Rupert Murdoch – Global Damage

By Shlomo Maital  

   You have to hand it to Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. tycoon, now turning 91, one of the world’s richest billionaires.  I can’t think of another person who has unseated more worthy leaders and helped elect unworthy conservative ones, in more countries, over such a long time. 

    Here is what the New York Times summarizes about Murdoch: *

*  “In Australia, where Murdoch’s power is most undiluted, his outlets  led an effort to repeal the country’s carbon tax — a first for any nation — and pushed out a series of prime ministers whose agenda didn’t comport with his own.”     Note: Murdoch’s media outlets dominate down under.

 “In Britain, his London-based tabloid, The Sun, led the historic Brexit crusade to drive the country out of the European Union — and, in the chaos that ensued, helped deliver Theresa May to 10 Downing Street.”     

*   “His 24-hour (US) news-and-opinion network, the Fox News Channel,  fused with President Trump and his base of hard-core supporters, giving Murdoch an unparalleled degree of influence over the world’s most powerful democracy.”  Murdoch has since expressed some distaste for Trump – but Fox continues to pander to ‘the big steal’ and to Trump supporters.

    “Few private citizens have ever been more central to the state of world affairs”, conclude reporters Jonathan Mahler and Jim Ruttenberg, in their intensive long research piece on Murdoch. 

     Check out his New York Post for some really mind-bending fake news.

     Murdoch is not alone in gobbling up newspapers and bending them to his views politically.  Struggling local papers are being acquired, downsized radically, flipped, or closed outright. Here are data from the University of North Carolina School of Journalism:

    * Since 2004, the United States has lost one-fourth – 2,100 – of its newspapers. This includes 70 dailies and more than 2,000 weeklies or non-dailies.

    *   At end of 2019, the United States had 6,700 newspapers, down from almost 9,000 in 2004.

    *  Today, more than 200 of the nation’s 3,143 counties and equivalents have no newspaper and no alternative source of credible and comprehensive information on critical issues. Half of the counties have only one newspaper, and two-thirds do not have a daily newspaper.

      As local and regional newspapers disappear, local coverage of corruption, incompetent politicians, influence-peddling and general bad government also disappear.  People increasingly get their news from biased, dubious sources. The result is threatening to democracy, which depends on voter access to accuracy and truth.    

*  “How Rupert Murdoch’s Media Empire Remade the World”, BY JONATHAN MAHLER AND JIM RUTENBERG New York Times, APRIL 3, 2019

COVID Policy: It’s All About Trust

By Shlomo Maital    

Trust, Mutual Responsibility

  CNN’s Fareed Zakaria brings incisive intelligent insight to world events.  Today, he cited an important study published in the British medical journal The Lancet.  This is a huge study, biggest of its kind, that studied COVID-19 infection and fatality rates across 177 countries.*   I looked it up.

 Here are the key findings:

 *    “Trust in government, trust in one another:  Measures of trust in the government and interpersonal trust, as well as less government corruption, had larger, statistically significant associations with lower standardized infection rates.”

*   “Willingness to be vaccinated:  High levels of government and interpersonal trust, as well as less government corruption, were also associated with higher COVID-19 vaccine coverage among middle-income and high-income countries where vaccine availability was more widespread, and lower corruption was associated with greater reductions in morbidity.”

     This is not just  a statistical correlation.   Trust SAVES LIVES.   

*    “If these modelled associations were to be causal, an increase in trust of governments such that all countries had societies that attained at least the amount of trust in government or interpersonal trust measured in Denmark, which is in the 75th percentile across these spectrums, might have reduced global infections by 12·9%  for government trust and 40·3% for interpersonal trust.”   

       Take a closer look at that last italicized number.  40.3%   If we all trusted in our government as the Danes do, and trusted in one another as the Danes do, global infections would have been 40 per cent less. 

    There have been over 400 million COVID-19 infections, and 5.8 million deaths, globally.  Had we trusted one another, helped one another, believed in one another, and trusted our government and what it told us —  perhaps more than two million deaths could have been prevented.  We would have worn masks, isolated socially, and got vaccinated. 

    Corrupt, incompetent governments are not only contemptible.  They kill.  They cost lives.  We cannot afford them.  When we need them, need public heath policies, need public spirited people – we lack them.   And we just cannot afford it.

     We have to restore a sense of responsibility toward one another.  We have to repair the adverse selection model, that funnels corrupt untruthful people into government and repels capable people of good will.  We just cannot afford to do otherwise.   What we have now is costing lives.

      =======

 Source:  Pandemic preparedness and COVID-19: an exploratory analysis of infection and fatality rates, and contextual factors associated with preparedness in 177 countries, from Jan 1, 2020, to Sept 30, 2021, The Lancet,  2022,

https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(22)00172-6.

How Mice Help Cure Leukemia

By Shlomo Maital   

CAR-T Mouse

 Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, reporter Sarah Gantz informs us:

     “The first two recipients of a groundbreaking cancer treatment developed at the University of Pennsylvania remained cancer-free a decade later, leading researchers to utter a word that’s typically taboo in cancer circles: cure.   Penn researchers in 2010 treated their first chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients with CAR-T therapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. In a paper published Wednesday [last February]  in the journal Nature, researchers report that their first two patients were still cancer-free 10 years after their treatment. What’s more, the cells were still present, protecting against future lymphoma invaders.”

     “….The therapy’s effectiveness and longevity are “beyond our wildest expectations,” one of the doctors told reporters Tuesday.”

      So:  What exactly is CAR-T therapy?

      “Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T therapy genetically modifies the body’s T-cells — the white blood cells that play a lead role in the body’s immune response to foreign particles — to attack cancer.”   In this therapy, the body’s own T-cells are removed, genetically modified  (with the help of mice – see below)  to create a kind of combined T-B cell, and then re-injected into the body.  These cells are primed to attack leukemia cells in the blood and kill them” – like Special Forces sent on a mission.

     What is most amazing – normally, the body’s own immune system will attack anything that is not totally human, totally familiar to the body itself.  But in this case, somehow, the immune system tolerates the CAR-T cells – and they quickly begin to multiply.  It’s like having an army of soldier cells that attack and kill leukemia cells on sight…and they reproduce rapidly…and forever!   

      This is indeed a cure for leukemia!  

         Gantz reports, “Doctors don’t use words like cure lightly or, frankly, very often,” said David L. Porter, the director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at Penn. “When we started this, I don’t think we were expecting this would develop into such a powerful curative therapy.”

.  . . . . . .

      About 24,000 people die of leukemia yearly in the US – more men than women.  It is true that most cancer deaths (90% of them) are caused by ‘solid cancer’ (tumor-related).  But immunotherapy treatment for them, too, is being intensively researched and holds promise. 

         CAR T cell therapies are at present hugely expensive  — $375,000 to $475,000 per treatment.  This is because manufacturing them is expensive and because administering them requires extensive monitoring for fear of CRS  cytokine response syndrome (the kind of immunological ‘storm’ that has resulted from COVID-19, for instance).     But the cost will come down over time.

   How have mice helped?

   A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study reports:  “We established a humanized mouse (hu-mouse) model with a functional human immune system and genetically-matched (autologous) primary acute B-lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) that permits modeling of CD19-targeted CAR T cell therapy in immunocompetent hosts without allogeneic or xenogeneic immune responses.”

     A humanized mouse!   With human leukemia B-cells.  Which are then killed by CAR-T cells.  Without endangering humans, in the early trials. 

     We have pigs providing heart and kidney transplants.  And mice providing in-vivo tests for new leukemia treatments. 

     Thanks guys.   

 Putin Invades Ukraine? A Vest Pocket Analysis

By Shlomo Maital    

Spike the guns?

  The quality of media reporting on Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine has been terrible, as usual.  No real historical context, and sadly, very little authoritative voices from Ukrainians themselves.  And repeatedly, President Biden has bargained with the Russians, without any Ukrainians at the table. 

   Today, on an NPR podcast, Open Source (Christopher Lyden), at least we heard from a real Ukrainian voice (a leading novelist) and an academic Russia expert.

     Here is a vestpocket analysis of what is going on, based on what I heard.  300 words.

      Russia invaded part of Georgia in 2008.  Georgia is the birthplace of Stalin, and once a part of the USSR.  I visited Georgia and climbed a mountain there.  It has many buildings from the Soviet era – but it has its own long proud history, language, culture, and religious practice. 

      In that invasion, Russia and Putin learned how antiquated and obsolete its military had become.   The price of oil in 2008 reached $145 (!) before falling to $100.  Russia was drowning in petrodollars.

     This was a huge opportunity for Putin.  Russia has (still) a superb educational system and brilliant engineers and scientists.  The petrodollar flood could have been put to great use, to make Russia into a modern hi-tech power.  This would involve dumping the oligarchs and cleaning up the corruption — nobody will launch a startup if you know it will be stolen from you by Putin-backed tycoons. 

    But Putin chose instead to back the oligarchs, scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours.  And the petrodollar windfall went into the military.

    Today Russia has super-modern jet fighters (Sukhoi), modern tanks, electronic warfare… in some cases, American generals admit, better than the US.   The Russian invasion of Ukraine could split the country in two, taking the more Russian-speaking Eastern half including Kiev, and the Russian military will show off its new hardware.   

      NATO will not send soldiers to Ukraine, only equipment. 

       What can be done?

       Something really simple.  Germany sits weak-kneed on the fence, dependent as it is on Russian gas, in a cold winter.    

       What if the West offered to supply natural gas to Europe (LNG, liquified natural gas, shipped to Rotterdam)?  Cut off the Russians’ gas, and let the Russian people chew on bullets rather than bread.

       This is feasible.  Merely making the offer, and organizing the logistics, will deter Russia. 

     Putin turns 70 this fall. He seeks to define his legacy.  Stirring up trouble appears to him to restore Russia’s position as a world power.  There is a better way – leverage Russian brainpower to make it a world hi-tech power.  But Putin chose not to.  He blew his wad on military hardware. 

      So his legacy will be that of a paranoid who led his people down a path of war and suffering.  And he is not the first, nor the last. 

Let’s All Be ‘ambuya utano’ (community grandmothers)!

By Shlomo Maital  

   Can we all be ‘ambuya utano’ (community grandmothers)?

   Here is the story – told by Dixon Chibanda to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, normally a place where billionaire tycoons romp. 

    Wouldn’t it be great, if each of us could act like a Zimbabwe community grandmother, for our friends and neighbors – to lend a friendly ear.  It would do wonders for us all, listener and speaker alike.   Mental health problems are sweeping across the globe, not just corona.  ‘Community grandmothers’ could help a lot. 

    “This is a story of hope. The steady worsening of mental health across the world – and the personal, economic and social damage this is causing – can seem like a problem too big to solve. But it is not, and this is the year when together we must start to turn the tide, starting at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.    In 2006 I was struggling, along with 11 other psychiatrists, to provide mental health support to a population of 14 million people in Zimbabwe. By way of comparison, the Netherlands has 17 million people and 4,000 psychiatrists.    At least one in four of my fellow countrymen has a diagnosable mental health condition, Zimbabwe is struggling with debt and more than 70% of people live below the poverty line. A traditional well-resourced and staffed mental health support service was not going to be achievable in the short term. To give the immediate help we were duty-bound to provide, we needed to try something different. Sometimes, when you have no choice but to search with your eyes and ears open, you find what you are looking for right in front of you.

        “Ambuya utano, or community grandmothers, were already trusted and respected figures in the community, with many providing home-based care and health education. Our simple idea was to train these grandmothers to develop their existing skills so that they could give problem-solving talking therapy to people with anxiety, depression and other mental-health problems. The neutral and welcoming space we created for this therapy, rooted in a practical cognitive behavioural approach, was the Friendship Bench.

    “Sitting together on a Friendship Bench in a quiet corner of the grounds of a health centre, our community grandmothers listen and spend time working through problems that could be causing or worsening a person’s mental health, coming up with possible solutions and agreeing on a plan of action

     “There are three elements to the first discussion: opening the mind (kuvhura pfungwa), uplifting (kusimudzira), and strengthening (kusimbisa). Each 30-45 minute session, over four to six weeks, builds on the previous, exploring barriers and agreeing a way forward, without ever focusing on a medical diagnosis or treatments that would be unaffordable to most.

    “And it works. Children went back in school. Mothers and fathers found work. An independent clinical review has found that the Friendship Bench was proving a more effective treatment for depression and anxiety than conventional medical treatments or clinical therapies.”

Gene Sequencing: How It Works

By Shlomo Maital  

  Gene sequencing has proved a powerful tool in understanding the coronavirus’s mutations.

   Ever wonder how it is done?  How scientists can precisely identify the genetic structure of, say, a virus? 

