Brazilian inventiveness

BBC put out an article on a Brazilian man who created a plastic bottle light, aka the Moser Lamp, to be used in low-income family homes. All one needs is a bottle, water, a little bleach and sunlight. I had heard about it before but didn’t know it was a Brazilian who invented it. Pretty creative.

If you can get BBC World Service (iPlayer), listen to an interview with him (minute 35) here, though it just repeats what’s in the article.

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Owner of newsstand charges R$8 for info

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Everyone is talking in Água Branca. Last month, “Mr. Palmeirense” decided to increase the price of (asking for) information. Now, those who want to get an address or directions in this neighborhood in the Zona Oeste of São Paulo need to pay R$8.

“Where’s the social security office?”, asks lawyer Patrícia Rocha, 23, placing a piece of paper with the name of the street on top of Mr. Palmeirense’s counter. “Information costs R$8″, he says, pointing to a sign on a window of his newsstand.

“How so? I’m not going to pay”, complains Patrícia. “Then I don’t know”, responds the newspaper seller, who has had a newsstand in the neighborhood for 16 years — three of them on Francisco Matarazzo avenue, in front of the Água Branca park.  The lawyer, then, turns and looks up and sees a sign for the building she was looking for. “Ah, there it is!”

Mr. Palmeirense didn’t want to reveal his name. In the last three months, he’s provoked both revolt and laughs by those that pass by the newsstand. Merchants in the region are even thinking of copying his fee. Tired of being interrupted with questions, the newspaper seller and his wife decided to start charging R$2 per answer. One month ago, they increased it to R$8. “I don’t work for free”, he says.

“Do you know where the Adolfo Pinto avenue is?”, asks housewife Mércia da Silva, 55. “I don’t know”, Mr. Palmeirense says. “Of course you know, where have you seen it? You’re going to die alone”, says Mércia, angry.

In the 20 minutes it took to do the news report, five people asked for information. No one bought nothing and no one paid R$8. “People have an addiction to asking for information from newspaper sellers”, said the owner’s wife, who also didn’t reveal her name. The newsstand is about 5 meters from a little street that connects Francisco Matarazzo to Tagipuru street, near the Barra Funda metro station. Those who go down the small street won’t find any sign informing them that, there on the corner, is the avenue (they’re looking for). There’s no way to know, for example, in which direction number 1000 is. The first thing they see is the newspaper stand.

In March of 2011, the couple asked the local government in Lapa to place a sign on the corner. They called another 5 times, but the request wasn’t met because the tiny street has no name. The local gov’t said they can only put a sign there if a city councilman chooses a name and the request is approved legislatively. Aside from the metro station and the park, the region houses a social security office, hospitals, malls and the Palmeiras sports club. Mr. Palmeirense’s stand is the only one in more than a kilometer.

Nearby, parking garage workers also endure the questions. “I spend more time telling people directions than taking money for parking”, says Diego Bino, 25.

“No one ever paid and no one will ever pay, we know that. The fee is for irony’s sake”, said Mr. Palmeirense’s wife.

“Do you know where the bus stop is around here?”, a woman asks. “I don’t know”, says the newspaper seller. The bus stop is just in front, on the avenue’s median strip. “Ah, there it is”, said the woman, crossing the street. – Folha

Eike is no longer a billionaire

“Eike Batista, who came to be the 8th richest person in the world, isn’t a billionaire anymore. The businessman’s fortune was estimated this Thursday to be US$200 million. It’s quite the fall, for someone who, in March 2012, had US$34.5 billion. The data is from Bloomberg’s billionaire ranking.” – Folha (PT)

Quite the fall, indeed. A bit of background on the Daily Beast.

How far will Cabral’s Military Police go?

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(after molotov was thrown, likely by undercover police, aka “P2″)

“The cravings of Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio de Janeiro, of making his successor in the State government and contemplating that part of the population that applauds BOPE when they gun-down drug traffickers in Complexo do Alemão is taking Rio de Janeiro along a dangerous road. Cabral’s recent acts and declarations have revealed a despotic facet of the governor and, apparently, serve as a licence for the Military Police to expand the authoritarianism they employ in the favelas to the wealthiest neighborhoods of the Fluminense capital.

After last week’s riot in Leblon, the most expensive per square meter in Brazil, Cabral diagnosed the vandalism problem in Rio de Janeiro in the same way as Arab dictators — placing the blame on “international organizations”. As it happens in the Middle East, attributing the violence to the foreigner isn’t a simple diagnostic error. It’s a device to exempt their own government from any responsibility for what’s occurring.

