Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Brazilian Beauty Beats France’s First-Lady

When in April this year, the photo collection of Gert Elfering was auctioned by Christie’s in New York, it was only the picture of France’s first-lady Carla Bruni, which picked up the attention of the world press. Although the polemic nude photograph made by Michel Comte in 1993, and before the auction estimated at USD 4.000, did USD 91.000, it was not the highest priced one.
In the auction of the 135 photographs of the German collector Gert Elfering the nude of Carla Bruni “lost” from the nudes of Gisele Bündchen and Kate Moss both photographed by Irving Penn. The nude picture of Gisele (estimated before the auction at USD 60.000) went for USD 193.000 and the Kate Moss’ nude reached USD 97.000.

The results of the auction proved that Brazilian beauty is always highly valued by large margins. For the uneducated who do not know Gisele Bündchen, the following: With 27 years she is the world’s most famous Brazilian model, arguably the No. 1 in fashion shows and arguably the best paid one, as she made 33 million USD between June 2005 and July 2006, while her wealth is estimated at 150 million USD.

Among the other pieces auctioned were photographs of Brigitte Bardot, Lauren Hutton, Pablo Picasso and four psychedelic pictures of the Beatles........ continue reading and view the photographs

Plagiarism in Optima Forma - "Bikini Peaking Jeans"

Although the last years many a high technological and breathtaking innovation originates from Japan, for years on end they have been infamous for their copying and apparently they still do so.

The British press divulged a (what they called) novelty in the world of fashion: the jeans of Sanna’s Brazil Fashion. The creation, which mixes the low designed jeans with the vision of a part of a bikini underneath is from a brand unknown in Brazil, although it is promoted as Brazilian Fashion. Navigating the internet you will discover that it is a Japanese brand.
Reportedly the jeans are developed in Japan, and according to the labels manufactured in Brazil. To uphold the Brazilian image, they are sold in the Brazilian sizes, which are different to the standards used in Europe and the US.

But apparently the British are not well-known with the Brazilian Fashion, being famous for its sexy designs, such as the dental floss bikini (fio dental) and many other designs, as the Brazilian women are not afraid or ashamed to show their bodies or at least a part there of.

So, Sanna’s Brazil Fashion jeans are no novelty at all, as the Brazilian jeans brand Zoomp introduced the "bikini peaking jeans" already in their Summer Collection of 2006.
Judge for yourself. The first picture is from Zoomp, the other ones appear at the website of Sansa.
Plagiarism in optima forma.


Monday, 21 April 2008

Latin America moves a bit more to the left

After 61 years of centre-right hegemony of the Partido Colorado, of which the most infamous exponent was the dictator Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989) and the last Óscar Nicanor Duarte Frutos who during his 5 year mandate executed a reasonable social-economic policy, we see (as I some time ago wrote in my post “The red rascals of Latin America”), now a clear move to the left after the conquest of the presidential elections in Paraguay last Sunday by Fernando Lugo, an ex-bishop and advocate of the liberation theology.
With more than 80% of the 2,8 million votes counted, of which 40,17% in his favour and leading his closest opponent, Bianca Ovelar, an ex-minister of education, with almost 10% Lugo claimed the victory.

The today 56 year old Lugo became a Roman Catholic priest in 1977 and was during 5 years a missionary in Ecuador, where he came in contact with the liberation theology. As bishop in Paraguay he supported the impoverished small farmers in their struggle against the large landowners.
According to the New York Times it is however a debatable question whether Lugo can be president. The constitution of Paraguay prohibits ecclesiastical officers to fulfil politic functions. After Fernando Lugo voluntarily resigned and proclaimed his political ambitions Christmas 2006, Rome officially refused to accept his resignation. The NYT reports that the Vatican never has honoured the resignation, but other sources consider this proposition a non-issue, as Lugo himself has abandoned the priesthood, but still it might lead to some constitutional lawsuit.

