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Religion is shaping Brazil’s presidential election – but its evangelicals aren’t the same as America’s

Trump and Bolsonaro use religion in similar ways, but there are key differences between the two countries’ evangelical communities – and politics.

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Pastor Silas Malafaia, second from left, prays alongside President Jair Bolsonaro, far left, at the Assembly of God Victory in Christ Church in Rio de Janeiro. AP Photo/Bruna Prado

With one week to go before Brazil’s presidential election, the two front-runners are battling for the religious vote.

Last month, first lady Michelle Bolsonaro told an evangelical church service that the presidential palace had been “consecrated to demons” under previous presidential administrations – a gibe against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, commonly known as Lula, and his center-left Workers’ Party.

Lula is running again in this year’s election, whose first round is Oct. 2, 2022, and has joined the fray. In his official campaign kickoff in August 2022, for instance, he alleged that the right-wing current president, Jair Bolsonaro, is “possessed by the devil.”

Lula has been heavily favored to win the election and retake the office he held from 2003 to 2010. In polls, he currently runs about 15 percentage points ahead of Bolsonaro.

Religious voters are an important part of the story. Bolsonaro – whom international media dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics” for his persona as a conservative firebrand, his anti-democratic streak, and his ability to attract a Christian base – garnered 70% of evangelical support in the 2018 election. Scholars, including me, argue that without the evangelical vote, he would have narrowly lost.

However, as a political scientist who has written a book about religious politics in Brazil, I see these comparisons between the U.S. and Brazil as also glossing over key differences. Yes, Bolsonaro and Trump are very similar in how they use religion. Yet the ways evangelical communities work and how religion shapes politics is different in each country – and my own research suggests that conservative Christians will not be as consistent a base for Bolsonaro as they are for Trump and the Republican Party.

Who’s who

One key difference is the language used: who “evangelicals” are in the first place.

In Latin America, traditionally a Catholic stronghold, the Spanish and Portuguese term “evangelico” is applied to nearly all non-Catholic Christians, including Protestant denominations that are usually classified as “mainline” or even “progressive” in the U.S. Estimates indicate that around a third of Brazilians identify as evangelical today, up from just a few percentage points in 1970. In the same period, the percentage of Catholics has fallen from over 90% to right about half.

By contrast, in the U.S. the term “evangelical” is reserved for theologically conservative Protestant groups, as well as Christians who have had a “born-again” experience of religious awakening. Americans also increasingly apply the term “evangelical” in a political sense, to refer to predominantly white political conservatives who are affiliated with Protestant churches.

Several women in red T-shirts with pictures of Jesus dance and sing at a rally.
Evangelicals pray and dance during a campaign rally for former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro on Sept. 9, 2022. AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

As a result, the group of people termed “evangelicals” is much more diverse in Latin America than in the United States – and it’s politically quite diverse, too. All this said, many evangelicals in Brazil do have some tendency to adopt theologically conservative beliefs, such as interpreting the Bible literally.

Dozens of parties

A second major difference is the lack of strong partisan affiliation on Brazil’s religious right. Since the 1970s, many Americans are used to associating evangelicalism with the Republican Party. The founding of groups such as Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority helped spur evangelicals to become a strong base for political conservatism.

However, there is no political party in Brazil that can claim such a strong link to evangelicals as a whole. Brazilian politics is famously fragmented, especially on the right, and there are dozens of parties in Congress at any given time. Many parties – mostly conservative ones – court evangelicals, but none have shored up strong loyalty across the wide spectrum of evangelical denominations and churches.

Jair Bolsonaro personifies this weak partisanship. Bolsonaro ran for the presidency in 2018 under the Social Liberal Party, but then left the party to attempt to form his own party in 2019 after taking office. Those efforts ultimately failed, and he joined the Liberal Party in late 2021.

Evangelicals may support Jair Bolsonaro, but polls have shown they have little loyalty to whatever party he is affiliated with at the moment. As a result, the president cannot count on his voters to also elect his political allies. Ultimately, this very weak partisanship in the electorate weakens presidents, since they have to negotiate with a highly fragmented Congress.

Key issues

A third difference between evangelicals in Brazil and the U.S. relates to their views on political issues. Like their counterparts in the U.S., religious conservatives in Brazil feel very strongly about issues related to sex and gender. In a striking parallel to recent controversies in U.S. public schools, Brazilian evangelicals mobilized politically over the past decade to oppose efforts to teach children and teenagers tolerance on LGBTQ issues.

However, Brazilian evangelicals are much less conservative than their American counterparts on many other issues. This is particularly the case for topics on which U.S. evangelicals often follow cues from the Republican Party. For instance, my research shows that Brazilian evangelicals from a wide range of denominations are highly supportive of environmental action such as preventing deforestation.

Many Brazilian evangelicals have historically tended to come from poor areas and communities of color, leading them to support issues such as welfare policy and affirmative action. About 1 in 3 Brazilian evangelicals identifies as white, versus 2 in 3 in the U.S.

As a result, they are likely to be attracted to President Bolsonaro for his conservative stances on gender and sexuality. However, they may penalize him for his very weak record of environmental protection as well as what is generally recognized as poor performance on the economy and COVID-19.

A man in a pink shirt and straw hat walks by three large campaign posters on a wall.
Electoral merchandise with images of former President Lula are displayed on a street in Brasilia, Brazil, Sept. 20, 2022. AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Tea leaves

What does this mean for the upcoming presidential election? Bolsonaro is again attracting evangelicals, though not yet as strongly as in 2018. New evidence indicates that only about a quarter of evangelical churches are getting involved in the campaign so far this year – a substantially lower share than what my co-authors and I documented in 2018.

However, particular churches are still taking a strong stance. Brazil’s most politically engaged Pentecostal church, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, is urging its followers to begin a monthlong “fast” from secular news sources. This will presumably increase the political influence of church leaders, including the church’s head, Bishop Edir Macedo, who is an ardent Bolsonaro supporter.

Like their U.S. counterparts, Brazilian evangelicals tend to be highly religious and believe that religion should influence politics. What that means in 2022, however, is harder to divine than ever. After Bolsonaro’s four years in office, evangelicals may well judge him by his track record, not just by his promises – which could be both a blessing and a curse for him.

Amy Erica Smith currently receives funding from an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, as well as a Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean's Professorship at Iowa State University. Research reported in this article was previously funded by a Fulbright Fellowship, a Luce/ACLS Fellowship in Religion, Journalism, and International Affairs, a Wilson Center Fellowship, and a Seed Grant from the Global Religion Research Initiative. She sits on the Research Council of Instituto Civis, as well as the editorial boards of a number of journals, including the Journal of Democracy. She also sits on the Ames Community School Board in Ames, Iowa, USA.

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide…

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter riots in the summer of 2020, some elite colleges and universities shredded testing requirements for admission. Several years later, the test-optional admission has yet to produce the promising results for racial and class-based equity that many woke academic institutions wished.

The failure of test-optional admission policies has forced Dartmouth College to reinstate standardized test scores for admission starting next year. This should never have been eliminated, as merit will always prevail. 

"Nearly four years later, having studied the role of testing in our admissions process as well as its value as a predictor of student success at Dartmouth, we are removing the extended pause and reactivating the standardized testing requirement for undergraduate admission, effective with the Class of 2029," Dartmouth wrote in a press release Monday morning. 

"For Dartmouth, the evidence supporting our reactivation of a required testing policy is clear. Our bottom line is simple: we believe a standardized testing requirement will improve—not detract from—our ability to bring the most promising and diverse students to our campus," the elite college said. 

Who would've thought eliminating standardized tests for admission because a fringe minority said they were instruments of racism and a biased system was ever a good idea? 

Also, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. More from Dartmouth, who commissioned the research: 

They also found that test scores represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.

All the colleges and universities that quickly adopted test-optional admissions in 2020 experienced a surge in applications. Perhaps the push for test-optional was under the guise of woke equality but was nothing more than protecting the bottom line for these institutions. 

A glimpse of sanity returns to woke schools: Admit qualified kids. Next up is corporate America and all tiers of the US government. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 17:20

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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