First domestic case of chikungunya in Brazil

September 17, 2014

Channel NewsAsia, 09/16/2017

Brazil’s authorities on Tuesday (Sep 16) reported the first domestically contracted cases of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, prompting the government to announce it was stepping up attempts to control the disease. The joint disease, which causes high fever and painful arthritis, is endemic to Africa and south Asia but has been moving north as well as west.

Brazil’s cases emerged in Oiapoque municipality in the northern region of Amapa, bordering French Guiana, where cases have also been reported. The Brazilian health ministry said the two sufferers appeared not to have traveled abroad recently, suggesting they must have contracted chikungunya in Brazil.

The country reported 37 cases between January and this month, although on each occasion the patient had contracted the disease abroad. A health ministry spokesman said the government would “step up control measures” to combat an illness which bears some resemblance to dengue fever and for which there is no vaccine.

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Coffee experts fear for Brazil harvest

September 17, 2014

Emiko Terazono – Financial Times, 09/07/2014

Divining the health of branches, floral buds and roots of coffee trees in Brazil has become key to millions of dollars being made or lost after a devastating drought hit the country at the start of the year. Recent discussions among roasters, analysts and hedge fund managers have focused on coffee agronomy, says Keith Flury, head of research at Volcafe, the coffee division of commodities traders ED & F Man.

“Given the unprecedented drought, industry and trade have had to increase knowledge about moisture deficits and the impacts on plants,” he says.

Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world, accounting for about 35 per cent of all output. In the past, the main weather problems for the country’s coffee growers have been frosts – few farmers and traders have had to deal with the consequences of heat and dryness.

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Brazil’s Silva, a lifelong environmentalist, courts big agriculture

September 15, 2014

Reese Ewing – Reuters, 09/13/2014

Brazilian presidential candidate Marina Silva, an icon of the green movement, is cozying up to old adversaries in the sugar and ethanol industry as she seeks to win over the powerful farm lobby ahead of next month’s election.

Since entering the race in mid-August, Silva has picked a pro-agriculture congressman as her running mate, met repeatedly with agribusiness leaders and campaigned in the farm belt, eager to make allies in an industry that accounts for a quarter of Brazil’s economy.

Her message: conservation and big agriculture would thrive side-by-side in a Silva government and she would roll back the gasoline subsidies that President Dilma Rousseff has used to contain inflation. The fuel price controls have gutted Brazil’s once-booming sugar cane ethanol industry.

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Brazil building Amazon observation tower to monitor climate change impact

September 15, 2014

Agence France-Presse – The Guardian, 09/14/2014

Brazil is building a giant observation tower in the heart of the Amazon to monitor climate change and its impact on the region’s sensitive ecosystem, a newspaper has reported. The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory is a project of Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research and Germany’s Max Planck Institute, O Estado de São Paulo said.

The tower, which will rise 325 metres from the ground, will be equipped with high-tech instruments and an observatory to monitor relationships between the jungle and the atmosphere. It will gather data on heat, water, carbon gas, winds, cloud formation, carbon absorption and weather patterns.

The project has been seven years in the making, with a site finally being selected far from any human presence, about 100 miles from Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas, project coordinator Antonio Manzi told the newspaper.

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Some companies profit as Brazil struggles to secure power

September 11, 2014

Todd Benson and Marguerita Choy – Reuters, 09/11/2014

A small group of energy companies in Brazil are increasing revenues at a time when the country is grappling with its worst power crisis in more than a decade, taking advantage of sky-high prices to sell electricity in the spot market.

Power generators that have managed to produce extra energy in recent months or who aren’t restricted by long-term supply contracts are being rewarded with prices up to six times higher than the average cost on conventional electricity contracts.

At the same time, distributors that had to resort to the short-term market to fulfill demand increases are facing financial burdens and are being rescued by the government. The situation underscores the imbalances of the Brazilian power system, which has come under stress because of a prolonged drought. The energy crunch has also become a hot topic in Brazil’s presidential race, with the government facing criticism for not ensuring a stable power supply at reasonable prices.

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Brazil soccer field harnesses player-power

September 11, 2014

The Associated Press - CBS News, 09/11/2014

Kids streaking back and forth on a soccer field in scorching tropical heat promises to produce something more than buckets of sweat.

Billed as Brazil’s first player-powered soccer pitch, a field inaugurated Wednesday in a Rio de Janeiro slum harnesses the kinetic energy of players’ movements to provide nighttime illumination. Soccer legend Pele was on hand for the pomp-filled event in the Morro da Mineira slum, which saw a local youth team put the system to the test.

Under the project, sponsored by Royal Dutch Shell, around 200 energy-capturing tiles developed by British startup Pavegen were installed the width and breadth of the field and covered by a layer of AstroTurf. Working in conjunction with solar panels also installed around the field, the player-powered tiles feed electricity to a system of floodlights overhead.

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Brazil says rate of Amazon deforestation up for first time in years

September 11, 2014

Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times, 09/10/2014

The  deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil increased by 29% in the last recorded year, according to figures released Wednesday by the country’s National Institute for Space Research, or INPE. It is the first time the deforestation rate has increased since 2008, and the report comes as environmental issues move to the center of Brazil’s October presidential election.

According to the study, carried out by satellite imaging, the Brazilian region of the world’s largest rain forest lost 2,275 square miles, nearly five times the area of the city of Los Angeles, from August 2012 through July 2013.

Despite the jump, the space agency noted that this is still the second-lowest number since it began monitoring deforestation in 1988, when more than 7,700 square miles were lost.

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