Sanaria, Inc. and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative announced this morning that their potential vaccine for malaria ready to start human trials as early as this May.
The vaccine works like that of yellow fever or smallpox -- injecting a small quantity of diseased parasite into the patient's bloodstream, such that the body can develop antibodies ready to strike back if and when a real infection occurs. Sanaria have focused their vaccine efforts on Plasmodium falciparum, the most fatal and also most resilient species of the parasite.
There are a number of candidate vaccines at the moment -- most of which have an efficacy rate of around 50 percent. That's enough to bring down mortality rates if even at-risk patients are given the vaccines. But as public health experts will no doubt point out, the hard part is getting that kind of comprehensive coverage. The rural health systems that are most burdened by malaria will find it difficult to support the kind of coordination that a vaccine scheme would require.
Still, a vaccine would do wonders. Falcipurum in particular has built up confounding resistance to conventional treatments in recent years. Certainly, it will continue to do so as long as we have to keep treating -- rather than preventing -- infection.
TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images
The New York Times reports that China is facing a gender imbalance of 32 million among under-20s, because Chinese women often abort female fetuses due to the country's strict one-child policy.
The researchers, who analyzed data from a 2005 census, said the disparity was widest among children ages 1 to 4, a sign that the greatest imbalances among the adult population lie ahead. They also found more distortion in provinces that allow rural couples a second child if the first is a girl, or in cases of hardship.
Those couples were determined to ensure they had at least one son, the researchers noted. Among children born second, there were 143 boys for 100 girls, the data showed.
Depending on where you stand, President Barack Obama's Friday decision to lift the Mexico City Policy, better known as the global gag rule, was either wonderful or appalling. For the last seven years, the gag rule stipulated that charities promoting and supporting abortion services could not recieve funding from the U.S. Government. Now, they can. I say: it's about time.
My position is not drawn from either side of the abortion debate. It's drawn from what I saw as a reporter and as a person living in Nigeria. HIV/AIDS is the open secret there -- a growing problem with a whispered name.
To put it politely, the gag rule created a rift -- at times gaping -- between U.S. government-funded projects and those of private NGOs trying to prevent HIV infection. The U.S. government brought the buck -- President Bush's PEPFAR program boasted $39 billion for HIV/AIDS work -- but it also brought rules about how to get the work done. The foundations brought less money and a sometimes different approach. Both sides fought to win the support of the local government for their strategies. From what I saw, that debate could get ugly. Friends working in the field were frustrated and saddened by the result: inertia and politics, instead of posters and condoms.
There was one particular problem that brought it home for me. In 2006, a Nigerian lawmaker announced that 55,000 women die in the country each year from unsafe illegal abortions. The evidence was everywhere -- from women that my colleagues and I met to Nigerian films on exactly that topic.
What was the best way to get that statistic down? Some will say abstinence. But sex is not always a choice. It's in those situations where women seek -- or are forced by their partners to seek -- unsafe abortions. Some counseling and a sterile doctor's office would go a long way.
That's just one example. The real "gag" was that you didn't hear a lot of stories about birth control or HIV prevention in Nigeria. So my few are only the beginning. Maybe now we'll start to hear a few more.
Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
[T]oday George Charamba, Mr Mugabe’s spokesman, told The Herald newspaper – a government mouthpiece – that the octogenarian president was using “sarcasm” when he made the statement.
ROFL! He sure got us good.
The Herald also has a truly batty article today, saying that the United States engineered the outbreak.
Photo: ALESSANDRO DI MEO/AFP/Getty Images
Results of the latest malaria vaccine trials will be published today in The New England Journal of Medicine, and from the looks of it, the news is good -- fantastic, in fact. "We are closer than every before to having a malaria vaccine for use by children in Africa, says
First, some background: The new trials use a vaccine candidate known as RTSS, the most clinically advanced malaria vaccine in development. The two tests took place in Kenya and Tanzania, and included 340 and 894 children, respectively. After vaccination, children were visited in their homes to follow up on their health and most importantly, their contraction (or not) of malaria.
Here are some highlights from the results:
The results today set the stage for more Phase 3 trials--the last needed before lisencing of the vaccine. Future trials will continue to test safety, efficacy, and the possibility of a "booster" shot lengthening the already lengthy 18-month protection observed. 16,000 children will be involved in 11 sites found in 7 countries.
As I wrote last month, a malaria vaccine would be a huge boost to the battle against the capricious and classically difficult-to-fight parasitic infection. The human race has never created a vaccine to fight a parasitic infection before. Here's hoping!
Photo: John-Michael Maas/Darby Communications
Remember the massive protests against U.S. beef that took place in South Korea last summer?
Well, last Thursday, while Americans were feasting on Thanksgiving turkey and the world's attention was drawn to the Mumbai terrorist attacks, South Korea's supermarket chains resumed selling U.S. beef. The 2003 ban on U.S. beef, prompted by fear of mad cow disease, was lifted in June. Until last week, though, only tiny butcher shops and some restaurants had been selling beef from the United States.
Were the supermarkets finally swayed by President Bush's endless paeans to the delicious taste of American cattle? "I'm more than willing to eat U.S. beef, and do -- eat a lot of it," he told a Japanese TV station in 2005.
Nope. It's about consumer demand in tough economic times. U.S. beef costs 60 to 70 percent less than Korean beef. As one satisfied customer told the Associated Press, "It's cheap -- that's all we consumers care about."
Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Imagine living in a country with 231 million percent inflation, a failed power-sharing agreement, closing schools and hospitals, and an astronomical emigration rate of refugees into neighboring South Africa.
Now, add a cholera epidemic that has left more than 300 people dead and thousands more sick. And President Robert Mugabe, instead of ending the crisis, seems to be using it as an "excuse to clamp down on everyday life," according to SW Radio Africa.
Power sharing talks were set to reconvene today under former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki's mediation, but serious disputes remain about the allocation of ministries between President Robert Mugabe and his opposition-party prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai. In a sign of his unwillingness to yield power, Mugabe accussed a delegation of "elders," including Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, and Graça Machel (the former wife of Nelson Mandela) of trying to oust his government. He refused them entry to the crippled country.
But after everything else, it might be cholera that pushes the limits of how far failed this failed-state can go. South Africa is doing its best to keep the cholera on one side of the border, but further collapse could send an flood of refugees where there has always been a trickle. That would further destabilize a politically shaky South Africa in the midst of its presidential transition.
It's time to change our rhetorical terms on Zimbabwe. No longer on the brink of collapse: over the edge.
This is beyond disturbing:
Lawmakers in Indonesia's remote province of Papua have thrown their support behind a controversial bill requiring some HIV/AIDS patients to be implanted with microchips -- part of extreme efforts to monitor the disease.
Health workers and rights activists sharply criticized the plan Monday.
But legislator John Manangsang said by implanting small computer chips beneath the skin of ''sexually aggressive'' patients, authorities would be in a better position to identify, track and ultimately punish those who deliberately infect others with up to six months in jail or a $5,000 fine.
The idea of implanting anyone with a microchip against their will is bad enough, but I can only imagine the possibilities for abuse on a government panel tasked with deciding which patients are "sexually aggressive" enough to qualify.
Does anyone really wonder why sperm donors might prefer anonymity? It's not like donating an old car -- the desire for privacy is quite understandable. So, it's not surprising that Britain, which abandoned sperm-donor confidentiality laws in 2005, is now facing a sperm-donor deficit.
The numbers don't lie. Immediately after anonymity disappeared, the number of women who received donor sperm went from 2,727 in 2005 to 2,107 in 2006. It's estimated that 500 donors are needed to match the 4,000 women who undergo donor insemination in Britain each year. Reports show only 307 donors registered in 2006, not nearly enough.
Some fertility experts, like doctors Mark Hamilton and Allan Pacey, from the British Fertility Society are looking to work around the shortage.
They've suggested raising the limit on the number of families who can use the same sperm donor -- currently only 10 babies are allowed to result from each donor, a measure they feel lacks real scientific backing. They've also suggested a sperm-sharing program (an arrangement where men whose partners need in vitro fertilization become donors), but rejected a proposal to allow older donors to donate because of health concerns, like gene mutation.
Dr. Pacey says the countries with enough sperm to go around, especially the United States and Spain, are those "that pay donors or allow anonymity." While he also said that Britain is importing sperm from Scandinavia, he suspects that with such long waiting lines for sperm donors, Brits will simply have to shop elsewhere.
After hundreds of millions of dollars and years of work, the first malaria vaccine is ready to test. Sixteen thousand children are set to be vaccinated in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania -- African countries where malaria is a serious problem.
Preliminary tests have shown that this particular vaccine -- one of several candidates funded partly through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- is 30 to 50 percent effective. Some worry those rates are too low to make a big impact.
But there is a strong case to make for any amount of effectiveness at all. Malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, is no small matter in countries where the disease is prevalent. Many experts argue that the economic impact in endemic countries contributes greatly to underdevelopment -- taking workers out of the workplace and reducing childrens' attentiveness in school.
And although malaria is a treatable condition, the best medicines are sometimes too expensive for poor victims of the disease. There is also a problem of quality: A recent study found that medicines in six African countries are either diluted or inneffective. And since there are multiple, constantly adapting strains of the disease, resistance to drugs is common. Quinine and chloroquine, used to treat malaria throughout colonial times, now have virtually no impact on the disease.
So, even if it's not 100 percent effective, a vaccine is a dream for public-health experts struggling to keep up with the changing disease that kills more than a million people every year and leaves many more sick. Here's hoping it works.
Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
First, they came for the small-chested people...
A ban on small-chested people riding motorbikes is just one of the novel criteria recently proposed by Vietnam's Ministry of Health. People whose chests measure less than 28 inches would be prohibited under this new recommendation, as well as people who are too short or too thin. This proposal is meant to improve driver safety in Vietnam, which has one of the world's highest road death tolls, presumably because waifish Vietnamese are at greater risk of sustaining serious injury when in a motorbike accident.
Despite being obviously insane, the Ministry of Health's proposal could affect the travel plans of a large number of Vietnamese. Motorbikes make up 90% of the traffic on Vietnam's roads. Many Vietnamese are naturally slight, and malnutrition often stunted the growth of those born during the Vietnam War. The affair has nevertheless been great fodder for Vietnamese bloggers. "From now on, padded bras will be bestsellers," predicted Bo Cu Hung, a Ho Chi Minh City-based blogger.
Cairo's zabaleen form the backbone of the city's garbage disposal system. They collect about a third of Cairo's trash and traditionally haul it by donkey cart, as seen in this Oct. 20 photo. Largely scorned by Egyptian society, the trash scavengers recently lost one woman who had worked tirelessly for their well-being -- Sister Emmanuelle, a Belgium-born French nun who died Oct. 20 at age 99.
See more photos of zabaleen at work and read more about them in this week's photo essay, "Cairo's Trash Collectors Down in the Dumps."
Photo: KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
When you're a herdsman in Kenya experiencing a particularly nasty drought desperate times call for, well, a fairly practical and simple measure: birth control, or as some are naming it, the goat condom.
The "condom" is actually a square piece of rawhide or plastic called an "olor" that is tied around the male goats belly and "blocks" them from mating with the female goats.
Herdsmen in the Maasai community -- where livestock is often the only means of income -- live in a region outside Nairobi that usually has erratic and unreliable rainfall that increasingly threatens their livelihood. The fear is that if the goats breed before the rainy season comes, the females will not be healthy enough to nurture their kids and there will be more goats than there are resources necessary to sustain the herd.
The olor may not be a modern measure, but it's certainly effective. Separating the males from the females is not an easy alternative and is, in fact, far more expensive since another herdsman is needed. Once the rains come and the land is rich and green, the olors will be removed and the goats will be free to live free and procreate.
All in all, it sounds quite sensible. Thank goodness the global gag rule doesn't apply to livestock.
Amid China's tainted-milk scandal (the subject of this week's photo essay), parents are frightened of buying milk and formula off the shelf for their children. A Chinese entrepreneur was bound to find a way to provide parents an alternative, and one owner of a domestic services company has: the milk nanny.
The entrepreneur, Lin Zhimin, put an ad on the Internet offering the service of milk nannies -- lactating women who get paid for giving away their milk. Calls started pouring in. CNN recently reported on one woman who signed up to provide milk. Last month she had a baby, her second. Due to China's one-child policy, she gave up the infant. Now she wants to give away her breast milk, both to help other parents and earn money -- eight times what she'd make in a factory, she says.
The concept isn't entirely new. Wet nurses have been around a long time, and the custom has been reemerging in the United States. Also, last year, FP interviewed the founder of the International Breast Milk Project, which sends donated breast milk from American women to orphaned babies in Africa. So, I guess you can't blame an entrepreneur for seeing an opportunity and milking it for what it's worth.
In a grand gesture, three government ministers and one member of parliament publicly announced this week that they had been circumcised in secret. This is a particularly bold effort to help curb the taboo against circumcision among Kenya's Luo tribe -- the third largest ethnic group in the country -- in which, unlike the Luhya community, the practice is not a rite of passage.
The hope is that this highly public display of solidarity for the scientific findings on the success circumcision has in preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS -- reducing the risk of infection by as much as 60 percent -- will spur men in the community to follow suit.
In Kenya, where nearly 2.5 of its 32 million citizens are currently living with HIV and AIDS, there is often resistance when it comes to bowing to medical findings over age-old traditions. This past July, after the ministry of health began offering free circumcision services in Nyanza Province, the Luo Council of Elders refused to sanction the practice. However, not all of the protests were in defense of culture. Some fear that those who have the surgery will no longer feel compelled to use condoms which are far and away the best method of prevention.Men in the Nyanza province have been coming out in droves for the free "cut," and the government hopes that at least two million men in the province will be circumcised. At least five other government officials have agreed to the surgerical procedure. Prime Minister Raila Odinga did his part to encourage listeners:
All there is to circumcision is availing your male organ for the foreskin to be removed, like 'ting' [snip] and it is all over."
That's quite a sales pitch.
On this August Friday afternoon, you're surely looking for a distraction or two if you are unlucky enough to be at the office like the rest of us. Look no further than FP's latest (first?) interactive quiz: Spot the Fake Drug. Given a choice between real medicines and counterfeit ones, can you recognize the dangerous fakes?
And check out Roger Bate's fascinating -- and disturbing - (subscribers-only) look at the growing global fake drug trade in the latest issue of FP. He reveals how counterfeiters in India and China mix chalk and dust into phony Viagra pills and cancer meds that are sold around the world. After taking the quiz, you may be more worried than ever about these fakes winding up in your neighborhood pharmacy.
We try to keep the focus here on international issues, but some items are too good to pass up. I hope taxpayer dollars aren't paying for this billboard in Kansas City, or anywhere else:
Via Matt Yglesias, who comments:
If anything, characterizing the sex-engineering link in this manner seems overwhelmingly more likely to reduce interest in engineering than to reduce interest in sex.
This spring, Beijing Olympic organizers went to extraordinary lengths to ensure athletes had the most comfortable sanitation facilities. When foreign athletes at test events complained about the squat-style toilets at key venues, such as the Bird's Nest and Water Cube, officials initiated "toilet alteration projects" (as an organizer described it to Reuters) to replace as many as possible with sit-down commodes.
If only others around the world were so lucky -- to have hygienic toilet facilities of any type.
In this International Year of Sanitation, some 2.5 billion people don't have access to improved sanitation, according to a recent progress report (big pdf). So, in this week's FP List, "The Hardest Places in the World to Find a Bathroom," we highlight five countries, by geographic region, where safe sanitation is in short supply. Yes, there's a "yuck" factor, but sanitation is crucial for public health and is likely one of the most important health advances ever.
If you plan on being in London any time soon, you might end up disappointed if you try ordering Peking duck at a restaurant. Inspectors have been going around with tape and sealing shut the special ovens used to prepare the Chinese delicacy.
The ovens, which—surprise—are made in China, lack a Conformité Européenne (CE) mark indicating that they comply with safety regulations on carbon monoxide emissions as established by Eurocrats in Brussels. For the record, there have been no reports of injuries, accidents, or other health problems caused by the 6-foot-tall ovens.
It's another example of Brits being pushed around by EU diktat. Last year, the contentious issue was whether Britain would have to sell beer by the liter, rather than the beloved pint.
In other questionable food regulation news, Italy's anti-immigrant Northern League party has proposed a law in the Lombardy region that would ban Chinese restaurants and Middle Eastern kebab vendors from historic city centers, on the grounds that such eateries would mar their unique character. (Ironically, that logic is also what got Starbucks to withdraw from Beijing's 600-year-old Forbidden City last year.)
Back in London, it may be a month until restaurants can get CE-marked ovens installed and put Peking duck back on the menu.
WorldPublicOpinion.org just released a poll that reveals some surprising insight on what people around the world want from their government when it comes to one of the most touchy subjects of all: abortion.
The poll's 18,465 respondents hail from 18 countries, including China, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and the United States. Although the results might not always shock you -- British and French respondents overwhelmingly say that their governments should "leave the matter to individuals" -- they do shed some new light on countries that don't get polled too often.
Forty-seven percent of Egyptians, for instance, want their governments to take a hands-off approach to abortion. So do 67 percent of China's respondents and 48 percent from Turkey and Azerbaijan. Just 28 percent of Iranians say that abortion should be a matter for individuals, but 38 percent want the procedure to be discouraged using "non-punitive measures" such as education and adoption services. Indonesians are far less forgiving: A full 60 percent say that those who have abortions should be criminally prosecuted.
What if you group respondents by religion? Some schools of Islamic law permit abortion in certain cases, such as pregnancies induced by rape, but Muslims in the survey show the strongest support for government measures to discourage abortion, both punitive and not. As for Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church still takes a firm line against abortion, yet Christians as a group are extremely liberal toward the practice: 65 percent favor individual choice in the matter. (Read on -->)
Burnt uncollected rubbish in a street of Fuorigrotta, a district of Naples on May, 20, 2008. Tens of thousands of tons of waste have piled up since late last year as a 14-year problem over a lack of incinerators reaches a new peak. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi held a cabinet meeting for the first time in Naples yesterday, calling the rubbish Italy's "gravest and most urgent" issue and vowing to resolve the crisis.
In December 2006, Jeremiah S. Johnson, 25, began serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rozdilna, Ukraine, a town near the border with Moldova. When he started, he was HIV negative. In January of this year, he had a midservice medical exam in Kiev and agreed to an HIV test. It came back positive. The Peace Corps told him to pack his bags and return to the United States.
Johnson says the Peace Corps director for Ukraine told him he had to go home because Ukraine doesn't allow HIV-positive foreigners to work there. (If so, this isn't unique. As blogger Andrew Sullivan has pointed out repeatedly, the United States has its own fair share of restrictions on HIV-positive immigrants and tourists.)
Back in Washington, Johnson had an end-of-service medical exam and received written notification that he was being "medically separated" from the Peace Corps. He contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the organization sent a demand letter to the Peace Corps saying that it is violating the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. (The State Department, by the way, changed its policies just this February to permit HIV-positive Americans, on a case-by-case basis, to work in the Foreign Service.)
Johnson doesn't have any physical symptoms of HIV. He and the ACLU say the Peace Corps did not assess him to determine if he could continue serving with reasonable accommodations. Additionally, his requests to be assigned to another country were denied.
What do you all think? A few questions come to mind:
Due to skyrocketing rice prices, Liberians are switching to pasta and learning how to twirl spaghetti on a fork. In India, the government has restricted rice exports, and moms are choosing between eating and paying for their children's schooling. Meanwhile in the United States, Wal-Mart's Sam's Club warehouse stores are limiting the sale of 20-pound (9 kg) bags of jasmine, basmati, and long-grain white rice to four per customer.
In the developed world, food shortages might be overhyped. The head of the California Rice Commission told Reuters, "Bottom line, there is no rice shortage in the United States. We have supplies." Plus, how many Americans buy 80 pounds of rice per shopping trip? (Apparently, it's restaurant owners and small-business owners who typically buy in bulk.)
But for people in developing countries, outrageous food prices and shortages are a serious reality. Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, which provides food aid to the needy, told FP in this week's Seven Questions, "This is a silent tsunami." Video, audio, and prepared remarks from her recent talk on global food insecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies is also available here.
By the way, if you want to help hungry people get rice, play the Free Rice vocabulary game.
"Only one country in the world has eliminated the shortage of transplant kidneys,"
Tyler Cowen Alex Tabarrok reports. "Only one country in the world has legalized financial payments to kidney donors."
What country is that? You'll never guess. Click the link to find out.
Dignity, a restored sense of beauty, and the spotlight on a serious issue: The goals for Angola's Miss Landmine pageant brought together 18 contestants, all land mine survivors, representing the southwest African nation's provinces. On a television special Wednesday night, the ladies posed in gowns and swimsuits -- and their artificial limbs. The winner, Augusta Urica, was presented $2,500 USD by Angola's First Lady Ana Paola dos Santos, and will receive a customized artificial limb. You can see some of the contestants' profiles at the event's Web site. (Pictured above is Cuanza Sul, one of the runners-up.)
Each year, between three and four-hundred people are maimed by mines in Angola -- remnants of a 27-year civil war that ended six years ago. Even though significant effort has been put forward to get rid of them, the country remains one of the most mine-laden in Africa.
There are 80,000 amputees in Angola, most as a result of landmines, according to the International Herald Tribune. Candida Celeste, Angola's minister of family, said, "They showed that they can, that they are able... This will provide encouragement to all those left invalid by the war."
The pageant came ahead of International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action which falls on April 4 each year. As the tens of thousands of Angolans can attest, mines are not weapons that can be easily and completely undeployed, and they continue taking lives and livelihoods for generations after hostilities cease. Though, as these women prove, there can be life after landmines as well.
The government of the Philippines wants its citizens to know that crucifixion can pose a health risk:
Philippine health officials Wednesday warned people taking part in Easter crucifixions and self-flagellation rituals to get a tetanus shot first and sterilise the nails to avoid infections.
Every Good Friday in this predominately Roman Catholic Southeast Asian nation dozens of men re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by having themselves nailed to wooden crosses.
Should we be worried that the Web site for Iraq's Ministry of Health has turned into a conglomeration of dating websites and online car-insurance deals?
Warning: Passport recommends against exploring these Web sites, as your computer could become infested with spyware, or worse.
Yesterday was a good day for the NIMBYs in Shanghai as Mayor Han Zheng announced that a controversial maglev train is not on the list of projects to begin construction in 2008. Protests in January reflected significant public opposition to the plan. Xinhua reported that the project had not passed evaluation and that there is still feedback pending from the public and "national experts." The train is off the table until at least next year.
In another case of protest yielding results, construction of a Xiamen chemical factory has been blocked due to public concern. Mayor Liu Cigui said:
Faced with the choice of becoming a chemical industry base or a coastal scenic city, we think we should stick to the latter."
So, are we seeing hints of local democracy in China? Liu's move could be seen as part of a growing trend to consider the public's views on big construction decisions. Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, has said that major projects will involve public input in the future. And beginning in May, new transparency laws will go into effect essentially mandating government release of environmental information within 15 days of a public inquiry. To what effect that mandate will be carried out remains to be seen, but the tone and direction of such a change is inarguably positive.
This all reflects a new emphasis in China on the quality of economic development. China is now aiming for 8 percent GDP growth in 2008 -- as opposed to the double-digit targets of recent years. Wang Xiaoguang, a Beijing-based economist, interpreted the change this way:
This is also a clear message to local governments: that they should focus their attention on the quality, rather than pace, of development."
Zhao Baige, the Chinese vice minister of family planning, announced yesterday that though the details still need to be ironed out, the government would like to gradually amend its controversial one-child policy. The system today is much more fluid than the original name intended. In practice, rural families and ethnic minorities can have more than one child, as can urban couples who are both from one-child familes. For the most part, so can families with money
In its desire to stay in power, perhaps the Communist Party is following Richard Cincotta's advice about mature populations giving rise to democracy. The more mature the Chinese population gets, the more stable society becomes which can yield a definitive, lasting transition to democracy.
This one-child policy amendment may be an attempt to assure a robust, young generation whose workforce wages will pay for the aging generation; but the higher proportion of youth would also create the unsettledness necessary to prevent democracy. It could be an act designed to draw diplomatic brownie points ahead of the Olympics by easing one of the most intrusive government policies still in place. As controversial as the system has been, population control has definitely been an important factor in curbing poverty and fostering development. It will be interesting to see what the Chinese government's new target will be for a sustainable population in the next century.
Ireland may be one of the best places to be an immigrant, and now there are so many newcomers from right-hand-traffic countries that an Irish senator has proposed that the Emerald Isle switch to driving on the right, too.
Such a change would be "not even remotely feasible," the country's Automobile Association told the Independent. But the senator, Donnie Cassidy, cited the case of Sweden. It switched from left to right in 1967 after spending $120 million in preparations, and it was two entire days before a fatality ensued.
Senator Cassidy isn't all about changing the country's ways to accomodate foreigners' driving habits, however. He has also proposed a special lower speed limit of 80 kmh (50 mph) for noncitizens, compared with speed limits up to 120 kmh (75 mph) for the Irish.
But perhaps it's the senator who needs to slow down and think things through. He admitted to Reuters:
I know when I go to America it takes me five or six days to adjust.
To our U.S. readers: If you happen to see an Irish politician barrelling at you head-on at 75 miles an hour, please e-mail Passport.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.