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Microsoft Science

Bill Gates Unleashes Swarm of Mosquitoes 841

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates released a glass full of mosquitoes at an elite Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference to make a point about the deadly sting of malaria. 'Malaria is spread by mosquitoes,' Gates said while opening a jar on stage at a gathering known to attract technology kings, politicians, and Hollywood stars. 'I brought some. Here I'll let them roam around. There is no reason only poor people should be infected.'" Say what you will about the guy, that is showmanship. Well done.
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Bill Gates Unleashes Swarm of Mosquitoes

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  • by gzipped_tar ( 1151931 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @09:48AM (#26736185) Journal
    That's funny... however he was not complaining about viruses. Malaria is cause by small protozoa [] (single-celled organisms). Viruses don't have cells.
  • Re:Assault ! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @10:03AM (#26736383)

    Most people are allergic. Why do you think they itch when you get bit?

    Because that's a normal immune reaction to an antigen entering the body? Now, if you start itching all over your body from a single mosquito bite and/or have trouble breathing because your airways are swelling shut ... then you have an actual allergic reaction.

  • Re:Assault ! (Score:5, Informative)

    by redelm ( 54142 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @10:09AM (#26736443) Homepage
    Even if they don't bite, he threatened and deliberately generated fear. That is the essence of assault. People get convicted using toy guns.
  • Re:Only poor people? (Score:5, Informative)

    by feed_me_cereal ( 452042 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @10:17AM (#26736567)

    He said "there's no reason only poor people should be infected", not "there's no reason only poor people are elected". Poor people did nothing to deserve being infected.

    Secondly, Bill Gate's little show had a lot more of a point than PETA getting naked. Whereas the latter is merely a publicity stunt, Gate's maneuver also serves to make potentially rich donors uncomfortable with the idea of the suffering of others by experiencing a small part of it. Nothing about PETA getting naked serves this sort of purpose.

    Lastly, I also dearly hope that Bill Gate's political leanings aren't whats preventing you from otherwise helping to stop the spread of malaria...

  • Re:Next week's trick (Score:3, Informative)

    by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @10:37AM (#26736853)

    I think Al Gore plans on having a volcano erupt in downtown Manhattan to emphasize that ecological disasters are not just some fringe pacific "ring of fire" problem, but I hear he's having trouble getting a permit from the city.

    A volcano isn't an ecological disaster, except in Soviet Russia []. It's a geological disaster.

  • Well done Bill (Score:4, Informative)

    by MjDelves ( 811950 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @10:39AM (#26736879) Journal
    As someone who researches Malaria for a living I must wholeheartedly support the funding that the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is bringing to the field of Malaria research. Malaria might only be a "poor" person disease but it affects tens of millions of people a year. Even on a selfish note, with global warming creeping up on us in the next few decades, perhaps this pre-emptive strike by the West will save us all getting sick in the long run.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:04AM (#26737291)

    Indeed Malaria is not caused by a virus, although West Nile Virus can be transmitted by mosquitos and can cause a nasty(and permanent) brain damage.

  • by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <> on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:08AM (#26737395) Homepage Journal

    Since the linked article (yes, I read it) has a picture of Gates with the jar open, you should not be modded "informative."

  • Re:And next up... (Score:3, Informative)

    by PMuse ( 320639 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:12AM (#26737453)

    More than a few. He drove them all [] into Lake Washington years ago.

  • Re:The new Gates (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:13AM (#26737473)

    He gives a few billion dollars each year to a foundation that he has control over. Essentially, he gives a few billion dollars each year to himself, and a few million out of that to very urgent causes.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:25AM (#26737683) Homepage Journal

    What has Gates done PERSONALLY to make slashdotters so hateful of him?

    1. Clippy
    2. Bob
    3. Bought out FoxPro and ruined it
    4. Disappearing menu items
    5. Changing new versions of apps so much that you have to relearn them
    6. Releasing OSes that they know are full of bugs
    7. UAC
    8. Lack of following standards; the belief theyt THEY set the standards (backslash, IE, CSS, the list goes on
    9. making a virus-friendly OS
    10. silverlight
    11. jscript
    12. Active-X (truly evil IMO)
    13. Doing the equivalent of your throwing a five dollar bill in a Salvation Army bucket and expecting us to think he's a philanthropist
    14. product registration (pain in the ass)
    15. Windows registry

    What has Gates done PERSONALLY to make slashdotters like him?

  • Re:The new Gates (Score:3, Informative)

    by replicant108 ( 690832 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:29AM (#26737771) Journal

    The Gates Foundation only gives away 5% of its value every year. The rest is re-invested to maximise profit.

    By transferring his wealth to a foundation, Gates has managed to:

    a) minimise his tax liabilities
    b) maintain control of his wealth (and use it in support of his fight against free software and generic drugs)
    c) invest in restoring his reputation (which, for those with short memories, was damaged by his involvement in criminal behaviour )

    Furthermore, investigations have found that the Foundation's attitude to ethical investment to be lacking.,0,6827615.story?coll=la-home-headlines []

  • Re:Assault ! (Score:1, Informative)

    by indi0144 ( 1264518 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:45AM (#26738045) Journal
    As far as I know everyone on American land thats not indian: red skin or brown skin, it's a foreigner and should behave. System you talk about was created by the white man Spaniards and British .. If you're poor and white you are just out of luck.. If you're black and poor you're a potential criminal, If you're Latino and poor you command your daughter to lock in the house and pay 5 USD to the guy to fix random stuff. Flamebaitish maybe.. out of touch with reality not so much. Reality is a Flamebait soup for poor people, ironic that they always get moderated down on top of that.

    and more on topic: Maybe, just maybe, if Gates could do something for poor nations so they don't have to pay up to 5 minimum wages to run a computer.. that money would go to health care.
  • Re:Assault ! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Joe the Lesser ( 533425 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:48AM (#26738121) Homepage Journal

    Though I surely sympathize with poor white people, and am saddened by the state of all those struggling to get by, statistics show they suffer less than their counterparts in terms of law prosecution. Racism still exists (I need only listen to my father-in-law rant...), though I hope one day everyone sees race like Peter does.

    Characteristics of State Prison inmates

            * Women were 6.6% of the State prison inmates in 2001, up from 6% in 1995.
            * Sixty-four percent of prison inmates belonged to racial or ethnic minorities in 2001.
            * An estimated 57% of inmates were under age 35 in 2001.
            * About 4% of State prison inmates were not U.S. citizens at yearend 2001.
            * About 6% of State prison inmates were held in private facilities at yearend 2001.
            * Altogether, an estimated 57% of inmates had a high school diploma or its equivalent.
            * Among the State prison inmates in 2000:

                        -- nearly half were sentenced for a violent crime (49%)
                        -- a fifth were sentenced for a property crime (20%)
                        -- about a fifth were sentenced for a drug crime (21%)

    Put into contrast by:

    The U.S. population's distribution by race and ethnicity in 2006 was as follows:[30][31]

            * Total population: 299 million
            * White alone: 74% or 221.3 million

  • by toQDuj ( 806112 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:49AM (#26738125) Homepage Journal

    Meh, it's TED. We'll be able to see for ourselves what really happened, when they put the talk online at []


    TED's cool.

  • by AcquaCow ( 56720 ) <> on Thursday February 05, 2009 @11:56AM (#26738281) Homepage

    Well, according to this Live Blog [] from someone who was at the event, and blogging during it, Gates did release some of the mosquitos...

    -- Dave

  • Probably harmless (Score:2, Informative)

    by joeyblades ( 785896 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @12:03PM (#26738419)

    Only one species of mosquitoes actually transmit malaria to humans; the Anopheles. Interesting stunt to scare the uninformed, but most likely more harmless than, say, releasing Windows 7 to the unsuspecting masses.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2009 @12:07PM (#26738509)

    Funny what decades of liberals acting like Bolsheviks have done for the meaning of the word.

    Fixed it for yah.

  • Re:Assault ! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2009 @12:16PM (#26738701)

    If you control for other factors, the most significant predictor of criminal behavior is NOT race. Statistically, it's coming from a single-mother headed home. Seriously.

    Look it up--Google "single mother crime statistics"

  • Re:Assault ! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2009 @12:25PM (#26738869)

    It's still an allergic reaction. One is local (and normal) the other is systemic and severe. The first time you are ever bitten by a mosquito it wont itch. It takes time to develop an immune reaction to recognize it as foreign. Second time around- itch. Some insects have toxins in there bite that release histamine- those reactions are instantaneous and can also be systemic and don't require immunity.

  • Re:Memento Mori (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2009 @01:25PM (#26740023)

    Where does it say that the rich have to give up what they have/earned/have been knocked down (in some instances many times)/posses just to make a bunch of liberals happy or feel better ?

    Maybe you should move to a communist country if you really feel so bad or better yet move your hippy ass to the location of said poor instead of bitching and whining about the hand picked causes you choose to cry about.

    The wealthy are not solely responsible for the world's poor and consider how many of the worlds poor would be much better off if they would do simple things such as... move the hell out of the desert instead of sticking around bitching about, heat, lack of water, unable to grow crops...

    Some times you have to be run over by the clue bus to understand that there isn't always going to be a bunch of liberal losers who will rally to get you what you need/want and a lot of wealthy people got that way by "appreciating the view" themselves.

    My bet is you are one of the many zOmbies who voted for Nobama and are about to see that change for the better doesn't always result from liberal beliefs and sympathizing.

  • Re:Assault ! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @01:42PM (#26740375) Homepage

    The statistics you quote simply do not support the argument you are making because they do not control for income.

    I do not know if it is the case that you honestly do not understand statistics, or that you are using sophistry to push an agenda. Either way, your error should be obvious to an educated person.

  • by jurgen ( 14843 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @01:59PM (#26740771)

    The article you linked to, "DDT, facts vs. fears", is a publication by the "American Council on Science and Health", which appears to be a typical corporate apologist front group. It has nothing whatsoever to do with UNL (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) despite being hosted at a poorly configured MacOS X server there.

    If you want to know the real facts about DDT, the Wikipedia entry for it is excellent and rather more complete than the above article. The reality, as always, is more complex than iconoclasts on either side of any debate would have it. DDT is at best a part of any strategy against malaria... by itself it could only provide temporary relief (since mosquitoes become resistant to it) at high cost in human and environmental health.

    Also DDT is NOT banned around the world. It was banned in the US, and with time many other countries either also banned it or simply discontinued its use, each for their own reasons. DDT is also cheap enough and easy enough to produce that all but the poorest of poor countries can make all they need themselves if they chose to use it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2009 @02:21PM (#26741161)

    DDT is banned for agricultural use.

    DDT use, for purpose of disease control is allowed by the treaty.

  • Re:Memento Mori (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mordac ( 1009 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @02:35PM (#26741409)

    Yay, Urban Myths live on.

    There is no Global DDT Ban. Due to overuse in America we ended up poising ourselves (basically when we were to spread it, the scientists/instructions said use 1 bag, the spreader used 10 bags, to be sure.)

    DDT is still legal to use in Africa, and in fact, is being used. Its one of the most cost efficient methods at controlling Malaria. Its just more highly monitored than it was before (due to people using way too much.)

    Go hit your wiki's, and find out more about the great DDT Myth, FUD brought to you by the anti-environmental movement, and embraced by the USA.

  • Re:Memento Mori (Score:5, Informative)

    by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Thursday February 05, 2009 @03:41PM (#26742339) Homepage Journal

    I used to believe that. Turns out there wasn't any hard evidence; the DDT ban came about almost wholly due to Rachel Carson's bestselling book SILENT SPRING, which has since been discredited as having no scientific basis. (And yes, I've read the book.)

  • by Curunauth ( 1467525 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @04:50PM (#26743545)

    Worth noting: that UNL link is a cached version of an page *from another site* from a course outline for Chemistry teachers, so NOT a UNL page. []
    The linked-to site ( [] ) is down, but the google cache reveals this:
    "This site is primarily an information exchange and contains reviews of environmental issues. It presents the alternative green view and does not endorse . . ."

    Also linked from the UNL course is an NIH page describing DDT toxicity. []
    or you can read a more recent study: []
    Summary: in some groups (rodents separated by strain and gender), no evidence of carcinogenicity for some/all of DDT, TDE, and p.p.-DDE [a fact conveniently cited out of context by a variety of pro-DDT publications] . . . but all showed definite carcinogenicity in at least some groups. As such, it is classified as "Reasonably Anticipated to be a Human Carcinogen".

  • by Curunauth ( 1467525 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @05:02PM (#26743753)
    oops. I was fooled by a date listed in the search I did on the National Toxicology Program's site - that is not a more recent study.

    Instead, a 2005 publication (PDF): [] Same conclusion.
  • by Curunauth ( 1467525 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @05:10PM (#26743899)
    I believe his main intent was to counter the *inflation* of the source by making it appear to be endorsed by UNL, as he said.

    Also, he did provide an alternative and disagreeing source of information - the Wikipedia article.

    You could also read a 2005 NIH report (PDF): []

    Summary: 1978 study shows no evidence of carcinogenicity in technical-grade DDT, TDE, and DDE in diet of mice and rats [a fact conveniently cited out of context by a variety of pro-DDT publications]; 1991 study shows oral administration of breakdown products DDE and TDE show definite carcinogenicity in hamsters, some groups (by gender and species) of mice and rats (something that was also shown in part in the 1978 study).

    As such, despite insufficient evidence in humans (primarily due to heavy confounding of epidemiological data by other pesticides) it is classified as "Reasonably Anticipated to be a Human Carcinogen".
  • by pugugly ( 152978 ) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @05:31PM (#26744253)

    Good lord guys.

    There are labs, where they provide these kinds of animals. In lieu of convincing evidence to the contrary the reasonable assumption is the Bill Gates had a flunky call a lab, say "I'd like two dozen biting but non-infectious mosquitoes - they will be released into the open air as part of a PR stunt so it's important they be non-infectious."; and delivered said mosquitoes.

    This is *less* dangerous than if he were talking about Bubonic Plague and released lab mice - the mice would chew on wiring.

    Get a grip.


Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson