Tag Archive | "brazil"

Brazil: “Good” Mosquitos Released in Rio Favela to Combat Dengue


Mosquito (photo: wikipedia)

Mosquito (photo: wikipedia)

Yesterday, 10,000 mosquitoes were released in Tubiacanga, a favela in the north of Rio de Janeiro, in an effort to combat dengue fever. The aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been injected with a bacteria that prevents then from transmitting the disease, which has killed 330 people in Brazil and infected over 1.5m since the start of 2014.

Researchers at the Oswaldo Cruz state laboratory injected the mosquitoes with the Wolbachia bacteria, which is innocuous to humans.

When male carriers reproduce with normal females, their eggs to not produce larva. And when female carriers reproduce with non-carrying males, the offspring inherit the characteristics of the male.

The method has also been tested with positive results in other parts of the world, such as Australia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, but it is the first time it has been tested in Latin America.

Brazil has the highest number of reported dengue cases in the world. The most severe form of the illness, dengue hemorrhagic fever, can lead to shock, coma, and death.

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Brazil: Climate Tower Built in Amazon as Deforestation Linked to Drought


Construction work has begun on a giant observation tower in the Amazon basin to monitor climate change, and the relationship between the rainforest and the atmosphere. The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) will be 325 metres tall when completed, and is located in a remote spot 170km from Manaus in the state of Amazonas.

The ATTO tower will be built close to Manaus in the Amazon rainforest (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The ATTO tower will be built close to Manaus in the Amazon rainforest (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The tower is a joint project between Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research and Germany’s Max Planck Institute. It will be equipped to gather data on heat, water, carbon gas, winds, cloud formation, carbon absorption, and weather patterns.

The Amazon jungle is one of the world’s most sensitive ecosystems, with a powerful influence on the atmospheric release or intake of carbon.

“The tower will help us answer innumerable questions related to global climate change,” said Paulo Artaxo, a project coordinator from the University of São Paulo. “We will gain a better understanding of the role of the Amazon and other humid tropical areas in climate models.”

Scientists hope that the data they gather will allow them to greater understand the sources of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Once completed, the tower will compliment a similar observatory in central Siberia.

Deforestation Linked to Drought

The construction comes at the same time that a new report has linked Amazon deforestation to the drought currently being suffered in São Paulo and all Brazil’s centre and southeast. The drought, which is the worst since records began, has had devastating effects on agriculture, energy, and domestic water supplies.

Antonio Nobre, one of Brazil’s leading climate scientists, explains that in a single day, the Amazon region evaporates 20bn tonnes of vapour − more than the 17m tonnes of water that the Amazon river discharges each day into the Atlantic.

“A big tree with a crown 20 metres across evaporates up to 300 litres a day, whereas one square metre of ocean evaporates exactly one square metre,” he said. “One square metre of forest can contain eight or ten metres of leaves, so it evaporates eight or ten times more than the ocean. This flying river, which rises into the atmosphere in the form of vapour, is bigger than the biggest river on the Earth.”

Last week, figures released by the Brazilian government show that the rate of deforestation has increased again for the second year running. Destruction of the rainforest was up by 29% in the 12 months up to the end of July 2013, with almost 6,000km2 of forest within Brazil’s borders being cleared during the period. The largest increases in deforestation were seen in the states of Para and Mato Grosso, where most of the country’s agricultural expansion is taking place.

The fear is that if the Amazon rainforest continues to be depleted at the present rate, events like the unprecedented drought will occur more often.

Deforestation in Brazil has reached alarming proportions in all three of its forested area: 22% of the Amazon rainforest, 47% of the Cerrado, the biologically richest savannah in the world, lying in central Brazil, and 91.5% of the Atlantic forest that used to cover the entire length of the coastal area have been destroyed.

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Brazil: Tribunal Rules on Crimes Against Humanity


The Brazilian Supreme Court upheld the amnesty law (photo: Fabio Pozzebom/ABr)

The Brazilian Supreme Court upheld the amnesty law (photo: Fabio Pozzebom/ABr)

The regional federal tribunal of Rio de Janeiro has, for the first time, characterised as crimes against humanity the murders and disappearances carried out during the military dictatorship (1964-1985).