    The Economist weekly has a fine section, “Simply Science”.  In general, the reporting in The Economist, both political and economic, is way above the level in any other publication, in my opinion.  While pro-free market, it is generally unbiased and reliable. 

     Here is how they sequence genes:  (in 300 words): 

(First, crucial information:      DNA is made up of four building blocks called nucleotides: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C). The nucleotides attach to each other (A with T, and G with C) to form chemical bonds called base pairs, which connect the two DNA strands.)

      “Reading a genome requires some chemistry. * You start by extracting it from the cell and then heating it up in a test tube to break the DNA chain into pieces. Other molecules, known as primers, then bind with these pieces of DNA and begin to produce copies. These copies, like the DNA itself, are built sequentially, one nucleotide at a time. This is all done in the presence of four special molecules, each of which will bind to only one of the four nucleotides in the sequence. When they do, they stop the primer from working, and the sequence of nucleotides is frozen.   *  With the right balance of primers and molecules that cut off the reaction, you end up with a test tube filled with countless strands of DNA that have been cut off at every conceivable point along the length of the genome. The trick is that each of the cut-off molecules is also fluorescent, emitting its own unique wavelength of light.      *    By shining light onto these new strands of DNA and recording how they fluoresce as a result, you can figure out which strand endings correspond to which nucleotide, and begin to fit the sequence of nucleotides together.   This tells you which nucleotides are in the genome, but not the order in which they appear.*  To obtain that information you need to flush your many strands of DNA through a gel, under an electric field. This spreads them out in order of mass—the smallest strands are pulled further through the gel by the electric field than the larger strands. The order in which the four different colours of light appear through the gel tells you the order of nucleotides in your sample, and thus an organism’s genome sequence.

      This, broadly, is the sequencing technique discovered by Fred Sanger, a British scientist, in 1977.

Post Pandemic Resilience: The View from McKinsey

By Shlomo Maital

        The global pandemic has left side-effects – not just individual ones, loss of taste and smell,  but those related to our businesses – massive global uncertainty and geopolitical risk.

    The bad guys – autocrats – are taking advantage of the preoccupation of the good guys – Western democracies – to sow trouble and oppress their people.   The pandemic has created supply chain problems, ‘the great resignation’, and waves of virus, that have us all on a giant roller coaster – like Kingda Ka at Six Flags, NJ, allegedly the world’s scariest roller coaster.

     What to do?  How can we strengthen our organizational resilience?  Here is the view from McKinsey, which actually has a ‘resilience’ practice in its consulting business.*    The world has become much much riskier (see graphic).  How do we deal with it?

1.  Embrace build back better.  That is – set a goal, to emerge stronger, wiser, healthier, from the pandemic, by building on the lessons the sneaky virus taught us.

2.  Do not let Short Run crowd out Long Run.  Short run has meant just surviving, for many organizations.  The long run has been shelved, for many. Bring it back.  When the pandemic subsides, we will still have the long run climate crisis with us.  Make sure you keep your eye on the long run ball.

3. Do not become overly conservative.  When risk rises, there is a natural tendency to hunker down.  Maybe not the best plan.  Take calculated risks, as General Patton said.  When others are hunkering down, the pot at the end of the rainbow goes to the bold who seek it.

4.  Build in robustness.  Elon Musk (Tesla) was mocked for keeping in-house software production, rather than out-sourcing it.  When chips became scarce, Tesla was able to rewrite software to adapt to the chips that WERE available.  Other car companies were not. 

5.  Invest in infrastructure.  Broadband, hardware, software —  in risky times, you need it.  True for families as well.  By luck we upgraded our home WiFi.  We really needed it during the pandemic.

6. Cultivate your team’s resilience, and practice it.  A key element of individual resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity – is self-efficacy – the knowledge that we are highly capable to achieving what we set out to do.  You can build this into your team’s culture and mindset.  Yes, we can.  But make sure they are not just words… like those of a famous US President, who in many ways…couldn’t.

7.  Anticipate. Practice scenario planning. What if?   What if a new variant emerges?  Russia invades Ukraine?   Thinking about possible crises in advance can help overcome them. 

8.  Try to gauge and measure your resilience at present.  Do you have ‘bounce back’ mojo?   Do you have bounce-back stories that become part of your culture?

