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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."

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

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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.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
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
Catherine Keener plays a traumatized journalist in War Story. (IFC Films)

A 'War Story' With Big Ambitions And Mixed Results

by Tomas Hachard
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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"You're an amazing woman who has decided to go into war zones and take pictures. You're a bit crazy to want to do that, and I think now you're too crazy to stop."

That's what Albert (Ben Kingsley) tells photojournalist Lee (Catherine Keener) in War Story, and much of the same has been said about real-life war correspondents from Martha Gellhorn to Marie Colvin to Chris Hedges, who in an interview acknowledged that he sometimes gets urges "to live at that kind of pace again. ... But in the end it's a very unhealthy way to live."

With War Story, director and co-writer Mark Jackson spotlights none of the adrenaline of Lee's job but much of the resulting trauma. The movie begins soon after Lee has returned from covering the conflict in Libya, where her reporting partner Mark was violently killed in front of her. In shock, she retreats to Sicily, to a town and hotel she has visited recently, where she asks for the same room she stayed in before and hunkers down, blinds lowered, the world frantically kept at bay.

Jackson sticks close to Lee throughout the film, at times even stubbornly refusing to cut away from her in dialogue scenes. This is, at heart, a film trying to get us into Lee's head, particularly in the first 15 minutes, which largely consist of her roaming the streets of Sicily, taking pictures and convincing doctors to prescribe her painkillers for a potentially broken rib that she refuses to check on with an x-ray.

The story expands slightly when Lee encounters Hafsia (Hafsia Herzi), a Tunisian migrant attempting to ultimately settle in France. Lee, believing at first that Hafsia is a girl she photographed in Libya, decides to help her not only in securing passage across Europe but also in the more short term project of getting an abortion that Italian doctors refuse to provide.

The topical and politically-charged subplot conflicts with the film's otherwise tightly-focused psychological profile of Lee. Good intentions notwithstanding, Hafsia is in part a distraction for Lee, a woman that she can help in lieu of helping herself. But Hafsia also represents the migrant crisis in Italy, in which hundreds of people have died trying to make it from North Africa to Europe by boat.

Jackson is not so blind or callous as to ignore this: we hear Hafsia's description of her perilous voyage across the Mediterranean and, in a hotel manager's warning to Lee not to bring "undesirable guests" to his establishment, we witness the kind of treatment they face once they arrive.

But Jackson isn't able do justice to Hafsia's story while also portraying Lee's frail psyche. That's in part because he accomplishes the latter by sticking so close to Lee, focusing largely on her perspective and shooting her primarily in close-up, a style that makes it difficult to get beyond her immediate reality. And that's precisely what's missing from Hafsia's story: a sense that she belongs to a wider problem, that she's not merely a sketched-out representative of a widespread injustice.

It's not just her. Any time War Story's plot pushes beyond Lee, it exhibits a troubling superficiality. Kingsley is wasted as Albert, a former reporter who worked with Lee and seemingly exists in the film only to state the coldhearted (and exaggerated) newsman's idea that death is but part of war reporting and Lee must pick herself up and continue searching after the story.

Such missteps might have done the film in completely were it not for Keener's controlled performance. The film doesn't offer much explicit context for Lee's plight either — we get little information about her relationship to Mark, few details about her work or the ingrained dangers of war reporting. But all of that is slowly implied through the deterioration of Lee's mental state. In Keener's hands, the collapse feels urgent but not unhinged, and Lee's trajectory from steely and determined to openly distraught lends an otherwise meandering film a strong core. That alone doesn't entirely outweigh War Story's other undeveloped elements, but it does keep you invested in a film that otherwise never fulfills its larger ambitions.

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
Scott Haze stars in Child Of God, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy directed by James Franco. (Well Go USA)

A 'Child Of God,' Or Maybe Not

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 freewheeling yet writerly style and a fully committed lead performance distinguish Child of God, prolific actor-author-director James Franco's latest literary adaptation. Even when the movie works, however, it's hard to see past the lurid details of the Tennessee tale, adapted from Cormac McCarthy's 1973 exercise in backwoods noir.

Introduced while violently objecting to the auction of his family's foreclosed homestead, Lester Ballard is unsocialized and likely deranged. One of the movie's five narrators — neighbors whose deadpan voiceover observations are not necessarily reliable — calls him "a child of God much like yourself perhaps." The characterization is ironic, yet its full bitterness won't register until later.

Lester is played by Scott Haze, who attended acting school with Franco. His performance is suitably frenzied, strange and disturbing. Haze delivers his lines with a near-impenetrable mushmouth, swallowing his words as he expels spittle and snot. Lester spends much of his time alone in the woods, and his vocabulary includes animal-like grunts, growls and moans. These are frequently accompanied by the chatter of banjos and the wails of fiddles.

Abandoned while young by his mother and then his father, Lester grew up to have many survival skills but few social ones. He's a crack rifleman whose his child-like nature is shown when he wins three massive stuffed animals in a sideshow shooting game. The tiger and two bears become Lester's family until — in a harrowing scene added to McCarthy's story by Franco and co-scripter Vince Jolivette — he turns on them.

Lester soon finds an even more beguiling toy: the body of a pretty young woman, dead in a car from apparent carbon-monoxide poisoning. Fascinated, the loner experiments with the corpse, and finally decides to take it home to his cabin as a companion. (It's winter, so decomposition is not an immediate concern.) He even buys her a new dress.

When circumstance separates Lester from the prized cadaver, he goes looking for a new one. If he can't find a dead woman, he can always transform a live one into a corpse. At this point, the film shifts from homage to Faulkner — two of whose novels Franco has adapted for the screen — to more conventional serial-killer shtick. McCarthy's novel was partly inspired by Ed Gein, whose crimes have been fictionalized many times, notably in Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs.

Franco begins the film by declaring its literariness, with lots of text on the screen. The wordiness is contrasted by cinematographer Christina Voros' handheld shakycam, whose widescreen images are often oddly framed and sometimes out of focus.

Both of these tics calm down as the movie progresses, as if the director recognized that such off-kilter gimmicks shouldn't — or couldn't — compete with Haze's crazed performance. Indeed, some of the best scenes come when Lester faces the hard-nosed but judicious local sheriff, played with downhome solemnity by Tim Blake Nelson. (The only other actor of note is Franco himself, in a perfunctory cameo as a member of a lynch mob.)

One recurring visual motif is to frame Lester so he appears as a prisoner, whether in caves, a chicken coop or an actual jail cell. And so the movie creates a sense of elation in its climactic scene, when its antihero claws his way to freedom, however temporary. It's a rare moment of possible empathy with Lester, whose fundamental repulsiveness is a problem A Child of God can't finesse.

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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