May 16, 2013
Erin Brodwin – Scientific American, 05/15/2013
The Amazon Basin is the epicenter of the world’s hydropower plants—the same gushing rains that give the region its lush foliage make it a prime destination for developers seeking to capitalize on this allegedly renewable energy source. But the long-term sustainability of these projects, which use the natural flow of water to generate electricity, is now under scrutiny.
A new study of the Belo Monte Dam, one of the world’s largest hydropower energy complexes currently under construction on the Xingu River in the eastern region of the basin, found that large-scale deforestation in the Amazon poses a significant threat to a dam’s energy-generating potential.
Although many studies have examined the impacts of deforestation on the immediate vicinity of hydropower projects, less attention has been paid to its effects on a regional scale. In fact, earlier studies found that a loss of trees within the water basin of hydropower sites increased the energy-generating capacity of the dam in the short-term, because less trees were available to suck water from the ground and export it outside the watershed in a process known as evapotranspiration.
May 15, 2013
Rodrigo Orihuela, Juan Pablo Spinetto – Bloomberg, 05/14/2013
BP Plc (BP/) and Total SA (FP), Europe’s biggest oil companies after Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), won exploration rights in the Amazon basin as Brazil’s first oil auction in five years attracts a record level of bids.
Total, based in Paris, gained exploration access to operate five blocks at the Foz do Amazonas basin in northern Brazil together with partners BP and Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the oil regulator said today. London-based BP won an additional license to operate a block at the same basin in partnership with Petrobras, as the state-controlled oil company is known.
Brazil, home to the largest crude discovery in the Americas in more than 30 years, is holding its first oil exploration round since 2008, attracting more than 60 prospective bidders for a total of 289 blocks in 11 basins. The country is set to break the $1.1 billion record in auctioning licenses, according to Joao Carlos de Luca, the head of the Brazilian Oil Institute.
May 15, 2013
Andrew Downie – The Christian Science Monitor, 05/14/2013
A decade after Brazil tightened rules on weapons sales and two years after a lone gunman shot 12 people dead at a Rio de Janeiro school, Brazil’s Congress is trying to loosen legislation on gun ownership that critics say could cause the number of homicides to rise sharply after a period of relative stability.
The number of homicides in South America’s largest nation fell by 2,000 in 2004, the first such fall in 12 years, thanks largely to the Disarmament Statute, legislation that made it harder to buy guns and slapped tougher penalties on those caught in possession. The number of gun deaths fell by a similar amount the year after, as well, Brazil’s Justice Ministry said.
However, with the government focused more on growth and infrastructure issues and preparing the country to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, gun control has ceased to be a priority says Antonio Rangel, a researcher who coordinates the Arms Control Project at Viva Rio, a well-known NGO.
May 14, 2013
Brazil’s deputy Finance Minister Nelson Barbosa, who helped design some of the government’s flagship economic projects, has handed in his resignation for personal reasons and will leave the post in June, the ministry said on Monday.
Folha de S. Paulo newspaper reported his departure over the weekend, citing loss of influence within President Dilma Rousseff’s government as the reason for his resignation.
Folha said Barbosa, once a close advisor to Rousseff, had lost access to the president with the rise of Treasury Secretary Arno Agustin, who is expected to take his place as the ministry’s executive secretary.
May 14, 2013
German President Joachim Gauck is in Brazil seeking to strengthen trade ties with a key German partner; he and President Dilma Rousseff have officially opened a special Germany-themed year in Brazil.
German President Joachim Gauck and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff started Brazil’s “Deutschland-Jahr” year-long schedule that incorporates as many as 400 cultural, economic and scientific appointments in the coming months.
Gauck and Rousseff appeared at the opening of a German-Brazilian trade conference in Sao Paolo late on Monday.
The German president praised long-standing and stable bilateral trade ties. Gauck said that Volkswagen’s partnership with Brazil had proved so successful over the years that many in Brazil considered VW a “domestic legacy brand.” He also lamented that too few Germans knew that author Thomas Mann should dedicate “his artistic streak to his mother who was born in Brazil.”
