Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

The cost of foreign affairs, it’s not as much as you think

Despite what most Americans think — and obviously some members of Congress as well —  non-military foreign affairs does not take up a quarter of the federal budget.

The core State Department budget for 2012– that part that pays for embassies and the salaries of diplomats WORLDWIDE — is $14.2 billion. That works out to about $46 per year for each person in the United States.

Once you add in non-military foreign aid — you know the stuff that allows other countries to grow enough so they can buy U.S. products and services — the entire non-military foreign affairs budget is $47 billion — $152 per person per year.

And yet what Americans think about the foreign affairs budget is way off.

According to a survey by Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland late last year the American people think the U.S. spends 25 percent on foreign affairs.

The public thinks 5 percent is the about the right amount.

The real number is ABOUT 1 PERCENT.

But it seems that even this small amount is too much for some.

It seems that those who want to cut the civilian foreign affairs budget look at just the cash and not the human cost. (Think about the men and women in the military who would have to go into harms way once the diplomatic corps is gutted.)

There are damn few talking about how the small foreign affairs budget provides a large positive impact both for U.S. security and for U.S. jobs.

There is a disconnect between the day-to-day diplomatic and development work and the American people. The folks on Main Street get the idea of a strong military defending freedom and all, but they don’t see how diplomacy fits in.

And part of the blame for this disconnect is the inability of local news organizations to see how global issues affect local events.

The mantra of “Local! Local! Local!” has led the accountants at news organizations around the country to think that anything that touches on international news should be avoided. Such a view denies the every increasing connection between Main Street and the rest of the world.

A local paper or radio station can always find a church group that sends a mission to some country. The trick is to find economic and political connections.

For example, the state of Florida is highly dependent on tourism from Brazil. For every 82 visas issued in Brazil to visit the United States 1 job in Florida is created. The U.S. mission in Brazil (3 consulates and the embassy) issued 620,000 visas last year. (For the math impaired that is 7,500 jobs created in Florida as a DIRECT result of visas issued to Brazilians by U.S. diplomats. No diplomats. No visas.)

Miami NBC got the connection a while back with its story about how Brazil was the #1 trading partner with Florida.

It is not difficult to make the connections between the world and Main Street. Stories that make these links put international events into a local context. And with context comes a better understanding of the world.

The stories might also help dispel myths about  the U.S. foreign policy apparatus. If nothing else, the public would be educated as to the real cost and value of the civilian foreign service.

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Brazilian journo qualification law raised again

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World

The International Federation of Journalists supports the Brazilian National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ) in their efforts to restore a requirement of a journalism college degree for anyone wishing to be a journalist.

And what a misguided position that is.

The campaign started up in 2009 when the Brazilian supreme court ruled that the requirement, which was imposed by the dictatorship, restricted free speech and was therefore unconstitutional.

The FENAJ argues that only properly trained journalists — with the proper degrees — can ensure fair and objective reporting.

“Journalists have to be truthful, impartial and accountable for their reporting,” said Elisabeth Costa, IFJ General Secretary and former President of FENAJ. “The public look to professional journalists for credible and objective information. We would fail them if we deny training to journalists.”

No one can dispute the need for training for journalists nor for the need to ensure journalists remain impartial and accountable for their reporting. But allowing a government to determine who can be a journalists gives the government way too much power over the news media.

A couple of quick points:

  1. No degree from any establishment of higher education guarantees skills, honesty, integrity or objectivity. (We have a Brazilian cook with all the proper certificates from university but all she can only prepare one or two dishes and is seems incapable of thinking through a recipe. But she has passed all the courses and has a degree. Do you really think this is the exception?)
  2. If the government can determine who can be a journalist, then it can also silence voices in the media that raise questions about government policy.

The more the government gets involved in reporting the news the more it can control the agenda and silence its critics. There is nothing to stop a local, state or national government official to have a journalist’s credentials revoked. Other journalists who want to keep their jobs learn the lesson quickly and stop pursuing stories that could cost them their jobs.

Brazilians should have learned from the days of the dictatorship that government control of the news is a bad thing for democracy. Most of the journalists understand that. And that is why I am surprised that their organization supports a means for government control of journalism.

