Are we supposed to take the Global Well-Being Index seriously?

June 24th, 2015

Americas Lead Highs, Sub-Saharan Africa Lows in Well-Being

The Global Well-Being Index is organized into the five elements:

  • Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community: liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
  • Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

Puerto Rico was in the top-ten on purpose, social, community, and physical categories.

Here’s the rub: Puerto Rican Population Declines on Island, Grows on U.S. Mainland

Why Are So Many Young Puerto Ricans Leaving Home?

Puerto Ricans flock to Florida fleeing economy, crime

The other flag controversy: US Embassy in London flies the rainbow flag

June 24th, 2015

This morning’s news from London:

Read all about The other flag controversy: US Embassy in London flies the rainbow flag

Today’s WTH moment: Venezuelan vet arrested for smuggling heroin in puppies UPDATED

June 23rd, 2015

Venezuelan news have become the stuff Werner Herzog movies are made of. Exhibit 1, today’ s WTH moment:

Venezuelan vet arrested for smuggling heroin in puppies
Puppies

Spanish police arrest man who allegedly sent liquid heroin from Colombia to the United States by implanting it in puppies

More headlines from Venezuela:
Sources tell me Leopoldo Lopez may suspend his hunger strike. He won’t be long of this world if he persists in starving himself. UPDATE: Indeed, he ended his hunger strike.

An election was announced – Good luck with that:

In her announcement today, Venezuelan elections chief Tibisay Lucena implied that only UNASUR would be invited, and then only to “accompany” the elections.

There are multiple problems with that. First off, UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations – was founded by Chávez and is widely seen as pliant to the Venezuelan regime. What’s more, “accompaniment” is not “monitoring”.

Elections Are Coming! Elections are Coming!

Hunger strike succeeded? Elections on December 6

Venezuela Vote, in Doubt, Is Now Set
Venezuela will hold parliamentary elections Dec. 6, the country’s National Electoral Council announced, ending months of speculation that the vote may be postponed.Vote is being closely watched as polls show ruling Socialist party is suffering a major setback

In Venezuela, Elections Are the Lesser of Two Evils

Venezuela’s government is a complex web of interlocking political relationships built during chavista rule. Several groups and individuals merit closer observation to determine how Venezuela’s immediate future will develop. The first person to consider is Cabello. As National Assembly speaker, he stands to lose immunity if the opposition sweeps the December elections — a possibility that is growing more likely as a majority of opinion polls show the ruling party trailing the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable. Cabello faces an investigation for cocaine trafficking through Venezuela to the United States — a crime entailing potential arrest and extradition if Cabello loses his immunity. Consequently, Cabello has joined Maduro in reaching out to the United States on the modest goal of appointing ambassadors, and Cabello likely will remain involved in this outreach to reduce his personal risk. Initially, Cabello was publicly absent from the negotiations. But in the face of growing political challenges from Maduro, Cabello seems to have inserted himself in the negotiations for the long run.

$5 says the die has already been cast: The date is a symbolic one for Venezuela. Maduro’s charismatic predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, who founded the populist “Chavismo” movement, was first elected to the presidency on Dec. 6, 1998.

Desperate Venezuela 3: Will China Learn The Value Of Friendship?

It’s not clear that a leadership change in Caracas will negate the goodwill China has built up, since Maduro might be replaced by a colleague from the USP. The political opposition might come into power at some point, but the next presidential elections are far off, and it seems hardly likely that Maduro will survive that long. Of course, few would want the thankless task of attempting to clean up the mess that is Venezuela, which might be the only thing preventing a palace coup.

However, even if Maduro is replaced by someone in his party who regards China favorably, there will almost certainly be a demand for debt renegotiation, simply because the Venezuelans can’t afford to repay what they owe.

