Japan Attempts to Recover Influence in Brazil

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. (Google Images)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. (Google Images)

Bloomberg is reporting that the country of Japan is attempting to recover its influence in the country of Brazil.

Juan Pable Spinetto of Bloomberg reports:

“In the 1950s, Japan helped Brazil establish industries such as steelmaking and initiated key purchases of Brazilian iron ore. Now the Asian nation is seeking to regain influence in Latin America’s largest economy, where China is the No. 1 trading partner.

Japan has signed deals from energy to food and health care during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the country, the first by a Japanese leader in a decade. Abe wants to strengthen ties with Brazil, where about 1.6 million people of Japanese descent live, as he urges his country’s companies to seek more business outside their domestic market.

Top representatives from Toyota Motor Corp., Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. were among the business people accompanying Abe in Brasilia and Sao Paulo, the last destinations of a nine-day tour through Latin American and the Caribbean.”

Korean and Chinese companies are the top producers of electronics in the country. Japan is the sixth leading investor in the nation, which is down from third between 1950 and 1985. Brazil’s infrastructure related industries and general safety are huge attractions for investors.

Read more at Bloomberg.

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FIFA 2014 World Cup: Will Africa Reach the Final Four?

Striker Asamoah Gyan of Ghana's official 2014 World Cup squad.

Striker Asamoah Gyan of Ghana’s official 2014 World Cup squad.

Writing for AllAfrica.com, Nick Said is wondering aloud if an African team will reach the Final Four in the FIFA 2014 World Cup. Brazilian soccer (football) legend Pelé famously stated in the late 1970s that an African team would win the World Cup by the year 2000. This has yet to happen.

Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Nigeria and Algeria all played in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and will play again in the 2014 World Cup.

Ghana’s showing at the 2010 World Cup (semi-finals) proves that the much talked about gap between Africa and the rest of the soccer (football) world has closed dramatically in the last two decades. The semi-finals is not new for African teams, but appearing in the Final Four of the World Cup would be a trailblazing fete.

Said writes:

“It is difficult to know which African side has the best chance. Ghana has perhaps the most complete squad and is in  the hardest group by far, while Cote d’Ivoire have an array of attacking talent but are less productive in defense.

Cameroon has individual stars but little team cohesion, and Nigeria are skillful but can be a little lightweight. Algeria always look the part on paper but struggle to make it count on the grass.

Each will have an eye on a piece of history though, buoyed by Ghana’s showing at the 2010 finals when they were one Luis Suarez handball away from the semi-finals.”

Do you think an African team will make it to the Final Four in the FIFA 2014 World Cup? If so, which team and why? Share in the comments section below.

Read more of this article at AllAfrica.com.

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2014 World Cup: South Africa’s Lessons for Brazil

2014 World Cup screensaver.

2014 World Cup screensaver.

Writing for BBC Africa, correspondent Andrew Harding shares some of the lessons learned from the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa. FIFA’s 2014 World Cup has been plagued with some of the same challenges that have led to anti-World Cup protests throughout Brazil, mostly Sao Paolo and Rio. Like South Africa, the 2014 is marked by hope and despair. Parties and murals demonstrate the conflict that Brazilians have over the abject poverty that many in the country face, while pouring billions of dollars into venues and infrastructure to host the 2014 World Cup. Coupled with controversy surrounding contracts that will mainly benefit FIFA as opposed to locals, the lead-up to the World Cup that many hope will land Brazil a 6th win, has been hauntingly similar to South Africa.

Harding reports:

“It was a success for Fifa and the corporate sponsors made a lot of money, but it left local businesses and the state floundering,” said Johannesburg-based researcher Dale McKinley, pointing out that of the eight stadiums built or refurbished for the World Cup, only one – the iconic FNB stadium outside Soweto – “is financially viable”.

Harding offers an example of the Matsafeni village located outside of Nelspurit in South Africa. He writes:

Four years after a giant orange stadium appeared on their land, the inhabitants of Matsafeni village outside Nelspruit in South Africa say they are still waiting for their World Cup legacy. ‘They lied to us and betrayed us,” said Imaan Milanzi, a community liaison officer, pointing to a muddy hole in the ground surrounded by rubbish, bushes and banana plants.

Half a dozen people, holding battered old plastic paint tubs, had formed a casual queue (line), waiting for their turn to access the borehole – their one, trickling water supply.

‘Things didn’t go as planned,’ said Mr. Milanzi, of the local government’s redevelopment plans.

‘They first promised to supply water, upgrade houses and roads. But they just built the stadium and disappeared.’”

While positive things occurred like the improvement of the high-speed Gautrain which connects OR Tambo airport with Johannesburg and Pretoria, other challenges have emerged like pricing for the Gautrain which most South Africans cannot afford and the introduction of tolls on the improved roadways. The same challenges are now facing Brazil.

Even Brazilian soccer (football) star Pelé and the Catholic Church have spoken out about the enormous expense that the Brazilian government has pumped into the games while failing to meet the needs of the people.

Jonathan Watts of The Guardian writes:

“But ever since mass protests during the Confederations Cup last year, public awareness of the social and economic costs of the tournament have made many uneasy about displays of enthusiasm. As compared with previous World Cups, public support is low. A poll by the Pew Research Centre suggests that 61% of the public feel that hosting the World Cup was a bad idea, because it diverts resources that could be better spent on public services such as healthcare.

Everyone from Pelé and Romário to the Catholic church has criticized the expense and delays. The footballer-turned-congressman Romário has described the impact on state funds as “the biggest heist in the history of Brazil”. Last week the bishops’ conference issued a ‘red card’ to the organizers for squandering public funds and evicting people for stadium construction.

‘The church wants to contribute to the public debate and express its concern with … the inversion of priorities in the use of public money that should go to health, education, basic sanitation, transportation and security,’ it said.”

While many think of the 2014 World Cup already as a win for the people of Brazil, similar to what many people thought of South Africa’s win to host the 2010 games, the growing anti-2014 World Cup protests serve as a reminder that all that glitters isn’t gold.

This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire

Read more about this story at BBC Africa or The Guardian.

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Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez Dies at 87

Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez has died.  (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez has died.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)

The world is mourning the loss of Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez, who died of pneumonia at age 87. Márquez rose to worldwide fame with his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which ushered in an era of Spanish language literature. Jonathan Kandell of the New York Times writes:

“Mr. García Márquez was a master of the literary genre known as magical realism, in which the miraculous and the real converge. In his novels and stories, storms rage for years, flowers drift from the skies, tyrants survive for centuries, priests levitate and corpses fail to decompose. And, more plausibly, lovers rekindle their passion after a half-century apart.

Magical realism, he said, sprang from Latin America’s history of vicious dictators and romantic revolutionaries, of long years of hunger, illness and violence. In accepting his Nobel, Mr. García Márquez said: ‘Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination. For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.’

Like many Latin American intellectuals and artists, Mr. García Márquez felt impelled to speak out on the political issues of his day. He viewed the world from a left-wing perspective, bitterly opposing Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the right-wing Chilean dictator, and unswervingly supporting Fidel Castro in Cuba. Mr. Castro became such a close friend that Mr. García Márquez showed him drafts of his unpublished books.”

Richard Lea and Joe Tuckman of The Guardian write:

“Barack Obama said the world had lost ‘one of its greatest visionary writers’, adding that he cherished an inscribed copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, presented to him by the author on a visit to Mexico. ‘I offer my thoughts to his family and friends, whom I hope take solace in the fact that Gabo’s work will live on for generations to come.’

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said yesterday via Twitter: ‘A thousand years of solitude and sadness at the death of the greatest Colombian of all time. Solidarity and condolences to his wife and family … Such giants never die.’”

One Hundred Years of Solitude was an instant bestseller, with the first edition of 8,000 copies selling out within a week of its publication in 1967. Hailed by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda as “perhaps the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quixote of Cervantes”, One Hundred Years of Solitude went on to win literary prizes in Italy, France, Venezuela and beyond, appearing in more than 30 languages and selling more than 30 million copies around the world.

Márquez’s works include The Autumn of the Patriarch, The Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Love in the Time of Cholera, which was first published in 1985 and made into a film in 2007.

Márquez is survived by his wife Mercedes and two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo. He was 87.

Read more at the New York Times or The Guardian.

‘Dear White People’: Director Justin Simien Has More Stories to Tell

Justin Simien, director of the indie hit 'Dear White People'.  (Photo Credit: Yale Zhang)

Justin Simien, director of the indie hit ‘Dear White People’.
(Photo Credit: Yale Zhang)

Dear White People is the clever feature debut of Houston native-now-Los Angeles-based writer, producer and director Justin Simien. The winner of this year’s Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent is a satire that chronicles four diverse black students each struggling to find their identity at a fictional predominately white Ivy League university.