If the concern is that a reporter is being biased and plays loose with the facts, then that reporter needs to be taken to task and fired. Pretty soon no one will hire that person into a media organization again. (When was the last time you saw a Jason Blair or Janet Cooke byline?)

As far as independent bloggers go, they are journalists just as much as the top reporter at the New York Times is. They share  the same constitutional protections. There is not one constitution for paid journalists at a major metropolitan newspaper and another for a blogger.

And before you say that the previous comments are U.S.-centric, remember that the Brazilian supreme court ruled the restriction on who can be a journalist can be seen as a violation of freedom of expression. The highest Brazilian legal authorities said the law imposed on the people by the dictators was in violation of a basic right of the Brazilian people.

Unlike the IFJ and FENAJ I don’t see how limiting expression and giving the government the power to control who can be a journalist helps protect and preserve democracy.

Look, maybe it all comes down to the FENAJ wants to limit the number of journalists available in the market. If that is so, then they are not really in the business of protecting journalists’ rights and democracy. They are then just proposing a restrictive labor law.

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Miami NBC station understands local and global events have a connection

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Congrats to NBC Miami. They see a world beyond their local beat.

The station ran a story today about how Brazil is now the No. 1 trading partner with Florida. (Brazilian Businesses Booming in South Florida) (And that doesn’t count all the Brazilian tourists that are flooding into Florida creating jobs in Florida.)

Here is another example of how a local news organization uses local information to build on an international story.

FYI: According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, while Brazil is the #1 international trader with Florida, Florida is the #2 exporter of U.S. goods and services to Brazil. (Texas is the #1 exporter.)

It is a pity that so few local news organizations have taken the time to use the occasion of Pres. Obama’s trip to South and Central America to look at how the politics and economies of that area directly affects their own local areas.

BTW, Besides being the #2 exporter from the United States to Brazil (value $7.2 billion), Florida is also the #2 U.S. exporter to Chile (value $2.8 billion) and ranks as #1 to El Salvador (value $2.4 billion). And it took me less than five minutes to get that information. Now think about how much those export sales add to the income of the state and how much the state budget would be hurt if those exports were cut or ended.

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Getting the local/global thing done right

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Congratulations to Herb Jackson, Washington correspondent for the [New Jersey] Record.

He not only understands the idea that there is a connection between international and local events, he knows how to dig into the various databases to get the numbers to back up the link.

Obama’s trip to Brazil key to N.J.

He did what I and a few others have been arguing for a long time. He took information already on hand from the wire services, looked up some data and did some local interviews.

Without spending extra money to send someone overseas, the readers of the Record got a news story that was specific to their local area AND showed how the New Jersey economy depended on global trade.

This is called providing context.

It would be nice to see more LOCAL reporting like this.

Too often most Americans don’t know or care about global events. In part, this is because the U.S. media don’t show enough intelligence to provide the context of why understanding what goes on in Brazil or Japan or Germany means to the local reader/listener/viewer.

Again, congrats to Herb Jackson for being a good journalist who sees connections vital to his readership.

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Brazilian president calls journalism an act of courage

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World

Folha celebrated 90 years of publishing this week. Attending their birthday party were all the top names of Brazil, including President Dilma Rousseff. (Use CHROME and Google Translate if your Portuguese is rusty.)

As expected, even the political figures who had major disagreements with the press pointed out that a free press is necessary for democracy to survive and grow.

Dilma went further to say that being a journalist is an act of courage.

“Censorship forced the first Brazilian newspaper to be printed in London in 1808,” she said.

Dilma added that circulating the newspaper De Libero Badaro at that time by journalist Vladimir Herzog in Brazil was an act of courage.

“Free, pluralistic and investigative press is essential for democracy in a country like ours.”

For the president and anyone over the age of 40, the lessons of dictatorships are personal. It wasn’t until 1985 when the dictatorship was overthrown for a democracy in Brazil.

The protection of civil and political rights remains a top priority for many in the leadership and especially among the news media.

The president noted that even when the media are critical of her and her policies, she prefers the voices criticism from a free press to silence imposed by the dictatorships.

A free press and investigative pluralism, it is essential to democracy in a country like ours, which besides being a continental country, is a country that embraces cultural differences despite our unit. A government must learn to live with the criticism of the newspapers to have a real commitment to democracy. Because democracy demands above this contradiction, and I repeat again: the civilized coexistence, with the multiplicity of opinions, beliefs and aspirations.

And unlike many other politicians who mouth the words of support for free and independent media, I really think Dilma means it.

Of course we will have to see how she handle the whole Social Control thing started by former president Lula. For now Dilma is not even putting the plan on the stove let alone the back burner. There are still leading members of the ruling PT that would like to keep the plan alive but who so far have been held back by a practical president.

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Journalists protest firing in Brazil

Bloggers and journalists in the northeast Brazilian city of Salvador protested against first the firing that was later changed to a suspension of Aguirre Peixot from A Tarde.

Seems Peixot wrote some stories about the environmental damage new development in the city was causing. The protesters claim pressure from the real estate developers led to the suspension.

The paper denies the connection. But soon after the articles appeared the developers pulled their ads from the paper. Soon after the suspension, the ads re-appeared.

The battle is nothing new to Brazil or the United States. (Think about the last time a U.S. newspaper ran a story highly critical of car dealers.)

Here is a Google Translate version of the story (so expect the English to be really rough).

Journalists in Brazil, like their American counterparts, are fiercely independent and often complain about management interference in their pursuit of stories.

In just a little more than 25 years, journalists in Brazil have thrown off the censoring shackles of the military dictatorship and developed a strong and independent form of journalism.

It would be great if more Brazilian and American journalists could get together. We really have a lot in common — besides that deep love of free and independent journalism.

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A new lesson in how trade barriers hurt and what it means on a local level

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

I was once an opponent of free trade. It ruined lives by shipping jobs overseas. Nothing would serve but to have high tariffs on all imported goods so that we could protect American jobs.

Then I started to live in countries with high import tariffs designed to protect local jobs. And boy oh boy did my views change.

In Mexico, Jamaica, Taiwan, China and now Brazil I saw how people have to pay a lot of money to buy crappy goods. Or they pay A WHOLE LOT MORE to buy imported goods.

The latest example is the Apple iPad. The wonder toy of 2010 went on sale in Brazil Dec. 2. And it flew off the shelves. But it costs about US$1,000 for the base model — or twice as much as a U.S. iPad.

Don’t Go to Brazil for a Deal on an iPad

The massive import tariffs keep middle class people from being able to buy a reasonably priced car or a computer. Only those with the income to fly to the States or Europe are able to buy electronic goodies at a more reasonable price.

BTW, Brazil is #2 in the world for having the most expensive Big Macs.

The Economist each year uses the tongue-in-cheek Big Mac Index to plot a country’s currency. We all know the value of a Big Mac in the USA. And the Big Mac is the same all around the world. So any variation in price means there is an issue with that country’s currency policy. (Another issue affecting trade.)

Imposing excessive import duties and manipulating currencies are what governments do to control access to material and goods. The end result is that it is the working class and the poor who suffer the most.

People must spend more money on poor quality goods. And may not even have the ability to buy something — like an inexpensive but quality computer — that can help them improve their lives and the lives of their children.

It might look great for short-term politics but the real cost of high tariffs and closed markets is the future of that country.

In a way, the Economist made it easy to describe how trade and currency policies affect everyday people. It is really not that hard for a LOCAL journalist to see how or where GLOBAL events impact the LOCAL community. It just takes a bit of imagination and willingness to understand that the LOCAL is tied to the GLOBAL.

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How understanding a place can help a story

The Guardian is — understandably — doing some catch up with its reporting on the cables that it received from WikiLeaks.

The latest caught my attention: Brazil denied existence of Islamist militants, WikiLeaks cables show.

The story is well written. But near the end, there is a paragraph that showed the writer’s apparent ignorance of past and recent events in Brazil:

The report did not cite reasons for the government’s denials but one possibility is sensitivity to Brazil’s international image in the runup to hosting the football World Cup and Olympic Games.

Perhaps, but more likely is that many of the leaders of Brazil’s democracy for the past 25 years were all branded terrorists by the military dictatorship that ended in the 1980s. In fact, the president-elect was charged as a terrorist  and tortured by the security forces of that dictatorship. This bit of information about Dilma Rousseff was widely reported. In fact, many stories used some version of the hede: “Former terrorist soon to be president” when writing about her.

Maybe the domestic situation in Brazil affected how the political and social leaders react when people talk about terrorism. At least it is something to consider.

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Local self interest can be seen in international events

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

In an example of local interests prompting international coverage, the Houston Chronicle this week had an editorial about the Brazilian election. (Ready to lead. Brazil: South America’s bright spot)

Okay, it took the paper a while to realize that the largest country south of the United States had a major election just a couple of days before the U.S. midterm. But they finally got there.

And the reason the Chronicle was so concerned about the outcome of the Brazilian election? Simple domestic self-interest.

Of particular interest to many in Houston, Brazil has benefited from the discovery of rich offshore oil and gas reserves now under development and has Latin America’s second-largest petroleum reserves, behind only Venezuela. Thus, there are important strategic connections to be made between this city and Brazil in the energy area.

Now if the Chronicle could just step up its coverage of Brazil — beyond floods and historic elections — it might add some weight to these words.

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Getting a local grip on trade issues

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

President Obama wrapped up his visit to India with signed deals that — he said — would mean more than 50,000 new American jobs.

This is no small feat. India is notorious within the global trading community as being protectionist. The visit by Obama at least got Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to agree that protectionism is not good for either country. (Of course, he worded his statement to make it sound as if both sides were equally at fault, when in fact India has massive restrictions on imports and the U.S. hardly any.)

But the 50,000 or so jobs being created (maybe protected) in the trade deals signed this week are just the tip of the iceberg.

Despite the rhetoric of isolationists on the left and right in the United States, trade is good for America and American jobs.

Back in September Bruce Katz, Brookings Institution vice president and Jonathan T. Rothwell, Brookings senior research analyst, wrote about the five myths about U.S. exports.

Some key points in their article:

  • U.S. exports grew 14.1 percent from the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2010, a pace far outstripping the 3 percent growth of the economy overall.
  • While domestic consumers struggle with unemployment and debt, demand in many other countries is booming, and that demand could be translated into U.S. job growth.
  • Our exports include not only manufactured objects but also services and intellectual property. Indeed, services account for roughly a third of all U.S. exports, and this share has been growing.
  • Our other service exports include travel and tourism (the services we sell to international tourists, from restaurant meals to hotel stays, count as exports, even though they are enjoyed on U.S. soil)
  • Although exports make up a smaller share of our economy than in export-oriented Germany and China, our strength in high-quality services and high-value goods shows that we can compete in the fields where innovation matters most. The U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest rates of innovation (as measured by the number of patents issued per worker) are also the most export-oriented.
  • For every $1 billion in exports by a given industry in a given metropolitan area, wages in that industry in that area increase 2 percent over the wages paid to other workers in the region, regardless of workers’ education levels.
  • The rise of developing countries has created a substantial number of jobs in the United States. In research we…found that from 2003 to 2008, the value of U.S. exports to Brazil, India and China doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars, accounting for 8.8 percent of U.S. exports in 2008. Put another way, our exports to these countries increased 121 percent over that time period, compared with a 46 percent increase in U.S. exports overall.
  • We have many ways of boosting exports, and we don’t exploit all of them.
  • Wichita doubled its exports between 2003 and 2008…supported by a variety of federal, state and local institutions, including nonprofits and private-public partnerships.

It would be nice to see more reporting from local news outlets about how local products are being sold overseas. Of course that might also mean these same news organizations will have to report on the economic, social and political situations in those countries that are now vital trading partners. (After all, if a big buying country suddenly has an economic melt down or an unstable government, they won’t be buying from the local company any more.)

And as I pointed out a while back, for every 80 or so visas issued to Brazilians to visit the United States, one job is created in the U.S. economy. And the U.S. mission in Brazil issues A LOT of visas each week. (Maybe the news outlets in Orlando and Miami — top sites for Brazilian visitors — might want to take notice.)

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