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27 Aug 15:12

Why Legal Pot is Better Than the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

by Nick Gillespie

The ice bucket challenge has raised a huge amount of awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or "Lou Gehrig's Disease," which affects about 30,000 Americans.

Writing in The Hill, Andrew Gargano talks about an existing, effective way to ameliorate the disease's devastating symptoms: Medical marijuana.

A number of studies have shown that cannabis functions in many ways that are beneficial to those with ALS, from serving as an analgesic to acting as a soothing muscle relaxant. Cannabis also functions as a saliva reducer, and so it has the ability to reduce symptoms of uncontrollable drooling that is common among those with ALS. Additionally, cannabis has been found successful in use as an antidepressant, results which have also been confirmed by an anonymous, self-reported survey of ALS patients conducted by the the MDA/ALS Center at the University of Washington.

Most importantly, however, is that a 2010 study found that cannabis offered anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects when tested on laboratory mice. The researchers found that cannabis slowed the progression of the disease and prolonged cell survival, ultimately concluding that “it is reasonable to think that cannabis might significantly slow the progression of ALS, potentially extending life expectancy and substantially reducing the overall burden of the disease.”

While this information may seem incredibly relieving to anyone who suffers from ALS, only 34 percent of Americans live in the 23 states, and the District of Columbia, that currently recognize the important medical uses of cannabis.

Read the whole thing.

Hat Tip: Students for Liberty Twitter feed.

23 Aug 00:24

Como a liberdade na propaganda eleitoral pode salvar a política das velhas ideias

by Carlos Góes

por Fábio Monteiro de Lima

A liberdade de expressão caminha sempre sobre águas turvas no Brasil. Pelos ditos progressistas é vista como um direito ultrapassado,liberal, burguês, que deve ser a todo tempo sopesado e afastado para evitar todo tipo de abusos indeterminado. Os tutores do povo, devidamente instalados no poder, querem controlar quem fala o quê, quando e onde.

A primeira notícia obscura que se publica, a menor visão crítica dos fatos, é sempre vista como fundamento para regrar e controlar a imprensa ou a Internet vista como uma terra sem lei que teima em não se curvar ao Estado-tutor. Esquecem que a proteção da honra e da imagem, pode e deve ser realizada sempre após o dano, havendo medidas legais suficientes para tanto.

Na seara do Direito Eleitoral este debate toma contornos ainda mais dramáticos. Sob o pálio do combate ao abuso do poder econômico e do “uso indevido dos meios de comunicação”, a Liberdade de Expressão é cada dia mais enclausurada e compartimentada sob um sem número de regras, não apenas quanto à forma, mas discretamente sobre o conteúdo.

Hoje as principais restrições à propaganda eleitoral estão na Lei 9.504/97 e são:

  1. Temporal (art. 36-A): é vedada qualquer propaganda eleitoral antes de 06/07, sob pena de multa;
  2. De meio: é proibida a propaganda paga no Rádio e TV (art. 44), assim como opinião (des)favorável, degradar ou ridicularizar, apoio expresso ou velado (art. 45, II e III) a qualquer candidato por estes meios, além de propaganda paga na Internet (art. 57-C);
  3. Local (art. 37): Proibida a propaganda – fixa ou móvel – em bens públicos ou particulares de acesso público, salvo a móvel via pública;
  4. Tamanho: Proibição de outdoor (placa acima de 4m²), adesivo de carro superior a 40x50cm (art. 38, §3º), anúncio em jornal (art. 43) acima de 1/8 de página e revista acima de ¼ de página.

Digno de nota que à mídia impressa é lícito emitir opinião favorável ou crítica a algum candidato, desde que tal ato não seja reiterado ao ponto de se mostrar capaz de induzir o pensamento do eleitorado, caso em que pode configurar propaganda escamoteada (sob pena de multa) ou uso indevido dos meios de comunicação social, podendo levar a cassação do registro ou do mandato.

A realidade que precisa ser encarada urgentemente em uma Reforma Eleitoral é de que esse sistema contribui para a criação de monopólios artificiais do sistema político, criando enormes barreiras à entrada de novos competidores, diminuindo a isonomia e normalidade do pleito, restringindo o exercício de direitos fundamentais, justamente os seus alegados fundamentos constitucionais.

Primeiramente porque, com estas restrições, sobram aos candidatos o horário eleitoral gratuito, a propaganda gratuita em suas páginas pessoais ou dos partidos nas redes sociais, os eventos milionários (ainda que sem showmícios), as carreatas e a panfletagem através dos cabos eleitorais. Em todas estas modalidades as candidaturas daqueles que já estão no poder tem larga vantagem.

O horário eleitoral de rádio e televisão é dividido proporcionalmente às bancadas dos partidos e coligações na Câmara dos Deputados ou nas Assembleias Legislativas, facilitando a permanência das velhas ideias na política. Por outro lado, a simples divisão igualitária não resolveria a situação em um país com 32 (trinta e dois) partidos políticos em funcionamento.

Aos candidatos ao poder executivo ainda sobram os debates, mas no caso do legislativo – com o número absurdo de candidatos decorrente do sistema de lista aberta e proporcional – esta opção é totalmente irreal.

A panfletagem, mídia cara e ineficiente que polui as cidades gerando toneladas de lixo, somente tem utilidade se acompanhada de um exército de cabos eleitorais – cujo trabalho deve ser pago – o que infla os custos da campanha, aumentando a influência do poder econômico. Portanto, a centralidade dos panfletos e santinhos nas campanhas apenas fortalece o abuso que estas regras dizem coibir.

Jornais e revistas são mídias caras e com influência cada vez menor, além do que, o tamanho dos anúncios permitidos impede a melhor descrição de propostas ou posições políticas, se aplicando integralmente as mesmas críticas feitas à panfletagem.

Restaria a internet, a última fronteira do livre mercado de ideias, mas também está é alvo de crescente regulação governamental. A mini-reforma de 2009 proibiu a propaganda eleitoral paga na Internet, restringindo os meios lícitos a propaganda na própria página, o site pessoal ou do partido/coligação, além de mensagens diretas para eleitores prévia e espontaneamente cadastrados.

Ou seja, somente os eleitores que tenham manifestado interesse em acompanhar determinada candidatura é que terão acesso às suas propostas, desnaturando a ideia mais básica da propaganda que é a busca ativa de novos ouvintes. O resultado nós já sabemos, todos os pré-candidatos impulsionam – pagando – suas páginas pessoais até 05 de julho, procedendo desde já a todo tipo de propaganda antecipada. Quem chegar na frente em número de seguidores terá a maior difusão de suas mensagens durante o período eleitoral propriamente dito.

Por óbvio, ainda, que aqueles candidatos que já ocupam cargos públicos, assim como aqueles que estão na mídia através de seus programas de Rádio e TV, despertam muito mais interesse na população nesse período preparatório e terão uma leva maior de seguidores durante a campanha.

Importante ainda lembrar que, proporcionalmente, a campanha – mesmo paga – via internet é muito mais barata que a mídia impressa. Some-se a isso o efeito viral e a possibilidade de participação popular ativa e logo se conclui que a propaganda paga na rede seria capaz de combater a desigualdade eleitoral, fazendo frente ao favorecimento do horário de eleitoral gratuito e ao poderio econômico dos meios impressos.

Para arrematar esse sistema perverso, o controle explícito, a censura imposta à radiodifusão – em menor escala aos jornais – que deve se abster de emitir opiniões e críticas aos candidatos nos três meses que antecedem o pleito, priva o eleitor de avaliações e informações atuais sobre os governos, ou de relembrar fatos positivos e negativos. Tornando a versão propagandeada no bilionário horário eleitoral, com seus fantásticos marqueteiros, a única versão no momento mais delicado da vida política nacional.

A verdade inconveniente é que a nossa regulação de propaganda, como usualmente acontece com qualquer restrição estatal de direitos, torna mais difícil o surgimento de novas lideranças e novas ideias. Favorece, isto sim, os parlamentares que usam por quatro anos a verba de gabinete em benefício próprio, os governantes que estão diariamente no rádio e TV e tem orçamentos bilionários para promover seus governos, as campanhas milionárias que contratam um sem número de cabos eleitorais e imprimem milhões de panfletos.

É necessário, é urgente, um banho de liberdade no sistema eleitoral brasileiro. Dado que o marketing já tornou os eleitores em consumidores, é hora de quebrar esse cartel e fazer valer o livre mercado de ideias, possibilitando a renovação da política e o avanço do país.

 * Fábio Monteiro de Lima é advogado eleitoralista em Brasília. Graduado pela Universidade de Brasília (UnB), é membro da Aliança pela Liberdade, sendo representante discente no Conselho Universitário da UnB.

25 Aug 21:18

This Brilliant Entrepreneur Is Making Money Off You Without You Even Noticing | Business Insider India

Luis von Ahn

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Luis von Ahn, creator of Duolingo and a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.

When he was 12 years old, Luis von Ahn came up with a plan to make gyms free.

People exercising on machines can generate electricity, he figured, and that energy is valuable. So why not eliminate gym fees, hook all the machines to a power grid, and sell the wattage produced to a major electric company? Everyone could go free of charge, the world would have a new source of power, and people would be healthier to boot.

"It turns out it's not a very good idea," von Ahn, now 34, chuckles. "People aren't very good at generating electricity. It's much better to charge a membership fee."

While that idea didn't pan out, the computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University has been dreaming up innovative business models ever since. And he's done it well. Over the past eight years, von Ahn has created and sold two projects to Google. His new venture, free language-learning app Duolingo, is a perpetual favorite in the Android and iOS app stores and has already accrued more than 12 million users. In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, or so-called "genius" grant.

If there is true genius to be found in von Ahn's work, it lies in the theory that underscores all of his projects: the idea that by using technology and a little bit of fun, you can harness tiny bits of time and energy from people all around the world and make them collectively useful. In what might be the cleverest application of crowdfunding principles yet, von Ahn is turning our mindless Internet activities into something productive.

Von Ahn's entrepreneurial ventures began in earnest in 2004 with an idea he had for a new kind of online game. The program would randomly pair each player with another user on the web, and show them a series of images. Both players were instructed simply to "type whatever the other guy is typing." The more overlap you produced, the better your score was. So, for example, if a picture of a dog appeared, both users would probably type "dog" along with other words like "animal," "pet," "puppy," or "cute."

It's the kind of time-killer that most of us love: a perfect medley of fun images, competitive quizzing, and mindlessness. But for von Ahn, it would have a second use. "When people play the game they help determine the contents of images by providing meaningful labels for them," he and his co-author wrote in a 2004 paper. "If the game is played as much as popular online games, we estimate that most images on the Web can be labeled in a few months."

Take a moment to consider that proposition. A tremendous number of unlabeled images are floating around on the web, which impairs everything from the accuracy of image searching to the blocking of inappropriate content. Tech companies have created an entire job category for people who review content and flag it for various graphic violations. Von Ahn was proposing that much of this could be outsourced to your everyday person, if only it were made a little fun.

The program launched in 2005 as The ESP Game. Within four months, it had lured 13,000 bored web cruisers into producing 1.3 million labels for roughly 300,000 images, Wired reported in 2007. Von Ahn's demo of the game at Google caught the eye of both Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and just months later it had been acquired and relaunched as the Google Image Labeler.

Von Ahn's next venture, reCAPTCHA, also managed to utilize the work of unsuspecting web users. In the early years of his Ph.D. study, von Ahn had helped his advisor, CMU computer science professor Manuel Blum, develop a handy identity verification device known as a CAPTCHA. Think of those distorted words you're asked to translate after attempting to log into your email too many times to verify that you're human. Those are CAPTCHAs. Initially invented to help keep spambots out of chat rooms, these tests are effective because computers have a difficult time reading distorted text, while people are rather good at it.

Von Ahn watched the work on CAPTCHA and decided it had potential beyond distinguishing humans from robots - the extra 10 seconds people were taking to access their email and other accounts could be put to use. In 2006, von Ahn launched reCAPTCHA. Unlike its predecessor, reCAPTCHA challenged users with two distorted words to decode, and looks something like this:


The brilliant twist is that this test isn't just verifying your humanity; it's also putting you to work on decoding a word that a computer can't. The first word in a reCAPTCHA is an automated test generated by the system, but the second usually comes from an old book or newspaper article that a computer scanner is trying (and failing) to digitize. If the person answering the reCAPTCHA gets the first word correct (which the computer knows the answer to), then the system assumes the second word has been translated accurately as well.

In 2009, Google acquired reCAPTCHA for an undisclosed amount (von Ahn says the sum was somewhere between $10 million and $100 million) and put the program to work on a tremendous scale, digitizing material for Google Books and the New York Times archives. In 2012, it was translating about 150 million distorted words a day.

"The CAPTCHA was really my idea," says Blum. "Getting humans involved and getting them to help do this stuff was Luis's idea. He was the one that pointed out, 'Look how many hours have gone into building the Panama Canal or the Pyramids - and with all the people that are on the web now, you can get a lot more hours.'"

The latest incarnation of this theory is Duolingo, von Ahn's popular language-learning game. The free service offers lessons in Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese, and uses a computer-game structure with level-ups, un-lockable bonus skills, and a virtual currency to intrigue users. It's classic gamification.

"When you talk to people using Duolingo, they usually say 'I'm playing Duolingo,'" von Ahn notes. "If you ask people the main reason they're using Duolingo, it's not because they're learning something but because it's fun."

Duolingo Luis von Ahn

Courtesy of Duolingo

The app's 12.5 million active users spend, on average, 30 minutes a day with Duolingo, but it's also designed for people to pull out for two or three minutes as a time-killer while waiting in line at the grocery. Von Ahn says his research shows that spending 34 hours on Duolingo teaches the equivalent of one semester of a college language course. Eighty percent of traffic to the app comes from mobile.

A quarter of Duolingo's users are from the U.S., but another 35% are from Latin America and Brazil, and 30% are from Europe. This is important to von Ahn, who grew up in an upper-middle class family in Guatemala City before heading to the U.S. for college, and saw firsthand how his fellow citizens struggled to climb the socioeconomic ladder.

"Guatemala is a very poor country," von Ahn says. "Everybody in Guatemala seems to want to learn English, but no one can afford to."

To that end, von Ahn has sworn to keep Duolingo entirely free for users. And using the same logic that built The ESP Game and reCAPTCHA, he's come up with a clever alternative for monetizing the product. When users sign onto Duolingo, one of the options they have for practicing their language is "immersion." In this section, users get a chance to apply what they've learned by trying their hand at translating real documents on the web.

Where do those documents come from? CNN and Buzzfeed, for starters. The major media companies have contracted Duolingo as a translation service for their materials. Even with novice users, the translations are fairly accurate because several people on Duolingo work on each document and then up/down vote other translations before the final version is sent back to the media outlets. For the users, it's another language-learning tool; for Duolingo, it's a way of generating hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As with all von Ahn's projects, the trick in Duolingo comes down to shrewdly harnessing the time people happily spend on one project to do something useful in another. One invention after another, he is satisfying our desire for mindless fun while tricking us into making society as a whole more efficient. The brilliance of the theory, ultimately, is that it's so simple and yet extremely effective.

"It's just taking something that people do anyways," von Ahn says, "and trying to extract value out of it."

Bookmarked at brandizzi Delicious' sharing tag and expanded by Delicious sharing tag expander.
27 Aug 15:19

Breaking: Weed Smokers Less Violent

by Dish Staff
by Dish Staff

Who’da thunk it?

Past research has indicated that couples who abuse substances are at a greater risk for divorce, in part because substance abuse often leads to an increase in domestic violence. However, new research has found that when it comes to marijuana use, the opposite effect occurs: couples who frequently use marijuana are actually at a lower risk of partner violence.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown parses this research:

Obviously this doesn’t mean marijuana makes people less violent per se—maybe the types prone to pot-smoking are just inherently less violent individuals; or perhaps the types prone to partner violence are categorically less drawn to the drug. But it is interesting to contrast these stats with numbers on alcohol, which has frequently been linked to increased incidences of partner violence.

In one recent study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors in January 2014, researchers found that “on any alcohol use days, heavy alcohol use days (five or more standard drinks), and as the number of drinks increased on a given day, the odds of physical and sexual aggression perpetration” by college-age men in relationships increased.

Christopher Ingraham looks at who paid for the study:

Perhaps most significantly, the Buffalo study was funded partially by a grant from the National Institute for Drug Abuse. Marijuana reformers have strongly criticized NIDA’s institutional biases against marijuana legalization in the past, including restrictions the agency has placed on the availability of marijuana for research purposes. But the fact that NIDA is funding studies like this one suggests that it, like much of the country, is beginning to change its tune.

27 Aug 20:00

Anos atrás, ganhei com um edredom estampado com manchetes. Esta...



Anos atrás, ganhei com um edredom estampado com manchetes. Esta é especialmente engraçada agora…

(Foi presente da sogra. Obrigado, sogrinha!)

09 Aug 12:23

Pregnancy is a war between mother and child – Suzanne Sadedin – Aeon

Adam Victor Brandizzi

"To their shock they found instead that – implanted in the brain, testis or eye of a mouse – the embryo went wild."
Obviamente, só lembrei de http://the-toast.net/2014/08/01/scientists-never-ending-quest-torment-mice-continues-apace/

What sight could be more moving than a mother nursing her baby? What better icon could one find for love, intimacy and boundless giving? There’s a reason why the Madonna and Child became one of the world’s great religious symbols.

To see this spirit of maternal generosity carried to its logical extreme, consider Diaea ergandros, a species of Australian spider. All summer long, the mother fattens herself on insects so that when winter comes her little ones may suckle the blood from her leg joints. As they drink, she weakens, until the babies swarm over her, inject her with venom and devour her like any other prey.

You might suppose such ruthlessness to be unheard-of among mammalian children. You would be wrong. It isn’t that our babies are less ruthless than Diaea ergandros, but that our mothers are less generous. The mammal mother works hard to stop her children from taking more than she is willing to give. The children fight back with manipulation, blackmail and violence. Their ferocity is nowhere more evident than in the womb.

This fact sits uncomfortably with some enduring cultural ideas about motherhood. Even today, it is common to hear doctors talking about the uterine lining as the ‘optimal environment’ for nurturing the embryo. But physiology has long cast doubt on this romantic view.

The cells of the human endometrium are tightly aligned, creating a fortress-like wall around the inside of the uterus. That barrier is packed with lethal immune cells. As far back as 1903, researchers observed embryos ‘invading’ and ‘digesting’ their way into the uterine lining. In 1914, R W Johnstone described the implantation zone as ‘the fighting line where the conflict between the maternal cells and the invading trophoderm takes place’. It was a battlefield ‘strewn with... the dead on both sides’.

When scientists tried to gestate mice outside the womb, they expected the embryos to wither, deprived of the surface that had evolved to nurture them. To their shock they found instead that – implanted in the brain, testis or eye of a mouse – the embryo went wild. Placental cells rampaged through surrounding tissues, slaughtering everything in their path as they hunted for arteries to sate their thirst for nutrients. It's no accident that many of the same genes active in embryonic development have been implicated in cancer. Pregnancy is a lot more like war than we might care to admit.

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So if it’s a fight, what started it? The original bone of contention is this: you and your nearest relatives are not genetically identical. In the nature of things, this means that you are in competition. And because you live in the same environment, your closest relations are actually your most immediate rivals.

It was Robert Trivers, in the 1970s, who first dared to explore the sinister implications of this reality in a series of influential papers. The following decade, a part-time graduate student named David Haig was musing over Trivers’s ideas when he realised that the nurturing behaviour of mammal mothers creates a particularly excellent opportunity for exploitation.

It is in your mother’s genetic interests, Haig understood, to provide equally for all her children. But your father might never have another child with her. This makes her other children your direct competitors, and also gives your father’s genes a reason to game the system. His genome would evolve to manipulate your mother into providing more resources for you. In turn, her genes would manoeuvre to provide you with fewer resources. The situation becomes a tug-of-war. Some genes fall silent, while others become more active, counterbalancing them.

Even with the help of modern medicine, pregnancy still kills about 800 women every day worldwide

That insight led Haig to found the theory of genomic imprinting, which explains how certain genes are expressed differently depending on whether they come from your father or your mother. Armed with this theory, we can see how conflicts of genetic interest between parents play out within the genomes of their offspring.

Because both parental genomes drive each other to keep ramping up their production of powerful hormones, should one gene fail, the result can be disastrous for both mother and infant. Normal development can proceed only as long as both parental genotypes are correctly balanced against one another. Just as in a tug-of-war, if one party drops its end, both fall over. This is one reason why mammals cannot reproduce asexually, and why cloning them is so difficult: mammalian development requires the intricate co-ordination of paternal and maternal genomes. A single misstep can ruin everything.

Diaea ergandros, the ultimate mother, doesn’t have to worry about this, of course. She will never have more than one brood, so there is no need for her to restrain her offspring. But most mammal mothers breed more than once, and often with different males. This fact alone ensures that the paternal and maternal genomes work against one another. You can see the tragic consequences of this hidden war throughout the class Mammalia. Yet there is one species where it ascends to really mind-boggling heights of bloodiness.

Yours.

For most mammals, despite the underlying conflict, life goes on almost as normal during pregnancy. They flee from predators, capture prey, build homes and defend territories – all while gestating. Even birth is pretty safe: they might grimace or sweat a bit during labour, but that’s usually the worst of it. There are exceptions. Hyena mothers, for example, give birth through an impractical penis-like structure, and about 18 per cent of them die during their first delivery. But even for them, pregnancy itself is rarely perilous.

If we look at primates, however, it’s a different story. Primate embryos can sometimes implant in the Fallopian tube instead of the womb. When that happens, they tunnel ferociously towards the richest nutrient source they can find; the result is often a bloodbath. And among the great apes, things look even dicier. Here we start to see perhaps the most sinister complication of pregnancy: preeclampsia, a mysterious condition characterised by high blood pressure and protein discharge in the urine. Preeclampsia is responsible for around 12 per cent of human maternal deaths worldwide. But it’s very much just the start of our problems.

The mother is a despot: she provides only what she chooses

A list of the reproductive ills that afflict our species might start with placental abruption, hyperemesis gravidarum, gestational diabetes, cholestasis and miscarriage, and carry on from there. In all, about 15 per cent of women suffer life-threatening complications during each pregnancy. Without medical assistance, more than 40 per cent of hunter-gatherer women never reach menopause. Even with the help of modern medicine, pregnancy still kills about 800 women every day worldwide.

So, we have a bit of a mystery here. The basic genetic conflict that makes the womb such a battle zone crops up across innumerable species: all it takes for war to break out is for mothers to have multiple offspring by different fathers. But this is quite a common reproductive arrangement in nature, and as we saw, it doesn’t cause other mammals so many problems. How did we humans get so unlucky? And does it have anything to do with our other extraordinary feature – our unparalleled brain development?

In most mammals, the mother’s blood supply remains safely isolated from the foetus. It passes its nutrients to the foetus through a filter, which the mother controls. The mother is a despot: she provides only what she chooses, which makes her largely invulnerable to paternal manipulation during pregnancy.

In primates and mice, it’s a different story. Cells from the invading placenta digest their way through the endometrial surface, puncturing the mother’s arteries, swarming inside and remodelling them to suit the foetus. Outside of pregnancy, these arteries are tiny, twisty things spiralling through depths of the uterine wall. The invading placental cells paralyse the vessels so they cannot contract, then pump them full of growth hormones, widening them tenfold to capture more maternal blood. These foetal cells are so invasive that colonies of them often persist in the mother for the rest of her life, having migrated to her liver, brain and other organs. There’s something they rarely tell you about motherhood: it turns women into genetic chimeras.

Perhaps this enormous blood supply explains why primates have brains five to ten times larger than the average mammal. Metabolically speaking, brains are extremely expensive organs, and most of their growth occurs before birth. How else is the fetus to fund such extravagance?

Is this unfettered access to maternal blood the key to the extraordinary brain development we see in young primates?

Given the invasive nature of pregnancy, it’s perhaps not surprising that the primate womb has evolved to be wary of committing to it. Mammals whose placentae don’t breach the walls of the womb can simply abort or reabsorb unwanted foetuses at any stage of pregnancy. For primates, any such manoeuvre runs the risk of haemorrhage, as the placenta rips away from the mother’s enlarged and paralysed arterial system. And that, in a sentence, is why miscarriages are so dangerous.

It’s also why primates make every effort to test their embryos before they allow them to implant. The embryo is walled out by the tight-packed cells of the endometrium, while an intimate hormonal dialogue takes place. This conversation is, in Haig’s words, a ‘job interview’. Should the embryo fail to convince its mother that it is a perfectly normal, healthy individual, it will be summarily expelled.

How does an embryo convince its mother that it is healthy? By honestly displaying its vigour and lust for life, which is to say, by striving with all its strength to implant. And how does the mother test the embryo? By making the embryo’s task incredibly difficult. Just as the placenta has evolved to be aggressive and invasive, the endometrium has evolved to be tough and hostile. For humans, the result is that half of all human pregnancies fail, most at the implantation stage, so early that the mother may not even realise she was pregnant.

Embryonic development becomes a trial of strength. And this leads to another peculiarity of the primate reproductive system – menstruation. We have it for the simple reason that it’s not such an easy matter to dispose of an embryo that is battling to survive. The tissues of the endometrium are partially insulated from the mother's bloodstream, protecting her circulatory system from invasion by a placenta she has not yet decided to accept. But that means her own hormonal signals can struggle to be heard inside the womb. So, rather than risk corruption of the endometrial tissue and ongoing conflict with an embryo, what does the mother do? She just sloughs off the whole endometrium after each ovulation. This way, even the most aggressive embryo has to have her agreement before it can get comfortable. In the absence of continual, active hormonal signalling from a healthy embryo, the entire system auto-destructs. Around 30 per cent of pregnancies end this way.

I said that the mother struggles to pass hormonal signals into the womb. The thing is, once the embryo implants, it gets full access to her tissues. This asymmetry means two things. Firstly, the mother can no longer control the nutrient supply she offers the foetus – not without reducing the nutrient supply to her own tissues. Is this unfettered access to maternal blood the key to the extraordinary brain development we see in young primates? Fascinatingly, the intensity of the invasion does seem to correlate with brain development. Great apes, the largest-brained primates, seem to experience deeper and more extensive invasion of the maternal arteries than other primates. In humans – the largest-brained ape of all – placental cells invade the maternal bloodstream earlier even than in other great apes, allowing the foetus unprecedented access to oxygen and nutrients during early development. This would be one of evolution’s little ironies: after all, if it wasn't for the cognitive and social capacities granted by our big brains, many more of us would die from the rigours of our brutal reproductive cycle. One can imagine how the two traits might have arisen in tandem. But the connection remains speculative. Uteri rarely fossilise, so the details of placental evolution are lost to us.

The second major consequence of the foetus’s direct access to maternal nutrients is that the foetus can also release its own hormones into the mother’s bloodstream, and thus manipulate her. And so it does. The mother counters with manipulations of her own, of course. But there is a strong imbalance: while the foetus freely injects its products into the mother’s blood, the mother is granted no such access to foetal circulation. She is walled out by placental membranes, and so her responses are limited to defensively regulating hormones within her own body.

As the pregnancy continues, the foetus escalates its hormone production, sending signals designed to increase the mother’s blood sugar and blood pressure and thus its own resource supply. In particular, the foetus increases its production of a hormone that prompts the mother’s brain to release cortisol, the primary stress hormone. Cortisol suppresses her immune system, stopping it from attacking the foetus. More importantly, it increases her blood pressure, so that more blood pumps past the placenta and consequently more nutrients are available to the foetus.

The mother doesn’t take this foetal manipulation lying down. In fact, she pre-emptively reduces her blood sugar levels. She also releases a protein that binds to the foetal hormone, rendering it ineffective. So then the foetus further increases its production. By eight months, the foetus spends an estimated 25 per cent of its daily protein intake on manufacturing these hormonal messages to its mother. And how does the mother reply? She increases her own hormonal production, countering the embryo’s hormones with her own that decrease her blood pressure and sugar. Through all this manipulation and mutual reprisal, most of the time the foetus ultimately gets about the right amount of blood, and about the right amount of sugar, allowing it to grow fat and healthy in time for birth. This is the living instantiation of Haig’s tug-of-war between maternal and paternal genomes. As long as each side holds its end up, nobody gets hurt.

But what happens when things go wrong? Since the turn of the millennium, the Human Genome Project has provided a wealth of data, most of which remains incomprehensible to us. Yet by looking for signs of genomic imprinting – that is, genes that are expressed differently depending on whether they are inherited from the father or the mother – researchers have been able to pin down the genetic causes of numerous diseases of pregnancy and childhoods. Genomic imprinting, and the maternal-fetal battle behind it, have been shown to account for gestational diabetes, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Angelman Syndrome, childhood obesity and several cancers. Researchers suspect that it may also underlie devastating psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism. In 2000, Ian Morison and colleagues compiled a database of more than 40 imprinted genes. That number had doubled by 2005; by 2010, it had nearly doubled again. Identifying genetic mechanisms does not in itself provide a cure for these complex diseases, but it is a vital step towards one.

Preeclampsia, perhaps the most mysterious disease of pregnancy, turns out to be a particularly good example of the way in which the evolutionary, genetic and medical pictures are all lining up. More than two decades ago, Haig suggested that it resulted from a breakdown in communication between mother and foetus. In 1998, Jenny Graves expanded on this idea, suggesting that it could be explained by failure of imprinting on a maternally inherited gene. It’s only in the past few years, however, that we’ve pieced together how this process occurs.

This story shows how, with the help of evolutionary theory, we are at last starting to make sense of the grim, tangled mess that is human development

So, picture the foetus tunnelling towards the mother’s bloodstream. All else being equal, the arterial expansion of early pregnancy would cause the mother’s blood pressure to drop. Foetal hormones counter this effect by raising her blood pressure.

Several hormones are involved when the maternal arteries expand during early pregnancy. If these chemicals get out of balance, those arteries can fail to expand, starving the foetus of oxygen. If that happens, the foetus sometimes resorts to more extreme measures. It releases toxins that damage and constrict the mother’s blood vessels, driving up blood pressure. This risks kidney and liver damage, if not stroke: the symptoms of preeclampsia.

In 2009, researchers showed that the maternally inherited gene H19 is strongly associated with the disease. This was just as Jenny Graves predicted. H19 is known to be crucial to early growth of the placenta. Changes in several other maternally inherited genes, and some paternally inherited ones, are also suspected of being involved. There’s a lot that has yet to be discovered, but this story shows how, with the help of evolutionary theory, we are at last starting to make sense of the grim, tangled mess that is human development.

Our huge brains and our traumatic gestation seem intimately connected; at the very least, they are both extraordinary features of humanity. Did the ancients guess this connection when they crafted their mythologies? Perhaps the story of Eve, cursed with the sorrows of pregnancy when she ‘ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge’, was once just an intuitive explanation for the cruelty that nature saw fit to visit on our species. Be that as it may, if we want to reduce the danger and suffering of pregnancy, the only way out is through. We need more knowledge – lots of it.

4 August 2014

Read more essays on Biology, Evolution and Science

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24 Aug 02:47

'Acreditei na pacificação, mas é de mentira', diz mãe de mototaxista morto no Alemão - BBC Brasil - Notícias

Adam Victor Brandizzi

As UPPs seguem sobre pesadas críticas devido a suas falhas, mas ainda como único modelo com futuro. Claramente, a invasão do Complexo do Alemão foi o momento em que o controle se perdeu.

Denize e Caio Moraes da Silva | Crédito: Arquivo pessoal
Denize Moraes da Silva diz ter desacreditado no modelo das UPPs após morte do filho

"Quando a morte bate na porta da sua casa, você começa a ver as coisas de uma maneira muito diferente. No começo eu acreditei, quando se falava em UPP com objetivos sociais, colocando esportes, trazendo iniciativas para aproximar a comunidade, mas não foi isso que aconteceu. É uma pacificação de mentira. A gente não está na África nem em Israel, mas vivemos uma guerra também, e aqui no Alemão não se usa bala de borracha e não tem primeira abordagem. Aqui você morre logo."

Denize Moraes da Silva, de 49 anos, nasceu e cresceu no Complexo do Alemão, na zona norte do Rio de Janeiro.

A comerciante perdeu em 27 de maio o filho Caio Moraes da Silva, aos 20 anos, atingido por uma bala no peito quando tentava sair de um tumulto gerado por uma manifestação na favela em que trabalhava como mototaxista. A investigação ainda está em curso, mas Denize acusa a polícia e diz ter testemunhas. Para ela, o clima nas UPPs está ficando cada vez mais tenso.

"Para mim não restam dúvidas de que foi a polícia. Há testemunhas, até mostraram para o meu cunhado o policial que atirou. Foi um tiro no tórax, com a clara intenção de matar. E meu filho era trabalhador, sempre foi. Nunca tinha se envolvido com nada", afirma.

Consultada pela BBC Brasil, a Delegacia de Homicídios (DH), que investiga o caso, diz que o inquérito ainda está em andamento. "Foi realizada perícia de local. Familiares e testemunhas foram ouvidos, além dos policiais militares. As armas foram apreendidas e encaminhadas para confronto balístico, e a delegacia aguardo o resultado dos laudos da perícia", informou a DH em nota.

Ocupado há quase quatro anos pelas Forças Armadas, o complexo de favelas vive hoje o pior momento desde que recebeu quatro bases de UPPs (Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora). Com o retorno da lógica de guerra, tiroteios, entrada de tropas do Bope e do Batalhão de Choque, e uma elevação de mortes de civis e de policiais, o momento vivido pela comunidade é emblemático de uma situação que afeta diferentes unidades do programa de pacificação desde o começo do ano.

Somente nas últimas semanas a Rocinha registrou tiroteios frequentes. Nas proximidades do Complexo do Lins (zona norte) houve ônibus incendiados e trocas de tiros numa importante avenida que liga o centro à zona oeste, fechada por mais de cinco horas.

No início da semana o corpo de um policial do Alemão foi encontrado carbonizado dentro do seu carro na Baixada Fluminense. Além disso, três policiais da UPP Jacarezinho (zona norte) estão respondendo por acusação de estupro coletivo, e a lista continua, com denúncias de abusos policiais e a elevação dos números de PMs assassinados e de pessoas que morreram em confronto com a polícia.

"O programa de pacificação no Rio de Janeiro está em crise, e não é nos últimos dias não, é nos últimos meses. Só não vê e não admite isso quem está com a responsabilidade do governo, porque a população não nega, os policiais não negam, e a opinião pública também não nega", diz o sociólogo Ignacio Cano, do Laboratório de Análise de Violência da UERJ.

"É verdade que há uma situação diferente em cada unidade. Em algumas ainda há uma situação positiva, em outras há problemas já bem complicados, e em outras, como no Complexo do Alemão, há um descontrole. A situação lá está fora do controle mesmo", complementa o especialista.

Para ele, apesar do cenário mais ou menos grave em cada unidade, é indiscutível que a política de pacificação no Rio de Janeiro se encontra num momento de fortes revezes. "A questão é que o projeto foi desenvolvido para solucionar o problema em todas as comunidades, não só em algumas, e apesar de ainda haver impacto positivo em certos locais, é possível afirmar, sim, que o programa como um todo está em crise".

Para Denize Moraes da Silva, o que restou após a morte do filho foram os dois netos, de três anos e um ano, que se converteram em sua maior fonte de força. Para ela, a dor a transformou numa defensora dos direitos dos moradores da comunidade.

"Aqui todo mundo está muito desconfiado. Meu avô foi um dos fundadores do lugar onde eu moro, e a gente já viu vários períodos de violência, mas agora estou muito preocupada. Com o tráfico era difícil, mas hoje temos medo da polícia. Medo e antipatia. Tem muito morador inocente morrendo em becos, vielas, eles matam mesmo. E eu não posso me calar, tenho que ajudar a mudar essa história. Hoje sou uma outra pessoa, virei uma guerreira", conta.

Clique Leia mais: Chefe de UPPs rejeita crise e alerta sobre expansão no próximo governo

Crise, desafios e tráfico

Além do retorno da lógica de guerra a algumas comunidades, a cidade tem amargado mortes de policiais, seja em serviço ou de folga. Só em 2014 já foram 73.

Já o número de "autos de resistência", como são caracterizadas as mortes de civis em confronto com a polícia, também sofreu elevação. Segundo o Instituto de Segurança Pública (ISP), houve 139 homicídios do tipo no primeiro semestre de 2014, contra 115 no primeiro semestre de 2013.

Apesar do cenário negativo e do retorno de cenas de confrontos que têm assustado os cariocas, para o coronel Frederico Caldas, coordenador das UPPs que chegou a ser ferido num tiroteio na Rocinha no começo do ano, o momento não é de crise, mas sim de "grandes desafios".

"Em março nós tivemos uma sequência de mortes de policiais no Alemão, uma crise aguda, muito pior. Numa análise do todo, das 38 UPPs, pode-se dizer que hoje a gente vive um momento de estabilidade, mas ainda com esses desafios pontuais no Alemão e na Rocinha, e que não dá para caracterizar isso como uma crise do processo de pacificação, mas sim um desafio proporcional à importância que esses lugares tiveram para o tráfico de drogas", afirma.

Caldas diz que é preciso lembrar que o Alemão é uma região muito extensa e complexa, com topografia difícil, e que até 2010 era um lugar tido como intransponível e inacessível, funcionando como o quartel-general do Comando Vermelho.

Questionado sobre os ataques recentes, o coronel diz que trata-se de uma "nova geração" de traficantes. "Especificamente no Alemão a utilização da mão de obra jovem é algo feito em larga escala. Muitos dos principais líderes foram mortos, presos ou fugiram e com isso a gente observa que houve uma renovação. Nós temos relatos dos nossos policiais, de jovens de 13 anos de idade com pistola na mão. Isso é uma tragédia social".

Quanto ao controle que o Estado detém sobre as regiões que vêm apresentando confrontos e tiroteios, Caldas admite que em alguns pontos há um "controle relativo".

Críticas, futuro e eleições

João Trajano Sento-Sé, doutor em Ciência Política e Sociologia e pesquisador da UERJ, relembra outro fator que coloca em dúvida o futuro das UPPs.

Para ele, o programa tornou-se uma bandeira política do atual governo do Rio de Janeiro, que comandou a Segurança Pública por dois mandatos. Essa lógica política acabou primando pelo que ele avalia como uma "expansão exagerada e não planejada", a ponto de afirmar que a ocupação do Alemão foi um "tiro que saiu pela culatra".

Caio e Denize Moraes da Silva | Crédito: Arquivo pessoal
Caio Moraes da Silva morreu ao ser atingido por uma bala quando tentava sair de tumulto gerado por manifestação em favela

Além da crise atual e das eleições em outubro, outro desafio é iminente para o Rio: a pacificação do Complexo da Maré, ocupado pelas Forças Armadas em março deste ano, onde o Exército vem registrando fortes confrontos. Para especialistas, é preciso aprender com as lições do Alemão e da Rocinha antes de iniciar o processo na Maré.

Na visão de Trajano a ocupação do Complexo do Alemão poderia ter tido um planejamento melhor e deveria ter sido aguardada - o argumento oficial do Estado é de que a tomada do Alemão foi antecipada devido a uma onda de ataques. "Fica difícil você querer um novo padrão de policiamento, sem hostilidade, sem enfrentamento, sem violência. É até irresponsável. Acho que foi um mau passo para o programa como um todo. Surgiu esta crise", diz.

Apesar de mostrar apreensão com o futuro, Trajano diz que não vê outro modelo melhor neste momento e que acredita que as UPPs sejam "o melhor experimento de policiamento do Rio de Janeiro dos últimos 30 anos", mas que acabaram adotando uma lógica política, e não técnica.

"Por isso houve esse crescimento desordenado, para o qual a polícia sequer tinha recursos humanos para responder. Hoje em dia há setores da própria Polícia Militar descrentes do programa, então o novo governo que assumirá a partir de janeiro terá que fazer ajustes necessários para planejar essa expansão, conter um pouco o crescimento, protegendo as UPPs até mesmo do fogo amigo", diz o especialista, que não acredita que um novo governo interrompa o programa.

"Tudo o que um novo governador não precisa é a volta das altas taxas de homicídios", avalia.

Já o coordenador das UPPs, coronel Frederico Caldas, admite a necessidade de um aperfeiçoamento e de uma lógica de expansão que não coloque em risco o programa como um todo, mas cobra do governo mais investimentos em programas sociais e melhorias nas comunidades pacificadas.

"É preciso que ocorram os investimentos sociais, que sejam levados também os serviços essenciais, porque senão fica injusto demais que o policial permaneça sozinho ali sendo o responsável por tudo. Então o futuro da UPP é fazer esses ajustes no processo, avançar com a cautela necessária, para que a gente não perca a possibilidade de controle ou que os problemas se tornem tão grandes a ponto de tornar o programa como um todo muito vulnerável. Já são 9.500 policiais em 38 UPPs, e o lixo continua sendo acumulado, ainda há questões como a vala negra, a escola, a saúde, e sobretudo os empregos. É preciso que haja um futuro, uma ocupação para estes jovens, porque muitos estão sendo cooptados pelo tráfico".

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25 Aug 21:14

Demorei umas duas décadas para descobrir que “Biquíni de...



Demorei umas duas décadas para descobrir que “Biquíni de Bolinha Amarelinha” era uma versão

26 Aug 13:10

Dream thieves: inside America's ban on sleep

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Excelente distopia.

Tim Stoker remembers perfectly the last time he slept. “I was out for seven hours straight,” he says, shaking his head. “I didn’t even dream, at least not that I can remember. And when I got into rehab, I thought about it for weeks. I was obsessed. Sometimes I wanted to die but... it’s not that I was suicidal, right? I just thought it might be kind of the same.”

When I meet Stoker, the stocky 23-year-old has spent two months in an Amazon work-release program, fulfilling orders in one of the company’s subcontracted warehouses outside Atlanta. The money is minimal, but so are his living expenses -- and it’s a far cry from the fines and jail time he could have received for violating the recently tightened, near-total national ban on sleep. His thin neon polo shirt clashes dubiously with a pair of fresh jeans and $200 Nikes, proudly bought with his first steady paycheck in years. “I want a TV, one of the big ones,” he says, standing in the bare company cafeteria during a 15-minute break. “But I don’t really have a place yet — just family.”

Stoker credits his family with turning his life around. An admitted academic underachiever, he struggled with high-school classes and was prescribed sleeping medication after a series of panic attacks. But with more pills easily available from friends, he quickly began spending hours in a state that he now sees as tantamount to living death. In the end, it took an impaired driving charge, a year of parental support, and thousands of dollars to get him to his current cold-turkey state. And along the way, he's become one of the millions of casualties in what some pundits have wryly termed the “War on Dreams.”

Dream Thieves FLICKR Dream Thieves FLICKR Eyes Peeled Yoga in Bethesda, MD received the country's first official meditation license last year. (Teakwood)

The slumbering poor

The scientific consensus is that thanks to a broad expansion of the federal vaccine program, sleep is nearly cured. Roughly 85 percent of Americans are capable of operating at somewhere from 0 to 30 minutes a week, and only 3 percent have proved resistant to the combination of synapse incisions and time-released hormones that greatly reduce or altogether eliminate the sleeping urge and ability. A handful – mostly concentrated in Southern right-Evangelical communities – are granted religious exemptions. Of the 10 percent of the population with diagnosed mood disorders like Stoker's, the vast majority are prescribed less than 90 minutes weekly. But these rosy numbers hide a persistent underclass for whom sleep is everything from medicine to recreation.

As quotas have lowered in recent years, restrictions on sleeplike activities have loosened. After some debate, meditation was removed from the DSM-V in 2013, and the current wisdom suggests that within reasonable limits, it bears little resemblance to a traditional unconscious state. To politicians, however, it is something of a Rubicon. Statistically, there is little evidence for conservative claims that meditation functions as a "gateway drug," especially given its popularity among the middle and upper productivity quintiles. Social progressives have accused them of carrying out a class war by proxy, citing the exceptions for largely upper-middle-class tantric variants in proposed bans on public classes.

But the underlying argument – that current laws and DEA action have failed to contain an epidemic among both urban and rural poor – is more difficult to refute. While partisan think-tanks produce wildly different numbers, a 2011 Bureau of Justice Statistics survey found that 11 million people at or below the poverty line slept over five hours per week – and a stunning 45 percent of those are classified as morbidly narcoleptic, with some sleeping as much as five hours a night. In Detroit, America's most sleep-stricken city, approximately 1,000 infants a year do not receive synaptic therapy until six months of age or later, although the CDC notes that the long-term developmental effects on the waggishly named "slumberkind" remain unclear.

"They don't have time to wait for muscle therapy or anti-psychotics."

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), author of the Promoting Alert Industrial Development (PAID) Act, blames Congressional gridlock and a lack of health care facilities for the poorest Americans. "It's a vicious cycle," she said in a phone interview. "Some of these people have four or five jobs – they're working 23 hours a day, they don't have time to wait in line for muscle therapy or anti-psychotics. If you can get knockoff Ambia on the street for a few dollars, what are you going to pick?"

The PAID Act passed committee in June, but amnesty provisions for mothers who sleep with small children have derailed its progress. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has threatened to file suit over the exemption, which he calls "reckless and ridiculous." McCrory ran on an emphatically anti-sleep platform in 2012, in part because of his state's proximity to West Virginia, whose position as a pharmaceuticals hub has made it a nodal point in the DEA's crackdown effort. Companies like Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the country's largest manufacturer of generics, have stepped up background checks and issued harsher punishments to workers found smuggling out pills.

Dream Thieves FLICKR Dream Thieves FLICKR (Nitram242) "I could watch the clock tick by every single minute."

One of those workers is Lyndie Platt, a former quality-assurance technician and mother of two. Platt, 31, had worked at various facilities for 10 years before being caught with a packet of synaptic stimulant zolpilam wrapped in paper towels and concealed in her shoe. She had never, she says, even intended to use them, but the recent death of her partner left her in heavy debt. With little chance of a promotion, it was her first attempt at earning outside income – and her last real job.

"I was proud of how long I'd been there, you know?" says Platt. "And then one mistake – a stupid mistake, but just one – and I never got another chance." As a first-time offender, she served two months under house arrest in a plea bargain, but over a year later, she's held only a few short stints as a warehouse stocker and a hostess at chain restaurant Shoney's.

Platt attempted to compensate by throwing herself into a renovation effort on her small one-story home. "It just drove me crazy," she says. "All my life I've been working 10, then 15, then 20 hours a day – 22 with overtime, at the end. And then suddenly I could watch the clock tick by every single minute. That's just not how I was raised."

Today, Platt's house is impeccably clean, with an elaborately manicured herb garden. But to one side, boards and a cement mixer stand next to a tarpaulin-covered wall. "I didn't have enough money to finish it," she says, wistfully. "Everybody says time is money, but I've got all the time in the world and just nothing to do with it."

Google's employee perks include access to 'therapeutic' padded cots

And that's the paradox: with unemployment hovering over 10 percent for Americans without a college degree, the job market is brutally competitive. And without work, there may be little but sleep to pass the long hours of boredom and lost productivity.

Conservatives, and some liberals, have suggested that generations of poor economic prospects have fostered a culture of time-wasting and even time-theft among the communities most likely to oversleep. "When a kid's father is off dealing sleeping pills and his mother's dead to the world three hours a day, they grow up thinking that's acceptable. Or even that it's cool. A lot of today's media really glorifies it," says McCrory. Provocateur Donald Trump was more direct. "It's oiled-up girls in f---ng pajamas, rolling around like they're dreaming," he said in a controversial Fox News segment. "It goes all the way to the top. Even Obama – Obama admits himself that he's lazy, and what does that mean? It means he's sleeping on the job." Trump later issued a partial apology. "I shouldn't have made it personal," he said. "If I could take back the words, I would. But I'm not gonna take back the sentiment. Poor people like to sleep. And there's a racial component to it. That's just a f---ng fact."

Dream Thieves FLICKR Dream Thieves FLICKR While some hotels have adapted to the hourly model, reduced demand has still decimated the market. (Nitram242)

The cult of awake

But luxurious sleep, historians are quick to point out, was once – and sometimes remains – the province of the rich. Upscale furniture store Williams-Sonoma maintains a stock of flattened feather-down couches, which can sell for thousands of dollars. "They say they're buying it for... you know," said one sales rep, winking, when I visited. "But there's no way some of them aren't falling asleep on them afterwards." Search giant Google's employee perks include access to padded cots for what the company insists are therapeutic reasons. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s lavish lifestyle is rumored to include private "pillow parties" that see celebrities and fellow startup titans bedding down as if in some somnolent modern Bohemian Grove gathering. And while popular erotica trilogy 50 Shades of Grey has been the subject of endless essays about female desire, one of its most shocking scenes is protagonist Ana's 14-hour slumber with sadomasochistic billionaire Christian Grey.

Elon Musk attributes his Hyperloop success to a decade of constant vigilance

By and large, however, the CEOs of Silicon Valley in particular have made a point of rejecting sleep. In a panel last month, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg claimed to have eschewed even the shortest nap since the company's IPO in 2012. "It's just sad," he said. "All that human potential wasted. Imagine what Thomas Edison could have done if he hadn't spent a third of his life practically dead! Or Ben Franklin! Or da Vinci! We could all be flying around with jetpacks by now." Prolific entrepreneur Elon Musk attributes his development of the high-speed Hyperloop transportation system – currently concluding the first stages of construction in California – to a full decade of constant vigilance.

This "cult of awake" does not sit well with everyone. Author, musician, and programmer Jaron Lanier emigrated to the sleep-permissive Netherlands eight years ago, when official limits were tightened to 90 minutes a week. Today, he is one of sleeplessness' greatest critics. "I don't even understand Americans anymore," he says. "Three hours a night, then one, then ten minutes – where does it end? We're treating people like machines, expecting them to spend every second of the day being economically productive. And they love it! All those stupid apps for bragging about how many naps you've skipped, so you have time to develop your own stupid sleep-counting app and become a millionaire. And then what do they do? They keep on working."

Dream Thieves FLICKR Dream Thieves FLICKR The NeuroDreamer anti-hallucinogenic sleep replacement mask raised over $12 million on Kickstarter in 2012; it remains the site's best-funded project. (Mitch Altman)
"We could have used that extra time to understand ourselves. But everyone just pushed their noses closer to the grindstone."

The subject holds a special bitterness for Lanier. The head-mounted virtual reality displays he pioneered in the 1980s have become a standard method for treating work-related hallucinations and providing concentrated reparative bursts of REM-like stimulus. He publicly disowned the technology in 2007.

"I don't regret making them," says Lanier. "But I might regret ever showing them to anybody. I thought we might learn a whole new way of thinking. We could have used that extra time to understand ourselves, to figure out a new way to relate to reality. But everyone just pushed their noses closer to the grindstone. I mean, years back I told people they weren't a gadget," he says, referencing the title of his 2010 bestseller. "But even gadgets sleep. Even your iPhone needs to recharge sometime. Maybe I should have changed the name."

For people like Platt and Stoker, these questions are purely academic. Platt has put in applications at dozens of restaurants, janitorial agencies, even coal processing plants. But for now, she remains at home – rearranging her furniture, shuttling her children to school and a variety of extracurricular resume-builders, polishing a collection of ceramic figurines over and over. "It's funny, I never wanted to sleep before," she says. "But I find myself thinking about it sometimes. If it weren’t for the kids... I just don’t know." Stoker, meanwhile, is still struggling to readjust, often spending his few free hours at the warehouse to avoid temptation. "Most people just don't get it," he says. "They don't know what it's like to fight through the tiredness – all the Adderall in the world can't take it out of your bones once you've got it. But even outside that... do you remember your dreams?" he asks.

When I shake my head, demurring, the hint of a smile crosses his face. "I always used to write them down," he says. "I burned the notebook in rehab, but sometimes I still think about it. Flying, falling, even the nightmares. You could have a billion dollars and never be able to buy anything like it." He blinks hard and looks down at his barcode scanner, resting on the cafeteria table. Then he picks it up and clicks the power button, and the 3AM shift begins.

Lead image credit: Mark Turnaukas.

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26 Aug 15:41

How to Be Polite — The Message — Medium

The Good Boy, 1837.

Most people don’t notice I’m polite, which is sort of the point. I don’t look polite. I am big and droopy and need a haircut. No soul would associate me with watercress sandwiches. Still, every year or so someone takes me aside and says, you actually are weirdly polite, aren’t you? And I always thrill. They noticed.

The complimenters don’t always formulate it so gently. For example, two years ago at the end of an arduous corporate project, slowly turning a thousand red squares in a spreadsheet to yellow, then green, my officemate turned to me and said: “I thought you were a terrible ass-kisser when we started working together.”

She paused and frowned. “But it actually helped get things done. It was a strategy.” (That is how an impolite person gives a compliment. Which I gladly accepted.)

She was surprised to see the stubborn power of politeness over time. Over time. That’s the thing. Mostly we talk about politeness in the moment. Please, thank you, no go ahead, I like your hat, cool shoes, you look nice today, please take my seat, sir, ma’am, etc. All good, but fleeting.

When I was in high school I used to read etiquette manuals. Emily Post and so forth. I found the manuals interesting and pretty funny. There was good stuff about how to write a note of condolence, and ridiculous stuff about how to behave on boats or at the White House.

I didn’t expect to apply my findings to my daily adolescent life. I was peripheral in high school — uncool but also untortured, voted “most scholarly” of my class, roughly equivalent to “least likely to have sex.” In high school no one noticed my politeness except for one kid. He yelled at me about it. “Why you always so polite, man?” he asked. “It’s weird.” I took it as praise and made a note to hide it further, to be more profane. Real politeness, I reasoned, was invisible. It adapted itself to the situation. Later, that same kid stole my cassette copy of Aqualung.

But no matter. What I found most appealing was the way that the practice of etiquette let you draw a protective circle around yourself and your emotions. By following the strictures in the book, you could drag yourself through a terrible situation and when it was all over, you could throw your white gloves in the dirty laundry hamper and move on with your life. I figured there was a big world out there and etiquette was going to come in handy along the way.

It didn’t at first. No one needs visiting cards in college (although I’m surprised that they haven’t made a comeback among drama students). And in my twenties I found that I could score points with my elders by showing up and speaking respectfully. But then, suddenly — it mattered. My ability to go to a party and speak to anyone about anything, to natter and ask questions, to turn the conversation relentlessly towards the speaker, meant that I was gathering huge amounts of information about other people.

Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”

Because nearly everyone in the world believes their job to be difficult. I once went to a party and met a very beautiful woman whose job was to help celebrities wear Harry Winston jewelry. I could tell that she was disappointed to be introduced to this rumpled giant in an off-brand shirt, but when I told her that her job sounded difficult to me she brightened and spoke for 30 straight minutes about sapphires and Jessica Simpson. She kept touching me as she talked. I forgave her for that. I didn’t reveal a single detail about myself, including my name. Eventually someone pulled me back into the party. The celebrity jewelry coordinator smiled and grabbed my hand and said, “I like you!” She seemed so relieved to have unburdened herself. I counted it as a great accomplishment. Maybe a hundred times since I’ve said, “wow, that sounds hard” to a stranger, always to great effect. I stay home with my kids and have no life left to me, so take this party trick, my gift to you.

A friend and I came up with a game called Raconteur. You pair up with another Raconteur at a party and talk to everyone you can. You score points by getting people to disclose something about their lives. If you dominate the conversation, you lose a point. The two raconteurs communicate using hand signals and keep a tally on a sheet of paper or in their minds. You’d think people would notice but they are so amused by the attention that the fact you’re playing Raconteur escapes their attention.

One way to be polite is by not touching people unless they specifically invite it. You’d be amazed at how often people screw this up; just search the Internet for “touch black woman hair” and marvel at the number of articles, posts, and guides. Here’s the New York Times journalist Jenna Wortham, in an interview at The Awl, on hair-touching:

I realize that it might sound like an overstatement to some people, but having someone touch me without my permission just fucks with my day and sense of privacy and personal space and sends me into a k-hole spiral of wondering what unconscious signal I may have given to indicate that it would be OK, even though I know there isn’t one.

I’ve read many narratives about white people just touching black hair and I read them with my mouth open. Not because of the racism, even. Just because as a polite person the idea of just reaching out and touching anyone’s hair makes my eye twitch. When would it be appropriate? If there was a very large poisonous spider in their hair. If I was doing a magic trick. Or after six or more years of marriage.

There are exceptions. I pat the heads of toddlers I’ve known for more than six months. If tiny children volunteer to sit on my lap or ask to ride around on my back while I make horse noises, I make eye contact with their parents first and then comply. Afterwards I might skritch their toddler heads a little. I am not opposed to tousling in certain defined and appropriate circumstances.

But a whole class of problems goes away from my life because I see people as having around them a two or three foot invisible buffer. If there is a stray hair on their jacket I ask them if I can pluck it from them. If they don’t want that, they’ll do it themselves. If their name is now Susan, it’s Susan. Whatever happens inside that buffer is entirely up to them. It has nothing to do with me.

Now, even though I prepped and studied etiquette books, I learned all this the regular way, by screwing it up terribly and having to send emails of apology the next day. The apology emails are pretty embarrassing to mention. They are excruciating to send. I get too drunk and hold forth in a stream of vulgarity. Or say something stupid. And then I wake up and sigh. “I realized,” I’ll write, “that I might have been a truly insufferable person last night.” I’ve never touched anyone’s hair, I don’t think. But of course I could. One thing about being polite is that you know that within you there lurks an incredibly impolite person.

Maybe twenty years ago I read a ’zine interview with a prostitute in which she put down her rules for her johns. Most of the rules were common sense about condoms, showing up on time, and so forth, but the one rule that stuck with me was, “don’t take a shit in my toilet!” It was in bold and underlined with exclamation points (it was a ’zine, remember).

Whenever I read about sex workers—which is often, because our culture is obsessed—this rule pops into my mind. I’ve never had reason to test it. But I like to think that, if my circumstances ever aligned so that I hired a sex worker, I would know how to handle myself in regard to this rule. For example, if it was necessary I’d make a quick stop at Starbucks before heading up to her apartment. And since I was already at Starbucks I should offer to bring coffee. “At Starbucks,” I’d text. “Want anything?” Per her request I’d buy a Caramel Flan Frappuccino® Light Blended Beverage and maybe a Chonga bagel. And yes, I know, it’s immoral for a woman in New York City to want a bagel from Starbucks. But who am I to judge?

That’s where the fantasy ends. It’s just a little rule nestled in my brain, filed under Prostitutes. There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of similar just-in-case rules. What if I had to meet the mayor tomorrow? What if I had to go to an expensive restaurant? What if I needed to interview a homeless person for a story? Emily Post couldn’t cover everything, so I have to make do. I am, admittedly, a deeply anxious person. But also a polite one.

Politeness buys you time. It leaves doors open. I’ve met so many people whom, if I had trusted my first impressions, I would never have wanted to meet again. And yet — many of them are now great friends. I have only very rarely touched their hair.

One of those people is my wife. On our first date, we went to a nice bar with blue tables and, in the regular course of conversation, she told me at length about the removal of a dermoid teratoma from her ovaries. This is a cyst with teeth (not a metaphor). I had gone in expecting to flirt but instead I learned about the surgical removal of a fist-sized mutant mass of hair and teeth from her sexual parts. This killed the chemistry. I walked her home, told her I had a great time, and went home and looked up cysts on the Internet, always a nice end to an evening. We talked a little after that. I kept everything pleasant and brief. A year later I ran into her on the train and we got another drink. Much later I learned that she’d been having a very bad day in a very bad year.

Sometimes I’ll get a call or email from someone five years after the last contact and I’ll think, oh right, I hated that person. But they would never have known, of course. Let’s see if I still hate them. Very often I find that I don’t. Or that I hated them for a dumb reason. Or that they were having a bad day. Or much more likely, that I had been having a bad day.

People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things. They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing. The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment. I know that doesn’t sound like liberation, because we live and work in an opinion-based economy. But it is. Not having an opinion means not having an obligation. And not being obligated is one of the sweetest of life’s riches.

There is one other aspect of my politeness that I am reluctant to mention. But I will. I am often consumed with a sense of overwhelming love and empathy. I look at the other person and am overwhelmed with joy. For all of my irony I really do want to know about the process of hanging jewelry from celebrities. What does the jewelry feel like in your hand? What do the celebrities feel like in your hand? Which one is more smooth?

This is not a world where you can simply express love for other people, where you can praise them. Perhaps it should be. But it’s not. I’ve found that people will fear your enthusiasm and warmth, and wait to hear the price. Which is fair. We’ve all been drawn into someone’s love only to find out that we couldn’t afford it. A little distance buys everyone time.

Last week my wife came back from the playground. She told me that my two-year-old, three-foot-tall son, Abraham, walked up to a woman in a hijab and asked “What’s your name?” The woman told him her name. Then he put out his little hand and said, “Nice to meet you!” Everyone laughed, and he smiled. He shared with her his firmest handshake, like I taught him.

Bookmarked at brandizzi Delicious' sharing tag and expanded by Delicious sharing tag expander.
26 Aug 19:00

“I Can Hear the Ocean”: A Cartoon

by Emma Steinkellner
Adam Victor Brandizzi

HAHAHA. Velho, que lindo isso.

Emma Steinkellner’s previous work for The Toast can be found here.

PSS31

Read more “I Can Hear the Ocean”: A Cartoon at The Toast.

22 Aug 04:50

The Secret Playbook of Internet Trolls

by George Washington

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
What’s confusing you
Is the nature of my game

- The Rolling Stones

The reason that Internet trolls are effective is that people still don’t understand their game.

There are 15 commonly-used trolling tactics to disrupt, misdirect and control internet discussions.

As one interesting example, trolls start flame wars because – according to two professors – swearing and name-calling shut down our ability to think and focus.

And trolls will often spew divisive attacks so that people argue against each other, instead of bad actions and policies of the powers-that-be.   For example, trolls will:

Start a religious war whenever possible using stereotypes like “all Jews are selfish”, “all Christians are crazy” or “all Muslims are terrorists”.

Yesterday, the alternative news site Common Dreams caught a troll using scores of different user names to spew anti-Semitic bile. (Common Dreams discovered that the same troll was behind the multiple user names by tracking their IP addresses. And the troll confessed to Common Dreams.)

The troll is a “a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel”.

He posted anti-Semitic diatribes – such as Hitler should have finished the job and killed all Jews – using one alias.  Then – a couple of minutes later – he’d post an attack on the first poster using a different alias, claiming that criticism of Israel is the same thing as anti-Semitism.  (Note: Holocaust survivors and Israeli ministers say it’s not.)

Why would a Jew post vile anti-Semitic comments?  Because normal people are offended by – and don’t want to be associated with – pure, naked anti-Semitism, and so they will avoid such discussions.  If the discussion was originally criticizing a specific aspect of Israeli policy, the discussion will break down, and the actual point regarding policy will be lost.

Similarly, anti-Semitic posts weaken websites by making them seem less reputable. Indeed, Common Dreams says that the troll’s anti-Semitic comments drove away many of that site’s largest donors … dealing a severe blow to its continued viability. That’s exactly what trolls spewing anti-Semitic bile are trying to do: shut down logical discussion and discredit and weaken sites which allow rational criticism of policy.

It is well-known that foreign  governments and large companies troll online. See this, this this, and this. For example, the Israeli government is paying students to post pro-Israeli comments online.

And American students are also attempting to influence internet discussion.

While the Common Dreams troll claims that he’s not sponsored by the state of Israel, government  agencies have manipulated  Internet discussion for years. This includes the use of multiple “socket puppet” aliases.  The potential for mischief is stunning.

Unless we learn their game …

23 Aug 20:06

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14 Jun 15:00

Become the Most Popular Barber in Town

25 Aug 06:10

Two Blows

by Greg Ross

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TR_NYC_Police_Commissioner.gif

Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother died in the same house on the same day, Valentine’s Day 1884. His wife had just given birth to their daughter Alice, and the pregnancy had hidden her kidney disease. He held her for two hours, had to be torn away to see his mother die of typhoid fever, then returned to his wife, who died in his arms.

In his diary he drew a large X and wrote, “The light has gone out of my life.” Then he fled west to grieve in private.

24 Aug 13:15

Saint George

by Dish Staff
by Dish Staff

Noting that people “don’t realize the patience it takes to be a good icon,” Jennifer M. Kroot suggests that George Takei is a sort of holy man for a secular age:

We filmed George at the Emerald City Comicon where George signed autographs for four hours and did photo-ops with fans for another two hours. George engaged with thousands of fans that one day (no exaggeration!) … George offers a firm handshake and stays present with each fan for the moment or two that they have his attention. George always sounds sincerely appreciative, even though he must have heard every compliment a million times. Some fans even bring homemade gifts. One woman offered George a charming diorama of a little living room scene with a blackbird wearing Mr. Sulu’s yellow Star Trek uniform. George accepted it graciously. If a fan has a Spanish or Japanese accent, George will switch languages to accommodate them.

These encounters are fairly short, but fans clearly find meaning in them, almost like they’ve received a blessing. Shortly after I began following George, I started to think of him as a sort of Dalai Lama of popular culture because of the comfort he seems to give his fans. It’s true that George does get paid for each signature or photo-op at sci-fi conventions (as seen in the documentary), but he works hard to give each fan a sincere, authentic George Takei experience.

19 Aug 04:05

Why Conservatives Should Reform Philanthropy

by Brian Brown
Adam Victor Brandizzi

Velho, que texto espetacular! Vale muito até se você se interessa por filantropia mas não se vê conservador. Lindo mesmo.

On paper, conservatives have always valued civil society. After all, as Yuval Levin put it earlier this summer,

The premise of conservatism has always been that what matters most about society happens in the space between the individual and the state—the space occupied by families, communities, civic and religious institutions, and the private economy—and that creating, sustaining, and protecting that space and helping all Americans take part in what happens there are among the foremost purposes of government.

Yet while today’s conservatives agree that the space is important, they are much more interested in the “protecting” part than creating and sustaining. They fiercely man the wall, defending the citadel against all threats, while the city inside decays. They do this because they have a flawed understanding of what civil society is, and what is has to offer the social problems of American society. If they had half an idea, they would be leading the charge to reform “the space between.”

What is civil society?

In recent years I’ve seen two (related) flaws in how conservatives approach civil society.

The first is that, to put it quite bluntly, they don’t seem to understand what civil society is. In most of D.C. think tankery as much as in an after-church conversation in Oklahoma, “civil society” seems to be a euphemism for “religion and family” (example here). There are lots of conversations about those things in conservative circles. There aren’t many about the countless other pieces that make up, or have made up, civil society: philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, social entrepreneurship, fraternal organizations, and the like (a list that is constantly changing with time, contrary to conservative conceptions of civil society as a monolithic thing).

The second is that across this board, caring about civil society usually seems to amount to protecting its existence, rather than shaping how it works. The primary reason for the “space between,” the assumption goes, is to serve as a buffer between the individual and government. Civil society is a naturally occurring collection of “spontaneous orders” (libertarian hero Friedrich Hayek’s words) that need not and should not be shaped or directed intentionally (at least not by the government); as with the free market itself, simply preserving it will allow it to fulfill its purpose. The irony here is that this conception of civil society dates back to Enlightenment liberals—eventually Hegel and Marx would understand civil society as essentially market forces that insulate the individual from the state (and God forbid conservatives should mess with market forces!).

Yet the notion of civil society is much older than Hegel, and much older than the Enlightenment individual-vs.-state conceptual dynamic. It dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Cicero viewed it as one of two ways (along with republican government) in which civilized people worked together to shape their collective existence. In this view, it’s not enough that civil society exists—how it functions, and to what ends, are questions of importance equal to the legislative debates that make national news today. In a healthy view of civil society, arguing that government shouldn’t solve a problem because “civil society can do it” isn’t enough—the conversation must continue into how civil society will solve it, and it must continue in the institutions of civil society itself.

How should civil society solve problems?

The culture war mentality that prevails in much of the conservative mind views “the culture” as a battlefield to be fought over, rather than, as Makoto Fujimura puts it, a resource to be stewarded. Case in point: a few conservatives raised an outcry against the idea of eliminating the charitable tax deduction, but it took that crisis to draw their interest from Important Things. Generally, they seem to think the nonprofit sector will do just fine if left to its own devices—that is, if it continues to be run mainly by liberals.

Meanwhile, self-described liberals generally have an opposite view of civil society from conservatives—much less Hegel and much more Cicero. They don’t use the term “civil society,” but they’re very interested in all the elements of it conservatives ignore (philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, social entrepreneurship, etc.). And they’re less interested in protecting their existence than in figuring out how to make them work better; that is, in using them to better shape our collective existence. On the rare occasion when an argument ends in “civil society can do it,” it’s mostly left-wingers and left-wing foundations and research centers that continue the conversation about how.

Read the prominent blogs and magazines of American philanthropy and NGOs, go to the conferences of the people who are thinking about how to solve social problems through nonprofits, visit academic centers like those at Penn or Stanford, or just hang out with the 20-somethings who say they want to work for a nonprofit—nearly all the prominent voices and new ideas are coming from people who would self-identify as liberal or moderate, or institutions that carry with them a predominantly left-wing philosophy of philanthropy. Having lost the battlefield (in the case of the nonprofit sector, largely unfought), conservatives have, if we accept Cicero’s understanding, withdrawn from civilized society.

This is unhealthy. Conservatives say they want less government, they say they value civil society, but they can’t have less government unless civil society actually does the things it’s supposed to do. The pieces of the puzzle that work together to accomplish those things aren’t the same pieces as a century ago. And while conservatives have been AWOL from the sector as such, it has been shaped by ideas and institutions that are increasingly damaging its ability to function.

While there are many great ideas being experimented with in (and out of) the nonprofit sector these days, the way the sector has been structured (formally and informally) in recent decades has created a growing demand for ideas that don’t come from the technocratic groupthink of yesteryear’s leftism.

Here are three examples of the situation, and what conservatives could offer:

1. The culture of the nonprofit sector has been driven by a dated Progressive mentality that is hurting nonprofits and their efforts to improve society.

Individual donors give 73 percent of the money supporting American nonprofits. Yet the nonprofit sector has been dominated structurally by foundation giving and government grants—potentially big payloads that ask local organizations and even entire cities to rebuild themselves in the image of one program or foundation’s dream. Big Philanthropy, like big government, tends to oversimplify problems in a quest to knock them out in one big blow. It substitutes the theoretical knowledge of “experts” (a very loose term in this sector) for the on-the-ground experience of people who know their communities. And it often makes situations worse rather than better. After years of pressuring nonprofits to do everything their way, technocratic foundations are increasingly admitting their way (most recently, “strategic philanthropy”) has often been ineffective. Yet their solution is to find a new grand silver bullet rather than question their own suffocating influence over civil society (the most recent sexy idea, “effective altruism,” was designed by a man who thinks a cow is more valuable than a human child).

A conservative perspective, one that builds strategies around the 73 percent and its far fatter wallet, and respects and develops the actual relationships and practical knowledge inherent in healthy civil society, would be both effective and welcome. Civil society is about effectively structuring and empowering human relationships, not replacing them. But with a few quiet exceptions, conservatives working in the nonprofit sector have mostly gone along with whatever the Big Philanthropy trend happens to be. The only pushback, from some admittedly excellent organizations, has been a feeble argument for “respecting donor intent,” which we could translate as “let the market work; preserve the space between.”

2. The mentality of the nonprofit sector doesn’t mesh with human nature, and as a result is contributing to the fragmentation of society.

If you’ve ever ignored a beggar and told yourself that your donation to the United Way or your church exempted you from the awkwardness of that situation, you know that the way American charity is currently structured has something terribly wrong with it. There’s a bizarre moral dualism in play when the wannabe Good Samaritan is supposed to ignore his actual neighbor, and give to support The Poor in the abstract. You, like the beggar, are just a piece in the system—you’re supposed to focus on making money so you can donate, and leave things like helping the poor and building community to the professionals.

Yet there’s been a lot of work in recent years on the psychology involved in things like giving, civic involvement, and community. And it has supported a lot of old ideas which today would be considered conservative—like the idea that there’s an inherent value to participation in human-scaled institutions, the idea that things like love and compassion are incarnational (you have to give them to real people, not just the idea of people), and the idea that visible habits and social norms—far from being inherently restrictive and therefore bad—can actually get more people to do the right thing and thereby improve results.

In other words, the professionalization of American civil society (whatever its short-term value), by denying these scientific facts, has contributed to cutting people off from each other, heightening the modern sense of isolation, and actually increasing the problems civil society is supposed to fix. (That’s a big claim—more on that here).

Nonprofits could run very differently. A few are restructuring to reflect these truths about how human nature works. It’s likely (see below) that nonprofits that try will see a dramatic increase in both their effectiveness and their budget size. But there hasn’t been an audible conservative voice making this case.

3. The donors who support the nonprofit sector are becoming more conservative in their giving styles, desires, and expectations—with little to no market for what they want to invest in.

Partly because of the fragmentation of contemporary society, and partly because of the ways the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial generations were raised, the American donor is changing. He’s less and less comfortable with the dynamic described above, where he’s supposed to give his money to the professionals and then get out of the way and mind his own business. He tends to want to see the real, human results of the good deeds he does; and he tends to want to have a hand in those good deeds himself if he possibly can, rather than pay somebody else to do them. He’s more likely to give to organizations with which he has a personal or relational connection, and to keep giving when it’s something he sees his friends doing too. He sees the problems in the world around him every day, and he wants to feel he has some ability to affect that environment. He loves words like “community,” even if he’s never actually seen a good one in real life. In other words, he yearns for civil society.

What if American civil society rose up to meet the challenge this donor offers? What if its communications and fundraising strategies were designed to make involvement a worthwhile experience? What if it were generating new and creative ways for supporters to play a firsthand role in taking ownership of their own neighborhoods and communal problems? What if it were a catalyst for the slow eradication of fragmentation and social isolation, as “places where people sleep in buildings near each other” became real communities? What if it rejected the inhumane bigness, compartmentalization, and professionalization of the contemporary “space between” and rededicated itself to being civil society; the nongovernmental means by which civilized people shape their collective existence?

There is a very real chance such a civil society would accomplish things unheard of in today’s existing charitable arenas. I’ve spoken with people who think the $300 billion Americans give to charity every year could double, if American nonprofits did this. But unless conservatives take ownership of civil society, we may never know.

Brian Brown is a nonprofit strategist and social fundraiser based in Colorado; his company works with nonprofit organizations and political campaigns to develop civil society (and increase revenue!) by building and expanding real-life social network structures. He is the senior editor of Humane Pursuits. You can follow him on Twitter @BrianBrownSF.

21 Aug 15:25

How Washington Enabled ISIS

by Patrick Cockburn
Adam Victor Brandizzi

Realmente um bom resumo.

[This essay is excerpted from the first chapter of Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprisingwith special thanks to his publisher, OR Books.  The first section is a new introduction written for TomDispatch.]

There are extraordinary elements in the present U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria that are attracting surprisingly little attention. In Iraq, the U.S. is carrying out air strikes and sending in advisers and trainers to help beat back the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (better known as ISIS) on the Kurdish capital, Erbil. The U.S. would presumably do the same if ISIS surrounds or attacks Baghdad. But in Syria, Washington’s policy is the exact opposite: there the main opponent of ISIS is the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds in their northern enclaves. Both are under attack from ISIS, which has taken about a third of the country, including most of its oil and gas production facilities.

But U.S., Western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, which happens to be the policy of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. If Assad goes, then ISIS will be the beneficiary, since it is either defeating or absorbing the rest of the Syrian armed opposition. There is a pretense in Washington and elsewhere that there exists a “moderate” Syrian opposition being helped by the U.S., Qatar, Turkey, and the Saudis.  It is, however, weak, and getting more so by the day. Soon the new caliphate may stretch from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean and the only force that can possibly stop this from happening is the Syrian army.

The reality of U.S. policy is to support the government of Iraq, but not Syria, against ISIS. But one reason that group has been able to grow so strong in Iraq is that it can draw on its resources and fighters in Syria. Not everything that went wrong in Iraq was the fault of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as has now become the political and media consensus in the West. Iraqi politicians have been telling me for the last two years that foreign backing for the Sunni revolt in Syria would inevitably destabilize their country as well.  This has now happened.

By continuing these contradictory policies in two countries, the U.S. has ensured that ISIS can reinforce its fighters in Iraq from Syria and vice versa. So far, Washington has been successful in escaping blame for the rise of ISIS by putting all the blame on the Iraqi government. In fact, it has created a situation in which ISIS can survive and may well flourish.

Using the al-Qaeda Label

The sharp increase in the strength and reach of jihadist organizations in Syria and Iraq has generally been unacknowledged until recently by politicians and media in the West. A primary reason for this is that Western governments and their security forces narrowly define the jihadist threat as those forces directly controlled by al-Qaeda central or “core” al-Qaeda. This enables them to present a much more cheerful picture of their successes in the so-called war on terror than the situation on the ground warrants.

