segunda-feira, 9 de fevereiro de 2009

Hoax and forgery of purported U.S. geography textbook showing the Amazon belonging to the U.S.

Certain things just get old. Like the fact that most Brazilians are willing to believe the most amazing crap about Americans. A few years back, an e-mail circulated around Brazil stating that American children were being taught that the Amazon rainforest belonged to America. The instantaneous belief in this ridiculous hoax by otherwise seemingly intelligent people was simply astonishing. Then, came the terrible tragedy of the two planes that crashed over the Amazon rainforest. A prominent politician claimed the American pilot had turned off the transponder and had been doing loop-d'-loops. Leaving aside the fact that a top executive from the pilot's company was on board, as well as an executive of the plane's manufacturer, and a reporter for the New York Times, who in hell would take a brand new plane and do aerial acrobatics over the Amazon? I can only surmise that Brazilians believe that a Brazilian pilot might be capable of such a thing and therefore are willing to believe that an American pilot would also do it. Even today, after all the evidence points to the complete innocence of the two American pilots (e.g., the transponder had failed in two other planes before being installed in the "brand new" plane the American company had just purchased, and this is just one of the many factors in the tragic crash -- but the intense focus by many here to protect the business interests of Embraer has superceded any other consideration, like getting at the truth and protecting the flying public), they are assumed to be cold-hearted criminals by most Brazilians.

Thus, I find it necessary to post the information below (taken from someone else's blog), in an effort to educate the unwary.

“Since 2000, a forgery has circulated falsely claiming that the United States and the United Nations have assumed control of the Amazon rainforest in order to safeguard its treasures for all mankind.”

“The forgery purports to be page 76 of a U.S. sixth grade textbook titled An Introduction to Geography by David Norman. There is no indication that such a book exists. The U.S. Library of Congress, with more than 29 million books and other printed materials, has no record of it. The Online Computer Learning Center’s WorldCat database, the world’s largest database of bibliographic information with more than 47 million books, has no record of the book. Nor can such a book be found in Internet searches on or Google.”


“Geographical manuals in US schools show an amputated Brazil, without the Amazon and the Pantanal. This is how students are taught that these are ‘international’ areas, in other words: this is how the North American public is prepared for the ‘internationalisation’ of these areas.”

“The following text is taken from a US high school geography manual, signalling the United States (jointly with the United Nations) can take over the Amazon to protect the water and air quality of the world.”

“The manual discusses how this area is in South America, a region with the worst poverty on the planet and divided among eight nations with a weird, irresponsible, cruel and authoritarian population – savages, drugs dealers, illiterates, etc… It is these peoples that could cause the death and destruction of the world, in a mere few years’ time.”

“Going into detail, page 76 of the manual ‘Introduction to Geography’ by David Norman (used at junior high school level), describes ‘Operation Columbia’:”

“North American troops (80.000 strong in Surinam and Guyana) will take over Brazilian airspace and launch rockets from Alcantara. The US will open a CIA office at the Foz de Iguazu tripoint (Argentina/Paraguay/Brazil) and implant two military bases in Argentina – one in Patagonia and one closer to Buenos Aires.”

“Legend below the map: ‘Here we see the International Reserve, consisting of territory of eight South American countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, French Guyana… Some of the most miserable countries of the world.”

“Since the middle of the 1980s, the most important nature area in the world became the responsibility of the US and the UN. The fund that was set up for this purpose is FIRAF (the ‘First International Reserve of the Amazon Forestal Fund’). This foundation has taken responsibility for the Amazon region, located in South America, a region among the poorest in the world and ruled by irresponsible, cruel and authoritarian governments. The area is part of eight different countries, the populations of which consist of violent types, drugs traffickers and ignorants, illiterates and primitives.”

“The foundation of FIRAF was approved and supported by the nations of the G-23 and it is a genuine challenge to our country and a gift to the whole world, as the ownership of this valuable global asset was in the hands of primitive peoples and countries without responsibility for these ‘lungs of the world’, which under their stewardship would disappear in a few years’ time.”

“We can say that this region has the greatest biodiversity on the planet, both in animal and plant species. The value of this region is incalculable, but the Earth can rest assured that the USA will not allow the Latin American countries to further exploit and destroy this heritage of all mankind. The FIRAF will be administered as any other US National Park, with strict rules regarding exploitation.”

“Please send this mail onto as many people as possible, to inform all of these insidious plans. Gracias, obrigado, thank you!”

This is the verbatim transcription of a rambling, repetitive chain mail (often but not always in Spanish or Portuguese) purporting to show a US scheme for taking over the Amazon basin, under the pretext of saving its globally vital resources from the clutches of the savage locals. It’s not hard to find some things wrong with it.

