World Malaria Report 2014: Dramatic progress (no call for DDT)

December 9, 2014

World Malaria Report 2014 dropped this week.  It’s the annual report from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the fight against malaria, the problems, critical needs — and this year, wonderful news of progress.

Cover of WHO's World Malaria Report 2014, a child, and the red blood cells the malaria parasites attack.

Cover of WHO’s World Malaria Report 2014, a child, and the red blood cells the malaria parasites attack.

Copies of the report in .pdf format come in English, French and Spanish.  A host of supplemental materials and statistical compilations accompany the report every year.

The World Malaria Report 2014 summarizes information received from malaria-endemic countries and other sources, and updates the analyses presented in the 2013 report.

It assesses global and regional malaria trends, highlights progress towards global targets, and describes opportunities and challenges in controlling and eliminating the disease. The report was launched in the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament on 9 December 2014.

The press release on the report, from WHO:

Scale-up in effective malaria control dramatically reduces deaths

News release

The number of people dying from malaria has fallen dramatically since 2000 and malaria cases are also steadily declining, according to the World malaria report 2014. Between 2000 and 2013, the malaria mortality rate decreased by 47% worldwide and by 54% in the WHO African Region – where about 90% of malaria deaths occur.

New analysis across sub-Saharan Africa reveals that despite a 43% population increase, fewer people are infected or carry asymptomatic malaria infections every year: the number of people infected fell from 173 million in 2000 to 128 million in 2013.

“We can win the fight against malaria,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO. “We have the right tools and our defences are working. But we still need to get those tools to a lot more people if we are to make these gains sustainable.”

Between 2000 and 2013, access to insecticide-treated bed nets increased substantially. In 2013, almost half of all people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa had access to an insecticide-treated net, a marked increase from just 3% in 2004. And this trend is set to continue, with a record 214 million bed nets scheduled for delivery to endemic countries in Africa by year-end.

Access to accurate malaria diagnostic testing and effective treatment has significantly improved worldwide. In 2013, the number of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) procured globally increased to 319 million, up from 46 million in 2008. Meanwhile, in 2013, 392 million courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), a key intervention to treat malaria, were procured, up from 11 million in 2005.

Moving towards elimination

Globally, an increasing number of countries are moving towards malaria elimination, and many regional groups are setting ambitious elimination targets, the most recent being a declaration at the East Asia Summit to eliminate malaria from the Asia-Pacific region by 2030.

In 2013, 2 countries reported zero indigenous cases for the first time (Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka), and 11 countries succeeded in maintaining zero cases (Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan). Another 4 countries reported fewer than 10 local cases annually (Algeria, Cabo Verde, Costa Rica and El Salvador).

Fragile gains

But significant challenges remain: “The next few years are going to be critical to show that we can maintain momentum and build on the gains,” notes Dr Pedro L Alonso, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme.

In 2013, one third of households in areas with malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa did not have a single insecticide treated net. Indoor residual spraying, another key vector control intervention, has decreased in recent years, and insecticide resistance has been reported in 49 countries around the world.

Even though diagnostic testing and treatment have been strengthened, millions of people continue to lack access to these interventions. Progress has also been slow in scaling up preventive therapies for pregnant women, and in adopting recommended preventive therapies for children under 5 years of age and infants.

In addition, resistance to artemisinin has been detected in 5 countries of the Greater Mekong subregion and insufficient data on malaria transmission continues to hamper efforts to reduce the disease burden.

Dr Alonso believes, however, that with sufficient funding and commitment huge strides forward can still be made. “There are biological and technical challenges, but we are working with partners to be proactive in developing the right responses to these. There is a strong pipeline of innovative new products that will soon transform malaria control and elimination. We can go a lot further,” he says.

While funding to combat malaria has increased threefold since 2005, it is still only around half of the US$ 5.1 billion that is needed if global targets are to be achieved.

“Against a backdrop of continued insufficient funding the fight against malaria needs a renewed focus to ensure maximum value for money,” says Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. “We must work together to strengthen country ownership, empower communities, increase efficiencies, and engage multiple sectors outside health. We need to explore ways to do things better at all levels.”

Ray Chambers, who has served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria since 2007, highlights the remarkable progress made in recent years. “While staying focused on the work ahead, we should note that the number of children dying from malaria today is markedly less than 8 years ago. The world can expect even greater reductions in malaria cases and mortality by the end of 2015, but any death from malaria remains simply unacceptable,” he says.

