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TFI Daily News

World News for World Changers

Aug 30


Pro-Ukraine Fighters Escape Encirclement, Others Still Trapped
(Reuters) A group of pro-Ukrainian fighters broke out of encirclement by Russian-backed separatists near the eastern city of Donetsk early on Saturday, Ukraine’s interior minister said, but other reports suggested many were still trapped.

Russia Demands Publication of Recordings From Downed Flight MH17
(Reuters) Russia is demanding to know why international investigators have yet to publish the black box data from a Malaysian airliner that was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July, a deputy defense minister said in an interview published on Saturday.

Gunfire Heard in Lesotho as Army Moves on Police in Apparent Coup
(Reuters) Army soldiers in Lesotho occupied police buildings and surrounded the premier’s residence in an apparent coup attempt on Saturday, but Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was safe, residents and diplomats said.

Firefight Erupts Between Militants and Philippine Peacekeepers in Golan Heights
(Reuters) A firefight erupted on Saturday between a group of Philippine peacekeepers trapped in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Islamist militants who were surrounding their position, the defense chief of the Philippines said.

China Tells Journalists to Learn ‘Marxist News Values’
(Reuters) China ordered its journalists on Saturday to learn “Marxist news values” and uphold the principles of news as prescribed by the ruling Communist Party, the latest step in President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on the media.

China Warns Foreign Powers Not to Use Hong Kong as a ‘Bridgehead’
(Reuters) China has warned against any foreign interference ahead of a crucial ruling on the city’s political future on Sunday, saying Beijing will not tolerate the use of Hong Kong “as a bridgehead to subvert and infiltrate the mainland”.

El Salvador Gangs Agree Not to Attack Police and Military
(Reuters) Leaders of El Salvador’s major gangs on Friday said their members would no longer attack police and the military in a bid to revive a tattered gang truce and slash high rates of violence that have rocked the Central American nation.

Obama, in Estonia and at NATO Summit, to Send Strong Message to Putin
(Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Estonia and attend a NATO summit in Wales next week to send a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that his incursion into Ukraine must be reversed and to keep his hands off the Baltic nations.

Ebola Outbreak Reaches Senegal, Riots Break Out in Guinea
(Reuters) The West African state of Senegal became the fifth country to be hit by the world’s worst Ebola outbreak on Friday, while riots broke out in neighboring Guinea’s remote southeast where infection rates are rising fast.

Housing group: 20 years to rebuild Gaza
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP)—An international organization involved in assessing post-conflict reconstruction says it will take 20 years for Gaza’s battered and neglected housing stock to be rebuilt following the war between Hamas and Israel.

Liberia reopens slum barricaded to fight Ebola
MONROVIA, Liberia (AP)—Crowds celebrated in the streets of Liberia’s capital on Saturday after authorities reopened a slum where tens of thousands of people had been barricaded for more than a week to contain the country’s Ebola outbreak.

Thought of the Day

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”—Peter Drucker

What Ann Coulter and atheist Richard Dawkins have in common

By Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, The Week, Aug. 28, 2014

Dr. Kent Brantly, the American physician who contracted Ebola while treating the virus in Liberia, has now fully recovered. A month after falling ill with the famously lethal fever, Brantly is now walking, talking, and returning to business as usual. The only thing more surprising than Brantly’s sudden and total recovery has been the inability of particular pundits to cope with it in a sane, humane fashion.

For someone who risked his life to perform charitable medical care, Brantly has incurred a truly mind-boggling level of backlash. After he thanked God for his recovery in a press conference—something any rational person would expect of an openly Christian doctor whose overseas medical work was funded by Christian charity—Brantly’s speech was dubbed “bizarre,” and he was subsequently labeled “douchebag of the day” by the vanguard of irate internet scientism. The complaint they lodged against Brantly was that by praising God he was failing to give “science” its due.

This is a specious understanding of what Christians mean when they praise the work of God in a medical recovery; it is highly unlikely that Brantly, himself a physician who treats others as an act of Christian charity, believes that the work of God is separate from work of medicine. Rather, he probably views them as inextricable, which isn’t an atypical view for faithful Christians. But it’s challenging to score points against perceived cultural rivals when ignoring nuance, and on that count the anti-Brantly net warriors have good precedent from both the Christian right and atheists.

Consider, for example, Ann Coulter, whose vicious diatribe against Brantly made the rounds in early August. Like the pro-science twitter horde accusing Brantly of being a “douchebag,” Coulter intentionally misconstrued the doctor’s intentions and behavior in the most negative light possible. Chalking all of Brantly’s charitable motives up to “narcissism,” Coulter berated him for allegedly showing off via overseas charity rather than sticking to humble, anonymous down-home stuff—as though he knew he would fall ill, the only reason his charity earned media attention.

In effect, Coulter’s criticism mirrored atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ latest foray into outrage. Replying to a fan on twitter, Dawkins recently claimed it would be “immoral” not to abort a child diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb; in the ensuing outcry, Dawkins expressed exasperated disbelief at the very idea anyone genuinely opposed abortion on moral grounds.

Dawkins went on to recite the same old every-sperm-is-sacred points meant to demonstrate dishonesty on the part of those opposing abortion without ever engaging honestly with the idea that they truly, genuinely, without any glaring hypocrisy consider abortion to have a different moral weight than he does.

For Dawkins and his followers, therefore, opposing abortion is just willful ignorance and hypocrisy. Coulter, who sees only narcissistic spotlight-seeking in Brantly’s charity, is up to something similar. Neither is willing to concede that the objects of their derision should be taken seriously. Instead, they blithely presume dishonesty, then press on with their attacks.

This is because—for both Coulter and Dawkins—the point is to claim the moral high ground, not to make a more convincing point. For Coulter, Brantly and Christians like him (she lists, for example, Pope Francis) are a problem because their service and dedication to others don’t match up with her hyper nationalistic form of Christianity. She can’t argue that they’re wrong to be charitable, exactly, so she argues that they don’t even really believe the tenets of Christianity and are dishonest from the get-go. The inference, of course, is that she is the genuine Christian. For Dawkins, the story is much the same: Those outraged by his pro-abortion comments are depicted as willfully unenlightened troglodytes attacking the bearer of truth.

In light of these pundits, the online response to Brantly’s low-key, mild press conference isn’t so surprising. People who have a bone to pick with religion is hardly news. The only interesting fact is that they’ve found such strange bedfellows.

Suds, Faith Found at California Laundromat

By Krysta Fauria, Associated Press, Aug. 29, 2014

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP)—Over the long months that Victoria Mitchell lived in her car with her infant daughter, there was one bright spot in her life: doing laundry.

Every month, Mitchell would trek to a local laundromat and take advantage of Laundry Love, a growing faith-driven movement that helps those who are homeless or financially struggling by washing their dirty clothes for free.

Amid the comforting routine of fluffing and folding, volunteers befriend their patrons and often find ways to help that go beyond free soap and quarters.

Mitchell, for example, now has a job and place to live after the Laundry Love volunteers pooled their money to help her family rent a starter apartment. They have also watched her daughter Jessica grow from a newborn to a curly-haired toddler.

“You’re not just checking a box to give a donation. You’re spending the whole evening with these people and getting your hands dirty and it’s intimate—you’re doing people’s laundry,” said LuzAnna Figueroa, who volunteers at the group’s Huntington Beach chapter and has grown close to Mitchell and her daughter.

Richard Flory, a religion expert from the University of Southern California who has studied Laundry Love extensively, said Mitchell is just one example of how the organization can profoundly impact people through something as simple as washing their clothes.

“It’s an opportunity for people to live out their faith out in a concrete way, in a frankly elegantly simple model where you do something that’s necessary for people who don’t have the means to do it for themselves,” Flory said.

The movement began about 10 years ago with a small Christian church in Ventura, California, and has since spread to more than 100 locations throughout the country to people from all faiths.

Christian Kassoff started the Huntington Beach chapter two years ago with his wife, Shannon. On a recent warm summer night, Kassoff glanced around the laundromat and smiled at the dozens of people who depend on him and the other volunteers for clean laundry each month.

Classic hits from David Bowie and The Clash blasted through speakers as patrons pushed around wheeled metal baskets full of laundry and stuffed loads of dirty clothes—some not washed for weeks—into industrial-sized machines.

Those doing their laundry also lined up outside to eat their fill of tacos as volunteers prayed inside before starting the night’s washing.

David Clarke, who has been coming to the laundromat for four months after losing his job as an aerospace machinist, estimates he’s saved $200 on laundry in that time, but said he gets a lot more from the washing sessions than savings.

“These people are wonderful people. They want to know what’s going on in your life,” he said. “They really care about you and how you’re doing.”

Kassoff, his arms laced with tattoos, recalled a time in his life just over 10 years ago when he was in a similar situation to many of those who come—addicted to heroin and living in his car. At his lowest point, he said, he started attending services at his local Episcopal church.

His newfound faith, he said, saved his life and motivated him to help others in need.

“I’m not wealthy but I have the gift of time and a heart for it, so this fits,” Kassoff said.

Flory said that’s why the movement has taken off—the simplicity and necessity of washing clothes. The Huntington Beach chapter began as an Episcopal outreach, but now welcomes volunteers of any faith, including members of a local mosque who started showing up recently.

Johnny Outlaw works on the right side of the law helping ex-cons stay out of prison

By Mark Guarino, CS Monitor, August 29, 2014

CHICAGO—Outlaw’s his name. Getting ex-felons on the job rolls is his game.

Contrary to what his name may suggest, Chicago’s Johnny Outlaw doesn’t wear a six-shooter or black cowboy hat. That’s because he operates on the right side of the law. For more than 10 years, he has dedicated his life to providing legal aid and job-finding help in the city’s most impoverished areas, driven by a core belief: Those who have served their time in prison deserve a second chance.

“The most discriminated [against] class of people in our society are these guys on release from state and federal prison,” he says. “Whatever happened to paying your debt to society?”

Mr. Outlaw operates out of a tiny cramped office on the campus of Kennedy-King College, a city-run community college on Chicago’s South Side, where he shifts between two phones that seem to never stop ringing. He is a one-man shop: On a recent Thursday, he mentions that he has fielded 43 phone calls so far that week, and 23 letters from inmates sit on his desk awaiting replies. He’s already had 17 appointments that day with people seeking counseling, whether it’s helping them learn how to expunge their criminal records or connecting them with employers who will take a chance on young men and women who have served their time and now want something better.

He works where he was born: in Englewood, a Chicago neighborhood that continues to make national headlines for its street violence, where 42 percent of the households are below the poverty level, and where unemployment is about double (21 percent) that of the city as a whole, according to the 2010 US Census.

Outlaw works as the director of reentry programs for Teamwork Englewood, a local organization that operates several programs designed to strengthen the community.

When he’s not counseling people, he’s speaking at legal clinics, colleges, and churches throughout the city and suburbs—anyplace that will have him. He also often slips on a bulletproof vest to accompany the Chicago Police during house visits to gangbangers or attends “call-ins,” group meetings with repeat offenders on probation or parole, during which they are reminded of the risks of committing another crime.

The majority of his appearances outside his main job are on the weekends and unpaid, he says. His motivation is to network with local leaders and institutions to persuade them that ex-felons want to prove that they can be responsible members of society—and, more important, that they deserve the chance.

“I’m relentless,” he says. “I see people in the community on public assistance, and it burns me they can’t find jobs. I say it’s up to me to show them the way to get jobs is to stay out of trouble and stay out of prison. And, believe me, it’s a very hard job—it’s a very difficult job—but this is what I do because people need help.”

His work is not just a personal crusade, he says, but something that will strengthen the city. “After time and time and time not being employed, what are these guys going to do? They’re going to go back and pick up the gun,” he says. “I call it the great cycle of necessity: in and out [of prison], in and out.”

He should know. Outlaw served more than 30 years of a 100-to-300-year murder sentence at the Dixon Correctional Center in Dixon, Ill. He’s hesitant to talk about his past, but prisoner advocacy experts say his life in prison was remarkable.

Despite having only a high school education, he soon became the head of the prison law library, earned a political science degree, and subsequently started mentoring other inmates. He was one of 10 prisoners accepted into a paralegal certification program run by Illinois State University.

Besides his legal work, he established a restaurant within the prison for visitors, helping to hone his business skills and those of the people working under him. By the time of his release in February 2007, Outlaw commanded such respect from prison officials that they appointed him to the motor pool: He became a driver who was allowed to travel outside the prison. He always returned.

“By the time I met him, he was very serious and very accomplished. He was what you could call a ‘very on-time’ guy. He commanded respect, and the officers thought the world of him,” says James Chapman, an attorney and executive director of the Illinois Institute for Community Law and Affairs, an organization that develops policies and programs dealing with prison conditions and issues facing prisoners upon release.

Outlaw’s interest in recidivism started when he was appointed to the board of the Prison Action Committee, an organization founded by Mr. Chapman and made up of prisoners and ex-offenders who work to connect prisoners to the outside community to make reentry more seamless and effective. The group also organizes an after-school intervention program in the public schools. Ex-offenders tell their life stories in an effort to combat the glorification of prison life often prevalent in popular media.

While still behind bars, Outlaw helped write grant applications for the group and conducted paralegal work for others and himself. It took him 19 unsuccessful tries to get released on parole.

Outlaw cuts an imposing figure: He’s more than six feet tall and dresses impeccably each day in a suit with a silk handkerchief peeking out of his top pocket. When he speaks, he is on point and commands authority, which is probably why 9 out of 10 people referred to him by outside agencies accept his help, he says.

Corrion Brown says that when he met Outlaw, he was struck by how sincere he was. “He wasn’t just about business. Helping people was his business, and he liked doing it,” Mr. Brown says.

Brown was charged with aggravated battery of a Chicago police officer in 2007 and was sentenced to 30 months of probation, which meant he was suddenly out of work. He applied for jobs in downtown Chicago and in his own neighborhood on the South Side, but nothing worked. The dry spell lasted nearly two years.

“When you get these job listings, the first thing they say is ‘no criminal background.’ That automatically X’s you out,” Brown says. “[Employers] just looked at that one thing, and based on stereotypes, they don’t want to really hire you at all.”

Through Outlaw’s connections, Brown started working at a manual labor job at a pizza box factory in suburban Romeoville, Ill. The work went well, and Brown entered a training program to become an assistant manager. But what he really wanted to do was drive trucks.

Outlaw helped get him a job with a trucking company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Brown now drives 18-wheelers throughout the Midwest. He says he loves the work. He is saving up money by living with his mother (while helping to pay her bills).

But his long-term goal is to go back to school and learn a more specialized skill.

“I have different opportunities now,” he says. “Whatever comes to mind, I can set out to do it as long as I keep focus.”

Outlaw says inspiration for his work comes from his grandparents, who died when he was a teenager. They operated a 300-acre tree farm outside Cleveland, Miss., that remains in the family. “They made it in the South. They owned the land and sent my aunt and mother to college, which was unheard of in those days for a female black,” he says. The opportunity allowed his mother to flourish in Chicago as a teacher and, later, a registered nurse, he says.

As for his last name, that originates in the South as well. Family genealogy efforts show it dates back to the 1800s. Contrary to what the name suggests, Outlaw says that his story shows people do have the power to inspire change within themselves and others. But it takes perseverance.

Lessons We Learned from Our First Jobs

By Liza Kaufman Hogan, Next Avenue, August 26, 2014

What was your first job? Serving fast food, delivering newspapers, cleaning hotel rooms, picking tobacco?

Whatever your answer, chances are you worked hard for little pay and wouldn’t trade the experience for all the better jobs you’ve had since.

In honor of Labor Day, we asked Next Avenue readers to share what they learned the first time they earned a paycheck.

As you might expect from a website focused on mature Americans, some of our first jobs scarcely exist anymore, like car hop, switchboard operator and pinsetter for a bowling alley. A few readers picked crops in hot fields and many more started in bottom-rung, office jobs or grueling fast food service. Whether the jobs were old or new, back-breaking or boring, many of the lessons learned were the same:

1. A bad first job can focus your career goals. Several readers learned pretty quickly from their first jobs that they wanted to do something else.

Tom Meade’s first job was picking tobacco in the Connecticut River Valley. “I was 14 and lasted a day. It was scorching hot, and the bosses were terribly mean. The next day, I applied for a job in the meat department of a grocery store. I got it and spent as much time as possible in the walk-in cooler that summer.”

Glenda Beaumont of Little Rock, Ark., started work at a factory out of high school. “My parents had similar jobs for their careers and thought I was pretty much set for life if I would hang in there. However, I had seen their exhaustion and boredom and knew there had to be something better.

“Working at the factory opened my eyes as to what my life would probably be like if I did not continue my education. By fall, I had made the decision to return to school, and I am grateful for that first job,” Beaumont wrote. “It has made the difference in having a job which I felt at the time was mind numbing, and having a job where I made the call on how I would spend my time daily.”

Don C. of Minneapolis, Minn. started out setting pins in a bowling alley as a teen. “It taught me a) that it feels good to get really proficient at your job, and b) to never take another boring, tightly repetitive job that could go on seemingly endlessly.”

2. Start working early. Joseph McManus, of North Andover, Mass. started work in 1957 at 10-years-old delivering newspapers before and after school. “I recommend you go to work as early in life as possible in order to encounter the feedback from boss and client expectations, experience the rigors of a full schedule and the rewards of realizing early in life that you can earn your way,” he said.

3. Low pay is better than no pay. Some jobs our readers held first paid almost nothing, like $1 per hour for cleaning a school after hours, $1.25 per hour for typing reports or a whopping $1.89 per hour for a nurse starting out in a pediatric hospital unit. Lucy C., the car hop, made just 35 cents an hour plus tips.

“I thought I was making good money,” wrote Sue W. of San Mateo, Calif., recalling her first job as a maid cleaning hotel rooms for $2.94 per hour with added perks. “If you worked a full day, you could grab a meal from the hotel kitchen.”

Low pay was a lesson in itself for readers like Terri Traudt, 55, of Minneapolis, Minn. “My first paying job was taking tickets at a movie theatre for $2 per hour. It taught me the virtues of responsibility and budgeting. If I wanted to buy a $10 pair of jeans I would think ‘Wow—I’d have to work five hours for those jeans!’”

4. No job is too menial. Several readers started with some tough jobs in fields that are under-appreciated and often underpaid. The experience of working in these jobs stayed with some readers and affected them many years later.

“My first job was cleaning (after school) at the Catholic school I attended. I was in 7th grade and got $1 an hour,” wrote Carter Drossel, 57, of Plymouth, Wisc. “It taught me not to be ashamed of any kind of work. As it happened, 35 years later I would have to take a job at a convenience store to make ends meet.”

Louise Jackson, 77, wrote about picking cotton in a neighbor’s field as her first job. “My father was not a farmer but he insisted that my brother and I learn to work with our hands,” she wrote, explaining that her father told them, “‘We expect you will be professionals … but we never want you to forget how hard people have to work to put bread on your table and clothes on your backs.’”

Jackson added: “It was hard, hot, backbreaking work, but I stayed with it and, in the process, learned to be friends with all sorts of people, many of whom would be doing this kind of work all their lives.”

Marci Tyrol’s first job was bagging groceries and later working as cashier. “We should all, at some point in our lives, take a job serving the public to learn that you should always treat cashiers, waitresses, ticket agents, etc. as you would want to be treated.

“Never lose an opportunity to try something new,” she advises, “You never know where the path will lead you. See each job, no matter how humble, as a learning experience!”

5. Dress appropriately. Several readers said it was important to follow the dress code at work, but Judi Linville of St. Louis, Mo., was especially glad that she wore tennis shoes instead of flip flops to her first job—caring for her 9-year-old cousin one summer when she was 14. When he and a friend ran away and hid in the treehouse she was able to find him.

“They didn’t think a girl could do that,” she wrote.

6. Work is what you make of it. First jobs are often the ones no one else wants. That was certainly the case for Vicki Gehlert of Port St. Lucie, Fla. who started out at age 12 mucking horse stalls for riding privileges.

Despite the dirty work, she loved “the camaraderie of similar minds, the smell of the barn (and) doing something tangible. Forty-four years later, I have shoveled manure in all sorts of jobs, just not the literal kind.” She advises first-timers to “be yourself, enjoy your similarities and your differences amongst your work peers, ask and learn from each other. Every job has its manure, but it is all what you make of it.”

7. Don’t date the boss (or if you do, find another job). In a plot line straight out of Mad Men, Christine Osbourne described her first job as a typist in the creative department of an advertising agency. “I thought that eventually, I wanted to become a copywriter. However, I caught the eye of the agency president and we began dating,” says Osbourne.

The experience taught her this: “If you are a typist and start dating the president of the company, you will not be taken seriously as a professional until you move on to the next agency.”

8. Do what you love. Harold Sharlin, 89, of Washington, D.C., has worked longer than most. He shows us that you have time to get it right, and if you don’t like what you are doing at first, try something else.

“Your job should be one of the most satisfying things in your life. If it is not, change it,” says Sharlin. “I had three jobs after I graduated college and since none of them were satisfying, I changed one more time. The fourth choice was teaching and I spent 25 years in a rewarding and fulfilling job.”

There’s A Big Leak In America’s Water Tower

By Christopher Joyce, NPR, August 27, 2014

An earlier spring in Montana’s Glacier National Park means full waterfalls at first—but much drier summers.

The northern arm of the Rocky Mountains is sometimes called “the crown of the continent,” and its jewels are glaciers and snowfields that irrigate large parts of North America during spring thaw.

But the region is getting warmer, even faster than the rest of the world. Scientists now say warming is scrambling the complex relationship between water and nature and could threaten some species with extinction as well as bring hardship to ranchers and farmers already suffering from prolonged drought.

To see how this vast natural irrigation system works, it’s best to fly over it. Seated next to Richard Hauer in a Cessna he calls “Montana Rose,” I can see snowcapped mountains and wide valleys spread out below. Hauer, an ecologist at the University of Montana, calls this place a giant sponge.

Moist air from the Pacific hits the mountains and falls as snow and ice. The mountains hold that water until spring. Then it melts and runs through the gravel valleys and across big parts of North America.

It’s worked that way for millennia. But lately, Hauer says, Montana is warmer, and spring’s melt starts earlier. “When that happens, all that storage of snow and water in the high country will go through the system [the mountains and valleys] much faster,” he explains. “It’s a change that’s taking place because the snowmelt is occurring earlier. … Basically, if you turn the spigot on earlier, it runs out of water sooner.”

Running out of water sooner means drier summers—just when plants, animals and people need it most.

Ecologists like Hauer say there are other changes happening as well—retreating glaciers, and more flash floods. “One of the expectations with climate change is that we’re going to see a decrease in the permanent streams, particularly in the high alpine, and an increase in the temporary, ephemeral streams,” Hauer says.

Already, scientists have noted the shrinking of the more than two dozen glaciers in Glacier National Park, as well as the disappearance of some snowfields that once lasted through summer.

Now they’re trying to find out how this affects wildlife—wildlife that’s important for holding together the complex food web here.

I join three scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey on a mountainside a couple of thousand feet below Hauer’s flight path. We’re hiking up into a snowfield in the park, toward a stream flowing down from the snow. “It’s a great place to be if you are an obscure, high-alpine-stream insect,” says aquatic entomologist Joe Giersch. Obscure insects are Giersch’s life. Several species of very rare but important insects live here, in 40-degree meltwater.

Giersch bends over the stream—it’s only a few inches deep—and turns over a few rocks. In 10 minutes, he finds what he wants: a tiny, brown, wet smudge of a fly. “All right! This is Lednia tumana.” It’s smaller than the head of a match and, to my eye, is just a brown blob. Giersch assures me that’s what it is. “I’ve looked at a lot of these,” he says. He calls the fly “charismatic microfauna.”

Charismatic may be a stretch, but micro for sure. Lednia tumana is a stonefly. It spends part of its life in streams, but only icy streams in these mountains. It eats algae and other tiny organisms in the streams, and other insects and fish eat it. Stoneflies are part of a larger food web. Pull out one string, says our hiking companion, Daniel Fagre, and the web starts to come apart.

Lednia tumana is fish food that’s long thrived in the glacier-fed streams of Montana’s Glacier National Park. But as the glaciers are disappearing, so is the fly.

“In only a few decades, we’re going to lose all the glaciers here,” says Fagre, a research ecologist with the USGS at the West Glacier Field Station. “And they’ve been persistent on the landscape here for 7,000 years—so suddenly you are having a profound change in just a few decades, and that’s very difficult for many organisms to adapt to.”

What’s happening is that as the average temperature increases here, the snow and ice, in effect, retreat up the mountain to colder air. Ecologist Clint Muhlfeld, who also studies this fly, says eventually the ice and the insects will run out of mountain. “You know, there’s nowhere to go,” he says. “They’re at the top of the continent—the water tower of the continent—and it’s a squeeze play.” Muhlfeld notes that the federal government is considering listing Lednia as an endangered species because of the effects of climate change.

Moving farther down the mountain, you can see more signs of this disruption in the way water works here—in places like Montana’s Flathead Lake, for example, one of the biggest lakes in the country.

Jack Stanford, who runs the Flathead Lake Biological Station, has spent decades studying the complex interactions of plants, animals and water. “The way in which water is deposited first and then transported by the rivers is fundamental to the distribution and abundance of organisms,” he says.

Some of those organisms—for instance, salmon—are important, not only to nature but to people too.

If you get a warmer spring, you get flash floods, because the rain comes in before the snow has melted. It’s called a “rain on snow event,” and it can be trouble for salmon, which lay eggs in the gravel of stream beds. Rain on snow is like rain falling on pavement—it creates floods that wash the young salmon away, decimating the population.

“The way it plays out is that the food web gets a shakeup,” Stanford says. “And … the bottom line is, some players in that complex food web will be winners, and some will be losers.”

Stanford says humans have already changed the natural world in ways we couldn’t predict. Climate change is like putting another pair of dice in play.

Dethrone ‘King Dollar’

By Jared Bernstein, NY Times, Aug. 27, 2014

WASHINGTON—THERE are few truisms about the world economy, but for decades, one has been the role of the United States dollar as the world’s reserve currency. It’s a core principle of American economic policy. After all, who wouldn’t want their currency to be the one that foreign banks and governments want to hold in reserve?

But new research reveals that what was once a privilege is now a burden, undermining job growth, pumping up budget and trade deficits and inflating financial bubbles. To get the American economy on track, the government needs to drop its commitment to maintaining the dollar’s reserve-currency status.

The reasons are best articulated by Kenneth Austin, a Treasury Department economist, in the latest issue of The Journal of Post Keynesian Economics. On the assumption that you don’t have the journal on your coffee table, allow me to summarize.

It is widely recognized that various countries, including China, Singapore and South Korea, suppress the value of their currency relative to the dollar to boost their exports to the United States and reduce its exports to them. They buy lots of dollars, which increases the dollar’s value relative to their own currencies, thus making their exports to us cheaper and our exports to them more expensive.

In 2013, America’s trade deficit was about $475 billion. Its deficit with China alone was $318 billion.

Though Mr. Austin doesn’t say it explicitly, his work shows that, far from being a victim of managed trade, the United States is a willing participant through its efforts to keep the dollar as the world’s most prominent reserve currency.

When a country wants to boost its exports by making them cheaper using the aforementioned process, its central bank accumulates currency from countries that issue reserves. To support this process, these countries suppress their consumption and boost their national savings. Since global accounts must balance, when “currency accumulators” save more and consume less than they produce, other countries—”currency issuers,” like the United States—must save less and consume more than they produce (i.e., run trade deficits).

This means that Americans alone do not determine their rates of savings and consumption. Think of an open, global economy as having one huge, aggregated amount of income that must all be consumed, saved or invested. That means individual countries must adjust to one another. If trade-surplus countries suppress their own consumption and use their excess savings to accumulate dollars, trade-deficit countries must absorb those excess savings to finance their excess consumption or investment.

Note that as long as the dollar is the reserve currency, America’s trade deficit can worsen even when we’re not directly in on the trade. Suppose South Korea runs a surplus with Brazil. By storing its surplus export revenues in Treasury bonds, South Korea nudges up the relative value of the dollar against our competitors’ currencies, and our trade deficit increases, even though the original transaction had nothing to do with the United States.

This isn’t just a matter of one academic writing one article. Mr. Austin’s analysis builds off work by the economist Michael Pettis and, notably, by the former Federal Reserve chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

A result of this dance, as seen throughout the tepid recovery from the Great Recession, is insufficient domestic demand in America’s own labor market. Mr. Austin argues convincingly that the correct metric for estimating the cost in jobs is the dollar value of reserve sales to foreign buyers. By his estimation, that amounted to six million jobs in 2008, and these would tend to be the sort of high-wage manufacturing jobs that are most vulnerable to changes in exports.

Dethroning “king dollar” would be easier than people think. America could, for example, enforce rules to prevent other countries from accumulating too much of our currency. In fact, others do just that precisely to avoid exporting jobs. The most recent example is Japan’s intervention to hold down the value of the yen when central banks in Asia and Latin America started buying Japanese debt.

Of course, if fewer people demanded dollars, interest rates—i.e., what America would pay people to hold its debt—might rise, especially if stronger domestic manufacturers demanded more investment. But there’s no clear empirical, negative relationship between interest rates and trade deficits, and in the long run, as Mr. Pettis observes, “Countries with balanced trade or trade surpluses tend to enjoy lower interest rates on average than countries with large current account deficits, which are handicapped by slower growth and higher debt.”

Others worry that higher import prices would increase inflation. But consider the results when we “pay” to keep price growth so low through artificially cheap exports and large trade deficits: weakened manufacturing, wage stagnation (even with low inflation) and deficits and bubbles to offset the imbalanced trade.

But while more balanced trade might raise prices, there’s no reason it should persistently increase the inflation rate. We might settle into a norm of 2 to 3 percent inflation, versus the current 1 to 2 percent. But that’s a price worth paying for more and higher-quality jobs, more stable recoveries and a revitalized manufacturing sector. The privilege of having the world’s reserve currency is one America can no longer afford.

Jared Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Festivals are becoming the national pastime for America’s millennials

John McDuling, Quartz, August 28, 2014

An estimated 70,000 people (many of them, well-paid technology executives, apparently) have gathered this week in the Nevada desert for the annual festival of hedonism and weirdness known as Burning Man.

This year, the event is arguably gaining more attention than usual, amid claims it is being ruined by rich people. We’ll leave that debate aside, but the fact that Burning Man has become part of the national conversation, in certain circles at least, reflects an important behavioral shift in America: festivals are booming, as both a business and an activity.

This is particularly so among the increasingly important millennial age cohort. According to research and surveys conducted by Eventbrite, an online ticketing company, a staggering one in five millennials attended a music festival in the past year. In a new study, the company claims that music festivals have become “one of young Americans’ favorite pastimes.”

The study, which analyzed 20 million social media conversations across Facebook, Twitter, and other online forums spanning the past 12 months, found that South by Southwest was the most-discussed festival. The Coachella music and arts festival ranks fifth and Bonnaroo is 10th. EDM (electronic dance music), which is absolutely booming in the US currently, accounted for eight of the top 25 most-discussed festivals, the highest being Tomorrowland (in third place.)

The boom in music festivals is great news for musicians, amid a shift among consumers away from music ownership (in both physical and digital form) to on-demand streaming platforms. And it echoes an increased desire among consumers (again, particularly millennials, sometimes described as the experience generation) to spend money on experiences rather than things.

Minimum-wage debate roils Mexico, where rock-bottom pay rules

By Tim Johnson, McClatchy, August 28, 2014

MEXICO CITY—Mexico has the 14th largest economy in the world, a humming manufacturing sector, a newly opened energy sector that’s drawing worldwide interest, and, at $144 a month, likely the lowest minimum wage in Latin America.

“It’s ridiculously low,” says Jonathan Heath, an independent economist.

The wages that Mexican employers pay those on the lowest rung of the country’s $1.3 trillion economy have fueled a national debate this month, drawing demands by parties both to the left and right of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party to impose an increase.

