Leitura para o fim-de-semana: uma muçulmana na Casa Branca de Trump

Rumana Ahmed é muçulmana. Os pais imigraram do Bangladesh para os Estados Unidos. Em 2011, acabada de sair da faculdade, esta filha de imigrantes, muçulmana, começou a trabalhar na Casa Branca em 2011. Mais tarde, passou para o Conselho de Segurança Nacional norte-americano. Era a única a usar um hijab. Por opção. Acompanhou, receosa, a campanha eleitoral. Quando a nova administração tomou posse decidiu ficar. Aguentou oito dias. Neste texto, escrito na primeira pessoa, publicado na The Atlantic, explica porquê.


Leah Varjacques / The Atlantic


O último discurso de Barack Obama

Com transcrição completa aqui.

O segredo de Barack Obama: chegar cedo

Isto é muito cool. “Sabem como ganhar ao Lebron James um contra um? Chegar 45 minutos mais cedo”. Um apelo ao voto – e não só.

Uma história alternativa da guerra ao terrorismo

A história de que toda a gente fala. Barack Obama mentiu e os paquistaneses colaboraram no assalto à casa de Abbottabad? O jornalista Seymour M. Hersh garante que sim no artigo “A morte de Osama Bin Laden”, publicado na London Review of Books.

Foto: AP

Foto: AP

O legado de Barack Obama

Longe dos imbróglios do Médio Oriente, Barack Obama vai ficar na história como o presidente que restabeleceu as relações diplomáticas Cuba, com o país de Fidel Castro.

O discurso de Barack Obama sobre o Estado Islâmico

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: uma viagem com Barack Obama

Desde que tomou posse como presidente dos Estados Unidos, poucos jornalistas tiveram acesso directo a Barack Obama. O editor da The New Yorker, David Remnick, foi um deles. Acompanhou o presidente norte-americano no Air Force One, entrevistou-o na Casa Branca e ainda teve uma conversa telefónica quando o artigo estava a fechar. O resultado é um longo perfil cujos bastidores podem ser lidos no blogue da revista, aqui.

Foto:  Pari Dukovic

Foto: Pari Dukovic


On and off the road with Barack Obama.


On the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving, Barack Obama sat in the office cabin of Air Force One wearing a look of heavy-lidded annoyance. The Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement and, for all its limitations, the most ambitious social legislation since the Great Society, half a century ago, was in jeopardy. His approval rating was down to forty per cent—lower than George W. Bush’s in December of 2005, when Bush admitted that the decision to invade Iraq had been based on intelligence that “turned out to be wrong.” Also, Obama said thickly, “I’ve got a fat lip.”

That morning, while playing basketball at F.B.I. headquarters, Obama went up for a rebound and came down empty-handed; he got, instead, the sort of humbling reserved for middle-aged men who stubbornly refuse the transition to the elliptical machine and Gentle Healing Yoga. This had happened before. In 2010, after taking a self-described “shellacking” in the midterm elections, Obama caught an elbow in the mouth while playing ball at Fort McNair. He wound up with a dozen stitches. The culprit then was one Reynaldo Decerega, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Decerega wasn’t invited to play again, though Obama sent him a photograph inscribed “For Rey, the only guy that ever hit the President and didn’t get arrested. Barack.”

This time, the injury was slighter and no assailant was named—“I think it was the ball,” Obama said—but the President needed little assistance in divining the metaphor in this latest insult to his person. The pundits were declaring 2013 the worst year of his Presidency. The Republicans had been sniping at Obamacare since its passage, nearly four years earlier, and HealthCare.gov, a Web site that was undertested and overmatched, was a gift to them. There were other beribboned boxes under the tree: Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency; the failure to get anything passed on gun control or immigration reform; the unseemly waffling over whether the Egyptian coup was a coup; the solidifying wisdom in Washington that the President was “disengaged,” allergic to the forensic and seductive arts of political persuasion. The congressional Republicans quashed nearly all legislation as a matter of principle and shut down the government for sixteen days, before relenting out of sheer tactical confusion and embarrassment—and yet it was the President’s miseries that dominated the year-end summations.

Obama worried his lip with his tongue and the tip of his index finger. He sighed, slumping in his chair. The night before, Iran had agreed to freeze its nuclear program for six months. A final pact, if one could be arrived at, would end the prospect of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and the hell that could follow: terror attacks, proxy battles, regional war—take your pick. An agreement could even help normalize relations between the United States and Iran for the first time since the Islamic Revolution, in 1979. Obama put the odds of a final accord at less than even, but, still, how was this not good news?

The answer had arrived with breakfast. The Saudis, the Israelis, and the Republican leadership made their opposition known on the Sunday-morning shows and through diplomatic channels. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, called the agreement a “historic mistake.” Even a putative ally like New York Senator Chuck Schumer could go on “Meet the Press” and, fearing no retribution from the White House, hint that he might help bollix up the deal. Obama hadn’t tuned in. “I don’t watch Sunday-morning shows,” he said. “That’s been a well-established rule.” Instead, he went out to play ball.

Usually, Obama spends Sundays with his family. Now he was headed for a three-day fund-raising trip to Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, rattling the cup in one preposterous mansion after another. The prospect was dispiriting. Obama had already run his last race, and the chances that the Democratic Party will win back the House of Representatives in the 2014 midterm elections are slight. The Democrats could, in fact, lose the Senate.

For an important trip abroad, Air Force One is crowded with advisers, military aides, Secret Service people, support staff, the press pool. This trip was smaller, and I was along for the ride, sitting in a guest cabin with a couple of aides and a staffer who was tasked with keeping watch over a dark suit bag with a tag reading “The President.”

Obama spent his flight time in the private quarters in the nose of the plane, in his office compartment, or in a conference room. At one point on the trip from Andrews Air Force Base to Seattle, I was invited up front for a conversation. Obama was sitting at his desk watching the Miami Dolphins–Carolina Panthers game. Slender as a switch, he wore a white shirt and dark slacks; a flight jacket was slung over his high-backed leather chair. As we talked, mainly about the Middle East, his eyes wandered to the game. Reports of multiple concussions and retired players with early-onset dementia had been in the news all year, and so, before I left, I asked if he didn’t feel at all ambivalent about following the sport. He didn’t.

“I would not let my son play pro football,” he conceded. “But, I mean, you wrote a lot about boxing, right? We’re sort of in the same realm.”

The Miami defense was taking on a Keystone Kops quality, and Obama, who had lost hope on a Bears contest, was starting to lose interest in the Dolphins. “At this point, there’s a little bit of caveat emptor,” he went on. “These guys, they know what they’re doing. They know what they’re buying into. It is no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?”

Obama chewed furtively on a piece of Nicorette. His carriage and the cadence of his conversation are usually so measured that I was thrown by the lingering habit, the trace of indiscipline. “I’m not a purist,” he said.”

O artigo completo está aqui.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: os drones de Obama

Três dias depois de chegar à Casa Branca, em Janeiro de 2009, Barack Obama autorizou o primeiro ataque aéreo através de um drone. Nos últimos cinco anos, o presidente norte-americano lançou cerca de 400 operações secretas do género que provocaram quase 2500 mortos – muitos deles inocentes. Ao longo destes anos, o The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, tem tentado registar estas acções no Paquistão, Iémen e Somália e contabilizar as suas vítimas. O resultado não é bonito para o presidente Nobel da Paz.

Air Force, Army leaders discuss new UAS concept of operations

“More than 2,400 dead as Obama’s drone campaign marks five years

Five years ago, on January 23 2009, a CIA drone flattened a house in Pakistan’s tribal regions. It was the third day of Barack Obama’s presidency, and this was the new commander-in-chief’s first covert drone strike.

Initial reports said up to ten militants were killed, including foreign fighters and possibly a ‘high-value target’ – a successful first hit for the fledgling administration.

But reports of civilian casualties began to emerge. As later reports revealed, the strike was far from a success. At least nine civilians died, most of them from one family. There was one survivor, 14-year-old Fahim Qureshi, but with horrific injuries including shrapnel wounds in his stomach, a fractured skull and a lost eye, he was as much a victim as his dead relatives.

Later that day, the CIA attacked again – and levelled another house. It proved another mistake, this time one that killed between five and ten people, all civilians.

Obama was briefed on the civilian casualties almost immediately and was ‘understandably disturbed’, Newsweek reporter Daniel Klaidman later wrote. Three days earlier, in his inauguration address, Obama had told the world ‘that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.’

The Pakistani government also knew civilians had been killed in the strikes. A record of the strikes made by the local political administration and published by the Bureau last year listed nine civilians among the dead. But the government said nothing about this loss of life.

Yet despite this disastrous start the Obama administration markedly stepped up the use of drones. Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan – his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years. And in Yemen, Obama has opened a new front in the secret drone war.

Lethal strikes
Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes in the five years since the first attack that injured Qureshi – eight times as many as were launched in the entire Bush presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people, at least 273 of them reportedly civilians.

Although drone strikes under Obama’s presidency have killed nearly six times as many people as were killed under Bush, the casualty rate – the number of people killed on average in each strike – has dropped from eight to six under Obama. The civilian casualty rate has fallen too. Strikes during the Bush years killed nearly more than three civilians in each strike on average. This has halved under Obama (1.43 civilians per strike on average). In fact reported civilian casualties in Pakistan have fallen sharply since 2010, with no confirmed reports of civilian casualties in 2013.

The decline in civilian casualties could be because of reported improvements in drone and missile technology, rising tensions between Pakistan and the US over the drone campaign, and greater scrutiny of the covert drone campaign both at home and abroad.”

O artigo completo está aqui.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: “I just don’t know if I can do this”

Durante meses, a reeleição de Barack Obama parecia um dado adquirido. Até que, no primeiro debate com Mitt Romney, a 3 de Outubro de 2012, o presidente dos Estados Unidos mostrou uma faceta que poucos lhe conheciam. Distante, desligado, impaciente e com pouco respeito pelo adversário. Resultado: o candidato republicano subiu nas sondagens, aproximou-se e deixou a equipa de Barack Obama em pânico. Recompor o presidente e convencê-lo a afastar-se do abismo foi uma tarefa difícil, descrita no livro Double Down: Game Change 2012, de Mark Halperin e John Heilemann, cujo excerto foi publicado pela revista New York.


“The debate was only a few minutes old, and Barack Obama was already tanking. His opponent on this warm autumn night, a Massachusetts patrician with an impressive résumé, a chiseled jaw, and a staunch helmet of burnished hair, was an inferior political specimen by any conceivable measure. But with surprising fluency, verve, and even humor, Obama’s rival was putting points on the board. The president was not. Passive and passionless, he seemed barely present.

It was Sunday, October 14, 2012, and Obama was bunkered two levels below the lobby of the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia. In a blue blazer, khaki pants, and an open-necked shirt, he was squaring off in a mock debate against Massachusetts senator John Kerry, who was standing in for the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. The two men were in Williamsburg, along with the president’s team, to prepare Obama for his second televised confrontation with Romney, 48 hours away, at Hofstra University in New York. It was an event to which few had given much thought. Until the debacle in Denver, that is.

The debate in the Mile High City eleven days earlier had jolted a race that for many months had been hard fought but remarkably stable. From the moment in May that Romney emerged victorious from the most volatile and unpredictable Republican-nomination contest in many moons, Obama had held a narrow yet consistent lead. But after Romney mauled the president in Denver, the wind and weather of the campaign shifted in something like a heartbeat. The challenger was surging. The polls were tightening. Republicans were pulsating with renewed hope. Democrats were rending their garments and collapsing on their fainting couches.

Obama was nowhere in the vicinity of panic. “You ever known me to lose two in a row?” he said to friends to calm their nerves.

The president’s advisers were barely more rattled. Yes, Denver had been atrocious. Yes, it had been unnerving. But Obama was still ahead of Romney, the sky hadn’t fallen, and they would fix what went wrong in time for the town-hall debate at Hofstra. Their message to the nervous Nellies in their party was: Keep calm and carry on.

Williamsburg was where the repair job was supposed to take place. The Obamans had arrived at the resort, ready to work, on Saturday the 13th. The first day had gone well. The president seemed to be finding his form. He and Kerry had been doing mock debates since August, and the session on Saturday night was Obama’s best yet. Everyone exhaled.

But now, in Sunday night’s run-through, the president seemed to be relapsing: The disengaged and pedantic Obama of Denver was back. In the staff room, his two closest advisers, David Axelrod and David Plouffe, watched on video monitors with a mounting sense of unease—when, all of a sudden, a practice round that had started out looking merely desultory turned into the Mock From Hell.

The moment it happened could be pinpointed with precision: at the 39:35 mark on the clock. A question about home foreclosures had been put to potus; under the rules, he had two minutes to respond. Before the mock, Kerry had been instructed by one of the debate coaches to interrupt Obama at some juncture to see how he reacted. Striding across the bright-red carpet of the set that the president’s team had constructed as a precise replica of the Hofstra town-hall stage, Kerry invaded the president’s space and barged in during Obama’s answer.

The president’s eyes flashed with annoyance.

“Don’t interrupt me,” he snapped.

When Kerry persisted, Obama shot a death stare at the moderator—his adviser Anita Dunn, standing in for CNN’s Candy Crowley—and pleaded for an intercession.

The president’s coaches had long worried about the appearance of Nasty Obama on the debate stage: the variant who infamously, imperiously dismissed his main Democratic rival in 2008 with the withering phrase “You’re likable enough, Hillary.” His advisers saw glimpses of that side of him in their preparations for the first showdown—a manifestation of a personal antipathy for Romney that had grown visceral and intense. Now they were seeing it again, and worse. The admixture of Nasty Obama and Denver Obama was not a pretty picture.

Challenged by Kerry with multipronged attacks, the president rebutted them point by point, exhaustively and exhaustingly. Instead of driving a sharp message, he was explanatory and meandering. Instead of casting an eye to the future, he litigated the past. Instead of warmly establishing connections with the town-hall questioners, he pontificated airily, as if he were conducting a particularly tedious press conference. While Kerry was answering a query about immigration, Obama retaliated for the earlier interruption by abruptly cutting him off.

In the staff room, Axelrod and Plouffe were aghast. Sitting with them, Obama’s lead pollster, Joel Benenson, muttered, “This is unbelievable.”

Watching from the set, the renowned Democratic style coach Michael Sheehan scribbled furiously on a legal pad, each notation more alarmed than the last. Reflecting on Obama’s interplay with the questioners, Sheehan summed up his demeanor with a single word: “Creepy.”

After 90 excruciating minutes, the Mock From Hell was over. As Obama made his way to the door, he was intercepted by Axelrod, Plouffe, Benenson, and the lead debate coach, Ron Klain. Little was said. Little needed to be said. The ashen looks on the faces of the president’s men told the tale.

Obama left the building and returned to his sprawling quarters on the banks of the James River with his best friend from Chicago, Marty Nesbitt, to watch football and play cards. His advisers retreated to the president’s debate-prep holding room to have a collective coronary.

That the presidential debates were proving problematic for Obama came as no real surprise to the members of his team. Many of them—Axelrod, the mustachioed message maven and guardian of the Obama brand; Plouffe, the spindly senior White House adviser and enforcer of strategic rigor; Dunn, the media-savvy mother superior and former White House communications director; Benenson, the bearded and noodgy former Mario Cuomo hand; Jon Favreau, the dashing young speechwriter—had been with Obama from the start of his meteoric ascent. They knew that he detested televised debates. That he disdained political theater in every guise. That, on some level, he distrusted political performance itself, with its attendant emotional manipulations.

The paradox, of course, was that Obama had risen to prominence and power to a large extent on the basis of his preternatural performance skills—and his ability to summon them whenever the game was on the line. In late 2007, when he was trailing Hillary Clinton in the Democratic-­nomination fight by 30 points. In the fall of 2008, when the global financial crisis hit during the crucial last weeks of the general election. In early 2010, when his signature health-care-reform proposal seemed destined for defeat. In every instance, under ungodly pressure, Obama had pulled up, set his feet, and drained a three-pointer at the buzzer.

The faith of the president’s people that he would do the same at Hofstra was what sustained them in the wake of Denver. For a year, the Obamans had fretted over everything under the sun: gas prices, unemployment, the European financial crisis, Iran, the Koch brothers, the lack of enthusiasm from the Democratic base, Hispanic turnout in the Orlando metroplex. The one thing they had never worried about was Barack Obama.

But given the spectacle they had just witnessed at Kingsmill, the Obamans were more than worried. After spending ten days pooh-poohing the widespread hysteria in their party about Denver, Obama’s debate team was now the most wigged-out collection of Democrats in the country, huddling in a hotel cubby that had become their secret panic room. Three hours had passed since the mock ended; it was almost 2 a.m. Obama’s team was still clustered in the work space, reading transcripts and waxing apocalyptic.

“Guys, what are we going to do?” Plouffe asked quietly, over and over. “That was a disaster.”

Among the Obamans, there was nobody more unflappable than Plouffe—and nobody less shaken by Denver. But while Plouffe believed the public would brush off a single bad debate showing, he was equally convinced that two in a row would not be so readily ignored. If Obama turned in a performance at Hofstra like the one they had seen that night, the consequences could be dire.

“If we don’t fix this,” Plouffe said emphatically, “we could lose the whole fucking election.”

O artigo completo está aqui.

Barack Obama nas Portas de Brandemburgo

Barack Obama visitou a Alemanha e fez um discurso às Portas de Brandemburgo. Disse que estava entre amigos e tirou o casaco em sinal de informalidade. Mas isso não o impediu de, por segurança, ter um vidro à prova de bala a rodeá-lo. Fica aqui o discurso integral.

Uma imagem que vale mesmo por mil palavras

Barack Obama e Vladimir Putin reuniram-se durante a cimeira do G8, na Irlanda do Norte. O tema principal foi a guerra na Síria. Esta imagem da Reuters  diz tudo sobre as divergências e o desconforto entre os dois.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: ameaça ao ADN presidencial

Os agentes do Serviço Secreto que protegem o presidente dos Estados Unidos têm um cuidado especial onde quer que ele vá: recolhem copos, lençóis e talheres utilizados por Barack Obama. Depois limpam-nos cuidadosamente ou destroem-nos. Objectivo: eliminar qualquer vestígio do ADN presidencial. Por outro lado, em 2010, de acordo com os telegramas diplomáticos revelados pela Wikileaks, a secretária de Estado Hillary Clinton ordenou às embaixadas americanas que recolhessem amostras de ADN dos líderes mundiais e dos responsáveis das Nações Unidas. Essa informação pode ser útil por vários motivos. Mas há um que os preocupa especialmente: a possibilidade de serem criadas armas biológicas personalizadas que podem matar uma única pessoa. O artigo foi publicado na edição de Novembro da The Atlantic. Mas só agora o consegui ler (sim, tenho muitos números em atraso). Chama-se Hacking the President’s DNA.

Miles Donovan

@Miles Donovan

“This is how the future arrived. It began innocuously, in the early 2000s, when businesses started to realize that highly skilled jobs formerly performed in-house, by a single employee, could more efficiently be crowd-sourced to a larger group of people via the Internet. Initially, we crowd-sourced the design of T‑shirts (Threadless.com) and the writing of encyclopedias (Wikipedia.com), but before long the trend started making inroads into the harder sciences. Pretty soon, the hunt for extraterrestrial life, the development of self-driving cars, and the folding of enzymes into novel proteins were being done this way. With the fundamental tools of genetic manipulation—tools that had cost millions of dollars not 10 years earlier—dropping precipitously in price, the crowd-sourced design of biological agents was just the next logical step.

In 2008, casual DNA-design competitions with small prizes arose; then in 2011, with the launch of GE’s $100 million breast-cancer challenge, the field moved on to serious contests. By early 2015, as personalized gene therapies for end-stage cancer became medicine’s cutting edge, virus-design Web sites began appearing, where people could upload information about their disease and virologists could post designs for a customized cure. Medically speaking, it all made perfect sense: Nature had done eons of excellent design work on viruses. With some retooling, they were ideal vehicles for gene delivery.

Soon enough, these sites were flooded with requests that went far beyond cancer. Diagnostic agents, vaccines, antimicrobials, even designer psychoactive drugs—all appeared on the menu. What people did with these bio-designs was anybody’s guess. No international body had yet been created to watch over them.

So, in November of 2016, when a first-time visitor with the handle Cap’n Capsid posted a challenge on the viral-design site 99Virions, no alarms sounded; his was just one of the 100 or so design requests submitted that day. Cap’n Capsid might have been some consultant to the pharmaceutical industry, and his challenge just another attempt to understand the radically shifting R&D landscape—really, he could have been anyone—but the problem was interesting nonetheless. Plus, Capsid was offering $500 for the winning design, not a bad sum for a few hours’ work.

Later, 99Virions’ log files would show that Cap’n Capsid’s IP address originated in Panama, although this was likely a fake. The design specification itself raised no red flags. Written in SBOL, an open-source language popular with the synthetic-biology crowd, it seemed like a standard vaccine request. So people just got to work, as did the automated computer programs that had been written to “auto-evolve” new designs. These algorithms were getting quite good, now winning nearly a third of the challenges.

Within 12 hours, 243 designs were submitted, most by these computerized expert systems. But this time the winner, GeneGenie27, was actually human—a 20-year-old Columbia University undergrad with a knack for virology. His design was quickly forwarded to a thriving Shanghai-based online bio-marketplace. Less than a minute later, an Icelandic synthesis start‑up won the contract to turn the 5,984-base-pair blueprint into actual genetic material. Three days after that, a package of 10‑milligram, fast-dissolving microtablets was dropped in a FedEx envelope and handed to a courier.

Two days later, Samantha, a sophomore majoring in government at Harvard University, received the package. Thinking it contained a new synthetic psychedelic she had ordered online, she slipped a tablet into her left nostril that evening, then walked over to her closet. By the time Samantha finished dressing, the tab had started to dissolve, and a few strands of foreign genetic material had entered the cells of her nasal mucosa.

Some party drug—all she got, it seemed, was the flu. Later that night, Samantha had a slight fever and was shedding billions of virus particles. These particles would spread around campus in an exponentially growing chain reaction that was—other than the mild fever and some sneezing—absolutely harmless. This would change when the virus crossed paths with cells containing a very specific DNA sequence, a sequence that would act as a molecular key to unlock secondary functions that were not so benign. This secondary sequence would trigger a fast-acting neuro-destructive disease that produced memory loss and, eventually, death. The only person in the world with this DNA sequence was the president of the United States, who was scheduled to speak at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government later that week. Sure, thousands of people on campus would be sniffling, but the Secret Service probably wouldn’t think anything was amiss.

It was December, after all—cold-and-flu season.

The scenario we’ve just sketched may sound like nothing but science fiction—and, indeed, it does contain a few futuristic leaps. Many members of the scientific community would say our time line is too fast. But consider that since the beginning of this century, rapidly accelerating technology has shown a distinct tendency to turn the impossible into the everyday in no time at all. Last year, IBM’s Watson, an artificial intelligence, understood natural language well enough to whip the human champion Ken Jennings on Jeopardy. As we write this, soldiers with bionic limbs are returning to active duty, and autonomous cars are driving down our streets. Yet most of these advances are small in comparison with the great leap forward currently under way in the biosciences—a leap with consequences we’ve only begun to imagine.

More to the point, consider that the DNA of world leaders is already a subject of intrigue. According to Ronald Kessler, the author of the 2009 book In the President’s Secret Service, Navy stewards gather bedsheets, drinking glasses, and other objects the president has touched—they are later sanitized or destroyed—in an effort to keep would‑be malefactors from obtaining his genetic material. (The Secret Service would neither confirm nor deny this practice, nor would it comment on any other aspect of this article.) And according to a 2010 release of secret cables by WikiLeaks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton directed our embassies to surreptitiously collect DNA samples from foreign heads of state and senior United Nations officials. Clearly, the U.S. sees strategic advantage in knowing the specific biology of world leaders; it would be surprising if other nations didn’t feel the same.

While no use of an advanced, genetically targeted bio-weapon has been reported, the authors of this piece—including an expert in genetics and microbiology (Andrew Hessel) and one in global security and law enforcement (Marc Goodman)—are convinced we are drawing close to this possibility. Most of the enabling technologies are in place, already serving the needs of academic R&D groups and commercial biotech organizations. And these technologies are becoming exponentially more powerful, particularly those that allow for the easy manipulation of DNA.

The evolution of cancer treatment provides one window into what’s happening. Most cancer drugs kill cells. Today’s chemotherapies are offshoots of chemical-warfare agents: we’ve turned weapons into cancer medicines, albeit crude ones—and as with carpet bombing, collateral damage is a given. But now, thanks to advances in genetics, we know that each cancer is unique, and research is shifting to the development of personalized medicines—designer therapies that can exterminate specific cancerous cells in a specific way, in a specific person; therapies focused like lasers.

To be sure, around the turn of the millennium, significant fanfare surrounded personalized medicine, especially in the field of genetics. A lot of that is now gone. The prevailing wisdom is that the tech has not lived up to the talk, but this isn’t surprising. Gartner, an information-technology research-and-advisory firm, has coined the term hype cycle to describe exactly this sort of phenomenon: a new technology is introduced with enthusiasm, only to be followed by an emotional low when it fails to immediately deliver on its promise. But Gartner also discovered that the cycle doesn’t typically end in what the firm calls “the trough of disillusionment.” Rising from those ashes is a “slope of enlightenment”—meaning that when viewed from a longer-term historical perspective, the majority of these much-hyped groundbreaking developments do, eventually, break plenty of new ground.”

O resto do (longo) artigo pode ser lido aqui.

Obama no jantar de correspondentes da Casa Branca

Tentar imaginar Cavaco Silva a fazer algo ligeiramente semelhante a isto é um exercício penoso e que nos faz pensar em seguir o conselho de Passos Coelho: mudar de país.

Isto é que é transparência

Em 2012, Barack e Michelle Obama tiveram um rendimento de 608,611 dólares. Pagaram 112.214 dólares em impostos. Foi uma quebra em relação a 2011 quando o casal presidencial norte-americano recebeu 789.674 dólares e pagou 162.074 em impostos. A revelação não foi feita por um qualquer tribunal. É uma informação pública, disponibilizada pela Casa Branca à agência Reuters. Através dela sabemos também que apesar de, como Presidente dos Estados Unidos, ter direito a um salário anual de 400 mil dólares, Barack Obama acabou por receber apenas 394.800 dólares depois de pagar um seguro de saúde.

A quebra dos rendimentos deveu-se sobretudo à diminuição das vendas dos livros – que em 2009 chegaram aos 5.2 milhões de dólares. Esta mesma transparência permite a todos os americanos saber que o casal Obama deu 150.034 dólares a instituições de caridade. A maior fatia – 103.871 dólares – foi entregue à Fisher House Foundation, que abriga familiares de militares nos arredores dos hospitais do exército.

Qualquer semelhança com a divulgação dos rendimentos dos titulares de cargos políticos em Portugal é pura coincidência.


Viver e morrer em Guantánamo

Barack Obama fez várias promessas na campanha eleitoral que o levou à Casa Branca em 2008. A mais emblemática – e a primeira a ser posta de lado – foi o encerramento da prisão de Guantánamo. Hoje, cinco anos depois, “Gitmo” continua em pleno funcionamento. Regularmente surgem relatos de maus tratos a prisioneiros que não foram acusados nem julgados. Hoje, o The New York Timespublica o testemunho de Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel. Detido em Cuba desde 2002, este iemenita contou a sua história aos seus advogados da Reprieve, através de um tradutor. É um relato impressionante da vida e dos abusos a que os detidos são sujeitos na prisão norte-americana.

Gitmo Is Killing Me

One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.

I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here. Years ago the military said I was a “guard” for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either.

When I was at home in Yemen, in 2000, a childhood friend told me that in Afghanistan I could do better than the $50 a month I earned in a factory, and support my family. I’d never really traveled, and knew nothing about Afghanistan, but I gave it a try.

I was wrong to trust him. There was no work. I wanted to leave, but had no money to fly home. After the American invasion in 2001, I fled to Pakistan like everyone else. The Pakistanis arrested me when I asked to see someone from the Yemeni Embassy. I was then sent to Kandahar, and put on the first plane to Gitmo.

Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.

I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.

I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.

There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.

During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual, because she was doing things so hastily. I called the interpreter to ask the doctor if the procedure was being done correctly or not.

It was so painful that I begged them to stop feeding me. The nurse refused to stop feeding me. As they were finishing, some of the “food” spilled on my clothes. I asked them to change my clothes, but the guard refused to allow me to hold on to this last shred of my dignity.

When they come to force me into the chair, if I refuse to be tied up, they call the E.R.F. team. So I have a choice. Either I can exercise my right to protest my detention, and be beaten up, or I can submit to painful force-feeding.