Having been candidate for the “Aliança Patriótica para a Mudança” (Patriotic Alliance for Change), Lugo has the support of social movements, centre and left wing political parties and the Partido Liberal Radical Autêntico (PLRA), the right wing radical liberal party.
This alliance is a bit strange, as the Partido Liberal, the second largest party in the country, is typical right wing conservative and always has been in the opposition, at the other hand the other parties are left wing socialistic and are heavenly supported by small farmer movements. This might arise some problems when Lugo starts to shape his government.
But the ex-bishop must have an extensive experience beating up against the wind regarding his proclaimed liberation theology and at the same time being a priest of the ultra right orthodox and very conservative Roman Catholic Church, which always choose the wealthy side of society in particular in countries as Paraguay. The Church still paints the liberation theology as a Marxist movement

When he announced his candidacy for the presidency his rivals put him in one line with the leftist leaders that emerged in Latin America over the last few years. They did not compare him with moderate social-democrats as Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Lula of Brazil, but with Hugo Chavez or Rafael Correa, the leftist president of Ecuador and now Lugo is definitively the last one in the line of acting leftist oriented presidents in Latin America, where Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay leaded the way.

The new president faces an almost impossible task to solve the large variety of problems within a mandate of 5 years (the constitution does not allow re-election). First of all, there is the corruption. Since the dictatorial reign of General Alfredo Stroessner, Paraguay has been transformed into one of the most corrupt countries of Latin America. As a consequence more than 33% of the populace lives below the poverty level. He has to honour his promises to the poor small farmers to regulate a more honest division of the available land, which certainly will face heavy opposition of the large landowners. And on top of all that, he will not have any money available to execute his plans, as the budget is tied up and all important and less important public offices are controlled by Partido Colorado supporters.
Putting it as priority number one during his election period Lugo has to find a solution for the dispute with his neighbour Brazil, regarding the power plant of Itaipu. Lugo wants to renegotiate the price Brazil is paying for the energy supplied by this bi-national power plant. The hydro-electrical power plant in Itaipu is located at the border of the two countries and belongs to neither of them. Both countries could claim 50% of the generated energy, but Brazil consumes 90% as Paraguay does not need more than 10%. Lugo argues that Brazil is paying too low a price for the energy, which belongs to the Paraguayan part, but is purchased by Brazil. If there will be no new agreement and the energy supply will be interrupted a large part of the industrial park of São Paulo (responsible for 35% of Brazilian’s GNP) will come to a stand still.

That the issue is of high priority might be concluded from the fact that shortly after the ballot boxes closed and the first polls indicated a victory for Lugo, the daily ABC Color, the most important paper in the country, came with an article stating that the first priority of the new government should be the renegotiation of the Itaipu-contract.

Albeit Lula is ideologically close to Lugo, the two have steered clear one from the other for a long time, but the coming days should intensify the contact, in spite of Lula’s public statement that it is unthinkable to renegotiate Itaipu. A second Paraguayan-Brazilian war is of course out of the question and what is Brazilian natural leadership of Latin America worth, if it is not willing to help an impoverished neighbour.

photo's: Reuters

Friday, 18 April 2008

"Bush, meu filho, resolve tua crise" - "Bush, my son, solve your crisis”

During an encounter in Recife(PE) between Brazilian and Mexican businessmen, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said, that an economic crisis in the USA and the preservation of the self-esteem of the Brazilian entrepreneurs are the only two matters of his concern in relation to the Brazilian economy.

Lula confirmed that he had called the president of North-America George W. Bush twice to tell him to get hold of the crisis, consequently his colleague, as Lula had learned, had been a bit irritated by the comments the Brazilian president made.
“I called him and said, Bush, my son, the problem is as follows, we have been 26 years without [economic] grow. Now as we start to grow, you disturb it. Solve your crisis.”

He continued to state that Brazil has the knowledge to solve the bank crisis, referring to Proer, a programme created to recuperate the financial institutions which faced bankruptcy in the nineties of the last century. “When they need it, we will send them [USA] this technology.” Lula said.

