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Everyone loves Lula

Lula heads to the UN, the G20 summit, then to Copenhagen to bid for the 2016 Olympics. Former Honduran President Zelaya heads back to his home country and hides at the Brazilian embassy. The twice-convicted solicitor general will most likely be confirmed to the Federal Supreme Court. The economy grows 1.9 percent and 242,146 new jobs are added. Spanish bank Santander plans an IPO of a Brazilian unit, estimated at $8.6 billion. A new bill loosens restrictions on Internet campaigning. And all public schools are required to play the national anthem once a week .

 TOP NEWS: President Lula is in New York to speak at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Then he's off to the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh before heading to Copenhagen to plead Rio de Janeiro’s case to host the 2016 Olympics before the Oct. 2 final vote. He was greeted in New York by one of the most flattering pieces written on him in recent times, by Newsweek’s Rio de Janeiro correspondent Mac Margolis, whose headline dubbed Lula, "The most popular politician on earth." (We’ve come a long way since the NYT’s former man in Rio, Larry Rohter, all but labeled him a drunk.) Newsweek also posted a transcript of Margolis’s interview.  The Times’ sports columnist George Vecsey also weighed in, apparently quite charmed by Lula’s efforts to promote Rio.


Deposed Honduran president appeared back in Tegucigalpa, and guess where? The Brazilian embassy. That move was seen as a “demonstration of the leadership and moderating power that Brazil has come to occupy on the continent” according to Folha de Sao Paulo, which cited sources in the Foreign Ministry. Celso Amorim, the foreign minister, denied that neither he nor Lula knew about Zelaya’s return to the country in advance; Zelaya said the same thing in an interview.  Staying at the Venezuelan embassy would have been the obvious choice. Honduran police attempted to disperse the pro-Zelaya crowd and things looked like they were getting ugly.


In Passport's last Brazil brief, it looked like France was going to win the contract to supply the Air Force with new fighter jets, but soon after, both Boeing and Sweden’s Saab fought back, sweetening the pot with guarantees of technology transfer, among other things. It is now unclear what will happen with the contracts.


There is quite a bit of controversy over Antonio Toffoli, Lula’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the 12 justice Federal Supreme Court. He is a long-time Workers Party loyalist who is currently the country’s solicitor general. He has also been convicted twice for accepting illegal contracts with the state of Amapa, and ordered to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars. Veja magazine (not Lula’s biggest fan, it should be noted) observed that since those cases are still subject to appeal and could make it to the Supreme Court, Toffoli would theoretically preside over the very case in which he is the defendant. It looks like Toffoli will be confirmed.


MONEY: There was lots of financial news over the last two weeks. The official second quarter GDP numbers came in on Sept. 11, and it turns out the economy grew 1.9 percent, close to what economists and the government had predicted. Consumption was strong, and though manufacturing began to make a comeback, it was still far behind where it was a year ago, as was the economy overall.


Brazil also picked up 242,146 new jobs in August, bouncing back above where it was pre-crisis. (Those numbers only include officially registered jobs, a fraction of the entire economy.) Santander Brasil predicted that unemployment figures for August, to be released Thursday, would drop to 7.8 percent from 8 percent. That number comes from surveys in the major metropolitan areas.


New data also showed a slow but continuing decline in income inequality in Brazil, including a slight downturn in the infamous Gini coefficient (the most commonly recognized measurement of inequality) from 0.528 to 0.521. That is only through 2008, though, and, as Folha columnist Clovis Rossi was quick to point out, does not necessarily mean the country is getting more equal, since it measures income, not wealth.


Santander Bank– which is based in Spain – was back in the news, announcing it would sell shares of its Brazilian unit in what Valor Economico called, in a front page headline, “the biggest IPO of the year” – in the world, that is – and estimated it at $8.6 billion. 


ELSEWHERE: The Brazilian Congress, under time pressure as an Oct. 2 deadline approached, pushed through an electoral reform bill. Its most discussed aspect, the loosening of restrictions on Internet campaigning, was pushed through, though not with all the liberties some senators had sought. The Blog do Noblat had a good summary (in Portuguese) of all the changes here.


Veja Sao Paulo held its annual Eating and Drinking Awards, the most prestigious restaurant prizes of the year. Anyone passing through town had better make reservations well in advance for spots like Due Cuochi Cucina (Best Italian), Aizome (Best Japanese), Mani (Best Contemporary), Fasano (Best High Gastronomy), and Ici Bistro (Best French). No need for a reservation at Lanchonete da Cidade (Best Hot Dog), though it is pretty chic.


With Lula in New York, it fell to Vice President Jose Alencar to sign into effect a law that requires all private and public schools across the country to play the Brazilian national anthem at least once a week. Wonder what the students will be crooning? Try this YouTube video with handy English subtitles.