Saturday, July 25, 2015

Building Hope and Waging Peace

It seems incredible, maybe even highly unlikely given their current practices, but I vaguely remember a time when the big three American television networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—made a real effort to inform their viewers of not only significant events but of the struggles other human beings around the world have to endure to survive. Sure, ABC's David Muir, CBS's Scott Pelley, and NBC's Lester Holt will occasionally delve into a story not myopically centered around Americans or how the world and its people effect us but it is rare. In many ways it is not entirely the major anchors fault. Their corporate masters don't want the American public too informed or upset. If the former happens the status quo might become threatened and as for the latter, a disturbed population will not be inclined to go out and buy all the neat stuff we see in the commercials between the fluffy, feel good stories.

Now to be fair there is one bright spot, the Public Broadcasting Service in this country does an outstanding job of television journalism even though most Americans will not make the effort to watch in depth stories. The reasons run from the understandable, like a family making dinner to a stressed out parent trying to help their child with homework, but truthfully the short American attention span and willful ignorance are always high probabilities.

Still though, if someone is attentive and widens their perspective a little it is easy to learn about what is going on in the world and that there some reasons to be hopeful. Just today I was listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson's “Star Talk”podcast and learned that former President Jimmy Carter and his foundation have almost eliminated one of the most horrific diseases on the planet.

Called guinea worm disease or Dracunculiasis you contract this illness by drinking water containing water fleas that carry the guinea worm larvae. After the water fleas are ingested and die the guinea worm larvae penetrate the host's stomach or intestinal wall and then enter the abdominal cavity where they take up residence to grow. After a three month maturation, mating takes place and the male worm then dies and is absorbed by the host's body.

A year late with no signs of the parasitic infection showing in the host, the female worms migrate down the body to tissues along long bones or joints and move close to the surface forming a blister on the skin. The blister causes a painful burning sensation as the worm emerges and the host will often immerse the affected area into water to relieve the agony. It is during this time the adult female worm emerges from the body that it releases hundreds of thousands of her offspring in the water completing its life cycle and contaminating the water. As the adult worm leaves the host it will be difficult, if not impossible for him or her, to walk or work. It is not uncommon for the host to die in the end. Another diabolical aspect of this disease is that a person can easily be reinfected since the host develops no immunity like in the case of chicken pox.

This disease has been around for literally thousands of years with historians saying it was mentioned in the Old Testament as Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The traditional method to remove the worm is to slowly wind it around a small stick, a process that in itself is very painful and can take weeks since the organism can reach the length of 60 to 100 centimeters long. (For the Metric illiterate that's about 23 to 39 inches.) 

While the Wikipedia article says this illness can infect canines as well as humans the doctor Neil deGrasse Tyson interviewed on his show to fill in the technical details of the disease clearly and repeatedly said only humans can carry this disease. He further states that since humans were the only vector, if we could prevent the transmission of the larvae through drinking water not would we stop the disease in its tracks but the end result would be the complete elimination of the worm itself.

Since the “worst president in the history of the United States” and his foundation became involved in the eradication of the disease the number of people inflicted has gone from 3.5 million in 1986 to just 126 cases in 2014! This could well be the first parasitic disease that we wipe off the face of the planet! In a better and wiser world this is a story all the major networks should be running instead of the usual celebrity-related crap and mindless human fluff pieces they can't stop running.

There is no cure or preventative vaccine for guinea worm. This disease is fought through the use of education, the establishment of local health care systems to prevent its spread, and the simple filtration of drinking water. While there are many other agencies and non-governmental organizations working to fight Guinea worm, President Carter has uses his honorable reputation to influence local leaders from national to village levels to combat this disease.

This should say a lot about Jimmy Carter who, instead of charging huge sums to speak at a homeless veteran's charity, is going out into a dangerous world in an attempt to better the lives of the forgotten and abandoned. Although, I've got to admit it takes some brass balls or major obliviousness to go out and charge a fee to charity that helps veterans who are overwhelmingly suffering from a war you sent them fight that was based on lies and propaganda. 

 This should also say something about our major news sources and their dereliction of duty along with the general ignorance and apathy of a people whose narcissistic tendencies precludes them from giving a damn about anyone but themselves. The little dirty secret is that a great many people in the world don't hate us Americans because of our supposed “freedoms,” no their major issue is often because we're just a bunch of assholes.


sage said...

Over and over again, since leaving office, Carter has shown himself to be a good man who lives his values and beliefs. He received so much grief in office, much of which he didn't deserve and was left behind by the Nixon regime. I think, looking back, both Ford and Carter did a good job of keeping the nation together through a stressful era and Carter, in his long tenure as a former president has set the example for those who follow. Thanks for sharing this information on the work of the Carter Institute.

goatman said...

The man keeps giving.

Pixel Peeper said...

Jimmy Carter probably is the nicest person to ever have lived in the White House. I had no idea about this particular disease and his foundation's efforts to eradicate it. I need to make "watch PBS" more of a priority.

Beach Bum said...

Sage: It's funny in a perverse way, republican ex-presidents go play golf and charge huge sums for lectures after leaving office, while their democratic counterparts generally go out into the world and help people.

Goatman: Yes he does, I just wish he would get more credit.

Pixel: Truthfully I need to watch more PBS myself. I was including myself when I wrote that these days the rush of life makes staying informed difficult.

Teeluck said...

Having put the first solar panels on the white house roof, I have all the respect for Prez Carter. This is amazing news of the disease being reduced in such numbers!! Love it !!

Ranch Chimp said...

You know, when I first started reading this (1st para) I was laughing, the way you describe the fluff stuff and the media, because it is so true ... and frankly the damn pharma commercials and their sappy tearjerker music and phoneyism scenarios takes the cake on commercials. I actually remember guy, when an hour tele programme had about 8 minutes of commercials, now it's like 25 min. of commercials and 35 minutes of programming. I alwayz watch PBS too, and seen Tyson's piece too. I dont blame the news anchors, but blame the corporate sponsors and producers, yet still they do, do some good coverage of issues they do cover heavily, but are lacking in the area's you point out here as well.

Yeah, can you believe that shit with Bush charging to speak for vets!!, when I heard that locally on some news radio talk show while out cruising here in Dallas, they actually were trying to explain why they "have to charge" and trying to justify it (you CANT justify shit like that, that is just downright disgusting and more nickel and diming to squeeze an extra buck!!) ... Bush should be downright ashamed of himself doing that, as ashamed as he should be for that damn multi hundreds of billions $$$$ invasion of Iraq (another failure,like many of his past private business ventures, not even well thought out, that I think Cheney was advising and influenced Bush on, because Bush isnt that bright/ savvy business-wise, to pull off a bite like that).

The Bug said...

Go President Carter! I love him :)