Lula concluded his speech speaking about the expansion of the Brazilian-Mexico trade with an explanation of the PAC (Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento = Program to Accelerate the Economic Grow), which stimulates the home market and compared the Bolsa Família (program for financial support to the poor) with the miraculous multiplication of bread, one of the miracles attributed to Jesus Christ.
“The multiplication of the breads, of which Christ spoke, is exactly that.” he confirmed.



Saturday, 12 April 2008

Climate Change and Evolution - The Amazônia

During a virtual safari visitors of the Futuroscope in Poitiers (France) can learn about future animals. An exposition shows how the fauna of our planet will be over some million years.

It is not likely that anyone of us will have the pleasure to experience the changes and meet the future animals personally, but it is a good thing to know how our fauna will evolve taking into account our destructive way-of-life.
The exposition is a result of scientific studies and projections with regards to the influence of climate change and future landslides. The sketched environment and the animals are the results of a theory developed by British scientists, who studied the geological movements of the earth, the climate and the capacity of the fauna to adapt itself towards its new habitat.

As I live in the delta of the Amazônia I restrict this overview to the “evolution” of the Amazônia fauna referring to the pictures (from top to bottom), whereas, as far as, known the “ancestor” is situated aside of the “evolved” descendant.

The “Baboukari” is the descendant of the “White Uacari Monkey with the Red Face” (Cacajo calvus), which, according to researchers can only be found in the Amazônia reservation Mamirauá. Little is known about the Uacari, except that it is already close to extinction. In the theory of the future the “baboukari” will not live in trees any longer as there will be no more trees in the Amazônia. The baboukari will use their tail, not for balancing between branches, but to communicate with each other in the high vegetation of the savannah like habitat, which is the future of the Amazônia region.

The “Tortunossauro” evolves from the Giant Tortoise (Podocnemis expansa). In 100 million years this tortoise will be the largest land animal with a height of 7 meters. Largest than the dinosaur, he will weigh some 120 metric tons, 40 times an elephant. Without having to face a predator he will loose the better part of his shell.
The present Amazônia tortoise is a nocturnal animal, living in groups and able to live up to a 100 years. He feeds with plants and fish, is a freshwater animal, located in the Amazônia River and its estuaries. Adults can reach 80 cm in length and 60 cm in width, weighing up to 60 kg.

Although the descendant of this rodent, the capivara (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris), has a more densely covered skin, the "cuirasson" will have a densely covered shell with callous spines, like a porcupine.
The capivara is world’s largest rodent. It adores to bath in the river and may stay there for hours with just its snout above the water surface. A docile herbivore with a length of 1 meter. Its meat is much appreciated by the native inhabitants of the Amazônia and thus consumed lavishly.

This future terrestrial bird seems to have been evolved from the turkey or the ostrich. Thanks to its sturdy legs it will be one of the fastest predators of the Amazônia. It will find his food on the ground and uses its wings just to balance during a run similar as to ostriches.

The “Large Blue Glider” will live on the mountaintops. As it is in the air most of its time the evolution has given it two pairs of wings with 15 meter wingspread. To be protected against the sun, the feathers are metal blue to reflect the sun rays.

It is a pity really that the exposition does not show a projection of the future human being. Probably he already has cooked his goose and belongs as so many animals to the extinct species.

BBC Photogalery
source: IG/BBC Brasil

Eco-friendly Condom From The Amazon

It is unlikely you ever will get a chance to use the “Green Johnny”, a male preservative based on eco-friendly extracted natural latex from the Amazônia rainforest. Maybe when you ever visit Brazil during the carnival or one of the holiday centres you might be offered one of the 120 million condoms courtesy of the federal government of Brazil. Brazil’s Public Health Ministry distributes the free condoms as part of its successful Health Programs to combat STD/Aids.
Up till now the approx. 120 million condoms are imported from China, South Korea and Thailand, made from cultivated rubber trees. That will change soon.

