Brazilian Airline suspends flights to Venezuela after failing to repatriate revenue

Samy Adghirni – Folha de S. Paulo, 02/10/16

After months of fruitless negotiations with the Venezuelan government over revenues of R$351 million (US $90.3 million) which are being held in Venezuela, the Brazilian airline Gol has decided to suspend its service between São Paulo and Caracas. The route has been running since 2007.

The problem derives from the complex exchange rate system in Venezuela, where the government operates various different rates.Gol had already reduced flight frequency from 28 a week to just two, since 2014. However, the impasse with Venezuela, along with the recession in Brazil, has led the company to follow the example of other airlines such as Air Canada and Alitalia and suspend its operations in Venezuela.

The problem derives from the complex exchange rate system in Venezuela, where the government operates various different rates.

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Obama asks Congress for $1.8bn to battle Zika virus

Barney Jopson – Financial Times, 02/08/2016

The White House is asking Congress for $1.8bn to help combat the Zika virus in the US and overseas as alarm grows over the illness’s spread.

The Obama administration said on Monday that it would use the funds in part to prepare for the potential onslaught of the virus in the mainland US.

The White House said it was preparing to submit the request to Congress formally but it was unclear how Republican leaders would respond.

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U.S. athletes should consider not attending Olympics if fear Zika

Daniel Bases, Joshua Schneyer – Reuters, 02/08/2016

The United States Olympic Committee told U.S. sports federations that athletes and staff concerned for their health over the Zika virus should consider not going to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August.

The message was delivered in a conference call involving USOC officials and leaders of U.S. sport federations in late January, according to two people who participated in the call.

Federations were told that no one should go to Brazil “if they don’t feel comfortable going. Bottom line,” said Donald Anthony, president and board chairman of USA Fencing.

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After criticism, Brazil transferring Zika samples to US

Raphael Satter, Maria Cheng – ABC News, 02/05/2016

Brazilian officials say they’re sending a set of samples related to the Zika outbreak to the United States, a move which follows complaints that the country was hoarding disease data and biological material.

The announcement came hours after The Associated Press revealed that international health officials were frustrated at Brazil’s refusal to share enough viral samples and other information to answer the most worrying question about the outbreak: Whether the disease is truly causing a spike in babies born with abnormally small heads.

U.S. and U.N. officials told AP that Brazil probably shared fewer than 20 samples when experts say hundreds or thousands of samples are needed to track the virus’ evolution and develop accurate diagnostics and effective drugs and vaccines. Many countries’ national laboratories are relying on older strains from outbreaks in the Pacific and Africa, the AP found.

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Rousseff Poised to Win on Impeachment, Lose on Brazilian Economy

Arnaldo Galvao – Bloomberg Business, 02/01/2016

Embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff may get a new lease on political life when legislators return to work Tuesday to discuss impeachment proceedings against her. Just don’t expect much help from them on the economy.

Following a six-week recess, much of the fervor surrounding the political crisis has died down, and with it the drive to oust Rousseff. Yet with consumers and businesses battered by a deepening recession, legislators have little appetite for the spending cuts and tax hikes administration officials say are needed to restore investor confidence. That’s especially true ahead of municipal elections in October, party leaders and political analysts said in interviews.

The mood could still sour against Rousseff and upset her chances to stay in office if discord increases within the ruling coalition, unemployment surges or the corruption probe that has rattled Congress expands further. But even the politician who stands to benefit the most from the president’s ouster, Vice President Michel Temer, says the mood in Congress has shifted away from ousting Rousseff, according to the G1 news site

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Brazil authorizes forced entry to private property to fight Zika

Pedro Fonseca, Reese Ewing – Reuters, 02/01/2016

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff authorized health officials to enter private properties by force if necessary in an effort to control the spread of the mosquito-borne virus Zika, which the government has dubbed an “imminent danger to public health.”

The presidential decree was published in the government’s official gazette on Monday and allows the forced entry by health officials into public and private properties if they have been abandoned or the owners are not present.

Officials are looking for breeding grounds for mosquitoes that can carry the virus, which has spread rapidly over the Americas and particularly in Brazil. The World Health Organization is meeting on Monday to decide whether to declare a global emergency.

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Researchers weigh risks of Zika spreading at Rio Olympics

Simon Romero, Rebecca R. Ruiz – New York Times, 01/28/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — With about 500,000 people expected to visit Brazil for the Olympics here this year, researchers are scrambling to figure how much of a risk the Games might pose in spreading the Zika virus around the world.

Infectious disease specialists are particularly focused on the potential for Zika to spread to the United States. As many as 200,000 Americans are expected to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics in August. When they return to the Northern Hemisphere and its summer heat, far more mosquitoes will be around to potentially transmit the virus in the United States.

Brazilian researchers say they believe that Zika, which has been linked to severe birth defects, came to their country during another major sports event — the 2014 World Cup — when hundreds of thousands of visitors flowed into Brazil. Virus trackers here say that the strain raging in Brazil probably came from Polynesia, where an outbreak was rattling small islands around the Pacific.

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