Venezuelans Flee Chávez’s Socialism

VenezuelanHomicide2011-11-10.jpg“Street crime, such as a man’s killing in Caracas last year, is high.” Note the big-brother-sized image of Chávez surveying what his socialism has wrought. Source of quoted part of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

Those who favor socialism should observe Venezuela carefully and ponder whether they like what they see.

(p. A13) Gerardo Urdaneta moved to Houston from Venezuela for a job in 1998, the same year Hugo Chávez was first elected president. Mr. Urdaneta, an energy-shipping specialist, planned for a temporary stop and wouldn’t even buy a house.

Thirteen years later, Mr. Chávez is still in power, Mr. Urdaneta is still here. He has been joined by thousands of other Venezuelans, and Houston shops now stock native delicacies like Pampero aged rum and guayanés cheese.
“There are Venezuelans everywhere,” Mr. Urdaneta, 50 years old, said. “Before we were passing through. That’s not the case anymore.”
Waves of white-collar Venezuelans have fled the country’s high crime rates, soaring inflation and expanding statist controls, for destinations ranging from Canada to Qatar. The top U.S. destinations are Miami, a traditional shopping mecca for Venezuelans, and Houston, which has long-standing energy ties to Venezuela, a major oil exporter.
There were some 215,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. in 2010, up from about 91,500 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of Venezuelans living in Spain has quintupled in the same period to more than 40,000, and the number of Venezuelan-born Spaniards has more than doubled to 90,000.

For the full story, see:
ÁNGEL GONZÁLEZ and EZEQUIEL MINAYA. “Venezuelan Diaspora Booms Under Chávez.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., October 17, 2011): A13.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the following phrase, at the end of the quoted portion above, is in the online, but not the print, version of the article: “and the number of Venezuelan-born Spaniards has more than doubled to 90,000.”

ZulianStafanoHoustonChocolateShop2011-11-10.jpg “Venezuelan exile Stefano Zullian owns a Houston chocolate shop.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

VenezuelanHomicideEmigrationGraph2011-11-10.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

Global Warming Reduces Bubonic Plague in U.S.

(p. D6) Global warming may have one minor but previously unknown benefit, scientists said this month: it may be cutting down cases of bubonic plague in the United States.
. . .
A study in this month’s issue of The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene tracked climatic conditions in 195 counties in 13 Western states, from Washington to Texas, that reported even one plague case since 1950.
Cases have dropped over time, and the study concluded that rising nighttime temperatures since 1990 had helped. Warmer nights melt winter snowpacks earlier, leading to drier soil in rodent burrows. When the soil gets too dry, fleas die.

For the full story, see:
DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. “GLOBAL UPDATE; United States: Decrease in Bubonic Plague Cases May Be an Effect of Climate Change.” The New York Times (Tues., September 21, 2010): D6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated September 20, 2010.)

Animals Thrive at Chernobyl

WolvesRadioactive2011-11-09.jpg“PBS’s “Radioactive Wolves” returns to a contaminated site.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. C6) In the months since the Japanese tsunami, we’ve heard a lot about Chernobyl as a worst-case example: here’s how bad Fukushima could have been. Now PBS’s “Nature” offers another vision: Chernobyl as a best-case demonstration that life abides . . .
. . .
. . . the prognosis, coyly withheld until the end of the hour, is positive. . . . While the rate of slight birth abnormalities is twice as high as normal among the zone’s growing animal population (but still in the single digits), overall health appears to be fine. It wouldn’t be an acceptable situation for humans, but the dormice and eagles and gray wolves don’t appear to be bothered.
. . .
The concrete high-rises of the city of Pripyat sit like islands in a green sea of towering trees; plants force their way up through the floors of empty schoolrooms.
Within this strangely pastoral setting the animals go about their business, sometimes finding uses for what we’ve left behind. The wolves rise up on their hind legs to peer through the windows of houses, looking for routes to the rooftops, which they use as observation posts for hunting. Eagles build nests in fire towers.
And beavers, forced out decades ago when the landscape was engineered for collective agriculture, have already undone much of man’s work and restored one of central Europe’s great marshlands. Just think what they could do if they had the whole planet.

For the full commentary, see:
MIKE HALE. “In Dead Zone of Chernobyl, Animal Kingdom Thrives.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., October 19, 2011): C6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date October 18, 2011.)