Gains at risk in Ebola-affected countries

At particular risk is progress on malaria in countries affected by the Ebola virus. The outbreak in West Africa has had a devastating impact on malaria treatment and the roll-out of malaria interventions. In Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the 3 countries most severely affected by the epidemic, the majority of inpatient health facilities remain closed, while attendance at outpatient facilities is down to a small fraction of rates seen prior to the outbreak.

Given the intense malaria transmission in these 3 countries, which together saw an estimated 6.6 million malaria cases and 20 000 malaria deaths in 2013, WHO has issued new guidance on temporary measures to control the disease during the Ebola outbreak: to provide ACTs to all fever patients, even when they have not been tested for malaria, and to carry out mass anti-malaria drug administration with ACTs in areas that are heavily affected by the Ebola virus and where malaria transmission is high. In addition, international donor financing is being stepped up to meet the further recommendation that bednets be distributed to all affected areas.

Note to editors

Globally, 3.2 billion people in 97 countries and territories are at risk of being infected with malaria. In 2013, there were an estimated 198 million malaria cases worldwide (range 124-283 million), 82% of which were in the WHO African region. Malaria was responsible for an estimated 584 000 deaths worldwide in 2013 (range: 367 000 – 755 000), killing an estimated 453 000 children under five years of age.

Based on an assessment of trends in reported malaria cases, a total of 64 countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reversing the incidence of malaria. Of these, 55 are on track to meet Roll Back Malaria and World Health Assembly targets of reducing malaria case incidence rates by 75% by 2015.

The World malaria report 2014 will be launched on 9 December 2014 in the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament. The event will be co-hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (APPMG) and Malaria No More UK.

Contacts for press queries will be found at the link above.

Canadian-educated, Dr. Margaret Chan of the Peoples Republic of China heads the World Health Organization.

Canadian-educated, Dr. Margaret Chan of the Peoples Republic of China heads the World Health Organization, the world’s leading anti-malaria organization.

You may note that the press release says nothing about DDT, the pesticide most famous in the malaria fight after World War II.  WHO abandoned its ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria from the Earth, in the mid-1960s, when it was discovered that mosquitoes in central Africa and other malaria-endemic regions near the tropics were already resistant or immune to the pesticide.  DDT had been used by super-mosquito fighter Fred Soper, in campaigns by the Rockefeller Foundation and WHO, to knock down mosquito populations temporarily, to get breathing room to beat malaria.  While the populations were temporarily reduced, health workers would frantically work to diagnose and completely treat to a cure, malaria infections in humans. Then, when the mosquito populations came roaring back, the bugs would have no well of disease from which to draw parasites for new infections.

Soper’s methods used DDT sprayed on walls of homes, to specifically get those mosquitoes that bite humans. Anopheles spp. mosquitoes carry malaria parasites through a critical part of the parasites’ life cycle; those mosquitoes typically bite from about dusk to just after midnight.  After a blood meal, mosquitoes pause to rest on nearby vertical structures — walls in this case — to squeeze out excess water from the blood they’ve ingested, so they’re light enough to fly.  When the mosquito encounters DDT on the walls, the hope is that the DDT kills the mosquito, ending the transmission cycle.

A brutal public relations campaign in Africa, the U.S. and Europe through the late 1990s to now, has vilified science writer Rachel Carson for her indictment of DDT in Silent Spring, her brilliant book on the dangers of indiscriminate use of untested new chemicals.

So it’s important to note that the world’s leading organization that fights malaria makes no call for more DDT.  Professional health care workers worldwide have not been hornswoggled by pro-DDT, anti-environment, anti-science, anti-WHO propaganda.  That’s good news, too.

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December 2: Millard Fillmore’s Guano Day!

December 1, 2014

Why December 2?

(You couldn’t make this stuff up if you were Monty Python.)

English: Millard Fillmore White House portrait

Millard Fillmore’s White House portrait, via Wikipedia

President Millard Fillmore, in the State of the Union Address, December 2, 1850

Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price. Nothing will be omitted on my part toward accomplishing this desirable end. I am persuaded that in removing any restraints on this traffic the Peruvian Government will promote its own best interests, while it will afford a proof of a friendly disposition toward this country, which will be duly appreciated.

Did any other U.S. President spend so much time thinking about guano?  Did any president ever mention it in a State of the Union Address?  The curious case of Millard Fillmore, Seer, just grows.

Guano, or bird poop (and its relative, bat poop), contains phosphorus, which is an essential element for life.  Consequently, it turns out to be a key ingredient in effective agricultural fertilizers.  In international competition for supremacy in farming and farm exports, guano became a key resource to fight over, in the 19th century.

It’s almost safe to say the fights were economic; but guano did play a key role in wars in South America (see Andrew Leonard’s article, noted below).

