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Africa

As soon as the Ebola outbreak started to spiral out of control in West Africa, Kwan Kew Lai felt obligated to help.

She's a physician who specializes in infectious disease. And for the last decade, she's dedicated herself to volunteering for international health emergencies. She works part-time at one of Harvard's teaching hospital just to have that flexibility.

For the first time, the world record in the marathon is now under 2 hours and 3 minutes, after Dennis Kimetto of Kenya tore through the course at Sunday's Berlin Marathon. Kimetto, 30, says he wants to set a new record next year.

"I feel good because I won a very tough race," Kimetto said after the finish. "I felt good from the start and in the last few miles I felt I could do it and break the record. I believe I can improve it further. I'd like to return and try to break it again next year."

As the Ebola outbreak gains steam, experts continue to deploy to the region.

Teams from Doctors Without Borders, the World Health Organization, the U.S. military and others are in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia assembling treatment centers and fighting the deadly virus.

There's one group of experts missing from the picture, says Ann Kelly, senior lecturer at the University of Exeter: anthropologists.

It is the biggest anti-Ebola effort yet.

After months of calls by aid workers for the global community to do something about the escalating crisis, President Obama has announced plans for a massive international intervention.

P.K. Lee / Medecins Sans Frontieres

A doctor from Southern Connecticut State University is sharing what he saw while spending time in Africa fighting the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.

The United States conducted airstrikes in Somalia late Monday, targeting the leadership of the al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab.

Libya's political crisis deepened today when the outgoing Parliament picked a new Islamist-backed government, leaving the country with two rival Parliaments and leaders, each with their own armed supporters.

The development comes just days after Islamist militias captured Tripoli's airport after weeks of fighting, and on the same day Libya's neighbors — despite calls for an intervention — urged the factions to sort out their differences three years after the ouster of President Moammar Gadhafi.

It was a photo that took the Ebola outbreak raging in West Africa and made it very personal. A little boy named Saah Exco, 10 years old, lies in a crumpled heap.

Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, is under nighttime curfew as that country struggles to contain the Ebola epidemic. On Wednesday, an entire neighborhood in Monrovia was quarantined, sealed off from the rest of the city by the government. The neighborhood is called West Point and it's where a holding center for patients suspected of having Ebola was attacked over the weekend. Patients fled, and looters carried off bloody mattresses and other possibly infected supplies. The NPR team in Liberia visited West Point on Tuesday. We spoke to correspondent Nurith Aizenman about the experience.

The illegal trade in ivory from African elephants has tripled in the past 15 years, to the extent that biologists fear for the creatures' future existence.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa won't be stopped until front-line health workers get more support, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said Friday at a news conference in Geneva.

After a unanimous vote by a committee of public health and risk management experts, the WHO decided to declare the outbreak an international public health emergency.

In a news conference Wednesday that was largely about international relations and trade, President Obama also addressed the limits of his own authority at home.

"I never have a green light," Obama said. "I'm bound by the Constitution; I'm bound by the separation of powers."

He didn't need a stretcher — not even an arm around his shoulder.

Kent Brantly, of Fort Worth, Texas, is the first person to be treated for Ebola on American soil. The 33-year-old family doctor surprised everyone Saturday when he walked out of an ambulance and into an Atlanta hospital.

Last week we learned that two Americans working in Liberia for a medical charity, Samaritan's Purse, were among those who had contracted Ebola. When their symptoms took a turn for the worse, the organization announced that the two were going to get experimental treatments. One was going to get a blood transfusion from a 14-year-old boy who recovered from the disease, the organization said; the other was to get an "experimental serum." What's that?

The head of the World Health Organization told leaders of the African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak that the deadly virus is "moving faster than our efforts to control it."

An explosion has rocked a northeastern Nigeria town where people had gathered to watch World Cup soccer on television, security officials say.

There were reports of casualties, but it was not immediately clear how many or whether anyone had been killed. Reuters quotes witnesses to the blast at the town of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, as saying they saw several trucks carry bodies to a local hospital.

The BBC says:

Kenya saw another deadly attack when armed militants stormed a small coastal town Sunday night, leaving at least 48 people dead.

Kenya's Standard Digital reports that police warned the death toll could climb higher. The Standard adds:

The Central African Republic is an impoverished, troubled country. Yet many people have cell phones that are used to spread information, rumors — and to organize protests.

