Leitura para o fim-de-semana: o verdadeiro lobo de Wall Street

Até há pouco tempo poucos em Portugal terão ouvido falar em Jordan Belfort. Tudo mudou nos últimos dias com a estreia de O Lobo de Wall Street nos Estados Unidos e com a chegada aos ecrãs nacionais marcada para a próxima quinta-feira. Realizado por Martin Scorcese e protagonizado por Leonardo Di Caprio, conta a história de um corrector que ganhou milhões de dólares em Wall Street até ser preso, acusado e condenado por fraude e lavagem de dinheiro. Nesta reportagem, a Bloomberg Businessweek acompanhou o verdadeiro Jordan Belfort que conta o seu passado, fala da escolha entre Di Caprio e Brad Pitt, recorda os dias na prisão, a escrita do livro e a forma como agora ganha milhares de euros a dar palestras.

Foto: Jeff Brown para a Bloomberg Businessweek

Foto: Jeff Brown para a Bloomberg Businessweek

Jordan Belfort, the Real Wolf of Wall Street

“Jordan Belfort, aka the Wolf of Wall Street, hates it when people describe him as a criminal. “‘Convicted stock swindler’—it’s like it hurts my heart,” he says, practically shuddering. “I know it was true, but it’s not who I am. I say to my son, I say it to everybody who I try to mentor: We are not the mistakes of our past. We’re the resources and capabilities that we glean from our past. And it’s so true.”

It’s a delicate argument for Belfort to make. He will forever be associated with Stratton Oakmont, the Long Island penny-stock boiler room he ran in the 1990s. Stratton employed more than 1,000 brokers at its peak, before the Securities and Exchange Commission shut down the company and the FBI arrested Belfort, in 1998. Convicted of money laundering and securities fraud in 2003, he received a four-year prison sentence—he served only 22 months—and was ordered to repay $110.4 million to a victim compensation fund. Other terms for the kind of outfit he built and ran are “pump and dump” and “chop-shop.” The words “fraud” and “crook” come up frequently as well. “It chokes me up a little when I think about it. … I was a bad guy. And it wasn’t like I started that way,” he says, his voice becoming tight. “You can get desensitized to your own actions—it’s easy on Wall Street. Before you know it, it’s like everyone’s just a number.” He goes on: “I shouldn’t really care what people think of me. … I know I’m good. But of course I do care.”

Belfort, 51, is in Fort Worth for two days in October speaking to the Young Presidents’ Organization, a secretive networking group for CEOs and other senior executives under the age of 45. His theme, as usual, is what he’s learned from his experiences about how others can avoid the pain he caused and suffered. Sporting a John Boehner-caliber tan, Belfort delivers a slick, self-deprecating performance describing how he drove his life into the gutter with greed and drugs and excess, how he stole millions from people and went to jail for it, and how he reinvented himself as a legitimate businessman. He’s a natural performer, and in spite of his tarnished background—or more likely because of it—audiences appear genuinely moved by what he says. It doesn’t hurt to open appearances with a trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street, the movie based on his story, which is due to open, after some editing hiccups, on Christmas Day.

“To my shock it got picked up, with this bidding war between Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt,” Belfort says, “and I chose Leo and Martin Scorsese.” In addition to several million dollars that have flowed from book and movie deals, Belfort gets paid in the neighborhood of $30,000 for a speech—not bad for an hour’s work, although it requires him to spend the night in Fort Worth. A portion of his income will go to repay the investors whose money he lost.

Belfort makes a very good living, but it’s crumbs compared with the millions he says he once generated every day, pushing crappy $4 stocks on retirees in Orlando. In addition to traveling the world speaking, he works as a consultant to individual companies, talking about business ethics or teaching his sales techniques—the same ones that fueled his brokerage firm—which he argues can also be put to good use. Belfort says he’s been hired to do work for Delta Air Lines (DAL), Symantec (SYMC), Virgin Airlines, Wyndham (WYN), Telstra (TLS:AU), Deutsche Bank (DB), Fairfax Media (FXJ:AU), Southern Cross Austereo, and Absa Bank, among others. So far, almost all of his corporate clients have been abroad; in the U.S., the baggage of his criminal case may have created too much of a minefield for him to navigate, although he hopes this will change.

“From the letters and things we get, I think a lot of people in the U.S. think Jordan is thrilled about what he did, and that he partied hard and all that,” says Belfort’s fiancée, Anne Koppe, who runs his business with him out of Hermosa Beach, Calif. “He’d love [the U.S.] to be his main market, but he wanted to make sure that his message was pure and that people responded properly to it.”

Belfort says he doesn’t want to profit from his crimes, but of course without them there would be no Wolf of Wall Street, no notoriety, no redemption story, no one paying him to talk about his life, and no fraternizing with Leo, about whom Belfort sounds a little star-struck. “You can’t change what you’ve done, you can only learn from it and try to be a better person for it and embrace it and grow. I’m not saying I’m Gandhi or I’ve discovered the cure for everything that ailed me emotionally or my insecurities. But, you know, I try really hard to be the best person I can be every single day.”

