Saturday Surprise — A Trip to Brazil!

Please accept my humble apologies for once again repeating a prior Saturday Surprise post.  I tried and tried, wracked my poor small brain, to come up with something new and unique, but my mood simply wouldn’t cooperate and nothing met my criteria.  But, I think you’ll enjoy this one … it dates back to just before Christmas 2017, so most of you haven’t seen it before and those who have almost certainly won’t remember it.  I hope you enjoy our trip to Brazil!


Good Saturday morning, my friends, and welcome to Filosofa’s Saturday Surprise!  This is the last day your have to complete your Christmas tasks, so I understand if you couldn’t drop by today, or if you can only stay for a minute, but I’m glad if you found a few minutes to come spend with me.  I know you  guys come from all over the world, and most of you from the northern hemisphere, though a few are from Down Under and other points south of the equator where it is now summer.  I am jealous, for it is cold here and about to get colder.  So today, I thought it would be fun to go to a warmer climate for a bit and visit … Brazil!  Have I ever mentioned that I am not a fan of high places?  I cannot even look up at the top of a building without experiencing pain in my arms, so I avoid heights, and this first place we are going to visit set my teeth on edge, but it is definitely a cool place.


Brazil’s largest water park is called ‘Beach Park’, and the crown jewel of Beach Park is the world’s tallest freestanding water slide, aptly named “Insano”, which is Portuguese for ‘insane’.

insanoBuilt in 1989, the 135-foot-high ride held the Guinness record for the world’s tallest water slide up until 1999, when it was beat out by the 193-foot Kilimanjaro in Rio de Janeiro. Still, Insano does justice to its name by being the tallest freestanding body slide and is certainly one of the most radical rides of the planet.

insano-2

Beach Park is the largest aquatic park in South America and one of the largest in the world. It has all you need to enjoy Brazil’s hot sunny days: rides, pools, saunas, ecological walks, artificial rapids or the beloved Insano, the water slide as tall as a 14-story building.

Beach Park


Travelling down the coast to Natal, we can visit the world’s largest cashew tree.  Now, I hear what you are thinking … you’ve been to California, seen the giant redwoods and sequoias, so what’s the big deal about a cashew tree.  Well, take a look …

cashew-tree-2.JPGStrolling inside the sprawling canopy, you may think you are walking in an entire lush, green forest of cashew trees, but you are actually walking within one single tree. The tree covers about two acres, which approximates to the size of five football fields, or about 70 normal-size cashew trees.

cashew-treeThe age of the giant tree is still murky. Some think it was first planted in 1888, but others claim it’s thousands of years old. In any case it still produces a large amount of fruit and nuts. (In Brazil, the cashew tree is prized more for its delicious, but alas un-transportable fruit even more than its nuts.)

cashew-tree-3.JPG

The tree’s record size is believed to be the result of two different genetic mutations. One, the branches grow sideways instead of upwards, eventually being weighted down and touching the ground. Then, instead of just growing along the earth as expected, when a branch touches the soil it sets down roots. Thus the tree spreads like a forest with multiple trunks growing over the two acres.


I don’t typically give much thought to rocks and rock formations, but while we are in Brazil, I am told we must visit the National Park of Seven Cities – Parque Nacional de Sete.

Enormous and strange rock formations taking the forms of animals and men populate the Parque Nacional de Sete Cidades, or “National Park of Seven Cities”. The park is named for a mytholigical Seven Lost Cities, of which these stones are the only remains. In truth the ancient formations took millenia to form, with the only man-made parts being the 3,000-5,000 year old rock paintings that can be seen.

rocks-2


And for our final destination of the day, what say we visit the largest street art mural in the world?  Brazil sure does seem to have a lot of “largest in the world” things, doesn’t it?