     There is a paradox of pessimism – young people, who have bright futures ahead of them, have become more pessimistic, even before the pandemic,  while we seniors, who are closer to the end of our lives, tend to be optimistic. One reason:  We’ve been through hard times before, and come through them, and believe we can and will do it again.  That’s why we need to help our kids experience frustration, and even failure, so they can learn, as a skill, to overcome them when encountered in future.

*  “The resilience  imperative: Succeeding in uncertain times”Strengthening institutional resilience has never been more important. by Fritz Nauck, Luca Pancaldi, Thomas Poppensieker, and Olivia White. McKinsey  Risk and Resilience Practice…

By Shlomo Maital  

      The graphic is that of Scrat, the fictional saber-toothed squirrel from the Ice Age animated films, who somehow never manages to catch that elusive nut.  How much we are like him.  The nut is material happiness…and we never seem to have enough.  Scrat is hilarious – but, frankly, so are we.

       And there is another way we resemble Scrat and squirrels.  We perpetuate obscene wealth inequality, from generation to generation, by enabling billionaires to bequeath their wealth largely untaxed.  (Republicans managed to obliterate inheritance taxes by simply labelling them Death Tax —  who wants to pay a tax on death anyway?).  (See my previous blog, about Michael McCain).

      Apparently, so do squirrels. They pass on their wealth to a privileged kid. Really!

      Writing in Behavioral Ecology, 2021,  Smith, Natterson-Horowitz and Alfaro recount:  “North American red squirrels transfer stores of acorns to one individual, but not to others, imposing differential fitness outcomes on young squirrels that perpetuate across future generations.”[1]  

    The authors show how this behavior is duplicated across a wide range of birds, insects, mammals and fish.   Hyenas inherit social rank from their moms.  Clownfish bequeath high-quality anemones to a chosen few.  Some privileged wasps inherit nests, while others less privileged do not.

     Jacob Bronowski’s wonderful BBC series “The Ascent of Man” showed how humans have evolved beyond mammals.  But have we?  Is it morally just and socially efficacious, to bestow enormous privilege, solely because of your parent?  Is oligarchy truly the society we want and need?  Do we really want to sustain privileged classes?  The British tried it —  and look where it led them. 

    And are we really smarter than Scrat?  I kind of doubt it.


[1] Special thanks to science writer Elizabeth Preston, for drawing my attention to it.

Rethinking Capitalism: The View from Canada

By Shlomo Maital  

Michael McCain

   American Billionaires sit on enormous mountains of money and assets, and their wealth doubles every decade or so, without any effort, because they earn rates of return ordinary people can only dream of. 

     Only a tiny portion of their wealth goes toward federal incomes taxes — they’ve paid an average income tax rate of 8.2% over roughly the last decade.  Progressive Democrats want to impose a wealth tax, but have been stymied.

     Capitalism needs radical reform.  But how?  Here is an interesting proposal from a Canadian, Michael McCain, who runs Maple Leaf Foods.  McCain is the son of Wallace McClain.  Wallace was booted out of the eponymous family business and bought Maple Leaf, building and growing it.  Michael is his son.  He is regarded as a highly creative effective and outspoken manager.

    Michael McClain, writing in Canada’s National Post:  (617 words)

     “Capitalism is in peril and requires revolutionary thinking but change begins with a new vision for the future.

     “Capitalism as we know it, requires a revolution in our thinking. A recent survey of 34,000 people from 28 major countries found that 56 per cent of respondents believe capitalism does more harm than good. I believe the capitalism we have been born into, which reaches back to well before the industrial revolution, has delivered extraordinary outcomes for humanity. Yet, we now know this has come with terrible, inexcusable consequences directly connected to the foundation of our way of life. The trade-offs are too great.

    “Our home, planet Earth, is on fire and the strength of our environment is deteriorating. Globalization has delivered overall prosperity, but largely in the context of a race to the bottom. There has been an intolerable rise in gross inequality and social injustice. We have experienced endless human conflict. And there has been a rapid decline of trust in all our institutions.

    “My generation has failed the “future test” because of our short-term interests. This will not solve itself. The enormity of the challenges we face requires a rethink: A revolution of thinking to create a new “Charter for Capitalism”.

     “Drawing on the insights and learnings from failure, I offer six themes to consider.

