TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 2

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

1. Let’s push for more college-educated cops.

By Keli Goff in the Daily Beast

2. As strongmen — often U.S. allies — attempt to lock up lifetime power, an African democracy movement takes shape.

By Mark Varga at the Foreign Policy Association

3. Being connected is more of a good thing than a bad thing.

By Mathew Ingram in GigaOm

4. Beyond diamonds: Conflict minerals are a growing blight. Enforcing a global standard can stop abuse.

By Michael Gibb in Project Syndicate

5. Changing the way we classify psilocybin — magic mushrooms — could open the door to research and new treatments for depression.

By Eugenia Bone in the New York Times

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: November 14

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

1. Superfast quantum computers could drastically change the future, and Microsoft might build the first one.

By Tom Simonite in MIT Technology Review

2. Water-smart urban design can reimagine life in Western cities suffering the worst drought in decades.

By Reed Karaim in JSTOR Daily

3. The new censorship: How intimidation, mass surveillance, and shrinking resources are making the press less free.

By George Packer in the New Yorker

4. A new approach to housing for families at risk that includes intensive, wrap-around services is showing early success.

By Mary Cunningham, Maeve Gearing, Michael Pergamit, Simone Zhang, Marla McDaniel, Brent Howell at the Urban Institute

5. Our best bet in the fight against Boko Haram might be sharing lessons on intelligence gathering.

By Jesse Sloman at Africa in Transition

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 Nigeria

Suicide Bomber Kills 47 Children at Nigeria School Assembly

Police blame Boko Haram Islamist group

A suicide bomber has killed 47 children and injured 79 others during a school assembly Monday in north east Nigeria, reports Agence France Presse.

Emmanuel Ojukwu, a police spokesman told AFP, “There was an explosion detonated by a suicide bomber. We have 47 dead and 79 injured.”

He said that attack in Potiskum in Yobe state was probably carried out by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.

[AFP]

 

TIME Nigeria

Girls Who Escaped Boko Haram Tell of Horrors in Captivity

New Human Rights Watch report details the Nigerian Islamist group's abuse of abducted women and girls

Women and girls kidnapped by the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram are raped and forced to marry fighters even if they are underage, according to testimonies from women who have escaped the group.

In its latest report, “Those Terrible Weeks in the Camp: Boko Haram Violence Against Women and Girls in Northeast Nigeria,” New York-based Human Rights Watch estimates that the militant group has abducted about 500 women and girls from Northern Nigeria since 2009. Earlier this year Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a secondary school in the town of Chibok in the northeast of the country. The mass abduction drew international outrage and sparked a viral social media campaign fuelled by the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. Human Rights Watch spoke to 12 of the 57 of the girls who have escaped; 219 are still missing.

Human Rights Watch explains that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has taken responsibility for abducting women and girls, and has justified the kidnappings as retaliation for the detention of Boko Haram family members held by the Nigerian government. In a 2012 video, Shekau says: “Since you are now holding our women, just wait and see what will happen to your own women … to your own wives according to Sharia law.”

But there’s also another motive for the kidnappings: punishing women who seek education. One victim who was kidnapped while traveling home from school in Konduga said that when the militants found out that she and her friends were students they said, “Aha! These are the people we are looking for. So you are the ones with strong heads who insist on attending school when we have said ‘boko’ is ‘haram.’ We will kill you here today.” Boko Haram’s name roughly translates to “Western education is a sin.”

The report confirms some of the worst fears about Boko Haram’s treatment of the girls they capture, specifically when it comes to sexual violence. According to interviews with survivors, most of the sexual violence and rape occurs within the context of forced marriages, although there are exceptions.

According to the interviews in the report, Boko Haram does not consider any girls too young for marriage. After one 17-year old prisoner complained that she was not yet old enough to marry a Boko Haram commander pointed to his 5-year-old daughter and said, “If she got married last year, and is just waiting till puberty for its consummation, how can you at your age be too young to marry?”

One woman who was raped in 2013 in a Boko Haram camp told Human Rights Watch that other women (specifically wives of Boko Haram leaders) were often complicit in sexual abuse of female prisoners. “I was lying down in the cave pretending to be ill because I did not want the marriage,” the woman told the researchers. “When the insurgent who had paid my dowry came in to force himself on me, the commander’s wife blocked the cave entrance and watched as the man raped me.”

Another girl was only 15 when she was forcibly married off to a Boko Haram commander after her abduction in 2013. “After we were declared married I was ordered to live in his cave but I always managed to avoid him,” the girl told Human Rights Watch. “He soon began to threaten me with a knife to have sex with him, and when I still refused he brought out his gun, warning that he would kill me if I shouted. Then he began to rape me every night. He was a huge man in his mid-30s and I had never had sex before. It was very painful and I cried bitterly because I was bleeding afterwards.”

The report cites numerous other reports of women being sexually assaulted by Boko Haram militants; some were raped within context of a forced marriage, others for being Christian, another was attacked for a perceived slight against the militants. The report acknowledges, however, that the group’s leaders did make some effort to protect kidnapped girls from random sexual abuses outside the context of “marriage.”

Human Rights Watch notes that rapes by Boko Haram are severely under-reported, largely due to the stigma around sexual abuse and the loss of virginity that sometimes occurs during the rapes in the conservative northeastern part of the country.

The report also delves into some of the specifics of the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls, thanks to testimony from 12 girls who escaped. The escaped girls said that Boko Haram did not discriminate based on religion when they abducted the schoolgirls, and took both Christian and Muslim girls. They said that they believe the militants were originally after the school’s brick-making machine, and only decided to kidnap the girls once they realized they were unguarded the principal, teachers, administrators were not on campus, and the only guard, an elderly man, had fled. One girl described the night Boko Haram arrived: “Two men told us we should not worry, we should not run. They said they had come to save us from what is happening inside the town, that they are policemen. We did not know that they were from Boko Haram. The rest of the men came and started shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and at that moment we realized, they were Boko Haram. We were told to be quiet. One of them told us that the horrible things we heard happening elsewhere, like burning houses, killing people, killing students, kidnapping people, would happen to us now. We all started crying and he told us to shut up.”

Another woman at the camps told Human Rights Watch she saw some of the Chibok schoolgirls forced to work for other women who were selected for “special treatment because of their beauty.”

The report also specifies that of all the girls who have escaped from Boko Haram interviewed by Human Rights Watch, only the Chibok schoolgirls have received any kind of state-sponsored medical aid or counseling. But one Chibok schoolgirl says the aid they received was more like a religious sermon, which is not what she needs.

“I just want someone who will listen to me and help me to stop the fear that takes over my mind when I think of my sisters (school mates) who are still with Boko Haram,” the girl told Human Rights Watch. “I am so afraid for them. Why can’t the government bring them back?”

[Human Rights Watch]

Read next: Boko Haram Kidnaps 30 Children in Nigeria

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Kidnaps 30 Children in Nigeria

File photo shows Rachel Daniel holding  up a picture of her abducted daughter Rose Daniel as her son Bukar sits beside her at her home in Maiduguri
Joe Penney—Reuters Rachel Daniel, 35, holds up a picture of her abducted daughter Rose Daniel, 17, as her son Bukar, 7, sits beside her at her home in Maiduguri, May 21, 2014. Boko Haram kidnapped an additional 30 boys and girls from a village in northeast Nigeria during the weekend.

Latest in a string of abductions despite reports of a cease-fire

Boko Haram militants reportedly abducted at least 30 boys and girls from a remote village in northeastern Nigeria over the weekend, throwing into question a government-declared cease-fire with the insurgents.

The Islamist extremists on Friday raided Mafa, a town in Borno state, CNN reports, and news of the abductions slowly got out because regional telecom service has taken a severe hit during Boko Haram’s five-year campaign of terror. Throughout the weekend, local leaders said the gunmen seized a dozen and a half boys and girls — some as young as age 11 — in what was thought to be an attempt at recruiting child soldiers.

The mass kidnapping in the restive region diminished hopes that the Nigerian government was close to striking a deal with the militants to secure the release of more than 219 schoolgirls abducted by the group in April.

[CNN]

TIME On Our Radar

A Fresh Look at Africa through Nigeria’s Largest Photo Festival

When LagosPhoto Director Azu Nwagbogu, and other members of the African Artists’ Foundation, were setting up Nigeria’s first ever photo festival, they had a pretty broad goal in mind: to provide a platform for photographers to tell new stories about Africa. But perhaps an even more important part of their mission was to empower artists to remedy what Nwagbogu has termed “Afro-pessimism,” the tendency for visual representations of the continent to be negative, particularly in the western media.

“If I think about what documentary photography, in the traditional sense, has for done Africa, it hasn’t really empowered the continent,” Nwagbogu tells TIME. “Africa [is often seen] as a hopeless continent where it’s almost like nothing can be done.”

But he knew a different kind of work was out there, he says. And on his travels, he would often come across refreshing visual stories documenting various African countries, but ones that had never been shown in Africa. “I realized there was an abundance of talent,” he says. And so the festival was born.

Now in its fifth year, the show sees photographers present work under the theme Staging Reality: Documenting Fiction. Fiction here not necessarily indicating invention, Nwagbogu stresses, but rather how storytelling can represent reality. Indeed, fiction in Nigeria, and in many cultures, can often be used as a conveyor of truth, he says.

“Most of what we know about Parisian life in the 19th Century is through fiction — people like Balzac, people like Flaubert,” Nwagbogu continues.

On show are Cristina de Middel’s arresting This is What Hatred Did series, which is a modern retelling of an old Nigerian story, Namsa Leuba’s powerful Cocktail, which focuses on the representation of the female body in Africa and Seun Akisanmi’s Nigerian Punishments in which the artist explores the various forms of punishment he received as a child.

But Nwagbogu is keen to stress that this year’s theme is not about jettisoning photojournalism — last year, curators showed Jerome Delay’s work from Mali, for example — but it’s more about broadening the festival’s scope to include different kinds of photography, and indeed, narratives.

“If we engage and empower local and international photographers to embrace a newer narrative I think, maybe, we have a better solution,” he says. “We don’t need to define ourselves as who we are not anymore, we can now define ourselves as who we want to be.”


LagosPhoto runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 26, 2014 in Lagos.

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox.


TIME Nigeria

Dozens More Women And Girls Abducted By Boko Haram in Nigeria

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls
Olamikan Gbemiga—AP A man poses with a sign in front of police officers in riot gear during a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls of the government secondary school in Chibok, in Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 14, 2014.

Residents say the kidnappings come a day after a truce between the militants and the Nigerian government

The militant Islamist group Boko Haram has been accused of abducting dozens more women and girls from two villages in Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state.

Residents say the alleged kidnappings, which haven’t been confirmed by authorities, took place a day after a reported truce between the militants and Nigerian government, the BBC says.

The government hopes negotiations with Boko Haram will secure the release of more than 200 girls who were taken hostage by the militants in April. But the Islamist group has not confirmed the ceasefire.

The April kidnapping, in Borno state, sparked mass protests in Nigeria and calls for the government to do more to save the girls under the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

Meanwhile a bomb blasted through a bus station Wednesday in northern Bauchi state, killing five people and injuring 12. No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack.

[BBC]

TIME ebola

Why Ebola Hasn’t Really Spread Across West Africa

A burial team in protective gear carry the body of woman suspected to have died from the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 18, 2014.
Abbas Dulleh—AP A burial team in protective gear carry the body of woman suspected to have died from the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 18, 2014.

Experts point to strong national health systems and proper contact tracing

Though a few cases of Ebola in the U.S. and Europe have sparked panic that the deadly virus is spreading far and wide, a closer look at the outbreak in West Africa tells a slightly different story. The epidemic, which the World Health Organization reports has claimed at least 4,877 lives, largely in West Africa, has so far been mainly confined to three countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. But why have others like Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire — which all share at least one border with a badly afflicted country — so far managed to avoid any cases of the virus?

“Part of it is still luck of the draw, due to movement of people and the relatively porous nature of borders,” says Aboubacry Tall, West Africa Regional Director for Oxfam. And the threat seemingly posed by open borders has led to the affected countries gradually sealing themselves off to prevent Ebola from being passed on to neighbors. When the first cases were confirmed in March by Guinea’s Ministry of Health, Senegal decided to close its southern border with the country. As the outbreak spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia, more border closures followed: Sierra Leone shut its borders on June 11 and Liberia did the same on July 27, with the exception of a few major entry points (such as the main airport) where screening centers would be set up.

Greg Rose, a health advisor at the British Red Cross, says that while border controls may have had “a small effect” on the situation in West Africa, a key difference “was that that other countries had been forewarned,” which allowed them to “set up systems to prevent further infections.” Moreover, Tall says that “in neighboring countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Mali, the health systems were in a slightly better shape.” In comparison, the three most-affected countries already had overburdened health care infrastructure before the Ebola outbreak. Sierra Leone and Liberia had not yet fully recovered from the damaging effects of long civil wars — Sierra Leone had two doctors per 100,000 people and Liberia had only one, whereas Mali had eight and Côte d’Ivoire had 14. (The U.S. has 242.) With a lack of staff and resources, Tall says, “Ebola came in and rapidly overwhelmed the health systems” in the three countries, which have now collectively seen more than 9,900 cases of the virus.

Tall adds that two key elements in containing the spread in neighboring countries are community mobilization and the preparedness of the public health system. He highlights the importance of “raising public awareness on Ebola” and of putting the medical system “on high alert all the way to border areas, so that anything that looks like a suspect case has a higher chance of being picked up.” The difference made by a rapid response can be seen in Senegal’s success with its one Ebola case. Despite closing its border, Senegal reported its first case on Aug. 29, after a a Guinean university student traveled by road to Dakar, the capital. He was treated and recovered, and his contacts were traced and monitored. On Oct. 17, WHO declared the outbreak in Senegal officially over, saying the “most important lesson for the world at large is this: an immediate, broad-based, and well-coordinated response can stop the Ebola virus dead in its tracks.”


Though not a bordering country, Nigeria suffered an outbreak of 20 cases — including eight deaths — after a Liberian-American man died of Ebola after arriving at the main airport in Lagos. However, the government of Africa’s most populous nation was able to successfully trace those in contact with him and has since been declared Ebola-free. Nigeria has kept its borders open to travelers from the most affected countries, but increased surveillance. Dr. Faisal Shuaib, of the country’s Ebola Emergency Operation Center, recently told TIME that “closing borders tends to reinforce panic and the notion of helplessness. When you close the legal points of entry, then you potentially drive people to use illegal passages, thus compounding the problem.”

Shuaib pointed out that closing borders has another unwelcome effect: it stifles commercial activities in countries whose economies are already struggling because of the Ebola crisis. “Access to food has become a pressing concern for many people in the three affected countries and their neighbors,” Bukar Tijani, a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization representative, said in September. In Liberia, for example, the collapse of cross-border trade meant that the price of cassava — a food staple — jumped 150% in early August. Another immediate consequence of travel restrictions, says Tall, is that “most airlines have stopped flying to these countries, which makes it more difficult for humanitarian personnel to get in and out.”

The most effective way to contain the spread of Ebola is in “proper tracing of the epidemic, containment within communities and caring for those infected,” says Rose, the Red Cross advisor, who believes “this problem is not going to be solved by closing borders.” And though Ebola has not spread quickly beyond Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, it’s clear that neighboring countries in West Africa need to remain vigilant. As Tall says, “we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Read next: Nigeria Is Ebola-Free: Here’s What They Did Right

TIME health

What Does It Mean for an Ebola Outbreak to End?

West Africa Ebola
Sunday Alamba—AP A Nigerian port health official speaks to a passenger at the arrivals hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 6, 2014.

And how does the World Health Organization decide when that happens?

Nigeria’s most recent outbreak of Ebola is over, the nation’s government and World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday.

But — with fear of Ebola continuing to grip the world — what does that even mean? How does the WHO know that Nigeria is in the clear?

The answer, it turns out, is very specific: The WHO says a country can declare their outbreak to be over when it makes it through 42 days without a new case. That’s two incubation periods for the Ebola virus, so as long as 42 days have passed, during which the country had in place active surveillance and diagnostics but discovered no new cases, the WHO says it’s enough time to confidently say an outbreak is over. For health care workers to be considered “in the clear” they have to be monitored for 21 days after their last possible exposure to the virus, even if they were wearing full protective gear. Health care workers’ date of last contact is considered the day when the final patient with Ebola tests negative for the disease.

“Recent studies conducted in West Africa have demonstrated that 95% of confirmed cases have an incubation period in the range of 1 to 21 days; 98% have an incubation period that falls within the 1 to 42 day interval,” said WHO in a statement. “WHO is therefore confident that detection of no new cases, with active surveillance in place, throughout this 42-day period means that an Ebola outbreak is indeed over.”

MORE: Nigeria is Ebola-free: Here’s What They Did Right

This is not the first time WHO has declared Ebola outbreaks over using this particular standard — Senegal was declared Ebola-free on Oct. 17, and the strategy has proven effective in prior, unrelated, outbreaks.

In 1995, there was an Ebola outbreak in the country then called Zaire (today’s Democratic Republic of the Congo); it was declared clear on Aug. 25 of that year. The New York Times reported at the time:

The World Health Organization declared today that an outbreak in Zaire of the deadly Ebola virus was officially over after killing 244 of its 315 known victims.

The United Nations agency, which is based here, said that 42 days, the equivalent of two maximum incubation periods, had passed without any new cases reported. It said it was still not known where the Ebola virus existed between human epidemics, although samples from some 3,000 birds and mammals collected in the Kikwit area, the center of the outbreak, were now being analyzed.

It’s important to have definitive parameters for declaring outbreaks over because, as the current and former outbreaks have shown, oftentimes an outbreak will appear to be extinguished, only to reappear in full force a couple weeks later. This past April, Guinea’s health ministry thought the outbreak was slowing, which turned out to be false; in the 1995 outbreak, public health experts were also fooled. As TIME reported:

For a while last week it looked as though the outbreak might soon be brought under control. The plague police-medical teams dispatched by who in Geneva, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and other public health groups-had set up an effective isolation ward at the main hospital in Kikwit, where the first case had been identified. Belgium’s Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) rushed in loads of gloves, gowns, masks and other essential equipment to restore hygiene to filthy clinics. But when the strike forces, aided by local medical students, fanned out through the countryside around Kikwit, trying to follow the path of the fever, it became clear that the danger was far from past.

In an announcement made Monday morning, WHO called Nigeria a “spectacular success story,” citing proof that Ebola can be contained. “The story of how Nigeria ended what many believed to be potentially the most explosive Ebola outbreak imaginable is worth telling in detail,” WHO says in a statement.

To read more about how Nigeria contained their most recent outbreak of Ebola, check out our coverage, here.

TIME ebola

Nigeria Is Ebola-Free: Here’s What They Did Right

It's been 42 days since the last new case

The World Health Organization declared Nigeria free of Ebola on Monday, a containment victory in an outbreak that has stymied other countries’ response efforts.

The milestone came at about 11 a.m. local time, or 6 a.m., E.T. The outbreak has killed more than 4,500 in West Africa is remains unchecked in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, so Nigeria is by no means immune to another outbreak.

“It’s possible to control Ebola. It’s possible to defeat Ebola. We’ve seen it here in Nigeria,” Nigerian Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu told TIME. “If any cases emerge in the future, it will be considered—by international standards—a separate outbreak. If that happens, Nigeria will be ready and able to confront it exactly as we have done with this outbreak.”

For the WHO to declare Nigeria as Ebola-free, the country had to make it 42 days with no new cases (double the incubation period), verify that it actively sought out all possible contacts, and show negative test results for any suspected cases.

Nigeria had 20 cases of Ebola after a Liberian-American man named Patrick Sawyer flew into Lagos and collapsed at the airport. Health care workers treating Sawyer were infected, and as it spread it ultimately killed eight people, a low number next to the thousands of cases and deaths in other countries. Nigeria’s health system is considered more robust, but there was significant concern from experts that a case would pop up in one of the country’s dense-populated slums and catch fire.

So what did Nigeria do right? Chukwu and Dr. Faisal Shuaib of the country’s Ebola Emergency Operation Center, broke it down for TIME.

Preparing early. Nigeria knew it was possible a case of Ebola would make it into the country, so officials got to work early by training health care workers on how to manage the disease, and disseminating information so the country knew what to expect.

Declaring an emergency—right away. When Nigeria had its first confirmed case of Ebola, the government declared a national public health emergency immediately. This allowed the Ministry of Health to form its Ebola Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC is an assembly of public health experts within Nigeria as well as the WHO, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and groups like Doctors Without Borders. “[We] used a war-room approach to coordinate the outbreak response,” Shuaib said. “So you have a situation whereby government and staff of international development agencies are co-located in a designated facility where they are able to agree on strategies, develop one plan and implement this plan together.”

The EOC was in charge of contact tracing (the process of identifying and monitoring people who may have had direct or indirect contact with Ebola patients), implementing strict procedures for handling and treating patients, screening all individuals arriving or departing the country by land, air and sea, and communicating with the community. Some workers went door-to-door to offer Ebola-related education, and others involved religious and professional leaders. Social media was a central part of the education response.

Training local doctors. Nigerian doctors were trained by Doctors Without Borders and WHO, and treated patients in shifts with their oversight.

Managing fear. “Expectedly, people were scared of contracting the disease,” Shuaib said. “In the beginning, there was also some misinformation about available cures, so fear and inaccurate rumors had to be actively managed.” Nigeria used social media to to ramp up awareness efforts, and publicized patients who were successfully treated and discharged. “People began to realize that contracting Ebola was not necessarily a death sentence,” Shuai said. “Emphasizing that reporting early to the hospital boosts survival gave comfort that [a person] has some level of control over the disease prognosis.”

Keeping borders open. Nigeria has not closed its borders to travelers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, saying the move would be counterproductive. “Closing borders tends to reinforce panic and the notion of helplessness,” Shuaib said. “When you close the legal points of entry, then you potentially drive people to use illegal passages, thus compounding the problem.” Shuaib said that if public health strategies are implemented, outbreaks can be controlled, and that closing borders would only stifle commercial activities in the countries whose economies are already struggling due to Ebola.

Remaining prepared for more patients. Even though this outbreak was contained, Nigeria is not slowing down its training and preparations for the possibility of more cases. “Outbreak response preparedness is a continuous process that requires constant review of the level of the response mechanisms in place to ensure that the health system is ready to jump into action at all levels,” Shuaib said. “There is no alternative to preparedness.”

Advocating for more international response. “The global community needs to consistently come together, act as one in any public health emergency, whether it is Ebola or a natural disaster.” Shuaib said. “While a lot has been done, it still falls short of what is necessary to get ahead of the curve. We must act now, not tomorrow, not next week.”

Read next: Dozens Who Had Contact With the First U.S. Ebola Patient Are in the Clear

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