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24 Nov 10:57

Petrobras scandal might dismantle Brazil’s political party system

by Mauricio Savarese

The Federal Police Operation that uncovered bribes to politicians and a cartel of gigantic construction companies goes much beyond corruption at Brazil’s state-oil Petrobras. Although most of the implicated belong in the ruling coalition of President Dilma Rousseff, the investigations hit all political parties that had power in Congress since the year 2000. When the 2018 elections come, there will be even more discredit to anyone in Brasilia and to already troubled and messy political parties — bear in mind this is the most well documented corruption case in the country’s history, amounting to billions of dollars. With corporate officials in jail, difficulties in financing campaigns will surely come. And that can give leeway to rich mavericks and populists of all sorts.

Brazilian political parties have always been dependent on constructors. Even in the military rule (1964-1985), when there were no scandals because there was no free press, some of the same groups now investigated were already cozy with the Executive and the make-believe Legislative. Of course some of those bribed just wanted some personal gain. But much of that money was actually used by political chiefs to start their own parties and get more leverage with the Executive. Most of those parties are not bond by ideology. They aren’t even a proper organization — they gather groups of interest that, for one reason or another, are close to a leader. The two exceptions are the ruling PT and the opposition PSDB, despite colossal flaws in both.

Even though they still have Brazil’s most popular leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the reelected president, PT are in trouble for the next years since they are the most deeply involved party in the Petrobras scandal — a scandal that is much more far-reaching than the 2005 kickbacks for political support case. Opposition’s PSDB is not much better: they lost the presidential elections and still managed to be affected by the accusations. If those two parties face the predictable difficulties in financing, controversial newcomers that now are filtered out of the system could have a chance in the next elections. The more mainstream and popular politicians are taken to the Supreme Court, and there will be many if the documents hold in court, the more likely a defeat for both.

No doubt the investigations are essential to make Brazil less corrupted and could be a gigantic step to transform the country into a more serious one. History was made just for the fact corporate leaders that bribed officials are now in jail — previous opportunities were wasted. Some even compare them to Italy’s famous “Clean Hands” operation. But Brazil’s political system needs to come up with an answer that makes financing less corruption-prone at the same time it gives some credibility to political parties. The June 2013 protests already showed that average Brazilians were sick of them and the rejection to both PT and PSDB made environmentalist Marina Silva jump in the polls — she could have been in the run-off if she hadn’t made so many mistakes herself.

The risks to the political system will be seen as soon as Justice informs which politicians were definitely involved. It is mandatory those cases go to the Supreme Court. The investigations might not touch Rousseff personally, but she will definitely face chaos in her party and in Congress. That will leave her with a tough choice to make: either go for a legacy and bypass the Legislative to make a modest political reform or just accept she has little mandate after the tight victory in October and hope for the best. Neither are very appealing to a technocrat that believes talking to politicians is a waste of time.

The first is a choice for a legacy — and that will depend on grueling negotiations she doesn’t seem cut out for. The second is not as reckless as some would believe: when the mensalão scandal came out there were various reports hinting that about 300 congressmen were involved in the scheme. In the end, a few resigned and only three lost their mandate. It could be the same this time around, with party, congress and some corporate leaders taking the fall.

Stakes are high since the Petrobras scandal came out, but frustration could be right around the corner if there is no care to what happens after accusations are all on the table. 2018 has already begun.

25 Nov 03:33

Karen Armstrong on Sam Harris and Bill Maher: “It fills me with despair, because this is the sort of talk that led to the concentration camps”

Karen Armstrong has written histories of Buddhism and Islam. She has written a history of myth. She has written a history of God. Born in Britain, Armstrong studied English at Oxford, spent seven years as a Catholic nun, and then, after leaving the convent, took a brief detour toward hard-line atheism. During that period, she produced writing that, as she later described it, “tended to the Dawkinsesque.”

Since then, Armstrong has emerged as one of the most popular — and prolific — writers on religion. Her works are densely researched, broadly imagined and imbued with a sympathetic curiosity. They deal with cosmic topics, but they’re accessible enough that you might (just to give a personal example) spend 15 minutes discussing Armstrong books with a dental hygienist in the midst of a routine cleaning.

In her new book, “Fields of Blood,” Armstrong lays out a history of religious violence, beginning in ancient Sumer and stretching into the 21st century. Most writers would — wisely — avoid that kind of breadth. Armstrong harnesses it to a larger thesis. She suggests that when people in the West dismiss violence as a backward byproduct of religion, they’re being lazy and self-serving. Blaming religion, Armstrong argues, allows Westerners to ignore the essential role that violence has played in the formation of our own societies — and the essential role that our societies have played in seeding violence abroad.

Reached by phone in New York, Armstrong spoke with Salon about nationalism, Sept. 11 and the links between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Over the course of your career, you’ve developed something of a reputation as an apologist for religion. Is that a fair characterization? If so, why do you think faith needs defenders?

I don’t like the term “apologist.” The word “apologia” in Latin meant giving a rational explanation for something, not saying that you’re sorry for something. I’m not apologizing for religion in that derogatory sense.

After I left my convent I thought, “I’ve had it with religion, completely had it,” and I only fell into this by sheer accident after a series of career disasters. My encounters with other faith traditions showed me first how parochial my original understanding of religion had been, and secondly made me see my own faith in a different way. All the faith traditions have their own particular genius, but they also all have their own particular flaws or failings, because we are humans and we have a fabulous ability to foul things up.

The people who call me an apologist are often those who deride religion as I used to do, and I’ve found that former part of my life to have been rather a limited one.

Your new book is a history of religion and violence. You point out, though, that the concept of “religion” didn’t even exist before the early modern period. What exactly are we talking about, then, when we talk about religion and violence before modern times?

First of all, there is the whole business about religion before the modern period never having been considered a separate activity but infusing and cohering with all other activities, including state-building, politics and warfare. Religion was part of state-building, and a lot of the violence of our world is the violence of the state. Without this violence we wouldn’t have civilization. Agrarian civilization depended upon a massive structural violence. In every single culture or pre-modern state, a small aristocracy expropriated the serfs and peasants and kept them at subsistence level.

This massive, iniquitous system is responsible for our finest achievements, and historians tell us that without this iniquitous system we probably wouldn’t have progressed beyond subsistence level. Therefore, we are all implicated in this violence. No state, however peace-loving it claims to be, can afford to disband its army, so when people say religion has been the cause of all the major wars in history this is a massive oversimplification. Violence is at the heart of our lives, in some form or another.

How do ritual and religion become entangled with this violence?

Well, because state-building was imbued with religious ideology. Every state ideology before the modern period was essentially religious. Trying to extract religion from political life would have been like trying to take the gin out of a cocktail. Things like road-building were regarded as a sort of sacred activity.

Politics was imbued with religious feeling. The prophets of Israel, for example, were deeply political people. They castigated their rulers for not looking after the poor; they cried out against the system of agrarian injustice. Jesus did the same, Mohammed and the Quran do the same. Sometimes, religion permeates the violence of the state, but it also offers the consistent critique of that structural and martial violence.

Is it possible to disentangle that critiquing role from the role of supporting state structures?

I think in the West we have peeled them apart. We’ve separated religion and politics, and this was a great innovation. But so deeply embedded in our consciousness is the desire to give our lives some meaning and significance that no sooner did we do this than we infused the new nation-state with a sort of quasi-religious fervor. If you regard the sacred as something for which we are willing to give our lives, in some senses the nation has replaced God, because it’s now not acceptable to die for religion, but it is admirable to die for your country.

Certainly in the United States, your national feeling, whether people believe in God or not, has a great spiritual or transcendent relevance — “God bless America,” for example; the hand on the heart, the whole ethos. We do the same in the U.K. with our royal weddings. Even in our royal weddings, the aristocracy are all in military uniform.

Ah, that’s a great observation.

In your great parades, you know, when a president dies, there’s the army there.

The religiously articulated state would persecute heretics. They were usually protesting against the social order rather than arguing about theology, and they were seen as a danger to the social order that had to be eliminated. That’s been replaced. Now we persecute our ethnic minorities or fail to give them the same rights.

I’d like to go deeper into this comparison between nationalism and religion. Some people would say that the ultimate problem, here, is a strain of irrationality in our society. They would argue that we need to purge this irrationality wherever we see it, whether it appears in the form of religion or nationalism. How would you respond?

I’m glad you brought that up, because nationalism is hardly rational. But you know, we need mythology in our lives, because that’s what we are. I agree, we should be as rational as we possibly can, especially when we’re dealing with the fates of our own populations and the fates of other peoples. But we don’t, ever. There are always the stories, the myths we tell ourselves, that enable us to inject some kind of ultimate significance, however hard we try to be rational.

