Bronze Burden

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What should Uruguay do with its Nazi eagle?

The German government fears the eagle could end up in the hands of Nazi sympathisers

World War Two was never as close to land in South America as on 13 December 1939, when three Royal Navy cruisers challenged Germany’s Admiral Graf Spee off the coast of Uruguay.

A battle still goes on 75 years later.

This time, however, the matter in dispute is not the control of the South Atlantic but rather a controversial four-tonne bronze eagle that could fetch millions of dollars at auction.

The spread eagle with a swastika under its talons was recovered off the coast of Uruguay in 2006 by private investors.

It was part of the stern of the Graf Spee, which was once one of the most modern battleships in the world.

The cruiser was scuttled by its captain in Montevideo Bay soon after the Battle of the River Plate. The captain had feared that if captured, the British would steal information about its state-of-the-art technology.

The bronze eagle, which was one of the most remarkable symbols of the German Third Reich, now rests at a warehouse guarded by the Uruguayan navy.

Source: BBCNews Read and see more

Three people have silenced Maracanã

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Today the FIFA World Cup gets serious.

footballteamsThe eight finals, begin. Here it is win, or go home.

Now, a little bit of history.

The story of Brazil’s ‘sacred’ yellow and green jersey

When Brazil play their first knockout game of this World Cup on Saturday, a football-crazy nation will be rooting for them. But many lovers of the game elsewhere will also be hoping to see the daring, imaginative play they have come to associate with the distinctive yellow shirt.

It is an international symbol of joy. A football shirt that conjures up images of the game’s greatest players, playing the beautiful game in the most beautiful of ways.

It has become synonymous with the glamour, magic and fun of Brazilian football on the backs of players such as Pele, Jairzinho, Zico and Socrates, who took football to new heights during the second half of the 20th Century.

“For Brazilians, that yellow jersey is sacred,” says Carlos Alberto, captain of the great 1970 World Cup-winning side.

“When we wear it, of course we feel pride but it also brings responsibility, a responsibility to inspire and to excite.”

Alongside the pinstripes of baseball’s New York Yankees, it has become the most iconic kit in sport. Yellow shirt with green trim. Blue shorts with white stripe. White socks. Distinct and dynamic colours that cannot be confused or mistaken for any other team.

Walk down the street in Sao Paulo, San Diego or Slough, Fortaleza, Frankfurt or Fort William and before long, you are likely to encounter someone wearing a Brazil football shirt, most probably carrying the number 10 on the back.

But it’s unlikely that many know how Brazil came to wear yellow, or that there was ever a time when they didn’t.

As with so much in Brazilian football, the story dates back to a stunning 2-1 defeat by Uruguay on home soil in the final match of the 1950 World Cup.

This proved to be a watershed moment, a reference point for the country’s footballing aspirations. The recriminations were fierce and far-reaching, and the team colours were not immune.

Brazil humiliated


As Uruguay striker Alcides Ghiggia peeled away to celebrate, he noticed the huge new Maracana stadium had fallen silent.

“Three people have silenced the Maracana – Frank Sinatra, the Pope and me,” he recalls.

How Uruguay broke Brazilian hearts in the 1950 World Cup

The white shirts, with blue collars, white shorts and white socks that they had played in until that moment were deemed unpatriotic, not reflective of the Brazilian flag in which the green represents the vast swathes of forest, the golden yellow the country’s raw wealth and the blue globe and white stars, the Rio sky at night. It was time to start again. In 1953, a competition was launched by a newspaper, Correio da Manha, to design a new kit. The rules were set, the new strip must use the four colours of the Brazil flag: yellow, blue, green and white. The winning design would be worn at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.

Aldyr Garcia Schlee was an 18-year-old newspaper illustrator when he entered.

From his home in Pelotas, a small town in the Rio Grande do Sul, close to the Uruguay border, he sketched out 100 different combinations of the colours. He tried green and yellow hoops on the shirt, with blue shorts, he tried stripes and chevrons.

Schlee’s original illustrations for the Brazil kit

“In the end I realised the shirt just had to be yellow,” Schlee said. “That went nicely with the blue and the socks could be white, with the green around the collar.”

It was the simplicity and harmony of his design that caught the judges’ eye, among the 401 entries. The second-placed design was also simple, featuring a green shirt, white shorts and yellow socks.

Brazil played in their new colours for the first time in March 1954, when they beat Chile 1-0 at the Maracana in Rio. The country won its first World Cup four years later, beating Sweden in Stockholm to lift the trophy. The great irony for Schlee was that because Sweden wore yellow, Brazil won the World Cup wearing blue shirts.

“We didn’t have a change of colours and the Brazilian federation refused to consider wearing white again,” Carlos Alberto recalls. “So they went to Stockholm and bought 22 blue T-shirts for the players and then they put the emblems on.”