In fact, the idea that the only jihadis to be worried about are those with the official blessing of al-Qaeda is naïve and self-deceiving. It ignores the fact, for instance, that ISIS has been criticized by the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for its excessive violence and sectarianism. After talking to a range of Syrian jihadi rebels not directly affiliated with al-Qaeda in southeast Turkey earlier this year, a source told me that “without exception they all expressed enthusiasm for the 9/11 attacks and hoped the same thing would happen in Europe as well as the U.S.”

Jihadi groups ideologically close to al-Qaeda have been relabeled as moderate if their actions are deemed supportive of U.S. policy aims. In Syria, the Americans backed a plan by Saudi Arabia to build up a “Southern Front” based in Jordan that would be hostile to the Assad government in Damascus, and simultaneously hostile to al-Qaeda-type rebels in the north and east. The powerful but supposedly moderate Yarmouk Brigade, reportedly the planned recipient of anti-aircraft missiles from Saudi Arabia, was intended to be the leading element in this new formation. But numerous videos show that the Yarmouk Brigade has frequently fought in collaboration with JAN, the official al-Qaeda affiliate. Since it was likely that, in the midst of battle, these two groups would share their munitions, Washington was effectively allowing advanced weaponry to be handed over to its deadliest enemy. Iraqi officials confirm that they have captured sophisticated arms from ISIS fighters in Iraq that were originally supplied by outside powers to forces considered to be anti-al-Qaeda in Syria.

The name al-Qaeda has always been applied flexibly when identifying an enemy. In 2003 and 2004 in Iraq, as armed Iraqi opposition to the American and British-led occupation mounted, U.S. officials attributed most attacks to al-Qaeda, though many were carried out by nationalist and Baathist groups. Propaganda like this helped to persuade nearly 60 percent of U.S. voters prior to the Iraq invasion that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and those responsible for 9/11, despite the absence of any evidence for this. In Iraq itself, indeed throughout the entire Muslim world, these accusations have benefited al-Qaeda by exaggerating its role in the resistance to the U.S. and British occupation.

Precisely the opposite PR tactics were employed by Western governments in 2011 in Libya, where any similarity between al-Qaeda and the NATO-backed rebels fighting to overthrow the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was played down. Only those jihadis who had a direct operational link to the al-Qaeda “core” of Osama bin Laden were deemed to be dangerous. The falsity of the pretense that the anti-Gaddafi jihadis in Libya were less threatening than those in direct contact with al-Qaeda was forcefully, if tragically, exposed when U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by jihadi fighters in Benghazi in September 2012. These were the same fighters lauded by Western governments and media for their role in the anti-Gaddafi uprising.

Imagining al-Qaeda as the Mafia

Al-Qaeda is an idea rather than an organization, and this has long been the case. For a five-year period after 1996, it did have cadres, resources, and camps in Afghanistan, but these were eliminated after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. Subsequently, al-Qaeda’s name became primarily a rallying cry, a set of Islamic beliefs, centering on the creation of an Islamic state, the imposition of sharia, a return to Islamic customs, the subjugation of women, and the waging of holy war against other Muslims, notably the Shia, who are considered heretics worthy of death. At the center of this doctrine for making war is an emphasis on self-sacrifice and martyrdom as a symbol of religious faith and commitment. This has resulted in using untrained but fanatical believers as suicide bombers, to devastating effect.

It has always been in the interest of the U.S. and other governments that al-Qaeda be viewed as having a command-and-control structure like a mini-Pentagon, or like the mafia in America. This is a comforting image for the public because organized groups, however demonic, can be tracked down and eliminated through imprisonment or death. More alarming is the reality of a movement whose adherents are self-recruited and can spring up anywhere.

Osama bin Laden’s gathering of militants, which he did not call al-Qaeda until after 9/11, was just one of many jihadi groups 12 years ago. But today its ideas and methods are predominant among jihadis because of the prestige and publicity it gained through the destruction of the Twin Towers, the war in Iraq, and its demonization by Washington as the source of all anti-American evil. These days, there is a narrowing of differences in the beliefs of jihadis, regardless of whether or not they are formally linked to al-Qaeda central.

Unsurprisingly, governments prefer the fantasy picture of al-Qaeda because it enables them to claim victories when it succeeds in killing its better known members and allies. Often, those eliminated are given quasi-military ranks, such as “head of operations,” to enhance the significance of their demise. The culmination of this heavily publicized but largely irrelevant aspect of the “war on terror” was the killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad in Pakistan in 2011. This enabled President Obama to grandstand before the American public as the man who had presided over the hunting down of al-Qaeda’s leader. In practical terms, however, his death had little impact on al-Qaeda-type jihadi groups, whose greatest expansion has occurred subsequently.

Ignoring the Roles of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

The key decisions that enabled al-Qaeda to survive, and later to expand, were made in the hours immediately after 9/11. Almost every significant element in the project to crash planes into the Twin Towers and other iconic American buildings led back to Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was a member of the Saudi elite, and his father had been a close associate of the Saudi monarch. Citing a CIA report from 2002, the official 9/11 report says that al-Qaeda relied for its financing on “a variety of donors and fundraisers, primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia.”

The report’s investigators repeatedly found their access limited or denied when seeking information in Saudi Arabia. Yet President George W. Bush apparently never even considered holding the Saudis responsible for what happened. An exit of senior Saudis, including bin Laden relatives, from the U.S. was facilitated by the U.S. government in the days after 9/11. Most significant, 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report about the relationship between the attackers and Saudi Arabia were cut and never published, despite a promise by President Obama to do so, on the grounds of national security.

In 2009, eight years after 9/11, a cable from the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, revealed by WikiLeaks, complained that donors in Saudi Arabia constituted the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. But despite this private admission, the U.S. and Western Europeans continued to remain indifferent to Saudi preachers whose message, spread to millions by satellite TV, YouTube, and Twitter, called for the killing of the Shia as heretics. These calls came as al-Qaeda bombs were slaughtering people in Shia neighborhoods in Iraq. A sub-headline in another State Department cable in the same year reads: “Saudi Arabia: Anti-Shi’ism as Foreign Policy?” Now, five years later, Saudi-supported groups have a record of extreme sectarianism against non-Sunni Muslims.

Pakistan, or rather Pakistani military intelligence in the shape of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was the other parent of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and jihadi movements in general. When the Taliban was disintegrating under the weight of U.S. bombing in 2001, its forces in northern Afghanistan were trapped by anti-Taliban forces. Before they surrendered, hundreds of ISI members, military trainers, and advisers were hastily evacuated by air. Despite the clearest evidence of ISI’s sponsorship of the Taliban and jihadis in general, Washington refused to confront Pakistan, and thereby opened the way for the resurgence of the Taliban after 2003, which neither the U.S. nor NATO has been able to reverse.

The “war on terror” has failed because it did not target the jihadi movement as a whole and, above all, was not aimed at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. The U.S. did not do so because these countries were important American allies whom it did not want to offend. Saudi Arabia is an enormous market for American arms, and the Saudis have cultivated, and on occasion purchased, influential members of the American political establishment. Pakistan is a nuclear power with a population of 180 million and a military with close links to the Pentagon.

The spectacular resurgence of al-Qaeda and its offshoots has happened despite the huge expansion of American and British intelligence services and their budgets after 9/11. Since then, the U.S., closely followed by Britain, has fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and adopted procedures normally associated with police states, such as imprisonment without trial, rendition, torture, and domestic espionage. Governments wage the “war on terror” claiming that the rights of individual citizens must be sacrificed to secure the safety of all.

In the face of these controversial security measures, the movements against which they are aimed have not been defeated but rather have grown stronger. At the time of 9/11, al-Qaeda was a small, generally ineffectual organization; by 2014 al-Qaeda-type groups were numerous and powerful.

In other words, the “war on terror,” the waging of which has shaped the political landscape for so much of the world since 2001, has demonstrably failed. Until the fall of Mosul, nobody paid much attention.

Patrick Cockburn is Middle East correspondent for the Independent and worked previously for the Financial Times. He has written three books on Iraq’s recent history as well as a memoir, The Broken Boy, and, with his son, a book on schizophrenia, Henry’s Demons. He won the Martha Gellhorn Prize in 2005, the James Cameron Prize in 2006, and the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2009. His forthcoming book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, is now available exclusively from OR Books. This excerpt (with an introductory section written for TomDispatch) is taken from that book.

Copyright 2014 Patrick Cockburn

22 Aug 19:50

Vida

by Daniel Lafayette

tirinha---despadrao---vida

22 Aug 20:20

Mental Health Break

by Dish Staff
22 Aug 04:00

August 22, 2014

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Chega fez a nostalgia ter sentido.


Last day to submit for BAHFest, geeks!
22 Aug 17:34

What Lies Beneath Stonehenge? | History | Smithsonian

We walked the Avenue, the ancient route along which the stones were first dragged from the River Avon. For centuries, this was the formal path to the great henge, but now the only hint of its existence was an indentation or two in the tall grass. It was a fine English summer’s day, with thin, fast clouds above, and as we passed through fields dotted with buttercups and daisies, cows and sheep, we could have been hikers anywhere, were it not for the ghostly monument in the near distance.

Faint as the Avenue was, Vince Gaffney hustled along as if it were illuminated by runway lights. A short, sprightly archaeologist of 56, from Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England, he knows this landscape as well as anyone alive: has walked it, breathed it, studied it for uncounted hours. He has not lost his sense of wonder. Stopping to fix the monument in his eyeline, and reaching out toward the stones on the horizon, he said, “Look, it becomes cathedralesque.”

Gaffney’s latest research effort, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, is a four-year collaboration between a British team and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria that has produced the first detailed underground survey of the area surrounding Stonehenge, totaling more than four square miles. The results are astonishing. The researchers have found buried evidence of more than 15 previously unknown or poorly understood late Neolithic monuments: henges, barrows, segmented ditches, pits. To Gaffney, these findings suggest a scale of activity around Stonehenge far beyond what was previously suspected. “There was sort of this idea that Stonehenge sat in the middle and around it was effectively an area where people were probably excluded,” Gaffney told me, “a ring of the dead around a special area—to which few people might ever have been admitted....Perhaps there were priests, big men, whatever they were, inside Stonehenge having processions up the Avenue, doing...something extremely mysterious. Of course that sort of analysis depends on not knowing what’s actually in the area around Stonehenge itself. It was terra incognita, really.”

The huge bluestones each weigh between four and eight tons and were brought to the site from North Wales, 170 miles away. (Photo by Henrik Knudsen, with thanks to English Heritage)
The Stonehenge landscape, the new evidence suggests, guided the movement of great crowds. (Photo by Henrik Knudsen, with thanks to English Heritage)
The heelstone aligns with the rising sun on the summer solstice as seen from the stone circle, about 80 yards away. It is one of “an excessive number” of such features in the Stonehenge landscape. (Photo by Henrik Knudsen, with thanks to English Heritage)
The massive stone monument rising from Salisbury Plain must have been an impressive sight to ancient visitors (above, the site at dawn). (Photo by Henrik Knudsen, with thanks to English Heritage)
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project used ground-penetrating radars (left) and GPS-guided magnetometers (right) to produce what amounts to a 3-D map of a four-square-mile area. (Photo by Henrik Knudsen, with thanks to National Trust, Stonehenge, Wiltshire)
Nighttime only enhances the mystery of Stonehenge (above, a pair of enormous trilithons). Was it a temple? A graveyard? A healing place? (Photo by Henrik Knudsen, with thanks to English Heritage)
Scholars believe the first stones were erected at Stonehenge around 2600 B.C. and that construction continued on the site for a millennia. (Photo by Henrik Knudsen, with thanks to English Heritage)

Nobody has yet put a spade in the ground to verify the new findings, which were painstakingly gathered by geophysicists and others wielding magnetometers and ground-penetrating radars that scan the ground to detect structures and objects several yards below the surface. But Gaffney has no doubt of the work’s value. “This is among the most important landscapes, and probably the most studied landscape, in the world,” he says. “And the area has been absolutely transformed by this survey. Won’t be the same again.”

***

The joys and frustrations of all archaeological study—perhaps all historical inquiry—come into particularly sharp relief at Stonehenge. Even to the most casual observer, the monument is deeply significant. Those vast stones, standing in concentric rings in the middle of a basin on Salisbury Plain, carefully placed by who-knows-who thousands of years ago, must mean something. But nobody can tell us what. Not exactly. The clues that remain will always prove insufficient to our curiosity. Each archaeological advance yields more questions, and more theories to be tested. Our ignorance shrinks by fractions. What we know is always dwarfed by what we can never know.

Take the big question: Was Stonehenge predominantly a temple, a parliament or a graveyard? Was it a healing ground? We don’t know, for sure. We know that people were buried there, and that the stones are aligned in astronomically important ways. We also understand, because of the chemical composition of animal bones found nearby and the provenance of the stones, that people traveled hundreds of miles to visit Stonehenge. But we cannot say, with certainty, why.

A full map of the project’s findings is to be presented September 9 at the British Science Festival in Birmingham, England. (David Preiss)

Try a simpler question: How did the bluestones, which weigh between four and eight tons apiece, arrive at the site, nearly 5,000 years ago, from 170 miles away in North Wales? Land or sea? Both alternatives explode with possibilities, and nobody has an impregnable theory. Mike Parker Pearson of University College London is working on a new idea that the bluestones might have been lifted onto huge wooden lattices and carried by dozens of men to the site. But it’s just a theory. We can’t know, definitively. We can only have better-informed questions.

The ineffability of Stonehenge has not dulled our appetite. The site has long proved irresistible to diggers. In 1620, the Duke of Buckingham had his men excavate right in the center of the monument. Although they did not know it at the time, they dug on the site of a prehistoric pit. Buckingham’s men found skulls of cattle “and other beasts” and large quantities of “burnt coals or charcoals”—but no treasure, as they had hoped.

In the 19th century, “barrow-digging,” or the excavation of prehistoric monuments and burial hills, was a popular pastime among the landed gentry. In 1839, a naval officer named Captain Beamish dug out an estimated 400 cubic feet of soil from the northeast of the Altar Stone at Stonehenge. As Parker Pearson notes in his book Stonehenge, Beamish’s “big hole was probably the final blow for any prehistoric features...that once lay at Stonehenge’s center.”

Cursus outlined in special effects. (© October Films for Smithsonian Channel)
Vince Gaffney (in a special effects scene in the film Stonehenge Empire) stands above the mysterious pit at the western end of the Cursus. (© October Films for Smithsonian Channel)
Frames from Stonehenge Empire show stones whose locations were determined only in 2013. (© October Films for Smithsonian Channel )
The monument as it would have appeared in its Neolithic heyday. (© October Films for Smithsonian Channel)
The monument as it would have appeared in its Neolithic heyday. (© October Films for Smithsonian Channel)

Work at Stonehenge became less invasive. In 1952, Willard Libby—the American chemist and later a Nobel Prize winner—used his new radiocarbon dating technique on a piece of charcoal from a pit within Stonehenge to date the monument to 1848 B.C., give or take 275 years. That date has since been refined several times. The prevailing opinion is that the first stones were erected on the site around 2600 B.C. (although the building of Stonehenge was carried out over a millennium, and there were centuries of ritual activity at the site before the stones were in place).

In 2003, Parker Pearson conducted his own survey, concentrating on the nearby settlement at Durrington Walls and the area between there and the River Avon. Based on huts, tools and animal bones he uncovered, he concluded that Durrington Walls likely housed the workers who built Stonehenge. Based on an analysis of human remains he later excavated from Stonehenge, he also surmised that, far from being a site of quotidian religious activity, Stonehenge served as a cemetery–a “place for the dead.”