Belfort’s $30,000 atonement speech is very earnest. His books, The Wolf of Wall Street and its sequel, Catching the Wolf of Wall Street, revel in crime and the high life. They recount in loving detail every pill he popped, every Concorde flight he took, and every prostitute he hired as he built his empire of sleaze, Stratton Oakmont, into “one of the largest and by far the wildest brokerage firms in Wall Street history.” The over-the-top antics depicted in the books read like submissions to Penthouse Forum: A young female sales assistant takes turns servicing the men at the office, like a shoeshiner; there are drugged-out helicopter rides and blitzed trips on private jets; Belfort goes hooker shopping with buttoned-up Swiss bankers. All of it happens against a backdrop of Belfort’s specially trained brokers making millions selling worthless stocks to gullible investors. “F-‍-‍- this and f-‍-‍- that! S-‍-‍- here and s-‍-‍- there! It was the language of Wall Street,” Belfort writes, describing the din inside his firm’s cavernous, crowded office. “It was the essence of the mighty roar, and it cut through everything. It intoxicated you. It seduced you! It f-‍-‍-ing liberated you! It helped you achieve goals you never dreamed yourself capable of! And it swept everyone away, especially me.” Consistent throughout is shameless bragging about how much money he was making and how ostentatiously he was spending it.

O artigo completo está aqui.

“Não aconteceu. Está a acontecer”

O Diogo Pereira é um estudante de jornalismo da Universidade de Coimbra. Para além de trabalhar na Rádio e na televisão online da universidade e de manter o blogue Quimera, ainda conseguiu fazer, sozinho, esta grande reportagem sobre o futuro do jornalismo. Em Portugal e no mundo. Para isso conseguiu pôr a reflectir sobre o assunto um conjunto de jornalistas retirados e no activo e um grupo de académicos. Não é pouco. Pelo contrário. É um sinal de que há jovens jornalistas com futuro.

Por dentro do Al Shabab

O Al Shabaab é um dos mais radicais grupos com ligações à Al Qaeda. Na Somália, tem verdadeiros campos de treino que recebem candidatos a mártires de todo o mundo. Alguns deles participaram no ataque recente ao centro comercial de Nairobi, no Quénia. O Channel 4 News obteve o acesso em exclusivo a um destes campos. Esta é a reportagem dessa visita.

O taxista

Entre 1945 e 2013, Johnnie Footman, conhecido por Spider, conduziu um taxi pela cidade de Nova Iorque. Chegou a ser o mais velho condutor dos famosos carros amarelos. No passado dia 11 de Setembro, faleceu. Tinha 94 anos. Antes, falou para este mini documentário do The New York Times, presta-lhe uma pequena homenagem.

Uma boa semana para o jornalismo português

Está a ser uma boa semana para o jornalismo indígena. No domingo, o Ricardo J. Rodrigues publicou na Notícias Magazine uma excelente reportagem sobre os portugueses que combateram o Apartheid ao lado do ANC. É um trabalho extraordinário porque consegue destacar-se do turbilhão de artigos que têm saído nas últimas semanas sobre Nelson Mandela – o que só prova que um bom repórter, no terreno, pode fazer a diferença. O Ricardo estava na África do Sul em trabalho para a revista Volta ao Mundo. Mas conseguiu perceber que tinha ali uma oportunidade única para outra reportagem. E aproveitou-a, sem saber que a morte de Nelson Mandela se aproximava. Aliás, ele voltou a Lisboa dois dias antes da morte do líder histórico do ANC. O resultado está a vista.

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Na segunda-feira de manhã, o José António Cerejo, publicou mais um capítulo do chamado caso Tecnoforma. A notícia, que fez o destaque do Público, relata como Agostinho Branquinho, então deputado do PSD, conseguiu, através da sua empresa de publicidade NTM ganhar um concurso para a promoção do Foral – um programa criado com fundos europeus para promover a formação profissional dos funcionários das autarquias – que era gerido por Miguel Relvas. A maiora parte do negócio do Foral foi parar à Tecnoforma, empresa que teve como administrador Pedro Passos Coelho. Já a promoção, no valor de 450 mil euros, foi concedida à empresa do actual secretário de Estado num concurso que teve uma particularidade: ganhou a proposta com o valor mais alto e com menor capacidade técnica. O trabalho vai directo para a página dos recortes de imprensa.

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À noite, na SIC, a Ana Sofia Fonseca apresentou a grande reportagem Tráfico de Pessoas – os novos escravos. O trabalho – na verdade, um documentário – foi filmado em Portugal, no Brasil e na Roménia, e conta com o testemunhos de vítimas de tráfico humano de várias partes do globo (incluíndo Portugal), polícias e responsáveis de organizações não governamentais que lidam todos os dias com situações destas. A edição é exemplar. O resultado está ao nível do que é feito em muitos países onde este tipo de trabalhos é uma autêntica tradição. Assim que conseguir, vou colocá-la aqui.

Mais uma vez: está a ser uma boa semana para o jornalismo nacional.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: o exílio de Julian Assange em Londres

Em Junho de 2012, Julian Assange refugiou-se na embaixada do Equador, em Londres, para evitar ser detido e extraditado para a Suécia, onde é procurado no âmbito de um processo de abuso sexual. O fundador da Wikileaks receia que essa investigação seja apenas um pretexto para o seu envio posterior para os Estados Unidos. E, desde então, nunca mais saiu da representação diplomática equatoriana. No entanto, isso não o fez parar: realizou uma série de entrevistas (transmitidas em O Informador, no ano passado), dirigiu-se à Assembleia Geral da ONU, escreveu um livro, candidatou-se ao senado australiano e, envolveu-se na fuga de Edward Snowden. Este artigo da Vanity Fair explica como. 

Foto da esquerda: OLIVIA HARRIS/REUTERS/LANDOV; Foto da direita: NEIL HALL/REX USA

Foto da esquerda: OLIVIA HARRIS/REUTERS/LANDOV; Foto da direita: NEIL HALL/REX USA


Julian Assange hasn’t set foot outside Ecuador’s London embassy in more than a year—avoiding extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual assault. But physical confinement seems only to enhance his reach. The WikiLeaks founder has video-addressed the U.N., launched a Senate campaignin absentia in his native Australia, entertained Lady Gaga, and played a key role in the case of N.S.A. leaker Edward Snowden. As several movies depict aspects of Assange’s story, Sarah Ellison focuses on the center of his web.

I. Dead End

Every afternoon, at four o’clock, a small group of demonstrators gathers outside 3 Hans Crescent, in London’s Knightsbridge district, to protest the confinement of a man inside the embassy at that address. The man hasn’t set foot beyond the embassy since June 19, 2012, the day he walked through its doors to avoid extradition from Britain to another country, where he is facing allegations that, he contends, are merely a first step in his eventual extradition to the United States.

The man is Julian Assange, the 42-year-old Australian who is best known as the founder (in 2006) and public face of WikiLeaks, the nonprofit Web site that publishes previously secret material. In April, the organization released its largest trove to date, a database of approximately 1.7 million declassified diplomatic records from the years 1973 to 1976 that WikiLeaks refers to as “the Kissinger Cables.” In 2010, in partnership with The Guardian, Der Spiegel, The New York Times, and others, WikiLeaks began releasing more than 450,000 military documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan along with 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. The documents had been provided by Bradley Manning, an army private stationed in Iraq, who, when tried in military court, was found not guilty of “aiding the enemy” but guilty of espionage, theft, and computer fraud. Despite Manning’s statement that he had first tried to get his information to both The Washington Post and The New York Times, the prosecution argued that it was “obvious that Manning pulled as much information as possible to please Julian Assange,” and said that Assange “had found the right insider” in Manning. WikiLeaks is under investigation by the Justice Department, and there are reports that a sealed indictment exists for Assange himself. In the meantime, for the past year, he has been living in a small room—reportedly 15 feet by 13 feet—at the Ecuadoran Embassy, largely unseen by the public. He has most recently surfaced as a prominent adviser to Edward Snowden, a former “infrastructure analyst” at National Security Agency contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, who last June leaked details about top-secret U.S. surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post.

Assange’s living space, a former embassy office, is located on a ground-floor corner overlooking a small dead-end street. His window sits above one of the hundreds of thousands of security cameras that blanket London, and when I visited the embassy in June, two Metropolitan Police vans were parked just outside. WikiLeaks says the building is watched by about a dozen British police officers at any one time. According to Scotland Yard, the authorities have so far spent $6 million to keep Assange under a watchful eye (and to keep him in place at the embassy). Early on, officials from Britain’s Foreign Office were threatening to remove Assange from the embassy against his will. In his first two months there, the Ecuadoran consul, Fidel Narváez, slept at the embassy to serve as a diplomatic presence at all times and thereby “protect” Assange from the aggressive police attention. Narváez told The Prisma, a London-based newspaper published in both Spanish and English, that he got to know Assange well during that time. “It’s certainly true that we talked a lot over those months, especially at times when we were alone, at night,” Narváez said. In July, Ecuadoran intelligence found a microphone hidden in the office of the ambassador, Ana Albán. The intelligence officials were doing a routine search in preparation for a visit from the country’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, who said that the device appeared to have been planted by a private investigation company, the Surveillance Group, Ltd., adding that the bugging represented “a loss of ethics at the international level in relations between governments.” The company has denied involvement.

Assange took refuge at the embassy in June 2012, shortly after he lost his bid in the British courts to prevent extradition to Sweden, where he is sought for questioning in relation to the alleged sexual assault of two women. (He has yet to be charged with a crime.) At first, Assange slept on an inflatable mattress on the floor that the ambassador brought from her own apartment nearby. Assange found that the noise from the street outside his window disturbed his sleep. After exploring the embassy for a quiet room, he settled on the women’s bathroom, where the embassy staff reluctantly removed the toilet so he could sleep there. He has a lamp that mimics natural light, to enhance his psychological well-being, and he jogs every day on a treadmill, a gift from the film director Ken Loach. The embassy has installed a shower for Assange’s use. There is a fireplace with a Victorian white mantel in his room, and a small round table of blond wood, on which Assange keeps his computer. Several shelves line the walls. Assange eats a combination of take-out food—he keeps the restaurants from which he orders secret, for fear his food might be poisoned—and simple Ecuadoran dishes prepared by the embassy staff. He is able to receive visitors, including Sarah Harrison, the 31-year-old WikiLeaks researcher who met up with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, where Snowden initially hid from the American authorities, and helped deliver to him a temporary Ecuadoran travel document that Assange and Fidel Narváez had reportedly secured.

The Ecuadoran Embassy itself is modest—a suite of 10 rooms on a single floor of a red-brick Victorian pile, with no bedrooms and no facilities except a small kitchenette. For atmospherics, imagine the offices of a private upscale medical practice that for some reason is partial to flags of yellow, red, and blue. Assange’s diplomatic immunity does not extend to the lobby of the building, which is shared with the Colombian Embassy and some 15 well-appointed private apartments upstairs. The entrance to the Men’s Fragrance department at Harrods department store is just half a block away. The door to the embassy is thick black metal and opens immediately onto a full-body metal detector. A portrait of the Ecuadoran president, Rafael Correa, hangs on the walls, along with paintings of tropical birds. The government of Ecuador has stated that Assange is welcome to stay in its London embassy for “centuries.”

