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News in the Humanosphere: Mixed messages on Ebola outbreak

Ebola virus

The Ebola outbreak in Africa is either going to spread across the planet like a grassfire or self-limit due to the natural constraints of viral transmission. Humanosphere bets on the latter. The World Health Organization, which initially tried to downplay the threat of this outbreak that reportedly started in Guinea, West Africa, issued a statement this week saying Ebola’s spread may be much worse than current estimates. Laurie Garrett, writing in Foreign Policy, says the world is not nearly scared enough at the potential for this outbreak to spin out of control. A Fox News poll finds 6 out of 10 Americans are plenty worried about Ebola spreading in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the WHO, are flooding social media and any outlet they can to emphasize that the numbers in this outbreak are still relatively small (as compared to other, much more likely killer diseases … like TB or even measles) and that the likelihood of a large, global pandemic is almost nil. Ebola is still very difficult to spread from person to person, only from direct contact and only symptomatic people transmit the virus (unlike many other infectious diseases). The WHO reminds everyone that Ebola is not an airborne virus and the risk of transmission via air travel is quite low. Still…Korean Airlines suspended its flights to Kenya over Ebola concerns (AJE

Nouri Al Malaki Goes (Mostly) Gentle to the Night…This is one less crisis Iraq has to deal with. “Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said Thursday night that he had agreed to relinquish power, a move that came after days of crisis in which his deployment of extra security forces around the capital had raised worries of a military coup. Mr. Maliki’s decision held out the prospect of a peaceful transition of power, based on democratic elections and without the guiding hand of American military forces, which would be a first in modern Iraq’s troubled history of kings, coups and dictatorships.” (NYT
 Boko Haram in Nigeria kidnaps boys. Witnesses say Boko Haram militants kidnapped about 100 boys and men from a remote town in northeastern Nigeria on Aug. 10.  (Guardian)

Warnings of famine in South Sudan.  At least 1.1 million people are facing emergency food shortages. And – until fighting actually stops – aid agencies do not have access to tens of thousands of people who need their help. There are no indications from the field that the clashes will stop any time soon. On Tuesday, during a visit of the United Nations Security Council to South Sudan, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power shared reports they had received ‘of more arms being brought into this country in order to set the stage for another battle.’” (IPS

What’s next for Uganda’s anti-gay law? (IRIN

Middle East-North Africa
 The USA and UK are calling off a mission to rescue stranded Yazidis on Mount Sinjar, saying their condition was better than expected. (Guardian

Turkish authorities were moving hundreds of Syrian refugees Thursday from the southern city of Gaziantep to camps, after three nights of violent protests by locals angered by their presence, reports said.

ISIS is making key gains in Syria, despite coming under assault in Iraq (Telegraph

At least two people were killed in fighting between Egyptian security forces and protesters on the first anniversary of the killings of hundreds in the forceful dispersal of sit-ins set up by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi. (Bloomberg


The UN says an estimated 500,000 Afghan children are suffering from malnutrition (OCHA

Pakistan: Police battled gunmen armed with automatic weapons, grenades and wearing suicide vests after thwarting two separate attacks on military airbases, killing six of the attackers. (the News, Pakistan

An investigative report by Al Jazeera uncovers how “voluntourism” in Cambodian orphanages may be exploiting both the children and the volunteers.

Bangladesh’s garment industry wrestles with global pressure to improve safety while remaining economically viable. (Global Post

The Americas

The late entry of environmentalist Marina Silva into Brazil’s presidential race following the death of her running mate could rally young voters and those upset over a sluggish economy and corruption, but introduce new uncertainty for investors wary of her record of unpredictable decisions. (Reuters

The crisis of small scale fishing in Latin America (Global Voices 

Opinion - Blogs
Can a New Prime Minister Save the Central African Republic?

Iraq’s Sex Slaves (Global Dispatches Podcast

To Unlock Innovation, Procurement is Key (Devex

Want to End the Crisis of Sexual Violence Against Women? Fix the Men. (Bina Shah in Al Jazeera


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.