quarta-feira, abril 30, 2008

Ideology is Madness

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At some point I remember Frye making the point about pronouns, the general case 'he' and so forth; and deciding the least evil was to go with the older flow and let 'him' be.

Last night I was reading Gretta Vosper's book and got to the paragraph where she attempts an analogous rationale - determining to call God 'it' - and fails so utterly that I could not continue reading.

I will post both rationales here shortly.

Ai Ai Ai! It is IDEOLOGICAL MADNESS which has taken over the world.

University of Saskatchewan, Department of English, "Requirements" (not guidelines) for essays:

The use of he to refer to a person of either sex and the use of man or mankind to refer to humankind in general are no longer acceptable. To avoid the first problem, recast your sentence to change singular to plural forms: "The successful student submits his essays on time" can be changed to "Successful students submit their essays on time" or "Successful students submit essays on time." Do not fix the problem by substituting plural pronouns (they, them, their) for gender-specific pronouns unless you also change the noun to which they refer: WRONG: "A person needs their rest." REVISED: "A person needs his or her rest" or REVISED: "People need their rest." You may also replace he with he or she, and him with her or him. To avoid using the generalized man or mankind, use people, humankind, or human beings. "Man is a social being." REVISED: "People are social beings." Use gender-neutral nouns such as police officer, fire fighter, and speaker, and substitute representative for spokesman and chair for chairman/woman/person.

Unrelated (but unforgettable), from a blog called 'Waggish'.

The most egregious example I can think of is George Szirtes' translation of Deszo Kosztolanyi's Anna Edes, where a lothario seduces a woman by saying:
"I love you. Only you. I love thee." Having addressed her formally so far, he whispered the last pronoun ... "Thee, thee. Say it. Thee. You say it too. Say it to me. Thee thee ..."


domingo, abril 27, 2008

Sunday Meditation: Oral Sex & Death

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Probably get myself X rated by the nerds at Google for this ... oh well. With all the porn on the internet you might think there would be more variety of images, even some quality, but I have not found much that's very good for my purpose here.

I did not know that oral sex was an HIV 'transmission behavior', and the weasel words from CDC still leave me with quite some doubt about the degree of risk - could be vanishingly small, they aren't really telling, more like threatening.

"While no one knows exactly what the degree of risk is, evidence suggests that the risk is less than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex."

Can I get HIV from oral sex?, CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yes, it is possible for either partner to become infected with HIV through performing or receiving oral sex. There have been a few cases of HIV transmission from performing oral sex on a person infected with HIV. While no one knows exactly what the degree of risk is, evidence suggests that the risk is less than that of unprotected anal or vaginal sex.

If the person performing oral sex has HIV, blood from their mouth may enter the body of the person receiving oral sex through:
 - the lining of the urethra (the opening at the tip of the penis);
 - the lining of the vagina or cervix;
 - the lining of the anus; or
 - directly into the body through small cuts or open sores.

If the person receiving oral sex has HIV, their blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), or vaginal fluid may contain the virus. Cells lining the mouth of the person performing oral sex may allow HIV to enter their body.

The risk of HIV transmission increases:
 - if the person performing oral sex has cuts or sores around or in their mouth or throat;
 - if the person receiving oral sex ejaculates in the mouth of the person performing oral sex; or
  - if the person receiving oral sex has another sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Not having (abstaining from) sex is the most effective way to avoid HIV.

If you choose to perform oral sex, and your partner is male, use a latex condom on the penis. Studies have shown that latex condoms are very effective, though not perfect, in preventing HIV transmission when used correctly and consistently.

If you choose to have oral sex, and your partner is female, use a latex barrier (such as a natural rubber latex sheet, a dental dam or a cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and the vagina. A latex barrier such as a dental dam reduces the risk of blood or vaginal fluids entering your mouth. Plastic food wrap also can be used as a barrier.

If you choose to perform oral sex with either a male or female partner and this sex includes oral contact with your partners anus (analingus or rimming), use a latex barrier (such as a natural rubber latex sheet, a dental dam or a cut-open condom that makes a square) between your mouth and the anus. Plastic food wrap also can be used as a barrier.

If you choose to share sex toys with your partner, such as dildos or vibrators, each partner should use a new condom on the sex toy; and be sure to clean sex toys between each use.

"Not having (abstaining from) sex is the most effective way to avoid HIV."

I started off yesterday reading what seemed to me a poor biography (the one by John Ayre) of Northrop Frye, and discovered that he was born on July 14, an important date for me - a surprise!

Then dreaming old-man dreams of brown skinned girls in Tahiti and came upon Paul Gauguin's Manaõ tupapaó (she thinks of ghosts), aka The Spirit of the Dead Keep Watch, 1892.

Gaugin wrote, "Tehura, immobile, naked, lying face downward flat on the bed with the eyes inordinately large with fear ... Never had I seen her so beautiful ... The intensity of fright which had dominated her as the result of the physical and moral power of her superstitions had transformed her into a strange being, entirely different from anything I had known heretofore." Other paintings of Tehura include Silence (1891), Faaturuma (1891), Woman with a Mango (1892) [interesting that it does not look like a mango at all but like a mamão/papaya instead] and Teha’amana has Many Ancestors (1893).

(A good selection of Gaugin images, and the source for the quote above)

Gaugin died of syphilis at 54 - the obvious connection here.

Isis, Bob Dylan, Desire, 1976. 
I married Isis
On the fifth day of May,
But I could not hold on to her
Very long.
So I cut off my hair
And I rode straight away
For the wild unknown country
Where I could not go wrong.

I came to a high place
Of darkness and light.
Dividing line ran
Through the center of town.
I hitched up my pony
To a post on the right,
Went in to a laundry
To wash my clothes down.

A man in the corner
Approached me for a match.
I knew right away
He was not ordinary.
He said, "Are you lookin'
For somethin' easy to catch?"
I said, "I got no money."
He said, "That ain't necessary."

We set out that night
For the cold in the North.
I gave him my blanket,
And he gave me his word.
I said, "Where are we goin'?"
He said, "we be back by the fourth."
I said, "That's the best news
That I've ever heard."

I was thinkin' about turquoise,
I was thinkin' about gold,
I was thinkin' about diamonds
And the world's biggest necklace.
As we rode through the canyons,
Through the devilish cold,
I was thinkin' about Isis,
How she thought I was so reckless.

How she told me that one day
We would meet up again,
And things would be different
The next time we wed,
If I only could hang on
And just be her friend.
I still can't remember
All the best things she said.

We came to the pyramids
All embedded in ice.
He said, "There's a body
I'm tryin' to find.
If I carry it out
It'll bring a good price."
'Twas then that I knew
What he had on his mind.

The wind it was howlin'
And the snow was outrageous.
We chopped through the night
And we chopped through the dawn.
When he died I was hopin'
That it wasn't contagious,
But I made up my mind
That I had to go on.

I broke into the tomb,
But the casket was empty.
There was no jewels, no nothin',
I felt, "I been had."
When I saw that my partner was
Just bein' friendly,
When I took up his offer
I must-a been mad.

I picked up his body
And I dragged him inside,
Threw him down in the hole
And I put back the cover.
I said a quick prayer
And I felt satisfied.
Then I rode back to find Isis
Just to tell her I love her.

She was there in the meadow
Where the creek used to rise.
Blinded by sleep
And in need of a bed.
I came in from the East
With the sun in my eyes.
I cursed her one time
Then I rode on ahead.

She said, "Where ya been?"
I said, "No place special."
She said, "You look different."
I said, "Well, I guess."
She said, "You been gone."
I said, "That's only natural."
She said, "You gonna stay?"
I said, "If you want me to, yes."

Isis, oh, Isis,
You're a mystical child.
What drives me to you
Is what drives me insane.
I still can remember
The way that you smiled
On the fifth day of May
In the drizzlin' rain.
 one night not long ago he is drinking too much with some guys at Palmas on Silva Paes close to the corner where the boys-dressed-up-as-girls hang out, the women who run the place obviously want to close up but they stay on

a girl starts passing back and forth on the other side of the street, the guys say, "that's not a girl," but he says, "yes she is." and eventually staggers over to find out for sure, she is wearing a short macramé skirt and no panties, she lifts it up with a smile to prove the point

he takes her home, she takes off her clothes and flops back onto the bed, she wants 30, he gives her 50, she is enthusiastic and says, "I can cook too," he says, "come back tomorrow then, what should I buy?" she says, "we can go shopping together."

she calls and comes over early the next night with creased pictures of her baby folded up and tucked into some invisible pocket, she sees his wallet on the table and quickly robs him, she robs him politely, Brasilian style, leaving the small bills and his ID, he doesn't even notice, when she says she is going home to get more pictures he waits on the doorstep for almost an hour but she never comes back

they live in the neighbourhood, he sees her on the street, he sometimes drinks at the barzinho on the corner, she comes in for smokes and soft drinks once in a while when he is there, the bartender gives her an approving look when her back is turned

he almost doesn't look and is afraid to say, "hello."

"So I knelt there at the delta, at the alpha and the omega, at the cradle of the river and the seas. And like a blessing come from heaven for something like a second I was healed and my heart was at ease."
     Leonard Cohen, Light as the Breeze.

no sex without condoms was bad enough (note the double negative) ... but really now, no oral sex without Handi Wrap (?!) ... ai ai ai!

I remember her, taken by Alzheimer's, all capacities gone - even speech, till at the end she lay curled and sleeping in the sun like a foetus in the womb of the world.


sábado, abril 26, 2008

still busy I guess

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More comments on ethanol from Lula & Celso Amorim (the Minister for External Relations).

Yes but, well, ummm ummm ... ethanol from sugar cane is ok, it is the ethanol from corn that is bad.

Lula defende etanol de cana e critica o de milho, 26/04/2008.

O presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva partiu nesta sexta-feira (25) para o confronto aberto com os Estados Unidos na polêmica sobre o aumento dos preços dos alimentos e usou um tom ufanista ao defender a política brasileira do etanol. Ele chamou de "falácias, vergonhosas e medíocres" as versões que apontam para a produção do biocombustível nacional como o vilão da inflação.

"Há um início de inflação que vai do Chile à China e um dos fatores que está causando um pouco da inflação é o alimento um pouco escasso no mercado", disse Lula. "Mas o que está acontecendo de verdade não é que o biodiesel aumentou o preço do alimento. O problema que não querem discutir, por exemplo, é o quanto implica no custo do alimento o fato de o petróleo ter saído dos 30 dólares para 120 dólares o barril."

O presidente disse que "é uma falácia tentar dizer que a produção de biocombustível é a responsável pelo aumento do preço dos alimentos que está acontecendo no mundo inteiro". Lula participou da solenidade de inauguração da Unidade Paulínia da Braskem para produção de 350 mil toneladas anuais de polipropileno, em parceria com a Petrobras.

EUA - Ao lado do governador José Serra (PSDB), Lula anotou que "num primeiro momento o etanol brasileiro era uma coisa muito charmosa, mas num segundo momento os Estados Unidos atropelaram e começaram a produzir etanol com milho, criando uma discussão sobre a produção de alimentos no mundo".

"Não é recomendável produzir álcool a partir do milho, ainda mais com milho subsidiado", insistiu o presidente. "Seria muito mais lógico que os Estados Unidos fizessem parcerias com a América Central e o Caribe para produzir etanol e que a União Européia firmasse parcerias com o Brasil e África."

Empresários - O presidente conclamou os empresários a aderir a uma cruzada. "A chance é agora de o Brasil se industrializar, se transformar numa economia forte, num dos maiores exportadores de alimentos do mundo sem abdicar da produção de combustível renovável, limpo, gerador de emprego e de riqueza."

"Seria mais fácil serem honestos e dizer que está faltando alimento porque os subsídios na Europa não incentivam os africanos a produzir", declarou. "Precisamos comprar essa briga e obrigá-los a dizer qual é a verdadeira razão de falta de alimentos no mundo. Não ficaremos quietos a continuarem as críticas deslavadas contra o etanol e os biocombustíveis." Ele classificou essas críticas de "medíocres, pobres de espírito e vergonhosas, de quem não sabe fazer a discussão tecnológica."

Guerra - O presidente afirmou que "esse é um debate que não tem nada de ideológico, é um debate eminentemente comercial, de ocupação de espaço na geografia comercial do mundo". "Espero que essa guerra não aconteça, mas se eles quiserem fazer a guerra tecnológica, a guerra verbal, ambiental, é importante eles saberem que o Brasil dessa certamente nem fugirá e, tenho certeza, vencerá essa luta porque estamos com a razão." Uma vez mais exortou os empresários e também a imprensa. "Espero que assumam essa bandeira."

Carro verde - Empolgado, Lula associou o que chamou de carro verde a um outro produto de exportação brasileiro. "Terei o maior prazer em apresentar para a União Européia e aos Estados Unidos o primeiro carro verde, cheirando a cachaça, movido a etanol e com plástico produzido do álcool, para eles verem que o etanol veio para ficar."

Doha - Lula disse também que o Brasil está disposto a ser flexível e ceder nas áreas de indústria e serviço nas negociações da Rodada Doha, desde que isso não implique o fim da industrialização dos países latino-americanos. "O papel que o Brasil exerce na Organização Mundial do Comércio (OMC) poderia ser exercido por Estados Unidos ou China, mas não é, porque o Brasil tem uma estratégia de mudar a política comercial do mundo", disse. (Fonte: Estadão Online)

Celso Amorim compara álcool a colesterol e diz que milho é a parte ruim, 26/04/2008.

O ministro Celso Amorim (Relações Exteriores) comparou nesta sexta-feira (25) a cana-de-açúcar e o milho, que dão origem ao álcool, com os dois tipos de colesterol: o bom e o ruim. Disse que o álcool ruim seria o milho. Em palestra no Rio de Janeiro, Amorim classificou os subsídios agrícolas do governo norte-americano de 'escandalosos' e afirmou que a medida é um dos principais responsáveis pela crise mundial dos alimentos.

"Etanol é que nem colesterol: tem o bom e o ruim. O ruim provavelmente é o milho (adotado pelos Estados Unidos como principal matéria-prima para produzir álcool) e o bom pode ser a cana-de-açúcar (utilizada no Brasil)", declarou Amorim, durante palestra comemorativa dos 45 anos da Coppe (Coordenação dos Programas de Pós-Graduação de Engenharia) da UFRJ (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro), na manhã desta sexta-feira, no Rio.

O ministro disse ainda que o álcool pode ser uma das soluções para a crise dos alimentos. "O etanol sendo de cana-de-açúcar, utilizando terras que não estão sendo destinadas à agricultura e não substituindo culturas como arroz, milho e trigo, é a solução, uma das soluções para a crise".

Já o principal problema da crise, para Amorim, são os subsídios concedidos pelo governo norte-americano aos agricultores do país. "A melhor contribuição dos países ricos (para a crise) é eliminar os escandalosos subsídios a agricultores ineficientes, e a Rodada Doha é uma oportunidade para isso", declarou.

O ministro afirmou ainda achar que a crise de alimentos não será solucionada apenas com medidas emergenciais. "Você tem também uma população pobre que agora está comendo".

O presidente da Coppe e ex-presidente da Eletrobrás, Luiz Pinguelli Rosa, também apontou o incentivo ao cultivo de milho nos Estados Unidos para a produção de etanol como uma das principais causadores da crise dos alimentos. "A (mesma) acusação não se aplica ao caso brasileiro, mas aos Estados Unidos sim". (Fonte: Folha Online)


sexta-feira, abril 25, 2008

Stelmach / Greenpeace

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"Stelmach: the best Premier oil money can buy"

Protesters disrupt Stelmach fundraising dinner, Jim MacDonald, April 25, 2008.

EDMONTON — As protests go, the timing couldn't have been better.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach was just about to deliver an anti-Greenpeace message to a Tory fundraising dinner Thursday, when two Greenpeace activists dropped from the ceiling with a large anti-Stelmach banner. “Stelmach, the best premier oil money can buy,” read the large banner with a prominent Greenpeace logo. “Stop the tarsands!”

The punchline of the Premier's speech was how he was planning trips to southern California and central Europe later this year to dispel the Greenpeace message that rapid oil sands development is creating an environmental disaster. “We cannot sit back and let others damage our reputation and give the world a false picture of Alberta,” Mr. Stelmach told the annual premier's dinner. “It's my responsibility as premier to protect Alberta's reputation.” Alberta politicians are worried about other countries refusing to buy oil and gasoline refined from the tar-like bitumen that's scraped from huge pits in northern Alberta's oil sands region. So the province is preparing to spend $5-million developing a public relations campaign to show that the oil sands are becoming an environmental success story. The government is calling it a branding process and millions more will be spent on advertising around the world.

But Greenpeace punched the air out of the PR campaign as reporters and TV cameras converged on the protesters, who were arrested, charged with trespassing and released. “The public has repeatedly told this government that they want to brakes put on oil sands development,” said Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema, who was in the crowd wearing a suit. “We're here to send the government a very clear message that it's time they started listening to Albertans.”

Mr. Hudema was quickly spotted by security after the protest banner was unravelled at the back of the hall by a man and woman who dropped from a catwalk on ropes. Mr. Hudema, 31, Steven Anderson, 27, of Grande Prairie, Alta., and Denise Ogonoski, 26, each received a $287 ticket for trespassing. The three were escorted from the building, but not before Mr. Hudema spoke with reporters.

The Premier later dismissed the protest as a stunt and insisted that he didn't even notice the banner as he was speaking. But Mr. Stelmach says he's not surprised that the protesters interrupted his speech, especially after banner-waving Greenpeace activists dogged him throughout the recent Alberta election campaign. “You've got to be prepared for that kind of behaviour,” he later told reporters. “And that's why in my speech, I talked about getting the message to other jurisdictions around the world.” “We're certainly not going to leave it to Greenpeace or the Sierra Club, because at the end of the day they're not accountable to anybody.”

Mr. Stelmach will travel to San Diego in June and central Europe, including Germany, in the fall to talk about how the province is reducing the huge level of emissions from rapidly expanding oil sands projects. During a speech in Washington a few months ago, the Premier said it's a myth that oil sands projects had been developed with a heavy toll on the environment.


quinta-feira, abril 24, 2008

more deadly sins

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I was going on about this the other day (A Mixed Bag). The jist of this Spiegel series seemed worth remembering.

I have used this picture before (Namasté); I am sorry not to be able to give credit.

DEADLY GREED - The Role of Speculators in the Global Food Crisis

April 23, 2008, Beat Balzli and Frank Hornig

Vast amounts of money are flooding the world's commodities markets, driving up prices of staple foods like wheat and rice. Biofuels and droughts can't fully explain the recent food crisis -- hedge funds and small investors bear some responsibility for global hunger.

Not long ago, Dwight Anderson welcomed reporters with open arms. He liked to entertain them with stories from the world of big money. Anderson is a New York hedge fund manager, and as recently as last October he would talk with enthusiasm about his visits to Malaysian palm-oil plantations and Brazilian grain farms. "You could clearly see how supply was getting tight," he said.

In mid-2006 Anderson was touting the "extraordinary profitability" of field crops from corn to soybeans. He was convinced that rising worldwide hunger would be synonymous with highly profitable -- and dead-certain -- investment bargains.

In search of new investments, Anderson sends dozens of his employees to visit agricultural regions around the world. Back in New York, at his company's headquarters on the 27th floor of an office building high above Park Avenue, they bet on agricultural markets from Peru to Vietnam.

But in the towers above Manhattan's urban canyons, it's easy to lose touch with the ground. Hedge fund manager John Paulson was recently celebrated for achieving a record annual profit of $3.7 billion (€2.3 billion). Those who work in this environment have only one rule: Don't disappoint profit-hungry investors.

"I'm constantly wired," Anderson used to say, back when he talked to journalists. His nickname in the industry is the "Commodities King," and his Ospraie hedge fund is the world's largest. These days, though, Anderson avoids the media. He's even kept his face out of the media by buying up rights to all photos of himself on the market. His spokesman is now paid, mainly, to say nothing.

A Broken Market?

There are plenty of questions to ask Anderson, though -- in particular about the role of international investors in the current spike in the price of staple food. Not only is there talk that investors have profited from desperate hunger in Honduras, the Philippines and Bangladesh; critics also wonder if commodity speculators are making the crisis worse.

On Tuesday in Washington, DC, a regulatory body called the Commodity Futures Trading Commission held public hearings on this very question. Farmers and food producers argued that the market was "broken," suggesting that the steep rise in the price of staple crops was hurting everyone -- farmers as well as the people they feed. "The market is broken, it's out of whack," said Billy Dunavant, head of a cotton-producing firm in the United States, at the Tuesday hearing.

Regulators on the commission warned against government intervention, and no doubt fund managers like Anderson would, too. But the crisis keeps deteriorating. India and Vietnam have imposed export bans on ordinary rice. Indonesia is following suit. According to the United Nations, North Korea is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. After unrest shook countries from Egypt and Uzbekistan to Bangladesh, thousands of South Africans took to the streets of Johannesburg last Thursday to protest high food prices. In Haiti, the prime minister was fired after riots over the price of rice.

Biofuels and global warming have been blamed for shortages driving up the price of food, and both trends have played their role. The planet's grain reserves are almost empty for a number of reasons, including global population growth and greater prosperity in some countries like India. Feed corn is in short supply because industrialized nations have used it for ethanol. Droughts -- in Australia, for example -- have devastated rice and wheat harvests. Wheat reserves worldwide are only sufficient right now to cover about 60 days of demand.

This helps to explain why commodity prices have rallied since early 2006, with the price of rice ballooning 217 percent, wheat 136 percent, corn 125 percent and soybeans 107 percent.

But classic supply and demand theory offers only a partial explanation. Sudden price hikes since last January have been alarming. The UN estimates that at least $500 million (€312 million) in immediate aid will be needed by May 1 to avoid serious famines. Agricultural scientists at the world body's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have presented a report on the world food crisis. And criticism is growing that hedge funds, index funds, pension funds and investment banks bear part of the blame.

DEADLY GREED - The History of Futures

Commodity speculation spread long ago from standard products like oil and gold to anything edible and available for trade on the Chicago Futures Exchange. These days there are futures contracts for everything from wheat to oranges to pork bellies. The futures market is a traditional tool for farmers to sell their harvests ahead of time. In a futures contract, quantities, prices and delivery dates are fixed, sometimes even before crops have been planted. Futures contracts allow farmers and grain wholesalers a measure of protection against adverse weather conditions and excessive price fluctuations. They can also help a farmer plan how much to plant for a given year.

But now speculators are taking advantage of this mechanism. They can buy futures contracts for wheat, for example, at a low price, betting that the price will go up. If the price of the grain rises by the agreed delivery date, they profit.

Some experts now believe these investors have taken over the market, buying futures at unprecedented levels and driving up short-term prices. Since last August, this mechanism has led to a doubling in the price of rice -- including the 500,000 tons that the Philippine government plans to buy in early May to address its own shortage.

Greg Warner has worked in the grain wholesaling business for more than two decades. His office sits a block away from the Chicago Futures Exchange. He's an analyst with the firm AgResource, and he says what is happening now in the wheat market is unprecedented.

"What we normally have is a predictable group of sellers and buyers -- mainly farmers and silo operators," he says. But the landscape has changed since the influx of large index funds. Fund managers seek to maximize their profits using futures contracts, and prices, says Warner, "keep climbing up and up."

He's calculated that financial investors now hold the rights to two complete annual harvests of a type of grain traded in Chicago called "soft red winter wheat."

Wagner is stunned by such developments. He sees them as evidence that capitalism is literally consuming itself.

'It's an Election Year'

Even the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in Washington has recognized the potentially explosive nature of the issue. For Tuesday's hearing, the commission called not just on farmers but also on representatives of investment bank Goldman Sachs and major investors like Pimco and AIG to testify. One member of the commission, Bart Chilton, backed away from regulating investors, saying, "These markets have to work for all the participants. If you don't have speculators in the markets, there's no liquidity and you don't have a market." And the editor of a commodities newsletter, Dennis Gartman, flat-out denied that speculators were to blame.

"It is an election year," he said. "To think you won't have senators and congressmen blaming high prices of things on speculators is naive."

But some basic market rules seem to have stopped working. "The enormous influx of capital has resulted in the futures markets no longer reflecting supply and demand," says Todd Kemp of the US National Grain and Feed Association. Ironically, investors have placed their wildest bets on staple foods. Information about supply bottlenecks and famines at the other end of the world is not noted on market quotations.

A commodities dealer named Christoph Eibl soberly concludes that financial managers just want to "benefit from the scarcity of these commodities." Eibl's Stuttgart-based investment firm, Tiberius, manages €1 billion ($1.6 billion). His in-house experts estimate that hundreds of billions of dollars have flowed into the futures sector as a whole within the last five years, much of it for agricultural commodities. Eibl admits the whole thing demands an "ethical discussion." Some futures traders argue that they don't cause prices to rise in the real world because as a rule they never take delivery of a given crop -- other parts of the economy control the actual street price. But futures prices affect real-world behavior (such as inventory hoarding), and Eibl says that buying futures in rice, for example, "eventually causes consumer prices to rise in developing countries like Haiti."

DEADLY GREED - 'Passive and Profit-Oriented'

Voices like Eibl's have been rare until now, perhaps because a comparable commodities boom has never existed before. Experts are already discussing what they call a "super cycle," set off by constantly growing demand in China, and by farmers unable, in the long term, to keep up with that demand as they sow their seed and harvest their crops. The planet has only a finite amount of land for farming.

The upshot is that more and more small investors are jumping on the commodities bandwagon. Many investors, not unlike hedge fund managers, seek diversification in their portfolios, partly through investment in agricultural commodities. From the standpoint of these investors, poor harvests that drive up prices are only good for their portfolios. Many investors either don't care or are simply oblivious to the fact that by investing in the global casino, they could be gambling away the daily food supply of the world's poorest people.

Andreas Grünewald is a star among small investors in Germany. He launched his Munich Investment Club (MIC), together with eight fellow students and his grandfather, in 1989 with about €15,000 ($24,000) in initial capital. Grünewald, a business school graduate, now manages more than €50 million ($80 million) for the MIC's 2,500 members.

Commodities are a big issue for Grünewald. "They are the megatrend of the decade," he says. His portfolio in this sector is already worth about €15 million ($24 million). According to Grünewald, this is only the start.

Grünewald says he wants to "remain broadly invested" in water and agricultural commodities, in particular, and "to expand those investments if possible." He has already placed his bets on oranges, sugar and corn on the futures exchanges. His bet on wheat alone has produced a handsome profit of 93 percent to date.

Grünewald has already planned his next step. "Rice is another interesting topic that could complement our portfolio very effectively," he says. Scruples are in short supply in Grünewald's investment club.

"Most of our members tend to be passive and profit-oriented," he admits. At MIC's national events, few people bring up the social consequences of his investment tips. Riots because of exploding rice prices? Aid organizations in a state of high alert? None of this matters much to the preferred suppliers and apostles of profit in the small investor community. The finance industry regularly introduces new investment "products" for every sexy sector, no matter how questionable.

Financial giant ABN Amro has been especially adept at turning a profit in the current market. As a provider of commodities-investment products for private investors, ABN Amro last March became the first bank to offer certificates allowing small investors to place bets on rising rice prices on the Chicago Futures Exchange.

The bank's marketing department has reacted with cold precision to headlines about famine around the world. Two weeks ago, when experts warned of an impending hunger crisis and the political instability associated with it, ABN Amro introduced a new ad campaign on its website. As India imposes a ban on rice exports, the ad said, world rice supplies have declined to a minimum: Now ABN Amro was making it possible, for the first time, to invest in Asia's most important basic food product.

Unveiling an investment product during a supply bottleneck that has since led to riots? Are ABN Amro's bankers really such clichéd, unscrupulous bean counters? "We are aware of the current discussions relating to agricultural commodities," says Önder Ciftci, head of ABN Amro's German certificate business. But he's not interested in a discussion of ethics. "We make the drills, but others have to do the drilling," he says.

ABN Amro has, in fact, drilled into substantial source of profit. In the space of only three weeks, investors raked returns of more than 20 percent. The number of futures contracts traded in Chicago has skyrocketed.

No Food at All?

Jim Rogers, the former business partner of legendary financier and philanthropist George Soros, is perhaps the best-known investor in broad-based commodity funds. He started shifting his money to commodities in the 1990s. On his trips around the world, he came to realize that almost everything, from nickel to cacao, was in short supply in a globalized economy.

He's laid bets on rising prices ever since. This has had an impact on the entire industry, because Rogers' International Commodities Index is a benchmark for countless funds. These moneymaking machines have attracted billions in investments in recent years, and some of that money has been pumped into futures contracts, heating up prices even further.

But now Rogers, of all people, is warning: "Unless something happens soon, we will see people not getting any food at all, at any price. This is the sort of thing we read about in history books, but now I'm afraid that it could happen again."

From his perspective, though, the calamity is not the fault of investors like him, but of developing countries' policies -- like imposing export bans and capping prices. This deprives farmers, who face rising costs of necessary items like fuel and fertilizer, of any incentive to produce more rice.

"I think this attitude is morally reprehensible," says Rogers. "These governments would rather let people starve than allow prices to rise naturally." Removing price controls, he says, is the only way to increase rice production levels once again.

Farmers, after all, wouldn't give away their rice to the poor, says Rogers. But he fails to explain how the poor should pay the higher prices in the first place. Perhaps it's up to politicians?


quarta-feira, abril 23, 2008

St. George / São Jorge

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Um dragão saía de vez em quando de um lago no Oriente Médio e cuspia fogo nas plantações de uma cidade. Para aplacar a ira do bicho, era oferecido um sacrifício humano. Coube ao rei local enviar sua filha, que aceitou seu destino. A moça estava aterrorizada quando surgiu um cavaleiro com capa vermelha, montado num cavalo branco: foi Jorge quem enfrentou as labaredas do dragão e o domou.

Polêmica na celebração a São Jorge, Jornal do Brasil, 23/04/08.

Por falta de registro histórico, santo chegou a ser rebaixado pelo papa Paulo VI em 1969.

O Rio de Janeiro tem hoje mais um feriado, o quinto do ano, e o prejuízo estimado pela Federação das Indústrias do Estado do Rio (Firjan) para cada dia de braços cruzados é de R$ 1,2 bilhão. E este não é um feriado qualquer, é dia de São Jorge, que, em 1969, em meio a diversas reformas da Igreja, foi rebaixado a santo menor, de terceira categoria, pelo papa Paulo VI, durante o Concílio do Vaticano. A decisão, segundo professor Orlando Fedeli, da Associação Cultural Montfort, de São Paulo, veio para agradar aos protestantes que são contra o culto dos santos. Desta maneira, Paulo VI aboliu o culto dos santos que não tinham registros históricos, mas somente relatos tradicionais, como São Jorge.

Com a determinação polêmica, a adoração ao santo, que chegou ao Brasil com os portugueses, passou a ser opcional no calendário cristão. No entanto, no ano 2000, o papa João Paulo II determinou a reabilitação plena de São Jorge como santo de primeira categoria, reconduzindo-o ao destaque na hierarquia da Igreja Católica.

No sincretismo religioso brasileiro, São Jorge é também festejado como Ogum no Candomblé e na Umbanda. O orixá e o santo têm as mesmas características: guerreiro, valente, deus do ferro e das armas de metal. Assim como Jorge, Ogum protege os oprimidos. Na astrologia, São Jorge representa Marte e o signo de Áries.

Devoção pelo mundo

Santo patrono da Inglaterra (Igreja Anglicana), Portugal, Geórgia, Catalunha, Lituânia e da cidade de Moscou (Igreja Ortodoxa), além de ser padroeiro dos escoteiros e do Sport Club Corinthians Paulista, São Jorge nasceu na antiga Capadócia, região que atualmente pertence à Turquia, e mudou-se para a Palestina com sua mãe após a morte de seu pai. Lá, foi promovido a capitão do exército romano.

Com 23 anos, foi residir na corte imperial, em Roma, exercendo altas funções. Como passou a demonstrar sua fidelidade a Jesus, o imperador Diocleciano tentou fazê-lo desistir da fé, torturando-o de vários modos. Finalmente, Diocleciano, não tendo êxito em seu plano macabro, mandou degolar o jovem e fiel servo de Jesus, no dia 23 de abril de 303 D.C.


Historiadores garantem que a lenda do dragão foi criada na Idade Medieval, graças à fama que o santo tinha de defender os mais necessitados. Não há um documento oficial que comprove a história. Segundo versões, um dragão saía de vez em quando de um lago no Oriente Médio e cuspia fogo nas plantações de uma cidade. Para aplacar a ira do bicho, era oferecido um sacrifício humano. Coube ao rei local enviar sua filha, que aceitou seu destino. A moça estava aterrorizada quando surgiu um cavaleiro com capa vermelha, montado num cavalo branco: foi Jorge quem enfrentou as labaredas do dragão e o domou.

Snidely Whiplash / Dishonest John, Dudley Do-Right, Nell Fenwick & Horse. The thing has all the melodramatic elements: maiden in jeopardy, good, evil - except in this case Nell is in love with Horse rather than Dudley ...

For those with febrile imaginations I should only need to compare, say, graceful images in Solomon's Song of Songs, or even David's Abishag the Shunammite, with Nell Noodnick (starring as the United Church of Canada) and then place Gretta Vosper either as Dudley in drag or Snidely depending on your point of view ... and Presto Whiffo! off you go.

More topically we could insert Giuliano Zacardelli, Barbara George, and the RCMP stables along with the whole of the "people of Canada."

Everything but "and they all lived happily ever after."


terça-feira, abril 22, 2008

With or Without God

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This is just a placemarker & memória de calculo for now, but I have ordered the book and will report later.

With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe.

I just don’t think we can placate those in the pews long enough to transition into a kind of new community that doesn’t keep people away.

Rev. Gretta Vosper.

Harper Collins Canada, to buy it.
Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity, founded in Canada by the lady.
The Center for Progressive Christianity, American original founded by James Rowe Adams.
West Hill United Church, where she preaches.
Gretta's Website.

“No what without a why”, Written and preached by Rev. James Murray at Montreal West United Church, April 13, 2008.

Text : John 10:1-10, Acts 2 :42-47

There's been a bit of a tempest brewing in the United Church of Canada over the past month. Just before Easter, a United Church minister, the Reverend Gretta Vosper released her first book which is called “With or Without God” The release of this book has been talked about in the Globe & Mail, MacLeans magazine, on CBC radio, and even in the United Church Observer. Reverend Vosper's book follows the old maxim that controversy sells.

In her book, Vosper says “In order to explore the concept of God, we need to open ourselves to all kinds of possibilities, such as God being light, or there being no God at all.” She believes any concept or teaching of the Christian church which has outlived its usefulness should be jettisoned. Vosper also claims that clergy have not been sharing the discoveries of Biblical Scholarship and faith development with their congregations.

Gretta Vosper was a classmate of mine at Queen's Theological College twenty years ago. I have some problems with what she is saying. For starters, as a denomination we've been working with this new scholarship since we introduced “The New Curriculum” in 1966. And I hope that my preaching and teaching over the years has opened your hearts to the possibility that most of our concepts and teachings of the Christian church, including the concept of God, still has great meaning and power for our lives here today.

Vosper's complaints are not new. They were first made in 1963 by the Anglican bishop John Robinson in his landmark book “Honest to God”. The book “Honest to God” did help many to hear more about what was going on than ever before. During the 1990's as American fundamentalism was pushing for a closing of the religious mind, the American bishop John Spong echoed much of Robinson's thoughts in his books. The forward to Vosper's book is written by John Spong. I have ordered her book , and I will be reading it in the coming weeks, just to see if there is anything new and worthwhile in what she says.

Much has changed in the half century since Bishop Robinson's famous book. We have learned to share what is going on in religious studies. Congregations are better informed than in any time in history. We have also learned there is more than one way to relate our Christian faith to our culture.

Vosper is simply the latest liberal to seek to make the gospel message credible to the modern world. She is not the first or last to ask that those things which are no longer believable to the modern mind, are to be jettisoned. This isn't new. Most of us were taught to not take the miracles of Jesus literally. Unfortunately, we spent so much time explaining how it could not have happened the way it is recorded in scripture, we forgot to ask what it means for the Bible to say that such miracles occurred.

What does it mean to say that Jesus walked on water or fed five thousand people? We have let the modern world determine the questions we ask of the scriptures, and we have forgotten to ask what the Bible is asking of us.

The Bible is telling us a story, which it hopes, will make us believe in God. And not just believe in God. It wants us to join a great adventure, a way of living. It wants us to live in the world, based on the truths that have been revealed to us in the life, the teachings, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

About twenty years ago, two liberal theologians felt we were shooting ourselves in the foot every time we tried to pare back Christianity, making it conform to the scientific modern world. Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon felt we were selling the Church short when we tried to accommodate Christianity so it would easily co-exist with the world around us. Hauerwas and Willimon say “Each age must come, fresh and new, to the realization that God, and not nations, rules the world. We cannot know this by accommodating ourselves to the world. We can only know this by conversion. We cannot understand the world as it really is, until we are transformed into persons who can use the language of faith to describe the world as it really is. Everyone does not know what we mean when we speak of prayer. Everyone does not know how to look at their own life critically enough to recognize sin. Everyone does not know what liberation, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation are. We must be transformed, over time, by the experience of a God who is righteous and just, who judges us on the basis of something far more significant than what feels right for us.”

The full title of Vosper's book is With or Without God -Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe”. I believe you can't have a 'why we live the way we do' , without having a 'what do we believe' to justify it. In order to do the right thing, you need to know what is right. You can't have an ethical way of life which isn't based on some concept or experience of what is true, right and good.

Hauerwas and Willimon say “That which makes the church radical and forever new, is not that the church tends to lean towards the left (or right) on social issues, but rather that the church knows Jesus , whereas the world does not.” We should be no more allied with the left than the right. Our calling is to look at this world through Jesus' eyes.

God is not an intellectual concept we are to evaluate. God is an experience we are to have a relationship with. Our task is not to be a social service agency or a country club. We are to be a school which teaches people that God's ways are not our ways. God is not some distant deity who created the world and then left us alone. The Bible is a record which shows that God doesn't want to leave us to our own devices. God seeks to be a part of every moment of our lives.

We are called to be a school of virtue, a training camp for discipleship. We are part of a community which began long before we arrived on the scene, and it will be continuing long after we are gone. Salvation is much more than just what God can do for me. The story of salvation began without us, long ago and far away. God has been at work redeeming this world for a very long time. We are invited to be a part of the story. Our faithfulness is our participating in the story, as we live God's ways. As we practice the gifts of hope, peace , joy and love. We put ourselves into the story every time we offer hospitality to the stranger, or when we are reconciled with the prodigals in our lives.

The early disciples showed what such a life could look like. They broke bread together. They shared what they had with all who were in need. They prayed together. They felt the risen Christ was with them. And we can just sense the electricity they felt as they lived this purpose-filled life together. They were part of God's story, and amazing signs and wonders were happening, which confirmed for them how important all of this was.

When we see ourselves as part of the story of faith, the different parts start to make sense.

Why does Jesus perform miracles? So we will be open to unexpected possibilities for our lives.

Why did Jesus feed five thousand people? So we will trust in God to provide.

Why did Jesus walk on the water? Because with God nothing is impossible.

The gospel story is simple enough that a child can understand it,
and it is challenging enough to amaze you , your whole life long.

Like the character of Alice, you will have to find your way through the looking glass, so you can enter in. In order to feel a part of such a story, you will have to ask questions. You will need to seek, to study, to grow. You will need to be open to new possibilities you hadn't considered before. There is a reason doubting Thomas is part of the story. We are all encouraged to seek and to question. Some parts of the story may not work for you. Some part may not be meaningful. Just because we don' t understand them all right now, does not mean we should throw them out forever.

When I started in ministry, I had a hard time figuring out Saint Paul. He came across as being very anti-women, and very judgmental. Paul had often been used to give the definitive answer as to explain what the gospels meant. I didn't preach on his letters until I could understand his words in a helpful way. Part of my breakthrough came when I realized Paul was written first, and the gospels came second. The gospels are commenting on Paul, and not the other way round. That helped me to place Paul's teaching. It also helped me when I read through his letters in chronological order, so I could see how his thought develops over time. The Bible has them in order from the longest to the shortest, so there is no consistency in their message, which makes him very hard to follow. It takes time and effort to get things like that sorted out so they can make sense.

Next month marks the nineteenth anniversary of my ordination. And I'm still growing in my understanding of what God is doing and what all of this can mean for us. God isn't finished with me yet, and God isn't finished with you either.

Jesus our Good shepherd is calling us.
He is inviting us to join him in this great adventure we call faith.
He is inviting us to be shaped by this story of salvation.
He wants the story of God in the world to become the story of your life.
Our shepherd is calling- he is calling your name.


Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon – Resident Aliens, Abingdon Press 1989
Gretta Vosper, With or without God. HarperCollins 2008.
John Robinson, Honest To God, SCM Press 1963
John Spong, Why Christianity must change or die. HarperSanFranciso 1998

The Jesus problem, MacLeans, Brian Bethune, 19/03/08.

The newest view of Christ-activist, politician, not very Christian-is hard to square with the Bible's. Now some believers even say the faith might be better off without him.

"Whom do men say that I am?" Jesus's own query to his disciples, asked in the oldest Gospel (Mark 8:27), has always been the ultimate question of the faith founded in his name. The answer has determined everything from core doctrine to the authority of the clergy. Even during his lifetime, Jesus's followers had differing answers: he was a rabbi with a new approach to Jewish law; he was the rightful claimant to the throne of David. After his death, it took more than three centuries of often violent contention, suppression, and historical contingency before answers emerged that still deï¬ne mainline Christianity: Jesus was the Messiah, the son of God and the Virgin Mary, both fully divine and fully human; cruciï¬ed for our sins, he rose from the dead and will come again to judge humanity. Orthodoxy's victory has never been ï¬nal, or else there would never have been an Inquisition. Still, reinforced by church and state, and by belief in the New Testament as an exact account of events (the "Gospel truth"), the concept of the divine Christ, our Lord and saviour, became embedded in Western civilization.

That legacy still dominates Western responses to Jesus today, affecting not just what the faithful proclaim, but the attitudes of Jesus's secular admirers. But over the past century, historians, archaeologists, textual and linguistic scholars in a steadily more secular West, unable to accept the miracle-working Christ of tradition, have uncovered the all-too-human way in which early Christians hammered out their dogma and holy scripture, recovered startlingly unfamiliar texts — such as the Gnostic Gospel of Judas, in 2006 — held dear by the losers in the long-ago orthodoxy wars, and arrived at new interpretations of Jesus based on the context of his life, his essential Jewishness and the socio-political unrest of ï¬rst-century Palestine.

For large swaths of the devout, little has changed. Fundamentalist Protestant churches — so-called because of their fundamental principles, one of which is insistence that the whole of the Bible is the literal word of God — looked hard at what was happening in the modern world and refused to yield an inch to modern science or Biblical scholarship. Other churches, like the Orthodox or Roman Catholic, who possess a body of tradition to buttress their scriptures, are open to viewing, and reviewing, parts of the Bible — particularly in the Old Testament — while holding fast to the divine Christ of the New Testament. Their Christ too remains an exalted ï¬gure; as does, ironically, the Jesus envisaged by so many scholars: Biblical experts have tended to feel (as much as think) that Jesus must have been a great moral teacher — and even a pioneering feminist — so incandescently holy that some of his disciples turned him into a god.

In Vancouver writer (and Greenpeace International co-founder) Rex Weyler's new survey of the latest research, The Jesus Sayings: The Quest for His Authentic Message (Anansi), for instance, Christ emerges as a revolutionary sage, a man for the ages whose "words and deeds are sublime." Even in How Jesus Became a Christian (Random House), by Barrie Wilson, a religious studies professor at Toronto's York University — which is primarily concerned with arguing that St. Paul and later "Christiï¬ers" hijacked Jesus the Jewish rabbi through a campaign of anti-Semitism — Jesus still emerges as "a teacher of great insight."

But despite the common celebration of Jesus Christ, a chasm exists between the devout followers of the divine Christ and the seekers of the Jesus of history. Into that chasm falls the liberal church, according to Gretta Vosper, author of With or Without God (HarperCollins), a passionately argued case for a post-Christian church. Vosper is pastor of West Hill United Church in suburban Toronto and a leading Canadian voice in progressive Christianity, on the radical edge of what is already the most liberal denomination in Canada. The liberal Christian church, Vosper writes, is the original wellspring of the recent tradition-destroying Biblical scholarship, and it's liberal churches that have wrestled most painfully and — in a very real sense — least successfully with the implications of its discoveries.

Committed to the ideals of Biblical study and scholarly truth, but devoted to their own religious traditions, the liberal churches were unable to either turn their backs on modernity or to embrace it fully. So liberals tried hard to turn the now shaky parts of the Gospels (the miracles, for instance) into metaphors, Vosper writes, in order to keep time-honoured creeds and ritual superï¬cially intact. A conspiracy of silence about beliefs also played, and still plays, its part, she adds in an interview: "The liberal clergy have an unspoken covenant with congregants — you say nothing and we'll say nothing. If the clergy do speak about their disbelief in basic doctrine, the result is often a lot of pain, up to job loss and even breakdown. There is no place of safety for them."

The result has been a mess of compromised integrity — "if 'Jesus is Lord' really means 'love is supreme,' why not say that?" — and institutional failure. "We have all watched the gaping wound on the right grow as those who want the 'truth' laid out for them more clearly have left for more conservative denominations happy to give it to them," she notes. "But the wound on the left has gone unnoticed and has hemorrhaged into nothingness as religious quests have become spiritual quests unconnected with church." It's beyond time for liberal Christianity, whose heritage and responsibility this all is, to act, writes Vosper. "Those who recognize the Bible's claim to be the word of God as the monster in the tub with the baby," are the ones who must throw that monster out with the bathwater. And that means, besides other painful changes, a real, radical look at the words and deeds of the faith's central figure.

Half a century ago in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, speaking from the perspective of traditional Christianity, warned those who were busy stripping Christ of his divinity (while attempting to keep his moral authority) that the task couldn't be done. "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher [but] a lunatic, on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg," he wrote. "He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." Traditional Christians would agree; substitute, in the last sentence, the words "the authors of the Gospels" for "he," and so would almost everyone else. For the ruthlessly edited New Testament is forthright about its agenda: detailing the transformation of Jesus of Nazareth into Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

What you take from Scripture depends on how you read it. For Lewis, who accepted the historical accuracy of the Gospels, if not the whole of Biblical inerrancy (such as the six-day creation in Genesis), Christ is not just the prophet of the Sermon on the Mount, and the healer of the sick. He is also the ï¬gure who utters the New Testament's truly terrifying statements about eternal life and death. It was Jesus who promised to separate humanity into sheep and goats, shepherding the former to heaven and casting the latter "into everlasting ï¬re, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25: 41). It was Jesus again who said that on Judgment Day, even some who preached in his name would hear the words, "I never knew you, depart from me" (Matthew 7: 23). Such a ï¬gure, in Lewis's opinion, were he only a mortal man, could rightfully be judged mad.

But modern historians sweep all that away, along with the miraculous elements, including the whole of Jesus's childhood. No virgin birth: it's found only in two Gospels, they point out, and it's clear that St. Paul, the earliest writer in the New Testament, had no time for the idea. No wise men, no heavenly choir of angels at the stable manger, no debating the elders at age 12 — all of it retroactively applied by his followers. More crucial losses are words claimed as Christ's own. A decade ago, the Jesus Seminar, the most famous (and notorious) group active in Biblical criticism, using comparative history and textual analysis, ended up being sure Christ said less than a ï¬fth of what was attributed to him.

Members rejected verses where Jesus referred to himself, particularly in an exalted way, such as, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), and verses reflective less of his teachings and more of struggles to control the nascent church after his death: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:17). And since the seminar was convinced Jesus did not preach an imminent, apocalyptic end to the world, but instead a message about how to establish the kingdom of God on earth, the rejected 80 per cent of his sayings also included all the judgmental declarations. Not all scholars are in full agreement with the seminar (some fundamentalist organizations, unsurprisingly, have referred to it as "a tool of Satan"), but the broad outlines are widely accepted in the field.

Weyler's reconstruction of the authentic Jesus essentially follows those lines. His primary sources are what some scholars deï¬ne as the oldest versions of three "collections": the Gospels of Mark and Thomas, and the Q sayings. (The Thomas text, the jewel of the treasure trove of Gnostic Christian writings, found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945, was rejected by the orthodox 1,600 years ago, but the 114 pithy and often cryptic statements in it, attributed to Jesus, have made it a favourite among historians. Q is a hypothetical document, a lost collection of sayings assumed to explain the material common to the Gospels of Luke and Matthew that did not come from Mark's Gospel, their other main source.)

The "radical, Aramaic-speaking, Jewish Jesus" who emerges in Weyler's book makes no divine claims, requires no supernatural beliefs on the part of his hearers, and demands action now. The poor, Christ would tell his audience of peasants and day labourers, were fortunate to be suffering, for that brought them closer to the kingdom of God. The rich, especially the temple elite obsessed with rote purity, are far from God. Seek his kingdom within yourself, don't worry about food or clothing, accept your daily bread and share it, love your enemies, forgive others as you wish to be forgiven: God's kingdom is here, now, for those who have eyes to see.

Although many historians would not ï¬nd Jesus's message as radical a break from the past as Weyler does, in his intense Jewishness, Weyler's Jesus fits comfortably with the historical figure now envisaged by almost all scholars. What kind of Jew is an entirely different matter. More than a decade ago, John Dominic Crossan, one of the most prominent Roman Catholic experts, noted no fewer than seven distinct types of Jewish Jesus, ranging from political revolutionary to charismatic seer. More, including Weyler's Galilean peasant preacher at odds with the Judaism of Jerusalem's Temple elite, have emerged since. Many of them are much more worldly than Weyler's, and just as novel.

Consider the head of the "family firm" who emerges in James Tabor's The Jesus Dynasty (2006). Traditional Christianity has always had trouble with Christ's "brethren" — James, Joses, Simon, Judas and unnamed sisters. Orthodox Christianity accepts the brethren as step-siblings, the children of Joseph's ï¬rst marriage; Protestants take them as half-siblings, the children of Mary and Joseph born after Jesus, the son of Mary and God; Roman Catholics, who proclaim the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity, have to view them as cousins. Every time they appear in scripture identiï¬ed as family, the Gospel writers stress they are not among his followers. That means they have to gloss over the fact that St. Paul writes that the risen Christ appeared to James, and that James — Jesus's oldest male relative in a family-dominated society — took precedence over all other followers and became leader of the Jesus movement in Jerusalem.

In Tabor's family saga, Jesus and his cousin John the Baptist considered themselves to be the two messiahs: John as a descendent of Moses's brother Aaron, was to be the new high priest; Jesus, the descendent of King David, the new king of the Jews. His brother James was more than Jesus's heir, he was the "beloved disciple" of the Gospel of John, commonly reckoned to be John himself by most Christians (although Mary Magdalene is the favourite as the "beloved" of Da Vinci Code fans and many feminist theologians). And Jesus's other brothers, far from rejecting his mission, are actually hiding in plain sight among the lists of apostles.

Jesus's Jerusalem followers were the original "Christians," although Barrie Wilson would argue they would neither recognize nor accept the name. Now commonly called Ebionite Christians, from a Hebrew word meaning "poor ones," they were Torah-observant Jews as well as followers of Jesus, who regarded him as a human messianic prophet but not as divine. Their concern, embodied by James — known as "the Just" to Jews as well as Christians — was to live rigorously ethical lives. And, under the rule of the "royal" family, they were the dominant strand among the Jesus movement, even while Paul tirelessly travelled the Mediterranean converting Gentiles.

Most scholars argue it's impossible to know what path Christianity might have taken if the Jerusalem church had not become caught up in the greatest cataclysm ever visited on the religious traditions of ancient Israel. When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE, the Gentile church began its ascendency. By the second century, the forces of orthodoxy began to turn on the Ebionites, and by the fourth century they disappeared from history.

In current scholarly trends, Jesus emerges as ever more Jewish and ever more human — a teacher, a rabbi, a claimant to Israel's ancient throne — who was transformed by Paul, a preacher of genius, in cultures far from his Jewish roots, into the divine saviour of mankind. But crucial as these claims are for orthodox Christians and for the scholars and writers involved, they are increasingly irrelevant for progressive Christians. They long ago lost their stake in the divine Christ, and their interest in which of the evolving paradigms best captures the historical Jesus is fading.

When Gretta Vosper looks at the emerging historical Jesus she sees no rock on which to erect a church. "In trying to capture exactly what he said, we have found, quite by accident, that what he said has little power." But when she weighs up the Jesus legacy in terms of its validity and usefulness for the church today, she considers the entire Gospel tradition — not just the Jesus meek and mild of the scholars and spiritual seekers, but the divine Christ too. It's all part of the Christian heritage in her view. If the liberal church is going to refuse to face the implications of its own beliefs, then what matters is what is in the Bible, what has been proclaimed truth for centuries: "If we say we follow Jesus without clariï¬cation, we allow the assumption that we agree with all of his ideas, including the bad ones."

Looking over the New Testament, Vosper notes numerous bad ideas, some of them deep within Jesus's core message. His teaching about love and forgiveness long predate him, within his own Jewish tradition and without. And those are the helpful parts of his beliefs, which, Vosper argues, mix freely with parts liberal Christians no longer accept: no divorce, hell, eternal punishment. He taught acquiescence in oppression, "a stance not at all helpful in ending slavery, racism, patriarchal hierarchy, and so on." There is disdain and derision for those who don't agree with him, "but I suggest that we now hold dialogue, diversity and community as higher values."

Living without care for the future, keeping all assets in common, giving all we have to the poor, are other key parts of the authentic teaching as identiï¬ed by Weyler and others. That utopian idealism was perfectly natural to the hopes of an oppressed peasant society, Vosper writes, but humans have never managed to put it into practice, and surely never will. To try to act that way only serves "to abdicate the responsibilities we have to one another — conscientious, ethical oversight of our resources is a more prudent and potentially beneï¬cial response." In short, "Jesus's moral teaching is not outstanding," and it's impossible to craft a moral high ground from his life, works and sayings: "His words are dead to many people. The world has changed. The words don't make sense any more."

And they aren't necessary. "Why do we need a 'revolutionary' voice from two millennia ago to guide us? We have fabulous ideas of our own, that are constantly weakened by having to tie them back to Jesus and Scripture. What if he was recorded destroying his environment, would that mean we'd no longer need to be environmentally sensitive, or have to ignore the environment?"

Vosper isn't so much prepared for the obvious questions she faces as inured to them. She's often asked, with various degrees of incredulity and indignation how, in the name of God or Love (if she prefers), she can call herself a Christian. Because, she replies, her Christianity, like that of the Ebionites, is more a way of acting than a way of belief. "Being a Christian is about taking out of my faith tradition those things that are of value in my effort to live right with myself, with my relationships and with my planet," Vosper says. "And removing those things that are toxic."

Nor is the name essential, at least to Vosper personally, except that maintaining the word Christian is encouraging for other non-theistic churchgoers. "People are hurt by being told they're not Christian: our 'beliefs' are so fundamental, even when we don't really, literally believe them, that we don't want to be told that we don't belong." Vosper doesn't "want to tear anyone's faith out of their hearts," and doesn't want to see that happen to progressives either. Three years ago, after her views became known to the wider United Church, a motion was introduced at a meeting of the church's governing body to subject her to what she only half-jokingly calls a "heresy" trial. She escaped a trial only by a vote of 14 to 11.

She wouldn't be surprised to undergo an actual trial this time around, after With or Without God arrives in bookstores this week. In the very broad United Church, clergy are expected to be in "essential" agreement with the articles of faith, "and this book," she says gingerly, "will establish just how elastic that agreement is." Vosper doesn't seem unduly concerned with the prospect of trial or with the possibility of losing, except for what it would convey to others she cares about: "Saying that I don't belong is saying that my supportive congregation doesn't belong, and that would be tragic." Her reaction to the possibility of effective excommunication is bound up with her answer to the other question frequently hurled at her: why bother? If there's no divine Christ, no miracles, no salvation, no life after death, no God — what is the point of church at all?

Part of the answer is practical. "Because we are killing each other and the world," she says matter-of-factly. "Because we have the means to do something about it — churches have so many outlets, no other single organization can disseminate important messages like the church can." Or provide, in Western culture, the sense of community that churches can offer. And because she does not want to abandon the ï¬eld to fundamentalism.

Not many Christians will be able to follow Vosper down her path, even if they are conscious of the problem she's attempting to solve: reconciling a religion of revealed truth and sacred scripture grounded in 2,000-year-old experiences, with all humanity has learned since, not just about the natural world, but about the human roots of that faith. Most will not even accept Vosper as a fellow Christian. But there is no denying the problem she identiï¬es is real for many. Millions of Christians are satisï¬ed with the balance of faith and reason in their religion, or unconcerned with it, but millions of others remain in church only by wilfully severing head and heart. Those who cannot do that, or cannot any longer, will continue to seek a way out.

Taking Christ out of Christianity, Globe, March 22, 2008.

That triumphal barnburner of an Easter hymn, Jesus Christ Has Risen Today – Hallelujah, this morning will rock the walls of Toronto's West Hill United Church as it will in most Christian churches across the country.

But at West Hill on the faith's holiest day, it will be done with a huge difference. The words “Jesus Christ” will be excised from what the congregation sings and replaced with “Glorious hope.”

Thus, it will be hope that is declared to be resurrected – an expression of renewal of optimism and the human spirit – but not Jesus, contrary to Christianity's central tenet about the return to life on Easter morning of the crucified divine son of God.

Generally speaking, no divine anybody makes an appearance in West Hill's Sunday service liturgy.

There is no authoritative Big-Godism, as Rev. Gretta Vosper, West Hill's minister for the past 10 years, puts it. No petitionary prayers (“Dear God, step into the world and do good things about global warming and the poor”). No miracles-performing magic Jesus given birth by a virgin and coming back to life. No references to salvation, Christianity's teaching of the final victory over death through belief in Jesus's death as an atonement for sin and the omnipotent love of God. For that matter, no omnipotent God, or god.

Ms. Vosper has written a book, published this week – With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe – in which she argues that the Christian church, in the form in which it exists today, has outlived its viability and either it sheds its no-longer credible myths, doctrines and dogmas, or it's toast.

She is considered one of the bright, if unconventional, minds within the United Church, Canada's largest Protestant Christian denomination. She holds a master of divinity degree from Queen's University and was ordained in 1992. She founded and chairs the Toronto-based Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity.

Other Christian clergy and theologians have talked about the need to dramatically reform the doctrines of a faith that, with the exception of its vibrancy in the United States, has lost huge numbers of adherents throughout the Western world it once dominated as Christendom. In Canada, where 75 per cent of the population self-identifies as Christian, only about 16 per cent attend weekly services.

Addressing those statistics, what Ms. Vosper proposes is not so much reform as a scorched-earth approach.

A number of leading theologians in Britain – where the decline in adherents is more dramatic than in Canada – are on the same path, people like Richard Holloway, former bishop of Edinburgh and primate of the Scottish Episcopal (Anglican) Church, who has likened the Christian church to a self-service cafeteria stacked with messy trays of leftover food urgently in need of being thrown out.

Like Bishop Holloway, Ms. Vosper does not want to dress up the theological detritus – her words – of the past two millennia with new language in the hope of making it more palatable. She wants to get rid of it, and build on its ashes a new spiritual movement that will have relevance in a tight-knit global world under threat of human destruction.

She says there's been virtually a consensus among scholars for the past 30 years that the Bible is not some divine emanation – or in Ms. Vosper acronym, TAWOGFAT, The Authoritative Word of God For All Time – but a human project filled with contradictions and the conflicting worldviews and political perspectives of its authors.

And yet, she says, the liberal Christian churches, including her own, won't acknowledge that it is a human project, that it's wrong in parts and that, in the 21st century, it's no more useful as a spiritual and religious guide than a number of other books.

She says now that the work of biblical scholars has become publicly accessible, the churches and their clergy are caught living a lie that few people will buy much longer. “I just don't think we can placate those in the pews long enough to transition into a kind of new community that doesn't keep people away.”

She wants salvation redefined to mean new life through removing the causes of suffering in the world. She wants the church to define resurrection as “starting over,” “new chances.” She wants an end to the image of God as an intervening all-powerful authority who must be appeased to avoid divine wrath; rather she would have congregations work together as communities to define God – or god – according to their own worked-out definitions of what is holy and sacred. She wants the eucharist – the symbolic eating and drinking of Jesus's body and blood to make the congregation part of Jesus's body – to be instead a symbolic experience of community love.

Theologians asked to comment on her book said they wouldn't until they've read it.

But one of her colleagues who knows her well, Rev. Rob Oliphant, the progressive pastor of Toronto's Eglinton St. George's United Church, said, “While I'm somewhat sympathetic to the aims of it all – getting rid of the nonsense and keeping the core faith – I think that there is something lacking in it all. Gone is metaphor, poetry, symbol, image, beauty, paradox.”

Ms. Vosper said she and her congregation have tried hard not to lose those elements in their search for the sacred and the transcendent in life.

She met with members of her congregation last Sunday to discuss what the impact might be of her book.

She said it would take only a single vote of a presbytery – a local governing body of the church – to bring her before the church courts if a complaint against her is made, and the courts could be interested in examining what it means to be in “essential agreement” with the church's statement of faith.

“I can find myself in there [the statements of faith] but there's whole parts of it where I go, ‘Oh my goodness, this is terrible.' If someone says to me, ‘Do you believe in God?' I can come up with an answer that would satisfy the courts of the United Church. But would it reflect what's stated in their statement of faith? I don't think so. But it wouldn't be very far from what my colleague down the street, and what his colleague down the street from him, would say. That's the problem.”


segunda-feira, abril 21, 2008

busy ...

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Up, Down.

Not the articles themselves y'unnerstan', but the order, the arrangement, and then the happenstance of how I read them, in a café on Nossa Senhora de Copacabana across the street from the Delegacia, sipping coffee and meditating on a line from Dylan.

Then this joke came along in my email, unrelated maybe:

Um paulista, trabalhando pesado, suado, terno e gravata, vê um baiano deitado numa rede, na maior folga. O paulista não resiste e diz:
-Você sabia que a preguiça é um dos sete pecados capitais?

E o baiano, sem se mexer, responde:
- A inveja também!!!

Roughly it went like this:

Lula defending Biodeisel, there was a leader on the front page so I went straight there.

Underneath that, Ban Ki Moon saying that it is not bio-fuels but northern agricultural subsidies that are causing the food "crisis."

A side-bar on Lula's pet - PAC.

A-and on the next page the brasilian "Father of Biodiesel" speaking out.

Then back to the front page and going along I found the 'índias' of Raposa/Serra do Sol wanting to get in on it all.

And a bit further some Senators wanting to end the Arco de Fogo - a government action against logging irregularities in Pará, Matto Grosso, & Rondônia (states). Curious because I had already seen this in the Friends of the Earth newsletter I get, and I had wondered about it ...

Then the comics, of course.

21 de abril de 2008, Lula defende "petróleo verde"

Acra, Gana,

Em reunião da ONU na África, presidente destaca as vantagens da produção de biodiesel.

A passagem do presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva por Gana, para a abertura da 12ª reunião da Conferência das Nações Unidas para o Comércio e Desenvolvimento (Unctad), acendeu ainda mais a polêmica sobre a crise mundial de alimentos. Em seu discurso de abertura, Lula voltou a sustentar que a alta de preços de alimentos não é causada pelos biocombustíveis. E que não há contradição entre essa fonte de energia e segurança alimentar.

Em contrapartida, atacou os subsídios milionários pagos pelos pelos países ricos e os classificou como uma droga que entorpece e vicia seus próprios produtores, mas cujas maiores vítimas são os agricultores das nações mais pobres. Para ele, o ideal seria que os países desenvolvidos abrissem mão desse mecanismo de proteção e facilitassem a entrada de produtos agrícolas de países pobres.

Lula apresentou o biocombustível, que ele chamou de "petróleo verde", como a possibilidade concreta de melhorar a condição econômica dos países mais pobres. Como exemplo, Lula citou que os níveis de desnutrição caíram no Brasil ao mesmo tempo em que aumentou a produção e o uso do etanol.

– Não estamos querendo brigar com ninguém. Estamos dizendo ao mundo que nós, países emergentes, temos a solução que vocês tanto discutem na academia – afirmou ao defender a necessidade de usar as terras disponíveis da África e América Latina para plantação voltada aos biocombustíveis. – O petróleo verde, que pode ser obtido cavando um buraco e plantando uma pequena semente, que brota meses depois é um produto não poluente, gerador de emprego. E essa atividade representa uma oportunidade que se dará aos países que não tiveram chance de desenvolvimento no século 20.

Lula observou que, até agora, países desenvolvidos fizeram muito pouco para cumprir o protocolo. Mesmo assim, exigem dos países pobres o fim do desmatamento. De acordo com ele, o Brasil quer preservar florestas e matas não só pensando na floresta, mas também na biodiversidade.

Único chefe de Estado estrangeiro a discursar na abertura da reunião, Lula convocou os países mais ricos a fazerem sua parte no âmbito da atual rodada de negociações da Organização Mundial do Comércio (OMC), a Rodada Doha que está em fase final.

– Alcançar êxito nas negociações da Rodada Doha da OMC tornou-se uma tarefa inadiável. Os subsídios milionários pagos pelo tesouro dos países ricos são como uma droga que entorpece e vicia seus próprios produtores, mas cujas maiores vítimas são os agricultores das nações mais pobres – defendeu Lula.

Para ele, o ideal seria que os países desenvolvidos abrissem mão desse mecanismo de proteção e facilitassem a entrada de produtos agrícolas de países pobres.

– É preciso estar alerta contra a tentação dos países ricos em acentuarem ainda mais suas práticas protecionistas. Igualmente prejudiciais são as tentativas de perpetuar relações de dependência através da criação de entraves à expansão do comércio Sul-Sul – disse Lula.

O presidente citou o G20, grupo de países em desenvolvimento liderados pelo Brasil e pela Índia, como exemplo de relações Sul-Sul, frisou que é cada vez maior o intercâmbio comercial entre os países em desenvolvimento e alertou para a tentativa das nações ricas de impedir o aprofundamento dessa parceria.

Pela manhã, Lula visitou a Brasil House, casa localizada no bairro da comunidade Tabom, de descendentes de africanos que foram levados ao Brasil como escravos. Em seguida, o presidente inaugurou o escritório da Embrapa, onde voltou à defesa da produção de biodiesel.

– Acusam o Brasil de querer desmatar a Amazônia. Agora, culpam os biocombustíveis pelo aumento do preço dos alimentos. Eu não imaginava que teríamos tantos adversários no mundo desenvolvido quando fizemos a proposta de biodiesel. Afinal de contas, o mundo todo está de acordo que é preciso reduzir o aquecimento do planeta e as emissões de CO2 – relembrou.

O presidente observou também que o fato de o país ser auto-suficiente em petróleo não altera em nada o tratamento dado aos biocombustíveis.

– O Brasil é auto-suficiente em petróleo, será um dos grandes produtores de petróleo do mundo e isso não vai reduzir nossa disposição de investir em biocombustíveis para que eles sejam misturados ao petróleo – concluiu.

21 de abril de 2008, Ban Ki Moon culpa subsídios de ricos pela crise de alimentos

O secretário-geral da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU), Ban Ki Moon, atribuiu a crise mundial no setor de alimentos às políticas agrícolas dos países ricos, especialmente os subsídios à agricultura e o protecionismo comercial. Em discurso pronunciado na abertura da Conferência da ONU para Desenvolvimento e Comércio, em Acra, Gana, o dirigente da ONU defendeu a elaboração de um plano internacional para evitar um caos, e deixou claro que o mundo corre o risco de ver anulados os esforços da última década para reduzir a pobreza diante da alta nos preços de alimentos.

– Precisamos de uma revolução verde. O primeiro dever de um governo é alimentar sua população. Mas esses governos precisam resistir ao protecionismo. Os mercados internacionais precisam ser mantidos abertos e funcionando normalmente – disse, em tom de apelo, Ban Ki Moon, que qualificou a alta nos preços dos alimentos de "um verdadeiro tsunami".

Em seis meses, a ONU indica que os preços dos alimentos aumentaram em mais de 50%. "O arroz tem um novo recorde a cada dia e os protestos estão cada vez mais violentos", alertou, lembrando que o número de países barrando as exportações vem se proliferando.

– Mais comércio, e não menos, é o que nos irá tirar do buraco em que estamos. O mundo enfrenta uma emergência e precisa tomar medidas urgentes para evitar conseqüências políticas e para segurança, prosseguiu.

Ban Ki Moon não disfarça a preocupação da ONU com as dificuldades. Para ele, não há dúvidas de que a alta nos alimentos pode simplesmente eliminar os esforços dos últimos sete anos para reduzir a pobreza do mundo.

– Se a ONU e a comunidade internacional não mudarem de estratégia, milhões voltarão para a condição de miséria e as metas do milênio não serão atingidas. Corremos o risco de voltar à estaca zero. Estamos em uma era de aumento de incertezas econômicas e ninguém deve ser deixado para trás – disse o secretário-geral.

Ban Ki Moon rejeita as teorias que acusam o etanol de ser o responsável pela alta nos preços. Segundo ele, os biocombustíveis até podem ser um dos fatores, mas não seriam nem o único e muito o menos o principal.

Neste particular, o secretário-geral da ONU entende que o custo do petróleo, dos transporte e as secas tiveram importantes impactos. Além disso, o maior consumo de alimentos, especialmente na Ásia, e a especulação financeira são elementos que têm agravado a situação.

– Chegou o momento de as nações mais ricas repensarem os programas velhos e fora de moda de subsídios agrícolas – disse Ban em alerta aos países ricos.

Para ele, não há dúvidas de que essas práticas contribuem para a emergência, distorcendo mercados e penalizando os mais pobres. O ponto de vista é compartilhado pelo Itamaraty, que acredita que nunca houve um momento tão propício como agora para a conclusão da Rodada, exatamente pela pressão gerada pela inflação dos alimentos.

21 de abril de 2008, Novo palco para fazer a propaganda do PAC

Lula aproveitou a presença de delegados de todo o planeta na abertura da reunião da Unctad, em Gana, para fazer propaganda do principal programa de seu segundo mandato, exaltando-o como um modelo a ser seguido pelo Terceiro Mundo.

– Acreditamos que os investimentos públicos devem criar, fortalecer e expandir a infra-estrutura dos países em desenvolvimento, com vistas a aumentar o emprego e a produtividade. É o que estamos fazendo no Brasil com o Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento. Trata-se de um plano de investimentos de US$ 270 bilhões em infra-estrutura cuja implementação resultará na geração de milhões de empregos – discursou Lula.

Dividindo a mesa com o brasileiro estavam os secretários-gerais da ONU, Ban Ki-moon, e da Unctad, Supachai Panitchpakdi, além do anfitrião, o presidente ganense, John Kufuor.

Segundo Lula, o Brasil sediará, neste ano, um seminário internacional, patrocinado pela Unctad, sobre o papel dos investimentos públicos no desenvolvimento.

O presidente lembrou aos delegados presentes que seu governo cancelou cerca de US$ 1,25 bilhão em dívidas de países pobres com o Brasil, outro dos pilares de sua política externa terceiro-mundista, além de projeto de construção de uma fábrica de medicamentos contra a Aids em Moçambique.

21 de abril de 2008, Pai do biodiesel põe culpa nos EUA, Claudia Dantas.

Para Expedito Parente, usar mais da metade do milho americano em combustível é uma temeridade.

O criador do biodiesel, Expedito Parente, não está preocupado com títulos, honras ao mérito ou projeção. Depois de anos sem reconhecimento, o engenheiro químico que criou o biodiesel em 1977, e chegou a ser taxado de louco, considera a questão dos biocombustíveis fundamental para a limpeza e a recuperação do planeta e discorda totalmente da posição da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU), que classificou a produção mundial de biocombustíveis como um "crime contra a humanidade".

Para o atual presidente da TecBio, empresa pioneira no desenvolvimento de tecnologia de biodiesel e bioquerosene no país, toda esta polêmica surgiu porque mais da metade da produção de milho dos americanos é destinada aos biocombustíveis, e isto sim é uma temeridade, diz.

Parente explica que o milho colhido nos Estados Unidos é usado para produzir mais de 100 tipos de alimentos, além de ração de animal, leite e derivados, e como são uma economia importante e representativa no contexto mundial, a decisão americana pode provocar alta de inflação no setor de alimentos em nível global.

– O Brasil não tem nada a ver com a história, é vítima. Os Estados Unidos quiseram desviar a atenção da ONU trazendo o foco para a produção brasileira de biocombustíveis, mas não produzimos combustível de milho, produzimos álcool da cana-de-açúcar e nunca faltou açúcar na mesa do brasileiro – destaca o também ex-professor da Universidade Federal do Ceará.

Hoje, a descoberta do biodiesel é de domínio público. Embora a fórmula tenha sido patenteada em 1980, Parente não é mais considerado, oficialmente, o autor da idéia. Depois de 10 anos sem uso, a patente passa a ser pública.

Mas isso não o intimidou. Ao contrário, o incentivou a tornar-se um defensor incansável dos biocombustíveis, em especial da produção de biodiesel no país e no mundo. O engenheiro explica que, por meio da fabricação do produto, o planeta consegue diminuir a ação do efeito estufa, além de conseguir atingir outras benesses, no âmbito social e estratégico.

Segundo Parente, o diesel sozinho emite uma fuligem responsável por matar mais pessoas de turberculose do que de Aids. Contudo, a cadeia produtiva do biodiesel tem condições de seqüestrar o CO2 da natureza, e cerca de 25% desta produção anula totalmente o efeito da fuligem nas pessoas.

No aspecto social, o engenheiro acredita que a cultura das sementes que vão, futuramente, produzir o biodiesel – mamona, girassol, babaçu, côco – podem retirar da miséria e da fome quase 500 milhões de pessoas que vivem nos campos, em todo o mundo, de acordo com a ONU. Só no Brasil, deste total 8% vive em estado de miséria absoluta nas regiões Norte e Nordeste.

– A agricultura familiar vai propiciar aumento de emprego e renda e garantir a inclusão social desta população – defende Parente.

O engenheiro constata, ainda, que a terceira missão do biodiesel é estratégica e tem relação com a era celular. Parente ressalta que o petróleo é finito e o consumo desta commodity aumenta a cada ano, e quando o produto acabar, seremos pegos de calças curtas, analisa.

– Não estou preocupado com títulos, prêmios ou a patente que perdi. Já ganhei muitos prêmios e hoje sou reconhecido como o pai do biodiesel no Brasil e no mundo – resume Parente. – Minha vida não é um retrovisor, não olho para trás, olho para frente, e me sinto muito mais responsável em defender essa causa nobre, que é recuperar o planeta, e ampliar as possibilidades de emprego e renda para as pessoas.

21 de abril de 2008, Trégua oculta conflito iminente, Vasconcelo Quadros

Líder indígena avisa que tribos aguardam decisão do STF. Mas não abrem mão da área total.

O principal dirigente do Conselho Indigenista de Roraima (CIR), Dionito José de Souza, disse ontem que a entidade está comprometida em manter a paz na Reserva Raposa/Serra do Sol até a decisão definitiva do Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF), mas também adianta que os índios não aceitarão mudanças no texto do decreto do presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva que define a terra indígena como área contínua.

– As terras são nossas e vamos ocupá-las – afirma.

Dionito sustenta que 1,7 milhão de hectares pertencem às cinco etnias (macuxi, taurepang, wapixana, ingaricó e patamona), que ocupam a região e reafirma que, de um jeito ou de outro – ou seja, por bem ou por mal – os arrozeiros terão de deixar a área assim que o STF se manifestar, o que deverá coincidir com o fim da colheita do arroz e o início das chuvas na região. A polícia, que tem bases dentro da área, teme que haja conflito entre os próprios índios ou do CIR contra os arrozeiros antes mesmo do julgamento da ação cautelar apresentada pelo governo de Roraima.

Impasse perigoso

Índio da etnia macuxi, o próprio coordenador do CIR aponta um vácuo jurídico que pode suscitar polêmica: a operação da Polícia Federal foi suspensa por uma liminar, mas não houve qualquer alteração na portaria do governo homologando a Raposa/Serra do Sol em área contínua. Se por um lado evitou e eclosão de um conflito sangrento, a decisão do STF pode jogar a questão demarcatória num impasse perigoso. Os grupos mais exaltados ligados querem fazer a retirada por contra própria e só adiaram o plano por causa dos apelos que vêm sendo feitos pela Funai e pela Polícia Federal, que tem negociado à exaustão.

As manifestações em comemoração ao Dia do Índio, no sábado e no domingo, terminaram sem incidentes graves em decorrência da presença das forças federais nos pontos de concentração. Dionito disse que a polícia contornou um princípio de tumulto provocado por um índio que desafiou os agentes federais incentivado pelo líder da resistência, o prefeito de Pacaraima, Paulo Cesar Quartiero.

– Parente (índio) não faz isso sozinho ou por conta própria – afirma. Ele alerta que, além de controlar a ordem pública dentro da reserva, o governo terá de tomar providências para evitar retaliações depois de uma eventual retirada dos arrozeiros.

– O Paulo César está incentivando a violência. Dizem que ele está bem armado e que contratou pistoleiros para matar lideres que encabeçam o movimento depois que tudo isso acabar – diz Dionito.

O dirigente do CIR disse que o STF decidiu suspender a Operação Upatakon III com base em informações mentirosas, segundo as quais, a retirada dos arrozeiros implicaria problemas de soberania nacional por causa da interferência estrangeira dentro da reserva. Dionito também discorda da observação feita pelo chefe do Comando Militar da Amazônia, general Augusto Heleno, sobre as ameaças à soberania em faixa de fronteira.

– A nação brasileira não pode estar com idéia errada. Se fosse assim, então teria de tirar todo estrangeiro que mora em São Paulo ou no Sul do país. Não há nenhum estrangeiro com terras na Raposa/Serra do Sol – diz.

Dionito adianta que os índios querem os cerca de 50 mil hectares grilados pelos arrozeiros para desenvolver projetos compatíveis com o potencial da região: produção de grãos, piscicultura e criação de gado.

– Se o governo liberar os recursos que precisamos, nada vai parar na economia de Roraima. Temos 30 mil cabeças de gado só na Raposa e podemos desenvolver um projeto de pecuária. Em Boa Vista há índios correndo atrás de comida.

Estima-se em 23 mil o número de índios atualmente misturados com brancos na capital do Estado.

21 de abril de 2008, Senadores querem suspender Arco de Fogo

Os senadores Flexa Ribeiro (PSDB-PA), Expedito Júnior (PR-RO) e Jayme Campos (DEM-MT) querem obstruir a pauta de votações do Senado até que ações da Operação Arco de Fogo, da Polícia Federal, sejam suspensas. A proposta será feita amanhã.

A Operação Arco de Fogo é um trabalho conjunto da Polícia Federal, do Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama) e da Força Nacional de Segurança contra o desmatamento ilegal.

Os senadores, que estão na Amazônia como representantes de comissão que acompanha a crise ambiental na região, alegam que querem confirmar a eficácia da operação. As ações da PF tem sido alvo de revolta do empresariado do setor madeireiro e de deputados estaduais. Eles alegam que a legislação ambiental tem sido rígida e pouco sensível à atividade madeireira.

Para os senadores, a suspensão da Operação Arco de Fogo é necessária para que as comissões possam avaliar as ações da PF e propor alternativas aos setores econômicos locais que estão paralisados por causa da operação.

O deputado estadual César Collares (PSDB-PA) engrossou o coro e reclama uma mudança na estrutura de órgãos do governo para legalizar a atividade.

– Os madeireiros não querem atuar na ilegalidade – disse.


As ações já foram realizadas nos estados do Mato Grosso e Rondônia. No Pará, a PF atuou no município de Tailândia e há uma semana está em Paragominas. Até agora foram 19 pessoas presas, mais de R$ 43,2 milhões em multas aplicadas e 39 mil m de madeira apreendidos. O balanço parcial em Paragominas é de 2 presos por porte de armas, R$ 5,7 milhões em multas e mais de três mil m³ de madeira apreendida. (Folhapress)

This as I was humming along with Bob (in my head) singin'

Proves to warn that he not busy being born is busy dying.

a-and, no, I don't think I am going to bother translating any of this.