Brazil’s Jobs Crisis Lingers, Posing Challenge for Next President

After losing his job with a foreign food company in March, Alexander Costa surveyed Brazil’s anemic labor market and decided to start selling cheap lunches by the beach in Rio de Janeiro to try and provide for his young family. “I could have stayed home, looking for work, sending out resumes, with few jobs and things very hard,” Costa said. “But I didn’t stand still. I decided to create something different … to reinvent myself.” Many other Brazilians have also had to reinvent themselves in recent years, as Latin America’s largest economy struggles to overcome a jobs crisis more than a year after officially exiting recession. Nearly 13 million people – or more than the entire population of Greece – are out of a job, with the unemployment rate hovering between 12 percent to 14 percent since 2016. As a result, unemployment is among voters’ top concerns ahead of next month’s election. The desperate search for work amid a string of political graft scandals and rising violence has soured the mood, polarizing debate and distracting from the country’s underlying fiscal challenges. But only by lowering the unemployment rate will Brazil achieve the rise in household spending it needs to maintain sustained growth, said Marcos Casarin, the head of Latin America macro research at Oxford Economics. “The only way to have a prolonged recovery in economic activity is if unemployment starts to fall in a substantial way,” he said. However, it could take several years to get the rate below 10 …

Into the Fold? What’s Next for Instagram as Founders Leave

When Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger sold Instagram to Facebook in 2012, the photo-sharing startup’s fiercely loyal fans worried about what would happen to their beloved app under the social media giant’s wings.  None of their worst fears materialized. But now that its founders have announced they are leaving in a swirl of well wishes and vague explanations, some of the same worries are bubbling up again — and then some. Will Instagram disappear? Get cluttered with ads and status updates? Suck up personal data for advertising the way its parent does? Lose its cool?  Worst of all: Will it just become another Facebook? “It”s probably a bigger challenge (for Facebook) than most people realize,” said Omar Akhtar, an analyst at the technology research firm Altimeter. “Instagram is the only platform that is growing. And a lot of people didn’t necessarily make the connection between Instagram and Facebook.” Instagram had just 31 million users when Facebook snapped it up for $1 billion; now it has a billion. It had no ads back then; it now features both display and video ads, although they’re still restrained compared to Facebook. But that could quickly change. Facebook’s growth has started to slow, and Wall Street has been pushing the company to find new ways to increase revenue. Instagram has been a primary focus of those efforts. Facebook has been elevating Instagram’s profile in its financial discussions. In July, it unveiled a new metric for analysts, touting that 2.5 billion people use at least …

Automakers Seek Flexibility at Hearing on Mileage Standards

Automakers sought flexibility while environmental groups blasted the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back fuel economy standards at a public hearing on the plan in the industry’s backyard. At the hearing Tuesday in Dearborn, Michigan, home to Ford Motor Co. and just miles from the General Motors and Fiat Chrysler home offices, industry officials repeated two themes: They’ll keep working to make cars and trucks more efficient, but they may not be able to meet existing standards because people are buying more trucks and SUVs. Environmental groups, though, urged the government to scrap its plan to roll back the standards and instead keep in place the ones that were reaffirmed in the waning days of the Obama administration. They said the technology to meet the standards at low costs is available, and they accused President Donald Trump’s Department of Transportation of twisting numbers to justify the rollback. Nearly 150 people were scheduled to testify at the hearing, the second on the preferred option of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency to freeze the standards at 2020 levels. In 2016, for the first time since the latest standards started, the auto industry couldn’t meet them without using emissions credits earned in prior years, said Steve Bartoli, vice president of fuel economy compliance for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The reason is because with relatively low gas prices, people are buying more trucks and SUVs rather than fuel-efficient cars, he said. Last year, cars made up only 36 percent of …

GSK Vaccine Success a Milestone in TB, But Room for Improvement

An experimental GlaxoSmithKline vaccine could prevent tuberculosis developing in half of those who receive it, making it potentially the first new shot against the global killer in a century, researchers said on Tuesday. Given the failure of other candidates in recent years, it marks a milestone in the fight against TB, although the 54 percent efficacy rate achieved in adults in a mid-stage clinical trial is low compared to immunizations for other diseases. The current vaccine called Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) was developed in 1921 and is given routinely to babies in countries with high rates of TB to prevent severe disease. However, BCG protection wears off in just a few years and it does nothing to protect against the most common form of TB that invades the lungs of adults and adolescents, and can be transmitted through coughing and sneezing. A more effective vaccine is viewed by experts as key to controlling TB and fighting the growing scourge of drug-resistant infection. With TB a major focus for global health, the United Nations is holding its first ever high-level meeting on the disease in New York on Wednesday. GSK’s vaccine is designed to stop latent TB from becoming active and causing sickness. An estimated 1.7 billion people – one quarter of the global population – have latent TB infection, putting them at risk of a disease that killed 1.6 million people last year. Results of an ongoing Phase IIb trial of the vaccine – known as M72/AS01 and developed by GSK …

Global $500M Data Drive Aims to Boost Harvests, End Hunger

A $500 million data drive aims to improve the harvests of hundreds of millions of farmers worldwide as rising hunger levels threaten a global goal to end hunger by 2030, organizations involved in the initiative said Tuesday. Developing countries and donors launched the “50 X 2030” scheme on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, seeking funding to gather farming data through surveys in 50 nations across Africa, Asia and Latin America over the next 12 years. Basic statistics, such as what farmers are planting, their yields and access to finance, are often lacking, incomplete or unreliable, making it difficult for governments and donors to know where or how to invest their cash, the United Nations said. “Each year, governments, businesses and the private sector invest hundreds of billions of dollars in agriculture and design policies without this critical information,” said Emily Hogue, a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization senior adviser. “This could cause losses in agricultural productivity and income and could also lead to continuing hunger and poverty.” The push for better data was announced weeks after new U.N. figures showed world hunger has risen for three years running, with 821 million people — one in nine — going hungry in 2017. Eliminating hunger is one of the 17 U.N. sustainable development goals ( agreed upon by world leaders in 2015. The initiative aims to increase the coverage and frequency of agricultural surveys so that governments have the information needed to plan and implement the right policies, experts said. In …

Number of Babies Born With Syphilis in US Doubles in Four Years 

The number of babies born infected with syphilis in the United States has more than doubled since 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a report released Tuesday, the CDC said the number of cases of congenital syphilis, in which the disease is passed from the mother to the baby, increased 153 percent — from 362 in 2013 to 918 in 2017. “When a baby gets syphilis, it means the system has failed that mother repeatedly, both before and during her pregnancy,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. “If STD prevention programs had anywhere near the support they need, no new mom would ever have to cope with this devastating diagnosis,” he said. Syphilis is easily treatable with antibiotics. But when untreated in the mother, it increases the risk of miscarriage and newborn death. Children born with the disease can suffer severe health consequences, including deformed bones, blindness or deafness. About 70 percent of the cases of congenital syphilis in the U.S. over the span studied were found in California, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas.  Harvey said women should be tested before becoming pregnant, soon after becoming pregnant, and throughout the pregnancy.  One-third of the mothers who gave birth to babies with congenital syphilis had been tested. But the tests were performed too late in their pregnancies to prevent the infection of the fetuses, or the women became infected after being tested.  “That we have any cases of …

Trade Minister: Updated Peru-China Trade Deal May Be Ready by 2020

An update of Peru’s trade agreement with China could be completed as soon as 2020, and certainly by the time President Martin Vizcarra leaves office, Peruvian Trade Minister Roger Valencia said Tuesday. Peru and its top trade partner China vowed to update their 2010 bilateral free trade deal shortly after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election in November 2016. Trump’s complaints that other countries were taking advantage of the United States on trade, as well as his pledges to pursue an “America First” economic agenda, sparked fears of an upsurge in global protectionism. Vizcarra’s term ends in July 2021, and the new China accord should be signed by then, Valencia told Reuters in New York as he accompanied Peru’s delegation to the U.N. General Assembly. “For (20)20, (20)21, we should have an improved agreement, the necessary modifications,” he said. Peru has said the existing deal with China was negotiated to exclude 11 sectors — including textiles, clothing and shoes. That took into account Peruvian fears that its local industries could not compete with China if tariffs were lowered. Peru has also been holding discussions over trade with Britain, whose government wants to boost its trading relations with the rest of the world after it leaves the European Union. Known as Brexit, that is scheduled to take place in 2019. Valencia said that Peru and Britain had agreed to ratify their current trading arrangements irrespective of what occurs in the Brexit process. Once Britain had left the EU, the two …

Sudan Reports Outbreak of Mosquito-borne Disease

More than 11,000 people in Sudan’s eastern state of Kassala have been infected over the past month by Chikungunya, a debilitating mosquito-borne viral disease, but no deaths have been reported, a Sudanese official said Tuesday. Chikungunya is spread by two mosquito species and can cause severe symptoms, which develop three to seven days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. They include high fever, headache, muscle pain, back pain and rash. In rare cases, it is fatal. There are no dedicated treatments or vaccines for Chikungunya. “So far official statistics say that about 11,000 people were infected, and there haven’t been any documented cases of death because of the Chikungunya fever,” said Magzoub Abou Moussa, a spokesman for the Kassala state administration. Heavy rains The outbreak began in recent weeks when heavy rains pummeled the area, which led to the flooding of a major river in Kassala. Abou Moussa said his state had received health and technical aid from Sudan’s health ministry, but expressed concern over the spread of the virus and called for further help. Eyewitnesses said they had seen planes on Monday sweeping over the state, spraying mosquito pesticides. Sudanese opposition parties have accused the government of failing to deal with the situation in Kassala and called for international organizations’ help. “We hold the government fully responsible for the spread of the epidemic,” said a statement from the National Umma Party, the largest opposition party. “We call on civil society organizations and the World Health Organization to help …

Antibiotics for Appendicitis? Surgery Often Not Needed

When emergency tests showed the telltale right-sided pain in Heather VanDusen’s abdomen was appendicitis, she figured she’d be quickly wheeled into surgery. But doctors offered her the option of antibiotics instead. A new study from Finland shows her choice is a reasonable alternative for most patients with appendicitis. Five years after treatment with antibiotics, almost two-thirds of patients hadn’t had another attack. It’s a substantial change in thinking about how to treat an inflamed appendix. For decades, appendicitis has been considered a medical emergency requiring immediate surgery to remove the appendix because of fears it could burst, which can be life-threatening. But advances in imaging tests, mainly CT scans, have made it easier to determine if an appendix might burst, or if patients could be safely treated without surgery. The results suggest that nearly two-thirds of appendicitis patients don’t face that risk and may be good candidates for antibiotics instead. “It’s a feasible, viable and a safe option,” said Dr. Paulina Salminen, the study’s lead author and a surgeon at Turku University Hospital in Finland. Her study in adults is the longest follow-up to date of patients treated with drugs instead of surgery for appendicitis, and the results confirm one-year findings reported three years ago. ‘A new era’ Research has also shown antibiotics may work for some children with appendicitis. The Finnish results were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A journal editorial said “it’s a new era of appendicitis treatment.” Appendix removal is the most …

Loss of Bird Species Hampers Forecasting for Zimbabwe’s Farmers

As the summer planting season approaches in eastern Zimbabwe, small-scale farmers struggle with familiar questions: When will the rains come, and when should I sow my crops? This year something else is keeping them awake: In late August the government issued a warning about a potential El Niño weather pattern, associated with changes in weather patterns worldwide. Should El Niño arrive, Zimbabwe might see normal or higher-than-average rains, said Washington Zhakata, director of the country’s Climate Change Department. More likely, though, there would not be enough rain. “Looking at the past observations … once an El Niño sets in, depending on the strength and nature of the El Niño, the chances of bad rains or below-normal rainfall in Zimbabwe are between 50 and 65 percent,” he said. In trying to figure out what to plant and when this year, farmers are also missing an old ally: Birds, whose movements traditionally have helped predict coming weather. Delayed rainfall In Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands the farming season typically starts in late October or early November. But in recent years the weather has become less predictable, and that is a growing problem for farmers. “At times the rainy season is now starting well into December. The weather is now changing,” said Leonard Madanhire, a farmer in Zimunya, a village close to the Mozambique border. Once, he said, farmers watched changes in the environment around them – particularly activity by birds – to work out whether or not they could expect a good season. “We …