An amnesty law has so far prevented Brazil from trying military officers involved in the dictatorship. However, the Rio court has given the go-ahead to the process against five officers charged with murdering and concealing the body of a deputy critical of the regime, Rubens Paiva, in 1971.

The accused had lodged an appeal before the second instance court to stop the trial, carried out by a first instance judge, claiming protection under the 1979 amnesty law. They will now appeal this ruling before the Supreme Court.

“It is the first time that the Brazilian justice recognises that certain crimes committed during the dictatorship are crimes against humanity,” said prosecutor Silvana Batini. “There were previous decisions in that respect made individually by some judges,” she explained, but never by a second-instance collegiate tribunal.

In a statement, tribunal member Messod Azulay said that the amnesty law —ratified by the Supreme Court in 2010— does not deal with crimes such as homicide and concealment of bodies, which fall under the criminal code. He also pointed out that the Inter-American Convention of Human Rights does not recognise amnesty laws in cases of crimes against humanity. “We have a specific chance to be held accountable to society, as it should be in mature democracies,” said the judge.

In 2010, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that “the provisions of the Brazilian
Amnesty Law that prevent the investigation and sanctioning of severe human rights violations are incompatible with the American Convention [and] have no legal effects.” With this ruling, Brazil became the fourth country in Latin America (after Peru, Chile, and Uruguay) to have its amnesty law invalidated by the IACHR. However, only Argentina and Uruguay have repealed their respective amnesty laws.

Brazil officially recognises 400 people dead and disappeared during the dictatorship.

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Brazil: Police Dismantle Biggest Amazon Deforestation Gang


Environmental group TIES' campaign to highlight deforestation (photo courtesy of TIES)

Environmental group TIES’ campaign to highlight Amazonian deforestation (photo courtesy of TIES)

Brazilian federal police have undertaken an operation to disband the country’s largest Amazonian deforestation gang, who are alleged to have invaded enormous swathes of the rainforest, burnt them down, and then illegally sold lots to cattle ranchers and farmers.

Investigators value the environmental destruction they have caused to top US$220m, and the area affected includes the Jamanxin national park.

Operation Castanheira, or Chestnut, was mostly developed from the city of Novo Progresso in the Amazonian state of Pará, but extended over the states of Paraná, Matto Grosso, and São Paulo in the country’s south. Some 96 police officers and 19 prosecutors from the Brazilian Environment Institute (Ibama) were involved in the raids, which were a result of 22 search and 14 arrest warrants.

Those involved will be charged with the crimes of invasion of public lands, theft, environmental crimes, counterfeiting, criminal conspiracy, tax evasion and money laundering. Sentences may total over 50 years in prison.

The operation has been hailed by environmentalists, who see it as a small battle won in the war on deforestation of the jungle, which grew 28% last year, according to Greenpeace.

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Dams and Deforestation: The Human Contribution to Natural Disasters


As the southern hemisphere Spring approaches, widespread areas of the Río de la Plata basin are still picking up the pieces after suffering a winter of heavy flooding. During June and July, at least 360,000 people in southern Brazil, northern Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay were evacuated after several of the region’s major rivers broke their banks, causing some of the worst floods in decades.

Disaster hit after heavy downpours in June around the triple border between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay – an area already soaked by months of unseasonably high rainfall – caused a surge in the region’s key tributaries.

The town of El Soberbio, in Misiones province, was hit hard by flooding after the Uruguay River burst its banks (Photo: Sofia Schiavoni)

The town of El Soberbio, in Misiones province, was hit hard by flooding after the Uruguay River burst its banks (Photo: Sofia Schiavoni)

Over 190 municipalities in southern Brazil declared a state of emergency as the Paraná, Iguazú, and Uruguay rivers overflowed, killing a dozen people and affecting around 50,000 more. In Paraguay, the country worst affected, a quarter of a million people were displaced along the banks of its eponymous river, which cuts 537km from north to south. This included 88,000 from mainly impoverished and informal riverside settlements in the capital Asunción, where many remain in temporary shelters today. Finally, as the swell moved downstream towards the Río de la Plata, thousands more were evacuated in Argentina’s north-eastern provinces and, to a lesser extent, parts of Uruguay.

