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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You want me to take WHAT???

From the Adventurous Telephone Calls department: I’ve been prescribed a medication that isn’t covered (at all) by my medical insurance.  Since it costs close to $1,500 per month at normal retail prices, there’s no way I can afford it;  so the doctor who prescribed it signed me up with a specialty pharmacy, to see whether I qualified for a reduced price. A few minutes ago I received a phone call from the pharmacy to confirm the information the doctor’s office had provided to them.  All went well until, at the end of the call, the nice lady on the other

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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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Sometimes the jokes just write themselves

I couldn’t help laughing when I read that a man accidentally shot himself . . . in a rather unfortunate location, in more ways than one. The … incident occurred at around 6:30 p.m. after a semiautomatic handgun that was being held in the man’s waistband began to slip. The gun, which was not in a holster, discharged as he attempted to reposition it, the man told cops. The Arizona Republic reported when police officers responded to the gun shot the man was found in the meat section of the Walmart store with “survivable injuries.” Officers said they filed a report for

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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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Putting health-care costs under the microscope

Pro Publica is publishing a useful series of articles examining the health-care industry in the USA – and how its ultimate “beneficiaries” are not us, the patients, but the companies raking in huge excess profits and violating our privacy.  A selection of the articles so far: 1.  Why Your Health Insurer Doesn’t Care About Your Big Bills.  Patients may think their insurers are fighting on their behalf for the best prices. But saving patients money is often not their top priority. 2.  Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Details About You — And It Could Raise Your Rates.  Without any public scrutiny, insurers and data

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Walking backwards for brain power???

Sometimes news reports just boggle the mind – like this one. People who walk backwards perform better in a memory test than those who stand still or walk forward, a study has found. Researchers asked 114 volunteers to watch a video in which a woman had her bag stolen and then answer a questionnaire about what they could recall. After watching the video, participants were split into groups – one was told to walk forwards or backwards 30 feet (10m) while a control group stood in one place. They were then asked twenty questions about the events in the video 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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Hiding MSG

I heard from a friend yesterday.  She was extremely angry because her young child has what appear to be allergic reactions to MSG – monosodium glutamate.  She bought and served some food that did not list MSG as an ingredient under that name, but used another term she didn’t recognize.  As a result, her child became quite ill, and needed urgent medical treatment to deal with the symptoms. There’s a lot of disagreement about whether there is such a thing as an allergy to MSG.  Medical science largely says there isn’t.  However, MSG can produce certain reactions that may be mislabeled an “allergy”, particularly

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Hiding MSG

I heard from a friend yesterday. She was extremely angry because her young child has what appear to be allergic reactions to MSG – monosodium glutamate.  She bought and served some food that did not list MSG as an ingredient under that name, but used another term she didn’t recognize. As a result, her child became quite ill, and needed urgent medical treatment to deal with the symptoms.There’s a lot of disagreement about whether there is such a thing as an allergy to MSG. Medical science largely says there isn’t.  However, MSG can produce certain reactions that may be mislabeled an “allergy”, particularly in

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