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is different from everything that came before it. When Gaffney and his team started their work, they were less interested in theories than in data. To that end, they concentrated on taking what amounts to a three-dimensional and yards-deep photograph of the entire landscape. “The perceived wisdom was driven by the monuments we knew about,” says Gaffney. “We’ve put in the data between the monuments.”

***

Chris Gaffney, Vince’s younger, slighter and less voluble brother, was one of the instigators of this new approach. The duo’s grandfather was a metalwork teacher from Newcastle with an interest in archaeology, who took his clever grandchildren on trips to Hadrian’s Wall, the old barrier between the Roman Empire and the blasted north. Small wonder that Vince became an archaeologist and Chris a geophysicist, now at the University of Bradford.

The Gaffney brothers’ interest in new technologies that were becoming available to archaeologists led them to the first GPS-guided magnetometer systems. A magnetometer has sensors that allow a geophysicist to see evidence of historic building, and even ancient ditch-digging, beneath the soil by mapping variations in the earth’s magnetic field. The GPS-guided versions were able to pinpoint some of those discoveries to within one centimeter. The Gaffneys believed that Stonehenge scholarship needed a massive magnetometer- and radar-led survey of the whole site. “We just didn’t know if anything’s there,” Vince Gaffney recalled. “So we’re constructing various hypotheses on the basis of something we don’t know.”

Around the same time, an Austrian archaeologist named Wolfgang Neubauer, now of the Boltzmann Institute, was hoping to conduct large-scale projects all over Europe using tools including GPS magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar. Neubauer’s team had also developed software to process the 40 or 50 gigabytes of raw data that these instruments could create in a day. Suddenly, instead of waiting weeks or months to see what the machines had found, it was possible to cover several acres with magnetometers and radar in a day and to display that information on a screen almost instantaneously.

One of the areas Neubauer wanted to scan was Stonehenge, and in the spring of 2009 he contacted Vince Gaffney. A few months later, the Boltzmann Institute and the University of Birmingham—plus several other British and European universities, museums and companies that contributed expertise and resources—began their collaboration at Stonehenge.

Their first days on site, Gaffney recalled, were “like a geophysical circus has come to town.” Tractors pushed the ground-penetrating radars, which looked like high-powered lawn mowers. All-terrain vehicles dragged the magnetometer sensors on long strings. Delicate instruments covering hard, uneven ground kept mechanics and technicians busy. “I have seen one of our magnetometers shear clear apart in front of me,” said Gaffney. “It was back in service the next day.” In all, the fieldwork took about 120 days, spread over four years.

***

In a multimedia room at the University of Birmingham there was a vast touch screen, six feet by nine, on which a new map of the Stonehenge landscape appeared. Gaffney pointed out the key features.

There was Stonehenge itself, marked by the familiar circles. To the north was the long, thin strip called the Stonehenge Cursus or the Greater Cursus, which was demarcated by ditches, and ran east to west for nearly two miles. (The Cursus was given its name by the antiquarian William Stukeley in the 18th century because it looked like an ancient Roman race course. Its construction predates the first building work at Stonehenge by several hundred years.) Gaffney also pointed out the Cursus Barrows—hillocks containing mass human graves—just south of the Cursus itself, and King Barrow Ridge to the east.

Scattered all over the map were blotches of black: features without names. These were new finds, including the more than 15 possible new or poorly understood Neolithic monuments. Gaffney emphasized possible, acknowledging that it will require digging—“the testimony of the spade”—to discover precisely what was there.

Standing in front of this constellation of evidence, he seemed unable to decide where to start, like a child at the Christmas tree. “These are little henge monuments,” he said, touching the screen to highlight a group of black smudges. “Nice little entrance there, and a ditch. These things we know nothing about.”

He saved his greatest enthusiasm for the discoveries that had been made in the Cursus. This feature, said Gaffney, had always been thought of as a “bloody great barrier to the north of Stonehenge.” Nobody knew quite what it was for. Because the Cursus runs east to west, archaeologists have always believed that its presence owes something to the passage of the sun. The monument must be significant: It was dug in the fourth millennium B.C. using antler picks—hundreds of thousands of man-hours went into its construction.

The Hidden Landscapes Project’s instruments discovered several new clues. First of all, they found gaps in the ditch, in particular a very large break in the northern side, to allow people to enter and exit the Cursus. Now, instead of seeing the Cursus exclusively as a monument that encouraged movement along the path of the sun, east to west, Gaffney began to consider these gaps as “channels through the landscape” to guide the movement of people north to south.

A bigger discovery, Gaffney says, was a “bloody huge” pit about five yards in diameter at the eastern end of the Cursus. Today it lies buried at least three feet below the surface of the ground. Such a pit was much too large for a practical use—for instance, burying trash—because of the labor involved in digging it. In the archaeologists’ minds it could only have ritual implications, as “a marker of some kind,” Gaffney said. What’s more, if you drew a straight line between the pit and the heelstone at Stonehenge, it ran directly along the final section of the Avenue, on the path of the sunrise on the summer solstice.

“We thought, That’s a bit of a coincidence!” Gaffney recalled. “That was the point at which we thought, What’s at the other end? And there’s another pit! Two pits, marking the midsummer sunrise and the midsummer solstice, set within a monument that’s meant to be something to do with the passage of the sun.”

With his hands passing over the map, Gaffney showed how—on the longest days of the year—the pits formed a triangle with Stonehenge marking sunrise and sunset.

“Nobody had ever seen these pits before,” he continued. “But they link the area of Stonehenge with the Cursus directly. Either these things have been put inside the Cursus to mark these points, or the Cursus has been wrapped around them.”

What was so interesting about the Cursus pits was that they told a story about the landscape. The “sunrise” pit was visible from Stonehenge, but the “sunset” pit was not—it was nestled behind a ridge, and could have been seen only if there had been fire and smoke coming from it. (At some point the pits will have to be excavated for evidence of such activity.) These discoveries fed into a larger understanding of Stonehenge as “diachronic”—operating in light and dark, sunrise and sunset, day and night.

“The point I think we’re coming to,” said Gaffney, “is that increasingly we can see the area around Stonehenge as providing extensive evidence for complex liturgical movement—which we can now understand, largely because we know where things are.”

Parker Pearson, for his part, takes a cautious view of the new research. “Until you dig holes, you just don’t know what you’ve got,” he told me in his office at University College London. “What date it is, how significant it is. [There are] extraordinary new features coming up, and we’re thinking well, what are they?”

To be sure, he said the data from the Hidden Landscapes Project “backs up the pattern we’ve already been seeing for some years. We have an excessive number of solstice-aligned monuments in that landscape. Nowhere in the rest of Europe comes even close.” He added, “This is fantastic stuff that’s been done, and it’s raised a whole series of new questions,” he said. “It’s going to take years.”

***

The clouds shifted in front of the sun, dappling the landscape with shadow. Gaffney and I were walking the Avenue, 300 yards or so from Stonehenge, and in the distance a string of barrows gleamed like opals. Although he acknowledged the fallibility of all archaeological projection (“In the end,” he said, “we are all wrong”), his work has led him to a new interpretation of how Stonehenge was used.

Gaffney’s idea was not to focus on Stonehenge itself, but on “processionality” within the whole landscape. He imagined people moving around the area like Roman Catholics processing through the Stations of the Cross. He recalled an Easter Friday ritual he saw in Croatia, in which a “bloke with a cross” led fellow barefoot celebrants on a miles-long trip. In Gaffney’s view, the building of the great stone circle was a “monumentalizing” of a similar, if heathen, procession.

As we walked downhill through the fields, Gaffney stopped from time to time to point out the hillocks in which “the illustrious dead” were buried. He also noted how the Avenue was not a straight line between the Avon and Stonehenge, but rather a series of tacks that brought the visitor to the Stonehenge site in a “theatrical” way, along the line of sunrise on the summer solstice.

He thrust himself into the mind of a Bronze Age visitor to the site. “You will have seen nothing like it,” he said. “It would have been massively impressive.” Soon we descended into a valley called Stonehenge Bottom, only a hundred yards or so from the great stones. “They’re disappearing....Watch, just watch!” he said.

Within a few yards, the monument became invisible. When you picture Stonehenge in your mind’s eye, you imagine the concentric rings of vast stones standing in a desolate open landscape, visible for miles around. But now, here we were, a hundred yards away, and the thing had gone.

We stood in a field, watched by some lethargic cows, and savored the strangeness of the moment. Then, as we stepped uphill, Stonehenge re-emerged on the horizon. It happened fast. The lintels, then the great sarsens, then the smaller bluestones were suddenly before us.

Gaffney’s voice lifted. He spoke about Jerusalem Syndrome: the feeling of intense emotion experienced by pilgrims on their first sighting of the Holy City. In the prehistoric world, there was no conception of God as he was understood by the later Abrahamic faiths. But, said Gaffney, as Stonehenge reappeared before us, “whatever the ancient version of Jerusalem Syndrome is, that’s what you’re feeling now.”

Bookmarked at brandizzi Delicious' sharing tag and expanded by Delicious sharing tag expander.
22 Aug 05:13

Contra o conservadorismo travestido de liberalismo nas eleições e na mídia

by Valdenor Júnior

Na última terça foi entrevistado na Rede Globo o candidato à presidência da República Pastor Everaldo, que defende um amplo programa de privatizações e, em suas próprias palavras, “o Estado mínimo”.

William Bonner questionou sua adesão ao liberalismo, ao que o candidato reiterava que, apesar de ter estado junto à esquerda brasileira de tradição trabalhista durante a maior parte de sua vida política, sempre acreditou no empreendedorismo e na meritocracia, que teriam sido prejudicados pelo agigantamento do Estado com o governo do PT.

Já o Candidato a Deputado Estadual Paulo Batista tornou-se, ontem, viral nas redes sociais, sendo citados por inúmeros sites incluindo o Terra e o Não Salvo, com seu vídeo do “Raio Privatizador”, onde aparece como um super-herói que dispara um raio laser de seus olhos, com os quais torna grevistas da USP pública em formandos de uma USP privatizada, entre outras façanhas. Seu slogan: “Contra comunista, vote no Batista”.  Ele mostrou em sua página no facebook que seu resultado do Diagrama de Nolan o apontaria como libertário.

Alguém poderia, então, pensar que o liberalismo está em alta na mídia e nas eleições, certo?

Não, não está. Preste atenção nos detalhes, caro leitor, pois o diabo está nos detalhes.

Na mesma entrevista, Pastor Everaldo deixou claro que sua principal defesa é a “da família” e pelo casamento conforme está na Constituição, em clara referência às suas pautas anti-progressistas no que diz respeito às questões LGBT. Além de contrário ao casamento e adoção por homossexuais e ao aborto, também se expressa contrário à legalização de qualquer droga, incluindo a maconha.

Aliás, na page de seu partido no facebook é afirmado explicitamente o ideal de um Brasil conservador, chegando a dizer que “O PSC defende uma sociedade em que a ordem moral tradicional e os costumes sociais sejam respeitados e preservados. Se você também defende esses valores para manter a ordem social, compartilhe!” com a seguinte imagem:

10406757_750916808303049_6959632005933217506_n(encontrado na page do partido do candidato aqui)

Há também a sugestão de que importantes conquistas das minorias seriam uma ameaça à família:

10464319_745576642170399_7180984675325740128_n(encontrado na page do partido do candidato aqui)

Uma das supostas ameaças à família adviria da Lei nº 12.845/2013. Uma lei que foi criada para proteger vítimas de violência sexual, preservando seu direito de receber atendimento hospitalar, inclusive para a realização do aborto que, nesse caso, é legal no país, mas que, pelo conservadorismo existente aqui, não se permitia fosse realizado pela rede pública de saúde. Mas o Pastor Everaldo deseja revogar essa lei, deixando milhões de mulheres desprotegidas ao negar um direito básico em face da violência sexual sofrida, especialmente as mulheres mais pobres.  Veja na imagem:

10455324_747710165290380_2021232655961607148_n

(encontrado na page do partido do candidato aqui)

De fato, o suposto “Estado mínimo” do Pastor Everaldo parece ser um “Estado máximo” quando se trata de negar liberdade de ação às minorias e de regular estilos de vida sob a suposta proteção da família.

Por outro lado, em outro vídeo, o candidato Paulo Batista apresenta um cigarro de maconha falante, instigando universitários a fazer greve. O que está sugerido nesse vídeo é uma das bandeiras da campanha de Batista: o fortalecimento da política proibicionista de guerra às drogas, especialmente em uma cruzada para o fim do que denomina como “bolsa crack”, dentro de uma política de “tolerância zero”. Veja por si mesmo:

10494419_741168895942795_3271208850464404973_o(encontrado na page do candidato aqui)

A incoerência é até maior porque referida proposta está contida em imagem onde Batista se autoproclama de “candidato da liberdade”. Lembrando que a proposta de “abolição da bolsa crack” deve ser lida conforme a imagem anterior. Veja:

10580094_739964939396524_5751130550296533704_n(encontrado na page do candidato aqui)

Em outra imagem, ressalta ainda mais que o substituto à “bolsa crack” é a “tolerância zero”:

10483693_737742479618770_4723101267638251195_n(encontrado na page do candidato aqui)

Batista deveria ter lido “Vícios não são crimes” de Lysander Spooner, assistido ao vídeo em que Milton Friedman defende a legalização das drogas, estudado a defesa de Jeffrey Miron (com base em estudos de “economia do crime”) da legalização de todas as drogas, ou ao menos ter lido a HQ de Stuart McMillen contando a história da guerra às drogas, com base na obra do já citado Friedman. Saberia que uma das bandeiras liberais é o fim de uma política que cerceia nossas liberdades, coloca pessoas não violentas atrás das grades (nos Estados Unidos, chegou ao ponto de que algumas foram condenadas a passar o resto de suas vidas em uma prisão) e mata muito mais do que os problemas de saúde relacionados ao abuso dessas substâncias pelo usuário, ao conferir uma fonte rápida de financiamento aos criminosos que passam a controlar este mercado. Não se engane, é Milton Friedman quem nos diz:

drogas

(Assista ao vídeo completo)

Como vimos, o suposto liberalismo desses candidatos é superficial, e, na verdade, eles são candidatos conservadores, não liberais. Mas essa confusão nem é de se estranhar. [UPDATE 29/08/2014: Dizer que Batista seria conservador gerou certa comoção entre pessoas que se consideram libertárias e o apoiam, e, após questionado, afirmou ser defensor da legalização das drogas, mas manteve a ideia da tolerância zero para agora. Mas isso cria graves questionamentos a esse tipo de discurso pragmático onde alguém que se autodeclara libertário adota uma agenda conservadora; discuto isso no texto "Libertários deveriam aceitar mais repressão às drogas em troca de menos impostos e privatizações?"]

Um famoso blogueiro da Veja, Rodrigo Constantino (na imagem que ilustra este texto, o vemos conversando com o Pastor Everaldo), se autodenomina como “liberal sem medo da polêmica”, mas na verdade é um neoconservador. Eu e Carlos Góes já escrevemos texto criticando seu posicionamento conservador em relação à família. E há momentos em que sua posição afunda no mais lamentável, estreito e cego direitismo.

Em face do texto de Miriam Leitão, onde a jornalista relata como foi torturada durante a ditadura militar (espancada brutalmente, jogada em uma sala com uma cobra, atiçaram cachorros contra ela, quando encarou um dos seus algozes levou um soco na cara pelo crime de olhar, a despiram, abusaram sexualmente dela e chegaram no limite do estupro, no final de tudo ainda simularam um fuzilamento) pelo crime de achar que o comunismo era bom em 1972, o que Rodrigo Constantino teve a dizer?

