Malaria, GM mosquitoes, acrophobia and more

(It’s a crazy Saturday night in Eldoret, and I’m catching up on my news and blogs. Here are the things that caught my eye this week, along with appropriate commentary, snarky and otherwise.)

Scientists have engineered a malaria-proof mosquito. Which seems like an odd strategy — what we really want are malaria-proof people. The mosquitoes are only relevant because they transmit malaria. Thanks to these scientists, we now also have mosquitoes that don’t transmit malaria. How does that help? Evidently the next step is to give the malaria-proof mosquitoes a competitive advantage over the others, and then release them into the wild. Also, we need malaria and the current mosquitoes to stop evolving. Also, we need the whole thing to avoid becoming a Sci-Fi movie.

On a similar note, WSJ had an article on the history of malaria and anti-malaria efforts (hat tip to my dad). It’s worth a read. The article’s prognosis for the current big-push efforts: not good.

Ranil at Aid Thoughts discusses how trendy development issues become “white noise” when they are just crammed into discussions where they don’t belong. He cites good governance as an issue that has suffered such a fate and climate change as possibly the next casualty. I would add entrepreneurship to that list.

Terence at Waylaid Dialectic coins a new term: acrophobia. Definition: “1. That panicked feeling you get when you realise that, while everyone else in the room seems to understand what PEPFID stands for, you haven’t got the faintest idea. And that, at some point in the next few minutes, you’re going to have to confess to this.”

Switching gears: Karzai has dropped his opposition to a U.S. plan for creating local defense forces in Afghanistan, which will be based on the Afghan Public Protection Police in Wardak. Decentralizing basic policing is generally good. But it’s unclear that these forces would actually be decentralized (they will still be paid by the Afghan Interior Ministry) or that basic policing is what’s really needed in areas facing an active insurgency. Also, I’m bugged by how this initiative is being described: the Washington Post article leads by calling this “a welcome step forward for the Obama administration’s beleaguered war strategy” and the Economist blurb calls it a “boost to the American war effort in Afghanistan” — it’s odd that neither one thought to lead with what it means for the actual country of Afghanistan.

Related to Afghanistan, Adam at Red Team Journal attempts to break down a false distinction in the discussion of COIN, arguing that it’s neither “Mr. Rogers” nor “Darth Vader” but a little of both.

And as long as we’re talking about failed states: Here’s some succinct analysis on the Kampala bombing and Somalia’s future.

On a random note: Fast Company discusses whether design is the new imperialism. (Hat tip to Sara B.)

Finally, the Economist‘s Lexington says what I’ve been thinking for years: America is great, just shut up about it.