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For hedge fund investors,

Brazil is the country of now

Ten years ago, Goldman Sachs proclaimed that Brazil was among the new economic powerhouses. Now it is the next frontier for hedge funds.

Looking to capitalize on the fast-growing region, global hedge fund managers have started to descend on Brazil. The industry’s biggest players are wooing top talent, opening new offices and buying local firms — all part of a broader effort to expand their investment reach.

“Latin America suffered because it was always believed that ‘Brazil is the man of the future and always will be,’” said Marko Dimitrijevic, founder of Everest Capital, a Florida-based emerging market hedge fund that oversees $2 billion. “But it looks like the future is now.”

Late last year, JPMorgan Chase’s Highbridge Capital purchased a majority stake in Gavea Investimentos, a top Brazilian hedge fund. Brevan Howard, one of Europe’s largest hedge funds, recently set up shop in Sao Paulo. This week, the first Hedge Fund Brazil Forum, an industry conference held at the Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, drew hundreds of attendees, including representatives from premier shops like Paulson & Co. and SAC Capital Advisors.

—Azam Ahmed, The New York Times

In Florida, the unemployed may face deep cuts in benefits

PALM COAST, Fla. — In the one year he has been collecting unemployment checks in Flagler County, where joblessness remains stubbornly high, Richard Dudenhoeffer, 61, a cabinet maker, has not even gotten his foot in the door, despite his almost daily efforts to find a job, any job. No interviews. No phone calls. No emails. No flicker of hope.

Without charity and his $247 weekly check, he would lose it all, he said, starting with his mobile home and his car, a lifeline in a county with no public transportation.

“I sold my 9-millimeter gun,” Dudenhoeffer said, offhandedly, after rattling off possessions he had sold. “It was too tempting to blow my brains out.” He added, “I am just so depressed.”

For the jobless like Dudenhoeffer, the outlook does not look immediately brighter.

The Florida House of Representatives approved a bill in March that would establish the deepest and most far-reaching cuts in unemployment benefits in the nation. Like the law signed in Michigan on Monday, the measure would reduce the number of weeks the unemployed could collect benefits from the standard 26 weeks to 20.

—Lizette Alvarez, The New York Times

US traffic deaths at lowest

level in more than 60 years

It may not seem that way when some knucklehead speeds past you on the right, but driving is getting much, much safer: Last year the United States recorded the fewest traffic deaths in more than 60 years, according to federal data released Friday.

An estimated 32,788 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That represents a 25 percent decline since 2005, when there were 43,510 traffic fatalities, and the fewest deaths since 1949 — when On The Town won the Academy Award for best score for a musical, a new magazine called Motor Trend named the Cadillac as its first car of the year, and there were far fewer drivers on America’s pre-Interstate roads.

“Last year’s drop in traffic fatalities is welcome news, and it proves that we can make a difference,” the transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, said in a statement. “Still, too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies every day. We will continue doing everything possible to make cars safer, increase seat belt use, put a stop to drunk driving and distracted driving, and encourage drivers to put safety first.”

—Michael Cooper, The New York Times

Pakistani politician escapes two assassination attempts

ISLAMABAD — A prominent Islamist politician escaped an assassination attempt Thursday in northwestern Pakistan, the second in two days, as a suicide bomb ripped through his convoy, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 30, police officials said.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman is the leader of a religious political party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, but has become a target of militants because of his perceived support for the government’s pro-American policies. He was on his way to address party workers at a seminary in the restive northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province when a suicide bomber detonated himself near Rehman’s vehicle and its police escort. Rehman and his top aides were unhurt in the blast.

A day earlier, a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up at a police checkpoint in another part of the province, killing at least 10 people. Rehman was traveling to speak to party workers nearby when the bomber blew himself up after being stopped by the police.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban and militant groups linked to al-Qaida have been conducting suicide bombings against government and military targets in the region for several years.

Rehman is often described as a father of the Taliban because for more than two decades he has supported groups waging jihad in Afghanistan and has supplied thousands of recruits to the fight. He has always maintained a role in government and a close relationship with Pakistan’s military, which for years supported various militant groups fighting in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

Yet since the Pakistani civilian government and the military took up the fight against militants in 2007, Rehman has struggled to balance his relationship with the government and military and the growing extremism of the militant groups.

—Salman Masood and Carlotta Gall, The New York Times