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Rio Carnival revels in last night of partying and political protest

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Rio threw the second and final night of its celebrated carnivalright through to dawn Tuesday in a show that blended political protest with a return to Brazil’s roots.

More than 70,000 people sang at the top of their voices Monday night as the seven final samba schools paraded through the city’s Sambadrome, the huge concrete arena built by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemayer.

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The night before, another seven of the city’s competing samba schools — a mixture of trained dancers and enthusiastic neighborhood locals — had staged their own colorful parade, in costumes and with giant decorated floats.

 AFP / Mauro Pimentel A Mangueira school dancers performs on the second night of Rio’s Carnival parade at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro 

The first school of 2,500 dancers and musicians made their way past the crowds and the judges at a reasonable hour of Monday evening, and the last did so at the crack of dawn Tuesday.

As they do every year, Brazilians briefly forget their woes during the world’s biggest party, including the economic crisis, bitter political divisions, massive corruption scandals and a sky-high murder rate.

The fiesta serves as a cathartic coming together for the city, reflecting the joy, suffering and dreams of its denizens.

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“It’s another way of crying. And protesting: we are alive!” said an editorial in the daily O Globo on Monday.

The crowd this year included celebrities, such as football great Neymar, who was seen at the stadium with funk singer Anita. Neymar plays for France’s Paris Saint-Germain and is in Brazil for treatment of a foot injury.

 AFP / Mauro Pimentel The fiesta serves as a cathartic coming together for the city, reflecting the joy, suffering and dreams of its denizens

The city had been battered by torrential summer rains in the hours leading up to the start of the parade on Sunday, but the skies cleared, as if by magic, just as the first samba school sashayed into the spotlight.

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And the magic of the parade has not dried up either in the first carnival to be staged under the new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. Sunday saw a display of spectacular floats featuring giant flamboyant birds, slave ships, the Roman colosseum and of course scantily clad dancers in exotic headdresses throbbing to the deafening beat of drum bands.

– Criticism and satire –

But once again the carnival served as canvas for political messages, sending up the “circus” of the political capital Brasilia or condemning widespread corruption and a growing intolerance towards the black and LGBT communities.

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 AFP / Mauro Pimentel A slavery themed dance display by the Unidos de Tijuca samba school in a carnival that features a number of politically themed protests aimed at the country’s new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro

Those messages appeared to be directed pointedly at Bolsonaro, notorious before the election for race-baiting, sexist and homophobic comments.

The parade Monday night continued that satirical theme.

The Mangueira school caused a stir with a theme of popular heroes from Brazilian history who do not feature in school textbooks, mostly from the traditionally neglected black and indigenous communities.

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The highlight of that parade was a homage to Marielle Franco, a black city councilor and human rights activist from one of the city’s poor favela neighborhoods who was shot dead last year.

 AFP / Mauro Pimentel Dancers from the Paraiso do Tuiuti samba school perform during the second night of Rio’s Carnival parade at the Sambadrome

Another highly anticipated display was from the Portela school, which holds a record 22 carnival wins and partnered French fashion guru Jean-Paul Gaultier to design its dancers’ costumes.

It highlighted Brazil’s roots by celebrating the memory of Clara Nunes, an icon of the 1970s samba scene and the first artist to defend the rights of African-Brazilian religions.

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– Budget cuts –

The show also celebrated the resilience of the sambas schools themselves, whose subsidies from the city have been reduced since Marcelo Crivella, a former Evangelical pastor, became mayor in 2017.

 AFP / Mauro Pimentel Rio’s Sambadrome, full of thousands of costumed dancers and elaborate floats decorated to reflect national, regional, cultural or historic themes

The carnival has also tamped down its traditional feel of debauchery, which normally draws around 1.5 million visitors to the “Marvelous City,” including foreign tourists with their much-needed cash.

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But for Jairo Machado, a dancer with the Beija-Flor samba school, it would take more than budget cuts or torrential rain to dampen the legendary party-goers’ enthusiasm.

“Despite the weak investment by the city, the schools have overcome all that, they have managed to throw a good carnival,” he told AFP.

The judges are to announce the winner of the samba contest on Wednesday based on three criteria: the inventiveness of the floats, the theme of parade, and the quality of the dancing in the sambadrome.

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For the schools, that means months of work to makes the costumes, build the floats, rehearse their dance steps and learn their songs, making winning a huge prize for a school and its local community.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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CNN’s Anderson Cooper demolishes Trump’s Google/Clinton conspiracy theory: He’s on ‘one of his favorite hobby horses’

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On Monday, CNN's Anderson Cooper walked viewers through President Donald Trump's latest theory about Google committing voter fraud on behalf of Democrats.

"I want to play you this clip from yesterday, because of how well it shows where his head still seems to be nearly three years after election night," said Cooper. "It was in response to a question about banning high-capacity magazines. First, he quickly changed the subject to mental health, and then, well, take a look."

"The concept of mental institution has to be looked at," said Trump in the clip. "Unrelated to that, I believe that the concept also of voter identification has to be looked at because you can't have great security for the voter. People that vote, you can't have that national security unless you can have voter identification. It's something people have to look at very strongly."

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MSNBC panel ridicules Mike Pence for mastering the art of the kiss-ass so he can run for president

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Vice President Mike Pence was mocked on MSNBC for his unwavering devotion to President Donald Trump.

"In Trump World where we live, unfortunately, the president demands complete loyalty. Vice President Mike Pence has been the most successful at navigating the choppy loyalty waters using effusive compliments when necessary," MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews said.

The host played multiple clips of Pence lavishing praise on Trump.

"Well, it appears to be paying off. Yesterday, amid reports that Trump might swap out for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. The president told reporters he’s sticking with his guy," Matthews reported.

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Anthony Scaramucci bashes Trump’s ‘word salad’ and ‘entire GOP’ attacking him on Twitter at president’s direction

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"What's he doing all day?" asked CNN's Anderson Cooper to former senior adviser Anthony Scaramucci in an interview Monday.

President Donald Trump spent another day attacking the former White House communications director and "the Mooch" said that he's now got "the entire GOP" coming after him on Twitter when they have more important things to do.

"If you look at the style of points, the manifestations of his tweets today, which are constantly in delirium, scaring people and one of the talking points I hear from Republicans, 'Well, it's the economy and we could be going up against a socialist so I'll hold my nose and do this,' but if he's really fully weakened the economy, I think those people will change their minds quickly," Scaramucci predicted.

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