Economist 6/21/16

  1. Conventions are usually fairly boring coronations of each party’s candidate, someone anointed a couple of months earlier and supported by large swathes of partisans. Not so this year. Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee of the Republicans, is one of the most controversial and disliked candidates in the history of America’s two big parties. Hillary Clinton, his Democratic counterpart, is almost equally disliked, though far less shocking.Mr Trump has won enough of the “bound delegates” attending his convention to win his nomination on the first ballot. Ditto Mrs Clinton, who has gathered more than enough votes from both delegates and “superdelegates.Yet the Washington Post reports that dozens of Republican activists are teaming up to change convention rules so as to unbind themselves and their colleagues from the primary-election results. Each effort represents a long shot, to put it mildly. Disregarding the vote of millions of primary voters could spark far worse violence than anyone has prepared to manage.
  2. FORCED displacement has reached its highest level since records began, according to a new report by the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee body. The number of people who have been driven from their homes stands at 65.3m in 2015—or 0.9% of the world’s population—an increase of almost 6m from a year earlier. Around one-third of those are refugees, while the rest are internally displaced or asylum-seekers.Syria is now the main source country for refugees, with 4.9m residing outside the country. For decades Afghanistan was the biggest country of origin, and although it has been recently overtaken by Syria, it still has 2.7m refugees. And some 1.1m Somalis have fled from persecution and conflict there.Unsurprisingly, the burden of housing those escaping torment tends to fall disproportionately on neighbouring countries. Thus Turkey, which housed 2.5m mostly Syrian migrants in 2015, is the biggest host of refugees, followed by Pakistan where nearly all refugees were Afghans.
  3. About half of Indonesian girls have had one of these procedures, collectively known as sunat, the local term for ritual female circumcision. Some midwives offer it free as part of their delivery package.UN counts such cuts and pricks as female genital mutilation (FGM), even if they cause no lasting harm to health or sexual sensation.Globally, over 4m girls a year undergo ritual tampering with their genitals, the UN estimates. This ranges from the symbolic, such as rubbing with turmeric or other herbs, through singeing or excising part of the clitoris, to grotesque mutilation.About 400,000 suffer infibulation, in which the vaginal lips and external parts of the clitoris are removed, and the vagina stitched almost closed.Groups as disparate as the Masai in Kenya, Jews in Ethiopia and Coptic Christians in Egypt practise FGM in some form. Cutting is often done in the name of Islam, even though the Koran does not mention it. It is commonly believed to “tame” a girl’s sexual drive—ensuring that she remains a virgin until marriage and is faithful to her husband.
  4. FGM is one of the toughest social norms to change because a girl’s marriage prospects depend on it.The limited data that exist suggest that FGM is becoming less common and may be shifting to less harmful forms. This is thanks partly to education and urbanisation.Indonesia’s most senior clerics supportsunat. In Bandung, the third-biggest city, an Islamic charity organises group circumcision ceremonies.In most places FGM is against the law. Though campaigners think that without a shift in attitudes laws can do little, they push for prosecutions to make parents think twice. In Djibouti, though FGM has been illegal since 1995, nearly 80% of women are cut and no cases were brought to court until last year.
  5. The survival of FGM despite 30 years of eradication efforts has led some to suggest a different strategy: focusing on the types that cause long-term harm and permitting the rest, if carried out by medical personnel. Nafissatou Diop of UNFPA, the UN’s population agency, disagrees. Accepting cutting by doctors would grant spurious respectability to all forms of FGM, she says. And the agency knows of girls who have already been cut being subjected to further mutilation at the insistence of relatives unsatisfied with the initial result.The issue is becoming ever more urgent in the West, as rising numbers of immigrants arrive from places where FGM is common. Some girls are taken to their countries of origin for the procedure; school holidays have been dubbed “the cutting season”.

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