India, world’s last DDT maker, heaviest user, plans to stop

August 29, 2015

DDT sprayed in a vegetable market in India. (Photo: rzadigi) Living on Earth image

DDT sprayed in a vegetable market in India. (Photo: rzadigi) Living on Earth image

Sometimes big news sneaks up on us, without press releases. We often miss it.

Quiet little Tweet from journalist I’d never heard of, who passed along news from an obscure journal:

As a journalist, this guy has a piece of a world-wide scoop.

India is probably the last nation on Earth producing DDT.  In the last decade other two nations making the stuff got out of the business — North Korea and China. For several years now India has been the largest manufacturer of DDT, and far and away the greatest user, spraying more DDT against malaria-carrying mosquitoes, sand flies, and agricultural and household pests than the rest of the world combined.

As if an omen, India’s malaria rates did not drop, but instead rose, even as malaria rates dropped or plunged in almost every other nation on Earth.

Under the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) signed by more than 150 nations (not including the U.S.), DDT was one of a dozen chemicals targeted to be phased out due to its extremely dangerous qualities, including long-term persistence in the environment and bioaccummulation, by which doses of the stuff increase up the food chain, delivering crippling and fatal doses to top predators.

A perfect substitute for DDT in fighting some disease-carrying insects (“vectors”) has never been developed. Health officials asked, and the Stockholm negotiators agreed to leave DDT legally available to fight disease. Annex B asked nations to tell the World Health Organization if it wanted to use DDT. Since 2001, as DDT effectiveness was increasingly compromised by resistance evolved in insects, fewer and fewer nations found it useful.

The site Mr. Nazakat linked to is up and down, and my security program occasionally says the site is untrustworthy. It’s obscure at best. Shouldn’t news of this type be in some of India’s biggest newspapers?

I found an article in the Deccan Herald, confirming the report, but again with some

India-United Nations pact to end DDT use by 2020

India-United Nations pact to end DDT use by 2020

New Delhi, August 26, 2015, DHNS:

It would be better to switch to another insecticide, says expert

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment. DH file photo

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment. DH file photo

India has launched a $53 million project to phase out DDT by 2020 and replace them with Neem-based bio-pesticides that are equally effective.

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment.

India on Tuesday entered into a $53 million (Rs 350 crore) partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility to replace DDT with safer, more effective and green alternatives.

“As per the plan, the National Botanical Research Organisation, Lucknow, tied up with a company to produce Neem-based alternatives for the malaria programme. The production will start in six months,” Shakti Dhua, the regional coordinator of UNIDO told Deccan Herald.

Till last year, the annual DDT requirement was about 6,000 tonnes that has now been cut down to 4,000 tonnes as the government decided to stop using it in the Kala-Azar control programme.

A recent study by an Indo-British team of medical researchers found that using DDT without any surveillance is counter-productive as a vector control strategy as sand flies not only thrive but are also becoming resistant to DDT.

“It would be better to switch to another insecticide, which is more likely to give better results than DDT,” said Janet Hemingway, a scientist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. While the Health Ministry wanted to bring in synthetic pyrethroids, the United Nation agencies supports the bio-pesticides because of their efficacy and long-lasting effects.

“The new initiative would help check the spread of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. These include botanical pesticides, including Neem-based compounds, and long-lasting insecticidal safety nets that will prevent mosquito bites while sleeping,” Dhua said.

Ending the production and use of DDT is a priority for India as it is a signatory to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) of 2002 that seeks to eliminate the use of these chemicals in industrial processes, drugs and pesticides. DDT is one of the POPs.

The clock is counting down the last years of DDT.  Good.

If events unroll as planned, DDT making will end by 2020, 81 years after it was discovered to kill bugs, 70 years after it was released for civilian years, 70 years after problems with its use was first reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 58 years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, 50 years after European nations banned some uses, 48 years after the famous U.S. ban on agricultural use, 19 years after the POPs Treaty.

When will the news leak out?

More:


Audubon Christmas Bird Count issue: Eagles did not prosper during the ‘time of DDT’

August 26, 2015

Still photo captured from the film, “Christmas Bird Count,” by Chan Robbins; photo shows a group counting birds, probably in the 1940s or 1950s. Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count got its start in 1900.
Still photo captured from the film, “Christmas Bird Count,” by Chan Robbins; photo shows a group counting birds, probably in the 1940s or 1950s. Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count got its start in 1900.

In the notoriously wrong and misleading “100 things you should know about DDT” posted by pro-DDT, anti-wildlife Steven Milloy of “Competitive Enterprise Institute” and Fox News fame, based on the foggy rant of Dr. Gordon Edwards, we get these two misleading claims:

69. After 15 years of heavy and widespread usage of DDT, Audubon Society ornithologists counted 25 percent more eagles per observer in 1960 than during the pre-DDT 1941 bird census. [Marvin, PH. 1964 Birds on the rise. Bull Entomol Soc Amer 10(3):184-186; Wurster, CF. 1969 Congressional Record S4599, May 5, 1969; Anon. 1942. The 42nd Annual Christmas Bird Census. Audubon Magazine 44:1-75 (Jan/Feb 1942; Cruickshank, AD (Editor). 1961. The 61st Annual Christmas Bird Census. Audubon Field Notes 15(2):84-300; White-Stevens, R.. 1972. Statistical analyses of Audubon Christmas Bird censuses. Letter to New York Times, August 15, 1972]

99. The Audubon Society’s annual bird census in 1960 reported that at least 26 kinds of birds became more numerous during 1941 – 1960. [See Anon. 1942. The 42nd annual Christmas bird census.” Audubon Magazine 44;1-75 (Jan/Feb 1942), and Cruicjshank, AD (editor) 1961. The 61st annual Christmas bird census. Audubon Field Notes 15(2); 84-300]

100. Statistical analysis of the Audubon data bore out the perceived increases. [White-Stevens, R. 1972. Statistical analyses of Audubon Christmas bird censuses. Letter to New York Times, August 15, 1972]

Those claims are false with regard to bald eagles.

The careful citations offered by Milloy and Edwards simply do not exist; if the source exists, the source does not say what is claimed by these guys.  (Don’t take my word for it; go see for yourself.)

Audubon never suggested, in any forum, that their famous Christmas Bird Count had shown increases in eagles. Most other species showed no increases, either. I spent a couple of days at the library of Southern Methodist University reviewing every issue of Audubon Magazine from 1941 through 1974, and found not a single article suggesting anything other than declining eagle populations in the lower 48 states (Alaska eagles were not untouched by DDT, but were not so seriously affected; and as you will see below, the first counts of Alaska’s eagles did not occur until after 1950, so the addition of numbers from Alaska counts do not indicate an increase in U.S. population of eagles.)

I also reviewed each bird count, usually published in a separate booklet with the March issue of Audubon in that time. While raw numbers increased, that was clearly due to increases in people observing. At no point did any ornithologist or Audubon member suggest eagles were in recovery, from 1941 through 1972.

That’s a long explanation, unsuitable for quick discussion on blogs, and wholly too much for a 140-character Tweet. My experience with Milloy and his followers is that they will say my analysis somehow errs, though they cannot offer any real analysis from any other source that isn’t just a misreading of the raw bird count.

I wrote the Audubon Society, and asked them to respond to the claim. At first the press office thought the claims so bizarre that they didn’t think a reply necessary.  I sent them a half-dozen links to other documents that cited Milloy and Edwards.  Delta Willis at Audubon took the claims to officials of the bird count.

Geoff LeBaron, Director of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count sent the following reply (posted without correction).

See also the footnote from Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham appended to the end of the e-mail.

LeBaron, Geoff

Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 10:21 AM

To: Willis, Delta; Langham, Gary; Dale, Kathy

Subject: RE: DDT and effects on birds, and Audubon Christmas bird count

Hello Delta,

From the 1930s through 1970s there was a tremendous growth in the number of Christmas Bird Counts, from 203 total counts in the 30th CBC to 1320 counts in 80th CBC.  The number of observers on those counts rose from 679 in 30th to 32,322 in the 80th Count.  That is a tremendous increase in effort as well as geographic coverage, and more people in more areas are going to count more Bald Eagles, even if the populations are [were] declining.

A second major factor is that during that period many CBCs were started with the specific goal of censusing wintering Bald Eagles.  Thus we were targeting the areas where eagles were wintering, and thus tallying a much greater percentage of the total population.

Thirdly, there were only two individual CBCs conducted in Alaska prior to the late 1950s.  Bald Eagle populations never suffered dramatically in Alaska [from DDT?], and their numbers were always much higher there.  Since the late 1950s there has been a tremendous growth in the number of counts in Alaska—again, with some of these counts targeting areas where wintering eagles congregate even in the thousands.  These counts added in Alaska can contribute greatly to the total number of Bald Eagles in each season’s CBC.

Thus even while Bald Eagle populations were plummeting in the lower 48 states (outside of Florida) CBC [Citizen Science] efforts were greatly increasing, and in fact targeting monitoring Bald Eagles.  That is why both the raw number of eagles and the numbers when weighted for observer effort went up when you pull CBC data for Bald Eagle during the decades of heavy DDT use.

It’s still educational to look at raptor numbers in CBC data in the years following the banning of the use of DDT in the US.  Many species of raptors show a rapid rebound in numbers after the mid-1970s…and Bald Eagles also dramatically increased.

Per Dr. Gary Langham, Audubon Chief Scientist:   Audubon scientists are careful to include levels of participation and geographic coverage in all analyses. Fortunately, we have tracked both of these aspects since the CBC was started and so it is straightforward to adjust for their impacts.

Bird counts do not show that eagles were out of trouble during DDT years, roughly 1946 through 1972; especially they do not show that bald eagle populations increased.

More:

Explanation of the Christmas Bird Count in four minutes, by Chan Robbins.

Chandler Robbins, founder of the Audubon Christimas Bird Count, screen capture from Audubon film
Chandler Robbins, founder of the Audubon Christimas Bird Count, screen capture from Audubon film “Christmas Bird Count.”

Nota bene: Yes, this has sat in my “to be published” box for too long. It was scheduled for publication, but it appears I had not hit the “publish at scheduled time” button. My apologies to readers, and especially to Audubon’s scientists and press people.


1st National Parks Director Stephen Mather, memorial at Teton NP

August 26, 2015

Photo from the poet and muse of the National Parks and wild places, Terry Tempest Williams (at least, she posted it on Instagram).

Don’t you love the way the Tetons just peak over the fence?

U.S. National Park System just celebrated 99 years. Williams works on a book for the centennial in 2016.

Wouldn’t it be fun to do 100 parks in the 100th year? Anybody up for funding me to join them?


Annals of Global Warming: A roadmap to the UN climate change treaty process

August 25, 2015

Alas, the U.S. has led a large contingent off-road.

From the Cut the Fluff blog:

A quick flick back in recent time to take a look at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in one mapped infographic via The Climate Group.

A quick flick back in recent time to take a look at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in one mapped infographic via The Climate Group.

If you stop the average climate change action opponent on the street (as many as 25 out of every 100 people, or every other person in Texas in my unscientific sample) they will be able to tell you they think scientists are all liars making big money off of scamming citizens and businesses, and that there is big money to be made in faking research. But they cannot seriously describe evidence to back their claims, nor can they describe the history of international work to stop human-caused warming.

As you might imagine, they cannot discuss the pending meetings in Paris, either. Heck, most scientists and well-informed people can’t explain the meetings, either.

I hope this helps.

“COP” and “UNFCC” are UN acronyms for Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Sustainable Information Forum (SIF15) explains the Paris Conference In not-too-turgid prose:

COP – What’s it all about?

The international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where the ‘Rio Convention’ included the adoption of the UNFCCC. This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC which entered into force on 21 March 1994, now has a near-universal membership of 195 parties.

The main objective of the annual Conference of Parties (COP) is to review the Convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995 and significant meetings since then have included COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced, COP15 in Copenhagen where an agreement to success Kyoto Protocol was unfortunately not realised and COP17 in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

In 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

France will play a leading international role in hosting this seminal conference, and COP21 will be one of the largest international conferences ever held in the country. The conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.

Now you know, I hope.

More:


August 25, 1944: Liberation of Paris

August 24, 2015

Front page of the New York Times on August 26, 1944, noting the liberation of Paris after Allied troops reached there, following D-Day.

Front page of the New York Times on August 26, 1944, noting the liberation of Paris after Allied troops reached there, following D-Day.

On August 26, 1944, on a front page filled with other news from the war in Europe and the Pacific, the New York Times carried the story from the Associated Press:

Allied Forces Help French to Rid Capital of Nazis


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SUPREME HEADQUARTERS, Allied Expeditionary Force, Aug. 25 — The Paris radio announced late tonight that the French capital had been liberated and that the German commander had signed a document ordering his troops to cease fire immediately.

The announcement followed entry of American and French troops into the capital during the day. There was no immediate confirmation here.

The latest word at headquarters was that American and French troops had joined Fighting French patriots on the Ile de la Cite in the heart of the capital after bitter fighting with Germans and French collaborationist militiamen.

Gen. Charles de Gaulle, President of the French Committee of National Liberation, said in a speech broadcast from Paris:

“France will take her place among the great nations which will organize the peace. We well not rest until we march, as we must, into enemy territory as conquerors.”

Allies invaded Europe at Normandy the previous June.

August, 1944: American soldiers watch as the Tricolor flies from the Eiffel Tower again. (Image: National Archives), via Brain Pickings

August, 1944: American soldiers watch as the Tricolor flies from the Eiffel Tower again. (Image: National Archives), via Brain Pickings

Wikipedia gives the unadorned, but detail-rich version of the story; note the vast array of national forces who joined to oust the Germans, including Spanish Republicans-in-exile:

The Liberation of Paris (also known as the Battle for Paris) was a military combat that took place during World War II from 19 August 1944 until the German garrison surrendered the French capital on 25 August 1944. Paris had been ruled by Nazi Germany since the signing of the Second Compiègne Armistice on 22 June 1940, after which the Wehrmachtoccupied northern and western France.

The liberation began when the French Forces of the Interior—the military structure of the French Resistance—staged an uprising against the German garrison upon the approach of the US Third Army, led by General George Patton. On the night of 24 August, elements of General Philippe Leclerc‘s 2nd French Armoured Division (the Régiment de marche du Tchad, a mechanised infantry unit led by Captain Raymond Dronne and composed primarily of exiled Spanish republicans), made its way into Paris and arrived at the Hôtel de Ville shortly before midnight. The next morning, 25 August, the bulk of the 2nd Armored Division and US 4th Infantry Division entered the city. Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of the German garrison and the military governor of Paris, surrendered to the French at the Hôtel Meurice, the newly established French headquarters, while General Charles de Gaulle arrived to assume control of the city as head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic.

Victory parades followed on August 26 and August 29. Paris was spared destruction ordered by German Chancellor Adolf Hitler when his commander simply failed to carry out the destruction, perhaps because his forces had been overrun more quickly than he’d imagined, perhaps because French underground and other resistance fighters simply prevented it.

From Wikipedia, a rare color photograph:

From Wikipedia, a rare color photograph: “Crowds of French patriots line the Champs Elysees to view Free French tanks and half tracks of General Leclerc’s 2nd Armored Division passes through the Arc du Triomphe, after Paris was liberated on August 26, 1944. Among the crowd can be seen banners in support of Charles de Gaulle.” Jack Downey, U.S. Office of War Information – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID fsac.1a55001.

More:


August 24, 79 C.E.: Vesuvius spoke, with thunder

August 24, 2015

Much as the GOP Caucus and other climate-change deniers, Roman officials in Pompeii and Herculaneum refused to be alarmed at the ground shaking, and obvious eruptions from Mount Vesuvius, on August 24, 79 C.E.

In the past week we have earthquakes in California, Nepal, British Columbia, and other places. The old Earth keeps rumbling.

Oddly, we now pay more attention to earthquakes than to other things that can cause greater, rolling disasters.

Santayana’s Ghost wonders if we ever learn from history.

Vesuvius, asleep for now. National Geographic photo by Robert Clark

Vesuvius, asleep for now (2013). National Geographic photo by Robert Clark

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Fly your flag August 21, for Hawaii Statehood in 1959

August 21, 2015

It’s been 56 years since the youngest state entered the union — the longest stretch in which the U.S. has not added another state.

"On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood." Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

“On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood.” Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

“On June 14, 1959, Boy Scout Milton Motooka helped get the word out for Hawaii’s statehood plebiscite to be held 13 days later. A new documentary will focus on Hawaii’s statehood.” Hawaiians voted yes in the plebiscite, and statehood was declared two months later. (Whatever became of Scout Motooka?)

June’s plebiscite smoothed the path for statehood, declared two months later.

A newsboy happily hawks the Honolulu Star-Bulletin with the headline showing the state had achieved statehood, August 21, 1959. Star-Bulletin photo

13-year-old paperboy Chester Kahapea happily hawks a commemorative edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin with the headline showing the state had achieved statehood after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the law authorizing Hawaii as a state. Star-Bulletin photo by Murray Befeler.

Hawaii’s official statehood day is August 21, commemorating the day in 1959 when Hawaii was recognized as a member of the union of the United States of America.  Hawaiians should fly their flags to day in honor of the date (you may, too).

Hawaii formally celebrates the day on the third Friday in August, this year coincidentally on the 21st.  I hope you joined in the festivities (it’s a holiday in Hawaii) — but under the U.S. Flag Code, you may certainly fly your flags on August 21, regardless which day of the week that is.

Specimen copy of the ballot used by Hawaiians in a June 27, 1959, plebiscite to approve conditions of statehood. Image from Hawaii Magazine, 2009

Specimen copy of the ballot used by Hawaiians in a June 27, 1959, plebiscite to approve conditions of statehood. Image from Hawaii Magazine, 2009

After the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898 (in action separate from the Spanish-American War) attempts at getting Hawaii admitted as a state got rolling.  After World War II, with the strategic importance of the islands firmly implanted in Americans’ minds, the project picked up some steam.  Still, it was 14 years after the end of the war that agreements were worked out between the people of Hawaii, the Hawaiian royal family, Congress and the executive branch.  The deal passed into law had to be ratified by a plebiscite among Hawaiian citizens.  The proposition won approval with 94% of votes in favor.

Some native Hawaiian opposition to statehood arose later, and deference to those complaints has muted statehood celebrations in the 21st century.

Other than the tiny handful of loudmouth birthers, most Americans today are happy to have Hawaii as a state, the fifth richest in the U.S. by personal income.  The nation has a lot of good and great beaches, but the idea of catching sun and surf in Hawaii on vacation might be considered an idealized part of the American dream.

U.S. and Hawaii flags flying together.

U.S. and Hawaii flags flying together.

More:

From Prologue, the blog of the National Archives: This petition, rolled onto a wooden spool, was signed by 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood and presented to the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1954. (RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate)

From Prologue, the blog of the National Archives: This petition, rolled onto a wooden spool, was signed by 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood and presented to the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1954. (RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate)

U.S. postage stamp issued in 2009 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's admission to the union.

U.S. postage stamp issued in 2009 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s admission to the union.

Contrast the first class postage price above with the airmail postage price of this stamp issued in 1959 — August 21, 1959 7¢ Rose Hawaii Statehood C55 26432. Wikipedia image

Contrast the first class postage price above with the airmail postage price of this stamp issued in 1959 — August 21, 1959 7¢ Rose Hawaii Statehood stamp. Wikipedia image

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post.


Malaria No More notes milestone: Malaria at all time low

August 20, 2015

"End Malaria Now" demonstration from Jolkona.org, Seattle

“End Malaria Now” demonstration from Jolkona.org, Seattle

Remarkable progress against malaria marks the 21st century — but there was even more progress between 1960 and 2000. This progress usually is not noted in screeds against the World Health Organization (WHO), or Rachel Carson, or “crazy environmentalists.”

Through the 1950s, WHO estimated malaria deaths worldwide at about 5 million people each year. In about a decade of WHO’s malaria eradication campaign in temperate zones, the toll is estimated to have dropped to about 4 million dead each year.  WHO suspended the eradication campaign in 1963 when it was discovered that mosquitoes in central Africa were already resistant and immune to DDT, which was the chief pesticide used for Indoor Residual Spraying to temporarily knock down local mosquito populations. WHO tried to find substitutes for DDT, but by 1969 formally ended the program and stopped asking for money for eradication.

The fight against malaria continued, however. In 1972 the U.S. flooded malaria-prone nations with DDT which had been intended for use on U.S. crops, after the U.S. prohibited DDT on U.S. crops. For a dozen years all U.S. DDT production got channeled into Africa and Asia to fight disease.  U.S. makers had gotten out of DDT production by 1985 as production shifted to other nations.

Despite DDT’s failure, progress was made in medical care and especially in education on how to prevent mosquito bites.  The death toll dropped toward 1 million annually until about 1990. In the late 1980s, the medicines used to cure humans from malaria parasites failed, as the parasites developed their own resistance to the drugs. Through the 1990s, malaria deaths remained constant, or even rose.

A flood of concern in the late 1990s produced a coalition of malaria fighters with funding through the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust. In 1999, most of these groups agreed to fight harder, using “integrated vector management,” a variety of methods calculated to prevent mosquitoes from developing resistance to new pesticides, and prevent the malaria parasites from developing resistance to pharmaceuticals.

Plus, in nations where houses often were leaky to mosquitoes, these agencies provided bednets to prevent bites of malaria-carriers at peak biting periods, when people slept. By 2008, deaths dropped below a million each year for the first time, and progress has continued.

Beating malaria is a top goal of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); Malaria No More reported on a recently-completed report on those goals, which noted the progress against malaria.

Here is the press release from Malaria No More.

Malaria Deaths Reach All Time Low, U.N. Secretary General’s Final MDG Report Shows

NEW YORK, NY – July 6, 2015 – Malaria deaths have reached an all-time low and 6.2 million lives have been saved from the disease between 2000-2015, according to a new United Nations report announced by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office today. The final report on progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are set to expire this year, highlights an historic 69 percent decline in the rate of child deaths from malaria in Africa.

The report provides an update to all eight MDG Goals. The unprecedented global leadership over the past ten years to combat malaria has not only surpassed the disease-specific MDG target (Goal 6, Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases), but those efforts also contributed to critical progress toward achieving Goals 4 (Reduce Child Mortality) and 5 (Improve Maternal Health).

“Malaria is one of the standout successes of the MDGs thanks to continuous innovation, bold endemic country leadership and steadfast donor commitment,” said Ray Chambers, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria and Financing the Health MDGs. “We need to build on this success to ensure no child, woman or man dies from a mosquito bite and that we ultimately eradicate this disease.”

Thanks to the leadership of the United States, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other international donors, malaria financing has grown dramatically from 2000-2015 to more than $3 billion annually, and political leadership has fueled the delivery of more than 1 billion mosquito nets to Africa along with hundreds of millions of effective tests and treatments.

Although these results have successfully surpassed the MDG target, the fight against malaria is not finished. Malaria remains a major global health security challenge with an estimated 3.3 billion people at risk globally. Thanks to recent success in achieving real and measureable progress, coupled with steadfast political leadership and a promising pipeline of transformative new technologies, malaria-affected regions have set ambitious goals for elimination including transformative 2020 targets in Southern Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

“Malaria is one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in human history,” said Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More. “For the first time in history we have the opportunity to capitalize on our success and end malaria within a generation; we can’t afford to miss that opportunity.”

Click here to download the full report.

Chart from USNews.com:

Estimated change in malaria incidence rate (cases per 1,000 population at risk) and malaria mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 persons at risk), 2000-2015. USNews.com chart, based on MDG report.

Estimated change in malaria incidence rate (cases per 1,000 population at risk) and malaria mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 persons at risk), 2000-2015. USNews.com chart, based on MDG report.

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Forgotten Texas history: Battle of Medina, August 18, 1813

August 19, 2015

1813?

Most deadly battle ever in Texas?

Back in 2006, reporter Art Chapman in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram made a plea to remember the deadliest battle for Texas independence, fought years before the Texas Revolution (in an article that may be gone from the internet).

In 2013 the Battle of Medina lay buried under seven more years of newspapers and historic events.  We need to fight to remember history.  This is another punch in that fight.

Billy Calzada photo, 2011 Reenactment of the Battle of Medina (in Texas)

Caption from Tropas de Ulramar: Re-enactors dressed as participants in the Battle of Medina fire a musket volley during a ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011, commemorating the 198th anniversary of the Battle of Medina. The event was sponsored by the Texas Society – Sons of the American Revolution. The Battle of Medina was fought on Aug. 18, 1813, when a Spanish army, attempting to win Texas from the Republican Army of the North, which was supported by the United States and included veterans of the American Revolution, won a battle fought south of San Antonio near Espey. It is thought that about 800 Republicans died in the battle. [Other estimates put the death toll on the Texas side at 1,500]
Photo: BILLY CALZADA

Two years after the bicentennial, does anyone remember it yet? 

The long drive for Texas independence from Mexico may be more clearly seen in the light of the continents-long struggles for independence that included not only the American Revolution, but also revolutions in the nations of Haiti, Mexico, Chiapas, and others across Central America and South America. The Battle of Medina was a part of that earlier history. Fought on August 18, 1813, it was more deadly than any other battle in the wars for Texas independence, it is linked to Mexico’s long history of struggle. It occurred in the same year that Haiti got independence, and in the middle of the War of 1812, which helps to obscure the history of the battle.

Chapman’s report said:

“Contrary to popular belief, the struggle for democracy in Texas did not begin with the Anglo-led revolution of 1835-36,” author and historian James Haley wrote in a recent Austin American-Statesman article. “In fact, the yearning for liberty had its own ongoing legacy in Latin America.

“As early as 1810, movements for independence began simultaneously in Venezuela and Argentina. It was also in 1810, on Sept. 16, that the Mexican priest Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla raised his famous grito, the cry for social justice that opened the Mexican campaign for independence, a date now celebrated as Diez y Seis.”

America was drawn into that campaign when it funded a small force under the control of Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara, one of Father Hidalgo’s emissaries. A former Army officer, Augustus Magee, went along with the expedition to offer military advice. The Gutierrez-Magee Expedition, also called the Green Flag Rebellion because of its banner, soon captured Nacogdoches. All went well for the expedition — too well — and Texas independence was quickly claimed. Spain took immediate measures to quell the insurrection.

It ended at the Battle of Medina, “the biggest, bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil,” a South Texas historian says.

Spanish forces slaughtered more than 1,000 of the rebels, perhaps as many as 1,500. The battle methods, and total extirpation of the losing forces, would recur in the Texas Revolution.

Fewer than 100 republic troops survived the battle, Thonhoff said. Those not killed in the battle were later chased down and executed. Retaliation went on for days. Royalist forces swept into San Antonio and took revenge on anyone they suspected of aiding the rebel forces. One of the royalist officers was a young Lt. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

The bodies of soldiers killed in battle were left where they fell. It would be nine years before their bones were gathered and buried in a communal grave.

This story should translate well to the Texas-required 7th-grade history course. Here is a cause — the archaeological excavation and historical marking of the battlefield itself — which lends itself well to getting students to write letters to state legislators and state education authorities. Here is news of an archaeological site that could provide work for a generation of diggers, and experience for countless school kids taken on tour. And the story of the battle is one of those relatively unknown gems that excite students who realize, after they discover it, that they know something that most others do not know.

English: Medina Battle -State Marker- Near Lem...

Medina Battle -State of Texas historic marker Near Leming, Texas. Wikipedia image

As well, this should be supplement to world history courses, which in my experience too often overlook the independence wars and successes in Central and South America. The article mentions independence movements in Argentina and Venezuela. The United States fought Britain in the War of 1812, which was the western fallout of England’s simultaneous war with Napoleon (who was on the road to getting his comeuppance in Russia). Haiti’s drive for independence from France racked that Caribbean nation. A mapping exercise showing the various independence movements occurring between 1800 and 1826 provides links to parts of the narrative of American nations’ independence that often gets overlooked.

The battle also ties together several otherwise loose threads in the Texas history curriculum.

  • The Gutierrez-McGee Expedition falls into that time period and that type of movement to steal Texas known as the filibusters.
  • The treachery of the Green Flag Rebels in executing the Spanish officers in San Antonio after the Spanish had surrendered raises issues of ethics in battle that are rich for discussion.
  • Incompetence with which the Texian forces were led into the battle, missing completely the feint the Spanish troops made until they were already into a classic battle trap, is another place to emphasize the importance of having good leaders especially in rebellion (this will become clear to students, perhaps, when they study the events of 1775 and 1776 and Washington’s leadership, in the 8th grade curriculum in Texas).
  • Santa Anna’s presence as a young officer at the Battle of Medina suggests that he got the idea of “no quarter” early in his career; see how the tactic plays out 23 years later at the Battle of the Alamo, the Battle of Coleto, Goliad, and the Battle of San Jacinto, with an older Santa Anna in command.
  • In the context of Texas’ becoming a “majority-minority” state with a very large population with historical ties to Mexico, the Battle of Medina deserves greater consideration in Texas history curricula.

Partly due to the brutality of the Spanish victors to the survivors, wounded and dead, the battlefield itself was not cleaned up for years — bodies lay across a wide area.  Medina was a touchy point, a point of embarrassment perhaps to local Mexicans and Texians, a loyalty test for the Spanish rulers.  So the battle site was ignored and hushed up.  200 years later, we don’t know the exact site of the battle.  A lot of work remains to be done, exploration of archives in Spain, Mexico and Texas, exploration of map collections, archaeological and paleontological work on the suspected sites of the battle.  But every year this work remains undone, the story becomes that much more difficult to find.  It is unlikely we’ll ever know all that we probably should about the Battle of Medina.

Other sources you may find useful:

 

Battle of Medina reenactment, Pleasanton Express photo

Photo from the Pleasanton Express: “A Color Guard representing the U.S.A., Spain, Texas and Mexico, plus descendants of the men who fought and died in [The Battle of Medina] will be presented at the Battle of Medina ceremony.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Malaria Twitterstorm, summer of 2015

August 18, 2015

Several good developments in the War on Malaria, worldwide — along with some alarming signs.  Maybe there will be time to blog seriously about each of these things later. Let’s get them known, and keep discussion going for the best way to beat malaria in a post-DDT world.

QPharm Tweeted about DSM 265, an experimental, one-dose treatment developed by the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV); the video is useful for the background those new to the issue can get on the problems of treating malaria, which make great hurdles for campaigns to eradicate malaria.

Here’s the video the Tweet leads to.

MMV said:

DSM265 is a selective inhibitor of the plasmodial enzyme called DHODH. DHODH is a key enzyme in the replication of the parasite. If we can inhibit that enzyme with DSM265, we can stop the life of the parasite.

Voice of America reported on Rollback Malaria’s call for $100 billion to be spent in the next 15 years, to stamp out the disease.

Malaria deaths are, in 2015, at an “all time low.” Deaths hover around 500,000 per year, most in Africa, and most among children under the age of 5. A staggering total, until compared to the post-World War II estimates of more than 5 million deaths per year, or the more than 3 million deaths per year in 1963, the year the World Health Organization (WHO) had to stop its ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria when pesticide DDT, upon which the campaign was based, produced resistance in mosquitoes in areas where the campaign had not yet reached.

Beating malaria is one of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations; this year’s report on MDG acknowledged the great progress already made.

Another non-governmental malaria-fighting organization discussed the news; see the press release from Malaria No More.

Medical News Today Tweeted out a tout for its own coverage of malaria — notable for a good, basic explanation of malaria and how to fight it.  I wish critics of Rachel Carson and WHO were familiar with half of these basic facts.

Medical News Now's Fast Facts on Malaria

Medical News Now’s Fast Facts on Malaria. Notable, that annual deaths now are way below the million mark. Good news!

One malaria vaccine has won approval for final testing. Good news, though anyone who follows vaccines knows it will take a while to test, and anyone who knows malaria fighting knows there are four different parasites, and delivery of any medical care is tough in far too many parts of the world where any form of malaria is endemic. Even small good news is good news.

Are we better informed about malaria now? Do we understand spreading a lot more DDT is not the answer?

 


Ed Brayton, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, moving to Patheos

August 12, 2015

Our old friend Ed Brayton, high priest and chief bottle washer at Dispatches from the Culture Wars through all these years — as a solo blog, at the late, Seed Magazine Science Blogs, and then for the past few years at FreeThought Blogs — is pulling back from his administrative work at FtB. He’s also moving Dispatches to Patheos.

Masthead for Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Masthead for Ed Brayton’s Dispatches from the Culture Wars

There’s been angst. Brayton established FtB and is known as the owner of the network; it’ll take a committee to try to replace him there.

The most famous photograph of the Paparazzi-eluding Ed Brayton. From his Twitter pate, @edbrayton.

The most famous photograph of the Paparazzi-eluding Ed Brayton. From his Twitter page, @edbrayton.

Ed’s been a good friend to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub over the years, encouraging and making key starter suggestions (along with P. Z. Myers of Pharyngula).  More important, Brayton’s been a staunch defender of thinking issues through. He’s stood up firmly for religious freedom, academic freedom and good science, among a bunch of other issues over the years.

Change your bookmarks to get the freshest stuff. As he does live in Michigan and knows Michigan politics, he’s probably the go to guy for straight dope on the Courser scandals, for example.

Good luck, wish you well, Ed.

Good luck FreethoughtBlogs, too.


Wellcome Trust interactive on malaria parasites’ lifecycle

August 12, 2015

Screen capture of the Wellcome Trust HTML presentation on the life cycle of malaria parasites. Malaria fighters know all this almost instinctively; too often policy makers fail to understand it, and so they recommend policies that do not make medical or economic sense in fighting the disease. Click image to go to Wellcome Trust site for full presentation.

Screen capture of the Wellcome Trust HTML presentation on the life cycle of malaria parasites. Malaria fighters know all this almost instinctively; too often policy makers fail to understand it, and so they recommend policies that do not make medical or economic sense in fighting the disease. Click image to go to Wellcome Trust site for full presentation.

Britain’s Wellcome Trust takes as one of its key missions the fight against malaria.  The Trust is a charitable foundation created from profits of pharmaceutical development and sales.

Recently I found this HTML animation presentation on the life cycle of the malaria parasite, something all malaria fighters must know to be effective.

It’s also something that DDT advocates seem unable to comprehend.  Malaria is not a virus, nor is it a venom mosquitoes manufacture, but it is a parasite that infects (and disables) both mosquitoes and humans. Mosquitoes catch the parasite from an infected human host. After the malaria parasite completes a couple of cycles in the gut of the mosquito, the parasite can be transmitted back to humans by a mosquito bite. And the cycle continues.

Since complete eradication of malaria-carrying mosquitoes is practically impossible in almost all cases, beating malaria requires an interruption in the cycle of transmission of the parasite, plus the curing of the disease in infected human hosts.

