Brazil launches DNA bank for endangered plants

Paulo Rebêlo 16 June 2004 Source: SciDev.Net Brazil has opened a DNA bank to preserve genetic material of its endangered plant life. Its goal is to help protect rare plants threatened by extinction in a country that has the world’s greatest variety of plant species. The DNA bank, which is based at the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden) in Rio de Janeiro, employs five researchers. They plan to collect at least 1,000 plant species each year to ‘deposit’ in the bank. Samples of specimens will be dried out and have DNA samples extracted, after which they will be frozen and stored. Plants in several areas of Brazil are currently under threat. Perhaps the most dramatic decline in plant diversity has occurred along Brazil’s coast, especially in the southeast, where a large area of botanically-distinct forest — termed ‘Atlantic forest’ — once existed. After decades of mining and urban growth, only one per cent of the original forest remains. But the Amazon forest, in northern Brazil, which holds the greatest number of plant species in the country, is also threatened by deforestation. A report published last year by Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (INPA) says that 25,000 sq km of forest

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Chile seeks to cross digital divide

Paulo Rebêlo 5 May 2004 Source: SciDev.Net Chile’s government has launched a wide-ranging programme to increase the use of computers and boost the role of information technology (IT) in the country’s economy. As part of the initiative, the government aims to establish fast Internet connections in all universities, and at least 80 per cent of schools, by 2006. The Digital Agenda initiative, which aims to transform Chile into a digital country by the year 2010, will seek to attract foreign investment into the country’s technology sector in order to promote IT development. It also includes projects to increase Internet access, improve computer training, and develop e-commerce activities. As part of the initiative, the country’s laws and regulations on new technologies will be revised to make each of these goals easier to achieve. In addition, at least one million people will be trained in digital technologies in the next two years. And to increase the number of homes with Internet access, the initiative will reduce the price of computers and broadband services. At the official launch of the initiative, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos said that increasing the use of computers and boosting Chile’s IT sector would help to enrich the country’s

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Red tape on imports ‘is stifling Brazilian research’

Paulo Rebêlo 20 February 2004 Source: SciDev.Net [RECIFE] Brazilian scientists are campaigning to reduce the bureaucracy involved in bringing scientific equipment into the country. In a declaration to be presented shortly to the ministry of science and technology, more than 300 Brazilian researchers state that “countless scientists have been waiting for years to receive equipment. Customs policies produce a lot of bureaucracy just to obtain a few microlitres or a simple reagent”. The scientists call for new customs procedures that simplify and reduce the cost of bringing equipment and reagents into the country. Import taxes on scientific equipment should be abolished, and systems should be put in place to ensure that all equipment takes no more than 24 hours to pass through customs, they say. According to Stevens Kastrup Rehen of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the US-based Scripps Research Institute, delays are so severe that by the time scientists receive reagents the chemicals have often expired. “And when we get our hands on equipment, it’s already outdated,” he says. “Fees to import and store equipment aren’t cheap and, what’s worse, they are being paid with government money as part of research grants,” adds Rehen, who currently

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Brazilians love to share

Top bloggers become top photo exhibitionists By Paulo Rebêlo in Brazil The Inquirer, Tuesday 17 February 2004, 10:15 ALL YOU NEED TO DO is open Fotolog’s web site in order to notice a mass domain of fotologs from Brazil. No one knows exactly why this happens. As for number of fotologs (flogs), Brazil stands in the first place with 165,448 registered pages. It’s more than half of the full database, which totals 295,114 fotologgers. In 2nd place comes the U.S. with 19,051, about eight times lower. United Kingdom is way below, with 1,314 flogs. Industry analysts usually say this could be caused by the digital cameras boom in Brazil, since recent researches show a ten-fold sales increase in 2003, when compared to 2002. Last Christmas, sales of digital cameras were up 170% over 2002’s Christmas. But such figures aren’t enough. It’s evident that the digital camera is becoming common in countries like Brazil, it has already become a mere commodity in richer nations like the U.S. or the UK. Moreover, one doesn’t necessarily need a digital camera to become a flogger. Since it’s all about uploading pictures, there are plenty of flogs carrying random images captured over the Internet and,

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Brazil secures cheaper access to scientific journals

Paulo Rebêlo and Katie Mantell 30 January 2004 Source: SciDev.Net [RECIFE] The Brazilian government has negotiated a US$5 million reduction in the fees it pays to allow many of the country’s researchers to gain free access to electronic versions of a large number of scientific journals. The government’s ‘journal website’ (Portal de Periódicos), allows researchers across the country to access the full text of thousands of international journals, magazines and databases covering a broad range of subjects. Last year, the government funding agency responsible for the website, known as CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Staff), paid a total of US$20 million in individual agreements with international publishers in order to provide access to their publications through its website. But as a result of recent negotiations, CAPES will this year pay one quarter less. In addition, CAPES has also secured an increase of almost a third in the amount of content available through the website, meaning that now 4,800 journals can be read through the system. “Science is a part of our natural human heritage,” says Roberto Bartholo from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, who led negotiations with publishers. “Every country or institution that wishes to

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Brazil’s young scientists face job shortages

Paulo Rebêlo 14 January 2004 Source: SciDev.Net [RECIFE] A failure by the Brazilian government to provide much-needed new teaching and research posts in universities is preventing many researchers with doctoral degrees from finding suitable employment. This is the conclusion of a report published last month by the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), based on statements from universities, public institutions and thousands of unemployed new PhD holders. The report, which was written by the SBPC’s regional division in Rio de Janeiro, recommends a number of moves to improve the situation. In particular it says that new efforts should be made to encourage private companies and universities to hire new PhDs. “Brazil needs a strategy to educate business people on the importance of high-skilled researchers in their companies,” says Luiz Carlos Scavarda do Carmo, coordinator of development projects at Pontifícia Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro. Maria Eulália Vares, SBPC’s secretary in Rio de Janeiro, says that a particular challenge is the regional variation in the number of jobs available for those holding doctoral degrees. “Some regions tend to face more difficulties than others when it comes to providing work for new PhD holders,” she says. “This has to

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Brazil opts for anti-spam ethics code

Action not inaction, as government dithers By Paulo Rebêlo in Brazil The Inquirer, Monday 01 December 2003, 10:54 MANY INTERNATIONAL servers block IPs from Brazilian ISPs because of a heavy load of spam coming from this country. Brazil has been trying to fix the spam problem for some time and legislation has been on the cards for a while. Several projected laws have already made their way into the government bureaucracy, but a clear path to a solution hasn’t appeared until recently. But now, a group of private associations involved with the internet business has just set up the Antispam Brazilian Committee, and introduced an Antispam Ethics Code. According to the committee, the code is based on current federal laws. Practically, if it works, the ethic code could lead to more credibility for, and unblocking of, Brazilian IPs from blacklists and Mail Abuse Prevention Systems (MAPS) abroad. According to Patrícia Peck, president of the Antispam Committee, the idea behind the ethic code is simple: define rules of practicing commercial communication through electronic mail, including e-mail, SMS (short messaging system) and IM (instant messaging). Those rules would than specify which messages are to be considered spam or not. Needless to say,

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A PC in Every Desk

Brazzil Magazine Monday, 01 April 2002 Brazilian government approved last month a project for producing a cheap personal computer for the masses that could cost as low as $300. The new PCs will be going first to schools, libraries, health posts and community institutions and clubs. By Paulo Rebêlo Researchers from UFMG (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais—Federal University of Minas Gerais) have developed a computer prototype with a 500 MHz equivalent processor, 64 Mb RAM, an Ethernet network card, a 56k modem, 14″ monitor, sound and video cards, serial and USB ports, mouse and keyboard, that could cost as low as $300. Despite the lack of CD-ROM, floppy and hard disk, the popular PC is focused on lower-income families who can’t afford to buy an ordinary computer. People won’t be able to save files, unless they make an upgrade, but the main role of the computer will be accessing the Internet. The PC, however, will be primarily used in social programs from the government’s FUST (Fundo de Universalização das Telecomunicações—Fund for the Universalization of Communication), which already has a $500,000-yearly budget. The government intends to buy the first shipment of PC’s to equip schools, libraries, health posts and communities, in

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