I thought I would offer this open thread. To kick things off, here are some items making news:
Hugo Chavez, the left wing dictator of Venezuela, has finally died after a two year struggle against cancer. The citizens of the nation are in mourning for their national hero. However as one reporter notes, there's an ugly truth behind Chavez's rule:
The crime rate is Caracas is staggering. The capital metropolitan area notched no fewer than 3,218 homicides in the first ten months of 2012. Numerous government officials have well established ties to narco-trafficking groups. Human rights abuses have been selective but deeply cruel (just look at what they have done to Maria Lourdes Afiuni). Price controls and artificial exchange rates have barely kept a lid on soaring inflation and rising food costs, while a steep currency devaluation and increase in the price of fuel are long overdue. The last time that a Venezuelan government attempted to dramatically change the fuel subsidy, we had the Caracazo riots of 1989 and some 3,000 deaths, which is credited in part for laying down the social conditions that led to the rise of Chávez. No matter who clings to power after the president is gone, they will have to face the reality of some form of these difficult policies.That's really not much of a legacy to leave behind.
* * * *The Dow Jones has closed at an all-time high, erasing all of the losses from the 2008 recession. Analysts suggest that the boom is a result of deep skepticism about the predicted damage that the Sequester fiasco will do to the economy. In any case, the people who will benefit from a bear market are very unlikely to feel the direct impact of the budget cuts. The question, before we celebrate, is whether anything has really been learned by the economic meltdown or whether it's business as usual. If so, we should all be prepared for yet another bubble followed by yet another market crash.
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One story that I found quite shocking but seems to have flown under the radar (pun intended) is this one from PopSci:
Yesterday morning, an Alitalia pilot reported seeing a remote-controlled aircraft near New York's JFK airport, where he was landing. The drone was flying about 4 to 5 miles west of the airport at an altitude of about 1,750 feet, and it came within just 200 feet of the Alitalia plane, the pilot said. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident, and the FBI announced that it is looking for information leading to the drone operator. But was it legal?
Eventually the issue of drones will have to be discussed. Hopefully before one of them brings down an airliner.
Feel free to comment on these stories or anything else you think is note-worthy. I hope you don't mind if I also participate in the discussion.