Ecosia: A Search Engine That Plants Trees

Ecosia is a search engine that is trying to make the world better. Every time you search the net on their site a good percentage of ad revenue is used to pay for planting trees in Brazil. Their goal is one million new trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest by August 2014 (as of posting they are at 219,695 trees planted).

It’s another Google competitor with a good focus. There is also Duck Duck Go which prides itself on its privacy policies as a reaction to Google’s pervasive reach.

Hopefully Ecosia and Duck Duck Go will encourage other Google competitors or perhaps even Google itself will modify its operations.

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Brazil Restructures Debt With African Countries

Brazil has announced that they will essentially “write off” about $90 million in debt from African nations. This is for helping the countries alleviate their huge levels of debt while helping create stronger economic ties between Brazil and their indebted partner nations.

“To maintain a special relationship with Africa is strategic for Brazil’s foreign policy.”

He added that most of the debt was accumulated in the 1970s and had been renegotiated before.

A spokesman for Brazil’s Foreign Ministry told Efe news agency that the debt restructuring for some countries would consist of more favourable interest rates and longer repayment terms.

Congo-Brazzaville owes the most to Brazil – $352m – followed by Tanzania ($237m) and Zambia ($113.4m).

The other countries to benefit are Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, and Sudan.

Read more at BBC.

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Reading for Faster Freedom in Brazil

Prisoners in Brazil may be able to shorten their stay in jail by reading and writing. It’s only 48 days but it can make a difference, the prisoners need to read from a collection of philosophy, science, literature, or the classics then reflect on them in a submitted paper.

Educational programs like this are a good way to help people returning to society restart with more focus and support.

Prisoners will have up to four weeks to read each book and
write an essay which must “make correct use of paragraphs, be
free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing,”
said the notice published on Monday in the official gazette.

“A person can leave prison more enlightened and with a
enlarged vision of the world,” said Sao Paulo lawyer Andre
Kehdi, who heads a book donation project for prisons.

“Without doubt they will leave a better person,” he said.

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Brazil: Wind Power Now Cheaper Than Natural Gas

In Brazil a recent energy auction has shown that wind power is cheaper than natural gas in the country, and also a better investment opportunity. The competitiveness of sustainable energy sources continues to impress everyone (even with the subsidized resource-extraction industries), it’s only a matter of time until other sustainable energy options get this cheap.

They even expect the cost of wind power to decrease in the coming years!

EPE president and chief executive Mauricio Tolmasquim said the auctions show that wind and natural gas are competitive, predicting wind prices will continue to fall in Brazil.

“That wind power plants have been contracted at two digit prices, below 100 reals per MWh, showcases the energy market competition through auctions,” he said. “That wind power could reach these lows versus natural gas was unimaginable until recently.”

The energy auctions for a total of 92 projects were the first in Brazil for 2011, and also featured biomass, hydro-electric and natural gas projects.

Investments amounted to 11.2bn reals in total, for 3,962MW of energy that is slated to start generating in 2014.

Read more at Business Green.

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HIV/AIDS Drug Patent Revoked

Doctors WIthout Borders has released a press release that says that an HIV/AIDS drug can now be made generically. This will lower the cost of the drug allowing more people access to it, this is very important for people living in the developing world. The company that held the patent, Gilead Sciences, claimed to have invented the drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), which has been discredited based on prior art.

In India, the Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS opposed Gilead’s patent application in May 2006 on similar grounds to PUBPAT’s challenge in the US. The evidence on which the US based its decision could therefore lead to the Indian patent office rejecting the patent application. Similarly, in Brazil, a patent opposition filed by HIV/AIDS groups and a government pharmaceutical laboratory could also mean a patent might not be granted for TDF in Brazil.

If a patent is not granted in these countries, generic manufacturers could freely manufacture and export generic versions of TDF without restrictions, leading to greater competition and therefore lower prices.

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