TIME mathematics

Top Mathematics Prize Awarded to a Woman for First Time

First woman to win Fields Medal in mathematics
Iranian Professor of mathematics Maryam Mirzakhani Stanford University/EPA

Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani wins the Fields Medal, considered the Nobel of math, and breaks into a male-dominated academic elite. All 52 previous winners of the award were men

A female mathematician has won the most prestigious prize in math for the first time, a hugely symbolic breakthrough for gender equality in one of the most male-dominated areas of academic research.

Maryam Mirzakhani, 37, will be awarded the Fields Medal — widely considered math’s Nobel Prize, since there is no Nobel for mathematics — at a ceremony in Seoul on Wednesday morning. Born and raised in Iran, she has been a professor at Stanford University since 2008.

All the previous 52 winners of the Fields have been men since its inception in 1936, one of the most visible indicators that at its highest level math remains a predominantly male preserve.

Ingrid Daubechies, president of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), said that Mirzakhani’s success was “hugely symbolic and I hope it will encourage more women to get into mathematics because we need more women. I am very happy that now we can put to rest that particular ‘it has never happened before.’”

The Fields Medal is awarded every four years at the IMU’s International Mathematical Congress to two to four mathematicians aged under 40. The medal honors “outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement,” which is why there is an age limit.

Besides Mirzakhani, the other recipients will be Manjul Bhargava, Princeton professor who was born in Canada but raised in the U.S.; Artur Ávila from Brazil; and Martin Hairer from Austria.

As well as honoring a woman for the first time, this year’s Fields also reflect the rise of the developing world in producing top mathematicians, even if they are working at universities in the West.

Ávila, who works in Paris, is the first winner from South America and Mirzakhani the first from the Middle East.

Yet it is the emergence of a female winner that is likely to cause the most discussion in math and science circles. Even though the percentage of math majors who are women is now approaching parity with men in the U.S., women make up less than 10% of full math professors at the top 100 universities in the U.S., according to Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams, both Cornell University professors, in their book The Mathematics of Sex.

“In the U.S. about 30% of the graduate population at research departments are women,” said Daubechies. “But a higher percentage of women leave academia than men, so we have an even lower percentage of women postdocs and an even lower percentage of women in faculty. It is not just that the numbers are small, it is also that more leave percentagewise. I hope that will change.”

Daubechies, who is the first female president of the IMU, said that there have been excellent female mathematicians before but often they have not done their strongest work before age 40.

“I am of course chuffed that the first female Fields medalist has happened when I am president, but I think it is coincidence. I did not set it out as an agenda point. It would have been completely inappropriate to do that.”

Each Fields Medal comes with a citation, which can be hard to understand for those with no mathematical grounding — and even those with one, since the frontiers of math are such abstract places.

Ávila won “for his profound contributions to dynamical systems theory,” Bhargava won “for developing powerful new methods in the geometry of numbers,” Hairer won “for his outstanding contributions to the theory of stochastic partial differential equations,” and Mirzakhani won “for her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.”

Daubechies added: “At the IMU we believe that mathematical talent is spread randomly and uniformly over the Earth — it is just opportunity that is not. We hope very much that by making more opportunities available — for women, or people from developing countries — we will see more of them at the very top, not just in the rank and file.”

TIME Ukraine

Putin Calls Western Bluff With Humanitarian Convoy Stunt

A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine drives along a road near the city of Yelets August 12, 2014.
A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine drives along a road near the city of Yelets August 12, 2014. Nikita Paukov—Reuters

The trucks heading to the border with eastern Ukraine will test the West's assumption that Russia is always up to something nasty

When the Russian convoy of nearly 300 trucks departed from a military base near Moscow on Tuesday morning and headed toward the border with Ukraine, they were kitted out to look as benevolent as possible. All of them were painted in pristine white, and matching tarpaulin was stretched over their cargo. As they prepared to head out, a priest went around and sprinkled their engines with holy water as television cameras rolled. But the nicest touch was applied to the drivers, whose identical knee-high shorts and khaki caps made them look like postal deliverymen.

The show was not entirely convincing. After all of Russia’s efforts to stoke the conflict in eastern Ukraine since it began in March – including supplying the separatist militias fighting the Ukrainian military with weapons and volunteers – it was hard for Ukraine to take seriously Russia’s claim that these trucks were carrying nothing more dangerous than baby food and power generators. Nor did the West give Moscow the benefit of the doubt. Before the trucks were even loaded, let alone inspected, the U.S. and its allies warned that the convoy was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and the government in Kiev pledged on Tuesday that it would not be allowed to pass.

Both reactions could backfire. The goal of this convoy, though likely a lot more complicated than simple humanitarian aid, has more to do with domestic Russian politics than military strategy. Between June and July, the proportion of Russians who support a military incursion in eastern Ukraine has dropped from 40% to 26%, according to the independent Levada Center polling agency. But support for humanitarian aid to the region has meanwhile remained at around to 90% since May. “The Kremlin does not usually ignore this kind of consensus,” says Lev Gudkov, the director of the Levada Center. So President Vladimir Putin at least had to attempt a humanitarian mission.

And that’s likely all there is to the convoy, says Fyodor Lukyanov, a prominent foreign policy expert in Moscow. Putin hasn’t put his military aims aside, but knows that a phony aid convoy would be a poor way of achieving them. “It just wouldn’t make any sense,” he says. “Why would you mount such a grandiose and public spectacle with these trucks if you wanted to smuggle in weapons or start a war?”

Besides, the deception wouldn’t be necessary. Russia already has tens of thousands of troops gathered at the border with Ukraine, and if Putin gave the order, they could mount an invasion in a matter of hours while still maintaining some element of surprise. Nor would Putin need any trickery in order to funnel support to the separatist rebels. Their militias already control huge chunks of the border, and Russia has had no problem sending weapons and fighters across it without the use of subterfuge.

So the West’s anxiety over this column of trucks has seemed overblown. On Aug. 8, when Russia proposed its humanitarian mission during a meeting of the UN Security Council, the American ambassador to the UN warned that it would “be viewed as an invasion” if Russia acted unilaterally. “At every step in this crisis, Russians have sabotaged peace, not built it,” said Samantha Power. The day before the convoy set out, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the head of the NATO military alliance, said in an interview with Reuters that there is a “high probability” of Russia invading Ukraine, potentially “under the guise of a humanitarian operation.”

The following day, as the convoy made its way to the border, the government in Kiev announced to no one’s surprise that they would not allow it to pass. “We will not consider any kind of movements of Russian convoys on Ukrainian territory,” said Valery Chaly, the deputy head of the presidential administration. “It would be disturbing to allow Russian trucks into Ukraine even without their drivers.” If the cargo indeed contains humanitarian aid, he added, it would need to be offloaded and moved onto Red Cross trucks before entering Ukraine.

The optics of that kind of traffic jam would play right into the Kremlin’s favorite narrative. On the one side would be the Russian convoy waiting to provide assistance to the victims of war, and on the other would be the Ukrainian military trying to block it. All the Western warnings of a Russian Trojan horse would also start to look a bit paranoid. “This is very smart on Putin’s part. It allows him to call the West’s bluff,” says Matthew Rojansky, an expert on Russia and Ukraine at the Wilson Center in Washington. “He is calling out this hyperbolic position that everything Russia does is aggressive and counterproductive.”

Most of the time that position has been right. Russia’s actions in Ukraine have indeed been aggressive since the conflict began in March, and its support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine has been anything but productive for the cause of peace. But the humanitarian convoy appears to be one of the few exceptions to the rule. It would have allowed Putin to save face among his own electorate, answering the public calls for a Russian aid mission to eastern Ukraine. Achieving that now looks impossible without the use of military force, and whether or not Putin wanted that outcome, the West’s mistrust has brought him closer to it.


Kurds Welcome U.S. Help in Iraq, But Remember History of Betrayal

Kurdish military volunteers amass near the frontline at the outskirts of the town of Makhmor, 35 miles south of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Region of Iraq, Aug. 9. 2014.
Kurdish military volunteers amass near the frontline at the outskirts of the town of Makhmor, 35 miles south of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Region of Iraq, Aug. 9. 2014. Sebastian Meyer—The Washington Post/Corbis

A brief history of the Kurdish/U.S. relationship shows why

For a few hours, the city of Erbil was in a state of panic. Word came that Gwar, just 30 minutes from the Kurdish capital, had been taken by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and Kurds and ex-pats alike were packing up, trying to book airline tickets or, in a worse case scenario, preparing to drive to Turkey. But then American war planes swooped in and began bombing and President Obama pledged to defend Erbil.

Kurds breathed a sigh of relief. “The most important development was the decision by the United States to save lives,” says Hoshyar Zebari, a former Iraqi foreign minister and a prominent Kurd. “U.S. help is deeply appreciated.” Dr. Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, welcomed the UN resolution condemning ISIS, and praised coalition forces for their technical and humanitarian assistance. He noted that the U.S. had co-ordinated tactical efforts with Peshmerga forces, allowing the Kurdish fighters to prepare to go on the offensive. “We used to say Kurds don’t have any friends but the mountains. But that doesn’t ring true anymore,” he said.

That said, many Kurds still carry lingering worries that the U.S. will betray them once again. “There’s a history of contact and betrayal with the U.S. and the Kurds where the U.S. made contact and helped but never jumped in with both feet,” says Quil Lawrence, author of The Invisible Nation: How the Kurds’ Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East, and a correspondent with NPR. “The Kurds have been very frustrated with a lot of the stages long the way,” he says. “But certainly these airstrikes would restore some of that trust. I feel like I’ve had many Kurds quote Churchill to me in the past week: ‘Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing… after they have exhausted all other possibilities.’”

Finally, it seems, the U.S. has exhausted all other possibilities in Iraq and all that’s left is to rely upon the Kurds. It’s only taken a century.

Nearly a hundred years ago, the Kurdish rebel leader Sheikh Mahmoud Barzanji carried around in his pocket a copy of Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points, so inspired was he by American self-determination. And yet it would be the Americans who would help deny the Kurds the same right at nearly every turn. Two years after Wilson delivered that speech, the Allies agreed to an independent Kurdistan in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. But by 1923, in the Treaty of Lausanne that recognized Kemal Attaturk’s Turkey, the international community abandoned the Kurds and the referendum promised in the Treaty of Sevres was never realized. Thus began the Kurdish struggle for independence.

After several thwarted attempts to break away from Iraq, the Kurds finally got their first indirect aid from the U.S. in the early 1970s, more thanks to the Shah of Iran than anything else. In 1972, Iraq aligned with the Soviet Union and the Shah pushed the U.S. to arm the Kurds by selling them Soviet weapons seized in Egypt. By 1974, the Kurds were in open rebellion led by Mullah Mustafa Barzani, of the same tribe Barzanji was from. But by 1975, Iran and Iraq made peace under the Algiers Accords. Iranian support for the Kurdish uprising abruptly came to a halt and the rebellion collapsed.

Barzani fled to Iran and then America, where he died in 1979, the same year of the Iranian Revolution, where yet again U.S. allegiances shifted. And, yet, again, the Kurds were the unwitting victim.

Towards the end of the First Gulf War, the Kurds saw a window for independence. Encouraged by the Americans, they rose up against Hussein for the third time. Hussein sent in the army and rolled over the Kurds, slaughtering thousands of villagers as they passed through. More than 1.5 million Kurds fled through the mountains to Turkey. American troops and arms never materialized, though they eventually sent in air support, which helped the Kurds push Hussein back to Kirkuk. In order to protect the Kurds, a no-fly zone was formed that lasted nearly a decade, until the Second Gulf War.

