TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Micropayments and digital currencies will ignite an explosion of disruptive innovation.

By Walter Isaacson in LinkedIn

2. Latin America is taking the lead with progressive food policies — and putting public health above the interests of the food industry.

By Andy Bellatti in Civil Eats

3. To preserve biodiversity and lift up communities facing hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, indigenous plants might provide a solution.

By Amy Maxmen in Newsweek

4. Teacher preparation programs seek change with a pinpoint innovation approach. It’s time for a broad scale transformation of teaching.

By Kaylan Connally in EdCentral

5. Making clean plastics from biofuel waste could free up valuable farmland for food crops.

By Matt Safford in Smithsonian

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Behind the Photos

Photographing TIME’s Person of the Year in Africa, Europe and the U.S.

Sworn to secrecy, photographers Jackie Nickerson and Bryan Schutmaat were on the assignment of a lifetime when TIME asked them to photograph the 2014 Person of the Year -- the Ebola Fighters

“To have an African doctor, who grew up in a shantytown in probably one of the most disadvantaged countries in the world, on the cover of TIME magazine’s Person of the Year is the right thing to do,” says Jackie Nickerson, the fine-art photographer who shot the cover of TIME’s Person of the Year.

This year, TIME chose to highlight the incredible work Ebola fighters are doing to bring to a stop an epidemic that has killed more than 6,000 people. TIME commissioned Nickerson and U.S. photographer Bryan Schutmaat to shoot more than 20 portraits in 12 locations around the world—from London to Geneva, Boston to Dallas, and all the way to Monrovia, Liberia.

“I was working on a job in Paris when Kira Pollack and Paul Moakley [the director and deputy director of photography at TIME] called me,” says Nickerson. “They told me they had this assignment for me and asked if I could go to Monrovia. I immediately knew this was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bear witness to this moment in history. There was no doubt in my mind that it was something I wanted to do.”

Nickerson was surprised. “I had actually never worked for TIME before,” she says. “I had no idea what the commission process was, so this call came out of the blue.”

Meanwhile, Schutmaat was in Amsterdam attending World Press Photo’s Joop Swart Masterclass when he received his phone call. “My schedule was very busy, and I thought [being in Europe wouldn’t work], but photo editor Natalie Matutschovsky, who’s been championing my work at TIME, just said: ‘That’s good, because two of the subjects we need you to shoot are in Europe already.’” The following week, he was on a flight to Geneva.

Both photographers were selected for their strong sense of aesthetics, which come from their fine-art backgrounds. “They are celebrated artists,” says Pollack. “There is a heartbeat to Nickerson’s portraits that lent itself to just the right mood for this project. She’s spent a considerable amount of time working throughout Africa. She is agile and informed on how to photograph in the harsh African light, and her portraits are honest and beautiful. Schutmaat’s studied portraits have an almost painterly quality. There is something very telling about capturing a body posture or a simple gesture.”

For weeks, TIME had been preparing for Nickerson’s assignment. “We talked to NGO workers, journalists and photographers who had been in the field before we decided to go ahead do this,” says Moakley. “We talked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we packed everything we needed—including Personal Protective Equipment suits for all of us.”

TIME’s Africa Bureau Chief Aryn Baker, who spent the summer covering the Ebola epidemic, met Nickerson and Moakley in Monrovia. “Aryn did a lot of the work ahead of time as well,” says Nickerson. “With Paul, she had selected the sitters, so we had a very good idea of who we were going to shoot, so that made things incredibly easy for me.”

Few people would know Dr. Jerry Brown’s name. The Liberian doctor, who is featured on the first of five covers shot for TIME’s Person of the Year issue, opened his country’s first Ebola treatment center in early 2014, at a time when many of his colleagues failed to react to the growing epidemic. “There was a kind of gravity to the way Dr. Brown and his staff were working,” says Nickerson. “When we met [him], we had the idea to do something very simple against a plain color, something of a more formal portrait. And then, he invited us to go into the reception area where he gets dressed. It was a very simple, bare room. It had a single light bulb, and I just thought it captured the atmosphere and gravity of what they were doing.”

The photograph is not a staged shot: It’s a portrait that was caught in the middle of Brown’s regular dressing procedure.

Over four days, Nickerson, Moakley and Baker witnessed the commitment of dozens of health workers and body-retrieval teams. “Sometimes, we would be waiting to get access to someone and we’d be chatting to other people with incredible stories,” says the photographer. “It just never stopped. Their stories really touch you—the self-sacrifices that people are making. They are doing such a brilliant job.”

In the U.S., meanwhile, Schutmaat was meeting with Dr. Kent Brantly. The 33-year-old physician with Samaritan’s Purse was the first American citizen to be diagnosed with Ebola while working in Monrovia. “Kent was doing a lot of hard, selfless work to help people out,” says Schutmaat.“I met him at his church in Fort Worth, Texas. TIME’s photo editors and I felt that since he was a man of faith and since he was guided by that faith, it would be good to photograph him in there.”

Schutmaat had no idea then that it would be featured as part of the magazine’s Person of the Year franchise. “I just thought I was doing a big story on Ebola that would end up somewhere inside the magazine,” he says. “I didn’t think it would be such a huge deal.”

Nickerson was similarly in the dark: “Kira Pollack had said it could be an important story, and I knew that Person of the Year happened around this time of the year, but I didn’t dare to hope because I think there had always been people of status on the cover, and I couldn’t believe it was going to be a non-famous, African doctor on the cover.”

It was only when TIME’s photo editors ordered the final, high-resolution images that both photographers found out the real purpose of their work. “It’s probably the biggest privilege of my professional career,” says Nickerson. “There’s no question about it. Doing this whole story was a privilege.”

“I’m honored,” adds Schutmaat. “And to know that the editors at TIME would think that my photos would stand up next to Nickerson’s is pretty awesome.” A sentiment Nickerson reciprocates. “Bryan’s a great photographer. I love his work. I’m really happy to be sharing this story with him.”

Jackie Nickerson is a fine-art photographer based in Dublin, Ireland. She is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery. TIME last featured her work, Terrain, on LightBox.

Bryan Schutmaat is a Austin-based photographer. He is represented by Sasha Wolf Gallery.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent. Paul Moakley, TIME’s deputy director of photography, and Natalie Matutschovsky, a senior photo editor at TIME, edited this photo essay.

TIME infectious diseases

Malaria Deaths Have Almost Halved Since 2000 Says WHO Report

But eliminating the disease altogether remains an uphill task

Global deaths from malaria, as well as the number of overall malaria cases, have reduced dramatically in the last thirteen years, the World Health Organization said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to the World Malaria Report 2014, the mortality rate for the disease decreased by 47% worldwide since 2000, and the number of people infected by it went from 173 million the same year to 128 million in 2013.

“We have the right tools and our defenses are working,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. “But we still need to get those tools to a lot more people if we are to make these gains sustainable.”

The report attributed the progress combating malaria to increased access to insecticide-treated mosquito nets and enhanced diagnostics and treatment, but admitted that there is still a lot of work to be done.

The increased susceptibility to the disease in Ebola-affected countries like Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is an added cause for concern.

TIME global health

Chronic Diseases Are Devastating Poor Countries, Report Says

International aid in the developing world is overwhelmingly focused on infectious diseases like AIDS and malaria, but chronic diseases are the biggest killers.

Chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease have become the leading cause of death in the developing world and are becoming deadlier every year, according to a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations.

The trend marks a sharp contrast from the developed world, where preventive measures and treatment have contributed to a decline in the number of deaths from these diseases before the age of the sixty.

While declining rates of infectious diseases in the developing world could explain part of the rise—as people live longer, they have a higher chance of contracting chronic diseases—the report says that other factors are at play, including rapidly rising pollution and tobacco use and poorer nutrition. In fact, chronic diseases are disproportionately affecting younger populations in the developing world.

The disparities in health care are also evident in the report: All of the governments in sub-Saharan Africa spend roughly as much on health as the government of Poland.

See the report here.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.” Here’s how.

By Janee Woods in Quartz

2. We can’t afford to ignore the innovative history of developing countries as we face the impact of climate change.

By Calestous Juma at CNN

3. Aeroponics – growing plants in mist without any soil – may be the future of food.

By Bloomberg Businessweek

4. The Obama White House is still struggling to separate policy from politics, and Defense Secretary Hagel is the latest victim.

By David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy

5. Fewer, better standardized tests can boost student achievement.

By Marc Tucker, Linda Darling-Hammond and John Jackson in Education Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Africa

Africa Fashion Week Showcases the Continent’s Best Talent

The growing trend of Fashion Weeks across the African continent challenges the notion that global fashion starts in the northern hemisphere

The lights dim on the catwalk as a capacity crowd quiets in anticipation. A pounding drum rhythm builds suspense as, backstage, stylists swarm the waiting models, applying last-minute dabs of foundation, glittering lip-gloss and bursts of hair spray. Next to the catwalk, professional photographers jostle for space with fashion bloggers preparing to snap candids with raised iPhones.

The scene could come from any of Europe or America’s frenzied fashion shows, but for two key differences: the models are mostly black and the designers all African. Welcome to Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg, an annual event that offers a sharp rebuttal to the idea that international fashion begins and ends in the northern hemisphere. “When it comes to fashion design, Africa is the next frontier,” says Precious Moloi-Motsepe, a women’s health doctor and wife of South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe who founded African Fashion International, which organizes the event, in 2007.

Now in its sixth year, Fashion Week Africa—which recently picked up Mercedes Benz’s sponsorship in a sign of its growing prominence (the company also sponsors fashion weeks in Australia, Russia and Mexico)—is a showcase for Africa’s top designers. Headlining designer David Tlale of South Africa makes regular appearances at New York’s fashion week, while Mozambican Taibo Bacar and South African Hendrik Vermeulen wowed audiences in Milan and Rome earlier this year.

The message from Johannesburg is clear: Africa is no longer just a source for ethnic inspiration and fashion shoots, but a fount of original talent that may just give the established global brands a fresh dose of creativity, Tlale tells TIME. “The industry needs fresh blood. Armani is tired. Galliano is trying to resuscitate himself. McQueen is gone. Gucci is failing to reinvigorate and Prada needs a new creative team. It’s time for the big fashion investors to start looking to Africa. Not appropriating our themes, but taking on our design talent.”

The first obstacle may be overcoming expectations. When Tlale, arguably Africa’s best-known designer, first showed in Paris in 2007, reviewers needled him about his line’s lack of leopard print. It still happens today. “There is so much more happening in Africa than animal prints,” he groans. “The time for showcasing the big five is over.” He is talking about the big five safari animals, but he could just as easily be referencing Africa’s big five fashion clichés: Mandela shirts, animal skins, vibrant Ghanaian fabrics, Ndebele beadwork and the red plaid and beaded collars of the Maasai.

Take the clothes on the catwalk in Johannesburg on Oct. 29 to Nov. 2: from diaphanous trench coats to daring hotpants, they have nary a whiff of the African stereotype. Tribal motifs made an appearance, but they were translated into muted knitwear that could almost pass as Nordic.

As much as international fashion design could use a jolt of African creativity, Africa, which has become dependent on imported fashion, needs the economic stimulus of domestic production. In South Africa, the clothing manufacturing sector used to be the country’s biggest employer, even more than mining, according to Anita Stanbury, of the South African Fashion Council. But in the early 2000s changes in the law allowed Chinese imports to take over, and the industry all but collapsed. South Africa’s fashion weeks, of which there are six year round, are one way to encourage interest, and investment, in local production. South African fashion retailers only buy 25% of their product locally, says Stanbury. If they bought 40%, the number of clothing manufacturing jobs in South Africa would nearly double, from 80,000 to 150,000. “That is a huge reason why we should support the domestic fashion scene,” says Stanbury. “It gives us the opportunity to pull people out of poverty, and make them consumers in the market.”

The domestic economic benefit is one of the main reasons Moloi-Motsepe started with fashion, but pride plays a part as well. She believes it’s time for African fashion to take its place in the spotlight. “We see ourselves as global fashion players,” says Moloi-Motsepe. Just as she pairs Prada with creations by local designers, she is waiting for the day she spots a Londoner mixing Stella McCartney with Tlale. Global fashion, she says, would be better for the cross-pollination.

TIME Kenya

Kenya Says It Has Killed Around 100 al-Shabaab Fighters

Extremists hit in retaliation for the slaying of 28 travelers on Saturday

Kenya says it has killed around 100 al-Shabaab militants after pursuing them into Somalian territory.

The deaths are in reprisal for the slaying of 28 people on Saturday, when the extremist group stopped a bus in Kenya’s north and reportedly separated Muslims from non-Muslims before killing the latter.

“Two successful operations were carried out against the perpetrators of these murderous executions across the border,” Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

The attacks, which have yet to be independently confirmed, reportedly destroyed one of al-Shabaab’s camps in Somalia, as well as four truckloads of weapons, the Guardian says.

Kenya has been the victim of several al-Shabaab attacks since Nairobi started battling the Somalia-based outfit in 2011. In September 2013, 67 people were killed in Nairobi after a group of militants seized the Westgate mall.

TIME health

New Global Study Calls Violence Against Women ‘Epidemic’

A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls in a village about 80 kilometres from the town of Marigat in Baringo County, Kenya, Oct. 16, 2014.
A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls in a village about 80 kilometres from the town of Marigat in Baringo County, Kenya, Oct. 16, 2014. Siegfried Modola—Reuters

Governments need to step up their game to protect women, says extensive new research

When it comes to stopping violence against women, actions speak louder than words. So even though there’s increased worldwide awareness about violence against women, the problem won’t be solved unless countries make significant policy and financial changes to support victims, according to a five-part series of studies in The Lancet, one of the world’s premier medical journals.

The series, entitled “Violence Against Women and Girls,” calls the violence a “global public health and clinical problem of epidemic proportions,” and the statistics are bleak. 100-140 million women have undergone female genital mutilation worldwide, and 3 million African girls per year are at risk. 7% of women will be sexually assaulted by someone besides their partner in their lifetimes. Almost 70 million girls worldwide have been married before they turned 18. According to WHO estimates, 30% of women worldwide have experienced partner violence. The researchers said that these problems could only be solved with political action and increased funding, since the violence has continued “despite increased global attention,” implying awareness is not enough.

“No magic wand will eliminate violence against women and girls,” series co-lead Charlotte Watts, founding Director of the Gender Violence and Health Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement. “But evidence tells us that changes in attitudes and behavior are possible, and can be achieved within less than a generation.”

One of the major problems highlighted in the Lancet series is that much of the current research on violence against women has been conducted in high-income countries, and it’s mostly been focused on response instead of prevention. The study found that the key driver of violence in most middle-and-low income countries is gender inequality, and that it would be near impossible to prevent abuse without addressing the underlying political, economic, and educational marginalization of women.

The study also found that health workers are often uniquely positioned to help victims, since they’re often the first to know about the abuse.

“Health-care providers are often the first point of contact for women and girls experiencing violence,” says another series co-lead, Dr. Claudia Garcia-Moreno, a physician at the WHO, in a statement. “The health community is missing important opportunities to integrate violence programming meaningfully into public health initiatives on HIV/AIDS, adolescent health, maternal health, and mental health.”

The series makes five concrete recommendations to curb the violence against women. The authors urge nations to allocate resources to prioritize protecting victims, change structures and policies that discriminate against women, promote support for survivors, strengthen health and education sectors to prevent and respond to violence, and invest in more research into ways to address the problem. In other words: money, education, and political action are key to protecting the world’s most vulnerable women. Hashtag activism, celebrity songs, and stern PSAs are helpful, but this problem is too complicated to be solved by awareness alone.

“We now have some promising findings to show what works to prevent violence,” said Dr. Cathy Zimmerman from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “We urgently need to turn this evidence into genuine action so that women and girls can live violence-free lives.”

The study comes just in time for the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on Nov. 25.

TIME portfolio

Go Behind the Scenes of Africa’s Fashion Shows

During his 25-year-long career, Swedish photographer Per-Anders Pettersson has covered a wide range of international news events: hunger in Ethiopia, civil wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana and South Africa. His pictures won praise and awards. But it wasn’t until he embarked on photographing fashion shows in Africa that he found his beat.

In the last four years, Pettersson has photographed close to 30 shows in Africa, gaining full-access usually by virtue of becoming a familiar face.

“Partly [why] I jumped into this was because I’ve done so many of the normal African stories for so many years,” Pettersson tells TIME, referring to his previous work on the continent. “The feel-good African story fascinates me.”

Pettersson’s images are not only set to challenge stereotypes in African fashion, which include animal prints and ethnic designs, but are also meant to confront the “Western gaze,” a media misperception in which Africa is but a war-torn continent rampant with poverty, diseases and ethnic conflicts.

Back in 2009, Pettersson had originally set out to photograph Africa’s new middle and upper class, a fast-growing population in recent years that had attracted little media attention. He received an assignment to photograph a fashion show in Johannesburg, where he thought he’d find some subjects for Rainbow Transit, a photo book on daily life in South Africa after the nation’s democratization.

Pettersson was immediately drawn to this world of fashion: glamorous models in color-rich fabrics, elegant catwalks, and the people he had come to find: well-dressed locals at fancy after-parties. Ever since, he has been documenting the boom of Africa’s fashion industry.

“I feel the story is not only about fashion but also about the new growth in Africa,” he says.

Although South Africa is the capital of Africa’s fashion scene and runs six fashion weeks a year, Pettersson says that more shows are popping up throughout the continent – a sign that Africa’s economy is developing and people’s buying power are growing.


Per-Anders Pettersson is a Swedish photojournalist who has been documenting Africa for the past 20 years. Read LightBox’s piece on his book, RainBow Transit, published by Dewi Lewis in 2013.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at Time.com. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Ye Ming is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

TIME Burkina Faso

What You Need to Know About the Unrest in Burkina Faso

Anti-government protesters gather in the Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, Oct. 31, 2014.
Anti-government protesters gather in the Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, Oct. 31, 2014. Joe Penney—Reuters

President Blaise Compaoré stepped down Oct. 31 after 27 years in power

The West African nation of Burkina Faso grabbed rare international headlines this week as thousands of people amassed in its capital, Ouagadougou, to protest plans to keep their longtime leader in office. After days of unrest that included setting Parliament ablaze, overrunning state TV broadcasters and deadly clashes with security forces, President Blaise Compaoré stepped down Oct. 31 after 27 years in power. Army Chief Gen. Honoré Nabéré Traoré quickly announced he would fill the void and said elections would take place within a year.

What are the basics about Burkina Faso?

Burkina Faso, which is densely populated with more than 17 million people and ranked by the United Nations as one of the world’s least-developed countries, shares borders with six countries: Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

The country gained independence from France in 1960 and would suffer from five military coups in the first few decades that followed. It was known as Upper Volta until 1984, when it was renamed Burkina Faso, meaning “land of upright/honest people.”

Who is Blaise Compaoré?

Compaoré served as minister of state under President Thomas Sankara, who ruled from 1984 until 1987. Compaoré seized power when Sankara and 12 other officials were killed in mysterious circumstances by a group of soldiers.

He subsequently won four presidential elections, most recently in November 2010, although only 1.6 million Burkinabés (less than a tenth of the population) voted. This latest term was supposed to be Compaoré’s last, but Parliament was considering a bill this week to remove the constitutional limit, igniting the masses. (The President’s plans to extend his term in office in 2011 also led to the popular protests.)

Why does his step-down matter?

Despite his low international profile, Compaoré was a key ally of the U.S., helping in the fight against al-Qaeda affiliates operating in the Sahel and the Sahara by allowing the Americans to operate a base in Ouagadougou. France, as a former colonial power, also has Special Forces troops based in the country.

Burkina Faso’s geopolitical position also meant that Compaoré held notable diplomatic influence in the region and frequently acted as a mediator in West African conflicts, including those in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire. A report from the International Crisis Group in July 2013 said that the collapse of Burkina Faso’s diplomatic apparatus would “mean the loss of an important reference point for West Africa that, despite limitations, has played an essential role as a regulatory authority.”

The report added that Compaoré “has put in place a semi-authoritarian regime, combining [democratization] with repression, to ensure political stability,” yet suggested this system was both unsustainable and unlikely to allow for any smooth transition after his departure.

The toppling of Compaoré’s government is likely to bring a new challenges to the West by creating even more instability in the region and, potentially, a space in which extremist groups could flourish.

The White House expressed deep concern over the deteriorating situation this week and urged “all parties, including the security forces, to end the violence and return to a peaceful process to create a future for Burkina Faso that will build on Burkina Faso’s hard-won democratic gains.” France, which welcomed Compaoré’s resignation, also called for calm and urged all actors to exercise restraint.

So what’s next?

Reflecting on the week’s events, an official from the influential opposition party Movement of People for Progress (MPP), Emile Pargui Pare, told AFP: “October 30 is Burkina Faso’s Black Spring, like the Arab Spring.” Other commentators have also compared the demonstrations here with the Arab Spring, the wave of revolutionary protests and clashes that began in Tunisia in December 2010. Back in 2011, Burkinabés held up signs comparing Compaoré to the ousted Tunisian ruler, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

The political events in Burkina Faso are likely to resonate across the continent, where several national leaders are due to step aside soon, including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, who has hinted at extending his term as President. And on Wednesday in Benin, nearly 30,000 opposition supporters demonstrated in the streets of the country’s largest city, Cotonou, to push for local elections that were due in March 2013.

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