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Israel And Hamas Agree To 3-Day Cease-Fire, UN Says

Jul 31, 2014

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A temporary peace will begin Friday morning in Gaza, as Israel and Hamas agree to an "unconditional humanitarian ceasefire," according to a statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary of State John Kerry.

The truce is set to begin at 8 a.m. local time Friday and last for 72 hours. UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry says he's been assured by officials from both Israel and Hamas that they will abide by the truce. The envoys will also travel to Cairo to negotiate a possible longer peace deal, in talks hosted by Egypt.

As NPR's Emily Harris reported earlier today, Gaza has been hit by water and power shortages.

From the statement from Ban and Kerry:

"This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period."

News of the truce comes after the U.S. revealed it had allowed Israel "to dip into a little-known U.S. munitions stockpile" for ammunition, using some of the emergency ammunition to conduct its offensive in Gaza.

In the 24 days of fighting, more than 1,360 people have died in Gaza, Palestinian officials say. In Israel, 59 people have died, according to officials there.

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A corn purchaser writes on his account in northwest China in 2012. In November 2013, officials began rejecting imports of U.S. corn when they detected traces of a new gene not yet approved in China. (Xinhua/Landov)

When China Spurns GMO Corn Imports, American Farmers Lose Billions

Jul 31, 2014

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For a while there, China was the American farmer's best friend. The world's most populous nation had so many pigs and chickens to feed, it became one of the top importers of U.S. corn and soybeans almost overnight.

China also developed a big appetite for another corn-derived animal feed called "dried distillers grains with solubles," or DDGS, a byproduct of ethanol production. China's appetites for the stuff drove up global grain prices and filled Midwestern pockets with cash.

This year, though, the lovely relationship has gone sour, all because of biotechnology.

A couple of years ago, American farmers began planting a new type of genetically engineered corn invented by the seed company Syngenta. This GMO contains a new version of a gene that protects the corn plant from certain insects. Problem is, this new gene isn't yet approved in China, and Chinese officials didn't appreciate it when traces of the new, as-yet-unapproved GMOs started showing up in boatloads of American grain.

The crackdown began in November 2013. China began rejecting shiploads of corn when officials detected traces of the new gene. By February of this year, U.S. exports of corn to China had practically ceased.

At the time, some American grain exporters said that there was little to worry about. The Chinese move, they said, probably was intended to slow down imports temporarily in order to make sure that China's farmers got a decent price for their own corn harvest. As evidence, they pointed to the fact that China continued to accept imports of DDGS, which also contain traces of the unapproved gene. The U.S. sent $1.6 billion worth of DDGS to China last year.

Well, last week, China expanded the ban to DDGS, shocking many traders. The price of DDGS plunged.

According to the National Grain and Feed Association, the Chinese ban on corn and corn products may end up costing American farmers, ethanol producers and traders a total of about $3 billion.

Max Fisher, director of Economics for the NGFA, who came up with that estimate, says the ban actually is hurting the Chinese, too. "They replaced [the U.S. corn] with more expensive grains," he says, such as barley from Australia. But one group of American farmers is benefiting: China is importing lots more sorghum.

In an interesting twist, American farm groups seem unsure whom to blame. Some are angry at China. Others point their finger at Syngenta.

A few days ago, the U.S. Grains Council wrote a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, urging his "immediate, direct, and personal intervention" with Chinese officials "to halt this current regulatory sabotage of the DDGS trade with China."

The NGFA and the North American Export Grain Association, on the other hand, have called on Syngenta to stop selling the offending corn varieties until those varieties can be sold in major export markets.

"They're being a bad actor here," says Max Fisher of NGFA, referring to Syngenta. "They're making $40 million" selling the new corn varieties, "but it's costing U.S. farmers $1 billion."

Syngenta, for its part, rejects any blame for the debacle. "We want to get technology into the hands of farmers as soon as possible," said the company's CEO, David Morgan, in a video released on Syngenta's website. "We can't expect growers to wait indefinitely for access to technologies, based on what foreign governments decide to do." According to Morgan, China has failed to make a timely decision on the new gene, which goes by the name MIR 162.

Even if China approved MIR 162, however, the ban might remain. That's because Syngenta began selling yet another new new type of GMO corn this year, which also is not yet approved in China.

Syngenta has asked farmers to take that corn to specific grain processors, who will keep it from getting into export shipments. But Fisher thinks the new gene is likely to show up in exports. "Farmers are going to be farmers," he says, and sell their grain through the usual channels.

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Red Cross volunteers prepare to bury the body of an Ebola victim in Pendembu, Sierra Leone, early this month. (Tommy Trenchard for NPR)

As Ebola Surges, CDC Sends Aid And Warns Against Travel

by Linda Poon
Jul 31, 2014

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Since March, the World Health Organization has reported more than 1,300 cases and 729 deaths in West Africa. Two young patients rest at an Ebola isolation area run by Doctors Without Borders in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. A nurse helps health workers suit up before treating Ebola patients at an isolation ward run by Doctor's Without Borders in Kailahun, Sierra Leone.

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For the second time this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has raised the travel alert for three West African countries, as the death toll in the Ebola outbreak increased at an alarming rate.

"The bottom line is that the multiple outbreaks in West Africa are worsening right now," the CDC's director Dr. Tom Frieden told NPR Thursday. "This is the biggest, most complex and the most difficult outbreak of Ebola that we've had to deal with."

In only four days, the total number of cases has risen by 122, or about 10 percent. Since March, the World Health Organization has reported more than 1,300 cases and 728 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria has reported one case in a traveler from Liberia.

In response, the CDC is sending at least 50 more doctors and scientists to the region to help get the outbreak under control and stop its spread, Frieden says. The agency already has 12 people on the ground there now.

The CDC also elevated the travel alert to "Level 3" — the most serious level — for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. It now advises against any nonessential travel to the three countries because of the "high risk."

This advisory level is reserved for grave situations, such as the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

The measure reduces the risk of Americans catching Ebola, Frieden says. And it also helps to prevent overcrowding of clinics and hospitals with emergencies not related to Ebola.

"Even before Ebola, they [these countries] had relatively weak health care systems that ... weren't always as highly functional as the government wished they would be," Frieden says.

The West African countries have also intensified their response to the outbreak. On Wednesday, Liberia closed all schools. And Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency. The country started quarantining Ebola-stricken communities and put nonessential government workers on leave. President Ernest Bai Koroma called the measures "extraordinary."

One of the big concerns this week has been the large number of health care workers getting sick.

"It's a terrible infection, and it's taken a terrible toll on the health care system," Frieden says. More than 100 doctors and nurses in the region have gotten infected, and about 70 of them have died.

Two leading doctors in Liberia and Sierra Leone died this week. And two American aid workers are in serious condition at a clinic in Monrovia.

Dr. Kent Brantly, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Nancy Writebol, of Charlotte, N.C., were working with the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse when they caught the virus. They are both in "grave condition," the group said on its website.

The Peace Corps is evacuating 340 volunteers from the region. Two of them were under observation after potential exposure to Ebola.

Despite all of this, Frieden says he's confident that the outbreak can be contained — as long as health care workers are able to "meticulously" track down cases and isolate them before they spread the virus.

But it won't be quick or easy, he says. In fact, in the best case scenario, it will take at least three to six months to stop the outbreak. And "we are not in the best of circumstances," he says.

There's little worry that Ebola will spread to the U.S., Frieden says. One reason is that the disease isn't transmitted through the air but rather through close contact of bodily fluids, such as blood, sweat and saliva.

"The good news — if there is any good news about Ebola — is that you don't spread it when you don't have symptoms," Frieden says. "So you can't get it from someone who's healthy."

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"Myth" is Continuum's flagship, 3-D printed shoe collection. Continuum is based in New York City. (Continuum)

Weekly Innovation: 3-D Printed Fashion For Your Feet

by Allie Caren
Jul 31, 2014

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Since March, the World Health Organization has reported more than 1,300 cases and 729 deaths in West Africa. Two young patients rest at an Ebola isolation area run by Doctors Without Borders in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. A nurse helps health workers suit up before treating Ebola patients at an isolation ward run by Doctor's Without Borders in Kailahun, Sierra Leone.

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This post is part of our Weekly Innovation series, in which we explore an interesting idea, design or product that you may not have heard of yet. Do you have an innovation to share? Use this quick form.

It's possible to print an ear, a trachea, or even a cast for your broken arm: Why not a shoe? Or two?

If Mary Huang could have it her way, she would digitize her world and make everything around her using a 3-D printer. But for right now, she's sticking to shoes.

And she's doing it with a Brooklyn-based "part design label, part lab" company called Conintuum that says: "fashion should express how we live our digital lives." Huang designs the look of the shoe and the software that creates it to make it all possible.

She says a pair of shoes takes anywhere from 16 to 20 hours to print — that's eight to 10 hours per shoe. The shoes are made mostly from plastic, and thermoplastic polyurethane, a rubber-like material. They cost anywhere from $250 to $395 per pair.

Even big name brands are hopping on the 3-D bandwagon: both Nike and New Balance have been experimenting with custom, 3-D printed plates on their cleats-n-sneaks.

But how practical are those heels? And any printed shoe, in general? Are they comfortable? Durable? Safe? Practical?

According to Huang's website, maybe not yet.

It describes her Daphne Shoe this way:

"This design is more of an art piece. While it is wearable with ribbons tied around the ankles, it is not suitable for day to day wear ... . This design is meant mainly as an exhibition or collector's piece, or for special events ... .This can also be purchased as a single shoe, for half the price."

Whether you can wear the Daphne heels or not, Dr. Marlene Reid thinks 3-D-printed shoes have a future.

"I think that's a really cool future for us," says Reid, a podiatrist and owner of Family Podiatry Center in Naperville, Ill. "The real potential is in creating custom shoes."

However, Reid is concerned about the materials that they are made out of, and that the shoes wouldn't be up to par with footwear standards.

What Reid says she's afraid of is "in its infancy, that the tendency would be to make a shoe of one material or limited material.

"Footwear has come such a long way in the development of materials and what they can provide for comfort and support," she says. "I think the technology has a lot of promise."

Huang thinks of her new-age, shoe-making process in the larger sense — how does (or can) it affect manufacturing?

"It's not going to replace how we traditionally manufacture things, but it gives you another option," she says.

Huang sees digital manufacturing as a potential way of changing how global supply chain works.

"The availability of cheap labor in the world is going to get more scarce," she says. "It's not that this would be a good process for everything we would want to design. It's a new process that has new benefits."

Huang says 3-D printing is a long-term technology: the goal is to learn and grow with it.

And now is only the beginning.

Allie Caren is a digital news intern at NPR, where she writes about tech-related news and innovations. She has "sort of, kind of" flat feet, and trips all the time. Follow Allie on Twitter at @alLISTENc.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Tips For Wearing High Heels

Dr. Marlene Reid, a podiatrist, says our bodies are not meant to walk with our heels elevated three inches above the ground, or higher. It changes our biometrics, and our gait — we're "no longer walking normally," she says. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't wear them; Reid says we just need to "wear them smartly." So, according to Dr. Reid, remember:
  • Don't wear the same heel height every day: Your Achilles tendon and the muscles will become contracted and shortened.
  • Stretch out your Achilles tendon after you wear high heels.
  • Platforms can negate some of the heel height.
  • Know your foot type, and what components of the heel or shoe are important for your foot.

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Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
The Twitter logo is displayed on a computer screen. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Ethics of Retweeting And Whether It Amounts To Endorsement

by Anne Johnson
Jul 31, 2014

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Since March, the World Health Organization has reported more than 1,300 cases and 729 deaths in West Africa. Two young patients rest at an Ebola isolation area run by Doctors Without Borders in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. A nurse helps health workers suit up before treating Ebola patients at an isolation ward run by Doctor's Without Borders in Kailahun, Sierra Leone.

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A brief Twitter storm caused by an NPR education reporter's tweet three weeks ago subsided almost as quickly as it arose. But what has continued among journalists and media watchers has been a debate over NPR's social media policy.

Reporter Anya Kamenetz set off the initial flurry when she tweeted in a moment of frustration:

She quickly apologized, and the case was archived as another learning tool on racial sensitivity and unintended implications. But not before Standards and Practices editor Mark Memmott picked up on the incident in one of his internal "Memmos" to remind staffers of NPR's ethics guidelines on tweeting and retweeting.

The note reviewed the standard cautions in the clash over whether tweets by staffers expressing personal views are representative of their employers - a much-discussed debate that I won't rehash. What ignited new discussion was NPR's stance on passing on tweets sent by others.

"Despite what many say," Memmott told NPR staffers, "retweets should be viewed AS endorsements."

In other words, don't retweet anything you wouldn't report yourself. Even then, as Memmott cited NPR's ethics handbook, you should retweet information in the same way you would put it "on the air or in a 'traditional' NPR.org news story."

The response continues to reverberate. Criticisms target the endorsement characterization and the topic of blanket disclaimer statements, and argue that to alter someone else's tweet to meet NPR's standards raises ethical and practical issues of its own.

Now it's not my place to comment on stances taken by the standards editor, so I've compiled a summary of the debate and the views of some key figures to help us understand the social media landscape through which reporters tread. Please, form your own opinions and join the discussion.

Following the leaked memo, comparisons between newsroom policies ensued, and many major players weighed in.

New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen argued that newsrooms that adopt the "treat retweets as endorsements" idea are dumbing down their social media presence.

Jack Schafer of Reuters elaborates:

The social media straitjacket also infantilizes experienced news consumers, who have plenty of experience judging journalism and journalists, and who benefit when reporters and editors can tweet what is on their minds and what they are reading without being handcuffed and charged.

Schafer argues that the audience should be given some credit. As Mike Janssen, digital editor of The Current (which reports on public media), points out, retweeting is akin to quoting a source, and news consumers get that.

Many argue that the discussion brought about by mistakes and subsequent criticism helps a news organization to grow. As we saw with the tweet that started this whole discussion, often-times a mistake becomes an excellent learning experience.

Searching for some sort of authority on the subject, I went to the tech-giant itself, Twitter. As one might expect, a senior official told me that Twitter doesn't take a position on this matter. Twitter's job is to make the platform widely available. How journalists and laypeople choose to use it is up to them.

I asked them how this epidemic of the "RTs do not equal endorsements" blanket statement came to be. To understand, we have to go back to the early years of Twitter, before retweeting was even an option. At that point, users had to physically copy and paste a tweet they saw, then would tweet it themselves, usually with the lifted copy in quotes to avoid confusion. The addition of attribution was considered more of a common courtesy than a Twitter rule.

The retweet function was first mentioned in the Twitter blog as a new development they were working on in August of 2009, three years after the initial prototype for Twitter (originally called twttr) launched. By November of that year, Twitter had activated it on limited rollout, but there wasn't much direction on how it should be used.

Earlier this year, Buzzfeed's Charlie Warzel decided to investigate the original perpetrator of the pervasive phrase. Warzel found the earliest mention of the phrase came from then-New York Times editor Patrick LaForge.

LaForge explains the original intent: a disclaimer to keep journalists from implicating themselves (or their organizations) in case they spread misinformation. The "Caveat lector!" phrase took off. Hundreds of journalists and news organizations adapted it to their own profiles.

According to Followerwonk, as of Thursday, some 36,710 users had some version of the phrase in their Twitter bios. Major accounts with the phrase include the U.S Department of Defense, New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and the Israeli Defense Force. Although NPR does not have an official policy regarding what reporters put in their Twitter bios, many have "retweets do not constitute endorsements"-like phrases.

Some argue that putting the phrase in your Twitter bio is useless. Sree Sreenivasan is Columbia University's chief digital officer and teaches social media at Columbia Journalism School. He wrote a scathing review of the phrase for the Washington Post last year:

"No one sees something controversial you've [retweeted] and says, 'Gee, I wonder if this person agrees with that,' then clicks over to your bio and is massively relieved that you have that disclaimer."

Even the original creator of the statement realized that it had become obsolete. As Patrick LaForge told Buzzfeed:

A blanket phrase in my profile is not going to indemnify me. If I think a retweet is likely to confuse people about my viewpoint, or if there is some doubt about the accuracy of the original tweet, I add attribution, skepticism or other context. Or I skip it.

This circles back to Memmott's point about how to use the retweet function. He referred to the NPR ethics handbook for social media guidelines, saying, "if it needs context, attribution, clarification or 'knocking down,' provide it."

NPR's Steve Inskeep offered several insightful musings following Memmott's note, highlighting the importance of providing appropriate context:

However, some argue that a retweet with added commentary becomes a modified tweet (MT). With Twitter's 140-character limit, a modified tweet presents an ethical, as well as a logistical, challenge.

Unless you're modifying to make minor, typographical changes, you have to be careful that you're not inadvertently changing the tweet's original meaning, emphasis or tone. While a journalist may genuinely intend to add helpful clarification, a tweet taken out of context may be more destructive than good. Anyone who has ever admired the handiwork of Internet trolls knows how quickly a modified tweet can spin out of control.

In the end, journalists are faced with the decision of whether to retweet as is, and possibly defend their support of the original tweet, or modify the original tweet with additional information thereby potentially changing its original meaning.

Brent Jones, standards and ethics editor at USA Today, wrote in an email that rather than taking a specific stance, he cautions writers "against oversimplifying how to classify a retweet."

"Many journalists do, and should, weigh the context of information shared against our public role as trusted, impartial sources of news and information," he wrote. "It's an instinctive part of our jobs."

Some skip classification altogether. The Associated Press' Michael Oreskes abridges in his own Twitter bio, "retweets mean ideas should circulate."

So what do you think? Should newsrooms take a stance one way or the other? How do you as the news consumers view retweets from journalists? Weigh in on our comments section below, or tweet at us — maybe we'll retweet you.

Annie Johnson is an editorial researcher in the Ombudsman's office. You can tweet at her @anneejohnson9.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Tips For Wearing High Heels

Dr. Marlene Reid, a podiatrist, says our bodies are not meant to walk with our heels elevated three inches above the ground, or higher. It changes our biometrics, and our gait — we're "no longer walking normally," she says. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't wear them; Reid says we just need to "wear them smartly." So, according to Dr. Reid, remember:
  • Don't wear the same heel height every day: Your Achilles tendon and the muscles will become contracted and shortened.
  • Stretch out your Achilles tendon after you wear high heels.
  • Platforms can negate some of the heel height.
  • Know your foot type, and what components of the heel or shoe are important for your foot.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

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