It was 1962 before Brazil first lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy in that unique shade of golden yellow.

Most media coverage remained in black and white, however, and the first opportunity for many of the world’s football fans to see a yellow shirt in action was at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico – the first to be shown in colour television.

Source: BBCNews Read more

The Pot Pot Rots


The great marijuana (Cannabis sativa) debate.

Marijuana has had a potted history, controlled in 1906 as a medicine, until it was banned outright in  the 1930s.

“Several scholars argue that the goal was to destroy the hemp industry, largely as an effort of Hearst, Andrew Mellon and the Du Pont family. They argue that with the invention of the decorticator hemp became a very cheap substitute for the paper pulp that was used in the newspaper industry.They also believe that Hearst felt that this was a threat to his extensive timber holdings. Mellon was Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in America and had invested heavily in nylon, DuPont’s new synthetic fiber, and considered its success to depend on its replacement of the traditional resource, hemp.” – Wikipedia

FBN public service announcement used in the late 1930s and 1940s – image: Wikipedia

A campaign to justify the banning by smearing the reputation of cannabis was waged, and the moneybags won; cannabis became illegal.

Since this time the laws have made millions of criminals, made cannabis a source of income for the drug cartels and dealers as the world waged a war on it.

The war has been totally ineffective, it has not decreased usage; quite the opposite it increased usage. Billions of dollars have been spent in this futility.

Some countries began to question the effectiveness of the ban; with places like Holland, Belgium and Portugal timidly making inroads to normality. Meanwhile a few Latin American countries have begun to question the situation too.

Now we come to an unassuming man, a humble man, one José Mujica, he is the president of Uruguay. José Mujica is the antithesis of nearly every president in the world, he is the president that we all deserve instead of the arrogant power hungry bastards that we are saddled with. Previous post on The World’s Poorest President

Uruguay MPs back marijuana legalisation bill

Those supporting the bill want it passed quickly

Members of Uruguay’s House of Representatives have passed a bill to legalise marijuana.

If it goes on to be approved by the Senate, Uruguay will become the first country to regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

The measure is backed by the government of President Jose Mujica, who says it will remove profits from drug dealers and divert users from harder drugs.

Under the bill, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana.

The state would assume “the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialisation and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products”.

Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.

Foreigners would be excluded from the measure.

Political tussle

The bill was approved by 50 of the 96 MPs present in the lower house following a fierce 13-hour debate in the capital, Montevideo.

The supporters of the measure argued that the fight against drugs and drug trafficking had failed, and the country needed “new alternatives”.

“The regulation is not to promote consumption; consumption already exists,” said Sebastian Sabini of the governing centre-left Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition, which has a majority of one in the lower house.

Marijuana use has reportedly doubled in Uruguay over the past year. An estimated 22 tonnes of marijuana are being sold in the country annually, according to Uruguay’s National Drugs Committee.

But Gerardo Amarilla of the opposition National Party said the government was “playing with fire” given the health risks he said were linked to marijuana use.

All eyes were on Dario Perez, a member of the governing coalition but a strong opponent of the bill, whose vote could have scuppered the bill.

During his 20-minute speech, Mr Perez reiterated his belief that the issue should be put to a referendum and not have been “imposed” by the government.

But to applause by supporters of the bill in the public gallery, he finally concluded that as long as he was a member of the coalition, he would vote with it, despite his personal misgivings.

The bill is now expected to be approved by the Senate, where the left-wing government has a bigger majority.

But opposition politicians said that even if the law made it through the senate, they would launch a petition to have it overturned.

A survey carried out before the vote by polling organisation Cifra suggested 63% of Uruguayans opposed the bill.

Papal opposition

The progress of the bill is being watched closely across the region, says BBC Mundo correspondent in the region Ignacio de los Reyes.

President Jose Mujica says he has never tried marijuana but believes it should be legalised

For decades, drug trafficking has caused tens of thousands of deaths throughout Latin America.

Uruguay may have not experienced the bloodshed caused by drug trafficking, but the proposal could be seen as a test for violence-torn nations looking for an end to their drug wars, our correspondent adds.

The vote also comes just days after Pope Francis criticised drug legalisation plans during a visit to neighbouring Brazil.

The pontiff said it was “necessary to tackle the problems which are at the root of drug abuse, promoting more justice, educating the youth with the values that live in society, standing by those who face hardship and giving them hope for the future”.


The world’s ‘poorest’ president


Jose Mujica

It’s a common grumble that politicians’ lifestyles are far removed from those of their electorate. Not so in Uruguay. Meet the president – who lives on a ramshackle farm and gives away most of his pay.

Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside.

