Thailand set a world record last week by creating the largest human Christmas… (Rungroj Yongrit / EPA )
A U.S. State Department travel warning on Venezuela, issued Nov. 22, says "violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive, both in the capital, Caracas, and in the interior." In a country of about 28.5 million, 21,629 people were slain, one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Kidnappings, the State Department notes, "are also a serious concern…. In 2013, 583 kidnappings were reported," adding that 80% of kidnappings aren't reported. The department warning adds that "all U.S. direct-hire personnel and their family members who are assigned to U.S. Embassy Caracas are required to take an armored vehicle when traveling to/from Maiquetía Airport."
Cyprus remains divided after talks last week failed to resolve issues that block the reunification of the ethnically divided country. Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Predominantly Buddhist Thailand set a world record last week by creating the largest human Christmas tree. The 852 schoolchildren wearing red and green felled a German record of 672 human tree competitors set in 2011. The Thai record was set in 15 minutes 29 seconds.
Dubai has been chosen to host the 2020 World's Fair. It had campaigned for the expo, including having a sign placed on Mt. Kilimanjaro, touting its candidacy. . Dubai estimates a successful Expo 2020 bid will generate $23 billion in revenues between 2015 and 2021. Yeosu, South Korea, hosted the 2012 world expo.
Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys visited a Philippine Air Force base Monday in Manila to bring cheer to hundreds of evacuees from eastern provinces racked by Typhoon Haiyan. The super typhoon, which struck the central Philippines in early November, killed more than 5,000 people. Many survivors have been moved to Manila.
The Rio de Janeiro Olympics organizers have vowed to clean up 148-square-mile Guanabara Bay, where the average fecal pollution rate is 195 times the level considered safe in the U.S. More than two-thirds of Rio's sewage goes directly into the water without being treated, meaning runoff drains into waters soon to host some of the world's best athletes. The Games are to run Aug. 5-21, 2016.
Sources: U.S. State Department and Associated Press