Venezuela’s learning from China, though: Colombia Condemns Venezuela’s South China Sea-Style Caribbean Territory Grab, and Guyana says Venezuela threatens ‘peace and security’ over oil and border row
Potentially valuable oil discovery in waters claimed by Guyana sets up conflict as Venezuela extends territorial claims further into Atlantic Ocean
.

Last, but not least, Maduro blames Exxon-Mobil for his regime’s attacks on its neighbors (video in Spanish),

Any similarities between the new aggression and the Argentinian attack on the Falklands are purely coincidental.

[Post corrected to include omitted links]

UPDATE 2:
Linked to by Dustbury. Thank you!

Mexico: EL GRAN HERMANO del cartel TE VIGILA

June 23rd, 2015

BIG BROTHER from the cartel IS WATCHING YOU in Tamaulipas:
Spain’s El País reports on The all-seeing eye of Mexico’s cartels

Authorities in Tamaulipas state take down surveillance cameras installed by secret gang (emphasis added)

Recently, police announced that they had taken down 39 hidden surveillance cameras installed by traffickers at key points around the city to monitor movements by law enforcement authorities, rival gangs and ordinary citizens.
. . .
One local cartel – whose name has not been made public – has acknowledged that it set up 38 other cameras to closely follow movements made by the army, navy, police and prosecutors, according to an official statement.

Since the cartel itself has acknowledged it, why haven’t the authorities named it? Most likely, it would be either the Zetas or the Gulf cartel,

The region’s two most powerful drug organizations, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, have long battled for control of Tamaulipas’s 17 border crossings to ship narcotics to the north.

Not that these 39 cameras were the first – back in May authorities took down 30 others.

Venezuela: Next stop on the Obama administration’s “normalizing” with dictators?

June 22nd, 2015

Thomas Shannon (left in the above photo), a senior counselor to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, met with Venezuela’s National Assembly president Diodado Cabello (right) in Haiti earlier this month.

As you may recall, Diosdado is being investigated by the U.S. Justice department for drug trafficking and money laundering.

Jackson Diehl asks, why?

Cabello and his nominal boss, President Nicolás Maduro, were quick to trumpet their versions. The meeting, Maduro said, was part of a “normalization” of relations between his increasingly beleaguered regime and the Obama administration. Cabello offered it as proof that the reports that he is a U.S. criminal suspect are false. U.S. officials, meanwhile, sounded confused. Both the White House and State Department spokesmen said they were unaware that Cabello had met with Shannon.I heard another story: that the meeting was part of what has become an increasingly urgent attempt by the administration to broker a soft landing for a collapsing Latin American state.

Diehl speculates that Kerry intends to prolong Leopoldo Lopez’s life, and aim for “fair elections” (whatever that means in Venezuela at this point, since there is no reason why the Venezuelan regime would want a real election). Mary O’Grady has more,

A State Department official told me last week that the issues discussed with Mr. Cabello in Haiti included the treatment of the Maduro government’s political prisoners, the importance of setting a date for parliamentary elections this year, and providing internationally credible observation.

While Shannon has traveled twice to Venezuela this year,

when asked at a State Department briefing about Mr. Cabello’s role in Port-au-Prince, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said “I was not aware of a meeting with him.”

And yet,

A State Department spokesperson told me in an email last week that the [Haiti] meeting was “positive and productive.” Translation: Nothing to see here; move along. In fact there’s a lot riding on these negotiations. The end of the chavismo dictatorship would be a good thing. But a descent into chaos of African proportions would take with it the frail democracy movement.

Venezuela News and Views agrees,

The fact of the matter is that Venezuela is a problem big enough that negotiations are a must because the alternative, not negotiating and waiting to see what happens is even worse.

There is a lot riding on these negotiations, for both Venezuela and Cuba.

And then there is a fourth party not mentioned by Diehl and O’Grady: Iran.

Emili Blasco, in his book Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela, details the many and extensive ties between Iran and Venezuela. Not to be ignored is how Iran milks the difference between the black market and official bolivar-dollar exchange rates and drains Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves. An easing of commercial ties between the U.S. and Venezuela will benefit Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves.

Iran, for one, will be watching closely.

The globally warmed encyclical Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

June 22nd, 2015

Oblivious to current scientific data, pope Francis I, under the advice of German climate activist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, threw the Catholic Church into the global warming morass and a tailspin of pessimism, thereby making headlines across the world. Francis also banned skeptic Philipe de Larminat.
(I hope to throw in enough metaphors to make it to Taranto one of these days.)

ARGENTINA
Argentine Presidential Race Comes into FocusArgentine Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo bowed out of the race for the ruling party’s 2015 presidential nomination, leaving Buenos Aires provincial Gov. Daniel Scioli as the only candidate

BOLIVIA
Facebook Signs Agreement with Bolivian Telecom to Promote Free Internet

CHILE
Chilean grandma carried mummified foetus for 50 years92-year-old Chilean grandmother has been bearing large mummified foetus for at least 50 years in what is a rare condition known as lithopedion, doctors have discovered

COLOMBIA
[Video show the FARC using schools to train minors and store explosives in Putumayo]

Colombia’s Farc blows up oil pipeline in Catatumbo

CUBA
Obama Admits Cuba Sponsors Terrorism, But…

By Carlos Eire: A Father’s Day Tribute

Stella McCartney’s Anti-Cruelty Fashion Line Celebrates Marxist Killers Fidel Castro & Che Guevara

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The DR makes deportation plans but Dominican Deadline Passes Without Mass Expulsion of Haitian Migrants

ECUADOR
No skin off Correa’s back: Julian Assange’s three-year stay in Ecuadorean embassy has cost taxpayer £11.1mThree years ago the WikiLeaks founder fled bail and sought asylum in Ecuador – resulting in millions being spent on policing the embassy

GUATEMALA
Lone protester ends Guatemala marchA lone protester in Guatemala receives a hero’s welcome after covering more than 200 km (125 miles) in a protest against corruption.

MEXICO
Mexico beer centre attack leaves 10 dead

NICARAGUA
Why is a Chinese Tycoon Building a $50 Billion Canal in Nicaragua That No One Wants?

Remaking world trade?

PANAMA
Panama Ready to Help Normalize Relations Between OAS, Cuba

PERU
Peru Inflation Churns as Consumer Confidence Falls

PUERTO RICO
5 Indicted for Bid-Rigging in Puerto Rico School Bus Auction

[US court orders seizure of Puerto Rico’s Department of Health accounts]

VENEZUELA

Brazilian senators forced out of Venezuela after failed solidarity missionVenezuelan opposition prisoners Leopoldo Lopez, Daniel Ceballos and Antonio Ledezma were due to be visited by a delegation from Brazil – until their path was blocked, and their bus was attacked

Swiss embassy warns Venezuela’s golf players its balls could killMembers of the exclusive Caracas Country Club have reacted with anger to a sign posted by the Swiss embassy warning that stray balls could be in breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations



The government wants to protect you from ham

June 19th, 2015

The government wants to protect you from ham, and not just from any old ham, but from the gold standard of celestial hammy exquisiteness.

Read my article here.

While Customs and Immigration protect us from ham, here are a few Drudge headlines,



Laudato Si: The road to hell is paved with good intentions

June 19th, 2015

Samuel Gregg, Research Director at the Acton Institute, ascribes good intentions to pope Francis:
Laudato Si’: Well Intentioned, Economically Flawed

Most distressing perhaps is Pope Francis’ deeply negative view of free markets.

Gregg, in a lengthy, well-reasoned article, points out,

What’s sadly ironic about all this is that the very same encyclical which makes such sweeping assertions about the free market and its advocates is also marked by several welcome calls for reasoned and broad debate (16, 61, 135, 138, 165) about how we address environmental and economic problems. Laudato Si’ also emphasizes that the Church doesn’t have a monopoly of wisdom on the prudential dimension of environmental and economic questions. Yet the encyclical’s use of phrases such as “deified market” (56) and “magical conception of the market” (190); its unsupported association of moral relativism with Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” (123); its relentless linkage of the market with materialism and consumerism (neither of which have had any difficulty flourishing in non-market economies); its failure to critique the left-populist regimes that have brought economic destruction and increased poverty to countries such as Argentina and Venezuela; and its attribution of suspicious motives to those who favor markets, runs contrary to this appeal for open and respectful debate.

Pope Francis, who recently

  • Met with Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutierrez, the self-declared founder of liberation theology.
  • Restored to the priesthood Miguel d’Escoto, the Sandinista who expounded liberation theology as a priest and turned Nicaragua into a Cuban-ruled hellhole. D’Escoto also considers Fidel Castro a saint.
  • Brokered the “easing” of U.S.-Cuba relations that left the Cuban dissidents out in the dark.
  • Welcomed Raul Castro for a “very friendly” hour-long private audience.
  • Recognizes the Palestinian state.

is now calling for a cultural revolution. How did the last cultural revolution work out?

Francis, in his first solo encyclical, relies on decades-old “global north and south” language to describe some of the global economy’s dynamics, language which was adopted in the 1950s by Latin American economists, and

reflects the conceptual apparatus of what was called dependency theory: the notion that resources—especially natural resources—flow from a “periphery” of poor countries to a “core” of rich states, thereby benefiting the wealthy at the poor’s expense. This meant, according to dependency theory economists, that peripheral nations should restrict trade with developed countries and limit foreign investment. The point was to reduce their reliance on exports of raw minerals and agricultural products, consequently promoting the emergence of domestic industrial sectors.

The north-south dependency theory has been discredited. The encyclical, however, will be used as a propaganda tool for decades to come.

The pope’s stance against economic freedom may be based on good intentions –  the stuff the road to hell is paved with.

Related:
The Holy Father has appointed Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Potsdam and director of the Institute for Climate Impact in Potsdam, Federal Republic of Germany, as ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Venezuela: The FAO gets fooled

June 19th, 2015

Food and Venezuela
Let them eat Chavismo
The UN honours Venezuela for curbing hunger—which is actually getting worse

According to the FAO, which presented the diploma on June 8th, Venezuela is one of 72 countries that have reached the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the percentage of their populations suffering from hunger. But the prize, based on government data up to 2012, comes amid growing evidence that the trend has reversed.

As of June 2014, Venezuela ranks 182 out of 189 in the World Bank Economy Rankings. The International Monetary Fund keeps a List of IMF Member Countries with Delays in Completion of Article IV Consultations or Mandatory Financial Stability Assessments Over 18 Months. As of the writing of this post, Venezuela hasn’t held an Article IV consultation with the IMF in 114 monthsThe Venezuelan government has not allowed its own numbers to be verified for almost a decade.

Click to enlarge

And the FAO fell for the Venezuelan government’s data, hook line and sinker.

Argentina: The tissue’s race to the bottom

June 18th, 2015

Tissue World Magazine reports on Argentina: the impact of inflation and price controls on tissue.

Missing all the strength consumers need, with the softness they want* (emphasis added):

For many consumers, waiting for the crash has become something of a national pastime, with tissue consumers perhaps even being forced back to the bidet, the now little-used convenience still found in the corner of most Argentinian bathrooms. While it is typically rare for consumers to trade out of tissue, the situation in Argentina appears so precarious that for many this is becoming a very real prospect.

In the absence of a sensible combination of comfort, absorbency and value**, Argentinians console themselves by repeating the mantra,

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE – ‘WE ARE NOT VENEZUELA’
While things are bad, consumers have by all accounts tended to remain quite sanguine as the situation is far worse in Venezuela

H/t Iowahawk’s Twitter feed,