mural-1

Rio de Janeiro is not only about paradise beaches and samba goddesses. It is also a city where street art is celebrated, and by walking 560 feet along Rio’s waterfront, you can appreciate the largest mural of graffiti in world, a Guinness World Record accomplishment and a legacy of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

mural-2

The work depicts a Tajapo boy from Brazil, a Mursi woman from Ethiopia, a Kayin woman from Thailand, a Supi man from Northern Europe, and a Huli man from Papua New Guinea. They represent humanity’s common ancestors, the indigenous people from America, Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia.

mural-3As he carries the core values of the Olympic Games, the artist’s intention was to show that everyone is connected, We Are One. Kobra’s work makes us feel his characters’ intense and powerful gaze, so we can feel our common wisdom.

mural-4The Rio Olympics broke not only sports records, but also one unexpected one, creating the largest street mural spray-painted by one single artist. This work was commissioned by the International Olympic Committee and it is nearly twice the size of the mural that held the previous record in Mazatlan, Mexico, as artist Ernesto Rocha’s mural was just 18,066 square feet.

Kobra worked for 12 hours a day, for two months, so he could complete Etnias just before the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. About 100 gallons of white paint, 400 gallons of colored paint, and 2,800 cans of spray paint were used by Kobra and his team. But, after all his work, the artist didn’t get to stay and enjoy the Rio Olympics, as he had to fly to Ohio to complete a mural graffiti of Neil Armstrong.

mural-neil-armstrong


All of these places are great, but I think the street mural is my favourite.  What was yours?  And before we go, what would such a trip be without a bit of local flavour?

rollinia

Rollinia deliciosa, as the name suggests, is incredibly tasty. Its flavor is often likened to lemon meringue pie, a description that’s accurate, but does not do this fruit justice. It is very sweet and creamy, and does have a refreshing, lemon-like flavor, but it also contains more nuanced tropical notes like banana, pineapple, and coconut.


And now, friends, I know you must go finish up all those last minute things.  Try not to work too hard, lest you be so tired by the time Christmas happens that all you can do is sit in the easy chair and kip!  I wish each and every one of you, my special friends, a wonderful Christmas.  Hugs ‘n love!

This is one of my favourites, and an appropriate song for our trip to Brazil!

Still More Snarky Snippets …

Will there ever come a day that I can read a news story and not want to throw something?  I wonder.  I had a greater plan for today, but as you may have noticed, my plans often go awry.  Today, I slept too late to finish the post I started last night, so instead, I bring you more snarky snippets …


Abandoning ship?

Donna-BrazileDonna Brazile has long been associated with the fight for liberal causes.  And yet, this week Ms. Brazile joined none other than state television network, Fox ‘News’.  Why?  Brazile is far above the likes of Jeanine Pirro or Ann Coulter.  I first saw Ms. Brazile on This Week with George Stephanopoulos many, many years ago, and she impressed me with her intelligence, knowledge, her ability to speak well on nearly any topic and the warmth she projected.  So why would she align herself with a network known for its extremely right-leaning views, and outright conspiracy theories?

“I know I’m going to get criticized by my friends in the progressive movement for being on Fox News. My response is that, if we learned anything from the 2016 election, it is that we can’t have a country where we don’t talk to those who disagree with our political views. You can be darn sure that I’m still going to be me on Fox News.”

Hmmm … that almost makes sense.  We do have to talk to each other, to try to understand those on the “other side” of the aisle.  Perhaps this should be looked upon as an opportunity for Trump’s supporters to actually hear a reasoned voice, a logical opinion for a change.  I simply have no respect for Fox at this point, and do not trust them or their motives.  I will reserve judgment until we see the results.  Will Fox allow Ms. Brazile to “still be me”?  I have my doubts, but time will tell.


Score one for Planet Earth!

Judge-Rudolph-Contreras.jpgThumbs up for Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia who ruled against the Trump administration and in favour of the environment.  Judge Contreras concluded that the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “did not sufficiently consider climate change” when making decisions to auction off federal land in Wyoming to oil and gas drilling. The judge temporarily blocked drilling on roughly 300,000 acres of land in the state.

While the judge did not void the leases, what his decision does is to force the BLM to perform environmental impact studies on hundreds of projects currently under way in Wyoming.

The Interior Department began to take into account the climate impacts of federal oil, gas and coal leasing toward the end of President Obama’s second term, but Trump jettisoned those plans almost immediately after taking office.

No doubt Judge Contreras’ ruling will be appealed and will work its way up the judicial ladder, but it is a start … a step in the right direction.


Two peas in a pod …

two-peas-in-a-pod.pngYesterday, Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, visited Donald Trump in the White House.  Bolsonaro had nothing but the highest praise for our Idiot-in-Chief:

“It gives me great pleasure to be here in the United States, to take part in this visit, after decades on end of anti-U.S. presidents in Brazil. We will certainly work toward the benefit of our two nations. Just as [Trump] wants to have a ‘great’ America, I…also want to make sure we have a great Brazil. We have a great deal in common. I have been highly criticized because of this but I will not, of course, deny what I do think. … I’m willing to open my heart up to him and do whatever is to the benefit of both the Brazilian and the Americans.”

Pity the poor people of Brazil!  I cannot help but wonder if Bolsonaro’s election was bought and paid for by Putin, just as Trump’s was.

Bolsonaro-Trump.jpg

Two peas in a pod — Bolsonaro & Trump

Since Bolsonaro took office, police in Rio de Janeiro have averaged more than three killings a day, and residents have accused the police of brutality, including waging unauthorized sniper campaigns and firing indiscriminately from a helicopter.

Bolsonaro’s embrace of fiery populist rhetoric has also frequently boiled over to galvanize supporters into acts of violence, specifically targeted at opposition supporters and the media.  Sound familiar?  During the Brazilian election last November, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism documented more than 140 cases of violence against reporters, mostly by Bolsonaro supporters.  Sound familiar?

On Monday night, Bolsonaro appeared on Fox ‘News’, and said …

“The vast majority of potential immigrants do not have good intentions.”

Sound familiar?

“Brazil and the United States stand side-by-side in their efforts to ensure liberties in respect to traditional family lifestyle, respect to God, our creator against gender ideology or politically correct attitude and against fake news.”

Sound familiar?  Pity the people of Brazil … and we of the United States.


And that, folks, is a wrap.  Have a great rest of the day!

A Disaster Overlooked …

The Washington Post and New York Times both carried multiple stories about the ‘end’ of the government shutdown, about Roger Stone’s arrest, about Venezuela’s current presidency conundrum, and about the Trump ego-wall.  Neither carried, at least not in the major news sections, this story I found in bold headlines in The Guardian:

Hundreds Feared dead as Brazil dam collapse releases mud tide

Are we so wrapped up in our own detritus, in any story that carries the words ‘Trump’, ‘republicans’, ‘corruption’, ‘scandal’, or ‘immigrant’ that we simply don’t care about people in other places?  I don’t know, but apparently our two most credible media outlets think so.  Sure, I understand that we are interested in our own situation which is, unarguably dire, but can we not take a few minutes to care about people in other countries?

Here’s the story as of 2:00 p.m. this afternoon …

Hundreds of people are feared dead after a dam operated by the mining company Vale collapsed in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, releasing a wave of red iron ore waste and causing the worst environmental catastrophe in the country’s recent history.

Ten bodies have already been found and more than 300 people remain missing, according to the company. The disaster comes only three years after a similar failure of the Fundão tailings dam near Mariana – co-owned by Vale – which killed 19 people.

Take a quick look …

Brazil’s new right-wing populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, has frequently attacked environmentalists who predicted this very thing and who have been calling for tighter regulations at the mine.

Most of the victims of the disaster were Vale employees or subcontractors, around 100 of whom were having lunch in a canteen on the mine complex when the torrent of mud swept over them. A busload of workers was also killed, it was reported.

It cost billions to clean up after the Mariana disaster in 2015, which polluted the drinking water of hundreds of thousands. Yet no individual was ever held responsible.