In the same speech, given last Friday, Cabral promised an “answer to society”. The answer came via the Special Commission of Investigation of Acts of Vandalism in Public Manifestations (CEIV, in Portuguese). The so-called CEIV was created on the 19th of July, by way of the decree 44.302, published in the Diário Oficial of the State on Monday, the 22nd. The text that the commission created (here in its entirety, in PDF) has alarming authoritarian contours (not to mention it’s illegal, PT).

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In Article 3, Cabral determines that all “solicitations and determinations of the CEIV” have “absolute priority” above any other request sent to public or private bodies. In a single paragraph, Cabral obligates telephone companies and ISPs to follow requests by the CEIV in a “maximum timeframe of 24 hours”. It’s not clear if questions like the Pope’s security or a problem in a hospital, for example, will be put to the side in detriment of combating vandalism, or if the telephone/Internet companies have the right to appeal the CEIV’s orders.

More worrying is Article 2 of the commission’s creation. According to the decree, the CEIV can “take all actions necessary to carry out the investigation of acts of vandalism, and may request information, conduct investigations and perform any acts necessary to the conduct of criminal proceedings for the purpose of punishing wrongful acts under public demonstrations.” This text, as Bernardo Santoro on his blog Instituto Liberal reminded us, opens it up to anything, through not being clear on what “all necessary actions” means. Can the CEIV declare prison sentences, do illegal wiretapping and torture suspects, for example?

In the best of hypothesis, the text is a disaster provoked by haste and by the lack of knowledge of those who wrote it. In the worst, it’s a reflection of the climate, inflated by the government of Rio, of “anything goes against vandalism”.

Reflections of the climate have been observed. On Friday, the newspaper O Globo published an interview with the sociologist Paulo Baía, in which he commented on the riot in Leblon. “The police saw crime occurring and didn’t act. The message of the police was the following: now I’m going to give a smack-down on everyone”, said Baía. On that very Friday, the sociologist suffered a lightning kidnapping in the Aterro do Flamengo. “In the car, they passed along the message and nothing else. They said I shouldn’t give any other interviews like todays at O Globo and to not say anything else about the Military Police, because, if I did, it would be the last interview I’d give in my life”, said Baía.” – Carta Capital (PT, more here)

Mayor supports AfroReggae

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“I’m an optimist. Time and again, despite my age, I still have flashes of utopic hope of a more dignified life for the Carioca.

One of these rare moments from last weekend.

What happened was the following: the State Government considers that some favelas in Rio are pacified. Without a trace of the old drug traffickers or militia that, in fact, governed the communities. Among them are the favelas that make up the Complexo do Alemão. Cabral — and his Secretary of Safety — consider the region “pacified”, free from the truculence of traffickers. A sad untruth. In spite of the existing UPP in Alemão, the NGO AfroReggae received orders from the traffickers to close out their activities at the community center there, which benefited 350 children, with art workshops at the principal activity.

While the State Government kept mum on the announcement that the NGO would stop operating in the favela, the mayor Eduardo Paes personally went to the location and said the Mayor’s Office would assume all of AfroReggae’s activities, with an attitude that I would define as “macho”. He personally confronted the orders of the traffickers. And even donated some land to Renê Silva, responsible for the newspaper Voz da Comunidade, to rebuild the new headquarters. The old one was located in the AfroReggae building and was burned down in an act that until now is considered criminal by the NGO’s directors.

Paes was also elegant. He said the pacification process of Alemão wouldn’t reverse, an affirmation that should have been made by those responsible for the security of the State, or rather, the governor. It was a way he found that wouldn’t leave Cabral in an uncomfortable situation.

“Paes’ political bravado” is what the political adversaries of the Mayor’s Office, of which I include myself, might say. It may be. But he fulfilled a role that’s of an authority: he went to the place of conflict and invoked the power given him. If he is going to manage to keep this attitude or not, we will see in the next few weeks.

The quick action of Eduardo Paes as a constituted authority imposing itself is encouraging. Leaving his office to show his face in a conflict zone should be common in a democracy. Paes inaugurated the posture of a statesman of Rio. One point for him.” – CartaCapital (PT)

Novos Paulistanos

“According to IBGE, the number of foreigners living in Brazil almost doubled between 2000 and 2010. São Paulo is the Brazilian state that receives the most immigrants. They’re executives imported by megacorporations, African refugees running from wars and ethnic persecution, European hipsters in search of the “next Berlin”, latinos in search of work, etc. Say “olá” to your new neighbors.”

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Trip magazine’s piece called Novos Paulistanos (PT), on foreigners who’ve chosen São Paulo as their adopted city.

Hacker reportedly helped politicians change votes

Apparently, this is news from late last year, but it’s still being reported (but not mentioned in large newspapers). One issue with the veracity of this report is something I read about votes being printed, and voters and political parties being able to request the printed numbers from the voting location at any point. 

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“At a seminar  last year titled “Is the voting machine reliable?”, which took place at SEAERJ (Society of Engineers and Architects of Rio de Janeiro), a young hacker of 19 years of age, identified merely as Rangle, for security reasons, revealed how he defrauded elections in Rio de Janeiro.

Rangel showed how, via illegal and privileged access to Rio de Janeiro’s Electorial Justice intranet – under the telecommunications company Oi – intercepted data from the totaling system and, after delaying the sending of this data to its destination, he altered the results, benefiting some candidates in detriment of others.

According to Amilcar Brunazzo, a specialist engineer on the subject, in spite of this, no activity was detected by the official system.

“We get on the Electorical Justice’s network when the results are being transmitted for totaling and after 50% of the data has been transmitted, we act. We modify the results even when the totalization is ready to be closed”, explained Rangel in general terms. The information, as reported, ended up shocking critics and specialists towards the fragilities of the system.

The hacker declared that he didn’t act alone, participating in a group that utilized privileged information relative to the Oi system, altering the results before they were registered by the TRE – the Regional Electorial Tribunal. Rangel is under police protection and has already given his statement to the Federal Police.

He also denounced the deputy Paulo de Melo (PMDB), then-president of the ALERJ – Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro – as one of the beneficiaries.

For Fernando Peregrino, a coordinator of the seminar, despite many complaints, the police in general don’t focus on them for the very reason that electronic voting in Brazil represents the cornerstone of democracy in the country.

At the same seminar, Dr. Maria Aparecida Cortiz told of monitoring difficulties created by the Electoral Justice themselves, which would act to snuff out scandals of fraud. She also discussed, among other things, cases of fraud in Bahia, Maranhão, Londrina (PR), and in Guadalupe (PI). The meeting will be transformed into a book, and also give rise to a documentary on the subject, and new meetings.” – Source (PT)

The government “cares”

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(“Senhoras e senhores, me encontro assim…”)

I was watching some of the latest news on how the Brazilian gov’t is reacting to the unrest. More specifically, how $25 billion is being put aside for public transport improvements, how PEC-37 was defeated (which, as I understand it, would have limited investigative powers into combating corruption), how 100% of oil royalties will now go towards education and health services, etc, etc.

So, basically, the money, the power and know-how to make these things happen, to be able to make sweeping political and social changes to Brazil, it was there all along but no one was doing anything about it? Out of the kindness of their hearts, all of a sudden, the government cares…

Something positive from the protests

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(82 years old, I didn’t come to play around. I came to protest)

Aside from the whole of Brazil, both young and old, waking up and taking to the streets, a few good things are coming from all the protests. Surely, there’s many more good deeds than the few things I listed below so, if you know of any, leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to this post.

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- 11 Brazilian cities promised to lower bus fares as a result of the protests. Cuiabá and Recife reduced theirs by R$0.10, João Pessoa, Porto Alegre and Goiânia are cancelling their planned increase. Curitiba, Manaus, Natal and Vitória reduced their bus fares by a percentage while Blumenau and Caxias do Sul said they would review the process/prices. Meanwhile, in São Paulo, where it all started, Mayor Haddad said he might, depending on further review, bring the fares back down to R$3 from R$3.20. In Rio, Mayor Paes said he is looking to meet with protest leaders and hopes to freeze bus fares at R$2.75. – Source (PT)

- On Tuesday night on Avenida Paulista, in a show of solidarity, police officers were met with much applause when they sat with activists. (Video below)

- Fabrício Ferreira is the guy who watched (PT) his car being set on fire by some hoodlums in the middle of a (mostly) peaceful protest on Monday in Rio de Janeiro. The car was an uninsured ’93 Ford but Fabrício was still making payments on it. Inside the car were many pieces of lingerie that his wife was going to sell. The cost in damages was around R$6,000, and that’s when Brazilian Facebook members decided to do a “vaquinha” (to chip in) to help…but it wasn’t necessary, being that Pedro Augusto, host of a show on Rádio Tupi was moved by the story and decided to take over the debt, reimburse the owner for the burned lingerie and give him a brand new car! Fabrício, by the way, works at Rádio Tupi. (Video of the offer below, source, PT)

- Finally, this video is just nice to see. Brazilians in the Pinheiros metro station in São Paulo singing the national anthem.

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Added

- A female police commander was isolated and in the midst of the Belo Horizonte protesters when a few good men, also protesters, escorted her to safety. I hope the same would have occurred had she been male.

Brazil’s biggest protests in 21 years

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“On Monday the 17th, more than 230,000 people took to the streets to protest in some of the main Brazilian cities, like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte and Brasília. The common agenda for all complaints was the increase of the public transport fares, but insatisfaction with corruption, World Cup construction and the precariousness of public services — like health and education — reinforced the might of the movement. It was the largest popular mobilization in Brazil since 1992, when the population asked for the impeachment of then-President Fernando Collor de Mello.

In Belo Horizonte, the protest was the first to start. The movement started at 1pm in the Praça Sete de Setembro, in the capital city’s downtown area, with the end point at the Mineirão stadium, almost 9 kilometers away. On the way, the crowd of 15,000 people quickly took over Afonso Pena Avenue, one of the main avenues in the city. In spite of being peaceful most of the time, the protest got violent. There was a confrontation with the Military Police (MP) due to the police not wanting to let the protesters end up at Mineirão, one of the Confederations Cup locations. When the group advanced down Antônio Abrahão Caram Avenue, which leads to the stadium, the confrontation started, around 4pm. In the widespread rioting, the MP used tear gas bombs and rubber bullets to contain the protesters, who reacted by throwing rocks at the police. One person was injured upon falling off the overpass and was taken to the Risoleta Neves Hospital, in Venda Nova.

The newspaper Estado de Minas published an official report from the MP according to which 5 protesters were arrested and 3 were injured in Belo Horizonte. According to the newspaper, the MP denied having started the confrontations, but admitted to using rubber bullets against the state government’s recommendation. These shots, according to the MP, were fired in a way that they “hit the targets below the waist.”

In Brasília, the protests started peaceful in the afternoon and started to look more like war by nightfall. The ramp of the Congress building was taken over by thousands of protesters, the majority being teenagers. In the confusion, one of the building’s windows was broken. They had already occuppied the dome platform and, a little after, arrived at the principal access point of the Legislative House. The invasion via the principal entrance was dispersed by police, with tear gas and pepper spray. Positioned in front of the “millnery” of the Congress building, the protesters shouted: “hey, soldier, come to our side”. The MP confirmed that 10,000 people participated in the “Vinagre March”. Close to 500 police officers were on the scene to contain the crowd.

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In Rio de Janeiro, 100,000 people — according to the MP estimates — peacefully occupied the Carioca Capital’s downtown area, from where they walked to the Legislative Assembly, where a small group got involved in a fight after a bomb went off on Araújo Porto Alegre Street, around the Brazilian Press Association. A car parked near the ALERJ building exploded after being set on fire by protesters. According to the MP, a group of young people tried to invade the Assembly building. Police from the Shock Battalion used rubber bullets, gas bombs and pepper spray to contain the protesters.

At the São Paulo protests, more than 65,000 peopple (according to Datafolha’s estimates) met up at the Large da Batata, in the West Zone, from where they left, in two large groups, via Brigadeiro Faria Lima Avenue and via the Marginal Pinheiros, two of the principal avenues of the city. The two groups split up and passed some of the cities main areas, such as Paulista Avenue, the stage of the protests in previous days; the Estaiada bridge, Ibirapuera Avenue, the Legislative Assembly building and the Bandeirantes Palace, seat of the government. Part of the protesters tried to invade the official governor’s residence, but ended up giving up in the face of the police presence and also due to the objections of some of the protesters.

Attempts to invade the Piratini (Porto Alegre) and Iguaçú (Curitiba) palaces were also recorded, in addition to the Legislative Assembly building in Rio Grande do Sul. In all the cases, the MP used force to disperse the few violent protesters. In Curitiba, the MP estimated there were 10,000 protesters. In Porto Alegre, there were 5,000. There were even large protests in Belém, where 13,000 people got together and in Salvador, where 10,000 protesters met up. Other capital cities that saw protests include Fortaleza, Vitória and Maceió, where a 16 year old was shot in the face. The suspect is the driver of a car that was blocked by protesters. Protests occurred in various other cities of the country as well, such as Foz do Iguaçu (PR), Londrina (PR), Bauru (SP), Santos (SP), and Juiz de Fora (MG).” – Source (PT)

More photos here. Map of protest cities here (with scrollable new links).