TIME ebola

Ebola’s Decline in Liberia Prompts Fears of Complacency

A host of new evidence suggests the number of Ebola cases in Liberia has declined, but health care workers in the country treating the disease warn that it remains a grave threat, particularly in rural areas where a lack of awareness remains problematic.

“If we should be able to end this nightmare in our country, we must remain fully engaged and even more engaged in what we are doing individually and collectively to defeat this virus,” Fayiah Tamba, head of the Liberia National Red Cross Society, said in a presentation this week.

News that the Ebola outbreak might be weakening in Liberia began percolating in local media reports last week and has been reinforced by statements from international health officials. Health workers on the ground confirmed the downward trend to TIME. A local Red Cross branch recovered 175 bodies of deceased Ebola patients last week, down from more than 300 in mid-October. Burial numbers hit the lowest point since August. Many of the country’s Ebola-dedicated hospital beds remain empty, an International Medical Corps doctor said.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story, health care workers said. While the number of Ebola cases in the country’s capital of Monrovia has declined, it’s difficult to assess the situation in rural regions. In some areas, large majorities of the population are “stuck with their beliefs” and still don’t understand the basics of the virus, according to Emmett Wilson, a program manager at FACE Africa in Liberia. Those regions remain at high risk without continued efforts to spread awareness, he said.

Pranav Shetty, an International Medical Corps doctor in Liberia, described the decline in cases as “one frame in an entire movie,” and said the nature of the disease means that improvements may only be temporary.

“Every single case has the potential has the potential to restart the epidemic,” he said.

A focus on rural areas is essential to preventing such a reoccurrence, and many health care workers said the lull in cases has allowed them to refocus their efforts outside the city. Shetty said free hospital beds have allowed health workers to reach residents of far-out regions.

“We have to concentrate our efforts and energy to the communities especially in rural communities more so that we don’t have a reoccurrence,” Tamba said.

In urban areas with higher levels of awareness, health care workers said it’s important that residents don’t grow complacent. A few weeks ago everyone was sanitizing their hands and following hygiene instructions carefully, Wilson said, but now, they’re “slacking.”

“We are involved in a fight,” he said. “When people start to get the impression that there’s a reduction in the number of cases, it sends a mixed signal.”

The concerns of health care workers on the ground have not escaped the attention of officials at international health groups. On Wednesday, World Health Organization assistant director general Bruce Aylward was careful to warn that much work remains to eradicate Ebola in Liberia, even as he made a bold statement that aid efforts were “getting an upper hand on the virus.”

“A slight decline in cases in a few days versus getting this thing closed out is a completely different ball game,” he said on a conference call. “It’s like saying your pet tiger is under control.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Milk Might Not Save Your Bones, Study Says

Glass of milk
Getty Images

Sugars in milk may lead to aging

The bone-strengthening powers of milk have been claimed over and over again in advertisements, pop culture and around the dinner table. But a new study published in the BMJ suggests that the truism may not be true. High milk intake, the study found, doesn’t appear to protect against bone fracture and in fact may lead to increased mortality.

Researchers looked at questionnaires from more than 100,000 people in Sweden on their dairy consumption habits. The study, which followed up with many of the participants after 11 to 20 years, found that high milk intake was associated with higher mortality in both men and women, as well as higher bone fracture in women.

“Our results may question the validity of recommendations to consume high amounts of milk to prevent fragility fractures,” the study says. However, the authors stress that the study is merely observational and not meant to draw causal conclusions.

One possible explanation the authors give for the results is that high levels of the sugars lactose and galactose in milk may cause bones to undergo changes—like inflammation—that resemble aging, leading to the fractures. In animals, supplementing with galactose has been shown to increase aging processes like inflammation and oxidative stress. Data from the study showing a correlation between reduced fractures and low-lactose milk consumption further supports this claim.

More research is needed, of course. “As milk features in many dietary guidelines and both hip fractures and cardiovascular disease are relatively common among older people, improving the evidence base for dietary recommendations could have substantial benefits for everyone,” wrote Mary Schooling, PhD, a professor at the City University of New York, in an accompanying BMJ editorial.

TIME Companies

Purina Will Let You Build a Personalized Diet for Your Dog

Purina dog food is on display at an Associated Supermarket i
Purina dog food is on display at an Associated Supermarket in New York on Aug. 16, 2005 Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Nestle will let owners design a "personalised blend optimized to [their] dog’s individual nutritional needs"

Nestlé Purina launched a personalized dog food product that will allow pet owners to order food “tailored to their pet’s unique needs and preferences,” the company announced Tuesday.

“By inviting dog owners to tell us the things only they can know about their dogs, we are able to provide a personalized blend optimized to that dog’s individual nutritional needs,” said Brian Lester, director of marketing for Just Right by Purina.

Product users log on to Nestle’s website to enter information such as breed, size and physicality as well as the dog’s eating preferences. The site then churns out a food recommendation and ships it to the owner.

Are you more of a cat person? Nestle is exploring options to offer a similar product for cats.


TIME technology

Apple Pay Registers 1 Million Credit Cards in 3 Days

MasterCard Launches NYC Tech Hub, Showcases Payment Innovations
MasterCard demonstrates Apple Pay at the launch of MasterCard's NYC Tech Hub on Monday, Oct. 20, 2014 in New York. Charles Sykes—Invision

The service now works at more than 200,000 stores

Owners of the iPhone 6 registered more than 1 million credit cards on Apple Pay in the first three days the tech giant offered the service, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Monday.

Cook’s claims of the mobile payment system’s rapid pickup came after it emerged large retailers including Rite Aid and CVS pharmacies would not allow the payment system in their stores. Those companies offer their own mobile payment system. Cook described that decision as a “skirmish” and said he remained confident in Apple Pay.

