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NATAL, Brazil – The rain has been incessant in Natal for the past 48 hours. It has come in waves, sheets, torrents, and buckets, forcing the beachside community indoors to take in the first three days of the World Cup.

Roberto Freire Avenue is the main highway running parallel to Natal’s coastline. In many ways, it’s like any boardwalk you might encounter on a summer vacation. There are hotels, gift shops, and eateries intermixed with beach homes. Of course, there are differences too. Like the country’s favorite sport is hosting its biggest event in the middle of this sleepy beach town.

And it’s raining the kind of rain you build an ark for.

I went out in this rain on Friday to cover Mexico and Cameroon. Under the shelter of Arena Das Dunas, I took in the spectacle. The match was fantastic, the environment electric.

On Saturday, I went out in the rain again. This time, to watch England and Italy in a bar filled with strangers. The place was packed. Wall to wall, every seat filled. People from across the world wedged together like sardines, spilling beer on each other in between bites of churrasco.

I didn’t have a prayer of getting a seat. That’s when I saw Jay.

Jay Liwanag lives 15 miles from me in northern Virginia. About 4,000 miles from home, there was Jay standing in the middle of a Brazilian bar waving at me – and more importantly, with a free seat.

Jay is a youth soccer coach, and is traveling Brazil as part of a trip with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Sitting at the table with Jay and his colleagues, I was entertained by their stories and observations from a week in Natal.

The group watched Brazil’s opening match of the tournament in a mall, which had shut down entirely to take in the game.

“It was incredible,” Jay said. “It was amazing to see how many people there were who were passionate about Brazilian football. The stores all shut down for the match, it was like Fourth of July in America.”

“Something that surprised me was the number of women watching the game together,” Kyle Gracias, another member of Jay’s NSCAA group, added. “You don’t see so many people interested in a match like that in America. Old people, kids, men and women, everyone was watching and knew players and knew the game.”

Brazilians also play the game. Jay and his coaching friends stumbled upon a pick up soccer game on the beach Wednesday, before the rain came.

“The goals were made out of rocks,” Jay said. “We were playing barefoot on the beach, And the players we played against …”

Gracias lifts his head to interject.

“Those kids we played against were really good,” Gracias said. “But it wasn’t just kids, there were older people, too. Everyone plays together, and they play hard.”

The group will leave Natal after the United States plays Ghana, and will travel to Rio de Janeiro to take in the Spain vs. Chile match before leaving for the U.S. By the end of the trip, Gracias hopes to get a picture with a fan from every country.

“I’ve been doing pretty well [in Natal],” Gracias said. “So far, I have about half of [the countries].”

Jay’s goal for the trip appears to have been already met. When he says it, it’s simple. Like the game we’re all taking in. But in that bar, it resonates.

“Playing on the beach was great. We would play when the ball went into the water, or in the dunes, it didn’t matter,” Jay said. “It really was the beautiful game, it reminded me why I love it. Every player should have that experience of playing on a beach in Brazil.”

Maybe more can soon. If the rain ever stops.

Source: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/06/brazil-world-cup-american-fans-natal

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If you have flown on a regional jet lately, you know something about US economic ties with Brazil. Many US airlines use Embraer planes, made in San Jose dos Campos, Brazil, for short hauls among US cities. In fact, the US is the second largest destination for Brazilian exports, after China. In addition to aircraft, we buy oil, iron ore and steel, soybeans, and, of course, coffee from Brazil. The value of all goods imported from Brazil exceeded $27 billion in 2013 and the value of imported services reached almost $7 billion in 2012, the last year for which data are available, with business and professional services, royalties and license fees, and tourism leading the way. Of course Brazil is also an important buyer of goods and services produced in the US. Brazil ranks 7th as a destination for US exports, with Brazilians buying some $70 billion worth of goods and services from US producers.

Brazil is also host to a large number of US multinationals. From Bank of America and Cargill to Time Warner, Yahoo and Westinghouse, US investment in Brazil is substantial. Last year alone, some $64 billion dollars of foreign direct investment went to Brazil and about 14 percent of that came from the US. Brazil offers an attractive market for the sale of many manufactured goods and provides access to a wealth of natural resources. Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company, made the largest oil discovery in the Western Hemisphere some 30 years when it located oil deep in the ocean floor off the Brazilian coast in 2006. This discovery of oil at a depth of some 7,000 meters below sea level has led to a wave of technological innovation and significant interest from US investors. Increasingly, Brazilian firms are investing in the US, too. Gerdau, a leading Brazilian steel maker, has plants in the Midwest. Odebrecht not only builds stadiums for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but arenas, airports, and transportation systems in the US. And Brazilian buyers have become significant players in New York and Florida real estate markets. Trade and investment between Brazil and the US has grown considerably over the last decade, despite the financial crisis and sluggish global economic conditions. With the World Cup on our screens, one can only assume these trends will continue while increasing travel and tourism builds more personal connections.

