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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Liberian Church Stopping Ebola With Gospel and Chlorine

The Liberian Church Stopping Ebola With Gospel and Chlorine


The Liberian Church Stopping Ebola With Gospel and Chlorine

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 11:09 AM PDT

“Lord,” shouts the Reverend Joseph T.S. Menjor into a microphone. “We are tired of this situation. We are calling on you to cast this abomination from our country. Jesus, we want our land to be free of Ebola. Cast out this disease!”

The pastor is leading his people in prayer, but it is not a moment of quiet reflection. No, his congregation is on its feet, swaying to a gospel hymn, eyes closed and hands raised in supplication. At Menjor’s call, the 600 or so congregants of the Free Pentecostal Global Mission Church in the Chickensoup Factory district of Monrovia, Liberia chant a chorus of amens and launch into a cacophony of individual prayers, symbolically casting the evil of Ebola to the ground with repeated downward thrusts of their hands.

Menjor is not just trusting in God to solve the Ebola problem. The minister is taking concrete steps to protect his people, and his community, from an outbreak of a deadly virus that has already claimed 2,800 lives and sickened thousands more across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Over 1,500 of those fatalities occurred in Liberia, with the densely packed seaside capital of Monrovia the worst affected. The disease, which is transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids, has no vaccine, and there is no cure.

Preventing Ebola’s spread is the only solution, says Menjor. As with most establishments across the capital, large plastic vessels fitted with spigots and filled with a diluted chlorine solution flank the church doors. Ushers remind churchgoers to wash their hands thoroughly before entering. No one shakes hands anymore. Newcomers are greeted with broad smiles instead of the reverend’s personal embrace. While the church has grown in numbers since the outbreak — “When people are scared of dying, they flock to God,” chuckles Menjor — the pews are no longer tightly packed. The church offers two Sunday services instead, and broadcasts its sermons over the radio.

The Chickensoup Factory church branch, named after a powder soup manufacturing plant that used to be in the area, has also pioneered an Ebola Task Force designed to push the message of prevention into the homes of congregants and community members. Each Sunday, Rebecca Scotland, a founding member of the task force and a nursing instructor at a nearby teaching hospital, delivers her own talk before the sermon.

Combining drama with call and response, Scotland mimes Ebola symptoms for the congregation to identify. She fans her face and mimes taking her temperature. “Fever!” the congregation shouts. She feigns weakness, swaying on her feet. She clutches her stomach and bends over a pretend bucket. “Vomiting!” calls out a member of the choir. She squats in front of the pulpit and blows a raspberry into the microphone. “Diarrhea!” laughs the congregation.

The game of symptoms charades over, Scotland collapses in front of the pulpit, pretending to be sick. One of the prayer leaders, playing the part of a concerned relative, rushes to her side to offer comfort. Scotland jumps up with a stern “No!” The easiest way to get Ebola, she explains, is by touching infected people. “If you think you are sick, or someone in your family is sick, call 4455,” the national emergency hotline number. “The good news about Ebola is that there are survivors. It is not a death sentence. If you can get to the hospital, you have a chance.”

But knowing how difficult it is to find care in a city with more Ebola patients than room to treat them, she instructs the congregation on how to wear long sleeves and gloves before tending sickened family members. She explains how to mix a chlorine and water solution for cleaning hands and skin, and a stronger one for cleaning up vomit, blood and diarrhea. “Most Ebola infections happen at the bedside, when family members are caring for their loved ones,” she explains to TIME after the sermon. “If we can teach our members how to take care of themselves while taking care of their family members, we can go a long way towards stopping this disease.”

Scotland’s now weekly sermon was inspired by the illness of a beloved member of the church leadership, choir director Deborah Kamanda, who contracted Ebola caring for her younger sister and died Aug. 23. It was the first time Ebola had come to the congregation, and spurred the leadership into action. “We couldn’t save Deborah, but we knew we could stop that from happening again.” The task force, which was launched a week after Kamanda took sick, bore fruit immediately. Scotland’s guidance helped save Kamanda’s husband, Alex T. J. Kamanda, a science teacher who nursed his wife for eight days before a bed opened up in one of the city’s overcrowded treatment facilities.

While Kamanda, 39, stayed by his wife’s side, church members kept him in a steady supply of gloves, extra clothes and chlorine powder. “For me it was traumatic, seeing someone you love suffering so much, and not even being able to touch her without gloves, ” says Kamanda, sitting in front of the empty porch where his wife spent her last listless days before going to the treatment center. “But I didn’t get sick.” It’s a double blessing: his four-year-old son, who was staying with his grandparents at the time, still has a family, unlike the country’s hundreds of Ebola orphans.

The guidance of Monrovia’s churches is spreading beyond their congregations. When one of his neighbors got sick, Kamanda’s example inspired the victim’s son, Victor T. Bumbeh, to use the same protective measures. He didn’t get sick either. “It’s a fearful disease,” says the jobless 27-year-old. “I understand why people are afraid. But with the right protections, not everyone who touches it dies.” To members of the Chickensoup Factory church, casting Ebola from Liberia may start with God, but education, counseling and a good dose of chlorine are just as important.

The Surprising State Leading the U.S. in Prison Population Growth

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 10:56 AM PDT

In the past two decades, New Hampshire’s crime rate has remained steady. It has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the U.S., and the state’s population has only grown by about a fifth.

But over that period, the number of state and federal inmates in New Hampshire has almost doubled. Its main prison in Concord is routinely overcrowded. And last year, the prison population grew at a faster rate than any other state in the country.

As the number of incarcerated Americans inched up for the first time in four years, the prison population in small, largely rural New Hampshire grew faster than any other state. The 8.2% increase in the Granite State topped second-place Nebraska’s 6.8% rise and far outpaced the 0.3% national increase in the number of inmates, according to figures released Sept. 16 by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Many state experts and public officials trace the rise not to a spike in crime or a recent population boom, but to the alteration of a bill initially designed to reduce New Hampshire’s prison population. In 2010, the state adopted a law that freed all inmates who had served 120% of their minimum sentence. If an inmate was sentenced to 5-10 years, for example, he or she would automatically be released by the sixth year. It also required prisoners to walk free when they were within nine months of their maximum sentence. Within a year of the law’s enactment, almost 300 prisoners were released as a result.

The bipartisan effort was meant to cut a prison population that had been growing for decades. According to the New Hampshire Department of Corrections, state prisoners increased from 287 in 1980 to 1,250 by 1990 and 2,847 by 2008. A policy called Truth in Sentencing, which reduced early releases for inmates based on good behavior, contributed to that growth. The Justice Reinvestment Act, as the 2010 law was known, undid many of those guidelines.

“It was a wholesale change to the department of corrections,” says Dennis Delay, an economist at the New Hampshire Center of Public Policy.

But the political timing was terrible. The law became effective in October 2010—one month before local elections—and it became an easy target for candidates seeking to look tough on crime, says Donna Sytek, chairman of the New Hampshire Adult Parole Board. It didn’t help that the first few inmates released under the program were violent criminals and rapists, raising the specter that dangerous people were being returned to the streets.

“It was initially embraced by everybody, Democrats and Republicans,” Sytek says. “But it became a political football.”

The following year, the state legislature effectively gutted the bill. Instead of mandatory release nine months before the end of a maximum sentence, for instance, inmates were now just granted a parole hearing. The state’s prison population has swelled ever since. In 2013, New Hampshire had 3,018 inmates.

Experts cite other factors contributing to the increase, such as the state’s gradual population growth and judges handing down stiffer sentences for drug crimes. But the change to the 2010 law appears to be the main culprit.

“I can tell you that many New Hampshire stakeholders are extremely concerned that the current prison population exceeds its capacity,” says Ted Kirkpatrick, a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire. “I am uncertain, however, what will come out of that concern.”

Rare Woody Allen Stand-Up Comedy From the 1960s to Be Released

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 10:43 AM PDT

Woody Allen may now be best known as a serious director, but in the early ’60s, he was the Jim Gaffigan of his time. Or maybe the Larry David. Whoever is his modern-day analog, back in the day — before Annie Hall or Blue Jasmine, —Allen was a stand-up comic.

Allen’s routines were not rapid-fire bits lobbed at the audience; instead, he told long-form jokes that were more akin to short stories, a form he perfected in his collections Without Feathers and Getting Even. He related complex, clever tales with a perpetually straight face and his tongue firmly in his cheek. There were punchlines, but they were peppered throughout the stories, and Allen barely paused for the audience to catch their breath from laughing before he volleyed another.

While Allen has been off the comedy circuit since his directorial career took off with his 1969 film Take the Money and Run, his routines were recorded and released as Woody Allen: The Stand Up Years, comprised of his three earlier stand-up comedy albums. Recorded at three locations – Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago in March 1964; The Shadows, Washington D.C., April 1965; and Eugene’s, San Francisco, August 1968 — the album captures Allen’s best routines, including the infamous bit “The Moose.”

On November 25, Razor & Tie is set to release a two-disc set of Woody Allen’s The Stand Up Years, including exclusive material from the original vinyl recordings not available on any previous reissues. In addition, the set will include 25-minutes of audio excerpts from Woody Allen: A Documentary. and liner notes by Robert B. Weide, who produced and directed Woody Allen: A Documentary as well as Curb Your Enthusiasm (perhaps Larry David is the correct choice after all).

The news of the re-release comes on the heels of speculation that Allen may return to stand-up. Last year, he told New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff that he has been “toying with the idea” of developing new standup material. Allen was inspired by watching 86-year old comedian Mort Sahl perform: “Watching him, I had the same feeling now, in 2013, as I had when I saw him in 1950-something. Of, ‘Hey, I’d like to get back onstage and do standup again.'”

That said, those comments surfaced last year, and Allen was already concerned about the effort, telling Itzkoff, “Just getting together an hour of stuff to talk about would be a lot of work.” Perhaps a new generation of fans will just have to make due with memorizing his old routines, which — luckily — still hold up.

Cuddlr Is a 100% Real App for Spooning With Random Strangers

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 10:41 AM PDT

Have you ever had the overwhelming urge to spoon with a complete stranger in a public place? Anybody? We’ll take that silence as a resounding maybe!

Cuddlr is a location-based app that finds people in the immediate vicinity who are game for a strictly “platonic” cuddle. Users are shown a name and picture (because cuddling compatibility knows no age) of potential snuggle buddies. If you approve one another within a 15-minute window, then you can send a message about where to meet up and then see real-time walking directions of where the other person is as he or she approaches. (You can also block a user at any time.)

Founder Charlie Williams talked to Salon about the app’s unique offerings (it’s not for sex, he promises!):

A cuddle is longer than a hug, but shorter than a date, so you’re not faced with having to sit through a drink or two if you’ve decided someone isn’t for you: you can politely end a cuddle any time. People uninterested in dating, whether because they’re already in a relationship, or not pursuing a relationship, will enjoy having a way to experience a connection with someone without any pressure to dress up, find an activity, exchange numbers or even see each other again.

This concept adds a whole new, fun level of “is this cheating?” to modern relationships.

Post-cuddle, users can then rank their partners’ performance … just like AirBNB.

5 Signs Your Hormones Are Out of Whack

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 10:30 AM PDT

Raise your hand if, in the last few weeks, you’ve felt tired, bloated, or cranky. Sound familiar? Then you know the drill: Every month, your hormones—the body’s itty-bitty secret weapon—come out to play, wreaking havoc on your mood, skin, and mind. While levels generally stabilize after your period, various factors, like stress (yup, keep those hands raised) and anxiety can throw them off balance. So how can you tell if your symptoms require an office visit? Alyssa Dweck, MD, an OB-GYN at the Mount Kisco Medical Group in New York shares the five red flags that might merit a doctor’s note.

Fatigue

Exhaustion is one of the most, well, exhausting symptoms to a doc, since it has so many possible causes. “If you’re tired after a week of final exams or late nights at work, then you’re probably fine,” says Dr. Dweck. “But if you constantly feel worn out and notice weight gain, appetite fluctuations, and a change in bowel movements, it could be a sign of an underactive thyroid.” Yes, fatigue happens to everyone, but if yours doesn’t feel logical, then it’s worth getting it checked out.

Skin changes

You’re breaking out—again. While those sudden zits could be caused by one too many nights of going to bed without washing your face, they may be indicative of something more. “Adult acne or cystic acne around the lower half of your face could suggest a high level of testosterone,” says Dr. Dweck. Although not a life-threatening problem, breakouts can take a toll on your psyche. Luckily, your doc can prescribe you medication to stabilize your hormone levels and clear up skin.

Hair growth

We’re talking really fast hair growth. “If you all of a sudden grow a beard within a month or notice coarse, dark hair popping up on your chest, back or arms, that could be indicative of a testosterone-secreting tumor,” explains Dr. Dweck. But don’t freak out: Tumors are rare, she notes, and can often be treated with drugs or surgery.

Weird periods

Just like fatigue, a messed-up menstrual cycle can be the result of many factors, like stress, thyroid issues, low estrogen, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). “The hallmark of PCOS is irregular or absent periods, but it could also present with difficulty losing weight or strange hair growth,” says Dr. Dweck. Generally, PCOS is managed through diet, exercise and birth control pills, but your doctor will work with you to develop a multi-faceted plan if she finds this to be the cause of your period problems.

Night sweats

Unless it’s unusually warm in your bedroom, waking up feeling overheated and sweaty could be the result of lower estrogen levels and infrequent ovulation—aka perimenopause. “Perimenopause can occur up to 10 years before you’re even near the age of menopause,” says Dr. Dweck, “so unless you’re having major menstrual issues before age 40, there’s a good chance your phantom sweating could actually be early menopause.” Either way, Dr. Dweck recommends making an appointment with your doc to make sure it’s nothing more serious.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Watch a Swarm of 1,000 ‘Kilobots’ Assemble Into Different Shapes

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 10:29 AM PDT

From the editor’s summary in Science:

When individuals swarm, they must somehow communicate to direct collective motion. Swarms of robots need to deal with outliers, such as robots that move more slowly than the rest. Rubenstein et al. created a large swarm of programmed robots that can form collaborations using only local information. The robots could communicate only with nearby members, within about three times their diameter. They were able to assemble into complex preprogrammed shapes. If the robots’ formation hit snags when they bumped into one another or because of an outlier, additional algorithms guided them to rectify their collective movements.

This may still be some time away. But the time is getting closer.

(via IEEE Spectrum)

It’s Banned Books Week: Here are 5 Classic Books to Celebrate With

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 10:15 AM PDT

Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh.

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker.

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.

In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume.

Each of the above is, for most people, safely tucked away in the pantheon of “good books.” But that hasn’t stopped each from seeming, for others, bad enough to ban. They’re all on the American Library Association’s lists of challenged books, which the organization is promoting in honor of Banned Books Week (Sept. 21–27, this year), a celebration of the fact that speaking out against censorship has caused most American attempts at book-banning, by their estimation, to fail.

Even so, a quick look at those lists reveals that banning books is very much not a thing of the past — and that, as an expert on the effects of book banning told TIME for a 1981 story about the rise of the practice, “nothing is safe.” As that article pointed out, the range of books that have been banned in the U.S. includes not only literary classics but also the dictionary, because “some organizations … objected to the sexual intimations of the definition of the word bed as a transitive verb.” (Even TIME itself has been a banned “book,” though that was in Europe during the early months of World War II.)

Part of the reason why book banning remains so prevalent in the U.S. is that the challenges to books happen mostly on a local level. The federal government stays out of it, but individual schools and libraries are, as TIME put it in that 1981 story, “eager to protect everybody from hazards like ugly words, sedition, blasphemy, unwelcome ideas and, perhaps worst of all, reality.” Still, TIME explained, just because each ban only affects a small portion of the population, that doesn’t mean the bans don’t add up:

Written words running loose have always presented a challenge to people bent on ruling others. In times past, religious zealots burned heretical ideas and heretics with impartiality. Modern tyrannies promote the contentment and obedience of their subjects by ruthlessly keeping troubling ideas out of their books and minds. Censorship can place people in bondage more efficiently than chains.

Read the full 1981 story about the increasing incidence of book banning, here in TIME’s archives: The Growing Battle of the Books

Obama ‘Obviously Concerned’ By White House Security Breach

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 10:10 AM PDT

President Barack Obama is “obviously concerned” about Friday’s fence-jumping incident at the White House, in which an intruder managed to enter the Executive Mansion before being detained by law enforcement, his spokesman said Monday.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama was briefed multiple times Friday night and updated throughout the weekend on the investigation into how then alleged jumper, identified by the Secret Service as Omar J. Gonzalez, made it into the building, which prompted a short evacuation of part of the sprawling complex.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson ordered a security review of the White House and of the events leading up to Friday’s incident, which occurred minutes after the First Family departed the South Lawn on Marine One for a weekend trip to Camp David. White House officials and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson are are awaiting the results of the investigation.

“In the meantime, I encourage all of us to not rush to judgment about the event and not second-guess the judgment of security officers who had only seconds to act, until all the facts are in,” Johnson said in a statement Monday.

The Secret Service review will include the positioning of Secret Service assets inside and outside the White House perimeter, possible technical and security enhancements, and potential staffing issues, Earnest said. Secret Service officials are contemplating expanding the White House perimeter to screen tourists further from the complex or to create a larger buffer-zone around the presidential residence.

“Providing security at the White House is complicated business,” Earnest said, adding that Obama still has confidence in the agency charged with protecting him and his family.

“The Secret Service has the challenging task of balancing the need to ensure the safety and security of the first family, while also ensuring that the White House continues to be the people’s house,” Earnest said. “And balancing those equities is challenging work, but it’s clear that in this case a review of that work is warranted and that review will be conducted.”

Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, was apprehended just inside the White House North Portico, a development Secret Service officials deemed “unacceptable.”

Earnest said the agency has already made changes to some of its procedures, including beefing up security at the North Lawn fence-line. Additionally, he said the agency will now ensure that the North Portico door is locked when not in use by White House staff and tourists. “When the door is not in use, it will be secured,” Earnest said.

Wesleyan Will Make Frats Be Co-Ed

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 10:04 AM PDT

Wesleyan University said Monday that campus fraternity groups will soon be required to admit both men and women, a change that followed a lawsuit by a student saying she was raped at a frat party and that came amid growing scrutiny of colleges’ efforts to combat campus sexual assault.

“With equity and inclusion in mind, we have decided that residential fraternities must become fully co-educational over the next three years,” top university officials said in an email to the university community.

“If the organizations are to continue to be recognized as offering housing and social spaces for Wesleyan students, women as well as men must be full members and well-represented in the body and leadership of the organization,” said the email from Joshua Boger and Michael S. Roth, the chair and president of the Board of Trustees, respectively.

The move comes after a student filed a lawsuit saying she was raped in 2o13 at a fraternity party, and that multiple party attendees watched. The email said the school had been considering what to do about Greek life at Wesleyan for years, and received input over the summer from students, faculty and alumni.

Other schools like Trinity College have made similar changes in recent years (though not without student protest). The Wesleyan website reads, “Greek life is small at Wes.” There are a small number of fraternities on campus, some with houses and some without. There is only one sorority and it does not have a house. The school already has other co-ed societies.

Read the email here.

Starbucks Is Testing a Drink That Tastes Like Guinness (Without the Alcohol)

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 10:01 AM PDT

If you’re already panicking about what you’re going to drink once Starbucks stops selling its beloved seasonal pumpkin spice latte, don’t worry, because the chain is now testing out a brand new flavor. This one, though, is not meant to evoke the feelings of strolling through a pumpkin patch in a pair of Ugg boots on a crisp autumn Saturday. Not at all. This one is meant to taste like a nice dark Irish stout.

The new drink, called the Dark Barrel Latte, is being tested at select locations across Ohio and Florida, Grubstreet reports. It doesn’t contain any alcohol, but it supposedly contains the dark, toasty, malty flavors of Guinness. A BuzzFeed writer who got his hands on one in Columbus confirmed that it really does taste like stout. Several customers who’ve tweeted about the drink agree that it tastes like Guinness — but the jury’s still out on whether or not that’s actually a good thing.

When I asked a colleague who was born and raised in Dublin (Guinness’s birthplace) how he felt about all this, he responded first with this GIF. Then, as he mulled it over a bit more, he added, “Holy hell. Worst.” Then he posed a question: “American Guinness already doesn’t taste like Guinness. So what will this taste like?” Then he barfed all over me and my stupid American ignorance.

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