Fillmore figured out that the substance had great importance, coupled that with the rather esoteric knowledge that sea birds tended to deposit guano in great abundance on certain islands, often unoccupied, and ordered the U.S. Navy to claim islands found to contain guano deposits that were not claimed by other nations.

By the American Civil War, the importance of phosphorus to the production of gun powder became an issue for the armies of the North and South.  Millard Fillmore had set the stage for the North to win an important advantage in gun powder production, just one of many that led to the defeat of the South.

It’s one more thing we should thank Millard Fillmore for doing. Our study of history should inform us that it is, indeed, important for politicians to understand the importance of guano.

Fillmore knew his guano.

Take a moment on December 2 to toast Millard Fillmore’s prescience, on Guano Day!

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Trickle down economics made Kansas business dry up

September 30, 2014

Kansas voters are angry; they elected Sam Brownback governor on his promises that slashing state budgets and slashing taxes for the wealthy would make Kansas prosperous.

Now the roads are bad, schools are suffering, and many other state services can’t be done.  Kansas is crumbling, and the state government is too broke to do anything about it.

Which explains this picture, in Mother Jones:

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback meets with Kansas farmers about why the roads to get their crops to market are so bad, breaking their trucks and costing them time and money. Illustration by Roberto Parada, in Mother Jones Magazine.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback meets with Kansas farmers about why the roads to get their crops to market are so bad, breaking their trucks and costing them time and money. Illustration by Roberto Parada, in Mother Jones Magazine.

I do love that illustration. It tells an important story.

From the story, by Patrick Caldwell:

That the RGA had been forced to mobilize reinforcements in Kansas spoke to just how imperiled Brownback had become. After representing Kansas for nearly two decades in Congress, he had won the governorship in 2010 by a 30-point margin. Once in office, Brownback wasted no time implementing a radical agenda that blended his trademark social conservatism with the libertarian-tinged economic agenda favored by one of his most famous constituents, Charles Koch, whose family company is headquartered in Wichita and employs more than 3,500 people in the state. Other GOP governors elected in the tea party wave, such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, garnered more ink for their brash policy maneuvers, but in many ways Brownback had presided over the most sweeping transformation.

Early in his tenure, he said he wanted to turn Kansas into a “real, live experiment” for right-wing policies. In some cases relying on proposals promoted by the Kansas Policy Institute—a conservative think tank that belongs to the Koch-backed State Policy Network and is chaired by a former top aide to Charles Koch—Brownback led the charge to privatize Medicaid, curb the power of teachers’ unions, and cull thousands from the welfare rolls.

“[Brownback] said, ‘I’ll be glad to campaign for you coming up, but I want all of my guns pointed in the same direction,’ meaning there’s no room for difference of opinion. From there on it was chilling.”

But his boldest move was a massive income tax cut. Brownback flew in Reagan tax cut guru Arthur Laffer to help sell the plan to lawmakers, with the state paying the father of supply-side economics $75,000 for three days of work. Brownback and his legislative allies ultimately wiped out the top rate of 6.45 percent, slashed the middle rate from 6.25 to 4.9 percent, and dropped the bottom tier from 3.5 to 3 percent. A subsequent bill set in motion future cuts, with the top rate declining to 3.9 percent by 2018 and falling incrementally from there. Brownback’s tax plan also absolved nearly 200,000 small business owners of their state income tax burdens. Among the “small” businesses that qualified were more than 20 Koch Industries LLCs. “Without question they’re the biggest beneficiaries of the tax cuts,” says University of Kansas political scientist Burdett Loomis.

Laffer told me that “what Sam Brownback has done is and will be extraordinarily beneficial for the state of Kansas,” but many Kansans beg to differ. Brownback had said that his tax cut plan would provide “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” Instead, the state has gone into cardiac arrest. “The revenue projections were just horrendous once the tax cuts were put into place,” Loomis says. The state’s $700 million budget surplus is projected to dwindle into a $238 million deficit. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s downgraded the state’s bond rating earlier this year as a result. “The state’s on a crisis course,” says H. Edward Flentje, a professor emeritus of political science at Wichita State University who served alongside Brownback in the cabinet of Kansas Gov. Mike Hayden in the 1980s. “He has literally put us in a ditch.”

Conservatives once celebrated Brownback’s grand tax experiment as a prototype worthy of replication in other states and lauded Brownback himself as a model conservative reformer (“phenomenal,” Grover Norquist has said). “My focus,” Brownback said in one 2013 interview, “is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.'” By this fall it was hard to imagine anyone touting the Brownback model, especially with the Kansas governor at risk of going down in defeat—in the Koch brothers’ backyard, no less—and dragging the entire state ticket down with him. The Wall Street Journal recently dubbed Brownback’s approach “more of a warning than a beacon.”

More at the website.

Income inequality, failure of trickle down economics, dramatic tax cut disasters, all come home to roost at some point. Kansans, it appears, are ready to change things.

How about the rest of the nation?

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Ice sheets thick as a denialist’s head

August 25, 2014

Cartoonist Randall Munroe at XKCD demonstrates ice age issues.

Of course it was a cartoonist. Where else does one go to find the truth these days, but the cartoons?

XKCD dramatically shows differences in North American cities and their relationship with their local ice sheets, 21,000 years ago.

XKCD dramatically shows differences in North American cities and their relationship with their local ice sheets, 21,000 years ago. Cartoon by Randall Munroe.

Enric Sala wrote about our disappearing ice for the World Economic Forum — a post worth reading.

Twenty kilometres in 20 years. That’s how much the Ilulissat glacier has retreated as this mighty, flowing river of ice crumbles into the ocean. It sounds like a lot. But I did not fully realize what this meant until we flew over the Ilulissat icefjord. It takes 10 minutes for the helicopter to fly over the amount of ice that has been lost because of global warming – in this glacier alone.

The speed at which the glacier moves has doubled relative to that in 1998. My scientist brain, accustomed to working with numbers and large scales, had a hard time absorbing this information. If I was rationally aware of the consequences of global warming from scientific reports before, now I felt it emotionally. This is what my trip to Greenland with a group of World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders did to us. It made us move from knowing and caring to be desperate to do something about it.

The experience also made us realize that all the international negotiations and agreements to date are not going to help avert the imminent catastrophe. Not even the boldest targets to reduce carbon pollution put forward by the smartest nations are going to move the dial. It’s all an illusion of movement, kind of like Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen, running and running but not going anywhere.

Truth on ice.

There is a difference, though.  Ice thins, gets weaker, and covers less area.  As that happens, as the planet warms, the density of denialists does not appear to decrease, at least not fast, and not toward greater understanding and less insanity.


Want to wave the flag while your kids go back to school? Buy union-made

August 24, 2014

Union-Made School Supplies Checklist, from the Twitter feed of AAFSCME

Union-Made School Supplies Checklist, from the Twitter feed of AFSCME

You may have to shop a little harder; my experience, from the classroom, is that these products generally work better than non-union-made, and cheap import substitutes.  Over the course of a year in class — or a year in a kid’s backpack — quality can save you a lot of money.

Having difficulty reading the board?  Check out a similar list from Mike Hall at AFL-CIO Now:

photo by Avolore/Twitter creative Commons

Back to School photo by Avolore/Twitter Creative Commons

International Paper Co.; Mead Lined Paper; Roaring Springs Wirebound Notebooks (including these sub-brands: Environotes, Imagine, Genesis, Enviroshades, Emoticon, Lifenotes and Maxim); Roaring Spring Environotes Index cards; and Roaring Spring Legal Pads (including these sub-brands: Boardroom, Enviroshades, WIDE, Enviropads and Envirogold).

Notebooks and Binders:

Acco/Mead; Day-Timer Organizers; Roaring Spring Pocket Folders; Roaring Spring Composition Books.

Pens:

Sharp; Sheaffer; and Parker.

Student and Teacher Supplies:  

Martin Weber Art Supplies; Roaring Spring Art Supplies; Scotch Tape; Master Lock; Kleenex and Puff Tissues; and Claus Scissors.

Shops Staffed by Union Employees:

Office Max; Safeway; Giant; Albertson’s; Supervalu; Ralph’s; and Vons. 

Back to School Clothes:

All USA Clothing; Ben Davis; Hugo Boss; Oshkosh B’Gosh; Russell Athletic; Union Line; and Windjammer.

Lunchbox items:

Jif peanut butter; Oroweat bread; Farmer John lunch meat; Mott’s apple sauce; Wheat Thins; Slim Jim; Minute Maid juice; and  V8-Splash.

Go, students: Make America and your parents proud.


August 3, 1923: Calvin Coolidge sworn in as president

August 2, 2014

Calvin Coolidge taking the oath of office August 3, 1923, upon learning of the death of President Warren G. Harding. Curtis Publishing Company image (artist?), 1924; from the American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress

Calvin Coolidge taking the oath of office August 3, 1923, upon learning of the death of President Warren G. Harding. Curtis Publishing Company image (artist?), 1924; from the American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress

Vice President Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office for the presidency first from his father, a notary public, in New Hampshire, after having been officially informed of the death of President Warren G. Harding while on a tour, in San Francisco.

Coolidge is the only president to have been sworn in by a member of his immediate family.

More on Calvin Coolidge from the Library of Congress “Today in History” feature:

Calvin Coolidge

After all, the chief business of the American people is business.

President Calvin Coolidge,
address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors,
Washington, D.C., January 17, 1925.
Foundations of the Republic (1926), 187.

Calvin Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge, full-length portrait, seated at desk, facing front, holding pen and paper, wearing black armband in mourning for President Harding,
Washington, D.C.,
August 4, 1923.
Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929

Calvin Coolidge took the presidential oath of office on August 3, 1923, after the unexpected death in office of President Warren Harding. The new president inherited an administration plagued and discredited by corruption scandals. In the two remaining years of this term, Coolidge, long recognized for his own frugality and moderation, worked to restore the administration’s image and regain the public’s trust.  He went on to win the presidential election of 1924 in his own right.

Coolidge believed that government should interfere as little as possible with business and industry. His administration supported tax reductions for U.S. businesses as well as high protective tariffs in support of U.S. goods—which were being produced in greater quantities than ever before. Technological and managerial innovations, improvements in the methods of production, and growing distribution networks made consumer items more generally available.  Many Americans purchased cars and radios, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines—taking advantage of increasingly obtainable consumer credit.

Vacuum Cleaners on Display at the J.C. Harding & Co. Store
Vacuum cleaners on display at the J. C. Harding & Co. Store, probably in Washington, D.C.,
[1909-32].
Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929

Raleigh Haberdasher Show Window
Raleigh Haberdasher show window
Washington, D.C., circa 1925.
Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929

Automobiles in Window of the Washington-Cadillac Co.
Automobiles in window of the Washington-Cadillac Co.,
Washington, D.C., 1927.
Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929

Some groups did not participate fully in the emergent consumer economy, notably both African-American and white farmers as well as immigrants. While one-fifth of the American population made their living on the land, rural poverty was widespread. Despite agricultural overproduction and successive attempts in Congress to provide relief, the agricultural economy of the 1920s experienced an ongoing depression. Large surpluses were accompanied by falling prices at a time when American farmers were burdened by heavy debt. Between 1920 and 1932, one in four farms was sold to meet financial obligations and many farmers migrated to urban areas.

Restrictive immigration laws, aided by a resurgence of nativism in America in the 1920s, contributed to an atmosphere hostile to immigrants. The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 discriminated against immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. The National Origins Act of 1924 completely excluded Japanese and other Asian immigrants and further reduced those admitted from southern and eastern Europe.

Visitin' 'Round at Coolidge Corners
Visitin’ ‘Round at Coolidge Corners,
1924.
Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929

The economic growth of the 1920s spurred the rise of consumer organizations and campaigns. Some, such as the Truth-in-Advertising Movement, which pursued ethics and self-regulation in advertising, were industry-based. Other campaigns and organizations sought to educate consumers. The Better Homes Movement celebrated home ownership, home maintenance and improvement, and home decoration in towns and cities across the country. The Thrift Movement sought to teach children and citizens how to save and spend wisely. Stuart Chase worked to educate consumers about unfair advertising and pricing practices used by manufacturers of consumer products. Lastly, there were campaigns such as the Playground Movement which began in response to popular anxieties about material excess, misuse of leisure time, and the loss of traditional values.

Learn more about Calvin Coolidge and his era:

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From the Library of Congress collections: Calvin Coolidge, full-length portrait, seated at desk, facing front, holding pen and paper, wearing black armband in mourning for President Harding. Coolidge took the oath of office in Plymouth Notch, VT early in the morning of Friday, August 3rd, and arrived in Washington late that night, the day after the death of President Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865-1923). Coolidge was the nation’s thirtieth president.


80/20 Day: July 15, 1848, Vilfredo Pareto joined the human race

July 15, 2014

Happy 80/20 Day!

Italian economist, engineer and political activist Vilfredo Pareto was born on July 15, 1848, in Paris, where his father had fled due to political difficulties.

Pareto should be more famous, for his explanation of the 80/20 rule, and for his contribution to making better things, the Pareto chart.  Many economic texts ignore his work almost completely.  Quality management texts ignore his life, too — generally mentioning the principles they borrow, but offering no explanation.

Vilifred Pareto, Wikipedia image

Vilfredo Pareto, Wikipedia image

His contributions, as accounted at Wikipedia:

A few economic rules are based on his work:

And now you, dear reader, having just skimmed the surface of the pool of information on Vilfredo Pareto, know more about the man than 99.99% of the rest of the people on the planet.  Welcome to the tip-top 0.01%.

Resources:


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