Friday, August 31, 2012

Reuters: Will Brazil Be Ready for the World Cup?


A recent "Reuters" article entitled "Brazil's Olympics will be fine. As for the World Cup…" contains a good overview of the challenges facing Brazil as it prepares for the Confederations Cup, the World Cup, and the Olympics.  As the article points out, other countries that have hosted the Olympics have had concerns over their level of preparation as the deadline has approached, but things are further complicated in Brazil because it is hosting three major events in a row.

The article includes quotes from an interview with Benedicto Barbosa da Silva Junior, CEO of Odebrecht's Brazil infrastructure unit.  Odebrecht is a Brazilian construction company that is heavily involved in the construction of stadiums and other projects for the events.  

Junior cites problems caused by "high costs for materials and other inputs, bureaucratic delays, limited financing options and shortages of skilled labor," as well as an infrastructure that is already overburdened.  

Some critics complain that Brazil should not have attempted to have 12 host cities for the Cup, and Junior had this to say about renovating Rio's Maracanã stadium: "We should have demolished it and then started from zero, just like (the British) did with Wembley." 

The mayor of Rio de Janeiro is quoted as saying that he's not certain if the overhaul of Rio's airport will be finished in time for the World Cup, but "for the Olympics, yeah, I think we'll have time." The article also refers to Dilma's frustration when she was attempting to talk with Lula on her cell phone, and the signal was dropped three times. Clearly, there are problems with the infrastructure.

So once again, we see the common themes of a sluggish bureaucracy, lack of skilled labor, limited financing, and underdeveloped infrastructure.  

As the article's headline implies, the consensus seems to be that Brazil will be ready for the Olympics, but there are real questions about the World Cup. Junior himself said, "Today, I'm more worried about the World Cup than I am about the Olympics." 

Source: "Brazil Portal"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Strike Is Over for Most Brazilian Public Sector Workers: Settlement is Reached

According to an article from BBC, 90% of the striking public sector workers in Brazil will end their walk-out and have accepted a government offer of a 15.8.% raise over the next three years.

Still on strike are the Federal Police and tax inspectors, but 30 out of the 35 employee groups have reached settlement. The government will resume negotiations with the groups that have not yet settled.

The end of the strikes is good news for Dilma, who had become increasingly impatient with the disruptions they were causing, and who felt that the public sector employees who were striking had unrealistic economic demands.

Update:  As of August 30, 2012, I haven't seen any coverage of this story in the Brazilian press yet, but it is repeated in this article from Reuters. Reuters reports that the strikers will return to work on Monday, and confirms that the Federal Police, tax authority workers, and central bank employees have not yet reached a settlement and are still on strike.

Update September 1, 2012: I finally found an article in "Estadão" which confirms the information in the BBC and Reuters reports. The article is dated August 28, but I had to search "Estadão's" website to find it, and even then it only showed up on the third page of hits. I don't why there hasn't been greater coverage of the settlement in the Brazilian press, but it may be that the story has been overshadowed by recent rulings in the "mensalão" scandal.  

Dilma Signs Quota Law For University Admissions

"O Globo" reports that Dilma signed a new law that requires federal universities in Brazil to reserve 50% of admissions for graduates of the public school system.  

She vetoed only one section of the law, which dealt with the selection criteria. The original law allowed for a "performance coefficient," arrived at by averaging a student's high school grades. Instead, the criterion will be the student's score on the Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (Enem), the National High School Exam.

The law also includes a provision for distributing the openings among racial groups, to be determined by the racial make-up of each of Brazil's states.  The racial quotas will be in place for 10 years. 

In her remarks, Dilma stated that the goal of the new law is to democratize access to federal universities, while maintaining a high level of education.  

A longer analysis of the new law can be found in this article from the New York "Times."

Brazil: Zero Tolerance Policy On Soccer Fan Violence

In anticipation of hosting the Confederations Cup in 2013, and the World Cup in 2014, Brazilian officials have announced a zero tolerance policy on fan hooliganism.  This article from AFP (Agence France Presse) reports that a special police investigation center is being set up in Rio to handle cases of soccer-related violence.  

The announcement comes after several recent outbreaks of soccer violence, one of which resulted in a death, and another in the arrest of 21 fans.

Additional details appear in this article from "O Globo," as well as this one.

A civil police authority is quoted as saying "This is not an example of the image we wish to project at the World Cup. We must act with rigor."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Brazil's Supreme Court Orders Resumption of Work on Controversial Dam

An article published on August 28, 2012, by the NY "Times," reports that Brazil's Supreme Court has ordered that work resume on a controversial dam that will generate hydroelectric power. 

The Belo Monte dam, which is being constructed in the Amazon rainforest in the state of Pará, has been opposed by Indian and environmental groups.  

The ruling overturned a decision by a lower court on August 16, 2012, which halted construction of the dam.

In a statement, the Brazilian government said that the Court's decision "avoids the occurrence of major and irreparable damage to the economy, to public property and to the country's energy policy."

Celebrities including rock singer Sting, director James Cameron, and actress Sigourney Weaver have joined activists in opposing construction of the dam.

Brazilian Judges Uphold Operating Ban on Chevron and Transocean

Rejecting arguments from oil giant Chevron and its drilling contractor Transocean, as well as from the Brazilian government's own ANP (Agência Nacional do Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis), a Brazilian judicial panel has upheld the ban which prohibits Chevron and Transocean from operating while charges over last November's oil spill are considered.  

According to an article in "Reuters," the ban could cost Chevron and Transocean hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as disrupting Petrobras' operations, since it also leases drilling equipment from Transocean.

The three-judge panel was particularly harsh in its judgment of the role of the ANP, with one judge stating from the bench that the agency had "contributed to the accident by failing to do its job as a regulator."

Bill Clinton Bets on Brazil

In an article with the headline "Bill Clinton: Brazil No. 1 Among Rising Economies, "Reuters" quotes former President Clinton as saying: "If I were just sitting in a room betting on the future of rising countries, I'd bet on Brazil first."

Clinton cited Brazil's stability, its vast natural resources, and its good relations with neighboring countries.  

Clinton spoke to a group of bankers in São Paulo on Tuesday, August 28. Other speakers at the meeting were former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and former Brazilian President Fernando Enrique Cardoso.  "Reuters" described Cardoso as the most "bearish" of the three former leaders. Cardoso was critical of Dilma and Lula for being too reliant on government stimulus of credit, as well as lacking "fiscal rigor" that he said characterized his own government.  

Further coverage of this event can be found in this article from the "Economist." The "Economist" included this interesting quote from Cardoso about the possibility for instituting reform during a time of economic crisis: "When you don't have order it is easier to do something, not harder. Europe is approaching a chaotic situation … when it will be easier to impose new rules."  

The "Economist" also goes into some detail about FHC's own feelings about the way his legacy has been treated by Lula: "Mr. Cardoso is generally statesmanlike, but it sometimes slips that he finds it offensive the way he was airbrushed out of Brazilian history by Lula, who had been a co-traveller in the fight for democracy during the country’s military dictatorship, and a personal friend."

As an outsider, it may be inappropriate for me to comment on Brazil's leaders, but I believe that FHC, Lula, and Dilma all deserve credit for the positive changes that have occurred there during their terms in office. FHC managed to bring hyperinflation to an end, and without that, it's doubtful that the economic and social progress that occurred under Lula would have been possible.

Sources: "Brazil Portal", "Reuters", and "Economist".

Two Recent Articles About E-Commerce in Brazil

"Forbes" magazine has published two recent articles about e-commerce in Brazil, a segment which the magazine believes has major growth potential.

One article is titled "Brazil's Dot-Com Gold Rush," and describes how a pair of 30-something entrepreneurs from the US have started a multi-million dollar company called "Baby.com.br," selling baby products.

The article also describes the challenges that face entrepreneurs in Brazil: a lack of skilled workers, a complex tax system, and a government bureaucracy that works slowly and inefficiently.  These are recurrent problems that continue to be common themes almost any story about doing business in Brazil.

The other article is "Brazil e-commerce 101 or The Basics About e-business in Brazil." This article provides a very basic guide to those interested in becoming involved in e-commerce in Brazil.

It  points out that the opportunities are great: approximately 100 million members of the middle class in Brazil are enthusiastic about internet shopping. However, it also describes the problems of Brazil's under-developed broadband infrastructure, and high monthly rates for both internet and cell phone service.  

Both articles underscore that Brazil offers a mix of big opportunities along with significant challenges for enterprising entrepreneurs. 

In NY "Times" Interview, Lula Denies Existence of "Mensalão"

In an interview that appeared in the New York "Times" on Saturday, August 25, 2012, ex-President Lula denied the existence of the so-called "mensalão."

He told the "Times" that "I do not believe there was a mensalão," adding that his party had no need to buy votes because it had already formed a majority using political alliances.  The article refers to Lula's meeting with Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, during which, according to Justice Mendes, Lula attempted to pressure the Justice into delaying the trial over the "mensalão" case.   


While declaring that "politics is my passion," Lula affirmed that he has no intention of running for President in 2014, and that Dilma will be his candidate.  

However, when asked about the election of 2018, he did not rule out a possible candidacy. (The Brazilian Constitution prohibits a President from serving more than two consecutive terms, so Dilma would be unable to run then).

Lula's predecessor, ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, is quoted as describing Lula as "warm — a snake charmer." The two men, who first met in 1973, were political allies during Brazil's military dictatorship, but later ran against each other for the Presidency. Cardoso criticized Lula for having even met with Justice Mendes, but said that he and Lula continue to have periodic phone conversations. 

In other comments, Lula was critical of the way that European leaders have handled the economic crisis, saying that if they had acted sooner, the crisis would not have gotten out of control.   


Monday, August 27, 2012

Brazil's Agricultural Boom Threatened by Poor Infrastructure and Strikes

An article originally published in "Folha de São Paulo" is available in English translation on "Worldcrunch."  The original Portuguese version is also available.

The article says that in spite of a record-breaking agricultural harvest this year, two familiar culprits threaten the transport of crops: poor infrastructure, and the ongoing strikes that have already had an impact on other sectors of Brazilian society and the economy.

Source: Worldcrunch

BBC: Brazil's Strikes Are A Major Challenge For Dilma

A BBC article posted today (August 27, 2012) offers a concise summary of the strikes in Brazil, outlines the positions of both sides, and discusses the challenges that the strikes pose for Dilma.

Source: BBC

Reuters: Brazil Seeks to Attract Foreign Professionals

A recent article from "Reuters" discusses efforts by the Brazilian government to attract as many as 10 times the current number of foreign professionals to help economic growth.

Some key quotes from the article:

  • "From construction sites to oil rigs and technology operations, companies are struggling to find qualified workers to ramp up their operations in Brazil." 
  • "by some estimates the country still needs an additional 20,000 engineers a year to keep up with ambitious plans to modernize its obsolete infrastructure and tap massive offshore oil reserves."
  • "The talent deficit has become even more pressing as Brazil's preparations for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games seem to be running behind schedule."
  • "Foreigners face seemingly endless paperwork at government ministries and police stations. Getting a temporary identity card can often take more than six months."
Source:  Reuters

More Brazilian Music: August Edition

With some recent music recommendations from other bloggers, an intriguing list of 30 nominees for the best Brazilian music of all time posted by "Estadão," and some artists that I've stumbled across on my own, it's time to add another post about Brazilian music.