I notice that CNN did do a piece on this catastrophe, and undoubtedly other media outlets in the U.S. covered it as well, but WHY wasn’t it headline news?  Because the majority of the media outlets thought people would rather read the same news they saw yesterday about the shutdown, about Roger Stone, and about Donald Trump. brazil-4

brazil-2

brazil-3

And We Thought Trump Was Horrible?

On Sunday, October 7th, Brazilians elected a new president, Jair Bolsonaro.  Until this man was elected, I thought that the U.S. was alone in having lost its collective mind, as evidenced by the election of Donald Trump.  Bolsonaro is every abominable thing Trump is … and much more.  I have to question the sanity of the 55% of Brazilians who voted for this demagogue.  But then, I have long questioned the sanity of those in the U.S. who voted for Donald Trump, also.  Oh, and guess who worked on Bolsonaro’s campaign?  None other than Trump’s former campaign advisor, Steve Bannon!!!Bolsonaro-TrumpFirst let’s look at some similarities …

  • Opposes most all forms of gun control
  • Strongly opposed to same-sex marriage
  • Opposes environmental regulations
  • Opposes women’s right of choice
  • Opposes affirmative action
  • Opposes land reforms
  • Opposes secularism
  • Plans to pull out of Paris climate accord
  • Plans to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem
  • Is on his third marriage (yes, it’s irrelevant, but still says something, I think)

But then there are those ideas and rhetoric that take him beyond even what Trump dares to say …

He has made statements in defense of the former Brazilian military regime (a dictatorship known for constant human rights violations). He claims that torture is a “legitimate practice” and says that he would try to pass new legislation regarding the introduction of life imprisonment to the Brazilian penal code.

Bolsonaro said that “the error of the dictatorship was that it tortured but did not kill”.

Brazil has the world’s largest tropical rainforest in the Amazon basin. Bolsonaro has chafed at foreign pressure to safeguard the rainforest, and he served notice to international nonprofit groups such as the World Wildlife Fund that he will not tolerate their agendas in Brazil. He has also come out strongly against lands reserved for indigenous tribes. Bolsonaro advisers additionally say that he plans to expand nuclear and hydroelectric power into the Amazon.

In a 2017 speech, Bolsonaro stated, “God above everything. There is no such thing as this secular state. The state is Christian, and the minority will have to change, if they can.”

Bolsonaro argued that men and women should not receive the same salaries, because women get pregnant; adding that he believes federal law mandating paid maternity leave harms work productivity.  Bolsonaro said that he had five children, that the first four were male and that for the fifth he produced a daughter out of “a moment of weakness”.

Bolsonaro said that “I would be incapable of loving a gay son,” and added that he would prefer any gay son of his “to die in an accident…”  Seriously???  Wow, what a dad, huh?  He went on to say that if a gay couple moved in next door to him, it would lower the market value of his house. Bolsonaro linked homosexuality to pedophilia, claiming that “many of the children who are adopted by gay couples will be abused by these couples.”  I have to ask … what rock did this pos slither out from under???  “If I see two men kissing in the street, I will beat them.” He then publicly defended beating gay children by saying: “If your child starts to become like that, a little gay, you take a whip and you change their behavior.”

On October 4, 2018, Bolsonaro said: “A father does not want to come home and see his son playing with a doll by the influence of school. Homosexuals will be happy if I become president”

trump-jr-eduardo-bolsonaro

Don Trump, Jr. (center) with Eduardo Bolsonaro (second from left)

Trump and Bolsonaro both indicate they plan to work together to improve relations between the U.S. and Brazil, and their sons have already met.  Eduardo Bolsonaro, Bolsonaro’s eldest son, met with Don Trump Jr. in Las Vegas. “They went to a shooting range together—not a major meeting but they got to know each other a bit,” according to a member of Bolsonaro’s party.  Following Bolsonaro’s victory, Trump tweeted …

“Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won the race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!”

Bolsonaro-2Bolsonaro’s election is another feather in the cap of the populist movement.  He won by tapping into a deep well of resentment at the status quo in Brazil — a country whiplashed by rising crime and two years of political and economic turmoil — and by presenting himself as the alternative.  Unlike Donald Trump in 2016, Bolsonaro actually won the popular vote by 55%, but one thing they both said that is striking is that “I alone can fix this”.  And they have in common their loudness, their crassness, their utter contempt for such things as respect, common courtesy and quiet dignity.  They are both loud, ‘in your face’ sorts.  Both countries have a large women’s protest movement … in the U.S. it is “Never Trump” and in Brazil it is “Ele Nao” (Not Him).

Like Trump, Bolsonaro has been a divisive figure in Brazil and those who love him seem to do so mainly for his tough talk.  Having seen what nearly two years of Trump has wrought upon this nation, I can only empathize with the people of Brazil.  Is this, then, the face of things to come, the type of ‘leader’ that people around the world will choose in the future?  Let us hope not.

Saturday Surprise — A Trip to Brazil!

Good Saturday morning, my friends, and welcome to Filosofa’s Saturday Surprise!  This is the last day your have to complete your Christmas tasks, so I understand if you couldn’t drop by today, or if you can only stay for a minute, but I’m glad if you found a few minutes to come spend with me.  I know you  guys come from all over the world, and most of you from the northern hemisphere, though a few are from Down Under and other points south of the equator where it is now summer.  I am jealous, for it is cold here and about to get colder.  So today, I thought it would be fun to go to a warmer climate for a bit and visit … Brazil!  Have I ever mentioned that I am not a fan of high places?  I cannot even look up at the top of a building without experiencing pain in my arms, so I avoid heights, and this first place we are going to visit set my teeth on edge, but it is definitely a cool place.


Brazil’s largest water park is called ‘Beach Park’, and the crown jewel of Beach Park is the world’s tallest freestanding water slide, aptly named “Insano”, which is Portuguese for ‘insane’.

insanoBuilt in 1989, the 135-foot-high ride held the Guinness record for the world’s tallest water slide up until 1999, when it was beat out by the 193-foot Kilimanjaro in Rio de Janeiro. Still, Insano does justice to its name by being the tallest freestanding body slide and is certainly one of the most radical rides of the planet.

insano-2

Beach Park is the largest aquatic park in South America and one of the largest in the world. It has all you need to enjoy Brazil’s hot sunny days: rides, pools, saunas, ecological walks, artificial rapids or the beloved Insano, the water slide as tall as a 14-story building.

Beach Park


Travelling down the coast to Natal, we can visit the world’s largest cashew tree.  Now, I hear what you are thinking … you’ve been to California, seen the giant redwoods and sequoias, so what’s the big deal about a cashew tree.  Well, take a look …

cashew-tree-2.JPGStrolling inside the sprawling canopy, you may think you are walking in an entire lush, green forest of cashew trees, but you are actually walking within one single tree. The tree covers about two acres, which approximates to the size of five football fields, or about 70 normal-size cashew trees.

cashew-treeThe age of the giant tree is still murky. Some think it was first planted in 1888, but others claim it’s thousands of years old. In any case it still produces a large amount of fruit and nuts. (In Brazil, the cashew tree is prized more for its delicious, but alas un-transportable fruit even more than its nuts.)

cashew-tree-3.JPG

The tree’s record size is believed to be the result of two different genetic mutations. One, the branches grow sideways instead of upwards, eventually being weighted down and touching the ground. Then, instead of just growing along the earth as expected, when a branch touches the soil it sets down roots. Thus the tree spreads like a forest with multiple trunks growing over the two acres.


I don’t typically give much thought to rocks and rock formations, but while we are in Brazil, I am told we must visit the National Park of Seven Cities – Parque Nacional de Sete.

Enormous and strange rock formations taking the forms of animals and men populate the Parque Nacional de Sete Cidades, or “National Park of Seven Cities”. The park is named for a mytholigical Seven Lost Cities, of which these stones are the only remains. In truth the ancient formations took millenia to form, with the only man-made parts being the 3,000-5,000 year old rock paintings that can be seen.

rocks-2


And for our final destination of the day, what say we visit the largest street art mural in the world?  Brazil sure does seem to have a lot of “largest in the world” things, doesn’t it?

mural-1

Rio de Janeiro is not only about paradise beaches and samba goddesses. It is also a city where street art is celebrated, and by walking 560 feet along Rio’s waterfront, you can appreciate the largest mural of graffiti in world, a Guinness World Record accomplishment and a legacy of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

mural-2

The work depicts a Tajapo boy from Brazil, a Mursi woman from Ethiopia, a Kayin woman from Thailand, a Supi man from Northern Europe, and a Huli man from Papua New Guinea. They represent humanity’s common ancestors, the indigenous people from America, Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia.

mural-3As he carries the core values of the Olympic Games, the artist’s intention was to show that everyone is connected, We Are One. Kobra’s work makes us feel his characters’ intense and powerful gaze, so we can feel our common wisdom.

mural-4The Rio Olympics broke not only sports records, but also one unexpected one, creating the largest street mural spray-painted by one single artist. This work was commissioned by the International Olympic Committee and it is nearly twice the size of the mural that held the previous record in Mazatlan, Mexico, as artist Ernesto Rocha’s mural was just 18,066 square feet.

Kobra worked for 12 hours a day, for two months, so he could complete Etnias just before the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. About 100 gallons of white paint, 400 gallons of colored paint, and 2,800 cans of spray paint were used by Kobra and his team. But, after all his work, the artist didn’t get to stay and enjoy the Rio Olympics, as he had to fly to Ohio to complete a mural graffiti of Neil Armstrong.

 

mural-neil-armstrong


All of these places are great, but I think the street mural is my favourite.  What was yours?  And before we go, what would such a trip be without a bit of local flavour?

rollinia

Rollinia deliciosa, as the name suggests, is incredibly tasty. Its flavor is often likened to lemon meringue pie, a description that’s accurate, but does not do this fruit justice. It is very sweet and creamy, and does have a refreshing, lemon-like flavor, but it also contains more nuanced tropical notes like banana, pineapple, and coconut.


And now, friends, I know you must go finish up all those last minute things.  Try not to work too hard, lest you be so tired by the time Christmas happens that all you can do is sit in the easy chair and kip!  I wish each and every one of you, my special friends, a wonderful Christmas.  Hugs ‘n love!

This is one of my favourites, and an apropriate song for our trip to Brazil!

 

XXXI Olympiad

 

rio.jpg

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Tomorrow evening (Friday, 5 August 2016) will mark the opening ceremonies of the Olympics XXXI in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The decision was announced by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in 2009 when Rio beat out Copenhagen, Madrid, Chicago and Tokyo for the bid to host the games.  Seven years of preparation.  And now … here we are … almost time for the torch to make its way through the city on the way to Maracana Stadium in time for the opening ceremony.

olympics-parade.jpg

Parade of Nations

Make note that I am not a sports fan … sometimes I watch a bit of the World Series (baseball in the U.S.), but that’s about it.  But the Olympics … the Olympic Games are something special, something above all other sporting events.  I have never watched an opening ceremony that did not bring tears to my eyes.  You see, it isn’t about who can run the fastest, hit a ball the farthest, swim the perfect relay or beat a record in the downhill slalom.  It is about ‘international’.  It is about brotherhood, shared humanity. It is about 206 nations putting aside their differences to come together for two weeks in the spirit of teamwork, sportsmanship, camaraderie and international cooperation. And, of course, it is also about money, but I won’t go down that path today, though I reserve the right to come back to it at a later date.

