Arquivo da tag: Autoritarismo

Data fog: Why some countries’ coronavirus numbers do not add up (Al Jazeera)

Reported numbers of confirmed cases have become fodder for the political gristmill. Here is what non-politicians think.

By Laura Winter – 17 Jun 2020

Students at a university in Germany evaluate data from COVID-19 patients [Reuters]
Students at a university in Germany evaluate data from COVID-19 patients [Reuters]

Have you heard the axiom “In war, truth is the first casualty?”

As healthcare providers around the world wage war against the COVID-19 pandemic, national governments have taken to brawling with researchers, the media and each other over the veracity of the data used to monitor and track the disease’s march across the globe.

Allegations of deliberate data tampering carry profound public health implications. If a country knowingly misleads the World Health Organization (WHO) about the emergence of an epidemic or conceals the severity of an outbreak within its borders, precious time is lost. Time that could be spent mobilising resources around the globe to contain the spread of the disease. Time to prepare health systems for a coming tsunami of infections. Time to save more lives.

No one country has claimed that their science or data is perfect: French and US authorities confirmed they had their first coronavirus cases weeks earlier than previously thought.

Still, coronavirus – and the data used to benchmark it – has become grist for the political mill. But if we tune out the voices of politicians and pundits, and listen to those of good governance experts, data scientists and epidemiological specialists, what does the most basic but consequential data – the number of confirmed cases per country – tell us about how various governments around the globe are crunching coronavirus numbers and spinning corona-narratives?

What the good governance advocates say

Similar to how meteorologists track storms, data scientists use models to express how epidemics progress, and to predict where the next hurricane of new infections will batter health systems.

This data is fed by researchers into computer modelling programmes that national authorities and the WHO use to advise countries and aid organisations on where to send medical professionals and equipment, and when to take actions such as issuing lockdown orders.

The WHO also harnesses this data to produce a daily report that news organisations use to provide context around policy decisions related to the pandemic. But, unlike a hurricane, which cannot be hidden, epidemic data can be fudged and manipulated.

“The WHO infection numbers are based on reporting from its member states. The WHO cannot verify these numbers,” said Michael Meyer-Resende, Democracy Reporting International’s executive director.

To date, more than 8 million people have been diagnosed as confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of that number, more than 443,000 have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Those numbers are commonly quoted, but what is often not explained is that they both ultimately hinge on two factors: how many people are being tested, and the accuracy of the tests being administered. These numbers we “fetishise”, said Meyer-Resende, “depend on testing, on honesty of governments and on size of the population”.

“Many authoritarian governments are not transparent with their data generally, and one should not expect that they are transparent in this case,” he said. To test Meyer-Resende’s theory that less government transparency equals less transparent COVID-19 case data, Al Jazeera used Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index and the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index as lenses through which to view the number of reported cases of the coronavirus.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index

The examination revealed striking differences in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases that those nations deemed transparent and democratic reported compared to the numbers reported by nations perceived to be corrupt and authoritarian.

Denmark, with a population of roughly six million, is ranked in the top 10 of the most transparent and democratic countries. The country reported on May 1 that it had 9,158 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a ratio of 1,581 confirmed cases per million. That was more than triple the world average for that day – 412 cases per million people – according to available data.

Data Fog graphic 2/Laura Winter

Meanwhile, Turkmenistan, a regular in the basement of governance and corruption indexes, maintains that not one of its roughly six million citizens has been infected with COVID-19, even though it borders and has extensive trade with Iran, a regional epicentre of the pandemic.

Also on May 1, Myanmar, with a population of more than 56 million, reported just 151 confirmed cases of infection, a rate of 2.8 infections per million. That is despite the fact that every day, roughly 10,000 workers cross the border into China, where the pandemic first began.

On February 4, Myanmar suspended its air links with Chinese cities, including Wuhan, where COVID-19 is said to have originated last December (however, a recent study reported that the virus may have hit the city as early as August 2019).

“That just seems abnormal, out of the ordinary. Right?” said Roberto Kukutschka, Transparency International’s research coordinator, in reference to the numbers of reported cases.

“In these countries where you have high levels of corruption, there are high levels of discretion as well,” he told Al Jazeera. “It’s counter-intuitive that these countries are reporting so few cases, when all countries that are more open about these things are reporting way more. It’s very strange.”

While Myanmar has started taking steps to address the pandemic, critics say a month of preparation was lost to jingoistic denial. Ten days before the first two cases were confirmed, government spokesman Zaw Htay claimed the country was protected by its lifestyle and diet, and because cash is used instead of credit cards to make purchases.

Turkmenistan’s authorities have reportedly removed almost all mentions of the coronavirus from official publications, including a read-out of a March 27 phone call between Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

It is unclear if Turkmenistan even has a testing regime.

Russia, on the other hand, touts the number of tests it claims to have performed, but not how many people have been tested – and that is a key distinction because the same person can be tested more than once. Transparency International places Russia in the bottom third of its corruption index.

On May 1, Russia, with a population just above 145 million, reported that it had confirmed 106,498 cases of COVID-19 after conducting an astounding 3.72 million “laboratory tests”. Just 2.9 percent of the tests produced a positive result.

Data fog feature graphic 3/Laura Winter

Remember, Denmark’s population is six million, or half that of Moscow’s. Denmark had reportedly tested 206,576 people by May 1 and had 9,158 confirmed coronavirus cases, a rate of 4.4 percent. Finland, another democracy at the top of the transparency index, has a population of 5.5 million and a positive test result rate of 4.7 percent.

This discrepancy spurred the editors of PCR News, a Moscow-based Russian-language molecular diagnostics journal, to take a closer look at the Russian test. They reported that in order to achieve a positive COVID-19 result, the sample tested must contain a much higher volume of the virus, or viral load, as compared to the amount required for a positive influenza test result.

In terms of sensitivity or ability to detect COVID-19, the authors wrote: “Is it high or low? By modern standards – low.”

They later added, “The test will not reveal the onset of the disease, or it will be decided too early that the recovering patient no longer releases viruses and cannot infect anyone. And he walks along the street, and he is contagious.”

Ostensibly, if that person then dies, COVID-19 will not be certified as the cause of death.

Good governance experts see a dynamic at play.

Countries who test less will be shown as less of a problem. Countries that test badly will seem as if they don’t have a problem. Numbers are very powerful.

Michael Meyer-Resende, Democracy Reporting International

“In many of these countries, the legitimacy of the state depends on not going into crisis,” said Kukutschka, adding that he counts countries with world-class health systems among them.

“Countries who test less will be shown as less of a problem. Countries that test badly will seem as if they don’t have a problem,” said Meyer-Resende. “Numbers are very powerful. They seem objective.”

Meyer-Resende highlighted the case of China. “The Chinese government said for a while that it had zero new cases. That’s a very powerful statement. It says it all with a single digit: ‘We have solved the problem’. Except, it hadn’t. It had changed the way of counting cases.”

China – where the pandemic originated – recently escaped a joint US-Australian-led effort at the World Health Assembly to investigate whether Beijing had for weeks concealed a deadly epidemic from the WHO.

China alerted the WHO about the epidemic on December 31, 2019. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong estimated that the actual number of COVID-19 cases in China, where the coronavirus first appeared, could have been four times greater in the beginning of this year than what Chinese authorities had been reporting to the WHO.

“We estimated that by Feb 20, 2020, there would have been 232,000 confirmed cases in China as opposed to the 55,508 confirmed cases reported,” said the researchers’ report published by the Lancet.

The University of Hong Kong researchers attribute the discrepancy to ever-changing case definitions, the official guidance that tells doctors which symptoms – and therefore patients – can be diagnosed and recorded as COVID-19. China’s National Health Commission issued no less than seven versions of these guidelines between January 15 and March 3.

All of which adds to the confusion.

“Essentially, we are moving in a thick fog, and the numbers we have are no more than a small flashlight,” said Meyer-Resende.

What the epidemiological expert thinks

Dr Ghassan Aziz monitors epidemics in the Middle East. He is the Health Surveillance Program manager at the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Middle East Unit. He spoke to Al Jazeera in his own capacity and not on behalf of the NGO.

“I think Iran, they’re not reporting everything,” he told Al Jazeera. “It’s fair to assume that [some countries] are underreporting because they are under-diagnosing. They report what they detect.”

He later added that US sanctions against Iran, which human rights groups say have drastically constrained Tehran’s ability to finance imports of medicines and medical equipment, could also be a factor.

“Maybe [it’s] on purpose, and maybe because of the sanctions and the lack of testing capacities,” said Aziz.

Once China shared the novel coronavirus genome on January 24, many governments began in earnest to test their populations. Others have placed limits on who can be tested.

In Brazil, due to a sustained lack of available tests, patients using the public health network in April were tested only if they were hospitalised with severe symptoms. On April 1, Brazil reported that 201 people had died from the virus. That number was challenged by doctors and relatives of the dead. A month later, after one minister of health was fired and another resigned after a week on the job, the testing protocols had not changed.

On May 1, Brazil reported that COVID-19 was the cause of death for 5,901 people. On June 5, Brazil’s health ministry took down the website that reported cumulative coronavirus numbers – only to be ordered by the country’s Supreme Court to reinstate the information.

Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “a little flu”. Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes accused the government of attempting to manipulate statistics, calling it “a manoeuvre of totalitarian regimes”.

Brazil currently has the dubious distinction of having the second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the world, behind the US. By June 15, the COVID-19 death toll in the country had surpassed 43,300 people.

Dr Aziz contends that even with testing, many countries customarily employ a “denial policy”. He said in his native country, Iraq, health authorities routinely obfuscate health emergencies by changing the names of outbreaks such as cholera to “endemic diarrhoea”, or Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever to “epidemic fever”.

“In Iraq, they give this idea to the people that ‘We did our best. We controlled it,'” Dr Aziz said. “When someone dies, ‘Oh. It’s not COVID-19. He was sick. He was old. This is God’s will. It was Allah.’ This is what I find so annoying.”

What the data scientist says

Sarah Callaghan, a data scientist and the editor-in-chief of Patterns, a data-science medical journal, told Al Jazeera the numbers of confirmed cases countries report reflect “the unique testing and environmental challenges that each country is facing”.

But, she cautioned: “Some countries have the resources and infrastructure to carry out widespread testing, others simply don’t. Some countries might have the money and the ability to test, but other local issues come into play, like politics.”

According to Callaghan, even in the best of times under the best circumstances, collecting data on an infectious disease is both difficult and expensive. But despite the difficulties presented by some countries’ data, she remains confident that the data and modelling that is available will indeed contribute much to understanding how COVID-19 spreads, how the virus reacts to different environmental conditions, and discovering the questions that need answers.

Her advice is: “When looking at the numbers, think about them. Ask yourself if you trust the source. Ask yourself if the source is trying to push a political or economic agenda.”

“There’s a lot about this situation that we don’t know, and a lot more misinformation that’s being spread, accidentally or deliberately.”

The ‘3.5% rule’: How a small minority can change the world (BBC)

Protestors in Sudan (Credit: Getty Images)

By David Robson – 13th May 2019

Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts – and those engaging a threshold of 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change.

In 1986, millions of Filipinos took to the streets of Manila in peaceful protest and prayer in the People Power movement. The Marcos regime folded on the fourth day.

In 2003, the people of Georgia ousted Eduard Shevardnadze through the bloodless Rose Revolution, in which protestors stormed the parliament building holding the flowers in their hands.

Earlier this year, the presidents of Sudan and Algeria both announced they would step aside after decades in office, thanks to peaceful campaigns of resistance.  

In each case, civil resistance by ordinary members of the public trumped the political elite to achieve radical change.

There are, of course, many ethical reasons to use nonviolent strategies. But compelling research by Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, confirms that civil disobedience is not only the moral choice; it is also the most powerful way of shaping world politics – by a long way.

Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. And although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.

Chenoweth’s influence can be seen in the recent Extinction Rebellion protests, whose founders say they have been directly inspired by her findings. So just how did she come to these conclusions?

The organisers of Extinction Rebellion have stated that Chenoweth's work inspired their campaign (Credit: Getty Images)

The organisers of Extinction Rebellion have stated that Chenoweth’s work inspired their campaign (Credit: Getty Images)

Needless to say, Chenoweth’s research builds on the philosophies of many influential figures throughout history. The African-American abolitionist Sojourner Truth, the suffrage campaigner Susan B Anthony, the Indian independence activist Mahatma Gandhi and the US civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King have all convincingly argued for the power of peaceful protest.

Yet Chenoweth admits that when she first began her research in the mid-2000s, she was initially rather cynical of the idea that nonviolent actions could be more powerful than armed conflict in most situations. As a PhD student at the University of Colorado, she had spent years studying the factors contributing to the rise of terrorism when she was asked to attend an academic workshop organised by the International Center of Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), a non-profit organisation based in Washington DC. The workshop presented many compelling examples of peaceful protests bringing about lasting political change – including, for instance, the People Power protests in the Philippines.

But Chenoweth was surprised to find that no-one had comprehensively compared the success rates of nonviolent versus violent protests; perhaps the case studies were simply chosen through some kind of confirmation bias. “I was really motivated by some scepticism that nonviolent resistance could be an effective method for achieving major transformations in society,” she says

Working with Maria Stephan, a researcher at the ICNC, Chenoweth performed an extensive review of the literature on civil resistance and social movements from 1900 to 2006 – a data set then corroborated with other experts in the field. They primarily considered attempts to bring about regime change. A movement was considered a success if it fully achieved its goals both within a year of its peak engagement and as a direct result of its activities. A regime change resulting from foreign military intervention would not be considered a success, for instance. A campaign was considered violent, meanwhile, if it involved bombings, kidnappings, the destruction of infrastructure – or any other physical harm to people or property.

“We were trying to apply a pretty hard test to nonviolent resistance as a strategy,” Chenoweth says. (The criteria were so strict that India’s independence movement was not considered as evidence in favour of nonviolent protest in Chenoweth and Stephan’s analysis – since Britain’s dwindling military resources were considered to have been a deciding factor, even if the protests themselves were also a huge influence.)

By the end of this process, they had collected data from 323 violent and nonviolent campaigns. And their results – which were published in their book Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict – were striking.

Strength in numbers

Overall, nonviolent campaigns were twice as likely to succeed as violent campaigns: they led to political change 53% of the time compared to 26% for the violent protests.

This was partly the result of strength in numbers. Chenoweth argues that nonviolent campaigns are more likely to succeed because they can recruit many more participants from a much broader demographic, which can cause severe disruption that paralyses normal urban life and the functioning of society.

In fact, of the 25 largest campaigns that they studied, 20 were nonviolent, and 14 of these were outright successes. Overall, the nonviolent campaigns attracted around four times as many participants (200,000) as the average violent campaign (50,000).

The People Power campaign against the Marcos regime in the Philippines, for instance, attracted two million participants at its height, while the Brazilian uprising in 1984 and 1985 attracted one million, and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989 attracted 500,000 participants.

Having attracted millions of supporters, the People Power demonstrations removed the Marcos regime in the Phillipines (Credit: Getty Images)

Having attracted millions of supporters, the People Power demonstrations removed the Marcos regime in the Phillipines (Credit: Getty Images)

“Numbers really matter for building power in ways that can really pose a serious challenge or threat to entrenched authorities or occupations,” Chenoweth says – and nonviolent protest seems to be the best way to get that widespread support.

Once around 3.5% of the whole population has begun to participate actively, success appears to be inevitable.

Besides the People Power movement, the Singing Revolution in Estonia and the Rose Revolution in Georgia all reached the 3.5% threshold

“There weren’t any campaigns that had failed after they had achieved 3.5% participation during a peak event,” says Chenoweth – a phenomenon she has called the “3.5% rule”. Besides the People Power movement, that included the Singing Revolution in Estonia in the late 1980s and the Rose Revolution in Georgia in the early 2003.

Chenoweth admits that she was initially surprised by her results. But she now cites many reasons that nonviolent protests can garner such high levels of support. Perhaps most obviously, violent protests necessarily exclude people who abhor and fear bloodshed, whereas peaceful protesters maintain the moral high ground.

Chenoweth points out that nonviolent protests also have fewer physical barriers to participation. You do not need to be fit and healthy to engage in a strike, whereas violent campaigns tend to lean on the support of physically fit young men. And while many forms of nonviolent protests also carry serious risks – just think of China’s response in Tiananmen Square in 1989 – Chenoweth argues that nonviolent campaigns are generally easier to discuss openly, which means that news of their occurrence can reach a wider audience. Violent movements, on the other hand, require a supply of weapons, and tend to rely on more secretive underground operations that might struggle to reach the general population.

An elderly woman talks to the Algerian security forces during the recent protests (Credit: Getty Images)

An elderly woman talks to the Algerian security forces during the recent protests (Credit: Getty Images)

By engaging broad support across the population, nonviolent campaigns are also more likely to win support among the police and the military – the very groups that the government should be leaning on to bring about order.

During a peaceful street protest of millions of people, the members of the security forces may also be more likely to fear that their family members or friends are in the crowd – meaning that they fail to crack down on the movement. “Or when they’re looking at the [sheer] numbers of people involved, they may just come to the conclusion the ship has sailed, and they don’t want to go down with the ship,” Chenoweth says.

In terms of the specific strategies that are used, general strikes “are probably one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, single method of nonviolent resistance”, Chenoweth says. But they do come at a personal cost, whereas other forms of protest can be completely anonymous. She points to the consumer boycotts in apartheid-era South Africa, in which many black citizens refused to buy products from companies with white owners. The result was an economic crisis among the country’s white elite that contributed to the end of segregation in the early 1990s.

Nonviolent protests are more likely to attract support from across society. Here a pro-reform protestor faces security forces in Morocco in 2011 (Credit: Getty Images)

Nonviolent protests are more likely to attract support from across society. Here a pro-reform protestor faces security forces in Morocco in 2011 (Credit: Getty Images)

“There are more options for engaging and nonviolent resistance that don’t place people in as much physical danger, particularly as the numbers grow, compared to armed activity,” Chenoweth says. “And the techniques of nonviolent resistance are often more visible, so that it’s easier for people to find out how to participate directly, and how to coordinate their activities for maximum disruption.”

A magic number?

These are very general patterns, of course, and despite being twice as successful as the violent conflicts, peaceful resistance still failed 47% of the time. As Chenoweth and Stephan pointed out in their book, that’s sometimes because they never really gained enough support or momentum to “erode the power base of the adversary and maintain resilience in the face of repression”. But some relatively large nonviolent protests also failed, such as the protests against the communist party in East Germany in the 1950s, which attracted 400,000 members (around 2% of the population) at their peak, but still failed to bring about change.

In Chenoweth’s data set, it was only once the nonviolent protests had achieved that 3.5% threshold of active engagement that success seemed to be guaranteed – and raising even that level of support is no mean feat. In the UK it would amount to 2.3 million people actively engaging in a movement (roughly twice the size of Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city); in the US, it would involve 11 million citizens – more than the total population of New York City.

The fact remains, however, that nonviolent campaigns are the only reliable way of maintaining that kind of engagement.

A couple commemorate the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which helped bring down Communist rule in Czechoslovakia - another example of Chenoweth's "3.5% rule" (Credit: Getty Images)

A couple commemorate the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which helped bring down Communist rule in Czechoslovakia – another example of Chenoweth’s “3.5% rule” (Credit: Getty Images)

Chenoweth and Stephan’s initial study was first published in 2011 and their findings have attracted a lot of attention since. “It’s hard to overstate how influential they have been to this body of research,” says Matthew Chandler, who researches civil resistance at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Isabel Bramsen, who studies international conflict at the University of Copenhagen agrees that Chenoweth and Stephan’s results are compelling. “It’s [now] an established truth within the field that the nonviolent approaches are much more likely to succeed than violent ones,” she says.

Regarding the “3.5% rule”, she points out that while 3.5% is a small minority, such a level of active participation probably means many more people tacitly agree with the cause.

These researchers are now looking to further untangle the factors that may lead to a movement’s success or failure. Bramsen and Chandler, for instance, both emphasise the importance of unity among demonstrators.

As an example, Bramsen points to the failed uprising in Bahrain in 2011. The campaign initially engaged many protestors, but quickly split into competing factions. The resulting loss of cohesion, Bramsen thinks, ultimately prevented the movement from gaining enough momentum to bring about change.

Chenoweth’s interest has recently focused on protests closer to home – like the Black Lives Matter movement and the Women’s March in 2017. She is also interested in Extinction Rebellion, recently popularised by the involvement of the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. “They are up against a lot of inertia,” she says. “But I think that they have an incredibly thoughtful and strategic core. And they seem to have all the right instincts about how to develop and teach through a nonviolent resistance campaigns.”

Ultimately, she would like our history books to pay greater attention to nonviolent campaigns rather than concentrating so heavily on warfare. “So many of the histories that we tell one another focus on violence – and even if it is a total disaster, we still find a way to find victories within it,” she says. Yet we tend to ignore the success of peaceful protest, she says.

“Ordinary people, all the time, are engaging in pretty heroic activities that are actually changing the way the world – and those deserve some notice and celebration as well.”

David Robson is a senior journalist at BBC Future. Follow him on Twitter: @d_a_robson.

O coronavírus de hoje e o mundo de amanhã, segundo o filósofo Byung-Chul Han (El País)

Países asiáticos estão lidando melhor com essa crise do que o Ocidente. Enquanto lá se trabalha com dados e máscaras, aqui se chega tarde e fecham fronteiras

Byung-Chul Han – 22 mar 2020 – 20:01 BRT

Um oficial de polícia vigia diante de um cartaz dia 23 de janeiro em Pequim.
Um oficial de polícia vigia diante de um cartaz dia 23 de janeiro em Pequim.Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

O coronavírus está colocando nosso sistema à prova. Ao que parece a Ásia controla melhor a epidemia do que a Europa. Em Hong Kong, Taiwan e Singapura há poucos infectados. Em Taiwan foram registrados 108 casos e 193 em Hong Kong. Na Alemanha, pelo contrário, após um período muito mais breve já existem 19.000 casos confirmados, e na Espanha 19.980 (dados de 20 de março). A Coreia do Sul já superou a pior fase, da mesma forma que o Japão. Até a China, o país de origem da pandemia, já está com ela bem controlada. Mas Taiwan e a Coreia não decretaram a proibição de sair de casa e as lojas e restaurantes não fecharam. Enquanto isso começou um êxodo de asiáticos que saem da Europa. Chineses e coreanos querem regressar aos seus países, porque lá se sentem mais seguros. Os preços dos voos multiplicaram. Já quase não é possível conseguir passagens aéreas para a China e a Coreia.

A Europa está fracassando. Os números de infectados aumentam exponencialmente. Parece que a Europa não pode controlar a pandemia. Na Itália morrem diariamente centenas de pessoas. Retiram os respiradores dos pacientes idosos para ajudar os jovens. Mas também vale observar ações inúteis. Os fechamentos de fronteiras são evidentemente uma expressão desesperada de soberania. Nós nos sentimos de volta à época da soberania. O soberano é quem decide sobre o estado de exceção. É o soberano que fecha fronteiras. Mas isso é uma vã tentativa de soberania que não serve para nada. Seria muito mais útil cooperar intensamente dentro da Eurozona do que fechar fronteiras alucinadamente. Ao mesmo tempo a Europa também decretou a proibição da entrada a estrangeiros: um ato totalmente absurdo levando em consideração o fato de que a Europa é justamente o local ao qual ninguém quer ir. No máximo, seria mais sensato decretar a proibição de saídas de europeus, para proteger o mundo da Europa. Depois de tudo, a Europa é nesse momento o epicentro da pandemia.

As vantagens da Ásia

Em comparação com a Europa, quais vantagens o sistema da Ásia oferece que são eficientes para combater a pandemia? Estados asiáticos como o Japão, Coreia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan e Singapura têm uma mentalidade autoritária, que vem de sua tradição cultural (confucionismo). As pessoas são menos relutantes e mais obedientes do que na Europa. Também confiam mais no Estado. E não somente na China, como também na Europa e no Japão a vida cotidiana está organizada muito mais rigidamente do que na Europa. Principalmente para enfrentar o vírus os asiáticos apostam fortemente na vigilância digital. Suspeitam que o big data pode ter um enorme potencial para se defender da pandemia. Poderíamos dizer que na Ásia as epidemias não são combatidas somente pelos virologistas e epidemiologistas, e sim principalmente pelos especialistas em informática e macrodados. Uma mudança de paradigma da qual a Europa ainda não se inteirou. Os apologistas da vigilância digital proclamariam que o big data salva vidas humanas.

A consciência crítica diante da vigilância digital é praticamente inexistente na Ásia. Já quase não se fala de proteção de dados, incluindo Estados liberais como o Japão e a Coreia. Ninguém se irrita pelo frenesi das autoridades em recopilar dados. Enquanto isso a China introduziu um sistema de crédito social inimaginável aos europeus, que permitem uma valorização e avaliação exaustiva das pessoas. Cada um deve ser avaliado em consequência de sua conduta social. Na China não há nenhum momento da vida cotidiana que não esteja submetido à observação. Cada clique, cada compra, cada contato, cada atividade nas redes sociais são controlados. Quem atravessa no sinal vermelho, quem tem contato com críticos do regime e quem coloca comentários críticos nas redes sociais perde pontos. A vida, então, pode chegar a se tornar muito perigosa. Pelo contrário, quem compra pela Internet alimentos saudáveis e lê jornais que apoiam o regime ganha pontos. Quem tem pontuação suficiente obtém um visto de viagem e créditos baratos. Pelo contrário, quem cai abaixo de um determinado número de pontos pode perder seu trabalho. Na China essa vigilância social é possível porque ocorre uma irrestrita troca de dados entre os fornecedores da Internet e de telefonia celular e as autoridades. Praticamente não existe a proteção de dados. No vocabulário dos chineses não há o termo “esfera privada”.

Na China existem 200 milhões de câmeras de vigilância, muitas delas com uma técnica muito eficiente de reconhecimento facial. Captam até mesmo as pintas no rosto. Não é possível escapar da câmera de vigilância. Essas câmeras dotadas de inteligência artificial podem observar e avaliar qualquer um nos espaços públicos, nas lojas, nas ruas, nas estações e nos aeroportos.

Toda a infraestrutura para a vigilância digital se mostrou agora ser extremamente eficaz para conter a epidemia. Quando alguém sai da estação de Pequim é captado automaticamente por uma câmera que mede sua temperatura corporal. Se a temperatura é preocupante todas as pessoas que estavam sentadas no mesmo vagão recebem uma notificação em seus celulares. Não é por acaso que o sistema sabe quem estava sentado em qual local no trem. As redes sociais contam que estão usando até drones para controlar as quarentenas. Se alguém rompe clandestinamente a quarentena um drone se dirige voando em sua direção e ordena que regresse à sua casa. Talvez até lhe dê uma multa e a deixe cair voando, quem sabe. Uma situação que para os europeus seria distópica, mas que, pelo visto, não tem resistência na China.

Na China e em outros Estados asiáticos como a Coreia do Sul, Hong Kong, Singapura, Taiwan e Japão não existe uma consciência crítica diante da vigilância digital e o big data. A digitalização os embriaga diretamente. Isso obedece também a um motivo cultural. Na Ásia impera o coletivismo. Não há um individualismo acentuado. O individualismo não é a mesma coisa que o egoísmo, que evidentemente também está muito propagado na Ásia.

Ao que parece o big data é mais eficaz para combater o vírus do que os absurdos fechamentos de fronteiras que estão sendo feitos nesses momentos na Europa. Graças à proteção de dados, entretanto, não é possível na Europa um combate digital do vírus comparável ao asiático. Os fornecedores chineses de telefonia celular e de Internet compartilham os dados sensíveis de seus clientes com os serviços de segurança e com os ministérios de saúde. O Estado sabe, portanto, onde estou, com quem me encontro, o que faço, o que procuro, em que penso, o que como, o que compro, aonde me dirijo. É possível que no futuro o Estado controle também a temperatura corporal, o peso, o nível de açúcar no sangue etc. Uma biopolítica digital que acompanha a psicopolítica digital que controla ativamente as pessoas.

É possível que no futuro o Estado controle também a temperatura corporal, o peso, o nível de açúcar no sangue

Em Wuhan se formaram milhares de equipes de pesquisa digitais que procuram possíveis infectados baseando-se somente em dados técnicos. Tendo como base, unicamente, análises de macrodados averiguam os que são potenciais infectados, os que precisam continuar sendo observados e eventualmente isolados em quarentena. O futuro também está na digitalização no que se refere à pandemia. Pela epidemia talvez devêssemos redefinir até mesmo a soberania. É soberano quem dispõe de dados. Quando a Europa proclama o estado de alarme e fecha fronteiras continua aferrada a velhos modelos de soberania.

Não somente na China, como também em outros países asiáticos a vigilância digital é profundamente utilizada para conter a epidemia. Em Taiwan o Estado envia simultaneamente a todos um SMS para localizar as pessoas que tiveram contato com infectados e para informar sobre os lugares e edifícios em que existiram pessoas contaminadas. Já em uma fase muito inicial, Taiwan utilizou uma conexão de diversos dados para localizar possíveis infectados em função das viagens que fizeram. Na Coreia quem se aproxima de um edifício em que um infectado esteve recebe através do “Corona-app” um sinal de alarme. Todos os lugares em que infectados estiveram estão registrados no aplicativo. Não são levadas muito em consideração a proteção de dados e a esfera privada. Em todos os edifícios da Coreia foram instaladas câmeras de vigilância em cada andar, em cada escritório e em cada loja. É praticamente impossível se mover em espaços públicos sem ser filmado por uma câmera de vídeo. Com os dados do telefone celular e do material filmado por vídeo é possível criar o perfil de movimento completo de um infectado. São publicados os movimentos de todos os infectados. Casos amorosos secretos podem ser revelados. Nos escritórios do Ministério da Saúde coreano existem pessoas chamadas “tracker” que dia e noite não fazem outra coisa a não ser olhar o material filmado por vídeo para completar o perfil do movimento dos infectados e localizar as pessoas que tiveram contato com eles.

Chineses, todos de máscara, fazem fila no ponto de ônibus em Pequim, em 20 de março.
Chineses, todos de máscara, fazem fila no ponto de ônibus em Pequim, em 20 de março.Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

Uma diferença chamativa entre a Ásia e a Europa são principalmente as máscaras protetoras. Na Coreia quase não existe quem ande por aí sem máscaras respiratórias especiais capazes de filtrar o ar de vírus. Não são as habituais máscaras cirúrgicas, e sim máscaras protetoras especiais com filtros, que também são utilizadas pelos médicos que tratam os infectados. Durante as últimas semanas, o tema prioritário na Coreia era o fornecimento de máscaras à população. Diante das farmácias enormes filas se formaram. Os políticos eram avaliados em função da rapidez com que eram fornecidas a toda a população. Foram construídas a toda pressa novas máquinas para sua fabricação. Por enquanto parece que o fornecimento funciona bem. Há até mesmo um aplicativo que informa em qual farmácia próxima ainda se pode conseguir máscaras. Acho que as máscaras protetoras fornecidas na Ásia a toda a população contribuíram decisivamente para conter a epidemia.

Os coreanos usam máscaras protetoras antivírus até mesmo nos locais de trabalho. Até os políticos fazem suas aparições públicas somente com máscaras protetoras. O presidente coreano também a usa para dar o exemplo, incluindo em suas entrevistas coletivas. Na Coreia quem não a usa é repreendido. Na Europa, pelo contrário, frequentemente se diz que não servem para muita coisa, o que é um absurdo. Por que então os médicos usam as máscaras protetoras? Mas é preciso trocar de máscara frequentemente, porque quando umedecem perdem sua função filtradora. Os coreanos, entretanto, já desenvolveram uma “máscara ao coronavírus” feita de nanofiltros que podem ser lavados. O que se diz é que podem proteger as pessoas do vírus durante um mês. Na verdade, é uma solução muito boa enquanto não existem vacinas e medicamentos.

Está surgindo uma sociedade de duas classes. Quem tem carro próprio se expõe a menos riscos

Na Europa, pelo contrário, até mesmo os médicos precisam viajar à Rússia para consegui-las. Macron mandou confiscar máscaras para distribui-las entre os funcionários da área de saúde. Mas o que acabaram recebendo foram máscaras normais sem filtro com a indicação de que bastariam para proteger do coronavírus, o que é uma mentira. A Europa está fracassando. De que adianta fechar lojas e restaurantes se as pessoas continuam se aglomerando no metrô e no ônibus durante as horas de pico? Como guardar a distância necessária assim? Até nos supermercados é quase impossível. Em uma situação como essa, as máscaras protetoras realmente salvariam vidas humanas. Está surgindo uma sociedade de duas classes. Quem tem carro próprio se expõe a menos riscos. As máscaras normais também seriam de muita utilidade se os infectados as usassem, porque dessa maneira não propagariam o vírus.

Nos países europeus quase ninguém usa máscara. Há alguns que as usam, mas são asiáticos. Meus conterrâneos residentes na Europa se queixam de que são olhados com estranheza quando as usam. Por trás disso há uma diferença cultural. Na Europa impera um individualismo que traz atrelado o costume de andar com o rosto descoberto. Os únicos que estão mascarados são os criminosos. Mas agora, vendo imagens da Coreia, me acostumei tanto a ver pessoas mascaradas que o rosto descoberto de meus concidadãos europeus me parece quase obsceno. Eu também gostaria de usar máscara protetora, mas aqui já não existem.

No passado, a fabricação de máscara, da mesma forma que tantos outros produtos, foi externalizada à China. Por isso agora não se conseguem máscaras na Europa. Os Estados asiáticos estão tentando prover toda a população com máscaras protetoras. Na China, quando também começaram a escassear, fábricas chegaram a ser reequipadas para produzir máscaras. Na Europa nem mesmo os funcionários da área de saúde as conseguem. Enquanto as pessoas continuarem se aglomerando nos ônibus e metrôs para ir ao trabalho sem máscaras protetoras, a proibição de sair de casa logicamente não adiantará muito. Como é possível guardar a distância necessária nos ônibus e no metrô nos horários de pico? E uma lição que deveríamos tirar da pandemia deveria ser a conveniência de voltar a trazer à Europa a produção de determinados produtos, como máscaras protetoras, remédios e produtos farmacêuticos.

O presidente da Coreia do Su, terceiro na imagem, em 25 de fevereiro.
O presidente da Coreia do Su, terceiro na imagem, em 25 de fevereiro.South Korean Presidential Blue House/Getty Images / South Korean Presidential Blue H

Apesar de todo o risco, que não deve ser minimizado, o pânico desatado pela pandemia de coronavírus é desproporcional. Nem mesmo a “gripe espanhola”, que foi muito mais letal, teve efeitos tão devastadores sobre a economia. A que isso se deve na realidade? Por que o mundo reage com um pânico tão desmesurado a um vírus? Emmanuel Macron fala até de guerra e do inimigo invisível que precisamos derrotar. Estamos diante de um retorno do inimigo? A gripe espanhola se desencadeou em plena Primeira Guerra Mundial. Naquele momento todo o mundo estava cercado de inimigos. Ninguém teria associado a epidemia com uma guerra e um inimigo. Mas hoje vivemos em uma sociedade totalmente diferente.

Na verdade, vivemos durante muito tempo sem inimigos. A Guerra Fria terminou há muito tempo. Ultimamente até o terrorismo islâmico parecia ter se deslocado a áreas distantes. Há exatamente dez anos afirmei em meu ensaio Sociedade do Cansaço a tese de que vivemos em uma época em que o paradigma imunológico perdeu sua vigência, baseada na negatividade do inimigo. Como nos tempos da Guerra Fria, a sociedade organizada imunologicamente se caracteriza por viver cercada de fronteiras e de cercas, que impedem a circulação acelerada de mercadorias e de capital. A globalização suprime todos esses limites imunitários para dar caminho livre ao capital. Até mesmo a promiscuidade e a permissividade generalizadas, que hoje se propagam por todos os âmbitos vitais, eliminam a negatividade do desconhecido e do inimigo. Os perigos não espreitam hoje da negatividade do inimigo, e sim do excesso de positividade, que se expressa como excesso de rendimento, excesso de produção e excesso de comunicação. A negatividade do inimigo não tem lugar em nossa sociedade ilimitadamente permissiva. A repressão aos cuidados de outros abre espaço à depressão, a exploração por outros abre espaço à autoexploração voluntária e à auto-otimização. Na sociedade do rendimento se guerreia sobretudo contra si mesmo.

Limites imunológicos e fechamento de fronteiras

Pois bem, em meio a essa sociedade tão enfraquecida imunologicamente pelo capitalismo global o vírus irrompe de supetão. Em pânico, voltamos a erguer limites imunológicos e fechar fronteiras. O inimigo voltou. Já não guerreamos contra nós mesmos. E sim contra o inimigo invisível que vem de fora. O pânico desmedido causado pelo vírus é uma reação imunitária social, e até global, ao novo inimigo. A reação imunitária é tão violenta porque vivemos durante muito tempo em uma sociedade sem inimigos, em uma sociedade da positividade, e agora o vírus é visto como um terror permanente.

Mas há outro motivo para o tremendo pânico. Novamente tem a ver com a digitalização. A digitalização elimina a realidade, a realidade é experimentada graças à resistência que oferece, e que também pode ser dolorosa. A digitalização, toda a cultura do “like”, suprime a negatividade da resistência. E na época pós-fática das fake news e dos deepfakes surge uma apatia à realidade. Dessa forma, aqui é um vírus real e não um vírus de computador, e que causa uma comoção. A realidade, a resistência, volta a se fazer notar no formato de um vírus inimigo. A violenta e exagerada reação de pânico ao vírus se explica em função dessa comoção pela realidade.

Espero que após a comoção causada por esse vírus não chegue à Europa um regime policial digital como o chinês.

A reação de pânico dos mercados financeiros à epidemia é, além disso, a expressão daquele pânico que já é inerente a eles. As convulsões extremas na economia mundial fazem com que essa seja muito vulnerável. Apesar da curva constantemente crescente do índice das Bolsas, a arriscada política monetária dos bancos emissores gerou nos últimos anos um pânico reprimido que estava aguardando a explosão. Provavelmente o vírus não é mais do que a gota que transbordou o copo. O que se reflete no pânico do mercado financeiro não é tanto o medo ao vírus quanto o medo a si mesmo. O crash poderia ter ocorrido também sem o vírus. Talvez o vírus seja somente o prelúdio de um crash muito maior.

Žižek afirma que o vírus deu um golpe mortal no capitalismo, e evoca um comunismo obscuro. Acredita até mesmo que o vírus poderia derrubar o regime chinês. Žižek se engana. Nada disso acontecerá. A China poderá agora vender seu Estado policial digital como um modelo de sucesso contra a pandemia. A China exibirá a superioridade de seu sistema ainda mais orgulhosamente. E após a pandemia, o capitalismo continuará com ainda mais pujança. E os turistas continuarão pisoteando o planeta. O vírus não pode substituir a razão. É possível que chegue até ao Ocidente o Estado policial digital ao estilo chinês. Com já disse Naomi Klein, a comoção é um momento propício que permite estabelecer um novo sistema de Governo. Também a instauração do neoliberalismo veio precedida frequentemente de crises que causaram comoções. É o que aconteceu na Coreia e na Grécia. Espero que após a comoção causada por esse vírus não chegue à Europa um regime policial digital como o chinês. Se isso ocorrer, como teme Giorgio Agamben, o estado de exceção passaria a ser a situação normal. O vírus, então, teria conseguido o que nem mesmo o terrorismo islâmico conseguiu totalmente.

O vírus não vencerá o capitalismo. A revolução viral não chegará a ocorrer. Nenhum vírus é capaz de fazer a revolução. O vírus nos isola e individualiza. Não gera nenhum sentimento coletivo forte. De alguma maneira, cada um se preocupa somente por sua própria sobrevivência. A solidariedade que consiste em guardar distâncias mútuas não é uma solidariedade que permite sonhar com uma sociedade diferente, mais pacífica, mais justa. Não podemos deixar a revolução nas mãos do vírus. Precisamos acreditar que após o vírus virá uma revolução humana. Somos NÓS, PESSOAS dotadas de RAZÃO, que precisamos repensar e restringir radicalmente o capitalismo destrutivo, e nossa ilimitada e destrutiva mobilidade, para nos salvar, para salvar o clima e nosso belo planeta.

Byung-Chul Han é um filósofo e ensaísta sul-coreano que dá aulas na Universidade de Artes de Berlim. Autor, entre outras obras, de ‘Sociedade do Cansaço’, publicou há um ano ‘Loa a la tierra’, na editora Herder.

Texto original

The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff (The Atlantic)

Like Japan in the mid-1800s, the United States now faces a crisis that disproves everything the country believes about itself. March 15, 2020

Anne Applebaum Staff writer at The Atlantic

A coronavirus patient in quarantine
Jason Redmond / Reuters

On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy sailed into Tokyo Bay with two steamships and two sailing vessels under his command. He landed a squadron of heavily armed sailors and marines; he moved one of the ships ostentatiously up the harbor, so that more people could see it. He delivered a letter from President Millard Fillmore demanding that the Japanese open up their ports to American trade. As they left, Perry’s fleets fired their guns into the ether. In the port, people were terrified: “It sounded like distant thunder,” a contemporary diarist wrote at the time, “and the mountains echoed back the noise of the shots. This was so formidable that the people in Edo [modern Tokyo] were fearful.”

This is the story of an unnatural disaster.

But the noise was not the only thing that frightened the Japanese. The Perry expedition famously convinced them that their political system was incapable of coping with new kinds of threats. Secure in their island homeland, the rulers of Japan had been convinced for decades of their cultural superiority. Japan was unique, special, the homeland of the gods. “Japan’s position, at the vertex of the earth, makes it the standard for the nations of the world,” the nationalist thinker Aizawa Seishisai wrote nearly three decades before Perry’s arrival. But the steamships and the guns changed all that. Suddenly, the Japanese realized that their culture, their political system, and their technology were out of date. Their samurai-warrior leaders and honor culture were not able to compete in a world dominated by science.

The coronavirus pandemic is in its early days. But the scale and force of the economic and medical crisis that is about to hit the United States may turn out to be as formidable as Perry’s famous voyage was. Two weeks ago—it already seems like an infinity—I was in Italy, writing about the first signs of the virus. Epidemics, I wrote, “have a way of revealing underlying truths about the societies they impact.” This one has already done so, and with terrifying speed. What it reveals about the United States—not just this administration, but also our health-care system, our bureaucracy, our political system itself—should make Americans as fearful as the Japanese who heard the “distant thunder” of Perry’s guns.

Not everybody has yet realized this, and indeed, it will take some time, just as it has taken time for the nature of the virus to sink in. At the moment, many Americans are still convinced that, even in this crisis, our society is more capable than others. Quite a lot was written about the terrifying and reckless behavior of the authorities in Wuhan, China, who initially threatened doctors who began posting information about the new virus, forcing them into silence.

On the very day that one of those doctors, Li Wenliang, contracted the virus, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued a statement declaring,“So far no infection [has been] found among medical staff, no proof of human-to-human transmission.” Only three weeks after the initial reports were posted did authorities begin to take the spread of the disease seriously, confirming that human-to-human transmission had in fact occurred. And only three days later did the lockdown of the city, and eventually the entire province, actually begin.

This story has been told repeatedly—and correctly—as an illustration of what’s wrong with the Chinese system: The secrecy and mania for control inside the Communist Party lost the government many days during which it could have put a better plan into place. But many of those recounting China’s missteps have become just a little bit too smug.

The United States also had an early warning of the new virus—but it, too, suppressed that information. In late January, just as instances of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, began to appear in the United States, an infectious-disease specialist in Seattle, Helen Y. Chu, realized that she had a way to monitor its presence. She had been collecting nasal swabs from people in and around Seattle as part of a flu study, and proposed checking them for the new virus. State and federal officials rejected that idea, citing privacy concerns and throwing up bureaucratic obstacles related to lab licenses.

Finally, at the end of February, Chu could stand the intransigence no longer. Her lab performed some tests and found the coronavirus in a local teenager who had not traveled overseas. That meant the disease was already spreading in the Seattle region among people who had never been abroad. If Chu had found this information a month earlier, lives might have been saved and the spread of the disease might have slowed—but even after the urgency of her work became evident, her lab was told to stop testing.

Chu was not threatened by the government, like Li had been in Wuhan. But she was just as effectively silenced by a rule-bound bureaucracy that was insufficiently worried about the pandemic—and by officials at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who may even have felt political pressure not to take this disease as seriously as they should.

For Chu was not alone. We all now know that COVID-19 diagnostic tests are in scarce supply. South Korea, which has had exactly the same amount of time as the U.S. to prepare, is capable of administering 10,000 tests every day. The United States, with a population more than six times larger, had only tested about 10,000 people in total as of Friday. Vietnam, a poor country, has tested more people than the United States. During congressional testimony on Thursday, Anthony Fauci, the most distinguished infectious-disease doctor in the nation, described the American testing system as “failing.” “The idea of anybody getting [tested] easily the way people in other countries are doing it? We’re not set up for that,” he said. “Do I think we should be? Yes, but we’re not.”

And why not? Once again, no officials from the Chinese Communist Party instructed anyone in the United States not to carry out testing. Nobody prevented American public officials from ordering the immediate production of a massive number of tests. Nevertheless, they did not. We don’t know all the details yet, but one element of the situation cannot be denied: The president himself did not want the disease talked of too widely, did not want knowledge of it to spread, and, above all, did not want the numbers of those infected to appear too high. He said so himself, while explaining why he didn’t want a cruise ship full of infected Americans to dock in California. “I like the numbers being where they are,” he said. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”

Donald Trump, just like the officials in Wuhan, was concerned about the numbers—the optics of how a pandemic looks. And everybody around him knew it. There are some indications that Alex Azar, the former pharmaceutical-industry executive and lobbyist who heads the Department of Health and Human Services, was not keen on telling the president things he did not want to hear. Here is how Dan Diamond, a Politico reporter who writes about health policy, delicately described the problem in a radio interview: “My understanding is [that Azar] did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that’s partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear—the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential reelection this fall.”

Once again: Nobody threatened Azar. But fear of offending the president may have led him to hesitate to push for aggressive testing nevertheless.

Without the threats and violence of the Chinese system, in other words, we have the same results: scientists not allowed to do their job; public-health officials not pushing for aggressive testing; preparedness delayed, all because too many people feared that it might damage the political prospects of the leader. I am not writing this in order to praise Chinese communism—far from it. I am writing this so that Americans understand that our government is producing some of the same outcomes as Chinese communism. This means that our political system is in far, far worse shape than we have hitherto understood.

What if it turns out, as it almost certainly will, that other nations are far better than we are at coping with this kind of catastrophe? Look at Singapore, which immediately created an app that could physically track everyone who was quarantined, and that energetically tracked down all the contacts of everyone identified to have the disease. Look at South Korea, with its proven testing ability. Look at Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel managed to speak honestly and openly about the disease—she predicted that 70 percent of Germans would get it—and yet did not crash the markets.

The United States, long accustomed to thinking of itself as the best, most efficient, and most technologically advanced society in the world, is about to be proved an unclothed emperor. When human life is in peril, we are not as good as Singapore, as South Korea, as Germany. And the problem is not that we are behind technologically, as the Japanese were in 1853. The problem is that American bureaucracies, and the antiquated, hidebound, unloved federal government of which they are part, are no longer up to the job of coping with the kinds of challenges that face us in the 21st century. Global pandemics, cyberwarfare, information warfare—these are threats that require highly motivated, highly educated bureaucrats; a national health-care system that covers the entire population; public schools that train students to think both deeply and flexibly; and much more.

The failures of the moment can be partly ascribed to the loyalty culture that Trump himself has spent three years building in Washington. Only two weeks ago, he named his 29-year-old former bodyguard, a man who was previously fired from the White House for financial shenanigans, to head up a new personnel-vetting team. Its role is to ensure that only people certifiably loyal are allowed to work for the president. Trump also fired, ostentatiously, the officials who testified honestly during the impeachment hearings, an action that sends a signal to others about the danger of truth-telling.

These are only the most recent manifestations of an autocratic style that has been described, over and over again, by many people. And now we see why, exactly, that style is so dangerous, and why previous American presidents, of both political parties, have operated much differently. Within a loyalty cult, no one will tell the president that starting widespread emergency testing would be prudent, because anyone who does is at risk of losing the president’s favor, even of being fired. Not that it matters, because Trump has very few truth-tellers around him anymore. The kinds of people who would dare make the president angry have left the upper ranks of the Cabinet and the bureaucracy already.

But some of what we are seeing is unrelated to Trump. American dysfunction is also the result of our bifurcated health-care system, which is both the best in the world and the worst in the world, and is simply not geared up for any kind of collective national response. The present crisis is the result of decades of underinvestment in civil service, of undervaluing bureaucracy in public health and other areas, and, above all, of underrating the value of long-term planning.

Back from 2001 to 2003, I wrote multiple editorials for The Washington Post about biological warfare and pandemic preparedness—issues that were at the top of everyone’s agenda in the wake of 9/11 and the brief anthrax scare. At the time, some very big investments were made into precisely those issues, especially into scientific research. We will now benefit from them. But in recent years, the subjects fell out of the news. Senators, among them the vaunted Republican moderate Susan Collins of Maine, knocked “pandemic preparedness” out of spending bills. New flu epidemics didn’t scare people enough. More recently, Trump eliminated the officials responsible for international health from the National Security Council because this kind of subject didn’t interest him—or very many other people in Washington, really.

As a nation, we are not good at long-term planning, and no wonder: Our political system insists that every president be allowed to appoint thousands of new officials, including the kinds of officials who think about pandemics. Why is that necessary? Why can’t expertise be allowed to accumulate at the highest levels of agencies such as the CDC? I’ve written before about the problem of discontinuity in foreign policy: New presidents arrive and think they can have a “reset” with other nations, as if other nations are going to forget everything that happened before their arrival—as if we can cheerfully start all relationships from scratch. But the same is true on health, the environment, and other policy issues. Of course there should be new Cabinet members every four or eight years. But should all their deputies change? And their deputies’ deputies? And their deputies’ deputies’ deputies? Because that’s often how it works right now.

All of this happens on top of all the other familiar pathologies: the profound polarization; the merger of politics and entertainment; the loss of faith in democratic institutions; the blind eyes turned to corruption, white-collar crime, and money laundering; the growth of inequality; the conversion of social media and a part of the news media into for-profit vectors of disinformation. These are all part of the deep background to this crisis too.

The question, of course, is whether this crisis will shock us enough to change our ways. The Japanese did eventually react to Commodore Perry’s squadron of ships with something more than fear. They stopped talking about themselves as the vertex of the Earth. They overhauled their education system. They adopted Western scientific methods, reorganized their state, and created a modern bureaucracy. This massive change, known as the Meiji Restoration, is what brought Japan, for better or for worse, into the modern world. Naturally, the old samurai-warrior class fought back against it, bitterly and angrily.

But by then the new threat was so obvious that enough people got it, enough people understood that a national mobilization was necessary, enough people understood that things could not go on that way indefinitely. Could it happen here, too?

Anne Applebaum is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She is a senior fellow of the Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University. Her latest book is Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine.

A Professor of Disasters and Health on Covid-19 (Nautilus)

Posted By Ilan Kelman on Mar 16, 2020

It is no mystery why pandemics happen. Those with the knowledge, wisdom, and resources must choose to decide to avoid these disasters that afflict everyone.Photograph by Pavel L Photo and Video / Shutterstock

A new virus sweeps the world, closing borders, shutting down arts and sports, and killing thousands of people. Is this coronavirus pandemic, with the disease named Covid-19, simply a natural disaster, a culling of overpopulation as suggested by callous commentators who seem to revel in human misery? Is it nature’s rebuttal to human-caused climate change, forcing us to reduce fossil fuel-based transportation and overconsumption (apart from toilet paper)? The answer is neither. As with almost all disasters, the Covid-19 disaster is the outcome of human choices.

The Earth, with its microorganisms, tectonic activity, powerful weather, and other phenomena, has long posed dangers to humans. We know this, so it is up to us to deal with it. Sometimes we manage and sometimes we do not. Sometimes we are forced into situations with few choices, such as impoverished people living on the slopes of Mexico City’s volcano or in the subsiding floodplains of Jakarta. Not everyone can or should be a planner or engineer, to avoid houses built on soils prone to liquefying in an earthquake or offices lacking basic seismic reinforcement. Sometimes, we need to trust the zoning regulations and building codes—and their monitoring and enforcement—to keep us safe. Too often, gaps are revealed only after people have died, from the collapse of the CTV Building in Christchurch, New Zealand, during the 2011 earthquake, to New Orleans flooding during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Those who suffer most, from Australia’s 2020 bushfires to Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, tend to have the fewest options for countering their vulnerabilities which were created by others.

We know that, by disturbing ecosystems, we make pandemics beyond Covid-19 more likely to occur.

When we are vulnerable to nature, it is because societal actions set people up to be harmed by nature. As we cannot blame nature for disasters, we should avoid the phrase “natural disaster.” They are just “disasters.” It could be shoddily built infrastructure, breaking or not having planning regulations, not being able to afford or not having insurance, poor communication of warnings, or fearing assault in an evacuation shelter. It is the same with disease. 

The World Health Organization of the United Nations was lambasted for being far too slow to observe and respond to what became the largest Ebola epidemic yet known, in West Africa between 2014 and 2016. In the years before, donor countries to the WHO had slashed the funds available, particularly hitting the division responsible for surveilling, monitoring, preparing for, and responding to possible epidemics. Experienced staff departed, communication lines to health systems around the world slackened, and institutional memory faded. Not that the UN’s organizations are perfect otherwise, displaying their own operational failings alongside geographic and cultural biases. Plus, many of the Ebola-struck countries—for instance, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—have long lacked adequate health systems, with the governments mired in corruption, conflict, external exploitation, and incompetence. Deficient local, national, and international governance for epidemics meant that Ebola spread far faster and farther afield than it would have if health systems had been supported. A further illustration comes from infected people ending up in the United Kingdom and the United States, yet neither country experienced an Ebola outbreak nor was there ever a pandemic. When it was decided that the spread of Ebola should be stopped, knowledge, resources, and actions were harnessed to stop the spread of Ebola. Earlier choices in West Africa, especially long-term backing for health systems, would have curtailed the disease far sooner.

And so we come to Covid-19. When a strange form of pneumonia appeared in patients in Wuhan, China in December 2019, medical staff reported it and soon identified the origin in one market. They isolated the new virus and publicly announced its genetic sequence. Authorities gave assurances that transmission between humans was not possible and that the virus was under control, despite evidence that neither was the case. Medical staff in Wuhan noticing the sickness explained that they were not permitted to broadcast their knowledge about it. Ai Fen, an emergency department doctor, was reprimanded and told to keep quiet. An ophthalmologist, Li Wenliang, was intimidated and silenced. He eventually died of coronavirus, with the media adorning him with the poignant label of “whistle blower.”

It is a choice to institute what is now referred to as a “cover up” when a potential public health threat emerges. It is a choice not to listen to health professionals hired in key positions when they are trying to save lives through public health measures. It is a choice to have opaque dissemination procedures and to try to shut down information flow. Now that the pandemic has been created by choices early on, it is a choice that many others are making to panic-buy soap while others are not bothering to wash their hands properly or to stop touching their food or face with unwashed hands. So much of disease is about human behavior. This in no way diminishes the importance of the essential medical responses. Without vaccines, smallpox, polio, rinderpest, measles, mumps, and a whole host of other lethal diseases would continue to run rampant. Along with antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, vaccines not only save lives daily, but also reduce the costs of running health systems by stopping illness.

Health systems must have technologies and tools—dialysis machines, isolation wards, defibrillators, and stents within the dizzying array—but must not stop at technical means and buildings. Any health system must be underpinned by people, training, and experience—exactly what many of the authorities disdained when people in Wuhan suddenly fell ill. Earlier choices in China might have curtailed the spread of Covid-19 before it morphed into a pandemic. Even basic hygiene when dealing with animals might have prevented the virus from jumping species to humans.

Today, diseases targeted for eradication include rubella, measles, dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease), and polio. The latter two remain endemic in conflict zones, often reappearing due to war, like polio did in 2013, in Syria, where it had disappeared a decade previously. Similarly, dracunculiasis is close to being eradicated, stubbornly remaining in areas wracked by violence including Chad and South Sudan. Choices to target these diseases are nonetheless preventing epidemics of them, with eradication in sight. London and Paris famously eliminated cholera in the 19th century by building sewage systems, among other actions. Malaria used to be prevalent in southern England and across the US. Dedicated efforts eradicated it and continue to prevent its re-introduction, despite cases from travelers and near international airports. We can continue these efforts by choice or we can let malaria return.

We know that, by disturbing ecosystems, we make pandemics beyond Covid-19 more likely to occur. “In Africa, we see a lot of incursion driven by oil or mineral extraction in areas that typically had few human populations,” Dennis Carroll, an infectious disease researcher, told Nautilus editor Kevin Berger. “The problem is not only moving workers and establishing camps in these domains, but building roads that allow for even more movement of populations. Roads also allow for the movement of wildlife animals, which may be part of a food trade, to make their way into urban settlements. All these dramatic changes increase the potential spread of infection.” It is no mystery why pandemics happen. Those with the knowledge, wisdom, and resources must choose to decide to avoid these disasters that afflict everyone.

Ilan Kelman is Professor of Disasters and Health at University College London and the author of Disaster By Choice: How Our Actions Turn Natural Hazards into Catastrophes. Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @IlanKelman.

Gangbusters: How the Upsurge in Anti-Gang Tactics Will Hurt Communities of Color (Truthout)

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 00:00 By Josmar Trujillo, Truthout | News Analysis 

Shanice Farrar wants to honor her son and stop violence in her neighborhood. (Photo: Lyssy Pastrana)Bronx activist Shanice Farrar wants to honor her son, who was killed by police, and stop violence in her neighborhood. (Photo: Lyssy Pastrana)

Dozens of alleged gang members were arrested in December when police raids swept through public housing developments in the Bronx, following similar raids in September and July of 2015. A December multipart Daily News special investigation, packaged behind a “Gangs of New York” front-page cover, reported on the prevalence of gangs throughout New York City, even publishing a map detailing alleged “ganglands.” New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton, in an op-ed published in the same edition, called the gang activity “violence for its own sake.”

As arrests and indictments pile up to form a media narrative of senseless violence and seemingly irredeemable youth, there are public housing and criminal justice reform advocates who want a different approach. They say that poverty is the underlying root cause of violence – one that cops and gang raids cannot solve.

Shanice Farrar, 42, is the mother of Shaaliver Douse, a teenager killed by cops in 2013 while, police say, he was chasing and shooting at another young man. Farrar is a single mother who has worked as a fire guard (someone who patrols areas lacking functioning fire protection systems) for almost eight years, at times working in the same Bronx public housing development, the Morris Houses, where she and her son lived. She always had dual concerns for Shaalie, as his friends called him: the neighborhood violence and the police who harassed him. She vividly remembers the night he didn’t come home. After calling and texting Shaalie’s phone all night, Farrar woke up on the morning of August 4, 2013, to the sounds of cops banging on her door. NYPD detectives told Farrar that her son had been killed in a shoot-out with police. They said Shaalie was shot in the face after ignoring orders to drop a gun.

Ray Kelly, the NYPD police commissioner at the time, said that Shaalie’s death was justified. Police said they had surveillance footage of him running with a gun. But footage released by the NYPD is incomplete. Images show a young man in a white shirt, purportedly Shaalie, chasing someone around a corner on 151st Street in the Melrose section of the Bronx. The confrontation with cops, where police claim he was told to drop the gun, isn’t seen. Farrar says she’s been denied access to other video angles, as well as the names of the rookie cops who shot her son.

Shaalie’s name and reputation were scrutinized immediately following his death. The newspapers’ presentation of his past arrests as an affirmation of his criminality weren’t fair to him or his family, Farrar says. The New York Daily News described Shaalie as a young man with a “growing rap sheet” and a follow-up story used unnamed sources to claim that Shaalie was, in fact, in a gang. Criminal charges her son was facing were bogus, Farrar insists. In 2012, Shaalie, then 13, was charged with attempted murder. Shaalie told his mom that he’d in fact been robbed at gunpoint by some boys from another housing complex. When cops showed up, everyone ran. Cops caught Shaalie, who didn’t want to cooperate. They told him that if he didn’t tell them whose gun it was, they’d pin the gun, which they found abandoned in some nearby grass, on him. Attempted murder charges were dropped to weapons possession charges when witnesses recanted. After several court dates, the judge in the case suggested that the whole case would soon be thrown out, Farrar says.

New York’s Turn Toward Gang Conspiracy Charges

Building criminal cases and indicting young men with gang conspiracy charges is quickly becoming a favored law enforcement approach in New York – one that’s getting more sophisticated. The NYPD and some of the city’s top prosecutors are targeting mostly young men, usually those living in public housing, with a blend of modern surveillance and conspiracy charges developed in the 1970s to take down the mafia. Raids are usually the final leg of the NYPD’s Operation Crew Cut, a police tactic that targets “crews” – a looser grouping of young people often compared to gangs – by building criminal cases often off of what is obtained from their online activity. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office has been involved in gang raids in East Harlem, indicting 63 men in 2013, and West Harlem, indicting 103 in 2014 – the city’s largest raid ever. Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson launched several smaller raids in the Bronx in 2015.

If attempts to get young people to turn away from violence can be described as either carrot or stick approaches, then Operation Ceasefire, a law enforcement initiative based largely on the work of John Jay College’s David Kennedy, is said to offer some carrots. With the help of Susan Herman, a former Pace University professor turned NYPD deputy commissioner, Kennedy’s ideas have gained traction at the police department under Bratton. Herman’s husband, John Jay College president Jeremy Travis, works with Kennedy and used to work for Bratton in the 1990s. With a nearly $5 million grant from the Department of Justice and early influence on the president’s national police reform agenda, Kennedy is one of the most in-demand criminal justice minds in the country.

Like Crew Cut, Ceasefire focuses on a small amount of alleged perpetrators, said to be responsible for a large portion of shootings and murders. This so-called “focused-deterrence” strategy also claims to offer pathways away from violence for suspected perpetrators as cops and community figures partner to dissuade young people from violence. A similar NYPD program focused on robberies, the Juvenile Robbery Intervention Program (J-RIP), has, even by police accounts, shown no effect. The Ceasefire model, perhaps, can differ from city to city. In New York, the chief of department sat down with alleged gang members, mandated to attend through parole agreements, to eat pizza and inform them that they’re being watched. In other cases, cops simply keep close tabs on who they say are the city’s most likely killers, busting them for small infractions like jaywalking. In the 12 precincts where Ceasefire is being formally implemented, shootings are down, but murders are up.

While Ceasefire ostensibly offers a multilayer approach, described by Bratton as a mix between “intensive enforcement” and “genuine offers of assistance,” there is a clear emphasis on the enforcement side as police efforts “pretty much hang a sword over (gang members’) heads.”

“Look, if you or your gang is involved in violent activities then we’re all going to come after you. It’s not just going to be local authorities but the feds and we’ll try to get you every which way we can,” Bratton warned. “When we get them convicted, we get them shipped off to federal prisons so they’re not going to be able to hang out with all their buddies up in the state prisons.”

Criticisms of the Ceasefire Approach to Policing

Alex Vitale, an associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, says that some of the city’s efforts to fight violence seem “contradictory” and make little sense. “On the one hand, we’ve seen small increases in the amount of money being devoted to community-based violence reduction efforts in the form of peer violence interrupters and increased services for high-risk youth,” he told Truthout. “On the other hand, the city has invested heavily in new policing strategies that rely on intensive punitive enforcement measures targeting these same populations of young people.” Vitale believes that the law enforcement approach can “actually disrupt the efforts of community-based groups to encourage young people off the streets and into school and employment.”

Programs like Crew Cut and Ceasefire “rely on threats and punishment” and often “run counter to the efforts to reduce youth crime,” Vitale said. He thinks violence intervention work and community-based peer violence mediation offer much more promising alternatives without hinging on police raids or lengthy prison sentences. “Intensive policing undermines those efforts and destabilizes the relationships they are building with these young people,” he added. Wraparound social services, and not gang raids, should be the focus, Vitale says, because poor communities “need more access to real resources that can provide these young people real avenues out of poverty and despair.”

Shaaliver Douce was killed a few yards from his high school. (Photo: Lyssy Pastrana)Shaaliver Douce was killed a few yards from his high school. (Photo: Lyssy Pastrana)

Lessons From New Orleans

Ethan Brown is a licensed investigator in Louisiana. He works on the defense side of drug cases in New Orleans and moved there from New York in 2007. Brown is a critic of Ceasefire and of Kennedy, whom he describes as “this generation’s George Kelling” (a prominent criminologist who is credited with developing the “broken windows” theory of policing). Brown says New Orleans’ supposed success with its own Ceasefire-style efforts, which it launched in 2012, isn’t necessarily backed up by the numbers. Post-Katrina New Orleans has been the murder capital of the United States almost every year. It had the highest murder rate for a US city every year between 2000 and 2011, except for 2005. Brown says that despite dedicating tremendous police resources to fight violence, the city has only seen a modest reduction in the murder rate.

New Orleans offers an interesting test case, since the city has also employed a historically abusive police force – creating a barrier between police and the community with which they’re supposed to collaborate. In 2012, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) was placed under a federal consent decree after authorities described the police there as “lawless.” Federal investigations had gone back to the 1990s, but the monitoring program was an overt acknowledgement that the department could not reform itself.

The stories were the stuff of nightmares. Henry Glover was killed by cops in 2005, a few days after Hurricane Katrina struck. His body was found shot and burned inside a car, the fire used as a cover-up by police officers. The infamous Danziger Bridge incident, where NOPD cops shot six people, killing two, and lied that they had been shot at, invited national outrage. There was also the tale of Melvin “Flattop” Williams, the infamously aggressive Black cop ultimately convicted of killing an unarmed man in 2012, fracturing his ribs and rupturing his spleen.

In 2010, a new mayor, Democrat Mitch Landrieu, became the first white mayor of New Orleans since 1978, when Moon Landrieu, his father, ran the city. Landrieu’s administration brought with it promises of police reform and a new police chief, Ronal Serpas. While Serpas was expected to deal with the controversial misconduct and killings at the NOPD, he instead sought to tackle the murder rate. In 2012, he and Landrieu brought in Kennedy to help form “NOLA for Life,” an anti-violence initiative built largely on the Ceasefire model. Reductions in the murder rate seemed promising, falling in 2013 and 2014. However, the murder rate rose again in 2015. And, in fact, murders had already begun to fall from 2011 to 2012, before NOLA for Life. Other cities, like Los Angeles, have seen similarly mixed results. Boston, where Ceasefire originated, initially had big drops in murders, but saw those numbers climb again as the model proved unsustainable.

While NOLA for Life promotes an inspiring array of “carrots,” like job postings and mentoring, the law enforcement “stick” was more like a “bazooka” in New Orleans, according to Brown. “Since 2012, there’ve been an extraordinary number of gang indictments. The sentences that people face are immense, like ones you’d give to drug cartels,” he told Truthout. Brown also thinks that police and prosecutors are casting too wide a net when gangs are targeted.

“The notion of a ‘crew’ or ‘gang’ affiliation is spread so wide, the definition becomes completely elastic,” he said. In this regard, Brown sees business as usual. “[Ceasefire] is presented as some radically new law enforcement approach … but actually, particularly at the federal level, these things have been going on for decades,” he said. And the “carrot” side of the equation? “The cure is unspecified social services that no one has been able to figure out.”

More Sticks Than Carrots

A 2007 Justice Policy Institute report by Judith Greene and Kevin Pranis found not only that the Ceasefire model failed to deliver on some of its violence-reducing claims, but also that the “carrot” side of the model “always lagged behind the suppression side,” or the “stick.” Greene and Pranis criticized the broader gang enforcement tactics that operate on the suppression end as “ineffectual, if not counterproductive.” Specifically, the report points to efforts of police to intensely target gang “leaders” as problematic because destabilizing gangs, which can produce new leaders, can also risk more violence.

Resources spent on gang suppression include money spent on arrests, prosecutions and jail terms. Neighborhood costs include young people being carted off to jail for things they may or may not have done, or simply said they might do, and serving long sentences in prisons – where gangs thrive – only to come home in as bleak a situation as they went in. More importantly, however, is that the police-community partnership narrative that Ceasefire promotes hinges on a questionable equivalency of power between police and community, which can affect how resources are divvied up. Public and private funding made available for social services, or “carrots,” will likely go to groups with established, deferential relationships with law enforcement. In other words, law enforcement is always in control.

Benny, 31, grew up in the Morris Houses in the Bronx. He says the hunt for gangs is unfair to people who live in the community and grow up together, especially young men. “Black lives do matter. When you grow up in a neighborhood like this, they judge you. You see this group right here,” he said, pointing to a group of men and women hanging out on nearby benches. “They’ll consider this like gang activity, even though all we did was grow up together. Next thing you know they’ll be hitting you with conspiracy [charges].” On an unusually warm Friday afternoon in December, people are sitting around on park benches. People of all ages, from teenage boys to older women pushing shopping carts, stop to talk and laugh.

“They’re taking my friends and they’re not helping,” a young woman named Daisy said about police. Daisy, 19, was Shaalie’s friend. She mourned not only Shaalie’s death, but also that of Jujuan Carson, a 19-year-old friend of hers and Shaalie’s who was just killed in November 2015. “They still haven’t found the person who killed Jujuan, but yet they indicted his friends the day before his funeral,” she said angrily. Daisy says she doesn’t trust police. “Whatever comes out of their mouths are lies.”

Jumping to Conclusions About Gang Activity

The Morris Houses stretch down the east side of the Metro North railroad, which runs along Park Avenue, separating them from the Butler and Morris senior houses on the other side. The New York Daily News’ gang map lists “Washside” as an active gang based in the Morris Houses. Farrar objects to that label. “Washside” is the name some Morris kids identify with, but isn’t an actual gang, she says. While she doesn’t deny gun violence, she vividly remembers how her son was characterized as a gang member for all sorts of reasons. If he posted a picture of himself pointing to a new pair of sneakers or holding a new belt, people would say that those were gang hand signs. “Shaalie’s World,” the words on shirts and sweaters Farrar made after Shaalie’s death, is now rumored to be a gang.

Shaalie’s friends often make tributes to him in songs and on social media. Farrar worries that law enforcement may be deliberately conflating a song, tweet or Instagram post with a sign of gang activity. Amateur music videos that mention Shaalie or refer to “Washside” are probably being collected as cops and prosecutors build cases on more young men, she suspects. In 2015, a Brooklyn man was sentenced to 12 life sentences for a string of murders after prosecutors used rap lyrics of songs he posted on YouTube against him.

“I feel it’s like a cycle. That’s how I feel. It’s like this shit is designed for you to either end up dead or in jail,” Benny said as he tested out his new remote-controlled helicopter. “Right now, my little brother got 10 years for conspiracy,” he said. “It’s guilt by association, who you hang with.” Benny knows police are surveilling them, using all of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and NYPD cameras posted around the neighborhood. “I could be chillin’ with you, you makin’ money, but you been my man since we was kids, and now they taking pictures of us. Let me walk out here with a hoodie tonight and watch me get stopped five times.” Farrar quickly jumps in to recall how Shaalie started wearing hoodies after the death of Trayvon Martin, the Florida boy killed by a neighborhood vigilante. “They really killed him because he was wearing a hoodie, ma?” she recalled him asking.

The Morris Houses are the targets of national gang enforcement trend. (Photo: Lyssy Pastrana)The Morris Houses are the targets of a national gang enforcement trend. (Photo: Lyssy Pastrana)

Farrar, like many of her neighbors, is distrustful of the police and of these new efforts to target alleged gang members. Sitting at some park benches near her building on Washington Avenue, about a mile from where Shaalie died, she and her friends talk about the neighborhood and both the violence and poverty that plague it. For them, poverty is inextricable from the violence – which is something police can’t solve.

“The Kids Need Somewhere to Play”

While Farrar will be the first to agree that youth violence is a problem, the neighborhood’s antagonistic relationship with cops puts them between a rock and a hard place. It was the police, she says, who locked up the basketball courts for two months during the summer. She points at the fence, describing how people were forced to cut and crawl through openings just to play basketball. If cops locked up the courts to prevent violence, then they failed to do even that, some say. A man walks over and says closing the park “wasn’t the solution.” “Now you make it worse,” said the man, who didn’t want to be identified. “Now they got nothin’ to do. Now all they gon’ do is fight now.”

“The kids need somewhere to play,” said Dee, a 35-year-old trainer and boxer who used to train Shaalie. He wants the younger generation to come off of the street and stop fighting with each other, but he says they need resources. He recalls block parties when he was younger that have since become too few and far between. The city-funded health tables and community programming nowadays are directed at very young children and the elderly, not the teens and young adults most susceptible to violence. Worse yet is that programs are limited in scope and time: “They go from like 10 [am] to 12 [pm] and that’s it,” Dee said.

Ms. Betty is 58 and has raised three boys in the Morris Houses. “They’ve got nothing for them to do, that’s our problem. If they find something to do, maybe they’ll stop fighting each other,” she said. For her, the lack of fully functioning community centers contributes to the violence. “It doesn’t make sense. Families got to be crying over their kids and kids fighting for no reason.” While she feels that police are needed, she’s taken aback at the way cops crack down on many in the neighborhood just for hanging out around the buildings. “We just want to be out here like normal people,” she said. She recalls playgrounds inexplicably closed and benches removed from the front of buildings. Asked about the city’s efforts to lease some NYCHA property for private development, she says what the neighborhood needs is an expanded community center. “That don’t make no sense. And they know that.”

Once a basketball court, an empty lot sits in the Morris Houses development. (Photo: Lyssy Pastrana)

Once a basketball court, an empty lot sits in the Morris Houses development. (Photo: Lyssy Pastrana)

“I gave my son a lot of attention. But my son was the child of a single parent who felt his mother, you know, was struggling too hard,” Farrar told Truthout. Asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, Farrar is supportive of marches and protests in response to police killings, but she’s also painfully aware of the fact that many may not jump to stand behind her son’s life because of the questions around his case. Shaalie’s funeral was attended by Constance Malcolm and Frank Graham, the parents of Ramarley Graham, a young man fatally shot by cops who chased him into his grandmother’s house. However, few others in the anti-police brutality movement have made her pain their pain. Asked about the future of the movement, Farrar wants the scope to extend beyond cops. “I’d like Black Lives Matter to help the community come together, do things for kids, help stop the beefing,” Farrar said.

During a march that Farrar and her friends put together a few years back in memory of Shaalie, some of his friends began to chant “Fuck the police, RIP Shaalie” to the cops walking alongside. These were Shaalie’s friends, all from the surrounding buildings. Farrar pulled out her camera phone and kept watch of the cops as the march continued to the spot Shaalie died. The group, too large for the sidewalk, formed a big circle. A police car pulled up and a cop insisted the event clear out because it was blocking the road. Farrar told them they wouldn’t be going anywhere until they were done. They released white balloons into the sky and promised never to forget Shaalie’s name.

Josmar Trujillo is an activist and organizer with New Yorkers Against Bratton. Follow him on Twitter: @Josmar_Trujillo.

The One Weird Trait That Predicts Whether You’re a Trump Supporter (Politico Magazine)

And it’s not gender, age, income, race or religion.

1/17/2016

 

If I asked you what most defines Donald Trump supporters, what would you say? They’re white? They’re poor? They’re uneducated?

You’d be wrong.

In fact, I’ve found a single statistically significant variable predicts whether a voter supports Trump—and it’s not race, income or education levels: It’s authoritarianism.

That’s right, Trump’s electoral strength—and his staying power—have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations. And because of the prevalence of authoritarians in the American electorate, among Democrats as well as Republicans, it’s very possible that Trump’s fan base will continue to grow.

My finding is the result of a national poll I conducted in the last five days of December under the auspices of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, sampling 1,800 registered voters across the country and the political spectrum. Running a standard statistical analysis, I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.

Authoritarianism is not a new, untested concept in the American electorate. Since the rise of Nazi Germany, it has been one of the most widely studied ideas in social science. While its causes are still debated, the political behavior of authoritarians is not. Authoritarians obey. They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened. From pledging to “make America great again” by building a wall on the border to promising to close mosques and ban Muslims from visiting the United States, Trump is playing directly to authoritarian inclinations.

Not all authoritarians are Republicans by any means; in national surveys since 1992, many authoritarians have also self-identified as independents and Democrats. And in the 2008 Democratic primary, the political scientist Marc Hetherington found that authoritarianism mattered more than income, ideology, gender, age and education in predicting whether voters preferred Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. But Hetherington has also found, based on 14 years of polling, that authoritarians have steadily moved from the Democratic to the Republican Party over time. He hypothesizes that the trend began decades ago, as Democrats embraced civil rights, gay rights, employment protections and other political positions valuing freedom and equality. In my poll results, authoritarianism was not a statistically significant factor in the Democratic primary race, at least not so far, but it does appear to be playing an important role on the Republican side. Indeed, 49 percent of likely Republican primary voters I surveyed score in the top quarter of the authoritarian scale—more than twice as many as Democratic voters.

Political pollsters have missed this key component of Trump’s support because they simply don’t include questions about authoritarianism in their polls. In addition to the typical battery of demographic, horse race, thermometer-scale and policy questions, my poll asked a set of four simple survey questions that political scientists have employed since 1992 to measure inclination toward authoritarianism. These questions pertain to child-rearing: whether it is more important for the voter to have a child who is respectful or independent; obedient or self-reliant; well-behaved or considerate; and well-mannered or curious. Respondents who pick the first option in each of these questions are strongly authoritarian.

Based on these questions, Trump was the only candidate—Republican or Democrat—whose support among authoritarians was statistically significant.

So what does this mean for the election? It doesn’t just help us understand what motivates Trump’s backers—it suggests that his support isn’t capped. In a statistical analysis of the polling results, I found that Trump has already captured 43 percent of Republican primary voters who are strong authoritarians, and 37 percent of Republican authoritarians overall. A majority of Republican authoritarians in my poll also strongly supported Trump’s proposals to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, prohibit Muslims from entering the United States, shutter mosques and establish a nationwide database that track Muslims.

And in a general election, Trump’s strongman rhetoric will surely appeal to some of the 39 percent of independents in my poll who identify as authoritarians and the 17 percent of self-identified Democrats who are strong authoritarians.

What’s more, the number of Americans worried about the threat of terrorism is growing. In 2011, Hetherington published research finding that non-authoritarians respond to the perception of threat by behaving more like authoritarians. More fear and more threats—of the kind we’ve seen recently in the San Bernardino and Paris terrorist attacks—mean more voters are susceptible to Trump’s message about protecting Americans. In my survey, 52 percent of those voters expressing the most fear that another terrorist attack will occur in the United States in the next 12 months were non-authoritarians—ripe targets for Trump’s message.

Take activated authoritarians from across the partisan spectrum and the growing cadre of threatened non-authoritarians, then add them to the base of Republican general election voters, and the potential electoral path to a Trump presidency becomes clearer.

So, those who say a Trump presidency “can’t happen here” should check their conventional wisdom at the door. The candidate has confounded conventional expectations this primary season because those expectations are based on an oversimplified caricature of the electorate in general and his supporters in particular. Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity. And the institutions—from the Republican Party to the press—that are supposed to guard against what James Madison called “the infection of violent passions” among the people have either been cowed by Trump’s bluster or are asleep on the job.

It is time for those who would appeal to our better angels to take his insurgency seriously and stop dismissing his supporters as a small band of the dispossessed. Trump support is firmly rooted in American authoritarianism and, once awakened, it is a force to be reckoned with. That means it’s also time for political pollsters to take authoritarianism seriously and begin measuring it in their polls.

Matthew MacWilliams is founder of MacWilliams Sanders, a political communications firms, and a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he is writing his dissertation about authoritarianism.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/donald-trump-2016-authoritarian-213533#ixzz3xj06TM2n

How Facebook’s Algorithm Suppresses Content Diversity (Modestly) and How the Newsfeed Rules Your Clicks (The Message)

Zeynep Tufekci on May 7, 2015

Today, three researchers at Facebook published an article in Science on how Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm suppresses the amount of “cross-cutting” (i.e. likely to cause disagreement) news articles a person sees. I read a lot of academic research, and usually, the researchers are at a pains to highlight their findings. This one buries them as deep as it could, using a mix of convoluted language and irrelevant comparisons. So, first order of business is spelling out what they found. Also, for another important evaluation — with some overlap to this one — go read this post by University of Michigan professor Christian Sandvig.

The most important finding, if you ask me, is buried in an appendix. Here’s the chart showing that the higher an item is in the newsfeed, the more likely it is clicked on.

Notice how steep the curve is. The higher the link, more (a lot more) likely it will be clicked on. You live and die by placement, determined by the newsfeed algorithm. (The effect, as Sean J. Taylor correctly notes, is a combination of placement, and the fact that the algorithm is guessing what you would like). This was already known, mostly, but it’s great to have it confirmed by Facebook researchers (the study was solely authored by Facebook employees).

The most important caveat that is buried is that this study is not about all of Facebook users, despite language at the end that’s quite misleading. The researchers end their paper with: “Finally, we conclusively establish that on average in the context of Facebook…” No. The research was conducted on a small, skewed subset of Facebook users who chose to self-identify their political affiliation on Facebook and regularly log on to Facebook, about ~4% of the population available for the study. This is super important because this sampling confounds the dependent variable.

The gold standard of sampling is random, where every unit has equal chance of selection, which allows us to do amazing things like predict elections with tiny samples of thousands. Sometimes, researchers use convenience samples — whomever they can find easily — and those can be okay, or not, depending on how typical the sample ends up being compared to the universe. Sometimes, in cases like this, the sampling affects behavior: people who self-identify their politics are almost certainly going to behave quite differently, on average, than people who do not, when it comes to the behavior in question which is sharing and clicking through ideologically challenging content. So, everything in this study applies only to that small subsample of unusual people. (Here’s a post by the always excellent Eszter Hargittai unpacking the sampling issue further.) The study is still interesting, and important, but it is not a study that can generalize to Facebook users. Hopefully that can be a future study.

What does the study actually say?

  • Here’s the key finding: Facebook researchers conclusively show that Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm decreases ideologically diverse, cross-cutting content people see from their social networks on Facebook by a measurable amount. The researchers report that exposure to diverse content is suppressed by Facebook’s algorithm by 8% for self-identified liberals and by 5% for self-identified conservatives. Or, as Christian Sandvig puts it, “the algorithm filters out 1 in 20 cross-cutting hard news stories that a self-identified conservative sees (or 5%) and 1 in 13cross-cutting hard news stories that a self-identified liberal sees (8%).” You are seeing fewer news items that you’d disagree with which are shared by your friends because the algorithm is not showing them to you.
  • Now, here’s the part which will likely confuse everyone, but it should not. The researchers also report a separate finding that individual choice to limit exposure through clicking behavior results in exposure to 6% less diverse content for liberals and 17% less diverse content for conservatives.

Are you with me? One novel finding is that the newsfeed algorithm (modestly) suppresses diverse content, and another crucial and also novel finding is that placement in the feed is (strongly) influential of click-through rates.

Researchers then replicate and confirm a well-known, uncontested and long-established finding which is that people have a tendency to avoid content that challenges their beliefs. Then, confusingly, the researchers compare whether algorithm suppression effect size is stronger than people choosing what to click, and have a lot of language that leads Christian Sandvig to call this the “it’s not our fault” study. I cannot remember a worse apples to oranges comparison I’ve seen recently, especially since these two dynamics, algorithmic suppression and individual choice, have cumulative effects.

Comparing the individual choice to algorithmic suppression is like asking about the amount of trans fatty acids in french fries, a newly-added ingredient to the menu, and being told that hamburgers, which have long been on the menu, also have trans-fatty acids — an undisputed, scientifically uncontested and non-controversial fact. Individual self-selection in news sources long predates the Internet, and is a well-known, long-identified and well-studied phenomenon. Its scientific standing has never been in question. However, the role of Facebook’s algorithm in this process is a new — and important — issue. Just as the medical profession would be concerned about the amount of trans-fatty acids in the new item, french fries, as well as in the existing hamburgers, researchers should obviously be interested in algorithmic effects in suppressing diversity, in addition to long-standing research on individual choice, since the effects are cumulative. An addition, not a comparison, is warranted.

Imagine this (imperfect) analogy where many people were complaining, say, a washing machine has a faulty mechanism that sometimes destroys clothes. Now imagine washing machine company research paper which finds this claim is correct for a small subsample of these washing machines, and quantifies that effect, but also looks into how many people throw out their clothes before they are totally worn out, a well-established, undisputed fact in the scientific literature. The correct headline would not be “people throwing out used clothes damages more dresses than the the faulty washing machine mechanism.” And if this subsample was drawn from one small factory located everywhere else than all the other factories that manufacture the same brand, and produced only 4% of the devices, the headline would not refer to all washing machines, and the paper would not (should not) conclude with a claim about the average washing machine.

Also, in passing the paper’s conclusion appears misstated. Even though the comparison between personal choice and algorithmic effects is not very relevant, the result is mixed, rather than “conclusively establish[ing] that on average in the context of Facebook individual choices more than algorithms limit exposure to attitude-challenging content”. For self-identified liberals, the algorithm was a stronger suppressor of diversity (8% vs. 6%) while for self-identified conservatives, it was a weaker one (5% vs 17%).)

Also, as Christian Sandvig states in this post, and Nathan Jurgenson in this important post here, and David Lazer in the introduction to the piece in Science explore deeply, the Facebook researchers are not studying some neutral phenomenon that exists outside of Facebook’s control. The algorithm is designed by Facebook, and is occasionally re-arranged, sometimes to the devastation of groups who cannot pay-to-play for that all important positioning. I’m glad that Facebook is choosing to publish such findings, but I cannot but shake my head about how the real findings are buried, and irrelevant comparisons take up the conclusion. Overall, from all aspects, this study confirms that for this slice of politically-engaged sub-population, Facebook’s algorithm is a modest suppressor of diversity of content people see on Facebook, and that newsfeed placement is a profoundly powerful gatekeeper for click-through rates. This, not all the roundabout conversation about people’s choices, is the news.

Late Addition: Contrary to some people’s impressions, I am not arguing against all uses of algorithms in making choices in what we see online. The questions that concern me are how these algorithms work, what their effects are, who controls them, and what are the values that go into the design choices. At a personal level, I’d love to have the choice to set my newsfeed algorithm to “please show me more content I’d likely disagree with” — something the researchers prove that Facebook is able to do.

What will post-democracy look like? (The Sociological Imagination)

 ON JANUARY 19, 2015

As anyone who reads my blog regularly might have noticed, I’m a fan of Colin Crouch’s notion of post-democracy. I’ve interviewed him about it a couple of times: once in 2010 and again in 2013. Whereas he’d initially offered the notion to illuminate a potential trajectory, in the sense that we risk becoming post-democratic, we more latterly see a social order that might be said to have become post-democratic. He intends the term to function analogously to post-industrial: it is not that democracy is gone but that it has been hollowed out:

The term was indeed a direct analogy with ‘post-industrial’. A post-industrial society is not a non-industrial one. It continues to make and to use the products of industry, but the energy and innovative drive of the system have gone elsewhere. The same applies in a more complex way to post-modern, which is not the same as anti-modern or of course pre-modern. It implies a culture that uses the achievements of modernism but departs from them in its search for new possibilities. A post-democratic society therefore is one that continues to have and to use all the institutions of democracy, but in which they increasingly become a formal shell. The energy and innovative drive pass away from the democratic arena and into small circles of a politico-economic elite. I did not say that we were now living in a post-democratic society, but that we were moving towards such a condition.

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/five-minutes-with-colin-crouch/

Crouch is far from the only theorist to have made such a claim. But I think there’s a precision to his argument which distinguishes it from the manner in which someone like, say, Bauman talks about depoliticisation. My current, slightly morbid, interest in representations of civilisational collapsehas left me wondering what entrenched post-democracy would look like. Asking this question does not refer to an absence of democracy, for which endless examples are possible, but rather for a more detailed sketch of what a social order which was once democratic but is now post-democratic would look like. While everyday life might look something like that which can be seen in Singapore, ‘the city of rules’ as this Guardian article puts it, I think there’s more to be said than this. However we can see in Singapore a vivid account of how micro-regulation can be deployed to facilitate a city in which ‘nothing goes wrong, but nothing really happens’ as one ex-pat memorably phrases it in that article. Is it so hard to imagine efficiency and orderliness being used to secure consent, at least amongst some, for a similar level of social control in western Europe or America?

Perhaps we’d also see the exceptional justice that intruded into UK life after the 2011 riots, with courts being kept open 24/7 in order to better facilitate the restoration of social order. There’s something akin to this in mega sporting events: opaque centralised planning overwhelms democratic consultation, ‘world cup courts’ dish out ad hoc justice, the social structure contorts itself for the pleasure of an international oligopoly upon whom proceedings depend, specialised security arrangements are intensively deployed in the interests of the event’s success and we often see a form of social cleansing (destruction of whole neighbourhoods) presented as a technocratic exercise in event management. We also see pre-arrests and predictive policing deployed to these ends and only a fool would not expect to see more of this as the technological apparatus and the political pressures encouraging them grow over time.

These security arrangements point to another aspect of a post-democratic social order: the economic vibrancy of the security sector. There is a technological dimension to this, with a long term growth fuelled by the ‘war on terror’ coupled with an increasing move towards ‘disruptive policing’ that offers technical solutions at a time of fiscal retrenchment, but we shouldn’t forget the more mundane side of the security industry and its interests in privatisation of policing. This is how Securitas, one of the world’s largest security companies, describe the prospects of the security industry. Note the title of the page: taking advantage of changes.

The global security services market employs several million people and is projected to reach USD 110 billion by 2016. Security services are in demand all over the world, in all industries and in both the public and private sectors. Demand for our services is closely linked to global economic development and social and demographic trends. As the global economy grows and develops, so do we.

Historically, the security market has grown 1–2 percent faster than GDP in mature markets. In recent years, due to current market dynamics and the gradual incorporation of technology into security solutions, security markets in Europe and North America have grown at the same pace as GDP. This trend is likely to continue over the next three to five years.

Market growth is crucial to Securitas’ future profitability and growth, but capitalizing on trends and changes in demand is also important. Developing new security solutions with a higher technology content and improved cost efficiency will allow the private security industry to expand the market by assuming responsibility for work presently performed by the police or other authorities. This development will also be a challenge for operations with insourced security services and increase interest in better outsourced solutions.

http://www.securitas.com/en/About-Securitas/Taking-advantage-of-changes/

Consider this against a background of terrorism, as the spectacular narrative of the ‘war on terror’ comes to be replaced by a prospect of state of alert without end. We’ve not seen the end of the ‘war on terror’, we’ve seen a spectacular narrative become a taken for granted part of everyday life. It doesn’t need to be narrativised any more because it’s here to stay. Against this backdrop, we’re likely see an authoritarian slide in political culture, supplementing the institutional arrangements already in place, in which ‘responsibility’ becomes the key virtue in the exercise of freedoms – as I heard someone say on the radio yesterday, “it’s irresponsible to say democracy is the only thing that matters when we face a threat like this” (or words to that effect).

Crucially, I don’t think this process is inexorable and it’s certainly not the unfolding of an historical logic. It’s enacted by people at every level – including those who reinforce the slide at the micro level of everyday social interaction. The intractability of the problem comes because the process itself involves a hollowing out of processes of contestation at the highest level, such that the corporate agents pursuing this changing social order are also benefiting from it by potential sources of resistance being increasingly absent or at least passive on the macro level.  This is how Wolfgang Streeck describes this institutional project, as inflected through management of the financial crisis:

The utopian ideal of present day crisis management is to complete, with political means, the already far-advanced depoliticization of the economy; anchored in recognised nation-stated under the control of internal governmental and financial diplomacy insulated from democratic participation, with a population that would have learned, over years of hegemonic re-education, to regard the distributional outcomes of free markets as fair, or at least as without alternative.

Buying Time, pg 46

São Paulo terá Justiça rápida para detidos em grandes manifestações (Folha de São Paulo)

REYNALDO TUROLLO JR.

DE SÃO PAULO

21/03/2014 03h30

A Justiça de São Paulo ganhará, a partir de hoje, um órgão específico para analisar com rapidez casos de prisão em flagrante em grandes protestos. A medida é uma resposta às manifestações que, desde junho de 2013, têm terminado com dezenas de detidos após depredações.

O novo órgão também vai agilizar a transformação dos inquéritos policiais em processos criminais. Uma consequência esperada pelas autoridades é que a punição de alguns manifestantes sirva de exemplo a outros.

Eventuais prisões em flagrante que ocorram amanhã, quando estão previstas duas manifestações na capital paulista, já serão encaminhadas ao órgão. A expectativa das autoridades é que ele seja útil também durante a Copa.

O Tribunal de Justiça de São Paulo é o primeiro do país a implantar o Ceprajud (Centro de Pronto Atendimento Judiciário), conforme orientação do Conselho Nacional de Justiça e do Ministério da Justiça.

“Na hipótese de um evento monstruoso, que acarrete 300 prisões em flagrante, o centro vai ter uma estrutura para comportar esse aumento repentino”, afirma o juiz Kleber de Aquino, assessor da presidência do TJ para assuntos de segurança pública.

Hoje, o manifestante detido é levado ao distrito policial, onde o delegado decide se irá liberá-lo ou prendê-lo em flagrante, de acordo com a gravidade do delito.

Quando alguém fica preso, uma cópia do auto de flagrante deve seguir em 24 horas para o Dipo (departamento que centraliza flagrantes), no fórum da Barra Funda.

Um juiz do Dipo decide se a prisão será mantida –decretando a preventiva– ou se o manifestante será liberado, mediante aplicação de medidas restritivas, como proibição de ir a certos lugares.

No caso de centenas de flagrantes de uma vez, o Dipo pode acabar atrasando a análise das prisões em dois ou três dias, explica Aquino. Por isso, essa análise passará a ser feita por juízes de plantão 24 horas no Ceprajud.

O centro poderá ainda convocar juízes e funcionários extras para atender à demanda.

“Essas decisões [sobre manter preso ou soltar] é que devem ser tomadas em caráter de urgência”, diz o juiz.

“A finalidade é a apreciação célere de procedimentos criminais de urgência e de eventuais excessos da repressão policial no curso de grandes manifestações.”

Martim de Almeida Sampaio, da comissão de direitos humanos da OAB (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil), critica a criação de uma “força-tarefa” do Judiciário para esses flagrantes e diz considerá-la parte de um conjunto de medidas para coibir protestos.

“Manifestantes que cometerem abuso devem ser punidos, mas essa via rápida voltada exclusivamente a eles é um pouco exagerada”, diz.

“A demanda da sociedade é por uma Justiça ágil, mas não voltada exclusivamente a processos contra movimento social”, afirma o advogado.

U.S. Seems Unlikely to Accept That Rights Treaty Applies to Its Actions Abroad (New York Times)

By  – MARCH 6, 2014

WASHINGTON — In 1995, Conrad Harper, the Clinton administration’s top State Department lawyer, appeared before a United Nations panel in Geneva to discuss American compliance with a global Bill of Rights-style treaty the Senate had recently ratified, and he was asked a pointed question: Did the United States believe it applied outside its borders?

Mr. Harper returned two days later and delivered an answer: American officials, he said, had no obligations under the rights accord when operating abroad. The Bush administration would amplify that claim after the Sept. 11 attacks — and extend it to another United Nations convention that bans the use of torture — to justify its treatment of terrorism suspects in overseas prisons operated by the military and the C.I.A.

The United Nations panel in Geneva that monitors compliance with the rights treaty disagrees with the American interpretation, and human rights advocates have urged the United States to reverse its position when it sends a delegation to answer the panel’s questions next week. But the Obama administration is unlikely to do that, according to interviews, rejecting a strong push by two high-ranking State Department officials from President Obama’s first term.

Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, declined to discuss deliberations but defended the existing interpretation of the accord as applying only within American borders. Called the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it bars such things as unfair trials, arbitrary killings and the imprisonment of people without judicial review.

“The legal position held by prior administrations — Republican and Democratic — is a carefully considered position with a strong basis in the text of the treaty, and there is a very high bar for change under those circumstances,” she said.

Still, in a 56-page internal memo, the State Department’s former top lawyer, Harold Koh, concluded in October 2010 that the “best reading” of the accord is that it does “impose certain obligations on a State Party’s extraterritorial conduct.”

And in January 2013 Mr. Koh went further in a 90-page memo on the Convention Against Torture. “In my legal opinion, it is not legally available to policy makers to claim” it has no application abroad, he wrote. Michael Posner, the former assistant secretary for human rights, shared that view. Both stepped down in 2013 and have not been replaced by political appointees.

In Mr. Obama’s first term, when the State Department was preparing to file an earlier report to the United Nations about the accord, both officials pushed to reverse the United States’ position. But military and intelligence lawyers resisted, officials said, and the final report in 2011 said only that the United States was “mindful” that many disagreed with the position it had taken in the past.

The ambiguous comment in the report left the door open to re-examine the question for the coming United Nations presentation. But the administration never fully re-engaged with the issue, officials said. No one produced a memo rebutting the details of Mr. Koh’s analysis, though one official maintained the memos were never cleared as the official State Department position, and said agencies had “unanimously” concluded the existing interpretation was sound.

Mr. Koh, who now teaches at Yale, declined to comment.

Ms. Hayden, citing an executive order by Mr. Obama requiring interrogations to be “consistent with the requirements” of the torture convention, argued that “there’s no question we take seriously the need to protect civilians outside our borders.” She emphasized that the government considered itself bound abroad by the Geneva Conventions and domestic detainee abuse laws.

Mr. Posner, now a New York University professor, said his hope was that the administration would “take the next step, which is to say, ‘This isn’t just policy — it is an international legal obligation’ ” to respect rights wherever in the world American forces are in control of someone.

But Matthew Waxman, a Columbia professor who was a top detainee policy official for the Bush administration, said military and intelligence agencies had been skeptical of taking that step because they worried about potentially complicating their overseas operations.

John Bellinger, the top State Department lawyer in the Bush administration, noted that the presentation comes in the midst of a furor over National Security Agency surveillance. The rights treaty also bars “arbitrary or unlawful interference” with privacy, although it is not clear that it requires parties to respect rights of foreigners not in its custody.

“This is a particularly sensitive time because of the N.S.A. controversy,” he said. “I cannot imagine the U.S. government would change its position, even if it were previously tempted to.”

Under the terms of the rights treaty, a state must respect and ensure rights to people “within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction.” The question is whether to interpret this phrase as describing one group of people or two — those on domestic soil and also those abroad who are subject to its exclusive control.

In 2006, the Bush administration told the United Nations that it applied only domestically. It cited Eleanor Roosevelt, who negotiated the treaty, arguing she proposed adding “its territory” to prevent it from covering the United States in postwar occupied Germany and Japan. Several Obama officials have said they find that argument compelling.

But the Koh memo, citing different wording in an earlier draft and various comments by Mrs. Roosevelt, contended that this misread what happened. It argued her intent was to avoid requiring Congress to enact legislation guaranteeing the rights of people abroad from abuses by others — not to allow American officials to violate them.

Another murky area is whether a shift would require major changes in American policy, or just raise new debates about issues like how the treaties interact with the laws of war. The treaties have no enforcement mechanisms, but can provide fodder for critics seeking to shame a country over its practices.

The Koh memo argued that very little about American policy would need to change. Still, Gabor Rona of Human Rights First questioned whether the practice of holding terrorism suspects without judicial review in Afghanistan and aboard ships would comport with the treaty.

But Beth van Schaack, a former State Department official who wrote a law review article on the issue, argued that the Obama administration had decent legal arguments in support of its policies and need not also argue that its human rights treaty obligations stop at its shores. “It’s a loser’s argument that we should let go, in order to be able to focus on arguments that have much more traction,” she said.

A version of this article appears in print on March 7, 2014, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Seems Unlikely to Accept That Rights Treaty Applies to Its Actions Abroad.

‘Modelo de escola é autoritário’, diz professor da Universidade de Columbia (O Globo)

Brian Perkins é autor de estudos sobre o clima em sala de aula, envolvendo expectativas de professores e alunos

LEONARDO VIEIRA

Publicado:3/02/14 – 8h00 / Atualizado:3/02/14 – 15h12

O professor Brian Perkins Foto: Foto de divulgação

O professor Brian Perkins Foto de divulgação

RIO – Professor da Universidade de Columbia, Brian Perkins é autor de estudos que mostram como o clima em sala de aula influencia o aprendizado. O especialista, que esteve no Rio no fim de 2013 para um evento na Escola Sesc, está hoje em conversas com a Secretaria municipal de Educação para fazer uma pesquisa semelhante na rede carioca.

Quem deve ser o líder dentro de uma sala de aula: o professor, o aluno ou ambos?

BRIAN PERKINS: Ambos. É preciso que haja oportunidades para que os alunos se apropriem da experiência de aprendizagem. Vou dar exemplo: quando eu estava na 6ª série, minha irmã estava na faculdade. Eu ficava lendo seus livros sobre o Egito Antigo. E, nas minhas aulas de História, eu percebi alguns equívocos do professor sobre o assunto. Daí levantei a mão para dizer que gostaria corrigir o professor. E ele disse: “ok , você venceu, pode me corrigir, desde que seja explicando para toda a classe”. E assim eu fiz. Agora, dando aula na universidade, também abro espaço para meus alunos compartilharem conhecimento sobre capítulos de livros, pois também quero saber as visões e perspectivas deles, o que eles adquiriram com o estudo. Isso é parte do aprendizado.

De que?

Acho que devemos aproveitar essas oportunidades, quando os alunos sabem mais sobre um assunto do que o professor. Eles também têm a capacidade de conhecer mais, se lhes for dada a atribuição. Não só é bom porque desenvolve a liderança, mas também porque o cérebro realmente funciona melhor se eles tiverem a oportunidade de criar a suas próprias experiências.

Quais são os benefícios de ser um líder na sala de aula?

Ser um líder traz muita responsabilidade e, por isso, é realmente difícil pensar em termos de benefício. É mais uma obrigação e uma responsabilidade. O benefício, em termos de aprendizagem, é que o professor é mais um facilitador. Eles não apenas leem os livros para os alunos, mas também criam perguntas para que os alunos possam responder. Então os alunos constroem seus conhecimentos em vez de apenas guardar tudo o que os professores lhes dizem. Não é para dizer aos alunos quais são fatos, mas, sim, deixá-los experimentar e explorar.

É como se o estudante fosse um autodidata?

Não exatamente. É ser responsável por aquilo que você aprende. Essa é a razão de você ficar bom em aprender coisas: você pode pensar que em qualquer coisa que você é bom, o motivo provavelmente é porque você gosta dela. E é por isso que defendo dar ao aluno a oportunidade dessa aprendizagem, para estudar e associar o estudo com as coisas que gosta.

Abordando agora suas pesquisas sobre o clima nas escolas, o que conta mais na hora da aprendizagem: o clima em sala de aula ou a qualidade do ensino?

Essa é uma pergunta muito boa, e fico me questionando o tempo todo. Mas o que posso dizer é que ambos são igualmente importantes. O lado do efeito “ambiente escolar” é tão importante quanto o lado cognitivo, o lado da aprendizagem que eles fazem. Por exemplo, considere uma escola com regras estabelecidas. Eu não tenho que dizer sempre aos alunos o que pode e o que não pode fazer, pois eu já parto do princípio de que eles já tem consciência. Agora, se o ambiente não é ordenado, eles não aprendem. Se não houver uma espécie de estado psicológico comum, os alunos não podem aprender. Se você descobre que os alunos de uma escola estão com medo de levantar a mão e fazer uma pergunta, não é um bom ambiente, porque você quer que os alunos façam perguntas. Mas se eles não fazem perguntas, eles não aprendem.

Você acha que o nosso modelo de escola é autoritário?

Eu acho que o modelo predominante de escolas em todo o mundo é autoritário. Nós queremos que os alunos assumam responsabilidades também. Queremos que eles digam ‘eu fui para a escola hoje, mas eu não me dei por satisfeito, e agora eu vou buscar por mim mesmo o que eu preciso. Mas são poucas escolas com modelo construtivo, de deixar os alunos descobrir as coisas, deixando-os criar e trabalhar em grupos que conversam entre si. As pessoas estão mais focadas no controle do que no conteúdo que elas estão aprendendo.

E nos casos de conteúdos mais “duros” como a Matemática, como ensiná-los sem ser autoritário?

Não ser autoritário não significa que é preciso abandonar a estrutura. Quer dizer, você ainda pode ter estrutura, mas tem que dar um sentido ao conteúdo. Não adianta ensinar Matemática sem significado. Eu vi uma vez uma camiseta que dizia: ‘Eu tenho 30 anos e eu ainda uso álgebra”. É o mesmo quando te dizem ainda pequeno ‘você ainda vai precisar disso um dia’. E é verdade.

Mas se esse dia nunca chegar?

Se nunca chegar, é porque ninguém mostrou a conexão. Você usa álgebra toda hora em sua vida, mas as pessoas não refletem muito sobre isso. O professor que ensina Matemática tem que repassar os conceitos de matemática. Ensinar o conceito não significa ser autoritário. Autoritária é a postura que você assume em seu ensino: “Eu sou o professor e eu sei de tudo e você tem que buscar o conhecimento através de mim agora”. É isso, você pode ensinar-lhes as habilidades e, em seguida, dizer-lhes onde eles pode aplicá-las. A postura influencia muito o ambiente de aprendizagem.

No Brasil, temos alguns exemplos de professores que tentam fugir desse modelo autoritário. Eles fazem um monte de piadas, dançam no meio da sala de aula, e dizem que esta é a forma como eles podem promover a curiosidade do conteúdo em seus alunos. Como você enxerga essa técnica?

Eu acho que pode ser uma boa ferramenta, mas não deve ser usada toda hora, é preciso equilibrar. As pessoas usam diferentes métodos para manter os alunos envolvidos, isso depende do seu estilo, mas as pessoas às vezes acabam abusando do humor, e o que acontece é que alguns se distraem. Você pode brincar, mas tem que manter o que eu chamo de “3 Rs”.

O primeiro é o rigor: você tem que ser rigoroso. O segundo é que ele tem que ser relevante, tanto para o professor quanto para o aluno. E por fim, tem que existir uma relação entre o professor e os alunos. E o relacionamento tem que ser aquele em que os alunos olham para o professor como uma boa fonte de informação, de companheirismo. Essas são as três coisas que eu digo que tem que estar no lugar em qualquer sala de aula.

Alguns estudantes no Brasil se queixam de que os nossos conteúdos são engessados. É melhor para o aluno escolher o tema sobre o qual ele iria se concentrar para seu futuro profissional?

Você tem alunos que são como Mozart. Tudo o que fez foi ser bom no piano. O talento deles pode torná-los ricos, mas o que mais eles poderiam saber além? Como eles poderiam funcionar em um mundo sem conhecer a história, ou a ciência? Você vê o que eu estou dizendo? Se você não ensinar-lhes mais disciplinas, mais áreas, eles não podem sobreviver. Então, é preciso dar-lhes as ferramentas e é isso que é o importante. É que eles tenham as ferramentas para fazer mais.

Em seus trabalhos, você demonstra que o clima é um dos principais agentes influenciadores do aprendizado. Aqui no Brasil, começamos a ter a ocupação de comunidades que antes eram negligenciadas pelo poder público e viviam com altos índices de violência. Você acredita que com a pacificação, as escolas dessas regiões podem ter melhor rendimento acadêmico?

Isso é óbvio. Como uma criança poderia que se escondia na escola durante tiroteios poderia aprender alguma coisa? Se o ambiente ao redor da escola muda, dentro da escola também vai haver reflexos. E nesse caso, para o lado positivo. Pesquisas daqui já demonstram que as unidades dentro e UPPP tem melhorado nos índices escolares. É um efeito diretamente proporcional. Os casos de escolas em áreas de conflito é o exemplo extremo de como o clima influencia o aprendizado.

Leia mais sobre esse assunto em http://oglobo.globo.com/educacao/modelo-de-escola-autoritario-diz-professor-da-universidade-de-columbia-11482918#ixzz2sI0dm2T6 © 1996 – 2014. Todos direitos reservados a Infoglobo Comunicação e Participações S.A. Este material não pode ser publicado, transmitido por broadcast, reescrito ou redistribuído sem autorização. 

Governo regulamenta uso das Forças Armadas contra manifestações sociais (Vox Política)

Portaria está em vigor desde 20 de dezembro de 2013. Celso Amorim, ministro da Defesa, aprovou o documento.

 | quinta-feira, 23 janeiro 2014 – 2:30

anexo

O ministro da Defesa, Celso Amorim, aprovou no fim do ano passado uma Portaria que regulamenta o uso das Forças Armadas (Exército, Marinha e Aeronáutica) em manifestações sociais, protestos e outras ocasiões que possam comprometer “a ordem pública”.

A regra, presente no Manual “Garantia da Lei e da Ordem”, validado junto com a Portaria, está em vigor desde 20 de dezembro, data de sua publicação no Diário Oficial da União. Logo no segundo capítulo, o documento ressalta que, apesar do apreço ao conceito de não-guerra, as operações poderão ter “o uso de força de forma limitada”.

Esse emprego das Forças Armadas nessas operações seria autorizado “em situações de esgotamento dos instrumentos a isso previstos”, ou seja, “quando, em determinado momento, forem eles formalmente reconhecidos pelo respectivo Chefe do Poder Executivo Federal ou Estadual como indisponíveis, inexistentes ou insuficientes ao desempenho regular da missão constitucional”.

Entre as principais ameaças elencadas pelo Ministério da Defesa, duas se destacam por fazer referência à Copa do Mundo e às manifestações de 2013: o combate ao bloqueio de vias públicas de circulação e a ofensiva contra a sabotagem nos locais de grandes eventos. Para tanto, os soldados têm autorização de controlar até o fluxo dos cidadãos.

O anexo do “Controle de Distúrbios em Ambiente Urbano” é o que cita de maneira mais contundente a oposição a grupos populares de protesto.

Em “Cenário”, conforme imagem destacada no início da reportagem, o alerta estatal vislumbra a “atuação de elementos integrantes de movimentos sociais reivindicatórios, de oposição ou protesto, comprometendo a ordem pública”, reservando aos governos estaduais e federal o direito de traçar limites. No apêndice de operações psicológicas, os movimentos sociais recebem classificação ainda pior: forças oponentes.

Direitos Humanos: ainda a passos lentos no Brasil (Revista Fórum)

22/1/2014 – 11h45

por Redação da Revista Fórum

Policia protesto 300x199 Direitos Humanos: ainda a passos lentos no Brasil

Manifestações de junho de 2013 e repressão policial foram mencionadas no documento. Foto: Mídia Ninja

Má conduta policial, execuções, torturas, superlotação carcerária e impunidade são os “destaques” brasileiros no Relatório Mundial da Human Rights Watch de 2014

“O Brasil está entre as democracias mais influentes em assuntos regionais e globais. Nos últimos anos, tornou-se uma voz cada vez mais importante em debates sobre as respostas internacionais a problemas de direitos humanos. No plano doméstico, entretanto, o país continua enfrentando graves desafios relacionados aos direitos humanos, incluindo execuções extrajudiciais cometidas por policiais, tortura, superlotação das prisões e impunidade para os abusos cometidos durante o regime militar”

É assim que a ONG Human Rights Watch (HRW), inicia o seu relatório de 2014 sobre a situação dos direitos humanos no Brasil, divulgado nessa terça-feira (21/01) em 14 cidades ao redor do mundo sobre mais de 90 países. Como não podia deixar de ser, um dos principais tópicos no contexto brasileiro foram a atuação policial frente às manifestações populares de 2013, a questão carcerária no país – apesar de a barbárie no Maranhão ainda não ter sido divulgada à época da conclusão do documento – e denúncias de tortura.

O relatório diz: “Dezenas de jornalistas que cobriram as manifestações de junho foram feridos ou detidos pela polícia. Durante um protesto em São Paulo em 13 de junho, uma repórter e um fotógrafo foram atingidos nos olhos por balas de borracha e ficaram gravemente feridos”. Segundo Maria Laura Canineu, diretora da ONG para o país, “ficou ainda mais claro o mau preparo da polícia para lidar com multidões. Durante os protestos, pudemos ver que o padrão de conduta dos policiais não mudou e, em muitos casos, usaram a força de forma desproporcional contra os manifestantes”. A diretora também citou a morte de Amarildo – preso, torturado e executado – dando outro exemplo da violência policial que teve como resultado a denúncia de 25 policiais pela tortura e, 17 deles, pelo crime de ocultação do cadáver.

A questão da tortura também foi abordada no tópico sobre a situação carcerária no Brasil. De acordo com a ONG, a Subcomissão das Nações Unidas para a Prevenção de Tortura e Outros Tratamentos Cruéis, Desumanos e Degradantes informou ter recebido relatos “repetidos e consistentes” de presos sobre espancamentos e outros maus-tratos durante a custódia policial, sendo o caso mais notório o espancamento, sufocamento e aplicação de choques elétricos a quatro homens para forçá-los a confessar o estupro e assassinato de uma menina de 14 anos em julho de 2013.

Outro caso presente no relatório foram os agentes da Fundação Casa (Centro de Atendimento Socioeducativo ao Adolescente) espancando seis adolescentes, na Vila Maria, em São Paulo. O crime só veio a público graças às gravações das câmeras de segurança do complexo prisional. Em conversa com nossa redação, Julio Cesar Fernandes Neves, ouvidor chefe da Polícia Militar do Estado de São Paulo, confirmou ter lido o relatório da HRW: “Vamos apurar as denúncias de tortura na PM onde elas acontecerem, não importa. Nem em guerras se tolera a tortura”.

Outros temas destacados pelo relatório foram a violência contra mulheres, LGBTs (3 mil denúncias de violência em 2012) e contra ativistas do campo e indígenas, com 37 membros de tribos indígenas mortos no Mato Grosso do Sul – também em 2012 – e quase 2,5 mil ativistas rurais ameaçados de morte durante a última década.

No âmbito da política externa, a diretora da ONG diz: “O Brasil falhou, por exemplo, ao se omitir na votação da ONU sobre a guerra na Síria. Quando o Brasil fala, como no caso da invasão de privacidade, dá repercussão. Mas quando o Brasil se omite, isso também causa uma reação, e ela é bastante negativa para o país no cenário mundial.”

Apesar de elogiar a postura brasileira na questão da violação de privacidade e espionagem internacional dos EUA, o tímido avanço na área de segurança pública desde o último relatório mostra que o Brasil ainda tem muito a fazer.

* Publicado originalmente no site Revista Fórum.

O que os rolezinhos dizem sobre o direito à cidade? (Portal Aprendiz)

22/1/2014 – 11h31

por Danilo Mekari e Pedro Ribeiro Nogueira, do Portal Aprendiz

Antes relegados à lugares invisíveis da cidade, onde não reuniam tanta gente e nem chamavam tanta atenção, os encontros de jovens da periferia de São Paulo tomaram outras proporções a partir do dia 7/12 do ano passado, quando ocorreu o primeiro rolezinho – encontro marcado via redes sociais – no Shopping Metrô Itaquera. Ao mesmo tempo, tramitava um projeto de lei que coibia os bailes funks de acontecerem nas ruas, posteriormente vetado pelo prefeito Fernando Haddad (PT).

Para quem participa está claro o motivo da reunião: se divertir, escutar música, fazer amizades e até mesmo paquerar – tudo isso dentro dos templos do consumo que esses mesmos jovens são tentados a fazer parte diariamente, através da publicidade intensa e da ostentação de outras classes mais abastadas.

Para os reais consumidores dos shoppings, porém, esses encontros são uma ameaça à tranquilidade com que fazem suas compras e, mais, devem ser devidamente contidos pelas forças de segurança e proibidos pela Justiça.

foto1 O que os rolezinhos dizem sobre o direito à cidade?

O que os rolezinhos dizem sobre o direito à cidade? | Envolverde

Os rolezinhos, porém, não pararam de crescer. Se antes eram restritos à capital paulista, agora se espalham por vários estados. E, se antes também se restringiam a um encontro de jovens das camadas mais populares, hoje há rolês organizados por jovens de classe média, universitários e movimentos sociais que apoiam o direito de ir e vir desses adolescentes.

Também se tornaram pauta prioritária na agenda do governo federal, por receio de se tornarem o estopim de novas manifestações, inclusive com a participação de black blocs.

Instigado por esse debate e em busca de sentidos para esse fenômeno, o Portal Aprendiz perguntou para Leonardo Sakamoto, Ermínia Maricato, Douglas Belchior, Alexandre Barbosa Pereira e Pablo Ortellado o que os rolezinhos nos dizem sobre a segregação e o direito à cidade.

Confira as respostas!

sakamoto1 O que os rolezinhos dizem sobre o direito à cidade?Leonardo Sakamoto – jornalista e doutor em Ciência Política, autor do Blog do Sakamoto

“A maior parte da molecada que vai aos rolezinhos não quer fazer nenhum protesto e sim curtir e ser curtido. Não são politizados, como também não era a maioria dos que foram às ruas nas jornadas de junho. Mas o cutucão, se não é o objetivo, acaba sendo o efeito colateral, pois a presença deles naquele espaço provoca uma reação violenta. Daí, há dois caminhos para analisar os rolês: quem são e o que querem esses jovens e o porquê da reação de determinados grupos sociais, sejam eles do centro ou da própria periferia.

Shoppings são bolhas, oferecem a garantia de que nada vai acontecer com você se estiver lá dentro comprando. Da mesma forma que cercas eletrificadas mentem sobre a proteção de casas, que carros blindados mentem sobre a proteção de famílias, que a presença de uma arma de fogo mente quando promete afastar qualquer risco real.

Quando centenas de “intrusos” ameaçam invadir essa realidade virtual, querendo fazer parte dela, seus usuários sentem que ela se desligou de repente e entram em pânico. Porque esse grupo de garotos e garotas talvez não entenda, mas é exatamente deles que parte do povo que se refugia em shoppings quer fugir. Fisicamente. Simbolicamente.”

erminia1 O que os rolezinhos dizem sobre o direito à cidade?Ermínia Maricato – professora da FAU (Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo) da USP

“Nas relações sociais, no Brasil, existe uma profunda distância entre discurso e prática ou entre o texto da lei e sua aplicação. Em consequência, grande parte da sociedade permanece sem direitos previstos na legislação. São ignorados, segregados e invisíveis apesar das dimensões dessa exclusão. Como essa espécie de apartheid não é clara e assumida, vive-se uma contradição, um faz de conta. Faz de conta que isso é uma democracia, faz de conta que a lei se aplica a todos da mesma forma, faz de conta que todos têm direitos iguais, como é o caso do direito à cidade.

O que a prática dos rolezinhos tem de notável, fantástico, extraordinário mesmo, é o desnudamento dessa contradição. Quando os exilados urbanos decidem andar pela cidade, esse apartheid explode na cara da sociedade ainda que não seja essa a intenção da maior parte da moçada. Essa atitude questiona, profundamente, a sociedade que aprendeu a ser cínica (especialmente o “partido da mídia”) para esconder a incrível desigualdade de um país que não é pobre mas tem um povo pobre.”

odug1 O que os rolezinhos dizem sobre o direito à cidade?Douglas Belchior – professor de História e integrante da UneAfro Brasil, autor do blog Negro Belchior

“Por parte dos shoppings vemos temos uma contradição, já que se espalharam pelas periferias justamente atrás do poder aquisitivo desse público que eles agora recusam.

A medida em que o mundo, através de seus valores, convence a população de que para “ser” é preciso “ter”, de que “viver” é não apenas “consumir” mas também “ostentar”… e ao mesmo tempo não proporciona espaços de convivência, de lazer e educação que provoquem o interesse da juventude, os shoppings passam a ser a grande opção.

Criminalizado como um dia fora a capoeira, o futebol, o samba e o rap, o funk moderno é tão contraditório em seu conteúdo quanto o é a resistência em sua forma e estética e nesse momento está servindo também para fazer aflorar o racismo enraizado na alma das elites hipócritas – muito mais vinculadas aos valores da luxúria e ostentação que a turma do funk.

Os meninos e meninas do funk hoje afrontam os cara-pálidas com sua presença física, com o tom de sua pele, com sua roupa, com seu som. Tudo isso, intencional ou não, é profundamente político e contestador por sua própria natureza.”

pablo1 O que os rolezinhos dizem sobre o direito à cidade?Pablo Ortellado – professor na Escola de Artes, Ciências e Humanidades da USP (EACH) e autor do livro “20 Centavos: A Luta Contra o Aumento” (Ed. Veneta)

“Ainda permanece um pouco obscuro os motivos que levaram os jovens da periferia a marcar encontros coletivos nos shoppings da cidade – queriam mesmo só se divertir ou estariam também desafiando as barreiras econômicas e raciais que dividem os que têm dos que não têm? Seja como for, a resposta dura e anticidadã dos shopping centers e da Justiça conferiu um caráter social e político ao fenômeno.

E é nessa resposta jurídica que busca garantir aos shoppings o direito de escolher quem pode frequentá-los que se formalizou e se evidenciou a segregação espacial implícita que rege a nossa sociedade. Seja qual for a motivação, a repercussão colocou em discussão a vergonhosa separação espacial que segrega os ricos dos pobres e os brancos dos negros.”

alexandre1 O que os rolezinhos dizem sobre o direito à cidade?Alexandre Barbosa Pereira – pesquisador do Laboratório do Núcleo de Antropologia Urbana (LabNAU) da USP e autor da tese “A maior zoeira: experiências juvenis na periferia de São Paulo”

“Os rolezinhos demonstram a necessidade de lutarmos por espaços, físicos, sociais e subjetivos, de representação, expressão e reconhecimento para todos. O principal recado que os jovens dos rolezinhos nos dão é o de que querem o direito a se divertir na cidade.”

* Publicado originalmente no site Portal Aprendiz.

PL quer punir “terroristas” e grevistas na Copa (Agência Pública)

27.02.12 Por Andrea Dip, 

Foto: Daniel Kfouri. Arte urbana de Esqueleto Coletivo

“É a ditadura transitória da FIFA” diz presidente da Comissão de Direitos Humanos da OAB-SP, sobre PL que corre no Senado em paralelo à Lei Geral da Copa

Enquanto as atenções estão voltadas para o projeto de Lei Geral da Copa (2.330/11) que está sendo votado na Câmara nesta terça-feira (28), os senadores Marcelo Crivella (PRB-RJ), Ana Amélia (PP-RS) e Walter Pinheiro (PT-BA) correm com outro Projeto de Lei no Senado, conhecido pelos movimentos sociais como “AI-5 da Copa” por, dentre outras coisas, proibir greves durante o período dos jogos e incluir o “terrorismo” no rol de crimes com punições duras e penas altas para quem “provocar terror ou pânico generalizado”.

O PL 728/2011, apresentado no Senado em dezembro de 2011, ainda aguarda voto do relator Álvaro Dias (PSDB-PR) na Comissão de Educação, Cultura e Esporte do Senado. Se for aprovado, vai criar oito novos tipos penais que não constam do nosso Código Penal como “terrorismo”, “violação de sistema de informática” e “revenda ilegal de ingressos”, determinando penas específicas para eles. Essa lei – transitória – valeria apenas durante os jogos da FIFA.

Na justificativa da proposta, os senadores alegam que a Lei Geral da Copa deixa de fora a tipificação de uma série de delitos, necessária para “garantir a segurança durante os jogos”.

O projeto prevê ainda que quem “cometer crimes contra a integridade da delegação, árbitros, voluntários ou autoridades públicas esportivas com o fim de intimidar ou influenciar o resultado da partida de futebol poderá pegar entre dois e cinco anos de prisão”.

Para quem “violar, bloquear ou dificultar o acesso a páginas da internet, sistema de informática ou banco de dados utilizado pela organização dos eventos” a pena seria de um a quatro anos de prisão, além de multa. E para deixar a aplicação das penas ainda mais eficaz, o projeto prevê a instauração de um “incidente de celeridade processual” (art. 15), um regime de urgência em que a comunicação do delito poderia se dar por mensagem eletrônica ou ligação telefônica e funcionaria também nos finais de semana e feriados.

O presidente da Comissão de Direitos Humanos da OAB de São Paulo Martim Sampaio considera o projeto um “atentado contra o Estado Democrático de Direito”. “É um projeto de lei absurdo que quer sobrepor os interesses de mercado à soberania popular. Uma lei para proteger a FIFA e não os cidadãos e que, além de tudo, abre precedentes para injustiças por suas definições vagas”, diz o advogado.

Para Thiago Hoshino, assessor jurídico da organização de direitos humanos Terra de Direitos e integrante do Comitê Popular da Copa de Curitiba, a questão é ainda mais complicada. Ele acredita que a junção de tantos assuntos em um mesmo projeto é uma tentativa de aprovar leis antigas que endurecem principalmente a legislação penal: “É um bloco perigoso que viola garantias básicas da Constituição. E há sempre o risco de estas leis transitórias se tornarem permanentes. A legislação da Copa é, na verdade, um grande laboratório de inovações jurídicas. Depois o que for proveitoso pode permanecer. É mais fácil tornar uma lei transitória permanente do que criar e aprovar uma nova” explica.

Terrorismo

O que chama a atenção logo de cara no projeto de lei é a tipificação de “terrorismo”, que até hoje não existe no nosso código penal. No PL, ele é definido como “o ato de provocar terror ou pânico generalizado mediante ofensa à integridade física ou privação da liberdade de pessoa, por motivo ideológico, religioso, político ou de preconceito racial, étnico ou xenófobo” com pena de no mínimo 15 e no máximo 30 anos de reclusão. Martim Sampaio diz que este é o artigo mais perigoso por não dar definições exatas sobre o termo: “Da maneira como está na lei, qualquer manifestação, passeata, protesto, ato individual ou coletivo pode ser entendido como terrorismo. Isso é um cheque em branco na mão da FIFA e do Estado”.

Documentos revelados pelo WikiLeaks revelaram a pressão americana para que o Brasil criasse uma lei para o “terrorismo”, principalmente para assegurar os megaeventos. No relatório de Lisa Kubiske, conselheira da Embaixada americana em Brasília, enviado para os EUA em 24 de dezembro de 2010, a diplomata mostra-se preocupada com as declarações de Vera Alvarez, chefe da Coordenação-Geral de Intercâmbio e Cooperação Esportiva do Itamaraty porque a brasileira “admite que terroristas podem atacar o Brasil por conta das Olimpíadas, uma declaração pouco comum de um governo que acredita que não haja terrorismo no País”.

Os banqueiros também pressionam o Estado a criar uma lei antiterrorismo há algum tempo. Também em 2010, a falta de uma legislação específica sobre terrorismo foi o principal foco em um congresso sobre lavagem de dinheiro e financiamento de grupos extremistas organizado pela Federação Brasileira de Bancos (Febraban), em São Paulo. A questão poderia custar ao Brasil a exclusão do Grupo de Ação Financeira Internacional (Gafi), órgão multinacional que atua na prevenção desses crimes.

Greves

O projeto de lei também mira reduzir o direito à greve, prevendo a ampliação dos serviços essenciais à população durante a Copa – como a manutenção de portos e aeroportos, serviços de hotelaria e vigilância – e restringe a legalidade da greve de trabalhadores destes setores, incluindo os que trabalham nas obras da Copa, de três meses antes dos eventos até o fim dos jogos. Se aprovado, os sindicatos que decidirem fazer uma paralisação terão de avisar com 15 dias de antecedência e manter ao menos 70% dos trabalhadores em atividade. O governo ainda estará autorizado a contratar trabalhadores substitutos para manter o atendimento, o que é proibido pela lei 7.283/1989 em vigor no país, que estabelece 72 horas de antecedência para o aviso de greve e não determina um percentual mínimo de empregados em atividade durante as paralisações.

Eli Alves, presidente da Comissão de Direito Trabalhista da OAB-SP, lembra que o direito à greve também é garantido na Constituição Federal e diz que a sensação que fica é a de que “o Brasil está sendo alugado para a FIFA, flexibilizando suas próprias regras para fazer a Copa no país”. Martim Sampaio lembra que as greves foram proibidas durante a ditadura militar: “A gente conquistou este direito com o fim da ditadura, muitas vidas foram perdidas neste processo. Não é possível que agora criemos uma ditadura transitória da FIFA”. E convoca: “O único jeito de não deixar esta lei ser aprovada é por pressão popular. A gente tem bons exemplos de que isso funciona como a da lei da ficha limpa. É preciso conquistar a democracia todos os dias”.

Foto de abertura gentilmente cedida por Daniel Kfouri

Notificação de HIV no Brasil passará a ser obrigatória (OESP)

Por Felipe Frazão | Estadão Conteúdo – 11 horas atrás (Yahoo Notícias)

O Ministério da Saúde vai tornar compulsória a notificação de todas as pessoas infectadas com o vírus HIV, mesmo as que não desenvolveram a doença. A portaria ministerial que trata da obrigatoriedade de aviso de todos os casos de detecção do vírus da aids no País deve ser publicada em janeiro.

Atualmente, médicos e laboratórios informam ao Ministério da Saúde apenas os casos de pacientes que possuem o HIV e tenham, necessariamente, manifestado a doença. Os dados serão mantidos em sigilo. Somente as informações de perfil (sem a identificação do nome) poderão ser divulgadas para fins estatísticos.

Hoje, o governo monitora os soropositivos sem aids de maneira indireta. As informações disponíveis são de pessoas que fizeram a contagem de células de defesa nos serviços públicos ou estão cadastradas para receber antirretrovirais pelo Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS). O novo banco de dados será usado para planejamento de políticas públicas de prevenção e tratamento da aids.

“Para a saúde pública é extremamente importante, porque nós vamos poder saber realmente quantas pessoas estão infectadas e o tipo de serviços que vamos precisar”, explica Dirceu Grego, diretor do Departamento de DST, Aids e Hepatites Virais do Ministério da Saúde.

A mudança ocorre quatro meses após o governo anunciar a ampliação do acesso ao tratamento com medicação antirretroviral oferecido pelo SUS. A prescrição passou a ser feita em estágios menos avançados da aids.

Desde então, casais com um dos parceiros soropositivo passaram a ter acesso à terapia em qualquer estágio da doença.

O ministério também recomendou que a droga seja ministrada de forma mais precoce para quem não têm sintomas de aids, mas possui o vírus no organismo – uma tendência na abordagem da doença, reforçada na última Conferência Internacional de Aids, realizada em julho deste ano nos Estados Unidos.

À época, o ministério calculou que o número de brasileiros com HIV fazendo uso dos antirretrovirais aumentaria em 35 mil. Atualmente, são cerca de 220 mil pacientes com aids.

Outras 135 mil pessoas, estima o governo, têm o HIV, mas não sabem. Elas estão no foco da mudança na obrigatoriedade de notificação, porque não foram ainda diagnosticadas. Segundo Grego, essas pessoas devem ser incorporadas ao tratamento. Assim como ocorre quando os pacientes são diagnosticados com aids, caberá aos médicos e laboratórios avisar ao ministério sobre a descoberta de pessoas infectadas – os soropositivos. As informações são do jornal O Estado de S.Paulo.

Legislated to Health? If People Don’t Take Their Health Into Their Own Hands, Governments May Use Policies to Do It for Them (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2012) — Obesity rates in North America are a growing concern for legislators. Expanded waistlines mean rising health-care costs for maladies such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. One University of Alberta researcher says that if people do not take measures to get healthy, they may find that governments will throw their weight into administrative measures designed to help us trim the fat.

Nola Ries of the Faculty of Law’s Health Law and Science Policy Group has recently published several articles exploring potential policy measures that could be used to promote healthier behaviour. From the possibility of zoning restrictions on new fast-food outlet locations, mandatory menu labels, placing levies on items such as chips and pop or offering cash incentives for leading a more healthy and active lifestyle, she says governments at all levels are looking to adopt measures that will help combat both rising health-care costs and declining fitness levels. But she cautions that finding a solution to such a widespread, complex problem will require a multi-layered approach.

“Since eating and physical activity behaviour are complex and influenced by many factors, a single policy measure on its own is not going to be the magic bullet,” said Ries. “Measures at multiple levels — directed at the food and beverage industry, at individuals, at those who educate and those who restrict — must work together to be effective.”

Junk-food tax: A lighter wallet equals a lighter you?

Ries notes that several countries have already adopted tax measures against snack foods and beverages, similar to “sin taxes” placed on alcohol and tobacco. Although Canada has imposed its GST on various sugary and starchy snacks (no tax is charged on basic groceries such as meats, vegetables and fruits), Ries points to other countries such as France and Romania, where the tax rate is much higher. She says taxing products such as sugar-sweetened beverages would likely not only reduce consumption (and curb some weight gain) if the tax is high enough, but also provide a revenue stream to combat the problem on other levels.

“Price increases through taxation do help discourage consumption of ‘sin’ products, especially for younger and lower-income consumers,” said Ries. “Such taxes would provide a source of government revenue that could be directed to other programs to promote healthier lifestyles.”

Warning: This menu label may make you eat healthier

Ries notes that prevailing thought says putting nutrition-value information where consumers can see it will enable them to make better food choices. She says many locales in the United States have already implemented mandatory menu labelling. Even though some studies say menu labels do not have a significant impact on consumer behaviour, nutrition details might help some people make more informed eating choices.

“Providing information is less coercive than taxation and outright bans, so governments should provide information along with any other more restrictive measure,” said Ries. “If a more coercive policy is being implemented, it’s important for citizens to understand the rationale for it.”

Coaxing our way to good health?

Ries notes that some programs designed to create more active citizens, such as the child fitness tax credit, do not seem to have the desired effect. Yet, she says that offering incentives for living healthier and exercising more may have a greater impact on getting people active. She points to similar programs used for weight loss and smoking cessation, which had a positive effect on behaviour change, at least in the short term. More work needs to be done to establish an enticement plan with longer-term effects, one that may incorporate points accumulated for healthy types of behaviour that could be redeemed for health- and fitness-related products and services. She says investing money into more direct incentive programs may be more effective than messages that simply give general advice about healthy lifestyles.

“Instead of spending more money on educational initiatives to tell people what they already know — like eat your greens and get some exercise — I suggest it’s better to focus on targeted programs that help people make and sustain behaviour change,” said Ries. “Financial incentive programs are one option; the question there is how best to target such programs and to design them to support long-term healthy behaviour.”