The death of Brazil’s Socialist Party presidential candidate created an opportunity for his running mate, Marina Silva. Her entry into the race has upended the situation. Whereas the man she replaced was running a distant third in polls, support for Silva has surged.
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Dozens of Sunnis attending a mosque for Friday prayers have been killed in a suicide attack in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province — the latest sectarian violence to hit the deeply divided country.
The Associated Press says at least 64 people were killed in the suicide bombing, which was followed up by gunmen who attacked the mosque where Sunni tribesmen who had rebuffed cooperation with Islamic State militants were attending Friday prayers.
“Diyala province has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks between IS and Iraqi troops backed by Shia militiamen.
“Friday’s attack took place in a village mosque south of the city of Baquba, about 120km (75 miles) from Baghdad.”
The AP says it was not immediately clear who carried out Friday’s attack but that Sunni lawmakers are blaming it on Shiite “militias.”
Former provincial council member Ismail al-Jibouri tells NOR that there was chaos outside the mosque as gunmen refused to let families take their wounded to hospitals.
NPR’s Peter Kenyon, reporting from Irbil, says the bloodshed further complicates efforts to set aside Iraq’s factional divisions to face the threat posed by Islamic State fighters who have made significant strides in capturing territory from Iraqi security forces in recent months.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Washington strongly condemns the attack.
“The United States stands with the people of Iraq against this violence and will continue to support all Iraqi citizens, from all parts of the country, as they work to root out violent extremists from any sector of society and promote a religiously tolerant, diverse, and unified country, as envisioned in the Iraqi Constitution,” Harf said.
A street market remains empty in Monrovia’s West Point slum as part of quarantine measures to contain the spread of Ebola in Liberia.
Zoom Dosso/AFP/Getty Images
Zoom Dosso/AFP/Getty Images
Zoom Dosso/AFP/Getty Images
In the shadows of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, food shortages are starting to develop.
This time of year is traditionally the lean season in West Africa, when last year’s harvest of rice or groundnuts is mostly exhausted. Until recently, people were quite hopeful about the approaching harvest this year.
“The rainfall situation was very good,” says Shukri Ahmed, a senior economist with the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. “We were actually developing an optimistic forecast for crop production this year.”
But then came Ebola.
The first food source that disappeared from markets was “bush meat,” meat from forest animals. Some of those animals, like fruit bats, can actually carry Ebola, so governments have banned it.
Other foods have become scarce as a side effect of efforts to keep the virus from spreading.
David Mwesigwa, the FAO’s acting representative in Sierra Leone, says that when governments stopped people from moving from country to country, or even from one town to another, it stopped traders from delivering food to the markets. “The primary impact has been on the mobility of most of the traders,” he says.
The Liberian government delivered bags of rice, beans and cooking oil to residents of the West Point slum in Monrovia. The community has been quarantined because of the Ebola outbreak in the area.
John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images
In quarantined areas, some food markets have been shut down completely.
Sierra Leone, and to an even greater extent, Liberia, also import a lot of rice. Those imports are down, too. Ships are reluctant to dock in places affected by the epidemic.
As a result, there’s less food for sale, and prices are rising. According to Mwesigwa, people in many parts of Sierra Leone are paying 40 or 50 percent more for rice and other foods. The prices of meat and fish have doubled in some places. The situation in Liberia, he says, is similar, but probably even a bit worse.
While this is already cutting the ability of people to afford adequate food, things may get even worse over the coming year. This year’s harvest is also in danger because communal work arrangements have broken down.
“The Ebola came in at a time when farmers were ready to go to the field to work together, in groups,” Mwesigwa says.
But people now have been advised to avoid such activities. Coming together in groups could spread the disease. So essential work like weeding the rice is not happening.
Gon Myers, the World Food Program‘s representative in Sierra Leone, says when you take all these factors together “we think there will be a food crisis after the Ebola crisis.”
Myers and Mwesigwa say that their organizations will need to start responding even while the Ebola outbreak continues.
Some food aid will be required to nourish people who’ve been cut off from their normal supplies of food.
But Mwesigwa says he wants to keep food aid to a minimum. Sierra Leone, in particular, has the potential to grow a lot of food itself, and it’s made great progress toward self-sufficiency since the country’s civil war ended a decade ago.
Mwesigwa says international agencies can help the region’s farmers get back on their feet. They can provide seeds when those are in short supply, and livestock so that people can produce more of their own meat.
That effort to rebuild food supplies, he says, probably will last at least one or two years.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey during a Pentagon briefing on Thursday. Hagel said Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria posed a threat “beyond anything we’ve seen.”
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel describes a failed U.S. mission into northern Syria earlier this summer to rescue Americans believed held there — including a journalist who was executed earlier this week — as “flawless” despite not recovering the hostages.
“This was a flawless operation, but the hostages weren’t there,” Hagel told journalists at a Pentagon briefing with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Dempsey, asked if he thought the hostages were ever at the targeted location in northern Syria, said simply: “I do.”
Among the captives the U.S. hoped to free was freelance journalist James Foley, who was beheaded on Tuesday by his captors, members of the al-Qaida inspired group Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.
Hagel defended a decision by the Pentagon to release information about the classified rescue mission in July, which involved radar-evading helicopters and ground components, saying that “a number of news outlets already knew about it.”
He said a high-level decision was made that as long as specific methods of the operation were not revealed, it was OK to discuss it in general terms.
Even with U.S. airstrikes directed against Islamic State militants, Hagel said he expects the terrorist organization to “regroup and stage an offensive,” adding that U.S. military efforts in Iraq are not over.
The defense secretary said the U.S. was continuing to provide military assistance and direct military support to Iraq’s Kurdish militias, known collectively as the peshmerga: “Overall, these operations have stalled ISIL footing,” he said.
Hagel described the challenge of the Islamic State as a “whole new dynamic.”
He said the group was “as sophisticated and well-funded as any organization we’ve seen.
“Oh, this is beyond anything we’ve seen,” he said emphatically in response to a question as to whether the Islamic State represented a “9/11-level threat” to the U.S.
Hagel said the U.S. needs to “take a cold steely look” at the group “and get ready.”
The execution of the American journalist James Foley by ISIS casts new attention on how news organizations cover graphic violence, and how they cover the risks taken by their own colleagues and peers.
Dr. Kent Brantly (center) announces his recovery from Ebola, with his wife, Amber Brantly (left), during a press conference at Emory University Hospital Thursday in Atlanta. Brantly got sick at the end of July.
Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
It was a public health first. Doctors discharged two Americans from a hospital in Atlanta after treating them for Ebola.
Brantly and Writebol went through “a rigorous course of treatment and thorough testing for treatment,” before they were release, said Emory’s Dr. Bruce Ribner, at a press conference Thursday. He is confident that their release posed no threat to the public, Ribner added.
But still, the news of Brantly’s and Writebol’s release generated a flurry of questions from our readers — and our team members. To answers some of the most frequently asked ones, we reached out to Dr. Barbara Knust, an epidemiologist at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
She responded through a CDC spokesperson via email. We’ve edited her responses for clarity and space.
Can a survivor pass the Ebola virus on to someone else through, for example, a hug or a kiss?
Ebola is spread only by people exhibiting symptoms and through direct contact with bodily fluids. Once a person recovers from Ebola virus disease, he or she is no longer shedding virus, and thus is not contagious.
In past Ebola outbreaks, follow-up studies of patients who have recovered from Ebola and their contacts found no evidence that the Ebola virus was spread from a recovered patient to their close contacts.
We’ve read that the virus still lingers in semen and breast milk after recovery. Is that true?
The World Health Organization states that the Ebola virus has been found in male semen up to seven weeks after recovery. They also cite a specific instance when the Ebola virus was found in the semen of a man 61 days after recovery.
Therefore, male survivors of Ebola are advised to avoid having sex for three months or to use condoms. (In an earlier interview, Knust also said that women are instructed to wean any children who have been breast-feeding.)
Semen and breast milk are not the primary means by which Ebola is transmitted. The virus is primarily transmitted via blood, sweat, feces and vomit.
As you may have heard today from Emory officials and Dr. Brantly, neither Brantly nor Writebol are completely sure how or where they contracted the virus. But each knows they either treated Ebola patients or were in close contact with those who treated Ebola patients. In either case, we just don’t know what bodily fluid may have been the vessel of transmission.
Can there be long-term damage to a person’s organs after recovering from Ebola?
There could be, though CDC isn’t aware of any. Ebola is a severe disease, and recovery can take a long time. Long-term damage would depend on the clinical course the disease took.
Does a survivor suffer any irreversible damage?
We don’t have data on this.
In a previous interview, Dr. Darin Portnoy, of Doctors Without Borders, said renal, kidney, liver or lung function can take some time to recover in some cases. If the patient goes into shock, it can also damage the heart muscle, which may not ever recover. A shock-like state can also decrease blood flow to the brain and cause some irreversible damage. Each case is different, Portnoy stressed.
Would it be safe for Brantly to go back to Africa?
That would be a question for the medical team that treated him. Whether Dr. Brantly returned to Africa would be a decision made by him and his employer.
Is there any risk of relapse?
This is a viral disease, and testing conducted by the CDC indicated the virus is no longer inside Dr. Kent Brantly or Nancy Writebol. There has been no risk of relapse reported.
Is Brantly now immune to all strains and species of Ebola, or just the strain that he caught?
Most likely, his immune system developed antibodies against the Zaire species of Ebola virus that infected his body. Certainly, he has some immunity against that type of Ebola. But it’s uncertain how long that immunity will last and whether he now has immunity against the other known Ebola species.
Forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Assad walk along a street in Mleiha, near the Damascus airport, during a tour organized by the Syrian government on Aug. 15.
President Obama said Wednesday that the Islamic State is a cancer that threatens all governments in the Middle East. But that raises the question of what the U.S. could or should do.
Two former U.S. ambassadors to Syria, Robert Ford and Ryan Crocker, have advocated different approaches to a conflict where there are many different options. But none is appealing and there’s no guarantee, or even a likelihood that U.S. action would ultimately determine the outcome.
Ford, who stepped down from the post in February, has wanted the U.S. to do more to arm moderate rebels, who are battling both President Bashar Assad’s regime and Islamic State militants.
Crocker, on the other hand, has long argued that the Assad regime may be bad, but it doesn’t pose nearly the same threat compared with the Islamic State, which previously called itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
“I am no apologist for the Assad regime. I was there under father [Hafez Assad] and son [Bashar Assad],” says Crocker, who served as ambassador to Syria from 1998-2001. “They are a brutal bunch of bastards, without question. But in terms of our security, ISIS is by far the largest threat.
A Call To Strike In Syria And Iraq
Crocker also thinks the U.S. needs to launch airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria as well as Iraq — even if that means some coordination with Assad.
The Islamic State controls large swaths of territory in eastern Syria and western Iraq, and has declared a caliphate, or a single Muslim empire that does not recognize existing borders.
“Since they erased the Iraq-Syria border, we should take them up on it,” says Crocker, “and go after them both in Iraq and in Syria. They don’t respect the border, but neither should we.”
Crocker, now the dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas AM, says there is no need to form an open alliance with Assad, who the U.S. accuses of carrying out mass atrocities.
Meanwhile, Joshua Landis, a Syria analyst, notes that any action the U.S. might take could play into Assad’s hands.
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“It means helping his government, because any attempt to destroy ISIS, which owns a third of the country, is going to rebound to his benefit unless the other militias take that territory,” says Landis, who teaches at the University of Oklahoma and runs the blog Syria Comment.
There are other analysts and former State Department officials who argue that the U.S. should be doing much more to help moderate militias that are battling both the Islamic State and the Assad regime.
But Landis is skeptical.
“We don’t have allies that are strong enough to replace the Syrian state and stabilize the country,” he says.
So that poses a big dilemma for the U.S.
“If you work with Assad, you damage your reputation, but you might be able to help the Syrian people not die as much,” Landis says. “If you destroy the Syrian state, what’s left of it, you are going to get more chaos, and more ISIS.”
Andrew Tabler, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, believes this debate and the Syrian conflict will play out for some time to come. He argues there are moral and practical reasons to avoid dealing with Assad.
“The biggest issue standing in the way of working with the Assad regime, even tacitly, is the real operational limitations of the Assad regime’s forces,” he says. “They are not heavily present in the eastern part of the country where ISIS is dominant. And when they fight ISIS directly, and they do sometimes, they are not very good at retaking and holding territory.”
The U.S. is also concerned that the Syrian government has allowed the Islamic State to flourish, perhaps to show the world that those opposing the regime are terrorists.
Tabler says Obama has no good choices, but should at least be asking: “What can dislodge ISIS forces from that area? And the answer is, I think, working with moderates, including tribes in that area, very much like we are doing in Iraq.”
But Obama has been far more cautious about getting involved in Syria since the war erupted there three years ago. And so far, he’s given no indication that he’s considering a major move in Syria.
Elephants, unlike humans or civets, are herbivores. The fermentation happening in their gut as they break down cellulose helps remove the bitterness in the coffee beans.
I s% you not: The world’s most expensive coffee is now being produced in Thailand’s Golden Triangle, a region better known for another high-priced, if illegal, export: opium.
Canadian entrepreneur Blake Dinkin, 44, is betting his life savings that he can turn his idea into, well, gold. Here’s the catch: His Black Ivory Coffee is made by passing coffee beans through the not insubstantial stomachs of elephants and then picking the beans out of, well, yeah, that.
It’s similar to Kopi Luwak, the civet coffee that was all the rage a few years back; Dinkin has just supersized the idea.
He knows Kopi Luwak’s image has been trashed because of concerns over counterfeiting, disease and animal abuse. But he insists there’s nothing fake — or frivolous — about Black Ivory Coffee.
“There’s easier ways to make money,” he says. “I wouldn’t spend 10 years and put my life savings on this if I didn’t think it’s for real, or I thought it was just going to be an overnight gag.”
Gag. Right. Let’s just dispense with the jokes here and now, shall we?
“Crappacino,” “Brew No. 2,” “Good to the last dropping” — Dinkin has heard them all.
And while he’s a good sport about it, it’s clear he’s tired of them, too. He’d rather talk about what makes his brew different — and better — than Kopi Luwak. And it starts with the idea that elephants, unlike humans or civets, are herbivores.
“They eat a lot of grass and a lot of green, leafy matter. A herbivore, to break that down, utilizes fermentation to break down that cellulose,” he says. “Fermentation is great for things like wine or beer or coffee, because it brings out the sugar in the bean, and it helps impart the fruit from the coffee pulp into the bean.”
And that fermentation that helps remove the bitterness, Dinkins says, is what makes his coffee unique.
“I want people to taste the bean, not just the roast,” he says. “The aroma is floral and chocolate; the taste is chocolate malt with a bit of cherry; there’s no bitterness; and it’s very soft, like tea. So it’s kind of like a cross between coffee and tea.”
Black Ivory Coffee workers sort coffee beans out of elephant dung.
To get to that point, the coffee beans are mixed into a mash with fruit, then fed to the elephants either by mouth, or hoovered right up the trunk. The latter pretty much sounds like a whole lot of change being sucked up a vacuum cleaner hose.
Then you wait anywhere from one to three days for the elephant to offload its cargo, pick the beans out of the elephant dung (if you can find it), lather, rinse, repeat. It’s not always easy finding “the result,” which is one of the reasons it takes about 33 pounds of coffee beans to make just 1 pound of Black Ivory Coffee.
And it’s not just the slower cooker that makes the coffee different, Dinkin says. He sources his Arabica beans from hill tribes in the north of Thailand near the border with Myanmar. The drying process is long, and the roasting process is precise.
And then there are the elephants. Specifically, how do you go about finding willing vessels? What would you do if some guy cold-called you and said he wanted to use your elephants as slow cookers?
Blake Dinkin sources his Arabica beans from hill tribes in the north of Thailand. The drying process is long, and the roasting process is precise.
John Roberts, the director of the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, remembers this.
“As long as we could prove that there was no caffeine or anything else harmful leaking out, then it was worth trying, at least,” he says.
Was Roberts worried about the elephants hitting the mash a little too hard? Not really.
“It’s not necessarily elephants getting buzzed that I’m too worried about, it’s elephants missing their caffeine fix and having headaches and being bad-tempered. … It’s very dangerous. The last thing you want is a cranky elephant,” says Roberts.
So what does brew No. 2 taste like? I bought a serving — five or six espresso cups — for $70, and sat on the terrace of the five-star Anantara Golden Triangle hotel to watch Dinkin prepare the “experience.”
First, he ground it lovingly. Then he brewed it, again with love. And then, after it cooled, I was ready.
A serving of Black Ivory Coffee at the five-star Anantara Golden Triangle hotel in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
The first thing that came to my (admittedly) juvenile mind was a scene from an Austin Powers movie where he says, “It’s a bit nutty.”
And, in fact, the elephant poop coffee was a bit nutty, but also very flavorful and not at all bitter — just as Dinkin had promised.
I then went inside to pimp a few cups to hotel guests. As luck would have it, the first I met was a Finn — and the Finns drink more coffee per capita than anyone else in the world. That made Juha Hiekkamaki the perfect subject as he sipped — tentatively.
“Yes, that’s very interesting, because usually I use sugar with coffee. But this is quite a gentle taste, and, yeah, I quite like that,” he noted.
Then it got better, because his wife, Claire, is a Brit, and she doesn’t even drink coffee. Her verdict?
“It’s sort of fruity,” she said. “Well, OK, it’s raisin-y to me. I normally describe drinking coffee as a bit like drinking puddle water. But it hasn’t got that horrible muddy water flavor afterwards, which is really nice. I really like it.”
Don’t expect Black Ivory in a Starbucks near you. Dinkin is selling an experience, limited for now to five-star hotels and resorts in Asia and the Middle East — and one tiny store in Comfort, Texas, called The Elephant Story, where the profits go to elephant conservation.
“I’m not looking to produce a lot of this,” Dinkin says. “I just want to keep it as a small, niche business. I get to work with people I really enjoy being with, I can make a decent living from it, and everyone’s happy. That’s what I want.”
He’s still not quite there, but he says he’s close to breaking even.
The Obama administration has revealed that U.S. special forces recently attempted to rescue American hostages in Syria — a mission that was unsuccessful. The statement comes on the heels of the release of a video by the militant group known as the Islamic State, which depicts the killing of American journalist James Foley.
Ilias Smirlis (left) runs a small family farm in Kalamata, Greece. Before he met entrepreneur Sotiris Lymperopoulos, who runs the food service Radiki, he struggled to sell his produce outside Athens. “The demand for excellent products will always exist,” Smirlis says. “The challenge is to find a market.”
Most mornings, Sotiris Lymperopoulos walks the craggy shoreline of the western Peloponnese, foraging for salty wild greens.
In his straw hat and shorts, snipping wild chicory, garlic and sea asparagus with a kitchen knife, he hardly looks like a poster boy for Greece’s nascent startup culture. But the 35-year-old Athenian, who trained as an economist, found a viable niche in the country’s post-crisis economy.
“For years, few people appreciated how valuable our own products are,” he says, cutting away a thick-leaved green called kritamos and placing it in a plastic bag. “I want to change that.”
