How to tackle crime? A giant outdoor escalator, of course

Huge escalator in Colombian city of Medellin will shorten commute through gang-plagued area.

For years, residents of a Colombian town situated on a steep hillside have faced a long journey up hundreds of steps -- the equivalent of a 28 story building -- to reach the next town. The area, Comuna 13, is one of the most lawless in Medellin, Colombia's second largest city, and the 35-minute climb took residents through an area stalked by gangsters.

Now, however, officials may have found a solution: a giant, outdoor public escalator. Built into the bill, the enormous escalator shortens the journey to just six minutes. Measuring 1,250ft (384m), it cost $6.7m. The new stairway will be patrolled by armed guards, and officials hope that it will open the area to trade and visitors.

It is the first project of its type, but officials from Rio de Janeiro are reportedly planning a visit to see if an escalator could work for the city's favelas.

escalator

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump's healthcare failure could be to his advantage

The appearance of weakness is less electorally damaging than actually removing healthcare from millions of people.

Good morning. Is it all over for Donald Trump? His approval ratings have cratered to below 40%. Now his attempt to dismantle Barack Obama's healthcare reforms have hit serious resistance from within the Republican Party, adding to the failures and retreats of his early days in office.

The problem for the GOP is that their opposition to Obamacare had more to do with the word "Obama" than the word "care". The previous President opted for a right-wing solution to the problem of the uninsured in a doomed attempt to secure bipartisan support for his healthcare reform. The politician with the biggest impact on the structures of the Affordable Care Act is Mitt Romney.

But now that the Republicans control all three branches of government they are left in a situation where they have no alternative to Obamacare that wouldn't either a) shred conservative orthodoxies on healthcare or b) create numerous and angry losers in their constituencies. The difficulties for Trump's proposal is that it does a bit of both.

Now the man who ran on his ability to cut a deal has been forced to make a take it or leave plea to Republicans in the House of Representatives: vote for this plan or say goodbye to any chance of repealing Obamacare.

But that's probably good news for Trump. The appearance of weakness and failure is less electorally damaging than actually succeeding in removing healthcare from millions of people, including people who voted for Trump.

Trump won his first term because his own negatives as a candidate weren't quite enough to drag him down on a night when he underperformed Republican candidates across the country. The historical trends all make it hard for a first-term incumbent to lose. So far, Trump's administration is largely being frustrated by the Republican establishment though he is succeeding in leveraging the Presidency for the benefit of his business empire.

But it may be that in the failure to get anything done he succeeds in once again riding Republican coattails to victory in 2020.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.