Sunday, 30 March 2008

'Guarinisuchus munizi' - The New Brazilian Crocodile

Brazilian scientists unveiled one of the most complete skeletons found of prehistoric animals. The found skeleton, a pointy-nosed crocodile, baptized Guarinisuchus munizi, may have joined sharks as the dominant predators in the world's oceans some 62 million years ago.

The new specie is a crocodylomorpha and belongs to the Dyrosauridae group, formed by various sea species. The crocodylomorphs unite the crocodiles, gharials, caimans and alligators.
The bones of this crocodylomorpha specie were found in the north eastern state of Pernambuco, in a limestone mine in the region of Mina Poty at 30 km from Recife. This region is one of the few Brazilian paleontological sites where fossil material can be found from the period in which the dinosaurs were extinct, or being some 65 million years ago, between the Cretaceous and the Palaeocene periods.

Scientists named the species "Guarinisuchus" after the Tupi Indian word "Guarani," which means warrior and "munizi," in honour of Brazilian palaeontologist Deraldo da Costa Barros Muniz, who discovered many dinosaur fossils off Brazil's north eastern coast, although Muniz didn't participate in this find. One of the motives the scientists called the found crocodile “warrior” is because it survived the phenomenon which caused the extinction of the dinosaur. The second reason was: being a relatively small animal with a length of some 3 meters, it was a dominant predator.
Guarinisuchus appears to be closely related to marine crocodylomorphs found in Africa, which supports the hypothesis that the group originated in Africa and migrated to South America before spreading into the waters off the North American coast.

The find includes a skull, jaw bone and vertebrae, making it one of the most complete examples of marine crocodylomorphs collected so far in South America, according to Alexander Kellner of the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Scientists have discovered a wealth of crocodile ancestors around Brazil in recent years. In January, they announced the discovery of an 80 million-year-old land-bound reptile described as a possible link between prehistoric and modern-day crocodiles.
Two years ago, palaeontologists from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro announced the discovery of a 70-million-year-old crocodile fossil that they called Uberabasuchus Terrificus, or "Terrible Crocodile of Uberaba."

Photo captions from top to bottom:
01 - An artist impression of the life of the Guarinisuchus munizi, which lived near the coast of Northeast Brazil some 62 million years ago.
02 - The fossils were discovered in Mina Poty, north of Recife, in limestone deposits from the geological period between Cretaceous and Palaeogene (photo: A. Kellner)
03 - The top shows the skull of the Guarinisuchus munizi as found in Pernambuco, with the front part thin and long, characteristic for the Dyrosauridae. The bottom shows a reconstruction of the skull and the jaw.
04 - The map shows the possible dispersion of the Dyrosauridae, according to research results. These reptiles, original from Africa, have got to South America first and, soon afterwards to the north of the American continent. (Reproduction: Proceedings of the Royal Society B)
05 - The initial step of the reconstruction of the Guarinisuchus munizi. The replica of the new specie is displayed in the Museu Nacional/UFRJ in Rio de Janeiro (photo: João C. Ferreira).

Read more in the column of Alexander Kellner, scientist of the Museu Nacional/UFRJ in RJ.


Saturday, 29 March 2008

A Floating Shell - A Cosy and Effective Design

Brazil is not only carnival. It has a highly developed group of furniture manufacturers and as a consequence creative designers.
However this design is not in production yet, not yet anyway. It is the result of a Graduation Project of Letícia Barros, a student at the Universidade Estadual de Minas Gerais in Brazil.

Cleverly Letícia allies the versatility of plastic with the special features of the fibre of the piaçava. The piçava or piaçaba, officially known as the Attalea funifera Martius, is a palm tree, a native specie in the south of Bahia/Brazil. The popular name piaçava is of origin Tupi (an Indian language) and translates as a "fibrous plant". The Indians knew how to use the fibres and made many a household utensil from it. The first European colonists used the fibres to assemble ropes to secure their vessels. The ropes made from piaçava were seen as more reliable than the ones they had from Europe.
Producer of long fibres, resistant, rigid, smooth, with an impervious texture and high flexibility, the palm tree grows well in poor soil, just needing a hot and humid climate.

The construction of the chair is made from piaçava, while the seat itself is from plastic. The interaction between the plastic and the natural fibres of the piaçava creates a mixture of modern and rustic design, perfectly fitting in almost any interior. A cosy seat to relax.
The chair has a special feature as it is floating in water. Floating while reading a book or just burning in the sun. Don’t worry the fibre is waterproof.

Source: designdemoveis

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Picture Brazilian Exuberance – A Land of Contrasts

In a special supplement of 20 pages published on 14 March 2008 the British daily The Guardian draws up a balance of Brazil and Rory Carroll the writer of the article “Land of Contrasts” comes to the, as he calls it, “striking conclusion”, that “Brazil, best known for soccer, samba and sensuality, has become a serious economic player.”
Well, let’s start first of all to say, that in Brazil The Guardian is not seen as an estimable journal in regard to reporting about Brazil. So no one was surprised to see the political commentators and columnists rolling one over the other to make this article and his writer laughing stock. And I must say they have a point. Let’s have a look at some of the paragraphs of the article which I combine with the comments of Thomas Traumann, one of the most respected political bloggers in Brazil.

Let’s go back to Rory Carroll’s article in which his first paragraphs already are leading to his “striking conclusion”.
- quote -
Picture Brazilian exuberance and odds and you are not thinking economics. This, after all, is the land of carnival.
But picture this: a country where investment inflows are running at record levels, where exports of everything from soy to biofuels are surging and where the incomes of rich and poor alike are rising and driving a consumer boom.
Not quite as attention-grabbing as a beauty queen wearing just a smile and a feather, granted, but it adds up to a striking conclusion. Brazil, best known for soccer, samba and sensuality, has become a serious economic player.
- unquote – (italics by me, as the original text said: “are”, I corrected it into “and”)

It looks like as if Rory Carroll, The Guardian's Latin America correspondent, before he reported to the The Guardian arrived in Brazil for the first time in his life after just having given credentials to all the funny stories about Brazil which are obviously the only ones printed by the Western press. He is the typical prime example of the Western journalist trying to become popular with dulled stereo-types. Thomas Traumann has to say this about the first paragraphs:
The article begins with the typical “gringo” (bloody foreigner) surprise: The country “best known for soccer, samba and sensuality,” has turned into an economic potency. A fact the British Financial Times and The Economist concluded already more than a year ago. And Rory Carroll continues with another cliché when he reports: “As well as footballers and samba it is exporting cars and planes, notably the executive jets and passenger liners of Embraer.”

After some paragraphs of senseless gossip the article, as could be expected, hits the low life of so many Brazilians:
- quote –
Hike up into the favelas, the notoriously lawless hillside slums, and ........ Rory continues
Gang warfare and police brutality remain embedded here, as does extreme inequality. Some shantytowns, with their legions of street children and shacks of wood and plastic, could pass for the more impoverished parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Except that overhead there are helicopters ferrying the super-rich to shopping appointments with Gucci and Jimmy Choo.
- unquote –
With a little more journalistic digging The Guardian could have known that the shopping centre Daslu, which is the one Rory Carroll refers to, is close to bankruptcy, as Thomas Traumann writes in his column. And Rory Carroll is obviously not aware of the fact that the economy in the favelas is growing at a rhythm only seen in China and India and certainly he did not execute a little bit of research regarding the implementation of the PAC (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento - A program to accelerate the economic grow) in Rio’s favelas, representing a R$ 1 billion (Euro 400 million) federal investment. The program has infra-structure investments planned in the three largest favelas. The works include broadening and paving the streets, recuperating and installing sanitation installations, building homes, schools, health care stations, and recreation areas. And it is not a farce; the works are in progress at this moment.

Another quote:
In the same vein some western diplomats credit Lula with raising Brazil's prestige but not its influence, partly because he lets Venezuela's Hugo Chavez shout as regional spokesman. A permanent seat on the UN security council is still a dream.
- unquote -
It is true that one of the wishes of Lula is to have seat on the UN Security Council, but not at any price, as he has been pointing out to Condoleeza Rice visiting him a few days ago. Lula is adamant, doesn’t like to pronounce himself as the Latin America leader. His is, and all other Latin American heads of state recognise him as such. But Lula knows that being the head of state of the most powerful nation of Latin America, and not only economically, an outspoken leadership of Brazil might cause turbulence with the neighbours. In the recent conflict between Ecuador and Columbia, it was after all the Brazilian Secretary of State Celso Amorim who brought parties together. Never in the past has a Brazilian president been travelling around so frequently as Lula. But he refuses to implement the Western political attitudes, which require condemnation of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Lula prefers the silent diplomacy, the leadership appointed by nature, the pragmatic way of confronting problems, the Latin American way, diplomacy with a smile, which the West is not ready to accept or to understand, which sees Brazil still as Charles de Gaulle typified it years ago: “This is not a serious country”.

Rory Carroll’s report for The Guardian is a collection of “gringo” clichés, statements and “old news”, never updated and never infused by local feeling. He might be The Guardian Latin America correspondent but he was never close to the Brazilian daily life.
Although published on March 14, 2008 it seems to have be written quite some time ago, as it states “Lula was enthusiastically voted back into power last year,...” , while the elections were in 2006 and not in 2007.

One statement, Rory Carroll makes at the end of his article, is true, although dulled:
“It used to be said that Brazil was a country with a great future condemned to its eternal contemplation. That future has not arrived, not quite yet, but it is closer now than it has been in generations.”

When you want to read the full article, click: “Land of Contrasts”

When you want to read the daily political blog (in Portuguese) of Thomas Traumann, click here

Sunday, 23 March 2008

200 years ago the Portuguese Royal Court arrived in Rio de Janeiro

The presidents of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and of Portugal, Aníbal Cavaco Silva took part in the commemorative ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on the occasion of the arrival of the Portuguese Royal Family in Brazil 200 years ago in March 1808.

Napoleon, reigning over France invaded Portugal, obliging the Royal Family and its Court to fly the country. The only colony which could absorb and protect them was Brazil. March 1808 the heir-apparent and regent Dom João and with him some 15.000 members of or, in one way or an other, related to the Court stepped ashore in Rio de Janeiro, after having made a first stop in Salvador de Bahia, leaving in the direction of Rio on 26 of Febr. 1808.
When the inhabitants of Rio were startled with the information that the Royal squadron has been spotted, they started to fill the quays and nearby streets and indeed the following day the ships could be seen near the Pão de Açucar (Sugar Bread).
With the whisper that the following day (March 8, 1808) the Royal Family would disembark the streets were filling with music and dancing people and nobody was considering going to bed. Nine days of festivities began with the arrival of prince-royal and regent Dom João and his mother Queen Dona Maria I.

Completely different and in all stealthiness after 80 years of ruling the Royal Family and its Court was shipped out of Brazil back to Portugal, when a military coup put an end to the Empire of Dom Pedro II and started the beginning of, what was then called: the Republic of the United States of Brazil. But about the transformation into a Republic another time.

The large group of courtiers had an impressive impact on the daily life of Rio de Janeiro, where before their arrival the streets had been occupied by the colonists, their descendants (mostly Coloureds), their slaves and the natives. After Napoleon was defeated and expelled from France the diplomatic ties with France were restored, resulting in a Royal invitation to a group of French artists. Under the name “French Artist Mission” they arrived in Brazil in 1816. The painter Jean Baptiste Debret was part of that group, having been the official painter of the milestones in Napoleon’s life, he was appointed to decorate the event of the crowning of Don João to Emperor Dom Pedro I.
But more importantly Debret is recognised as the most trustworthy chronicler and painter of the period of the Brazilian Empire recording daily life factually. It is not surprising that on the occasion of the commemoration of the arrival of the Royal Family 200 years ago, an exposition in the Casa França-Brasil in Rio de Janeiro has been organised.
The exposition contains 511 of Debret’s paintings, being 306 aquarelles and 151 litho graphics from his famous book: "Viagem pitoresca e histórica ao Brasil", published in 1834.
To give an impression of the daily life in Rio during the reign of Dom Pedro I, I illustrate this post with some reproductions of the paintings which are at display in the mentioned exposition.

More images on the website of O Globo

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Absurd? – Mugging pays off handily

The population of Great Belém left only in its misery by the government and a lack of action, interest and honesty by the police in the street, does not have another choice than ask the assailants to cooperate. After innumerous hold ups the owner of this small neighbourhood shop nailed the following text to the wall outside his shop:

It reads:
I beg you, after you have robbed me once again, to offer the stolen goods solely to me.
Buying the goods anew in the legal market is expensive and I know you are selling cheap.
I promise absolute secrecy as I don’t want to be arrested for fencing.
I ask your sympathy. You can check in here.
P.S. Please don’t steal this poster

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Columbus as scapegoat

History tells us that the conquerors of the New World carried many a contagious disease unknown to the native Indians killing millions of them. It was not only the cruel murder, slavery but the “white colonist’s” diseases as well that brought the native populace at the brink of extinction. Recent history tells us that the natives hit back as well.

Artist-impression of Columbus taking possession of the New World
chrome-litho by the Prang Education Company in 1893

A new released study determines that Columbus brought the disease syphilis back to Europe. With the study a centuries old discussion about the origins of the disease is re-opened. The researchers concluded, that an analysis of the syphilis family tree shows the closest relative being a tropical infection, which causes red skin eruptions due to a sub-specie of the same bacteria.

The study acknowledges as plausible the “Columbus-theory”, which connects the very first registered European syphilis epidemic in 1495 to the return of Columbus and his crew. Kristen Harper, an evolution biologist of the Emory University in Atlanta/USA and whose team did the research, declares: “What we found is that syphilis or a predecessor thereof went from the New World to the Old World and with that fairly recent in history. When you combine the genetic details with the ones of the epidemic in Naples of 1495, you see a reasonable strong support for the Columbus-hypothesis.”

When you start thinking of all native Indians of Latin America running around with syphilis, you are totally wrong, there is prove that the natives were immune for the bacteria contrary to the “white men" of the Old World”.

Friday, 14 March 2008

The Presidential Elections

In the USA an outburst of emotions is going on with a (mainly feminist) part of the populace thinking it about to be time the first female president of the USA enters the White House, whereby obviously qualifications are of minor importance as long as the next president is a woman, while at the other side roughly 50% of the voters are getting fed up with the idea of Hillary Clinton as candidate for president and they are unable to disguise their hatred and abhorrence of the possibility of a (in their opinion) corrupt, power-hungry, merciless and qualitative disastrous Hillary Clinton as first female president of the USA. In front of that in all quietness Brazil is preparing for its presidential elections in 2010, with the odds very high that there will not only be a female presidential candidate, but probably also will she be elected as the first female president of Brazil. A candidate who not only is worthy to hold the office, but with more than sufficient qualifications to make it a success.

Lula is setting his sight on Dilma Rousseff
March 7, visiting Rio de Janeiro President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced the start of the full-scale improvement works in several favelas (shanty towns) of Rio de Janeiro, which works are a part of the PAC (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento – A program to accelerate the economic grow).

Valdo Cruz, a reporter for the daily Folha de São Paulo states that, although Lula denies, the implementation of the full-scale scheme serves electoral means. Not even Valdo Cruz belittles the crucial importance of the works to be executed, but reminds us that never before the federal government have been projecting works of this size and with this impact.

“To say, that this program has nothing to do with the upcoming elections is not correct. It is evident, that if the program is successfully executed, this will be beneficial to the position of the government in the elections.”
According to the columnist, Lula spoke about Dilma Rousseff (Casa Civil) as the “Mother of the PAC” and exactly this, still according to Valdo Cruz, proves that Rousseff is the candidate for succession. Asked about a possible PT-candidacy for the Presidency of the Republic, Dilma answered that she only is the coordinator of the PAC.

But who is Dilma Rousseff?
Dilma Vana Rousseff Linhares, born 14 Dec 1947 in Belo Horizonte, is economist and politician, allied to the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Labour Party), and actually minister of the Casa Civil (Casa Civil is more and less the Ministry for Internal Affairs, you could say the Home Office, but the minister is also the First Minister, as it is called here: super-minister, second only to the president as in Brazil the president is the top-executive). She studied at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, graduated in theoretical economy and with Unicamp she got her doctorate in monetary and financial economy.
In the 1960’s, during the military dictatorship, she was a member of leftist clandestine organisations and took part in armed actions. From 1970 to 1973 she was a prisoner and was tortured. In 2003 Dilma became Minister of Mining and Energy and since 21 June 2005 she is the Minister of the Casa Civil.
As minister of Mining and Energy she gained a lot of praise after implementing a new energy model. Her model basically concentrated on two goals: decreasing the energy bills for the consumer and securing the expansion of the energy system, to avoid a new energy crisis as seen in 2001.
The execution of the new model is seen as a classic example of her way the minister is functioning. According to professional outsiders Dilma has the quality to listen and to stimulate ideas, keeping the right of decision making to herself.
The recognition of her technical competence does not protect her from clinching with members of parliament, as she consistently refuses to appoint their (traditionally useless) friends in lucrative positions. Representatives as well as party leaders for the PT are irritated with the controlling influence Dilma and her fellow minister Tarso Genro (Justice) have on Lula.

Running off to the presidential elections
It is obvious that Lula is investigating the eligibility of Dilma as his successor in 2010. For Lula it is a thorn in his flesh that no viable and eligible candidate has arisen in a natural way from the party circles and it is unacceptable for him that the presidency might go to the opposition. Although Dilma denies to be seen as a candidate for president, her recent metamorphose is impressive. Generally very reserved and distant, she suddenly starts to be seen at parties, travelling with Lula and meeting the press frequently. She takes part in photo sessions and spends the best part of her time in political meetings.

The public appearance of the minister is the first strategic move of Lula in his battle against a paradox. After all Lula himself enjoys high popularity rates and commands a government which, in spite of numerous scandals, is well rated by the populace, but is lacking a “natural” successor. Without exception all opinion polls point to the candidates of the opposition as being the favourites (Brazil has a multi party system). The president expects, that his popularity if it remains that way till the elections in 2010, will guaranty the second round for any by him appointed or endorsed candidate.
In the most recent polls the name of Dilma Rousseff was included in the list of possible candidates. Dilma received 5,4% of the vote intention, in contrast with José Serra, the candidate for the opposition party PSDB (Serra was Lula’s opponent in the elections of 2002 and 2006 and belongs to the party of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso). Lula however is convinced that he can catapult the results.

Just yet Dilma holds back. She thinks she is not sufficiently experienced, is not known well enough by the populace and feels she has not the talent to become a political leader. To improve her obscurity Lula decided that Dilma will accompany him on all his travels. Counter attacking the resistance of the party leaders, who refuse to see a legitimate candidate in Dilma, Lula stipulates that between all possible candidates for the PT, Dilma will be the most likely in the elections. And finally, he argues it is the global movement in politics where more and more female leaders step into the front.
That lefts Lula with the largest problem: How to make Dilma smile. Obscurity is something you can overcome by arranging to get visible, that’s easy. A smiling Dilma is a different cookie, as she has to do it herself, nobody can do it for her.
In the most optimistic projections, market researchers and politician agree that any presidential candidate endorsed by Lula will obtain some 25% to 30% of the popular vote, enough to continue the battle in the second round. But that’s not all. “Only Lula's support will not win the elections. The candidate not only needs a good curriculum but needs impressive political self-confidence to get elected.” says Ricardo Guedes, director of market researcher Sensus.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Polemic promotion campaign against drugs

A controversial campaign against drug use and abuse of alcohol in the corridors and recreation areas of the Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo implemented immediately at the beginning of the new school year raised many a reaction from the students. From morbid, gross till good and gives you stuff to think and discuss about.
Beneath other publication objects, most of the attention is concentrated on the waste bins which are decorated with faces of youngsters, while a card at the top of the bin states: “This is what is inside the head of somebody using drugs.” and “This is how it looks inside the head of a drug user.”

The design of the campaign is from the hand of Publicis, a company which takes care of all the public relations activities of the university. According to the vice-president of the bureau, Guilherme Jahara, it was intentional to be controversial. “As drugs have a strong impact, the propaganda about this issue should have a similar impact. I used this argument to sell the campaign.”

By the way the photographed faces are not students, but professional models hired by the promotion bureau. Publicis has plans to implement more of these attention requiring controversial objects on the university grounds.

International Women's Day

- Americans are going to vote for a man, named Hillary -

An extract of an interview by Dolores Orosco of the Brazilian daily O Globo with Prof. Dr. Maria Elisa Cevasco

"Feminism is defeated". This acknowledgement, made at a moment that 40 years earlier the feminists emblematically burned their brassieres, is from Prof. Dr. Maria Elisa Cevasco, 56 years old, doctor in literature and professor of the faculty of Cultural Studies at the University of São Paulo. She experienced the turbulence of the feministic movement and it is with deception that she reaches to this conclusion.

"Only in another world with outspoken human values and not commanded by marketing is feminism feasible". In her opinion the women of the Movimento Sem Terra (The Movement of Landless People) are much more a symbol of feminism then the singer Madonna. "The celebrities have their faces full of botox. It is a farce. All the time the same and still presenting oneself as renewed."

Is feminism a utopia? Certainly the movement has accomplished something, but many a chance is left aside. Unfortunately many opportunities have been lost in these four decades.
The world has not been changed. And exactly that was possible in the sixties... In that period there was a central shock, two different lines of thinking. And the winner changed the world in a place where consumerism was much more important, creating a society of spectacles where people got more and more dumb. It is useless to be a feminist in such a society.

What about Hillary Clinton? She has a chance to become the most powerful woman in the world.....
But Hillary Clinton is not a representative of the women coming to power. What is a woman grasping power but acts as a man? Her speeches are overloaded with the idea "I can do what the men in politics do also". So what is the difference? It should be much better if she, in an abundantly clear male world as politics is, presents something new, humanizing politics.
"The Americans are going to vote for a man, named Hillary"

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Wonderful Easter bunnies in Canela

This year Easter is the 23th of March and Canela is preparing for the flux of tourists visiting the small town to enjoy the typical decorations of the season. Last year Canela saw 120.000 visitors during the Easter season and this year some 200.000 are expected.
Canela, a small town with roughly 40.000 inhabitants, is situated in the federal state of Rio Grande do Sul in the south of Brazil. Canela is called after the Caneleira, a cinnamon tree not producing cinnamon. The first colonial occupant of the region was Gabriel de Souza, who in 1860 was honoured by the Emperor of Brazil with the title: “Lord of Campo de Canela”.
The people of Canela consist of the families of the farmers and ranchers of the Cima de Serra, German and Italian immigrants and their descendents.
But it is Easter time and that’s why I write about Canela. From the 1st of March two kilometres of the town’s main streets are decorated with life-sized, some till 1,70 m high, Easter rabbits, created by the local artists.
The some 200 rabbits are bicycling, painting Easter eggs and even learn maths in school. Beneath the sympathetic rabbits, the street decoration is complemented with flower arrangements and Easter eggs in many colours. This year the town arranged a novelty introducing other animals on the scene. Dozens of colourful chickens, clothed in traditional outfits of human professions, “help” to sell Easter eggs.
To complete this artful transformation of the street scenery Canela offers a cultural program culminating in the performance of the “Paixão do Cristo” (Passion of Christ), one of the most beautiful religious shows in Rio Grande do Sul.
The 40 minutes interpretation of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life will be arranged with a cast of 50 actors, performing in a special constructed setting of 17 m in length and 4 floors high.
Easter automatically associates with chocolate. As Canela is famous for its chocolate products visitors of the town can roam the special chocolate market where dozens of local industries are presenting their chocolate delicacies.
But let’s stay in the religious sphere for a while more and let’s make a walk from the Caracol Park to the Ferradura Park. The occupants along this 7 km route made their own special and personal choice of a Roman Catholic saint and constructed a little chapel for the personal choice in front of their house. At this moment there are some 52 chapels along the seven km route all honouring a different saint.
After having consumed all this spiritual baggage and with the town’s strong German heritage the tourist cannot leave town without enjoying a piece of original “Äpfelstrudel”.
There is more on my website.

Cellulite – Brazilian Coffee is the answer

With the winter season in the northern hemisphere changing to springtime, women might have a look at their sisters in the southern hemisphere where the summer comes slowly to an end. With the sunshine in front of us the female occupant of this globe starts to dream about light summer clothing and beach parties to be enjoyed in bikinis. Typically for this period of the year and insurmountably women start to visualize their beautifully shaped legs and bums without the hated cellulites. I read somewhere: “Open just about any women's magazine and you'll find ads for anti-cellulite creams that promise to reduce the spongy, dimply, cottage cheese-looking skin that causes distress to so many women.”

Massage-therapeutics in Brazil developed new technologies in the battle against cellulites. They use coffee to eliminate the accumulated fat. I take it for granted that I haven’t to explain the word cellulites, but nevertheless for the male readers who have to suppress their disgust seeing female beauty endangered by cellulites, here is the definition: Cellulite is a disruption of the subcutaneous tissue, characterized by vertical spaces, in which fat is stored used for energy. Cellulite occurs when the connective tissue between the fat-spaces en the skin becomes thinner.

The Brazilian anti-cellulites massage is executed with great force in the areas where the fat molecules are concentrated, after the massage the areas will be rubbed with a product based on Brazilian coffee. Beneath the fact that the fat concentrations are broken down the coffee extract is able to penetrate deeply in the skin which stimulates the disliked and undesired dimples to go away. The caffeine activates the micro circulation of the skin, performing as a fortifier and bodily hydration.
“The massage performed with coffee gives a very efficacy result, as not only the accumulated fat will be eliminated, but it will hydrate the skin as well.” says Mariana Alves Corrêa, owner of the Otris Spa Urbano in Rio de Janeiro. For R$ 140 (USD 80 or € 55)) will she rub coffee on your body for 60 minutes. Evidently, the image which goes with this post, is the result of Mariana Alves coffee-massage.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

The “red rascals” of Latin America

As Europe is moving to the right and the USA have had an atrocious conservative government over the last 7 years, Latin America after years of conservative and military regimes is moving in the opposite, between left wing democracies and leftist totalitarian regimes.

After the disorderly, but still not accomplished farewell of the socialist and communist regimes in Europe at the end of the 20th century, we see a rebirth of leftists with an identical philosophy but a more professional agenda concentrating upon the salvation of the society and an honest distribution of wealth. The phenomenon of populism: “the saviours of the nation” have risen, but they don’t show the typical features of the left wing regimes, crumbled in Europe and China, but instead are giving hope to the Latin American.
In the US an even moderate socialist is often referred to as a communist. In Europe with its century long labour movements even the most leftist socialist is not seen as a rascal. In general, with a few exceptions, even the extreme socialist in Latin American is equal to a moderate democrat in the US and a left wing centrist in Europe.

Let’s, before we evaluate the “red rascals” of Latin America and the policies they stand for, have a close look at them. Here they come: Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Argentina.

Chile - Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria (29 Sept, 1951) is a central-left politician and the first female president of Chile. With 53,5% of the popular vote she defeated her contender the central-right billionaire Sebastián Piñera. She is a surgeon and, being the daughter of an, by Pinochet murdered air force general, who in the Allende-administration was responsible for food distribution, studied military strategy. She is a polyglot, speaking Spanish, English, French, German and Portuguese. A moderate socialist. Her administration consists of 10 males and 10 females.

Brazil - Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (27 Oct 1945) has been elected in 2002 with 61% of the popular vote in the second round. Regarding his roots his policy should have been leftist even touching communistic behaviour. Elected as the most left winged Brazilian president since João Goulart, his policy, however, is soft social-democratic. Lula received little or no education. He left school as a four-grader and started his professional life as shoeshine boy and street vendor. When he was 14 years old he entered his first official job in the copper industry. Finally Lula went back to school and graduated college. For years he was one of the most militant labour union leaders.

Venezuela - Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (28 July 954) is president since 1999. Known for his socialistic policy, his opposition to neo-liberalism and his hostility to president George W. Bush of the USA. The changes he implemented in his country are called the Bolívarian Revolution. He was educated at the military academy and graduated in applied military sciences. He finished his studies at the Simón Bolívar University. In 1998 with 56% of the popular vote he was elected president. Never before had so many people cast their vote. Chávez is very popular and how he yet lost his last referendum is another and different story. He is number five on a list of the most sexy men of Venezuela.

Paraguay - Óscar Nicanor Duarte Frutos (11 Oct 1956) is president since 2003, the first non-catholic president. Son of a police officer and a seamstress, he is since his 14th member of the same political party as his father, the Asociación Nacional Republicana (Partido Colorado), the most important and powerful in the country. Duarte Frutos is a lawyer, philosopher, journalist and professor in sociology. He studied at the Universidad Nacional de Asunción and at Universidad Católica de Asunción. Minister of Education from 1993 to 2003. Although he is member of a conservative political party, he adheres a left wing policy, in stark contrast to his predecessors.

Bolivia - Juan Evo Morales Ayma (26 Oct. 1959) is a Bolivian peasant leader, politician and since 2006 president of Bolivia, one of the poorest countries of Latin America. Morales is the leader of the progressive Bolivian “cocalero”-movement, a loose federation of coca planters scraping a living off a small plot of land in the province Chapare in south-east Bolivia. He is also a leader of the political party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS). He is the first native president in the Bolivian history.
Morales was lamaherd, musician and worked as coca planter, became labour activist and was with 70% of the votes elected in congress in 1997. Evo Morales is famous for the simple clothes he is always wearing.

Ecuador - Rafael Correa (6 April 1963) is a politician of left signature. Jan. 15, 2007 he was sworn in as the new president after defeating his contender, the banana billionaire Álvaro Noboa.
Correa studied economy at the University of Guayaquil (Ecuador), the Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium) and the University of Illinois (USA). In April 2005 he became minister of finance and economy in the government of Alfredo Palacio but left office after 4 months realising he could not implement his economic plans. Correa’s economic reforms centre on the combat on poverty and the promotion of more national economic independence.

Uruguay - Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas (17 Jan 1940) is a Uruguayan politician and president since 2005. He is the first socialistic president of Uruguay and is member of the Frente Amplio (Wide Left Front), the most important leftist coalition of the country. He won the elections with 50,45% of the popular votes in the first round.
Born in the neighbourhood of the capital Montevideo Vásquez studied medicines at the Universidad de la República. He specialised in oncology.

Argentina - Cristina Elisabet Fernández Wilhelm de Kirchner (19 Febr.1953). She won the presidential elections with 45,29% of the popular votes and with a 22% margin on her rival, securing the nomination without the need for a second round. Cristina Fernández studied law at the National University of La Plata. She is, as is her husband the former Argentinean president, member of the peronistic political party Partido Justicialista (the largest within the peronistic movement). She started as member of the Young Peronistas, whose left radicalism was suppressed vigorously by the military junta. Before elected to president she was a senator for the province of Buenos Aires. Cristina promoted strongly the woman rights and the persecution of persons who misbehaved during the military junta from 1976 till 1983.

All presidents oppose fiercely any interference of the USA in domestic affairs, which all countries in one way or another, have faced in the past, as the USA always have been regarding Latin America as their backyard. They regard the US proposals for a free trade zone with scepticism and criticise the meddlesomeness of the Worldbank and the IMF. The most moderate is Verónica Bachelet of Chile and the fiercest is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Please note, the high percentages with which they won the elections and almost always in the first round. Note also the qualifications of the opponents.

In spite of all these democratically elected left wing presidents the conservative movement and power have not been eliminated. Let’s listen to Manoel Horacio Franscisco da Silva - President of Banco Fator – in his opinion populist governments tend to perpetrate seven social sins: policy without principles, wealth without work, well-being without conscience, education without character, business without ethics, science without humanity and religion without sacrifice.
As you see the conservatives have a lot to learn.

What ever the case, never forget that the progress started by these left wing governments is in no way synonym for red rascals, communists, socialists, terrorists, or what ever name the conservative right wing likes to call them. Never forget that a Latin American leftist government never even approaches the basics of the original and faded governments of Eastern Europe. They are not more to the left (sometimes even more moderate) than the conventional central-left political parties in Europe, Labour in the UK and the Democrats or Independents in the US. They are certainly not red rascals and certainly not a danger to the western economic powers.

It is obvious that the Latin American people are following the progress in the American elections with great interest. The future of the inter-American relations will be defined by how the changes in Cuba will be handled by the new US president.