Temperatures Rising in Rio

It is the morning of the 18th of April 2016 and less than ten hours ago, the Lower House of the Brazilian Congress approved the impeachment motion against current president Dilma Rousseff from the Workers Party (PT). Yes, Brazil is also 109 days away from hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro; however, given the current political turmoil, the record-breaking unemployment numbers and the ongoing health threat of the Zika virus outbreak, it is easy to understand why most Brazilians are not focused on the Olympics.

Less than two weeks ago, Ms. Rousseff was speaking at the grand opening of the Aquatics Centre built for the games and made almost no reference to the Olympics itself. She actually used her speech to allude to the current political crisis and to express her intention to fight to defend herself. The content of her speech demonstrated the true purpose of the event, which had little to do with Rio, 2016. In order to better understand the real motivation for Brazil’s bid to host the global games, as well as to assess the range of potential benefits and disadvantages for the nation, we need to go back in time once again.

The year is 2009 and the governing Workers Party (PT) led by Ms. Rousseff’s predecessor, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (commonly known as Lula) made a passionate and enthusiastic pitch to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) claiming that Brazil was “a progressive, democratic country”. At this point in time, Brazil was riding high on the commodities wave and attracting significant foreign investment, leading respected publications such as The Economist to claim that Brazil was “Taking Off”. Such a positive and widespread economic narrative surrounding the country was enough to convince the IOC to give Brazil the chance to be the first-ever South American Olympic host.

It is important to note, however, that the real motivation behind the PT’s bid to host the Olympics (and the 2014 World Cup for that matter) was not to bring “entertainment to the distressed Brazilian population and put Brazil at the center of the international stage”  – as the highly charismatic leader Mr. da Silva had claimed. As was apparent in the aftermath of the 2014 World Cup, the Brazilian population did not reap any of the benefits that the event was supposed to yield: not only were the tickets heavily overpriced, and therefore inaccessible to the average Brazilian, but many of the stadiums built were locked away once the event was finished.

Fast-forward to 2016 and Brazil faces an unparalleled economic recession and political instability. The root cause is one of the biggest corruption scandals ever registered: reportedly an intricate money laundering scheme involving the PT, Petrobrás (Brazil’s government-owned oil company) and several major construction companies. The latter were not only responsible for building the majority of the stadiums for the World Cup but are also building many facilities for the Olympic Games. Unsurprisingly, many PT politicians have been charged with benefiting from overpaid constructions, refurbishments and other bribes to make the constructions viable.

What is happening in Rio now is strikingly similar to what happened in the country a mere 2 years ago: constructions for the games are running overdue, are over budget and built with dubious quality. To top it off, the city is facing an outbreak of the Zika virus – a direct consequence of the governmental cuts on the money devoted to Healthcare. This has prompted some delegations to boycott the games.

Even the subway expansion, which could prove advantageous to the city’s population has been postponed following the mayor’s decision to divert funds to the construction of velodromes and other Olympic facilities. It is possible that the 2016 Olympic Games may yield some positive indirect benefits to Rio and to Brazil as a whole – through new facilities for sports or other infrastructural improvements. Unfortunately for the PT, Ms. Rousseff might not be around to claim any of the credit.

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Moscow’s Anti-Cafés: Where Time is Money

image russianSince their conception by Russian writer Ivan Mitin, anti-cafés have been spreading from Moscow to all over Russia, and now Europe. Mitin’s chain ‘Ziferblat’, established in 2011, reached London in 2013 and Manchester just last year. The main concept of the anti-café is that the customer pays for time spent in the space rather than for food or drink. More to the point, however, the anti-café aims to encourage socialising and communication, thus providing a cosy, comfortable atmosphere for people to make new friends and spend time with old ones.

An anti-café will usually offer hot and cold beverages, cakes, free Wi-Fi and board games, with some even hosting Xbox or PlayStation consoles at no extra cost. The customer is also at liberty to bring their own provisions and use the kitchen to cook – though they should expect to share!

