Monday, October 22, 2007

Malaria vaccine by 2012?

There were many news reports on the apparent success of an experimental malaria vaccine called Mosquirix that was administered to infants.

A clinical trial in Mozambique of 214 infants aged 10 to 18 weeks found the vaccine was safe and reduced new infections by 65 percent over a three-month period after treatment. Clinical illness was cut by 35 percent over six months, reported Reuters.

Big pharmaceutical multinationals have come in heavy criticism by non-governmental organizations in recent years for spending bucketloads of money researching drugs for nuisances like impotence but relatively little on several tropical diseases that kill people in poorer countries.

Perhaps in response to this public pressure, Mosquirix's producer, GlaxoSmithKline, has spent some $300 million developing the drug and expects to spend as much as another $100 million in the future.

Glaxo has promised to sell Mosquirix at low prices in developing countries. The exact price will be negotiated with purchasers, who are likely to be multilateral groups who would cover the cost on behalf of countries where malaria is endemic.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Liberia on the move

A few good news stories about a country that hasn't had very many in the last two decades.

Liberia is a country of particular interest to me. When I lived in neighboring Guinea in the mid-90s, it was at the nadir of Liberia's first civil war. The radio teemed with reports of atrocities by drugged up boy soldiers of the despicably murderous warlord Charles Taylor. Guinea was also home to over half a million refugees from Liberia's conflict and from the civil war in Sierra Leone, which Taylor also inspired and helped finance. I had friends and acquaintances who'd fled these wars and that helped give me an abiding hatred for Charles Taylor.

When the warlord blackmailed, bullied and intimidated his way to "winning" the 1997 presidential elections, people hoped stability, if not prosperity, would return to the country. But it was no surprise that a despicably murderous warlord turned into a despicably murderous head of state. Another civil war erupted. There were even calls for an intervention by American troops, an amazing thing considering the world's opinion (and particularly those of smaller countries) of the US invasion of Iraq.

This is probably what most Americans think about Liberia, if they know anything about it at all.

Things are now on the upswing. Progress is agonizingly slow but after 16 years of horror, any steps forward are welcome.

Loathsome scumbag Charles Taylor is now an indicted war criminal and is deservingly on trial in The Hague for his countless crimes against humanity.

But the application of justice for one man is only a first step. Infrastructure must be rebuilt. Electricity restored. Clean water made available. This piece from the Center for Global Development explores some of the many challenges.

A special section at has many stories on the proress being made in Liberia, particularly since the installation as president of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She gained notoriety as the first woman to be elected president of an African country but she will gain far more awe if she can continue to help rebuild Liberia into a stable country. So far, it looks like she's providing the leadership and good governence that has been so sorely lacking in the country over the decades.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nkunda calls for ceasefire after breaking previous one

Laurent Nkunda, an infamous warlord leader in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, has called for a ceasefire after five days of clashes between his forces and the national army.

"We are asking for it to stop so we can talk, because this is a problem that can only be resolved through dialogue. Arms will not solve anything," he said.

This came days after Nkunda himself had broken the previous ceasefire agreement, according to the UN mission in the country MONUC.

It is doubtful that Nkunda actually wants a ceasefire and this is probably just a scheme for his battered forces to buy time.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Need a perverse laugh?

Because I can't imagine anyone taking this guy seriously.

This yahoo argues that slavery really wasn't such a big deal. It's an object lesson in how to create strawmen in such a way as to advance a patently absurd argument.

For example:

-America is not the only country who did slavery but we deserve Divine credit for ending it!

-Slavery was "brutal" but at least it wasn't genocidal. Hooray for non-genocidal mass atrocities!!

-Slavery existed in America "only briefly" (two and a half centuries) so big whoop!

-Criticizing slavery is mere political correctness, so by definition slavery must be fine.

I hope this guy is a bad satirist because it'd hurt my head to think he was serious.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Hiatus (sort of)

Due to me being extremely busy, this blog will be mostly on hiatus for the month of October. I may post once in a while, but not regularly. I will resume regular posting starting in the last week of October.