  • Why would the US cooperate with the UN, or vice versa? Both entities are more often at odds with one another than not. Furthermore, any such action would have to be approved by the UN Security Council; it’s inconceivable how other veto-wielding members would permit it, especially the increasingly uncooperative Russians, or the Chinese, who no doubt have their own agenda in the region.
  • The quoted texts seem hardly appropriate for a school textbook, which are in most cases formulated in neutral tones, even in America… Unless this is an illustration of American arrogance as imagined by outsiders.
  • Why would the CIA open an office at said tripoint, and why would the US implant military bases so far from their area of annexation?
  • The G-23 doesn’t seem to exist, or if it does, it’s neither googleable nor wikipediable. Maybe they meant the G-8?
  • FIRAF is googleable, but only seems to turn up in news reports of questionable veracity, whereas entering it in the – fallible, but rather comprehensive – reference website wikipedia, draws a blank.
  • An search for FIRAF does lead to this page of the US State Department, where this context is given:

“To a native English speaker, the accompanying text’s many errors of spelling, grammar, and inappropriate tone and language are clear, although these would not necessarily be obvious to non-native English speakers. The words that are misspelled and some of the other most obvious errors are indicated in boldface. They are:”

  • 3.000 should be 3,000; Americans use a comma, not a period to separate thousands from hundreds in numbers
  • INT’L should be INTERNATIONAL; informal contractions would not be used in a textbook
  • responsability should be spelled responsibility
  • irresponsable should be spelled irresponsible
  • authoritary should be authoritarian
  • the “a” before “unintelligent” should be “an”
  • destroying should be destruction
  • vegetals should be vegetables
  • calcule should be calculate
  • cert should be certain
  • explorate should be exploit.

“In addition, the text uses an inappropriate tone and contains many other grammatical and word usage errors. Some of the spelling errors in the forgery indicate that the forger was a native Portuguese speaker. In Portuguese, the word for calculate is calcule, and a word for vegetable is vegetal. On June 8, 2000, the then-Brazilian ambassador to the United States, Rubens Antonio Barbosa, characterised the forgery as ‘disinformation made in Brazil by sectors still unidentified’.”

“Ambassador Barbosa added, ‘The initial source of the supposed news was a website associated with the slogan Brasil, Ame-o ou Deixe-o [Brazil: love it or leave it], but with no identification of those responsible for the website.’ The Minister-Counselor of the Brazilian embassy at the time, Paulo Roberto de Almeida, stated that the forgery was linked to Brazilian ‘right-wing sectors that specialize in transmitting news of supposed attacks against our sovereignty in a manner that is not merely paranoid, but also irresponsible’.”

“Although the textbook page has long been identified as a forgery, it continues to circulate widely via e-mail, and is often believed.”

15 comentários:

Anônimo disse...

Very interesting and informative. I thought it sounded fishy from the beginning and this article confirms it. The big clincher for me was that we, in the U.S. don't say "calcule". We say calculate.

Tenney disse...

The very first sentence contains a typical Brazilian English learner's mistake -- the usage of this expression:

"was passed to"

If you have ever taught English in Brazil, you will recognize this mistake instantly.

There are many other similar mistakes.

Sandra disse...

It would be very interesting to see the real page of this book.

Tenney Naumer disse...

There was no book, thus no "real" page.

It was a cut and paste job.

Tales disse...

I remember seeing this email around a few years ago, and i remember my colegues and I laughed a lot about it.
When you say that "Brazilians like to believe crap concerning Americans". True, there's some kind of paranoia, though understandable if we think all the dirty job that the CIA had done to Latin America.
But you're mistaken, most Brazilians don't believe in conspiracy theories, as most Americans i guess don't believe they are the super heros and the righteous people on earth.
But we Brazilians DO believe that one day the US may use the military power to take natural resources (as Iraq and many others). Well, it's not about Americans, it's about the US. Sorry, but we just don't trust the US.

Tenney disse...

If I were Brazilian, I would be much more concerned about the fact that the Chinese have been buying up all the mineral and rare earth mines in Brazil that they can find, not to mention that they are also buying or leasing Brazilian farmland, and they have loaned Petrobras $10 billion to be repaid in oil, and $10 billion to Argentina to be repaid in agri products, and Lord knows what all.

Stop worrying about the Americans, the Chinese are here right now doing what you are afraid of.

Anônimo disse...

I want not acquiesce in on it. I think nice post. Especially the title-deed attracted me to read the whole story.

Anônimo disse...

Okay. I am willing to understand, believe and accept the idea that this story was intentionally made to cause alarm around the world and, especially, South America. But, mind you, based on the history of US-South American relations, is is not so "crazy" to make the mistake of believing these claims. In other words, I believe this is NOT true today, but I would NOT be surprised if it were...!

bruce disse...

