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Gravel helps keep the floor level and prevents moisture from seeping up. The floor installers are Jean Pierre, left, a mason, and Daniel Shenyi, operations manager for EarthEnable. (Courtesy of EarthEnable)

When A Home Poses Health Risks, The Floor May Be The Culprit

by Hannah Bloch
Sep 2, 2014

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Emerence Mukakayijuka, a 72-year-old Rwandan grandmother, shows her new earthen floor to a visitor. Living without dirt floors for the first time, she marveled at the lack of dust in her home. Women inspect clay that will be used for a new floor near Masoro, Rwanda. "Sieving out rocks and clumps allows the floor to have a smooth and fine surface," says Gayatri Datar, whose NGO, EarthEnable, is installing new, earthen floors in homes where ordinary dirt floors pose health risks.

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Most of us overlook the ground beneath our feet. But when Gayatri Datar, 28, looks at the floor, she sees an opportunity to improve public health.

A research trip to Rwanda last year, when she was a Stanford University MBA student, transformed Datar's perspective. "I kept seeing dirt floors," she recalls. For those who had to live and sleep on them, "it was clearly an unsanitary environment. Dust is kicked up in the dry season. In the rainy season, there are puddles. It's a breeding ground for mosquitoes. It's impossible to clean a dirt floor because it's just dirt."

Indeed, diarrhea, a leading killer of children in the developing world, spreads more easily in homes with dirt floors. So do respiratory and parasitic diseases. Because cleaning the floors is so difficult, fecal matter brought in on shoes or from dirty water spilled indoors tends to stay put, and children are especially likely to ingest it.

A 2007 World Bank study of a Mexican government program to replace dirt floors with concrete found that doing so "significantly improves the health of young children." Among the study's findings: "A complete substitution of dirt floors by cement floors in a house leads to a 78 percent reduction in parasitic infestations, a 49 percent reduction in diarrhea, an 81 percent reduction in anemia and a 36 to 96 percent improvement in cognitive development." Beyond this, adults reported "increased satisfaction with ... their quality of life."

Datar became preoccupied with figuring out a way to provide healthier floors for the roughly 80 percent of Rwanda's 11.5 million population living in homes built directly on the ground. Back in California, she teamed up with other students to investigate the possibilities. Concrete, the most common replacement for dirt floors, is unaffordable for most Rwandans, costing nearly as much as many earn in an entire year.

But an eco-friendly home design trend in the western United States could be translated easily to the Rwandan context: earthen floors. Also known as adobe, these are the dirt floor's more refined cousins—they still rely on materials from the ground but with important extra steps.

To construct an earthen floor, a layer of gravel—to prevent water from seeping up and destroying the floor from underneath—is covered by a compressed mixture of sand, clay and natural fibers that is burnished and sealed. The seal creates a waterproof barrier and allows the floor to be washed.

"This is done in modern, beautiful homes in the United States," Datar says. "There was no reason not to do it in Rwanda."

In the United States, earthen floors are commonly sealed with linseed oil, which hardens into a dry, waterproof finish. But linseed oil is not readily available in Rwanda — and is expensive.

So Datar enlisted Rick Zuzow, a Stanford biochemistry Ph.D. student, to devise an alternative. He uses soya oil, which is relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain in Rwanda. When processed with a proprietary "special sauce," the result is a functional floor-sealing substitute. ("It will also work with corn oil," Zuzow says.). Five liters (1.3 gallons) of the oil, at two dollars per liter, can treat floors covering a 20 square-meter (215 square-foot) space. The overall cost of installing a floor is about $50, a tenth the cost of a concrete floor for the same space, Datar says.

Datar set up EarthEnable, a nonprofit group that began manufacturing and installing earthen floors in Rwanda's Bugesera district, near Kigali, the capital, last year. A pilot project so far has provided 21 new floors to seven homes and trained 20 local masons to create and install the floors. Datar and her team aim to provide dozens more in the months to come. They'll be analyzing the health results as well. For now, residents of homes with new earthen floors are reporting less dust, fewer bugs (especially parasitic chigoe fleas, also known as jiggers), cleaner clothing and warmer rooms.

Families with young children seem especially pleased. In one home with nine kids, the single dirt-floor room where everyone slept "smelled awful when we started, as it was soiled," Datar says. The children "often wet the bed."

The top layer of dirt was dug out to make way for a new earthen floor. These days, Datar says, "The mother is incredibly happy to be able to finally clean her floor 'like all the other women.'"

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Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, is out now. (Courtesy of the artist)

Sinkane Makes Music For An Open World

Sep 2, 2014

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Emerence Mukakayijuka, a 72-year-old Rwandan grandmother, shows her new earthen floor to a visitor. Living without dirt floors for the first time, she marveled at the lack of dust in her home. Women inspect clay that will be used for a new floor near Masoro, Rwanda. "Sieving out rocks and clumps allows the floor to have a smooth and fine surface," says Gayatri Datar, whose NGO, EarthEnable, is installing new, earthen floors in homes where ordinary dirt floors pose health risks.

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For more conversations with music-makers, check out NPR's Music Interviews.

Homepage photo: Martine Carlson

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

The music that I make can be related to anybody all over the world. And it'll allow me to experience the world in a very beautiful way, a very open way.

-- Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab was born to Sudanese political exiles in London, but was raised all over the U.S. and now lives in Brooklyn. Here, he tells NPR's Audie Cornish how his uprooted life informs Sinkane's masterful blend of R&B, shoegaze, East and West African music and even country music. Hear their conversation at the audio link, plus a Spotify playlist of Sinkane's influences. For a limited time, stream Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, from NPR Music's First Listen series.

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Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
In this handout image made available by the photographer American journalist Steven Sotloff (left) talks to Libyan rebels on the Al Dafniya front line on June 2, 2011 in Misrata, Libya. Sotloff was kidnapped in August 2013 near Aleppo, Syria. (Etienne de Malglaive via Getty Images)

Reports: Islamic State Claims It Has Beheaded Second American Journalist

by Eyder Peralta
Sep 2, 2014

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Emerence Mukakayijuka, a 72-year-old Rwandan grandmother, shows her new earthen floor to a visitor. Living without dirt floors for the first time, she marveled at the lack of dust in her home. Women inspect clay that will be used for a new floor near Masoro, Rwanda. "Sieving out rocks and clumps allows the floor to have a smooth and fine surface," says Gayatri Datar, whose NGO, EarthEnable, is installing new, earthen floors in homes where ordinary dirt floors pose health risks.

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An Islamic radical group released a video on Tuesday that purportedly shows the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, according to SITE Intel Group, which monitors Jihadist groups.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had threatened Sotloff's life when it released a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley two weeks ago.

At the time, the militants said Sotloff's life depended on the actions of the U.S. government, which has been targeting the group with airstrikes to stop its offensive in Iraq.

In his regular briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he was "not in a position to confirm the authenticity of the video or the reports."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Sotloff's family and those who worked with him," Earnest said. "The United States, as you know, has dedicated significant time and resources to try and rescue Mr. Sotloff."

Just last week, Sotloff's mother released an emotional video in which she pleaded with the Islamic State to spare her son's life.

Shirley Sotloff asked Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to grant her son amnesty, "to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad who protected people of the Book."

According to The Washington Post, Sotloff was a freelance journalist covering the civil war in Syria when he was captured in 2013. On his Twitter account, Sotloff described himself as a "stand-up philosopher from Miami," whose work has been published in Time and Foreign Policy.

Sotloff's mother said he was "an honorable man" who "has always tried to help the weak."

The New York Times reports that in the video released today, Sotloff says he is "paying the price" for the Obama administration's airstrikes in Iraq.

A masked fighter, the Times reports, appears besides Sotloff saying, "I'm back, Obama, and I'm back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State."

SITE Intel Group reports that the masked fighter also threatens to execute a British citizen.

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

The music that I make can be related to anybody all over the world. And it'll allow me to experience the world in a very beautiful way, a very open way.

-- Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab was born to Sudanese political exiles in London, but was raised all over the U.S. and now lives in Brooklyn. Here, he tells NPR's Audie Cornish how his uprooted life informs Sinkane's masterful blend of R&B, shoegaze, East and West African music and even country music. Hear their conversation at the audio link, plus a Spotify playlist of Sinkane's influences. For a limited time, stream Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, from NPR Music's First Listen series.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
In this handout image made available by the photographer American journalist Steven Sotloff (left) talks to Libyan rebels on the Al Dafniya front line on June 2, 2011 in Misrata, Libya. Sotloff was kidnapped in August 2013 near Aleppo, Syria. (Etienne de Malglaive via Getty Images)

Celebrity Photo Leak Puts Spotlight On The Cloud, And Security

Sep 2, 2014

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Emerence Mukakayijuka, a 72-year-old Rwandan grandmother, shows her new earthen floor to a visitor. Living without dirt floors for the first time, she marveled at the lack of dust in her home. Women inspect clay that will be used for a new floor near Masoro, Rwanda. "Sieving out rocks and clumps allows the floor to have a smooth and fine surface," says Gayatri Datar, whose NGO, EarthEnable, is installing new, earthen floors in homes where ordinary dirt floors pose health risks.

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The FBI and Apple are looking into how private photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities were stolen, in an apparent breach of security that is raising new questions about storing personal information online.

"This is a flagrant violation of privacy," Lawrence's spokeswoman said Sunday, after nude images of the actress and others began to emerge online. Some of the celebrities have denied the photos are of them; others, such as Mary Elizabeth Winstead, say they deleted the images long ago.

Lawrence and Winstead are among dozens of famous women who seem to have been targeted by a systematic hacking job that was announced by a message on the online forum 4Chan on Sunday.

The people behind the scheme say they have more images and video to offer, and as Ars Technica notes, voyeurism wasn't the hackers' only objective: people who said they could provide the images on 4Chan demanded money in exchange, "with one providing a Hotmail address associated with a PayPal account, and another seeking contributions to a Bitcoin wallet."

The hackers are suspected of downloading the images from cloud storage services such as Apple's iCloud, which automatically uploads and stores media files from smartphones and other electronic devices. The thieves were able to access personal accounts by exploiting a security flaw in another Apple service, according to reports by several tech news sites.

From The Verge:

"Though it hasn't yet been confirmed that the pictures came from iCloud accounts, reports have speculated that the hackers used a recent tool called iBrute, which can repeatedly try different combinations of passwords on Apple's Find My iPhone service until one of them works. Once Find My iPhone is breached, it is possible to access iCloud passwords and view images and other data stored in a user's iCloud account. Apple had previously allowed an unlimited number of password attempts on the Find My iPhone service, but it has since limited it to five attempts, making the iBrute tool ineffective."

"We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report," says Apple spokeswoman Nat Kerris.

Other questions raised by the stolen photos center on how difficult it is to delete images and video that are stored on the far-flung servers that make up the cloud. In most cases, deleting an image from a device doesn't also delete it from the cloud, which requires a separate step.

And several security experts note that for now at least, most cloud backup systems don't make it easy for users to assign different privacy levels to different files. The safest route, many say, is to disable any automatic cloud services that could store sensitive images or data online — and to remember that you lose control over anything you email or text.

Security experts also say it's dangerous to click on any link that promises to show the leaked celebrity photos, because they've "been put on websites that are loaded with malware," analyst Carmi Levy tells CTV.

The photo leak has renewed some of the discussions of last summer, when it was revealed that government spy agencies could easily access massive amounts of data being held in the cloud by large tech companies.

Those revelations sparked an editorial in The New York Times, in which Vikas Bajaj wrote that many of us have "ceded our privacy" by moving toward cloud-based storage, and "it might be incredibly hard, if not impossible, to regain what we have given up."

To explain his point, Bajaj offered this contrast:

"While moving house recently, I came across a box of letters I had received in high school and college, some more than 20 years old. Other people cannot see those letters unless I let them, a court orders that I divulge their contents or they are physically stolen. But I can't say the same about the nine-year-old messages in my Gmail account. I might think those messages are confidential just as I might hope that my private Facebook posts are, well, private. But in reality they aren't and never were."

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

The music that I make can be related to anybody all over the world. And it'll allow me to experience the world in a very beautiful way, a very open way.

-- Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab was born to Sudanese political exiles in London, but was raised all over the U.S. and now lives in Brooklyn. Here, he tells NPR's Audie Cornish how his uprooted life informs Sinkane's masterful blend of R&B, shoegaze, East and West African music and even country music. Hear their conversation at the audio link, plus a Spotify playlist of Sinkane's influences. For a limited time, stream Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, from NPR Music's First Listen series.

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

After Foley's Death, Former War Reporter Says It's Not Worth The Risk

Sep 2, 2014 (Here & Now / WBUR-FM)

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Emerence Mukakayijuka, a 72-year-old Rwandan grandmother, shows her new earthen floor to a visitor. Living without dirt floors for the first time, she marveled at the lack of dust in her home. Women inspect clay that will be used for a new floor near Masoro, Rwanda. "Sieving out rocks and clumps allows the floor to have a smooth and fine surface," says Gayatri Datar, whose NGO, EarthEnable, is installing new, earthen floors in homes where ordinary dirt floors pose health risks.

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War reporting is dangerous. We were reminded of that last month, when the Islamic State or ISIS, decapitated journalist James Foley, and then released a video of it.

One might reasonably ask: Is the job of chronicling war worth the risk? For one reporter, the answer is that it would be if more people paid attention to it. But they don’t. So it’s not.

This is what moved freelancer Tom A. Peter to write about in the New Republic following Foley’s death. Peter covered the Middle East and Afghanistan for seven years, and now he’s describing his disillusionment with the job.

Guest

  • Tom A. Peter, freelance journalist who covered the Middle East and Afghanistan for seven years. He currently writes about border security and immigration. He tweets @TomAPeter.
Copyright 2014 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

The music that I make can be related to anybody all over the world. And it'll allow me to experience the world in a very beautiful way, a very open way.

-- Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab was born to Sudanese political exiles in London, but was raised all over the U.S. and now lives in Brooklyn. Here, he tells NPR's Audie Cornish how his uprooted life informs Sinkane's masterful blend of R&B, shoegaze, East and West African music and even country music. Hear their conversation at the audio link, plus a Spotify playlist of Sinkane's influences. For a limited time, stream Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, from NPR Music's First Listen series.

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

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