Sunday, March 10th, 2013


When Hugo Chavez’s embalmed body is laid in a glass casket sometime next week, he will join at least eight other world leaders whose remains are on display for all eternity … or at least for as long as their keepers can preserve them.

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Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced Thursday that Chavez’s body would be on permanent display at the Museum of the Revolution so that “his people will always have them.” While that idea may sound grotesque, it’s also not particularly novel.

The Russians, arguably the ones who perfected the practice, have put both Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin on long-term display. Lenin’s body has been embalmed in a large tomb near the Kremlin since shortly after his death in 1924, preserved by a steady 61 degree temperature and a strict regimen of mild bleachings and soaks in glycerol and potassium acetate.

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Lenin’s body in 1991, the first time it was photographed in 30 years. (AFP/Getty Images)

According to Time, Stalin’s embalmed body also laid near Lenin’s for about 10 years, but was hastily reburied under cover of darkness when the government tried to squash his cult of personality in the early ’60s.

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Stalin laying in state in Moscow in 1953. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Russians seem to have inspired the North Koreans to similar displays. In 1994, a Russian team helped preserve the body of Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founding president, the New York Times reports.

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Kim Il-Sung lies in state in 1994. (AFP/Getty Images)

When Kim Jong Il died in late 2011, Russian scientists again went to Pyongyang to assist in the embalming; the late leader lies in a glass sarcophagus with filtered lights to keep his face looking rosy.

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An image of Kim Jong-Il in the memorial palace, taken from Korean TV in 2011. (AP)

But Kim Jong Il and his father were by no means the first Asian leaders to get the Chavez treatment. The Vietnamese revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, who died in 1969, is displayed in a mausoleum in Hanoi modeled after Lenin’s. Since “Uncle Ho” died in the midst of the Vietnam War, his embalmers had to work in a cave in the North Vietnamese jungle, the New York Times reports.

One of the scientists who worked on him told the Times: “Not every expert is allowed to restore such treasured historical objects, like a Raphael or a Rembrandt. Those who do it, we tremble. I feel a great responsibility in my hands.” This video shows the changing of the guard outside Ho Chi Minh’s tomb.

Socialist leader Mao Zedong has lain in state in a mausoleum on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square since May 1977. According to Time, Soviet-Chinese tensions forced Mao’s embalmers to ask the Vietnamese, not the Russians, for advice — a plan that misfired slightly when the Vietnamese could not explain how to build an air-tight coffin.

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A 1976 photo from China’s official news service shows party and state leaders standing vigil by Mao Zedong. (Xinhua/AFP/Getty Images)

The exiled Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who died in 1989, has lain embalmed in a public mausoleum in the northwest Philippines since the government allowed his body back into the country in 1993. His widow, Imelda Marcos, has battled the government for permission to bury him in the country’s presidential cemetery, the New York Times reports. She posted for photos kissing the crypt in 2010.
 

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Chavez will be only the second Latin American leader to be preserved for all eternity. Embalmers emptied water from the cells of Eva Peron, the wife of Argentinian president Juan Peron, and replaced them with wax — an unusual technique that basically “turned her into a candle,” Egyptologist Bob Brier told the Post’s Monica Hesse in 2012. She’s now also missing a finger — when the junta overthrew Peron’s husband and took over their house, they cut one off to see if the body was fake.

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Chavez’s body will, presumably, get better protection than that. AFP reports that Marcos’s embalmer has already offered up his services and is urging the Venezuelans to start the process before it gets “more difficult.”
 
“I will process anyone, anywhere,” he said, helpfully.

 

By Caitlin Dewey on March 8, 2013 (Washington Post)

CARACAS, Venezuela — While dignitaries from around the world attended the funeral of Hugo Chávez on Friday, Angélica Rodríguez stood in a line that stretched close to a mile in hopes of getting a glimpse of him lying in state. But her older brother, Gustavo, was much farther away, geographically and politically, having moved to Panama over a year ago because he believed there was no future in a Venezuela run by Mr. Chávez.

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“He said we’re glorifying a man who does not deserve it,” said Ms. Rodríguez, 23, a university student who had been standing in line for 16 hours and had many hours to go.

Mr. Chávez’s death prompted a massive outpouring of grief from his supporters as thousands waited outside the funeral for a chance to enter later to see his glass-covered coffin. But many other Venezuelans stayed home and expressed hope that his passing would lead to change.

“He was a man who awoke passions, for good or bad,” said Claudia Astor, 41, who watched a television broadcast of the funeral and recounted her long-standing misgivings of Mr. Chávez. At her side was her mother, Norma Astor, 73, an ardent supporter of Mr. Chávez from the day in 1992 when he first appeared on television screens as the leader of a failed coup.

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The proceedings also put on display the political alliances that Mr. Chávez assembled during 14 years as president, often with an eye toward confronting the United States, who he regularly pilloried as an imperialist force of evil.

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President Raúl Castro of Cuba sat in the front row, next to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who at one point kissed Mr. Chávez’s flag-draped coffin. Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, shed some tears.

Despite years of rough relationships with the United States, including the expulsion from Caracas on Tuesday of two American military attaches who were accused of seeking to destabilize the country, there were signs that both sides were trying to put on a moderate face, at least for a day.

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The United States sent Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Democrat of New York, and William D. Delahunt, a former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, who had positive contacts with Venezuelan officials in the past.

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And Nicolás Maduro, who was Mr. Chávez’s vice president until he was sworn in as president on Friday night, had kind words for the American delegation in his eulogy, emphasizing that they were sent by President Obama.

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“Here there are some representatives that we greet and value,” Mr. Maduro said, naming the two American politicians and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who was also present, although not part of the official delegation.

In his eulogy, Mr. Maduro, Mr. Chávez’s handpicked political heir, praised his mentor for starting Venezuela down the path of socialism, although he stressed that there was still a long way to go.

“You can go in peace, commander,” Mr. Maduro said. “Mission accomplished. The battle continues.”

And while he spoke of love and forgiveness, he also touched on some of Mr. Chávez’s familiar themes, harping on enemies and the dark shadow of betrayal.

“There has not been a leader in the history of our country more vilified, more insulted and more vilely attacked than our commander president,” he said.

Mr. Maduro was sworn in as interim president in a special session of the National Assembly several hours after the funeral and then immediately put on the presidential sash. The Supreme Court had ratified the transition in a ruling earlier in the day.

But most opposition lawmakers boycotted the session, arguing that the Constitution was being violated. Henrique Capriles, who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Chávez in October, called the swearing in spurious at a news conference. He said that under the Constitution Mr. Maduro should take charge of the duties of president while retaining the title of vice president. But the Constitution clearly bars a vice president from running for president, meaning that under Mr. Capriles’s interpretation, Mr. Maduro would have to resign from the government in order to run.

“Nicolás, no one elected you president,” a combative Mr. Capriles said. “The people didn’t vote for you, boy.”

The wrangling presaged the bitter political contest that is to come as the country heads to a special election to replace Mr. Chávez. Mr. Maduro, 50, is expected to be the candidate of the government party, while a person in the opposition coalition said that there was a consensus to name Mr. Capriles, 42, as its candidate.

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Election authorities have yet to set a date for the vote.

In announcing Mr. Chávez’s death on Tuesday, a distraught Mr. Maduro described the country as a family. But on Friday it seemed like a family torn apart.

“I hate the anti-Chavistas with all my heart,” said Nancy Cadena, 45, who sells plantains and bananas in a street market in Petare, a poor neighborhood. “They don’t want the poor people to catch up.”

A few miles away in a middle-class neighborhood, Luisa Mercedes Pulido, 69, said that while she and her sister Elenora, 64, were on opposite sides of the national divide, they got along fine as long as they avoided politics.

“She has her point of view that she isn’t going to change, and I have mine that I’m not going to change,” she said. “But it seems incredible to me that intelligent, thoughtful people, at this stage, continue to think as they do when what we have received from Mr. Chávez is misery, corruption, murders and a total reduction in our quality of life and so much crime. I don’t understand how they cannot see that.”

 

Reporting (Text) was contributed by Simon Romero, María Eugenia Díaz, Jonathan Gilbert and Paula Ramón. (NYT, March 8, 2013)

 

Yahoo employees who work from home will have to start packing up their lunches and reporting to the office for duty. But new research suggests there may be a good reason for them to show up: a future.

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Those hired by the Internet giant with agreements that they could work partly, or entirely, from home are no doubt peeved over new CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end the company’s flexible location policies. In a memo issued last week, all employees were told they’d have to show up for work in the office starting in June, according to a report in AllThingsDigital. (Yahoo didn’t respond to requests for comment.) The memo says working from the office facilitates more brainstorming.

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“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” it says. See: “Physically Together”: Here’s the Internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo for Remote Workers and Maybe More.

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But while studies suggest that those who work from home tend to be happier than the average cubicle drone, the chance to work in one’s pajamas often comes at a cost. Controlling for performance, working from home reduced rates of promotion by 50%, according to a report published last week by professors at Stanford University, which reviewed a working-from-home program at a 16,000-employee, Nasdaq-listed Chinese travel agency over nine months. One reason for the bleaker career prospects: less on-the-job training. See: Does Working From Home Work?

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With its new policy, Yahoo (US:YHOO)  is moving in the opposite direction of much of corporate America. The number of people working from home has almost doubled in 30 years, from 2.3% in 1980 to 4.2% in 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census. In fact, the Census data found that about 10% of the workforce works from home at least one day a week, and the wage discount for working from home — 30% in 1980 — has effectively vanished. The company saved around $2,000 per employee, primarily because it paid less rent for office space and increased productivity, the study found.

Aside from fewer promotions, those working from home face other obstacles, says Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford and a co-author of the study. “Even though their productivity went up, they got less face time at the office.” Some also said they were lonely, he says. On the upside, the percentage of workers who quit was halved to 25% from 50% among those who worked from home. Many of the people who volunteered for the work-at-home study were married women with children.