The Ledes

Monday, May 30, 2016.

USA Today: "Six people died and at least two others were missing Sunday after heavy rains in Texas and Kansas caused severe flooding. In one case near Austin, which received nine inches of rain this week, a vehicle with two people was swept off a flooded roadway. Threats of floods prompted authorities to evacuate thousands of prisoners near Houston, and inmates in another prison on Saturday fought with correctional officers after flooding caused a power outage." -- CW 

AP: "Mexican police have rescued kidnapped soccer player Alan Pulido, who appeared with a bandaged hand at a brief press conference Monday to declare that he was fine. Police and other officials said Pulido, a 25-year-old forward with Greek soccer club Olympiakos, was freed in a security operation Sunday shortly before midnight in the northeast border state of Tamaulipas. Pulido had been seized by gunmen as he left a party Saturday night." -- CW 

The Wires

The Ledes

Sunday, May 29, 2016.

New York Times: "Jane Fawcett, who was a reluctant London debutante when she went to work at Bletchley Park, the home of British code-breaking during World War II, and was credited with identifying a message that led to a great Allied naval success, the sinking of the battleship Bismarck, died on May 21 at her home in Oxford, England. She was 95." -- CW 

New York Times: Hedy "Epstein, a Holocaust survivor who spoke widely about the persecution of the Jews in Germany, and who spent most of her adult life working for a broad range of social justice movements, died on Thursday at her home in St. Louis. She was 91.” Epstein made international headlines when she was arrested in St. Louis in 2014 for protesting Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's actions in the aftermath of the Michael Brown police killing case. -- CW 

Washington Post: "Cassandra Q. Butts, who was President Obama’s classmate at Harvard Law School and a longtime member of the president’s inner circle who advised him throughout his political career and served as a deputy White House counsel, died May 25 at her home in Washington. She was 50." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (May 22): "An outbreak of a life-threatening illness that has been linked to foods packaged by a processing plant in Washington State has prompted a large-scale voluntary recall of frozen fruits and vegetables marketed under 42 brand names. The scale of the recall reflects the severity of the outbreak of the illness, listeria, and of concerns about how the contaminated food might have “trickled down” into other products, said Brittany Behm, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." -- CW

Washington Post: "After an epic duel of word masters, an 11-year-old Texan and a 13-year-old New Yorker tied Thursday night [May 26] in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the third year in a row two victors shared the championship trophy."

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

... Washington Post: The White House goes Scandinavian for a state dinner for the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

New York Times: "Morley Safer, the longest-serving correspondent on '60 Minutes' who was known as much for his hard-hitting reporting as the quirky stories he covered, will formally retire this week after a career in broadcast news that lasted more than 50 years, CBS said on Wednesday. Mr. Safer, 84, served on '60 Minutes' for all but two of its 48 seasons. He started scaling back his appearances on the show after he turned 80; his last segment, a profile of the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, aired in March.... An hourlong program on Sunday, “Morley Safer: A Reporter’s Life,” will, among other highlights, recall an investigation by Mr. Safer that resulted in the freedom of Lenell Geter, a black man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Texas. In an appearance on the special, Mr. Geter credited Mr. Safer with saving his life."

U.K. Telegraph: "A Canadian schoolboy appears to have discovered a lost Mayan city hidden deep in the jungles of Mexico using a new method of matching stars to the location of temples on earth....In hundreds of years of scholarship, no other scientist had ever found such a correlation.... Studying 22 different constellations, [William Gadoury] found that they matched the location of 117 Mayan cities scattered throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. When he applied his theory to a 23rd constellation, he found that two of the stars already had cities linked to them but that the third star was unmatched. William took to Google Maps and projected that there must be another city hidden deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Canadian Space Agency agreed to train its satellite telescopes on the spot and returned with striking pictures: what appears to be an ancient Mayan pyramid and dozens of smaller structures around it."

Politico: "Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry will not be appearing on the channel for the time being, following a report in In Touch Weekly that he cheated on his wife with a Las Vegas hostess. 'We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out,' a Fox News spokesperson told Politico in a statement."

New York Times: “'Hamilton,' the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history." ...

... Here's the full list of Tony Award nominees.

MIT News: "For the first time, an international team of astronomers from MIT, the University of Liège in Belgium, and elsewhere have detected three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star, just 40 light years from Earth. The sizes and temperatures of these worlds are comparable to those of Earth and Venus, and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. The results are published [Monday, May 2] in the journal Nature.... The scientists discovered the planets using TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope), a 60-centimeter telescope operated by the University of Liège, based in Chile."

Washington Post's Reliable Source: At an "afterparty hosted by MSNBC following the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner [Saturday, May 1]..., a scuffle broke out between Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters and Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief.... The two flailed around a bit, upending a table and bumping into several people. 'Punches were definitely thrown,' said one witness. Before any damage was done, several bystanders, including Sean Spicer, communications director at the Republican National Committee, separated the two."

New York Times: "... a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series [by Walt Whitman] called 'Manly Health and Training,' were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades."

This is for safari:

... Via the New Yorker.

Washington Post: "Late last week, Comcast announced a new program that allows makers of smart TVs and other Internet-based video services to have full access to your cable programming without the need for a set-top box.  Instead, the content will flow directly to the third-party device as an app, including all the channels and program guide. The Xfinity TV Partner Program will initially be offered on new smart TVs from Samsung, as well as Roku streaming boxes.  But the program, built on open Internet-based standards including HTML5, is now open to other device manufacturers to adopt. As video services move from hardware to software, the future of the traditional set-top box looks increasingly grim. With this announcement, Comcast customers may soon eliminate the need for an extra device, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in fees."

BBC: "Dame Judi Dench and David Tennant have joined other stars at a gala marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. Saturday's Shakespeare Live show in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon included play scene performances, dance and music." Then this:

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Sunday
Oct072012

The Commentariat -- October 8, 2012

Paul Krugman explains to the lame-brained -- like former GE CEO Jack Welch -- how unemployment data are calculated. He adds, "If the American Jobs Act, proposed by the Obama administration last year, had been passed, the unemployment rate would probably be below 7 percent.... The furor over Friday's report revealed a political movement that is rooting for American failure, so obsessed with taking down Mr. Obama that good news for the nation's long-suffering workers drives its members into a blind rage."

Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the most interesting people in the world, reviews a book by Sanford Levinson on the U.S. federal & state constitutions. Stevens is particularly interesting on the preamble v. the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but maybe I think so because I independently drew the same conclusion some while back.

Bill Keller's column -- "How to Die" -- is very good.

We should have an electoral process as good as the Venezuelan system, as described here. Thanks to contributor Safari for the link. You can read the transcript of the video here:

Susan Reimer of the Baltimore Sun on school paddling in Texas. CW: What got me the most was the mother of one victim going all Stockholm Syndrome & apologizing for complaining that a male school administrator paddled her teenaged daughter to the point of raising welts. Thanks to reader Doug C. for the link. And why doesn't the New York Times hire Susan Reimer? She's a consistently good columnist. I should look for her columns.

Presidential Race

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "After weeks of refraining from dipping back into the sensitive topic of the attack that killed the American ambassador in Libya, Mitt Romney on Monday offered harsh criticism of the administration for being slow to label the assault terrorism and faulted its overall handling of the attack."

Nate Silver: "Mitt Romney remains in a considerably stronger polling position than he was before last Wednesday's debate in Denver. But the polls released on Sunday did not tell quite as optimistic a story for him as those in the debate's immediate aftermath."

Josh Lederman & Steve Peoples of the AP: "Fresh off his strongest fundraising month this year, President Barack Obama is looking to raise millions of dollars from celebrities and wealthy donors in California with just one month left in a tightening race. The two-day swing through the solidly Democratic state highlights the critical role that fundraising will play in the campaign's final weeks as Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, escalate their barrage of television ads in competitive states like Ohio. The president is to return there Tuesday."

Peter Baker & Trip Gabriel of the New York Times write a pretty interesting "what went wrong" story about Obama's debate performance -- based on sanitized accounts by Obama staffers. One thing that struck me: the staffers who were responsible for debate prep made it seem as if they were hapless passengers in a wreck in which Obama was driving the vehicle. But was there no point at which -- as they witnessed Obama's listless debate practice sessions someone had the guts to say, "Yo, Barack, wake up. You're running off the road"? ...

... John Heileman of New York magazine has a good take on Obama's debate performance, too, though one made without a lot of the reporting Baker & Gabriel did. CW: one thing I find heartening -- nonpartisans like Heilemann are now routinely calling out Romney's lies & distortions.

David Sanger of the New York Times: "Beyond his critique of Mr. Obama as failing to project American strength abroad, Mr. Romney has yet to fill in many of the details of how he would conduct policy toward the rest of the world, or to resolve deep ideological rifts within the Republican Party and his own foreign policy team. It is a disparate and politely fractious team of advisers that includes warring tribes of neoconservatives, traditional strong-defense conservatives and a band of self-described 'realists' who believe there are limits to the degree the United States can impose its will."

Peter Schroeder of The Hill: "Senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs on Sunday accused Mitt Romney of delivering a 'fundamentally dishonest' performance during last week's first presidential debate. Gibbs said President Obama ended up debating against 'a clone that looked a lot like Mitt Romney, that had walked away from fundamentally every position he has taken.'" ...

... Mackenzie Weinger of Politico: "Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod on Sunday said Republican Mitt Romney delivered a 'very good performance' at the first presidential debate that was 'completely un-rooted in fact' and the president was 'taken aback at the brazenness' of the Republican nominee's answers.... 'He spent 90 minutes trying to undo two years of campaigning on that stage, but he did it very well.' Schieffer ... ask[ed] if he was saying Romney 'lied or was dishonest?' 'Well, yeah, I think he was dishonest,' Axelrod said." ...

     ... CW: of course Axelrod is just making excuses here & using his Sunday morning face-time to let viewers know Romney is a lying sack of shit as someone eloquently put it. But if by any chance Obama was "taken aback" by Romney's lies, then he has been living, not in a bubble, but on another planet.

Judd Legum of Think Progress: on "Press the Meat" Sunday, Newt Gingrich acknowledged that Mitt Romney's remarks about his tax plan were inconsistent; Gingrich claimed Romney had changed his plan, but he hasn't; he's just changed what he says about it. Gingrich called it "good politics." Yes, indeed, in Right Wing World, "lying" is another word for "good politics."

President Obama wasn't forceful in his debate, but Paul Krugman was on "This Week with George." A reader is having script problems again, which I'm guessing the ABC embeds caused, so I've eliminated the videos. You can find the first part here, then cursor through to the second part. ...

     ... AND Mary Matalin is one of the most obnoxious women on the face of the planet. Or, as Digby says (read her whole post), "All in all, this show made me miss Ann Coulter. I don't think I need to explain just how bad that makes this particular show." ...

     ... Update: Krugman follows up with a history lesson for self-made economic historian Mary Matalin.

Oh, look, Massachusetts Mitt the Moderate was introduced at a rally by none other than Tea Party Crazy Man Allen Congress-Is-Full-of-Commies West. Funny thing, Mitt's father George refused to appear with Barry Goldwater, because he thought Goldwater's beliefs were too extreme.

CW: I thought this was a pretty interesting PolitiFact analysis of Romney's claim that the U.S. "is spending 42 percent of our economy on government." PolitiFact gives Romney a "Mostly True" rating; I'd have given him a "Misleading Again" rating. Anyway, I learned something.

Hmm, I wonder if Gov. Gaysqueamish Q. Romney knows that it was a gay U.S. Senator -- David Walsh of Massachusetts -- who gave George Romney his big break. John Bohrer, writing in New York magazine, has the story.

Right Wing World

Nanette Byrnes of Reuters: "By publicly backing candidates for political office from the pulpit..., nearly 1,500 ... preachers at services across the United States were flouting a law they see as an incursion on freedom of religion and speech. 'Pulpit Freedom Sunday' has been staged annually since 2008 by a group called the Alliance Defending Freedom. Its aim is to provoke a challenge from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in order to file a lawsuit and have its argument out in court. The event has grown steadily in size, but the IRS has yet to respond -- even though the pastors tape their sermons and mail them to the agency."

Congressional Races

David Catanese of Politico: North Dakota's Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp is "proving to be perhaps the best pure Senate campaigner of this election cycle." In a race she was expected to lose, Heitkamp has "made it a barnburner."

Raymond Hernandez of the New York Times: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) & her challenger, Republican Wendy Long, both attended Dartmouth College & have maintained their ties to friends at the school. Among Long's close Dartmouth friends: wingers Laura Ingraham & Dinesh D'Souza.

News Ledes

President Obama speaks at the dedication of the Cesar Chavez National Monument:

Huffington Post: "Staffers at the New York Times briefly walked out Monday afternoon in protest of the management's position on contract negotiations. It is the latest development in the escalating war over contract talks. Union members have been working without a contract for the last eighteen months. Now, it appears they are mobilizing in response to the latest stalemate in negotiations."

Reuters: "Some 13,000 people in 23 U.S. states may have received steroid injections linked to a rare fungal meningitis outbreak that has killed eight people, but far fewer are likely to contract the disease, the Centers for Disease Control said on Monday."

AP: "British researcher John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells -- a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. Scientists want to harness that reprogramming to create replacement tissues for treating diseases like Parkinson's, diabetes and for studying the roots of diseases in the laboratory."

Space: "A privately built rocket lit up the night sky over Florida Sunday (Oct. 7) to kick off the first-ever cargo delivery trip to the International Space Station by a robotic, American-made spacecraft. The unmanned Dragon space capsule, built by the commercial spaceflight firm SpaceX, roared into space atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket from a launch pad here at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, beginning a three-day flight to the space station."

Washington Post: "Iran is ratcheting up pressure on the U.N. agency responsible for overseeing the country's nuclear program, accusing its inspectors of engaging in spying and sabotage and threatening to restrict U.N. access to Iranian nuclear facilities. So strident has been Iran's criticism of the International Atomic Energy Agency in recent weeks that some Western officials fear that the country is preparing to officially downgrade its cooperation with the nuclear watchdog."

Reader Comments (10)

A funny thing is happening to the main stream media. Their faults are being corrected by all the blogs and comments available all over the internet. The media that gave us two wars and W is becoming just a batch of stenographers and all the real critical information is coming from other sources.
Willard's lies are ignored by the MSM but they are being trumpeted all over the internet.
The blogs may keep us free.

October 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercarlyle

@ Julie in Mass.
Re: Venezuela elections

I follow Latin American issues closely and this 'rigged election stealing' is a myth that needs to be put to rest.

Whether Chavez is a good President or bad, that's up for the people to decide. But when the U.S. mainstream media constantly demonizes Chavez as being a dictator/socialist/communist whatever, they're completely twisting the facts. The U.S. disdain for Venezuela is because they've got lots of oil and we want control of it for cheap. Chavez won't be our puppet so we float the idea of "regime change" even though the Venezuelan electoral system is one of the most advanced in the world. If we could just humble ourselves for just a minute, maybe we could learn a thing or two from the other countries of the world, instead of exporting American 'democracy' where our own is seriously in question.

Take 7 minutes by watching the report from a real news perspective, not Empire News.

http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=8935

Just a few months ago:
"As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world," former President Jimmy Carter

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Paul Krugman understands Obama's reluctance to hit hard having had to deal with this bunch of baloney artists on these Sunday morning food fights. What can you do when you have Matlin condescendingly referring to you in this way, plus Peggy being more concerned with how her hair looked and both spouting spurious accusations. Restraining from reaching across the table and punching both takes a lot of energy and Krugman handles all this quite well unlike Obama in the debate. But lessons are learned and just as Paul kept up his counter arguments with a bit more vehemence than usual, Obama will have to sharpen his tongue and stand up straight.

I find both these women nails- on- chalk- board irritating. But I disagree with Digby––Ann Coulter outdoes this obnoxious duo tenfold.

@safari: Thanks for your post on elections in Venezuela. Will be interested in the outcome.

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@Safari

Thank you for your link re. elections in Venezuela. I will email to relatives in Venezuela. It will be interesting to hear their opinion of this piece.

My opinions about Venezuela are based on personal experiences. I have many relatives that live there, and have visited the country annually for over 20 years. The people are wonderful and for a naturalist such as myself, Venezuela has amazing wilderness and wildlife. I love the country!

Sadly, in the last dozen or so years the crime rate has soared. Where I could once walk out the door, alone, and stroll into Caracas for a cup of coffee, now I cannot (well of course I can, but it just does not feel safe to do so). When I do visit we make sure to go out in a group, and even then one must always be on guard. As a visitor, this is a minor annoyance to me, but for my relatives who live there it is tough. Five years ago my niece's home was broken into in the middle of the night, she, her parents and 5 siblings were held at gun point while many of their things were stolen. Before leaving they threatened to rape my then 25 year old niece. Somehow she found the courage to speak up telling the 2 men that she was pediatrician in a public clinic, and that her services were desperately needed. If they raped her, she said she would have to kill herself. Last year her home was broken into again.

Another friend, of modest means, two teenage sons were killed (2 different occasions) in crossfire.

The inequalities in Venezuela are stark (as they are becoming here), and there are those at the top who have abused their power to enrich themselves (both domestic and foreign). It is difficult in Venezuela to escape poverty, and there need to be polices to change this, but Chavez cannot do this by pitting the haves against the have nots. There are many haves, such as my niece, who worked and studied hard to be an accomplished doctor.

Is Chavez to blame for the increase in crime in Venezuela? I'm not sure, but I am sure that the country has become increasingly scary to live in and visit.

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie in Massachusetts

I'm liking Safari's descriptor for much of the media in this country as "Empire News".

It's nothing new, and in fact, is a long-standing tradition of sorts.

Back around 1789 Congress decided it would be a good idea to publish the laws enacted on behalf of the American people. A fine idea with a mixed outcome.

Newpapers from each state were selected and paid to print the laws of the land as each congressional session ended. By 1819, there being some dissatisfaction as to the quality of the work, each chamber chose its own papers for the dissemination of the business of the House and Senate. Thus begins federal patronage of the free (but occasionally bought and paid for) press. By 1824 most major candidates for the presidency coming out of congress had their own papers lined up at their personal troughs, except for Andrew Jackson. He lost but learned a lesson. The next time around, the election of 1828, he had a battery of newspapers, editors, and reporters on the payroll (so it looks like Dubya learned about bribing reporters from Old Hickory). Of course there were papers supporting the other side as well. Some of these referred to Jackson as "jackass", an image later picked up by editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast in whose hands it became the symbol of the Democratic Party.

Anyway, things haven't come a long way since then. The Republicans have the Washington Times, Fox "News" and pretty much every high power radio station in the country trumpeting their ideology and disparaging everyone else to the point of calling them criminals and traitors for not goose-stepping along with them. But pretty much everyone in the MSM including--or rather, especially--Fox, loves and needs access to power. This gives us dolts, dunderheads, and servile nincompoops like Fuzzy Gregory and Little Lukey Russert. Liberals really only have bloggers at this point. Most of the MSM (with the exception of certain outposts) is too timid to take on the bully boys.

But even listening to Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer intoning the day's events off a teleprompter, one is ever mindful that billion dollar corporations are just out of view of the cameras, passing money and patronage back and forth across the not-so-great divide between government and the fourth estate.

Which brings us to Carlyle's point about the supine press and its much more vital, lively, industrious, and certainly entertaining competitor, the citizens of the blogosphere whose efforts remind me of the old Green Lantern oath:

In brightest day
In blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.

Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power,
Green Lantern's light.

And so, a moment of silence, please, in acknowledgement of the work of Marie Burns, our very own Green Lantern.


Okay, now back to work....

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Addendum to the previous post:

By way of comparison regarding attention to the nation's business, it is instructive to note that earlier congresses would have required many more column inches (more like column yards) to review their work than the currently corporately owned and operated Republican congress (I know that's a redundancy). Marie writes more column inches every day than would be required to recount their paltry efforts.

Even Harry Truman's infamous "Do Nothing Congress" passed around 900 bills. During Bill Clinton's second term, at the height of Republican intransigency pushed by Moon Man Newt, Congress passed over 330.

The current collection of losers, layabouts, and liars?

So far, less than 150. They'll probably pass another 50 laws against women, gays, the poor, immigrants, children, and students, and maybe another 50 in favor of the Mitt and Lady Ann crowd, but that will still bring them in as the worst of the worst.

Government by the Right.

It's all wrong.

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Addendum to the addendum.

I realize it's not a totally Republican congress, with Democrats barely in control of the Senate, but Republicans have crippled it to the point of idiocy by routine use of filibusters. The House, of course, is textbook Bedlam and so incapable of rational action.

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

This mantra of "I Think I'm UTTERLY FANTASTIC, Therefore I Am" is alive and well among the egoists.

I seem to recall hearing this story about Romney several years ago...but Nicolas Lemann relates it his current article on "Transaction Man" for the New Yorker.
"(Douglas) Anderson told me an almost surreal story about his first encounter with Romney, in 1968. Anderson was a freshman at Stanford. Romney had been a student there in 1965-66, before he left for France, to do the missionary work that young Mormons pursue. Anderson was walking across the campus one day when a student he hardly knew approached him. “Are you a Mormon?” the young man asked. Anderson said yes. “Do you know Mitt Romney?” No. “Mitt Romney is the finest person I have ever known!” Then he walked away."

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/10/01/121001fa_fact_lemann

I didn't read best-selling author, Jack Welch... but, as someone named Thom from CA posted in response to another commenter on the NYTimes FiveThirtyEight blog re this wealthy blowhard: "It's been my experience that people think Jack Welch is awesome because he said he was in his autobiography."

@PDPepe: I react similarly to Peggy Noonan. And ya know, its really tough this aging thing! Once a beautiful flawless flower...now, must dramatically clasp hands together,
lean in toward the moderator with the toss of our salon-perfect hair, suck in the cheeks to make the cheekbones more prominent...and oh, remember, keep head raised,
tilted slightly forward and flirtatiously so that my jawline looks good. (And, "ohgod was I due for Botox last week?" Oh, yeah, now...what cleverness was I saying about gross national unemployment...?)

Then there's the oddest of the odd couples: Mary & Jimmy Boy!

@Akhilleus. Marie's output is impressively staggering! She focuses our attention to the key stories from various media sources, spots the nonsense, ...and in just a few words, nails it with a succinct CW: punchline! Since the day I followed the link from one of her comments on the New York Times ...it's been my favorite go-to read!

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

A couple more things re: Venezuela

My mind is a swirl recalling changes that have occurred under the leadership of Chavez!

One such memory comes from a visit to Venezuela's first national park established 1937, Henri Pittier. In the 1920's, the then dictator, Gomez, started construction of a very large sprawling vacation home (others have told me it was to be a grand hotel). The "skelton" of the it was built, but later abandoned.

The remaining structure was turned into a biological research center, and is within the park. Notable scientists, i.e. William Beebe did considerable research here. I've visited on multiple occasions to bird. On one such occassion (8 years ago), I participated (as a paying volunteer) in a bird mist netting project conducted by a university out of Maracay. Henri Pittier is situated along an important migration route for birds (including birds that breed here in the northeast U.S.).

Also, there at the time was a herpetologist from Germany, an Ornithologist from Brazil and a few research from the U.S. Henri Pittier has been a center for amateur naturalists and professional scientists since its inception. The accommodations are basic but adequate.

So what did Chavez do? He opened it to the general public to be used as a hotel to do as they please. He may have had good intentions, but he clearly had no regard or repect for the people who do research there. In the evening the men in the crowd of 25-35 people got rip-roaring drunk and made cat calls to me whenever I had to pass by them to use the bathroom. It was a bit unnerving, and after awhile I decided it was safer to use the outdoor facilities.

I have not been back since, but I suspect fewer and fewer scientists are doing research within this jewel of a park. Hopefully, I'm wrong!

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie in Massachusetts

@ Julie

I hear what you're saying about the rise of violence and instability in the region. I can't speak of Venezuela but I spent the summer in Central America (Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama) and the social conditions there too are degrading at a frightening pace. Comparing the situation today to my first study abroad in 2007 is saddening and worrying to say the least. Insecurity existed then too obviously. I even had a friend whose host parent's house was robbed by gun point also. Today it's worse, with kids being robbed right outside of their school or walking down the street in the middle of the day.

The socio-economic factors leading to these degradations share regional characteristics. Rising inequalities, an inadequate economic formal sector pushing the rest into a precarious informal sector, rapid urbanization without proper urban planning, large absence of family planning and many very young pregnant women whose babies are largely supported only through a strong family solidarity tradition, huge youth populations with few good jobs to accommodate them, rising prevalence of drugs, old weapons circulating after the intense civil wars of previous decades...

Some of those problems can be attributed to Chavez's mismanagement and erroneous policies, but a large portion appears to me to be growing aspects of an unfortunate everyday reality for this region.

It should be noted too that we could also equate a lot of these factors to certain hyper-urbanized ghettos in the US...

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersafari
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