Ben Tavener

Brown spiders bite more than 7,000 people in Brazil every year, causing serious skin lesions and even death.

Luckily, a life-saving anti-venom is available, but it comes with its own risks – mostly to the animals involved in the production process.

For the BBC’s Health Check programme, I report from three Brazilian cities – Curitiba, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte – on a new, synthetic venom that could lead to a more humane solution.

Read the full BBC News article.

UPDATE: A ruling by Brazil’s National Judiciary Council (CNJ) now means all notaries public (cartórios) throughout Brazil must “celebrate same-sex civil marriage”; those refusing to grant the marriage licences can be reported to the relevant state judiciary, who can take action against these individuals.

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The State of Rio High Court, the Justiça, last week approved so-called “direct authorisation” of same-sex civil marriages, making Rio one of eleven states which have approved gay marriage in Brazil, including São Paulo and the Federal District.

Cláudio Nascimento (left), coordinator of Rio Sem Homofobia (Rio Without Homophobia), seen here at his own civil marriage, said Rio should celebrate the decision. Photo courtesy Governo do RJ.

Cláudio Nascimento (left), coordinator of Rio Sem Homofobia, seen here at his own civil marriage in 2011, said Rio should celebrate the decision. Photo courtesy Governo do RJ.

However, there is uncertainty over whether judges in certain areas of Rio state, particularly in the capital itself, will give permission to such marriages.

Judge Valmir de Oliveira Silva, Magistrate General of Rio State High Court, who presided over the change, told Agência Brasil news agency that the revision was now in force, and that same-sex couples would no longer need to first have a stable union (união estável) to convert to a civil marriage, which is already possible.

While notaries public (cartórios) across the state should now allow same-sex couples to apply for civil marriages, the state will likely see divisions over which judges authorise them: in Rio city itself, judges have argued against such authorisations.

However judges in other districts, such as São Gonçalo, Petrópolis and Teresópolis, are said to be in favour, and notaries public would probably no longer have to submit each request to the judge, in line with general practice with heterosexual marriages. If no challenge to the marriage is made within fifteen days of publication, the couple is considered married.

Previous calls from Brazil’s Supreme Court for judges to allow stable unions to be converted into civil marriages have been disputed by Rio judges, citing the Constitution’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman; those in favour, however, point to clauses in the Constitution on equality before the law.

Cláudio Nascimento, coordinator of the state’s Rio Sem Homofobia (Rio Without Homophobia) program, described the approval as “a step forward that we should celebrate.” But others slammed the fact that marriage licences would depend on the local judge’s take on the law, meaning clients in one area of Rio would be successful, whereas others would be refused – simply based on address.

However, others have condemned the move – either from an anti-gay marriage point of view, or from more militant gay activists, such as deputy Jean Wyllys, who attacked the decision as one of “absurd inequality,” which had “missed a historic opportunity” to grant true equality to those members of the LGBT community who want to enter into a civil marriage.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.

Natal in Rio Grande do Norte state in north-east Brazil is the City of Sun.

Surrounded by dunes, it makes an excellent location for sand buggying “com emoção” (which should translate as “fast and furious”) around the sandy hills, where you can zipwire into a cool lagoon or just relax and drink some coconut water.

In this video we travel from Genipabu (Jenipabu) to Jacumã via nine beaches and four lagoons.

A full blog on the trip is coming soon.

Music – various forró songs from the region.