Venezuela: where life is a burden to be endured

It’s truly astonishing to see how run-down, degraded and desperate life in Venezuela has become.  Two decades ago it was a cosmopolitan, wealthy society by Latin American standards, relatively carefree and prosperous.  Today, it’s a dystopian nightmare. Bloomberg has published a series of reports on life in Caracas, the country’s capital city.  All of them are worth reading, if only to illustrate how so much that we take for granted can be lost in a short time through mismanagement, envy and fear.  The latest looks at the street children of Caracas. Andrea is 9. Her father is dead. Her mother is pregnant,

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Ebola: OK, it’s crunch time

This morning’s headlines about the latest Ebola outbreak in the Congo make grim reading. Butembo, with more than 1 million residents, is now reporting cases of the deadly hemorrhagic fever. That complicates Ebola containment work already challenged by rebel attacks elsewhere that have made tracking the virus almost impossible in some isolated villages. “We are very concerned by the epidemiological situation in the Butembo area,” said John Johnson, project coordinator with Medecins Sans Frontieres in the city. New cases are increasing quickly in the eastern suburbs and outlying, isolated districts, the medical charity said. . . . This is by far

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Ebola’s still getting worse, and I’m getting worried

The most recent Ebola outbreak, about which we’ve written before in these pages, is steadily getting worse. The Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo is now the second biggest in history, with 426 confirmed and probable cases, the health ministry said late on Thursday. The epidemic in a volatile part of Democratic Republic of Congo is now only surpassed by the 2013-2016 outbreak in West Africa, where more than 28,000 cases where confirmed, and is bigger than an outbreak in 2000 in Uganda involving 425 cases. Ebola is believed to have killed 245 people in North Kivu and Ituri provinces where attacks by armed groups and

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Ebola: the latest outbreak is dangerously close to out-of-control

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is getting worse – and health care authorities, organizations and workers are losing control. Health workers have been forced to open up a new and particularly perilous front after 28 people died of Ebola in and around Butembo, a city of approximately 1.2 million people that is located in the heart of the country’s most volatile regions … a lawless area that is infested with rebel groups, freelance militias and armed criminal gangs. . . . The disease is also spreading into rural areas around the city that aid workers cannot access because they

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“Seizing property before it can escape”

Back in May, we looked at a proposal to use property taxes to pay off Illinois’ and Chicago’s pension deficit.  In particular, its advocates noted: The tax would be capitalized into real estate values which would prevent people leaving the state to avoid paying for the liability. It looks like Chicago and its satellite communities may be about to implement that progressive wet-dream tax. They figured out a way to tax wealthy folks trying to flee Illinois: A progressive real estate transfer tax, and the idea seems to be getting popular. . . . Chicago today has a real estate transfer tax of

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The world is NOT a big, happy, adventurous playground

. . . and, with surprising frequency, people who assume it is, die for their mistake.  The latest victims were a cycling foursome in Tajikistan. [JAY Austin and Lauren Geoghegan] dropped everything in pursuit of a worldwide adventure in July 2017 — but it would eventually lead to them being horrifically killed for being “unbelievers”. The well-travelled couple, both 29, kept a detailed blog and Instagram posts which revealed an incredible trip reaffirming their faith in humanity and seeing them reach some of the world’s most untouched paradises. The in-depth online accounts show there were moments of tenderness, euphoric highs and

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Pets in an emergency situation

With Hurricane Florence now having arrived in North Carolina, I was reminded of how many pets had suffered in previous hurricanes of my experience, and how many will suffer now. What to do with pets in a storm is a perennial question, challenging owners, activists and officials every hurricane season. Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, on Twitter, encouraged residents to consider their pets in their disaster preparations. “Make a plan and practice it with them,” the agency encouraged. Organizations such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States have become

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Why politicians won’t do what the electorate wants

Stephan Pastis provides what seems to me like a pretty accurate explanation.  Click the image for a larger version at the comic strip’s Web site. It’s not just money and greed, of course:  it’s also partisan political dishonesty.  See my previous post for a good example.  Senator Feinstein had the allegation months ago, but didn’t mention it at all during the confirmation hearings.  Only when it looked like all their other efforts to block it had failed did she raise the accusation, and even then in a vague, underhanded way.  Honesty?  Integrity?  Fairness?  She wouldn’t recognize them if they jumped up and bit

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A doctor speaks bluntly about untimely death

Dr. Louis M. Profeta (his website is here) penned an angry, yet thought-provoking article earlier this month, titled “I’ll Look at Your Facebook Profile Before I Tell Your Mother You’re Dead“. It kind of keeps me human. You see, I’m about to change their lives — your mom and dad, that is. In about five minutes, they will never be the same, they will never be happy again. Right now, to be honest, you’re just a nameless dead body that feels like a wet bag of newspapers that we have been pounding on, sticking IV lines and tubes and needles in,

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