Alex, author of "Bossa Breezes," mentioned Jorge Ben in a comment on my post about Carmen Miranda and her unusual pronunciation of the "r" sound, not because their music sounds anything alike, but because of Jorge's pronunciation of "r". Specifically, Alex mentioned the track "O Telefone Tocou Novamente," which appears on the album "Força Bruta." I found it on the compilation CD "Pure Brazil: Caipirinha" and have been enjoying ever since.

Not long after this, Tom, author of "Eat Rio," wrote a post about João Gilberto, specifically about his brilliant album "Chega de Saudade." In that post, Tom included a link to an older post he had written about Jorge Ben's album "A Tábua de Esmeralda." While I highly recommend that you click on the link and read the post, be prepared to see way more of Rod Stewart than you may want to. In fairness, Rod is there for a legitimate reason and not as some form of misbegotten eye candy. Still, if you find the photo to be too traumatic, just scroll past it quickly and you'll get to the good part. 

Tom was pretty enthusiastic about the album, and he was right: these songs go beyond being accessible and are almost immediately infectious. I also learned from Tom's post that Jorge Ben changed his official name to Jorge Ben Jor, to avoid confusion with George Benson, but since my blog isn't official, I'm sticking with Jorge Ben, which is the name that appears on his classic albums.  

While some of Tom's faithful readers gave him a hard time for his post about João Lucas & Marcelo's hit "Eu Quero Tchu, Eu Quero Thca," he has more than redeemed himself with his recent music posts. And he did warn people not to listen to the song if they didn't want to get the tune stuck in their heads. I've already admitted in an earlier post that I like some sertanejo universitario songs because of their high energy and repetitive lyrics, and this one certain fits the bill on both counts. It's on my playlist for the gym.

Vanessa da Mata's CD "Bicicletas, Bolos e Outras Alegrias" was recommended as one of the top 10 Lusophone albums of 2010 by the author of "Caipirinha Lounge," a fantastic blog that focuses on music sung in Portuguese, Brazilian and otherwise. I listened to the tracks that he has on his site, but ended up buying her earlier album "Sim."  She reminds me of a slightly softer version of Marisa Monte, which I realize may not be a very helpful description, but if you hear her, you'll probably know what I mean….or maybe you'll be even more confused by my comparison.  In any case, listen to her if you haven't already.  

Meanwhile, my Amazon recommendations kept suggesting that I'd like "Wave" by Antonio Carlos Jobim, probably due to the amount of Brazilian music I've been buying lately.  So I finally gave in and ordered the CD, a 1967 classic bossa nova instrumental album with orchestral backing. It's perfect for lazy afternoons or late night listening when you just want music, with no lyrics to distract you. OK, a few tracks might sound almost like elevator music, but I guess that just shows that sometimes even the people who choose elevator music do the right thing. 

I've written about the film "Cidade de Deus" in an earlier post. Several of the songs in that film caught my attention right away, but I only bought Hyldon's 'Na Rua, Na Chuva, Na Fazenda" at the time.  Since then, my musical tastes have expanded, and in sampling the disc, I realized that I liked most of the songs.  Tracks deserving special mention are Raul Seixas' "Metamorfose Ambulante",  Cartola's "Preciso Me Encontrar," Tim Maia's "No Caminho do Bem," and Wilson Simonal's "Nem Vem Que Não Tem." 


"Estadão's" recent poll asking "Qual o melhor disco brasileiro de todos os tempos?" includes 30 albums from 1959 up through 2003.  In the Facebook post announcing the poll, many of the people who wrote comments chose Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges' "Clube Da Esquina" as their favorite. It gets very positive reviews on Amazon, too, with people describing it as a "masterpiece," "important," and "life changing."  Well, that was enough to get me interested in this album which I had never heard of before, let alone heard.  After listening to it a couple of times, I can see why so many people love it.  Released in 1972, it has a definite Beatles influence, but it's totally Brazilian and totally addictive.

