10 things you need to know about tapirs (psst: there’s a baby tapir named TED)

You don’t want to come between a tapir baby and its mother — the normally docile animals become fierce when offspring are threatened. Photo: Daniel Zupanc

If you want to call someone a “jackass” in Brazil, you call them a “tapir.” These large, forest-dwelling mammals look a bit like a cross between a wild boar and an anteater. And while they’re often derided, they are truly amazing animals.

Brazilian conservation biologist Patricia Medici is utterly devoted to tapirs. When this TED Fellow first started working with tapirs in 1996, nearly nothing was known about the elusive herbivores. Now, thanks in part to her research, we know that tapirs are central to the health of forest ecosystems — and that they are under threat.

This week, the Sixth International Tapir Symposium – the world’s only conference dedicated to tapirs — convenes in Campo Grande, Brazil, bringing together 100 conservationists, researchers, NGOs and governmental agencies from around the world to strategize about tapir conservation and survival. The symposium is the official conference of the IUCN’s Tapir Specialist Group, which Medici has chaired since 2000.

As the conference kicks off, we asked her to share some fascinating facts about her favorite animal. Here’s what she had to say, in her own words.

1. Tapirs are considered living fossils. They’ve been around since the Eocene, having survived several waves of extinction. There are four surviving tapir species: mountain tapirs from the Andean Mountains; Central American tapirs; Asian tapirs in Southeast Asia; and South American tapirs — the ones I studies most closely.

2. Tapirs are pregnant for more than a year. It’s actually pretty amazing that tapirs are still around at all, as they reproduce very slowly. They have a gestation period of 13-14 months and only one offspring is born at a time. If a population’s numbers decline — due to deforestation, disease, hunting or roadkill — it’s very unlikely it will ever recover. In fact, things can reach a point where there are no populations to speak of — only individuals lost in the landscape. Tapirs can be persistent and adaptable in isolation, which is why they’ve managed to survive for so long. But despite their resilience, their genetics get compromised.

3. Tapirs are South America’s largest land mammals. They can weigh up to 300 kilos, which is about half the size of a horse. This heft makes it possible for the animals to push trees over to get to fruits. While they’re generally gentle, docile animals, they can attack when feeling threatened — especially females with babies. Tapirs are also nocturnal, hiding in thick patches of forest to sleep most of the day, and waking at around 3:30 in the afternoon to forage. This combination of weight and night hours means that they are very difficult animals to study in the field — you can’t just follow a tapir and collect data. You have to capture, anesthetize and radio-collar them, set camera traps, and radio-track them during the night when they are active. This may be why it took so long for people to start studying tapirs seriously.

To read the full article, visit the TED Blog >>>


Does “after Ferguson” exist? photojournalist Jon Lowenstein on what he saw in Ferguson, Missouri

In Ferguson, Missouri, a grand jury will soon decide whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson for killing an unarmed teenager in August. Photojournalist Jon Lowenstein talks about what happened.

Photo: Jon Lowenstein

Soon after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, photojournalist (and TED Fellow) Jon Lowensteintraveled to Ferguson, Missouri, on assignment withTIME magazine to document the effect that the young man’s death had on the town. During those first volatile days and nights in Ferguson, Lowenstein also made a short film — commissioned by the UK’s Channel 4 — that starkly depicts the anger, tension and power disparities he saw there. (Watch the film, below.) Both police violence and and citizen protests have continued in the months since, and in St. Louis in October, another teenager was killed by another officer. We asked Lowenstein to tell us about his personal experience of Ferguson’s civil unrest.

You do a lot of work documenting poverty, violence and racial tension in Chicago and elsewhere, and you’ve seen a lot of police violence against people in poor communities. Yet Ferguson hit the world media in a way that most of your subjects have not. Why do you think this story in particular has drawn so much attention?

This issue has been brewing for many, many years. I think the police killings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and many other people over the last few years set the stage for the anger over Michael Brown’s shooting and the disproportionate use of police force in response to the subsequent protests. This kind of state power has been carried out against individuals in poor communities throughout the U.S. — but it seems Ferguson finally woke up people outside of those communities, not just in the U.S. but outside it, to what’s been going on.

