TIME ebola

Did Authorities Use the Wrong Approach to Stop Ebola?

A health worker takes the temperature of a travelers at a highway checkpoint in Liberia on on Jan. 29, 2015.
John Moore—Getty Images A health worker takes the temperature of a travelers at a highway checkpoint in Liberia on on Jan. 29, 2015.

A new study suggests there was a better way to respond to the Ebola outbreak

It’s known that the response to the most recent Ebola outbreak, which as of Tuesday had infected more than 27,000 people and killed 11,130, was far too slow. Now, a new study suggests that even once they got started, their approach to curbing the spread wasn’t the most efficient or effective.

One of the staples of infectious disease outbreak responses was contact tracing: finding everyone who comes in direct contact with a sick person. And it makes sense that health authorities would employ that in this outbreak, since it’s proven in the past to be an effective way to contain the spread of a virus. However, experts at the New England Complex Systems Institute released new research Tuesday that argues contact tracing wasn’t the best approach.

Yaneer Bar-Yam, founding president of the Institute, and his colleagues conducted in-depth mathematical simulations that found that a community-wide response that monitors entire groups of people—rather than tracking down individuals who may or may not have been exposed to the virus via an infected person they had contact with—could have been more efficient.

In the simulations, the researchers accounted for a wide variety of factors and ultimately concluded that a response that focused on community-wide monitoring—for instance, going door-to-door to check on people in a given area as well implementing travel restrictions—would have been more effective than tracking down contacts of infected people one by one. The objective of a community response, they write, is to progressively limit the disease to smaller and smaller geographical areas, while simultaneously sending in resources.

“You treat the whole community as if it might have been in contact with someone,” says Bar-Yam. “Trying to figure out who [an infected person] was in contact with doesn’t make as much sense—and it’s not as cost effective as saying, ‘Well, everyone may have been in contact with these people, so we better check all of them.'”

One of the most telling parts of Bar-Yam’s study was when the researchers looked at what happens when people do not comply with the health guidelines that are put in place to curb an outbreak. After all, no matter how many times people are told what to do, it’s hard to persuade them to stay away from public areas, for instance, or to avoid travel to at-risk places. They found that community-wide monitoring is successful at ending the outbreak even if there’s only 40% compliance.

“You will save more lives if you have higher conformity,” says Bar-Yam of community monitoring, adding that, “from the macro picture you’re stopping the epidemic very rapidly.”

NECSI

The Key to Liberia Being Ebola Free?

In mid-September 2014 in Liberia, cases of Ebola started to drop significantly. It’s unclear why, but the authors note that around that time, a community-wide approach to stopping the spread of Ebola was taken in Liberia.

Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report on how it controlled the final cluster, and noted that the response included community-based approaches. And in a report on how Liberia got to zero cases, the WHO writes:

One of the first signs that the outbreak might be turned around appeared in September 2014, when cases in Lofa county, Ebola’s initial epicentre, began to decline after a peak of more than 150 cases a week in mid-August. Epidemiologists would later link that decline to a package of interventions, with community engagement playing a critical role.

In Lofa, staff from the WHO country office moved from village to village, challenging chiefs and religious leaders to take charge of the response. Community task forces were formed to create house-to-house awareness, report suspected cases, call health teams for support, and conduct contact tracing.

“I don’t know how difficult it would have been to implement it earlier,” says Bar-Yam. “Everyone kept saying, ‘Contact tracing is the tried-and-true right way to do this.'” Indeed, since contact tracing has been shown in numerous outbreaks in the past to be effective means of disease containment, that was the de facto strategy in west Africa during this Ebola outbreak.

This study alone cannot prove that health authorities and volunteers were misguided in their use of contact tracing.

Is It Either/Or?

The CDC declined to comment about the paper specifically, but spoke to TIME about the agency’s use of contact tracing and community monitoring. “When you are able to understand the connections [between people], while imperfect, you understand who is most likely to be infected and you are able to follow them,” says Jonathan Yoder, an epidemiologist with the CDC who responded to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. “At the end, it was really important that nothing was missed. One contact can start a whole other outbreak. I don’t know that it’s one or the other. I think the approach of engaging communities is really important.”

Bar-Yam says his work shows that there is an alternative approach to contact tracing alone, and that it appears to work—possibly more quickly than contact tracing, if done early enough.

The paper also underlines the importance of being nimble when it comes to dealing with outbreaks of infectious diseases like Ebola. “Everyone thinks in terms of statistics of prior events. Everyone looks at prior history and says ‘What are we going to be able to expect in the future based on what happened in the past?’” says Bar-Yam.

TIME Libya

Gunmen Try to Assassinate Libya’s Recognized Prime Minister

Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni speaking to the media at the Carthage Palace, in Tunis, Tunisia, on March 31, 2015.
Mohamed Messara—EPA Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni speaking to the media at the Carthage Palace, in Tunis, Tunisia, on March 31, 2015.

Abdullah al-Thinni's motorcade was attacked and a guard was lightly wounded

(BENGHAZI, Libya) — Gunmen tried to assassinate Libya’s internationally recognized prime minister on his way to the airport in the eastern city of Tobruk on Tuesday, a spokesman for his government said.

Arish Said, head of the government’s media department, said that Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni’s motorcade was attacked and one of his guards was lightly wounded but that there were no fatalities.

“They managed to escape,” Said said.

Prior to the attack, he said armed men who had been protesting outside a session of the Tobruk government’s House of Representatives tried to storm the building, firing shots into the air and demanding al-Thinni be removed from office.

They were “threatening to kill the prime minister and force the House to sack him,” Said said. He identified the men as being funded by “corrupted political financiers” linked to powerful Tobruk tribal leaders, without elaborating.

The session was postponed until next week before the attempted assassination.

Nearly four years after the ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya is consumed by chaos. The country split is between an elected parliament and weak government, and a rival government and parliament in Tripoli set up by the Islamist-linked militias that took control the capital, forcing the government to relocate to the far eastern cities of Tobruk and Bayda.

The turmoil has enabled the rise of an active Islamic State branch, which now controls at least two cities along the country’s coastline.

Before the assassination attempt, a leader from Tobruk’s dominant Obiedi tribe, Faraj Abu Alkhatabia, threatened al-Thanni on private broadcaster Libya Awalan.

“This prime minister must resign, if he doesn’t I will smash his head,” he said, adding that “either he leaves or we won’t let the house of representatives stay in Tobruk.”

A national security adviser to the Tobruk government, who declined to comment for fear of retribution, linked the threat to powerful Tobruk businessman and oil magnate Hassan Tatanaki, a member of the same tribe who owns the Libya Awalan television station.

“This morning the prime minster spoke with the head of the house of representatives regarding the pressure applied by Libyan tycoon Tatanaki who wishes to be appointed foreign minister.” Tatanaki’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Earlier Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said civilians, including foreign nationals, are trapped in several neighborhoods in Libya’s embattled eastern city of Benghazi, urging fighters there to let them depart without conditions.

In a statement, the U.S.-based group says militias and army units have surrounded the downtown areas, where several hundred people are reportedly trapped and not allowed to leave. Some of those trapped were Syrians, Palestinians, and Asian and African nationals.

Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said that all forces involved must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and civilian property, and that the Libyan army and militias must allow civilians safe passage and facilitate access to badly needed aid.

___

Associated Press writer Brian Rohan contributed to this report from Cairo.

TIME Iran

Espionage Trial of Washington Post Reporter Underway in Iran

United States Iran
Zoeann Murphy—The Washington Post/AP Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter, is seen at the newspaper in Washington on Nov. 6, 2013.

Jason Rezaian is being tried on allegations of "espionage for the hostile government of the United States"

(TEHRAN, Iran) — An Iranian security court on Tuesday began the closed-door espionage trial of an Iranian-American reporter for The Washington Post who has been detained for more than 10 months.

Jason Rezaian, the Post’s 39-year-old bureau chief in Tehran, is being tried in a Revolutionary Court on allegations of “espionage for the hostile government of the United States” and propaganda against the Islamic Republic, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported.

The IRNA report did not elaborate. Rezaian’s brother, Ali, later told The Associated Press in Washington that the proceeding largely involved him hearing the charges. Rezaian’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, could not be reached for comment.

The Post has said Rezaian faces up to 10 to 20 years in prison.

Rezaian, his wife Yeganeh Salehi and two photojournalists were detained on July 22 in Tehran. All were later released except Rezaian, who was born and spent most of his life in the United States, and who holds both American and Iranian citizenship. Iran does not recognize other nationalities for its citizens.

Salehi, wearing a traditional black Islamic veil, refused to talk to waiting reporters as she left the courthouse after the hearing Tuesday. She looked upset and covered her face with the scarf as she departed in a yellow taxi, sitting in the back seat next to an older woman. The Post later reported Rezaian’s mother, Mary Rezaian, had accompanied her to court, but also could not attend.

Last week, Rezaian’s lawyer said Salehi, who is a reporter for The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, and a freelance photographer who worked for foreign media, also will stand trial. The photographer’s name has not been made public.

The Post and U.S. diplomats have criticized Rezaian’s detention and the handling of the case. Salehi has been barred from traveling abroad, the Post said, adding that its requests for a visa for a senior editor to travel to Iran went unanswered.

“There is no justice in this system, not an ounce of it, and yet the fate of a good, innocent man hangs in the balance,” Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said in a statement. “Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community.”

Ali Rezaian said he believed Iranian authorities had two main documents they were using at his brother’s trial.

One was a form letter Rezaian submitted online in 2008 after the election of U.S. President Barack Obama, offering to help “break down barriers” between America and Iran, his brother said. The other was an American visa application he filled out for his wife that asked for it to be expedited at the time because of a looming Iranian election, noting “sometimes it’s not the best place to be as a journalist,” his brother said.

“There are other specific pieces of evidence that we believe that they are going to use to support the charges, but what I can say is that those are two of the most significant ones,” Ali Rezaian said. “So I think you can see what kinds of evidence they are basing their entire case on, and that’s taken 310 days of my brother’s life.”

U.S. officials repeatedly have pressed Iran to release Rezaian and other jailed Americans, including during talks on the sidelines of negotiations over Tehran’s contested nuclear program. Iran and world powers hope to reach a comprehensive agreement on the program by the end of June to ease economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for it limiting its uranium enrichment.

The judge assigned to hear Rezaian’s case, Abolghassem Salavati, is known for his tough sentencing. He has presided over numerous politically sensitive cases, including those of protesters arrested in connection with demonstrations that followed the 2009 presidential elections.

IRNA said Rezaian’s hearing ended after a few hours, and that Salavati would decide on the date of the next one, without providing further details.

His brother said Rezaian just wants to prove his innocence.

“He’d never do anything malicious to hurt Iran, or the United States,” Ali Rezaian said. “And we want to be as loud and clear to everybody in the world.”

___

Associated Press writers Tracy Brown in Washington and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

TIME Denmark

Danish Radio Host Criticized for Killing Rabbit on Air During Animal Rights Debate

The host said he hit the rabbit over the head with a bicycle pump

A radio station in Denmark was heavily criticized Tuesday after one of its hosts killed a rabbit live on air in a debate about animal rights before later cooking it.

Radio24syv presenter Asger Juhl said he killed 9-month-old Allan by hitting him over the head with a bicycle pump.

The incident, which took place in a studio, was broadcast live on air.

The station explained on its Facebook page that Juhl intended to “stir a debate about the hypocrisy when it comes to perceptions of cruelty towards animals.”

It posted a video that it said showed the rabbit being cooked…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME

Steve Wozniak: Edward Snowden is ‘a Hero to Me’

9th annual Southeast Venture Conference and Digital Summit Charlotte
Charlotte Observer—TNS via Getty Images Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, left, smiles as he answers a question from moderator Mike McGuire during the keynote luncheon of the 9th annual Southeast Venture Conference and Digital Summit Charlotte at the Le Meridien Charlotte on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, in Charlotte, N.C.

Apple co-founder says the NSA whistleblower "gave up his own life . . . to help the rest of us"

Steve Wozniak reaffirmed his staunch support for digital privacy in an interview over the weekend in which the Apple co-founder called National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden “a hero.”

Wozniak, who helped build Apple [fortune-stock symbol=”AAPL”] with Steve Jobs before leaving the tech giant in the mid-1980’s, has expressed an affinity for Snowden in the past. Over the weekend, Wozniak reiterated his admiration for Snowden in an interview with ArabianBusiness.com in which the inventor said Snowden “gave up his own life . . . to help the rest of us.”

Wozniak went on to tell the publication more on his feelings about Snowden:

“‘Total hero to me; total hero,’ he gushes. ‘Not necessarily [for] what he exposed, but the fact that he internally came from his own heart, his own belief in the United States Constitution, what democracy and freedom was about. And now a federal judge has said that NSA data collection was unconstitutional.'”

Two years ago, Wozniak favorably compared Snowden to Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Last year, Wozniak also told reporters that he briefly met Snowden at a small event in Moscow, where the former NSA employee is currently living.

Wozniak has expressed some regret in the past for the role technology has played in allowing the government to expand its surveillance efforts. “We didn’t realize that in the digital world there were a lot of ways to use the digital technology to control us, to snoop on us, to make things possible that weren’t,” Wozniak told CNN in 2013.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Hasn’t Watched TV Since 1990 and He Misses Going Out for Pizza

Pope Francis holds the pastoral staff as he leaves at the end of a mass of Pentecost in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican
Gregorio Borgia—AP Pope Francis holds the pastoral staff as he leaves at the end of a mass of Pentecost in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, on May 24, 2015.

The Pontiff has sacrifced a lot to become the head of the Catholic Church

You’d think anyone with an important job would relish the chance to have a pizza delivered and devour it in front of the television.

Well, as Pope Francis keeps proving, he’s not just anyone.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church, who has made waves waves reaching out to disaffected Catholics and insisting on making the poor a top priority, hasn’t watched TV since July 15, 1990, he revealed in an interview published in the Argentinian newspaper La Voz del Pueblo.

The pontiff did not reveal the last program he watched or why he gave up the boob tube, except to say he decided “no es para mi” (it’s not for me), before promising the Virgin Mary he wouldn’t watch again…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Companies

Amazon Is Going to Pay More Tax in Europe

Amazon Unveils Its First Smartphone
David Ryder—Getty Images Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos presents the company's first smartphone, the Fire Phone, on June 18, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

A move towards country-by-country reporting will expose the online retailer to much higher tax bills in key markets

Under pressure from E.U. authorities, Amazon.com Inc. has changed the way it books revenue from sales in Europe, a move that could lead to it paying much more in tax, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ reported at the weekend that it is now booking revenue through national branches in four of the five largest markets in the E.U.: the U.K., Germany, Italy and Spain. It attributed those details to “a person familiar with the matter,” but said a spokesman confirmed a change in practice as of May 1.

So far, Amazon has booked the overwhelming majority of its sales in the E.U. through a subsidiary registered in tiny Luxembourg, where it has arrangements that allow it to pay a fraction of the taxes that would be due if it traded through local subsidiaries. In 2012, it famously paid only 2.4 million pounds ($3.6 million) of tax on over £4 billion in sales.

The E.U.’s antitrust division said in January there were reasons to believe that this tax arrangement represented unfair state aid, and should be stopped. National governments have howled in protest that Amazon’s practices, which are legal under the E.U.’s Single Market legislation, are killing local retailers and eroding their own tax base.

The probe into Amazon is one of four of a kind that the E.U. started last year. Others affect a tax agreement between Apple Inc. and Ireland, and one between Starbucks and the Netherlands. It isn’t clear whether either company has yet followed Amazon’s lead.

This story first appeared on fortune.com

TIME Iraq

Iraq Announces Launch of Operation to Drive ISIS From Anbar

ISIS seized large parts of Anbar starting in early 2014

(BAGHDAD) — Iraq on Tuesday announced the launch of a military operation to drive the Islamic State group out of the western Anbar province, where the extremists captured the provincial capital, Ramadi, earlier this month.

