Philip Reeves

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It's Carnival time in Brazil, and NPR's Philip Reeves says there's more to it than the annual parades and costumes. Phil says if you want to really understand what it's about, you have to hit the streets.

Members of the small but growing shoal of mermaids and mermen in Brazil are getting a little worried and irate.

Until now, they've been able to slip happily into their brightly colored tails and glide away through the water without much attention from the outside world, beyond the odd chuckle or ripple of applause.

When the city of Brasilia was inaugurated nearly six decades ago, it was celebrated as a dazzling example of modernist architecture and as evidence of a young South American nation on the rise.

But Brazil's utopian capital has since acquired another feature on its landscape that's come to be viewed as a national disgrace and an embarrassing eyesore.

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Nine people are dead and 14 injured after a riot at a prison in Brazil. They were all inmates in one of the most troubled penal systems in the world. NPR's Philip Reeves says there are concerns that the latest killings could lead to more.

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Several countries are helping with the search for a missing Argentine submarine. But concerns about the fate of the crew are growing. Officials worry the vessel's oxygen supply is running short. NPR's Philip Reeves has more.

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has unveiled an unusual strategy to help ease the chronic food shortage faced by many of his nation's 30 million people — something he calls Plan Conejo, or "Plan Rabbit."

Maduro and his ministers are embarking on a somewhat surprising — and to many, alarming — campaign to convince Venezuelans to eat rabbits. They say rabbits will make an excellent source of protein for the large number of people who don't have regular access to red meat or chicken as the result of the country's economic collapse.

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Fernando Rojas is holding up a photograph of a pocket of countryside, between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains, that has been his home, his livelihood, and his passion for all of his 74 years.

His picture shows a lake, brimming with water, in front of a range of hills that are silhouetted by the sun. In the foreground, by the water's edge, there's a small boat, ready to set sail. Next to that, there's a wooden jetty, jutting out into the waves.

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In Brazil, a corruption scandal has many people pushing for president Michel Temer to leave office. And NPR's Philip Reeves discovered that this political fight reached a picturesque place in Rio de Janeiro.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

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Up first, this day marks the anniversary of the start of Venezuela's struggle for independence in 1810. We normally wouldn't mention that here this morning but many Venezuelans plan to spend this day protesting their government.

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Brazil has long been awash with corruption scandals, but the latest to erupt is about an issue that is particularly close to the nation's heart and stomach — and its wallet.

Few people are more prolific meat-eaters than the Brazilians, and few are more passionate about the merits of the barbecue, or churrasco.

They grill with gusto at almost any opportunity — on the beach, the sidewalk, at soccer games and even at protest rallies, where the whiff of sizzling sausage competes with the eye-watering stink of tear gas.

Carlos Roberto Gomes spends his days leaning on a stone wall with a big, brightly colored sign around his neck.

His sign advertises the services that he offers to passersby on the downtown street where he earns his living.

It says that Gomes buys gold. He can fix you up with a tattoo or some body piercing.

Read the sign closely, and you'll also see that he might be willing to lop off your hair and purchase it from you.

Top-quality human hair from Brazil fetches a good price in Europe's salons, where it's sold as extensions and wigs, explains Gomes.

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Now let's go to a small state in southeast Brazil, a state where NPR's Philip Reeves reports troops and armored vehicles are on the streets.

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