Sept. 29, The New York Times on the world’s attempt to eradicate malaria
Malaria will kill about 438,000 people this year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. That large number is tragic, but it still represents an improvement over earlier decades. The death rate of the mosquito-borne disease has fallen by 60 percent since 2000 and the rate of infection is down 37 percent, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization and Unicef. This progress shows what can be achieved when the world makes a serious attempt to deal with a major public health problem.
Now, the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are calling on the world to eradicate the disease by 2040, potentially saving 11 million lives in the next 25 years. They say this goal can be achieved for between $90 billion and $120 billion and would produce economic benefits of $2 trillion.
Eliminating malaria by 2040 is very optimistic. Some medical experts who have worked on the disease are skeptical of that ambitious goal because it relies on medical advances like a single-dose cure and an effective vaccine that may not be available for years. In their report, the United Nations and the Gates Foundation argue that such breakthroughs will be available in time to meet the target.
Even if big advancements cannot be achieved in that time frame, there is every reason to believe that the world can further reduce infections and deaths from malaria in the next 25 years. Many countries have brought the disease under control by using insecticides, giving away bed nets and providing malaria drugs for free or at a low cost. They have been able to do so with the help of expertise and aid from countries like the United States and Britain and with charitable donations. But some of these gains are fragile as more mosquitoes and the parasites that cause the disease become resistant to insecticides and drugs.
With sustained strategies, some countries will be able to eradicate the disease within their borders. But this will not happen unless industrialized nations, as well as fast-growing developing countries, put more money into research, drugs, bed nets and insecticides.
As the Ebola epidemic last year in West Africa showed, the health systems of poor countries need long-term investments so that they are prepared to cope with epidemics of all kinds, not just a single disease. Malaria remains a deadly scourge in large part because many countries do not have functional health systems.
Sept. 28, The Middletown Times Herald-Record on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s resignation
When someone whose political career has placed him second in line to the presidency quits his job solely because of attacks on him by members of his own political party, it’s a sure sign that party, in this case, the Republican Party, is in trouble.
That’s a serious national problem, but it’s not fatal. America has survived internal strife within political parties, even the demise of political parties, throughout history. The primary risk is what the discontent within that party poses to the nation’s ability to govern itself. Indeed, in this case, the “discontent” that forced John Boehner to announce his resignation, not only as speaker of the House of Representatives but even as a member of Congress, amounts to an all-out war on government.
It is being waged by right-wing extremists, who have been given the keys to the car by other, compliant members of the Republican Party and who seem determined to drive it off the road into a ditch if they don’t get their way. That’s a choice, not necessarily a healthy one, a party can choose to make for itself, but when it threatens to take the rest of the country into the ditch with it, then the internal party strife is clearly not about governing, but rather, a revolution.
Boehner, who never appeared to be comfortable with the speakership, suffers from something the Tea Party, evangelical and other ultraconservative members of the Republican Party are apparently immune to: a sense of reality. As a member of the House for 25 years, the Ohio Republican understands that, in order to have a healthy, functioning government for everyone, one has to sometimes compromise, even agree to go along with something with which one disagrees strongly. You can’t always get your way. Temper tantrums are counterproductive.
So, when the right-wing extremists in his party’s congressional delegation demanded that the entire government be shut down if the new budget bill contained funding for Planned Parenthood, Boehner apparently decided he’d had enough.
Although unequivocally conservative and opposed to abortion, he also knew that defunding Planned Parenthood, which is about much more than providing abortions, did not have a chance of getting through the Senate and the White House. He also knew that Republicans were blamed by most Americans for shutting down the government two years ago in protest over Obamacare, which today provides millions of Americans with health insurance. Threats were made: If Boehner didn’t defund Planned Parenthood or shut down the government in protest, the revolutionaries would come after him the way they came after former GOP House majority leader Eric Cantor, who was defeated in a primary battle.
So Boehner said, “I’m done.” That may well be the healthy decision for him, but the question for the rest of us is whether Republicans can select a replacement who appreciates the need for healthy governance and can maintain enough support within the GOP to provide it. Judging from Boehner’s unhappy five-year tenure as speaker and the stream of anti-government rhetoric coming from the party’s insurgents, the prospect is not good. Some adult is going to have to reclaim the keys to the Republican car.