It’s a debate that highlights the inequalities in Mexico—home to a tycoon who competes for the title of world’s richest man—and the struggles of a nation where more than half of workers toil outside the formal economy in gray areas where a minimum wage is merely a theoretical notion.

Banging the drum for increasing the minimum wage is Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera, a leftist politician with a nose for higher office. Mr. Mancera claimed this month that the minimum wage has lost 77 percent of its purchasing power in the past 35 years, eroded by inflation.

“This means that in Mexico City, we can only acquire 23 percent of what we could buy in the 1970s,” Mancera told a news conference Aug. 5.

In a move to boost the fortunes of his Party of the Democratic Revolution, Mancera called on national legislators to raise the minimum wage next year from 67.3 pesos a day to between 80 and 87 pesos a day—$6.10 to $6.60—enough to provide for what a government council that measures poverty says are the essentials for survival in daily food intake and transportation to and from work.

Labor Secretary Alfonso Navarrete Prida called the proposal dangerous, saying it could hobble economic growth, spark inflation and stall efforts to increase productivity.

As it is now, Mexico’s minimum wage stands below nearly all countries in Latin America, including small economies of Central America. Panama sets a $640 monthly minimum wage. In Costa Rica it’s $492 and in Nicaragua, $166.

Brazil, which has the largest economy in Latin America, offers workers a $301 minimum monthly salary. Monthly minimum wages for other countries are: Argentina, $432.50; Bolivia, $211; Chile, $386; Colombia, $321; Ecuador, $340; Peru, $265; Paraguay, $429; and Uruguay, $375.

“We are competing with Bolivia and Nicaragua,” says Gerardo Esquivel, an economist with a Harvard Ph.D. who works at the Colegio de Mexico, a research and teaching institution.

The debate over the minimum wage has touched on Mexico’s Constitution—which guarantees a dignified salary—as well as everything from inflation to mortgages, which are pegged to the minimum wage in at least one subsidized federal program.

Article 123 of the Constitution, written in the aftermath of a revolution a century ago that enshrined the role of workers in the nation, says the minimum wage “shall be enough to fulfill normal family needs from a material, social, and cultural point of view.”

“No one can seriously think the minimum wage is OK,” Mr. Heath says. “Either we change the Constitution and don’t do anything to the minimum wage, or we change the minimum wage.”

About 6.6 million Mexicans in the 51.8 million labor force earn the minimum wage each month. Most of them, though, toil in the informal sector, which President Enrique Peña Nieto said last year employed 3 out of 5 workers. Only about 1.2 million minimum-wage workers are in formal jobs, in which they’re registered with the government and protected by labor codes.

Even though the minimum wage affects relatively few workers, the government has held it down over decades partly through support for sham unions that support business and political interests.

Leaders of the huge Mexican Workers Confederation and the Confederation of Workers and Peasants signed a statement Aug. 12 along with industrialists, business owners, and Labor Secretary Navarrete urging any discussion of a minimum wage increase to be “public, serious and responsible.”

“Mexico has been brilliant at shifting the adjustment burden downward,” says Carol Wise, an expert in Latin American economics at the University of Southern California. “The bottom 40 percent of the population has gotten the shaft.”

A blogger on the news and opinion portal animalpolitico.com, Antonio Martinez, wrote Aug. 20 about how he lived for three days on the minimum wage.

“It was enough to eat and for nothing else,” Martinez wrote. “At the end, I realized that I would not be able to pay the bills for telephone, gas and electricity … much less rent in the area where I live.”

Ecuador heralds digital currency plans

Associated Press, August 29, 2014

QUITO, Ecuador—Ecuador is planning to create the world’s first government-issued digital currency, which some analysts believe could be a first step toward abandoning the country’s existing currency, the U.S. dollar, which the government cannot control.

The virtual currency, which Central Bank officials say they expect will start circulating in December, does not yet have a name and officials would not disclose technical details, though they said it would not be like Bitcoin. The amount of the new currency created would depend on demand.

Deputy director Gustavo Solorzano said it is to exist in tandem with the greenback and, by law, be backed by liquid assets. It would be geared toward the 2.8 million Ecuadoreans—40 percent of participants in the economy—too poor to afford traditional banking, officials say.

Users initially will be able to make and receive payments at minimal cost using their cellphones, Solorzano said. Such mobile payments schemes are already popular in African nations including Kenya and Tanzania, where they are privately run.

The new currency was approved, and stateless crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin simultaneously banned, by Ecuador’s National Assembly last month.

Leftist President Rafael Correa has said the project’s only problem is that it has taken this long, defending it against “pseudo-analysts who have appeared in the media trying to smear (it).” He denies any plan to replace the U.S. dollar, which Ecuador set as its currency in 2000 after a crippling banking crisis.

The official in charge of the new currency, Fausto Valencia, said the software is already used in Paraguay by cellphone companies.

He said it is not like Bitcoin, whose advantage is in its technical underpinnings: Only a limited amount of Bitcoin can be minted. Without that safeguard, economists have warned, a government could theoretically create as much as it wants, risking inflation.

Nathalie Reinelt, an emerging payments analyst with the U.S.-based Aite Group, said she does not understand any other motivation for creating such a currency than to allow Ecuador to increase its money supply and, essentially, devalue its U.S. dollar holdings.

“It is far too early to know how they are thinking of making the electronic money work,” said analyst Juan Lorenzo Maldonado of Credit Suisse LLC.

Some believe it could be a first step to abandoning the U.S. dollar, Ecuador’s currency since January 2000. Correa denies it puts dollarization in peril.

Putin Commends Separatist Militias in Ukraine

By Andrew Roth, NY Times, Aug. 29, 2014

MOSCOW—In a rare direct address to the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin hailed on Friday the success of a recent rebel offensive and asked that a humanitarian corridor be opened to allow encircled Ukrainian Army units to retreat.

In an address to the “Novorossiya,” or New Russia, militia that was posted on the Kremlin website at 1:10 a.m., Mr. Putin said the rebels had “achieved a major success in intercepting Kiev’s military operation,” an offensive that Western governments have accused the Russian military of leading.

“I call on the militia groups to open a humanitarian corridor for Ukrainian service members who have been surrounded, so as to avoid any needless loss of life,” Mr. Putin said, “giving them the opportunity to leave the combat area unimpeded and reunite with their families, to return them to their mothers, wives and children, and to quickly provide medical assistance to those who were injured in the course of the military operation.”

Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the rebel leader who said on Thursday that more than 3,000 Russians, including active soldiers on leave, had fought among the separatists, quickly agreed to Mr. Putin’s proposal.

“With all respect to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the president of the country, which has helped us very much with moral support, we are ready to grant humanitarian corridors to the Ukrainian divisions surrounded in these pockets,” Mr. Zakharchenko said. Conditions included the surrender of all heavy armaments and ammunition.

The separatist counteroffensive, which began on Wednesday, has opened a new military front along the Sea of Azov and put the rebels within striking distance of Mariupol, a port city that is the second-largest in Ukraine’s southeast. Separatist leaders also said they had encircled 7,000 regular and irregular Ukrainian troops who had been cut off by the rapid advance of rebel tanks and artillery.

The offensive prompted fresh criticism from the West, and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said on Thursday that the possibility of imposing new sanctions against Russia would be discussed at a European Union summit meeting in Brussels on Saturday.

Ukrainian and Western leaders have accused Mr. Putin of backing the rebels with arms, money and men, and have demanded that Russia use its influence over the separatists to put a stop to the fighting.

Bloody Brawl Breaks Out During Military Training—at a Chinese High School

By Alexa Olesen, Foreign Policy, August 27, 2014

A recent ugly brawl between paramilitary drill instructors and high schoolers in central China has exposed a fault line between China’s military and its people. The bloody Aug. 24 incident, which landed 40 freshmen in the hospital with bone fractures and gashes, is being parsed on China’s active social web as either evidence of the wholesale corruption of the Chinese military, or the hopeless degeneration of China’s youth.

The conflict occurred during a week of military training at Huangcang High School in Hunan’s Longshan, a county of half a million people known for its karst caves. (The bulk of Chinese military recruits are rural youth and the unemployed, not students, but military training sessions are routine at high schools and colleges across China.) The incident was traced back to what several media outlets describe as a playful tiff between a female student and a drill instructor. The liberal Beijing News reported Aug. 26 that the girl’s classmates came to her defense and ended up pinning the instructor in what was then still a lighthearted dispute. According to the report, that impertinence led to punitive pushups later in the day for the class, and when students balked, other drill instructors ended up attacking the male students. A teacher who tried to intervene was also reportedly beaten.

The Beijing News quoted one student as saying that drill instructors had been drinking, and its story came with photos of a student in military fatigues cradling a hand with bloody, mangled fingers while a tearful female classmate stood next to him. But some facts are contested.

There’s also deep disagreement about the meaning of the incident. On the popular military-themed forum Tiexue.net, sentiment toward the incident was decidedly pro-military, reflecting a widely held belief that modern Chinese youth are spoiled and egotistical.

Chinese commonly blame those perceived traits on the country’s strict family planning policy, which for more than three decades has limited most families to just one child.

Chinese commonly blame those perceived traits on the country’s strict family planning policy, which for more than three decades has limited most families to just one child. “Minor injuries; what’s the big deal?” asked one reader, adding that Chinese kids today are “too squeamish,” and the solution was to toughen them up with more drills. “Otherwise, everyone will be a sissy, and who will protect the motherland?” Another acknowledged that differing accounts made it hard to judge who was in the wrong. But, he continued: “It’s a fact that kids today are hard to manage.” He wrote they were “little emperors” and “little princesses,” slang terms used to describe spoiled children. The best way to understand them, he continued, was to watch the 2007 National Geographic television program Brat Camp China, which followed a group of underachieving Chinese youth through a tough-love military-style boot camp that had them hiking up to 25 miles per day.

So what do the proverbial brats think? On Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform whose users skew young, the military bore most of the invective. Although the drill instructors in Longshan were from the People’s Armed Forces, the arm of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) responsible for training and recruitment, the Weiborati viewed them as emblematic of the entire PLA. The Chinese military’s image has been tarnished in recent months by public announcements of graft charges against high-ranking officers Gen. Xu Caihou and Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan in June and April, respectively. One commentator wrote that the influence of officers like Gu and Xu had created a lack of discipline and pockets of moral decay in the military. “I think the drill instructors assigned to do the training at Huangcang High were these kind of people,” he wrote. Underneath a news article about the brawl from Huasheng Online, a news portal run by the state-run provincial paper Hunan Daily, another reader called the drill instructors “scum.” A more lighthearted but no less damning appraisal came from someone who said the drills in school were useless “except as a way to get to know other freshmen.” He argued that student training sessions should be abolished.

For its part, the Longshan government shied away from blaming anyone and described the incident in an Aug. 25 statement as “unpleasantness.” It pledged to fully investigate and prosecute any wrongdoers. It also managed to find a bright side, noting that during the melee nobody used “knives, glass, or other weapons.”

In 12 Years, China Built More Houses Than There Are In All of the U.K.

By Jan Nijman and Michael Shin, New Republic, Aug. 27, 2014

China’s urbanization has proceeded at an amazing pace in the past few decades. More than half the Chinese population is now living in cities. There are over 160 cities with more than a million inhabitants and at least six megacities: Shanghai (22 m), Beijing (18 m), Guangzhou (18 m), Tianjin (13 m), Chengdu (12 m), and Shenzhen (12 m). Shenzhen is often held up as the poster child of China’s revolutionary urban transformation: it went in three decades from a cluster of small fishing villages to a megacity.

Chinese megacities are different from those in the Global South, or those in the United States, in that so much of their development is government planned. This applies to massive residential areas, industrial zones, and business districts in existing cities but it also involves, even more spectacularly, the creation of entirely new cities from scratch, such as Ordos in the province of Inner Mongolia. Another example of a jaw-dropping megaproject is Yujiapu: The construction of a vast complex of some forty-seven skyscrapers outside Tianjin nicknamed “China’s new Manhattan,” a huge new district of finance and producer services planned to be finished in 2019.

In 2013, China counted six megacities, more than any other country in the world, with another eight cities having populations somewhere between 5 and 10 million. Most of today’s megacities emerged in the coastal provinces where urbanization and industrialization moved in tandem and at breakneck pace. The next generation of megacities, however, is likely to be found in China’s interior. Yujiapu, “China’s new Manhattan,” is located on the outskirts of the megacity Tianjin, about 100 miles south of Beijing.

It is estimated that from 2000 to 2012 China’s construction industry built twice as many new homes as there are today in the entire United Kingdom. And it’s not just homes. The growth of China’s megacities is accompanied by massive infrastructural investments in roads, highways, power grids, bridges, tunnels, airports, public transportation, high-speed rail, and so on. China is also in the middle of a huge south-north water diversion project, from the Yangtze River near Shanghai to the Yellow River, that feeds much-needed water to the megacities in the arid northeast, Beijing and Tianjin.

The dizzying pace of China’s urban growth is fueled by the country’s rapid industrialization and accompanying need for urban workers. But it also reflects a model of development where fast-increasing revenues are almost routinely channeled into construction and in which building companies have become powerful players; where local and regional governments are increasingly independent and invent their own pet projects; and where speculation in real estate has escalated and where the market is highly non-transparent. Urban growth in China, in this way, reflects a peculiar mix of central planning and capitalism—one that has in the past delivered unprecedented and spectacular growth but that may now be getting out of control in more ways than one. The debate is now in full swing.

China is planning for the biggest polycentric megacity in the world through the merging of major existing urban centers in the Pearl River delta, one of China’s premier manufacturing regions. The idea is that tighter regional integration in a single urban region would be more efficient and productive. The plan involves dozens of projects including high-speed rail connections between all nodes. The resulting megacity would be the size of Switzerland and count some 48 million inhabitants.

Since late 2012 it has become clear that tens of millions of new high-rise apartments, from the residential suburbs of Zhengzhou to the brand new city of Ordos, are sitting empty. The price range of most apartments is US$60,000-120,000 which is way out of reach for the average Chinese. A good number of the apartments are actually sold, but to well-off members of the new urban middle class who have no intention of ever living there and who speculate that prices will continue to rise as they have done in the past. Ordos is now referred to as China’s biggest ghost town. By early 2013 only 10 percent of the 300,000 new homes were occupied, while construction continued relentlessly.

China’s construction boom may not be sustainable. Real estate bubbles are common to economies all over the world and certainly the United States has had its share. But in China, everything is bigger and if this bubble does burst, it will be the biggest real estate meltdown the world has ever seen. That will not do away with China’s megacities, but it may change the way they are planned.

As Ebola Grips Liberia’s Capital, a Quarantine Sows Social Chaos

By Norimitsu Onishi, NY Times, Aug. 28, 2014

MONROVIA, Liberia—Some people are swimming in and out of the Ebola quarantine zone in this seaside capital. One man slips out every day to reach his job at a Western embassy. Another has turned his living room into a tollbooth, charging others to escape through his apartment at the edge of the cordoned area. Countless others have used a different method: bribing their way out with fees that soldiers determine according to a person’s appearance, circumstances and even gender.

Christian Verre, a 26-year-old clothing salesman, sneaked out through an abandoned building with his girlfriend, Alice Washington, 21, and eight friends. “Go back! Go back!” soldiers and police officers yelled, he recalled, but the conversation quickly took on a different turn: “What do you got?”

Those carrying goods handed over more than $8, Mr. Verre said. Traveling light, he was charged $4.25 for his girlfriend and about $6 for himself, “because I’m a man.” The couple now share a shack a few blocks outside West Point, the vast, sprawling slum that was placed under an Ebola quarantine last week.

“I didn’t want to stay in West Point for 21 days,” he said, referring to Ebola’s maximum incubation period. “I wouldn’t die of Ebola but of hunger.”

The five-month outbreak here in West Africa, already worse than all other Ebola epidemics combined, is for the first time spreading uncontrollably in a major city—one in which a third of Liberia’s 4.5 million people is estimated to rub shoulders, often uneasily. Though Ebola reached Monrovia three months after its appearance in the rural north, the city has become, in a few short weeks, a major focal point of the epidemic.

The outbreak has overwhelmed the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has won the Nobel Peace Prize and the admiration of leaders around the world. But her management of Liberia has long drawn criticism at home, and now her handling of the Ebola epidemic has presented her with a political crisis that is galvanizing her opposition.

“We suffering! No food, Ma, no eat. We beg you, Ma!” one man yelled at Ms. Johnson Sirleaf as she visited West Point this week, surrounded by concentric circles of heavily armed guards, some linking arms and wearing surgical gloves.

“We want to go out!” yet another pleaded. “We want to be free, Mama, please.”

International Ebola experts and her own health officials advised against imposing the quarantine in West Point, worried that it would antagonize a population whose cooperation the government desperately needs to stop the epidemic. But Ms. Johnson Sirleaf sided with the army, which was the strongest proponent of the quarantine and took the lead in enforcing it, especially in the first two days.

Isolating communities has succeeded in some rural areas in past outbreaks in Central Africa. But the quarantine of an entire urban neighborhood, where an estimated 60,000 to 120,000 people are crammed into crumbling shacks, has proved to be more than just porous. It has also led to deadly clashes with soldiers and may even be helping spread the disease, experts say, forcing people to crowd together for basic humanitarian aid, like food relief.

Cordoned off from the city, young men in West Point squeeze together in dense lines for rice and water, pushing and shoving, sweat mixing, saliva flying, blood sometimes spilling. One morning, a man in a wheelchair trying to cut to the front was beaten, stripped and left sprawled in the middle of the road.

“The quarantine is going to worsen the spread of Ebola,” said Dr. Muyembe, the director of the National Institute for Biomedical Research in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. “It’s difficult to understand the motivation behind it. It’s simply not a good strategy.”

No one knows yet why Ebola has succeeded in spreading at such an alarming rate here in the capital. Ebola has reached the capital cities of Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Conakry, Guinea—the two other West African nations most affected by the current outbreak—but the disease has been more effectively contained in those cities.

The first cases in Monrovia were reported only in June. Infections have multiplied quickly here in recent weeks, illustrating the speed with which Ebola can spread in a major urban area. The county containing Monrovia quickly registered the nation’s biggest death toll—now 274 deaths out of a national total of 754, according to the Ministry of Health.

“The Conakry outbreaks have been very small, and they haven’t exploded in Freetown,” said Dr. Armand Sprecher, an Ebola expert for Doctors Without Borders here. “So something is different in Monrovia. It’s something in the disease transmission behaviors in Monrovia that has done this. That’s my guess. We’ve never seen this kind of explosion in an urban environment before.”

Others point to a political system long dominated by an elite out of touch with the population and more focused on jockeying for power. Politicians, including members of the president’s own party, publicly expressed doubts about the extent of the outbreak and even accused her administration of exaggerating it to collect money from international donors.

Among Liberians, still grappling with the consequences of a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003, distrust of the government runs deepest in Monrovia’s poorest neighborhoods. Despite billboards and posters throughout the city declaring that “Ebola is Real,” many Liberians believe it is not.

A week into the quarantine of West Point, life has been getting harder for those without the means or connections to get out. The price of goods that find their way into the quarantine zone—rice, water, coal, prepaid cellphone cards, soap—has doubled.

“People are fighting for food to eat,” said Victor Nwanodu, who owns one of West Point’s most popular public toilets and baths. Business has dropped, he said, as people can no longer afford to pay for a hot bath.

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