Though the emergency situation has now eased after a relatively dry and warm August for much of the region, thousands of families remain stranded after their riverside homes were destroyed. And with river levels still well above normal in many areas, the full extent of the damage to infrastructure, livestock and crops has not yet been calculated.

More Prone

A wet autumn and freakish storms in June – some areas received more than three times the average monthly rainfall in just a few days – are widely accepted as the principal cause of the recent floods. However, several NGOs and environmental groups say it is human activity – namely rampant deforestation and the construction of huge hydroelectric dams on major rivers – that has left the region more prone to devastating floods when such rainfalls occurs.

“The jungle acts like a sponge,” explains Manuel Jaramillo, investigator at Fundación Vida Silvestre. “Water that hits leaves on a tree 20 or 30 metres off the ground trickles more slowly down branches and trunks and can filter into the ground. If the earth is bare, or cultivated year round – as is the case mainly with soy – it is quickly saturated with rainwater, which then runs into streams and rivers.”

The Atlantic Forest in Alto Paraná (Photo courtesy of WWF Paraguay)

The Atlantic Forest in Alto Paraná (Photo courtesy of WWF Paraguay)

According to Vida Silvestre, the Bosque Atlántico, or Atlantic Forest (also known as the Selva Paranaense or Mata Atlantico), once covered an estimated 500,000km2 of land in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. After decades of unchecked deforestation, mainly to clear land for soy production and cattle ranching, only around 7% of the original forest remains today. Not only does this make the area less absorbent and more vulnerable to landslides, but the excess run-off also carries top soil and sediment into the rivers, adding to the overall increase in water levels.

Concerns over the environmental impact of human intervention in forests and rivers are not new, says Hernán Giardini, coordinator of Greenpeace Argentina’s Forests campaign. Yet little has been done so far to control them.

“Deforestation in important river basins has repeatedly caused flooding in Argentina,” he says. “There was Tartagal [in Salta] in 2009, and in Santa Fe in 2007, where the local university reported a direct link with deforestation in the north of the province. These incidents keep on occurring, and we argue that they are not just down to natural causes but have been influenced by man.

“It is not about a lack of scientific information, but of political will.”

The Agri-Boom

The expansion of the agricultural sector has been a feature of economic development in the Southern Cone countries in recent decades. Driven by elevated market prices and the proliferation of genetically modified seeds, the territory used to plant soy has doubled in Argentina since the turn of the century, with Paraguay and Brazil experiencing a similar story.

Seduced by rising export revenues and pressured by a powerful lobby, governments in the area have shown little appetite to place stringent restrictions on the large agribusinesses that dominate the sector.

“The three countries see in investment in agricultural and livestock a means of development for a poor region, but in reality this implies serious environmental and social problems. It’s a problem because the same countries favour greater production by any means, even at the cost of the trees and the people that live there,” says Giardini.

Illegal deforestation in Salta (Photo courtesy of Greenpeace Argentina)

Illegal deforestation in Salta (Photo courtesy of Greenpeace Argentina)

There has been new legislation introduced in the last decade to protect native forests: figures show that the 2009 ‘Forest Law‘ in Argentina and to a lesser the 2004 ‘Zero Deforestation Law’ in Paraguay have had a significant impact in slowing the rate of deforestation in some areas, especially in the Bosque Atlántico, though Jaramillo notes that this is also partly due to there being so little forest left.

Moreover, even when improvements are made in some territories, they are often undermined by limited scope or weak enforcement. In Paraguay, the Zero Deforestation Law applies only to the eastern part of the country, where WWF Paraguay says it has reduced deforestation by as much as 90%. In the west, however, deforestation in the Gran Chaco forest remains among the highest in the world, with 236,000 hectares cleared last year alone, according to Guyra, a private, non-profit environmental organisation.

