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Covid-19 Brazil

Brazil Covid-19 Cases Surge This Week, Breaking Its Single Day Record 

Brazil has broken its record for new Covid-19 cases reported in a single day this Wednesday with 115,228 new cases. This increase is due to the nation’s continuous delays in vaccine distribution.

Brazil’s health ministry and data from Reuters revealed that the country now leads the world for the highest seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases and fatalities; they surpassed India last week, which is also struggling greatly due to a lack of vaccine distribution and access. 

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When it comes to the total number of infections, Brazil is currently in third behind the US and India with about 18 million cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Brazil, however, has now surpassed India in terms of total death, with more than 570,000 fatalities as a result of Covid-19; India has experienced around 392,000 deaths. 

The US and other wealthier countries are seeing cases decline as more and more individuals receive their vaccinations. Other countries haven’t been so lucky in terms of receiving vaccines due to a lack of infrastructure and access. 

According to the Brazilian Health Ministry, 12% of the nation’s population is fully vaccinated. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has faced constant protests and criticism from citizens and other political leaders over his lack of action throughout the pandemic and slow distribution of vaccines. 

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According to news reports, “a Brazilian Senate committee is investigating allegations of misconduct in the government’s response, particularly arguments that Bolsonaro did not respond to offers from Pfizer for its vaccine last year, instead making a deal to receive the more expensive inoculation from India’s Bharat Biotech.”

Bolsonaro and former US president Donald Trump received very similar criticism throughout the pandemic in 2020 due to their downplaying of the virus’ severity, and pushing for drug treatments that showed no evidence of preventing Covid-19. 

Bolsonaro has been fined by several local government bodies for not enforcing local mask mandates which led to an exponential increase in cases within the past year. 

He said earlier this month while speaking in Sao Paulo that “those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should not have to wear a mask. Whoever is against this proposal is because they don’t believe in science, because if they are vaccinated, there is no way the virus can be transmitted.”

Colorful Music

Ambient Music-Maker John Hassell On Embracing The Sounds Of The World

John Hassell was both in Memphis, Tennessee. The 83-year-old ambient musician has been praised over the years from other artists such as Bono, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Björk, and countless others.

Covid-19 Brazil

Brazil Reaches 2 Million Cases Of Covid-19, Death Toll Hits 76,000

Three months after the coronavirus pandemic reached Brazil the country is now reporting more than 1,000 Covid-19 related deaths every day. This past Thursday the federal health administration announced that Brazil has officially surpassed 2 million confirmed cases of the virus, and 76,000 citizens have died. 

Like in America, many healthcare experts are blaming this massive and consistent rise in case/death numbers on the denial of the virus’ severity from individuals in political power, especially Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has received major backlash throughout the past few months for undermining health experts’ warnings about the coronavirus, and not taking social distancing recommendations seriously; he also is currently battling Covid-19. 

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There’s also been a massive lack of coordination between healthcare industry workers and politicians throughout this pandemic in Brazil, which as we’ve seen from countries like New Zealand, is essential if they want to see a real decrease in case numbers. 

Many city and state governments within Brazil have also been called out multiple times for prematurely reopening businesses despite health experts recommendations to do the opposite. As of right now, an interim health minister, who according to media reports is untrained in the field, is now presiding over the pandemic response. 

Former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta recently spoke with the Associated Press, where he compared the 7,000 Covid-19 related deaths that have occurred in Brazil throughout the past seven weeks to “several airplanes packed with Brazilians crashing every single day.” 

“People have become callous. When you say ‘yesterday there were 1,300 deaths’ people say ‘ok, then it didn’t go up. It was the same the day before too.’”

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Brazil’s case numbers make them the second most infected country in the world, right behind the US. Experts believe case numbers in both countries are likely a lot larger, but lack of testing facilities/results is skewing the data. Within the past two weeks alone 10 out of Brazil’s 26 states have seen massive increases in case numbers. 

Citizens have been struggling to balance working while protecting themselves, but continuing on in order to earn money, this is especially true for agriculture workers. 

“Until it knocks at your door, people are indifferent. Yesterday there were 1,300 deaths from COVID-19. Is that supposed to be few? People are saying that’s just the media. I hear that every day at work.”

Health experts predict that if Brazil continues to remain as open as it is now the death toll will reach 200,000 by November. Like in the US, the major difference that needs to happen is a complete overhaul of how the current administration has handled the virus. Healthcare experts need to have more control over the policies that are put into play, as they’re the ones seeing first hand how badly this virus is impacting different communities. 

In the meantime, it’s important that every citizen does their part as well by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing whenever in a public setting, and continuing to wash your hands/sanitize consistently.

Traveling

These International Borders Are Planning To Reopen This Month

The Covid-19 pandemic is still very much a public health crisis, so many individuals are likely not going to be travelling anytime soon. However, many international borders have begun to/are projecting to reopen this month based on how badly they’re country is infected. Here’s an update on some of the international borders that are planning to potentially reopen this month:

The Canada and US border was projecting to reopen on June 21st, however, they’re now extending that date to go into July. Prior to this extension airlines in both the US and Canada began booking select routes to and from both countries. While non-essential travel is still banned between the US and Canada, essential trade is permissible between both countries. Canadians are also allowed to fly into the US but US citizens cannot fly into Canada. 

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The US and Mexico border is gearing up to reopen on June 22nd. Unessential travel has previously been banned, and Canada’s decision to extend their border closure may influence Mexico’s decision on whether or not to extend the date, however, for now they’re still projecting to open on the 22nd. An increase in Covid-19 cases in Arizona and Texas has also worried Mexican government officials. While Mexico isn’t planning on enforcing visitors to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, individuals should expect a personal interview and temperature checks. 

Travelling to the Caribbean is going to be dependent on what specific island you would go to. Each island has different opening dates based on how badly they’ve been impacted by Covid-19, however, a majority of the islands have managed to keep case numbers relatively low. 

The entire continent of South America is still under some of the strictest lockdown conditions in the world. Brazil lifted their internal travel ban in May, however, air travel into Brazil won’t be allowed until June 21st, and potentially later depending on if they extend the date or not. It’s important to note that even if the projected date for reopening is tomorrow, it’ll still be subject to change based on how many new cases continue to appear. Brazil alone has the second-highest recorded coronavirus death count, so the government in Latin America is projecting they won’t be able to fully reopen until September the earliest. 

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The United Kingdom was one of the last nations to ban international air travel in and out of the country when the pandemic began. Starting June 8th the UK began requiring that all visitors must self-quarantine for 14-days and provide housing/contact details to local authorities so they can ensure you’re abiding by the lockdown requirements. If one fails any of the requirements they could be subject to a fine of up to $1200. 

Travel between Europe and the US will likely not begin for a long time. Countries within Europe are gradually reopening the same way that states within America are also loosening their health and safety restrictions. However, as we’ve seen in America this premature reopening has led to a huge spike in cases in over 19 states. Some European nations, such as Germany and Ireland, are projecting to open by July, and Greece has already reopened to international travelers; however visitors are required to quarantine for 14 days and wear a mask in public. 

Australia and New Zealand are planning on waiving travel restrictions between each other, but not internationally. Australia will likely allow international visitors first, but require a 14-day quarantine like most places. 

In general, essential workers, trade, and business events would be the only reason one could travel internationally this summer. Every date is subject to change, and many have multiple times, so for now, if you want to be able to travel to any of these places without any Covid-19 fears we must continue to listen to our healthcare providers and protect ourselves and our loved ones. 

Swarm of Locusts

China To Deploy 100,000 Ducks To Combat Swarms Of Locusts

When it comes to the detrimental effects of global warming on our planet, one of the most unexpected issues that needs combating is the plagues of locusts that are currently ravaging through the planet’s farmlands in countries such as Pakistan and Uganda.  Swarms of locusts are not uncommon in certain areas of the world, in fact, when they appear at their expected time in their expected numbers it actually benefits the planet and the species living in these areas.   

Most recently, Pakistan has declared a state of emergency regarding the swarms of locusts clouding the skies. Officials are stating that the numbers are the worst they’ve been in two decades for the country. This is a huge problem as locusts eat through vegetation so fast you can blink and an entire field will be cleared. Even a small swarm of locusts can eat enough food to feed over 35,000 individuals in just a day. 

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A single swarm of locusts can contain up to 150 million individual insects per square mile of farmland, where they like to feed the most. Some countries are attempting to combat the issue by using drones to spray pesticides amongst the plagues of locusts, and others are taking a more creative and predatory approach. 

China is looking to help aid Pakistan with this infestation problem by deploying 100,000 ducks to the country. Agricultural experts claim that a single duck can eat more than 200 locusts in a single day, and are much more effective, not to mention safer, than spraying pesticides from the sky and into the atmosphere.  

“The ducks are biological weapons, while chickens could eat about 70 locusts in one day a duck could devour more than three times that number. Ducks like to stay in a group so they are easier to manage than chickens,” Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences claimed

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Lu went on to explain how within the coming months the Chinese government will begin trial runs of duck deployment as a means of combating the locust issue. After they test how well the ducks do in western Xinjiang, they will be sent to Pakistan; specifically the provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, and Punjab, where the locusts populations are the highest. 

On paper, bringing a locusts predator to them to combat overpopulation sounds like a smart idea, however, there are still concerns, the main one being that the arid desert environment in Pakistan is not equipped to handle ducks, who rely heavily on water. 

“Ducks rely on water, but in Pakistan’s desert areas, the temperature is very high. Although ducks have been used against locusts since ancient times, their deployment hasn’t yet entered the government assistance programme and is an exploratory method,” said Zhang Long, a professor from China’s Agriculture University. 

The United Nations reports that this heavy infestation was likely caused by the 2018-19 cyclone season in the areas that are being affected. Heavy rainfall in arid environments creates the perfect breeding ground for locusts, so when climate change causes natural disasters, such as cyclones, to become more frequent and intense, and unprecedented amount of locust breeding is the result. 

Currently parts of China, the Middle East, South Africa and South America are trying to deal with these “unprecedented” swarms of locusts clouding their skies and consuming their resources, only time will tell if the world’s troops of ducks can actually help.

Pope Silhouette

Pope Francis Makes Public Plea To Save The Amazon, And The Planet

Pope Francis has taken combating the climate crisis our planet is currently enduring into his own hands. Last week, on February 12th to be more specific, Francis released a 94-page exhortation document in which he passionately discussed the importance of protecting the Amazon Rainforest, the multitude of ecosystems it supports, and the indigenous people native to the forest who utilize its vast range of natural resources.  

The document is titled Dear Amazon, and comes as a response to the historic Vatican meeting that occurred in the fall of 2019 regarding the destruction of the Amazon during its extreme wildfire outbreaks. It also comes as a response to the massive increase in illegal logging, mining and other deforestation tactics in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Brazil, as well as a surge in murders amongst indigenous activists within the past year alone. 

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“If the care of people and the care of ecosystems are inseparable, this becomes especially important in places where the forest is not a resource to be exploited…When indigenous peoples remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. We are water, air, earth and life of the environment created by God. For this reason, we demand an end to the mistreatment and destruction of mother Earth. The land has blood, and it is bleeding; the multinationals have cut the veins of our mother Earth,” Francis wrote.

As previously mentioned, the exhortation comes partly as a response to a historic meeting at the Vatican in which, for the first time in history, hundreds of Catholic bishops, environmental activists, and indigenous leaders from nine South American countries came together to discuss preservation of the planet and its relationship to faith, and how both political and religious leaders of the world can join forces to protect what little natural land is left. 

The exhortation acts as a public response to an otherwise private three-week meeting period between the groups mentioned above. The “response” was divided into four sections by Francis; societal, cultural, ecclesial, and ecological, all of which were under the general titles of “dreams.” Scientists and conservationists alike have been warning about the catastrophic effects of climate change for decades. Unless true systematic change is implemented throughout the entire world, it’s nearly impossible to reverse the extensive damage that’s already been done.

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The Amazon Rainforest

Within the past year, the Amazon Rainforest has lost over 3,400 square miles of forest, which is roughly the size of seven New York Cities, and this is not the first time Pope Francis has expressed his discontent with our governments lack of conservation efforts. In 2015, the Vatican and Francis released an encyclical entitled Laudato Si, On Care For Our Common Home. An “encyclical,” is a Catholic teaching document that’s regarded as the “highest order possessing moral authority,” due to the fact that it comes from the Pope. 

In Laudato Si, Francis became a self-proclaimed advocate for environmental protection, and spoke out against the government; placing the blame for global warming on human activity, specifically mentioning “rampant consumerism and unbridled capitalism.” Since then, the Vatican has emphasized climate action as “morally imperative” in the same regard that it’s scientifically imperative for the survival of our planet. 

The progressive Pope’s outspoken attitude in regard to climate change has created a major divide amongst those who consider themselves “devoutly” faithful to both their religion and their government. However, most can agree that having a public figure, as major and influential as the Pope, speak out against any issue regarding injustice is major when it comes to reform. 

“Protecting rainforests is fundamentally an ethical issue, where care for creation and the realization of social justice for indigenous peoples and forest communities are part of one moral fabric. We are seeing that not only is the leadership of Pope Francis rallying Catholics to act, but [it is] also inspiring religious leaders from other faiths to protect rainforests around the world,” said Joe Corcoran, the UN project manager for the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI).

Francis is creating a merger of two different worlds through his outspokenness. We have all the facts when it comes to climate change and the action that’s needed to combat it, now it’s just a matter of direct and immediate change.

Mexico

Mexican Community Being Built Using 3D Printer

A neighborhood in Mexico is being built for families who are currently living on $3 per day, thanks to a 3D printer. Two houses have already been created using an enormous 3D printer in a poverty stricken area of Mexico, making them the first houses in the new neighborhood. However, developers are saying the houses are not prototypes and that they are planning on replacing the current, rickety structures that residents had previously used to build their homes – such as wood or metal – within the next twelve months.

Tabasco in Mexico is a seismic zone, prone to flooding and earthquakes and therefore need structures that can stay upright during an earthquake, and dry during the torrential rains.The community is being built by New Story and their co-founder and CEO Brett Hagler, who told CNN:

“These families are the most vulnerable, and in the lowest income … and they’re living on about an average of $3 a day. They’re living in literally a pieced-together shack that during the rainy season, it will rain and it will flood their shack. Some of the women even said that the water will go up to their knees when it rains, sometimes for months.”

A non-profit whose aim is to help families in need of a home, New Story has already built over 2,700 dwellings in Mexico and South America since Hagler co-founded the company in 2014. However, this is the first project they have opted to use 3D printing for all the properties.

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Partnering with ICON and ÉCHALE has enabled them to work on the ambitious project. The project is using 3D printing robotics that were developed by construction technology company ICON. Mexican non-profit ÉCHALE have been working to locate the families who will eventually live in the properties and therefore have taken their input to help the design of the building.

The printer is a staggering 33-foot and “prints” a concrete mix to build the walls, layer by layer. As the mix hardens while it’s drying it can take around 24 hours – over a couple of days – for two homes to be built. This is nearly twice as fast as a New Story home is built using normal techniques. New Story says that since the mix is stronger than concrete, the foundations are reinforced, helping the properties to stand up to any seismic activity.

Each 500-square-foot home will have a flat roof and curved walls, with a living room, kitchen, one bathroom and two bedrooms. However, the two homes already built are still empty as it would not be safe for residents to live in the construction area. It is unclear as yet how much each house will cost however New Story is keen to work with families, potentially charging them around 20-30 per cent of their income. Many residents in Tabasco just want the opportunity to own something in their own community.

Austin based company ICON took over three years to create a printer that would be able to sustain this type of project, and this printer – named Vulcan II – is perfect for the job. Although in this project the printer is concentrating on two 500-square-foot homes simultaneously, it has the capacity to build one 2,000 square foot house. It can also build walls that are 28 feet wide and nearly 9 feet tall.

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In the last year alone the speed in which the printer works has become a lot faster. In March 2018 ICON announced they had built a three bedroom house in 48 hours. Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of ICON explained:

“It’s 10 times better than where we were a year ago. I am so proud. It is so rare that the most in need of our sisters and brothers globally get first access to advanced technologies and breakthroughs in materials science. We think part of what 3D printing allows us to do is to deliver a much higher-quality product to the housing market at a speed and price that’s typically not available for people in low-income housing. It is a house that anyone would be proud to live in.”

However getting the printer away from the lab and actually getting it into the construction site was a hard task thanks to some harsh weather conditions. Although the company used a standard shipping container to move the printer to site, border authorities asked many questions when they say it.

Ballard confirmed that the printer had arrived at the height of summer, at the beginning of the rainy season, therefore creating even more logistical issues for the company. With muddy roads, floods and high humidity Ballard says he realized how lucky we are in America.

Girl taking selfie with Deer

#StopAnimalSelfies Campaign Calls On Tourists Not To Pose With Wild Animals

Costa Rica is one of the most popular tourist destinations for travelers. Pink sandy beaches, crystal clear blue waters, fancy beach resorts with unlimited South American buffets and beverages, it truly is a vision of paradise. It is also home to many exotic animals, many of which have become part of a growing tourism trend within the past few years. Tourists love to opportunity to pose with these animals for a Instagram worthy picture to let all of their followers know their chilling in paradise with the local sloths, iguanas, parrots, etc. We’ve all seen it, and many of us have even participated; however, now, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute is asking tourists to stop taking photos with these animals in a new campaign they’re calling “#stopanimalselfies,” which is very on brand for the types of individuals taking advantage of the indigenous wildlife photo-ops. 

“Our visitors must know the negative impact caused by selfies and photos showing direct contact with wild animals. Our goal and responsibility as global leaders in environmental issues is to educate and encourage new world ambassadors committed to wildlife protection,”  Pamela Castillo, Vice Minister of Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), told CNN Travel. 

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MINAE and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute have teamed up together to launch and run this campaign. The campaign is a major call to action for all tourists planning on visiting Costa Rica, and in general for tropical vacationers seeking a picture with their favorite animal. In addition to asking tourists not to pose with wildlife, the two groups are also asking for individuals to pose with stuffed animals of their favorite indigenous species instead and post the photo with the caption “I do not mistreat wild animals for a selfie #stopanimalselfies,” according to CNN.

The reasoning behind this campaign goes beyond just worrying about scaring these animals, and actually has more to do with the health of everyone involved. Many of these animals are wild and are typically caught by the individuals who normally patrol the beaches and resorts with them asking if anyone wants a photo. That means these animals are not used to intense and frequent human interaction. Additionally, the spread of disease is a major concern. Inter-species interactions that are abruptly introduced by force to these animals can cause the exchange of disease from animal to animal, animal to human, or human to animal. A 30 second photo shoot with a sloth can lead to both of you becoming extremely ill within a day. 

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As an alternative, MINAE and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute recommend going through professional animal handlers to have an up close experience with wildlife. One example given by MINAE is visiting the famous Sloth Sanctuary in Limon, right on the Atlantic Coast of Costa Rica. At this sanctuary, visitors can experience an educational journey all about the life of the sloth and while they’re learning they can watch and interact with actual sloths that are kept at the sanctuary for safety purposes, much like animals who are injured and spend their lives at rescue reservations. While you won’t be able to hold the animals, as disease is yet again the number one concern, this is the next best thing. Wildlife sanctuaries are also extremely common and highly popular in Costa Rica for this reason as well, so there’s plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with a bunch of exotic animals without worrying about the well being of both you and the animals. 

This issue goes beyond just Costa Rica. According to CNN Travel, any tourists who visit Maria Island in Australia are asked to sign legal pledges stating that they will not bother or chase any animals in hopes to get a photo, as well as promises that individuals won’t pick up random animals they come across. In Australia this is an especially big problem, as many tourists think that the cute faces of marsupials, such as the Koala Bear, can seem like an invite to just pick them up and pose, however, you wouldn’t just go up to a random child that you thought was cute and pick them up without consent, so don’t do it here either. Overall the message is clear and simple, respect all animals when travelling, no matter how cute or trendy you think it is, remember that these are living things with real emotions, they just can’t express them.

Fire in the Amazon

Fighting Fire With Fire: How Smoke From Fires In Africa Are Keeping The Amazon Alive

“There have been a total of 72,843 fires in Brazil this year, with more than half in the Amazon region. That’s more than an 80% increase compared with the same period last year. The Amazon is also often referred to as the planet’s lungs, producing 20% of the oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere”