Sambodia | Overflowing Stacks of Hack Attacks!

The Folha de S. Paulo practices the journalism of ante hoc ergo propter hoc.

A hacker invaded the personal e-mail of President Dilma Rousseff and copied e-mails she received during her victorious run for the presidency last year, according to a report by Matheus Leitão and Rubens Valente in today’s Folha (complete story available to subscribers of the Folha or of UOL, a company controlled by the Grupo Folha, which publishes the Folha.)

If you ask me, that lengthy bit of boilerplate about who owns who ruins the elegant punch of the lead. Nor does the nut graph inspire confidence.

The young man tried to sell the e-mails to politicians from the two opposition parties, the DEM-PFL and PSDB, but said he had no success. The Folha met with the hacker on Monday at a mall in Taguatinga, in the Federal District, 20 km from Brasília. He asked to remain anonymous, saying his name is “Douglas”, that he is unemployed, and that he is 21 years old..

Why is the Folha going to meet hackers with sensitive e-mails from Obama or Mitt Romney in a shopping mall in Ô do Borogodo? It does not by any chance reproduce any of those e-mails, does it? Read on past the pay wall to find out.

And now for something completely different.  Continue reading

Rain Man on Usiminas

In the absence of original inspiration, I post an item from the reject pile to demonstrate the sort of Rain Man prose I tend to write for a living these days — and am damned glad to have a chance to write, given the cheapness of words in the world of today. Humble pie is humble pie, but you can at least survive on it.

I write a lot of “investor sentiment” business intelligence, but some reason this item was spiked by the editor in — wherever he is, we all work out of big cities scattered all over the place.  Continue reading

Swaps and Swaptions | The Newest Globo Soap

Noted with interest:

Investment bank that provides a setting for the Globo soap operat Cold, Cold Heart bring products like private equity and derivatives to a lay public.

In a recent Globo soap, the network brought pole-dancing as a healthy, respectable way of making a living to its soap opera audience. It also showed a woman selling beer by promising to flash her breasts if her consignment was sold out.

Naturally, the sponsor was a brewery.

Globo believes intensely in the pedagogical value of its entertainment programming. It is, I believe, among the ultimate infotainment purveyors in the world.

I have never seen an entertainment channel bend so far over backwards to produce programming to “educate” the public on “topics of interest” to the principal sponsor or sponsors — including political interests. It is a vile spectacle.

The vision of the world it brings its viewers general has about as much verisimilitude as an Itch and Scratchy episode, but is generally highly ideologically loaded — our pole dancer is merely a “sexual entrepreneur” and what after all is wrong with that?

Million-dollar investments in derivatives. A private equity that invests in wind power. Cooking the books to fool the CVM. These mght all seem like matters for the financial pages, but in fact are dealt with during prime time on Globo’s open-to-air network.

The soap opera  Insensato Coração — Cold, Cold Heart — by Rede Globo, even uses an investment bank for all these financial products, and more. .

The Brasil Econômico piece reads an awful lot like a puff piece for Globo.

What Globo lacks is any semblance of series like Law & Order, which shows ordinary citizens involved in the process of justice. The absence is practically blinding.

I will have start watching the soap, which comes on at 9, normally my bed time.

Satanic Mills and The Pigs of Steel

A black-hat carvoaria in Piauí — entire debt-enslaved families engaged in illegal deforestation and the defrauding of carbon-steel production standards.  

It is a shame that Brasil Econômico is hiding today’s report on the black-market carbon industry behind its pay-to-play firewall.

Although it has taken some time to get up steam, the BE — which takes the place of the late, lamented Gazeta Mercantil — thoroughly explores the proposition that specialty steels used by automakers could not be produced sustainably without Brazilian slave and child labor and black-market carbon manufacture.

To be precise, the coverage is largely based on a 7-year study by the Observatório Social, whose methods and means are closely scrutinized. The Observatório titles its report “The Steel of Devastation.” It is itself a steely-eyed and devastating document.

The Observatório describes how companies dedicated, pro forma, to the use of legally produced carbon in their production of pig-iron are really just overlooking the illegal back-door introduction of slave labor-based, environmentally predatory carbon production into the supply chain of “certified” carbon producers.

The illegal facilities are generally located some 10km from the Potemkin villages that front for them — far enough away for plausible deniability, close enough for midnight runs with unmarked trucks with no onboard manifest.

Steel producers — unlike industries that scream for the economic sense and moral rectitude of “self-regulation” — claim that oversight of standards and practices is not their responsibility, Brasil Economico reports.

Again, the real grabber here is the claim that the entire industry would not be sustainable under any other regime now practicable — such as eucalyptus plantations for carbon production — if it were not for slave labor-produced predatory deforestation.

This report really ought to be Englished, and Englished proficiently, o quanto antes.

Sambodian Insurance | Beware The Paraguayan Policy

More tales of the mad Black Hatter

Never mind the Madoff of Minas Gerais, which is a whole other story about people and places you have never heard of.

Portal ClippingMP reports, and I clip the report to my true crime file.

More than 100 insurance companies operate illegally in Brazil, taking in R$ 3 billion  per year on forged policies and bilking consumers.

Lacking the resources and capital reserves to back their policies, these groups generally operate in auto insurance, involving 500,000 cars, but also exploit poor Brazilians who invest in funeral insurance.

The misery of poor Brazilians cheated out of their funeral insurance by sharpers is painful to contemplate. The miserable Brazilian is by far the most miserable miserable person I have ever met, never having lived in other recovering Third World hell holes. But gradually, the Law is shaking the dust off its robes, I am happy to say.

In the first five months of this year, the private insurance regulator, Susep, fined  29 of these firms, many of them of foreign origin, a total of R$ 110 million. Using documents and identification identical to those used by legitimate insurers, the pirate insurers managed to deceive their customers. Treasury minister Guido Mantega ordered Susep to step up its vigilance, purge the illegal operators and gurantee the credibility of the insurance sector.

.Honest to god, I have actually been thinking about writing a financial thriller set in Brazil, with a less than hard-boiled Brazilian CPA who finds his inner Sam Spade when he stumbles across a money laundering operation.

Popular Indignation, Globo Claim Sambodian Youth Nabob!

“And here is a story that will leave you indignant.” Globo journalism is not Globo journalism unless it tells you first how to feel about the fact, if any, that come after.

The politicization of corruption accusations is a common and a wearisome spectacle in these Sambodian climes, and major news organizations tend not to slip the leash if ordered to avoid going into attack dog mode on a political ally of ownership .

In the meantime, the PSDB government of São Paulo has been accused, and not without a certain justice, of benefiting from cozy relationships with the corporate media to avoid corruption scandals in its ranks.

Celso Pitta died a free man, more or less. And probably so will Maluf.

And so it is surprising to read of a state secretary falling on his sword over corrupt practices not even related to the exercise of his office. Terra reports.

The state government of São Paulo state confirmed late Sunday that governor  Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) had accepted the resignation of state sport, leisure and youth secretary Jorge Pagura. The neurosurgeon Pagura allegedly received payment for shifts not worked at the Regional Hospital of Sorocaba before becoming secretary, according to a report on Globo’s Fantástico today.

Fantástico — a weird amalgam of 60 Minutes and Laugh-In that runs in prime time Sunday night — is a traditional launching pad for smear campaigns and moral panics.

According to a press release, he left office voluntarily “with the objective of assisting in clarifying the facts brought forth by the state prosecutor and the [Sambodian GAO].”

According to the report, more than 70 health professionals were investigated bu police and prosecutors for suspected embezzlement of public funds. On Wednesday, 12 doctors, nurses, dentists and business managers were arrested and charged with involvement in a fraud scheme at 12 hospitals in Sorocaba, Itapevi and São Paulo. One suspect is still at large.

The state secretary was not among those investigated.

To make a long story short, however, a wiretap captured a telephone call in which arrangements are made for payment for a shift not worked.

Probity seems to have broken out on a nonpartisan basis. I know these nuances mean little to you, but I am stuck in this place and the local media sphere has permeated my brain.

Endowment Fever | Crimson Tide on the Rio Pinheiros

The Folha de S. Paulo reports: The University of São Paulo plans to imitate Harvard, establishing a private endowment to be filled up by alumni and, one suspects, principally, corporate sponsors, and then magically quintupled by ronin financial rocket scientists from Connecticut.

What is odd in this puff piece, however, is that while Harvard has been a purely private university since its founding as a Puritan sermonizer’s academy in sixteen something something, USP has always been a public university, free of cost to qualified students and subsidized directly by state funds. If I am not mistaken, this state of affairs is black-letter Constitution.

Given that state of affairs of utter category confusion, then, it seems hard to maintain the “just like Harvard” analogy. Nevertheless, the Folha works it.

Harvard, considered the best university in the world, has a budget of nearly R$ 6 billion. But only 20% of that sum comes from the American government.

Considered by whom? And wasn’t that endowment up to USD 36 billion just a few years ago?

Furthermore, that that much taxpayer money goes to subsidize a private institution with such plentiful means of its own actually seems sort of shocking — especially given the amount of defense-related contracts this sum represents, and the free-booting anarcocapitalism that has supplanted Veritas as the school’s official ideological compass.

The rest of the money is the sum of a set of annuities, donations and income from so-called “endowments”, which are investment funds belonging to the institution.

This is the model imported by the Escola Politécnica at USP, which now has its own investment fund — a first among public Brazilian universities.

Again: Harvard private. USP public. Harvard Business sells the naming rights to chairs of its business school faculty the same way baseball stadiums sell their naming rights to cell phone operators nowadays. Tell us again how self-sufficient its research is and appears to be?

Just like at Harvard, the fund will be managed by a third-party firm, Endowments do Brasil, which will invest what is received from private donors and alumni.

“The principal is untouchable. The dividends will be plowed back into research funding”, explains José Roberto Cardoso, director of Poli-USP.

In this way, the school gains some autonomy from research incubators run by the State — 85% of the R$ 2,89 billion given to USP is consumed by university payroll.

And now it will be able to produce research without having to pay anyone a salary to produce it?

In the case of Poli the idea came from the students themselves. It was the «Grêmio da Poli» that created the “endowment” and made the first donation: R$ 100,000. What the institution hopes for now is money from outside [the school, the state, Brazil].

The peculiarly Brazilian twist given to the concept of “managing innovation” continues to fascinate me, though I do not have as much time to follow up on it.

All I can say as an alumnus of a private liberal arts college run on the Oxford model and a gigantic state university run into the ground on the principals of social entrepreneurship is that the autonomous university system in Latin American countries is a model not to be cast aside lightly.

The pitch from Endowments do Brasil — surely there is a Portuguese word that can be pressed into service for “endownment”, such as the plain old FIP? — seems pretty greasy to me.

Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Ford Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations consolidated their financial independence using endowments organized by each of them, and each of these entities withdraw each month a great deal of the financial resources they need to operate.

Correct me if I am wrong, but Ford and Gates consolidated their financial independence with predatory business practices — oiled with the blood of the workers, if you will — and then endowed Ivy League universities to stamp out junior managers preprogrammed with that same predatory frame of mind.

I personally am not ready to consider any university top-notch that still maintains a legacy admission policy — like Yale and Harvard, both of which admitted George W. Bush because of who his father was.

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