     “A new Charter for Capitalism should:  Recognize multi-stakeholders equally, rejecting the primacy of shareholders, by including the environment, natural life and society as equally critical stakeholders. It should disadvantage short-termism, one of the curses of modern capital market function, creating specific financial and motivational tools to accomplish this. It should welcome government regulation to create level competitive playing fields, not opportunity; rejecting the race to the bottom. Of course, all regulation must be efficient and effective, delivered by more cost-sensitive governments to avoid waste. It should redefine human rights to include a comprehensive, secure social safety net. Inequality is social impairment, and these human rights should include the right to a secure home, the right to a secure basic income, the right to secure food, the right to secure health care, the right to secure education, the right to equality of opportunity and the right to live in a healthy planet.   It should embrace contributing a bigger share of the cost of these social human rights by privileged people who have the means, rejecting the notion it as a mere transfer of wealth.   And finally, it should ensure all commercial relationships are premised on this new Charter, including assurance of jurisdictional breadth and consistency, locally, regionally and globally, and institutionally supported in places such as a revitalized World Trade Organization, to roadblock opportunism.

   “I don’t believe this is a rejection of everything we know about a capitalist society and the progress it has delivered. I would never advocate turning our back on it. I believe a new charter should be a revolutionary new version, which would create the world our generation should have left the next but hasn’t … at least not yet. It is a view of value creation that we are pursuing at Maple Leaf Foods, one that sees great business opportunity by channeling our resources to tackle the monumental social and environmental issues of our time, including our climate crisis and food insecurity.

    “Leading this effort cannot be confined to government, NGOS or social activists. It can only succeed with the direct engagement of forward-thinking business leaders.

   “Yes, capitalism is in peril, and requires revolutionary thinking. Change begins with a new vision for the future. Some might face this prospect with denial, cynicism or fear. I think it offers hope for a sustainable and equitable path forward — and hope is always inspiring.”

Magawa, Hero Rat:  R.I.P.

By Shlomo Maital   

Magawa, the hero rat of Cambodia, retires after five years of detecting  landmines | Esquire Middle East

“Magawa” in action

 Consider these facts:  There are 110 million land mines in 78 countries, unexploded and dangerous. They kill or maim 15,000-20,000 people yearly.

   And it is very hard and expensive to find and clear them. 

   Cambodia suffers most.   “An estimated 5 million land mines were laid in Cambodia during a civil war in the Southeast Asian country from 1975 to 1998, mainly in the northern region along the Thai border — leaving agricultural land unsafe to farm and impacting communities and livelihoods. More than 386 square miles of land are still contaminated. Since 1979, more than 64,000 people have been injured or killed from mines and explosive war remnants.”    

    And more mines are laid daily.

  There are 164 states who ratified the 1997 treaty banning mines.    States not party to the Mine Ban Treaty include: China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.

    Shame on them.  Those rats! 

    Ooops.  Sorry, Magawa.  You rate much higher than those nations.  You were part of the solution.

     NBC reports that “‘Hero rat’ renowned for record-breaking Cambodia land mine detection has died.   Magawa’s legacy “will live on for decades to come in the lives he has helped to save,” said Rebecca Buckingham of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals.

    “He was dubbed a “hero rat” after he sniffed out more than 100 land mines and other explosives in Cambodia.  But after a short retirement, Magawa died Sunday, according to the Belgium-based charity APOPO, which trained him in Tanzania before assigning him to the Southeast Asian country in 2016.

    “The African giant pouched rat was physically strong, so every day he searched more land than other rats, and found more mines than others,” Michael Heiman, APOPO’s Cambodia program manager, told NBC News on a phone call Wednesday.

    “Because the handlers loved him so much, they utilized him more than others, which is also a factor in why he found so many items,” he added.

   “Announcing the rat’s retirement in June last year, APOPO said in a news release that Magawa had found 71 land mines and 38 unexploded ordnances, making him the “most successful” mine-clearing rat. Over his five-year career, he helped to clear more than 225,000 square feet of land, it added.”  

    “The rats are light enough not to set off the mines, they are taught to ignore scrap metal and only sniff out explosives.  They take around nine months to train.   Cambodia has among the highest number of amputees per capita, with more than 40,000 people having lost limbs to explosives.

– – – – –

   There is a theological argument focused on “why did God create mosquitos”?  Those pesky zmmmming insects that carry disease and bite.  I don’t know why. But maybe we now know why we have African giant pouched rats. 

     Rest in peace, Magawa.  If there is a rat heaven, hope you are munching lots of smelly cheese.  And, well done, creative Belgians!  

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

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