Natex, a Brazilian company founded by the Public Health Ministry and the government of the federal state of Acre, will manufacture male preservatives from pure natural latex extracted from the Amazon rainforest in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. The condoms will be solely sold to the federal government for its national program to combat STD/Aids.
The expected initial production will be 100 million pieces a year. The factory, the only one in the world to use natural latex as raw material, will have a future capacity of 270 million condoms a year. The construction of the factory is based upon sustainable, social and environmental development.
Natex will create 150 direct jobs and employ 700 native families of the Chico Mendes reservation for the supply of the raw material. It is estimated that in the Amazon rainforest of Acre some 70.000 native rubber tappers are active.

source: Flores & Versos

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Operação “Arco de Fogo” - Operation “Arc of Fire”

By the end of March the results of the first month of the Operation “Arc of Fire” started to be visualised. Operation “Arco de Fogo” is a hard police action, initiated by the federal government to combat the illegal deforestation of the Amazônia.

Approximately 35% of all illegal deforestation in the federal state of Pará is feeding the charcoal ovens; the other part is selective log cutting of noble wood species. Illegal charcoal is purchased by legal companies, and exported mainly to China and the USA to be used in the steel production process.
But the demand for charcoal is only one of the factors causing the deforestation. Brazil's Environment Ministry places more of the blame on farmers who clear large areas in the rainforest to create soybean fields and cattle ranches. Officials say that ranching and farming are responsible for up to 80 percent of total deforestation nationwide.

In Aug.2007 Lula and his government celebrated the fact that for the third consecutive year deforestation in the Amazônia had decreased almost to the historical lowest level of 1991 of 11.030 km2 (roughly 25% of a country the size of Holland), while the Environment Minister Marina Silva claimed that the government policy had saved 20.000 birds, 70.000 primates and some 600 million trees from being cut illegally. However in the same month satellites registered 16.592 fires, mainly in the Amazônia area and illegal deforestation had restarted at a large scale.
According to figures supplied by Marina Silva deforestation between August and November 2007 increased with 10%, mainly due to the delayed start of the rainy season, which enabled the loggers to extract the lumber from the forest to almost the end of the year.

A quick response was evidently required and Lula’s decree prohibited any sale of agriculture products, and imposed fines on all trade of meat, soy and other products originating from illegally deforested areas.
Concentrating on 36 municipalities in the Amazônia responsible for more than 50% of all illegal logging Ibama (the federal environment bureau) initiated its activities, with this decree in hand, to effectively combat the deforestation.
The operation was baptized: “Arco de Fogo” (Arc of Fire).

Operation “Arco de Fogo”, which started on the 26th of February and focused on Tailândia, a little town in the south of the state Pará, is run by Ibama with warlike support of some 1.000 military, civil and federal police agents and contingents of the national security forces. The results after its first month of action are staggering: 23 million BRR (9 million euro) in fines. Furthermore 23.300 m3 illegal logs confiscated, while 14 sawmills and 25 charcoal companies were shut down in an area of 4.200 hectares where illegal deforestation was detected.
The action did not restrict to confiscating the illegal lumber or by fining the company owners, but went a step further by dismantling illegal sawmills and razing illegal charcoal ovens to the ground. By the 25th of March, 53 sawmills were inspected, of which 14 shut down and dismantled and 1.175 charcoal ovens completely demolished. Those destroyed ovens alone would have consumed about 23.000 young trees in one month, according to average production rates.
The environmental action groups were delirious.

Given the scope of the operation it is more than likely that the name Tailândia never ever will be connected to environmental crimes, if, at least, the little town will not be wiped out completely.

The journalist Valterlucio Bessa Campelo comes in his article published in Agência Amazônia with a nicely constructed economic analysis, which I recount here. In Brazil there is a lack of reliable demographic figures and therefore Valterlucio interpolates existing figures to come to a mathematical conclusion for Tailândia.
But let’s have a look at the town Tailândia first. Tailândia has 64.000 inhabitants, a Gross National Product (GNP) in 2005 of 266 million BRR (105 million euro), of which the lumber activities represent (2006) some 67,2 million BRR (26,4 million euro) and the agriculture 28,0 million BRR (11 million euro). On the national Human Development Index (HDI) *) Tailândia figures as number 3046. In 2007 the town received 10,6 million BRR (4,156 million euro = 650 euro per capita) for education, health care etc., from the federal tax funds.

As we can see, the economy of Tailândia leans heavily on the exploration of wood products, whose value represents twice the value generated by agriculture activities. According to data from the IBGE*) some 1.400.000 m3 logs are produced annually in this area, representing 25% of the municipal GNP.
In the opinion of the federal government: All of them illegal.

A recent study carried out by the IBGE indicates that for every 1.000 m3 of logged lumber 15 jobs are created. When we transfer this figure to Tailândia we see 21.000 jobs, of which, according to another study, in average 1/3 is direct labour and 2/3 indirect. The calculation for Tailândia ends up with 7.000 direct jobs in the lumber industry.
In the opinion of the federal government: All of them illegal.

An analysis released by the government of Pará shows that 48% of the total populace is employable, of which 92,7% has indeed a job. When we transfer these indices to Tailândia we see that out of the 64.000 inhabitants, 30.720 are employable of which 28.477 have a job.
In other words of all inhabitants older than 10 years, regardless of what type of work, 25% or 7.000 have a job in the lumber industry. If and when this activity in Tailândia is eliminated the unemployment figure rises from 7,3% to 30%.

The above reconstructed figures help to understand the magnitude of the problem which develops when operations as “Arco de Fogo” are extended to other municipalities and federal states. The question is: leads an operation, which only criminalises the deforestation to a sustainable solution of the problem.
Keep in mind, that Tailândia only represents a minuscule fraction of the deforestation in Brazil.

It should be prudent, and particularly for a Lula, telling everybody his government has a socialistic signature, when operations combating the deforestation of the Amazônia go hand in hand with the necessary social actions to remain the local economy at its level. It is a mistake to belief that thousands of labourers in the lumber industry, direct or indirect, illegal or not, will not be stimulated by the instigating words of the lumber barons. The labourer thinks economically. He wants a job, preferably one he knows best. If he defends the interests of the lumber baron, he defends his income. He might not do that, if an alternative is available.

Apparently, after its operation in Tailândia, Ibama came to the same conclusion. According to the director of Ibama in Pará, Aníbal Picanço, social programs are getting in place to minimize the economic impact of the operation, as have been seen in Tailândia, where the local commerce came to a full stop after the sawmills were fined and shut down and the charcoal ovens demolished.
In the meantime it is clear that the national and international press is waiting with oversized expectations to hear from imprisoned lumber barons. While photographs of “definitely” shackled environment criminals no doubt give a double doses of XTC to the public opinion.
But after the over excitement comes the hangover: What are we doing with the 7.000 jobless people in Tailândia.

Caption of the last 5 images: Hundreds of logs of the expensive species maçaranduba, copaíba, ipê and angelim, were buried under a soybean field, close to the PA-150 state road.
Fonte first seven photographs: Paulo Santos/Reuters, Paulo Whitaker/Reuters and Roberto Stuckert/O Globo, last five: Policia Federal.

*) (wiki) HDI or the Human Development Index is the normalized measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, standard of living, and GDP per capita for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare. It is used to determine and indicate whether a country is a developed, developing, or underdeveloped country. It is also used to measure the impact of economic policies on quality of life
*) (wiki) IBGE or the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (Portuguese: Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística), is the agency responsible for statistical, geographic, cartographic, geodetic and environmental information in Brazil. The IBGE performs a national census every ten years, and the questionnaires account for information such as age, household income, literacy, education, occupation and hygiene levels.