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Maybe Money Does Grow On Trees After All

Feb 3, 2017

African farmers have a secret economic weapon: trees.

Households in several African countries grow more trees than scientists previously realized. And those trees may account for an average 17 percent of a farm's income, according to a study funded by the World Bank's Program on Forests and published online in January in Forest Policy and Economics.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Federal health officials may be about to get greatly enhanced powers to quarantine people, as part of an ongoing effort to stop outbreaks of dangerous contagious diseases.

The new powers are outlined in a set of regulations the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published late last month to update the agency's quarantine authority for the first time since the 1940s.

Humans get along pretty well with most microbes. Which is lucky, because there are a lot more of them in the world than there are of us. We couldn't even live without many of them. But a few hundred have evolved, and are still evolving, to exploit our bodies in ways that can make us really sick. These are the microbes we call germs. Think plague, flu, HIV, SARS, Ebola, Zika, measles.

This is a series is about where germs come from. In this first of three episodes, we see what our early encounters with germs may have been like — and how germs first got the upper hand.

Business students are used to thinking about how to sell a new shampoo or a new app for a phone.

Last week they were asked to put their strategic brains to another use: Figuring out the best way to convince health workers and new parents in Nigeria to apply a potentially life-saving antiseptic to the baby's umbilical cord stump.

That was the challenge at a competition at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management that drew MBA students from 11 business schools around the country.

International humanitarian aid organizations say the travel restrictions issued by President Donald Trump on Saturday could have a dramatic impact on how they operate.

The Trump executive order temporarily bars all refugees and suspends — for the next 90 days — entry to the U.S. by citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The White House says the order was intended to protect the nation from "foreign terrorist entry."

It's an Indian dish you're unlikely to find in India.

Bunny chow is essentially a kind of bread bowl. You take a loaf of white bread, hollow out the middle and fill it with a curry, either vegetarian beans or some type of meat.

But not rabbit. The name "bunny" comes from the corruption of an Indian term referring to merchants. The dish has its origins in Durban, South Africa's third-largest city.

If you get malaria somewhere in the tropics and end up in a British hospital, the treatment is pretty simple.

Or at least it used to be.

At the northern border of Somalia and Ethiopia, a group of teenage boys forced two girls — aged 14 and 16 — into a car, drove them to another location, stripped them and raped them.

The incident occurred on December 6. This weekend, a community court charged the perpetrators with thousands of dollars in fines, as well as up to 200 lashes and 10 years in jail. That's an unexpected outcome in a country where the perpetrators of rape often pay a small fine and walk free.

When MoniCa Singh, then 19, went to visit her parents in Lucknow, India, in 2005, she had just finished her first year at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi. She hoped to complete her degree and pursue a career in fashion design.

Then her life changed in a flash.

As she was driving down the street, a long-time acquaintance waved and motioned her to roll down her car window. Over the years, she had refused his persistent marriage proposals but his sociable gesture seemed to signal that was in the past. So why not?

While the world becomes more wired through laptops, tablets and mobile phones, a mountain of electronic waste — or e-waste — is also growing. The greatest contributor to that stock of e-waste is Asia, according to a report published last week from United Nations University.

The World Health Organization's next director-general will inherit an ailing institution with funding problems — and a bad reputation for how it's handled global health emergencies.

It's a shocking statistic that caught the world's attention last week: Just eight men own the same wealth as 3.6 billion people living in poverty — that's half the population of the planet.

"I never thought I can make a film for Oscar!" says Khaleed Khateeb.

Khateeb is a volunteer for the Syria Civil Defense forces, rescuing those caught in the crossfire of the civil war. He began filming scenes of the rescue missions and posting them on YouTube.

When filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel decided to make a documentary about the group, he got in touch with Khateeb, gave him training and better camera equipment and told him to keep on filming.

You've probably heard of antibiotic resistance — germs that can resist the drugs designed to wipe them out.

Now there's a new kind of resistance to worry about — fungal infections that are resistant to treatment.

It's President Donald Trump's first official act on the abortion issue. On Monday, the new president signed a presidential memorandum reinstating the "Mexico City" policy — barring U.S. aid from any group that provides or "promotes" abortion overseas. The policy dates to 1984, when Ronald Reagan unveiled it at a United Nations Conference in Mexico City. The Trump version is even broader than the incarnations that previous Republican presidents have adopted.

What does this mean in practice? To help make sense of it we've put together an FAQ.

It is a very attractive truffle.

It's made of the usual ingredients — cocoa butter, sugar, chocolate — with a not-so-typical addition. Thirty grams of dried tomatoes from Nigeria.

And it was served at the World Economic Forum last week in Davos, Switzerland, with a very specific goal in mind: "to raise awareness on food waste and hunger," as stated in a press release.

That's a big job for a bonbon — and it's the reason for the tomatoes.

Right up until he absolutely had to leave, 24-year-old nurse Abu Hussam was determined to stay in Aleppo. Months of airstrikes and assaults couldn't dissuade him — his community needed him.

When forces supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad moved in to take control of the city last month, Abu Hussam was among the last of the civilians evacuated from the city. He couldn't stay, because the Syrian government has persecuted medical staff and their families for treating rebels.

This post has been updated to include more information about the evaluation work done by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

One of the biggest-ever overseas successes for Disney is grounded in a real-life story out of India.

This post has been updated with additional information on the court ruling.

A teenager who sued the Indian government to gain access to a new drug against multidrug-resistant tuberculosis was granted her petition in a ruling handed down by the New Delhi High Court on January 18, according to the family lawyer. The decision was widely reported in the Indian press.

This weekend, hundreds of thousands of Americans will be taking to the streets — some to celebrate, some to protest the inauguration and others to demonstrate for issues that the president-elect cares about.

If you happen to be one of those people, you might have this nagging question in the back of your mind: Will any of it make a difference?

One of the big questions about extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis is whether this severe form of the disease is on the rise due to a failure of medications or if it's spreading through the air.

A new study of more than 400 patients in South Africa finds, unfortunately, that the answer appears to be the latter. Airborne transmission is the driving force behind a spike in extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) in South Africa, according to a report just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A Superbug That Resisted 26 Antibiotics

Jan 17, 2017

"People keep asking me, how close are we to going off the cliff," says Dr. James Johnson, professor of infectious diseases medicine at the University of Minnesota. The cliffside free fall he is talking about is the day that drug-resistant bacteria will be able to outfox the world's entire arsenal of antibiotics. Common infections would then become untreatable.

When Kennedy Odede was a kid, he lived on the streets of a slum in Kenya.

He'd grown up in tough circumstances. His stepfather was violent. There wasn't enough food to go around. He wasn't sent to school. A friend convinced him he'd do better out on his own. He'd have his freedom, he'd be able to find his own food.

So when he was around 10, Kennedy left home. His new world was a world of violence. He was caught up in gang fights. He remembers being stabbed in the arm: "I still have the scar," he says.

Charts can seem dull. But not to data scientist Tariq Khokhar at the World Bank. When he looked through a year's worth of charts, graphs, maps and more, he was excited by the numbers.

For example, although the world's population has increased by 2 billion people since 1990, there are 1.1 billion fewer people living in extreme poverty, under $1.90 a day (highlighted in blue in the chart below). "I'm amazed at the progress," Khokhar says.

Editor's Note: The photos in this story may be distressing to some viewers.

More than one year later, the photo that woke up the world to the Syrian refugee crisis remains indelible: three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying face down on a sandy beach in Turkey. The Syrian boy's lifeless body had washed ashore after the rubber boat carrying him and his family — to what they had hoped would be new lives in Greece — capsized.

A poem written by a Chinese surgeon lamenting the medical effects of smog, called "I Long to Be King," is going viral on Chinese social media. Told from the perspective of lung cancer, the poem takes an apocalyptic note:

Happiness after sorrow, rainbow after rain.

I faced surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy,

But continued to chase my dream,

Some would have given up, but I will be the king.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered government agencies to expand access to contraception, especially for poor women. By 2018, he instructs, all poor households in the country should have "zero unmet need for modern family planning."

Duterte's executive order, signed Monday and announced on Wednesday, is the latest development in a long battle over birth control in the majority-Catholic Philippines. It pits the president, who says family planning is critical for reducing poverty, against the country's Supreme Court and Catholic leadership.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, the medical humanitarian organization, has added a basic item to its medical bag of drugs, stethoscopes and syringes: food.

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