December 12, 2013
Jonathan Watts & John Vidal – The Guardian, 12/12/2013
Brazil is set to break a global moratorium on genetically-modified “terminator” seeds, which are said to threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world.
The sterile or “suicide” seeds are produced by means of genetic use restriction technology, which makes crops die off after one harvest without producing offspring. As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds for each planting, which reduces their self-sufficiency and makes them dependent on major seed and chemical companies.
Environmentalists fear that any such move by Brazil – one of the biggest agricultural producers on the planet – could produce a domino effect that would result in the worldwide adoption of the controversial technology.
December 11, 2013
David Bornstein – The New York Times, 12/11/2013
We often hear about the harmful effects of poverty on health, particularly the health of children. But we hear less about the decisive role health plays in triggering, or exacerbating, poverty.
When a member of a struggling family falls ill, it means a loss of income, potentially major costs, and much stress and fear. That’s more than a family living on the margins can withstand — even if they are lucky enough to have insurance. These so-called “health shocks” happen everywhere, but they are particularly devastating for people in the developing world, especially those who inhabit overcrowded slums – the mega-shantytowns with poor sanitation, untreated water, damp, smoky houses, and few public services that are home to a third of the world’s city dwellers.
That’s why it’s worth paying attention to the work of an organization called the Associação Saúde Criança (ASC), based in Rio de Janeiro, which helps poor, urban families with seriously ill children. A recent study conducted by three researchers from Georgetown University found that the organization produced surprisingly strong results — including an 85 percent decrease in hospitalizations and a 92 percent increase in household income — results sustained years after the program stopped working with the families (pdf).
December 9, 2013
The Guardian, 12/09/2013
A tiny figure in minuscule white shorts and a pink strapless top leans against a metal fence outside a school in Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará state, north-east Brazil.
She has gloss-coated lips, and her yellow headband, holding back long hair, glows in the lamplight along Juscelino Kubitschek Avenue, which connects the city to the Castelão arena, one of the venues for the 2014 World Cup. A car pulls up. The girl climbs in.
This is a common scene around the stadium in Fortaleza, considered Brazil’s child prostitution capital and a magnet for sex tourism, according to local authorities.
December 2, 2013
Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 12/01/2013
They were heckled and called slaves of a communist state when they first landed, but in the poorest corners of Brazil the arrival of 5,400 Cuban doctors is being welcomed as a godsend.
The program to fill gaps in the national health system with foreign doctors, mainly from Cuba, could become a big vote-winner for President Dilma Rousseff as she eyes a second term in next year’s election despite fierce opposition from Brazil’s medical class.
The move to tap Cuba’s doctors-for-export program begun by former leader Fidel Castro became a priority for Rousseff after massive protests against corruption and shoddy public transport, education and healthcare services rocked Brazil in June.
November 21, 2013
Infestations of the Helicoverpa caterpillar in Brazil’s grain belt prompted the agriculture ministry on Monday to declare a state of emergency in the leading soy state of Mato Grosso, highlighting the potential risk to large parts of the crop.
The ministry’s head of supply, Antonio Andrade, also declared an emergency in the state of Bahia, a smaller but important producer state where difficulty controlling pests caused financial losses for producers last year.
State governments will draw up guidelines for dealing with the pest that is believed to be a serious threat to crops.
November 19, 2013
Shasta Darlington – CNN, 11/19/2013
Jaina Maria never enters the studio in the pretty second-floor apartment she used to share with her husband.
Behind the door, which she now keeps locked, is the room where she says her husband beat her, time and time again. It still bears the scars of violence.
“He grabbed me by the hair and slammed me into the mirror,” she says. A big chunk of glass is missing.
Jaina Maria says they were married for six years before the violence started, but then it dragged on for four more years. At first she was silent.
November 4, 2013
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who is expected to seek re-election in 2014, urged Cabinet ministers on Saturday to speed up major infrastructure and public services projects, amid concerns about delays with much-needed road, hospital and port improvements.
Rousseff met in Brasilia with 15 Cabinet ministers, all of them presiding over ministries related to infrastructure and social policy matters. She asked the ministers to agree on a common timetable for completing the projects, the president’s chief of staff, Gleisi Hoffmann, told a news conference.
“All agendas will be organized in a way that they give priority to deliveries of the projects,” Hoffmann said in remarks broadcast by state news channel NBR. Some projects include medical centers in depressed urban areas, housing under the “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” home subsidy program and rural projects.