From health officials in Brazil: Zika alone may not be responsible for the rise in birth defects that plagued parts of the country

Amidst growing fear-based propaganda warning of the threat of Zika virus comes a quiet admission from health officials in Brazil: Zika alone may not be responsible for the rise in birth defects that plagued parts of the country.

Destruction of Brazil’s Amazon jumps 28 percent

Destruction of Brazil’s Amazon jumps 28 percent

     BRASILIA, Brazil     (AP) — Brazil’s government reported Thursday that annual destruction of its Amazon rainforest jumped by 28 percent after four straight years of declines, an increase activists said was linked to recent loosening of the nation’s environmental law meant to protect the jungle.

However, the destruction was still the second-lowest amount of jungle destroyed since Brazil began tracking deforestation in 1988.

The increase in deforestation came in the August 2012 through July 2013 period, the time when Brazil annually measures the destruction of the forest by studying satellite images. The country registered its lowest level of Amazon felling the year before.

The Amazon rainforest is considered one of the world’s most important natural defenses against global warming because of its capacity to absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide. About 75 percent of Brazil’s emissions come from rainforest clearing, as vegetation burns and felled trees rot.

That releases an estimated 400 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, making Brazil at least the sixth-biggest emitter of the gas.

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said Thursday that the most recent figures show 2,256 square miles (5,843 square kilometers) of rainforest were felled. That’s compared to the 1,765 square miles (1,571 square kilometers) cleared the previous year.

Environmentalists blame the increase on a loosening of Brazil’s environmental laws. They also say that the government’s push for big infrastructure projects like dams, roads and railways is pushing deforestation.

Brazil and Germany Proposed UN Resolution Against Mass Surveillance

Brazil and Germany Proposed UN Resolution Against Mass Surveillance

On November 7th, Brazil and Germany jointly proposed a preliminary version of a resolution on online privacy at the UN General Assembly. At a time when public outrage over the reach and scope of U.K. and U.S. mass surveillance is at an all time high, the draft resolution is the first official recognition by the UN of the threat that mass surveillance poses to human rights. The draft resolution is significant in many respects but particularly because it condemns “human rights violations and abuses that may result from the conduct of any surveillance of communications, including extraterritorial surveillance of communications… in particular massive surveillance.”

The draft resolution calls upon all states:

  • To end privacy violations and prevent further privacy incursions and ensure that national laws, practices and procedures conform to existing international human rights obligations,
  • To establish independent national oversight mechanisms capable of maintaining transparency and accountability for state surveillance of communications,
  • Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a report to the General Assembly on the protection of the right to privacy.

If adopted, this will be the first General Assembly resolution on the right to privacy since 1988. This represents an excellent opportunity for states to update their understanding of international human rights law in the context of the massive technological developments that have taken place over the last 25 years.

Businesses and governments worldwide seek to evade NSA spying

Businesses and governments worldwide seek to evade NSA spying

Private telecom providers, businesses and governments are increasingly compelled to move or reinforce web operations following disclosures of the NSA’s mass internet surveillance programs made by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Brazil is set to vote on the creation of a cyber-security system to thwart  National Security Agency espionage of Brazilian government  systems. US surveillance led by the NSA had infiltrated the  highest levels of Brazil’s administration.

The largest telecom provider in Germany, the formerly-state-run  Deutsche Telekom, is seeking to keep their service in-country, out of the  reach of foreign spying.

But much smaller internet companies are also feeling the need,  based on customer demand and common sense, to move their servers  out of the reach of the NSA and the United States’ partners in  global surveillance, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK –   the “Five Eyes.”

Encrypted-communications provider Unseen, for instance, has  recently moved its servers and bank accounts from the US to  Iceland, based on the NSA’s vast reach and the Nordic country’s  commitment to privacy rights.

Total Despair: Teachers strike for over 40 days, hit with tear gas in Brazil

Clashes broke out in Rio de Janeiro’s busy downtown business district on Tuesday as police skirmished with striking schoolteachers. Teachers pressing for better pay had gathered in front of City Hall, where a vote on Mayor Eduardo Paes’ salary proposal was expected. The strikers oppose the proposal, which they say doesn’t go far enough to addressing their demands. Chaos broke out in late afternoon when police officers set off deafening percussion grenades and fired rubber bullets in this densely frequented commercial district. Negotiations between the city and the teachers’ unions have been acrimonious, and Tuesday was the strike’s 46th day.

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