For example, the old World Health Organization (WHO) malaria eradication campaign, which operated from 1955 to 1963, DDT was used to temporarily knock down a population of mosquitoes, with hopes human hosts would be ridded of malaria parasites so that, in six months or so, when the mosquito populations roared back, there would be no malaria in local humans to infect mosquitoes. Consequently, mosquitoes can’t transmit a parasite they don’t have.

Lost on far too many people: Humans must be cured of malaria to prevent transmission. Beating malaria takes a lot more than just killing mosquitoes.

Check out the interactive:  Malaria parasite life cycle

While you’re there, snoop around to see what else Wellcome Trust is up to in the malaria fight.

 


Annals of global warming: Time to change maps of Arctic ice

August 11, 2015

National Geographic Society reminded us they’ve had to change maps of the arctic.

National Geographic Society composed this GIF to compare their maps over past 16 years: A GIF of National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014 shows how Arctic ice has melted over time.

National Geographic Society composed this GIF to compare their maps over past 16 years: A GIF of National Geographic atlases from 1999 through 2014 shows how Arctic ice has melted over time.

President Barack Obama noted the change in his announcement of U.S. actions to fight climate change. National Geo added details beyond what the president said.

As the ocean heats up due to global warming, Arctic sea ice has been locked in a downward spiral. Since the late 1970s, the ice has retreated by 12 percent per decade, worsening after 2007, according to NASA. May 2014 represented the third lowest extent of sea ice during that month in the satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Ice loss is accelerated in the Arctic because of a phenomenon known as the feedback loop: Thin ice is less reflective than thick ice, allowing more sunlight to be absorbed by the ocean, which in turn weakens the ice and warms the ocean even more, NASA says.

Because thinner ice is flatter, it allows melt ponds to accumulate on the surface, reducing the reflectiveness of the ice and absorbing more heat. (See pictures of our melting world in National Geographic magazine.)

“You hear reports all the time in the media about this,” Valdés said. “Until you have a hard-copy map in your hand, the message doesn’t really hit home.”

(More at National Geo’s site.)

At the last edition of the National Geographic Atlas, a video described why and how changes were made.

We used to think the old Earth was so massive, little could humans do to change it. While it’s probably still true the rock will survive after humans are extinct, we now know we can foul our nest enough to make it uncomfortable, or impossible for our species to stay here.

Global warming is changing the planet. Maps must be changed to show the new face.

Have we acted soon enough, and hard enough to save space for humans to live?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Chris Tackett on Twitter.


Flags in Missouri: Displayed backwards?

August 10, 2015

It’s interesting trying to find photographs of the U.S. flag displayed with a state flag, as I do for posts on each state’s statehood day celebration.  Today is Missouri’s anniversary of admission to the union in 1821, and I looked high and low for a good photo.

Along the way I found a photo of three flags displayed at the Missouri Capitol Building. They flew half-staff to honor a recently deceased state official, so I didn’t think it illustrated a statehood celebration well.

When flown on flagpoles in a row, of even height, the U.S. flag always flies on it’s own right, or to the left of a viewing audience (see paragraph f of this part of the U.S. Flag Code).

That’s not where it’s flown at the Missouri Capitol.

U.S. flag always flies on the viewer's left. What's going on in this photo of the Missouri Capitol? Caption from the New York Daily News: Flags around the Missouri Capitol complex in Jefferson City were lowered to half staff after the suicide of state Auditor Tom Schweich on Feb. 26. On March 30, a spokesman for the office, Robert Jackson, committed suicide. Photo: AP

U.S. flag always flies on the viewer’s left. What’s going on in this AP photo of the Missouri Capitol? Caption from the New York Daily News: “Flags around the Missouri Capitol complex in Jefferson City were lowered to half staff after the suicide of state Auditor Tom Schweich on Feb. 26. On March 30, a spokesman for the office, Robert Jackson, committed suicide. Photo: AP”

Anybody know what’s up? Do these three flagpoles “face” the Capitol?

While we’re at it: The black flag is the POW-MIA flag. The flag in the center is the state flag of Missouri. What is the flag on the photo’s left?


Missouri Statehood Day, August 10 (Does Missouri care?)

August 10, 2015

Under the U.S. Flag Code, Missourians are encouraged to fly the Stars and Stripes on August 10 to honor Missouri’s entering the union in 1821 as the 24th state.

Does Missouri celebrate this event at all? I’m not finding much on celebrations in 2015. Perhaps the state is preoccupied with other events.

Missouri and U.S. flags adorn the Missouri House of Representatives on opening day 2015. St. Louis Post-Dispatch caption:

Missouri and U.S. flags adorn the Missouri House of Representatives on opening day 2015. St. Louis Post-Dispatch caption: “The opening day of the Missouri House of Representatives 98th General Assembly at the Missouri State Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. Photo by Cristina Fletes-Boutte, cfletes-boutte@post-dispatch.com”

Surely Missourians know the date. Plans for the bicentennial in 2021 promise a huge celebration then.

I can find a record of a modest celebration of statehood in 2014.

If you find news of any activities relating to the commemoration of Missouri statehood in 2015, please let us know in comments.

With or without fanfare, Missourians, you may fly your flags to day to honor statehood.


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