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Founded in 1875, O Estado de S. Paulo is a daily newspaper based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Owned by Grupo Estado, it is the city's second-largest newspaper, and is economically liberal.
Workers of Rome funeral parlors protesting against the situation in Roman cemeteries, April 2021, Italy.
Alessio Perrone

Italy To India To Brazil, How COVID Has Trivialized Mass Death

We've gotten used to too many people dying, and too many dying alone.


MILAN — I was recently alerted to an event I had missed here in Italy: A couple of weeks ago, as the government announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions and restaurant workers protested because Italy wasn't reopening fast enough, funeral parlors also took to the streets of Rome. It was "a funeral of funerals," they said.

With wreaths of flowers, hearses and signs of condolences, participants quietly marched near the Baths of Caracalla, close to the city's center. It was an act of mourning, a reaction to the staggering loss of life, yes, but also to the burial crisis that is taking place in Rome as a result.

With hundreds of people still dying of COVID every day in Italy, the capital's cemeteries and crematoriums have been overwhelmed. Crematoriums have waiting lists of hundreds of bodies. Some 2,000 coffins are stacked in improvised waiting rooms as they await their turn to be buried in the city's cemeteries.


Funeral workers with placards ""Apologies but they don't let us bury your loved ones "" during the protest of workers in the funeral sector. — Photo: Cristiano Minichiello/ Avalon/Avalon/ZUMA

The grief of thousands of families remains truncated as a result, and there's little indication that things will change anytime soon. In at least one case, the Italian dailyCorriere della Sera reports that a family has been given an appointment to bury a relative nearly seven months after his death. "We live in a city where dying, too, has become difficult," Paolo Conti wrote for the paper.

We have become numb to the mass death that occurs around us.

I was surprised to catch myself thinking that 2,000 coffins seem like a small number these days. Last week, we gazed mesmerized at the photos of mass cremations in India, as the country became the epicenter of the pandemic and went through a tsunami of deaths. In a spine-chilling quote, a Delhi crematorium worker toldScroll.in that at his workplace: "There are more bodies than wood" to cremate them.

Before India, the center of our attention was Brazil, where more than 4,000 people died every day, and where the agony mixed with fury at President Jair Bolsonaro's staggeringly bad management of the pandemic. Yet we forget that here too — among us! — hundreds die every day.

It must be one of the most distinctive characteristics of this phase of the pandemic. More than a year into restrictions, obsessing over how quickly we should get vaccinated, eager to savor our newly found lives, captivated by the incredible tragedies occurring in poorer far-away places, we have become numb to the mass death that occurs around us.

As Celso Ming recently wrote in Estado de Sao Paulo: "One of the consequences of this pandemic is the trivialization of death." People continue to die in large numbers, he pointed. And they die alone, without a funeral, company or last rites, departing for early oblivion and curtailing the mourning of their families. The rest of us, in the meantime, just accept it all — "as if it were a new normal."

Back in February when the first vaccinations began in Serrana
Alessio Perrone

As COVID Explodes In Brazil, Serrana Becomes World's First Fully Vaccinated City

As part of a medical study, the mid-sized Brazilian city of Serrana is now nearly 100% vaccinated, even as the rest of the country is crumbling under COVID's toll.

As Brazil lost another 3,462 of its citizens to COVID-19 on Wednesday, a little-known city of 45,000 in the center of the country had a very different story to tell: Welcome to Serrana, believed to be the world's first city to be immunized against COVID-19.

Facing a highly contagious variant and poor public management, Brazil is currently the country worst-hit by the pandemic, accounting this month for one of every four COVID-19 deaths and a overall death toll above 360,000. But this town's entire population has been vaccinated against COVID and walks mask-free; its health workers only treating a small number of lingering coronavirus cases.

Located some 300 kilometers north of São Paulo, Serrana has been distributing to all its residents since February two doses of Sinovac, a Coronavirus vaccine developed in China, as part of "Project S," a Brazilian study. Researchers hope the project will help settle pressing questions about COVID-19 vaccines, such as: Can someone who is vaccinated still transmit the virus? Does the vaccine work against variants? What exactly is the efficacy of China's vaccine, given that even Chinese authorities have recently recognized its shortcomings?

More than 97% of the population is vaccinated.

Serrana was chosen for the study because it used to be a hard-hit community, though that would be hard to tell now. Vaccinations ended on April 11, with researchers vaccinating 97.7% of the target population. Infection rates have plummeted. So has the number of people turning up at hospitals with respiratory problems. According to O Globo"s Valor Economico, it has been a week since anyone has been intubated.

The law still requires residents to wear masks and comply with social distancing, at least until the study's initial results are published, presumably in May. Yet impatience seems to spreading fast in Serrana, and many residents already act as if the pandemic is over. Estado de São Pauloreporters who visited the town saw several group gatherings and said many residents had ceased to wear masks.

Hope, too, seems contagious. Business owners who saw revenue drop by an average of 10% during the 2020 lockdown now appear relieved. They are joined by dozens of companies around Brazil who contacted local authorities hoping to set up a branch in Serrana. "The expectation is that businesses will be allowed to reopen this month, even if at 30% capacity," restaurant owner Ricardo Tadeu Lisi told Valor Economico. He said his revenues fell 70% in 2020, and he had to close down, renegotiate salaries and dismiss 14 employees — but now he hoped to reopen soon.

"It takes time to get back to normal, but we hope that 2021 will be a better year than 2020," he said. "There is a light at the end of the tunnel."

Bolsonaro in Brasilia on March 31
Alessio Perrone

Bolsonaro's Generals: Preparing For A Capitol Hill Moment?

With the sudden departure of Brazil's top generals, Jair Bolsonaro’s government may be weakened. But it may also be setting up the ultimate showdown for the country's democracy ahead of next year's election.

In the last few days, as Brazil's COVID-19 daily death toll reached new heights — with 3,950 on Wednesday — President Jair Bolsonaro sacked his defense minister. Then, after a reportedly tense meeting, the heads of the Brazilian army, navy and air force resigned out of disagreements with the president, who swiftly replaced them with more loyal officials.

The sackings are yet to be fully explained, but the Brazilian press speculated that Bolsonaro tried to involve the military apparatus in an "authoritarian project."

In the Brazilian press, most commentators took the mass firings (a first in Brazilian history) as a sign of weakness of the dictatorship-apologist, Trump-loving president. "Bolsonaro has long tried to turn the armed forces into militias at his service," wrote the Estado de São Paulo.

Anti-Bolsonaro protest in Sao Paulo on March 31 — Photo: Roberto Casimiro/Fotoarena/ZUMA

It's true that as a former army officer himself, the 66-year-old president has stuffed his cabinet with generals, defended the legacy of the military dictatorship in the country, including its use of torture, and threatened coups several times. And yet, the latest news showed that large sections of the military do not support him. "Obviously, the officials chose the Constitution," the Sao Paulo daily said.

But this take may be optimistic. Just last month, a court allowed Bolsonaro's nemesis, the former left-leaning president Lula, to run in Brazil's next election in 2022, where he would be Bolsonaro's main opponent.

Many in Brazil believe Lula to be the favorite — and yet doubt that Bolsonaro would concede. Instead, as Donald Trump did in the U.S., he might challenge the election results and rally his supporters against Brazilian institutions.

It's early to tell if all this will come true. But if Brazil does go through a "Capitol Hill moment" next year — with president loyals now in charge of the army — Bolsonaro might succeed where Trump failed.

Microsoft's mixed reality / “holoportation' platform Mesh
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Telework Is Changing How We See The Office

The enduring pandemic has forced the world to develop new ways of working. What once were casual chats at water coolers are now endless WhatsApp group message chains, while cubicles and corner offices have been replaced by everyone's home kitchen table... not to mention your children doing (or not doing!) their schoolwork beside you. The good news is that the health crisis should begin to ease in the coming months, and most of us will be able to return to the office. Still, nothing will ever be the same after the taste we've had of — and the innovation sparked by — our remote reality.

This edition of Work → In Progressexplores how the new work environment is bound to be an ever and always evolving process:

ARTIFICIAL ATTENDANCE Zoom filters, avatars at online conferences … Microsoft is taking virtual meetings to the next level with its development of holograms. Its newest platform, Mesh, aims to facilitate "mixed reality," allowing employees from all over the world to meet via "holoportation." In a post-pandemic world where offices reopen, Mesh could change the need for workers to be based in a specific city, as these holograms mean rays of light simulate their body in real-time and allow them to interact with objects and people in a physical space far away from their headsets.

HOME OFFICE BURNOUT In the past 12 months, the pandemic has turned our homes upside down. Usually a safe haven free of work-related stress, we have turned our spare rooms, kitchen tables and (no point hiding it) couches into workstations. Our work life has invaded family and free time, sometimes physically occupying its spaces. No wonder that home office burnout is on the rise, especially in developing countries where a pandemic-free life still isn't on the horizon, like Brazil. According to Estadão, an increasing number of Brazilians report chronic stress, rising anxiety, and lack of joy in their homes, and burnout diagnoses are on the rise, particularly among young women. And what's worse, "The pandemic has created a tunnel where there are no alternatives and the light is still very far away," the paper said.


TRICKY BIOMETRICS Using biometrics — the biological data unique to each of us — in the workplace has been on the rise for some time, as employees identify themselves with everything from fingerprints to voice recognition to access company networks, data, applications and devices. Since the pandemic and contact tracing, this trend has been on the rise as a recent studyshows the majority of Americans are in favor of company wearables that could benefit their health, security and safety. However, a recent article in Raconteur points out that people with disabilities such as hand or voice tremors or stutters need to be factored in right away to avoid excluding them from our future biometric world.

WATCH THIS WORD "Workspitality": a post-pandemic trend where hospitality merges with work and hotels use their spaces as co-working stations and rentable offices. The basic premise asks why would you work from home when you can work from a hotel. This took off in India first, with the lifting of travel restrictions creating a new trend of taking work-from-hotel vacations (nicknamed "workations'). Next stop "workspitality". Apparently, nothing is safe from work these days, even your holidays.

NAME AND SHAME "Foosball tables are cool but worker's rights are even better" announces the bio of the Instagram account @Balancetastartup ("Rat out your start-up"). Created in December 2020, it already has amassed more than 183,000 followers and has been the talk of the French entrepreneurial world as it openly shares stories of workplace harassment and mistreatment at trendy young companies. As start ups proliferate, so does the problem of companies too small to have a proper HR department. These kinds of social media accounts are one way to keep these companies in check. And, according to French daily Les Echos, this one is planning to eventually offer consulting on worker's rights.


VIRTUAL INSANITY Being left out of team WhatsApp chats, not being included in a Microsoft Teams session, being dropped from the weekly Zoom apero ... From French media Welcome to the Jungle to The New York Times, there are more and more reports of increased paranoia among remote workers. When a suggestion on Slack is left unanswered, it is possible to read a lot between the lines and imagine all kinds of slights. Small moments are becoming amplified when all the communication is virtual. Maybe you need to change your virtual background!

THE GIG IS UP Uber recently made global headlines by announcing its decision to implement a minimum hourly wage, pensions and vacation time to 70,000 UK drivers. The decision, however, comes from a recent court ruling imposing these new policies on the US-based giant and according to The Guardian, drivers are skeptical. One driver told the British daily, "The court ruling said one thing, Uber said another thing," as the company immediately told drivers that the new wage would only begin from the time they accept their first trip to and end when the last passenger is dropped off despite the ruling's specification that waiting time should be taken into account. "It should be from the time you log on," said the interviewed driver. "It's like any other job: you're paid for the time you're behind your desk, whether or not there's work you can do there."

RETURNING HOME A recent study from Moroccan research institut Intelcia found that 62% of the African diaspora's university graduates and professionals want to be entrepreneurs back in Africa, and around 40% would move back immediately if given the chance. One Senegalese entrepreneur told Francophone African news website Jeune Afrique, "I returned to Dakar because I was frustrated with the lack of opportunities in France. And I wanted to contribute to the development of my country." With lots of niches that have yet to be filled in many markets around the continent, many feel it's the perfect opportunity to become industry leaders in their home country.

El Pibe de Oro on the world's front pages
Bertrand Hauger

Adios Maradona: 22 World Front Pages On The Death Of Soccer God

El Pibe de Oro, Barrilete, El Dios, Cósmico, D10S, Dieguito, El 10, El Diez ...

The quantity of nicknames is just one more sign that fútbol legend Diego Armando Maradona was in a category of his own. His death Wednesday from a heart attack at the age of 60 was a bonafide global event.

Here are the front pages of 22 newspapers dedicated to the passing of the soccer legend: from dailies in his native Buenos Aires to the cities of his beloved club teams, Naples, Italy and Barcelona, Spain, but also California, France, India and beyond celebrated arguably the greatest artist that the beautiful game has ever seen.


Cronica, a daily newspaper in Maradona



La Nacion


Portada de La Prensa (Argentina)

La Prensa

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UN Accuses Brazilian Police of Murder To 'Clean Up' Rio For Olympics

Grim accusations from a United Nations probe that Brazilian police use extrajudicial murder to clear out youth gangs in Rio de Janeiro ahead of next year's Olympics.

RIO DE JANEIRO — A new report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has denounced the Brazilian police for "killing children" in an attempt to "clean up" Rio de Janeiro ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics, according to an exclusive report from the Brazilian daily O Estado de S. Paulo.

The committee calls attention to what it deems "general impunity" in the country in the face of "extrajudicial killings of children" by the federal police. Brazil has one of the world's highest youth homicide rates, and the passage of a recent law reducing the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16 has increased youth incarceration as well.

O Estado writes that although the state of Rio de Janeiro saw the second-largest reduction in Brazil in its youth homicide rate between 2000 and 2013, the report criticizes various branches of the police for killing youths — primarily Afro-Brazilians — in a previous attempt to improve the city's image prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The media has reported in the past that death squads have been employed in turf wars between the police and organized crime gangs in Brazilian cities, with adolescents the primary victims of this violence.