Photo: Jon Lowenstein

It wasn’t just that Brown was unarmed, but that the police response was so disproportionate. Darren Wilson clearly made a mistake, and the police in Ferguson stood behind him 110%. If you compare it to the Eric Garner case, there was immediately admission that the chokehold was illegally used.

From what you observed on the ground, did you get the impression that, had Ferguson police apologized right away, things would have gone differently? Or was tension already so high that it would have happened anyway?

I think what got people really upset was the intense, militaristic response. They were drawing down on people in military garb with fully loaded weapons. But in general, the levels of social violence within the overall community of Ferguson are not high. There’s more in nearby St. Louis, where Vonderrit Deondre Myers, another young man, was recently killed by an off-duty police officer. So it started with Ferguson, and then it grew. People from other communities came in. Young people came out and took over the street. There was some looting, but the majority of the people just wanted to protest peacefully. On the first Thursday night that I arrived, people were cruising up and down W. Florissant, along with thousands of people protesting. Later that night is when the tear gas started.

It was a real mix of emotions for people. On the one hand, there was a release of a real sense of repression and anger directed at the reality that, out of the 53 police officers there, three weren’t white — as well as anger at the very punitive court system that exacts high court costs on mostly poor people. All these little things add up over time.

What was the makeup of the crowd in the streets, racially speaking?

It was mixed, but it was definitely more black folks overall. But they were from all over the whole St. Louis area, and then people from other communities all over the country started to arrive. This led to a kind of conversation on the street about whose voice was being heard, and the best way to protest.

At first it was young people who were protesting in a very confrontational way. “We want change; we want justice for Mike Brown.” When the police responded with a show of force, it became a head-to-head situation. Interestingly, there was very little political ideology in the message at first — it was just a pure moment of reaction and rage, of truly honest dissent. So the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” response was a very strong way to be in the face of the police, in the face of the guns. Then came a wave of preachers and older community leaders, who organized in Ferguson to try to keep the peace and, in some ways, to tamp down the more forceful and confrontational message being put forth by the young folks.

To read the full interview, visit the TED Ideas blog >>>



A rugged, mobile wifi device brings the web to schools in Africa and beyond

Now that BRCK has launched, Ushahidi is turning its attention to where it will be best put to use — in schools. Photo: BRCK

BRCK is best described as a “backup generator for the internet.” When it was announced, the idea of a rugged, rechargeable, mobile wifi device captured imaginations as a good way to bring robust connectivity to people in places with spotty infrastructure – particularly in developing countries.

The device is the brainchild of Nairobi-based technology company Ushahidi, and was created partly out of simple frustration with dropped internet connections and power outages in the city. After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, BRCK has now manufactured and shipped more than 1,000 units to 45 countries, many of them in emerging markets, and is catching up on the backlog of orders. So — what next?

Here, Juliana Rotich — a TED Fellow and founding member of Ushahidi — tells the TED Blog that BRCK is now looking for new ways the technology can be applied, and shifting focus from hardware to community action.

Tell us what’s new with BRCK.

Right now, we’re really excited about working with organizations in the education space and in the health space. We’re trying to figure out how to help people in these fields get resilient connectivity in support of their work.

To give an example, we’re working with Amaf school in Kawangware – which is an under-resourced area. The school has teachers and electricity — as well as Zuku, one of the most basic cable providers. The problem is that the internet connection here isn’t reliable, and if the power goes out, your internet goes out. So we’ve started to put BRCK in the school to provide a wifi hotspot and extend connectivity into the classroom.

How is this different from using a standard 3G connection?

BRCK is connected to 3G, but instead of only having the connection on one device, you can share it out among many devices. In the case of the school, it can handle 20 devices, so more students get access at one time. We’re also working closely with a company called eLimu that provides tablets with content as a learning tool for children.

In the case of health care, providers can — with BRCK — access software systems that can help gather patient information, helping to digitize patient data like health care records, ultrasound scans and educational content for community health care workers to make care provision more efficient. We’re about to deploy our first units into the Narok part of Kenya to five clinics to see how it works, with the help of the team at MedicMobile.

Basically, what we’re thinking about at BRCK is no longer the hardware itself. Now that the basic platform is done, what matters is constructive value.