This is the residence of the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, whose lifestyle clearly differs sharply from that of most other world leaders.

President Mujica has shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife’s farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo.

The president and his wife work the land themselves, growing flowers.

This austere lifestyle – and the fact that Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500), to charity – has led him to be labelled the poorest president in the world.

“I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”

“I’ve lived like this most of my life,” he says, sitting on an old chair in his garden, using a cushion favoured by Manuela the dog.

“I can live well with what I have.”

His charitable donations – which benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs – mean his salary is roughly in line with the average Uruguayan income of $775 (£485) a month.

All the president’s wealth – a 1987 VW Beetle

In 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration – mandatory for officials in Uruguay – was $1,800 (£1,100), the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.

This year, he added half of his wife’s assets – land, tractors and a house – reaching $215,000 (£135,000).

That’s still only about two-thirds of Vice-President Danilo Astori’s declared wealth, and a third of the figure declared by Mujica’s predecessor as president, Tabare Vasquez.

Elected in 2009, Mujica spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution.

He was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail. Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.

Those years in jail, Mujica says, helped shape his outlook on life.

“I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,” he says.

“This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself,” he says.

“I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”

The Uruguayan leader made a similar point when he addressed the Rio+20 summit in June this year: “We’ve been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty.

“But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?

“Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet.”

Mujica accuses most world leaders of having a “blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world”.

Tabare Vasquez, his supporters and relatives on a balcony at Uruguay's official presidential residence Mujica could have followed his predecessors into a grand official residence

But however large the gulf between the vegetarian Mujica and these other leaders, he is no more immune than they are to the ups and downs of political life.

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The Great Marijuana Debate

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First of all, we need to look at why cannabis is illegal.

“Many people assume that marijuana was made illegal through some kind of process involving scientific, medical, and government hearings; that it was to protect the citizens from what was determined to be a dangerous drug.

The actual story shows a much different picture. Those who voted on the legal fate of this plant never had the facts, but were dependent on information supplied by those who had a specific agenda to deceive lawmakers. You’ll see below that the very first federal vote to prohibit marijuana was based entirely on a documented lie on the floor of the Senate.

You’ll also see that the history of marijuana’s criminalization is filled with:

  • Racism
  • Fear
  • Protection of Corporate Profits
  • Yellow Journalism
  • Ignorant, Incompetent, and/or Corrupt Legislators
  • Personal Career Advancement and Greed

These are the actual reasons marijuana is illegal.

A picture named leaf.gif

For most of human history, marijuana has been completely legal. It’s not a recently discovered plant, nor is it a long-standing law. Marijuana has been illegal for less than 1% of the time that it’s been in use. Its known uses go back further than 7,000 B.C. and it was legal as recently as when Ronald Reagan was a boy.

The marijuana (hemp) plant, of course, has an incredible number of uses. The earliest known woven fabric was apparently of hemp, and over the centuries the plant was used for food, incense, cloth, rope, and much more. This adds to some of the confusion over its introduction in the United States, as the plant was well known from the early 1600′s, but did not reach public awareness as a recreational drug until the early 1900′s.”DrugWarRant.com

Most Americans have no idea why cannabis (marijuana) is illegal.

The truth is that the move was politically motivated, and not beyond corporate interference.

Check this:

Is a major reason that cannabis is illegal today.

“DuPont’s involvment in the anti-hemp campaign can also be explained with great ease. At this time, DuPont was patenting a new sulfuric acid process for producing wood-pulp paper. “According to the company’s own records, wood-pulp products ultimately accounted for more than 80% of all DuPont’s railroad car loadings for the next 50 years” (ibid). Indeed it should be noted that “two years before the prohibitive hemp tax in 1937, DuPont developed a new synthetic fiber, nylon, which was an ideal substitute for hemp rope” (Hartsell). The year after the tax was passed DuPont came out with rayon, which would have been unable to compete with the strength of hemp fiber or its economical process of manufacturing. “DuPont’s point man was none other than Harry Anslinger…who was appointed to the FBN by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who was also chairman of the Mellon Bank, DuPont’s chief financial backer. Anslinger’s relationship to Mellon wasn’t just political, he was also married to Mellon’s niece” (Hartsell). It doesn’t take much to draw a connection between DuPont, Anslinger, and Mellon, and it’s obvious that all of these groups, including Hearst, had strong motivation to prevent the growth of the hemp industry.”The Vaults of Erowid

Cannabis was made illegal at the behest of a corporate giant.

Nothing to do with being a drug, nothing to do with madness nor jazz music. Everything to do with corporate profits.

Of course the USA pushed the world into the same thinking, dragging the rest of the world into its own cesspool.

Now other countries are starting to think for themselves, and the American government doesn’t like it.