In Argentina, too, the progress has been uneven. Earlier this year, Greenpeace Argentina launched a new campaign denouncing the provincial governor of Salta for issuing decrees that would allow the deforestation of 120,000 hectares in territory protected by the national Forest Law. Greenpeace says around 400,000 hectares of the Gran Chaco forest have already been cleared since the law was approved in 2009. “There is a clear decision at the provincial level not to comply with the law, and a clear decision by the national government not to pressure the regional authorities to do so,” says Giardini.

Dam Politics

The other major man-made contribution of increased flood risks, according to environmental groups, are the large hydroelectric dams that line major rivers. Together, the Iguazú and Uruguay Rivers have nearly a dozen large-scale dams either in operation or under construction, having a major impact on the natural water flow.

According to Jaramillo, who is based in Misiones, after the heavy rains in June led to rising water levels in dam reservoirs, the energy companies were obliged to open their flood gates to prevent damage, sending a surge of water that can have devastating consequences further downstream. It was this that led to water smashing a new dam under construction (Baixo Iguazú), causing the Iguazú river swell to 37 times its normal volume and forcing authorities to close access to the Iguazú Falls for several days.

“There are many issues that result in the dams having a negative impact on the local population, even if they are not directly responsible for the flooding,” says Jaramillo. This includes the creation of massive reservoirs in forested areas: building one of the world’s largest dams, Itaipú, on the Paraná River involved flooding an area of 1350km2. “Changing the surface of the earth from one that can absorb water to one that contains water itself has a big effect [on drainage].”

The debate over the environmental impact of hydroelectric dams, which ostensibly represent a clean and renewable source of energy, is arguably even more contentious. In the search for energy self-sufficiency without carbon emissions, many South American countries have turned to large hydroelectric power projects, accepting the environmental and social impact on local wildlife and communities that are displaced by reservoirs.

Paraguay already generates enough hydroelectric power to satisfy its entire energy needs through its huge bi-national dams with Brazil (Itaipú) and Argentina (Yacyretá), both of which lie on the Paraná River. Meanwhile, Brazil and Argentina are moving forward with projects for two dams (Garabí and Panambí) on the Uruguay River, dams that Jaramillo says would have made the recent flooding much worse by slowing the discharge of excess water towards the Río de la Plata.

Even aside from environmental concerns, recent research suggests that these mega projects are not even a viable economic solution for developing countries. A data study published earlier this year by Oxford University revealed that building large dams typically take nearly a decade with cost overruns of around 90%. The report highlights that the Itaipú Dam, one of the largest in the world, cost 240% more than budgeted, while Yacyretá took nearly three decades to complete and was shrouded in so many murky political and business dealings that it became known as “a monument to corruption”.

It can take decades of full operation for these dams to recover the initial outlay, during which time the project remains vulnerable to economic or political crises that affect energy markets. The economic life of a dam can also be cut short if excess sediment carried in rivers – itself a symptom of deforestation – gradually fills up the reservoir and reduces the dam’s capacity to generate energy over time.

The Itaipú Dam from the air. Recent research from Oxford University claims the dam, one of the biggest in the world, may never recover the full costs of its construction. (Photo via Wikipedia)

The Itaipú Dam from the air. Recent research from Oxford University claims the dam, one of the biggest in the world, will never recover the full costs of its construction (Photo via Wikipedia)

Though Yacyretá now produces around 20% of Argentina’s electricity needs, Jaramillo says the communities in Misiones most affected by the dam’s haphazard construction do not see the benefits because the energy generated is not suitable for the local power infrastructure.

“The energy produced by flooding rivers in Misiones goes to feed cities like Rosario or Buenos Aires,” he says. “It would be more logical and useful for the development of the local economy to use smaller hydro projects to generate energy for local residents and industry but without affecting large areas of land or involving astronomical constructions.”

Preparing for the Future

According to forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), rainfall anomalies (positive or negative) will be larger for tropical areas of Latin America, while the frequency and intensity of weather extremes is likely to increase. The region is already bracing itself for the possibility of an El Niño event later this year, which meteorologists say could lead to above-average rainfall and accentuate the threat of extreme downpours in the Spring and Summer months.