Communism was said to be a more rational way to organize a society, and yet it was based on a complete myth that became psychotic. Similarly, the French revolutionaries were imbued with the spirit of the Enlightenment and erected the goddess of reason on the altar of Notre Dame. But in that same year they started the Reign of Terror, where they publicly beheaded 17,000 men, women and children.

We’re haunted by terrible fears and paranoias. We’re frightened beings. When people are afraid, fear takes over and brings out all kind of irrationality. So, yes, we’re constantly striving to be rational, but we’re not wholly rational beings. Purging isn’t an answer, I think. When you say “purging,” I have visions of some of the catastrophes of the 20th century in which we tried to purge people, and I don’t like that kind of language.

Let’s try a different analogy: Perhaps our search for narrative and meaning is a bit like a fire. It can go out of control and burn people pretty badly. Seeing this destruction, some people say we should just put out the fire whenever we can. There are others who argue that the fire will always be there, that it has benefits, and that we need to work with it to the best of our abilities. And you’re sort of in the latter camp, yes?

I would say so … If we lack meaning, if we fail to find meaning in our lives, we could fall very easily into despair. One of the forensic psychiatrists who have interviewed about 500 people involved in the 9/11 atrocity, and those lone-wolves like the Boston Marathon people, has found that one of the principal causes for their turning to these actions was a sense of lack of meaning; a sense of meaningless and purposelessness and hopelessness in their lives. I think lack of meaning is a dangerous thing in society.

There’s been a very strong void in modern culture, despite our magnificent achievements. We’ve seen the nihilism of the suicide bomber, for example. A sense of going into a void.

In “Fields of Blood,” you explore how the material needs of people can give rise to more abstract ideas. So, speaking about nihilism as something particular to the modern era: Are there political or social conditions that underlie this sense of meaninglessness?

Yes. The suicide bomber has been analyzed by Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, who has made a study of every single suicide bombing from 1980 to 2004. He has found that it’s always a response to the invasion of the homeland by a militarily superior power. People feel their space is invaded, and they resort to this kind of action because they can’t compete with the invaders. [Suicide bombing] was a ploy [first] used by the Tamil Tigers, who had no time for religion. Of the many Lebanese bombings [in the 1980s], only seven of them were committed by Muslims, three by Christians. The rest, some 17 or so, were committed by secularists and socialists coming in from Syria.

I think a sense of hopelessness is particularly evident in the suicide bombings of Hamas, where these young people live in refugee camps in Gaza, with really very little hope or very little to look forward to. People who talk to survivors of these actions found that the desire to die a heroic death, to go out in a blaze of glory and at least have some meaning in their lives and be venerated and remembered after their death, was the driving factor.

There’s a line in your book that struck me: “Terrorism is fundamentally and inherently political, even when other motives, religious, economic, and social, are involved. Terrorism is always about power.”

I think I’m quoting some terrorist specialist there.

Even when [terrorists] claim to be doing it for Allah, they’re also doing it for political motives. It’s very clear in bin Laden’s discourse. He talks about God and Allah and Islam and the infidels and all that, but he had very clear political aims and attitudes towards Saudi Arabia, towards Western involvement in Middle Eastern affairs. The way he talked always about Zionists and crusaders rather than Jews and Christians — these are political terms. Since the early 20th century the term “crusade” has come to stand for Western imperialism.

In the Hamas martyr videos, the young martyr will segue very easily from mentioning Allah the Lord of the world, and then within a couple of words he’s talking about the liberation of Palestine — it’s pure nationalism — and then he’s into a third-world ideology, saying his death will be a beacon of hope to all the oppressed people who are suffering at the hands of the Western world. These things are mixed up in that cocktail in his mind, but there’s always a strong political element, not just a going towards God.

In fact, all our motivation is always mixed. As a young nun, I spent years trying to do everything purely for God, and it’s just not possible. Our self-interest and other motivations constantly flood our most idealistic efforts. So, yes, terrorism is always about power — wanting to get power, or destroy the current power-holders, or pull down the edifices of power which they feel to be oppressive or corruptive in some way.

How direct is the link between colonial policies in the Middle East and a terrorist attack in New York or London?

I think — and I speak as a British person — when I saw the towers fall on September 11, one of the many, many thoughts that went through my head was, “We helped to do this.” The way we split up these states, created these nation-states that ISIS is pulling asunder, showed absolutely no regard for the people concerned. Nationalism was completely alien to the region; they had no understanding of it. The borders were cobbled together with astonishing insouciance and self-interest on the part of the British.

Plus, a major cause of unrest and alienation has always been humiliation. Islam was, before the colonial period, the great world power, rather like the United States today. It was reduced overnight to a dependent bloc and treated by the colonialists with frank disdain. That humiliation has rankled, and it would rankle, I think, here in the States. Supposing in a few decades you are demoted by China, it may not be so pretty here.

Every fundamentalist movement that I’ve studied, in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is rooted in a profound fear of annihilation.

So, when we in the West talk about religion as the cause of this violence, how much are we letting ourselves off the hook, and using religion as a way to ignore our role in the roots of this violence?

We’re in danger of making a scapegoat of things, and not looking at our own part in this. When we look at these states and say, “Why can’t they get their act together? Why can’t they see that secularism is the better way? Why are they so in thrall to this benighted religion of theirs? What savages they are,” and so on, we’ve forgotten to see our implication in their histories.

We came to modernity under our own steam. It was our creation. It had two characteristics. One of these was independence — your Declaration of Independence is a typical modernizing document. And you have thinkers and scientists demanding free thought and independent thinking. This was essential to our modernity. But in the Middle East, in the colonized countries, modernity was a colonial subjection, not independence.

Without a sense of independence and a driving force for innovation, however many skyscrapers and fighter jets you may possess, and computers and technological gadgets, without these qualities you don’t really have the modern spirit. That modern spirit is almost impossible to acquire in countries where modernity has been imposed from outside.

When you hear, for example, Sam Harris and Bill Maher recently arguing that there’s something inherently violent about Islam — Sam Harris said something like “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas” — when you hear something like that, how do you respond?

It fills me with despair, because this is the sort of talk that led to the concentration camps in Europe. This is the kind of thing people were saying about Jews in the 1930s and ’40s in Europe.

This is how I got into this, not because I’m dying to apologize, as you say, for religion, or because I’m filled with love and sympathy and kindness for all beings including Muslims — no. I’m filled with a sense of dread. We pride ourselves so much on our fairness and our toleration, and yet we’ve been guilty of great wrongs. Germany was one of the most cultivated countries in Europe; it was one of the leading players in the Enlightenment, and yet we discovered that a concentration camp can exist within the same vicinity as a university.

There has always been this hard edge in modernity. John Locke, apostle of toleration, said the liberal state could under no circumstances tolerate the presence of either Catholics or Muslims. Locke also said that a master had absolute and despotical power over a slave, which included the right to kill him at any time.

That was the attitude that we British and French colonists took to the colonies, that these people didn’t have the same rights as us. I hear that same disdain in Sam Harris, and it fills me with a sense of dread and despair.

Is Islamophobia today comparable to anti-Semitism?

Let’s hope not. It’s deeply enshrined in Western culture. It goes right back to the Crusades, and the two victims of the crusaders were the Jews in Europe and the Muslims in the Middle East.

Right, because Jews along the crusaders’ routes would be massacred —

They became associated in the European mind. We’ve recoiled, quite rightly, from our anti-Semitism, but we still have not recoiled from our Islamophobia. That has remained. It’s also very easy to hate people we’ve wronged. If you wrong somebody there’s a huge sense of resentment and distress. That is there, and that is part of it, too.

I remember speaking at NATO once, and a German high officer of NATO got up and spoke of the Turks resident in Germany, the migrant workers who do the work, basically, that Germans don’t want to do. He said, “Look, I don’t want to see these people. They must eat in their own restaurants. I don’t want to see them, they must disappear. I don’t want to see them in the streets in their distinctive dress, I don’t want to seem their special restaurants, I don’t want to see them.” I said, “Look, after what happened in Germany in the 1930s, we cannot talk like that, as Europeans, about people disappearing.”

Similarly, a Dutch person got up and said, “This is my culture, and these migrants are destroying and undermining our cultural achievements.” I said, “Now you, as the Netherlands, a former imperial power, are beginning to get a pinprick of the pain that happened when we went into these countries and changed them forever. They’re with us now because we went to them first; this is just the next stage of colonization. We made those countries impossible to live in, so here they are now with us.”

How should one respond to something like the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, or the threat of terrorism that originates in Muslim countries?

Saudi Arabia is a real problem, there’s no doubt about it. It has been really responsible, by using its massive petrol dollars, for exporting its extraordinarily maverick and narrow form of Islam all over the world. Saudis are not themselves extremists, but the narrowness of their religious views are antithetical to the traditional pluralism of Islam.

We’ve turned a blind eye to what the Saudis do because of oil, and because we see them as a loyal ally, and because, during the Cold War, we approved of their stance against Soviet influence in the Middle East.

Fundamentalism represents a rebellion against modernity, and one of the hallmarks of modernity has been the liberation of women. There’s nothing in the Quran to justify either the veiling or the seclusion of women. The Quran gave women rights of inheritance and divorce, legal rights we didn’t have in the West until the 19th century.

That’s what I feel about the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. It’s iniquitous, and it’s certainly not Quranic.

Where do you, as someone outside of a tradition, get the authority to say what is or isn’t Quranic?

I talk to imams and Muslims who are in the traditions.

I think it’s easy to say, “Well the text isn’t binding” when you see something in there that you don’t like. But when you see something in the text that you do want to uphold, it’s tempting to go, “Oh, look, it’s in the text.”

Oh, it is. We do it with all our foundation texts — you’re always arguing about the Constitution, for example. It’s what we do. Previously, before the modern period, the Quran was never read in isolation. It was always read from the viewpoint of a long tradition of complicated, medieval exegesis which actually reined in simplistic interpretation. That doesn’t apply to these freelancers who read “Islam for Dummies” …

– and then do with it what they will.


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25 Nov 04:02

Borderline Disorder

Here’s one difference between me and Paul Krugman: He enthusiastically supports President Obama’s new immigration policy, which he calls a matter of human decency. I grudgingly support President Obama’s new immigration policy, which I call a bit less indecent than the policy it replaces.

krugHere’s another difference between me and Paul Krugman: I believe it’s the job of an economics journalist to call attention to unpleasant tradeoffs and offer frameworks for resolving those tradeoffs. Krugman apparently believes it’s the job of an economics journalist to sweep all tradeoffs under the rug in the name of advancing your policy agenda — appealing, if you will, to the stupidity of the American op-ed reader.

Krugman, for example, tells us that he opposes deportations because they’re cruel, but also opposes open borders because they’d make it both economically and politically impossible to maintain the modern American welfare state.

In furtherance of which, he offers this kind of claptrap:

Second, there are large numbers of children who were born here … but whose parents came illegally, and are legally subject to being deported.

What should we do about these people and their families? There are some forces in our political life who want us to … deport the undocumented parents of American children and force those children either to go into exile or to fend for themselves.

But that isn’t going to happen, partly because, as a nation, we aren’t really that cruel

Dammit, I hate this stuff. Krugman says (and I agree with him) that it’s cruel to deport people. He ignores the fact that it’s also cruel to keep other people out. Krugman says (and I agree with him) that letting more people in would put pressure on the welfare system. He ignores the fact that allowing people to stay also puts pressure on the welfare system. Why should we prioritize kindness to those who are already here over kindness to those who are clamoring to get here?

There might be a really good answer to that question, but you’d never know it from reading Krugman. In fact, the takeaway from Krugman’s column is that the cruelty of deportations is unacceptable only because Krugman says so, and the cruelty of closed borders is a necessary evil only because Krugman says that too. So the next time you want to know whether some other policy is unacceptably cruel or not, the only way to find out is to ask Paul Krugman.

And then there’s more:

The truth is that sheer self-interest says that we should do the humane thing. Today’s immigrant children are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors.

Ummm…Paul? They are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors only if we let them stay. Do you know who else are potentially among tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors? The ones we’re not letting in.

Once again, there might be some reason why we benefit more from those who are already here than we’d benefit from those who have not yet arrived — but if Krugman knows that reason, he’s keeping it a secret. He makes absolutely no attempt to quantify his cost-benefit analysis, or even, for that matter, to be explicit about what he’s counting as a cost or a benefit. His arguments — both his moral arguments and his arguments from self-interest — apply equally well to current residents and to current non-residents. They are arguments either for mass deportations or for open borders, but not for the Obama policy.

If you want to make an honest case against open borders, you’ve got to start with this acknowledgement: Even if we grant for the sake of argument that the modern American welfare state is a good thing, and even if we grant for the sake of argument that open borders would fully undermine it, it does not follow that the enormous benefits of open borders would fail to offset that enormous cost. That requires an argument. Here’s what an argument would consist of:

1. Either a) some estimate of the benefits of open borders, a separate estimate of the costs, and a comparison between the two or b) some clever way of proving, without any actual measurement, that the costs must exceed the benefits, say by showing that each individual benefit comes packaged with a larger cost.

2. A clear statement of how much weight you’ve given to costs and benefits felt by Americans as opposed to the costs and benefits felt by Mexicans, preferably along with some justification for your weighting and a fair accounting of how your conclusions might change if you’d chosen different weights. This would, for example, lead to some arithmetic along the lines of what you see in Chapter 19 of The Big Questions. That arithmetic is surely not the last word on the matter, but that kind of arithmetic is precisely what economics can contribute to this debate.

Not only does Krugman offer no answers; he pretends the questions don’t exist. His agenda, for whatever reason, is to stop deportations without loosening up the borders. Rather than defend that agenda, he pretends that

a) It needs no defense.

b) And if you think otherwise, you’re a bad person. Sneer, sneer.

Look: The essence of Krugman’s position is that current non-residents should be treated more cruelly than current residents. That position is probably defensible. Economics teaches us that life is full of uncomfortable trade-offs, and that sometimes you’ve got to be cruel in one way to avoid being even crueler in another. But economics also teaches us that it’s important to face those trade-offs honestly, even to call attention to them, so that we don’t make our choices with blinders on.

That’s where Krugman becomes the anti-economist. As is his right, he supports the Obama policy. But he has far too much contempt for his readers to fashion an argument that might actually illuminate that policy. Instead he throws out a bunch of rhetoric that, when analyzed with an even slightly critical eye, offers exactly zero support for his position.

His arguments, after all, come down to this: “Deportations are cruel and for that reason alone must be bad policy”, or “Open borders are costly and for that reason alone must be bad policy”. But if those were valid arguments, then (as Krugman knows perfectly well), one could just as easily switch deportations with open borders and reach exactly the opposite conclusions. But Krugman doesn’t care about logic, because he’s too busy bashing the morals of anyone who dissents from his apparently random value judgments.

According to Krugman, if you support the cruelty of deportations, you’re an evil person, but if you support the cruelty of closed borders, you’re a pragmatic adult. Why? Because Paul Krugman said so. Might there be a subject — like, oh, say, economics — that can help us think more clearly and systematically about such issues? If so, you’d never learn about it by reading Krugman. He wouldn’t want to risk teaching his readers to think.

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21 Nov 18:52

Double Entendre

by Greg Ross

The Exeter Book, an anthology of Anglo-Saxon poetry from the 10th century, contains three riddles that seem shockingly risqué until you see the answers:

I’m a strange creature, for I satisfy women,
a service to the neighbors! No one suffers
at my hands except for my slayer.
I grow very tall, erect in a bed,
I’m hairy underneath. From time to time
a good-looking girl, the doughty daughter
of some churl dares to hold me,
grips my russet skin, robs me of my head
and puts me in the pantry. At once that girl
with plaited hair who has confined me
remembers our meeting. Her eye moistens.

(An onion.)

A strange thing hangs by a man’s thigh,
hidden by a garment. It has a hole
in its head. It is stiff and strong
and its firm bearing reaps a reward.
When the man hitches his clothing high
above his knee, he wants the head
of that hanging thing to poke the old hole
(of fitting length) it has often filled before.

(A key.)

A young man made for the corner where he knew
she was standing; this strapping youth
had come some way — with his own hands
he whipped up her dress, and under her girdle
(as she stood there) thrust something stiff,
worked his will; they both shook.
This fellow quickened: one moment he was
forceful, a first-rate servant, so strenuous
that the next he was knocked up, quite
blown by his exertion. Beneath the girdle
a thing began to grow that upstanding men
often think of, tenderly, and acquire.

(A churn.)

24 Nov 19:33

LOLA 155

by Laerte

24 Nov 05:00

November 24, 2014

24 Nov 09:18

Your Inner Child


Your Inner Child

Why should he be allowed in if he didn't even help build it?!

24 Nov 14:13

Majestic Black and White Studio Portraits of Goats and Sheep by Kevin Horan

by Christopher Jobson

Majestic Black and White Studio Portraits of Goats and Sheep by Kevin Horan sheep portraits humor goats black and white
Ben #1, 2014. Photo © Kevin Horan.

Majestic Black and White Studio Portraits of Goats and Sheep by Kevin Horan sheep portraits humor goats black and white
Sherlock #2, 2012. Ella #1, 2014. Photos © Kevin Horan.

Majestic Black and White Studio Portraits of Goats and Sheep by Kevin Horan sheep portraits humor goats black and white
Carl #1. Photos © Kevin Horan.

Majestic Black and White Studio Portraits of Goats and Sheep by Kevin Horan sheep portraits humor goats black and white
Xantippe #1. Lizzie #1. Photo © Kevin Horan.

Majestic Black and White Studio Portraits of Goats and Sheep by Kevin Horan sheep portraits humor goats black and white
Jake #1, 2012. Photo © Kevin Horan.

Majestic Black and White Studio Portraits of Goats and Sheep by Kevin Horan sheep portraits humor goats black and white Sydney #3. Xenia #1. Photos © Kevin Horan.

Majestic Black and White Studio Portraits of Goats and Sheep by Kevin Horan sheep portraits humor goats black and white
Mr. Beasley #1, 2014. Photo © Kevin Horan.

Majestic Black and White Studio Portraits of Goats and Sheep by Kevin Horan sheep portraits humor goats black and white
Briede #1. Honey #3. Photos © Kevin Horan.

Majestic Black and White Studio Portraits of Goats and Sheep by Kevin Horan sheep portraits humor goats black and white
Honey #1, 2014. Photo © Kevin Horan.

When it comes to fancy studio portraits of pets, it’s no surprise people are willing to hire photographers for loving photos of their cats and dogs, we’ve even seen cameras thoughtfully trained on chickens and exotic snakes, but commercial photographer Kevin Horan decided it was high time for an artistically neglected group of barnyard animals to step into the spotlight: goats and sheep. In 2007, Horan moved from Chicago to Whidbey Island, Washington where he approached a neighbor about photographing one of his sheep. The neighbor agreed and his portrait series Chattel was born.

Lately, Horan photographs mostly sheep and goats from the New Moon Farm Goat Rescue in Arlington, WA, where he sets up a portable studio and works with assitants to achieve surprisingly emotive and humorous portraits that reveal the subtle personality of each animal. The wildly popular series was selected in Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 50 for 2014, and one of the photos was acquired by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Prints are available upon request. (via Slate, PetaPixel)

23 Nov 17:07

itseasytoremember: nihtendo: i want a video of all the tries...



i want a video of all the tries it took to make this

i want a video of the second right after this shot was taken

23 Nov 16:53

Crows playing in the snow

Crows playing in the snow

21 Nov 13:43

#196: Millipede and centipede.

by 1111

1111comics - 00196 - the centipede and the millipede

Now I’ll bite you.

Millipedes have more legs that centipedes, but centipedes have nasty pincers (that are actually legs as well).

NB: Centipedes have only one pair of legs per segment while millipedes have two pairs. I made a mistake!

20 Nov 21:30


14 Nov 18:14

Homem com leucemia entra em remissão após ser tratado com vírus da Aids

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Menção obrigatória a xkcd

RIO - Um homem que sofre com uma leucemia agressiva está agora em remissão após médicos usarem o vírus HIV para alvejar e matar células cancerígenas.

Marshall Jensen foi diagnosticado com leucemia linfoblástica aguda, um câncer das células brancas do sangue, logo depois de se casar em 2012.

Jensen, 30, e sua família deixaram sua casa em Utah e passaram os dois anos seguintes viajando pelos Estados Unidos em busca de um tratamento que poderia lutar contra o câncer, a emissora KSL relata.

Na Filadélfia, Jensen ficou sabendo de um tratamento raro, experimental, aproveitando da capacidade HIV vírus para inserir novos genes nas células T do paciente, a fim de matar o câncer de outra forma incurável.

O tratamento é o resultado de duas décadas de pesquisas por Carl June e sua equipe da Penn Medicine, que produziu um estudo sobre os “assassinos específicos de leucemia”, publicado no “New England Journal of Medicine”.

- É um vírus desativado - explicou June. - Mas ele retém a característica essencial de um HIV, que é a capacidade de inserir novos genes nas células.

A terapia trabalha levando milhares de milhões de células T de um paciente com câncer. O DNA nas células é então alterado com uma forma inofensiva do vírus HIV.

As células são programadas para reconhecer e matar o câncer e são colocadas de volta no corpo da pessoa.

June disse que as células agem como “serial killers” e continuam a permanecer latentes no corpo, a menos que o câncer retorne. Sua equipe descobriu que uma das células T modificadas pode matar cerca de mil células tumorais.

O tratamento tem sido bem sucedido até agora e Jensen voltou para casa na quinta-feira depois de ter sido dito que ele está em remissão.

Um total de 30 crianças e adultos receberam o tratamento no estudo de June. Vinte e três dos pacientes estão vivos e 19 já alcançaram a remissão completa.

June vai começar os testes em pacientes com câncer de pâncreas no verão de 2015.

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18 Nov 09:26

Compras de Natal: Marcas que utilizam trabalho escravo no Brasil - ET

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Nem responder ao IBGE vai poder mais.

A Repórter Brasil acompanha as fiscalizações realizadas no setor das confecções desde 2009, quando foi lançado o Pacto Municipal Tripartite Contra a Fraude e a Precarização, e pelo Emprego e Trabalho Decentes em São Paulo, do qual a organização é signatária.

Confira os principais casos envolvendo empresas do setor, com as datas dos flagrantes:

M.Officer – novembro de 2013

Roupa da M.Officer em oficina flagrada com trabalho escravo (MPT-PRT2)

Roupa da M.Officer em oficina flagrada com trabalho escravo (MPT-PRT2)

Ação conjunta realizada pelo Ministério Público do Trabalho e pelo Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego resgatou duas pessoas produzindo peças da M.Officer em uma confecção no Bom Retiro, bairro da região central de São Paulo.  Casados, os dois trabalhadores são bolivianos e viviam com seus dois filhos no local em que costuravam. A casa  não possuía condições de higiene e não tinha local para alimentação, o que fazia que a família tivesse de comer sobre a cama. Os quatro tinham de dividir a cama de casal. No local de trabalho, onde foram encontradas instalações elétricas irregulares junto a material inflamável, não havia extintores de incêndio. Os trabalhadores tinham de pagar todas as despesas da casa, como luz, água, produtos de limpeza e de higiene, valor descontado do que recebiam por mês.  Eles costuravam exclusivamente para a M.Officer há sete meses e foram contratados por uma terceirizada pela empresa para a produção, a Spazio. Ambos ganhavam  R$ 7 por peça produzida.

Saiba mais:
Justiça determina bloqueio de R$ 1 mi de dona da M.Officer por caso de trabalho análogo ao de escravo
Justiça cassa bloqueio de bens em caso de escravidão envolvendo empresa dona da M.Officer
Os grilhões ocultos da elite brasileira

Le Lis Blanc e Bo.Bô – junho 2013

Registro de dívida por passagem em caderno encontrado na oficina da Le Lis Blanc (Anali Dupré)

Registro de dívida por passagem em caderno encontrado na oficina da Le Lis Blanc (Anali Dupré)

Fiscalização realizada em junho resultou na libertação de 28 pessoas que produziam peças para a grife Le Lis Blanc em três oficinas clandestinas diferentes, incluindo uma adolescente de 16 anos. Eles recebiam entre R$ 2,50 e R$ 7 por unidade costurada. As peças eram vendidas por até 100 vezes mais. Todos os resgatados eram bolivianos, e alguns estavam aprisionados por dívidas. Além de escravidão, a fiscalização identificou também tráfico de pessoas.

Saiba mais:
Roupas da Le Lis Blanc são fabricadas com escravidão
Fiscalização liberta trabalhadores que produziam roupas para grife Bo.Bô
Diretor da Le Lis Blanc e Bo.Bô nega explorar escravos
Após flagrante de escravidão, donos da Le Lis Blanc e Bo.Bô prometem medidas imediatas
Proprietários da marca terá que pagar R$ 1 milhão em indenizações

Cori, Emme e Luigi Bertolli – março 2013

Pagos por produção, trabalhadores continuaram costurando mesmo durante a fiscalização. Ao todo, 28 trabalhadores bolivianos foram resgatados em condições degradantes (Anali Dupré)

Pagos por produção, trabalhadores continuaram costurando mesmo durante a fiscalização. Ao todo, 28 trabalhadores bolivianos foram resgatados em condições degradantes (Anali Dupré)

Fiscalização realizada em 19 de março resultou na libertação de 28 costureiros bolivianos de condições análogas às de escravos em uma oficina clandestina na zona leste de São Paulo. Submetidos a condições degradantes, jornadas exaustivas e servidão por dívida, eles produziam peças para a empresa GEP, que é formada pelas marcas Emme, Cori e Luigi Bertolli, e que pertence ao grupo que representa a grife internacional GAP no Brasil. O resgate foi resultado de uma investigação de mais de dois meses, na qual trabalharam juntos Ministério Público do Trabalho (MPT), Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego (MTE) e Receita Federal. A fiscalização aconteceu na mesma semana que a São Paulo Fashion Week, principal evento de moda da capital paulista.

Saiba mais:
Fiscais flagram escravidão envolvendo grupo que representa a GAP no Brasil
Donos de Cori, Emme e Luigi Bertolli terão que explicar escravidão na Assembléia Legislativa de SP
Diretor do grupo GEP alega ‘traição’ de fornecedores por caso de trabalho escravo

Gangster – março 2013

Fiscal toma depoimento de trabalhador em regime de escravidão  produzindo peças da Gangster numa em uma pequena oficina no bairro São João, em Guarulhos (SP) (Guilherme Zocchio)

Fiscal toma depoimento de trabalhador em regime de escravidão produzindo peças da Gangster numa em uma pequena oficina no bairro São João, em Guarulhos (SP) (Guilherme Zocchio)

Trabalhadores em condições análogas às de escravos foram resgatados produzindo peças da Gangster Surf and Skate Wear, confecção paulistana que tem como público-alvo surfistas, skatistas e praticantes de outros esportes radicais. A libertação aconteceu em 19 de março, durante fiscalização em uma pequena oficina localizada no bairro São João, em Guarulhos (SP), onde trabalhavam dois bolivianos e um peruano. Toda a produção da oficina era destinada à Gangster, loja do bairro do Brás, região central da capital paulista.

Saiba mais:
Fiscalização flagra escravidão na produção de roupas para skatistas e surfistas

Hippychick – janeiro 2013

Página da Hippychick com selo da Abvtex, que foi retirado após a denúncia (Reprodução)

Página da Hippychick com selo da Abvtex, que foi retirado após a denúncia (Reprodução)

A Hippychick Moda Infantil, confecção de roupas infantis que, segundo o Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego (MTE), terceirizava sua produção para uma oficina de costura flagrada explorando trabalho escravo, tinha desde outubro de 2012 o selo da Associação Brasileira do Vestuário Têxtil (ABVTEX) de responsabilidade social. Após a libertação de cinco trabalhadores bolivianos, em 22 de janeiro de 2013, o MTE e o Ministério Público do Trabalho (MPT), que também participou da operação, investigam a responsabilidade das Lojas Americanas na exploração de mão de obra escrava. Segundo o MPT, a suspeita é de que as peças produzidas pela oficina terceirizada eram revendidas exclusivamente nas Lojas Americanas com a marca “Basic+ Kids”. Por conta do flagrante no seu fornecedor, em setembro de 2013 as Lojas Americanas firmaram TAC se comprometendo a melhorar a fiscalização da cadeia produtiva.

Saiba mais:
Após flagrante em fornecedor, Lojas Americanas se comprometem a fiscalizar cadeia produtiva
Confecção de roupas infantis flagrada explorando escravos tinha certificação

Talita Kume – julho 2012

Crianças ficavam expostas a diversos riscos na oficina de costura interditada, num sobrado na Zona Norte de São Paulo (SRTE/SP)

Crianças ficavam expostas a diversos riscos na oficina de costura interditada, num sobrado na Zona Norte de São Paulo (SRTE/SP)

Um grupo de oito pessoas vindas da Bolívia, incluindo um adolescente de 17 anos, foi resgatado de condições análogas à escravidão pela fiscalização dedicada ao combate desse tipo de crime em áreas urbanas. A libertação ocorreu no último dia 19 de junho. Além dos indícios de tráfico de pessoas, as vítimas eram submetidas a jornadas exaustivas, à servidão por dívida, ao cerceamento de liberdade de ir e vir e a condições de trabalho degradantes. O grupo costurava para a marca coreana Talita Kume, cuja sede fica no bairro do Bom Retiro, na zona central da capital.

Saiba mais:
Trabalho escravo abastece produção da marca Talita Kume
Donos da Talita Kume podem ser convocados pela CPI do Trabalho Escravo

Gregory – maio 2012

Jovem cuida do filho recém nascido enquanto trabalha. O carrinho fica ao lado da máquina de costura na Zona Norte da capital paulista (SRTE-SP)

Jovem cuida do filho recém nascido enquanto trabalha. O carrinho fica ao lado da máquina de costura na Zona Norte da capital paulista (SRTE-SP)

No mesmo dia em que a grife de roupas femininas Gregory lançava a sua coleção Outono-Inverno 2012 com pompa e circunstância, uma equipe de fiscalização trabalhista flagrava situação de cerceamento de liberdade, servidão por dívida, jornada exaustiva, ambiente degradante de trabalho e indícios de tráfico de pessoas em uma oficina que produzia peças para a marca, na Zona Norte da cidade da capital paulista. O conjunto de inspeções resultou na libertação de 23 pessoas, todas elas estrangeiras de nacionalidade boliviana, que estavam sendo submetidas à condições análogas à escravidão.

Saiba mais:
Fiscalização associa Gregory à exploração de trabalho escravo

Após flagrante de escravidão, Gregory é questionada pelo Facebook

Caso Zara – agosto 2011

Fiscais flagraram servidão por dívidas, degradância e jornadas exaustivas, em oficina em Sâo Paulo (Repórter Brasil)

Fiscais flagraram servidão por dívidas, degradância e jornadas exaustivas, em oficina em Sâo Paulo (Repórter Brasil)

Confira a série especial de reportagens publicadas sobre o flagrante de trabalho escravo na cadeia produtiva da grife de moda Zara, da empresa espanhola Inditex. A Repórter Brasil acompanhou as investigações do Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego e as fiscalizações in loco e trouxe o caso à tona, que ganhou repercussão internacional.

Saiba mais:
MPT destina parte de verba da Zara para libertados
Acordo entre Zara e MPT descarta dano moral coletivo 

Zara recusa acordo com Ministério Público do Trabalho

Cobranças públicas dirigidas à grife Zara são intensificadas
Após desculpas, Zara anuncia “acordos” ainda não fechados
Zara não comparece à Assembleia Legislativa; CPI é defendida
Fabricantes da Zara não foram revisitados por auditorias em 2010
Roupas da Zara são fabricadas com mão de obra escrava
Zara é denunciada por escravidão na Argentina

Collins – maio 2011

De acordo com a DPU-SP, Collins abusou ao usar "trabalho escravo para aumento de lucro" (Bianca Pyl)

De acordo com a DPU-SP, Collins abusou ao usar “trabalho escravo para aumento de lucro” (Bianca Pyl)

A Defensoria Pública da União em São Paulo (DPU/SP) ajuizou ação civil pública contra a empresa de vestuário Collins, envolvida em flagrante de trabalho análogo à escravidão em agosto de 2010. Trata-se da primeira ação coletiva apresentada pelo órgão ao Judiciário trabalhista. “Por falta de defensores, não há como atuarmos também na Justiça do Trabalho. Contudo, quando há uma relação com questões de direitos humanos, como é o caso do tráfico internacional e do trabalho escravo, nós atuamos”, observa Marcus Vinícius Rodrigues Lima, do Oficio de Direitos Humanos e Tutela Coletiva da DPU/SP, que moveu a ação.

Saiba mais:
DPU ajuíza ação contra a Collins por trabalho escravo 

Pernambucanas – abril 2011

Mulheres também foram encontradas em condições análogas à escravidão na oficina em rua tranquila da Zona Norte da capital paulista (Bianca Pyl)

Mulheres também foram encontradas em condições análogas à escravidão na oficina em rua tranquila da Zona Norte da capital paulista (Bianca Pyl)

A casa branca, localizada em uma rua tranquila da Zona Norte da capital paulista, não levantava suspeita. Dentro dela, no entanto, 16 pessoas vindas da Bolívia viviam e eram explorados em condições de escravidão contemporânea na fabricação de roupas. O grupo costurava blusas da coleção Outono-Inverno da Argonaut, marca jovem da tradicional Pernambucanas, no momento em que auditores fiscais da Superintendência Regional do Trabalho e Emprego de São Paulo (SRTE/SP) chegaram ao local. A marca este envolvida em dois flagrantes: um em março de 2011 e outro em setembro de 2010.

Saiba mais:
Trabalho escravo é flagrado na cadeia da Pernambucanas
Rede Pernambucanas esteve envolvida em flagrante anterior 

775 – novembro 2010

Meio ambiente de trabalho na oficina que atendia a marca 775 era irregular e prejudicial aos trabalhadores (SRTE-SP)

Meio ambiente de trabalho na oficina que atendia a marca 775 era irregular e prejudicial aos trabalhadores (SRTE-SP)

Fiscalização encontrou duas bolivianas em condição de trabalho escravo no meio urbano e providenciou abrigo às vítimas. Submetidas a uma rotina de violências físicas e morais, elas costuraram exclusivamente para a marca 775.

Saiba mais:
Costureiras são resgatadas de escravidão em ação inédita

IBGE- outubro 2010

Quando chegou ao complexo de oficinas, fiscalização flagrou boliviano vestindo colete do IBGE, confeccionado em regime análogo ao escravo (Bianca Pyl)

Quando chegou ao complexo de oficinas, fiscalização flagrou boliviano vestindo colete do IBGE, confeccionado em regime análogo ao escravo (Bianca Pyl)

Vencedora da licitação dos 230 mil coletes deixou quase toda a produção (99,12%) para terceiros. Um deles, que não tinha nem registro básico, repassou parte da demanda para oficina que mantinha trabalho escravo.

Escravizados produziram coletes de recenseadores do IBGE

Marisa – março 2010

Oficina de costura fiscalizada produzia peças femininas para a Marisa, uma das maiores redes varejistas do país (Maurício Hashizume)

Oficina de costura fiscalizada produzia peças femininas para a Marisa, uma das maiores redes varejistas do país (Maurício Hashizume)

Etapas do processo desde o aliciamento até as lojas do magazine foram apuradas pela Superintendência Regional do Trabalho e Emprego de São Paulo (SRTE-SP), que aplicou 43 autos de infração, com passivo total de R$ 633,6 mil.

Saiba mais:
Escravidão é flagrada em oficina de costura ligada à Marisa
Marisa assina Pacto contra escravidão e anuncia mudanças
Marisa é suspensa de pacto contra escravidão
Para AGU, Marisa deve ser incluída na “lista suja” do trabalho escravo
Justiça absolve Lojas Marisa em caso de trabalho escravo

Especial atualizado regularmente com inclusão de novos casos.

Esta matéria foi originalmente publicada pelo Repórter Brasil

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18 Nov 09:08

Chegada da Amazon aquece debate no mercado sobre o preço fixo do livro - 17/11/2014 - Ilustrada - Folha de S.Paulo

A gigante americana Amazon ainda está mais para nanica no Brasil, onde vende livros impressos há três meses, mas editores e livreiros temem esperar para ver a varejista crescer ao ponto de monopolizar o mercado, como acontece nos EUA e a Inglaterra.

Após anos de discussões sobre uma legislação que estipule o preço fixo para o livro, e apesar de o tema ainda dividir o mercado, um projeto de lei deve ser apresentado em Brasília em 2015. A iniciativa será da senadora eleita Fátima Bezerra (PT-RN), com apoio da Associação Nacional de Livrarias (ANL).

As leis de preço fixo, em vigor em países como a França e a Espanha, impedem as lojas de darem descontos acima de 5% em lançamentos. Os grandes descontos, comuns às redes —que, ao comprar mais livros dos editores, conseguem adquiri-los e repassá-los ao consumidor por preços mais baixos— são considerados prejudiciais às livrarias independentes.

Antes de a discussão chegar ao Senado, nesta segunda (17) e nesta terça (18), no Rio e em São Paulo, dois seminários debaterão o tema —o segundo será capitaneado pela ANL, antiga defensora da lei do preço fixo, mas a surpresa fica por conta do primeiro encontro, coordenado pelo Sindicato Nacional dos Editores de Livros (Snel), que por anos foi contrário à proposta.

"O Snel sempre acreditou que o preço é uma ferramenta de marketing e, como tal, pode ser utilizado como impulsionador de vendas. Está aí a Black Friday, em que promoções trazem resultados incríveis. Mas temos recebido queixas dos pequenos livreiros, que sofrem com a pressão da concorrência. Daí um seminário para entender como funciona o modelo em mercados mais maduros que o nosso", diz Sônia Jardim, presidente do Snel.


O seminário carioca reúne nesta segunda palestrantes de países que adotam a prática, como França e Alemanha, ou já adotaram, como a Inglaterra.

Entre os participantes, o britânico Sam Edenborough, presidente da Associação de Autores e Agentes do Reino Unido, país em que um acordo comercial para o preço fixo vigorou de 1890 a 1997, afirma que, se o Brasil quiser implantar uma lei, deve fazê-lo já.

"Há uma janela estreia de oportunidade no Brasil —e a hora é agora— para introduzir uma lei do preço fixo. Isso poderia estabilizar a indústria e impedir a Amazon de construir uma posição extremamente dominante. Nos EUA e no Reino Unido ela [a Amazon] fez isso; na Alemanha, na França e em outros países que têm regulamentação, ela não conseguiu", diz o especialista.

Para ele, uma lei protegeria autores, editores, livreiros e consumidores —que teriam mais títulos a escolher. "O importante é que os consumidores entendam por que a lei pode ser necessária e como poderia beneficiá-los."

Ednilson Xavier, presidente da ANL, diz que a regulamentação pode até baratear o livro. "Havendo mais livrarias para o escoamento do livro, este pode ser barateado pela escala." Para ele, um dos perigo dos grandes descontos é que eles reduzem a bibliodiversidade.


Um exemplo desse cenário pôde ser percebido no Reino Unido nas últimas décadas, desde que, em meados dos anos 1990, alguns editores abandonaram o acordo comercial que estabelecia o preço fixo.

"Com o fim do acordo, começou uma era de grandes descontos, especialmente nos best-sellers. Os editores passaram a focar em títulos mais comerciais —ficção de massa, biografias de celebridades, livros de filmes. O alcance e a diversidade dos livros sofreu, e essa situação permitiu que um único varejista passasse a dar as regras", diz Sam Edenborough, que não vê mais possibilidade de um novo acordo no Reino Unido.

O seminário do Snel reúne ainda nomes da França, onde uma lei permite descontos de apenas 5% até dois anos depois do lançamento, e da Alemanha, onde o controle é exercido pela indústria, mas não trouxe nenhum especialista dos EUA, que nunca exerceu controle do tipo.

A presidente do Snel, Sônia Jardim, tem dúvidas sobre qual modelo seria mais efetivo no caso de adoção no Brasil —na avaliação dela, o alemão seria o mais adequado, já que pode ser mais facilmente revertido caso não funcione.

"Mas não sei, por exemplo, como ficariam eventos promocionais, como as bienais do livro ou datas específicas. O desconto ficaria limitado ao previsto pela lei?"

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03 Nov 15:25

Bryan Cheung's Liferay Is Doing Well To Do Well

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Reportagem sobre o chefinho. Muito bem, chefinho! Inclusive, se espirrar, saúde!

A Series of Forbes Insights Profiles of Thought Leaders Changing the Business Landscape:  Bryan Cheung, Co-Founder and CEO, Liferay… 

Bryan Cheung spent a good portion of his twenties in something of a quarter-life crisis: Once the Los Angeles native graduated from UC Berkeley in 1999, he considered careers in non-profit work, teaching, and even international law, in order to fulfill his personal desire to make an impact. “My personality profile tells me I’m an idealist,” says Cheung. “I thought, ‘It’s not fair for me to live this very comfortable life in the States’while others are struggling.”

So it may seem like a complete 180 that Cheung is now the CEO of Liferay, a very much for-profit company that provides open source portal software and services to some of the world’s largest companies, including Toyota, Allianz and Cisco. In 10 years, the firm has expanded to 550 employees, with 16 offices around the globe, and has been recognized as a leader for five consecutive years in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant – the annual survey of the portal market – even placing ahead of Oracle and Microsoft in the latest report. Liferay has been consistently profitable since 2004 with double-digit growth every year, and the team has taken zero investor funding.

Bryan Cheung, Co-Founder and CEO, Liferay Bryan Cheung, Co-Founder and CEO, Liferay

But Cheung contends that doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive. In fact, those goals are Liferay’s raison d’etre: Cheung joined in founding Liferay with Brian Chan, Brian Kim, and Michael Young, he says, “because we realized that when you want to make an impact in the world, doing it in a non-profit fashion is of some usefulness, but doing it through a business context is actually, in many ways, more powerful.”

In the ambitious environment at Berkeley in the late 90s, most students were pursuing pragmatic careers: biology majors headed for medical school and history majors pursuing law were not uncommon. While it never sat well with Cheung to be quite so practical, due to family circumstances he studied Computer Science, “so I could get a job,” studying alongside colleagues doing research in 3D rendering and advanced operating systems. “I’m sure a lot of my fellow students, who were much brighter than I am, have gone on to do very important work,” Cheung mused. Meanwhile, Cheung graduated and spent some time at Accenture before joining a startup himself (which quickly failed in late 2000). “The practical choice didn’t immediately turn out so well,” he laughs, but it was at the startup that he met Brian Chan, who would later be a life-changing friend and partner.

Meanwhile, the nagging feeling of wanting to do more hadn’t quite gone away. “When I was young, a woman who worked at my mom’s flower shop, who was sort of a hippie, gave us a tape of a singer named Keith Green. I can still hear him saying, ‘This generation… is responsible for this generation of souls’—and he meant that very holistically. I haven’t forgotten that sense of responsibility.” A turning point came on a trip to Turkey in 2002. It was there Cheung met a young engineering student whose plan was to work hard at a master’s degree in order to return to his native Kazakhstan to help in that country’s development. This snapped Cheung out of his self-described “martyr complex.” “I had the perspective of, ‘Well, I shouldn’t have it better off than anyone else, so I should live like people who are poor.’ But I realized the more noble path would be to use the benefits and advantages I’ve been given to help others stand on their own feet.”

