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How Ebola Was Discovered

How Ebola Was Discovered

Microbiologist Peter Piot brought Ebola to the world's attention nearly four decades ago. With rarely seen footage from his visit to Zaire in 1976, he describes how his team solved the mystery of the virus.

43 Mexican College Students Disappeared Weeks Ago. What Happened to Them?

43 Mexican College Students Disappeared Weeks Ago. What Happened to Them?

By AJ Vicens

A violent confrontation with local police, alleged cartel involvement, and mass graves: Welcome to Mexico's latest tragedy.

 Nearly three weeks have passed since 43 Mexican college students went missing in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero after clashing with local police suspected of having ties to the Guerreros Unidos cartel. A break in the case seemingly came earlier this week when a mass grave with 28 bodies was unearthed, but Mexican authorities later said the students were not among the dead.

According to the Guardian, local police chased the buses down and apparently opened fire. The buses stopped, the unarmed students got out, and the attacks got worse. Many of the students apparently fled, but roughly 20 of them were taken away in patrol cars. Later, some of the students returned to the scene and were talking to reporters when they were assaulted again by police or other gunmen. Two students reportedly died, and one was left in a vegetative state. "The body of a third student was found dumped nearby later, his face reportedly skinned and his eye gouged out," the Guardian reported.

The students' school, the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa, is one of more than a dozen around the country that formed after Mexico's revolution with the goal of raising living standards for impoverished Mexicans and teaching poor farmers to read and write, according to the Christian Science Monitor. The schools are typically seen as leftist, and people from this school, in particular, were some of the major players in the run-up to the Tlatelolco Massacre, a violent clash between students and police in Mexico City in 1968 that led to dozens of deaths.

Hong Kong Holds Hard Line on Protests


Hong Kong Holds Hard Line on Protests

After nearly three weeks of protests including violent confrontations with police, the two sides in the Hong Kong standoff haven’t talked or budged on their demands.

After nearly three weeks of protests including violent confrontations with police, the two sides in the Hong Kong standoff haven’t talked and haven’t budged on their demands.

With the first negotiations on track to begin next week, the students leading the protests and city officials appear to be talking past each other, repeatedly making demands that the other side has rejected. But there are possible signs of compromise emerging behind the scenes.

On Thursday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying continued his hard line at a news conference, saying police could clear protest sites even while talks were going on. “This is very important: dialogue and clearing the protests are two separate things. We won’t refrain from clearing the sites because of dialogue, nor will we refrain from dialogue because of [plans] to clear the sites.”

But clearing the sites and attempting dialogue simultaneously is unlikely to be successful since every effort to halt the protests have brought out huge crowds of demonstrators and broadened the support for the students.

Is Falling Stock Market the Death Knell for Dems?

Is Falling Stock Market the Death Knell for Dems?

By James Piereson

The Democrats are already facing substantial headwinds in this year's midterm elections: they are defending 21 of 37 Senate seats up this year, President Obama is a drag on the ticket with overall popularity hovering around 40 percent, things seem to be falling apart in the Middle East, and the economy continues to grow at a tepid pace, buoyed up to now by a record-breaking stock market. Election forecasters have conceded the House of Representatives to the Republicans and are giving Republicans very good odds of capturing the Senate.

Now, in the last two weeks the stock market has undergone a substantial correction that may yet turn into a full blow crash. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped by about 1300 points since October 1, falling from around 17,200 to 15,900 as of late afternoon on October 15. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ have fallen by similar proportions. All told, the U.S. stock markets have lost close to $1.6 trillion in wealth in the past two weeks. By all appearances, the correction has not yet run its course. The markets could fall still further on worries about slow growth in Europe and the United States, and a general sense that events are spiraling out of control.

Ebola gaffes fuel quarantine questions

A Frontier Airlines employee wears gloves as she directs passengers where to go. | AP Photo

Ebola gaffes fuel quarantine questions


The startling news Wednesday that an Ebola-infected nurse flew from Cleveland to Dallas earlier this week unleashed a new round of fears about the virus’s spread in the U.S. and whether the government’s legal authority to contain the illness by limiting travel is up to the task.

For nearly a decade, officials have been warning that the country’s quarantine regulations are woefully outdated and badly need revising. The George W. Bush administration proposed “critical updates” to enhance the government’s authority to detain passengers, but never pushed the changes through before the effort was abandoned under the Obama administration.

Left in place were federal quarantine rules in some cases more than 100 years old, a situation that has some worried that the government lacks the proper legal power to restrict the travel of infected passengers and take all necessary measures to limit the spread of Ebola.

Obama administration officials have been reluctant to spell out exactly what quarantine authority they have and whether it is sufficient to contain the deadly disease.

Is Jeff Bezos really the bad guy?

Is Jeff Bezos really the bad guy?

By Alex Beam

The literary-industrial complex cannot abide Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. To paraphrase Oscar winner Sally Field: They hate him. They really hate him.

Here are the latest developments in the ongoing morality play called “Hand-Wringing Writers Fulminate Against Seattle-based Book Monopoly Bent on World Domination.” When we last tuned in, a small group of authors angered by Amazon’s roughhouse tactics against the publisher Hachette had mushroomed into a movement a thousand strong. Literary superagent Andrew Wylie has jawboned many of his successful clients, including Philip Roth and Orhan Pamuk, into calling for a Justice Department investigation of Amazon.

“If Amazon is not stopped, we are facing the end of literary culture in America,” Wylie told The New York Times. Ungraciously, the Times reminded us that as recently as 2010, Wylie himself was negotiating sweetheart e-book deals with Amazon. How times do change.

Why Do I Have To Do all the Work in This Relationship?

Why Do I Have To Do all the Work in This Relationship?

By Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D.

You know relationships take work but just how much should you have to give in?

Republican Gains and Confusion in Senate Races

Republican Gains and Confusion in Senate Races

By John Cassidy

With less than three weeks to go until Election Day, the Republicans are still favored to take control of the Senate. But since Cassidy’s Count last week, a number of key races have shifted, and in some quarters confusion reigns.

Here’s what Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, had to say on Wednesday morning: “With so many variables and competitive races, plus potential and competitive runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia, the outcome of the midterm elections is anyone’s guess.” 

That’s not quite accurate. On balance, the opinion surveys still point to a Republican victory. The statistical forecasting models, which aggregate the most recent polls from competitive races, all show that the odds of the G.O.P. gaining control are greater than fifty per cent. But there is quite a bit of variability in the details of the various forecasts. The Washington Post Election Lab model reckons that the probability of a G.O.P. takeover is ninety-four per cent, which is, obviously, a very high figure. The Times Upshot model puts the probability at seventy-four per cent. The Princeton Election Consortium model, which is run by Sam Wang (who has written for, has a figure of seventy per cent. According to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model, the probability is 60.4 per cent.

How to be fitter, happier and more successful: stop dreaming and start getting real

brain waves lightning

How to be fitter, happier and more successful: stop dreaming and start getting real

Oliver Burkeman

Oliver Burkeman

You can't always get what you want, but if you try some negative thinking, you might get that promotion you actually need

In 2011, the New York University psychologist Gabriele Oettingen published the results of an elegant study, conducted with her colleague Heather Kappes, in which participants were deprived of water. Some of these parched volunteers were then taken through a guided visualisation exercise, in which they were asked to picture an icy glass of water, the very thing they presumably craved. Afterwards, by measuring everyone’s blood pressure, Oettingen discovered that the exercise had drained people’s energy levels, and made them relax. The implication is startling: picturing an imaginary glass of water might make people less motivated to get up and head to the watercooler or the tap in order to quench their real, non-imaginary thirst.

This conclusion is precisely the reverse of one of the central tenets of pop psychology: the idea that picturing the future you desire makes it more likely you’ll attain it. Again and again, in her research, Oettingen has shown that making a fantasy of something you want can make it harder to achieve in reality. Imagine yourself having a productive week, and you’ll accomplish less. Imagine receiving a windfall of cash, and you’ll be less motivated to engage in the kinds of activities that might bring you money. Intriguingly – though admittedly the link may not be causal – there’s even a relationship between how much “positive thinking” language American presidents use in their inaugural speeches, and how much unemployment rates change by the end of their presidential terms. The more positive the fantasy about the future, the fewer jobs in real life.

Fist-pumping motivational gurus have long claimed that your brain “can’t distinguish between reality and imagination”. Ironically, Oettingen’s experiments show they’re right about that – but also that the conclusion they draw is spectacularly wrong. Attempting to “experience your success as if it had already materialized” is a fast-track to disappointment.

The Fading 'Fundamental Right' to Abortion

The Fading 'Fundamental Right' to Abortion

By Garrett Epps

Why did a controversial Texas abortion law survive long enough to make it to the Supreme Court?

Under the standard set by Roe v. Wade, there would be no question that a controversial Texas abortion law was invalid. What happened?

So far this term, the Supreme Court drama is offstage. Publicly, the justices doze through a seminar on whether mall-kiosk tooth whitening is unlicensed dentistry. Behind the scenes, however, they have issued cryptic orders that have all but settled same-sex marriage, placed some voter-ID laws on hold, and (as of Tuesday) blocked enforcement of a Texas statute that was about to force closure of 13 of the state’s 21 abortion clinics.

A district judge had blocked the Texas statute, but the Fifth Circuit—probably the most conservative appeals court in the country—reversed. Now the Supreme Court has “stayed” the appeals court’s order, meaning the clinics can remain open. It seems likely that stay will be in effect until the justices decide whether to hear an appeal from the Fifth Circuit’s order. But as we have learned with the same-sex-marriages cases this fall, a Supreme Court stay does not mean the Court will definitely hear the appeal. And even if it does, a new case in front of this Court might not clear things up much.

Forty-one years after the Supreme Court held that women have the right to choose between childbirth and abortion, little remains of what was once a “fundamental right.” How did we get here?

To understand the current case, readers have to grasp the constitutional concept of “levels of scrutiny.” It’s not as bad as it sounds. My former constitutional-law professor, Walter Dellinger, summarized it this way: “If government wants to do something to you, it has to give a reason. If it wants to do something really bad, it has to give a really good reason.”

John Grisham: sentences too harsh for viewing child abuse images

John Grisham says people who look at child abuse images 'probably had too much to drink'.

John Grisham: sentences too harsh for viewing child abuse images

The Guardian

Crime author criticises US justice system, saying ‘jails are full of 60-year-old white men who never harmed anybody’

The author John Grisham has said people who look at child abuse images “probably had too much to drink” and should be given lighter prison sentences.

Grisham, 59, made the comments during an interview in which he criticised the US justice system and the high number of serving convicts.

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who have never harmed anybody, would never touch a child,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

Grisham said too many people were being jailed for crimes such as minor drugs offences and white-collar crime. He said judges had “gone crazy” in the past 30 years.

He said a friend from law school had been jailed for three years for viewing child abuse images in Canada. He said the site was labelled “16-year-old wannabe hookers”, and his friend’s drinking had been out of control at the time.

He added: “I have no sympathy for real paedophiles. God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that’s what they’re getting.”

Asked about the fact that viewing such content fuelled abuse of youngsters to create the images, Grisham insisted that sentences should be lower for people who only downloaded it.

Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart Trade Verbal Blows Over ‘White Privilege’


Bill O’Reilly, Jon Stewart Trade Verbal Blows Over ‘White Privilege’

By Sarene Leeds

Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly dropped by "The Daily Show" last night to promote his new book but wound up in a heated debate with host Jon Stewart over "white privilege."

After a 10-second mention of “Killing Patton” (“We’re just going to call the series ‘Killing Trees’ – they sell like crazy”) Stewart cut to the chase, asking O’Reilly to simply admit that “there is such a thing as white privilege,” which was greeted by thunderous applause by the audience.

O’Reilly, who claimed to be prepared for Stewart’s line of questioning, didn’t seem to have much of a defense beyond “Maybe you haven’t figured out that there is no more slavery, no more Jim Crow” – in essence, ignoring the past 50 years of American history and eliciting groans from Stewart’s audience.

The “O’Reilly Factor” host stuck his foot in his mouth even further when he inadvertently corroborated Stewart’s “systemic subjugation” argument by agreeing that during his modest Levittown, New York, childhood, African-Americans would not have been welcome in the Long Island hamlet. “That, my friend, is what we call in the business, ‘white privilege,’” observed Stewart.

New Push to Check Spread of Ebola

New Push to Check Spread of Ebola

By Jack Nicas, Ana Campoy and Betsy McKay

Concerns grew about containing the spread of Ebola in the U.S. after officials disclosed that the second infected Texas nurse flew from Dallas to Cleveland and back days before reporting her symptoms.

Amber Joy Vinson, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas who provided extensive medical care to a Liberian man with Ebola who died, shouldn’t have been allowed to travel on a commercial flight, said the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden. “She should not have been on that plane,” he told reporters.

President Barack Obama, speaking after meeting for more than 90 minutes with his senior advisers involved in the Ebola response, promised a review of every step of the government’s actions since the first case appeared in the U.S. He said officials will more aggressively monitor incidents where the virus could potentially spread and apply “lessons learned” from apparent breakdowns in the government’s response to any future cases. He said the danger of a serious outbreak in the U.S. is low.

Ms. Vinson was among a group of 76 health-care workers being monitored for signs of infection after nurse Nina Pham was diagnosed with Ebola this past weekend.

Ms. Vinson flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1142 from Dallas-Fort Worth airport to Cleveland on Friday, before it was known that Ms. Pham was sick and her co-workers had been put under surveillance by health authorities.

Ms. Vinson then flew back to Dallas on Frontier flight 1143 on Monday, landing at 8:16 p.m. local time, the CDC said. She reported possible Ebola symptoms Tuesday and was isolated, the agency said.

A CDC spokesman said that Ms. Vinson had contacted the CDC before her return flight to Dallas, and “we did not tell her she could not fly.” The agency says symptoms of Ebola include a fever of more than 101.5; Ms. Vinson reported to the CDC her temperature was 99.5.

The development raised questions about how aggressively health officials have moved to contain the disease. Hospital workers who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan were initially told to self-monitor for any signs of infection, instead of being checked daily by health officials like the 48 people the Liberian man came into contact with before he was hospitalized.

The power of hating Obama

For Republicans, saying no to Obama may be enough on Election Day

That antipathy toward the unpopular president more than any single issue is what is propelling Republicans to likely gains in November. A CBS News poll found that 31 percent of registered voters see the election as a way to raise objection to Obama, while only 18 percent see it as a way to affirm Obama. That’s nearly as bad as it was for George W. Bush in 2006 before major Democratic gains.

Republicans are so confident of anti-Obama sentiments that they aren’t making an effort to present an alternative agenda, the way they did with 1994’s “Contract With America” or 2010’s “Pledge to America.” The Republican National Committee drafted only vaguely worded “principles” (“Our Constitution should be preserved, valued and honored”).

No, Carrie Bradshaw Was Not 'Such a Whore'

No, Carrie Bradshaw Was Not 'Such a Whore'

Kevin O'Keeffe

The former Mr. Big slut-shamed the Sex and the City heroine in a new interview, firmly ensconcing his foot in his mouth.

In an interview with Australian news site, Noth was asked about feeling typecast and whether he's managed to avoid being pigeonholed as a Mr. Big forever. After admitting he could never "escape" that image, he went on to describe both Big and his current The Good Wife character Peter Florrick as "powerful" but also "flawed." Then he backtracked that a bit: Big wasn't a wreck. He was simply who he said he was. Series protagonist Carrie Bradshaw, on the other hand:

"One of the things I tell people is that he never tried to pretend he was anything other than what he was. It was [Carrie] who tried to pretend he was something he wasn’t. He was always honest about himself — he never cheated on her. The relationship just didn’t work, and he went on to get married while she went on to … how many boyfriends did she have? She was such a whore! [laughs] There’s a misconception that Carrie was a victim of him, and that’s not the case — she was a strong, smart woman."

It's as if Noth watched a different version of Sex and the City than everyone else did. In the HBO series, Big dated and slept with a cornucopia of other women. When he became unsatisfied with his wife, he cheated with Carrie. According to Noth, the with matters—he never cheated on her. Which allows Big to remain an upstanding guy who was what he was, and makes Carrie a "whore." Right.

Poll: Obama hits lowest approval

Barack Obama is pictured. | Getty

Poll: Obama hits lowest approval


President Barack Obama’s approval rating is at the lowest level of his presidency, a new poll says.

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday, 40 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, the lowest score the poll has recorded since he took office. His rating is down 1 point from September.

The survey comes less than a month out from the November midterm elections. A large number of Democratic congressional and gubernatorial candidates on the campaign trail have been distancing themselves from the White House.

Among independent voters, Obama’s approval rating stands at 33 percent.

The Fugitive in the Pennsylvania Woods

The Fugitive in the Pennsylvania Woods

By Benjamin Wallace-Wells

During a nighttime shift change at a Pennsylvania state police barracks in the Poconos last month, a 31-year-old man named Eric Frein, operating a rifle and firing from a distance, shot two state troopers and killed one of them. Then he ran. It has been more than two months since the shooting, and police have long confined their search for the shooter to a small section of woods near where he grew up, about five square miles in size. As many as 1,000 law-enforcement officers at a time have been after Frein, and there have been several instances where they have caught sight of him, but no cop has seemed to come particularly close to apprehending him. A state police lieutenant colonel named George Blevins told a press conference that Frein seemed to be almost taunting the cops chasing him, appearing in places where they could see but not reach him. "It's almost like this is a game to him," Blevins said.

What kind of game, exactly, has been a little harder to pin down. Perhaps it has something to do with ideology, though Frein left nothing like a manifesto. Cops, combing through his background, described Frein as a survivalist and suggested he harbored grudges against the police and perhaps society: "He has made statements about wanting to kill law enforcement officers and also to commit acts of mass murder." Friends and acquaintances who have spoken to the press have not remembered anything quite that severe, though they have mentioned a libertarian-inflected tendency to criticize the government. Perhaps, too, his motives had something to do with guns. Frein, the son of an army major, seems to have worked only sporadically through his adult life (a stint at a grocery store, seasonal work teaching archery and riflery for the Boy Scouts) and to have spent much of his time practicing marksmanship ("He doesn't miss," his military father told police, ominously) and in war reenactment — he specialized in reenactments of Serbian army maneuvers and battles. The Serbian army, in real life, helped to carry out a genocide, but Frein's re-enactor friends said his enthusiasm for the Serbian group had mostly to do with the ragtag look of their fatigues. "This is more reminiscent of the first Rambo movie," one of them said.

Because Frein was quickly described as a survivalist and because he has eluded police for so long, many reports have compared this search to that for Eric Rudolph, who in the 1990s detonated homemade bombs at two abortion clinics, an Atlanta lesbian bar, and the Olympic Park before disappearing into the Appalachian wilderness, where he evaded searches for five years. Rudolph's politics, and the sheer length of his escape, made him a backwoods folk hero — billboards were taken out cheering him on, and there were T-shirts bearing the slogan "Run, Rudolph, Run."

"Many of the people who live in the mountainous search area regard the fugitive as far less menacing than the federal and state agents sent to hunt him down," the great student of Southern culture, Tony Horwitz, wrote in The New Yorker. Horwitz quoted a woman becoming "misty-eyed" when she thought about Rudolph on Christmas Day, and a pastor who described the North Carolina woods as clannish territory said of Rudolph, "He's one of the clan."

The great social alarm that was raised by the long Rudolph flight had to do with the culture that supported and shrouded him. The real revelations of the Horwitz piece and others like it were that in some parts of rural America there were pastors, surgeons, recycling-plant workers — otherwise law-abiding social stalwarts — who could convince themselves that Rudolph's campaign of murders and terror served to advance political causes they believed in: against abortion, against the spread of gay rights, for a radically limited government.

The Frein manhunt may be less culturally significant than the pursuit of Rudolph, but as a pure fugitive matter, it is perhaps even stranger and more fascinating. We assume that more of the earth is covered, observable, than we did a decade and a half ago. Surveillance is more complete. Early on, there had been some hope that surveillance cameras that individual hunters operated throughout the wilderness to try to track the passing deer might help to pinpoint Frein, but they don't seem to have made a difference. That Frein has not yet been caught is scary. It is also simply astonishing that even just two hours from New York there are unmonitored places in which a determined person can, for a remarkably long time, simply slip away.

Forty years on from the Rumble in the Jungle, Kinshasa is a city of chaos.

Muhammad Ali passes by a cheering crowd in Kinshasa, Zaire, on September 28, 1974 before his world heavyweight championship fight against champion George Foreman.

Forty years on from the Rumble in the Jungle, Kinshasa is a city of chaos.

Thomas Yocum in Kinshasa

The heavyweight world championship showdown between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman electrified a city full of pride and promise in the early years following independence – and then the money ran out …

“Kinshasa was a very nice place. Very clean. Not too many people, like there are now,” Dieudonne Duabo explains quietly. Sitting in the shade of an ageing hangar at the edge of the city’s Ndolo airport, the 64-year-old former army pilot is reflecting on when he first came here as a 17-year-old student in 1968. “At the time, with what I had, I could go to the supermarket and get what I wanted. I could really control my life. It was OK. No problem.”

Ndolo airport was once a shining symbol of Kinshasa’s modernity, growth and prosperity. Built in the early 1920s, it was a cornerstone of Congolese aviation and a major hub in the allied African air network during the second world war. Now it is as tumbledown as most of the rest of the sprawling city, with derelict planes littering its margins and weeds slowly eating the decaying concrete.

Ndolo is located close to the south bank of the mighty Congo river, a few kilometres upstream from where Henry Morton Stanley, the infamous Welsh explorer, established the small trading post of Leopoldville in 1883. Stanley named it after Leopold II, the Belgian king who had created what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, racking up a record of abuses that caused an estimated 10 million people – as much as half the country’s population – to flee or die.

Muhammad Ali

Renamed Kinshasa in 1966, the city is located in the far west of the DRC – a vast, wild, central African country with some of the richest natural resources of anywhere in the world. But despite this inherent wealth, the lingering effects of a brutal colonial regime, followed by a painful struggle for independence and decades of violence and political mismanagement, have left it at the bottom of almost every socio-economic league table. And nowhere are the problems more visible than in the chaotic capital city, spreading out across the banks and foothills of the Congo basin.

It wasn’t always this way. Forty years ago this month, the eyes of the world turned to Kinshasa to watch the “Rumble in the Jungle”, the legendary boxing event that saw Muhammad Ali and George Foreman slug it out for the world heavyweight title. An estimated 50,000 spectators crammed into the Stade du 20 Mai for the 4am start necessary to accommodate prime-time schedules in the United States. It was hot and humid, and the atmosphere was charged with excitement and expectation.

A huge image of President Mobutu, who had offered an extraordinary $10m to bring the fight to Kinshasa and put the country he had renamed Zaire on the map, joined the stadium’s four distinctive banks of lights in towering over the crowd. Mobutu had left little to chance. He allegedly rounded up 1,000 of Kinshasa’s leading criminals before the fight and held them in rooms under the stadium before executing 100 of them to make his point. Unsurprisingly, the city was virtually crime-free for the event.

When We Were Kings, the Academy Award-winning documentary about the 1974 fight, captures a city that was clean and green, with gleaming white buildings and broad, nearly empty streets. It’s full of pride and promise, reflecting the optimistic mood in the early years following independence in 1960.

Mobutu, who had had seized power in a 1965 coup, was in his prime in 1974 and touting his country’s success. Like many older Kinois citizens who remember his reign, Duabo says he had mixed feelings about Mobutu: “He was really a saviour for the people.” Duabo cites the price caps and subsidies for popular staples such as transportation and bread that often took effect as soon as they were announced. “People liked that. Whatever Mobutu said, it used to happen. But that was only because, when he came to power, he found the reserves of money in the bank. This country had enough money to live on. But when that money started going down, because when it comes out, nothing is going in, you can see what will happen.”

Muhammad Ali

By the early 1990s, the economic situation was becoming untenable. In 1991, the annual inflation rate was more than 4,000%. By September, army soldiers who hadn’t been paid for months reached breaking point. Together with crowds of frustrated civilians, they went on a three-day looting spree that left Kinshasa in tatters. Hundreds of people were killed before Belgian paratroopers were called in to restore order.

“At this time, there were a lot of factories up along Limete on this side of the city,” Duabo says, swinging his arm over his shoulder in the direction of the Congo river shoreline. “We called it ‘Industrial Limete’. It used to bring a lot of the population of Kinshasa here. When the looting started, they looted everything – even the machinery. Everything was destroyed. And people went out of a job even until today. Since then it is not possible to bring the old situation back. It’s not possible.”

It is estimated that half of the businesses in Kinshasa left after the 1991 riots. Those who stayed and struggled to rebuild were faced with unchecked hyperinflation and rising tensions across the city. In early 1993, when the embattled Mobutu government tried to introduce a 5-million Zaire note, the army again took to the streets.

It was a tipping point, Duabo says. As many as 2,000 people were killed, including the French ambassador. “A lot of people were out of jobs after the first [uprising]. It was already very bad, so nobody listened to anybody this time. Mobutu’s power was very low: the population, the politicians, even the people living in the streets said openly that they didn’t like him any more.”

Is Israel losing its historic support?

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's PM, believes the UN mechanism is 'vital' to preventing Hamas rebuild its military infrastructure.

Is Israel losing its historic support?

As Sweden and UK vote to recognise Palestinian statehood, we ask: is the mood changing among Israel's allies?

UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has visited Gaza to witness the scale of destruction from the 51-day war earlier this year. The international community has pledged $5bn dollars of aid for reconstruction, but it comes amid a changing mood among Israel's traditional allies. Sweden announced it would officially recognise Palestinian statehood, and the British parliament also voted for official recognition. Even the United States, Israel's closest ally, has shown its frustration in recent months.

The Adultery Arms Race

The Adultery Arms Race

By Michelle Cottle

Technology has made cheating on your spouse, or catching a cheater, easier than ever. How digital tools are aiding the unfaithful and the untrusting—and may be mending some broken marriages.

In an earlier era, a suspicious husband like Jay might have rifled through Ann’s pockets or hired a private investigator. But having stumbled upon Find My iPhone’s utility as a surveillance tool, Jay wondered what other apps might help him keep tabs on his wife. He didn’t have to look far. Spouses now have easy access to an array of sophisticated spy software that would give Edward Snowden night sweats: programs that record every keystroke; that compile detailed logs of our calls, texts, and video chats; that track a phone’s location in real time; that recover deleted messages from all manner of devices (without having to touch said devices); that turn phones into wiretapping equipment; and on and on.

Jay spent a few days researching surveillance tools before buying a program called Dr. Fone, which enabled him to remotely recover text messages from Ann’s phone. Late one night, he downloaded her texts onto his work laptop. He spent the next day reading through them at the office. Turns out, his wife had become involved with a co-worker. There were thousands of text messages between them, many X‑rated—an excruciatingly detailed record of Ann’s betrayal laid out on Jay’s computer screen. “I could literally watch her affair progress,” Jay told me, “and that in itself was painful.”

Summer is Gone but SparklyMorons are NOT!

Global Oil Glut Sends Prices Plunging

Global Oil Glut Sends Prices Plunging

Oil prices posted their biggest one-day drop in nearly two years amid a glut of crude. WSJ’s Liam Denning and Michael Casey discuss.

Pot tied to fewer brain injury deaths: study

Could sparking up save you from brain trauma?

Pot tied to fewer brain injury deaths: study

Anne Harding, Reuters

People who use marijuana may be more likely to survive a serious head injury than people who don't, a new study suggests.

At one hospital, the death rate after traumatic brain injury was lower among people who tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) than among people who tested negative for it, researchers found.

"This data fits with previous data showing that (THC) may be neuroprotective," Dr. David Plurad, one of the study's authors, said in a phone interview.

Experiments in animals have found that THC may protect the brain after injury, Plurad and his colleagues write in The American Surgeon. Little is known about the specific effects of THC on brain injury in humans, however.

Does Intelligence Predict Happiness?

Does Intelligence Predict Happiness?

By Robert Biswas-Diener

Researchers in positive psychology have long overlooked intelligence as an important topic of study. A new study sheds light on how smarts impacts happiness.

In positive psychology happiness is a four letter word. Positive psychology, as you may know, is a relatively new movement within psychology that seeks to shift the focus of research and interventions from psychological maladies to human flourishing. When I teach this topic at the university I ask my students what concepts they would like to see included under the umbrella of positive psychology. A few topics such as happiness, optimism and resilience are the clear winners time and again. One notable absence: intelligence. Intelligence is something that most of us would want for our children and we often admire intelligence in others and yet it seems overlooked.

Bill Simmons’s Return Sets Intrigue in Motion at ESPN

Bill Simmons’s Return Sets Intrigue in Motion at ESPN

A decade ago, Howard Stern got tired of fighting with the Federal Communications Commission over its decency standards and quit Viacom for satellite radio.

More recently, Glenn Beck clashed with his bosses at Fox News and started his own Internet channel, Glenn Beck TV.

Will ESPN’s Bill Simmons, one of America’s most popular sports personalities, be the next outspoken media star to strike out on his own?

Simmons, who insiders say earns more than $5 million a year, comes back to the sports network Wednesday after serving a three-week suspension for calling N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell a “liar” during a podcast, and then effectively daring ESPN to punish him. During his absence, Simmons became a free-speech martyr, complete with his own social-media hashtag: #FreeSimmons. Among the many to speak out on Twitter in his defense were Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham. “We love and need Bill,” Dunham wrote. “The definition of a REAL (gentle)man in a world of liars and fools.”

His return marks only the beginning of the intrigue as he and ESPN jockey in advance of the expiration of his contract next fall. The implications may be far-reaching, as Simmons could become something of a litmus test for the rising power of individual brands in a rapidly shifting media landscape.

The drama will unfold at a time when sports have never been a more influential cultural and economic force, and venture-capital seed money is freely flowing into new-media start-ups.

“He’s a huge brand and sports are a passion point,” said Gary Vaynerchuk, an Internet entrepreneur who invests in media companies. “Right this minute there is so much money being thrown around he could probably raise a disproportionate valuation for Bill Simmons Inc.”

Obama, Not Bush, Is the Master of Unilateral War

Obama, Not Bush, Is the Master of Unilateral War

The president must force Congress to vote on his military powers.

By Jack Goldsmith and Matthew Waxman

Late in the summer of 2013, President Barack Obama pulled back from his announced plans to use unilateral military force against Syria and stated that he would instead seek Congress’s approval. “I believe our democracy is stronger when the president acts with the support of Congress,” and “America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together,” he said. “This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the president … while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.”

Congress never authorized Obama to use force in Syria, and Russian President Vladimir Putin gave him an out by brokering a deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons. But Obama’s statement on the need for congressional consent, and the noted contrast with his predecessor, are nonetheless clarifying in their irony.

Obama’s predecessor asserted very broad presidential prerogatives in other military contexts, and his Justice Department wrote expansive legal justifications for unilateral war. But in the context of initiating war, Bush acted in a manner respectful of separation of powers. He did not “sideline the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.” To the contrary, he sought and received legislative authorization before using force. Both of Bush’s major warsagainst the 9/11 perpetrators (and their protectors), and against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraqwere clearly and formally approved in advance by Congress in, respectively, its September 2001 and October 2002 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMFs).

And it is Obama, not Bush, who has proven the master of unilateral war. Because of his lofty rhetoric about principle, because he sometimes appears to be a reluctant commander-in-chief, and perhaps because his claims of legal authority have been advanced and defended by lawyers who did not bring to office a reputation for hardline executive supremacy, the war powers precedents Obama has established have not been appreciated. Yet for those same reasons they will be especially credible, and thus especially tempting, to future administrations. These precedents will constitute a remarkable legacy of expanded presidential power to use military force.

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons


From 2004 to 2011, American and Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and at times were wounded by, chemical weapons that were hidden or abandoned years earlier.

The soldiers at the blast crater sensed something was wrong.

It was August 2008 near Taji, Iraq. They had just exploded a stack of old Iraqi artillery shells buried beside a murky lake. The blast, part of an effort to destroy munitions that could be used in makeshift bombs, uncovered more shells.

Two technicians assigned to dispose of munitions stepped into the hole. Lake water seeped in. One of them, Specialist Andrew T. Goldman, noticed a pungent odor, something, he said, he had never smelled before.

He lifted a shell. Oily paste oozed from a crack. “That doesn’t look like pond water,” said his team leader, Staff Sgt. Eric J. Duling.

The specialist swabbed the shell with chemical detection paper. It turned red — indicating sulfur mustard, the chemical warfare agent designed to burn a victim’s airway, skin and eyes.

All three men recall an awkward pause. Then Sergeant Duling gave an order: “Get the hell out.”

Five years after President George W. Bush sent troops into Iraq, these soldiers had entered an expansive but largely secret chapter of America’s long and bitter involvement in Iraq.

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule.

In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

James F. Burns with his dog Koda, at his home in Yakima, Wash. After his team found the chemical shell in 2004, “They put a gag order on all of us – the security detail, us, the clinic, everyone,” he said of higher-ups. “We were briefed to tell family members that we were exposed to ‘industrial chemicals,’ because our case was classified Top Secret.” 

James Risen is not going to let the US fear-mongering machine win in secret.

james risen photo 2014

James Risen is not going to let the US fear-mongering machine win in secret.

Trevor Timm

The reporter who exposed the NSA before Snowden will go behind bars to protect his source. But he will not let Obama’s Bushian addiction to power take us back to endless war without a fight.

For a man who could be forced into jail by the US government, possibly within “a few weeks”, after becoming the only journalist to be subpoenaed by both the Bush and Obama administrations, James Risen sure is busy.

In the past year alone, the New York Times investigative reporter who originally blew the lid on NSA wiretapping has interviewed with Edward Snowden, reported on multiple NSA revelations with Laura Poitras, and uncovered the incredible story of a Blackwater executive who threatened to kill a US state department employee who was investigating corruption – along with the government cover-up that followed. All while keeping mum as The Most Transparent Administration in American HistoryTM attempted to back him into a legal corner for doing his job as a reporter: protecting his sources.

“Maybe the Obama administration, at some point, is going to begin to back off, you would hope,” Risen told me on Monday afternoon. Until then, he’s speaking out upon the release of a new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War, that takes us from the rise of the second Bush administration’s “homeland security-industrial complex” to an Obama administration that, in 2014, is more secret than ever, facing down yet another war in Iraq that could last years.

It’s the recurring theme of Risen’s book: secrecy corrupts, and absolute secrecy is destructive to democracy. And as the blockbuster, 9,000-word story by CJ Chivers published in today’s Times shows in such chilling detail, some things never change.

“Isis is a symptom of the disfunction we created in Iraq,” Risen told me. “Isis is a serious group that we should be concerned about, but it’s not something – at least from the intelligence so far – that is any imminent threat to the US”. Risen was referring to the many tame reports from American intelligence agencies that belie the drumbeat to war frantically erupting from Capitol Hill and cable news.

“After 13 years,” Risen said, “we still see that exaggerated fear-mongering. … It can be kind of depressing to see exaggerations on television or in the media about how dangerous things are. And the politicians are stoking this, going on TV and saying ‘We’re all going to die.’”

Washington: Isis strategy is on track

Washington: Isis strategy is on track

kobani bombing

Dan Roberts in Washington and Constanze Letsch in Istanbul 

Isis advances on Baghdad and Kobani despite 21 air strikes in two days while Turkey bombs Kurdish targets in south-east

The US-led campaign to combat Islamic State (Isis) fighters in Syria and Iraq is facing a growing crisis of confidence as setbacks on the battlefield coincide with efforts to improve allied coordination and calls for President Barack Obama to escalate the military attacks.

White House officials insist their twin strategy of air strikes and support for local ground forces is still working despite advances by Isis outside Baghdad and in the Syrian town of Kobani, but concede they will consider calls for additional bombing if requested by the Pentagon.

In the last two days alone, the US has conducted 21 separate air strikes on Isis forces in and around Kobani and recently deployed Apache attack helicopters to repel advances on Baghdad airport.

Yet the latest damage assessment released by the Pentagon on Tuesday focused primarily on damage to Isis “staging locations” and buildings rather than claiming much success against fighters on the ground who are dispersed in urban areas and much harder to target using current tactics.

“I am confident the president would want to reserve that option dependent on the advice he gets from his military planners,” the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, told reporters when asked whether Obama was willing to escalate the air campaign against Isis.

ISIS Has a Bigger Coalition Than We Do


ISIS Has a Bigger Coalition Than We Do

In the ’30s, Spain attracted the world’s romantic idealists. Now the ‘caliphate’ is drawing psychopathic losers from countless countries—and they’ll risk all to feel like winners.

As President Obama met Tuesday with the defense ministers of 21 nations to strategize against ISIS, the terror state in the making extended its murder spree with jihadis from that many countries and more.

The same way that the fight for the Spanish Republic in the 1930s drew romantic idealists from all over the world, the jihad for an Islamic caliphate is attracting psychopathic losers from seemingly everywhere.

These vile volunteers from at least 25 nations include not just the British-accented monster who has been videoed beheading Western hostages, but a fighter who sounds distinctly Trinidadian.

That fighter’s name is Shane Crawford, and he is one of at least four Trinidadian jihadis fighting with ISIS. He is the central figure in a video that is on one level more disturbing than the ones showing the beheadings.

In this other video, 29-year-old Crawford is not committing an atrocity such as might be expected of ISIS. He is instead frolicking with his pals in the Euphrates River as if they were not a crowd of murderers but simply a bunch of frat bros.

“It’s not that bad,” exclaims Crawford, aka Asadullah. “When you come out, you not feeling cold again!”

Poll shows Democrats hit 30-year low, Republicans more motivated to vote

Poll shows Democrats hit 30-year low, Republicans more motivated to vote

Dan Balz and Scott Clement

Less than a month from the midterms, the political landscape continues to tilt in favor of the GOP.

Heading into the final weeks of the midterm campaign, the political landscape continues to tilt in favor of the Republican Party, with President Obama’s overall approval rating at the lowest level of his presidency and GOP voters signaling greater likelihood than Democrats that they will cast ballots, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Americans look to November and beyond with dissatisfaction about the state of the country and the political leadership in Washington. Two in three say the country is seriously off-track, and more than 6 in 10 say that neither the president nor the Republican contingent in Congress has a clear plan for governing.

Public impressions of the two political parties are similarly gloomy. Favorable ratings for the Democratic Party (39 percent) are at a 30-year low, and for the first time a majority (51 percent) gives the Democrats an unfavorable rating. The Republicans are even lower, with a 33 percent favorable rating. That is little changed since last year’s government shutdown, although the party’s unfavorable rating has improved.

Most worrisome for Democrats is that their candidates will be weighed down by unhappiness with the president. Obama’s overall approval rating stands at 40 percent, the lowest recorded in a Post-ABC News poll during his six years in office, though only a point lower than last month. Among independents, his rating is 33 percent.

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