TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 18

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

1. More than a decade ago, the international community tackled AIDS in Africa. Now we should do the same with cancer in the developing world.

By Lawrence N. Shulman in Policy Innovations

2. Finally, an app for kids to anonymously report cyber-bullying.

By Issie Lapowsky in Wired

3. Indians in the U.S. sent $13 billion home last year. A new plan aims to push some of that money into social good investments in India.

By Simone Schenkel in CSIS Prosper

4. Websites are just marketing. The next Internet is TV.

By John Herrman in The Awl

5. The U.K. may set up a digital court to settle small claims online.

By Chris Baraniuk in New Scientist

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 Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 11

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

1. Syria’s own ‘Monuments Men’ are trying to stop antiquities from becoming looted to finance terrorism.

By Joe Parkinson, Ayla Albayrak and Duncan Mavin in the Wall Street Journal

2. Scientists have combined a bionic leaf with a bioengineered bacteria to convert solar energy into liquid fuel.

By Elizabeth Cooney at Harvard Medical School

3. A dozen states are using a smart data center to keep voter information up to date. Meet ERIC.

By the Pew Charitable Trusts on YouTube

4. Deciding to embrace big data is a lot easier than changing your culture to use it well.

By Matt Asay in ReadWrite

5. Fighting malaria is going to take more than just nets.

By Utibe Effiong and Lauretta Ovadje with Andrew Maynard in the Conversation

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 Military

Pentagon Wraps Up Ebola Response in West Africa

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby Holds Media Briefing
Win McNamee—Getty Images Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby answers questions at the Pentagon on Aug. 22, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia.

The Pentagon is withdrawing U.S. troops from West Africa who were stationed there in September to fight Ebola, leaving behind only a small force to combat future outbreaks.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that almost all troops will return home by April 30. At the height of the crisis, 2,800 Department of Defense personnel were in West Africa, and today 1,500 of them are already back to their duty stations.

“Over the past several months, the Department of Defense delivered critical life-saving resources, constructed Ebola Treatment Units, trained hundreds of local and international healthcare workers, and provided logistical support to humanitarian and public health workers who provided care throughout West Africa,” the statement said.

According to a White House fact sheet, more than 10,000 U.S. government-supported civilians are now on the ground in West Africa. The U.S. government also facilitated the construction of 15 Ebola Treatment Units, 10 of which were built by U.S. service members.

The Department of Defense will leave behind a small residual force, about 100 personnel, to stay in West Africa to ward against future outbreaks.

TIME Research

There’s a Smartphone Attachment That Will Test for HIV in 15 Minutes

Blood testing for HIV
Getty Images

The device has the potential to save millions of lives

A team of researchers from Columbia University have developed a device that can be plugged into a smartphone and used to quickly test for HIV and syphilis.

The mobile device tests for three infectious-disease markers in just 15 minutes by using a finger-prick of blood, and draws all the power it needs from the smartphone, Science Daily reports.

The accessory costs an estimated $34 to make and is capable of replicating tests done in a laboratory using equipment that costs many thousands of dollars.

Samuel K. Sia, head researcher and associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia, described the smartphone accessory as “full laboratory quality.”

Because it can be easily used in remote and impoverished areas, like rural Africa, it is hoped the small but effective smartphone accessory will save millions of lives from sexually transmitted diseases.

[Science Daily]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 29

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

1. The homeownership safety net may be unraveling for the next generation of seniors.

By Taz George and Ellen Seidman in MetroTrends

2. As we try to understand what draws Americans to ISIS, one judge hopes we can slow radicalization by putting recruits in halfway houses instead of jail.

By Dina Temple-Raston at National Public Radio

3. Phones for farmers: With a mobile phone, a developing world farmer can learn best practices, get weather data, follow crop prices and even access financial services.

By Gates Notes

4. A new food studies program at a Bronx community college will look at healthy eating and obesity in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

By Winnie Hu in the New York Times

5. A new initiative is pushing to get more women into the debate on global issues. Meet Foreign Policy Interrupted.

By Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations

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 Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: January 28

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

The Big Dig

New Englanders savaged by a blizzard packing knee-high snowfall and hurricane-force winds began digging out as New Yorkers and others spared its full fury questioned whether forecasts were overblown

Drink to Your Health

The sun is the biggest culprit in causing skin cancer, but there’s a beverage that may thwart some of the tumor-causing effects of ultraviolet rays

Meet the Kingmakers

A new analysis by the Center for Public Integrity reveals that the top 50 political contributors spent more than $440 million in 2014

Elton John to Do Musical-Drama Pilot for HBO

The music legend is producing the pilot of a musical drama to be named Virtuoso, set in 18th century Vienna. True Blood creator Alan Ball is set to write and direct the show, which follows a class of young musical prodigies at the Academy of Musical Excellence

Apple Shines With Record Earnings

A larger-than-expected bump in holiday iPhone sales propelled Apple to record sales and the best quarterly earnings of any company ever. The tech giant racked up $74.6 billion in revenue last quarter, a 29.5% gain on the same period a year before

Hizballah Attacks Israeli Convoy

Several Israelis soldier were injured, possibly killed, when anti-tank missiles were fired at an Israeli convoy on the Golan Heights from Lebanon on Wednesday. Israel retaliated by firing dozens of artillery shells into Lebanon and convened a emergency security meeting

Who Ya Gonna Cast? Ghostbusters Stars Revealed

Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig have reportedly been cast in the long-awaited, all-female reboot of the beloved ’80s classic, alongside Saturday Night Live‘s Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. Paul Feig, who directed Bridesmaids, will helm the new movie

Budget Cuts Hit Red States Hardest, Say Analysts

Funding for a range of discretionary grant programs has fallen 40% in Republican states compared to a drop of only 25% in swing states or states that tend to support the Democrats, according to new research

WHO Appoints New Africa Chief

The World Health Organization appointed Botswana’s Dr. Matshidiso Moeti to head its Africa region on Tuesday. The physician is tasked with revamping the organization’s operations on the continent in the wake of the Ebola outbreak

Ancient Solar System Discovered

Astronomers have discovered an ancient solar system very similar to our own that dates back to the “dawn of the galaxy.” Using NASA’s Kepler telescope, a team of international scientists found a star and five orbiting planets that are similar in size to Earth

Jordan Ready for ISIS Prisoner Exchange

Jordan’s information minister says his government is set to swap an Iraqi woman held in Jordan for a Jordanian pilot captured by extremists from the Islamic State group — but made no mention of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who is also being held by ISIS

Prepare for Future Pandemics as for War, Says Bill Gates

Bill Gates, whose charitable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation disburses nearly $4 billion worldwide, has cautioned that a technology-based action plan is needed to guard against future pandemics similar to how we “prepare ourselves for war”

Get TIME’s The Brief e-mail every morning in your inbox

TIME public health

The WHO Appoints a New, Reform-Minded Head for Africa

Switzerland UN WHO
Salvatore Di Nolfi—AP Matshidiso Moeti speaks to the media during a press conference at the European headquarters of the U.N. in Geneva on Jan. 27, 2015

"As a region, we need to up our game,” says Dr. Matshidiso Moeti

The World Health Organization (WHO) appointed Botswana’s Dr. Matshidiso Moeti as its new head of Africa operations on Tuesday.

The physician is tasked with revamping the organization on the continent in the wake of the Ebola outbreak and ensuring that the WHO improves its overall response plans to public health crises.

“There is no question that, as a region, we need to up our game,” Moeti told the New York Times this week. “The WHO is reforming, and one of my intentions is to fast-track reform in the region, too.”

Moeti has already unveiled multiple priorities she plans to commence immediately, including ending the Ebola outbreak and pushing more African countries to adopt health insurance for general medical care.

Read more at the New York Times

TIME ebola

The Ebola Fight Has Reached a ‘Turning Point’ in West Africa, the WHO Says

Guinea West Africa Ebola
Youssouf Bah—AP A health care worker, right, takes the temperatures of school children for signs of the Ebola virus before they enter their school in the city of Conakry, Guinea, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015.

But the World Health Organization says vigilance is imperative to prevent reinfection in seemingly eradicated areas

The fight against Ebola has reached a “turning point,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO), as the three West African countries hit hardest by the deadly virus — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — see a precipitous drop in the number of new cases.

Liberia, which reported almost 9,000 cases since the deadly outbreak began in 2013, only detected eight new cases last week, reports the BBC. On some days, no new cases materialize at all, a heartening sign in a country where doctors once saw 509 new cases weekly at their peak.

“I would have identified the turning point as the beginning of the decline, first in Liberia and then later in Sierra Leone and Guinea,” Dr. Christopher Dye, the director of Ebola strategy for the WHO director general, told the BBC. “The incidence is pretty clearly going down in all three countries now.”

In Sierra Leona, where the health crisis once saw 748 cases flooding into hospitals each week, numbers are also stabilizing. The story is similar in Guinea, where the Ebola crisis reached a crescendo at 292 cases per week late last year.

Worldwide, Ebola has killed nearly 8,700 people and infected over 20,000 in one of the largest public health emergencies in recent memory.

Still, health officials at the WHO are exercising caution and warning that Ebola can reappear if risks are not properly mitigated. “Contact tracing,” or detecting everyone who ever came into contact with an Ebola-afflicted patient, is crucial to thwart future infection. Even one case cropping up can re-infect seemingly eradicated areas.

TIME global health

What the Gates Foundation Has Achieved, 15 Years On

Sunny days: Melinda and Bill Gates in 2014, one year before their self-imposed deadline arrived
Scott Olson; Getty Images Sunny days: Melinda and Bill Gates in 2014, one year before their self-imposed deadline arrived

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Much has been done over the foundation's first decade and a half — with more still to do

There are a whole lot of things you may or may not get to do in the next 15 years, but a few of them you can take for granted: eating, for one. Having access to a bank, for another. And then there’s the simple business of not dying of a preventable or treatable disease. Good for you—and good for most of us in the developed world. But the developed world isn’t the whole story.

The bad—and familiar—news is that developing nations lag far behind in income, public health, food production, education and more. The much, much better news is that all of that is changing—and fast. The just-released Annual Letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation makes a good case for hoping there is still more to come.

The 2015 letter represents something of a threshold moment for the Foundation. It was in 2000 that the Gateses began their work and set themselves a very public 15-year deadline: show meaningful progress in narrowing the health, income and resource gap between the world’s privileged and underprivileged people, or be prepared to explain why not. So far, nobody—neither the Gates Foundation nor the numerous other global health groups like the World Health Organization and UNICEF—have much explaining to do.

The number of children under five who die each year worldwide has been nearly cut in half, from a high of nearly 13 million to 6.5 million today. Polio has been chased to the very brink of extinction, and elephantiasis, river blindness and Guinea worm are close behind. Drought-tolerant seeds are dramatically increasing agricultural yields; economies in the once-desperate countries in sub-Saharan Africa are now matching the developed world in rate of annual growth. Up to 70% of people across the developing world now have access to wireless service, making mobile banking possible—a luxury in the West but a necessity in places there is no other banking infrastructure.

The trick of course is that progress isn’t the same as success. The 13 million babies who were dying a year in the years before the Foundation began, for example, factored out to a horrific 35,000 every single day. Slashing that in half leaves you with 17,500—still an intolerable figure. For that reason and others, the Gateses are turning the 15-year chronometer back to zero, setting targets—and framing ways to achieve them—for 2030.

The most pressing concern involves those 17,500 kids. The overwhelming share of the recent reduction in mortality is due to better delivery of vaccines and treatments for diseases that are vastly less common or even nonexistent in much of the developed world—measles, pneumonia, malaria, cholera and other diarrheal ills. Those are still the cause of 60% of the remaining deaths. But the other 40%—or 2.6 million children—involve neonates, babies who die in the first 30 days of life and often on the very first day. The interventions in these cases can be remarkably simple.

“The baby must be kept warm immediately after birth, which too often doesn’t happen,” Melinda Gates told TIME. “This is basic skin-to-skin contact. Breast-feeding exclusively is the next big thing, as is basic cord care. The umbilical cord must be cut cleanly and kept clean to prevent infections.”

HIV may similarly be brought to heel, if not as easily as neonate mortality. A vaccine or a complete cure—one that would simply eliminate the virus from the body the way an antibiotic can eliminate a bacterium—remain the gold standards. But in much of the world, anti-retrovirals (ARVs) have served as what is known as a functional cure, allowing an infected person to live healthily and indefinitely while always carrying a bit of the pathogen. Gates looks forward to making ARVs more widely available, as well as to the development of other treatment protocols that we may not even be considering now.

“We’re already moving toward an HIV tipping point,” she says, “when the number of HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa who are in treatment will exceed the number of people becoming newly infected.”

Food security is another achievable goal. Even as Africa remains heavily agrarian—70% of people in the sub-Saharan region are farmers compared to 2% in the U.S.—yields remain low. An acre of farmland here in America may produce 150 bushels of corn; in Africa it’s just 30. The problem is largely rooted in our increasingly unstable climate, with severe droughts burning out harvests or heavy rainstorms destroying them.

“Millions of people eat rice in Africa,” says Gates, “and rice has to be kept much wetter than other crops. At the equator it’s staying drier longer, but when the rains do come, they hit harder.”

In the case of rice and corn and all other crops, the answer is seeds engineered for the conditions in which they will have to grow, not for the more forgiving farmlands of the West. In Tanzania, site-specific seed corn has been made available and is already changing lives. “That seed,” one farmer told Gates when she visited in 2012, “made the difference between hunger and prosperity.”

Finally comes banking. Across Africa, only 37% of people are part of the formal banking system, but up to 90%, depending on the area, are part of the M-Pesa network—a mobile banking link accessible via cellphone. The Pesa part of the name is Swahili for money and the M is simply for mobile.

“Today too many people put their money in a cow or in jewelry,” Gates says. “But it’s impossible to take just a little of that money out. If someone gets sick or you have another emergency, you simply sell the cow.” Mobile banking changes all of that, making it much easier to save—and in a part of the world where even $1 set aside a day can mean economic security, that’s a very big deal.

Nothing about the past 15 years guarantees that the next 15 will see as much progress. The doctrine of low-hanging fruit means that in almost all enterprises, the early successes come easier. But 15 years is a smart timeframe. It’s far enough away that it creates room for different strategies to be tried and fail before one succeeds, but it’s close enough that you still can’t afford to waste the time you have. Wasting time, clearly, is not something the folks at the Gates Foundation have been doing so far, and they likely won’t in the 15 years to come either.

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 Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 21

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

1. China’s scramble to lock up resources in Africa has forced it to act more like a conventional superpower.

By Richard Javad Heydarian in Medium

2. Adaptive learning technology can give educators tools to keep kids who learn differently from falling through the cracks.

By Susan D’Auria and Ashley Mucha at Knewton

3. 2015 might be the year America starts to get online identity right.

By Alex Howard in Tech Republic

4. Changing a long-standing rule prohibiting sororities from hosting parties could reverse the power imbalance that underlies campus sexual assault.

By Michael Kimmel in Time

5. Ominous headlines notwithstanding, offline fraud and scams are still more costly to individuals and the government than cybercrime.

By Benjamin Dean in the Conversation

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.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser