Visualizing gun deaths – Comparing the U.S. to rest of the world | 

JohnWayneWhen it comes to gun violence, the United States stands out.

President Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, a renowned Boston-based physician, has advocated for stricter gun-control laws and referred to the U.S. rates of gun violence as a public health threat.  Murthy’s views have ignited opposition from the gun lobby and politicians on both sides of the aisle, virtually assuring an end to his bid to become the U.S.’s top public health official.

In any debate about gun control and violence prevention, it is useful to examine data on gun deaths.

How does the US stack up against other countries when it comes to homicides involving guns? The screen grab below, which uses findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, illustrates the  difference in firearm homicide rates between the US and other high-income countries. Adjusting for differences in population size, rates of homicides from guns were  6.6 times larger in the US than in Portugal, the country with one of the highest rates in Western Europe.

Firearm homicide rates in selected high-income countries, 2010

Gun Violence

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How Libraries Turned Around Colombia’s Former Drug Capital | 

You have probably heard the story before, Medellin, Colombia was the home to the infamous drug boss Pablo Escobar. The city was riddled by crime and a thriving drug trade. Meanwhile, a rebel group known for kidnappings, trading drugs and terrorizing Colombians situated itself in the mountains in the vicinity of Medellin. A 1988 article in TIME Magazine declared Medellin as the most dangerous city.

Things began to change when Escobar was killed in a firefight with the Colombian National Police. However, fighting continued, the government remained corrupt and the drug trade chugged along. Enter a University of Wisconsin trained mathematician and an idea to revitalize the city with libraries.

Sergio Fajardo; Credit
Sergio Fajardo; Credit

Sergio Fejardo led a group who wanted to transform the city. The way to do it? Build a coalition of support and take the most important position in the city, mayor. So, Fejardo set on to build a grassroots campaign that culminated in an electoral victory in 2003 and the assumption of the mayors office at the start of 2004.

He started with three problems to solve: inequality, violence and corruption. Continue reading

Guest Post: The fragile promise of peace in Colombia | 

Katherine McKeon

This is a guest post by Katherine McKeon, a UW communications major who recently returned to Seattle after working this summer for Reuters in Bogota, Colombia. The promise of peace talks between the government and FARC rebels is big news but, as she reports, few Colombians are getting their hopes up.

Katherine, in addition to her studies, three jobs and other demands that exhaust me just thinking about them will be working as an intern on Facebook for Humanosphere – so say hi to her!


Walking to Work

After spending two months in Colombia, I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing for myself that this Andean nation is much more than its narco-lord past.

The two largest rebel groups have agreed to open their doors to peace talks, making stability a real possibility for a country with decades of scars from political and sectarian violence. Still, many Colombians remain  skeptical.

The scars are deep.

 ”I don’t think peace is a realistic possibility,” said Jaime Rodriguez, a twenty-two year-old Colombian who works at a restaurant.  “It’s just too complicated of a place, too many things have happened, and everyone remembers the violence.”

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