World News

Exclusive: TIM excludes Huawei from 5G core equipment tender in Italy, Brazil – sources

MILAN (Reuters) – Telecom Italia (TIM) (TLIT.MI) has not invited China’s Huawei Technologies to take part in a tender to supply 5G equipment for the core network it is preparing to build in Italy and Brasil, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The list of invited suppliers comprises Cisco (CSCO.O), Ericsson (ERICb.ST), Nokia (NOKIA.HE), Mavenir and Affirmed Networks, a company recently acquired by Microsoft (MSFT.O), one of the two sources said.

Representatives for Huawei in Italy and Brazil declined to comment.

The move comes amid reports that Italy is considering whether to exclude Huawei from building its 5G network over concerns it could open the way for China to spy on key Western telecoms infrastructure.

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Facebook suspends disinformation network tied to staff of Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) – Facebook on Wednesday (July 8) suspended a network of social media accounts it said were used to spread divisive political messages online by employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and two of his sons.

The company said that despite efforts to disguise who was behind the activity, it had found links to the staff of two Brazilian lawmakers, as well as the president and his sons, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro and Senator Flavio Bolsonaro.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said there was no evidence the politicians themselves had operated the accounts.

“What we can prove is that employees of those offices are engaged on our platforms in this type of behaviour,” he told Reuters ahead of the announcement on the company’s blog.

Facebook said it has also suspended three other disinformation networks on Wednesday, including one it attributed to Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of US President Donald Trump.

The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The allegations by Facebook add to a burgeoning political crisis in Brazil, where Bolsonaro’s sons and supporters have been accused of running a coordinated online campaign to smear the president’s opponents.

The accusations have spurred a congressional inquiry and a separate Supreme Court investigation into so-called “fake news attacks” on the country’s judiciary, which led to police raids in May on the homes and offices of Bolsonaro allies.

Bolsonaro, who is also under mounting criticism over his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, has said the court’s investigation is unconstitutional and risks establishing censorship in Brazil by policing what people can say online.

Facebook has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to better police how political groups use its platform.

Hundreds of advertisers have joined a boycott aimed at forcing the company to block hate speech on its site, and multiple employees walked out last month over chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to challenge inflammatory posts Trump.

Gleicher said his team had identified and suspended more than 80 accounts on Facebook and its photo-sharing site, Instagram, as part of the Brazilian network. The accounts had amassed 1.8 million followers, he said, and some dated back to 2018.

Researchers at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, who spent a week analysing the activity identified by Facebook, said they had found five current and former political staffers who registered and operated the accounts.

Some of those accounts posed as fake Brazilians and news outlets to spread “hyper-partisan views” supporting Bolsonaro and attacking his critics, said researcher Luiza Bandeira. Their targets included opposition lawmakers, former ministers and members of Brazil’s Supreme Court.

More recently, the accounts also amplified Bolsonaro’s claims that the risks of the coronavirus pandemic are exaggerated. The disease has killed more than 66,000 people in Brazil and Bolsonaro himself tested positive this week.

“We have known for a long time that when people disagree with Bolsonaro they are targeted by this machine that uses online disinformation to mock and discredit them,” said Bandeira.

“So knowing now that part of these attacks are coming from people directly related to the Bolsonaro family, that explains a lot.”

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Brazil's Bolsonaro catches coronavirus, shrugs off health risks

SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he tested positive for the novel coronavirus after months minimizing the severity of the pandemic and defying medical experts, even as the virus killed more than 65,000 people in his country.

The right-wing populist gave the news to reporters at his official residence standing just inches away from him, adding to criticism of his cavalier approach to the outbreak in Brazil, the world’s worst outside the United States.

Even as he announced his infection, the 65-year-old former army captain dismissed the dangers of the virus and credited unproven treatments for his mild symptoms, echoing his political role model U.S. President Donald Trump.

“If it weren’t for the test, I wouldn’t know the result. And it turned out positive,” he told the television cameras, adding he had started to feel sick on Sunday and grown worse on Monday, with a fever, muscle pains and exhaustion.

The president said he was taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with unproven effectiveness against COVID-19 that has been touted by Trump and some of his supporters and pro-government factions in Brazil as a potential cure.

Finishing the interview with three TV channels, Bolsonaro stepped back and removed his mask to reveal a smile, adding: “You can see from my face that I’m well and I’m calm.”

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Bolsonaro, like Trump, has blasted experts at the World Health Organization and voiced skepticism about the virulence of the virus, although the U.S. president has moderated his tone.

The Brazilian leader repeated his claim on Tuesday that the risks of COVID-19 were exaggerated and most Brazilians did not need to worry: “Be assured that for you the chance of something more serious is close to zero.”

With more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil, Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis has drawn criticism from public health experts as he fought state and city efforts to impose social distancing, arguing that the economic damage would be worse than the disease itself.

He has fired two health ministers during the pandemic, both trained doctors, and replaced them with an active-duty army general on an interim basis.

Asked about Bolsonaro’s health, a White House spokeswoman said “we wish him well and a speedy recovery.”

Brazilian financial markets retreated after the news on Tuesday, with Brazil’s currency swinging into negative territory and its main stock index falling as much as 1.7%. BRBY .BVSP


Bolsonaro joins a short list of government leaders infected with the coronavirus, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, both of whom were treated in hospitals and needed extra oxygen.

His positive test looks set to spark a frantic period of contact tracing and tests for those who met Bolsonaro in recent days, including Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, lender Banco Bradesco (BBDC4.SA) Chairman Luiz Carlos Trabuco and planemaker Embraer (EMBR3.SA) CEO Francisco Gomes Neto.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro was also in close contact with U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman during July 4 celebrations, and pictures showed neither wearing a mask. The U.S. embassy said Chapman had tested negative, but would remain in quarantine.

After his diagnosis, Bolsonaro said he would keep working via videoconference and “rarely receive one person or another to sign a document.”

Pan American Health Organization director for communicable diseases Marcos Espinal wished Bolsonaro a “speedy recovery” but said his infection carried a message.

“The message is that this virus is unpredictable and does not respect race, class or people in power, despite security around any president,” Espinal said. “For Brazil, the infection of its president should reinforce the need to strengthen implementations of social distancing recommendations and the use of masks to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.”

Bolsonaro has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June.

In March, he suggested in a televised national address that he was not concerned by the idea of contracting the coronavirus.

“With my history as an athlete, if I were infected by the virus, I would not have to worry. I would feel nothing or, at most, it would be a little flu or a little cold,” he said.

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Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus

SAO PAULO (BLOOMBERG) – Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for Covid-19, in an escalation of the health crisis that has engulfed Latin America’s largest economy.

“I’m perfectly well,” Mr Bolsonaro told CNN Brasil in a live television interview on Tuesday (July 7), after announcing the result of his test. 

He added he is taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria medicine he’s been touting as being effective against the virus though its use hasn’t been authorised by most health experts globally and could carry dangerous side effects. 

The 65-year-old President, who during his campaign to reopen the economy called the virus “just a little flu”, has repeatedly disobeyed medical recommendations to avoid contamination, mingling in crowds without a face mask and giving people handshakes. 

Late on Monday, however, a video posted on YouTube showed a masked Mr Bolsonaro trying not to get too close to supporters who awaited him in front of the presidential palace. 

He told them he was following social distancing orders from a doctor after showing symptoms of the virus, and added that an exam had shown that his lungs were “clean”. 

Brazil has become a global hot spot for the virus, trailing only the US with more than 65,000 confirmed deaths and over 1.62 million total cases. 

It has implemented an erratic response to the pandemic, with the president often clashing with state governors and even his health minister over quarantine measures and possible treatments. 

Brazil’s health ministry is currently headed by an interim chief after Mr Bolsonaro fired his first minister and a second resigned. 

Mr Bolsonaro could be seen coughing during a Thursday broadcast on his social networks, when he sat next to six other people, none of whom wore a mask. 

Officials who were present included Regional Development Minister Rogerio Marinho and the chief executive officer of state-owned bank Caixa Economica Federal, Mr Pedro Guimaraes. 

Since then, he has mingled with members of his administration and the general public, and had lunch with the US ambassador to Brazil on Saturday. 

It is not the first time Mr Bolsonaro has been tested for Covid-19. 

In March, after multiple members of his delegation on a US visit contracted the virus, he said he tested negative.

On June 25, he said during a Facebook live broadcast that he thought he had already contracted the virus.

Mr Bolsonaro joins other world leaders who have been infected by the virus, including Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, both of whom were hospitalised.

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Brazil's Bolsonaro awaits coronavirus test result

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cleared his public agenda for Tuesday morning as he awaited the result of a coronavirus test, with his office saying the far-right leader who has dismissed the virus as a “little flu” was in good health.

Bolsonaro took the test on Monday evening, according to a statement from the presidency, which added the result would come back Tuesday. Local media had reported that he had symptoms of the coronavirus, such as a fever.

“I came from the hospital,” Bolsonaro told supporters after stepping out of his car on Monday evening in comments broadcast by a pro-government YouTube channel. “But all is good,” he added.

Bolsonaro said he had undergone a lung scan, which had showed them to be “clean.”

The president’s public agenda for Tuesday showed an empty morning schedule, with no meetings until 3 p.m. Local media reported his diary had been cleared as he awaited the result.

The populist leader has repeatedly defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June. Bolsonaro has also railed against social distancing rules supported by the World Health Organization.

Brazil has the world’s second-largest outbreak behind the United States. More than 65,000 people have been killed by COVID-19 in Latin America’s largest country.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended several events and was in close contact with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil during July 4 celebrations. Pictures of the event showed neither wearing a mask.

The U.S. embassy in Brasilia said via Twitter that Todd Chapman, the ambassador, had lunch on July 4 with Bolsonaro, five ministers and Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo, who is a federal congressman. The ambassador had no symptoms, but would undergo testing and is “taking precautions,” the embassy said.

Bolsonaro tested negative in March for the coronavirus after several aides were diagnosed following a visit to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, estate.

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Brazilian investment bank BR Partners plans IPO, sources say

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian investment bank BR Partners is planning an initial public offering for September, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The issue in the local Brazilian market will be managed by Banco BTG Pactual SA (BPAC3.SA), the sources said, asking for anonymity to disclose private plans. Credit Suisse and Bank of America will also be in the syndicate, the two sources added.

BR Partners declined to comment.

The bank was founded 10 years ago by Ricardo Lacerda, Andrea Pinheiro and Jairo Loureiro. According to the sources, the issue will be only primary, meaning the bank is going to raise capital for expansion and shareholders do not intend to sell part of their stakes.

Financial blog Brazil Journal reported the BR Partners IPO earlier on Monday.

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Brazil's Guedes says tax reform proposal ready, needs political agreements to move forward

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s economy minister, Paulo Guedes, said on Friday that the tax reform proposed by President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is ready and now requires political agreements to move forward.

“It is absolutely ready to be dispatched, and now we have to make the political arrangements to see how we are going to move forward,” Guedes said in a webcast organized by the Brazilian Association of Infrastructure and Basic Industries (Abdib).

He reiterated the government aims to reduce corporate taxes over time and start taxing dividends, which are currently exempted.

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Brazil PMIs show economic activity shrank in June for fourth straight month

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Economic activity in Brazil contracted significantly in June for a fourth month, a survey of purchasing managers’ activity showed on Friday, as the COVID-19 crisis ensured Latin America’s largest economy ended the second quarter on a weak footing.

There was, however, a sharp divergence between manufacturing, which expanded slightly, and the dominant services sector, which remained under severe pressure and shed jobs at the fastest pace on record.

IHS Markit’s Brazil services purchasing managers index (PMI) rose to 35.9 in June from 27.6 in May, and the composite PMI encompassing manufacturing rose to 40.5 from 28.1.

Although both headline indexes rose on the month, they still signaled steep declines in activity: a reading above 50.0 marks expansion, while a reading below signifies contraction. Both marked the fourth month in a row of shrinking activity.

Paul Smith, economics director at data provider IHS Markit, said the April-June PMIs are consistent with Brazil’s gross domestic product falling by around 7-8% in the second quarter, maybe more. GDP shrank 1.5% in the January-March period.

“Despite easing somewhat since May, the downturn in Brazil’s services economy remains severe and of an unprecedented nature,” Smith said. “Indeed, the latest data on activity and new business was again quite simply awful,” he added.

Brazil’s economy is expected to shrink by a record 6.3% this year, according to a Reuters poll of economists. The International Monetary Fund is forecasting a crash of 9.1%.

The services employment index reading of 34.9 in June was the lowest since the index was constructed in 2007, IHS Markit said. The new business, outstanding business and new export business indexes all remained well blow 50.0.

On the upside, the services business expectations index jumped to 57.0, although Smith cautioned that even that is consistent with “historically muted” sentiment.

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Bolsonaro signs decree extending emergency aid to Brazilians

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday signed a presidential decree to extend an emergency monthly stipend of 600 reais ($110) to informal workers for two more months to help cushion the blow of the COVID-19 crisis.

During the ceremony in Brasilia, Bolsonaro said he hopes the economy will be rebounding by the end of the emergency payments, which were originally set to expire this month.

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Thousands protest in Brazil amid coronavirus crisis

Rival rallies held in Brazil’s largest cities as President Bolsonaro faces criticism over handling of the pandemic.

Thousands of people defied a coronavirus lockdown in Brazil to demonstrate against President Jair Bolsonaro as a public backlash grows over the government’s handling of the pandemic.

The demonstrations in multiple cities on Sunday saw people banging drums and setting off flares as they marched to denounce the far-right president for the first time in the capital, Brasilia, since the pandemic reached Brazil.


  • Brazil stops publishing coronavirus numbers

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The virus is rapidly spreading in the Latin American nation that now has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases – 691,758 – and third-highest COVID-19 death toll at 36,455, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

On Saturday, the government stopped publishing a running total of coronavirus deaths and infections in an extraordinary move that critics called an attempt to hide the true toll of the disease in Latin America’s largest nation.

“I came out despite the quarantine because I have to fight for all of us,” Fernanda, a protester, told Al Jazeera. “Bolsonaro is a threat to democracy and our lives.”

Many also used the occasion to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement against racism and police killings inspired by demonstrations worldwide following the death of George Floyd in the United States. 

In downtown Rio de Janeiro, hundreds marched to denounce the killing of Black people in Rio’s favelas.

Carrying banners reading “Black Lives Matter” and the names of young Black people allegedly killed by police, the protesters gathered near the monument of Zumbi dos Palmares – one of the leaders of the resistance against slavery in the country – and marched near Candelaria Church.

“Bolsonaro doesn’t care about Black lives,” Bianca de Azus said. “Fifty-four percent of Brazilians are black and we are the ones being hardest hit by COVID-19 and poverty. That’s why he does nothing.”

Rival rallies

At the same time, smaller protests also took place in support of Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly tried to downplay the threat of the novel coronavirus.

His supporters regularly demonstrate at the weekend in the heart of Brasilia’s government district and have demanded an end to lockdown measures, railing against the Supreme Court and Congress. 

Police provided a cordon to keep the rival demonstrations apart in Brasilia on Sunday. 

Bolsonaro has regularly attacked state authorities over regional lockdown measures, and last weekend came under fire for ceasing to report Brazil’s total number of cases and deaths.

Experts have warned that Bolsonaro’s actions, an unequal health system, and easing of lockdowns will lead to more dire consequences.

Dr Esper Kallas, professor of infectious disease at the University of Sao Paulo Medical School, said Brazil’s response to the pandemic has been disjointed.

“We are very concerned about the numbers in Brazil,” he told Al Jazeera. “The Brazilian government is letting the states deal with the epidemic in their own way and, therefore, you see a difference in the way each state puts together a plan for this epidemic.”

Counting the Cost

Bolsonaro’s coronavirus response: A threat to Brazil’s economy

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