By the time the Turks refused America passage for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Kurds were in a position to offer themselves as a viable alternative. Fighting side-by-side with American special forces, the Kurds believed that their day had finally come: independence couldn’t be far away. But in the aftermath of the invasion, the Kurds were taken aback when the U.S. tried to disarm them and insisted they join the new government. Warily, the did so, but Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not been the partner they’d hoped for.

Maliki warned repeatedly that the Kurds did not have the authority to drill and export their own oil, and that empowering them would lead to the end of Iraq. By late 2011 some 60,000 Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi forces were at a stand off near Kirkuk over the oil dispute. But, then, in 2013, Fallujah fell to Sunni extremists and then in the summer of 2014, Mosul and Tikrit fell to ISIS. The Iraqi Army retreated back to Baghdad. The Kurds took full control of Kirkuk and its refinery.

But U.S. refusal to equip the Kurds, and Baghdad’s refusal to share U.S. arms with the peshmerga, left Kurdish forces weakened, low on ammunition and unable to defend a 600-mile border border. ISIS advanced within 30 minutes of the Kurdish capital of Erbil as panicked Kurds and foreign workers began packing and fleeing to the airport or north towards Turkey. Last week, the U.S. stepped in and bombed ISIS and President Obama pledged to defend Erbil. For the first time ever, the U.S. said it would directly arm Kurdish troops. It’s not exactly self-determination — but it’s a start.


TIME France

Small French Town Resistant to Change Name From ‘Death to Jews’

A Jewish group has petitioned to change the name of La-mort-aux-Juifs

A Jewish organization is petitioning French officials that a small hamlet outside of Paris change its name from what translates in English as “Death to Jews.”

“[The fact that the name] was unnoticed during seventy years since the liberation of France from the Nazis and Vichy is most shocking,” Shimon Samuels, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s international relations, wrote to France’s Interior Minister.

Here’s the town on Yahoo! Maps:

But the deputy mayor of Courtemaux, the village of 289 people that oversees the contested hamlet, is resistant to a name change, arguing that the tradition should be respected.

“It’s ridiculous. This name has always existed,” Marie-Elizabeth Secretand told AFP. “No one has anything against the Jews, of course. It doesn’t surprise me that this is coming up again. Why change a name that goes back to the Middle Ages or even further? We should respect these old names.”

Secretand also noted that the municipal council was petitioned to change the name of the town, which consists of two houses and a farm, 20 years ago, but that request was denied.

Still, Samuels urges a name change due to “the current surge in public and violent expressions of anti-Semitism” — Europe has seen a dramatic uptick of anti-Semitism ranging from protests to acts of violence in the past month — and for the town’s own monetary gains. Samuels noted that home values in La-Mort-Aux-Juifs is 14.1% less than the Courtemaux average.

In May, a Spanish town called Castrillo Matajudios (Little Hill Fort of Jew Killers) changed its name to Mota de Judios (Hill of the Jews).

TIME ebola

Spanish Priest Dies of Ebola Despite Z-Mapp Treatment

He had been working at a hospital in Liberia

Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, the first European to contract the Ebola virus during the recent outbreak, died Tuesday at a hospital in Madrid.

Pajares was treated with ZMapp, an experimental drug that had not yet been tested on humans. Although Pajares’ condition stabilized after taking the drug, the disease hit his kidneys and heart, and he passed away around 3 a.m. Tuesday, according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

Pajares had been working in a hospital in Liberia when he contracted the disease. He was 75 years old.


Helicopter Delivering Aid to Refugees Crashes in Sinjar Mountains

A wounded man is carried away from the crash site of an Iraqi Air Force helicopter that crashed shortly after take off during a rescue mission in the Sinjar Mountains, Iraq, Aug. 12, 2014.
A wounded man is carried away from the crash site of an Iraqi Air Force helicopter that crashed shortly after take off during a rescue mission in the Sinjar Mountains, Iraq, Aug. 12, 2014. Moises Saman—Magnum for TIME

Pilot dies in crash, but Iraqi member of parliament and a photographer on assignment for TIME among the survivors

An Iraqi helicopter delivering aid to refugees stranded in the Sinjar mountains of northern Iraq crashed Tuesday, killing the pilot and injuring several passengers, including an Iraqi member of parliament and a photographer on assignment for TIME.

Photographer Moises SAMAN (Photo by Lorena Ros).
Photographer Moises Saman Photo by Lorena Ros via Magnum

Moises Saman, a photographer with the Magnum photo agency who has worked in Iraq and other countries in region for many years, was involved in the crash. Speaking to a TIME editor by cellphone from Northern Iraq after the incident, he said that the helicopter crashed soon after taking off, having picked up internally displaced Iraqis of the Yazidi ethnicity. The Yazidi civilians have been sheltering from Sunni Islamist militants for many days.

Saman said he had been pinned down by the weight of some of the passengers for a while but was unhurt other than suffering a minor cut on his head. When he spoke he was on his way to a hospital in the city of Dohuk as a precautionary measure.

Iraqi parliamentarian Vian Dakhil was among the survivors of the crash. Dakhil garnered international attention for her impassioned pleas on the floor of Iraq’s parliament to deliver aide to tens of thousands of Yazidis, a religious minority that fled into the mountains as ISIS fighters advanced northward into the Kurdish region of Iraq. The New York Times reported that its Paris bureau chief and veteran war correspondent Alissa J. Rubin, 56, survived the crash with injuries to her head and wrists.

A Kurdish official told the Times that the cause of the crash, though still undetermined, appeared to have been an accident and that no ISIS fighters were seen in the area at the time.

TIME celebrities

The Military Absolutely Loved Robin Williams

The late comedian took multiple trips to war zones to entertain troops

Robin Williams was beloved by the U.S. military, perhaps even more so than by the American public. He carried Bob Hope’s mantle as a funny man far from home, often in inhospitable places. Throughout his career, Williams made six USO tours to Iraq, Afghanistan, and 11 other countries and performed for 90,000 troops by the time of his final tour in 2010.

He had the troops roaring in Baghdad in 2003, shortly after the capture of Saddam Hussein. “I love the fact that when he came out of that spider hole, he wanted to negotiate,” Williams said, before changing his voice into that of a bellowing soldier: “It’s a little late for that, bubsy! You’re at the point where you’re going to share a cell with a large man named Bubba. I’m gonna be yo’ new Baghdaddy.”

He also poked fun at the Army itself, including a change to uniforms that appeared to be computer-generated. “The new Army camouflage—it’s digital,” he told troops in Kabul in 2007. “So you can disappear in front of a computer.”

“Williams traveled around the world to lift the spirits of our troops and their families,” the USO posted on Facebook following the news of Williams’ passing. “He will always be a part of our USO family and will be sorely missed.” The post had attracted nearly 60,000 “likes” by midday Tuesday.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a statement of his own on Williams, saying that “from entertaining thousands of service men and women in war zones, to his philanthropy that helped veterans struggling with hidden wounds of war, he was a loyal and compassionate advocate for all who serve this nation in uniform. “He will be dearly missed by the men and women of DOD—so many of whom were personally touched by his humor and generosity.”

Jim Garamone, a writer for the Pentagon’s internal news service, wrote Tuesday of the comedian’s caring and compassion for those fighting the nation’s wars:

At the end of every performance—be it a combat outpost or a forward operating base—Robin was always the last entertainer to leave. In Iraq, a group of Marines came in from patrol and missed his show. He made it a point to meet with them and give them 20 minutes of fun, even as the chopper’s blades were turning to go to the next show.

In Afghanistan, the “clamshell” at Bagram Air Field was a favorite venue for him, and he performed there many times. In 2010, he started the show with “I love what you’ve done with the place.”

He was not a prima donna. One time a sandstorm grounded the party at an outpost near Baghdad. Robin along with everyone else crammed into a small “tin can” to spend the night. The next day his jokes about snoring and gaseous emissions pretty much convulsed everyone.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, recalled asking Williams, the father of three, for some fatherly guidance during that last 2010 tour. “I once asked Robin Williams to offer advice for my son, who would soon turn 18,” Kirby tweeted early Tuesday. “’Follow your heart,’ he said. ‘The head is sometimes wrong.'”

Airman enjoy Robin Williams’ shtick during a 2007 show in Kuwait. DoD photo / Chad J. McNeeley
TIME Military

The U.S.’s Timid Third Iraq War

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take positions in northern Iraq on Tuesday. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP / Getty Images

Air strikes may help, but on their own they won’t turn the tide against ISIS

The contrasting views of two senior U.S. military leaders on the effectiveness of American air strikes against jihadist targets in northern Iraq could hardly have been more stark.

“Very effective,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters Monday in Sydney, Australia.

“Very temporary,” Army Lieut. General William Mayville, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said later in the day at the Pentagon.

The conflicting signals were a sign of an Administration determined to do just enough to avert a humanitarian catastrophe without launching a third U.S.-Iraq war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL).

While F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s dropped 500-pound bombs on targets like artillery pieces, mortars and armored vehicles, aided by MQ-1 Predators and their 20-pound warheads, they didn’t appear to do much to change the situation on the ground. The U.S. Air Force and Navy are flying up to 100 attack, reconnaissance and support missions a day over Iraq.

Mayville’s briefing was as perplexing and unsatisfying as the 19 airstrikes the U.S. military carried out in Iraq through Aug. 11.

“I’m very concerned about the threat posed by ISIL in Iraq and in the region,” he said. “They’re very well-organized. They are very well equipped. They coordinate their operations. And they have thus far shown the ability to attack on multiple axes. This is not insignificant.”

So what is the U.S. military prepared to do to deal with this threat?

“There are no plans,” Mayville said, “to expand the current air campaign beyond the current self-defense activities.”

The U.S. military can only do what it is told to do, but the disconnect between threat and response seems especially wide right now. The goals are limited to rescuing the thousands (or tens of thousands; the Pentagon isn’t sure) of Yazidis trapped on, in and around Sinjar Mountain in northwestern Iraq, and to protect the Kurdish city of Erbil, where a small number of U.S. personnel, including about 40 recently-dispatched military advisers, are based. Warplanes launching the strikes come from air bases in Kuwait and Qatar and from the USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf, a carrier named for the President who launched the first U.S. war against Iraq in 1991.

“We assess that U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq have slowed ISIL’s operational tempo and temporarily disrupted their advances toward the province of Erbil,” Mayville said. “However, these strikes are unlikely to affect ISIL’s overall capabilities or its operations in other areas of Iraq and Syria.”

Predictably, ISIS forces have begun to mix in with local civilians to elude U.S. attacks. “One of the things that we have seen with the ISIL forces is that where they have been in the open, they are now starting to dissipate and to hide amongst the people,” Mayville said. “The targeting in this is going to become more difficult.”

The U.S. has begun providing the Kurdish militias known as the Peshmerga with small-arms ammo directly, instead of funneling it through the central Iraq government in Baghdad, he added.

Anthony Zinni was the deputy commander of a U.S. effort to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussein’s forces—Operational Provide Comfort—after 1991’s Gulf War. “The Peshmerga are fully capable, given the right weapons, equipment and support—like air support—of stopping ISIS in their tracks,” he says. “At least from the north.”

The number of Peshmerga waxes and wanes as the threats the Kurds perceive rise and fall. The U.S. estimated their fighting strength in 2011 at 70,000 to 80,000, but that number could double if all security and police forces are included.

“They’ve been fighting for a long time, against Saddam, with the PKK [Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party] up in Turkey, and even in Iran,” says Zinni, who ended his military career as chief of U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000. “They’ve been fighting an insurgency for a hell of a long time because they want a state. They’re also fighting for their homes, their families and their kids—when [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki sends a bunch of soldiers up into the Sunni areas they don’t care—but the Kurds know this is it, that this is an existential threat.”

The Kurds are fighters. “They do have a good warrior ethos—unlike the Iraqis, these are basically people who are agrarian, tough mountain people,” Zinni says. “They’re not fat cats. They haven’t been living in a garrison in a city. They train hard and live in a rugged part of the country. They live in an austere environment—all the things that make up a tough soldier.”

Zinni echoes U.S. military officers who privately grumble that Obama erred in declaring he would not send troops back into Iraq. “I think he made a big mistake in publicly saying he would not put boots on the ground,” Zinni says. “Why tell the other guy what you won’t do?

“You could find yourself with boots on the ground, if only to defend that part of country,” Zinni warns. “Not necessarily going on offense on the ground, but I think it could come to the point where if we had to defend it, we’d have to put boots on the ground, and I don’t think he could get out of that.”

Some U.S. military officers believe it would require up to 15,000 ground troops to turn the tide against ISIS in northern Iraq.

TIME Infectious Disease

WHO Endorses Use of Experimental Ebola Drugs

World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan with assistant director-general for health security Keiji Fukuda  on Aug. 8, 2014 in Geneva. Alain Grosclaude—AFP/Getty Images

Hours after a Spanish priest died of the virus

The World Health Organization endorsed the use of untested experimental drugs for Ebola patients on Tuesday, hours after a Spanish priest died of the virus and the outbreak’s death toll in West Africa passed 1,000.

An ethics panel ruled that the drugs, which have not yet passed clinical trials but have shown early promise in combating the virus, could provide a “potent asset” in the battle to contain the epidemic, which it called the “most severe and most complex outbreak of Ebola virus disease in history.”

“In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention,” members of the panel said in a statement.

The experimental drug ZMapp has been administered to two American patients, who are receiving specialized care at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, and had been obtained for a Spanish priest who died in a Madrid hospital on Tuesday, the New York Times reports.

The death of Father Miguel Pajares, 75, who was evacuated from Liberia last week, marks the first Ebola-related one to occur on European soil in this outbreak. Hospital officials did not say whether Pajares had been treated with the experimental drug, the Times added.

WHO officials said the experimental drugs should only be given after the patient has been fully informed of the risks and freely chooses to undergo the treatment. It also declared that sharing results of the treatment was a “moral obligation” for health workers in the field.

TIME Infectious Disease

Fear and Rumors Fueling the Spread of Ebola

The epidemic shows no sign of stabilizing as the death toll continues to rise

As the death toll rises from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, confusion and rumor have made it harder for health care workers and government officials to combat the outbreak.

In the Liberian town of Bamudu, colleagues of Ingrid Gercama, education manager for the aid agency Africa Development Corps, were chased away by residents, who feared that the agency’s staff would take their infected relatives away for treatment. “Lots of people are really scared and not informed about what happens in the treatment centers,” says Gercama, a Dutch national currently on leave in Amsterdam. “They see people going into the hospitals and coming out in body bags.”

The only way to halt Ebola’s deadly march is to identify the infected, isolate them and track down anyone they’ve been in physical contact with. But this is easier said than done. “A lot of the messaging has been saying ‘there’s no cure, no treatment’ so people are saying, ‘why should I go to hospital?'” notes Sean Casey, the Ebola Emergency Response Team Director at International Medical Corps, a global aid agency now working in Sierra Leone.

Infected people will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid detection, including, Casey adds, changing their names. In Liberia, international non-governmental organizations are starting to realize their Ebola messaging may have added to the confusion, not cleared it up. “NGOs are now trying to spread a more positive message,” says Gercama. “Rather than saying Ebola is deadly, there’s no cure, you can’t protect yourself, they’re trying to emphasise the 40% who are surviving.”

But fear of the disease is widespread across West Africa. The Telegraph reported that in Guinea’s capital of Conakry, on August 7 emergency services let a man lie in the street for almost five hours after he collapsed. It wasn’t clear whether he had Ebola. In Liberia, unconfirmed reports came in from The Liberian Observer that people were poisoning water wells around Monrovia, while state radio claimed 10 died in Dolostown after drinking water that was supposedly poisoned. Though unsubstantiated rumor, the story hasn’t gone unnoticed. Liberians told Gercama the mysterious poisoners could be trying to raise the death toll and so gain more international aid. Others said it was a form of witchcraft to combat the epidemic.

In the afflicted countries some are turning to traditional healers rather than science in a bid to combat the disease. In Duala, a market area in Liberia, an exorcism was performed on an Ebola patient. “They brought him into a church and they all touched him and were chanting,” says Gercama whose colleague witnessed the exorcism. Other Liberian healers suggest rubbing the body with limes and onions to combat Ebola while unscrupulous merchants peddle “Ebola vaccinations” at extortionate rates, says Gercama.

Similar “cures” are sweeping through Nigeria. “An unfortunate thing happened overnight: some evil-minded persons … have been circulating through all available communication channels … that ordinary hot water and—if you add salt—will prevent Ebola virus disease,” said Onyebuchi Chukwu, Nigeria’s health minister on August 8. “This is a complete lie … We need to flush out these people and they have to be arrested – they will be prosecuted.” But Chukwu’s statement may have come too late for some. Two leading Nigerian newspapers, citing unnamed sources, reported that excessive salt consumption led to two deaths and 20 hospitalizations in Plateau state.

In countries where health care workers are fleeing the disease, those who claim to understand and defeat Ebola through non-scientific means might be appear to be a welcome alternative—or a last resort. “Doctors and nurses are leaving their posts,” says Casey, who is an American national now based in Freetown, Sierra Leone. “[Treating Ebola] is a serious undertaking.” In their absence, Sierra Leone’s main treatment center, Doctors Without Border’s 50-bed facility in Kailahun, only has about five beds available, according to Casey.

The situation is no better in Liberia says Gercama, the education manager for Africa Development Corps, which is working with UNICEF in the region. “There aren’t enough people to collect all the bodies, there are dead people lying in the streets.” Like Sierra Leone, health care workers are fleeing or thin on the ground. “A colleague of mine said in his community in Clara Town two people contracted the Ebola virus and died,” adds Gercama. “Their families contacted the health officials to collect the bodies but no one picked up. The corpses remained in the house for three days.” Even aid organizations are leaving. After two of their U.S. staff were infected, humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse handed over the running of their clinics in Liberia to Doctors Without Borders and the Liberian Ministry of Health.

Amidst the chaos, the disease continues to spread. Casey predicts Ebola will continue to claim lives in the region for “the next few months at least.” He noted that Ebola hasn’t stabilized in any of the infected countries. Though Guinea hasn’t reported any new cases, the tiny country, which has had the highest number of fatalities, announced four new deaths Friday.

In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where hardly any areas have been left untouched, the word “Ebola” is on the lips of many, even if its not fully understood. In Nigeria however, the virus is unknown to some. “I was talking to a friend,” says Okocha J. U., a 44-year-old telecommunications gadgets trader. “He said ‘What is Ebola?’ I said, ‘You don’t listen to the news?'” His friend said no.

-Additional reporting by Maram Mazen / Lagos

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