The 2016 Olympics in Rio have faced challenges that other Olympics have not had:  Zika, terrorist threats, at least three attempts to ‘blow’ out the torch on its long relay, political unrest in Brazil, demonstrations, protests, a ‘doping scandal’, and more.  The IOC takes great pains to keep the games non-political, but this year that was not possible, as Brazil has been embroiled in political turmoil and facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.  But that is not to say that other Olympic games have been trouble-free.  Look back to the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, just as Hitler was coming to a rise in power.

owens.jpgThe city of Berlin was selected as the venue for the XI Olympic games in 1931, two years before the Nazi’s came to power.  But, of course, as we all know, by the time the games were held, Hitler had established a stronghold in Germany and saw the Games as an opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy.  Hitler initially intended to bar Jews and black people from participating, but when faced with a boycott by other nations, he relented and allowed all ethnicities to participate.  This would be the last Olympic games to be held for twelve years, until 1948, after the end of World War II.  A total of 49 nations attended the Berlin Olympics, up from 37 in 1932 … compared to 206 this year!  hitler-owensU.S. athlete Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events and became the most successful athlete to compete in Berlin while the host country was the most successful country overall with 89 medals total, with the United States coming in second with 56 medals.

 

 

olympics 1972And there were the XX Olympics held in Munich in 1972.  The West German Government was eager to take the opportunity of the Munich Olympics to present a new, democratic and optimistic Germany to the world, as shown by the Games’ official motto, “Die Heiteren Spiele”, or “the cheerful Games”.  Nobody could have known that by the end of the events, the Olympics would turn out to be anything but ‘cheerful’.  On September 5, midway through the games, a group of eight members of the Black September Palestinian terrorist organization broke into the Olympic Village and took nine Israeli athletes, coaches and officials hostage in their apartments. Two of the hostages who resisted were killed in the first moments of the break-in; the subsequent standoff in the Olympic Village lasted for almost 18 hours.  The remaining athletes were killed during a botched rescue attempt.  All but three of the terrorists were also killed.

Will peace reign at the 2016 Olympics?  It is anybody’s guess, but just over a week ago Brazilian authorities arrested 12 people suspected of planning terrorist acts during the games.  Though claiming to have been inspired by Daesh (aka ISIL), the group was comprised of amateurs, Brazilian nationals who were loosely organized.  Of greater concern are a host of threats, some of which have been dismissed, others are being investigated.  Brazil has vowed it will be ready to handle any terror attempt and is working with French SWAT teams to simulate attack scenarios.  While I know we all hope for a peaceful two weeks in Rio, I will not be surprised if there are attempts to disrupt the games. Though exact figures are elusive, it is estimated that some 900 million people watched at least some part of the 2012 Olympics in London, making it the most-watched event in television history.  With the goal of terrorism being to get global attention, the Olympics must be considered most vulnerable.

Terrorism is not the only threat in this year’s Olympic games.  The ongoing outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus has some 18 athletes opting out of the games.  Then there is the Guanabara Bay, whose waters will be used for sailing and windsurfing competitions, and which is heavily polluted. Among the chief causes of the pollution are uncollected trash fed into the bay via polluted rivers and slums along the coast. As an aspect of their bid for the Games, Rio committed to making efforts towards cleaning the bay. However, due to budgetary issues, only 17% of the sewage is currently treated, as opposed to the 80% that was promised.  The athlete’s village has been described as the largest in Olympic history, yet officials have deemed the athletes’ village as ‘unlivable’ and unsafe because of major plumbing and electrical hazards such as blocked toilets, leaking pipes, exposed wiring, and darkened stairwells where no lighting has been installed.

The Olympics are special, because it is a time, an event, that brings nations and people together in the spirit of international cooperation, the spirit of peace.  It is a time where nations put aside their differences.  If only that spirit could carry over into areas of such things as international trade treaties, nuclear disarmament and climate change accords!  This year will be even more special because, as I mentioned in a previous post, there is a new kid on the block, a team comprised solely of refugee athletes from Syria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia.  Let us hope that there will be peace at the Olympics, that the problems that have plagued Rio as it prepared for the games are resolved, and that the 2016 games do not join the 1936 and 1972 games in the annals of notoriety.

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Monday? It’s Not So Bad

Another week has passed, and it was another week filled with sadness and violence, not only here in the U.S. but across the globe.  So, on this Monday morning, let us begin a new week with a chuckle to help us face whatever we must in the coming week.


My daughter plays in a Scottish Caledonian Society Pipes and Drums Band, and has come home on occasion with some interesting stories about the guys and their kilts.  For example, one time they were playing in a parade and as they marched down the street, a breeze blew up from a storm drain and when one piper’s kilt flew up, he was … er … au natural!  Apparently among Scots it is a sign of a true Scotsman to forgo tightie-whities when wearing a kilt.  So it was with interest that I read this headline from UPI:

scot-kilt“Scottish pub swaps kilts for pants after female patrons get handsy”

INVERNESS, Scotland, July 13 (UPI) — A popular Scottish pub known for its traditional atmosphere announced its male bar staff are switching from kilts to pants after repeated harassment from female patrons.

Kit Fraser, owner of the Hootananny Pub in Inverness, said male workers used to wear kilts as part of the pub’s traditional theme, which also includes frequent live performances of traditional Scottish music. But they are now donning pants to protect them from women who would lift their kilts to check whether they were “true Scotsmen.”  Fraser described the incidents as “pure sexism.”

“We fellows are very, very aware of sexism. I think the women need to catch up.”

The Scottish government released a statement criticizing the misbehaving customers. “Everybody in Scotland should have the right to work without fear of harassment, and it is important management in all working environments do what they can to ensure this happens,” the statement said.

 


torch-3The 2016 Summer Olympics are scheduled to begin on Friday, 05 August.  There has been some controversy surrounding the games, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro this year, for a variety of reasons, including:  Zika, declared a ‘public health emergency’ in Brazil; the slumping economy of Brazil, making it questionable how they can complete the necessary building projects in time; and the politics of the nation, where a congressional committee is considering impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.  But in addition, the IOC must worry about keeping the Olympic Torch lit!  Twice now since it was lit in Olympia, Greece on 21 April, someone has tried to douse it.  The most recent attempt was on 16 July when a man armed with a fire extinguisher attempted to put out the Olympic flame as it passed through the city of Joinville, Brazil.  On 27 June, a 27-year-old man attempted to douse the torch with a bucket of water in Maracaju, Brazil, but he missed and instead doused a another torch bearer and security guards.  Where has the Olympic spirit gone?  Sheesh.


fire-truckDid you ever think of cooking a brisket in your bathtub?  Yeah, me neither.  But apparently an unidentified woman in Knoxville, Tennessee thought it seemed like a good idea at the time.  She lit a wood-burning grill inside her bathtub and placed meat on a wire rack across the rim before the heat melted through the tub’s fiberglass exterior.  According to Knoxville Fire Department Captain DJ Corcoran, the tub and brisket were both a total loss.  Methinks the family ate peanut butter sandwiches that night!  Sheesh.  Even I know better than that, though I did bring the charcoal grill indoors one night when I had food cooking and a sudden rain shower hit.


And since I just cannot do a Monday morning post without at least one cute animal story …

fox-batBRISBANE, Australia, July 14 (UPI) — An Australian bat rescuer shared a video   of an adorable baby flying fox being soothed with a pacifier after failing to leave for the winter.  The video, posted to Facebook by the Batzilla the Bat rescue, shows a baby flying fox named Miss Rainbow being swaddled in blankets and using a pacifier to keep calm in Queensland.  The flying fox, for those who may not know, is actually bat.  Up close, bats are actually pretty cute and I don’t mind them, as long as they don’t fly in my face or get tangled in my hair.  And isn’t Miss Rainbow just adorable?


Okay, folks … enough humour and good news for one day.  Now let’s get out there and tackle this Monday and at the end of the day we can say “It was a great day!”

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