Constantino acha que ela deveria ter pedido desculpas por ter achado que o comunismo era bom quando jovem. Perceba: ela foi torturada grávida, e o mais importante que Constantino acha que tem a dizer é exigir dela um pedido formal de desculpas (sendo que ela apenas acreditava no comunismo, e nunca usou de violência contra ninguém).  E ainda: Constantino nem parece se preocupar com a Lei de Anistia, e com o fato do Estado brasileiro ter desculpado crimes hediondos de seus agentes, como todo liberal consistente deveria se incomodar. Aliás, nem é questão de liberalismo, é mais de humanidade simples ou bom senso mínimo. (Ao final do dia, o Editor da Veja.com pediu que Constantino retirasse o texto do ar)

E isso não é de hoje: no caso do assassinato de Cláudia Silva Ferreira por agentes policiais, cujo único “crime” foi o de estar com um copo de café à mão, e que por isso foi baleada, carregada até a viatura policial na qual seria levada para o hospital, colocada no porta-malas, que abriu no trajeto, de modo que seu corpo ficou preso no para-choque e foi arrastada por cerca de 350 metros pelo asfalto até ser empurrada de volta para dentro do carro, o que Constantino falou sobre isso em seu blog?

Nada.

Na verdade, estou sendo injusto: Há uma única referência. E a referência é apenas para criticar o texto de Erick Vasconcelos onde este denuncia a brutalidade policial e seu pretexto na guerra às drogas. O texto de Constantino tem como título “Legalizar drogas não é panaceia contra o crime. Ou: quando ‘libertários’ mais parecem comunistas“, e sua premissa é de que o Estado policial brasileiro não precisa ser severamente questionado, o que nenhum liberal sério jamais concordaria! (Recomendo que o leitor confira a réplica do Erick)

Curiosamente, no final desse texto, Constantino afirma: “Enfim, tudo isso poderia ser apenas um episódio menor a ser ignorado, não fosse o fato de que um texto absurdo desses fala em nome de muitos “libertários”, que mais parecem jovens saídos diretamente de uma reunião do PSTU ou do PSOL. De “libertários” assim, o movimento liberal não precisa mesmo!”

Sério mesmo? O movimento liberal não precisa é de tanta gente querendo adotar o rótulo de liberal, quando conhece de forma muito superficial essa tradição política e, na verdade, adota uma ideologia contraposta, o conservadorismo e o direitismo.

O liberalismo defende a mudança social e econômica profunda como objetivo final (mesmo quando o gradualismo é definido como meio). De fato, o liberalismo historicamente foi mesmo considerado de esquerda, foi oposição à plutocracia e aos imperialistas de todos os tipos. Como gosto de dizer, “liberalismo fora de contexto, é pretexto“, e o liberalismo deve resgatar seu papel enquanto um movimento inclusivo, libertador e humanitário.

Quanto à política, penso que um representante verdadeiramente progressista, libertário e liberal, deve pautar sua atuação na defesa radical da liberdade pessoal, da justiça social e da economia livre, com uma opção preferencial pelos mais pobres e pelas minorias, e focado na redução de danos gerados pelo próprio Estado. Descrevi um candidato semelhante, no contexto da política estadual e municipal em texto aqui para o Mercado Popular. Mas não encontrei entre os supostos candidatos liberais nenhum que adotasse este perfil – com certeza não no Pastor Everaldo e no Paulo Batista.

Por isso, estes supostos liberais em foco nas eleições e na mídia não representam o liberalismo. Se eles fossem representantes do liberalismo, eu não me consideraria mais liberal, porque de fato seria um posicionamento superficial, incompleto e mesmo prejudicial para lidar com os grandes problemas relativos à liberdade individual e às vulnerabilidades sociais e econômicas. Mas o fato é que eles não são, e o conservadorismo deles deve ser exposto e criticado como tal.

junior

Valdenor Júnior é advogado. Desde janeiro de 2013, escreve em seu blog pessoal Tabula (não) Rasa & Libertarianismo Bleeding Heart onde discute alguns de seus principais interesses: naturalismo filosófico, ciência evolucionária com foco nas explicações darwinianas ao comportamento e cognição humanas, economia, filosofia política com foco na compatibilidade entre livre mercado e justiça social. Também escreve para o Centro por uma Sociedade sem Estado – C4SS e o Liberzone.

21 Aug 20:00

Photo



21 Aug 04:00

August 21, 2014

21 Aug 01:37

O problema com o movimento pelos direitos dos homens

by Valdenor Júnior

Por Erick Vasconcelos

O movimento de “direitos dos homens” (em inglês, Men’s Rights Activism – MRA), também chamado no Brasil de masculinismo, utiliza diversas estatísticas fora de contexto para avançar suas ideias de que homens, na verdade, são socialmente oprimidos. Recentemente encontrei um post no Facebook que listava algumas dessas estatísticas especificamente listadas para provar que, na verdade, os homens estão em situação desfavorável. O post era o seguinte:

40% das vítimas de violência doméstica são homens
94% das mortes e acidentes industriais acontecem para homens
75% de todas as internações em clínicas para tratamento de vício em droga
vem de lar sem pai
42% dos que se formam na universidade são homens
90% dos divórcios são requerido por mulheres
30% dos pais que registraram uma criança em seu nome ao fazer um teste de DNA descobrem que NÃO SÃO os pais biológicos
85% das crianças que apresentam distúrbios de comportamento provém de lar sem pai
71% das desistências no ensino médio são de lares sem pai
60% MENOS verba é destinada pelo governo para pesquisas sobre câncer de próstata em comparação à verba destinada para pesquisas sobre câncer de mama a despeito de vitimarem igualmente
80% dos suicidas são homens
63% dos suicídios de jovens estão relacionados a lares sem pai
76% dos assassinados são homens
90% dos moradores de rua são homens
90% das crianças de rua provém de lares sem pai
85% das detenções juvenis provém de lares sem pai
97% das mortes em combates desde a Guerra do Golfo foram de homens
90% dos pedidos de guarda por parte do pai são RECUSADOS.

Algumas dessas estatísticas são falsas (como a de violência doméstica), mas eu decidi escrever uma resposta mais extensa sobre por que o uso dessas estatísticas não faz qualquer sentido dado os objetivos dos masculinistas.

O problema com o MRA é que é um movimento que wants to have their cake and eat it too.

Eles querem manter uma cultura que estipula certos comportamentos culturais para os homens e não querem assumir os custos desses comportamentos.

Vamos deixar de lado a estatística mentirosa sobre violência doméstica. Algumas dessas outras estatísticas são falaciosas também, mas vamos tomá-las pelo valor de face.

A penúltima estatística, por exemplo, afirma que 97% dos mortos em combates militares desde a Guerra do Golfo são homens. Não sei se é uma estatística verdadeira, mas vamos presumir que seja.

O dado omitido é que mulheres historicamente são mais contrárias às intervenções militares e tendem a não entrar no exército. Nos EUA o alistamento não é obrigatório nem para homens nem para mulheres; os homens, porém, culturalmente procuram mais o serviço militar e são empregados em posições de combate.

Essa estatística é tão irrelevante quanto dizer “95% dos executivos que se suicidam são homens”, porque omite o fato de que entre os executivos há uma proporção esmagadora de homens. Também seria absurdo dizer que não há discriminação contra negros porque dentre as pessoas que pagam mais impostos os negros são os que menos pagam – o que pode ser verdade, mas que omite o fato de que negros pagam menos impostos proporcionalmente porque têm rendas menores.

Outro dado: mulheres são maioria nas universidades (a proporção nos países ocidentais gira em torno de 60% de mulheres, 40% de homens e também já vale para o Brasil). Esse eu posso atestar que é verdadeiro.

O que esse dado não diz é que os homens tendem a deixar os estudos por causa de demandas para que assumam a liderança financeira da casa, por exemplo, o que os força a arranjar empregos e impede que estudem.

Por outro lado, as mulheres também tendem a completar mais os estudos por causa do paternalismo de que elas não devem entrar no mercado de trabalho e devem se concentrar mais a atividades intelectuais por causa de sua natureza delicada, etc. E isso não leva nem em conta o fato de que cursos técnicos, por exemplo, como de engenharia são fortemente dominados por homens por motivos banais, enquanto mulheres tendem a entrar em áreas classicamente consideradas “femininas”, como psicologia – reforçando a ideia de que os homens são os únicos capazes de fazer o heavy lifting no trabalho, enquanto as mulheres são as únicas capazes de empatia humana.

Quer dizer, o patriarcalismo empurra os homens para fora da universidade e empurra as mulheres para dentro por motivos essencialmente iguais e essencialmente estereotipadores.

A estatística sobre as guardas infantis também me parece verdadeira, mas ela é revoltante justamente por isso.

Ela significa que juízes (majoritariamente homens, inclusive) ainda veem a mãe como a “provedora” dos filhos e, também por motivos paternalistas, tende a dar a guarda a ela. O pai ainda é culturalmente visto como um acidente e não como parte integral da criação e da vida da criança, o que faz com que os argumentos dele para a guarda infantil após a separação sejam vistos como mais fracos.

A estatística sobre crianças de rua só reforça essa ideia. Os homens aí não são vítimas, são os culpados: crianças de rua tendem a sair de lares sem pai. É verdade que crianças de rua tendem a advir de lares desestruturados; e isso acontece porque culturalmente os homens não assumem sua responsabilidade familiar e social em pé de igualdade com as mulheres. Nas favelas, mães solteiras em dificuldade econômica predominam. Se os filhos dessas mães acabam em situação de dificuldade, isso torna os homens, que fugiram de sua responsabilidade como pais, vítimas ou agressores?

Em resumo, os dados, mesmo que verdadeiros (e alguns são manipulados), contam outra história.

Eles dizem que os homens que não desejam se sujeitar à visão de masculinidade clássica (defendida por grupos de ativismo masculinista) são desprivilegiados em relação aos homens que assumem seu papel dentro de uma cultura patriarcalista, à qual coloca as mulheres em posição de fraqueza e deveres familiares, enquanto os homens ao mesmo tempo devem ser provedores mas têm menos deveres familiares ou sociais.

É por isso que as estatísticas do MRA são falaciosas.

___________________________________________________

Publicado originalmente no contrapolitcs

vasconcelos

Erick Vasconcelos é jornalista, tradutor e mestrando em comunicação pela Universidade Federal de Pernambuco. Gosta dos aspectos mais obscuros da filosofia e do movimento liberal, mas quando não está pensando neles, provavelmente está passando o tempo com algum jogo indie ou assistindo lutas de MMA, como todos deveriam. É dono dos blogs Manipulação, Contrapolitics e do finado Libertyzine. Também escreve para o Centro por uma Sociedade sem Estado – C4SS.

21 Aug 05:00

Como falar com nossos filhos

Como mostra Diogo Bercito (na Folha de 17/8), aumenta significativamente o número de judeus europeus que emigram para Israel. Comento a notícia com um amigo, que "entende" imediatamente: crescem, na Europa, as expressões (inclusive violentas) de antissemitismo, é lógico que um jovem judeu tenha vontade de ir embora.

Eu acho curioso que a gente entenda automaticamente o fenômeno como uma fuga dos perigos do antissemitismo europeu —como se Israel não fosse um país ameaçado. Ou seja, um jovem judeu francês pode decidir emigrar, não para fugir da França, mas para ir defender Israel.

Cuidado, não me interessa aqui decidir quem tem razão no Oriente Médio. O que me surpreende e me interessa é o viés cínico, que nos faz pensar que alguém só possa agir para fugir do perigo —como se a covardia fosse uma sabedoria implícita.

Não sei você, mas eu gostaria que meus filhos desejassem forte e corajosamente —não que vivessem uma vida acanhada e regida por interesses materiais imediatos. Como ensinar isso sem ser ridículo e pernóstico como um moralista?

Pois bem, fui assistir a "Chef", de e com Jon Favreau, porque procurava uma comédia da qual uma menina de 13 anos gostasse. Acertei: o filme é divertido e tocante, com uma ressalva: não entre no cinema de estômago vazio. Eu saí de lá com uma fome desgraçada, tanto de audácias gastronômicas de alta cozinha como da comida de caminhão de beira de estrada.

Seja como for, além de garantir o sorriso e o apetite, o filme é uma ocasião (imperdível) para pensar sobre o que transmitir para nossos filhos e como fazer isso. Sem spoilers, menciono alguns pontos.

1) Muitos homens acima de 50 anos acham que não deveriam se tornar pais: "Serei velho demais para jogar bola com meu filho". Amigo, seu filho (ou filha, se ele/ela gostar de futebol) terá muitos amigos para jogar bola, todos mais divertidos e melhores jogadores do que você. Na verdade, seu filho só vai achar importante que você jogue bola com ele se você tiver sido jogador de futebol de verdade. E, se você repetir mais uma vez que essa era sua real vocação, e que você tinha tudo para ser Garrincha, ele vai achar você patético. Nossos filhos não querem saber quais são nossos sonhos de uma infância ideal; eles querem saber quem somos nós, hoje, adultos.

2) É falsa a ideia de que os filhos nos pediriam sempre para "distraí-los" (levá-los à Disney, por exemplo). Quase sempre, as "distrações" que propomos às crianças revelam sobretudo nosso infantilismo.

3) Não tem como conhecer um filho sem se deixar conhecer por ele. Isso não significa contar ao filho detalhes espinhosos de nossa vida amorosa —como se a revelação comprovasse nossa cumplicidade. Deixar-se conhecer significa falar do que é importante para nós (sim, os filhos se interessam pelo que é realmente importante para nós —e os pais que não se importam com nada, em regra, criam filhos perdidos, sem rumo).

4) No filme, um dia, o pai explica ao menino que talvez ele não tenha sido um pai muito bom nem um marido muito bom, mas uma coisa ele sabe fazer: cozinhar para as pessoas —e nisso ele não quer e não vai falhar. O menino responde "Sim, chef", sem ironia alguma. Ou seja, você quer respeito de seu filho? Leve sua própria vida a sério.

Lembranças. Meu pai não fez nunca um esforço para me propor uma diversão que ele supusesse apropriada à infância. No máximo, ele me incluía nas diversões dele: cinema, teatro, leituras, visitas a igrejas, museus e monumentos. Eu só entendia que a vida devia ser uma coisa muito séria.

Ele nunca sentou para me dizer o que ele queria da vida, mas, lá pelos meus oito anos, num sábado, eu o acompanhei nas visitas que ele fazia a seus pacientes hospitalizados. No caso, o paciente estava num hospital psiquiátrico. Fiquei no carro esperando que meu pai voltasse. Alguém, ao lado do carro, aparava uma cerca viva com enormes tesouras de jardineiro. Pensei que fosse o fim: o jardineiro do hospício me olhava enviesado e ia se aproximando. Eu ouvia o clack-clack das tesouras.

Fui salvo pela chegada do meu pai, que conversou com o jardineiro e subiu no carro. Timidamente, perguntei se o jardineiro era um louco. Meu pai comentou: "Não é maravilhoso? Você achou que ele te olhava torto, e ele achou que você era encarregado de vigiá-lo". Aquele "maravilhoso" nunca me saiu da cabeça.

12 Mar 08:23

Almost died…



Almost died…

19 Aug 20:20

Mental Health Break

by Dish Staff
by Dish Staff

Music videos don’t get much better than this:

20 Aug 18:50

Winner Winner Second Dinner

by nedroid

Winner Winner Second Dinner