And now Tom from "Eat Rio" has a new music post up, this time about another album that is also on "Estadão's" list:  "Acabou Chorare" by Novos Baianos.  There always seems to be something new to discover when it comes to Brazilian music!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Estadão" Commemorates 70th Anniversary of Brazil's Entry In WWII

Brazilian troops on board the USS General Meigs,
the ship that took them to Italy in 1944
On August 22, 1942, Brazil declared war against Germany and Italy. "Estadão" is commemorating the 70th anniversary of this event with a special section called "O Brasil Em Armas."

It includes articles, photographs, video clips, and even some songs recorded by Brazilian troops while serving in Italy.

The US had been concerned that the Brazilian dictator Getúlio Vargas might be sympathetic to the Axis leaders, since many viewed Vargas himself to be somewhat fascistic. 

After the US declared war in December, 1941, Brazil maintained its neutrality, but in January, 1942, it broke diplomatic ties with Germany, Italy, and Japan. Under pressure from the US, Brazil agreed to allow the construction of American air bases in the northeast. This led Germany to begin attacking Brazilian ships in the Atlantic. In August, 1942, German U-boats sunk several Brazilian ships near its coast, killing over 500 people, most of them civilians. Public outrage in Brazil led the Brazilian government to declare war.

Brazil's "Força Expedicionária Brasileira" (FEB) consisted of 25,000 soldiers who fought alongside the US 5th Army in Italy until the end of the war.  Brazil was the only Latin American country to send combat troops overseas during the war.  The Brazilian Navy and Air Force also took part in the hostilities in the Atlantic Ocean. 


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wilson Center: Free Publications About Brazil

The Wilson Center, which hosts the excellent "Brazil Portal," offers a series of free publications about Brazil. They are available for downloading as PDF files, and can be viewed on a computer or iPad, or printed.

Several of the titles are offered in both English and Portuguese.

So far, I've read one of the articles in the book titled "Brazilian Perspectives on the United States: Advancing U.S. Studies in Brazil." The article I chose is called "Seductive Imperialism: The Americanization of Brazil During World War II."  The author is Antonio Pedro Tota, associate professor of History at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica in São Paulo

He begins by explaining how, in the early 1940's, the "thumbs up" hand gesture replaced the traditional Brazilian gesture of clasping the earlobe with two fingers to signal approval. The thumbs up signal was used by American pilots stationed in Northeast Brazil to communicate with their Brazilian ground crews. The signal spread rapidly among Brazilians in the Northeast, and from there, throughout Brazil.

He also includes a detailed and interesting account of the circumstances surrounding Carmen Miranda's return visit to Brazil in 1940. She was received coldly by her Brazilian audience. She began by greeting them in English, and not very idiomatically. Se said "Good night, people!" instead of "Good evening," but in any case her use of English got things off to a bad start. According to Tota, the audience sat in stony silence when she finished singing the song "South American Way," which, to be fair, does paint South Americans in a rather stereotypical way.

He then goes on to tell about her returning to the stage a couple of months later to sing "Disseram Que Voltei Americanisada." It wasn't long after this that she returned to Hollywood, and it would be 14 years before she again visited Brazil.

The article includes detailed information about the ways in which the US developed its "good neighbor" policy for Latin America, which it viewed as increasingly important as the US faced war-time challenges in Europe and Asia. 

For some reason, this particular article appears only in the English version of the book, and not in the Portuguese, but the other articles appear in both versions.  

This screenshot shows the complete contents of the book:





"Estadão" Asks: "Qual O Melhor Disco Brasileiro De Todos Os Tempos?"

What is the best Brazilian record of all time?  Good question, without an easy answer. 

On this page, "Estadão" offers 30 choices and asks readers to cast their votes by September 4. 

You can click on each album cover, see a short description, and hear short sound samples.

Even if your favorite Brazilian album isn't here, it's likely that one of your favorite artists made the list.  It's also a great way to sample artists or records that you may not already know.

There's also an incredibly detailed and colorful timeline of Brazilian popular music since the 1940's, tracing each genre and sub-genre as it develops over time.  It's definitely worth a look even if you don't plan to vote.


Source: "Estadão"

In case the page disappears after the winner is announced, here's a list of the albums, which are shown in the photo. Is your favorite Brazilian album on the list? Is there a great album or artist that they didn't include in the final 30?

João Gilberto
"Chega De Saudade"
1959

Jorge Ben
"Samba Esquema Novo"
1963

Vários
"Tropicália Ou Panis Et Circenses"
1968

Tim Maia
"Tim Maia"
1970

Chico Buarque
"Construção"
1971

Gal Costa
"Fa-Tal-Gal A Todo Vapor"
1971

Roberto Carlos
"Roberto Carlos"
1971

Novos Baianos
"Acabou Chorare"
1972

Milton Nascimento E Lô Borges
"Clube Da Esquina"
1972

Paulinho Da Viola
"Nervos De Aço"
1973

Raul Seixas
"Krig-Ha, Bandolo!"
1973

Secos E Molhados
"Secos E Molhados"
1973

Elis Regina E Tom Jobim
"Elis & Tom"
1974

Gilberto Gil
"Refazenda"
1975

Rita Lee
"Fruto Proibido"
1975

João Bosco
"Caça À Raposa"
1975

Cartola
"Cartola"
1976

Maria Bethânia
"Álibi"
1978

Caetano Veloso
"Cinema Transcendental"
1979

Djavan
"Luz"
1982

Legião Urbana
"Dois"
1986

Os Paralamas Do Sucesso
"Selvagem?"
1986

Titãs
"Cabeça Dinossauro"
1986

Cazuza
"Ideologia"
1988

Marisa Monte
"Mais"
1991

Chico Science & Nação Zumbi
"Afrociberdelia"
1996

Racionais MCS
"Sobrevivendo No Inferno"
1997

Lenine
"O Dia Em Que Faremos Contato"
1997

Cássia Eller
"Com Você... Meu Mundo Ficaria Completo"
1999

Los Hermanos
"Ventura"
2003


Friday, August 24, 2012

New Study Suggests Anatolian Homeland for Indo-Europeans

Everyone knows that Portuguese and Spanish are closely related, with a shared vocabulary as high as 80%. Most people also know that both languages are part of the Romance language family, which also includes Italian, French, and Rumanian.  

But did you know that these languages are also related to languages as diverse as Welsh, Russian, English, Hindi, and Persian?  All of these languages, and many more, are part of a huge language family known as Indo-European.  Indo-European languages are the dominant languages in Europe, North and South America, Australia, as well as areas of western Asia. Indo-European languages are common second languages in many parts of Africa and Asia, a result of the old European colonial empires. 

This map shows how widespread Indo-European languages are. Areas in red show where Indo-European languages are spoken as the primary language:


The relationship among Indo-European languages has been clear for some time, with obvious similarities between number words, words used for family members, pronouns, and other frequently used words. In 1786, Sir William James delivered a lecture on the similarities between Sanskrit, Latin, Ancient Greek, Gothic, Celtic, and Old Persian. 

This map, from "O Globo," shows the striking resemblance of three common words across a wide geographic and cultural spectrum (you will need to click on this graphic, as well as the ones that follow, in order to read it):



More examples:

The pronoun "I" in Russian is "ya," in French, "je," in Portuguese, "eu," in German, "ich", and in Latin, "ego;" the pronoun for "you" (singular familiar) in Russian is "ty," in French, "tu," in Portuguese," "tu," in German, "du," and in Latin, "tu."  

And here's a chart showing the similarities in numbers. Notice that the words for 2, 3, and 10 are almost the same across all the languages.