Iraqi state TV declared the start of the operation, in which troops will be backed by Shiite and Sunni paramilitary forces, but did not provide further details.

The Islamic State group seized large parts of Anbar starting in early 2014 and captured Ramadi earlier this month. The fall of the city marked a major defeat for Iraqi forces, which had been making steady progress against the extremists over the past year with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes.

Security forces and Sunni militiamen who had been battling the extremists in Ramadi for months collapsed as IS fighters overran the city. The militants gained not only new territory 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, but also large stocks of weapons abandoned by the government forces as they fled.

The capture of Ramadi was a major blow to the U.S.-backed strategy against the Islamic State group. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Sunday that Iraqi forces had “vastly outnumbered” the IS militants in Ramadi but “showed no will to fight.”

Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, said the government was surprised by Carter’s remarks, and that the defense secretary “was likely given incorrect information.”

Al-Abadi has called on Shiite militias to help Iraqi troops retake the Sunni province of Anbar. The militiamen have played a key role in clawing back territory from the IS group elsewhere in Iraq but rights groups accuse them of looting, destroying property and carrying out revenge attacks. Militia leaders deny the allegations.

TIME Bangladesh

Bangladesh Bans a Hard-Line Islamist Group Suspected of Killing Atheist Bloggers

INDIA-BANGLADESH-BLOGGERS-PROTEST
DIBYANGSHU SARKAR—AFP/Getty Images An Indian student looks from behind a poster with pictures of recently killed Bangladeshi bloggers during a protest meeting organized to pay homage in Kolkata on May 16, 2015.

Move comes days after 150 prominent writers from around the world released a joint letter condemning the killings

Authorities in Bangladesh have banned a radical Islamist organization suspected of involvement in the murder of three secular bloggers who were hacked to death in the majority-Muslim South Asian nation earlier this year.

The attacks on Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman, who were murdered in the country’s capital city, Dhaka, in February and March, respectively, and Ananta Bijoy Das, who was killed earlier in May in northeastern Bangladesh, sparked domestic and international concern about the rise of fundamentalist violence in the country.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the murder of Roy, a Bangladesh-born U.S. citizen who was hacked to death by masked men carrying machetes while he was returning with his wife from a book fair, a “shocking act of violence” that was “horrific in its brutality and cowardice.”

Rahman and Das were killed in similar attacks by machete-wielding men.

On Monday, Bangladesh’s Home Ministry responded by banning Ansarullah Bangla Team, a radical group that is suspected by the Bangladeshi police of being involved in the three killings. Members of the group had previously been charged with the murder of the blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in 2013, AFP reports.

“The [Junior Home Minister] today signed a government order, outlawing the militant organization Ansarullah Bangla Team,” Sharif Mahmud, a Home Ministry spokesman, told the news agency.

The move comes days after the writers’ organization PEN International released a letter signed by 150 prominent writers from around the world — including Margaret Atwood, Amitav Ghosh, Karl Ove Knausgaard and Salman Rushdie — condemning the murder of the bloggers and calling on Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed to ensure that the attacks are not repeated.

TIME Australia

Former Co-Workers Sue Australian Man Over a $12.5 Million Powerball Prize

He says he won the prize with a ticket he bought for himself, not for them

A man from the state of Victoria, Australia, who was part of a 16-person lottery syndicate with his colleagues, has been accused of making off with roughly $12.5 million in lottery winnings.

But Gary Baron, who was entrusted to buy tickets on behalf of the syndicate, says he won the Powerball prize with a ticket that he had bought separately, reports the Age newspaper.

The 49-year-old former courier says he has evidence to substantiate his claim. But 14 members of his former syndicate are taking Supreme Court action against him on Thursday, in which they will say they have a right to an equal share of the prize money.

According to the Age, Baron repeatedly denied winning the money to several colleagues, and reportedly told one former co-worker that he had received a large inheritance.

[The Age]

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