Dengue fever in Brazil: When it rains, it pours

March 27, 2015

The Economist, 3/28/2015

A MOIST March, combined with the wettest February in 20 years, has brought respite to Brazil’s parched south-east. Last year’s record drought in the region, where two in five Brazilians live and where more than half the country’s output is produced, had stretched into January. So the drenching is welcome. But the rains have also stirred up an old scourge: dengue fever, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Its early symptoms resemble flu but it can cause fatal internal and external bleeding.

At least 224,000 cases had been registered across Brazil by March 7th, 162% more than in the same period in 2014, when the dry weather left fewer stagnant puddles in which mosquitoes could breed. The situation is gravest in the state of São Paulo, where 124,000 people have been diagnosed since January, an eightfold increase on last year. Infections have reached epidemic levels in nearly half the state’s municipalities (mostly the smaller ones). São Paulo has seen 67 confirmed fatalities. Mercifully, things in the rest of the country are better, meaning that the situation is less severe than the full-blown epidemic that infected 1.5m people in 2013.

The rain is not the only reason for the current outbreak. Paradoxically, another cause is last year’s drought. Faced with the threat of rationing, people have been storing rainwater, often in open containers, which make good breeding-grounds for mosquitoes. In São Paulo, many of this year’s worst-hit towns were spared during previous dengue flare-ups, so fewer inhabitants have had a chance to develop natural immunity.

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Brazil femicide law signed by President Rousseff

March 10, 2015

BBC News, 3/9/2015

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has signed a new law which sets tough new penalties for the killing of women and girls.

Murders linked to domestic violence will carry sentences of between 12 and 30 years.

President Rousseff said the new law sends a clear message to women that the state would protect them.

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Abortion in Brazil: a matter of life and death

February 3, 2015

Donna Bowater – The Guardian, 2/1/2015

Born five years apart, sisters Joyce and Jandyra Magdalena dos Santos Cruz lived together in a simple low-rise in Guaratiba, a poor neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, with Joyce’s four children, Jandyra’s two daughters, and their mother, Marie Ângela. Like many Brazilian families, their lives were inextricably meshed by economies of scale.

It was the honey-coloured eyes they also shared that Joyce Magdalena recognised last August, when Jandyra was found inside a burnt-out car. She had been mutilated, dismembered and charred beyond identification. She had climbed into the same car a day earlier, at a bus station in the nearby town of Campo Grande, to be taken for an illegal abortion.

“The press said they cut off her hands,” says Joyce. “It wasn’t just her hands. They took off her arms, legs, teeth. A woman so beautiful. OK, she committed a crime, but she was committing a crime against herself, against her own life. It didn’t hurt anyone.”

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Rio official says there’s ‘no plan B’ for Olympic sailing

January 27, 2015

AP – The Washington Post, 1/27/2015

Rio de Janeiro Olympic organizers said Tuesday they have “no plan B” for the 2016 games’ sailing competitions, despite a recent admission by the state’s top environment official that it will be impossible to meet pledges to clean up the raw sewage- and trash-filled waters where the events are to be staged.

Mario Andrade, spokesman of the Rio 2016 organizing committee insisted the sailing competitions “will be held in the Guanabara Bay, under the best possible Olympic conditions.”’

Guanabara Bay has become a hot-button issue ahead of the 2016 games. It stinks of raw sewage and is dotted with abandoned couches, refrigerators and animal carcasses as well as, at low tide, with islands of human waste. Athletes have described the bay as an “open sewer” and raised concerns about hepatitis and other illnesses, as well as the possibility of potentially catastrophic high-speed collisions with floating detritus.

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Conservatives Gaining Force in Brazil Congress

October 20, 2014

AP – ABC News, 10/18/2014

With its Carnival reputation and skin-baring beach life, Brazil may look like a liberal bastion. But unease over a worsening economy and deteriorating public safety, plus a backlash against recent gay-rights gains, are propelling a conservative rise that will shape the next administration, regardless of who wins the presidency.

The general election held earlier this month saw a greater share of Brazil’s National Congress seats go to various conservative caucuses, which now control nearly 60 percent of the 513 seats in the lower house. They include evangelical lawmakers who oppose gay marriage or access to abortion; the “ruralistas” whose pro-agriculture positions counter environmentalists and indigenous groups; and a law-and-order faction that demands a crackdown on crime.

Ahead of the presidential runoff Oct. 26, there’s no doubt such conservatives are giving greater support to center-right challenger Aecio Neves over left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff. But it’s also clear that neither presidential candidate is as socially conservative as the increasingly powerful elements of Congress.

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An Uplifting Story: Brazil’s Obsession With Plastic Surgery

October 7, 2014

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro – NPR, 10/07/2014

Janet and Jaqueline Timal are 40-something-year-old sisters, and they have what they call a plastic surgery fund. “I’m always saving money. When I see I’ve gathered up enough money for another surgery I do it,” Jaqueline says.

She has had breast implants put in and also a tummy tuck. She’s visiting the plastic surgeon’s office again to do a famed Brazilian butt lift, which is the same as a breast lift, but on your backside. Janet has had a tummy tuck; she’s now doing her breasts, too. Between them, they will have had five surgeries.

Janet and Jaqueline aren’t rich — far from it. One works at a retirement home; the other owns a small shop. They both say this isn’t about bankrupting themselves for beauty but rather the opposite — Jaqueline says she sees the procedures as an investment.

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Brazil’s silent abortion dilemma

September 30, 2014

Julia Carneiro – BBC News, 09/30/2014

The risks faced by Brazilian women seeking an abortion has been highlighted by the brutal death of a 27-year-old woman.

Abortion is only legal under the most exceptional circumstances in Brazil – a traditionally Catholic country.

A recent poll suggested around 79% of the population opposed legalisation but figures suggest that one in five women in the country have had an abortion by the age of 40.

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