Fiscal crisis has Brazilian scientists scrambling

HERTON ESCOBAR, SCIENCE MAGAZINE, 8/28/2015 

Brazilian neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel spent years studying the brains of mammals, including mice, whales, and humans, to understand the forces that shape their intricate folds. The effort paid off last month, when the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro professor co-authored a high-profile paper showing that the folding is governed by a relatively straightforward mathematical relationship (Science, 3 July, p. 74). But even as Herculano-Houzel’s research soared, she was struggling to solve a much more pragmatic equation: how to pay her laboratory bills amid one of the worst science funding crises to strike Brazil in decades.

Environmental groups are trying to stop Brazil's congress from re-districting part of the Amazon conservation lands to make room for forestry and hydroelectric dams. (Forbes)

Environmental groups are trying to stop Brazil’s congress from re-districting part of the Amazon conservation lands to make room for forestry and hydroelectric dams. (Forbes)

Battling a slumping economy and debt, Brazil’s federal government has taken an ax to spending, and it isn’t sparing science. President Dilma Rousseff’s administration has cut by 25% the Ministry of Science’s projected 2015 budget of 7.3 billion reais ($2 billion), and sliced 9% from the 48.8 billion real ($13.7 billion) budget of the Ministry of Education, which plays an important role in funding graduate students. Research agencies are delaying payments for grants that have already been awarded, and have canceled or postponed new calls for proposals. And Rousseff is redirecting funds once earmarked largely for research to send Brazilian students abroad to study.

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Forget the Economy. In Anxious Brazil, It’s the Politics, Stupid

FILIPE PACHECO, BLOOMBERG BUSINESS, 8/28/2015 

Gone are the days when Brazilian investment decisions were based largely on economic reports and company earnings. Now, asset managers and analysts say they’re more likely to scour the headlines of local newspapers for the latest political developments.
The market is eagerly clinging to every bit of news out of Brasilia, the nation’s capital, as President Dilma Rousseff fights for her political survival and congress is gridlocked over austerity measures needed to avert a credit-rating downgrade to junk. Reports of bills being shelved, back-door negotiations hitting road blocks and a sweeping corruption scandal drawing ever closer to Rousseff are enough to trigger swings in the real, bonds and stocks.

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“I wish I had a degree in political science,” said Will Landers, a money manager who helps oversee $2.7 billion of Latin American equities at BlackRock Inc. “It’s something we have to follow more closely than the economy or finances. Every time we think things will calm down, something else comes up.”

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How Brazil’s China-Driven Commodities Boom Went Bust

JOHN LYONS, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/28/2015 

Not long ago, Brazil stood as the leading example of how a developing nation could rise toward global prominence on the force of a China-driven commodity boom.

As its economy surged, Brazil stormed the world stage—hosting a World Cup, demanding more say at the United Nations and blocking a U.S. free-trade plan for the Americas.

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Rich in iron ore, soybeans and beef, not to mention oil, Brazil was positioned as a supplier of many things China needed. Above, a floating oil platform can be seen in Guanabara Bay in Niterói, Brazil. PHOTO: LEO CORREA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Now Brazil is looking like a symbol of something else: resource-rich nations’ habit of ending their booms with spectacular busts.

Brazil’s stock market is down 22% in the past year. Its currency has lost a third of its value against the dollar. And on Friday, Brazil is expected to report that in the second quarter, its economy shrank at a pace of about 1.7%. Economists are voicing fears of prolonged stagnation.

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Exclusive: U.S. graft probes may cost Petrobras record $1.6 billion or more

Jeb Blount & Mica Rosenberg – Reuters, 8/18/2015

Brazil’s Petrobras may need to pay record penalties of $1.6 billion or more to settle U.S. criminal and civil probes into its role in a corruption scandal, a person recently briefed by the company’s legal advisors told Reuters.

State-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the company is formally known, expects to face the largest penalties ever levied by U.S. authorities in a corporate corruption investigation, according to the person, who has direct knowledge of the company’s thinking. The settlement process could take two to three years, this person said.

To date, the largest settlement of corporate corruption charges with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was a 2008 agreement with Siemens AG, the German industrial giant. It agreed to pay the United States $800 million to settle charges related to its role in a bribery scheme, and paid about the same amount to German authorities.

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Jimmy Carter, “A Great Moral Leader of Our Time,” by Fernando Henrique Cardoso

FERNANDO HENRIQUE CARDOSO, AMERICAS QUARTERLY, 8/26/2015

In 1977, I was working as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University when, one fine day, the telephone rang. It was Robert Pastor, a special adviser at the White House, inviting me to Washington. Pastor was a friend, himself a political scientist, who had helped me overcome difficulties obtaining a visa to enter the United States – since, during those years, I was suspected of “anti-American activities.” How times change.

From Princeton to Washington isn’t far, and I went by train. Pastor received me with affection and to my surprise, he told me President Jimmy Carter was planning a visit to Brazil. In fact, his wife, Rosalynn, had already made a trip there.

That’s interesting, I thought. But what does this have to do with me?

This was the height of Brazil’s military dictatorship, which since 1964 had been strongly supported by successive governments in the United States. Pro-democracy voices such as myself had been marginalized or pushed into exile. But now, the recently inaugurated President Carter, known for his liberal ideas and his commitment to human rights, wanted to make contact while in Brazil with figures who opposed the regime.

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‘Anchor Babies’ Exist In Brazil, But Not In The U.S.

Latin Times, 8/26/2015

In São Paulo, Brazil, immigrant mothers — mainly from China — give birth in local hospitals. Chinese immigrants currently make up one third of the expectant mothers being treated in prenatal wards in public hospitals, according to Folha. They often don’t speak Portuguese and rely on translators, which they hire. In the U.S., this might be denounced as an immigration “crisis” or a “flood.” In Brazil, it doesn’t appear to be a big deal.

“Just as many Brazilians try to have children abroad, the same thing happens with foreigners here. It’s common,” Dr. Clóvis Silveira Júnior, who coordinates city health centers, told Folha.

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Brazil builds climate tower in pristine Amazon jungle

Javier Tovar, Business Insider, 8/26/2015 

Deep in the pristine Amazon jungle, Brazil’s newest skyscraper has a mission unlike any other: to save the world.

The white and orange metal frame called Amazon Tall Tower Observatory, or ATTO, is a bold new tool in the push to understand climate change and the vital role of rainforests.

At 325 meters (1,066 feet), the ATTO is a meter (3.3 feet) higher than the Eiffel Tower and a good bit taller than London’s loftiest building, the Shard.

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