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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guys and Their Health - How about Prevention?

Men and their aches and pains are now the target of the Health Ministry in Brazil. In August, this year, the government of Brazil launched The National Policy of Man’s Health or the policy for the health of the man. The program aims at promoting access to health services for males who otherwise, perhaps by cultural and educational reasons, tend to look for health services when their ailment prevents them from working. In every three deaths that occur in Brazil, two are men. The world over, men live on average five to seven years less than women.

As is the example with breast or other cancers, people tend to seek help when their disease is far too advanced for help and the program aims at just that: prevention. “Precious time is lost when that happens”, says José Gomes Temporão, Health Minister, “when they arrive at the health services it’s because they have reached a critical stage”.

R$ 613.22 million (Brazilian Real), or about US$ 300 million, will be allocated in a eight-year framework, for communication initiatives, health promotion, service expansion, and investment into the public health structure. By the looks of it, it seems a revolution in men’s health is about to start. It was about time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The war on Language. Really, It's Plain to See. Or hear...

It is interesting to see how the establishment takes over language and makes it a tool for their propaganda machine. It is incredibly pathetic how segments of the political spectrum appropriate common, stock words, and all of a sudden they acquire new meaning.

The word “tea” for example, which is something we drink - and I am well aware of its other use(s) - is now the stuff of debate. I have recently read an article The War on Language by Chris Hedges in Common Dreams and was mystified by how real the business of fashioning, or shaping if you prefer, language and hand it over to people to regurgitate it in spasms or paroxysms – or quite plainly, rants. And from there, people set off in marches and aim to hijack the airwaves thereby polluting our ears with the stupidest of campaigns. I cannot possibly take it.

What is really heartbreaking is the way they do it. Simply by building a case in world forums, they will send to war beardless teens only to be shocked – you should see their faces – when they pay a visit to their specialized hospitals. Seriously, how can you possibly face that limbless creature and keep a straight face? Have you no emotion(s)?

What to my mind is still incredible is the (false) debate supposed to exist between this or that side of the isle. Go tell it to Africans, Latin Americans, the disposessed the world over, who, seriously, see no difference whatsoever in the constant bickering. Are they not asking for more troops to be sent into harm’s way when we all thought, thank heavens, the war was going to end?

We should not touch on the issue of finance. Crisis. People losing their homes. And their savings. Quite frankly, it is so utterly ridiculous, I cannot find words to express it. Where has all the money gone?

I have reached the conclusion that thinking about these matters will not take me anywhere. Unless, of course, I ask Them to stop the planet and let me get off. I know, for a fact, there’s Hubble up there to support my claim, that there is a universe of possibilities out there.

Thank You, Guys!

I am so slow on the uptake. So pardon me for failing to notice that it is the nice thing to do that when you have a new follower, you immediately follow him or her publicly unless of course the blog is about a murder plot. I hope I am now duly following all my followers.

I have noticed that when people decide to write a blog this is done chiefly because they have something to say even if at the beginning they doubt they do. I learn a lot from my fellow bloggers. I know people literally get out of their way to capture that best photo, or download or upload a video on the computer. It all takes time and patience. So, let us all keep up the good work and come up with lines that celebrate our diversity. Now, in Portuguese...

Sou tão desatinado. Desculpem-me por não notar que a coisa legal de se fazer quando você tem um novo seguidor, você imediatamente o segue a menos que o blogue seja sobre uma obra duvidosa. Eu espero estar em dia com meus companheiros blogueiros.

Eu percebi que quando as pessoas decidem escrever um blogue elas o fazem simplesmente porque têm algo a dizer mesmo que no começo duvidem disso. Eu aprendo muito com meus amigos blogueiros. O trabalhão que dá, por exemplo, baixar um video. E as fotos, então? Tudo requer paciência e é trabalhoso. Então, vamos lá, que continuemos com o bom trabalho e que façamos criar coisas que celebrem a nossa diversidade.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Women's Health. Breast Cancer - Does Prevention work?

Data obtained from The National Cancer Institute (INCA) in Brazil, reveal that breast cancer accounts for the highest mortality rate between the years of 2002-2006: 16,5% when compared to the cancer of the larynx at 0,6% on the same period. A lot of deaths.

No amount of preparation will ever get anyone ready for such a diagnosis. It is devastating. However, we hear of women who have made it through the grueling treatment period and are back on track doing what they do best: being women, mothers, professionals and the companions they have always been. In the U.S. they are known as Breast Cancer Survivors. In Porto Alegre, we have the "Marcha das Vitoriosas, or the march of the victorious, an annual event which is something akin to the marches in other countries. Their aim: to bring awareness and funding to local efforts to prevent and eradicate this horrible disease.

The good thing is that in more developed countries mortality rates are decreasing due to greater breast cancer awareness and public policies geared towards early tumor detection – mammography is essential. Sadly, in Brazil, it is the opposite, where mortality and incidence rates have increased in recent years. Experts say this is due to the delay in diagnosis – when women come in for their mammograms, the disease is well underway which may render treatment useless. Therein lies the importance of awareness marches that draw attention to the fact that early detection and public health initiatives to prevent the onset of the disease are literally lifesaving.

Hopefully, the gloomy scenario can be changed if women start taking responsibility for their own health and taking steps to make changes, perhaps in their lifestyles, thus reducing the chance of ever having to worry about the heartbreaking diagnosis. A few tips from the Guideline Implementation for Breast Healthcare in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries part of an overview of the Breast Health Global Initiative - Global Summit 2007:

- If you are having a baby, make sure you breast feed. Breastfeeding helps
- Exercise regularly
- Watch your weight
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid exposure to radiation
- Avoid exogenous – that is, taken externally - hormone therapy.

The added benefit is that by incorporating these health behaviors, you will be making a huge difference and, additionally, it will be good for you in general.

On the Video, Dr. Maira Caleffi, breast cancer specialist, founding president of the IMAMA - Breast Instititute of Rio Grande Sul - in Porto Alegre, RS, at the opening ceremony of the Pink October Cancer Awareness Month on why prevention is important. Check it out.

Women's health. Concern. Importance of self-exams. Awareness centers in Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil. What to look for? Statistics. Future.

Lighting of the Monuments. As part of the Pink October Awareness Campaign, The Breast Institute is sponsoring the lighting of monuments all over Porto Alegre.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Climate Change Summit at the UN, Copenhagen Next. Are We on the Same Page?

President Barack Obama:

"The time to reverse this tide is running out."

President Obama's call is vehement and to the point. That is, if we want to be part of this ever increasing trend to save the environment. Further parapharasing the head of state, bold action is needed if we are to leave future generations a safer planet. A lot has been accomplished but more progress needs to be made, he says. However, steps towards renewable energy such as solar panels, wind turbines, fuel economy and the cleaning-up of coal plants in the U.S. have to be taken. These are sweeping and necessary changes. Difficulty is no excuse for inaction and that all of us must do what we can.

Scouring the media, we will find that sustainable growth is the catchphrase and partnerships are a must. As is expected, countries like China, Brazil, India and Mexico, all of them emerging markets, have a lot to contribute when it comes to Climate Change. When talking of Brazil, what comes immediately to mind is the Amazon and how to develop the forrest sustainably.

Veja Magazine touches on the issue by sending reporters to the jungle. Their job: to take the pulse of the latest developments in sustainability. They conclude that no amount of political action or paperwork will do anything to reverse the tide of destruction that plagues the Amazon if we do not factor in the people who make a living out of the forest. A possible solution: by paying attention to their needs and making sure they get basic infrastructure, we will be making a safe bet that the future of that vast expanse of trees and biodiversity is assured.

Meanwhile, individual action is required if are to put the kibosh on the degradation of the environment. By curbing our consumerist impulses, especially if we hail from more devoloped areas of the world, might help. Our landfills are packed tight with our refuse and rich nations resorting to the exporting of their unwanted toxic waste. Where does it end up? Right on Brazilian shores - only to be shipped back later with a note: We do not want your trash.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Great Alignment - December 21, 2012. There's a Movie About it.