Uruguay, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and now Chile are beginning to question the logic and search for better ways to manage the issue. Places like Holland, Belgium and Portugal have already made inroads into the issue.

Chilean senator’s confession heats debate on legalising marijuana

Marijuana remains an illegal substance in Chile, but there are a growing number of shops in the country which sell cannabis products.

A recent admission by Senator Fulvio Rossi that he occasionally smokes the drug has heated the debate over whether the drug should be legalised.

Check the BBC video clip.


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Everybody, well most everybody, knows about the big six in South America, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela and Colombia, all famous or infamous in their own right. But few know that there are even more countries in the southern part of the continent. The smaller countries, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia and the three nestled up in the northeastern corner, Suriname, Guyana and French Guinea. Yes, there are thirteen countries.

Uruguay is lovely, I have passed through there a few times, stayed for a week or so and moved on.

But what is Uruguay all about?

From the BBC News’ Living in series:

Living in: Uruguay

Houses along Uruguay Street in Montevideo, Uruguay. (Viviane Ponti/LPI)

Uruguay may be sandwiched between two South American all-stars, Brazil and Argentina, but is blessed with wide Atlantic beaches, towns stuffed with colonial architecture and a temperate climate. The stable political and economic climate plus chic beach resorts make it both an excellent travel destination and a safe investment for second-home buyers from Europe and around South and North America.

What is it known for?
Uruguay is considered a very stable country socially, politically and economically. Along with Bolivia, it avoided going into a recession in the recent global downturn — the only two South American countries to do so. It has a democratically elected government and president, and has made many social and educational advances. The country provides, for example, every primary school student with a laptop, and was the first Latin American nation to legalize same-sex civil unions.


Most travellers and tourists focus on the cities and resorts along the Rio de la Plata and Atlantic coastlines, including the capital, Montevideo. The country’s interior, stretching north to the Brazil border, is overwhelmingly rural, while Montevideo  is the cultural and commercial centre of the country, home to more than a third of the country’s population. Colonia del Sacramento (often referred to as just Colonia), the oldest town in Uruguay and a well-preserved Unesco World Heritage site, is directly across the estuary from BA, just an hour from the Argentine capital by boat. Farther east along the Atlantic coast near woods of eucalyptus and pine, the glitz and glamour of the summer resort town Punta del Este attracts a Côte d’Azur and South Beach-like crowd, while chic sophisticates who want a quieter piece of beach keep going east to the town of Jose Ignacio.

Where do you want to live?

Mercado del Puerto (Port Market) – Photo by localyte.com

Montevideo may not have the sultry allure of Buenos Aires, but there are many pleasant cafes you can settle in with a cortado (espresso with milk) and medialuna (croissant) and watch the world go by. Many of the desirable neighbourhoods are on the waterfront. Near the Cuidad Vieja (Old City), Punta Carretas has shopping malls and a golf course; Pocitos has the Playa Pocitos, a curving strip of white sand beach, and the upscale Rambla boardwalk that lies alongside it; and farthest east, expensive Carrasco has beautiful architecture and a number of international schools. “The coastal districts have seen strong growth, particularly in residential condominiums,” said Paul Reynolds, managing director of Reynolds Propiedades estate agents.

Colonia del Sacramento, the older part of the city where many old buildings still have their cannon ready

The draw in historic Colonia  are the 17th- and 18th-century Portuguese and Spanish colonial homes. “Be aware that certain buildings have restrictions and your renovation plans will likely require a review by the historical society,” said Reynolds. “But Colonia has not escaped modernisation of its port, opening of new hotels and real estate development on its waterfront.”

Punta del Este, an hour and a half from Montevideo, has condominiums and high rises lining the beaches that reach out into the water, with the Rio de la Plata on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

Punta del Este

“Luxury vacation properties are the norm here, with a number of both detached houses and apartments available,” said Reynolds. “Many condos have fantastic ocean views for a fraction of what they would cost in the US or elsewhere.” In areas by the ocean, demand buyers from Europe, Brazil, Argentina and the US are driving a record number of construction permits for condo buildings and estates on subdivisions.

The not-so-touristy but developing José Ignacio beach, home of Shakira

Half an hour from Punta del Este, the beach town of Jose Ignacio attracts American movie stars, supermodels, European industrialists and others seeking privacy. The town government eschewed high-rise development, but allowed a few boutique properties such as Playa Vik to open. As a result of limited options, the demand for lots and houses increased, but there is still a finite number of properties available. Further up the coast, the province of Rocha still has miles of undeveloped beachfront. “There has been unprecedented development in seaside towns such as Punta del Diablo and La Pedrara, and a number of subdivision projects are underway,” said Reynolds.

Source: BBC News Read page two

NB: I have added all but the first image, got to have piccies.

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