“You are only relevant as a retailer or merchant if your customers love you,” he said, during an interview at a Wall Street Journal conference. “It’s the first and only mobile payment system that’s easy, private and secure.”

Apple Pay, which launched Oct. 20, works with the six largest credit card companies and can be used at more than 200,000 storefronts in the United States.

TIME technology

YouTube Considers Ad-Free Paid Subscriptions

The details have yet to be determined

YouTube executives are considering offering a paid subscription service that will allow users to view videos without advertisements, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

“That’s actually a pretty interesting model because it’s giving users choice,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told a crowd at tech conference. “We’re thinking about how to give users options.”

YouTube, which is owned by Google, has been exploring ways to move beyond its traditional ad-based revenue stream to increase its profits in recent years, but has yet to release ad-free subscriptions. Video sites like Hulu Plus have seen increased revenue by offering subscriptions for online video streaming, while music sites such as Spotify and Pandora have also introduced premium ad-free packages.

YouTube has reached out to some content producers about potential subscription offerings,according to the Journal, but the details have not been determined.


TIME North Korea

Kim Jong Un’s Mystery Disappearance May Be Solved

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attends a military drill between KPA Large Combined Unit 526 and KPA Combined Unit 478
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a military drill at an undisclosed location in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyangon Oct. 24, 2014 KCNA/Reuters

The North Korean leader was reported to have surgery

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un apparently underwent ankle surgery in either September or October, according to a report Tuesday, which may finally explain his recent six-week disappearance.

Kim wasn’t seen in public between Sept. 3 and Oct. 14, the Associated Press reports, an unusually long absence that led many outside the reclusive country to speculate whether he was sick or had even been thrown from power. When Kim finally returned to public view, he appeared to have lost weight and was using a cane.

South Korea’s intelligence agency reportedly learned of the leader’s surgery — a foreign doctor was said to have removed a cyst from Kim’s right ankle and warned it could return due to his weight, busy schedule and smoking habit — and told lawmakers in a closed-door meeting.


Read next: A Former Doctor to North Korea’s Founder Thinks He Passed on Health Problems to Kim Jong Un

TIME National Security

Postal Service Approved 50,000 Requests to Track U.S. Mail, Report Says

US Postal Service Mail Delivery Ahead Of Second-Quarter Results
U.S. Postal Service delivery trucks sit at the Brookland Post Office in Washington, D.C. on May 9, 2013. Bloomberg—Getty Images

An internal audit raised concerns over mail-tracking oversight

The United States Postal Service (USPS) approved some 50,000 requests from law enforcement officials and its own inspectors in 2013 to track Americans’ mail for security and criminal purposes, a New York Times report revealed Monday.

An internal 2014 USPS audit cited by the Times suggested that the protocol for approving the tracking of U.S. mail suffered from a number of flaws, as some requests to track mail were approved without adequate oversight while others didn’t receive immediate attention.

“Insufficient controls could hinder the Postal Inspection Service’s ability to conduct effective investigations, lead to public concerns over privacy of mail and harm the Postal Service’s brand,” the report found.

Read the full story in the New York Times

TIME global health

Watch TIME’s Jeffrey Kluger Discuss How to Eradicate Polio

People in three countries still suffer from the disease

Since the development of the first polio vaccine in the 1950s, the number of cases of the devastating disease has been reduced by 99 percent. But despite that extraordinary progress, people in three countries still suffer from polio. Now, Rotary International, along with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF have brought the world tantalizingly close to eradicating the virus for good.

In recognition of World Polio Day, watch as TIME editor-at-large Jeffrey Kluger moderates Rotary’s live-streamed event in Chicago, on Friday at 7:30 PM, EDT.

TIME Bizarre

Shia LaBeouf Doesn’t Mind Being Called a Cannibal

He's 'lurking in the shadows,' according to a new song

Some might be taken aback if accused of being a cannibal, but not a one Shia LaBeouf.

In a new video by singer-songwriter Rob Cantor, dancers and singers fly across the screen in a dramatically recounted battle between an unnamed character and Shia LaBeouf. The 28-year-old is “lurking in the shadows,” “killing for sport” and “eating all the bodies,” the song goes. But if that weren’t weird enough, the music video ends with LaBeouf giving the performance a standing ovation.

It’s all very strange, but then again so is Shia LaBeouf.

TIME ebola

Christie and Cuomo Announce Mandatory Ebola Quarantine

State health department staff will be on the ground at state airports

Healthcare workers returning to New York or New Jersey after treating Ebola patients in West Africa will be placed under a mandatory quarantine, officials announced Friday, one day after a Doctors Without Borders doctor was diagnosed with the virus in New York City. Illinois announced a similar policy Saturday, meaning it will be enforced in states with three of the five airports through which passengers traveling from the Ebola-stricken West African countries must enter the United States.

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement as part of a broader procedural plan to help protect the densely packed, highly populated area from any further spread of the disease.

“Since taking office, I have erred on the side of caution when it comes to the safety and protection of New Yorkers, and the current situation regarding Ebola will be no different,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The steps New York and New Jersey are taking today will strengthen our safeguards to protect our residents against this disease and help ensure those that may be infected by Ebola are treated with the highest precautions.”

New York and New Jersey state health department staff will be present on the ground at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey. In addition to implementing the mandatory quarantine of health care workers and others who had direct contact with Ebola patients, health department officials in each state will determine whether others should travelers should be hospitalized or quarantined.

The announcements mark a dramatic escalation in measures designed to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States. Previously, only individuals with symptoms of Ebola would be quarantined upon entry to the U.S. under a federal rule from the Centers for Diseases Control and the Department of Homeland Security.

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