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Submission + - China Building Gigantic Structures In the Middle o (wired.com)

vbraga writes: New photos have appeared in Google Maps showing unidentified titanic structures in the middle of the Chinese desert. The first one is an intricate network of what appears to be huge metallic stripes. It'(TM)s located in Dunhuang, Jiuquan, Gansu, north of the Shule River, which crosses the Tibetan Plateau to the west into the Kumtag Desert. It covers an area approximately one mile long by more than 3,000 feet wide. The tracks are perfectly executed, and they seem to be designed to be seen from orbit.

Comment Re:Better idea (Score 1) 341

After my experience with compulsory voting in my home country, I doubt it makes people more involved. Most seem to vote for almost random candidates, if not for reality show "celebrities" and other sort of scum. Heck, the fools even elected an illiterate clown in the last federal election.

Comment Re:I didnt know slavery was a skillset. (Score 1) 153

That's pretty good euphemism. People who can only rely on public education and universal health care finish school without knowing how to read properly and die before they can receive an organ transplant.

Well, it's not that simple. There's a few outstanding public hospitals like the Sarah Kubitscheck Rehabilitation Network (Brasilia, Rio and Salvador, if I recall correctly) and INCA (Rio). HIV treatment is actually world class. The same goes for education, CAP/UFRJ, Colegio Naval are a few public schools that usually rank among the best schools in the country.

The biggest problem of SUS ("Unified Health System") is that is actually unlimited in coverage, but resources are limited. SUS is by law forced to offer even sex change operations, for example. Some plastic surgeries are also included. Reproductive medicine, too. In a world with limited resources this means that is actually stretched far beyond what it can accomplish. The best thing would be to scale back coverage and focus in essential needs.

Unfortunately this is impossible without a complete change of the Brazilian constitution and of the established legal practice. The concept of "direito adquirido", where if a person receives an entitlement for a good length of time it cannot be taken away, is widely accepted by judges. Any scaling back of social security benefits would be crushed in court. Brazil actually expends with social security, per capita, the same amount Sweden does. But the money is siphoned out of the system by corruption and by senseless benefits (a 20 years old married to a 80 years old is entitled to a life long pension after the 80 years old partner dies, even if the 20 year old is not financial dependent on the 80 years old.).

Another bad aspect of the Brazilian legal system is that the government is bound by law to "reduce inequality between states" which, de facto, means penalizing successful states with high taxes and expending an incredible amount of money in pork projects in the least successful states. Those pork projects are usually populist projects, allowing populist (and corrupt) politicians to gain votes. The same populist politicians will vote for more pork expending, perpetuating themselves into power.

The best for Brazil would be an all encompassing reducing of the scope of social benefits, driving populists out of the power, minimizing the amount expend on pork. Unfortunately no politician advocates that and the Workers Party administration is ever increasing the pork expending and government intervention on the economy. If things don't change soon, I'm thinking about just jumping ship and migrating somewhere else.

Comment Re:I didnt know slavery was a skillset. (Score 1) 153

At least my former employer Manaus office is mostly manned by people from Southeastern or Southern Brazil but it's a software development company. I might be wrong today, since it has been a while since I was there. Industrial workforce it's probably most composed by natives. Anyway, skilled labor shortage is a serious problem. It became common to do some recruiting in Argentina or Uruguay since Brazilian salaries are way higher then theirs it's easy to hire, and there's no lack of skilled people in our Southern neighbors. I've seen some recruiting drives in Portugal and in Japan (mostly aimed at Brazilian expats).

Comment Re:Brazil (Score 1) 153

Did you try buying Dell? Or HP? Or just walking to the nearest corner computer store? That's how I usually do it...

Market protection for computer products was abolished in the early 90s... someone is screwing you, but it's not the government :)

Comment Re:I didnt know slavery was a skillset. (Score 4, Informative) 153

Well, this kind of gold mining is not a common activity in Brazil. It's actually downright illegal but you can find a few miners doing this in remote areas, specially in the North, near the Guyana borders. I don't think the country is as bad as you seems to think it is. For sure, there's a lot of people living in the most abject condition, specially in North and Northeastern Brazil, but for most, it's just a normal country although a poor one. As a software developer I make more or less the same I'd make working in Southern Europe, for example.

Most of large electronics equipment manufacturers are located in the Manaus Industrial Park. I've had the chance to tour some facilities - both here and abroad - and safety conditions in most large Manaus employers are equivalent to what you expect elsewhere. Salaries are low, both so is the living cost. Work week is 44 hours and this is usually respected in industrial companies (overtime is common for professionals, almost everywhere in the world as far as I know). 30 paid vacation days per year, which is actually better than some other places.

The biggest problem, labor wise, in Brazil is law enforcement. The country is downright unable to enforce labor laws through the country. If you're working in a company that respects the law you're in a rather fine situation. If you don't have a job or have one outside "the legal economy" (like your friend family doing gold mining), then you're downright screwed.

Even then, there's universal health care and free public education everywhere. Quality is not that good, most middle or upper classes will have private insurance and schooling, but it's there including for everyone even expensive therapies (like HIV, or cancer, and so on) are included in the universal coverage.

In the end, I'm pretty sure that there are way better places to be. But it is not bad like you seem to think, and most people have way better conditions than being an almost slave in a Foxconn factory.

Comment Re:My thoughts are with everyone who lost anyone (Score 2) 804

The Saudi royalty, seeing the Kuwaiti royalty now living in the Saudi royalty's hotels after narrowly escaping from Kuwait, decided that perhaps they'd rather have real armies to defend them instead of a group of poorly armed rebel freedom fighters.

Since I'm not American I'd normally refrain from making political commentaries on a 9-11 story but just for the sake of correctness I'd like to point out that the American presence in Saudi Arabia is far older than the Gulf War. From the beginning of oil exploration in KSA the Americans have run the show, Aramco used to be exclusively run and manned by Americans. It's employees used to live in enclaves modeled after American suburbs. The company was later nationalized (it became the Saudi Aramco) and the "Sauditization" of management began. It still hires a lot of expats, including Americans, but the Saudi run the show now. This fact, that the major oil company was manned by foreigners, was a really complicated issue for the Saudi and probably was a source for trouble.

The American influence used to be way greater in the Kingdom many decades ago than now. Western way of dressing was more common, for example. Popular protests against the Western influence in 1979 and 1980 made the government adopt a more religious conservative instance. One of the most important was the seizure of the Grand Mosque. There's some talks that the Bin Laden family incentived and sponsored the protests. For more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Mosque_Seizure

Comment Re:So let's make fossil fuels MORE expensive! (Score 1) 522

One of his first actions as president was go to New York and tell the international banking cartels that the debt run up by the earlier military dictatorship was unmanageable and they were only going use X-percent of the country's export earnings on debt service and the rest on improving the lot of the majority.

Or he could, like Fernando Henrique did in Brazil, implement structural reforms, lowering the country interest rate on it's debt, perform credit swaps, lowering the cost of debt. But the long and hard way, respecting contracts, is out of mind in Latin America. For the rest of your post with a conspiracy theory, I won't even bother to answer. It's akin to believing in the moon landing hoax, I'm sorry. If you're interested in the subject and would like to see more about my point of view I'll gladly point out references in the academic literature.

Comment Re:So let's make fossil fuels MORE expensive! (Score 1) 522

If you did this and eventually rose to a position of power (where you could implement the program on a national scale) you would have been assassinated or had a coup carried out against you.

Explain South Korea. They rose from a very poor country after the war to a great country today. Or Brazil itself carrying a mildly successful import substitution program from late 40s to the 80s.

García is a good example of about what everything is wrong in Latin American politics. He was able to soar Peruvian inflation to 7,649% (yes, seven hundred six thousand nine per cent, annually), reduce Peruvian GDP by 20% and increase poverty by about 13% and people voted he back in the office again! Or the fascination people feel with Chavez, Lula and other current populist leaders.

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