Having already directed a series of short films, Simien’s unapologetic film was inspired by his undergraduate experiences as one of very few black students at his alma mater, Chapman University. The film and theater major tackles Obama’s presidency, color consciousness, interracial dating, hair texture, hip hop, reality shows, sexual preference, father/son relationships, white privilege and Tyler Perry movies on screen.

Dear White People is also inspired by nationwide news headlines reporting white fraternities on various college campuses hosting parties mocking black culture. Some of the article clippings appear in the end credits. Dear White People, which Simien originally titled Two Percent during the script’s infancy in 2006, was the cathartic process he used to become more comfortable with his racial and ethnic identity.

“The theme of the film centers around identity versus self,” says a crossed-arm Simien. “I had to make peace with all of the different parts of me. Walking through the world as a minority is complicated. Whatever identity I create, no matter how useful it is, ultimately I have to let it go to be a bigger version of myself. That’s the lesson I learned.”

For inspiration, Simien says he looked up to Star Trek, Spike Lee, Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, the Coen Brothers and Ingmar Bergman. He doesn’t believe he’s a comedian under any circumstances. “My knack is storytelling that I tell from a place with a very specific form of humor,” says Simien. “I just want to tell the truth about the human condition from my point of view as best as I can.”

Dear White People’s concept trailer, which Simien refers to as his “visual pitch,” began streaming in May 2012 and quickly went viral. Shortly after, an Indiegogo campaign was launched with a $25,000 goal. The financial goal was met and surpassed in three days. Simien even sat in on screenwriting workshops and included some of the harsher criticisms in his work to give the story more substance.

Shot on University of Minnesota’s campus, Dear White People was constantly met with resistance from studio executives even as national media began to pay close attention. Simien believes executives couldn’t relate to the subject matter nor did they believe there was a market for black art-house cinema. Simien, both openly gay and working in publicity and marketing in Hollywood for eight years, saw Dear White People as an opportunity to develop characters that mainstream films often don’t include.

“I’m gay and black, and that puts you in a sort of gray area of what kind of black man you’re supposed to be,” says Simien. “There was no version of me in the culture that felt true, so I was in no man’s land.”

Despite the lack of faith some had in Simien and his multiethnic team, their creative efforts paid off. Dear White People earned top honors at both Tribeca Film Institute and Sundance. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions inked a deal to distribute the film later this year. Simien doesn’t care to replicate making the same type of film.

He believes memorable films have original stories that are brave enough to defy conventional story arcs and character development. “You don’t get anywhere trying to make a movie based on what you think people are going to like or based on what you think has worked in the past,” says Simien. “You don’t get anywhere doing that. If you want to make a cultural impact, you’ve got to tell the truth. Tell the story that’s burning deep inside of you.”

One of the next projects on Simien’s radar is the web series, Twenties, executive produced by Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment imprint. He makes it a point to credit his equally diligent best friend, Lena Waithe, as the creative force behind the project. Tightlipped about sharing Twenties’ details, he did confirm that he’s directing the series. “I read it, and I was like ‘I’ve got to be a part of this.’ It’s her world and voice. She’s getting that project pushed further, but you’re definitely gonna see it,” says Simien

Dear White People was this year’s closing film at the Atlanta Film Festival. Completely sold out, it was the final cut’s third overall screening. The theatre was full of laughter and humorous gasps throughout the film’s 108 minute running time. “You never know what movie you’ve made until you screen it for an audience,” says Simien. “People at Sundance laugh at different moments that people in Atlanta or New York. It’s been a pleasure to see the movie play to such different audiences and seeing it connect on very different ways.”

Even as Dear White People’s accolades and popularity continues to grow, Simien remains humble about the hard work, dedication, patience and perseverance the film required. “It’s great to know that I did something that a lot of people told me wasn’t gonna happen or there was no model for it,” adds Simien. “I made it. That’s a really powerful thing, and I’m grateful.”

This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.

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Brazil: Reggae Music Honored at Florianopolis Carnival

Reggae music was honored during a carnival celebration held in Florianopolis.  (Photo Credit: Jamaica Observer)

Reggae music was honored during a carnival celebration held in Florianopolis.
(Photo Credit: Jamaica Observer)

Cecilia Campbell-Livingston is reporting that Reggae music has gone carnival in Brazil. Singers Bunny Wailer and Andrew Tosh, music industry veteran Maxine Stowe and former Miss World Cindy Breakspeare were joined by former Jamaica football coach René Simões (currently Brazilian football coach), and Brazilian music promoter Cristiano Andrade, on a float saluting Reggae music. Reggae music is extremely popular in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Campbell-Livingston writes:

“‘Being my first time in Brazil, to see and feel the love of reggae and the Wailers there, in their National Carnival, is an indication of the impact that reggae, Rastafari and Jamaica has there,’ Wailer said in an interview with the Sunday Observer. ‘The float touched on all aspects of our music and culture.’ With Brazil hosting the World Cup in a matter of weeks and the Olympics in 2016, Wailer believes Jamaica should strengthen ties with the South American country, one of reggae’s biggest markets. ‘The Brazilian people are seeking more tangible connections with Jamaica and we need to respond in a manner that is mutually beneficial to our music and culture,’ he said.”

Read more at JamaicaObserver.com.

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Venezuela: Protesters Tell Why They Are Fighting Back

Venezuelan supporters tell British publication 'The Guardian' why they're protesting against the government. (Photo Credit: www.dajle.com)

Venezuelan supporters tell British publication ‘The Guardian’ why they’re protesting against the government.
(Photo Credit: www.dalje.com)

Writing for The Guardian, Phillipa Law and James Walsh are giving readers first-hand perspectives of those engaged in protesting against the government in Venezuela. They wrote:

“Scenes of political turmoil have swept across Venezuela as citizens protest against unemployment, a rise in violent crime and surging inflation.

Demonstrators have also been protesting against the detention of opposition leader Leopoldo López, who surrendered to authorities on Wednesday after making a speech to thousands of supporters.

The government has claimed the protests and clashes are the early stages of a US-backed attempted coup. Recent weeks have also seen pro-government rallies and protests in support of the President, Nicolás Maduro.”

The writers spoke with readers who either support or have taken part in the protests. Check out excerpts of what supporters of the government opposition have to say below:

“Venezuelans have a million reasons to protest. We have one of the highest murder rates in the world – two people per hour – rampant inflation at a rate of 60% a year, basic products like milk, oil, sugar, chicken are not available in supermarkets, if we want to travel we have to go through a bureaucratic nightmare to be able to buy foreign currency limited to less than £2000 a year, we have no liberty of expression if we do not concur with the governments ideas we are completely ignored. We are protesting for our lives and our dignity.” – Scosti

“Official numbers put 2013 inflation rate at around 56% and murder casualties at more than 24000, two numbers that have only increased during 15 years. Scarcity of everyday goods is raising, corruption is rampant… but instead of listening to the protests who very accurately point at the government, what we have gotten is repressive use of the public force AND armed civil gangs which has resulted in at least 6 deaths, hundreds of injured and dozens of students in jail. All of this has been silenced from national media because of heavy censorship.We’re sick of hearing this sorry excuse for a president to blame “the Empire” and the “far-right” as culprits of his own mess.” – Julio G

Read more from protesters at The Guardian.

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Christiane Taubira: France’s Justice Minister Subjected to Racist Slurs

France's Justice Minister has been subjected to racist taunts and slurs likening her to a monkey. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

France’s Justice Minister has been subjected to racist taunts and slurs likening her to a monkey.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Writing for The Root, Breanna Edwards writes that France’s Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has been subjected to a slew of racist slurs and insults in recent weeks. Edwards writes:

“It’s the third time in about a month that France’s justice minister, Christiane Taubira, has been publicly ridiculed with racist gibes, causing backlash for the lack of respect afforded the foremost black politician.

 The far-right weekly magazine Minute published a cover declaring, ‘Crafty as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back,’ the Agence France-Presse reports

Given the public reaction, Interior Minister Manuel Vells said that he would look into seeing whether it was legally possible to block the magazine’s distribution, saying the insidious headline cannot be overlooked.

According to the AFP, politicians went to Twitter, demanding the magazine’s editor be prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred. The human rights group SOS Racisme is investigating lodging a formal legal complaint, forcing authorities to look into any possible breach of laws.”

This isn’t the first time that Taubira has been subjected to racist taunts. In October, National Front (FN) candidate Anne-Sophie Leclere, the FN candidate for Rethel in the northeastern Ardennes region, caused a fire storm of criticism by comparing Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey on French television. Leclere also admitted that she created a photo-montage showing Taubira, who is from French Guiana, alongside a baby monkey which was posted on her Facebook page. The caption underneath the baby monkey said “At 18 months,” while the other caption under Taubira’s current photo said, “Now.”

In April 2013, Minister Taubira made a historic speech introducing France’s gay marriage and adoption bill to Parliament. Her speech has been likened to other historic speeches like Simone Veil’s plea for abortion rights in 1974 and Robert Badinter’s speech supporting the abolition of the death penalty in 1981.

Read more about this story at The Raw Story or The Root.

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Former Brazilian Soccer Player João Rodrigo Silva Santos Decapitated

Former Brazilian soccer player Joao Rodrigo Silva Santo, 35, was kidnapped and beheaded. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Former Brazilian soccer player Joao Rodrigo Silva Santo, 35, was kidnapped and beheaded. (Photo Credit: Google Images)

The Bleacher Report is reporting that former Brazilian footballer João Rodrigo Silva Santos has been kidnapped and decapitated by suspected drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro. Nick Akerman of The Bleacher Report states that the crime has been confirmed by Matt Roper of The Mirror and ESPN staff who reported:

“Santos was grabbed at around 7:45 p.m. after leaving the local health food store he owned in the Realengo district, a lower- and middle-class district located in Rio’s western area.”

Apparently Santos’ head was delivered to his wife in a soccer bag. His eyes and tongue had been cut out of the head.

João Rodrigo Silva Santos played for Bangu, Olimpia, Nacional and Swedish club Oster during his career.

In July, soccer referee Otavio da Silva, 20, was stoned and dismembered by angry supporters after he fatally stabbed a player for refusing to leave the pitch (BBC News).  Silva’s head was reportedly put on a stake after the murder.

ESPN reports that Rio’s Police Pacification Units (UPPS) has been cracking down on Rio’s drug gangs ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Earlier this month, over 1,000 police stormed some of Rio’s poorest favelas in a bid to regain control back from the gangs.

Police are searching for a motive in the Santos kidnapping and murder. Santos was 35.

Read more at The Bleacher Report or The Rio Times.

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Can a Muslim Woman Be a Feminist?

Can Muslim women be feminists?  (Photo Credit: Google Images)

Can Muslim women be feminists?
(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Writing for Aquila-Style.com, blogger Fatimah Jackson-Best discusses the work that Muslim women are doing throughout the world for women’s rights (Malala Yousafzai, anyone?). She wonders aloud if Muslim women should call themselves “feminists” and discusses why Muslim woman may choose not to identify as such. Check out this excerpt below and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

EXCERPT
Recently, a student approached me after class. Whispering, she asked if it was possible for Muslim women to be feminists. She came to me in a manner that let me know that she didn’t mean to offend and was only curious about what I had discussed in the last two lectures. I explained to her that Muslim women around the world are fighting for our rights to equality and justice, but that our struggles towards this goal may not always be the same because we all lead different lives.

Her question got me thinking about what Muslim women call the work they do to eradicate injustice and inequality, and if they would consider it to be feminist. Consider for a moment in countries like Yemen, where women are working to combat child marriage, or the women who lobbied the Saudi Arabia government to officially ban domestic violence this year. These are issues that largely affect Muslim women and they have been the most committed advocates against these kinds of injustice.

Sometimes women’s rights organisations are the ones pushing the issues. Although feminism also promotes women’s rights to equality and justice, these organisations may not necessarily call their work feminist.

It is also true that depending on where Muslim women live, our experiences of discrimination and sexism will be different because there is not a single Muslim women’s identity or experience. Where we live, our culture, race, ethnicity and class will differently impact how we practise and interact with Islam.

Sisters in Canada and the United States who are advocating for equal participation in mosques may be rallying behind an issue that is a concern in that part of the world, but the same may not be true for Muslim women in China who have been leading their own mosques for over 100 years.

The challenging of social norms in Egypt when Egyptian women ride bicycles despite social and cultural ideas about appropriate femininity may be a less important issue for some Muslim women in the Netherlands, where bike riding is a common activity for either gender. In short, Muslim women’s lives are not all the same and so neither are our struggles.

END of EXCERPT

Read more at Aquila-Style.com.

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