Monthly Archives: April 2009
Henry Niman we hardly knew ye. We loved your mash-up with swine flu updates, but the MSM has got you beat in slickness with its fancy designers. The NY Times now has a map up, as does the Washington Post. I think the Times map gets the data into my veins more efficiently, but suspect the Post map might be updated more regularly. Prove me wrong Times.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention Google’s Flu Trends, through which they’ve discovered that certain search activities are good indicators of flu activity. They’ve got an “experimental” trend map up for Mexico.
Via Josh at Passport, Bill Easterly assesses what to make of the fact that some Kenyans are apparently using anti-malaria mosquito nets “for purposes other than covering beds.” Such as, um, fishing and making wedding dresses. Officials are gearing up to prosecute the offending fisherfolk and dressmakers, a step that may seem like it addresses the issue, but whose ultimate efficacy Easterly rightly questions:
Perhaps net education might have a bigger payoff than prosecution. Net promoters seem to consistently underestimate the challenge of spreading the scientific knowledge about the risks of getting malaria from mosquito bites. Traditional views of disease persist.
The profit motive for misusing the nets — even though to do is to dangerously ignore one of the most effective anti-malaria strategies available — is unfortunately not surprising. But Easterly’s critique is right on — it’s not sufficient to just hand out nets (or condoms, for that matter); for these measures to have a demonstrable effect, the population needs to be shown how to use them and convinced that using them is reasonable and in fact imperative.
You should be all the more reassured to know that, included in the $10 that it takes to send a mosquito net through Nothing But Nets is a concerted program of training recipients how to use the nets. And in case you were wondering, transporting the nets is not all that easy either:
Bruce Jones and Michael O’Hanlon call attention to what they call the “world’s deadliest spot” — the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s not exactly news, but you know that if O’Hanlon — who found a niche, during the throes of the Iraq insurgency, in penning op-eds in major papers consistently asserting that the situation was improving — thinks things are going badly, then they really must be.
One major problem: the additional contingent of peacekeepers that the Security Council requested five months ago still have not been deployed. This, in turn, is because the UN still has not received enough offers for these troops. O’Hanlon and Jones:
The United Nations has called for precisely that [increased peacekeeping capability], requesting 3,000 more foreign troops on top of the 17,000 already in the country. But war-weary nations in the West are ignoring the request, leaving it to Egypt, Bangladesh and Jordan to volunteer troops.
None of these nations, alas, has the requisite airlift to deploy the troops, so the mission is still understaffed. And at just this moment, a dispute between President Joseph Kabila of Congo and India’s military command threatens to cause the departure of Indian troops from the U.N. mission, which would hobble the mission at a critical time. [emphasis mine]
The authors go on to advocate a more robust U.S. footprint in providing military assistance to MONUC and in lobbying Europe to offer troops. “Congo is not Darfur,” they argue, and the Congolese government has not objected fervently, as Sudan’s has, to the inclusion of European peacekeepers.
U.S. and European troops — and especially supplies and logistical assistance — would be welcome, of course, but we should not be picky in where MONUC peacekeepers come from. What we should be picky about is making sure that the force’s joint operations with the Congolese, Rwandan, and Ugandan governments follow established humanitarian principles. And just because it is facing a shortage of troops, that isn’t reason for MONUC to turn to an indicted war criminal; the involvement of Bosco “the Terminator” Ntaganda in these operations should be clarified and made public.
Jeffrey Horowitz, writing for The Atlantic‘s new food channel, gives a great rundown of the ultra-Orthodox Israeli Deputy Health Minister’s refusal to call a swine a swine. The Minister, Yakov Litzman, has said, while chomping on freedom fries, that Israel will call swine flu “Mexican flu” because, of course, pigs aren’t kosher (boy would he hate Corby).
Who cares what they call it…beside the fact that it’s generally ridiculous, the virus is now transmitted by humans not swine, and that crazed stances like these lead to pork shops being “firebombed out of certain neighborhoods”? Horowitz makes the argument that the general refusal to acknowledge a porcine presence in Israel makes for unregulated hog farming practices, the exact kind that are now being questioned at Smithfield Foods in Mexico. He concludes:
By refusing to recognize the source of the problem and regulate irresponsible farm practices in Israel, future swine viruses could emerge from Israel, and could wind up bearing an Israeli moniker–a much more humiliating prospect.
UPDATE: Israel’s not the only one that’s got beef meat-related issues with the name of the disease. The other objector: the U.S. pork industry.
(image from flickr user David Blaine under a Creative Commons license)
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) released a new report on the human rights situation in Iraq. According to the summary, gender based violence remains one of the “key unaddressed problems throughout Iraq.” Honor killings, female genital mutilation and even female self-immolation have occurred with problematic frequency over the last year.
UNAMI has reported 139 cases of gender based violence 15 in the last six months of 2008 in five governorates in northern Iraq16. Out of the total number, 77 women were seriously burned, 26 were victims of murder or attempted murder and 25 were cases of questionable suicide.
UNAMI… has been alerted by local advocates for women’s rights in the [Kurdish Regional Government] of the frequency of the so-called “honour killings” and cases of female self-immolation in the Kurdish region, despite efforts from the KRG to raise public awareness regarding violence against women. In cases reported to UNAMI, women have been attacked, wounded and left to die and the death characterised as “accidental” by family members. For example, in the village of Pangeen Qushtapa sub-district), 16-year-old Kanyaw Maghdid and her sister 22-year-old Lafaw were shot by their father on 23 September. Lafaw told police that her father shot his daughters to “protect their honour” when he found out about the relationship one was having with a boy.Kanyaw died on the spot while Lafaw was admitted to a hospital but later died. At the writing of this report, an investigation has been open but no arrest made yet. It has also been reported to UNAMI that the suspected killer of D’waa Aswad Khalil, a 17-year-old Yezidi girl publicly stoned to death in April 2007 in the village of Bahzan in the Ninawa governorate17 was seeking traditional reconciliation with the victim’s family to avoid criminal charges.
Photo from Flickr user jamesdale10
The Obama administration on Tuesday revoked a rule enacted toward the end of the Bush administration that it said undermined protections under the Endangered Species Act.
Federal agencies must “once again consult with federal wildlife experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — the two agencies that administer the ESA — before taking any action that may affect threatened or endangered species,” the Interior and Commerce departments said in a statement.
“By rolling back this 11th hour regulation, we are ensuring that threatened and endangered species continue to receive the full protection of the law,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, whose department oversees Fish and Wildlife.
This is a huge victory for endangered species throughout the United States, and a huge victory for conservation groups, including Audubon, that argued strongly that the Bush Administration changes dangerously weakened protections for birds and other wildlife on the verge of extinction.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.