Karl Marx “Had Engels Embezzle Money for Him from His Father’s Firm”

(p. 419) One of the few figures who actively sympathized with the plight of the poor was also one of the most interestingly improbable. Friedrich Engels came to England at the age of just twenty-one in 1842 to help run his father’s textile factory in Manchester. The firm, Ermen & Engels, manufac-(p. 420)tured sewing thread. Although young Engels was a faithful son and a reasonably conscientious businessman – eventually
he became a partner – he also spent a good deal of his time modestly but persistently embezzling funds to support his friend and collaborator Karl Marx in London.
It would be hard to imagine two more improbable founders for a movement as ascetic as Communism. While earnestly desiring the downfall of capitalism, Engels made himself rich and comfortable from all its benefits. He kept a stable of fine horses, rode to hounds at weekends, enjoyed the best wines, maintained a mistress, hobnobbed with the elite of Manchester at the fashionable Albert Club – in short, did everything one would expect of a successful member of the gentry. Marx, meanwhile, constantly denounced the bourgeoisie but lived as bourgeois a life as he could manage, sending his daughters to private schools and boasting at every opportunity of his wife’s aristocratic background.
Engels’s patient support for Marx was little short of wondrous. In that milestone year of 1851, Marx accepted a job as a foreign correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune, but with no intention of actually writing any articles. His English wasn’t good enough, for one thing. His idea was that Engels would write them for him and he would collect the fee, and that is precisely what happened. Even then, the income wasn’t enough to support his carelessly extravagant lifestyle, so he had Engels embezzle money for him from his father’s firm. Engels did so for years, at considerable risk to himself.

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

Crows Use Tools Too


“A captive New Caledonian crow forages for food using a stick tool.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. D3) New Caledonian crows, found in the South Pacific, are among nature’s most robust nonhuman tool users. They are well known for using twigs to dislodge beetle larvae from tree trunks.

And there’s a good reason. By foraging for just a few larvae, a crow can satisfy its daily nutritional needs, which explains the evolutionary advantage of learning how to use tools, researchers report in the journal Science.

For the full story, see:
SINDYA N. BHANOO. “OBSERVATORY; Crows Put Tools to Use to Access a Nutritious Diet.” The New York Times (Tues., September 21, 2010): D3.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated September 20, 2010.)

Chocolate Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disorder by 37%

(p. D6) An analysis of studies including more than 100,000 subjects has found that high levels of chocolate consumption are associated with a significant reduction in the risk of certain cardiovascular disorders.
. . .
Over all, the report, published Monday in the British medical journal BMJ, showed that those in the group that consumed the most chocolate had decreases of 37 percent in the risk of any cardiovascular disorder and 29 percent in the risk for stroke.

For the full story, see:
NICHOLAS BAKALAR. “VITAL SIGNS; Prevention: Evidence of Heart Benefits From Chocolate.” The New York Times (Tues., August 30, 2011): D6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 29, 2011.)

“What Happens in America Is Defined by Tort Lawyers”

JungleGymRelic2011-11-09.jpg “CHILDHOOD RELIC; Jungle gyms, like this one in Riverside Park in Manhattan, have disappeared from most American playgrounds in recent decades.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. D3) “There is no clear evidence that playground safety measures have lowered the average risk on playgrounds,” said David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University in London. He noted that the risk of some injuries, like long fractures of the arm, actually increased after the introduction of softer surfaces on playgrounds in Britain and Australia.

“This sounds counterintuitive, but it shouldn’t, because it is a common phenomenon,” Dr. Ball said. “If children and parents believe they are in an environment which is safer than it actually is, they will take more risks. An argument against softer surfacing is that children think it is safe, but because they don’t understand its properties, they overrate its performance.”
Reducing the height of playground equipment may help toddlers, but it can produce unintended consequences among bigger children. “Older children are discouraged from taking healthy exercise on playgrounds because they have been designed with the safety of the very young in mind,” Dr. Ball said. “Therefore, they may play in more dangerous places, or not at all.”
Fear of litigation led New York City officials to remove seesaws, merry-go-rounds and the ropes that young Tarzans used to swing from one platform to another. Letting children swing on tires became taboo because of fears that the heavy swings could bang into a child.
“What happens in America is defined by tort lawyers, and unfortunately that limits some of the adventure playgrounds,” said Adrian Benepe, the current parks commissioner.

For the full story, see:
JOHN TIERNEY. “FINDINGS; Grasping Risk in Life’s Classroom.” The New York Times (Tues., July 19, 2011): D1 & D3.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 18, 2011, and has the title “FINDINGS; Can a Playground Be Too Safe?.”)