Roman officials are trying to raise $271 million to restore gladiator training grounds next to the Colosseum and to catalog 100,000 boxes of excavated artifacts, among other projects. This is the latest effort to seek outside funding for conservation in Rome and other cities amid economic troubles in Italy. In recent years, Italian luxury companies such as Tod's, Fendi and Bulgari have donated large sums to restore top attractions in Rome. Leather goods maker Tod's has pledged $34 million toward restoring the Colosseum. Some potential donors have said they are worried about Italy's reputation for public waste. They noted that Pompeii has suffered from chronic mismanagement and corruption issues.
The most recent fallout from the ongoing political turmoil in Thailand: Miss Universe Thailand. Critics assailed her for her political comments on Facebook; they also called her fat. Less than a month into her reign, Weluree Ditsayabut, 22, tearfully announced Monday she was giving up the title that would have allowed her to compete in the international Miss Universe pageant. She has spoken out against the "Red Shirt" supporters of the former government. On May 28, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert telling U.S. citizens to "reconsider any nonessential travel to Thailand" because of "political and social unrest."
As the World Cup gets underway in Brazil, Bloomberg reports that only half of the projects designed to showcase the country were completed, despite an investment of $11 billion. Simon Anholt, a policy adviser who has worked with more than 50 nations on identity image, said in a Bloomberg news story, "Everybody imagined that Brazil is 20 years further advanced than it really is. There is quite a strong possibility that the image of Brazil will suffer a downward correction." The U.S. State Department has a World Cup resource guide at 1.usa.gov/QWbgNm.
India may be drier than usual this monsoon season because of El Niño. The June-September wet season may produce about 5% fewer shows, according to the state-run India Meteorological Department. India ranks No. 2 worldwide in production of rice, sugar and wheat, Bloomberg news service reported. The 1997-98 El Niño event was blamed for drought in such places as Brazil and Indonesia and more-than-normal moisture in Peru, California and the southeastern U.S.
The Lincoln Journal Star has reported that a person in Nebraska was hospitalized for treatment of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease that has been cropping up in the Caribbean. The patient had traveled to Haiti, where the virus has been reported and was likely contracted, the newspaper said. The World Health Organization notes that "since 2004, chikungunya fever has reached epidemic proportions, with considerable morbidity and suffering. The disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In recent decades mosquito vectors of chikungunya have spread to Europe and the Americas." The disease is said to cause intense joint pain, among other symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, has occurred in several countries of the Arabian Peninsula, but so far the health organization is not suggesting that travelers change their plans. "Most instances of person-to-person spread have occurred in health care workers and other close contacts (such as family members and caregivers) of people sick with MERS," its website says. The State Department says that people who are planning to make the annual trip to Mecca (Oct. 13-18) should note that the Saudi government is suggesting that pilgrims with certain health conditions not make the trip. Info: 1.usa.gov/1hKr56H
Sources: Associated Press, Bloomberg, U.S. Department of State, Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star