All the Ink That’s Fit to Print

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News March 2002 In the United States, printer companies reap most of their profits by selling ink cartridges rather than the printers themselves. That’s not necessarily true in Brazil, where remanufactured ink cartridges sell for less than half the price of the original. Despite efforts by big companies to convince consumers that retread cartridges might damage their printers, Brazilians continue flocking to the refills, apparently figuring that the risk is offset by the printers’ relatively inexpensive cost. These “reconditioned” cartridges, as they are often called, are neither illegal nor considered pirated, as long as they are labeled as being refilled. And with the costs of printers going down while the prices of new cartridges continues rising, reconditioned cartridges are becoming more and more popular. An average printer, such as a HP 840C, costs about $140 in Brazil. A 640C model goes for $115, about the same price of an Epson C40UX. Black ink cartridges cost around $35 each, and a color one can go for around $45, depending on the model. In other words, a couple of black-ink cartridges with a color one thrown in cost as much as a new printer. Remanufactured cartridges, meanwhile, run between

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Pleading for a Social Conscience

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News February 2002 PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — The World Social Forum wrapped up several months of business with the usual proposals for making the world a better place, but the stark reality remains: All talk is meaningless unless the richest nations pitch in and help. The forum, founded as a kind of social riposte to the capitalists who make up the World Economic Forum, hosted 28 separate conferences and more than 700 seminars dedicated to a range of subjects. Among the themes touched upon in this southern Brazilian town: the production of wealth, dealing with unemployment, labor relations, civil rights, prejudice and racism, ethics, religion and, yes, even socialism as a living and breathing concept. “This (forum) represents (an alternative to) the Economic Forum, where injustices tend to perpetuate as a result of their economic rules,” said Olívio Dutra, the governor of the Brazilian state Rio Grande do Sul. “What we’re building here is a social movement for everyone who needs it, not only the rich.” Perhaps the key issue is the indebtedness of the world’s poorest nations, who need financial help from the developed nations but often cannot repay. The idea of forgiving these debts is

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Brazil’s Anti-Global Gadfly

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News February 2002 PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — The heavy rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the thousands who strode down the streets here in the “Walk for Peace,” which preceded Thursday’s opening of the World Social Forum. Politicians, scholars and grassroots organizers — the vast majority coming from the left portion of the political spectrum — arrived to participate in more than one hundred workshops. Social issues such as world hunger, unemployment, workers rights, genetically modified crops, prejudice and the environment are the focus. More than 11,000 people, many with their own tents and sleeping bags, have packed the Intercontinental Youth Encampment, a sort of Woodstock-style beachhead for attendees. “It’s quite an adventure, but we are here to develop ourselves,” said João Simão, an education technical assessor who leads a delegation of 45 people. “As we have plenty to learn in the forum’s seminars, we also have plenty to teach.” Simão’s group will discuss successful public education alternatives that have been implemented in northeast Brazil. Among the more interesting personalities at the forum is Brazilian presidential candidate Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva, from the Workers Party (PT). Lula, who has run for president in elections since 1989,

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Forum: It’s the Society, Stupid

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News January 2002 PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — While political and business leaders from the world’s richest nations preach the gospel of globalization at this week’s World Economic Forum in New York, a wholly different point of view will be presented in this southern Brazilian city. The week-long World Social Forum, beginning Thursday, was initiated last year for those who believe that life quality and development can’t be achieved only through economic rules, but mainly through social rules. Under the auspices of what they call “solidarity globalization,” WSF organizers and participants are working toward finding social solutions for some of the world’s most pressing problems, including hunger, poverty and sickness. During last year’s first WSF, all the speeches seemed to center around a feeling that something is very wrong with the globalization embraced by developed and rich countries — a globalization on vivid display during the yearly World Economic Forum — since poor nations would only become poorer and more dependent on the rich. However, very few solutions were offered last year. This year, WSF officials will concentrate on potential solutions. “We came because we believe in the possibility of a different world,” said Bernard Cassen, director of

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Reinventing Recife as Tech Harbor

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News January 2002 Thirty years ago, the sugar business was Recife’s biggest source of income. That was until São Paulo started processing its own sugar, and Recife was forced to diversify. Recife, situated on the northeastern coast of Brazil, went through another economic boost with expanded use of its local harbor, but the recent opening of a new deepwater harbor, 40 kilometers (28.4 miles) to the south, is putting the once thriving port in jeopardy. Now, Recife is being given a technology makeover to make it a sort of Brazilian Silicon Valley surrounded by the sea. Its goal is to lure both international and Brazilian IT companies and startups to this digital port, or DP. Since the ’90s, Recife has been well known as a provider of skilled IT professionals, thanks to its computer science program at Federal University of Pernambuco. But graduates of the program often get hired to work abroad or in other Brazilian cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. For investors, one reason for the DP’s quick success is that Recife is the only tech cluster in northeastern Brazil, where wages are usually 30 percent lower than in the south. The

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Brazil’s Dulcet Tones of Tech

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News December 2001 In a poor neighborhood in the city of Olinda, artists, dancers and musicians are embracing technology as a way to help youth imagine a way out of poverty. A group called Leo Coroado, which has sung and danced “maracatu” since 1863, is trying to fight poverty and violence by using its music to educate citizens in Olinda’s neighborhood of guas Compridas. Now, with the help of computers and the Internet, they intend to expand their approach. Maracatu is a style of dance and music from the state of Pernambuco, in the northeast part of Brazil. But maracatu is still not very popular nationwide. (Click on the sound file to hear a sample.) With the music of maracatu, Leo Coroado tries to attract people, most of them youngsters, into cultural conviviality. With the technology, they want to give the youth work, education and self-sufficiency. “It’s a whole new world for us,” said Afonso Gomes Aguiar, 53, Leo Coroado’s president. Gomes doesn’t know how to deal with “those machines,” but he’s certain they’ll change people for the better. Leo Coroado is implementing a technology infrastructure in the neighborhood. Volunteers teach local residents the basics of how

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Brazil Looks to Heavens for Net

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News October 2001 Satellite Internet connections have, for the first time, arrived in order to expand the country’s Web penetration. Universo Online (UOL), the biggest ISP in Latin America, joined forces with Star One and Gilat Satellite Networks in an effort to expand Internet access at distant locations of Brazil. Only 5 percent of the country uses the Net on a regular basis, according to a recent survey. The satellite connection service, UolSat, works through Star One’s structure, and Gilat’s equipment. UOL is the content provider. Net users in Brazil predominantly use phone lines and traditional modems. Bigger cities already have some broadband options, mainly based on cable and ADSL. Broadband in Brazil is offered by national phone operators only. While corporate users don’t need to pay an ISP to gain a login and password, residential users must pay their phone company and an individual ISP at the same time -– which increases the final costs and scares away most home users. The biggest problem in Brazil, though, is the lack of infrastructure. While bigger cities have tons of lines and Internet alternatives, many smaller cities –- especially in distant regions of Brazil –- don’t even dream

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Brazil Targets Another AIDS Drug

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News August 2001 The Brazilian government might again get into a worldwide fight about anti-AIDS drugs. Now it’s over Nelfinavir, a drug from the Swiss laboratory Roche. Last June, the World Trade Organization defended Brazil in the so-called patent war between American laboratories — which had the support of the U.S. government — and the Brazilian Health System. After a series of discussions and international meetings, Brazil’s proposal was accepted: The country would be allowed to break American patents on anti-AIDS drugs only for situations agreed upon as incontestable. This time around, the health minister of Brazil announced the possibility of producing a generic alternative to Nelfinavir, or breaking its patent. The proposal was made public after the Brazilian government had no success in asking Roche to lower its prices. Brazil has the support of the United Nations and the WTO. Each pill of Nelfinavir costs the equivalent of US$1.36, but the drug is only one of 12 medications that comprise the anti-AIDS cocktail. There are about 600,000 HIV-infected people in Brazil, according to the Brazilian National Coordinate for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Brazil spends about $90 million alone to buy Nelfinavir from Roche, according to

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Keeping E-Mail Afloat in Brazil

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News August 2001 If you lived in a house with no running water, no electricity and not many amenities, getting access to the Internet wouldn’t seem to be such a high priority. But that’s what’s happening in Amapá, a small state in Brazil near the Amazon region, where a project called “Navegar” provides Web connectivity to riparian, poverty-stricken communities. The Navegar Project consists of a boat with a computing laboratory and a satellite antenna for the Web connection. The boat has eight desktop computers, a GPS system, a digital camera, a scanner, an ink-jet printer and two Web cams. It’s all inside a three-floor, wooden boat, a type of boat common in the north of Brazil. And the boat provides room and board for 20 instructors. Amapá’s neighbor states, including Amazon and Pará, are known for their lack of infrastructure. Only a few of their cities are linked with roads or airports. Their transportation system is usually river-dependent and based on boats. The north of Brazil, which includes the rain forest, is the less-advanced region of the country. According to Amapá’s government, the Navegar project uses advanced technology to reduce the geographical distance among riparian villages. Since

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