TIME India

Dozens Scale School Walls in India to Help Students Cheat in Exams

Talk about pushy parents

Families often do everything they can to help their children with schoolwork, but a few dozen relatives of Indian students taking high school exams in Bihar took things a little too far.

Images that went viral on social media across the country on Thursday showed parents and other “well-wishers” of students, in a seeming combination of brazenness and desperation, scaling the walls of the testing centers to pass cheat sheets through the windows.

Cheating during India’s highly competitive school exams is a common problem in Bihar, which is India’s least educated state with a literacy rate of 63% in 2011 (albeit a vast improvement from its 47% figure in 2001).

More than 1,000 students taking the Class 10 and Class 12 board exams — the first two major milestones in an Indian student’s pre-college academic career — have already been banned for malpractices in the past two days. But with over 1.4 million students appearing across 1,100 centers, authorities admit that it is practically impossible to completely clamp down.

“It is a big challenge to stop 100% unfair means in the examination,” P.K. Sahi, the state’s education minister, told local media.

Not that the students seemed to care. A photojournalist featured in the BBC said students were openly copying from textbooks, and weren’t in the least bit deterred by his presence or the fact that he was snapping away.

Police officers deputed to the schools to monitor the tests are allegedly bribed to turn a blind eye to malpractices.

“If we try to stop unfair means at a center, friends and family members of the examinees gang up to intimidate us,” Saroj Sinha, a local schoolteacher, told Indian newspaper the Hindu.

Sahi added that the onus of preventing cheating should not be placed on the government alone. “I also want to ask people if it is not the responsibility of the society as well to stop it?” he asked.

TIME Australia

The Café at the Center of the Sydney Siege Reopened Today

AUSTRALIA-TERROR-SIEGE-CAFE-OPEN
Peter Parks — AFP/Getty Images A staff member cleans the front door windows ahead of the re-opening of the Lindt Cafe at Martin Place in Sydney on March 20, 2015.

Plaques adorn the wall to honor the memory of two hostages killed

Coffee was brewed again, chocolate prepared and pastries sold at Lindt Café in Sydney on Friday morning, as the establishment reopened its doors months after it made international headlines in the wake of a hostage crisis that ended in bloodshed.

Hundreds customers snaked around the block and waited patiently in line to enter Lindt Café. Louie Doumit, who ordered the day’s first brew — a flat white — said he came to shop to prove that terrorism had not prevailed.

“It sends a strong message to all those people out there, any terrorists, we are not just going to give in to what they want or give in to their demands,” said Doumit, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

During an early morning ceremony, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said the reopening of the café was an “incredibly important step” for Sydney.

Three people died, including the armed perpetrator, when police commandos stormed the café last December after Man Haron Monis held 17 people at gunpoint for more than 16 hours in the central business district of Australia’s largest city.

Two plaques now adorn the walls of Lindt to honor the memories of former manager Tori Johnson and customer Katrina Dawson, who were killed during the siege.

Survivor Joel Herat said getting back behind the counter and working with his fellow employees has been instrumental to his healing process.

“It was extremely important for me to be here and support Lindt and support the people I work with,” Herat told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

TIME China

Five Feminists Remain Jailed in China for Activities the Government Supports

India China Activists Detained
Altaf Qadri—AP Indian women's rights activists wearing masks of five women's rights activists formally detained in China after Women's Day crackdown, hold placards with their names, to express their solidarity and demand their immediate release, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The line between dissidence and social activism grows ever murkier

It was supposed to be a celebration. This year marks two decades since the world came together in Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women. Participants in that event — including keynote speaker Hillary Clinton — set an ambitious global blueprint for gender equality and women’s rights. It was a landmark moment for the women’s movement, and a point of pride for China as it stepped, gingerly, toward post-Mao reforms.

But as meetings to mark the “Beijing+20” anniversary close Friday in New York, things are looking bleak. In the run up to International Women’s Day and the Beijing+20-themed conclave, China detained 10 women for planning activities to celebrate the occasion. Five of those women — Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Li Tingting — are still in detention. Their lawyers worry they will be charged with “picking quarrels and creating a disturbance,” an Orwellian turn of phrase used to jail government critics.

The ruling Communist Party has long taken aggressive measures to silence opposition voices, censoring the Internet, banning books, and jailing dissidents. For much of the past decade, though, the line between “dissident” and “critical voice” — that is between prison and the freedom to live your life — was, with exceptions, relatively clear: Do not openly oppose one-party rule. Avoid the “three T’s” (Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen). Don’t take to the street.

However, since coming to power in 2012, Xi Jinping’s regime has taken an even harder line, jailing those who speak out on matters not related to party control or the three T’s. (See, for example, the case of Professor Ilham Tohti, or jailed lawyer Xu Zhiyong.) There are new no-go areas, including the politics of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and calls for government transparency that do not originate from the government itself. Until this month, if you kept a low profile and did not plan protests, you could speak publicly on issues like gender equality and LGBT rights.

Now, advocates fear that too has changed. The women arrested in Beijing this month were not advocating for the overthrow of the Communist Party. In fact, they were, separately, and in their respective cities, simply planning to distribute pamphlets and raise awareness about issues the Chinese government supports: gender equality and combatting sexual harassment. These activists did not organize political rallies, but rather used performance art to challenge societal views.

Their arrest in coordinated raids ahead of International Women’s Day “suggests an escalation of Chinese government paranoia,” says Leta Hong Fincher, author of Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. “I don’t see how they would have posed any threat to the government in any way — and they did not even carry out the activities. Even under Chinese law, I do not see what they are guilty of.”

That has other feminists worried. The five women are active on a variety of issues, including stopping sexual violence, ending street harassment and promoting gender equality and LGBT rights. Their detentions sent a broad cross section of people, including friends, acquaintances and allies, into hiding, terrified that the merest trifle might now see them caged.

That is not to say people are silent. Their ongoing detention has generated an unusual amount of public support from social groups, students and academics in China, as well as expressions of solidarity from nearly every corner of the earth, and spawned a social-media campaign to #FreeTheFive. Some feminists have floated the idea of a boycott of Beijing+20 events, though there are no firm plans as yet. From the sidelines of the meeting in New York City, Charlotte Bunch, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University, filmed herself reading a statement in support of the jailed women. “We expect more from China,” she says. “The world is watching and waiting for an end to this injustice.”

Waiting, indeed. Though U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power tweeted her support for the activists, foreign governments and U.N. agencies are, for the most part, staying quiet. Perhaps they don’t want to politicize the matter in the off chance they could still be released. Or perhaps, 20 years after the historic Beijing conference on women, the world no longer expects more.

TIME energy

Oil Prices Will Recover: Market Fundamentals Are Working

hand-holding-petrol-pump
Getty Images

We are nearing the mid-point of the bottoming process for oil

On St. Patrick’s Day the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that oil production from three of America’s largest shale plays is in decline. The EIA is forecasting that total U.S. oil production will be in decline in the 3rd quarter.

The South Texas Eagle Ford, North Dakota’s Bakken/Three Forks and the Niobrara in Colorado & Wyoming are in decline. Since horizontal shale wells have very steep production decline rates (more than 50% in the first year), the oil supply “glut” will be corrected by market forces. Shale plays require continuous drilling or they quickly go on decline.

The price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil is testing the 5-year low as I write this article. Oil traders are dealing with some facts and a lot of fiction these days. The physical market is obviously oversupplied today, but the word “glut” is being way overused.

There is no doubt in my mind that some of the “narrative” coming from Wall Street analysts is purposely meant to drive down the price of oil. More than 90% of the NYMEX futures contracts are now held by non-commercial “speculators”. Many of them are now “short” oil, hoping the price of WTI will fall. Once Wall Street gets oil prices as low as they can, they will suddenly change their tone and point out that demand for oil is going up and supplies are falling. I have seen this happen several times in my 35+ years in the industry. What’s happening now is not new.

Read more: Big Changes Needed For Big Oil To Survive

During February, WTI rose off the low of around $45/bbl that was set in late January. Oil seemed to have found a home in the $50 to $55 per barrel range a few weeks ago. Investors moved some money back into the upstream sector; pushing several of my favorite E&P companies up more than 20% year-to-date. They have now pulled back in lock step with oil prices.

On March 13, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published their monthly Oil Market Report. It cause quite a stir on Friday the 13th and oil dropped more than $2.00/bbl. You can read the highlights of the report here: https://www.iea.org/oilmarketreport/omrpublic/

I thought the IEA report contained some rather bullish long-range forecasts, not the least of which is that the IEA believes global demand for refined products will increase 2.0 million barrels per day from where demand is today by the 4th quarter. They believe low fuel prices will continue to increase global demand, pushing demand for refined products up over 95 million barrels per day by year-end. I think their estimates may prove to be quite conservative. A year after the last big drop in oil prices that occurred in 2008, demand for liquid fuels increased by 3.3 million barrels per day in 2009.

So, why are oil prices still so low?

1. There is a lot of “FEAR” being generated by concerns over the rapidly rising amount of oil in storage. In my opinion, this is way over-blown.
2. U.S. oil production continues to rise, despite the sharp drop in the active rig count.
3. Seasonal and unplanned refinery outages have lowered demand for oil.
4. Traders are worried that President Obama will agree to a deal with Iran and lift the sanctions that are keeping an estimated million barrels per day off the market.
5. Strength of the U.S. dollar continues to weigh on commodity prices.

Let’s take these issues one at a time.

Oil Storage: At the end of February, the EIA reported that working oil storage capacity in the U.S. was 40% empty. The most talked about storage location – Cushing, Oklahoma – still has about 20 million barrels of working capacity remaining. As the tanks at Cushing approach capacity, the storage fees go up and oil will be directed elsewhere. There are many pipelines that take oil out of Cushing, so the oil is not “stranded” there. Oil will not start overflowing the tanks in central Oklahoma or anywhere else.

Read more: The Truth About U.S. Crude Storage

It is very important to understand that the weekly EIA oil storage reports (published on Wednesdays) includes pipeline fill and field level storage. Although it is somewhat hazy, it is estimated that the U.S. oil pipeline system and upstream field tanks have approximately 120 million barrels of above ground oil in “storage”. It is not included in the ~525 million barrels of commercial storage capacity that many analysts compare to the oil inventory number each week.

So, the real storage capacity in the United States is approximately 645 million barrels, compared to the 458.5 million barrels the EIA reported on March 18 as the crude oil inventory level. Therefore, we have almost 180 million barrels of storage capacity remaining and this does not include floating storage. Plus, we are only a few weeks away from the time refiners will draw more feedstock from storage.

When we combine U.S. commercial storage, other OECD storage and floating storage, there is no risk that the world will run out of places to store oil before demand starts to exceed supply. However, the weekly EIA storage reports are likely to remain bearish for at least six more weeks. The speculators that want oil to go lower will keep beating this drum.

U.S. Production Growth: Investors are puzzled by the reports that U.S. production continues to rise while the number of rigs drilling for oil has dropped more than 45% in six months. The reason for this is simple; the drilling of new wells is not what increases production. It is the connection of those wells to a gathering system that adds production. The lag time from spudding a horizontal well to completing it to connecting the supply to a pipeline can be over six months. There was a large inventory of wells “waiting on completion” when all of this started back in June and it takes time to work through this inventory.

Several of the companies I follow are now saying they plan to drill wells and hold off on completing them until oil prices move higher. Although I agree with this strategy, it is impossible to estimate how much this will impact daily production rates. My guess is not very much.

U.S. onshore production should peak this summer and go on decline in the 3rd quarter. There are several Gulf of Mexico projects coming on-line this spring that will increase total U.S. production by approximately 200,000 barrels per day. Gulf of Mexico production is expected to peak at close to 1.7 million barrels per day (BOPD) in the first quarter of 2016, up from 1.4 million BOPD currently.

Seasonal and unplanned refinery outages have lowered demand for oil: The real “consumers” of crude oil are refineries. Refiners are required to do annual maintenance and reconfigure their processes to go from producing winter blends of transportation fuels and home heating oil to producing summer blends of gasoline and diesel. Most of the maintenance related slowdowns occur in March and September. There was also a fire at a large California refinery a few months ago and a workers’ strike that lowered crude oil demand. More crude will be “taken” by refiners in the second quarter.

Related: Why Oil’s Recent Drop Indicates Strength, Not Weakness

Iran: President Obama and Mr. Kerry seem “hell bent” on getting a deal done with Iran. In my opinion, this is very dangerous territory. Iran is a known sponsor of global terrorism and they supply weapons to several groups that want to kill us. I trust them about as far as I can throw an ICBM. They are taking control of Iraq as you read this and will soon have Saudi Arabia surrounded. Deals with the “devil” seldom work out well.

Based on the letter 47 senators sent to the leadership of Iran last week, I doubt any deal Obama and Kerry come up with leads to a lifting of sanctions anytime soon. Even if it does, it will take several months for Iran to ramp up their crude oil output.

Strength of the U.S. Dollar: This is a real concern.

The spike in the value of the dollar compared to a basket of other currencies can be viewed at: http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/index/dxy/charts

The dollar is up approximately 25% from where it traded during the 2nd quarter of 2014 and is responsible for at least $25/bbl of the drop in the price of WTI crude oil. Since oil trades in U.S. dollars, there is an inverse relationship between the dollar and the price of oil. This tops my list of “real” concerns when it comes to my long-term outlook for oil prices.

Conclusion: Your guess as to where oil prices are heading in the next few months is as good as mine. Even though there are plenty of places to store oil, the record high U.S. oil inventories will continue to give the bears support for lower price forecasts. In my opinion, we are nearing the mid-point of the bottoming process for oil. At the beginning of the year I predicted that oil would test the lows several times during February to May, and then begin to rise. I’ve seen nothing yet to change my opinion.

In the short-term, I am expecting energy investors to remain on the sidelines until they see U.S. production growth slow and demand increasing.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

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TIME energy

Low Oil Prices Force Kuwait to Consider Unpopular Taxes

kuwait-flag
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Kuwait’s economy has suffered the impact of the steep fall of oil prices since June 2014

Kuwait and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are discussing how the oil-rich country might begin imposing taxes on local companies in an effort to diversify sources of state income. In other words, the Gulf emirate isn’t making enough money thanks to the low price of oil.

Commerce and Industry Minister Abdulmoshen al-Madaj met with IMF representatives on March Kuwait City with IMF representatives and asked them for recommendations for potential tax reforms, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported. Already Kuwait’s government is considering tax changes that would increase revenues from sources other than oil, the agency said. It gave no details of the plan.

“The IMF will prepare a preliminary report on how to impose taxes on companies in Kuwait,” al-Mudej said after the meeting, according to KUNA.

Read more: The Latest OPEC Monthly Production Figures

As with many other oil-rich countries, Kuwait’s economy has suffered the impact of the steep fall of oil prices since June 2014. The government’s budget surplus, once huge, declined by 26 percent in the last three quarters of the year, and a budget deficit is possible in 2016 if the price of oil stays below $60 this year.

A report by the French news service Agence France-Presse claims that Kuwait has enjoyed budget surpluses for the past 15 fiscal years because of high oil prices, which accounted for more than 90 percent of the country’s revenues. But Kuwait has offset them by raising public spending from less than $13 billion to more than $77 billion in the same period.

Read more: Middle East OPEC Oil Rig Count Jumps 14%

Kuwait has already taken measures to improve its financial strength, including reducing its subsidy for kerosene and diesel fuel at service stations in January. However, soon after it had to restore them due to popular resistance. As a result, it remains unclear whether it will move ahead with similar plans to cut subsidies for gasoline, electricity and water.

The IMF has long recommended that Kuwait diversify its revenues through tax reforms and other steps. But until now the country’s outspoken National Assembly has successfully resisted such changes in policy.

Read more: Kuwait Oil Chief Sees Oil Prices At $64 For A Half-Year

Now, though, Kuwait is seriously considering the IMF’s tax recommendations. But that plan, like reducing the subsidies for kerosene and diesel, could meet resistance from blocs other than the National Assembly – oil barons and financiers, not mere motorists. In fact, the country’s stock index dropped 0.6 percent on March 17 after news of al-Madaj’s meeting with the IMF representatives was reported.

In general, Kuwaiti companies now pay no taxes on income. Foreign-based businesses, however, pay taxes on their commercial transactions in the country at rates reaching as high as 55 percent for corporations in Kuwait’s highest income bracket.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

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TIME

Netanyahu Now Says He Wants a 2-State Solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015.
Nir Elias—Reuters Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015.

The Israeli Prime Minister backtracked on election-timed statements he made earlier this week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestinian despite coming out against a Palestinian state on the eve of Tuesday’s election.

Netanyahu had reversed course on his support for a two-state solution when he said in an interview on Monday that he would not allow a Palestinian state if he remained in office. That stance appeared aimed at bolstering support from Israel’s right ahead of what was expected to be a close election on Tuesday, though his statement drew widespread condemnation abroad, including from the White House.

But fresh off of a surprise strong showing in Tuesday’s vote, Netanyahu said in an interview Thursday with MSNBC that he doesn’t want “a one-state solution.”

“I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that circumstances have to change,” said Netanyahu, who is poised to get a fourth term in office.

Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, handily defeating his strongest opposition, the Zionist Union, which won 24 seats. According to the Israeli system, President Reuven Rivlin is now expected to select Netanyahu to try to form a new coalition government.

Watch the full interview below:

TIME Tunisia

Tunisia Reels From a Terror Attack Possibly Linked to ISIS

ISIS claims responsibility for a terror attack in Tunis that killed over 20 people

With Tunisians reeling from the terror attack that killed 18 foreign tourists on Wednesday in the heart of their capital, the government scrambled to try avert any further attacks, while accounting for how gunmen were able to mount the deadliest operation in decades, in broad daylight and with seemingly little difficulty.

Late Wednesday, security forces arrested nine people, five of whom were believed to be directly connected to the attack on the National Bardo Museum, according to Tunisia’s presidential office, which said the suspects were part of a terror “cell.” In the worst attack on foreigners in 13 years—and with the highest death toll perhaps ever—two gunmen cornered the tourists in the museum parking lot early Wednesday afternoon, massacring several of them, before holding several others under siege inside. Security forces stormed the building about four hours later, killing the attackers and freeing the hostages. Among those killed were tourists from Spain, Italy, Poland and Germany, most of whom were passengers on a Mediterranean cruise-liner that had stopped for a day of sight seeing in Tunis.

As the shock sank in on Wednesday night, 88-year-old Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, who took office only in January after the country’s first presidential elections, vowed an all-out fight against jihadists. Tunisia, he said in a televised address, was “in a war with terror, and these savage minority groups will not frighten us. The fight against them will continue until they are exterminated.” Parliament on Thursday pledged more funds to beef up security and intelligence.

Yet despite the aggressive talk, Tunisians wondered whether their country’s security has been too lax, and how the growing threats within this small country of 11 million people had gone unnoticed. On Thursday, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid admitted that one of the two gunman had been under surveillance, although it appeared that Tunisia’s security forces did not have information linking him to a specific militant organization. “He was known to the security services, he was flagged and monitored,” said Essid, speaking to the French network RTL. “We are in the process of further investigation. We cannot say which organization they belong to.”

Despite that, early suspicions of who was behind Wednesday’s attack point to the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS). Tunisian analysts speculated on Wednesday that the attack on the museum might have been timed in retaliation for the death earlier this week of Ahmed al-Rouissi, one of Tunisia’s most wanted militants, who was killed fighting with ISIS in the Libyan city of Sirt.

On Thursday, the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist organizations, provided an English translation of an ISIS audio statement to the New York Times, in which the organization claimed responsibility for the tourist massacre, and warned of more violence to come. “We tell the apostates who sit on the chest of Muslim Tunisia: Wait for the glad tidings of what will harm you, impure ones, for what you have seen today is the first drop of the rain, God willing,” the paper quoted the statement saying. “You will not enjoy security, nor be pleased with peace, while the Islamic State has men like these.”

There might also have been a warning shortly before the attack. A few hours before the gunmen opened fire at the museum, an ISIS supporter tweeted, “Coming good news to Tunisia’s Muslims,” according to Britain’s Daily Mail. The tweeter, whose handle is @riff0BA, promised “a shock to the disbelievers and the hypocrites, especially those who claim to be cultured.'” According to the Associated Press, two of the gunman involved in the attack left Tunisia in December and received weapons training in Libya.

When gunfire exploded on Wednesday afternoon, residents in Tunis could scarcely believe that their breezy seaside city was under a terrorist attack. Sayida Ounissi, 28, a member of parliament for the Islamist political party Ennahda, told TIME on Thursday that many of her colleagues in parliament at first brushed off the security alert, not believing that they might be in danger; the lawmakers were in session, discussing new anti-terrorism measures, when the gunmen attacked the nearby National Bardo Museum. “Despite all of the threats and assassinations, most of us living in the city think of terrorism as something happening outside, in Iraq and Libya,” Ounissi said, by phone from Tunis. “I was one of the rare people who took the alert seriously.” She quickly began to leave the parliament, followed by her colleagues.

That illusion of safety has been severely shaken. Indeed, Tunisian analysts believe that jihadist organizations see the country and its democratically elected government as a particularly juicy target. That is because Tunisia’s 2011 Jasmine Revolution sparked a wave of uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, emerging as the sole democracy from the Arab Spring.

Wedged between Algeria, where al-Qaeda affiliates are active, and unstable Libya, where ISIS is waging increasing attacks, tiny Tunisia seems highly vulnerable. Tunisian officials estimate that more than 3,000 citizens have fought with jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria over the past four years—making it one of the biggest sources of foreign fighters in the world. About 500 of them have since returned. Battle-trained, some could be planning to wage attacks at home. “We know very well that the Tunisia model is not to everyone’s satisfaction,” says Ounissi. “You have a Muslim democracy in a region with extremist organizations, who do not want freedom and democracy.”

Still, Wednesday’s attacks appeared to have inspired intense determination among Tunisians to protect their democratic revolution. After dark on Wednesday thousands of people poured into Tunis’s main boulevard, Avenue Habib Bouguiba, signing the national anthem and holding handwritten signs proclaiming that terrorism would not prevail. Others gathered in a candlelight vigil outside the Bardo Museum, shaken by the gruesome bloodshed on the city’s streets. “You can see the sense of shock on everyone’s faces,” says Jerry Sorkin, an American tour operator who has lived in Tunis for many years, and runs a cultural-tour company called TunisUSA. “People are not going to tolerate the violence,” he says, speaking by phone from the capital on Thursday. “They have gone so far in forming a democracy.”

Nonetheless, Wednesday’s attacks are likely to have a drastic effect on Tunisia, especially on the vital tourist industry, which has suffered since the Arab Spring. The travel industry makes up about seven percent of the country’s economy, and employs nearly 500,000 people. A two-hour flight from Paris, Tunisia’s sun-baked coastline drew millions of tourists before the revolution. Tunisia was hoping that this year’s summer would mark an upturn in tourists, many of whom have stayed away since 2011. But Sorkin says he had received several calls and emails since Wednesday from nervous clients who have booked tours to Tunisia. ” All we can tell them is, we really think this is an isolated situation,” he says.

Tunisians are hoping that is the case. On Thursday, Tunisia’s former Minister of Information Oussama Romdani, who served under Ben Ali, sent TIME an email titled simply, “how to help after the attack.” Inside was a photograph of a sunny Mediterranean beach, with the words: “Keep calm and visit Tunisia.”

TIME ebola

Ebola Cases Surge in Guinea, as Liberia and Sierra Leone Show Progress

Members of the Guinean Red Cross move the body of a person who died from the Ebola virus on March 8, 2015 at the Donka hospital in Conakry.
Cellou Binani—AFP/Getty Images Members of the Guinean Red Cross move the body of a person who died from the Ebola virus on March 8, 2015 at the Donka hospital in Conakry.

As long as Ebola remains in one of the West African countries at the center of the epidemic the whole region remains at risk

Even though the latest Ebola epidemic first surfaced in Guinea more than a year ago, the tiny West African nation has been largely spared the catastrophic escalations in case counts experienced by neighbors Liberia and Sierra Leone. At the peak of the crisis, Liberia was reporting 442 new cases a week, with corpses filling hospital morgues and rotting on street corners. Now, nearly two weeks after Liberia’s last known Ebola patient was declared free from the disease, Guinea has reached its own grim milestone, with 95 new cases in the week ending March 15, the highest weekly tally of new cases so far this year according to the World Health Organization [WHO]. Sierra Leone, meanwhile, is seeing some success, reporting 55 new confirmed cases last week in its lowest weekly total since June, when the epidemic first started to spin out of control.

Even though Guinea’s reported caseload was down from that country’s peak of 156 at the end of December, it still represents a near doubling of infections, from 58, in the span of one week. That’s a troubling sign for the region as a whole, particularly as WHO noted with concern that the chain of transmission in Guinea is happening largely out of sight of health workers who can monitor and isolate the contacts of infected people, a process that helps stop the spread. Another cause for concern is that most of the infections in both Guinea and Sierra Leone have occurred along a narrow, well-trafficked corridor along the two countries’ shared border. “The population is highly mobile, with a great deal of movement throughout surrounding districts and countries,” says the weekly situation report. “Limiting the movements of cases and contacts is challenging but essential to prevent the seeding of new outbreaks.”

Thursday marks the 13th day since the last patient tested positive for Ebola in Liberia; but the WHO requires 42 days — twice the maximum incubation period for the highly infectious disease — before it can be declared Ebola-free. Even then Liberia can hardly afford to relax if its neighbors still harbor the disease. Ebola spread in Guinea for four months before it crossed the border to Liberia, launching the epidemic that has so far claimed 10,194 lives.

TIME ebola

This Is How Bill Gates Says We Can Avoid Another Global Health Crisis

ETHIOPIA-US-EDUCATION-GATES
ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER —AFP/Getty Images Bill Gates delivers a speech after receiving an honorary degree at Addis Ababa University in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 24, 2014.

"We are simply not prepared to deal with a global epidemic"

Now that the Ebola crisis is subsiding, Bill Gates says we need to learn from it. And he has a few suggestions.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Gates says developing countries need technology to map epidemics, groups need ways to more efficiently mobilize large numbers of volunteers and officials need to develop more sophisticated methods of keeping data on an outbreak.

“If anything good can come from this continuing tragedy, it is that Ebola can awaken the world to a sobering fact: We are simply not prepared to deal with a global epidemic,” he wrote.

Gates also says the world should invest heavily to stop epidemics before they begin through diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.

The Ebola epidemic claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people. “We know the cost of failing to act,” Gates said.

[NYT]

TIME Leaders

Pope Francis Will Speak at the U.N.

Pope Francis talks about importance of grandparents
Marco Campagna—Demotix/Corbis Pope Francis blesses the faithful, Vatican City, March 11, 2015.

The Pope will hold a town hall meeting with U.N. staff

Pope Francis will visit the U.N. in September during its annual gathering of world leaders.

The Pope will address the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25, meet with U.N. leadership and participate in a town hall meeting with U.N. staff, according to a statement issued Wednesday by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office.

“His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit will inspire the international community to redouble its efforts to achieve human dignity for all through ensuring greater social justice, tolerance and understanding among all of the world’s peoples,” the Secretary General’s statement says.

Pope Francis’ visit to the U.N. will come one day after he is scheduled to address Congress in Washington, D.C. He will be in the United States from Sept. 22-27.

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