Tag Archives: Brazil

Uganda’s anti-gay law has roots in USA

Sometimes finding a local-global connection is not hard.

Today Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed a law into effect that threatens jail terms up to life for anyone having gay sex. The law also allows authorities to toss into jail anyone failing to report any knowledge of gay activity. (Uganda’s Museveni signs anti-gay bill, defying donors, Washington)

On the bright side, the new law does not threaten death, as the first iteration in 2009 did.

And where did this great idea come from?

Well it seems that the religious right from the United States have moved their fight against “the gay agenda” from the States — where they are losing their bigoted/homophobic battle — to Africa, where already conservative societies are ready to show how tough they are.

Back in 2010, Jeffrey Gettleman reported for the New York Times on the influence of the U.S. religious right in creating  the atmosphere for the original legislation — that provided the death penalty for gays — to the version just signed into law. (Americans’ Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push)

There is even a documentary of how the religious right pushed their agenda in Uganda: God Loves Uganda.

The BBC has a great piece from December 2013 about the law along with a map showing the dismal state of gay rights in Africa. (Ugandan MPs pass life in jail anti-homosexual law)

Besides activities of individual churches in Uganda, one of the main driving forces in setting the atmosphere for the legislation is a group known simply as The Family. One less kind term is The Christian Mafia(C Street politics: The Family sponsors death for homosexuals in UgandaThe Family is based out of a C Street house in Washington, DC and includes many of the power brokers in the city. 

And there is Jeff Sharlet’s account in his book The Family and in articles. (HarpersStraight Man’s Burden: The American roots of Uganda’s anti-gay persecutions)

Once the scope of the legislation was fully realized — and most likely the political fallout at home — The Family and many of its members came out against “Kill Gays” legislation. But did nothing to stop the legislation that is now law.

A major player in the religious right in the United States used its contacts and influence to promote an agenda that is the antithesis of peace and understanding — items I was taught are the foundations of Christian belief. I have seen hundreds of Christian organizations work in Honduras, Brazil and the Dominican Republic. It is true in some cases the individuals seemed to care more for passing out bibles than providing for the physical well-being of the people served. But by and large these are good people providing housing, medical care and education to people denied the basics by their own societies.

And The Family will say they also provide help to the poor. And they do. But they — and their followers/supporters — also bring hate and fear.

The link between what is happening in Uganda and the United States is direct. And it is a shame that an organization based in the United States with many members of Congress listed as members/associates has helped create an atmosphere of persecution that has now led to a law that could jail hundreds — if not thousands — for just being human.

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Filed under Africa, Connections, International News Coverage

New transparency law gives Brazilian voters look at corrupt practices

Great little piece on a new law is drawing attention to stuff Brazilian lawmakers tried to keep hidden. And it shows how getting even the weakest freedom/right of information law or transparency law enacted is a benefit. Once in place, people can use it to its limits and then lobby for changes that make it work even better. (That’s how the US FOI act evolved.)

Will Brazil’s Transparency Law Work?

The recently approved Transparency Law in Brazil has exposed that one-third of the 594 Brazilian federal lawmakers have pending cases in criminal and civil courts. Most of the criminal cases against the Senators and Deputies in Brasília involve corruption charges.

The Transparency Law was approved following the presentation of over one million signatures from the Brazilian people. The purpose of the bill is to expose members of Congress with criminal charges to the public. The law is seen as a filter of allegedly corrupt candidates with the hopes of discouraging them from seeking re-election.

Rest of story

The part I like is the enumeration of the crimes the solons were charged with and how many in each party were charged. (To be sure, being charged in a civil case is nothing. Until you remember that Brazilian law allows individuals to launch civil cases that would be considered criminal cases in other countries.)

The list reveals that 190 of the 594 Brazilian federal lawmakers have at some time been charged in criminal or civil cases. The list of crimes includes manslaughter, degrading practices, abuse of power, administrative illegalities, public funding abuse, and illicit enrichment. There is a total of fourteen different crimes on the list.

Furthermore, no party is absent from the list. PMDB, the largest political party presently in Congress with 101 members, has 36 politicians that have been charged. The ruling PT party of Dilma with 100 lawmakers has 28. PSDB, the main opposition force with 60 members, has 22 with pending charges. PR with 43 members has 14 charges, and PSB of 29 members has 12 charged.

But my favorite is Congressman, Natan Donadon, who is currently in jail but is still an active member of Congress and receiving his salary.

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Filed under Corruption, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, South America

Orlando sees connection between Main Street and the rest of the world

A recent study by the U.S. Commerce Dept. for the Orlando visitors’ bureau showed that the Orlando area saw an increase in Brazilian visitors. According to the Orlando Sentinel, about 1.3 million Brazilians visited Orlando last year. That number accounts for about one-third of all South American visitors to the area.

Visit Orlando commissioned the study from the Commerce Dept. Because of budget cuts over the past decade, Commerce stopped studying specific numbers of foreign visitors, relying instead on estimates.

Other major foreign contributors to the Orlando economy are an estimated 1 million Canadians and 750,000 Britons.

It was nice to see a straight-forward article from a LOCAL reporter about a LOCAL benefit from an INTERNATIONAL connection. (Orlando tourism’s Brazilian contingent grows sharply with improved head count)

Too often, too many local news organizations fail to see the connections.

Granted, in Orlando it is hard not to notice that there are a lot of foreigners at all the various amusement parks. But what so many fail to notice is that all those visitors can only show up thanks to U.S. foreign service officers around the world.

These FSOs issue the visas that most people from around the world need to visit the US.

A study some time ago in Florida showed that for each 82 visas issued in Brazil, one job in Florida is created. And the US embassy and consulates in Brazil issues tens of thousands of visas each year. (Just do the math on the 1.3 million visitors in Orlando and you will see that about 16,000 jobs were created just from Brazil.)