–Dr. Melissa Birch is an associate professor in the School of Business at the University of Kansas. She focuses on business in Latin America. \

Source: http://2paragraphs.com/2014/06/world-cup-watch-strong-economic-links-between-brazil-and-the-us/

 

dilma-20120426162234BRASÍLIA — The year was 1970. Agents of Brazil’s military dictatorship had arrested Dilma Rousseff, then a member of a fledgling urban guerrilla group, the Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard. Inside the prison where she was being held in São Paulo, a debate raged among the inmates: Should they support Brazil in that year’s World Cup?

“At that time, many people opposed to the government initially questioned whether we would be strengthening the dictatorship by rooting for Brazil’s team,” Ms. Rousseff, 66, who is now Brazil’s president, said in an interview here on Tuesday. “I had no such dilemma.”

She said resistance dissipated among the jailed guerrillas in the period leading up to Brazil’s victory over Italy in the championship match, which took place in Mexico City.

With Brazil’s government facing widespread discontent over its preparations for the World Cup, Ms. Rousseff made the rare public reference to her imprisonment decades ago, when interrogators tortured her during three years in jail. Sipping orange juice and nibbling on cashews at a spacious circular table in her office, she defended loans from state banks for new stadiums for the soccer tournament and insisted that Brazilians planning to shun the event were a “small minority.”

As the start of this year’s World Cup on June 12 approaches, Ms. Rousseff is grappling with a wave of strikes, a sluggish economy and a presidential race pitting her against rivals who have climbed in public opinion polls. While she is still viewed as a favorite in the October elections, her government has come under criticism over delays in finishing World Cup construction and an array of other stalled public works projects.

A survey released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with the way things were going in Brazil, up from 55 percent just weeks before huge street protests in June 2013 shook Brazilian cities.

The survey, based on 1,003 face-to-face interviews with Brazilian adults in April, also found that two-thirds said Brazil’s economy was in bad shape, and that 61 percent thought hosting the World Cup was a bad idea because it took resources away from public services, including health care and education.

The glum mood, which follows an economic boom that culminated in 7.5 percent growth in 2010, has been compounded by scandals at Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, and a multiyear slowdown in economic growth. The economy grew only 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2014, slower than the 0.4 percent expansion reported in the previous three months.

Still, Ms. Rousseff, a member of the leftist Workers Party that has governed Brazil since 2003, vigorously defended her economic record in an hourlong interview at the presidential palace in the modernist capital, Brasília. She insisted that various measures showed that life had generally improved in Brazil.

Citing antipoverty projects that have pulled millions of people into the middle class over the last decade, she said incomes for poorer Brazilians had risen well above the rate of inflation, making Brazil’s progress in reducing poverty comparable to Spain’s experience after the death in 1975 of the dictator Francisco Franco, which ushered in a transition to democratic government.

Emphasizing that inequality had fallen in Brazil while growing in the United States and parts of Europe, Ms. Rousseff, an economist by training, spoke glowingly of the work of Thomas Piketty, the professor at the Paris School of Economics whose sweeping studies of inequality have gained widespread attention.

“I think he’s done a fantastic job,” Ms. Rousseff said of Mr. Piketty, who has stood by his conclusions about the evolution of wealth inequality after The Financial Times attacked his data.

Ms. Rousseff said that rising incomes in Brazil had created new challenges, reflected in the large demonstrations that have given way to smaller protests, often led by housing activists or anti-establishment groups. She said that many of the protesters’ complaints about the poor quality of services, whether from governments or private companies, were understandable.

“Services grew less than income,” she said, noting as an example the surging access to air travel in Brazil, which has left many travelers fatigued at the mere thought of dealing with the country’s swamped airport infrastructure. Brazil’s larger middle class, she said, has “more desire, more longings, more demands.”

“This forms an intrinsic part of the human being in the society in which we live,” she said. “He obtains something, but he wants more, which is very good.”

Beyond the challenges her government faces before the World Cup, with security forces bracing for a possible return of large-scale protests against spending on the tournament, Ms. Rousseff said the event offered an opportunity to strengthen Brazil’s position on the global stage.

She also said she was prepared for a thaw in relations with the United States, after a souring last year over revelations that the National Security Agency had spied on Ms. Rousseff and her inner circle of senior aides. She noted her plans to meet with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. when he visits Brazil this month to watch the United States soccer team play Ghana.

“I’m certain we can pick up our relations where we left off,” Ms. Rousseff said. She said she was prepared to consider rescheduling a state visit to Washington, which she had postponed in September in response to the N.S.A. revelations.

In other matters, Ms. Rousseff said she expected Brazil to continue raising its diplomatic and economic profile in Latin America and the Caribbean. She singled out Cuba as a country where Brazilian companies were making inroads. “We’re betting much more on a policy of investment than a blockade,” she said, referring to the United States’ trade embargo against Cuba, which began in 1960.

In one example of Brazil’s strengthening ties with Cuba, the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht has carried out a $900 million upgrade of Cuba’s Mariel port. Ms. Rousseff said that overhauling Cuba’s economy required the application of “more market forces, not less.”

Helping Cuba to open its economy also reflects on Brazil’s, and Ms. Rousseff’s, political evolution since military rule ended here in 1985. While Brazil now has a president who was a Marxist guerrilla in her youth, it stands out among its neighbors for a law under which perpetrators of rights abuses during the dictatorship are shielded from prosecution.

Brazil’s highest court has upheld the amnesty law, meaning that Ms. Rousseff’s torturers remain free even as commissions examine the politically motivated crimes of that era.

Ms. Rousseff said that as president, she respected the law, despite her personal views. “I don’t believe in vindictiveness, but I also don’t believe in forgiving,” she said.

“It’s a question of the truth,” she added. “It’s extremely important for Brazil to know what happened, because that will mean it won’t happen again.”

Source: The New York Times

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    It’s difficult to analyze the United States’ attack at this summer’s World Cup without first mentioning the biggest name that won’t be in Brazil – Landon Donovan.

    Thousands of articles have been written about his absence, justified or not, since U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann axed the record-setter in all major categories for the Stars and Stripes. That ship has sailed and it’s time to focus on the attacking players that are there. So why bring him up?

    Many have been wondering over the last three U.S. friendlies why, after the most successful year of U.S. Soccer ever in 2013, Klinsmann has decided to abandon the wildly successful 4-2-3-1 in favor of his new, very experimental 4-4-2 ‘diamond’ formation.

    Perhaps the answer lies in Donovan’s omission. Perhaps Klinsmann, making a judgment based on motivation and fitness ahead of proven ability, decided that without Donovan to provide incisive runs from the wing (essential to the success of the 4-2-3-1), two strikers would be needed to penetrate opposing defenses. With a misfiring Jozy Altidore leading the line, wing play is paramount to creating scoring opportunities. With Donovan out of the picture, 18-year old Julian Green still too wet behind the ears to know his own quality, Brek Shea being a shell of his former self in Dallas, and youngsters like Josh Gatt simply too raw for the big stage, it’s highly likely that Klinsmann has adjusted to the cards he feels he’s been dealt.

    Consider the success of Bayern Munich’s 2012-13 treble winners. Target striker Mario Mandzukic is a wonderful talent, but hardly the type of scorer to lead a team to European glory on his own. He was fortified and complemented by a cast of high intensity, attack-minded wingers in Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller. No team can rely on a single striker for success – the key is in the wingers making runs off the solo striker, while also being able to create and produce with the space created by said wingers.

    While Klinsmann has downplayed his formation switch by simply stating that, “We have at least two or three systems,” it stands to reason that he’s adjusted his philosophy after so much success in 2013 based on the personnel at his disposal (which of course he selected).

    And while the new ‘diamond’ is certainly a more attack-minded setup, it does leave the defense more exposed without the two-man pivot of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in front of the back four. Perhaps it’s Klinsmann’s new thinking that the best defense is a strong offense.

    At the very least Klismann can look forward to having an in-form captain leading the line alongside Altidore in Seattle Sounders man Clint Dempsey. After a rather tumultuous departure from Tottenham and a less than stellar start back in MLS last season, Dempsey began the 2014 season on fire – perfect timing ahead of the world’s biggest sporting event. Dempsey has all the tools to be a star in Brazil, but will be an even bigger threat if Altidore finds his wings again.

    While no one questions the hard work that Altidore puts into a match, the production has been, to put it mildly, lacking. The Sunderland forward has not scored a goal since December as his club barely avoided relegation in England. But the former New York Red Bull product tends to be a very different player with the United States, and he’ll need to be if the team has any chance of advancing to the knockout stage.

    The pair is almost certainly already penciled in as the one-two punch to lead the U.S. line against Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Klinsmann will be hoping that each front man is on top of his respective game – for Altidore that includes strong holdup play with his back to goal and industrious flick-ons to spring Dempsey, a master of picking up the ball on the run from midfield and finding the back of the net. But that won’t be enough from Altidore. He’ll also need to re-find his scoring touch which might just be kickstarted with a strong aerial game off corners and free kicks.

    Waiting in the wings for the U.S. will be Icelandic-American Aron Johannsson and San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski. Johannsson has followed in Altidore’s footsteps with AZ Alkmaar in Holland by leading the team in goals a year after Jozy did the same before his Wearside move. ‘Bacon,’ as he is affectionately known, is a creative striker with 1 v 1 capabilities and little fear going at a defender with the slightest hint of space. He is patient and allows the ball to do much of the work for him, but also possesses good vision in tight spaces that makes him a very serviceable supplier of the ball as well.

    Wondolowski is just the opposite. He’s an instinctual goal scorer with tireless movement off the ball. He has a nose for goal but his game relies on the service of his teammates more than any other striker in Klinsmann’s employ. The big question regarding Wondo is if he can get the job done against the likes of Ghana and Germany, and not just Belize and Cuba.

    Of course the U.S. strikers will be far from effective if the team’s midfielders don’t supply them with quality service. Klinsmann has bet the farm on ‘chalk on the boots’ wide men Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya and Brad Davis. Of the three, Bedoya is the most incisive and willing to take players on, but in Klinsmann’s new system, he will have to stay disciplined and pick and choose his spots to bust into the 18-yard box. In contrast, Zusi and Davis are fantastic deliverers of the ball from wide positions, and more importantly, can do it well on the run. Fitness will be a major factor though as the two will have loads of defensive work to sort out against the level of opposition in Group G, and they’ll be fighting the scorching heat.

    Normally tying this new formation together would be a classic No. 10 in the middle, but that’s not what Klinsmann has in store. The only true attacking central midfielder on the roster is Norwegian-born Mix Diskerud, and while he’ll certainly see some minutes in Brazil, Klinsmann is putting all his stock in transforming Bradley from a top-class box-to-box midfielder (his role at Roma, Chievo and Moenchengladbach) into a far more attacking one (more like his role with Heerenveen and now TFC). It’s no secret that Bradley is currently the most likely U.S. player to leave Brazil a major star, but it will be a daunting task for him to adjust his instincts to play much farther back and relinquish that control to either  Jones or Kyle Beckerman. It does the U.S. little good to have a No. 10 that’s always dropping behind the halfway line to retrieve the ball and then push forward. However, if he can adjust mentally and harness his vision to focus on the final third, there’s no reason to doubt his superior quality can’t shine through.

    Klinsmann is relying on it.

    In truth though, the United States will live and die by the success of its back four at this World Cup. It doesn’t matter if the Yanks score two goals in every match if the opposition is putting in three or four. But a back line can thrive and its game be lifted when the offense does its part and gives it a cushion to work with. And if the U.S. attack does its job, while also working hard to track back and help out its defense, there’s no reason to feel that advancing to the second round is impossible.

    Source: http://soccerly.com/article/robertburns/us-attack-the-best-defense-in-brazil

 

 

Two ocean freighters are slowly making their way from southern ports in Brazil to ports on the East Coast of the United States.

While thousands of such ships dock each year at U.S. ports after trips partway around the globe, these particular vessels, the Maia and the CS Chara, are loaded with soybeans.  They were harvested earlier this year in Brazil and will be part of a series of shiploads to dock at U.S. ports and unload their soybeans, destined to become soybean meal for livestock feed and soybean oil, possibly for biodiesel production.

While hundreds of ships loaded with soybeans make their way annually to China from Brazilian and U.S. ports, there is irony in the Brazilian beans coming to the United States.  Although U.S. farmers produced 3.29 billion bushels of soybeans last year, the third largest soybean crop ever, U.S. soybean exporters sold more soybeans than the U.S. Department of Agriculture expected.  With soybean crushers also running at capacity for the year, the USDA now expects the supply of soybeans to be a drop in the bucket before the 2014 crop is ready for harvest.

Subsequently, the livestock industry, the biodiesel industry, the food industry, and thousands of companies outside those categories won’t not have sufficient supplies of soybean-based products which are needed.  Based on the data of soybeans produced and already used or committed, soybeans have now reached above $15 per bushel.  That is a magnetic price which has drawn the shiploads of beans to the United States and the USDA expects as many as 90 million bushels of soybeans will be imported before the end of the marketing year on Aug. 31.

Irony? Travesty? Unthinkable for the United States to be importing Brazilian soybeans?  Most people would agree to one of those.  After all, traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange will likely devalue soybeans when the ships arrive in port and begin unloading.  After all, it is a psychological thing.

But a different way of looking at it came last week from John Baize.  Baize has been a long time consultant to the soybean industry about government treatment of soybeans and international issues affecting the soybean economy.  He isn’t upset at all about the impor of Brazilian soybeans.

Baize looks at it as the perfect scenario for soybean economics.  Scenario, not storm.  According to his calculations, farmers sold their 2013 crop soybeans early in the marketing year at very high prices.  He says we are short of soybeans now, and will be bringing soybeans into the United States from Brazil at much cheaper prices than what farmers sold their soybeans for.  In his words, “It’s a good situation that I think we will see often in the future.”

The Baizian economic theory is parallel to the theory that drives the commodities market of buying low and selling high.  In this case, he says farmers sold high, and now the shortage of soybeans is being replaced by soybeans that are being purchased for lower prices.

The big question is whether the Chicago Mercantile Exchange traders will agree with that economic theory in the next few days when the Maia and the CS Chara ask port authorities for permission to dock and unload.

Even if the traders don’t agree, any bearish reaction won’t last long because of the surging demand for U.S. soybeans, both domestically and abroad.  With demand strong for old crop soybeans in many livestock areas, soybean crushing plants and biodiesel refineries, shortages in those spots will keep prices high, at least in the cash market.

Source: http://herald-review.com/business/local/brazil-feeding-u-s-need-for-soybeans/article_18c9d41d-61c5-52e2-8cc4-8b1df86f584c.html

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U.S. imports of sugarcane ethanol from Brazil fell by 40% last year, to 242 million gallons. Because Brazil is the largest source of ethanol imports into the United States, this drop led the United States to be a net exporter of the product for the year. Export volumes of corn-based ethanol to Brazil declined, but were more than offset by higher export volumes to Canada and a number of other countries. Although the net level has varied from month to month, since 2011 the United States has both imported ethanol from and exported ethanol to Brazil.

Ethanol is primarily used as a blending component in the production of motor gasoline. The United States and Brazil are the two largest producers and exporters of ethanol in the world, with ethanol being produced from corn feedstocks in the United States and sugarcane in Brazil. Starting in 2010, growing corn harvests and limited growth in the domestic ethanol market led the United States to become a net exporter of ethanol and the world’s leading supplier. At the same time, decreased sugarcane harvests in Brazil led to significant reductions in Brazilian ethanol output and a reversal in traditional ethanol trade patterns, as U.S. volumes began entering Brazil to meet domestic demand.

Brazilian ethanol production recovered in 2012. This reduced Brazil’s need for U.S. ethanol imports, while Brazil exported significant volumes to the United States, largely due to growing U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets. In addition to the RFS, the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) creates an incentive to import sugar-based ethanol from Brazil because of its lower carbon intensity, seen in imports of ethanol into the West Coast from Brazil.

Brazilian ethanol output typically peaks during the fourth quarter (October-December) of each year. In the fourth quarter of 2013, Brazil had a record sugarcane harvest and increased ethanol production. However, U.S. imports of ethanol from Brazil fell by 95% compared with the fourth quarter of 2012, when drought in the United States pushed domestic production to record low levels. Another major driver was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement of proposed reductions to 2014 RFS, as well as growing volumes of biomass-based diesel imports.

The remaining volumes of ethanol imported into the United States from other countries came from Canada or countries that have facilities to convert hydrous sugarcane ethanol originally produced in Brazil to anhydrous ethanol for the U.S market. U.S. ethanol imports enter the country primarily on either the East Coast (PADD 1) or West Coast (PADD 5). West Coast imports of ethanol averaged 30% of total U.S. imports. Despite the geographic disadvantage of shipping Brazilian ethanol to the West Coast compared to other U.S. regions, imports into PADD 5 continued to benefit from the advantage that sugarcane ethanol provides in meeting the California LCFS. The California LCFS regulates the carbon intensity (CI) of gasoline and diesel fuels sold in the state. Depending on the production process, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol has among the lowest CI values of any fuels currently available for meeting the LCFS target.

In 2013, the United States imported 306 million gallons and exported 622 million gallons of ethanol, the latter of which was the third highest annual total on record. The United States remained the world’s largest supplier of fuel ethanol, despite high corn prices and increased domestic demand. Canada received more than half of all U.S. ethanol exports, with its total reaching 325 million gallons last year. U.S. exports to Brazil fell to 33 million gallons, as increasing volumes of Brazilian ethanol were available for domestic consumption. U.S. ethanol exports made their way increasingly to other countries in Latin America, as well as Europe, the Middle East, and new destinations in Asia and Africa. U.S. ethanol was exported for the first time to the Philippines and Tunisia, and large volumes of U.S. ethanol were sent to the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Peru, and Western Europe.

The trend in 2014 is for the United States to remain a strong net exporter of ethanol, with the potential for substantially larger levels of exports, given the recent abundant corn crop and EPA’s proposed reduction in domestic RFS targets. While favorable blending economics are likely to drive domestic ethanol demand, the United States is likely to remain the world’s leading ethanol supplier. U.S. ethanol import volumes in 2014 will likely be contingent on a combination of Brazilian sugarcane yields, final advanced biofuels RFS targets, and imported volumes of competing advanced biofuels, such as renewable diesel.

Exchange programs have been around for decades, but a new innovative language project is taking it to a more digital level.

The Speaking Exchange project is linking up Brazilian students who need help practicing their English skills with elderly American retirees.

Developed by FCB Brazil and implemented by a CNA language school in Leberdade, Brazil, the pilot program has paired up students with seniors at Windsor Park Retirement Community in Chicago.

A video on how the program works shows pairs carrying on conversations via video chat, discussing their families, hobbies, pasts and futures — developing the most unlikely of friendships and relationships.

The differences in age and background make the interactions remarkable to watch.

One exchange has a young boy in Brazil who smiles as he speaks with an elderly man. The man is seen holding up a black-and-white photo of a couple.

“This is your dad?” the boy asked. The man responded: “That’s me and my wife when we were young!”

“Oh you were good-looking when you were young,” the boy said. “And you’re still good-looking.”

Another interaction has an older woman and a female student, who is talking about her family.

“I love with my older brother. He has 23 years,” the young student said.

The older woman responded: “Do you know instead of saying ‘He has 23 years,’ you could say, ‘He is 23 years old.’”

The recorded videos are then uploaded privately on YouTube for teachers to evaluate student development, according to AdWeek.

“The idea is simple and it’s a win-win proposition for both the students and the American senior citizens,” said Joanna Monteiro, executive creative director at FCB Brazil. “It’s exciting to see their reactions and contentment. It truly benefits both sides.”

One particularly heartwarming conversation is about travel.

“Are you planning someday to go to Brazil?” the young student asked.

“Oh I would like to!” the older man said, to which the student responds with: “You can stay in my house if you want.”

At the end of April, Brazil finally approved the Marco Civil, a landmark bill that enshrines net neutrality and other key Internet principles into law. Earlier in the month, the European Parliament voted in favor of a strong set of net neutrality rules for the continent, bolstered at the last moment in response to pressure from pro-consumer advocates. Meanwhile, here in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission is sparring with public interest advocates and members of Congress who have serious concerns over the FCC’s proposal to reinstate net neutrality protections after the DC court struck down the Open Internet rules in January. Given the importance of protecting a free and open Internet, examples from Sao Paolo and Brussels should inform policymakers as they weigh in on the domestic debate.

In Brazil, net neutrality was officially codified at the beginning of the NETMundial conference, a multistakeholder Internet governance convening in Sao Paolo in late April. The signing of the Marco Civil da Internet—commonly referred to as Brazil’s Internet bill of rights—was a huge victory for advocates of a free and open Internet, who have been pushing for the bill to pass with strong language for years.

The Brazilian victory was hard won. Although the Marco Civil grabbed positive headlines when it was drafted through a largely public consultation process in 2009 and 2010, the landmark legislation has faced an uphill battle recently. Just this March, Eduardo Cunha, a former telecom executive and lobbyist for Brazil’s major telecom companies, led the effort to gut the net neutrality provisions from the bill, which prevents them from charging higher rates for access to bandwidth-heavy content. In response, activists and members of civil society quickly mobilized to “Save the Internet” and called on legislators to protect the open Internet.

Fortunately, Brazilian politicians listened, and when the long-awaited bill passed in April, it included the section on net neutrality. According to the final language, ISPs are not allowed to “offer services in non-discriminatory commercial conditions” and must “refrain from anti-competition practices.”

Similarly, the European Parliament voted for net neutrality rules in early April which outlaw network discrimination through blocking or throttling content and services and prevent anti-competitive commercial agreements. The amended rules also closed the worrisome “specialized services” loophole (what we call “paid prioritization” in the U.S.), attempting to ensure that the language is sufficiently narrow to prevent ISPs from becoming gatekeepers for online content and services.

The reaction from telecom companies in the EU was, unsurprisingly, negative. In an unusual alliance, the four major European telecommunications trade associations joined forces just before the vote to release a statement strongly opposing the reforms, calling the legislation “anti-innovation” and “anti-consumer.” Nonetheless, Members of the European Parliament held their ground and passed the bill with the proposed amendments. The legislation will now go to the Council of Europe for approval (and must be implemented and enforced by the EU member states).

The progress made in Brazil and the EU stands in stark contrast to what’s happening here in the U.S. After the court struck down the Open Internet rules in January 2014, it seemed like the FCC had a clear path to reinstate net neutrality: reclassify broadband as a Title II telecommunications service. Reclassification would allow the FCC to treat broadband providers as common carriers, meaning it could implement clear and strong new rules that would prevent discrimination, blocking, and could even address paid prioritization issues. Instead, a watered down set of proposed rules was leaked to the press last month, which would address some discrimination issues but would create an even larger loophole for ISPs to charge for fast lanes.

Of course, the international comparisons aren’t perfect—and it’s important to remember that with the new EU and Brazilian rules, the specifics of implementation and enforcement are still somewhat unclear. But in both cases, lawmakers took a firm stand on the issue, siding with advocates of a free and open Internet even in the face of fierce lobbying from incumbent service providers. Here in the U.S., the drumbeat of opposition to the FCC’s proposal is growing louder by the day, with Internet companies from startups to giants like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft—not to mention two FCC Commissioners and almost a dozen members of Congress—now calling for stronger rules than what FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler originally put on the table. In response, the Chairman circulated a new draft of the proposed rules, which is a step in the right direction(although some critics have questioned whether it’s just the same proposal in different language). Clearly, there is a lot of work left to be done to secure strong net neutrality protections for Internet users everywhere.

 

batia2

Euroconte is the Brazilian company behind Bátia, one of the country’s oldest, most traditional brands, introduced in 1976 as an export company committed to the shipment of top quality exotic fruits to the international market, pioneering the export of all kinds of products to Europe and the United States, including mangoes, grapes, melons or papayas.

Over all those years we have faced many challenges due to Brazil’s circumstances, such as the dollar/real exchange rate issues, and climatic changes as well,” affirms Denise Braga, who has been in charge of Euroconte since 1995. Over time, the Brazilian export business has naturally experienced some changes. “We used to do a lot of maritime shipments, which require good management to prevent the risk of unforeseen problems, but currently we focus almost exclusively on air shipments.

The reason for the company’s focus on air shipments is twofold. On the one hand, there are marketing motivations, such as in the case of guavas, where demand is not large enough to warrant maritime shipments; on the other hand, it ensures that the fruit arrives in perfect conditions in terms of both appearance and flavour.

“We are very happy with that decision because we created a niche market of great quality fruit. We currently ship, among other products, Palmer mangoes, tropical avocados, and guava, and have become the leading exporter of figs in the past ten years, for which we own a Global G.A.P. certified farm. The only product we ship by sea is ginger, as it has a very long shelf life,” explains Denise.

According to Denise, one of the majors issues for Brazil in recent times have been the changes in the weather. “In November and December last year, for example, with the fig campaign starting, we faced the driest summer on record; a season which is normally a very rainy period. Over time, the length of the avocado season has also changed, being reduced from twelve to seven months.”

Euroconte’s main clients are Europe, Canada, the United States and Asia. “We were the first company to ship figs to Asia, namely to Hong Kong,” says Denise. Figs, of the ‘Purple de Valinhos’ variety, are also the company’s main source of revenue, as unlike other fruits, they have a very long season, lasting from November to August. “Every single day we have a harvest and shipment in order to ensure their freshness, which is a very tough job,” explains Denise. “99% of our figs are exported to Europe, as the U.S. is closed to Brazilian figs due to phytosanitary restrictions.”

There are differences between the characteristics of fruit distributed in the domestic market and that shipped overseas, mainly in terms of appearance, maturation and shape. “Europe, for instance, does not accept fruit with physiological defects, like spots, which makes the selection of fruit for export a very hard process, thus resulting in higher prices. “For this reason, we prefer not to work with the local market, instead, to focus on top quality fruit, enabling us to provide a top quality service to the importers,” concludes Denise Braga.

granite Granite manufacturers are one of many U.S. industries struggling to compete with foreign competition — which makes it odd that the federal government is subsidizing a Brazilian granite project.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is a federal agency that subsidizes U.S. businesses that set up operations in foreign countries. In 2012, OPIC approved a $6 million taxpayer-backed loan to support a U.S. company expanding its Brazilian operation that extracts granite and cuts it into slabs for countertops to ship to the U.S. and other countries.

The OPIC subsidy obviously helps the recipient — Wisenbaker Building Supply — but it hurts American companies that excavate granite or shape granite blocks into countertops in the U.S.

U.S. rock quarries have pared back operations over recent decades. In Barre, Vt., jobs in the industry amount to one-third of the1960s peak, Barre Granite Association’s Executive Director Ed Larson told a local newspaper last summer. “Mainly because of foreign competition,” the paper said.

“Imports chip away at Vermont Granite Industry,” a Boston Globe headline declared in 2008. “The competition remains fierce overseas,” the article reported, “where quarry workers earn as little as a few dollars a week. The cost of extracting and cutting the granite is so low that even after the cost of shipping it to the United States it is cheaper than Vermont’s.”

“All the pressure is foreign,” Joe Timilty of Massachusetts-based USA-Granite told me over the phone.

American companies will always complain about foreign competition, but this isn’t a matter of free trade. This is the federal government subsidizing foreign competition.

Wisenbaker is a U.S. construction company with many operations around the globe, including the granite quarry in a rural region of Brazil. The $6 million taxpayer loan was to help Wisenbaker “make investments related to granite quarries in Brazil for export of granite slabs to China and the U.S. for homebuilding industry,” as one OPIC public summary puts it.

The OPIC summary explains that the loan will subsidize excavating and finishing the slabs. As OPIC put it, “The investments will involve purchase of machinery to set up finishing line for granite slabs, completing infrastructure for block yards, purchase or lease of excavation machinery, hiring of personnel and for working capital.”

Many American companies import granite blocks and form them into countertops, and so expanding Wisenbakers’ granite-cutting operation in Brazil hurts U.S. counter-top makers.

Also, hundreds of granite quarries still operate in the U.S. This Brazilian operation is their competition, and the U.S. government is subsidizing it.

OPIC, however, conducted an economic analysis that denies this: “As the current scale of granite production in the United States is not sufficient to meet domestic demand,” the OPIC public summary document reads, “this project does not appear to have the potential for a negative impact on the United States.”

Think about the logic here: OPIC implies that increasing the supply of granite in the U.S. won’t affect the price of granite in the U.S. Give OPIC an “F” in Economics 101.

OPIC spokesman Charlie Stadtlander added that “countertop granite is not the same product as the stone quarried for building stones or headstones.” And most U.S.-quarried granite is used for monuments and buildings.

Timilty points out the flaw in this defense: The reason U.S. quarries don’t bother with countertop granite is because the Brazilians are already doing it at much lower cost — with their cheaper labor and regulatory costs. Subsidizing a Brazilian quarry just exacerbates that problem. If Brazil didn’t have such a cost advantage, American quarries would be turning out countertops.

Timility put it plainly: “The more you help these guys produce stuff, the more they ship here, the less the price is, the less guys here cut stone.”

So why is the federal government subsidizing the project? If you question this subsidy, you’re questioning the purpose for OPIC’s existence.

OPIC’s charter expires at the end of this fiscal year — Sept. 30. Some conservatives on and off Capitol Hill have called for the end of OPIC, blasting it as corporate welfare.

The House passed a foreign aid bill May 8 that would reauthorize the agency. The Senate has yet to act on the measure.

Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner’s senior political columnist