The process is simple: you go in and register, take a clock and your time starts. The going rate is typically only around 2-3 roubles per minute (the equivalent of 2-3 pence at the moment). Therefore, two hours amounts to what you’d typically pay for a coffee in Starbucks.

Unsurprisingly, these cafés have really taken off with students who are looking for a space to hang out and have a drink or snack within a sustainable budget. Stepping into ‘Zelyonaya Dver‘ (Green Door) in Moscow, paints a typical picture of anti-café life: ping pong tables in the garden, students singing with guitars on the sofas, and others sipping tea and playing Jenga.  It is a common occurence for people to strike up conversations with strangers and make new acquaintances – a sight rarely seen in a standard Western café.

Indeed, a key part of their popularity is that anti-cafes provide a removed space with an informal atmosphere where social norms and rules are relaxed.  In a city like London where interaction between strangers is rare, this might be just what is needed to escape the nonstop rush. As Mitin himself outlined, the concept of a ‘free space’ is key; the customer is autonomous and able to create his own world within the café setting.

The past five years have not only allowed the concept of anti-cafés to spread, but also to develop into some quirky approaches to the idea. Perhaps one of the most weird and wonderful is ‘Kotiki i Lyudi’ (Cats and People) near Tsvetnoi Bulvar metro station. Claiming to make Moscow ‘warmer and fluffier’, this is the perfect place for cat lovers to enjoy pastries and tea whilst playing with the 14 house cats, and of course only paying for time (kotocafe.ru).

So if you’re travelling to Moscow any time soon, and looking for a place to study, eat or just take some time out on a budget, why not pop into an anti-café, where time really is money.

Image: The Calvert Journal

Arkansas: Locally Sourced Servings for the Soul

farmer

On a blistering cold Saturday morning, many people are tucked in bed with a nice, hot cup of cocoa or sleeping under their flannel sheets.  However, in Northwest Arkansas, young people and young families are standing outside at restaurants like the Farmer’s Table, waiting for upwards of thirty minutes for a table inside of a three room, older home.  There is no fancy menu, or a world-renowned chef. These people are here for simply delicious and nutritious, locally-sourced, comfort foods.

Food trends in the USA have historically focused greatly on food on the go – quick and easy meals for millennials to grab while rushing from work, to sporting event, to home. Recently, however, a new culinary trend has emerged among the younger crowd, who are less concerned with speed of preparation and convenience, and increasingly focused on the quality of the meal, the taste, and enjoying locally sourced produce.

Eating food grown by local farmers may seem an old notion for consumers in Europe and elsewhere in the world, but with the enduring dominance of super chains like Walmart in the US this has meant many of these once thriving local farming communities in the US are suffering, or have completely disappeared.

As Northwest Arkansas is developing and younger families are moving in, a revitalized community spirit is growing, this shift is predicated on promoting health, community and local food for the family. A growing number of young families are therefore attempting to develop a community spirit based on happiness, activity and healthy eating. A new wave of new restaurateurs have subsequently emerged, extending the focus on  local community by supporting local farmers and promoting sustainable living.

On any given Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday at 7 a.m. central time, local farmers come to sell their produce, meats, and breads at Farmer’s Markets that are growing in popularity. One such market is located in the town square in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this hosts approximately 30 vendors. These farmers, who once had problems selling once or twice a week, can now sell out in a few hours.

Out on the early morning hunt are local chefs and restaurateurs searching for their next featured dish. Because of the different seasons here, the produce available is constantly changing, creating an amazing array of possible new delicacies for local, and some not so local, patrons to enjoy, while giving local farmers income year round.

After the farmers market, many common items like bacon from local farmers in Gentry and eggs from a chicken farm in Farmington are the basis Sunday brunch.  The only herbs used are the ones grown next door in the restaurant’s garden. Nothing is frozen or genetically modified. Anything that is served on these menus is organic and free of chemicals, leaving only the natural goodness that our bodies crave.

Local restaurants in Arkansas are also keeping waste at a minimum. Composting is a large part of this equation, diminishing the amount of trash being thrown away. The egg shells and left over plant waste are redistributed in the garden to help the soil in the garden. Chicken bones are used to create a broth. Very little packaging or plastic is thrown away simply because there was none in the first place.

menu

These ‘locally sourced’ restaurants are growing in number, and include; the Farmers Table, Herb and Elks, Four Corners Kitchen, and Greenhouse Grill. The philosophy that these eateries are promoting is easy to buy into because of the quality of their menus, the delicious and colorful nature of each meal, and the knowledge that this is helping our local community and promoting sustainability. These culinary developments have revitalized what it means to eat local and have created a more wholesome and healthy community for families in Northwest Arkansas.

 

Picture: The Farmer’s Table, a ‘locally sourced’ restaurant in Fayetteville, AR.

 

Geneva’s unlikely social hotspot

IMG_1103Nestled on the shores of picturesque Lac Leman, overlooking the Alps and the majestic Mont Blanc, lies Les Bains de Paquis, Geneva’s new après-work and weekend social hotspot.

First opened 150 years ago with the sole aim of providing Genevois people with a place to enjoy the sun and indulge in a bit of swimming in the summer, the pier has now become Geneva’s most happening and talked about social destination.

Blessed with glorious sunshine and long summer’s days, culturally Geneva’s after work traditions rarely revolve around an evening spent in the pub, as the opportunity to soak up the evening sun with an alcoholic beverage in hand seems to be all too appealing. There’s no better place in the city to drink the evening away with your friends, family or work colleagues than Les Bains de Paquis. There’s never a dull moment & it all comes at a reasonable price as well, something hard to come by in a city with expensive tastes.

One thing that sets Les Bains de Paquis apart from the run-of-the-mill Geneva social hotspot is its unbelievable variety in experiences and activities all within such a small area. Anything that you can think of you are more than likely to be able to find it on the pier, with food, drink, music, swimming, Turkish baths, lectures, poetry and even Tai Chi classes all at your disposal throughout the summer. The pier even hosts dawn concerts every Thursday morning at 6am in the height of the summer months. Therefore, if you fancy listening to music whilst watching the sunrise over the mountains and lake before pitching up at work for the daily grind, then Les Bains de Paquis is the place for you!

Not only is Les Bains de Paquis swimming in social activity, the pier is teeming with revelers of many different nationalities, all mixing and soaking up the electric atmosphere. Les Bains de Paquis epitomises the international feel of the city. There aren’t many places in the world where one can enjoy a drink with a view, whilst simultaneously experiencing the best of multiple cultures and enjoying conversation with people from all over the globe.

No visit to Geneva is therefore complete without experiencing the wonders of the city’s irrefutable social hub. Whether you’re an art lover or you’re just looking to have a few drinks in a lovely setting, there is no better place in Geneva than the scenic and one of a kind, Bains de Paquis.

 

 

 

 

The growth of India’s newspaper industry

men reading paperIn a global climate of declining newspaper sales, India’s news publications appear to be holding fast.

India has a growing and constantly changing newspaper market, with daily circulation up from 150 million in 2002 rising to 264 million in 2014; it is expected to continue to rise in the coming years. However, the newspaper industry in India hasn’t always enjoyed increasing readership. India’s newspaper industry has faced restrictions because of state censorship, a lack of investment and the challenge of language were all barriers faced by the industry.

The years between 1991 and 2006 belonged to the television and Internet in India and this changed the habits of the nation, seeing the country’s population hungry for more media choices.

The rapid expansion of the Internet was accompanied by a newspaper revolution. Growth in technology and the importing of new printing equipment meant that it was becoming commercially viable for newspapers to be printed in a variety of regional languages rather than predominantly either in Hindi or English.

The availability of newspapers in different languages has meant that India’s newspaper market appeals to millions of non-English speakers. It is predicted that by 2017, the revenues for non-English papers will overtake that of English newspapers for the first time ever.

Increasing literacy rates across India has driven the localisation of newspapers, made possible by the changes in printing technology. The increasing literacy rates in rural areas of India has seen the investment in newspapers grow, and often, the greatest increase in circulation of newspapers has been in areas with increasing literacy rather than increasing economic power. By reading a newspaper people, who had been previously denied, have been given an opportunity to be involved in civic and political participation.  Kerala is one such example.  Throughout the twentieth century, this was an area with some of the highest literacy rates in India. There was also a strong sense of political involvement amongst the people, and the newspaper readership per 1000 was well above the national average for India, yet the average income for Kerala was below the Indian national average. This shows that rather than newspapers being a sign of the elite, they are now seen as a mass medium, and a way for Indian citizens participating in national affairs.

Underwriting the localisation of India’s newspapers is media advertising, which has grown alongside newspaper circulations. The growth of media advertising meant that Indian newspapers began to receive investment, and this made the decentralisation of news possible. Indian media consumers were first targeted by incentives via television in the early 1990’s, but this soon spread to print media, when it was discovered how lucrative incentives and gifts for readers could be. Incentives are often offered in order to increase circulation.  The Dainik Bhaskar, one of the most popular newspapers in India, spent 15 million rupees to tempt newspaper subscribers with a plastic chair in Chhattisgarh.

Perhaps the biggest reason why newspapers across India have continued to increase their circulation is due to the political engagement that they allow.

For people who were previously marginalised, or unable to contribute to political debates, newspapers have provided an opportunity to engage with politics at both a regional and national level. This suggests that as the population of India continues to become more upwardly mobile, the growth of newspapers will continue, with the only question remaining: how long can this growth be sustained?

 

Pop Up Public Art in Christchurch

boxparkOn 22nd February 2011, Christchurch New Zealand, was hit by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake. It caused widespread devastation and killed 185 people.

It was recently the five year anniversary and a number of news stories reflected on what has occurred since the earthquake in New Zealand’s second biggest city.

The rebuild is set to cost an estimated NZ$40bn and has been faced with criticism in its efforts and timescale. Despite this, as The Guardian reported, ‘residents in Christchurch say it [the earthquake] has also given them a chance to thoroughly examine and debate what they want from their new home, and allowed creativity and innovation to flourish’.

Accordingly, a number of charitable organisations have worked with the notion of creativity in Christchurch since the earthquake. Gap Filler, an initiative described as  ‘filling the gaps of Christchurch with pop up creative projects’ suggest that ‘before the quake, people thought of Christchurch as quite conservative, but now the opportunities have given people a blank canvas, if nothing else, and people are very open minded about what the spaces could be.’

Similarly, Greening the Rubble – a charity providing parks and outdoor community spaces on empty land in the city state that ‘‘…art is even more important after traumatic events. You can’t always put into words how you feel.’

Throughout Christchurch, this notion of a new lease of life through creativity is clearly evident.  Despite the fact the centre is filled with the sound of drills and shells of former buildings, there is pop up artwork and creativity around every corner. Exploring the city is a sensory voyage involving immersion in new and emerging public art and sculpture.

Reflection of Loss of Lives, Livelihoods and Living in Neighbourhood is an installation by Peter Majendie consisting of 185 white chairs. Representing each of the 185 people who died in the earthquake, each chair is different and reflects a bold memorial to the loss Christchurch experienced.  Visitors are invited to sit on the chairs and take time to reflect.

chairs

The Transitional Cathedral is a temporary space for worship and reflection as the city’s cathedral was severely damaged in the earthquake.  Designed by the architect Shigeru Ban, the Transitional Cathedral is made out of cardboard and seats up to 700 people.

catherdral

Shipping containers are a common sight around Christchurch. They have been, and still are, used to block entrance to dangerous areas and hold up semi fallen buildings in the city. However, since October 2011, they have also been used as part of Re: START – a unique retail space consisting of temporary buildings made from shipping containers. The space also consists of a multi-media attraction named ‘Quake City’ which tells stories of Christchurch’s earthquakes.

The inclusion of creativity and art in the process of rebuilding Christchurch is uplifting, and allows for the injection of colour, imagination and vibrancy juxtaposed with rubble and construction. It has built new spaces for people to enjoy, rebuilt new places of worship and importance and allowed for an expressive way to work through the grief and impact of such a traumatic event. Christchurch highlights the importance of public art and creativity within the process of healing and will remain visible as the city rebuilds.