See, a third of the posters here basically say "Well, this is fake, but it's not so absurd, after all look at the history of America - in Iraq for example"


The US isn't annexing Iraq or making it a national park. The last territorial expansion of the US was the purchase of Alaska over one hundred years ago.

And the US isn't controlling Iraq's national resources or oil either. Actually, a lot of oil contracts have gone to Chinese and BRAZILIAN companies in Iraq, because they have offered the best terms and the democratically elected Iraqi government has been free to choose whatever company they want.

This is the problem with Brazilian Anti-Americanism, even a mainstream Brazilian has such a twisted distorted view of America, that a good number of them are more than willing to lap up something as absurd as this.

By the way, I am firmly anti Bush and totally against the Iraq war. Overall I have a positive view of Brazil, despite the foolish hostility Brazilians feel towards the US. And by the way, Brazilians are uber-defensive about any negative portrayal of Brazil, if the media mentions gangs or violence in Brazil, Brazilians are all over it talking about how it's tarnishing their national image.

But the US as the progenitor of most evils, responsible for angering Muslims and therefore responsible for terrorism, stealing oil from Iraq via invasion, the source of violence in Columbia, the source of the Honduras coup, average conservative AMERICANS as bible thumping Taliban-like racists... all these things are believed basically without question in Brazil.

Oh yeah, and don't give me some BS about how Brazilians don't feel any hostility against US citizens, because too many of you do. Just look at how the election of Obama was deemed impossible due to the rampant racism of most US voters. We Americans might not feel hostile towards Brazilians, but the opposite is NOT the case.

Tenney Naumer disse...

Bruce, to this day, probably more than 90% of Brazilians believe that the two American pilots of the Legacy Embraer aircraft that collided with a Brazilian airliner are at fault for the crash despite all the evidence to the contrary, including the fact that Embraer installed a twice defective transponder into a supposedly zero aircraft.
People actually believed the Americans were doing air acrobats with a new plane whose passengers included a New York Times journalist, executives from both Embraer and the purchasers of the the Legacy.
They believed that the pilots were playing video games and ignoring the plane.
They believed and continue to believe so much nonsense that it boggles the mind.
I just ran into someone who was not aware of the textbook hoax, a person who now lives and works in Orlando. I tried to explain to him what a hoax is because I could not remember the word "enganar".
I give up.

Tenney Naumer disse...

Actually (and I know that I am a smaller person because of this) it does my heart good to see the Bolivians and Venezuelans call Brazil imperialistic. Then, Brazil can have a taste of its own medicine, for a change.

bruce disse...

Tenney, I hadn't heard that about the jets before but it doesn't surprise me. Very interesting.

Yes it is satisfying, although petty, to hear Brazil be accused of Imperialism. I looked that up and I must say, America has nothing on Brazilian Hegemony. We need to take some lessons from Brazil! Apparently, BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank) requires loans which it gives out to other countries to be mostly spent on Brazilian products - wow! Not even the IMF, which Brazilians love to bitch about, does that.

Also, let's not forgot Lula De Silva cozying up to Iran in exchange for choice oil contracts there, or Brazil throwing it's weight around in Bolivia to throw the results of Bolivia's Hydrocarbon referendum.

Brazilians need to be honest, and admit that countries do what's within their best interests balanced against their ideology. The US does not act out of pure altruism or pure self interest. The Brazilian world view that the US acts out of hegemonic self interest and Brazil out of self sacrificing altruism is absurd at best. Brazil of course is not going to let this narrative go, because it's Brazil's manifest destiny to lead (run) the continent of south America in the next century, freeing sad little countries like Chile from their unwitting enslavement to the US.

I know, I know, we're preaching to the choir...

Tenney Naumer disse...

I don't know if, in general, Brazil has imperialistic designs over the rest of South America, but they are quite willing to throw their weight around, and seem to be pretty proud to do so.

Right now, they could be putting their new found wealth to good use, but I don't exactly see a lot of good road construction projects going through Bahia, for example. Or improvements to the public school system, much less to the public health system.

As usual, the rich are getting richer.

LA SED disse...

Tenney Naumer disse...

OK, now I understand how things work. So, I am supposed to believe everything that ACM said while he was a senator for Bahia -- you know, like the time he stood up in the Senate not long after Lula was elected and said that the Brazilian military knew the way to the White House (in Brasilia). You know, he was only threatening treason. Or, maybe I should take seriously the president of Brazil's Senate -- Renan Calheiros?

I dunno, maybe you should also believe everything the Tea Party says.