Brazil cuts red tape stifling biodiversity studies

Herton Escobar – SCIENCE Magazine, 5/29/2015

When Carlos Jared tried to ship a jar of dead velvet worms collected in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest to a colleague in Germany in 2006, he had no plans to derive a drug or other product from the creatures. He just wanted to probe the reproductive system of a rare invertebrate that gives birth to live young. But Brazilian authorities denounced him as a “biopirate.”

The evolutionary biologist at the Instituto Butantan in São Paulo had run afoul of a law aiming to clamp down on what Brazil perceived as rampant pillaging of its biological resources. Jared hadn’t filled out all the paperwork required under law MP 2186, so the worms were confiscated. Worse was yet to come. “They dragged my name through the mud. It was a psychological massacre,” he says. It took him 6 years to get another permit for fieldwork, and he is still fighting in court thousands of dollars in fines.

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Venture Capital Heads to Brazil, Defying Economic Slump

Jonathan Levin – Bloomberg Business, 5/4/2015

To understand the venture capital scene in Brazil, follow the smartphones — not the economy.

That’s the message from Doug Leone, a partner at Sequoia Capital, an early investor in both Google Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. His firm committed funds last year to Sao Paulo-based Nubank, a technology-based financial-services company.

Local startups are reaping the benefits of a global venture capital community that’s hunting for markets with large, uptapped bases of Internet-using consumers. The current economic malaise aside, Brazil fits the bill: Tens of millions of people joined the middle class during a decade-long commodities boom.

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Brazil faces surge in number of dengue fever cases

BBC News, 5/5/2015

Brazil has registered nearly 746,000 cases of the mosquito-borne disease dengue fever this year with nine states experiencing an epidemic, the health ministry has announced. At 368 cases per 100,000 residents it amounts to an epidemic by World Health Organisation standards, but officials say the outbreak is not nationwide.

Relaxed prevention and an increase in home water storage have been blamed. More than half of the cases were in Sao Paulo.

The number of cases there – the most populous state – has tripled since last year. Nationwide there have been 235% more cases than in the same period (from January to 18 April) last year.

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World Cup stadiums leave a troubled legacy in Brazil

Associated Press, 5/2/2015

Brazil spent billions of dollars renovating and building World Cup stadiums that were supposed to help modernize and improve local soccer. Almost a year after the tournament ended, the nation is still trying to figure out what to do with them.

Some of the 12 new state-of-the-art stadiums are just now being completed as originally planned. Others are already up for sale.

The Itaquerao Stadium in São Paulo hosted the World Cup’s opening match last June, a 3-1 win over Croatia for the host nation. But the stadium has only now been completed, nearly 11 months after the tournament. Some of the glass that is part of the stadium’s roofing was installed several weeks ago, along with other items that were still missing at the arena, which cost $450 million.

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Brazil’s Real Climbs as Higher Rates Seen Attracting Investors

Filipe Pacheco and Paula Sambo – Bloomberg Business, 4/27/2015

Brazil’s real rose for a fifth straight day amid speculation the central bank will raise borrowing costs by another half-percentage point this week, making local assets more attractive to international investors.

The real gained 1.2 percent to 2.9170 per dollar at the end of trade in Sao Paulo, an eight-week high. The rally that began April 20 is the longest since June 2014.

Buying the real with borrowed dollars has returned 11 percent this month, the most among the 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg after the ruble. The real climbed Monday as analysts forecast that Brazil will lift the target lending rate on April 29 by 50 basis points for a fourth straight meeting to curb above-target inflation. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, is expected to hold borrowing costs steady that day as U.S. economic growth shows signs of slowing.

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Dengue fever in Brazil: When it rains, it pours

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: At breaking point

Samantha Pearson – Financial Times, 3/20/2015

Emilio Pastore normally spends the weekend visiting his elderly parents or taking a quiet bike ride in the countryside around São Paulo. But last Sunday the 50-year-old systems analyst printed out a banner with the slogan “no more lies” and took to the streets for the first protest of his life.

The multibillion-dollar corruption scandal engulfing state-controlled oil company Petrobras and President Dilma Rousseff’s ruling coalition was too much to bear, he says.

“Corruption has escalated from random cases to a state strategy — it now seems to be the official source of party funds, from the small-town mayor all the way up to the nation’s president,” he says. “We’ve had enough.

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