To read the full interview, visit the TED Blog >>>

Ordinary people in an extraordinary moment: Portraits of the men + women caught up in revolution in Ukraine

TED Fellow Anastasia Taylor-Lind on the other side of the camera in Ukraine. She originally planned to photograph a series about the declining population in the country, but quickly realized that the protests were her story. Photo: Alexander Checkmenev

When Anastasia Taylor-Lind found herself in Kiev at the height of violence during Ukraine’s Independence Square protests, the documentary photographer decided to record not the fighting itself, but the human beings involved. Setting up a makeshift photo studio in an alleyway inside the barricaded square, she beckoned passers-by — the protesters themselves, and later the women who came to mourn their deaths — and captured their images on film, using a medium-format camera. The result is a hauntingly intimate, arresting set of portraits that gives a sense of the ordinary people in an extraordinary moment, and gender roles in conflict situations.

As events continue to unfold after Ukraine’s parliamentary elections last Sunday, Taylor-Lind tells the TED Blog about her experiences during those harrowing days.

Why were you in Kiev during the protests? Did you go to cover it as a photojournalist?

I initially traveled to Ukraine as part of a wider, long-term project I’m working on called Negative Zero, that looks at Europe’s declining populations. There are 19 countries inside Europe that have declining populations, and Ukraine is one of them. I had been to Romania, Serbia and Nagorno-Karabakh already, and Ukraine was next on my list. And actually, even before the war, Ukraine had the lowest life expectancy for men inside Europe.

So I traveled to Ukraine with the idea that I was going to photograph a story about winter deaths. I was going to look at TB dispensaries, AIDS hospices and palliative care — or the lack of it — for cancer patients, and the elderly. I arrived in Kiev and was researching how to facilitate access to these places that actually all lay in Donbass, in the east of Ukraine. It is a war zone today, but it was peaceful at that time. While there, I started photographing the protests in Maidan.

I knew the protests were going on. Corruption and depopulation are two very closely linked issues — and these were essentially anti-corruption protests, so already there was some relevance. Once I started photographing in Maidan, and particularly working on the portraits, I knew that I had to stay, and that my story was there.

I was in Ukraine again in August, and I tried to reach some of the places I had initially planned to photograph, but they were cut off by the fighting, so I wasn’t able to follow up my initial plan.

What are some factors for low life-expectancy in Ukraine?

Smoking, alcohol and drug addiction, poverty, poor access to health care — and now war.

Eugene, 22. Protestor from L’viv region. February 24, 2014. Photo: Anastasia Taylor-Lind

You’re primarily a documentary photographer. What made you decide, in that moment, to shoot portraits?

I had never done a portrait series before. But I made my decision to shoot portraits in reaction to the presence of so many other journalists in Kiev and in Maidan. It was a news event, and I was working alongside so many of my colleagues and my friends. That’s really unusual for me — I’m not used to working surrounded by other photographers. Of course, if I’d been the only photographer in Kiev, I wouldn’t have shot the portraits — I would have had to take reportage pictures to show you what was happening. But the presence of all of the other photographers made me understand that I didn’t have to tell the whole story as one individual — what I could do was contribute one small part to the collective recording and collective understanding of the events there. Acknowledging that and trying to find one thing — one way to talk about it, the way that only I could talk about it — led me to making these portraits.

I’d been in a news situation once before, in Libya, during the revolution in 2011, and I’d felt a similar frustration. It’s not necessary to repeat news pictures that other people are taking; as a photographer, you have to not just find something to say, but you have to find your own way to say it. I struggled with that in Libya, and then the idea came to me, I should make portraits — both of the journalists as well as the fighters. Because what I noticed in Libya was that we photographers were emulating the costumes of the rebels.

That sounds dangerous!

It’s something that happens naturally, I guess. Not that photographers were wearing combat clothing, but they had a similar look: hipsterish, skinny jeans, beards, the checked scarves. When I was in Kiev, I noticed the same thing: we all looked like the fighters, like somehow we were all choosing the same clothes. This reminded me that I’d had this idea to take portraits in Libya, but I hadn’t done it, because I’m not a portrait photographer, I’m a reportage photographer. This time, it was the photographers around me who said, “That’s a good idea, you should do it!” So in a way, the presence of all the other journalists pushed me to do something different from them. It helped me to push myself creatively.

All the people you photographed were in the middle of either fighting or mourning. How did you get them to agree to stand still for a portrait?

My portrait studio was by the barricades on Hrushevskoho Street, inside the barricade of Maidan. I set up my studio there every day in the same place. It was a collapsible metal frame with a black muslin curtain. I placed it in a bricked-up alleyway, so it was set back a little bit, and my fixer Emine had a gold reflector to bounce the light onto the subjects. We stood there all day.

That spot was on a thoroughfare leading to the barricades, the front line with the Berkut, the police. So we’d stop people as they were passing and ask them to come to the studio. After the worst days of violence — February 18 through the 20th, 2014 — all of these fighters were joined by tens of thousands of civilians in the square. Many women came to lay flowers for the people who had been killed — they started laying the flowers at the points where people had died, which you could tell because there was the blood on the ground. People set up small shrines and put crosses there. Eventually the whole square was covered in millions of flowers.

Natasha, 21. Mourner from Kiev. February 23, 2014. Photo: Anastasia Taylor-Lind

To read the full interview, please visit the TED Blog >>>



Art that floats: Constance Hockaday plans an immersive experience on a boat

Diagram of Hockaday’s proposed project Always Get on the Boat, a waterborne celebration of the Fifth Street Marina community in Oakland, California. Image: Julie Freeman

Constance Hockaday makes large-scale installations on open water. Identifying as a Chilean-American queer artist, Hockaday creates spaces that celebrate creative freedom and counterculture communities while defying gentrification. Take the Floating Peep Show — in which out-of-work drag queens and exotic dancers performed in the hulls of sailboats in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Now, Hockaday plans to turn a retired Coast Guard vessel into a venue for a huge waterborne multimedia spectacle. Always Get on the Boat will both celebrate and mourn the likely demise of the Fifth Street Marina — a longstanding alternative community on a post-industrial waterfront in Oakland, California, that is slated to be overrun by commercial development.

As she sets the plans for this new work, we talked to Hockaday about the struggle to make space for alternative culture, and why urban access to open water is so important.

In your talk at TEDGlobal 2014, you described the Floating Peep Show, and how it was inspired by two San Francisco counterculture establishments that had closed within months of each other — the Lusty Lady and Esta Noche. Tell us more about what these were.

The Lusty Lady was the nation’s only worker-owned, unionized adult entertainment business. It was a peep show, so you looked through a window at women — and people of actually many different genders, body shapes and looks — and you look at them without their clothes off, or erotic dancing. It was an institution, and it was located in what was known as the Barbary Coast. It felt a part of the old San Francisco, maybe one of the last places that felt like it was connected to that. It catered to the general public and also specifically to feminists, queers and radical sex culture, as well as kink and a very counterculture underground scene that’s played a huge part in the shaping of San Francisco. They shut down this past year.

Then, six months later, so did Esta Noche, a Latino gay bar in the Mission. It was spectacular, very special. It provided a place for gay Latinos who didn’t necessarily have a place in white gay-man world or in Latino culture. Everybody was welcome — it was like a queer Quinceañera every night.

Why did they shut down?

It was partly because clientele had moved out of the city because they couldn’t afford to be there. Social networking has also changed a lot of the way that queer culture interacts with each other. But these were cultural institutions.

So I rafted together four sailboats, and each one was a performance space. I contacted a bunch of Lusty Lady alumni, a bunch of drag queens from Esta Noche, as well as DJs and people from the Center for Sex and Culture. I hired them for four nights to perform inside the hulls of sailboats. We built a wall so that you couldn’t actually walk all the way into the boat: you could just step in. There was a money slot, and you could pay to see the performers. I told them to do whatever they wanted. Some of them did sex shows, some of them did strip shows, some of them did karaoke shows, some of them did super high fashion.

We picked people up in small inflatable boats, and transported more than 600 audience members across the San Francisco Bay to the sailboats in four nights. One night we did it near Dogpatch, in industrial San Francisco, and then three nights we did it in Clipper Cove, on Treasure Island. Everybody was there: all the old, curmudgeonly sailors who were all in charge of the sailboats, plus sex workers, drag queens, friends, art dorks, pervy kink dudes, tech kids. All hanging out in the middle of the water on these boats.

This was great, because it can be lonely and frustrating and confusing to be an artist in a place where artists are losing real estate, and losing a way to survive in that role in society. It’s hard enough to be an artist in general. It’s a scary life path to choose.

To read the full interview, visit the TED Blog >>>


What’s it like to live with locked-in syndrome? One family’s experience

Rabbi Cahana writes: “You have to believe you’re paralyzed to play the part of a quadriplegic. I don’t. In my mind and in my dreams every night I Chagall-man float over the city, twirl and swirl, with my toes kissing the floor. I know nothing about this statement of man without motion. Everything has motion. The heart pumps, the body heaves, the mouth moves, the eyes turn inside-out. We never stagnate. Life triumphs up and down.” Image: Kitra Cahana

Three years ago, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana suffered a rare brain stem stroke that left him fully conscious, yet his entire body paralyzed. It’s a condition known as “locked-in syndrome.”

Last month, TED Fellow Kitra Cahana spoke of her father’s experience at TEDMED (watch her talk, “My father, locked in his body but soaring free”), revealing how her family cocooned Rabbi Cahana in love, and how a system of blinking, in response to the alphabet, patiently allowed him to dictate poems, sermons and letters to his loved ones and to his congregation.

Kitra began documenting her father’s recovery in photographs and video, creating layered images that — in contrast to her photojournalistic work — are more abstract and emotional. “I wanted to try to find a way to take photographs that reflected the mystical things that were happening in the hospital room,” she says. “How do I explain, in a photograph, the power that another human being has to either add or detract from the healing of another person? I started a process of trying to tell a story in images.”

As Rabbi Cahana began to regain his ability to speak, Kitra started recording his voice. She is now in the process of developing this body of work for an exhibition to help raise support for his ongoing care and rehabilitation.

Below, see Kitra’s stunning images — accompanied by her father’s poems — and hear more about the thoughts behind them. But first, a Q&A with Rabbi Cahana himself, in which he describes his own experience.

My dream state is closer to G-d than any open-eyed watch of how foreshortened my wingspan might be. I feel awake and alive and follow through with what my body can’t seem to do. It’s not pretending when I say I believe this is only temporary. It is my open-aired will that makes these three years seem like only a blink. And still I see the world stumble by and I criticize its footwork. I still believe I walk more gracefully. After all, who among us is really sure-footed?

Rabbi Cahana, on being locked in

Can you tell us what happened, from your point of view?

In July of 2011, upon returning from a weeklong visit to my mother and sister’s home in Houston, I had a stroke that shut down my body into a complete paralysis besides my mind and my uneasy use of my weakened, blurred eyes. Locked-in syndrome, they called it. “The air weighs a hundred pounds,” I wanted to say to anyone who was interested.

I was not in discomfort. I felt the sensation of touch on me, and surrounding me. I was sure that I had a helmet over my head to safeguard me. My neck itself seemed to weigh fifty pounds. A mysterious tortoise-shell immediately clasped me and kept me safe whenever needed. With my torso secure, my limbs felt doubled — the wooden petrified ones tethered by leather straps to ones jumping and slapping around. It was my duty to bring these fiery, spirited, animated parts to merge with my outer deadwood. I worked incessantly through sleepless nights and tyrannical days to fuse the miniature into the large. I kept hearing sirens from outside the hospital interrupting this task. It took about a year until each member became whole again, until they became one.

It took me three and a half months to get off the artificial breathing machine. That was my first miraculous victory. The next task was to get my epiglottis active. They wanted to give me thickened food — puréed this-and-that — whereas I wanted raw vegetables and fruit. I was denied the right to drink water for months over months. Water is the source of life, that which I craved most as an elixir. I dreamt of it. I tasted it. I could sense the coldness and the raw beauty of thirst — parched parts quenched. These days I eat whatever I want, whatever I am blessed with. I have a good physio who stands me upright, and a speech therapist to bring out the voice.

How would you describe your mental and emotional state during the time of being locked in?

The stroke transcended me. I don’t know much about it except that I was replanted into the ground and found my discombobulated bodyparts spread across the landscape. My holy work of these last three years has been to re-unify from a central whirlwind of light — dizzying, upside-down, topsy-turvy. I want to grow this plant of mine out of the underground. I imagine this is what every seed sees before it proceeds.

Doctors live by science and statistics. Rabbis live by inner spirit and G-dliness. Nobody has ever asked me what it’s like to have a paralyzed digit — fingers that lead a motionless existence. I, too, refrain from asking: “How does it feel to handle dried-up bones? Do you fear a life without movement?” But this is the under-exchange of everyone in touch with those who can’t touch back. My biggest loss is the gentle caress that I once could give.

Throughout this process, the air I breathe has been full with open prayers of love, with eyes upon me, soothing, cooing soft-spoken kindnesses. My family wiggles my flapping shoulder blades to revive them. My congregation visits me as if agreeing that nothing has happened; there is no loss, there is only us today and our future. We all ease each other’s lives. I am wondrously happy for the privilege of seeing life in this dimension. I capture miracles in instants. Challenge is privilege. It is a privilege to live this story.

The images Kitra takes of you feel very vulnerable and reflective. Did your father-daughter relationship change dramatically after the stroke?

I am in awe of Kitra’s art and her desire to unstiffen what is locked up. She finds communities of the locked-away; she researches for breakthroughs and latest up-to-date machinery and medical advances. She speaks the language of negating the impossible. She champions me through pitfalls and traps of institutional clumsiness. She sees me already walking through the streets; she chaperones me down the halls of my returning. It is wondrous to never be defeated. Transformation is celebratory.

I loved Kitra the same in the instant of her birth. She created me as a father that day. I’ve only begun to emerge as she nurses me and nurtures me up to a sense of knowing what it means to be alive. My love for her and all my children has deepened in the emergency status. There is only intimate language in the presence of a precious person of your own issue. The privilege of parenthood is even more daunting than the responsibility. I am overwhelmed with the gratitude of being remade in my children’s image now that they are adults. I tell them I see G-d’s face when they present their loving glow. They are the Sabbath candles themselves.

You wrote texts to go with each of Kitra’s images. To whom are they addressed? They seem to be meditations on consciousness rather than communication. After your illness, was all your communication in this form?

After coming to consciousness, the mind narrowed to simple whispers. I was bare-faced and raw matter. The blessing ‘to bless’ in Hebrew is “Yisai Adonai Panav Elecha,” or “May G-d lift your countenance.” “Ya’er Panav Elecha v’Chuneka.” “May G-d’s light illuminate your face and bring forth your grace.” Or as King David said, “From G-d’s divine light we see light.” At the moment of arising from the stroke, I felt G-d lift my face and pierce into an inner glow. I spoke to that light and from it all at once. I understood that everyone gets this brilliant radiance early in life, and I know that it’s a mere temporary flash to return to again and again. This is enlightened consciousness. It’s a flash that I ever try to retrieve.

All my writings are love songs to G-d. I only have thanks. G-d has given me a future again. And this is a glimpse (the marvel) of eternity’s touch.

Your texts refer to a passionate love. Is this about the love between husband and wife, or love for the divine?

Both. G-d’s challenge to each human being is to reach the fullest extent of your capacity to love and ever grow it, ever test it, ever push it. That’s why we are created and how we continue creating ourselves. The passionate love of me to my wife, my wife to me, is an embodiment of the challenging love that the Almighty presents before us. How much of the heavenly abode do we bring into our love? Loving [my wife] Karen, she loving me, brings us to seek the Almighty’s presence. When I pray to G-d I ask to find Karen. When I’m near Karen, I ask her to help me discover the Creator of Life. This is love language. It doesn’t matter what state of disrepair the body is in. This is the heart’s fullest reach. Nothing has changed in our love for each other. I am alive because I live for Karen’s eyes upon me once again.

Rabbi Cahana writes, “Oh my wife. I belong to you. I see the skin fold hurry under your eyelids. I want to be your sleep. I walk along your long grace. Your bones are hard to everyone’s stance but not to my fingers’ touch. There are tender demands when you open your lips, your tongue, your teeth. Your teeth are teaching my empty throat. Am I only just now breathing? G-d has given me this. We are face, two legs, alike. We have no weight. Wherever we are, the world is turning. This is nonesuch time.” Image: Kitra Cahana

To read the full interview, including a Q&A with Kitra Cahana, visit the TED Blog >>>

We need to talk about Ebola: Jon Gosier launches EbolaDeeply.org

ebola_deeply_bipu5g4f_1411410576413 (1) “It all depends on what we do in the next few weeks,” said infectious disease expert Chikwe Ihekweazu, speaking on Ebola at TEDGlobal 2014. What happens next: will the number of new Ebola cases grow or plateau? And how can the world know the right thing to do?

Reliable news about the outbreak has been hard to find, especially for people fighting the disease in their homes and villages, but also for the rest of us who want to know what’s going on and whether to worry. Which is why TED Senior Fellow alum Jon Gosier has launched EbolaDeeply.org, a curated news feed that mixes journalism, experts and citizen reports to create a more informed global dialogue. We asked Gosier to tell us more:

What is EbolaDeeply, and what problem are you trying to solve?

EbolaDeeply.org is a nonprofit “impact journalism” project that aims to provide better information on the current Ebola outbreak to Western media, while providing health information and alerts to rural African communities. It was designed to give perspective on the outbreak by aggregating news, data, analysis and expert opinion. EbolaDeeply was founded by CNN anchorwoman Isha Sesay, who is from Sierra Leone, and Lara Setrakian, founder ofNewsDeeply and SyriaDeeply. Other people on the founding team include myself and Bahiyah Robinson (Appfrica), James Andrews (TrueStory) and Azeo Fables (NewsDeeply).

The flow of information on EbolaDeeply includes articles being published on the outbreak, citizen-generated information from social media, as well as expert information that’s been curated from academia, peer-reviewed studies, and so on. There’s a timeline of events. There are other contextual aids that let readers quickly grasp what’s going on.

We’re also convening global leaders at a very high level. (For instance, read this interview with Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.)

The other aspect of what we’ll do is an intervention strategy, a campaign to get public health information to the people on the ground in affected African countries.

What are some of the problems you’ve seen?

First of all, the Ebola outbreak was completely ignored for far too long. It was talked about a little bit, but not with the seriousness that it deserved. Part of this was just lack of information: Western media weren’t talking to local media, and local media had its own oversights. But once the story did become massive, the problem then became that the Western media outlets didn’t understand the complexities of what was happening in Africa, which feeds public ignorance.

If you go to CNN’s coverage of Ebola right now and visit the comments section, for example, you see a bunch of people saying all sorts of ignorant and enraging things. At the same time, they don’t really have any exposure to people who are actually living through this. It feels like the situation has become completely dehumanized.

Can you give me an example of what kind of misinformation is problematic?

Well, one misconception is that the medical capacity isn’t there in Africa to deal with this. It is, in some areas. For instance, Nigeria dealt with it very swiftly.

The real challenge is misinformation in the more rural communities — where, when loved ones die, it’s part of the custom to wash and bury the corpse. Washing someone’s body who’s died from Ebola is treacherous, right? Ebola is passed through fecal matter and blood and saliva. So that fundamental local misunderstanding is part of the problem.

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Lightsabers at the ready! Fellows at TEDGlobal 2014

Usman Riaz is not one to sit still. Between stage appearances at Monday’s Fellows talks, Tuesday’s late night performances, and the TEDGlobal main stage on Friday, filmmaker, composer and multi-instrumentalist Usman Riaz put together this little slideshow of Fellows (as well as TED Fellows director Tom Rielly and TED director Chris Anderson) on stage — revealing them as the Jedi masters they are. Farewell from Rio!

Fellows at TEDGlobal 2014: TED Fellows create data-rich, interactive maps of eye care in rural India (and Peru!)

At TED2014 in Vancouver, TED Senior Fellows Eric Berlow, David Gurman and Kaustuv De Biswas debuted MAPPR – a cloud-based tool that lets anyone create and publish shareable, interactive network visualizations on the web. (See “How data constellations tell a story: MAPPing the TED Fellows network and the conflict in Syria“) Since then, the company has embarked on a variety of projects, applying MAPPR to understand everything from creative traits among high performers in the United States to marine ecosystems off the coast of Chile and healthcare delivery systems in India.

Here at TEDGlobal, Senior Fellows Kaustuv De Biswas and Anthony Vipin Das, consultant ophthalmologist at the LV Prasad Eye Institute, India, sat down and created a MAPP for the Eye Institute’s 127 clinics spread across the four states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka, in India (see video above). The MAPP helps visualize the infrastructure and referral interactions in eye-care delivery services in real time. We asked them to tell us more.

First of all, what does the LV Prasad Eye Institute do?

Vipin: LV Prasad Eye Institute is a WHO Collaborating Center for Prevention of Blindness, a not-for-profit organization based in Hyderabad, India, that has served over 18 million patients in the past 27 years. Currently, we have 127 eye care centers across four states in India, with a unique innovative Eye Health Pyramid Model in which vision centers in remote rural villages feed into more centralized secondary centers called the Village Vision Complex — which are in turn connected to tertiary centers in cities. This referral pattern helps deliver eye care services more efficiently to the under-served in rural India.

How will MAPPR help your work?

Vipin: Using MAPPR, we were able to quickly develop a prototype MAPP of our network to visualize connectivity between the different centers, patient movement, referrals, and a host of other factors relating to how these centers interact. In the future, we will be able to integrate this with our existing electronic medical record system — EyeSmart EMR — for real-time analysis. Another exciting possibility would be to overlay performance metrics on top of these networks, which will let us design optimal solutions for eye care delivery.

Kaustuv, how else are you using MAPPR to help Fellows with health care projects?

Kaustuv: We’ve built a prototype for UK-based ophthalmologist Andrew Bastawrous [see his TED Talk: "Get your next eye exam on a smartphone"], who’s researching efficient healthcare delivery networks in Lima, Peru. It maps clinics, nursing homes, and hospitals as a large dynamic referral network. When a patient visits a clinic, they’re either serviced there or referred to another location based on the severity of the case and availability of trained staff. MAPPR immediately enables the visualization of these referral networks. Right now, we’re working on algorithms and interfaces to identify possible bottlenecks in the system, to help balance resources in real time. Along with Vipin, we’re also exploring opportunities with the Healthcare Innovation Cell, Ministry of Health, Government of Telangana, to apply modern data science approaches to healthcare delivery in India.

Below: see a MAPPR prototype of the Lima Network with Andrew Bastawrous.

Fellows at TEDGlobal 2014: Bassam Tariq’s short film tackles the polio problem in Pakistan

Bassam Tariq’s creativity knows no bounds. He broke his Ramadan fast and blogged about it at 30 Mosques in 30 States, filmed an award-winning documentary feature These Birds Walk in Pakistan about a runaway boy and an ambulance driver — then became a Halal butcher in the East Village. In his hugely popular talk on the Fellows stage at TEDGlobal 2014, Tariq explained that while these projects may seem bewilderingly disparate, what drives his work is a desire for an authentic representation of the humanity of the Muslim community.

Recently Tariq, who has a background in advertising, produced this moving short film (see above) as a public service announcement aimed at Pakistani migrant workers living in the United Arab Emirates, encouraging them to get their children vaccinated. The film is currently being shown in cinemas and migrant camps in the UAE, on in-flight entertainment on flights between the UAE and Pakistan, and on Pakistani television. He tells the Fellows blog about Pakistan’s polio crisis and how he approached this delicate yet important subject.

Why did you make this film? 

Polio in Pakistan is an escalating health crisis because people are reluctant to vaccinate their kids. Their mistrust stems from the discovery that the CIA had been pretending to vaccinate while gathering swab samples to find out where bin Laden and other Taliban leaders were. Because of that, the Taliban is now killing health workers.

After the success of These Birds Walk on the festival circuit, I was approached by the Gates Foundation and Image Nation, an Abu Dhabi film group behind Flight and big Hollywood movies, and was commissioned to do a piece that would speak to Pakistani men working abroad, as well as within Pakistan, about polio. Pakistani migrants are predominantly men, are usually marginalized and spoken down to when it comes to media messaging. So for us, it was important to be authentic and empathetic, and be a voice from home, when speaking about something as serious and urgent as polio.

A still from A Leap of Faith, Bassam Tariq's short film encouraging Pakistani fathers to vaccinate their children against polio.

A still from A Leap of Faith, Bassam Tariq’s short film encouraging Pakistani fathers to vaccinate their children against polio.