Economist 3/30/16

  1. It was recently reported the latest annual ranking of 2015’s most violent cities in the world (excluding war zones) by CCSP-JP, a Mexican NGO. The report placed Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, at the top of a list of 50 cities (with populations of at least 300,000) with the highest homicide rates.Where no official figures exist, CCSP-JP is transparent in its methodology: for Caracas it counted bodies from the city morgue (which covers a larger area than the city itself) between January and August, discounted a percentage attributed to accidental deaths, and extrapolated an amount for the full year to get a rate of 120 homicides per 100,000 people. The approach is obviously open to error and several groups have challenged some of CCSP-JP’s findings. One, the Igarapé Institute—a Brazilian think-tank on security and violence—compiles statistics on murder rates in countries and on more than 2,100 cities with populations of 250,000 or more, compared with the CCSP-JP’s ‘hundreds’.
  2. The biggest differences between the two datasets concern Venezuela and El Salvador. Venezuelan data are considered too unreliable and the country is excluded entirely from Igarapé’s list.. The other main difference between the rankings is the number of Brazilian cities: 32 feature here compared with an already substantial 22 in our previous chart.More than 10% of all the world’s homicides are in Brazil, and although the rate has fallen in its largest cities it has started increasing in smaller ones. The violence is borne by its poorer black population: between 2000 and 2014 the murder rate of whites has fallen by 14% but risen by 18% among black people.The broad picture in the rankings is roughly similar, however. Latin American and Caribbean countries suffer disproportionately compared with elsewhere.Only two countries outside the region feature on either chart, South Africa and the United States (the list’s only rich-world country).
  3. OMAR SOULEYMAN, a 49-year-old farmer-turned-wedding-singer from north-eastern Syria and a father of 9, is an unlikely electronic music star. This month he drew big crowds to KOKO, one of London’s most iconic music venues.His electro-dabke, an “updated” form of traditional Middle Eastern folk music, has drawn a cult following. Adapted by Kieran Hebden (who goes by the name Four Tet), a British producer, Mr Souleyman’s music seems to satisfy an urge for the exotic among the nouveaux hipsters of England’s capital.His fans argue that Mr Souleyman encourages a cultural curiosity that is hard to achieve through other means.In his favour, Mr Souleyman’s lyrics, which focus on the agony of being in love, portray Syrians as ordinary people with ordinary emotions.Mr Souleyman is fast becoming an idol to vast numbers of European party-goers, and has performed at some of the biggest festivals on the continent. Yet many Syrians have never actually heard of him; among those who have, tastemakers frown upon his mediocre representation of the country’s musical prowess and his kitsch take on one of their oldest traditions
  4. Because they spend so much time on the road, business travellers are more desensitised to the threats that international travel can bring. Many will quite logically argue that traffic accidents pose a greater threat than a terrorist act. Less logically, some also convince themselves that their travel savviness gives them a sixth sense that enables them to spot and avoid dangerous situations, an argument that holds little water in the case of random bomb attacks on busy locations.Switching holiday destinations might be considered prudent, but pulling out of a pre-arranged business trip will be viewed less sympathetically by employers. Exceptions are only likely in extreme circumstances. When it comes down to it, business travellers have little choice in where or when they go.
  5. GIKOMBA market, just north of Nairobi’s downtown, is a place to buy just about anything.This market is the biggest wholesale centre of the mitumba, or used-clothing, trade in east Africa. The clothes worn by the bulk of Nairobi’s population are sourced here.Yet if the governments of the East African Community, the regional trade bloc which comprises Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, get their way, all will change. By 2019 the EAC wants to outlaw imports of second-hand clothes. The idea is that ending the trade in old clothes—mostly donated by their former owners in rich countries—will help boost local manufacturing. Mitumba trading is a big employer for Kenyans, most of whom work in the informal labour market. By one estimate, there are 65,000 traders in Gikomba alone.. In 2015, according to UN data, Kenya imported about 18,000 tonnes of clothing from Britain alone. Few traders are happy with the idea of a ban. Selling clothes is a relatively lucrative activity.
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