A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘brazil

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO looks at Toronto’s old neon signs and its still-visible ghost signs.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly looks at Donald Trump as a bully.
  • Dangerous Minds shares vintage photos from the set of Labyrinth.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes a not-unexpected non-detection of Proxima Centauri b.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the presidential debates through the perspective of Pierre Bourdieu.
  • Joe. My. God. notes Glenn Beck’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
  • Language Log looks at how foreigners pronounce “ni hao”.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that Donald Trump has been using material from Russian disinformation campaigns directly.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer reports on very odd fiscal legislation in Brazil that seems unlikely to end in controlling spending.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on the marginalized Ainu of Kamchatka and suggests Sufism in central Asia is doomed.

[NEWS] Some Wednesday links

  • Bloomberg talks about Poland’s problems with economic growth, notes that McMansions are poor investments, considers what to do about the Olympics post-Rio, looks at new Japanese tax incentives for working women, looks at a French war museum that put its stock up for sale, examines the power of the New Zealand dairy, looks at the Yasukuni controversies, and notes Huawei’s progress in China.
  • Bloomberg View is hopeful for Brazil, argues demographics are dooming Abenomics, suggests ways for the US to pit Russia versus Iran, looks at Chinese fisheries and the survival of the ocean, notes that high American population growth makes the post-2008 economic recovery relatively less notable, looks at Emperor Akihito’s opposition to Japanese remilitarization, and argues that Europe’s soft response to terrorism is not a weakness.
  • CBC notes that Russian doping whistleblowers fear for their lives, looks at how New Brunswick farmers are adapting to climate change, and looks at how Neanderthals’ lack of facility with tools may have doomed them.
  • The Globe and Mail argues Ontario should imitate Michigan instead of Québec, notes the new Anne of Green Gables series on Netflix, and predicts good things for Tim Horton’s in the Philippines.
  • The Guardian notes that Canada’s impending deal with the European Union is not any model for the United Kingdom.
  • The Inter Press Service looks at child executions in Iran.
  • MacLean’s notes that Great Lakes mayors have joined to challenge a diversion of water from their shared basin.
  • National Geographic looks at the elephant ivory trade, considers the abstract intelligence of birds, considers the Mayan calendar’s complexities, and looks at how the young generation treats Pluto’s dwarf planet status.
  • The National Post notes that VIA Rail is interested in offering a low-cost bus route along the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia.
  • Open Democracy notes that the last Russian prisoner in Guantanamo does not want to go home, and wonders why the West ignores the Rwandan dictatorship.
  • TVO considers how rural communities can attract immigrants.
  • Universe Today suggests sending our digital selves to the stars, looks at how cirrus clouds kept early Mars warm and wet, and notes the discovery of an early-forming direct-collapse black hole.
  • Variance Explained looks at how Donald Trump’s tweets clearly show two authors at work.
  • The Washignton Post considers what happens when a gay bar becomes a bar with more general appeal.
  • Wired notes that the World Wide Web still is far from achieving its founders’ dreams, looks at how news apps are dying off, and reports on the Univision purchase of Gawker.

[URBAN NOTE] “Rio, city of epithets: Olympic urbanism in context”

Bruno Carvalho’s Open Democracy essay looks at the impact of the Olympics on Brazilian urbanism as manifested in Rio de Janeiro.

In the mid-1990s, amid a crisis of rampant violence in Rio de Janeiro, an influential Brazilian journalist, Zuenir Ventura, published a book with the title Cidade Partida. The expression could be translated as broken or split city, as if Rio had an integrity that contemporary violence shattered. A more apt translation is an increasingly prevalent phrase used to describe urban conditions in the United States: divided city. Given the striking contrasts between Rio de Janeiro’s upper-class buildings and hillside favelas, it is not surprising that the epithet found broad resonance.

Cidade Partida challenged what was until then Rio’s most recurrent moniker, Cidade Maravilhosa—marvelous or wonderful city. Those familiar with its landscape will find explanations to be superfluous. In the 1930s, when a song about Rio titled “Marvelous City” hit the airwaves, in the 1960s when it became the city’s official anthem, and today, when crowds sing it in unison during carnival, images of Rio’s cultural and natural exuberance come to mind. But the origins of the expression betray another history. “Marvelous City” became popularized in the context of an ambitious, Paris-inspired set of urban reforms early in the twentieth century.

The phrase designated a city becoming modern, whiter, and at long last, as we read often in the press from the period, “civilized.” In this scenario, a more divided city was in fact the goal, with the poor—disproportionately non-white—pushed to the outskirts or incipient favelas, as far as possible from central areas and from view. Led by then-mayor Francisco Pereira Passos, the reforms resulted in the eviction of one-tenth of the city center’s residents. To be sure, part of the goal of the reforms was to remedy a reputation Rio had earned as a “city of death” or “foreigner’s grave,” due to the prevalence of diseases like yellow fever. The Zika virus, in this regard, produces an unmistakable echo of the past. But the notion of the marvelous city of the belle époque as the privilege of a few remained clear to many. The manifesto of a labor group in 1929 mocks the use of the epithet by “literary fops,” drawing attention instead to the dire living conditions of the working classes.

Rio once had the largest urban slave population in the Americas, and the presence of their descendants in major public spaces presented an embarrassment to governing elites. In the belle époque, World’s Fairs and Expos proliferated, and major cities served as arenas where empires and nation states could compete. Not coincidentally, the modern Olympics began in 1896 in Athens, amid this era of proliferating precursors to today’s mega-events. Rio de Janeiro at the start of the twentieth century was the third major port of the Americas, behind New York and Buenos Aires, and the capital of a newfound republic, proclaimed in 1889. The city’s compact colonial fabric, marked by varied and jumbled street life, did not befit national ambitions. The Pereira Passos interventions sought to give an urban form to the positivist ideals of “order and progress,” enshrined in the Brazilian flag. In practice, Rio de Janeiro was to be considered marvelous when undesirables were not around. A divided city was, in fact, a desired outcome of the reforms.

But as students of the past quickly learn, in the history of city planning, the improbable happens often, and the unintended happens all the time. Some spaces envisioned as exclusivist playgrounds for the elites have since become appropriated as sites of democratic congregation and social mixture. In belle époque Rio there were attempts to prohibit those not dressed “decently” from circulating in central areas. Now, these same spaces are periodically occupied by carnival revelers, political protesters or social movements. The dream of a city with central spaces reserved to the rich only partially succeeded. The aspiration of a tropical civilization in the Parisian mold waned, as more relaxed dress codes attest. In later decades, led by Rio, Brazil instead projected a far more original—even if evidently distorted—image as “the country of carnival,” or of “racial democracy.”

In the 1990s, Ventura wrote his Divided City in the aftermath of a massacre, when off-duty policemen killed twenty one people in one of Rio’s poorer peripheral neighborhoods. He spent months in this community to write a book that was bold for exposing Rio’s divisions, or the inner workings of drug traffickers and corrupt police forces, but also for an insistence on valuing the city’s imperiled traditions of circulation and cultural exchanges. Since then, far-reaching infrastructure investments have favored favelas, and in Brazil, major redistributionist policies were implemented without stirring the sort of ethnic animus that we find elsewhere (though there are many discouraging signs). After emerging from a long military dictatorship (1964–85), Brazil appeared to be in an ascendant trajectory, even as its former capital and most visible city lagged behind.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 15, 2016 at 8:39 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “From slave market to Olympic venue: variations of capitalist accumulation in the port of Rio de Janeiro”

Guilherme Leite Gonçalves and Sérgio Costa’s Open Democracy essay looks at the changing functions of the port of Rio de Janeiro. In some of its broad outlines, the story that it tells is familiar.

The port district of Rio de Janeiro is one of the areas most affected by urban interventions connected to the August 2016 Olympics. Until very recently, business groups, politicians, investors and the mainstream media saw the port district as a devalued and degraded space, isolated from the rest of the city. In fact, the entire region had low market value and was of little interest for real estate investments, commercial transactions and services. Even the port itself was of little significance when compared to other Brazilian ports. Therefore, the region was located “outside” the process of capitalist accumulation.

This situation changed completely in November 2009. About a month after Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the Olympics, the Porto Maravilha project became public. This project catalyzed actions and economic, political and cultural expectations, restructuring the entire port district in order to create value.

Contrary to appearances, this phenomenon is not new. It is a new venue for a history that repeats itself. In its various stages, the port of Rio de Janeiro was marked by different landmarks of capitalist dynamic that both repelled and attracted spaces, processes and market relations, according to the needs of accumulation. This is a history marked by actors, forces and social pressures alternating in a continuous movement of commodification, decommodification and re-commodification – of people, goods and activities.

Since Rosa Luxemburg, in fact, Marxist political economists have realized that the accumulation of capital is not limited to a purely economic process between capitalists and workers in the production of surplus value. Seeing as only a relative portion of the surplus value can be appropriated in this internal transit, the system must make use of a non-capitalist “outside” to completely appropriate it.

Accordingly, the system makes use of explicit non-economic violence, including colonial or imperial policies, dispossessions, bloody legislation etc. There is, in other words, a repeated primitive accumulation throughout the history of capitalism. This repetition is required by capitalist expansion itself, which must commodify not yet commodified spaces in order to develop.

The various historical stages of this phenomenon are evident in the port district of Rio de Janeiro, as this space is incorporated in and uncoupled from a process that transforms socially constructed spaces into merchandise.

From its creation until the nineteenth century, the port took part in the classical patterns of primitive accumulation by integrating Brazil into world capitalism through the outflow of sugar, then gold and coffee, in addition to the inflow of manufactured goods and a contingent of about two million Africans that were kidnapped, enslaved and traded. This port received the highest number of enslaved Africans in the entire American continent. The right to provide such service was restricted to a private contractor: the Governor’s brother.

However, since its beginnings, the physical space of the port was itself integrated into various forms of accumulation. The first major traffic increase took place in the early seventeenth century and was connected to the outflow of sugar. In 1618, this traffic led Governor Rui Vaz Pinto to publish a legal decree establishing the use of black slaves to load and unload ships. It was clearly a mechanism meant to take over the space to create value, as only slaveholders were able to load goods in the port. This decree also represented the beginning of regular stevedoring services and established their legal system, namely the privilege or monopoly, since the right to provide such service was restricted to a private contractor: the Governor’s brother.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 15, 2016 at 8:09 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “China wants to revive Brazil high-speed train project: sources”

The Globe and Mail carries Alonso Soto and Leonardo Goy’s Reuters article describing the interest of China in reviving plans for a high-speed rail route connecting Sao Paulo with Rio de Janeiro. The idea appeals to me, but is it actually viable, economically and politically?

Chinese firms are pushing to revive an $11-billion high-speed-train project to link Brazil’s two largest cities, shelved after the South American nation descended into recession and political turmoil, three sources familiar with the talks told Reuters.

China’s ambassador to Brasilia told interim President Michel Temer on Wednesday that Chinese train builders and operators want to participate in Brazil’s biggest ever infrastructure project, delayed repeatedly because of doubts about its viability and concession models, the sources said.

Temer was invited to ride the high-speed train connecting Shanghai and Hangzhou next month during a G20 summit when he will discuss the project in bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a Brazilian presidential aide said.

“The Chinese are working hard to revive the project,” said the aide, who asked for anonymity because he was not allowed to speak publicly. “Brazil is not convinced yet, but is supportive of the idea.”

A spokesman with the Chinese embassy in Brasilia said he did not know the content of the discussions between Temer and ambassador Li Jinzhang. Li did not immediately respond to email requests for comment.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 15, 2016 at 7:59 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO writes about the impending installation of snooze stations across Toronto.
  • Centauri Dreams considers the astrobiological implications of stromatolites.
  • D-Brief notes that Titan has methane-flooded canyons.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at the Kepler-444 system and notes studies of HR 8799.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes an assassination attempt against a Donbas leader, and notes dinosaurs probably had colour vision.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers the workplace culture of Amazon.
  • Language Log looks at a mangled translation of South Asian languages into Chinese.
  • The Map Room Blog links to an exhibit on persuasive cartography.
  • The NYRB Daily shares photos of 19th century Rio de Janeiro.
  • Out of Ambit’s Diane Duane shares a recipe for gingerbread.
  • Mark Simpson engages with spornosexuality.
  • Towleroad notes the ill-thought article outing gay Olympic atheltes.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the non-recognition of special sharia rules in American courts for Muslims in family law.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russia’s problematic military economy, looks at the Russian immigrant community in China, notes the pro-Baltic patriotism of Russophones, and looks at prospects for rapid population fall in Russia.

[NEWS] Some Tuesday links

  • Bloomberg notes a raid of Amazon’s Japan office by that country’s competition agency.
  • Bloomberg View looks at paranoia about Pokémon Go and suggests China is not trying to overturn the world order.
  • CBC reports on the popular music and dance of Brazil’s slums, and reports on the diet of ancient humans.
  • The Inter Press Service notes that African farmers could feed the world, but first they need to work on their infrastructure.
  • MacLean’s shares the images of 25 Canadian websites of note in the days of the early Internet.
  • Open Democracy calls for reform of British agricultural funding and reports on Venezuela’s hard landing.