Cheung considered the options before him. He applied to law school, intent on studying international law and diplomacy. Then one day Chan called, asking Cheung if he’d be interested in starting a company, together with some friends, that would “make a lot of money to give a lot of money away,” donating to disaster relief, supporting orphans, or helping other non-profits. Did Cheung want to join? “I wasn’t so interested in writing checks,” says Cheung. “I wanted to be on the front line, and actually be the one making the direct impact.” But Cheung decided to join Chan doing professional services, sales and marketing, deferring law school for a year. “I still would love to have lived in New York, but I’m happy I dodged the law school bullet.”

Over time, the initial focus on giving away money shifted, as the Liferay team realized that the business itself could be a vehicle for making an impact, by contributing skills and software and by helping apply business principles to non-profit endeavors. “We talked to a lot of non-profits,” Cheung says. “We learned that, A) they’d rather have us build their websites than to go die in a jungle somewhere, and B) that a lot of these organizations struggled with fundraising, marketing, things like that, which often got in the way of doing the work that they wanted to do.” When the partners realized they could offer good back-end support to non-profits, they re-doubled their efforts with Liferay.

Business at the L.A.-headquartered company started growing. At the time, many portals were focused on integration and infrastructure but lacked a strong set of out of the box features that added immediate value. The Liferay team saw an opportunity. By incorporating forums, message boards, blogs and wikis, as well as document-management features, Liferay sought to provide everything a company would need to create an engaging, dynamic website or intranet. Since the product was free to download, Cheung says, universities, government agencies and even some “cutting-edge financial services companies” were using the software—without Liferay’s knowledge, until they would call or email out of the blue. When they did, Liferay offered professional software services to support them, and that funded the business. Then, in 2009, Liferay launched its Enterprise Subscription service.. Today that accounts for 90% of its revenue, up from less than 10% five years earlier.

At the same time that revenues and profits are growing, Liferay’s commitment to communities is, too. Through a foundation, Liferay sets aside 10% of its profits to support global causes, particularly in ways that are empowering and self-sustaining. Employees are encouraged to volunteer at approved non-profits, and are given five days a year to do so. Liferay’s international presence—in South America, China, Japan, Singapore, and Australia, among other places—exists not only to secure new customers, but, as Cheung says, it “puts more eyes out in the world to see where we can get involved.”

For instance, on a recent business trip to Asia, Cheung and some Liferay employees visited an orphanage in China for disabled children; Liferay spent time with the orphans and spoke with their leadership about how portal technology might help people develop an emotional connection with the orphans and get them adopted. Cheung also met with a group fighting human-trafficking—meetings that he admits are probably not “typical for a CEO.” But, he adds, “I’ve had the good fortune of being able to—through my role at Liferay—do a lot of these very front-line-changing things and make that direct impact.”

Liferay believes supporting non-profits is most effective when that support leads to self-sustainability, not dependency. In a Guatemalan village this year, for instance, Liferay donated the money, and sent employees as volunteers, to build a well. “This means that little girls don’t have to go to the river now to get water,” says Cheung. “They can stay in school, get educated, and have better outcomes for future generations.”

On the business side, Cheung foresees even more personalization in the portal space. He admires companies such as SAS,  the privately-held software company headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, which is consistently ranked one of the best places to work in America.

As the Liferay team seeks new business opportunities, other social causes continually come across the radar screen, both locally and abroad. Diverse needs such as urban renewal in South Los Angeles and the Sudan refugee crisis—through non-profits World Impact and Samaritan’s Purse—are just two causes to which Liferay has donated. North Korea’s food and fuel crisis is another area in which Cheung, a Korean-American, has a particular interest.

Cheung is realistic about how much of a difference one software company can make. “I don’t pretend we’re going to single-handedly ‘fix’ all the issues out there. But we do our best to contribute, and ultimately find that it’s all for our own good, to satisfy our souls. In that sense, we’re hardly altruistic.”

Regardless, Cheung and the Liferay team are in the right place to tackle some of these issues—although it took a while for him to see that. A few years ago, he says, “I thought, ‘You know, maybe my life is starting to look like the way I always imagined it to be.’”

Bruce H. Rogers is the co-author of the recently published book Profitable Brilliance: How Professional Service Firms Become Thought Leaders

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22 Nov 02:03

"I didn’t do it. It was the dog." [poppze/via]

"I didn’t do it. It was the dog." [poppze/via]

23 Nov 21:00

nevver: London

Pejac For Sushisamba Restaurant (London)

Pejac For Sushisamba Restaurant (London)

Pejac For Sushisamba Restaurant (London)

Pejac For Sushisamba Restaurant (London)

Pejac For Sushisamba Restaurant (London)



22 Nov 23:37

hkirkh: Wood sphere


Wood sphere

22 Nov 07:12


23 Nov 05:20


23 Nov 14:13


21 Nov 15:02

Manual para entender a lei de imigração de Obama

by gustavochacra

Quantos imigrantes em situação ilegal há nos EUA?

Calcula-se que ao redor 11 milhões. A maior parte dele tem origem latino-americana, incluindo dezenas de milhares (talvez centenas de milhares) de brasileiros

Como é a situação deles hoje?

Eles estão ilegalmente no país e podem ser deportados a qualquer momento

Muitos são deportados?

Sim. Na administração de Barack Obama, mais de 1 milhão de pessoas foram deportadas. Este número supera o de todos os presidentes dos EUA no passado

Como muda a nova lei nos EUA?

. Imigrantes em situação ilegal que estejam no país há mais de cinco anos e/ou tenham filhos nascidos nos EUA poderão permanecer temporariamente se pagarem seus impostos e for verificado que eles não possuem antecedentes criminais. Isto é, elas não correrão mais o risco de ser deportadas

. Será retirado o limite de idade dos “Dreamers” – pessoas que vieram aos EUA ainda crianças. Antes, eles deviam ter menos de 30 anos e terem menos de 16 quando trazidos aos EUA. Agora não há limite de idade no presente, embora os 16 anos sejam mantidos

. Estes imigrantes continuarão sem receber benefícios do governo na área de saúde e social. Isto é, eles não serão como os imigrantes com Green Card e tampouco como os que possuem visto de trabalho

Quantos imigrantes em situação ilegal tendem a ser beneficiados?

Cerca de 5 milhões, ou 45% do total, devem ser beneficiados, não correndo mais o risco de serem deportados

Quem imigrar ilegalmente agora ou tiver imigrado nos últimos cinco anos terá alguma vantagem?

Não. E talvez fique mais difícil imigrar ilegalmente por terra porque o governo deve intensificar a segurança na fronteira

O que significa a “ação executiva” de Obama?

Seria muito próximo de ume medida provisória no Brasil. Basicamente, ele aprovou uma lei sem o aval do Congresso

Esta atitude é constitucional?

Há juristas que dizem que sim e há juristas que dizem que não. Os opositores a Obama devem contestar a decisão

Foi a primeira vez que um presidente fez uma ordem executiva na área da imigração?

Não. George Bush, o pai, Ronald Reagan e Dwight Eisenhower também apelaram a ordens executivas na área da imigração, embora em escala menor e em outros contextos

Reagan anistiou os imigrantes ilegais?

Sim, o então presidente assinou uma lei de anistia aprovada pelo Congresso, dando status legal a 3 milhões imigrantes. No ano seguinte, por meio de ordem executiva, expandiu para outros 100 mil

E Bush pai?

Por meio de ordem executiva, ele permitiu que cônjuges e filhos de imigrantes que estavam se regularizando nos EUA pudessem permanecer legalmente no país

Por que o Congresso não aprovou uma lei de imigração?

Na verdade, o Senado aprovou com 68 votos, em medida com apoio dos democratas e de alguns republicanos. A lei, inclusive, dava um passo mais a frente do que o de Obama, pois abria caminho para a concessão de cidadania no longo prazo para os imigrantes em situação ilegal. A Câmara dos Deputados, porém, não votou esta lei em mais de um ano e meio. Este é o argumento de Obama para fazer a ação executiva

 A lei de Obama pode ser revertida?

Sim, por duas vias. Primeiro, por um futuro presidente. E, em segundo lugar, caso o Congresso aprove uma lei

Por que a Câmara não votou a lei aprovada no Senado?

Porque os deputados republicanos, em sua maioria, são contrários a qualquer ação que leve à permanência no país de cidadãos que entraram ilegalmente. E eles também optaram por não fazer a própria lei

Então os republicanos se opõem aos imigrantes em situação ilegal?

Depende de quem estivermos falando. Há políticos republicanos, como os da família Bush (o pai, o filho George e seu irmão Jeb) que são ainda mais moderados do que Obama nesta questão. Eles defendem praticamente a anistia dos imigrantes – pesa Jeb Bush ser casado com uma mexicana e ter dois filhos que se identificam como hispânicos. Mas há uma ala grande no partido que adota posturas radicalmente contra os imigrantes

E a população dos EUA, como vê a decisão de Obama?

De acordo com pesquisa do Wall Street Journal/NBC, 38% da população era a favor e 48% contra

A população dos EUA apoia a reforma da imigração?

Cerca de 57% apoiam uma lei que leve à cidadania dos imigrantes em situação ilegal. Este número sobe para 74% caso eles paguem os impostos devidos

Não sei como faz para publicar comentários. Portanto pediria que comentem no meu Facebook (Guga Chacra)  e no Twitter (@gugachacra), aberto para seguidores

Guga Chacra, comentarista de política internacional do Estadão e do programa Globo News Em Pauta em Nova York, é mestre em Relações Internacionais pela Universidade Columbia. Já foi correspondente do jornal O Estado de S. Paulo no Oriente Médio e em NY. No passado, trabalhou como correspondente da Folha em Buenos Aires

Comentários islamofóbicos, antissemitas, anticristãos e antiárabes ou que coloquem um povo ou uma religião como superiores não serão publicados. Tampouco são permitidos ataques entre leitores ou contra o blogueiro. Pessoas que insistirem em ataques pessoais não terão mais seus comentários publicados. Não é permitido postar vídeo. Todos os posts devem ter relação com algum dos temas acima. O blog está aberto a discussões educadas e com pontos de vista diferentes. Os comentários dos leitores não refletem a opinião do jornalista

Acompanhe também meus comentários no Globo News Em Pauta, na Rádio Estadão, na TV Estadão, no Estadão Noite no tablet, no Twitter @gugachacra , no Facebook Guga Chacra (me adicionem como seguidor), no Instagram e no Google Plus. Escrevam para mim no gugacha

16 Nov 05:00

O manifesto e a saída da ministra

Na semana passada, tratei do manifesto assinado por diversos economistas heterodoxos, com críticas a um ajustamento econômico mais profundo no segundo mandato de Dilma. O texto do manifesto pode ser encontrado em

O manifesto defende a continuidade da política econômica adotada a partir de 2009 e com mais intensidade a partir de 2011.

Trata-se de um conjunto de medidas, que ficou conhecido por nova matriz econômica, na expres-são cunhada pelo ministro da Fazenda, que representa forte virada heterodoxa em relação ao regime de política econômica do período de Malan e Palocci, também chamado de "Malocci".

Entre tantas medidas do paco-te de heterodoxias do atual regime de política econômica, podem ser mencionados:

a) o controle direto dos preços e a maior leniência com a inflação; b) a tentativa de reduzir na marra os juros; c) a perda de transpa-
rência na política fiscal, além da forte piora das contas públicas; d) o excesso de intervencionismo nas políticas de desenvolvimento setorial (política de conteúdo nacio-nal e alteração do marco regulatório do petróleo, entre outras) e de concessão de crédito subsidiado (hipertrofia do BNDES); e) desonerações de impostos tópicas, segundo lógica muito pouco transparente; etc. A lista é longa.

Evidentemente discordo integralmente dos termos do manifesto. Devo ser mais um dos "porta-vozes do mercado financeiro", que é como o documento se refere a quem pensa diferente deles.

Um dos erros mais crassos do manifesto é comparar a situação econômica que vivemos com a dos países centrais, principalmente a União Europeia e o Japão e em menor medida os Estados Unidos.

As economias centrais experimentam elevadas taxas de desemprego, risco deflacionário, juros nominais nulos e superavit externo.

No nosso caso temos baixo desemprego, inflação no teto da meta, juros nominais de 11,25% ao ano e subindo e deficit externo a caminho de 4% do PIB. O baixo crescimento, diferentemente do caso europeu ou do japonês, não resulta da carência de demanda, mas sim do baixo crescimento da produtividade. Trata-se de problema de oferta, e não de demanda.

Na semana passada, a ministra da Cultura e ex-prefeita de São Paulo pelo PT, Marta Suplicy, entregou sua carta de demissão.

Carta de oito parágrafos, no sétimo lê-se: "Todos nós, brasileiros, desejamos, neste momento, que a senhora seja iluminada ao escolher sua nova equipe de trabalho, a começar por uma equipe econômica independente, experiente e comprovada, que resgate a confiança e a credibilidade ao seu governo e que, acima de tudo, esteja comprometida com uma nova agenda de estabilidade e crescimento para o nosso país. Isso é o que hoje o Brasil, ansiosamente, aguarda e espera".

Há claramente na carta da ministra demissionária uma crítica ao atual regime de política econômica e um pedido para que se retorne ao regime de política econômica do período "Malocci".

Meu entendimento é que a ministra ecoa crítica maior do partido, e principalmente dos políticos do partido, à alteração do regime de política econômica que houve em 2009.

Os políticos, animais pragmáticos que são, incluindo Lula, já perceberam há tempos que a nova matriz econômica deu com os burros n'água. A defesa da nova matriz é tarefa unicamente ideológica das pessoas que, por formação, creem que esse pacote de política econômica está correto e que todos os problemas que temos tido resultam da crise internacional.

A temperatura deve estar quente nas hostes petistas. De um lado, os políticos profissionais, liderados por Lula, demandando uma virada pragmática na política econômica -de preferência que a presidente terceirize a política econômica para um novo Palocci.

Enquanto isso, economistas ideológicos, incluindo a presidente e o atual ministro-chefe da Casa Civil, Aloizio Mercadante, defendem o legado da nova matriz.

É esse o sentido da escolha do novo ministro da Fazenda. O nome sinalizará se haverá ou não uma virada liberal na política econômica.

22 Nov 17:00

nevver: Odd Nerdrum

18 Nov 20:29

Cartoonist Josh Hara Draws on His Coffee Cup(s) Every Morning...

Cartoonist Josh Hara Draws on His Coffee Cup(s) Every Morning [more]

Previously: How to Get 10% Off Your Order at Not a Burger Stand

18 Nov 05:23

The Double Dust Disks of HD 95086

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2014 November 17
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

The Double Dust Disks of HD 95086
Illustration Credit: Spitzer Space Telescope, JPL, NASA

Explanation: What do other star systems look like? To help find out, astronomers are carrying out detailed observations of nearby stars in infrared light to see which have dust disks that might be forming planets. Observations by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and ESA's Herschel Space Observatory have found that planetary system HD 95086 has two dust disks: a hot one near the parent star and a cooler one farther out. An artist's illustration of how the system might appear is featured here, including hypothetical planets with large rings that orbit between the disks. The planets may have created the large gap between the disks by absorbing and deflecting dust with their gravity. HD 95086 is a blue star about 60 percent more massive than our Sun that lies about 300 light years from Earth and is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of Carina. Studying the HD 95086 system may help astronomers better understand the formation and evolution of our own Solar System as well as the Earth.

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17 Nov 21:00

Zeugma mosaics

Zeugma mosaics

21 Nov 21:00

The Civil War Comes Alive As 3D GIFS

21 Nov 17:47

The Vest Epiphany

Adam Victor Brandizzi


Using this image without linking to here isn't sharing it's just theft.  

You've heard the old adage 'you learn something new everyday' or even 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks'? Well this old dog recently learned a very new trick.

Ten years I've been a Mum, ten years.  Not once in these ten years did I question why baby vests have envelope shoulders.  I just blithely accepted that this is how the world is.  Sure, it makes them a bit easier to get them over baby's head but that's about it.  Then somebody on a FaceBook parenting group enlightened me with the news that the shoulder design serves a purpose.  We've all been there, your baby has created a poonami.  Shit (or vomit) has quite literally hit the fan (and everywhere else).  You need to strip baby and hose them down. You fear things couldn't possibly get any worse until you try to get the vest over their head (something many babies object to even when the vest isn't dripping with shit) cue poo being moved up over their chest, shoulders and in their hair.

So what if I told you that you can roll the vests down and take them off that way?  Crisis averted.

If you already knew this, why didn't you tell me?! If this is news to you, like it was to me, welcome to enlightenment!

Ever the cynic I decided to try this strange witchery out.  It works.  Better still, it works one handed! How do I know this? why, I filmed it of course!  Actually I filmed it twice.  The first time was a genuine poonami situation yet I feared the site of explosive breastfed poo splattered baby may traumatise you so I did it again with a clean Moomin then tossed a coin as to which one I blogged.  Excuse the crap video, I'm not a V-Blogger, it was midnight with shit lighting and it's filmed one handed with my phone. Oh and yes, Moomin did infact poo mid video.  She's her Father's child.

***Disclaimer: this entry is a bit of fun. Obviously I don't know if this is officially the reason they were designed this way but it's certainly made my life a whole lot easier!

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