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Homicide Explosion In South America's Largest City

Sao Paulo, a city alight
Sao Paulo, a city alight
Andre Caramante and Afonso Benites

SAO PAULO - With an average of 14 murders a day over the past 18 months, the southeastern Brazilian state of Sao Paulo has a bona fide violence problem. In the first six months of the year, the number of homicides was 8% higher across the region than the first six months of 2011.

And notably in the city of Sao Paulo, the state capital and the largest city in South America with a population of 11 million, the murder rate rose by 22%. In June alone, 434 people were murdered, the highest total of the past year.

Criminality in general is on the rise. There were 18% more rapes than last year, representing 966 more cases.

Last week, when talking about the murder of Tommaso Lotto, a young Italian man looking for work in Sao Paulo, the state Secretary of Public Security, Antonio Ferreira Pinto, talked about a "rising tide of violence." Meanwhile, the state Governor Geraldo Alckmin assured his constituents that he had no doubt that this crime wave would soon be over.

During the month of June, eight off-duty police officials were slain in what authorities believe is a concerted campaign by the PCC (First Command of the Capital), a criminal organization and prison gang well known in Sao Paulo for drug dealing and other crimes. Five police bases and 15 buses were also burned. In 2006 the PCC was allegedly behind a wave of 299 attacks against police stations, public offices and buses.

The rise in homicide rate also affects 38 towns, which are part of Sao Paulo's metropolitan area. In these towns, there were 55% more people killed in June this year than in June 2011.

Read the article in Portuguese.

Photo: alexandre_vieira

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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