Economist 2/4/16

  1. ON FEBRUARY 1st, the World Health Organisation declared the spread of the Zika virus a global public health emergency. The virus, a suspected cause of birth defects in babies born to mothers who are infected during pregnancy, seems to have come from nowhere. But it has been known about for nearly 70 years. The virus was discovered in 1947, in a rhesus monkey in the Zika forest near the shore of lake Victoria in Uganda.Zika was found in a human for the first time in 1952, in Uganda. Nobody knows for sure when and where it began to infect humans.Zika may have been infecting many people in Africa for years, staying under the radar of patchy health systems and poor disease surveillance.A surge in these complications, and the birth defects that Zika is now strongly suspected to be causing, were easier to spot in Brazil, where Zika arrived in 2015.
  2. Within days of CAPA Iran Aviation Airbus had announced an order by Iran Air for 118 new aircraft—a tentative deal sweetened by the European manufacturer’s promise to assist with training, maintenance, air navigation and regulatory development.America’s Boeing has not yet scored any orders, though with Iran pegging its requirement at 500 aircraft over ten years it is still in the running.More interesting than the size of the Airbus contract was the planned pace of deliveries. Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan, deputy transport minister, said the order will be fulfilled in its entirety by 2022. If true, that would mean Iran Air quadrupling the size of its operational fleet in less than a decade.Iran Aseman Airlines, the country’s largest domestic operator, sees leasing planes and acquiring second-hand units as a more practical near-term solution. Here, too, there are problems: the legal framework through which leasing companies re-possess their aircraft has not yet been tested in Iran.Airport infrastructure is another concern. Rapid passenger growth will heap pressure on Imam Khomeini International Airport, Tehran’s international hub, which handles less than one-tenth the traffic of Dubai International Airport. Tight visa restrictions will need to be scrapped as well.
  3. A ranking of the world’s most violent cities by CCSP-JP, a Mexican NGO, reports that Venezuela’s capital Caracas had the highest murder rate in the world last year. Some caution should be used when reading the ranking, which applies to cities with 300,000 people or more, and does not count war zones or cities with unavailable data.Nevertheless, it is clear that Latin America is particularly blighted by violence. All but eight of the 50 worst cities on the list are to be found in Latin America and the Caribbean. Murders in El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, have almost doubled in a year.It has surpassed Honduras as the country with the world’s highest murder rate. The numbers from Brazil are especially bleak, some 21 of its cities now feature on the list, up from 14 five years ago.The number of Mexican cities in the ranking has fallen from 12 to five over the same period. Colombia’s progress towards peace is reflected in the figures; its second city, Medellín, had a murder rate of 70 in 2011 but no longer features at all.Cities from only two countries outside Latin American and the Caribbean occupy places on the list; the United States and South Africa. Four American cities from the previous year remain, lead by St Louis, where murders rose slightly in 2015. Baltimore has seen the largest rise, from 40th to 19th.
  4. FOR business travellers in America late last month, Winter Storm Jonas was a massive headache. More than 10,000 flights were cancelled the weekend the storm hit, and cancellations continued into the next week.On a broad level, there are certain airports that are always more likely to suffer delays, regardless of the season. The worst, according to an analysis byFiveThirtyEight, is LaGuardia in New York, where delays add an average of nearly an hour to round trips through the airport. Unfortunately, decamping to a nearby competitor isn’t going to ease the pain: the other two airports serving New York—JFK and Newark—are the second and third worst for delays, respectively.February is the snowiest month in some parts of the country, so it is an instructive example.) In that month, LaGuardia had an abysmal track record, with the lowest percentage of on-time arrivals (52.6%) and departures (56.5%).Boston and Chicago’s airports were the next worst for on-time arrival and departures, while Salt Lake City and Portland fared best.
  5. Last February, Envoy Air, an American Airlines subsidiary, had the most frequent cancellations: more than 14% of all flights. Next were ExpressJet, JetBlue and American itself. Hawaiian Airlines had the fewest, with just three cancellations out of 5,779 flights. Last February, the worst airline in this category was Virgin America, 2.7% of whose flights either took-off or landed late due to extreme weather. The best was Alaska Airlines.The main reason is that extreme weather just isn’t a huge factor in flight delays. Last February, 1% of all flights were delayed due to extreme weather. Compare that to the 7.8% that were held up because the aircraft arrived late. In other words, weather delays are pretty rare, even in the winter. You are better off choosing a well-managed airline and airport to fly through.. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the months when American flights experience the most weather-related delays are May, June and July. That’s right: summer rain and thunderstorms are significantly more likely to set you back than winter snow.
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