Not so long ago, Brazil was South America’s economic star, exhibiting a growth rate several times quicker than its most powerful neighbour, the United States, while its joblessness rate and poverty line were dropping at never-before seen rates. Unfortunately, these days, the wheel of fortune has turned for the Brazilians, with its Petrobras oil scandal, an out of favor head of state and a gloomy outlook for its economy, the future looks pretty bleak for the South American star. Reduced confidence in various markets of the economy, and particularly the commodity-based markets have had the greatest effect on Brazil’s economy which has led to a surge in the number of unemployed. The Brazilian economy, which is primarily a commodity-based one, has always been very dependent on its export revenues which have primarily come from its production of soybeans and, more recently, oil. As a consequence, as China, which is Brazil’s biggest trade partner, has seen a reduction in its need for imports, Brazil has suffered disproportionately, seeing a substantial amount of its GDP just evaporate into thin air. In addition, on the legislative side, the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff is fighting to convince legislators as well as the general public that austerity countermeasures are needed to deal with the rapidly-falling public revenues, so that the increasingly large deficit void in the public accounts, which currently stands at $12.5bn, and the rising cost of living, currently over 9% annually, can be remain manageable. Unfortunately, the austerity plan is highly unpopular with the Brazilian Congress, members of which are trying to water it down as much as possible and with detrimental consequences. Recently, Rousseff’s administration predicted that Brazil’s economy would contract by over 2.4% this year. Brazil’s blues look certain to continue for quite some time yet.
Peru’s war on drugs heats up
Head of the Peruvian state, President Humala, is backing recently-passed laws that would enable the Armed Forces to stop and search suspicious aircrafts for drug trafficking, and even shoot at them if they refuse to land when ordered. Since 2010, Peruvian police have noticed a significant increase in the number of small aircraft that fly between Peru’s coca valleys and other south american nations transporting coca paste and cocaine. And so at the beginning of this year, the head of the Peruvian anti-drug bureau, Alberto Otárola, declared that the region was to turn into a no-fly area. The region covering the south-central areas of Cusco, Huancavelica and Ayacuch, is the world’s leading coca-cultivating area. Peru had engaged in flight interceptions two decades earlier with the help the DEA of the United States, but was ended after the accidental killing of an innocent mother and daughter when the aircraft they were travelling in had been mistakenly identified as a drug flight by DEA pilots, who then suggested that the Peruvian air force intercept the airplane. Unfortunately, when the pilot did not reply to requests to land, it was fired upon by the intercepting planes. Authorities in President Humala’s government have claimed it needs to restart the practice of flight interdictions due to the increased numbers of daily drug flights out of the country. With the drugs most often ending up in Europe, the government also claims the step is essential to safeguard international safety as well. United States authorities are against the restarting of the aircraft interdiction plan, stating that it would likely violate international regulations on air travel and there is always the worry of mistakes being made with innocent lives being lost.
More trouble at the La Oroya Refinery
Someone has been killed and four critically injured since employees from the La Oroya refinery began obstructing the central highway early on Tuesday. The protesters are calling for the local government of Junin to serve as an intermediary in the selling off of La Oroya, which is slated to go into liquidation due to the fact that the federal government has not been successful in enticing prospective buyers to purchase the facility. The townspeople and workers are afraid of a complete redundancy as liquidation of their employer’s properties in Peru, that include the Metallurgical Complex of La Oroya and also the Cobriza mine. The townspeople along with workers of La Oroya are asking for the government to be less rigid in its pollution regulations, and that an urgent mandate be issued to safeguard their jobs. In addition, they are demanding that the bankers that are dealing with the sale be replaced. On August 6 2015, at the end of an auction of the Metallurgical Complex, there were surprisingly no bidders despite a preliminary showing of interest and due diligence completed by several firms in the later part of 2014. It had already been decided that if buyers were not found by the end of the auction, the business would enter liquidation on August 27. The facility, built in 1922, processed metallic ores for several mining businesses into metals that include copper, silver, gold and lead, and it was nationalized in 1971 by the military Junta of General Velasco. Doe Run, the current owner, purchased the complex and the Cobriza mine in 1997 and was immediately confronted with a serious contamination problem. Over several years, it worked diligently to reduce the problem, however, contamination continued to be significant. In 2009, Doe Run decided to take out its workers from the facility and it has remained in the hands of administrators ever since.
Drug-shipment bust in the Peruvian port of Callao
Narcotic authorities reported today that 190 kilograms of highly-pure cocaine were discovered in the Peruvian port of Callao, valued at $8 million in the marketplace. The cocaine, rolled up in 175 packages in four knapsacks, had actually been packed into a container of paprika on its way to Spain. Two employees at the APM port services have recently been indicted, one who operated in the vehicles access management department and the 2nd in the container-weighing section. Recently, authorities made a similar report public in which 250 kilograms of cocaine concealed in a storehouse of a port services firm within the port. The packets of highly-pure cocaine were in black canvas bags and their detection was made during a pre-dawn inspection of the storehouse following secret information passed to authorities. One of the leading operators in the smuggling of drugs through the port of Callao has been Gerald Oropeza, whose illegal transactions only ended up being known to the general public when hit-men tried to eliminate him several months ago by throwing an explosive in to his vehicle. Just as Oropeza went into hiding, a Ferrari supercar that he had bought in Italy, arrived in Callao. A toolbox in the automobile, believed to be containing settlement for a drug shipment to Europe, disappeared right after the car was unloaded from the ship.
The Ebola crisis
Eight Ebola health workers as well as reporters were apparently killed in an isolated settlement in Guinea in a terrifying instance of the increasing suspicion inhabitants have of outsiders arriving to help out in the medical emergency. Read on…
Drug Cartels in Peru
When Peruvian authorities seized a record quantity of cocaine last month, it was small surprise that two Mexican nationals were detained. Mexican cartels manage the narcotic passages from isolated Andean communities where raw coca plants flourish to the world’s biggest market, the US, and have existed in Peru since the 1990s. Peru is presently the planet’s greatest cocaine manufacturer. There are no formal estimations of just how much the nation makes, yet experts acknowledge it to be in the hundreds of tons annually. The majority of that, together with Bolivian cocaine, goes to Europe and Asia or is used directly in South America, primarily in Brazil. Brazil is the globe’s 2nd biggest drug market, after the United States, with cheaper crack preferred in the favelas while more wealthy Brazilians snort the processed powder in rising amounts. However, in spite of Peruvian cops establishing a brand-new record for the largest drug seizure in the country, some claim police still have a lot of work to do to seriously challenge the cartels.
New ancient pathway discovered at Machu Picchu
A group of Peruvian excavators have discovered a new ancient pathway going to the Machu Picchu historical site in Peru. The newly discovered roadway, still enveloped in dense vegetation, is nearly a mile long. A group of archaeologists are currently on location clearing up the course, whose breadth is approximately 4 feet wide. Currently, only periodic retaining walls, approximately 10 feet high can be seen, but once the vegetation has been cleared, it is hoped that the new trail will be open to visiting tourists. While Machu Picchu’s initial function is still not known, the preferred theory is that it was the imperial resort of the 15th-century Inca Emperor Pachacuti. As explained in a 2011 National Geographic study, Machu Picchu was a place for Pachacuti and his imperial court to unwind, hunt, and amuse themselves. Machu Picchu, which encompasses some 32.5 kilohectares of hills and lowlands, was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1983.
Peru-Chile land dispute decision gets delayed
The International Court of Justice at the Hague has postponed a decision until next year on the maritime border dispute between Peru and Chile. Unofficially, the main reason for the delay appears to be due to the closeness of the Chilean presidential election in November. The dispute has been long running but Peru only officially complained to the international court in 2008. During the 1879 – 1883 War of the Pacific, Chile established its authority of the maritime area, which is serves as an important economic fishing ground. Chile claims that the area was established as Chilean during negotiations in the 1950s, with Peru arguing that the negotiations established only fishing agreements and not territorial control. Geographically, Peru may have a strong case as much of the disputed area lies parallel to the Peruvian coast.
Relocation in the Andes
Perched in the Peruvian Andes is a new town built by a Chinese mining company in which 5,000 people will be relocated. See more…
Peruvian overseas debt to increase
Peru’s Finance Minister Miguel Castilla has indicated that the government is planning to issue debt overseas for the first time in two years in an effort to increase public spending. $500 million in bonds will be sold into the international markets and the resulting windfall will be used to increase infrastructure spending. This will be part of a plan to raise $2.4 billion from overseas for next year, and will represent a doubling of this year’s financing. Private investment in Peru has fallen significantly in 2013 mainly due to a reduction in metal exports, a primary driver of the economy. The Peruvian economy grew by only 4.4 percent in June, representing the one of the slowest growth rates in over three years. “We have lower levels of debt compared with countries like Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, which allows us to adopt counter-cyclical policies,” Finance Minister Castilla said during a presentation of next year’s budget, in part to acquiesce concerns about a slow down in the Peruvian economy. The government hopes to increase spending by almost 10% to a record 119 billion soles ($42.4 billion) in 2014, and local bond issuance will reach as much as 2.65 billion soles.
Ex-Officer Set to Win Narrow Victory in Peru
Ollanta Humala’s victory over Keiko Fujimori would be a rebuke of the economic model that has driven robust growth in Peru, even as millions of citizens who are mired in poverty have felt left out. Read on…
UK women remain in jail
Two UK women accused of drug smuggling in Peru have been refused bail and could face a term of 15 years in jail. They were caught attempting to take cocaine out of the country. Their lawyers have indicated that both women would plead not guilty. The 20 year-old women have been incarcerated at a Lima police station since their arrest, and they are probably going to spend several months in the Peruvian jail since it can take several months before a trial makes it to court. The pair were arrested before boarding a flight to Madrid, Spain two weeks ago at Lima airport. They claim that they were forced to act as drug mules by an armed Spanish gang.
Developers in Peru destroy pyramid at 4,000-year-old archaeological site
Real estate developers using heavy machinery tore down a 20-foot (6-meter) tall pyramid at the oldest archaeological site near Peru’s country’s capital. Read on…
Wari empire royal tomb discovered in Peru
Archaeologists in Peru say they have unearthed a massive royal tomb full of mummified women that provides clues about the enigmatic Wari empire that ruled the Andes long before the Incas. Read on…
Repsol to drill for oil in Amazon rainforest in Peru
Company to operate in a region inhabited by indigenous people extremely vulnerable to any contact with outsiders. Read on…
Indigenous Peruvians protest state oil company taking over their land
Members of the Achuar people say they won’t allow Petroperu to enter their territory, but the company has other ideas. Read on…
Top Business Reports
Mention potatoes in the United States and most people immediately think of Idaho, where more than a quarter of the country’s crop is produced. In Europe, Ireland and its famine or Poland and its vodkas come to mind. But nowhere is prouder of its potatoes than Peru, where they were domesticated more than 7,000 years ago. The country is home to up to 3,500 different varieties of edible tubers, according to the International Potato Centre, whose headquarters are near Lima.
But many Peruvians eat more rice than potatoes; the country even imports frozen chips for use in fast-food restaurants. Only 25 varieties are grown commercially in Peru. Domestic consumption of spuds is about 90 kilos (200lb) per head a year, according to Ismael Benavides, the agriculture minister. That is barely a quarter as much as Belarusians, the world’s champion potato-eaters, manage to chomp through. Nowadays Peru produces only 3.3m tonnes a year, or barely 1% of world output. Peru needs to re-identify with the potato, some in the Peruvian government say.
Peru’s farm exports totalled $2-3 billion a year, including asparagus, paprika and artichokes. Most of these crops are grown on the fertile Pacific coast. But potato exports amount to just $500,000. Officials hope that paying more attention to spuds could help some of the poorest Peruvians. Ordinary white potatoes are grown on the coast. But more unusual—and tastier—varieties survive in the Andean highlands. Peruvian yellow potatoes are prized by gourmets for mashing; tubular ollucos are firm and waxy. As Peru’s rich cuisine becomes better known abroad, demand for these tubers could grow, reckons Luis Carranza, the economy minister.
Some farmers plan to export white potatoes to Brazil. To export yellow potatoes, farmers need to deal with bugs and fungal diseases, and to produce on a larger scale. The Peruvian government wants to see processing plants in the highlands that would turn out potato starch and powder. The government has plans to draw up a registry of some 30 varieties for which it would fix a denomination of origin.
Whether that is the best way to promote potato exports is debatable. In Cutervo, the centre of a big potato-growing region in the northern highlands, farmers have yet to find a way to turn potatoes into prosperity. The European Union is paying for a pilot processing-plant in the town. But the mayor, Wilson Delgado, complains that prices for the crop are low, while those for fertilisers are rising. He worries that Peru’s recently approved free-trade agreement with the United States will lead to a flood of subsidised imports. That fear is probably exaggerated. But it is certainly time for Peru to make more of its potato patrimony.
Top World Reports
Bradley Manning apologises
The whistleblower Bradley Manning has shown remorse for his actions against the United States by pleading for clemency during his trial over the leaking of secret US state documents.
Clearly showing remorse when reading a prepared statement during his court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland in the US, he described himself as a junior soldier and asked, “How on Earth could I … think I could have changed the world?
“I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that it hurt the United States. I’m apologising for the unexpected results of my actions. The last three years have been a learning experience for me.” He could face 90 years in jail after being convicted by a military judge on 20 charges including espionage.
He gave close to a quarter of a million military and diplomatic documents to the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks, while working as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010.
Top Health Reports
The best way to breathe
When we exercise, oxygen consumption can increase dramatically and breathing frequency can rise 4-fold. And for that, the best way to breathe has been shown to be through the mouth. The idea that one should breathe in through the nose and exhale through the mouth during exercise is just a myth. Indeed, studies have shown that more strenuous activity causes us to use both the mouth and the nose simultaneously.
The most important aspect of breathing is to use the diaphragm – a muscle that divides the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. During breathing, the diaphragm contracts when breathing in and pushes the abdomen downwards and outwards, and this can be enhanced through training just like any muscle in the body. For example, breathing muscle training alongside regular training can improve performance significantly compared to regular training alone. Synchronized breathing with your movement is also another technique that may enhance performance but, although elite athletes practice it, it is not entirely clear if indeed there is a positive effect, and the added burden of counting breathes and making sure you are synchronized may defeat the purpose. Ultimately, it might just be best to let the body’s natural rhythm preside.
Top Science & Technology Reports
Power tool technology
Technological advances in today’s world are occurring at a bewilderingly fast pace in almost every domain of human endeavour, nowhere more so than in the actual hardware that is used. Aside from the obvious rapidly changing electronic gadgetry like smartphones and laptops, other hardware like the tools used in the workshop or home building projects, which are not normally associated with technological wizardry, are also morphing into complicated beasts. Just as with computers and smartphones, power tools used in the home and on the construction site are also constantly evolving as companies make incremental improvements to their product offerings while startups develop game-changing innovations that have the potential to disrupt the whole industry. It was not that long ago when the industry standard for power tools were big and heavy contraptions that required plugging into an independent power source or mains socket to operate them. Enter Lithium-ion technology and although more wieldy wired power tools are now readily available, today the more common industry standard are battery-powered versions of the same tools that can compete in power and operational capacity with their wired equivalents. Yet even today, other fundamental changes are on the horizon that are poised to change this space once again. The current system of recharging cordless tools involves the removal of the battery pack itself for recharging on bespoke charging stations. In tomorrow’s world, battery packs will not need to be removed from their tools for recharging. Instead power tool batteries will receive power through inductive charging simply by being in proximity to a charging source, so one can imagine a power tool where every time it is put down on the work table, begins recharging itself automatically, always ready for its next use. But it is not just incremental advances like this that are changing the power tools landscape, some other ideas under development are potential game-changers. The work going on at one startup called Shaper is a perfect example. They are working on a router-esque type of device where instead of relying on the precision and skill of the operator to make accurate cuts, the device itself auto-corrects for any operator inaccuracies by independently moving the cutting tool through the workpiece. One can easily start to see how this sort of technology could quickly become the de-facto standard in other power tools. Imagine a power drill, where the chuck auto-corrects itself to position the drill bit with absolute precision over the desired drill point, drilling to the exact pre-set depth, or a circular saw or jigsaw that positions the cutting blade precisely over the workpiece and at the correct angle to make that perfect beveled cut. This type of technology has the potential to revolutionize how power tools operate and will allow almost anyone in the future, skilled or otherwise, to carry out home do-it-yourself jobs to a professional standard.
Apple acquires Beats
Apple has said that it is going to be acquiring headset brand and music-streaming firm Beats Electronics. The acquisition will cost Apple $3bn, which is the biggest purchase the company has ever made. As part of the acquisition, Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre will become employees of Apple. Beats was established in 2008 by music creator Jimmy Iovine and hip-hop idol Dr Dre and up until not so long ago was most recognised for its earphones. Just recently, it also began a subscription-based songs streaming service. Apple already has its own music retrieval service, the iTunes Store, and just released iTunes Radio in 2013. However, in spite of having been an early leader in selling music over the internet, the company has actually been encountering ever-increasing competition from the likes of Spotify, Pandora and Rdio. The acquisition of Beats signifies a tactical digression for Apple, which has a track record for building fresh products, instead of procuring smaller-sized companies. In addition to headsets, Beats markets earphones and mobile speakers, and has actually established joint ventures with carmakers and computer system producers to incorporate its BeatsAudio technology in their devices, which may have also contributed to the allure of the future Apple subsidiary.
The Future is (LED) Bright
Light-emitting diodes have been around for many years. In the past, they have been used as indicators on electrical and electronic devices. This was mainly due to their limited colour availability (usually red), but these days other colours are now commonplace, and the light emitted is much brighter. LEDs are reputed to last for up to 100,000 hours, compared with the 1,000 hours of incandescent light-bulbs and the 15,000 hours of compact fluorescent lamps. The technology is also much more energy efficient, using up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. The long lifespans and low energy use make LEDs economically attractive. Traditional light bulbs emit a lot of heat wasting a lot of energy. But LEDs are able to emit much more light for the same amount of electricity. As a result, LED lighting is beginning to nudge out more traditional incandescent and fluorescent lighting in a number of industrial and consumer areas. For example, manufacturing and other businesses are replacing traditional forms of lighting in their factories as a way to reduce operating costs and increase efficiency post-recession. Car manufacturers are increasingly using LEDs over a broader range of their models. LED grow lights are increasingly being adopted for indoor agricultural production replacing other types of lighting, such as CFL grow lights, both on the industrial scale as well as LED grow lights for the individual indoor garden. And even in the home of consumers, LEDs are beginning to replace other types of lighting, particularly the incandescent variety. Production of incandescent 100-watt bulbs has stopped in the US and Europe, while production of 60-watt bulbs has been stopped in Europe and is being phased out in the US. From 2014, incandescent bulbs of 40 watts or above will be banned in the US.
A Revolution in Farming
The world is now populated by more than 7 billion people and approximately 1 billion of those are consistently malnourished. So in today’s world, the challenge is to feed this ever-increasing population. One technology that has taken the world (at least the Western world) by storm is the application of a new farming method called Hydroponics. Commercially, hydroponics is the most-used technology in greenhouse vegetable production in the US, whereas approximately 65% of all fruit and vegetables sold in the UK have been grown in hydroponic systems. The technology has also piqued the interest of the techie home grower, many of whom have invested their time and money in setting up small-scale hydroponic systems. Hydroponic farming is a way of growing plants in an enclosed environment, such as inside a dedicated room known as a grow room or within grow tents, which does away with the soil completely, instead using a carefully regulated nutrient solution to optimize plant growth. What is particularly interesting about hydroponics is that it has many advantages and few disadvantages. Firstly, it allows farming to be performed within cities rather than agricultural land since it is so space-efficient, allowing it to compete on price with traditional farming. It generates a greater yield per unit area so that you can grow approximately 20 times more vegetables within the same-sized plot. Fertilizers and pesticides can also be completely eradicated in hydroponic farming reducing input and environmental costs. Only about 10% of the water used in traditional farming is used in hydroponics since the water is continuously recycled and reused, a great advantage especially in countries with limited water resources. Since hydroponic farms can be located close to the end-consumer, this also reduces delivery costs for the farmer. Also the optimized nutrient feed can generate increased numbers of harvests per year compared with soil-grown equivalents. So ultimately, the challenge now is not to generate enough to feed the world’s population, but more to do with getting this new technology into places and countries that need it most.
Top Entertainment & Arts Reports
Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, the R-rated science-fiction action thriller starring Matt Damon as a future-world grunt trying to get from teeming, crime-ridden Los Angeles to a space station reserved for the wealthy, finished first at the North American box office with $30.4 million, according to preliminary studio estimates. That’s the third-highest opening for a movie in which Damon was top-billed, after his last two Jason Bourne movies, but well below the $37.4 million earned by Blomkamp’s first feature, District 9, four summers ago, on its way to a $201.8-million worldwide gross. The Elysium budget was also three to four times as high as the thrifty $30 million that the previous film cost.