta’s commuters are like most in the nation, however. More than three-quarters of American workers drive to the office alone (just 4.9% take public transport) and 16% of all trips made by any means on a particular day relate to employment. But Georgia is unusually poor at funding its roads: the state ranks 49th for per capita transportation funding. Its motor fuel excise tax is among America’s lowest.
  4. Lumen Christi is one of half a dozen Catholic secondary schools in Northern Ireland whose results place them near the top of British league tables. Such schools have their critics; some regard them as “grade factories” which will push children into relatively easy subjects and neglect their development as all-rounders. But they certainly do give plenty of children from modest homes or remote places a leg-up.In recent public statements, the hierarchy has renewed calls for schools like Lumen Christi to open their doors to children of all abilities. In the Republic of Ireland, the church has seen a vertiginous decline in its prestige thanks to scandals over cruelty to children, and the cover-up of these ills by priest-ridden politicians. The church has to think of clever ways of keeping its stock high.
  5. One reason why “American Sniper” has caused such a kerfuffle is that its main character, Chris Kyle, is such an unusual Hollywood type.Kyle’s character is a hero with no flaws, a good man who kills without regret. At one point in the film a psychologist tries to pry into his memories, rummaging around in search of guilt. Kyle replies that his only regret is that he did not use his rangefinder and rifle to protect more marines.This is key to the film’s appeal: it is Iraq minus the bad bits, a celebration of heroism, skill and the bond between comrades. Such themes delight the half of the nation that Hollywood habitually ignores. When a director reaches out to conservatives, as Mel Gibson did with “The Passion of the Christ”, they open their wallets.

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