Lymperopoulos grew up spending summers in his father’s ancestral home of Raches, a pinprick village encircled by olive trees. He saw that the produce everyone ate here — the sea greens, the aromatic oranges and lemons, the wild truffles — were far tastier than the fare at the fanciest restaurants in Athens.
“And I thought, this is irrational,” he says. “So, I thought, why don’t I take this food that is great and never goes to Athens and sell it to people who want to pay something more for their food?”
So he left Athens — and a good job in logistics — just before the crisis, and relocated to Raches. He connected with chefs in fine restaurants in Athens and started selling them wild sea greens.
Soon, he was getting flooded with orders for greens, then cultivated produce like carrots, beans and watermelons. He called the service Radiki, which means chicory in Greek.
A Rise In Startups
The high demand for the service didn’t surprise Haris Makryniotis, managing director of Endeavor Greece, which supports startups in the country. The number of startups in Greece has gone up ninefold since 2010, data from Endeavor Greece shows.
The most touted have been tech startups like TaxiBeat, which produces a smartphone application to hail and rate taxi drivers. But Makryniotis says many more sustainable jobs could come in specialty agriculture.
“It’s a sector that’s ripe for job creation,” he says.
For years, Makryniotis says, Greek food products failed to find good homes because of an uncompetitive and stagnant agriculture sector that relied on badly designed European Union subsidies.
Food entrepreneur Sotiris Lymperopoulos spends many mornings foraging for wild greens such as kritamos, sea asparagus and wild garlic, which he sells to fine restaurants and gourmet shops in Athens.
“Part of the [subsidy] money was supposed to go to modernization of techniques, new equipment, new ways of cultivating the land,” Makryniotis says. “Instead of making good use of this money, most of the money was wasted either on personal needs or consumption of farmers themselves.”
Many Greek farmers planted just a few crops that were subsidized.
“If olive oil was subsidized,” he says, “we just planted olive trees everywhere. And then we cut them out.”
An Innovative Approach
A few innovative farmers who ignored this mentality cultivated a variety of high-quality products that sold well in local markets. Lymperopoulos discovered one of those farmers, Ilias Smirlis, after trying one of Smirlis’ carrots at a farmers market in Kalamata.
“My parents used to cultivate two types of greens on our farm,” says Smirlis, as he waves to two women in straw hats harvesting red beans. “Now we cultivate 40 kinds of vegetables and fruits.”
Before Smirlis met Lymperopoulos, he only sold his products in local markets in Messinia, a prefecture in the western Peloponnese. Now he also sells them to top-shelf restaurants in Athens.
“The demand for good and high-quality products will always exist,” Smirlis says. “The challenge is to find the market for them.”
If that challenge is met, Makryniotis of Endeavor Greece says at least 300,000 new jobs could be created at a time when the country’s gross domestic product has shrunk by 25 percent in four years and unemployment is still at more than 27 percent — the highest in the eurozone.
But many of those new jobs won’t be in big cities, which means many citified Greeks will have to move to smaller towns and rural areas. That would reverse a longtime trend of rural-to-urban migration that defined Greece’s shift to a postwar service economy.
Only a handful of people have made the move, largely because of a lack of infrastructure, such as schools and housing, as well as amenities, says Alkmini Georgiadi, Lymperopoulos’ wife. She left a high-powered job as a lawyer in Thessaloniki and now teaches yoga and helps her husband with Radiki in Raches.
“There is this attitude that there are no jobs in rural areas, but we are trying to show [people] that you can find a way to work,” Georgiadi says. “People with knowledge and an appetite for work should bring their skills to areas thirsting for change.”
Lymperopoulos says Radiki is expanding its work outside of Greece: He now supplies produce from the Peloponnese to restaurants in Paris and London, and is also partnering with a Greek gourmet food company to sell sea greens to the U.S.
“In Greece, we have the best products, but we don’t have a strategy,” he says. So like many entrepreneurs in post-austerity Greece, he’s decided to write his own.