Economist 11/3/15

  1. SOMALILAND, a slim slice of Somali-inhabited territory on the southern shore of the Gulf of Aden, ticks almost all the boxes of statehood. It has its own currency, a reasonably effective bureaucracy and a trained army and police force. The government, located in the capital city of Hargeisa, maintains a respectable degree of control over its territory: the country is, by and large, peaceful, in stark contrast to Somalia to the south.But it has yet to receive official recognition from a single foreign government in the years since it declared independence in 1991. To the outside world, it is an autonomous region of Somalia, subject to the Somali Federal Government (SFG) in Mogadishu.
  2. Why is it not a state?Throughout the post-independence era, geopolitics in Africa has tended to respect “colonial borders”, ie the borders laid down by European colonial powers in the 19th century. Across the continent, there have been only two significant alterations to the colonial map since the 1960s: the division of Eritrea from Ethiopia, in 1993; and South Sudan from Sudan, in 2011. On the question of Somaliland, the African Union (AU), to whom the international community tends to defer on boundary issues, has stuck to its traditional line: to recognise Somiliand would be to open a Pandora’s box of separatist claims in the region.Formerly British Somaliland’s union with Italian Somaliland to its south, which brought about modern Somalia in 1960, was voluntary, Somalilanders argue. Its independence should require merely divorce, not reinvention.Although the AU itself admitted as much in 2005, Somaliland’s claim remains in limbo. The reason for this lies in and around Mogadishu. Somalia’s civil war has raged for two and a half decades, and despite the introduction of a new constitution in 2012, the SFG’s claim to territorial authority is precarious. Many fear that the apparent creation of a new state in the region, whose presence would almost certainly embolden Somalia’s other secessionist provinces.
  3. Tattoos come freighted with taboos in Japan. They have long been associated with “anti-social elements”, code for yakuza mobsters. That makes the law-abiding among us collateral damage in a cultural war against body art.Gyms, pools and public baths typically ban them, or insist they be concealed. Some even provide bandages and sticky tape for that purpose. The mayor of Osaka, Japan’s second city, felt so strongly he launched a witch-hunt against tattooed civil servants in 2012. Employees were required to fill out a form describing their tattoos and exactly what part of the body they decorated.
  4. Last year Mariott, the hotel chain paid $600,000 to America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to settle a complaint that it had blocked customers’ personal wireless modems and hotspots at “at least one” of its hotels, forcing customers to sign up for expensive in-house internet access instead. Now Hilton has found itself in hot water over the same charge.In August 2014, the FCC received a complaint from a customer alleging that the Hilton hotel in Anaheim, California, was also blocking visitors’ Wi-Fi hot spots unless they paid $500 to access the hotel’s own wireless service.. However the commission yesterday announced that it will fine the hotel chain $25,000 for obstructing its enquiries into the matter.Hilton denies that charge.In August 2015, Smart City Holdings, a telecoms firm, was fined $750,000 for blocking hotspots at several convention centres across America where it was providing internet access.Under the Communications Act, companies are prohibited from maliciously blocking Wi-Fi communications.
  5. The rise of chronic diseases in the poor world is a product of growing wealth and urbanisation. Whereas subsistence farmers get lots of exercise and eat whatever they can, urban slum dwellers can live relatively gluttonous lives.Health care, meanwhile, has not kept up. Urban slum dwellers tend to have access to free anti-retrovirals if they are HIV positive, and they can usually get treatment for diseases like cholera and TB. But chronic diseases are generally unlikely even to be diagnosed. The International Diabetes Federation, which represents sufferers, reckons that there are around 775,000 people with diabetes in Kenya, only a quarter of whom know it.That is beginning to change. In October, Novartis, a large Swiss pharmaceutical firm, launched a programme selling some 15 drugs to low-income patients in Kenya for the treatment of diabetes, breast cancer, respiratory illnesses and heart disease and hypertension. A course will typically cost around a dollar a month. Delivering such drugs requires more sophisticated health-care systems than many poor countries have.
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