Kenya has recorded its first case of polio in two years, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
A 4-month-old girl came down with paralysis on April 30, and then two healthy kids nearby also tested positive for the virus.
But this handful of infections with poliovirus has the potential to set back global efforts to eradicate polio, WHO spokeswoman Sona Bari tells Shots.
"Polio is a virus that spreads silently," she says. "One case represents between 200 and 1,000 people infected. It's the tip of an iceberg."
Kenya hasn't seen a case of wild polio (as opposed to the rare ones linked to vaccination) since July 2011. And now the risk to neighboring countries is very high, Bari says.
"This is a particularly fragile part of the world in terms of immunity," she says. "Overall, Kenya has a robust health care system, but if polio lands in a pocket with low immunity it could spark a large outbreak."
The new case occurred in the largest refugee camp in the world, the Dadaab Refugee Camp in southeast Kenya. About 500,000 people from neighboring countries live there or move in and out of the camp each year.
"There is a lot of travel through this nexus in Africa," Bari says. Viruses can spread rapidly.
"Last time we saw polio in this region, it caused infections in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and even Yemen." Eventually the virus spread as far as Indonesia and paralyzed more than 700 children.
A few weeks ago, Somalia recorded its first wild polio case in over five years. A 32-month-old girl became paralyzed in the region near Mogadishu.
Many parts of Somalia have not held polio vaccination campaigns since 2009, Global Polio Eradication Initiative said, and the country, in general, has one of the lowest immunization rates in the world.
Genetic analysis suggests that the poliovirus in Somalia came from Nigeria, which is more than 3,000 miles away. It's still unknown if the Somalia case is connected with the ones in Kenya. But the international health community has responded quickly to contain both outbreaks.
"Fortunately, we're prepared for these things," Bari says. Vaccinations campaigns will start in Kenya this Sunday. In Somalia, they've already immunized about 400,000 children. "About 1 million children will get vaccinated in eastern Kenya," she says.
Such rapid responses are critical if the WHO and other foundations hope to reach their target of eradicating polio by 2018 — a goal that health leaders said would cost about $5.5 billion.
Polio is currently endemic in just three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. There were only 223 cases recorded worldwide in 2012 and so far, just 34 in 2013. More than half of the cases occurred in Nigeria.
Two Oregon counties have reportedly rejected property tax increases that would have funded law enforcement and public safety services. The counties once received federal timber subsidies, but those days are over — and now they're scrambling to pay for essential services.
In Josephine County, where nearly 70 percent of the land belongs to the U.S. government, Tuesday's vote that was too close to call last night. But The Daily Courier in Grants Pass, Ore., reported Wednesday that voters rejected the new levy.
The impact of the loss of federal funds in the county — and the reported 80 percent layoffs in the local police force that it forced — was illustrated in harrowing fashion by Amelia Templeton's report for All Things Considered Tuesday, as she played a recording of a woman's desperate 911 call from August 2012, when the caller was told that there were no officers who could help.
The problem was that the county's police were only on duty during daytime hours, from Monday to Friday.
"My ex-boyfriend is trying to break into my house. I'm not letting him in, but he's, like, tried to break down the door, and he's trying to break into one of the windows," the unidentified woman told the 911 dispatcher. She added that the man had injured her before, putting her in the hospital.
"The call came in on a Saturday at 4:58 in the morning. None of the sheriff's deputies in Josephine County were on duty," Templeton reports. "So dispatch transferred the call to the Oregon State Police, but they also didn't have anyone available."
The call lasts more than 10 minutes; in it, the woman repeatedly asks for help. At one point, the dispatcher suggests she find somewhere to hide.
"Once again, it's unfortunate you guys don't have any law enforcement up there," the dispatcher says.
On Tuesday's ballot, the county's residents were asked to decide, "Shall Josephine County impose $1.48 per $1,000 assessed value for criminal justice and public safety for three years beginning 2013?"
The measure listed several potential uses, such as adding capacity to the county's jail, providing a school security program, and increasing "Sheriff's deputies' response and patrol."
"The approximate tax increase for a home with an assessed value of $150,000 would be $222.00 per year, or approximately $18.50 per month," according to the ballot document.
In two other counties in similar situations — Lane and Curry Counties — voters took up their own public safety levies Tuesday. Curry County voters rejected their measure, according to The Curry Coastal Pilot, while voters in Lane County were projected to approve their levy.
"Keep in mind, it's been almost a quarter of a century since Lane County passed a public safety levy," April Baer of Oregon Public Broadcasting said this morning.
Baer was then asked what might happen next in places like Josephine County.
"The Oregon Senate Rules Committee has been considering a bill that would give the state certain powers," she says. "The governor was involved drafting it. Under its terms, the state could declare a public safety emergency, and impose a temporary tax to shore up the jail and other safety services for up to 18 months."
This week, the Oregon District Attorneys Association called for the state to lower penalties and allow discretionary sentencing for crimes involving drugs and driving offenses, saying the money required to jail people for such crimes cuts into what can be spent to keep violent offenders in custody.
The prosecutors' suggestions come after Oregon's public safety commission suggested removing mandatory sentences, "for such crimes as first-degree sex abuse, second-degree assault and second-degree robbery," The Oregonian reports.
In Amelia Templeton's report yesterday, she noted that Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson issued a press release after the budget cuts first took effect.
"In it, he warned victims of domestic violence to 'consider relocating to an area with adequate law enforcement services,'" Templeton reported.
Chuck used to sell marijuana in California. But the legalization of medical marijuana in the state meant he was suddenly competing against hundreds of marijuana dispensaries. So he moved to New York, where marijuana is still 100 percent illegal. Since making the move, he says, he's quadrupled his income. (For the record: His name isn't really Chuck.)
He spends pretty much every day dealing what he calls "farm-to-table" marijuana. On a recent afternoon in his dimly lit New York apartment, he was just about to complete a daily ritual: loading about 50 baggies of marijuana, worth a total of about $3,000 into his backpack, before heading out to make deliveries. "We're helping keep people stoned on a Friday night in New York City," he said.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have now legalized marijuana, either for medical use or for fun. And, it turns out, when one state brings an underground market into the mainstream and another doesn't, there are economic consequences in both places.
Dealers aren't the only ones with an incentive to move marijuana out of California. The legalization of medical marijuana led to a rush of pot farmers with permits to grow marijuana legally. That in turn led to a supply glut — and plummeting wholesale prices. Some growers haven't been able to unload all their crops at the price they want on the local, legal market. So they break the law and send it out of state.
Special Agent Roy Giorgi, with the California Department of Justice, is supposed to stop the illegal flow of marijuana in California. That can mean crouching in the brush in some remote part of the mountains — or it can mean heading to a FedEx or UPS in California's pot country to take a look at all the outgoing parcels and try to detect marijuana inside.
He estimates that 1 in 15 packages he examines has marijuana in it. "Right now, Northern California bud, that trademark, that stamp, is really some of the best in the world," he says.
Of course, all of Giorgi's efforts to catch marijuana growers and dealers tend to drive people out of the illegal marijuana business. That, in turn, means Chuck has less competition — and can charge higher prices.
Chuck sells marijuana for about $60 for an eighth of an ounce; in California, it would be anywhere from $30 to $45. With his New York customers, Chuck talks about marijuana like it's a rare California wine. When he pours out the contents of his backpack to reveal strains with names like Girl Scout Cookies and AK47, his clients are wowed.
Because Chuck is working in an illegal market, his customers have a hard time finding other marijuana retailers. "There's plenty of weed in New York; there's just an illusion of scarcity, which is part of what I'm capitalizing on," he says. "This is a black market business. There's insufficient information for customers."
This is what economists call information asymmetry — Chuck knows more about the market than his customers do. If weed were legal, his customers could comparison shop — they could look at menus and price lists and choose their dealer. As it is, once they find Chuck, they're likely to stick with him.
Note: A version of this story originally aired as part of the WNYC series The Weed Next Door. The headline on this post was inspired by @MichaelMontCW
Sweden is one of the wealthiest, most stable and smooth-running countries in the world.
Which would explain why the country's 9.5 million residents may be shocked by the events of the last few days.
For the last three nights, hundreds of youths have been rampaging through parts of the capital, Stockholm, torching cars, setting fires, and throwing rocks at police and fire trucks.
The trouble began over the weekend, after the police shot dead a 69-year-old man in the city's Husby neighborhood, where many residents originate from the Middle East and Africa. The exact circumstances are a bit cloudy: the man allegedly threatened officers with a machete.
Sweden's Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, appealed for calm on Tuesday, condemning the riots as hooliganism. His words failed to prevent another night of violence, in which two schools, a police station and an arts and crafts center were attacked, and 30 cars were burnt.
Soul-searching is underway in Sweden - for years admired by the world as a champion of tolerance - over the possible causes of the unrest.
The police blame "youth gangs and criminals." Others cite a range of factors, particularly high youth unemployment levels among people of immigrant origin, a problem that blights large parts of Europe.
"There's an underlying problem of a lack of jobs, and a perceived lack of opportunity among people living in these areas, " said David Landes, editor of The Local newspaper in Sweden.
In the troubled neighborhoods, allegations are said to be flying around about police brutality, racism and harassment. Sweden is once again facing a debate over whether immigrants and their families - once welcomed with open arms - are being marginalized, and whether multi-culturalism is working.
Immigration is a controversial issue in Scandanavia these days: resentment over asylum seekers, competition for jobs, and Islamist militancy have helped fuel a surge in support for anti-immigration parties in the region. These include the far-right Sweden Democrats - now running third in opinion polls.
Asked about Stockholm's unrest, Rami Al-khamisi, a co-founder of Megafonen, a group that works for social change, described Sweden as an "increasingly divided" society. He told Reuters that these "gaps, both socially and economically, are becoming larger."
Justice Minister Beatrice Ask has reportedly acknowledged "social exclusion" as "a very serious cause of many problems." She's promising Stockholm's police will forge closer ties to troubled local communities.
The kerfuffle Tuesday and today on Twitter about the "news" that the creator of the GIF gets annoyed if he hears someone use a hard "G" when pronouncing the name of his file format triggered our aging memory banks.
Hadn't we heard a while back that GIF creator Steve Wilhite and many other tech types insist it's supposed to be pronounced with a soft "J," like Jif peanut butter?
Yes we had. Check Eyder's post from last November, when he noted that GIF was the Oxford Dictionary's American word of the year for 2012. He wrote that:
"Technology enthusiasts insist on pronouncing it like the peanut butter brand Jif."
Still, as Eyder was careful to add, "Oxford points out that the 'the pronunciation with a hard g is now very widespread and readily understood.' "
Side note: Eyder, who isn't here today, knows about mispronunciations. He's too polite to correct the many folks, even at NPR, who call him A-der rather than I-der. But if this blogger is called ma-MOTT, rather than MEH-mitt, he will point that out.
Back to GIFs. We did an informal survey of some tech-savvy types in the NPR newsroom and they insisted they won't be intimidated into saying it the way Wilhite and others want. To them, it's GIF with a hard "G."
We wonder if Two-Way readers are so hard-headed. So, the question is: