TIME

Behind the Changing Forecast for Ebola Infections

See how improved care has changed predicted outcomes

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted that without intervention, there could be up to 1.4 million Ebola Cases in Sierra Leone and Liberia by January 20, 2015.

Scroll down to see predicted cases vs. reported cases, and the new trajectory of Ebola cases.

Predicted Cases vs. Reported Cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone

While the grim forecast was always presented as the worst case scenario, looking at predictions by country can provide a metric of the impact of intervention. In both Liberia and Sierra Leone, latest reports from the World Health Organization reveal different outcomes than expected.

Predicted Cases vs. Reported Cases in Liberia

As of Dec. 8, 2014, Liberia’s cases fell over 900,000 cases short of the CDC’s worst case scenario. At the time of the CDC report, Liberia had seen hundreds of new cases each week – more than double that of Sierra Leone. CDC’s model predicts future case numbers, assuming no intervention, according to Martin Meltzer, co-author of the CDC report.

Predicted Cases vs. Reported Cases in Sierra Leone

Dramatically fewer cases were predicted for Sierra Leone, where Ebola was located in May. But updated reports are far worse, with infections exceeding CDC’s prediction by nearly 5,000 as of Dec. 8, 2014. The latest report from the World Health Organization states that infection rates are increasing in northern Sierra Leone, where treatment and isolation centers are stretched to capacity.

“Part of forecasting is that things change unforeseen, such as in Liberia with increased interventions and changed behavior,” Meltzer said.

The prediction model can be used to understand the potential impact of worsening conditions in Sierra Leone. TIME updated CDC’s prediction model with the past three months of WHO reports to forecast cases in both countries. Through Jan. 20, 2015, when the CDC’s worst-case model predicted 1.4 million cases, the updated model forecasts roughly 53,000 cases in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Updated Prediction for Liberia

By Jan. 20, 2015, the updated model forecasts 21,00 cases in Liberia.

Updated Prediction for Sierra Leone

The updated model predicts just over 32,000 cases in Sierra Leone by Jan. 20, 2015.

Methodology

CDC multiplies all case numbers by 2.5 to correct for underreporting. The CDC prediction model is adjusted to match the trajectory shown from the updated data, taken from the WHO situation reports.

TIME Israel

This New Political Partnership Could Shake Up Israel’s Election

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Israeli army's training base complex near the southern city of Beersheba
Baz Ratner—Reuters Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Israeli army's training base complex near the southern city of Beershebaon Dec. 10, 2014.

The centrist Hatnuah party's alliance with the Labor Party could be a serious rival to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party in next year's elections

Israel’s former justice minister is expected to join her centrist party with the country’s center-left opposition, in a move that could significantly raise the stakes in the upcoming March election.

Tzipi Livni, who heads the centrist Hatnuah party, was expected to announce a unity deal with the Labor Party in a press conference Wednesday, Reuters reports.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Livni from his cabinet last week amid growing rifts in his coalition and called for early general elections in a bid to renew his mandate in office. Polls have found his center-right Likud party likely to come away with the most votes in the general election set for March 17.

But an alliance between Livni’s Hatnuah party and the larger Labor Party, headed by opposition leader Isaac Herzog, could reshape the electoral outlook. Recent polls suggest that the centrist alliance could take more parliamentary seats than Likud.

Still, Netanyahu could remain prime minister by forming a coalition with right-leaning parties in parliament. His party was expected to decide Wednesday whether to approve Netanyahu’s proposal to move primary elections to Dec. 31 from Jan.6, a move that has drawn criticism from some party members who say it puts other candidates for party leadership — such as former minister Gideon Sa’ar—at a disadvantage.

[Reuters]

TIME person of the year

White House Salutes Ebola Fighters

"The president, could not be prouder of the brave men and women who’ve committed themselves to this effort in a foreign land"

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest congratulated Ebola responders Wednesday for being named TIME’s Person of the Year.

“Health care workers on the front lines of the Ebola fight certainly aren’t in it for the recognition, but today their heroism and selflessness was on display because of TIME magazine’s decision to name them its person of the year,” Earnest said at the top of his daily press briefing. “The Administration, including the President, could not be prouder of the brave men and women who’ve committed themselves to this effort in a foreign land.”

TIME Military

Zap Wars: U.S. Navy Successfully Tests Laser Weapon in the Persian Gulf

Service says ray gun can handle multiple threats at 59 cents a shot

For decades, the Pentagon has been saying that laser weapons are just around the corner. Thursday, the U.S. military finally turned that corner.

The Navy announced that it had deployed and fired a laser weapon this fall aboard a warship in the Persian Gulf. During a series of test shots, the laser hit and destroyed targets mounted atop a small boat, blasted a six-foot drone from the sky, and destroyed other moving targets.

“This is the first time in recorded history that a directed energy weapons system has ever deployed on anything,” Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, told reporters at the Pentagon. “A lot of people talk about it—we decided to go do it.”

The Navy’s laser weapon system—LaWS, in sea-service jargon—was fired from the USS Ponce, a one-time amphibious ship that was converted to an “afloat forward staging base” in 2012 and assigned to the 5th Fleet in Bahrain. Firing a laser from the surface of the Persian Gulf is challenging because heat, humidity, dust and salt water can reduce its power.

The Navy spent about $40 million over the past seven years developing LaWS, which actually consists of six commercial welding lasers lashed together and aimed at the same point. It has proven effective at ranges of up to about a mile.

A chief petty officer, sitting inside the ship’s combat information center, directs the solid-state laser with an Xbox-like controller. It generates about 30 kilowatts of destructive power, roughly equal to 40 horsepower. Three times as much power is lost as heat rather than light.

Navy officers say the weapon’s power is adjustable, ranging from distract to disable to destroy. They added it would be ideal for asymmetric threats, including small attack boats (a favorite tactic of Iran, which undoubtedly was paying close attention to the tests off its shore). U.S. Central Command has given the Ponce’s skipper approval to use the laser for self-defense, if needed.

“Light from a laser beam can reach a target almost instantly,” a July congressional report said. “After disabling one target, a laser can be redirected in several seconds to another target. Fast engagement times can be particularly important in situations, such as near-shore operations, where missiles, rockets, artillery shells, and mortars could be fired at Navy ships from relatively close distances.”

But lasers can be disabled by bad weather, and are limited to line-of-sight confrontations. Initially, they’ll complement a warship’s traditional longer-range guns and missiles. The lessons learned from the Ponce tests will be cranked into a new generation of laser weaponry, which the Navy hopes to begin installing on the fleet in the early 2020s.

Such weapons are safer than traditional shells and missiles, which are crammed with explosives and propellant. They’re considerably cheaper, too: the energy required to fire the Ponce’s laser costs 59 cents a shot, compared to a shell or missile, which can cost $1 million or more.

Read next: U.S. Closes Bagram Prison in Afghanistan

TIME russia

Gorbachev on U.S.-Russia Relations: ‘We May Not Live Through These Days’

GERMANY-HISTORY-WALL-25YEARS
Odd Andersen—AFP/Getty Images Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev attends a symposium on security in Europe 25 years after the fall of the "Wall" in Berlin on Nov. 8, 2014.

The former Soviet leader called for the U.S. and Russia to act immediately and improve relations

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, called Wednesday for a U.S.-Russia summit to thaw relations between the two countries in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

Gorbachev, whose policies played a key role in ending the Cold War as well as democratizing Russia and the satellite states of the former Soviet Union, warned that the standoff between the U.S. and Russia could lead to another Cold War, Reuters reports.

“This is extremely dangerous, with tensions as high as they are now. We may not live through these days: someone could lose their nerve,” he wrote Wednesday in the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazet.

MORE: Vladimir Putin, TIME Person of the Year runner-up

“I suggest the leaders of Russia and the United States think about holding a summit with a broad agenda, without preliminary conditions,” Gorbachev added.

The enmity between Moscow and the West is the worst since the Cold War ended, with the United States, NATO and European Union accusing Russia of fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine.

[Reuters]

TIME ebola

How Effective Is Screening for Ebola at Airports?

New York's JFK Airport Begins Screening Passengers For Ebola Virus
Spencer Platt—Getty Images A plane arrives at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) airport on October 11, 2014 in New York City.

Since August, 80,000 passengers have been screened for Ebola at various airports around the world. Here’s what health officials found

As the Ebola outbreak in West Africa escalated over the summer, the World Health Organization recommended airport screening as a way to contain spread of the disease. WHO advised that all people leaving the most severely affected countries—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone—should have their temperatures taken and be asked about any Ebola-related symptoms they might have, including fever, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea.

Since the program began in August, more than 80,000 passengers have been screened as they left these countries, 12,000 of them headed for the U.S. Do the screenings work? In a report published in the MMWR, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reveal the latest information from the program.

Anyone with a fever or other symptoms—or who reported having a high risk of being exposed to Ebola, such as having contact with Ebola patients—was not allowed to fly. According to the CDC report, none of those who were denied boarding were diagnosed with Ebola. But two patients without symptoms when they left West Africa, Thomas Eric Duncan and Dr. Craig Spencer, eventually developed Ebola after arriving in the U.S.

The MMWR report also details the U.S.’s more stringent airport entry screening for all passengers arriving from the three affected countries. Beginning Oct. 11, all passengers coming to the U.S. from these countries were required to fly into one of five airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Washington-Dulles International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. They are also required to take their temperatures for 21 days, the incubation period for the Ebola virus, and report them to local health officials. The designated airports are equipped with trained public health personnel who meet passengers and provide them with a kit to help them record their temperatures, as well as educate them about who to call if they develop symptoms.

From Oct. 11 to Nov. 10, 1, 993 passengers were screened this way, and 4.3% were referred to the CDC for additional evaluation. Seven people had symptoms and were referred to proper medical personnel, but none developed Ebola. “Using these processes to educate each traveler and then link the traveler to public health authorities for the duration of the incubation period is of critical importance to facilitate rapid detection of illness and implementation of appropriate public health control measures,” the authors write.

But the most effective way to prevent the epidemic from spreading is to control it at its source. In a separate MMWR report, researchers at the CDC say that their first assessment of Ebola infection and control in Sierra Leone reveals many gaps. In a review of six of the 14 districts in Sierra Leone that are affected by Ebola, the CDC Ebola Response Team found that none had a dedicated infection control supervisor to oversee training and implementation of infection control procedures, such as wearing protective equipment and isolating patients. There were also no national, district or facility standards for infection control, and screening of patients for Ebola was inadequate. All districts also lacked sufficient personal protective equipment, the gear that is critical for protecting health care workers treating Ebola patients, and many did not have running water, enough chlorine bleach to sanitize contaminated objects, or incinerators for burning disposable medical waste.

“An increasingly coordinated and comprehensive [infection and prevention control] program with district and health facility level support is urgently needed to prevent Ebola in districts where the prevalence is low and to strengthen the existing…response in areas with high prevalence of Ebola,” the CDC officials write.

TIME Peru

Peru to Charge Greenpeace Activists for Stunt at Ancient Nazca Drawings

Greenpeace activists stand next to massive letters delivering the message "Time for Change: The Future is Renewable," next to the hummingbird geoglyph in Nazca in Peru,, Dec. 8, 2014.
Rodrigo Abd—AP Greenpeace activists stand next to massive letters delivering the message "Time for Change: The Future is Renewable," next to the hummingbird geoglyph in Nazca in Peru,, Dec. 8, 2014.

Greenpeace activists allegedly left footprints near ancient Peruvian desert drawings

Peru is planning to criminally charge Greenpeace activists who are said to have damaged the world-renowned Nazca lines by leaving footprints in the desert nearby during a publicity stunt.

Peru’s culture ministry said that activists entered a “strictly prohibited” area beside the enormous figure of a hummingbird at the United Nations world heritage site in the country’s coastal desert, the Guardian reports. The Nazca figures, scratched on the surface of the ground between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago, depict creatures, plants and imaginary figures.

The Peruvian government says that it is trying to prevent the activists responsible from leaving the country while prosecutors file charges of attacking archaeological monuments.

“Peru has nothing against the message of Greenpeace. We are all concerned about climate change,” said Luis Jaime Castillo, the deputy culture minister. “But the means doesn’t justify the ends.”

A Greenpeace spokesman said that activists were “absolutely careful to protect the Nazca lines.”

[The Guardian]

TIME Malala Yousafzai

Meet the Guests of Malala Joining Her as She Receives the Nobel Peace Prize

Joint Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai, stands with five young women she invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, from left, Nigeria's Amina Yusuf, Pakistan's Kainat Soomro, school friend Shazia Ramzan, Syria's Mezon Almellehan and school friend Kainat Riaz, as they pose for a group photograph before speaking to the media at Malala's hotel in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 9, 2014.
Matt Dunham—AP Joint Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai, stands with five young women she invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, from left, Nigeria's Amina Yusuf, Pakistan's Kainat Soomro, school friend Shazia Ramzan, Syria's Mezon Almellehan and school friend Kainat Riaz, as they pose for a group photograph before speaking to the media at Malala's hotel in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 9, 2014.

The girls' education activist invited five extraordinary young friends to attend Wednesday's ceremony in Oslo

A group of friends and fellow activists invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on Wednesday have described how they have been inspired by the example of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager whose determination to receive an education provoked the Taliban to try and kill her.

Amina Yusuf, 17, a mentor for young girls at the Center for Girls’ Education in northern Nigeria, says she was impressed with Malala, whom she met in July when the young activist visited Nigeria. “She’s so calm,” Yusuf tells TIME by telephone from Oslo, Norway. “She has the spirit of an adult. When you see you her you think she is much older than her [actual] age.”

Yusuf is one of five young women invited by Malala to join her in Oslo on Wednesday.

MORE: Malala says she hopes to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister

Malala, 17, was awarded the prize jointly with 60-year-old children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced in October. Malala, who is the youngest Nobel Laureate in history, invited three champions of girls’ rights and two classmates from Pakistan who were on the bus with her when she was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012.

The two girls, Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, were also shot during the attack on Malala in 2012, with Ramzan being hit in the shoulder and hand and Riaz in the arm. Riaz, who is now 17, describes the day as “the most horrible day of my life.” Speaking by phone from Oslo on Tuesday, Riaz tells TIME, “When I saw Malala covered in blood in the bus, then I forgot everything. It was the hardest time of my life.”

After Riaz and Ramzan, now 16, recovered from their injuries they won scholarships to attend Atlantic College in South Wales, an international residential school. But they’ve stayed in touch with Malala, who now attends school in Birmingham, England. “I am very happy to be here [in Oslo],” says Ramzan. “It’s an honor for Malala. Now she has more support in helping other people, in helping other children and every young student go to school.”

The other young activists that Malala has invited to join her in Oslo have also experienced extreme hardships at a young age and are working to make a difference for other girls. Mezon Almellehan is a 16-year-old Syrian refugee who lives with her family in a camp in Azraq, Jordan where she champions girls’ education within the camps. She met Malala earlier this year when Malala toured the large Syrian refugee camp, Za’atari, where Almellehan was living at the time.

And finally there’s Kainat Soomro, a 21-year-old sexual assault victims’ advocate from Pakistan. Soomro, who doesn’t speak English but spoke with TIME via a translator, said on Tuesday that she had met Malala in person for the first time that day. For Soomro, who was abducted and sexually assaulted by a group of men over a period of three days when she was 13, the meeting has been inspiring. Though she’s no stranger to activism — she has spent the last eight years fighting for justice in her own case in Pakistan — she says she has “learned so many things” from Malala and her fight for girls’ education. “Malala gave me courage,” she says. “[After speaking with her] I feel so much stronger than I did before.”

The young women tell TIME they are excited to be in Oslo — “It’s so cool,” notes Ramzan — but they all seem more thrilled to witness Malala receive one of the most prestigious awards in the world. “I am proud, she’s my friend,” says Riaz, who believes that Malala’s Peace Prize will help promote the rights of girls to have an education. “This is our mission. In the whole world — especially in Pakistan — everyone [should] get an education.”

Read next: Malala Yousafzai Unveils Bloodstained Uniform From Taliban Shooting

TIME Behind the Photos

How John Moore Covered the Ebola Outbreak

Getty Images photographer John Moore was covering the Ebola outbreak in Liberia from the onset

In the early months of an Ebola epidemic that has claimed more than 6,000 lives in West Africa, Getty Images photographer John Moore was on the frontline in Liberia.

At that time, untrained medical workers fell victim to the virus, with hospitals and clinics unable to handle the rising number of cases. Moore’s harrowing images, published on TIME LightBox in August, crystallized these challenges. “I went relatively early on to cover the Liberia outbreak,” he says. “And I hope that my work had at least some small influence on mobilizing aid, [helping to] instill a sense of urgency into the international community.”

Moore spent a total of four weeks on the story, and he advised several other photographers on the crucial and life-saving procedures one has to carefully follow to prevent infection. “I was very happy to see other news organizations go to West Africa afterwards and expand the coverage,” says Moore. “I believe that with a humanitarian crisis like this, more media is better. In the case of Liberia, there were actually fewer media there than there would normally be on such a large story. Perhaps fear had something to do with that.”

With the virus posing an invisible risk, many news organizations have been reticent to send journalists and photographers to cover the outbreak. But, says Moore, while the epidemic has “the appearance of being too dangerous, in reality, I believe it was less dangerous than some of the other places I’ve been and worked consistently over the years like Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Today, the situation has improved, with scientists and healthcare workers fighting back—and the Ebola Fighters were selected as TIME’s Person of the Year. But the fight is far from over, as recent work from photographers Daniel Berehulak, Samuel Aranda and Pete Muller, among many others, can attest.

Moore plans on returning, as he tells TIME in an exclusive video interview: “I don’t know yet the timing of my return, but I’ll go back to West Africa.”

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent. Paul Moakley, TIME’s Deputy Director of Photography, produced this video essay.

TIME South Africa

South African Judge Says Prosecutors Can Appeal Oscar Pistorius Sentence

Prosecutors who say that Oscar Pistorius' five-year sentence is "shockingly light" are getting a chance to appeal his conviction

Prosecutors can appeal against the acquittal on murder charges of the double amputee athlete Oscar Pistorius, a South African judge ruled Wednesday.

The athlete was jailed in October for five years for fatally shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Prosecutors said that the Jude Thokozile Masipa misinterpreted the law when she acquitted Pistorius of murder, and argued that five years was a “shockingly light” sentence.

The case will now go to South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals, BBC reports. If Pistorius is found guilty of murder, he would face a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.

The 28-year-old “Blade Runner” was the first double-amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics in 2012.

[BBC]

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