Morality of Charitable Giving Priorities.  Leona Helmsley leaves her $5-8 billion estate to animal welfare charities.  The "Free exchange blog comments, "Only the little people help people,"  echoing Leona's famous statement that only the little people pay taxes.

posted June 2, 2008 at 1:40 p.m.


Malthus Redux.   Opinion from The Atlantic:  "He challenged the conventional view of human perfectibility that was in fashion during the aftermath of the French Revolution and the approach of a new century. ...  [A] fear exists that at some fundamental level, Malthus is right. For the great contribution of this estimable man was to bring nature itself into the argument over politics. Indeed, in an era of global warming, Malthus may prove among the most-relevant philosophers of the Enlightenment."

posted June 2, 2008 at 9:50 a.m.


Iron-enriched Rice.   Cornell nutritionist Jere Haas finds that  "the iron status of women who ate biofortified, iron-rich rice was 20 percent higher than in women who ate traditional rice. 'Although this sounds like a modest increase, it means that instead of 50 percent of women getting adequate iron, 71 percent of the women who consumed the biofortified rice, while eating a traditional Philippine diet, met the estimated average requirement for iron,' said Jere Haas."   (December issue of the Journal of Nutrition (Vol. 135:12).) 

posted July 2, 2008 at 7:40 a.m.


Progress Reported in Super-Cassava.   Scientists identified three "problems" with cassava:  1.  it is low in protein and micronutrients, so a diet heavy in cassava is nutritionally inadequate;  2.  it is subject to viral diseases;  3.  it requires a significant amount of (low-tech) "processing" to keep it from developing poisonous chemicals.  A team led by Ohio State plant scientist Richard Sayre "has been able to address each of the plant's deficiencies in individual transgenic plants. The next step will be to combine some or all of the bioengineered traits into a single, farmer-preferred cultivar, with the goal of eventually developing cassava varieties that carry all of the improvements developed by the researchers."

posted July 2, 2008 at u7:40 a.m.


Hunger in the Horn of Africa  The Washington Post reports on the "harsh grip of famine."    I generally use the word "famine" to refer to temporary, intense, and geographically isolated incidences of hunger.  The situation in the horn of Africa challenges this definition.  The horn of Africa perennially struggles with widespread undernutrition.   Thus a year of low rainfall triggers emergency ("famine"?) conditions.  The short run response is increased food aid, but that does little or nothing to address the permanent condition of food insufficiency.

posted July 2, 2008 at 7:30 a.m.