Life is certainly full of incredible stories of people who, against all odds, survive the iron grip of absolute poverty. This one, however, stands out and makes one wonder how an orphan who once lived in a landfill on the outskirts of Rwanda could even make it to adulthood, let alone Harvard. At nine years of age, through the help of a charity worker, he was given the opportunity to attend school for the first time in his life, life that, up to that point, had only been made possible by eating trash and taking shelter in an abandoned car. But from then on, he only excelled, and now, at 22, on a full-scholarship, he’s studying math, economics and human rights at one of the most prestigious universities on the planet.
On any given summer day, the sheer number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel in Rome is nothing short of impressive – 20,000 – prompting Vatican officials to limit it to 6 million a year in hopes of avoiding damage to Michelangelo’s delicate frescoes. And despite a state-of-the-art climate control system that filters the air and a brand-new high-tech lighting setup, historians and restorers have welcomed the decision, which they firmly believe is the proper way to make sure that future generations won’t be kept from gazing at the magnificent work of art by the Italian architect, painter, sculptor, poet and engineer who had an impact like no other on the development of Western art.
Yes, it’s that time of the year when 60 precious minutes of people’s lives are unapologetically yanked away from them, only to be returned a few months later. Why bother? By then, they’ll be worthless anyway. Needless to say, I dislike daylight savings, and despite not being alone, I do acknowledge that many of my fellow Brazilians love it. And I don’t blame them, there’s no better opportunity to take advantage of the sun after work, drinking a cold beer outdoors or going to the park. But if you’re going to be too tired to enjoy it all because you have to wake up before sunrise, like me, there’s no need to worry. It won’t last forever. After all, February 22 will be around in no time.
In a country crisscrossed by rivers, some of which so wide that not even the sharpest pair of eyes would be able to see the other side, water is plentiful and thus taken for granted as if it were some kind of a divine, never-ending resource, and yet somehow Brazil’s industrial powerhouse, home to 30 million people, is on the verge of collapsing into chaos. Located in the southeastern part of the country, São Paulo and its metropolitan area haven’t received enough rain for several months, so reservoirs are running dry. Though there seems to be no agreement on whether climate change or mismanagement – or both – is to blame, everyone is on the same page regarding the seriousness of the situation, which can very soon make water far pricier than gold and send a powerful message to the rest of the nation.
Its generic name is great-excuse-to-buy-gifts Day, and the following is the recipe for creating this very special occasion: First, give it different names and dates so that instead of rejoicing only one single day, many can be celebrated – and that’s done by attaching historic events, traditions, cherished values, and loved ones to them. Then, evenly spread them out along the year so that malls are not empty in May and overcrowded in June, for example. And finally, to make all those efforts worthwhile, through careful, persistent marketing, convince people that the best way to enjoy these dates is by getting presents, lots of them – it really works. Today, October 12th, millions of Brazilians happen to be observing one of these incredibly popular times of the year. Happy Children’s Day!!
Listen up, fellow readers. This may very well be your I-told-you-so moment. Dry, burning eyes may not be the only drawback of inordinate amounts of time spent reading on computer screens. Now, a study from Norway finds that when people read from the printed page, they get more details than when they do so from their highly technological devices. Though still not known specifically why, it seems that by holding a book, turning its pages and knowing how much of it is left, readers absorb more information and then more accurately relay it. I, however, have to warn you to take my words with a grain of salt because I’ve read about the Norwegian research on my iPad, oops!!
He was born poor, very poor, in the squalor of Rio de Janeiro slums, where violence and drugs are the norm and proper education is something unheard of. Despite all that, or maybe because of it, Romário went on to become a soccer player, but not your average striker — the best of his time — which made him a star both on European pitches and on the Brazilian national team, where he led his teammates to World Cup glory. After hanging up his cleats, he was elected a member of the lower house of Brazil’s Congress, but unlike many athlete-turned-politicians in this country, he gained the respect of his peers and the entire nation by being a staunch advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, especially those with Down syndrome. Now as a newly elected senator, Romário may once again excel, and if his life journey is any indication, he very likely will.
Today, October 5th, close to 143 million Brazilians are expected to go to the polls to choose who the next President of the 4th biggest democracy on the planet will be, and chances are the overwhelming majority of them will show up, or at least, they should. After all, voting is mandatory in this country, and not doing so means fines, no passport, no government job, no salary (if you’re a civil servant), and other minor problems like being looked down by your neighbor as if you were some kind of anti-democracy villain. But wait a minute: shouldn’t democracy be the freedom to choose, or not to choose? Yes, it apparently should, but not here, where politicians firmly believe that a high turnout is paramount for the consolidation of a democratic society.
Every day thousands of Brazilians make their living at traffic lights across this huge South American country. Some are beggars; others are squeegee men; and many are street performers like Mike, who dressed in a clown costume, entertains busy drivers on his stilts, moving up and down the stage/crosswalk, and then just before the light turns green again, zigzags, hat in hand, between idling cars. Making ends meet is not an easy task for this courageous man. After all, Mike has four kids, a wife and a dog, but towering over his audience, he often ends the day with enough cash to make him want to come back the next morning. And it was on a foggy winter morning that Mike lost his balance, fell to the ground, got hit by a speeding driver, and stilts by his side, perished. Though this is a fictional story, the plight of those who brave the streets in search of whatever amount of money they can make is very, very real.
On the verge of becoming more ubiquitous than any other flying machine, drones have the potential to revolutionize all sorts of industries, some of which are already hard at work trying to make this unmanned aircraft part of their businesses. Hollywood, for example, wants to dazzle moviegoers with scenes that, not too long ago, could only be imagined; Amazon sees a future where most packages will be flown straight into the hands of customers; Disney will very soon be flying huge screens at its parks; and Cirque du Soleil is busy training its performers to interact with airborne objects. As appealing as it all may seem, no one, not even the brightest minds, would be able to foresee the consequences of a world crowded with drones, hovering over people’s heads and forever altering their lives.
After losing a long battle in court, Ary Borges knew it was just a matter of time before authorities showed up at his doorstep to get the tigers he carefully raised surrounded by his children and grandchildren, and time has come. The man that for years kept seven felines on his property has had them taken away from his home/animal sanctuary by Brazilian wildlife enforcement agents. Tears rolling down his face, Ary stood motionless as the huge cats were, one by one, put in single cages barely big enough for their sheer size, and with the truck still in his sight, he went down on his knees, and as if not believing his eyes, shouted, “You’re family! I’ll never give up on you!”
Over the years, slowly, but relentlessly, airline passengers have had their dignity squeezed out of them to the point that otherwise law-abiding citizens are now labeled as “unruly passengers,” who more often than not get unceremoniously escorted off planes at the nearest airport. And to add insult to injury, fliers have to navigate through all sorts of distractions: Are you for or against cell phones during flights? What about the “knee defender,” would you resort to this gadget? Though such questions always bring about heated arguments, they only take people’s attention away from what really matters: space. But then again, who knows, people may someday look back on the way fliers travel today, and in sheer amazement, say, “Look at how lucky they were! There used to be seats on airplanes.”
When a high school teacher in Brazil forbade a transgender student from wearing a skirt to school, she never imagined that the next day, to her utter surprise, more than a dozen teenage boys would show up in class in skirts, prompting school administrators to change the rules and thus allowing all students to wear skirts, which, by the way, have been at the center of controversy before, when a male civil servant in Rio de Janeiro went to work in a skirt to protest against the unbearable heat at the office. This time, though, the issue is far more serious, and by fighting back, a bunch of school kids wound up setting a powerful example against discrimination.
So much for fastening padlocks to Parisian bridges and then throwing the keys into the River Seine as a sign of endless love. “Hey, lovers, go attach your padlocks elsewhere!” say officials in Paris. Once seen as a tourist draw, the tradition is now frowned upon — which begs the question: Hundreds of thousands of padlocks later, why only now stop people from expressing their deepest love? Well, there is only so much extra weight a bridge can take, and to make matters worse, Parisians don’t like the practice, claiming it blocks their view of the beautiful Seine, so enamored couples will have to find new ways to say, “I will forever love you.”
307 years later, Scotland may once again be an independent country. As the September 18th referendum comes closer, polls show Scots evenly divided, pushing the British Government into damage control mode. So the three major parties in parliament wasted no time and agreed to hand over all powers to Scotland, except for defense and foreign affairs, if Scots decide not to break away from the United Kingdom, which – as ironic as it may seem – was exactly what the overwhelming majority of the Scottish population wanted in the first place. Now, however, this last-minute offer may not be enough, and what just a few months ago looked like a distant dream of an independent Scotland might very likely come true.