So with this kind of job-creating power, why do so many in the Congress want to cut the State Department’s budget? (The Ryan Plan — the gold standard for the GOP — wants to reduce the State Dept. to about 30 percent of its current size in 10 years.)

But that is a different issue.

For now, the issue is LOCAL news organizations need to pay attention to how they are affected by INTERNATIONAL events and circumstances.

In the case of Orlando and Brazil, the only reason so many Brazilians are able to go to Orlando is because Brazil has become a more wealthy country with a growing middle class. (And yes, the visas.) And Brazil got that way thanks to a lot of international trade and training, that included programs from the States.

Think about it, countries facing revolutions or economic upheavals do not make it easy for people to earn enough money to visit the US and spend money.

So yes, American journalists must keep track of what is going on overseas because much of what happens elsewhere can — and often does — have a DIRECT effect on LOCAL economies and individuals.

 

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Filed under Connections, Jobs, South America, Story Ideas

Brazil leads the world in Google censor requests

Follow the link to a great visual that shows what countries asked Google to remove material and why.

As noted in the headline, Brazil is #1. The USA is #2.

The main reason for the requests seems to be for defamation. In Brazil, the second reason is related to the electoral law.

You can click on country names in this excellent graphic to get details about the requests.

What does the world ask Google to censor?

You may note that China is not on that list. Betcha the Great Chinese Firewall takes care of any “problems” before they can be posted online.

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Filed under Censorship, Freedom of access, Freedom of Information

FINALLY! Foreign trade seen as something good

A recent Gallup Poll shows that more Americans have a positive view of foreign trade than a negative one. (Americans Shift to More Positive View of Foreign Trade)

Fifty-seven percent view trade as “an opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports,” while 35% see it as “a threat to the economy from foreign imports.” During the prior two years, Americans were evenly divided in their opinions about trade.

Why is this important?

In a globally connected world, international trade is the lifeblood of growth and development. And yet, so few people know anything how much international trade affects their individual lives.

There are the obvious connections, but few think about it:

  • Imported goods from China at the local Wal-Mart
  • All the Toyotas,Hondas, Hyundis, etc. on the road.

But there is also:

  • Iconic American beer is owned by the Brazilian company AmBev
  • The majority owner of Burger King is the Brazilian investment firm, 3G.
  • Columbia Records and Columbia Pictures are owned by Sony, a Japanese company
  • TomTom, the popular GPS firm is a Dutch company.
  • And, FYI: Holland is the 3rd largest foreign investor in the U.S. at $217.1 billion

The list goes on and on.

And none of that, the treaties that allow for protection of American companies making sales overseas or allowing foreign companies to invest in the US, can happen without a fully functioning and staffed foreign service. To be clear, my wife is a career diplomat, but the foreign service also includes people from the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Justice, Labor, etc.

A country does not remain prosperous unless it finds new markets for its goods and services. As more countries develop — Brazil — they become competitors. It is in the  economic well-being of the United States and its companies to help impoverished countries develop strong democratic institutions and strong economies. Helping farmers in Honduras come out of poverty and ensure their children are educated means fewer illegal immigrants to the United States but more importantly future clients for American products.

That means foreign aid is an important factor in the economic well-being and security of the United States.

Unfortunately, foreign aid and the foreign affairs budget in general always seems to be the target of budget cutters.

Phil Plait — The Bad Astronomer — wrote about the budgeting cutting mania aimed at NASA. His complaint could be just as true for the foreign affairs budget.

[I]f you have a hard drive full of 4 Gb movie files, you don’t make room by deleting 100kB text files! You go after the big targets, which is far more efficient.

In the case of NASA, the space agency budget is just a little less than 1% of the federal budget.

In a survey in 2010, the Program for Public Consultation asked people to estimate how much of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. The average estimate was 21%. The average response for how much would be “appropriate” was 10 percent.

And the real number for foreign aid: About 0.5%

The real number for ALL non-military foreign affairs activities: About 1.5%.

Yep! That small amount accounts for all the salaries of all the U.S. diplomats and local employees in embassies around the world, the rent, maintenance and repairs for all embassies and consulates, all the costs for the State Department headquarters and related buildings in Washington, all the processing of passports, all the trade negotiations, all the Commerce Department assistance to American businesses looking to sell goods and services overseas, all the marketing of US agriculture goods to other countries and all the foreign aid that helps bring millions of people out of poverty.

Another way to look at it:

  • The U.S. military spends more on its marching bands than the State Department pays for its diplomats.
  • There are more soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen in marching bands than there are U.S. diplomats. 

So why is the foreign affairs budget always under attack? Basically it is because there is no constituency for foreign affairs. The State Department does not build factories in just about every congressional delegation (as does the Pentagon). So the only people who care about the budget are either so-called “budget hawks” or people involved in international affairs. And because the issues of foreign affairs do not fit on a bumper sticker, few people care until something bad happens.

And this all gets back to the Gallup survey on the value of foreign aid.

If more reporters opened their eyes, they could see how their local economies are dependent on international connections. Or how international events have a direct impact on local events.

It would help if the State Department would also encourage its people to step out and start explaining to the general public about why having a foreign service is important to the economic well-being of the United States. Yes, some do, but too many do not.

It would be nice to see more discussions taking place in high schools and local news outlets about the local-global connections.

And — most importantly — how the economic well-being of the United States depends on international affairs and international trade.

Face it, this ain’t the 1950′s any more. It ain’t the 1960′s or 1970′s. This is the 21st century and that means reaching across borders for goods, services and accommodations.

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Filed under Connections, International News Coverage, Jobs, Trade