Wednesday, July 19, 2006

News bits

I just read in the NYT that the death toll among the U.S. military serving in Iraq was outstripped by the number of Iraqi civilians killed—in a single month. The civilian casualty count in June was 3,149, up sharply from the casualty count in January (1,778). Terry Gross talked to NYT journalist Dexter Filkins on her public radio show, "Fresh Air," yesterday—he talked about the reasons the Shiite Iraqis, who have more power there than other sects do (the Sunnis were in charge under Saddam Hussein), are fighting the American occupation that keeps them in power. It's all convoluted, and sadly, thousands of civilians are paying a heavy price.

Israel vs. Hezbollah? Man, I don't want to get into that. More bloody war, more bombs.

Also from the NYT, in an article about sexy tableaux enlivening new condo ads in New York, a real estate developer named Highlyann Krasnow was quoted. Hey, that's a line from Wordplay! (Will Shortz greets NPR Sunday-morning host Liane Hansen with "Hi, Liane.") Hi, Leigh Anne! Li, Lee Anne! Hi, Leann Rimes! Just call me Highlyamused.

Moving to the food section, Austrian white wines, hooray! I like a good grĂ¼ner veltliner or riesling. As Terry Theise (avid booster of those sweet Austrian wines) says, “A dash of salt in your soup isn’t to make it taste salty; it is to awaken flavor, to make it taste more like itself. A similar dash of sweetness in a wine both enhances flavor, extends fruit, provides another voice to the dialogue of nuances, reduces alcohol and in many cases makes for a more elegant finish.” Yes, indeed! (Of course, Theise also says, "These wines don’t so much meet you halfway as show you a third place that’s neither You nor Them, but somewhere you meet in truth only by dissolving your respective walls." Uh, yeah.)

I'm currently reading Michael Specter's fantastic New Yorker article on the Gates Foundation and the fight against malaria. It was published in the October 24, 2005, issue (hey, it's all I can do to stay current on Entertainment Weekly's fluff)—and looky here, you can read the article yourself at the writer's website. Distressingly, the world's failure of imagination and failure to care enough about African lives has allowed malaria to kill about 1 million children a year, and malaria affects a half billion people in all. Fortunately, the interventions that will prevent malaria infections—which are particularly deadly in young children, who haven't yet developed an immunity to the Plasmodium falciparum parasite—are relatively inexpensive, and the Gates Foundation can buy and deliver an awful lot of $4 mosquito nets. Say what you will about how Bill Gates earned his wealth and how Microsoft has used robber baron tactics—the Gates Foundation is putting more money toward fighting malaria and other tropical diseases than any country, and they're able take action without first having to build a political consensus to do so. It's a hell of a philanthropic venture, and it's great that Warren Buffett is adding some of his spare billions to the cause, too.

Maybe you don't all share my interest in infectious-disease epidemiology topics, but I encourage you to read Specter's article. You think Darfur hasn't gotten enough attention in the media? Well, malaria's much deadlier, year after year after year, and we don't hear a whole lot about it here. (And this time, you're lucky—you can read about a dire set of circumstances that compel action, and then sit back and do nothing because the Gates Foundation is corraling its resources to wipe out malaria.)

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