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Vanessa Sarmiento

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How Thousands Of Brazilian Girls Have Been Duped Into Slavery By Foster Families

How Thousands Of Brazilian Girls Have Been Duped Into Slavery By Foster Families

Brazil has come a long way in improving the rights of domestic workers, but it has failed to completely abolish the dangerous nexus between domestic work and child labor.

PARÁ — Luana* was exploited as a domestic worker when she was still a teenager. She almost died of exhaustion. Leila was a 15-year-old black girl when she was left in the home of strangers, who forced her to work in conditions similar to slavery. Josiane was “welcomed” by a family when she was 7, but soon they dumped household duties on her: washing, sweeping, folding, taking care of the other children.

Luana, Leila, and Josiane are just three among thousands of Brazilian girls deceived by 'foster parents' who steal them away from their families with the lure of a better life and a shot at education. It's all a lie. The chance to go to school never comes, nor do wages for their labor. They are barred from sitting at the family table or even turning on the lights. They are confined to cramped rooms, forced to eat what they don't like, passed around like objects. They are bullied, harassed, shamed, and given names such "useless, frizzy hair Nigger.”

Luana, Leila, and Josiane worked day and night. They slept crying. Their childhood died as soon as they stepped foot inside these “family homes”, scarring them for their entire lives.

Brazil has come a long way in improving the rights of domestic workers, but the country has failed to completely abolish the dangerous nexus between domestic work and child labor. The spectre of “foster daughters”, while more common in middle- and upper-class homes in the past, still haunts Brazilian society. In Pará, where the practice takes a heavy toll on the indigenous community, thousands of children remain trapped in this hell.

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WHO's Evidence Anyway? The Extra Careful Mainstreaming Of Alternative Medicine

WHO's Evidence Anyway? The Extra Careful Mainstreaming Of Alternative Medicine

The World Health Organization has long walked the uneasy tightrope between evidence-based and traditional medicine. It is time to dismantle this unrealistic balance.


The World Health Organization (WHO) held its First Global Summit on Traditional Medicine in August. The event, held in the city of Gandhinagar, India, was preceded by a social media advertising campaign that left scientists and serious science communicators reeling. It presented in a "friendly" way – equivalent to an implicit endorsement – alternative practices that contradict the best scientific evidence, such as homeopathy and naturopathy, and that are in no way “traditional”: the first was invented in Germany 200 years ago and the other in the U.S., a little over a century ago.

Here's an excerpt from WHO's introduction to the subject on the summit's website:

“For centuries, traditional and complementary medicine has been an integral resource for health in households and communities. It has been at the frontiers of medicine and science, laying the foundation for conventional medical texts. Around 40% of pharmaceutical products today have a natural product basis, and landmark drugs derive from traditional medicine, including aspirin, artemisinin, and childhood cancer treatments. New research, including on genomics and artificial intelligence are entering the field, and there are growing industries for herbal medicines, natural products, health, wellness and related travel. ”

At first glance, this paragraph contains two confusions and a riddle. The first confusion occurs between what some philosophers of science call the “context of discovery” and the “context of justification.” The context of discovery is the one from which scientists get their ideas, where they will find the questions they want to answer and the problems they set out to solve. The “justification context” is where scientists perform the heavy work of testing hypotheses, controlling confounding factors, conducting experiments, and producing or seeking evidence – in short, everything that allows a discovery to be called truly scientific.

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​A couple looking at the beach.

Interracial Relationships: Love And Affection — Privilege And Prejudice

All couples know the importance of addressing power dynamics and fostering open communication within a relationship. But discussions about privilege and discrimination — and the need for love, respect, and empathy — are all the more crucial for interracial couples.

All relationships require care, patience and plenty of respect. But what are the specific challenges of relationships between people of different races or ethnicities?

People who choose to have a romantic relationship with partners of other races need to reconcile daily demands, common to all couples, with specific issues that may arise in this mix.

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Someone taking a picture of tarot cards.

In Brazil, A New Generation Of Tarot Readers Rethink The Ancient Game

For the new generation of tarot readers in Brazil, the art of reading the cards aims not to guess the future, but to promote a deep search for self-knowledge.

In 1930, the surrealist painter Leonara Carrington came very close to synthesizing the symbolism of tarot cards, which date back at least several hundred years and are often used to divine the future: “Each arcana, being a mirror and not a truth in itself, becomes what you see. The tarot is a chameleon," said the artist, noting that the cards, even if they have the same meaning, can represent different questions for each one who consults them. The tarot, therefore, can be a direct and intimate channel for those who play them, or a kind of mirror in which the client's truths are reflected.

Leonora's theory rings true with many tarologists or scholars who study this art: a game that contains 22 major and 56 minor arcana (or cards). For many, the game is a key to unravel intimate issues or to help choose paths in difficult or pleasurable moments.

Sabrina Carvalho, a tarot reader from Pernambuco, Brazil, began studying the subject in 2007. She describes it as a "chameleon." The cards are “a great tool for self-knowledge and connection, a tool for communicating with ourselves," says Sabrina, who has worked as a tarot reader since 2012, and who is responsible for the creation of the Carcará tarot school, which has trained hundreds of people to read cards in Pernambuco.

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Scene from Director Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing", which follows the events of the hottest day of the summer in Brooklyn, New York.

Scorcher! How The Heat Waves Of Climate Change Could Fuel Urban Violence

Another collateral effect of global warming could be that rising temperatures feed existing tensions in cities around the world. Starting from Lisbon, but investigating related studies around the world, Portuguese digital magazine Mensagem reports.


LISBON — We've gotten used to saying that everything is changing. The weather is crazy. Habits have changed. Values are vanishing. Traditions are not what they used to be. Language itself, some say, has degenerated.

Preferences across all fields, from food to entertai be they gastronomic, cultural, literary, entertainment or sexual, have changed. For some, for the worse. For others, for the better.

This perception of change depends a lot on age: when you live to be 60 years old, you perceive, with greater subtlety, that things change, inevitably, and end up with a certain nostalgia for those old times.

But strictly (and scientifically) speaking, everything is indeed always changing. So if the world is constantly changing – even if it sometimes happens invisibly – why such widespread panic about climate change?

The short answer is because it's happening so quickly, so dramatically, and with such devastating, often irreversible effects.

Often, the news tells us that predictions are surpassed by observations. Last April, in Portugal, a new record for national maximum air temperature was reached, at 36.9ºC (98.42ºF) — the highest since 1945.

Climate forecasts, therefore, anticipate a scenario of continued, intensified, global warming that, unfortunately, is unstoppable, at least in the immediate future.

Heat waves will increase, not only in number but also in intensity and duration. More heat waves, for more days, with higher temperatures — in Lisbon, Beijing, São Paulo and in Berlin and everywhere in the world, cities will get hotter and hotter.

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​Image of students participating in an outdoor class in the city of Vilnius, Lithuania.

Vilnius, A City Becomes An Open-Air Classroom

Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is taking school outdoors and making the whole city a learning place. Along the way, students' motivation increases and their relationship with the city becomes more participatory.

VILNIUSShakespeare's Hamlet is playing out in a real court, with a real judge.

The characters and witnesses are literature students in a secondary school class in the city of Vilnius, Lithuania. "And the students are ecstatic," says Unė Kaunaitė, director of EDU Vilnius, the municipal body whose mission is to improve the quality of education in the city and which is responsible for the “Vilnius is a school” project.

"They were really committed and involved and understood the play in a much deeper way because they performed it in a real court,” says Kaunaitė. The aim is to motivate students by making the learning process more interesting and participatory.

The city of Vilnius used this project to apply for the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge a year ago, winning funding of one million euros.

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How Black Communities Redefined São Paulo, Facing Down Racism And Poverty

How Black Communities Redefined São Paulo, Facing Down Racism And Poverty

São Paulo is 400 years old, but the outlaying areas beyond the historic center are relatively new. They were born out of poverty and have given rise to resistance and culture, especially through music.

SÃO PAULO — Despite being 400 years old, a considerable part of São Paulo was created in the last 70 years, especially the neighborhoods on the outskirts of the Brazilian city. But what was the process of building these neighborhoods?

When talking about “peripheries” in Brazil, many people have an idea of what the term represents — even without saying the city, it is already possible to imagine the so-called places and people, the level of income, skin color and even the neighborhood infrastructure. And in general, this picture is not far from reality.

Thousands of huddled houses, dirt streets
This is the hill, my area awaits me
Screaming at the fair (We're coming!)
Trust me, I like that, more human warmth
- Translation of Racionais MC’s, in “Fim de Semana no Parque”

However, a few decades ago, the "periphery" did not represent anything much beyond the obvious — that is, places far from the central region. It was from the 1980s onwards that this began to change and the term acquired meanings beyond geography.

Social, racial and identity factors were incorporated largely because of cultural movements that translated the common feelings of those who lived in these spaces into art. One of these movements is rap.

On the periphery, joy is the same
It's almost noon, the euphoria is general
That's where my brothers, my friends live
And most around here look like me
- Translation of Racionais MC's, in “Fim de Semana no Parque”

Brazilian peripheries, as we understand them today, have among their origins the city of São Paulo. Although 400 years old, the city only became an economic power in the middle of the 20th century, which was also when the population started to grow until it became the largest in the country.

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Image of Dr. Thiago Celso Andrade Reges on Instagram

Case Of Fake Brazilian Doctor Sparks Outrage — But Is "Alternative Medicine" Any Safer?

Fear and anger spread in Brazil after a man posing as a doctor was found treating patients. But it raises the question of the dangers of those openly using “alternative medicine.” Who should be regulating these practices?


SÂO PAULO — Earlier this spring, Thiago Celso Andrade Reges was arrested in the Brazilian state of Ceará for illegal practice of medicine, after having worked in several hospitals in the region.

He had previously gone to court in Brazil to get a validation of his Bolivian diploma, which turned out to be false. The Regional Council of Medicine of Ceará (Cremec) suspended his professional license and opened an internal investigation.

Easy question: why arrest someone who commits fraud by impersonating a doctor? I imagine the answer should not generate great disagreement among readers: it put people's health and lives at risk. Fake doctors don’t have adequate training, and they prescribe medicines and treatments, and issue diagnoses, which are not reliable. There is no reason to assume that their advice is based on a scientific background, or on the best knowledge available in the medical field.

But there's more to it than that. The case raises another intriguing question: would not the practice of “alternative medicine” be just as responsible for putting the lives and health of patients at risk as the practice of medicine without a degree?

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Relationship Contracts: Modern Love Or Killing The Romance?

Relationship Contracts: Modern Love Or Killing The Romance?

The author reflects on the emerging practice of signing a so-called relationship contract, which reminded her of when her Muslim boyfriend proposed a “temporary marriage.”

Coming from a devout Catholic background, I felt a bit naive when I got into a relationship with a Muslim man while traveling abroad. He explained that his faith allowed for temporary marriages, which permitted physical intimacy without being considered haram, forbidden in the Islamic faith.

It was new to me, but I respected his beliefs and trusted him — and agreed to try it out.

During the ceremony, I was struck by the fact that we had to make explicit and agree on the specific terms and expectations of our relationship. We had the freedom to be as detailed as we wanted to be, covering topics such as exclusivity, communication and financial agreements.

It seemed both premature and overwhelming, but I realized that it took a significant weight off my shoulders: I already knew that this person wanted to be with me, and how he wanted to be with me – and what I could expect from him. It was a mutual agreement that eliminated doubts and ambiguities.

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Man smoking a cigar

Meet Thiago Brennand, Brazil's Answer To Andrew Tate

Here's the Brazilian media spectacle of brazen masculinity, white privilege — and, finally, an arrest.

SÂO PAULO — Behold Thiago Brennand: Brazil's own rich white guy boasting an arsenal of 67 guns, accused of attacking a woman in public — and he's now become a very public spectacle. For a foreign reader it can recall the saga of Andrew Tate

First, Brennand's story in brief. The Brazilian businessman made headlines in 2022 when a video surfaced that showed him assaulting a model, Helena Gomes, inside a São Paulo gym.

After Gomes filed a complaint, at least 11 other women came forward to the São Paulo Public Prosecutor's Office to report that they had been assaulted by Brennand. In September, Brazilian police issued a warrant for his arrest – but the businessman fled to the United Arab Emirates, where he was briefly detained before posting bail and being released the following day.

In March, Brazil issued a new arrest warrant for Brennand. He spent eight months living in the UAE before the country approved Brazil’s extradition request. He was flown back on April 29 to São Paulo, where he was jailed and will be tried for rape – the first of several charges he faces.

Prior to the 2022 incident, Brennand was also investigated in 2020 for assaulting his son, but the case was closed after his son retracted the accusation. Brennand has been involved in other aggression incidents as well, including at equestrian clubs.

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Photo of Brazilian singer Nega Jaci

The Brazilian Singer Trying To Shake The Sexism Out Of Samba

The Brazilian singer Nega Jaci has performed a new version of the well-known samba “Mulheres,” by Martinho da Vila, adapted by two Brazilian women to remove the sexist tone of the original lyrics.

LISBON — It's Saturday night in Lisbon, Portugal, and on stage at the bar Samambaia, in the Graça neighborhood, the beating of the tambourine and the strumming of the guitar signal the beginning of a hit by the carioca samba singer Martinho da Vila, which lists the various women who passed through the life of a man.

But this Saturday, the original version re-emerged as a new, liberating and empowered reinterpretatio, sung by Brazilian artist Nega Jaci.

Instead of "I've had women of all colors," Nega Jaci sings “We are women of all colors,” from an updated version created by Brazilian artists Doralyce and Silvia Duffrayer in 2018 – an adaptation that rewrites some stanzas of the original lyrics and which, since then, has become an anthem of female resistance in the “patriarchal” universe of samba.

The rewritten version by the Brazilian duo removes references to “unbalanced and confused” women in the lyrics, replacing them with feminist heroes in Brazil, including Chica da Silva and Elza Soares. Jaci also included a tribute to former Carioca councilwoman Marielle Franco, murdered in 2018.

The new lyrics reposition the woman's role, from being responsible for the man's happiness, finally concluding, in a liberated and independent tone, that the woman is everything that she one day dreamed to be.

Samba lyrics tend to be super sexist and prejudiced, looking at women either as objects to serve men or as someone who needs to be taken care of, without giving due value to female power,” explains Jaci, who was born in Bahia, Brazil as Jacilene Santos Barbosa and has been living in Lisbon for eight years.

The feminist version of the well-known samba is unmissable in her set, and the moment when Jaci sings it in the presentation is preceded by a call to the women in the audience. It is for them that the performance is dedicated.

“I sing in honor of the women, but the men end up listening and reflecting on the theme in their own way,” she says.

This reflection has led other musicians to also look for a way to reposition themselves. Jaci recalls that not even Chico Buarque himself, universally loved among Brazilian musicians and apparently incontestable, is immune to the slippage of lyrics written in other times and contexts, but which now seem to no longer find space in a repertoire governed by political correctness.

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Image of people dancing, holding hands, in Lisbon, Portugal.

Marchas Populares, A Great Lisbon Tradition Is Missing Men

The Marchas Populares, Lisbon's summertime carnival parades, are a spectacle of dancing and music — but a shortage of money, free time and men who want to dance are endangering this midsummer tradition.

LISBON — With evictions in the city's “soul” neighborhoods and the aging of residents who have carried on traditions, it sometimes seems that a basic sense of community in Lisbon is fading away.

Nine years shy of their 100th year, Lisbon's traditional Popular Marches — nighttime carnival parades through the city's neighborhoods — are having a hard time finding participants to join the march, especially men.

Meanwhile, just across the river from Lisbon, in nearby municipalities Setúbal and Charneca da Caparica, the solution is to take marchers from one bank to the other.

For many of the participants in this traditional choreography, it no longer matters whether they dance for the neighborhood São Domingos de Benfica, Bica or Campo de Ourique. What they want is to keep going every year, and to save the future of this tradition, which for years has been struggling with a lack of men.

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