Earth’s magnetic poles to reverse.

And that has created a lot of noise in the pseudo-scientific community. Will the world come to an end in the Winter Solstice, 2012? We do not know.

However, an event of great cosmic significance is said to be about to happen in our universe. According to ancient texts and folklore – Hopi Indians – Nostradamus – Isaac Newton, and check out the video here, FoxNewsChannel, all refer to this development in our near future.

A book has been written about it. I am not telling you to buy the book but the title is interesting: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to December 2012. Is this all utter nonsense or is there some ring of truth to this? Some people mock the fact and say it is fable.

What if there is something to it and the world does come to an end? What are we to do? What am I going to miss most about this Earth? The least? To whom shall I address my enquiries? My fears?

Will the alignment cause changes on the planet akin to those in the past in which entire species disappeared? Will our self-contained human community be just dig-uppable evidence some millions of years down the road?

Image at the top of the post: Aztec Calendar.
The Aztec calendar was an adaptation of the Mayan calendar.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Women and Politics

The time to vote a new president in is fast approaching in Brazil and parties here, there and everywhere are pulling themselves together and doing their bit to put forward the best names for the hopefuls. Now, since we have written a lot about women on this blog, it would only be fitting if we commented about the fact we have two of them running for president of this vast country. Mind you, in a country as varied as a box of candies. And we all know, differences in education as vast as the Atlantic coast, if not bigger.

The two female choices are peculiarly controversial: one because she is getting that pat in the back from the current president who wants her to follow in his shoes and thereby continuing with his policies and; the other, from the Green Party (Partido Verde) with an extensive resume in ecological causes. The former, hugely controversial for being economical with the truth and not even being clear about her academic credentials. Do you or do you not have a PhD? Have you or have you not met with this or that person? If you can “gloss over” this data, what to make of larger issues? The latter, in particular, because she is part of an ever increasing religious trend, pervasive in all Latin America, called evangelical Protestantism. A challenge, really, to the long-standing catholic hegemony. Obviously, this lower-class phenomenon is, we know, encouraging a political culture. Question: Will they be authoritarian and repressive, or will they bring about more democracy? We, westerners, are terrified of religious fundamentalism.

Whoever we finally decide to vote for, let us make sure we vote conscientiously and not just drop someone into office as we so often do and then live to regret it. How do we do it? Let us try to go past the slick advertising campaigns and the usual Brazilian (“jeitinho brasileiro”) way of doing things by perhaps donating our priceless vote to that candidate who has helped us with our private agendas. Let us, if we can, vote in people with character, awareness and with subtle qualities of a bigger heart which will benefit ALL Brazilians.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On Good Living

We have a lot to learn when it comes to living in community. We often tend to allow our darker side to creep in when no one is looking. Often we are downright disrespectful to other people’s rights. That way, we can say we are lagging behind on the evolutionary road. There are, thankfully, little things we can do to make our stay on this planet more pleasant to ourselves and to others. A few items to be followed:

- When we’re out walking our dogs, we should always strive to pick up after they’ve done their business. Children coming to play in the park will not be exposed to your pet’s residues.
- When we’re smoking (which we shouldn’t, we all know very well why), we should try and look for an ashtray or a place where we can dispose of the stub safely. I know you want to look cool on school campuses everywhere by puffing (and huffing, believe me, afterwards) and making anecdotal comments on whatever is going on with this professor or that strange co-student with a bit of brain. And never should you, please, toss that stub in dried up parks. We might cause blazes as in California, Greece and Australia.
- That proverbial beer can (beer?) out the car window is a no-no. We’ve got to remember that is beyond the pale. Spitting out the bus window – not unless you are choking on your own thoughts or that cookie you should not be eating anyway.
- Littering public places? Jamais. Jahmay. We do it when we know there is nobody around and we say to ourselves “ah, it’s just this once”, which becomes a habit.
- If we live in a building, we have to always take care of our fellow dwellers by being careful when opening doors to our deliveries and people we do not know or we are about to meet for the first time. Have people call you in advance.
- If we are to spread malicious rumors, let us make sure that it finds its death at our doors, right after we have ascertained that it is just that, malice. Of course we are always vigilant to community alerts.
- And the nicest of all, whenever we can, we should look for opportunities to help and serve the wider community by doing charity work or by doing something to ourselves which will reverberate in the greater good.

You are very much welcome to add to the list above and remember that good living begins at home.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

On Lake Guaíba/Sobre o Lago Guaíba

Some people call it a lake, most everyone call it a river, and for some, an estuary. It may be the three all rolled into one for us Porto Alegrenses. I've decided to go and take a walk by the lake and capture a bit of "footage" for your delight. I wish I could be followed by a van and a retinue of assistants carrying satellite dishes and what not. I wish the quality of the videos were better. Sorry about that. I'm using a regular photo cam. I know I am phased-out mediatically speaking. That will not stop me from experimenting, you know. So, the first video is from the top of a building. Have a look and then tell me what you think. Ah, remember: we can always use the tools at our disposal like Google, Bing, Ask, Wikipedia, for more information about Porto Alegre.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The "Last Chance" Starts Today in Copenhagen - Is There a Way Out?

On the Environment and Consumerism

In a previous post, we talked about which TV set to buy whether Plasma or LCD. We would come across as apologists for gross consumerism, if we did not mention that whenever we make a decision to buy or discard appliances, we will be directly impacting the environment.

Not only are TV sets, computers, refrigerators, stoves, cell phones, light bulbs and a myriad other electrical appliances discarded in nature harmful to us all but we are running out of space to dump all our toxic wastes.

These products contain highly toxic chemicals such as lead, mercury, nitrogen, chrome, cadmium amongst others. All of these are likely to leach into the soil contaminating whatever is on their way radiating into all corners of our environment.

Of course, we want our businesses to prosper and people buying because that creates jobs and the benefits are obvious. However, we have to develop a conscientious approach to buying in order not only to keep people on their jobs but we have to find ways to re-cast, re-furbish, re-assign, re-use our throwaways.

Don’t you think that is a good thing to do?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Citizen Journalism And New Discoveries

There is one thing we can do now that we know the Internet will be used in political campaigns. Naturally, politicians are catching up with the trend and hope to get the best out of it. As citizens, we will be bombaded with information from all sides of the political spectrum. That is to be expected. It falls to us, those who have access to the Internet, to monitor and perhaps filter what we are going to be forwarding our friends. One thing is certain: our inboxes are no dumpsters.

We should use this new invention to propagate ideas that are worthy of mention bearing in mind that in politics it is always more of the same old, same old. We have now learned that there is only one agenda on government’s minds, and that is the economy. “It’ the economy, stupid!” said Bill Clinton. All right, we understand that for us to be able to help our disadvantaged brothers and sisters we have to generate income, that is, make money. Of course, we have to make money where it abounds, and that is the Market. Yes, we should follow the path of sustainable growth, too. After all, we do not want to leave a desert as our legacy to future generations. And we read elsewhere that those big multinational concerns are investing heavily in alternative sources of energy.

Energy? Which, by the way, reminds us of the billions of barrels of oil under our soil, rather, sea. The pre-salt layer, it is called. Much is being said about it and much is being made of it. Could it be that every Brazilian’s fortune is now about to change? Are we suddenly, a decade, they say, going to become the new arrivistes in the international oil scene? if we do, allow me to go get that new line of LV travelware in Paris. Toss that backpack.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Brazilian Independence Day - Does it Matter?

Since this blog is all about Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil and the world at large and it is written in English, it would only be fitting for me to include here what an important English-speaking woman - acting in the realm of diplomacy - had to say about our Independence Day: Quoted from the U.S. State Department.

"Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC

September 6, 2009

On behalf of the people of the United States, I extend warm wishes and congratulations to the people of Brazil as they celebrate 187 years of independence. We value the bonds of friendship and mutual respect between our two nations. The United States and Brazil are united by our commitment to democratic values, by our long history – I am proud that the United States was the first country to recognize Brazil as a sovereign nation – and by our shared hopes for a peaceful and prosperous future.

The partnership between the United States and Brazil is both durable and dynamic. Our governments are working together to meet the regional and global challenges of our times, from developing alternative energy sources and rebuilding the global economy to combating threats to public health and security.

On this historic occasion, I want to applaud Brazil’s leadership in the Americas and around the world, and reaffirm the commitment of the United States to further strengthen and deepen our partnership".

And there you have it, Mrs Clinton in her own words. And below, Brazil in the words of a fellow Brazilian:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Welcome to the 16th Porto Alegre On Stage

It’s that time of the year when porto alegreans shake off their Winter blues and get all set to fall in the world of drama. That is, Porto Alegre em Cena, translated as Porto Alegre on Stage, will be held from September 8th to 25th, 2009. This is the 16th editon of the now world famous theater extravaganza that takes place every year in the pampas capital. The festival is featuring productions from France, Canada, Portugal, Israel, Chile, Argentina and Uruguai plus national and local plays. The event also brings with it other activities such as drama workshops for the public and those interested in all the universe surrounding the dramatic arts.
Porto Alegre on Stage, which is sponsored by Brazilian companies that have a strong presence in the national corporate scene and the City Culture Office, will be taking place in many venues around town. Tickets will be sold on the internet, theaters, and at a local shopping mall for R$ 20 (US$10).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Of People in Africa and Other Underdeveloped Countries and How They Are Faring vis-à-vis AIDS.

They are faring very well thank you. They are taking their antiretroviral medications and doing better than many of us in the more developed part of the Western Hemisphere. Are they really? No, they are not. The UN itself said so. I mean, not that they are not doing well, mind you, but something else: top scientists at the important body admit that they (may) have overblown the scale of the global Aids epidemic. Which is very much contrary to their own doomsday forecasts and when, in the past, activists have warned that everyone in society is at risk. All of this is reported by The Daily Mail which goes on to say that "the UN Aids agency’s latest (2007) annual report says that in most parts of the world, outbreaks of the disease were “mostly concentrated in gay men, intravenous drug users and prostitutes”.

Our take: the truth of the matter is that governments instead of focusing on the more immediate problems such as the eradication of hunger and of other more common diseases, they will zero in on AIDS. South Africa is a good example, a dramatic one for what is is worth. Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's last president, was the target of the pharmaceutical industry's wrath when he sided with AIDS dissidents and searched for other alternatives for the problem of AIDS in his country. It is all very well documented and available on the internet. Elsewhere, we see criticism leveled at all levels of government in the beleaguered continent on how they are not doing enough to save their populations from the horrible disease, and worse still, at the very population on how promiscuous they are and how they do not care at all about acquiring AIDS.

Is this big pharma propaganda? Are they all dying of AIDS? Are the problems of Africa to be solved with the use of very toxic and costly medicines? Are condom-awareness campaigns effective? What are we to do? Watch and see.

If you Are Going To Buy That Luxury Car And You Are Black, Beware!

Luxury cars a democratic right?No. Not in Brazil. Specially if you are black.

This one guy, Januario Santana, while waiting for his wife and kids at the parking lot of a Carrefour chain in São Paulo, was beaten senseless by security guards who accused him of trying to break into his own car.

Henry Louis Gates in the U.S, you say? Yes, bears similarity to the famous American case where the one Harvard professor was hard pressed to say that no, he wasn’t trying to break into his own home. Culminating in the Beer Summit as you all know. On the blogosphere, however, The Januário case in São Paulo sparked heated and sometimes ironic debate as to whether Brazilians are racist or not.

I would go one better and say that we are covert racists. And as mentioned in one of the previous posts on this blog, blacks have a long road ahead of them when it comes to human rights. Everybody knows it. Mr Santana, poor thing, is now considering suing both the retailer and the state of São Paulo for the act of violence against him and get rid of his EcoSport – considered a luxury buy in this country.