A man uses a boat to travel around his neighbourhood in El Soberbio, Misiones (Photo: Sofia Schiavoni)

A man uses a boat to travel around his neighbourhood in El Soberbio, Misiones (Photo: Sofia Schiavoni)

As the probability of recurring natural disasters like flooding and landslides rises, considering how human activity can exacerbate the damages caused has never been more important. Even more so as Argentina plans to increase its output of grains by 60% before the end of the decade, a programme that Greenpeace’s Giardini says could further undermine the Forest Law.

Moreover, estimated 412 large dams are planned or under construction in the Amazon basin alone, according to a report released in Lima a few months ago. The study concluded that this “hydroelectric experiment on a continental scale” could lead to the “end of free-flowing rivers” and “ecosystem collapse”.

“It’s a big challenge,” says Jaramillo, who nevertheless remains optimistic. “A lot of forest cover has been lost, but we have managed to reduce the rate of deforestation and create more awareness. The challenge now is to work closely with the political sector.

“We believe it is still possible to revert the situation, so that in 50 or 100 years the Bosque Atlántico still exists and society learns to live in harmony with the forests while also obtaining the necessary resources for genuinely sustainable development.”

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Brazil: 31 People Rescued from Slavery in São Paulo


Those rescued were forced to work 15 hours a day in unhygienic and unsafe conditions (photo via SRTE/SP)

Those rescued were forced to work 15 hours a day in unhygienic and unsafe conditions (photo via SRTE/SP)

Authorities have rescued 31 people found working in “slave-like conditions” in the centre of São Paulo. The 19 Bolivian and 12 Haitian nationals were discovered in two textile workshops after a tip off from the dressmakers’ union.

According to the Regional Superintendence of Work and Employment in São Paulo (SRTE-SP), the 12 Haitian and two Bolivian victims found in one of the workshops were forced to work up to 15 hours a day for two months in unsafe and unhygienic conditions. They slept on old mattresses or on the floor and were not given sufficient food supplies. Those who complained about not being paid were denied food rations. The SRTE-SP added that this is the first time that Haitians have been rescued from slavery in the city.

In the other workshop, in which a 15-year-old pregnant girl was among the 17 Bolivians rescued, food was stored with cleaning products or on the floor. Faulty and exposed wiring also created a fire hazard, according to the SRTE-SP press release. The workers received R$700 a month, less than the minimum wage in Brazil, and had their IDs confiscated to prevent them from leaving.

The workshops produced items used by Brazilian clothing brands, As Marias and Seike, which have been fined, according to authorities. A spokesperson for As Marias told local NGO Reporter Brasil that the company had outsourced production to a third party and was unaware of the workers’ conditions.

“Slavery is a crime and a national disgrace,” said SRTE-SP superintendent Luiz Antonio Medeiros. “In São Paulo we are introducing harsher punishments for companies that use slave labour in their chain of production.” Medeiros claimed that from now on, guilty companies will be entered onto a blacklists and have tax benefits removed. According to the Labour Ministry, there are currently 609 companies blacklisted for subjecting workers to slave-like conditions.

Those directly responsible for holding workers in slave conditions, meanwhile, could face up to eight years in prison.

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Brazil: Marina Silva to Replace Dead PSB Candidate


PSB presidential candidate Marina Silva (photo: José Cruz/ABr)

PSB presidential candidate Marina Silva (photo: José Cruz/ABr)

Former senator and environmental activist Marina Silva was appointed yesterday as the presidential candidate for the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB), after the death of party leader Eduardo Campos in a plane crash last week.

Silva’s joining of the presidential race changes the political landscape, complicating the so far comfortable position of favourite Dilma Rousseff. A recent poll for Datafolha, conducted after the death of Campos, shows that President Rousseff could obtain 36% of the votes in the first round on 5th October, whilst Silva comes second with 21% (12 points more than Campos), and Aecio Neves of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) a close third with 20% of the vote. However, in the event of a second round on 26th October -which would be held if no candidate reaches 50% of the votes- the poll suggests Silva could beat Rousseff by 47% to 43%.

Silva will be joined by vice-presidential candidate Luiz Roberto ‘Beto’ de Albuquerque, a deputy representing the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Albuquerque has been linked to the agribusinesses that environmentalist Silva opposes, which have contributed funds to his political campaigns. He is expected to mediate between Silva and the representatives of the rural sector.

Silva’s campaign team has decided to not accept funds from companies that produce tobacco, arms, and alcoholic beverages. She has also announced she will not campaign in districts where she disapproves of the local alliances established by the PSB, such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santa Catarina, and Paraná.

A “Black Woman of Humble Origins”

Marina Silva was born in 1958 in the city of Rio Branco, capital of the state of Acre, near the border with Peru and Bolivia. The descendent of black slaves and Portuguese immigrants, her father worked in the rubber plantations in the countryside and her mother died when Marina was 14.

At age 16, Silva moved to Rio Branco to get treatment for hepatitis, and there she learned to read and write. She then worked as a maid, obtained a history degree in university, and became involved in politics and unionism. In 1985, together with union leader Chico Mendes, she founded the local branch of the Unified Workers’ Central (CUT) and became a member of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT).

In 1988 Silva obtained the only left-wing seat in the local Rio Branco council, and in that same year her friend Chico Mendes was murdered. In 1990 she was elected to the state congress of Acre, and in 1994 to the federal Senate in representation of her state. In 2003, she was appointed by the newly elected president Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ Da Silva as Environment Minister.

During her term at the Ministry, Brazil reduced the rate of deforestation in the Amazon, created new natural reserves, and arrested hundreds of people for environmental crimes. However, she lost the battle against the expansion of transgenic crops and nuclear energy. Her relationship with other members of Lula’s government, such as then-minister Dilma Rousseff, was difficult, and she also denounced receiving pressure from some state governors who opposed her measures against deforestation in the Amazon. She resigned on 13th May 2008, citing differences with the Lula administration’s environmental outlook, and returned to her seat in the Senate.

In 2010, Silva ran for president in representation of the Partido Verde and obtained almost 20m votes (19% of the total). Back then, she expressed her desire to be “the first black woman of humble origins” to reach the Brazilian presidency.

Upon the announcement of her candidacy, Silva said that, if elected, she plans to favour technological development in the rural sector in order to increase productivity whilst decreasing the exploitation of natural resources and ratified her commitment to economic measures such as inflation goals, a floating exchange rate, and fiscal responsibility.

In terms of social policies, she has rejected reforms such as the legalisation of abortion, drugs, and homosexual marriage, based on her evangelical faith. Her religious views could cost her votes amongst the Catholic majority and socially progressive sectors, though they could attract the growing number of Evangelical Christians.

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Brazil: Married Couple Discover they are Siblings


Leandro and Adriana have been married for seven years and have a daughter together

Leandro and Adriana have been married for seven years and have a daughter together

In a story that has made waves around Brazil due to its Hollywood-like plot, a married couple from São Paulo have discovered that they have the same mother.

Adriana, 39, and her husband Leandro, 37, have known each other for ten years and have a six-year-old daughter together.

Adriana was abandoned by her mother when she was a baby, and was brought up by her father. Leandro lived with his mother until he was eight, and was then raised by his step-mother. Both knew their mother was called Maria, but thought that it was a coincidence as it is such a common name in Brazil.

After years of attempting to find her mother in vain, Adriana went on Radio Globo’s ‘The Time is Now’ programme in hope that by sharing her story her mother would come forward. And live on air the show’s presenter said: “We have a call. It’s your mother.” When the details were confirmed, both women were overjoyed that the family could be reunited, until Adriana asked her mother if she had any other children, and her mother said “Yes, I then had Leandro, but with another man, not with your father.”

The coincidence was too much, and it was later proven that Maria was indeed the mother of both Adriana and Leandro.

Two days later, Radio Globo went to Adriana and Leandro’s home, where they confirmed that the news, although shocking, has not changed their relationship. “Only death will separate us. This all happened because God wanted it to. Of course it would be different if we had known all of this before, but we didn’t and we fell in love,” Adriana said.

Their case is not isolated – and there is even a name for the phenomenon, called Genetic Sexual Attraction, which occurs when “two adults who have been separated during the critical years of development and bonding and are reunited alter as adults.”

In 2008, the story of British pair of twins who were separated at birth but who later married hit the headlines worldwide. They had been adopted by different families and completely unaware they were twins until after they were married. Their marriage was annulled.

 

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Brazil: BRICS Leaders Sign Accord to Create Development Bank


BRICS leaders in Fortaleza (Photo courtesy of MRE Brasil)

BRICS leaders in Fortaleza (Photo courtesy of MRE Brasil)

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – countries that make up the BRICS group – today signed an accord to create a new development bank and reserve fund at the annual summit in Fortaleza, Brazil.

According to the declaration issued by the leaders, the new development bank will be aimed at “mobilising resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging and developing economies.”

The bank will have an initial authorised capital of US$100bn, with the first US$50bn of this to be fronted equally by the founding states. It will be headquartered in Shanghai, with the key posts to be held by nationals of each of the five countries.

The new institution will offer a financing alternative to US-based institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. The Fortaleza declaration also noted the group’s “disappointment and serious concerns” with the non-implementation of 2010 reforms at the IMF, saying it harmed the fund’s “legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness.”

“The BRICS Bank will be one of the major multilateral development finance institutions in this world,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Russia Today. “We want the global system to be more fair and equitative,” added Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.

The leaders also signed a treaty to establish a US$100bn Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CAR) to “help countries forestall short-term liquidity pressures, promote further BRICS cooperation, strengthen the global financial safety net, and complement existing international arrangements.”

The BRICS countries represent a quarter of the world’s territory and 46% of its population. Trade between the five countries represented 16% of the global total in 2011, double that of a decade earlier.

As part of this year’s summit, the BRICS leaders will also hold a joint session with heads of South American states in Brasilia tomorrow. Today’s joint declarations highlighted the aim for closer ties with the region, and noted the importance of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in promoting peace, integration, and development.

However, before the summit BRICS leaders poured cold water on rumours that Argentina would be invited to join the group, saying further expansion is not on the agenda for now.

The next BRICS summit will take place in July 2015 in Russia.

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Brazil: Campaigning for October General Election Gets Underway


Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff (Photo: wikimedia commons)

Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff (Photo: wikimedia commons)

Campaigning officially began yesterday for the general election due on 5th October, with incumbent president Dilma Rousseff favourite to win re-election.

Rousseff, representing the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), will be running against main rivals Aécio Neves of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) and Eduardo Campos, of the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB).

The most recent opinion poll conducted by Datafolha and published last week showed Rousseff holds a commanding lead, with 38% support, though this would not be enough to win outright in the first round. Neves, meanwhile, trailed with 20%, while Campos received 9%.

Choosing to launch her re-election bid via a new website yesterday, Rousseff said in a online video message that these elections would be one of the “most politicised in our history.”

“The most important thing is to turn this campaign into a great debate in support of Brazil. For me, this campaign must be one that recognises the value of politics, which is so important yet so discredited.”

Neves, actual senator and former governor of Minas Gerais, began his campaign in Sao Paulo with indirect criticism of the Rousseff administration for using the World Cup for political gain. “Some think they can confuse the World Cup with the elections. But no, Brazilians are smart and aware enough to see they are completely different things.” Neves added that the campaing would provide “an opportunity to debate proposals.”

Campos meanwhile launched his campaign in a favela (slum) on the outskirts of the capital Brasilia. “It cannot be that 35km from the Palacio de Planalto (government house) , you can find yourself in a neighbourhood where rubbish is not even cleared from the streets,” said Campos. “[The administration] should not even be running for re-election. It should be humble enough to admit its failure.”

On 5th October, more than 141m eligible voters will choose the president, 27 state governors, and legislators at both a federal and state level. If needed, a second-round run off to elect the president will be held on 26th October.

While candidates can now campaign on the streets, in newspapers, and online, the use of TV and radio for campaign messages is prohibited until 19th August.

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