Bill and Melinda Gates have asked for privacy after their divorce announcement, but a storm of attention seems more likely. Interest in their marital arrangements isn’t merely prurient. They are public figures and their personal lives have political ramifications. The urgent question in global health circles is what will happen to their powerhouse foundation in the wake of their split. Large amounts of funding hang in the balance.
Oxfam is in serious difficulties. It is reasonable to speculate that the hard time it is being given by the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, is due to the workings of Miles’s law - 'Where you stand depends on where you sit' – in that it reflects forces in the British government and the Tory party hostile to the foreign aid programme. I sit as a microbiologist, and see the harmful events in Haiti following the arrival of foreigners after the 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake very differently, both from a quantitative and from a political point of view.
Many infections kill slowly. Hardly any are lethal within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Bubonic plague takes days to kill and haemorrhagic smallpox takes a week. Cholera and inhalation anthrax are about the only diseases whose victims can wake up feeling fit but be dead by nightfall.