Last year, on July 3, the day he turned 41, Assange sent 12 pieces of birthday cake to the 12 protesters standing outside the embassy. On his birthday this year, people outside carried a sign noting that the number 42, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is “the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.” On ordinary days, protesters carry small signs with photos of Assange, his mouth taped shut by an American flag, and bearing slogans such as “Don’t Shoot the Messenger.” From time to time Assange appears in vaguely papal fashion at the front window, silver-haired and pale, and waves. He gives the occasional press conference from a small balcony. He recently showed up for an interview with Agence France-Presse wearing a coat and tie but no shoes, a gesture to underscore the fact that he has little need for them.

Even before the Snowden affair brought him back into the limelight, Assange had been busy. During his year of confinement at the embassy, he has released a vast cache of documents, written a book, addressed the U.N., founded a political party in Australia and launched a bid for a Senate seat there, entertained socialites and celebrities, maintained contact with leakers and whistle-blowers all over the world, and worked behind the scenes to influence depictions of him that are now hitting movie screens (the most high-profile being a DreamWorks production starring Benedict Cumberbatch). As for the Snowden case, Assange and WikiLeaks have served, in effect, as Snowden’s travel agents, publicists, and envoys; it is still not clear how far back the Snowden connection goes, or precisely how it originated, though the filmmaker Laura Poitras likely played the key role.

Assange cannot move from his quarters, but he is either at his computer or in conference, working in an impressive number of spheres. “He is like any other C.E.O.—plagued by constant meetings,” WikiLeaks told me. He employs sophisticated encryption software, which anyone wishing to make contact with him or his circle is encouraged to use. To gain a sense of his life and work, during the past months I have spoken to Assange’s lawyers and to many longtime or former friends, supporters, and professional associates. (Some have requested anonymity.) Daniel Ellsberg, the former U.S. military analyst who brought the Pentagon Papers to light, has met with Assange and speaks with personal knowledge about the lonely life of a leaker and whistle-blower. “We are exiles and émigrés,” he told me.

But the fact that Assange has had to take himself physically out of circulation has had the effect, oddly, of keeping him more purely at the center of things than he was before. His legal perils have not receded, but his state of diplomatic limbo means that he is no longer being hauled out of black vans and in front of screaming reporters and whirring cameras. The U.S. government has tried to decapitate his organization, which has only made him a martyr. No one is talking, as they were when he was free to mingle with the outside world, about his thin skin, his argumentative nature, his paranoia, his self-absorption, his poor personal hygiene, his habit of using his laptop when dining in company, or his failure to flush the toilet.

“If anything, I think he’s stronger and more sophisticated than he used to be, and so is the organization,” Jennifer Robinson, an Australian human-rights lawyer best known for her work defending Assange in London, told me. “They’ve weathered three years of intense pressure and all forms of legal and political attacks, and they are still here and still publishing and still making headlines.” Today, Assange is alone and unbothered, but not isolated—the unquiet center of a web whose vibrations he can both detect and influence.”

O artigo completo está aqui

O único sobrevivente

O dia 28 de Junho de 2005 ficou na história dos SEAL norte-americanos como o do maior desastre da marinha desde a II Guerra Mundial: 19 homens morreram e um helicóptero foi abatido numa missão militar no Afeganistão. Houve apenas um sobrevivente: Marcus Luttrell. O sniper ficou sozinho durante horas, sem saber se o iriam buscar. Na semana passada contou a Anderson Cooper, do programa 60 Minutes, como a sua equipa foi surpreendida por um pastor de cabras e o seu rebanho – e como ele sobreviveu. A segunda parte da reportagem está aqui.

Os anti-Mandela

Na África do Sul, o grupo saudosista da era do Apartheid, Kommandokorps, diz ter treinado dois mil jovens brancos nos últimos dois anos em campos paramilitares. Os rapazes aprendem a defender-se de um inimigo negro e são doutrinados nas diferenças raciais. Liderados pelo Coronel Franz Jooste, terão como objectivo a criação de uma pátria Afrikaner. A reportagem é do Channel 4 News, que conseguiu um acesso sem precedentes ao grupo.

À procura do “rei lagarto”

Acredita-se que o tráfico internacional de espécies animais exóticas movimente cerca de 19 mil milhões de dólares por ano. As quantias envolvidas rivalizam com o tráfico de drogas e pessoas – mas têm muito menos riscos. O negócio tem uma cara: Anson Wong, um cidadão malaio conhecido por ser uma espécie de Pablo Escobar do tráfico de animais. Em 1998, uma investigação de cinco anos levou à sua detenção e condenação nos Estados Unidos e à publicação do livro The Lizard King. Libertado, voltou a ser detido na Indonésia. Agora, estará de novo no activo. Uma reportagem do programa 101 East, da Al Jazeera, percorreu vários países para tentar infiltrar-se na rede do “Rei lagarto”.

A nova revolução do boxe cubano

Apesar de ter produzido o maior número de campeões olímpicos de boxe do mundo, os pugilistas cubanos não podem ganhar dinheiro com o desporto. Motivo: há 52 anos Fidel Castro baniu os desportos profissionais com o argumento de que os atletas estavam a ser explorados por parasitas. Os lutadores só podem entrar em competição para defender o orgulho nacional – e ganham 20 dólares como os outros funcionários públicos. Agora que esse impedimento começa a ser levantado, há uma nova geração de pugilistas e muitos outros que sonham com o estrelato, apesar das condições em que treinam.

Willy foi mesmo libertada. Sabem o que aconteceu depois?