By applying well-accepted practices of historical linguistics, linguists have reconstructed a fairly complete proto-Indo-European language.  However, experts are divided about where the original speakers of the mother tongue first lived.  

We know that their descendants spread out to cover a huge portion of the world, and those movements are well documented in both ancient and modern history. However, the first Indo-Europeans emerged long before written history was recorded, which makes it much harder to pinpoint their original location.

Several recent articles describe the results of new research about the origin of the first speakers of proto-Indo-European. The newest research has been published by Quentin Atkinson and colleagues at  the University of Auckland in New Zealand.  Their study argues for a homeland in Anatolia, in what is now Turkey.

One article appeared in the New York "Times." It includes a graphic, with a map and a family tree, showing when the daughter languages separated from each other.  The map on the "Times" website is similar to this one:




Another article appeared in the "Scientific American," while a third appeared in "O Globo".

Rancher Charged With Masterminding Murder Of U.S. Nun Is Released by Order of Brazil's Supreme Court

Missionary Dorothy Stang
was murdered in 2005
in the northern state of Pará.
The "Washington Post" reports that a Brazilian rancher charged with masterminding the murder of American nun Dorothy Stang has been ordered released by Brazil's Supreme Court.  

The rancher, Regivaldo Galvão, was found guilty in 2010 of ordering the murder, but was then freed on appeal. He was imprisoned again a year later, when a Pará court determined that he must begin serving his sentence before his appeal process was finished.  

As the article points out, this case is not an uncommon one.  More than 1,150 rural activist have been killed in the past 20 years, but fewer than 100 cases have gone to court since 1988.  

Wealthy landowners have exerted considerable influence in Brazil for hundreds of years. 


According to the article, the state of Pará is "notorious for land-related violence, contract killings, slave-like labor conditions and wanton environmental destruction."


Source: Brazil Portal

"Brasileiro," New CD From Nelson Freire

Brazilian classical pianist Nelson Freire, who is internationally famous and who has recorded a large number of albums, has just issued a new CD entitled "Brasileiro." 

On the album, Freire performs 30 solo piano pieces by Villa-Lobos and other Brazilian composers. 

The CD received an enthusiastic 5-star review from the "Guardian," which closed with this comment: "There's more than enough here for you to hope that Freire might put together a second volume, perhaps including a few more substantial works; in the meantime, if there is a more perfectly played piano disc released this year, we will be very lucky indeed."

You can sample it on Amazon or iTunes. I just finished listening to samples of all 30 tracks on iTunes and the CD has been added to my wish list. (Note: both iTunes and Amazon incorrectly list the first six selections as being part of the "Carnaval das Çriancas," when we know that the cedilla belongs on the *second* "c," not the first one). 

A side note: with all due respect to Mr. Freire, who is a brilliant pianist, and who looks pretty good for a 66-year-old guy, why do classical record companies so often choose to use a photo of the performer or conductor for their cover art? A classical album is not like an album of popular music, where listeners want to see their pop idol. I think it's a lot more appropriate to include a classical artist's photo in the booklet that comes with the CD. For the cover, artwork or a photo featuring a Brazilian landmark or its scenic beauty would have evoked the spirit of this music just as effectively as a photo of Mr. Freire with the ocean behind him. 

This cover art for a multi-disc set of Villa-Lobos' works issued by BIS is a good example of what can be done instead:



Here's one from Naxos that uses a photograph on the cover (I would have made the photo bigger, but at least they've got the right idea):

Finally, here's an example of how to put the artist on the cover, but in a way that makes it feel a little more...Brazilian. OK, maybe the parrot and the sunglasses are a bit over the top, but it's colorful and it makes you smile.


If you're asking yourself what the hell this has to do with Freire's CD, the answer is "nothing at all," so I apologize for getting off-topic.