May 14, 2013
Bruce Kennedy – MSN Money, 05/14/2013
Critics have warned that globalization comes with a price. And it’s not just low-wage workers in far-off places likeBangladesh who often pay that price in human lives. It also appears that auto buyers in South America’s largest economy are paying a deadly toll.
Brazil is one of the BRICs, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China, the international economies that have been booming in recent years while bringing hundreds of millions of their citizens out of poverty.
But The Associated Press released a startling report over the weekend outlining how auto manufacturers in Brazil, including European companies and U.S. makers such as Ford (F +0.93%) and General Motors (GM +1.29%) — at facilities like GM’s Sao Caetano plant (pictured) — are producing vehicles that are apparently unsafe at any speed.
May 6, 2013
The Economist, 05/04/2013
The biggest building site in Brazil is neither in the concrete jungle of São Paulo nor in beachside Rio de Janeiro, which is being revamped to host the 2016 Olympics. It lies 3,000km (1,900 miles) north in the state of Pará, deep in the Amazon basin. Some 20,000 labourers are working around the clock at Belo Monte on the Xingu river, the biggest hydropower plant under construction anywhere. When complete, its installed capacity, or theoretical maximum output, of 11,233MW will make it the world’s third-largest, behind China’s Three Gorges and Itaipu, on the border between Brazil and Paraguay.
Everything about Belo Monte is outsized, from the budget (28.9 billion reais, or $14.4 billion), to the earthworks—a Panama Canal-worth of soil and rock is being excavated—to the controversy surrounding it. In 2008 a public hearing in Altamira, the nearest town, saw a government engineer cut with a machete. In 2010 court orders threatened to stop the auction for the project. The private-sector bidders pulled out a week before. When officials from Norte Energia, the winning consortium of state-controlled firms and pension funds, left the auction room, they were greeted by protesters—and three tonnes of pig muck.
Since then construction has twice been halted briefly by legal challenges. Greens and Amerindians often stage protests. Xingu Vivo (“Living Xingu”), an anti-Belo Monte campaign group, displays notes from supporters all over the world in its Altamira office. James Cameron, a Hollywood film-maker, has chimed in to compare Brazil’s dam-builders to the villains in “Avatar”, one of his blockbusters.
May 6, 2013
Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times, 05/05/2013
After 2 1/2 years of renovations, Rio’s legendary Maracana soccer stadium reopened to much fanfare in late April. Brazilian legends including Ronaldo played in a test match before an audience composed mostly of the workers who rebuilt the 78,000-capacity temple to futebol that will be the flagship venue for next year’s World Cup.
The launch was deemed a success — and allowed officials to breathe a sigh of relief before they begin to worry again about Brazil’s preparations for two of the world’s biggest sporting events, the World Cup in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016.
In the last month, a worker died during construction of a stadium in Sao Paulo, and two other stadiums, including Maracana, missed a deadline set by the international soccer organization, FIFA, to be ready for June’s Confederations Cup tournament.
April 29, 2013
Paige McClanahan – The Guardian, 04/26/2013
The next head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will hail from the global south, it is expected to be announced on Friday.
In its 18-year history, the global trade body has had only one director general from an emerging economy, Supachai Panitchpakdi, of Thailand, who held the post from 2002 to 2005.
Although the race to replace the incumbent, Pascal Lamy, is ongoing, the two candidates who remain in the running after the latest round of elimination are: Roberto Azevêdo (pdf), from Brazil, and Herminio Blanco (pdf), from Mexico.
April 29, 2013
Kate Andries – National Geographic, 04/27/2013
Every Monday night around dusk in São Paulo, Brazil, a group of jugglers gather in a small city square covered in graffiti murals to put on a show.
They juggle hats, balls, clubs while riding unicycles, and even fire-such as the performer pictured above. (See more Brazil pictures.)
For the Circo do Beco—or Circus of the Alley—a small city square in São Paulo’s Vila Madalena neighborhood is transformed into a makeshift performance space, where street jugglers and professionals alike come to show off their skills, learn new tricks, and let off some steam, according to Reuters.