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Civita Dei | Notes on The Brazilian Education Lobby

Brasil Escola — an educational publication of Brazil’s Record media group — observes, correctly, a major source of difficulty in trying to cover, in any comprehensive way, the actions of corporate, private and third-sector lobbies, and combinations thereof.

The trouble is that the lobbying industry here is just about as unregulated as Liberty Valence. I translate:

The term “lobby” is frequently heard in the political milieu. Sadly, however, most people hold an incorrect view of the term’s meaning.

First of all, we should understand that lobbying is nothing more than the bringing of political pressure by groups seeking to influence official policy for their own ends, whether openly or in secret.

Lobbying is a very natural activity, something we all do. Examples include a son trying to get his father to increase his allowance, or a union debating improved working conditions.  In the U.S., lobbying is openly recognized  and even regulated by law. Lobbying is acknowledged as an important part of the political process.

Some experts believe that lobbying should not sneak in  through the back door, which only supports accusations of improprieties.  According to Maria Coeli Simões Pires, secretary of regional development and urban policy for the government of Minas Gerais, there are no angels in the political world, and no demons as well, merely interests, chief of which are economic interests. Viewed this way, lobbying must unlink itself from illegalities, since defending special interests is not only not illegal but rather a fundamental right.

First of all, in the case of «edutainment» policy, what groups seek to influence federal, state and local education policy in Brazil, and what are their respective agenda and tactics? The answer involves sophisticated governance structures set up to facilitate private- and third-sector collaboration with municipal, state, and federal bodies and private enterprise.

«Program, get your program, you can’t tell the players without a program!”

Selecting key-man nodes in publicly available social networks and traversing their relationships — above, aa chain leading to international philanthropy by Sylvan Laureate — is a legitimate method, but also very labor-intensive.

I propose using automated «beat-building» techniques to obrain an overview of the sector.

First, relevant and useful Web sites are selected and crawled, breadth-firt — using NaviCrawler or WIRE, in my case — and a link ecology analysis is performed, using Pajek, Gephi and yEd.

Then, using yEd, basic social network characteristics can be diagrammed and pondered visually.

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The Fluoridation of Sambodian Education

Brazilian media cartels have a vested interest in the educational publishing market.

Brazilian media cartels — Globo and Abril, in particular — have mounted an intensive “moral panic” campaign over the past several years, repeatedly accusing public educational policies of promoting communist indoctrination.

The facts are inevitably flimsy.

A couple of years ago, a fact check by Carta Capital caught the Globo organization’s global journalism czar in out and out lies.

I appreciated that coverage.

Among other things, it provided an efficient overview of the publishing market, and detailed public policies designed to put more purchasing power in the hands of educators, favoring the growth of small and midsize publishing houses.

For its part, the Editora Abril — one of Brazil’s largest textbook publishers, not to mention its 100% control of Greater Metro Sambodian print periodical distribution  — launched a violent assault on a smaller competitor, COC.

The Blog do Artur Henrique is the personal diary of the president of CUT — what you might call the Brazilian AFL-CIO. Mutatis mutandis.

He accuses the major media groups of perpetrating another gabbling ratfink in the same vein with regard to a new nationwide SAT-style college entrance examination, the ENEM.

The allegation seems to check out, factwise. A blogging friend reports, and I translate …

I just finished an interview with Education Minister  Fernando Haddad.

I will post the transcript shortly

Some highlights of the points covered follow.

Problems were encounted in 21,000 of the 4.6 million test booklets. But the number of affected students is much lower because the Ministry had a reserve supply of 10% of the total  – 120,000 booklets — plus an abstention rate of 25%. So, 350,000 eztras copies with which to replace the 21,000 with the printing error.

When students perceived the error, all they had to do was raise their hands and ask for another booklet. For this reason, estimates of the number of students who need to retake the exam has fallen steadily as reports come in from the proctors — from 21,000 to 2,000 on Monday, and down into the hundreds today.

Haddad says the number of tests that will have to be readministered is minimal.

The solicitor general-equivalent is fighting a lawsuit to invalidate the entire test.

The union president guy writes,

ENEM — the National High School Education Exam — was harshly critized by the major national dailies last weekend.

An incautious reader of this coverage might get the impression that the examination was a mess, a total failure.

It was not. The heavily publicized error in the exam, according to the Ministry of Education, was a heading that was erroneously printed twice on 0.3% of the 10 million copies of the exam …

Yes, he says 10 million while the Education Minister says 4.6 million. Check fact.

The following paragraph also needs a fact check.

An infinitesimal error in an immense universe. And an error that could not in any way invalidate the results. Imagine if you will that a snippet of text on one page is repeated on another because of an error at the printer. The remaining text of the exam is not affected by the error. How could this error invalidate the exam?

According to other reports, the printing error did cause a discrepancy between the answer sheet and the answer key — the gabarito. Not sure yet who is right.

“Infinitesimal” and “immense” may be a trifle exaggerated, but “statistically insignificant” may well apply.

It is perfectly obvious that the outcry against the ENEM is rooted in the policy of social inclusion that it represents, in that it aims to replace the traditional entrance examinations administered by each university and undermines the outrageously expensive college prep course industry. The ENEM also opens up opportunities to working-class students, who will now be able to attend universities previously closed to them.

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Why the Sambodian Press Urgently Needs My Help

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As paredes têm ouvidos: "The walls have hearsay."

Cellphone becomes exclusive phonographic media: The Gazeta Mercantil business daily here puts out an English-language edition. The quality is, generally speaking, somewhat north of embarrassing. They should hire me as their translation editor. Example:

SÃO PAULO (SP), 10 de novembro de 2008 – One of the most eagerly await albums in the Brazilian pop music world, that of ‘internet sensation’ Mallu Magalhães, comes to the market officially next Saturday but, in an unprecedented form, it is already available on your cellphone. No, this is not a case of piracy. And yes, it marks an investment in marketing of two companies, Vivo and Motorola. All the CD of the launch by the young singer is available on five versions of Motorola cellphones and on the Vivo internet site.

“All your CD are belong to us.” Ouch.

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Communique-se on Veja v. Nassif

“These are facts”: Mainardi on the fictitious bribe-stuffed bank accounts of government officials, on Globo’s “The Brazilian David Letterman” show. Veja preferred not to conclude that the dossier on the alleged existence of these accounts was a gabbling forgery. It’s all a matter of postmodern biblical hermeneutics and Nietzschean-Sartrean leaps of faith with these gabbling nonsense-peddlers.

Comunique-se‘s Sérgio Matsuura on Mainardi v. Nassif.

On which see also

O colunista Diogo Mainardi, da Veja, sempre afirmou que “questões de imprensa devem ser resolvidas no âmbito da imprensa. É a regra número um do meu código de ética profissional”. Entretanto, ele entrou com um processo por danos morais contra o Ig e o jornalista Luis Nassif.

Columnist Diogo Mainardi of Veja magazine (Editora Abril) has always said that “the controversies of the press should be resolved in the press. This is Rule No. 1 of my professional code of ethics.”

Diogo Mainardi has a professional code of ethics.

In a related story, the emperor is fully dressed.

Nevertheless, he has filed a libel suit against iG and journalist Luis Nassif.

“Eu não estou processando um jornalista. Estou processando um caluniador a serviço do Governo”, disse Mainardi.

“I am not suing a journalist. I am suing a slanderer in the service of the Government,” Mainardi said.

Diogo Mainardi is a martyr to political persecution. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it like rancid bubblegum to an asphalt basketball court in late August.

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Editora Abril: Building the Chinese Wall?

Veja’s Diogo Mainardi on Globo’s late-night Letterman clone (the Jô Xô) repeats the unsubstantiated rumor that senior government officials have bribe-stuffed offshore bank accounts — defending the exercise in logic-chopping gibberish with a gibbering tautology.

The Brazilian journalist does not feel free to write. More than just having to follow the editorial line of the publications they work for, the complaints principally have to do with coercion by political or business groups. –“A Profile of the Brazilian Journalist”

Comunique-se. O portal da comunicação reports on management changes at the Editora Abril, publisher of Veja magazine — a jaw-dropping example of the New Lacerdist yellow press at its most vicious and venial.

The most striking of these is that journalist training will now be handled by the publisher’s Editorial division rather than its Corporate division.

Implying that prior to this, journalists were trained by Corporate rather than Editorial.

I imagine there is an Abril flack somewhere right now drawing up a press release that touts this reorganization as an example of the publisher’s commitment to “innovation.”

Previously, Abril’s top lobbyist and ad sales exec was also in charge of its journalist training — which strikes one as precisely the opposite of the traditional “Chinese wall” between the business and editorial sides that all of us are so nostalgic for these days.

Abril announced a new corporate code of conduct recently in which it announced that limits on gifts to journalists and other personnel — the infamous jabaculê — would be limited to R$100. Not clearly whether that means per day, per hour, per contact, what.

Standard value of gifts journalists may accept at most global publishing firms: R$0, which at current exchange rates equals US$0 and zero Japanese yen. Also zero UAE dinars. And so on. See

A editora Abril começa o mês de agosto com uma série de mudanças no comando da empresa. Alfredo Ogawa, que ocupava a direção do Núcleo Esporte Motor, assume a Diretoria de Serviços Editoriais, que vinha sendo acumulada pelo vice-presidente de Relações Institucionais, Sidnei Basile.

Editora Abril began August with a series of changes in top management. Alfredo Ogawa, who formerly headed the Motor Sports group, will take over as director of Editorial Services, previously occupied by Sidnei Basile, who simultaneously served as group VP of institutional relations.

Na nova função, que passa do Corporativo para a Editora, Ogawa será responsável pelas gerências de Apoio Editorial, Dedoc, Diretoria de Arte e Editoria de infografia, além do Treinamento Editorial, que será comandada por Edward Pimenta, que já era, no Corporativo, responsável pelo Curso Abril de Jornalismo e outras ações de treinamento.

In the new post, which will be reassigned [from Corporate to Editorial], Ogawa will be responsible for managing Editorial Support, Dedoc, Art Direction and Infographics, as well as Editorial Training, the latter to be managed by Edward Pimenta, former manager of the Abril Journalism Course and other training activities on the corporate side.

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Larry Rohter Delivers His Book

“Did Larry Rohter do good journalism?” Brazilian Press Association, 2004. The government tried to have the Times reporter’s visa canceled over an article sourced almost entirely to "the unscrupulous part of the Brazilian media," when sourced at all, suggesting the President's putative drinking problem "was a matter of national concern." Sponsoring the habeas corpus petition that kept Rohter in Brazil was then-Sen., now Governor, Sergio Cabral.

Direto da fonte: The gossip column of the Estado de S. Paulo notes on July 10 that Larry Rohter has finished his book.

Larry Rohter, ex-correspondente do NYT, entregou para a Objetiva, os últimos capítulos do livro em que conta os bastidores de sua experiência no Brasil.

Larry Rohter, former New York Times correspondent, has delivered the final chapters of his book, in which he tells the inside story of his experience in Brazil, to the Objectiva publishing house.

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Is It Pulp Yet? Contemporary Brazilian Popular Fiction

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Cheap literary thrills at a price that’s not too polpudo.

I am constantly on the lookout for something decent and not too expensive to read in New World Lusophone.

Brazil lacks the sort of developed publishing and book distribution industry that produces, for example, the likes of Penguin editions or those cheap newsstand thrillers you buy to read on the Acela “bullet train” to Boston — a trip that that always takes a lot longer than the brochure would have you believe.

LP&M, for example, fills a niche for pocket classics something like that pioneer by the Penguin imprint after WWII, but its catalog is limited, and for some strange reason (not that I am complaining, mind you — I am a member of the Bukowski Memorial Society for Classic Latin Studies) Charles Bukowski is considered a classic here in Brazil.

Publifolha now has its own line of affordable classics (Machado de Assis, Jorge Amado, Guimarães Rosa) that you buy at newsstands, recalling the business model pioneered by Charles Dickens and early 20th century “popular library” brands in the U.S.

The only comparable “pulp” genre that really sells like hotcakes, in the meantime, are the local equivalents of the Harlequin Romance and its many imitators. “She gazed into the plumber’s deep green eyes and felt a shiver run through her body. The oven mitt dropped from her hand without her even being aware that it had.”

This is mainly an effect of unchecked cartel behavior in the publishing industry, I would venture to guess. The Editora Abril, for example, controls 100% of print distribution in São Paulo, and not a peep out of the competition regulator, CADE, so far. Talk to local newsstand owners, though. You hear stories that remind you of that episode of The Sopranos in which the boys from the Bing try to extract protection money from a Starbucks. And worse.

I will have to see if there is anything on the CADE docket on the matter, though.

My wife, the short story hunger artist, will very likely be interested in this book. She has a mania for anthologies of genre fiction (her novel in progress involves UFOs and the forbidden dance, the lambada, among other colorful subjects.) And at R$20 for Vol. II, the price is notably reasonable by local standards.

Therefore I translate, draft-quality, the following review from the online Terra Magazine, which lives on the Terra (Brasil) Web portal and often has interesting things to say.

Pulp Fiction?

Roberto de Sousa Causo
Terra Magazine
São Paulo

Translated by C. Brayton

Pulp Fiction, Vol. I. Samir Machado de Machado, ed. Porto Alegre: Editora Fósforo, 2007, 131 pp. Cover art by Gisele Oliveira.

In literary terms, “pulp” refers to fiction printed on cheap paper, specializing in different genres whose common interest is to engaging the attention and play on the emotions of readers who are not afraid of a little adventure or melodrama, of the sensational or the marvelous. In Brazil in recent years, the notion of pulp fiction as a set of literary strategies and qualities has been revived and defended, becoming a sort of term of negotiation on the Brazilian speculative literature scene. Oddly, this is true not only in Brazil but in other countries as well.

What is so odd about that?

This week, we take a look at some examples in an attempt to understand this trend a little better.

Samir Machado de Machado, whom we interviewed here a couple of weeks back, has forced the issue with the publication of Pulp Fiction, Vols. 1 and 2, the first serial anthology of original Brazilian speculative fiction. He defines it, in his preface to Volume I, as “a collective efforts whose intention is … to promote and stimulate a speculative literature whose only agenda is to entertain the reader”, abandoning all “pedantic pretensions to assigning a greater signficance to fiction”. “What we really want”, he writes, “is, as American writer Michael Chabon says, ‘to blow the reader’s mind.'”.

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