An Ebola death in Africa’s largest city has put several developed nations on high alert, as West Africa battles the deadliest-ever outbreak of the disease. Patrick Sawyer collapsed in an airport in Lagos, Nigeria and died several days later, highlighting that air travel poses a risk of international contagion. While an outbreak in the developed world is unlikely, Sierra Leone and Liberia have declared states of national emergency, closing schools and quarantining entire communities in an attempt to control the virus, which has already claimed over 700 lives.
The Presidential Daily Brief
President Obama hosts the inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit starting Monday, with several dozen heads of state expected to attend. While discussion topics include women’s rights, wildlife trafficking and other social issues, there’s no avoiding the Chinese elephant in the room. Already, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has promised that $900 million in investment deals will be unveiled during the summit, demonstrating Washington’s eagerness to counterbalance Beijing’s African spending spree.
Even Iran has warned Russia to take Western threats seriously, but Putin and his supporters are standing firm in the face of strict sanctions levied by the U.S. and EU this week. While sanctions eventually worked in Iran, Russia is a far more powerful economic player and, as a key energy supplier, can put the squeeze on its European neighbors. What’s more, given the strength of nationalist sentiment in Russia, the Kremlin may continue its encroachment on Ukraine even if it means facing an especially harsh winter.
European states have become al-Qaida’s primary financiers, according to the New York Times, having secretly paid $165 million in ransom money since 2008. Under the guise of providing development aid, governments use multilayered transfer systems to ensure the release of their citizens. Critics argue that European governments are not only underwriting terrorists, but also incentivizing kidnapping. And while their citizens usually get out alive, captives from the U.S. and U.K. — both of which refuse to pay ransoms — haven’t fared so well.
Argentina is in default for the eighth time in its history. The breakdown occurred over a dispute with a small group of “vulture” investors, who bought up cheap Argentine bonds after the 2001 default. These New York hedge funds demand full payment, but the government accuses them of extortion and insists that it would be illegal under Argentine law to pay investors who won’t restructure. The markets seem unperturbed by the news, but ordinary Argentinians will be hit hard as the cost of borrowing skyrockets.
Gaza fighting intensifies as ceasefire collapses. (The Guardian)
Obama acknowledges post-9/11 torture. (USA Today)
House Republicans pass border bill. (Politico)
Dozens die in Chinese factory explosion. (BBC)
Job growth continues slower than expected. (NYT)
Female condoms do everything male ones do — but in many ways, they’re better. They can be put in place hours before to avoid interrupting moments of passion, and they give women greater control over their sexual health. While they’ve taken off in developing countries, this particular contraceptive still scares squeamish Americans. The problem is that the products, which have a tendency to rustle, are utilitarian rather than sexy. Producers will need to prioritize the users’ pleasure if they want to win young American … um … hearts.
What do an Indonesian volcano, temperamental British weather and Frankenstein’s monster all have in common? The fiery, climate-altering eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 made for one of the strangest summers Europe has ever had — picture tremendous storms, rain-lashed forests and churning seas. Gillen D’arcy Wood has linked this eruption to a string of historical events, including the storytelling session in Lord Byron’s house on Lake Geneva, which provided Mary Shelley (then Godwin) with the inspiration for Victor Frankenstein and his monster.
Developing life-saving new drugs requires human tests, but should they be conducted on society’s most vulnerable members? Contracted research companies, which collectively make over $100 billion a year, often go straight to homeless shelters to find test subjects without insurance, incomes or strings attached. When testing drugs like antidepressants and antipsychotics, researchers seek out people with mental illnesses, offering paltry payment and no therapeutic benefits. Ethically, this is treacherous ground, but the confluence of private-sector interests means regulation is patchy at best.
World War I may have seen the birth of Uncle Sam posters and the modern American military — but the U.S. has yet to own up to the dark side of its home front. During the war, the U.S. interned about 6,000 of its own (usually German-speaking) residents, spied on about half a million more and deported others to war-torn Europe. The federal government also seized around half a billion dollars’ worth of private property for the war effort, contributing to job losses and infrastructure failures.
Once upon a time, New York City was the unchallenged Mecca of prep basketball. The best kids played there, the best colleges recruited there, and the NBA All-Stars came from there. But today, the talent pool in the city is weaker than ever, and not a single New Yorker was taken in the first round of June’s NBA draft. Locals blame a host of factors, including skateboarding, video games, sub-par facilities and a lack of hometown pride, while the weather and weightlifting culture in southern states also hurts NYC’s chances.