Authorities have now instructed cell phone providers to suspend all text message services, a ban prompted after a group attempted to organize a civil disobedience campaign through SMS messages.

Text messaging has not worked since Monday, Reuters reports.

Kathrin Möbius / Wikimedia Commons

This hour, we feature three international voices with Connecticut connections. We begin with a local professor, who recently returned from serving as an elections monitor in Ukraine. He tells us about his experience and talks about what lies ahead for the country and its people. 

We also talk with a Nigerian-American artist, who has found a way to create beautiful prints using just his fingers and an iPad. We learn as well the story of a Polish hero, and find out what a top Polish official in America thinks of Ukraine’s chances for success.

More than 200 girls who were abducted by militants in Nigeria's northeast have been located — but Nigeria's military says it's too risky to try to free them by force. The news comes after reports that the government had been negotiating for at least some of the girls' release.

The U.S. and other nations have contributed manpower and resources to the search for the girls, whose mass kidnapping inspired an international campaign demanding their safe return. U.S. surveillance aircraft have taken part in the search, using sensors that can detect body heat in complex environments.

The group that took more than 200 girls from a Nigerian school last month released what it says is a video of the girls, along with demands that the government release militants from prison. The group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, says the video shows around 130 of the girls.

In the undated video released Monday, a crowd of girls is seen outdoors, arranged as if for a class photo. They are wearing the full-length hijab; some portions of the footage show them praying.

Nigeria is offering a $300,000 reward for anyone who can find the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist group Boko Haram. The U.S. is also pitching in with hostage negotiators and intelligence experts. President Obama says the U.S. will do everything it can to provide assistance to Nigeria.

The gunmen who abducted 276 girls from a school in Nigeria last month wore uniforms and said they were soldiers who had come to help, according to a girl who escaped her captors. The girls were led outside — and it wasn't until the gunmen stole food and set fire to the school that the girls became certain they were in trouble.

A rush-hour bomb blast Monday at a bus station near Nigeria's capital and other explosions that followed are thought to have killed more than 70 people and injured more than 120.

An Islamist group that believes Western education is sinful and takes other extremist stands is being blamed.

"Fingers are being pointed at Boko Haram, the terrorist network that has been threatening to attack Nigeria's capital," NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton tells our Newscast Desk.

There was a thin mist in the early morning air when we set off for the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on April 11, 1994. The genocide had begun four days earlier.

There were no flights into the country, so I and three fellow journalists crossed into Rwanda from neighboring Burundi, hitching a ride with a French priest who was shuttling Tutsi nuns out of the country. He took us to the town of Butare, where a Belgian inn keeper rented us an old cream-colored Renault and drew us a map of how to get to Kigali.

It's been 20 years since the Rwandan genocide, in which political ideology and ethnic hatred gave license to thousands of Hutus to kill Tutsi families. But ethnic ideology may not have unleashed the genocide if the international community had not stepped back and allowed it to happen.

One notorious episode of abandonment changed forever the role of the United Nations peacekeeper. Early in the morning of April 7, 1994, thousands of Tutsis began arriving at a school on the outskirts of the capital, Kigali, seeking the protection of Belgian soldiers stationed there for the U.N.

Under apartheid, trying to make an artistic political statement was difficult — artists were subject to scrutiny and even arrest. On the other hand, making a political statement was easy: All one had to do was put black and white actors on a stage together.

That's exactly what South African playwright Athol Fugard did back in 1961 with his breakout play Blood Knot. His newest play, The Shadow of the Hummingbird, is now onstage at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn.

The Small Things

A Connecticut-based non-profit has received a major grant to start construction on a village for orphaned children in Tanzania. The Small Things, based in East Haven and Africa, partners with the Nkoaranga Orphanage, which cares for youngsters from birth to five years old.

When they age out of the orphanage, some kids are able to move in with family members or live in foster homes, but most are sent away to boarding schools.

For fans of world music, South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo needs no introduction.

The group has been singing a capella together for 50 years, brought together by Joseph Shabalala, a young farmhand turned factory worker from the town of Ladysmith. He had a dream of tight vocal harmonies and messages of peace.

That dream developed, and the band came to the attention of Paul Simon, who had it record "Homeless" on his album Graceland. It introduced the group to the world.

Lulis Leal

The South African a capella vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo will be in Connecticut this weekend. The group began performing over 50 years ago during the period of apartheid, and became a worldwide sensation after performing on Paul Simon’s landmark Graceland album in the 1980s. 

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