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NEED TO KNOW:
Ebola is back and it only took a day.
The World Health Organization declared Thursday that the Ebola epidemic — the deadliest in history — was over. The defeat of the outbreak was a testament to global cooperation. US President Barack Obama even mentioned it in his State of the Union Speech as an example of his successful leadership in the world.
The WHO said it was able to make the announcement because the three hardest-hit countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — had reported no new cases for more than 40 days. That’s two incubation periods for the virus. So it was a safe bet that things had improved.
What a difference a day makes. Health officials in Sierra Leone soon after the WHO announcement reported that a body in the northern part of the country had tested positive for the virus. The victim was a 22-year-old woman. The discovery led officials to quarantine certain areas of the country.
The new victim doesn’t necessarily mean that an outbreak is back. The Ebola virus can live up to a year in survivors. And while the risk of transmission is very low, health officials say flare-ups of the disease from time to time would not be unusual.
So there’s no need to freak out again just yet.
WANT TO KNOW:
Oil prices around the world are the lowest they’ve been in more than a decade. That’s nice because it means cheap gas for a lot of us. But that’s not all it means. Falling oil prices have huge repercussions for us all.
All three benchmarks used by oil traders to determine the value of crude oil have been falling for the last 19 months. That’s kind of extraordinary. There are a few reasons for this. Most simply, there’s just too much oil in the market. US stockpiles are growing while OPEC member countries refuse to cut production.
Iraqi output is also increasing. And, soon, Iran will be reentering the picture, which will add a huge amount of oil to the markets. If anything, oil prices are going to keep dropping. Right now a barrel is about $30. Some analysts say it could fall to as low as $20 or even $10 a barrel.
The economic slowdown in China is not helping things. And neither is the strength of the dollar.
While the falling prices are good in some ways, mainly the cheap gas way, they are dangerous in others. They can cause turbulence in financial markets, for one thing. Even more worrisome, the economies of some countries depend on oil. Russia and Mexico, for instance, could really struggle if oil prices continue to decline. Then, of course, there are the companies that sell oil. Many of them are laying off thousands of workers.
STRANGE BUT TRUE:
You’ll never guess which city has air pollution as terrible as Beijing's. London! Well, parts of it anyway. And if you live in London maybe that doesn’t surprise you at all.
An area in southwest London managed to burn through its legal annual limit on toxic nitrogen dioxide emissions in just the first eight days of 2016, writes GlobalPost’s Allison Jackson. That’s stunning. It is literally breathtaking.
A recent report found that 12.5 percent of the city, particularly the center of the city, now exceeds legal limits of nitrogen dioxide. The levels it's hitting are killing people: Another study claims that almost 10,000 people in London died as a result of air pollution in 2010. Almost 6,000 of them died from exposure to too much nitrogen dioxide.
Britain has come a long way since the “Great Smog” of 1952. That disaster killed several thousand people in a matter of days. It led the country’s government to pass the Clean Air Act. It might be time for an amendment to those laws.