Economist 10/12/15

  1. Ms Svetlana Alexievich became the centre of attention when the Swedish Academy announced that it would award her “polyphonic writings” with the Nobel prize in literature, calling her work “a monument to suffering and courage in our time”.Born in 1948, she grew up amid the wreckage of the Great Patriotic War, the Russian name for the second world war. Proportionally, Belarus lost more of its population than anywhere else. Her father’s two brothers never came home. “We didn’t know a world without war, the world of war was the only world we knew,” she writes in her first book, “War’s Unwomanly Face” (1985), about the fresh-faced Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian women who fought the Nazis.Ms Alexievich returned to war with “Zinky Boys” (1991), about the young soldiers who lost their lives and returned home in zinc coffins from the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which began in 1979.
  2. Swaziland to the threshold of becoming the first malaria-free country in sub-Saharan Africa, the part of the world most blighted by the disease (see map). Swaziland’s struggle is part of a wider battle that the world is waging—and winning. If it succeeds, Swaziland will join more than 100 countries that have eliminated malaria within their borders.Since 2000, malaria deaths around the world have fallen by nearly half. The steepest drop has come in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of fatalities occur. Malaria still kills around 450,000 people each year (see chart 1)—most of them children in Africa.The Gates Foundation, an important source of funds for antimalarial research and control efforts, believes it can be eradicated completely by 2040.That would rank among humanity’s greatest achievements. In 1900 it was endemic in almost every country on Earth and throughout the first half of the 20th century it killed 2m people a year.
  3. Five types of malaria cause illness in humans. Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for the vast majority of deaths, having killed virtually all of the 528,000 people who died from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013. Plasmodium vivax is the most geographically widespread variety, responsible for most cases of malaria outside sub-Saharan Africa it is less lethal than P. falciparum but can remain dormant in the liver and cause illness to recur when it emerges into the blood.Taking on the malaria parasite and its insect hosts has proven equally hard. Both are frustratingly skilled at developing resistance to drugs or insecticides; and resistant strains tend to spread fast.The front-line drug of choice, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), is used in most countries with P. falciparum and reduces malaria deaths in children by more than 96%. But artemisinin-resistant parasites have been found in five South-East Asian countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.In Africa mosquitoes are rapidly developing resistance to the four insecticides that are used to treat bed nets and spray houses. Bed nets treated with insecticide are among the more effective and widespread low-cost measures. Most countries distribute them free. The share of the at-risk population sleeping under one rose from 3% in 2004 to 44% in 2013.
  4. ON OCTOBER 12th, India’s notoriously backward state of Bihar begins a nearly month-long election for its state assembly. With 66m people eligible to vote over five phases of polling, across some of the densest and roughest bits of north India.What makes this race important in Delhi, the capital, is the way it has become a test of Mr Modi’s prestige against the most formidable opposition he is likely to face in his first term as prime minister.
  5. BILL COSBY, the 78-year-old entertainer, has been accused of rape by dozens of women. On October 9th, he will give a deposition in a lawsuit brought by Judy Huth, now in her 50s, who says the comedian assaulted her at the Playboy mansion when she was fifteen years old. But this is only the second time Mr Cosby has faced civil litigation for as many as 40 episodes of alleged sexual abuse, and he has never been charged with a crime.The alleged violations in question all occurred years ago, and many states’ statutes of limitations impose limits on how long a person may be held legally accountable for an illicit act. In Colorado and a few other states, there is a 10-year cap on prosecuting people for sexual assault. In Arkansas, the limit is six years; it is 20 years in Ohio. The patchwork grows more complex when considering whether the rape was first-degree, or second or third, and when adding the factor of age. But there is no national norm for a statute of limitations for rape, as there is for the crime of murder.

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