The only reason I am still here is that President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen. This makes no sense. I am a human being, not a passport, and I deserve to be treated like one.

I do not want to die here, but until President Obama and Yemen’s president do something, that is what I risk every day.

Where is my government? I will submit to any “security measures” they want in order to go home, even though they are totally unnecessary.

I will agree to whatever it takes in order to be free. I am now 35. All I want is to see my family again and to start a family of my own.

The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. At least 40 people here are on a hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood.

And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.

I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.”



A mudança, parte dois

Para quem não viu, fica aqui o discurso da tomada de posse de Barack Obama. São 19m58s. Para os políticos profissionais: é assim que se fala em público.

O único homem que vê o mesmo que Barack Obama

@Pete Souza

@Pete Souza

A Time elegeu Barack Obama a personalidade do ano – e publica um extenso artigo sobre o presidente dos Estados Unidos. Mas este post não é sobre Obama. É antes sobre o homem que o acompanha em todos os momentos do dia e vive de acordo com os horários do presidente norte-americano: o fotógrafo luso-descendente, Pete Souza. Neto de portugueses que, no início do século XX, imigraram para os EUA, Souza foi fotógrafo do Chicago Sun-Times e, entre 1983 e 1989, foi fotógrafo oficial da Casa Branca durante o segundo mandato de Ronald Reagan. Já na década de 1990 tornou-se correspondente do Chicaco Tribune, publicou nas revistas Life e National Geographic e depois do 11 de Setembro foi dos primeiros jornalistas a chegar ao Afeganistão. Em 2005 conheceu Barack Obama e começou a registar o seu primeiro ano como Senador, em Washington. O projecto continuou nos anos seguintes. O resultado foi a publicação do bestseller The Rise of Barack Obama. Professor de fotojornalismo na Universidade de Comunicação Visual do Ohio, está em licença de longa duração desde que regressou à Casa Branca. Em Novembro de 2011, quando Obama veio a Portugal para participar na Cimeira da NATO, Pete Souza – que não fala português – deu uma pequena entrevista ao Diário de Notícias:


Segue Obama para todos os cantos do mundo. Foi diferente quando o Presidente lhe disse que vinham ao país dos seus avós?

Ele sabia que havia algum interesse das pessoas de cá por eu vir na comitiva e começou a fazer troça de mim. Há outro assessor na Casa Branca, David Simas, que também é lusodescendente. Viemos no Air Force One juntos e entusiasmados por visitarmos Lisboa.

O que é que o Presidente lhe dizia?

Ele tem um jeito descontraído e espontâneo de se meter comigo. Dizia-me: “És uma rock star.”

O que vale mesmo a pena é ver as fotografias. A Time pediu a Pete Sousa que reunisse as suas imagens favoritas. São 125. Estão aqui.

@Pete Souza

@Pete Souza

As lágrimas do presidente inspirador

No dia seguinte à vitória nas eleições presidenciais, Barack Obama foi à sede de campanha em Chicago, agradecer ao staff e ao grupo de voluntários que contribuiram para a sua reeleição. Durante as breves palavras, Obama emocionou-se – e chorou. Lágrimas verdadeiras que deram mais força às palavras habitualmente inspiradoras.

“It’s not that you remind me of myself; it’s that you’re so much better than I was. You’re smarter and you’re better organized and you’re more effective. I’m absolutely confident that all of you are going to do amazing things.

Even before last night’s results, I felt that the work that I’d begun by running for office had come full circle because the work that you’ve done means that the work that I’m doing is important. And I’m really proud of that. I’m really proud of all of you.

Whatever good we do over the next four years will pale in comparison to what you guys end up accomplishing for years and years to come. And that’s my source of hope.”

O vídeo dura 5m27s – e vale mesmo a pena.

As palavras mais repetidas por Barack Obama

O discurso de vitória de Barack Obama tinha 2.163 palavras, lidas ao longo de 20 minutos, e interrompidas em sucessivos aplausos. As mais repetidas foram “América”, “country” e “forward”. É uma curiosidade, mas fica aqui para todos avaliarem.

Wordle: Discurso de vitória Obama

O discurso da vitória de Obama