Venezuela: On Dec. 11, the State Department warned visitors that "violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive … both in the capital, Caracas, and in the interior." It notes that the country has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, and that kidnappings also are a problem.
Haiti: On Dec. 4, a State Department warning outlined issues pertaining to the country's emergency medical facilities and the emergency response network. "Travelers to Haiti are encouraged to use organizations that have solid evacuation and medical support options in place," it said. "Some U.S. citizens injured in accidents and others with serious health concerns have been unable to find necessary medical care in Haiti and have had to arrange and pay for medical evacuation to the United States." It also notes that violent crime is down but that robbery in Port-au-Prince or soon after leaving the airport continues to be an issue.
On Ebola-affected nations: On Dec. 2, the State Department noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against nonessential travel to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The advice for Mali was less stringent but warned visitors to "practice enhanced precautions for avoidance of contact with ill individuals." It refers to the Department of Homeland Security website (1.usa.gov/1qRLbQx) for info on screenings at Newark, N.J., New York's JFK, Chicago's O'Hare, Atlanta and Washington's Dulles for those returning from affected countries.
For more on these and other warnings: travel.state.gov
Fruitful Paris auction
In Paris, an auction last week that offered Navajo artifacts has ended well for officials of the Native American nation. They were able to buy seven masks, thought to have been used in healing ceremonies. The U.S. government and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had tried to stop the sale on the grounds it was illegal.
If you're visiting British Columbia at Christmas and you're hoping for a turkey dinner for the holiday, you may need to modify your wish list. An outbreak of avian influenza decreased the availability of turkeys by about 10%. Chickens also have been affected. The U.S. has temporarily placed restrictions on bringing in British Columbia birds.
Saudi Arabia arrest
A woman who attended a soccer game in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, has been arrested after going to the new al-Jawhara stadium to watch the contest. Women do not mingle with men, and there is no women's-only section in the stadium. A newspaper reported she was wearing pants, a hat and sunglasses, suggesting she was trying to blend in. The woman said she did not know that women could not go to the stadium.
Oyster industries hit
The Australian oyster industry has been hit hard by herpes, which killed 10 million Aussie oysters within 72 hours. The nation isn't the only place suffering the effects of what's called Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome; New Zealand and France and other European nations have been hit hard. Scientists say climate change is exacerbating a problem that often can wipe out every oyster in a fishery. The illness usually kills oysters that are not yet a year old. The virus is not the same as human herpes and you cannot catch it from eating an infected oyster. The price of oysters in France, where the virus has been doing damage since 2008, has climbed by more than a third in the six-year period.
WWII grenade explodes
A World War II hand grenade that was embedded in firewood exploded in a home in Austria after the homeowner put the chopped wood into the wood-burning stove. The tree apparently grew over the grenade, and when the tree was turned into firewood, it was undetected. The explosion shattered the glass panel on the stove but no one was hurt in the town of Gmunden, about 150 miles southwest of Vienna. Austria was absorbed by Germany during the war. Soviet troops liberated Vienna in April 1945.
Sources: U.S. State Department, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News