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Friday, July 22, 2011

HOW SAFE AND LIVABLE IS YOUR CITY?

On my travels, I thought one of the safer cities in the world was Oslo.  I was, though, somewhat surprised to see so many beggars on almost all the city corners.  

My sense was that "aliens" were better accepted by Norwegians.  It was almost like Vancouver, Canada and Portland, Oregon, which lean towards de-criminalizing drug use, resulting in blocks you enter only at your peril.  Norway appears to maybe be too socially tolerant.  An African American from Detroit, who moved here and was working at a market, said to me that he was better respected here (in Oslo) and planned to make this move permanent.

So what happened today in Norway?  First a car bombing just outside Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's office, then a shooting on Utoya, an island just west of the city, where he was scheduled to visit this weekend.  Deaths are approaching 100, mostly at the summer camp retreat. There was the usual claim by a terrorist group, indicating that this was payback for Norway being in Afghanistan (also involved with Libya), but it is turning out that 32 year old Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik (left), might have been solely responsible, although there is speculation of a second person.  He recently bought enough fertilizer ( twelve thousand pounds of ammonium nitrate??) to build a bomb and gave himself up to authorities on the island after the killings.  He is a Christian fundamentalist who hates Muslims.  This is sounding more and more like Oklahoma City.  But why did he pick on the Labor Party?  My best guess is that Herr Breivik was so dementedly pissed off at the government for being too kind to immigrants that he took it upon himself to purify Norway.

This matter of government being humane can incur a backlash.  For example, the countries most improved in the the UN Human Development Index over the past decade are Tunisia, China and Egypt. So what happened to Tunisia and Egypt.  Is China next?  Morocco, India and Pakistan are #4-#6.

Last night I was reading a recent issue of TIME magazine, and was stunned that there have been 24,000 unidentified murder victims in Rio de Janeiro over the past decade  and 60,000 murders remain unsolved.  Here is a city I've long avoided because of perceived safety problems.  Since I had to go to Machu Picchu anyway, I thought, what would be the least inconvenient way to get there.  A Globus tour that started in Rio seemed best. I thought the coming World Cup and Olympics had improved conditions.  Unfortunately, those events are years away and I just finalized my Fall global adventure.

Mind you, Mexico had 1400 murders just in this month of April.  So where do they rank?  Far below in world killings at #44.  Brazil is only #20, but Rio is where people tend to get terminated and that is where I'm going.  By the way, from TIME, here is that border fence separating Arizona from Mexico.

On 11October2008 I started my serialization of Chapter 1, Crime and Wars, from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.  Here is an extension of global homicide rates, and Central/SouthAmerica dominate (homicides/100,000 population):

#1    El Salvador     71
#2    Honduras        67
#3    Jamaica           60
#4    Guatemala       52
#5    Venezuela       49
.
.
#12  South Africa   34
.
#20  Brazil              22
.
#44  Mexico           15
.
#81  Thailand          5.9
.
#84  Argentina         5.5
.
#89  USA                 5.0
.
#93  Peru                 3.2
.
#162 Japan              0.86
.
#167 Norway           0.60
.
#176 Iceland            0
         Monaco            0
         Palau               0

Keep in mind, though, as my book says, that these numbers can be deceiving, as some countries are just not honest.  There are other idiosyncracies, such as, if you don't want to be robbed, don't go to #1 Spain.  I almost was once in Madrid, in broad daylight in a crowded square, but they were good natured about it, for  Spain is nowhere to be seen in the top ten on assaults and murders.  Colombia has 15 times more crime/capita than the USA. Can you believe that North Carolina has the highest incidence of burglaries?  Four times more than North Dakota. 

But let's look at the plus side of travel.  My Fall odyssey stops at the following, ranked in terms of quality of living, which includes personal safety (while one is the best, any crime problem significantly drops these locations in the evaluation).  These numbers come from the 2010 Mercer Quality of Living Survey:

Honolulu            31
Bangkok          109
Tokyo                 40
Zurich                   2
Amsterdam        13
Stockholm          20
London               39
Sao Paulo       114*
Rio                   115*
Buenos Aires    78
Lima                 120*
Houston             68*
Reno                    ?
Las Vegas           ?
San Francisco   32

* older rankings (did not have time to find the new rankings--surely Reno and Las Vegas can't be any worse than Houston)

Oslo ranks #24 and Vienna is #1.  Baghdad (right) is #221, the worst. Sixteen of the top 25 are European.  Honolulu is the highest and Houston is the worst rated of U.S. cites.

Last year I spent some time in Nairobi (#150*), Hanoi (#155*), New Delhi (147*), Ho Chi Minh City (#148*), Shanghai (#100*), Seoul (#87*), Los Angeles (#55*), New York City (#49), D.C. (#45), Osaka (#51*), Barcelona (#44), Singapore (#28), Helsinki (#35), Copenhagen (#11), Munich (#7), Frankfurt (#7) and Vancouver (#4). 

Of course, there are other rankings, and Best Life Magazine predicted the best cities in 2027:  #1 Vienna (sacher torte to left), #2 Oslo, #11 Mumbai (what????), #12 San Jose (no, not Costa...California, and I can appreciate this because San Jose was a dump in 1958 when I first visited, and Silicon Valley has made this city exceptional), #17 Sao Paulo (great, for I'm going there this year), #27 Kailua (not sure which one, but doesn't matter, wow), #28 Baton Rouge (go Tigers!), #34 Sapporo (how's that, Maria?).  Notice that neither Honolulu nor San Francisco made the list.

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The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 43 to 12681, with major world markets all increasing.  Gold jumped $15/toz to $1607, short of the all time high $1610/toz set on Monday of this week.  NYMEX crude is a few cents below $100/barrel at $99.87, while the Brent Spot is at $119/barrel.

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Super Hurricane Dora did not last long, as she is now a mere Category 1 storm, and will further lose strength, dissipating in the East Pacific away from land.

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