Lembram-se de Keiko, a baleia estrela de Free Willy? Após o sucesso do filme, foi lançada por activistas e fãs uma campanha para a sua libertação. Foram gastos milhões de dólares para preparar Keiko para a vida de um animal selvagem – após 22 anos de cativeiro. Passou quase uma década. Parecia que a reintegração tinha sido bem sucedida. Até Keiko aparecer junto à Noruega – bem perto de humanos. O The New York Times recorda a história.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: Por dentro de Guantánamo

A Folha de S. Paulo conseguiu enviar um jornalista para cobrir a fase preliminar do julgamento de Khalid Sheik Mohammed, em Guantánamo. Durante cinco dias a repórter Patrícia Campos Mello descreveu relatou o que se passava na sala de audiência, falou com advogados e militares e até descreveu a forma como aquele que é considerado o cérebro dos ataques do 11 de Setembro fez “rolinhos com a barba”. Para além da reportagem publicada na edição de fim-de-semana do jornal, a Folha de S. Paulo criou uma página especial no seu site. Chamou-lhe Por dentro de Guantánamo e explica, para além do que está questão no julgamento, as origens e história da prisão, as decisões tomadas por George W. Bush e as promessas de Barack Obama.

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EFE

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: o gangue de Hollywood

Sofia Coppola tem um novo filme: chama-se The Bling Ring e estreou este mês em Portugal. A realizadora conta a história de um grupo de adolescentes que roubou milhões de dólares das casas de celebridades em Hollywood. A parte boa é que esta história é real. E que Sofia Coppola a leu num longo artigo da Vanity Fair, assinado por Nancy Jo Sales (que depois o transformou no livro The Bling Ring), em Março de 2010.  

Photograph by Susanna Howe

Alexis Neiers, um dos alegados membros do grupo. Photograph by Susanna Howe

 

The Suspects Wore Louboutins

The most audacious burglary gang in recent Hollywood history–accused of stealing more than $3 million in clothing and jewelry from Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and other stars–appears to be a bunch of club-hopping Valley kids, motivated by vanity and celebrity-worship.

ByNancy Jo Sales

Alexis Neiers told cops that she and Nick Prugo had been drinking at Beso, a trendy bar-restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, when Prugo got a call from Rachel Lee telling him to come and meet her. It was July 13, 2009. Neiers said she knew that Prugo and Lee—both 19 and former classmates at Indian Hills, an alternative high school in Agoura Hills, an affluent suburb of Los Angeles—had been burglarizing the homes of celebrities. This “included Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, Audrina Patridge, and others she was not sure about,” according to the L.A.P.D.’s report.

Neiers, 18, said that she was drunk and “not sure what was going on” as Prugo parked his white Toyota on the road by a house in the Hollywood Hills. Later, she said, she would find out that it was the home of Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom. Her friends knew that Bloom was in New York shooting a movie; they researched this kind of information on celebrity Web sites like TMZ. They discovered the locations of stars’ homes on Google Maps and celebrityaddressaerial.com.

Neiers said that Lee and another girl, Diana Tamayo, 19, got out of Lee’s white Audi A4, and the four kids walked uphill to Bloom’s residence, a stark, black mansion. Neiers didn’t want to go inside, she said, but still she followed. She told police that Prugo, Lee, and Tamayo seemed to be covering their faces with their hoodies, apparently in order to hide from security cameras. Lee cut a section out of the chain-link fence surrounding the property, Neiers said, and the kids crawled through it.

She said they went around the house, checking windows and doors, finally finding an unlocked door by Bloom’s pool area. They went inside and the other kids started to “ransack” Bloom’s home, according to Neiers. That night, they would allegedly steal close to $500,000 in Rolex watches, Louis Vuitton luggage, clothing, and artwork. “What are you doing? Get me the fuck out of here,” Neiers said she screamed. Then she went outside and threw up and peed in the bushes.

The Fame Monster

On November 16, Neiers arrived at Los Angeles Superior Court for her arraignment with an E! reality crew in tow. Her show, originally intended to be about her life as a party girl on the Hollywood scene, had now become a chronicle of her effort to stay out of jail. She was being charged that day with one count of residential burglary of Orlando Bloom’s home. In the media, she was being called a member of “the Burglar Bunch,” “the Bling Ring,” nicknames for the most successful and outrageous burglary gang in recent Hollywood memory: a gang of well-off kids from the Valley.

Camera crews from local news stations, Good Morning America, Dateline NBC, and TMZ were waiting outside Department 30 on the third floor of the courthouse. Producers from various shows murmured as Neiers—a former hip-hop- and pole-dancing instructor—sat calmly on a bench, allowing a makeup woman to touch her up.

A leggy girl with long, dark hair and shimmering blue-green eyes, Neiers was wearing a tweed miniskirt, a pink sweater, and six-inch Christian Louboutin heels. “I have a pretty cool shoe collection going on right now,” she said.

The L.A.P.D.’s report on the Bling Ring states that Nick Prugo told cops that Rachel Lee—a Korean-American girl from Calabasas, a wealthy suburb in the Valley—was “the driving force of the burglary crew and that her motivation was based on her desire to own the designer wardrobes of the Hollywood celebrities she admired.” Charged in the case are Neiers; Prugo; Lee; Tamayo; their friend Courtney Ames, 19; and Roy Lopez Jr., 27, a bouncer Ames knew from a waitressing job. (All have pleaded not guilty, except for Lee, whose arraignment was pending at press time.)

Between October of 2008 and August of 2009, the alleged members of the Bling Ring collectively stole more than $3 million in jewelry and high-end designer goods from a number of Young Hollywood players: Hilton, Lohan, Patridge (a regular on the reality showThe Hills), Bilson (former star of The O.C.), original Beverly Hills 90210 cast member Brian Austin Green and his girlfriend, actress Megan Fox. They are said to have tried to rob High School Musical’s Ashley Tisdale too, but fled when discovered by a female houseguest.

The thieves apparently had a taste for luxury brands: Chanel, Gucci, Tiffany, Cartier, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent. They allegedly stole clothes, shoes, handbags, makeup, perfume, underwear. They also took Green’s Sig Sauer .380 semi-automatic handgun.

At her lawyer’s office, a week before her arraignment, Neiers denied any involvement in the burglaries. “I’m a firm believer in Karma,” she said, “and I think this situation was attracted into my life because it was supposed to be a huge learning lesson for me to grow and expand as a spiritual human being. I see myself being like an Angelina Jolie,” she said, “but even stronger, pushing even harder for the universe and for peace and for the health of our planet.” She was sounding almost like a real celebrity. “God didn’t give me these talents and looks to just sit around being a model or being famous. I want to lead a huge charity organization. I want to lead a country, for all I know.”

Moments before her arraignment began, a news producer approached, asking Neiers for an interview. “I’m going to make a statement on the courthouse steps,” the pretty defendant promised. She runway-walked into the courtroom as the cameras started rolling.

The Rat

Nick Prugo has a different take on the events of the night of the Bloom burglary. “We didn’t even go to Beso that night,” he said. A slender boy with an angular face and small brown eyes, he was sitting in front of the fire at the Encino home of his lawyer, Sean Erenstoft, on a rainy night in December.

Charged with seven counts of residential burglary, each bringing a possible sentence of two to six years, Prugo is potentially facing serious time. In October, he confessed to police without first getting a deal. For weeks after he was arrested, on September 17 (after being fingered by a tipster), he denied everything; but then, he says, he was finding it difficult to breathe, sleep, eat—“I was even losing my hair.”

“He confessed to crimes we didn’t even know he committed,” Officer Brett Goodkin, the lead investigator in the case, said on the phone. “Even though I was charged with more, you know, things,” Prugo said, “I still think it was the right thing to do.”

He said that on the night of the Bloom burglary “my parents were out of town. Alexis’s mom had kicked her out of the house. So Alexis moved in with me.” Neiers also told cops that her “mother kicked her out of her home.” Prugo, according to the L.A.P.D. report, said the reason was that Neiers had been smoking OxyContin. “Obviously it’s not true,” says Neiers. “Nick Prugo’s credibility is questionable at best,” says her lawyer, Jeffery Rubenstein.

“Miranda Kerr, a Victoria’s Secret model, was dating Orlando Bloom, and Rachel [Lee] wanted Victoria’s Secret model clothes,” said Prugo. Lee’s lawyer, Peter Korn, would say only, “I don’t want to participate in the media attention in this case.”

“We planned to meet” at Bloom’s, Prugo said. “Me and Alexis met Rachel and Diana. We went up to the house.” The surveillance video from Bloom’s residence on the night of the robbery shows four youthful-looking figures coming up a lamplit hill, all covering their heads with their arms and hoods while walking backward, apparently trying to hide their faces from security cameras. “How would a drunk person, so sick, throwing up,” as Neiers claimed she was, “be walking backwards up a hill?,” Prugo asked.

Whenever they robbed celebrities’ homes, Prugo said, it went like this: “You grabbed a suitcase and filled it up with whatever you wanted.” He said Lee called it “going shopping.” “In [Bloom’s] master bedroom, Rachel found a stash of Rolexes and, like, fifteen hundred dollars. Alexis grabbed a Louis Vuitton laptop-size bag and she was rocking it as a purse. Miranda Kerr had a dress there by Alex Perry—like, a one-of-a-kind runway dress. She took that.”

The Bloom surveillance video shows two of the four figures coming and going up and down the hill with large bags several times between three and four a.m. The bags are so unwieldy that one of the figures stumbles. Prugo said that he and Neiers left around five a.m., but Lee and Tamayo went back inside because, Lee said, “‘I want artwork ‘cause I’m moving to Vegas and I want stuff to decorate my house.’”

Some time later, Prugo said, he sold most of Bloom’s Rolexes to Johnny Ajar—a.k.a. “Johnny Dangerous,” and, according to the police report, their “fence”—a thuggish ex-con and promoter at Les Deux who would allegedly get Prugo and his under-age friends into the club. When cops searched Ajar’s home, they found Brian Austin Green’s pistol. Ajar is now in Los Angeles’s Twin Tower Correctional Facility, charged with possession of narcotics and a firearm. “He gave us $5,000 for, like, 10 Rolexes,” Prugo said, “which is I guess a ripoff now that I think of it.”

Ajar’s lawyer, Michael Goldstein, says, “I find it troubling that Prugo, who according to most of the players is the mastermind of these burglaries along with Lee, is now implicating everyone else while my client remains incarcerated.”

“I Loved Her”

It was left to the adults dealing with the aftermath of the Bling Ring—cops, lawyers, the victims—to ask “Why?” “Why did they do this?” asked Audrina Patridge, whose home was burglarized on February 22, 2009, Oscar night. “I watched the surveillance videos,” she said, “expecting it to be these big scary guys, and instead it was these two kids”—allegedly Lee and Prugo.

In the grainy video, a girl and boy who seem to resemble Prugo and Lee enter Patridge’s Hollywood Hills home (they got in through an unlocked door). They pick through her things. The girl looks composed; the boy looks jumpy.

“They took bags and bags of stuff,” Patridge said. “They took my great-grandma’s jewelry, my passport, my laptop, jeans made to fit my body to my perfect shape.” The estimated value of her stolen property was $43,000. Patridge said she believes the thieves were motivated by her fame. “Rachel Lee was a big fan of me. I was her target,” she said she’d heard from cops. “She’s a little obsessed girl, I gotta tell you. She’s going to get what she deserves.”

“Were teenagers too enthralled by stars?” asked The New York Times. “They did it for the money. This was their job,” said Officer Goodkin, who took over the case from detectives when Prugo’s lawyer approached him with his client’s confession. But Goodkin said he was also struck by the “stalkerish” aspect of the crimes. “It may be a stretch, but is wanting to wear somebody’s clothes that different from wanting to wrap yourself up in their skin, like that guy in The Silence of the Lambs?

Meanwhile, Prugo said that he and his accomplices never discussed “why.” “We just did it. I know it sounds dumb, but Rachel just wanted the clothes. She wanted to look pretty.” As for himself, Prugo said, “I was just following Rachel … I loved her almost like a sister.”

Nick and Rachel

Nick Prugo met Rachel Lee in 2006 at Indian Hills, where he had transferred after being kicked out of Calabasas High School for excessive absences. He was a troubled kid who had been diagnosed with A.D.H.D., for which he was prescribed Concerta, and “anxiety issues,” for which he was given Zoloft. He said that Lee was “the first person I felt was, like, my best friend.” They became “inseparable,” in constant contact, phoning, IMing, texting.

She was a fashionable girl whom Prugo and Neiers describe as “spoiled” and “haughty.” She had troubles of her own; apparently she didn’t get along with her mother, Vickie Kwon, a North Korean immigrant and owner of two centers of the tutoring company Kumon. Prugo claims, “Rachel hates her stepfather,” whom her mother married when Lee was in her early teens. (Neither Lee nor Kwon responded to requests for comment.)

Around this time, Prugo said, he was also becoming estranged from his parents, Melva-Lynn and Frank, a senior vice president at IM Global, a film-and-television sales-and-distribution company, and the foreign sales agent for the low-budget blockbuster Paranormal Activity.“Me and my parents had a falling-out,” Prugo said, not wishing to elaborate. “I can’t blame them. Whatever I’ve done, it’s my responsibility.”

He said that he and his new friend, Lee, “bonded over fashion. I like fashion, I like clothes. I like to think that I’m a stylish guy.” He dreamed of designing his own line, as did Lee, who talked about attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in L.A. “A lot of the Hills girls went there.”

Throughout the 10th grade, Prugo said, they were a couple of “carefree kids,” “smoking weed, hanging out at Zuma Beach, going to parties with a lot of under-age kids doing beer pong.” And then, that summer, things started to change, when Prugo said Lee proposed they rob the house of a boy in Woodland Hills whom Prugo knew to be out of town. “I’m like, O.K., whatever, just wanting to please her.”

“I’m in the house,” he said, “walking back and forth, freaking out. I mean, it’s weird to go through somebody’s things.” But Lee, he said, was always “very into it, focused”—so relaxed that when they burglarized the home of Rachel Bilson, on May 9, Lee took the time to go into the bathroom and have a bowel movement.

At that first burglary in the Valley, Prugo said, Lee found a box with $8,000 in cash under a bed. Which calmed him down. “We each get four grand. Like, this isn’t so bad. We didn’t kill anybody.” The next day, they went shopping on Rodeo Drive.

Prugo said they fell into a nearly nightly ritual they called “checking cars”—taking credit cards and cash from unlocked Bentleys, Mercedeses, and other fancy rides parked in their neighborhood. The next day, they’d go shopping. “We’d go to, like, Kitson,” a Melrose boutique popular with starlets. “We’d walk in, stylized and beautiful. We’d use the cards—no one would question.”

Meanwhile, Prugo said, he was developing a cocaine habit, “so I was also stealing for drugs.” (Arrested for possession in 2009, he’s entered into a Deferred Entry of Judgment program, hoping to get the charge dismissed. He says he’s clean now.)

He says he doesn’t remember exactly why he and Lee decided to start burglarizing celebrities’ homes, except that “these were women with, like, fashion sense. Rachel watchedThe Hills, Gossip Girl—all those shows. She loved their clothes.” They started “checking up on celebrity Web sites. We’d be like a little research team.” They’d drive by celebrities’ homes to do surveillance, figuring out how to get in.

They picked Paris Hilton as their first victim, Prugo said, because they figured she was “dumb.” “Like, who would leave a door unlocked? Who would leave a lot of money lying around?”

One night in October of 2008, he says, he and Lee entered Hilton’s sprawling tile-roofed mansion in a gated community in the Hollywood Hills, opening the front door with a key they had found under the mat. “Stupid,” Prugo said, shrugging. He said he found the sensation of suddenly being in Hilton’s home “horrifying. There was that percentage of ‘Wow, this is Paris Hilton’s house,’ but as soon as I put my foot in the door I was just wanting to run out.”

He says he served as a lookout at the top of the stairs while Lee went into Hilton’s bedroom to search for valuables. “I was sweating unnaturally. Every five minutes, I was yelling, Let’s get the fuck out of here. She was like, It’s fine, it’s fine, let’s keep going.”

Lee took some expensive bras and a designer dress that night, he says (he can’t remember which; there would be so many). They took a bottle of Grey Goose vodka from Hilton’s “nightclub room.” They took “crumpled cash,” he claims, “fifties, hundreds,” from Hilton’s purses.

The idea was to take so little that the heiress wouldn’t notice—and so they could come back again. Hilton actually didn’t notice or at least didn’t report any of the Bling Ring burglaries until December 19, 2008, when Roy Lopez allegedly stole close to $2 million worth of her jewelry, stuffing it into one of her Louis Vuitton tote bags. Lopez has been charged with one count of residential burglary. His lawyer, David Diamond, says his client “did not steal anything” from Hilton.

“We found about, like, five grams of coke in Paris’s house” on another night, Prugo told police; he says they snorted it and left. Then they “drove around Mulholland, having the best time of our lives.”

“I don’t know why anyone would listen to allegations made by a self-confessed thief,” said Dawn Miller, a rep for Hilton.

My So-Called Real Life

At Alexis Neiers’s home in Westlake Village on the afternoon of her arraignment, the E! reality crew was filming a scene in which Neiers’s parents recount for their younger daughter, Gabrielle, what happened in court that day. Neiers’s mother, Andrea Arlington Dunn, and father, Mikel Neiers, stood in the living room, taking direction from E! supervising producer Gennifer Gardiner, who was feeding them lines: “Tell her, ‘Everything’s going to be O.K., Gabby.’”

“Everything’s going to be O.K., Gabby,” said Dunn, who was still dressed for court in a brown suit. A former Playboy Playmate, Dunn—now married to Jerry Dunn, a production designer for television—is a masseuse and holistic health-care practitioner. Their house, which sits on a rolling, manicured street, is decorated with religious talismans and floor-standing statues of Buddha which Dunn said she got at the closing of a Thai restaurant.

Mikel Neiers, Alexis’s father, a tall man in a blazer and jeans—a former director of photography on Friends who Alexis says “has been in the industry forever”—was looking rather shell-shocked. “He doesn’t really have a place right now,” Dunn said, explaining why her ex-husband sometimes lives with the family.

“I’ve had a lot of struggles with my dad falling off the face of this earth and not being a father,” Alexis had complained earlier. (Her father declined to comment on this.) Continuing on the theme of her difficulties, she said, “I had a boyfriend who was into drugs.”

Alexis’s “dysfunctional background” was the reason why, she said, she “related so well” to Tess Taylor, who sometimes also lives in the Neiers-Dunn household. Taylor, 20, a Playboy Cyber Girl, is still being investigated for her role in the Bling Ring burglaries, according to sources in the L.A.P.D. Taylor’s lawyer, Jeffery Rubenstein, had no comment.

Alexis met Taylor (a stage name; her real name is Adler), a dark-haired bombshell, in ballet class when they were toddlers. “We took her in” six years ago, Alexis said. “My mom kinda fell off the face of the planet,” Taylor said on the phone. She said she doesn’t know where her mother is. “I feel like she’s my other half,” said Alexis, “I love to go out and dance with my sister.” They can also be seen making out with each other in the straight-to-DVD teen flickFrat Party.

It was their ubiquity on the Hollywood club scene that got E! interested in the girls for their reality show, tentatively titled Pretty Wild, last year. The pilot—which airs in March; unfortunately, I may be in it, having been around while they were filming—includes a wild night in which Alexis and Taylor hit the club Wonderland in Hollywood with their friend rapper Mickey Avalon. “He’s such an awesome guy!” Alexis says.

The morning after, October 22, the L.A.P.D. showed up at Alexis’s door with a search warrant. In the house, cops found a Marc Jacobs handbag allegedly belonging to Rachel Bilson and a Chanel necklace allegedly belonging to Lindsay Lohan. Alexis denies stealing the items, saying, “I have receipts for everything.” The reality-crew cameras kept rolling as Alexis exited Van Nuys Jail that night after being bailed out on a $50,000 bond. Taylor was released after questioning.”

O país onde as mulheres que querem abortar são acusadas de homicídio

Sim. Homicídio. Sob qualquer circunstância. Podem ter sido violadas. Os fetos podem ter uma malformação. Podem até ter apenas perguntado onde podiam abortar. O país existe no século XXI. Chama-se El Salvador. E a Al Jazeera foi lá perceber o que a população pensa desta lei.

O hip-hop científico

Um estudo do departamento de comércio dos Estados Unidos concluiu que negros e latinos têm menos 50% de probabilidades de arranjar emprego nas áreas da engenharia e ciência. Para tentar contrariar essa tendência, as escolas públicas de Nova Iorque criaram um programa para, através da música, tentar incluir as minorias nos estudos científicos. A ideia é simples: se gostam de Hip-hop, os professores levam a música rap para as aulas. Nasceram assim as Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bring Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science), uma competição onde os alunos escreveram letras sobre temas de ciência e se defrontam numa competição final com direito a júri. A NPR acompanhou alguns destes alunos e assistiu à “batalha” final.

Arjan Roskam, o rei da Marijuana

Em 1992, Arjan Roskam abriu a sua primeira coffee shop em Amesterdão. Desde então desenvolveu uma série de técnicas inovadoras de cultivo de Cannabis que o levaram a criar a Green House Seed Company, uma empresa que factura milhões de dólares por ano. Para isso, Arjan corre o mundo à procura das mais raras espécies da planta. Quando as encontra regressa à Holanda para as desenvolver e modificar em laboratório. Ao mesmo tempo mantém plantações gigantescas em países onde o cultivo é ilegal. É o caso da Colômbia, para onde a revista Vice enviou um repórter que acompanhou a equipa do holandês pelas matas colombianas em busca de três espécies raras de Marijuana. Não é por acaso que já ganhou 38 Taças Cannabis. Com a possível legalização do consumo em vários países do mundo, Arjen está na dianteira para se tornar o primeiro bilionário da Marijuana. Ou o rei da Cannabis.