Attention Venezuelan shoppers: please proceed to the supermarket check-out for fingerprinting.
That could be a reality if a plan announced earlier this week by the country's president, Nicolas Maduro, goes into effect.
The purpose? Combatting shortages caused by rampant smuggling of subsidized food in Venezuela across the border into neighboring Colombia.
According to the BBC, up to 40 percent of subsidized goods from Venezuela are smuggled into Colombia.
"The amount of staples smuggled to Colombia would be enough to load the shelves of our supermarkets," Gen. Efrain Velasco Lugo, a military spokesman, told El Universal newspaper.
Shortages of basics such as cooking oil and flour have been a problem for more than a year now, officials say.
According to The Associated Press a similar scheme was tried earlier this year on a voluntary basis at Venezuela's government-run supermarkets, but report gave no indication on whether it worked.
Not surprisingly, the move has been met with skepticism. The opposition says it is tantamount to rationing and, in any case, a breach of privacy.
Critics blame the failed socialist policies initiated by President Hugo Chavez, who died last year, for triggering the country's current economic crisis. Besides shortages triggered by smuggling, Venezuela has also endured rampant crime and high inflation, causing mass demonstrations in parts of the country in January.
A teenage boy should not die from gunshot wounds to his legs.
But that was the fate of 15-year-old Shakie Kamara.
This week, people in the neighborhood of West Point were angry that they'd been quarantined — a government step to prevent the spread of Ebola to other parts of Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia. On Wednesday, crowds of protesters tried to get past the checkpoints.
Soldiers opened fire. Kamara was wounded.
The teen was screaming, crying for help. Photographer Tommy Trenchard was on the scene, covering the story for NPR. He took a picture of Kamara, then tried to get an ambulance to come. Thompson called people he knew in Monrovia. They told him that even before Ebola struck, the country's health care system was a shambles. They didn't know how to find an ambulance.
After a half an hour, an army medic arrived to treat the wounded teenager.
He was eventually taken to Redemption Hospital, where he died yesterday. Dr. Mohammed Sankoh, the hospital's medical director, told The New York Times that the cause of death was loss of blood and hypothermic shock.
Liberia's defense minister Brownie Samukai had a different perspective. He said, "It was not a bullet that went down there...Due to the stampede he fell and that's how he got wounded."
The people of West Point do not believe the government's story.
Either way, it is clear: A teenage boy should not die from a leg wound. But that's what happened in West Point this week. The story shows how Ebola can claim the lives of Liberians even if they are not infected by the deadly virus.
The question of who owns a striking image taken by a crested black macaque may be closer to being settled, as the U.S. Copyright Office says the photo can't be copyrighted — by the person who owns the camera or any other entity — because it wasn't taken by a human.
The remarkably photogenic monkey won fans by capturing her own smiling image back in 2011, after a group of macaques in Indonesia appropriated British wildlife photographer David Slater's equipment. The resulting image went viral — and sparked an argument between Slater, who says he owns the photo, and others who say he doesn't.
The question got new attention earlier this month, when Slater talked about his efforts to get Wikimedia to take the image down from its "Commons" section, which collects open-source material. The web service's editors refused, saying that neither the monkey nor the man owned the image.
And now Ars Technica brings us an update, after spotting what seems to be a reference to the monkey-versy in the U.S. Copyright Office's newly updated manual, the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices (The manual's public draft version was released Tuesday; the final version will take effect in December).
Chapter 300 of the compendium's 1,222 pages explains what the office calls "the Human Authorship Requirement," in which it notes that "copyright law only protects 'the fruits of intellectual labor' that 'are founded in the creative powers of the mind.'"
Here's the list of examples:
o A photograph taken by a monkey.
o A mural painted by an elephant.
o A claim based on the appearance of actual animal skin.
o A claim based on driftwood that has been shaped and smoothed by the ocean.
o A claim based on cut marks, defects, and other qualities found in natural stone
o An application for a song naming the Holy Spirit as the author of the work.
On that last entry, we'll note that the office states elsewhere that it's OK to claim divine inspiration for a work — you just can't claim the divinity did all the work.
As we reported earlier this month, Slater has said that a court may have to decide the issues of authorship and ownership that the case brings up.
How much leeway do employers and insurers have in deciding whether they'll cover contraceptives without charge and in determining which methods make the cut?
Not much, as it turns out, but that hasn't stopped some from trying.
People still write in regularly describing battles they're waging to get birth control coverage they're entitled to under the Affordable Care Act.
In one of those messages recently, a woman said her insurer denied free coverage for the NuvaRing. This small plastic device, which is inserted into the vagina monthly, works by releasing hormones like the ones in birth control pills.
She said her insurer told her she would be responsible for her contraceptive expenses unless she choose a generic birth control pill. The NuvaRing costs between $15 and $80 a month, according to Planned Parenthood.
Under the health law, health plans have to cover the full range of birth control methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration without any cost sharing by women.
There are some exceptions if the plan falls into a limited number of categories that are excluded. One is if the plan is grandfathered under the law. Those plans were around since March 23, 2010, or before, and haven't changed much. If your plan is grandfathered, it has to disclose that status to you.
The other exception is if the plan is offered by a religious employer or house of worship. Following the recent Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, some private employers that have religious objections to providing birth control coverage as a free preventive benefit will also be excused from the requirement.
In addition, the federal government has given plans some flexibility by allowing them to use "reasonable medical management techniques" to keep their costs under control. So if there is both a generic and a brand-name version of a birth control pill available, for example, a plan could decide to cover only the generic version without cost to the patient.
As for the NuvaRing, even though they may use the same hormones, the pill and the ring are different methods of birth control. As an official from the Department of Health and Human Services said in an email, "The pill, the ring and the patch are different types of hormonal methods ... It is not permissible to cover only the pill, but not the ring or the patch."
Guidance from the federal government clearly states that the full range of FDA-approved methods of birth control must be covered as a preventive benefit without cost sharing. That includes birth control pills, the ring or patch, intrauterine devices and sterilization, among others.
But despite federal guidance, "we've seen this happen, plenty," says Adam Sonfield, a senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and education organization. "Clearly insurance companies think things are ambiguous enough that they can get away with it."
If you are denied coverage, your defense is to appeal the decision, and get your state insurance department involved.
"The state has the right and responsibility to enforce this law," says Sonfield.
We had an absolutely fantastic time Tuesday night at the Bell House in Brooklyn doing the first-ever Pop Culture Happy Hour from New York. Everyone was wonderful, everyone was hugely supportive, and we were joined by our producer emeritus Mike Katzif for our roundtable discussion of the things we've loved this summer and the things we're excited about for fall. Along the way, we chatted about writing, the problems with the way networks promote fall shows, the challenges of prequels with predetermined conclusions and, most importantly, just how 10-year-old Glen would be feeling if we could talk to him right now.
Some of the things we talked about: the terrific Roxane Gay, who just recently wrote another of her powerful pieces that integrate food and prose; this intriguing trailer; some great writing from a friend of ours; a book that isn't out yet; a book that is out; and a review I was most proud to publish.
Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: me, Stephen, Glen, Mike, and producer Jessica — who, even more than usual, was our fixer and handler and manager and helper, along with the team up in Programming at NPR and the folks at the Bell House, all of whom we're hugely grateful to this week. Next week at this time, we'll have the second half of our show, which was full of quizzes and fabulous special guests.