Brazil Revives Plans for a Bullet Train from Rio to São Paulo

An article in the "Latin American Herald Tribune" tells about revived plans for a high-speed bullet train project between Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo. The government will accept bids for the $16.5 billion project in two phases. 

First, it will award a contract to the company that manufactures the trains themselves.  Then it will award a contract to the company responsible for building the tracks, stations, and other necessary infrastructure. Bidding will close on April 30, 2013.

There were three previous attempts at a bidding process for a similar project, but all three failed because no company would agree to meet the various demands of the Brazilian government.  

As the article notes: "Experts say the project is complex because it would involve construction of 90.9 kilometers (56 miles) of tunnels and another 107.8 kilometers (67 miles) of bridges and viaducts to traverse the rivers and mountainous terrain that separate São Paulo from Rio de Janeiro."

Source: Brazil Portal

More News About Brazil's Strikes

An article in "Reuters" outlines another impact of the strike by thousands of Brazilian public sector workers. Since the strike involves employees of the agency that collects and publishes Brazil's unemployment data, that information has been delayed for the second month in a row.  

As the article states, "The two months of employment data is key to assessing whether Brazil is poised for an economic rebound in coming months."  This information is of great interest to those monitoring Brazil's economic progress.

In another article, the "Christian Science Monitor" offers an analysis of the challenges that the strike poses for Dilma.  The article includes a brief overview of the strikes, explains why they have lasted so long (they started in May), and focuses on the potential difficulty they pose for Dilma's political future.

This passage from the article highlights how big the problem is for Dilma: "If Rousseff can’t bring the strikers under control it could spell trouble for her party in October’s municipal elections and weaken her broad public support. Civil servants have been an important bedrock of support for the Workers’ Party and if they turn on her, she will suffer."

Another recent article from "Reuters" goes into more detail about Dilma's tough line with her own base, while she has increased privatization and taken other measures to encourage economic development.  

Source:  Brazil Portal


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dilma and Lula's Dancing Avatars Appear in Political Ad

Anyone who thinks that dancing cats are the best entertainment on the internet hasn't seen Dilma dance yet.

Nelson Pelegrino, a candidate of the PT (Workers Party) in Salvador, has posted a video animation on YouTube featuring dancing avatars of himself, Lula, Dilma, the governor of Bahia, and a fellow PT candidate.

This article from "Folha" includes more details.

The song is actually pretty catchy.  The video, which was posted on August 21, already had over 11,000 views on YouTube as of August 23.


Brazil's Richest Woman

Dirce Navarro de Camargo
Photo from 1997
One day after "Forbes" named Dilma Rousseff the third most powerful woman in the world, we now know the identity of Brazil's wealthiest woman. 

According to this article from "Bloomberg Businessweek," she is Dirce Navarro de Camargo, a grandmother whose age could not be confirmed. She owns a controlling interest in the industrial conglomerate Camargo Correa SANot only is she the richest woman in Brazil, she is the third wealthiest person in Brazil. With a net worth of $13.1 billion, she is third only to Eike Batista ($21.1 billion) and InBev investor Jorge Paulo Lemmon ($17.4 billion). Ms. Camargo is also ranked as the 59th wealthiest person in the world.

Her husband, Sebastião Camargo, was born in 1909, and began working as a teen-ager, carting sand in donkey carts. He started a construction business in 1939 and won a series of government projects building roads and railways. An interesting quote from the article was one he made in 1990, when he told the "Folha de São Paulo" that "Brazil’s greatest progress was in the military government."

His widow took control of the business empire after his death in 1994, but the company is now headed by professional administrators.  The Camargo family keeps a low profile, especially compared to Eike Batista, who is not averse to publicity, and whose son Thor has been in the news after the car he was driving struck and killed a bicyclist.

Assuming that Ms. Camargo was not many years younger than her late husband, she is probably in her 90's. She has three daughters, two of whom have husbands who serve on the company's board.  The third husband died in an airplane accident in April, 2012.

Source: Brazil Portal