The Presidential Daily Brief

important

  1. TB

    Good News You May Have Missed in 2014

    It’s been a turbulent but, in many ways, triumphant year. In my second annual OZY address, rather than focusing on the year’s headlines about terror and war, I want to take a fresh look at some of the good news you might have missed. We’re making progress against some of the world’s deadliest diseases, and more children are surviving than ever before, with positive change ranging from better treatment for tuberculosis to turning the tide against AIDS.

     

  2. A large group of young girls and boys outside the Aswadduma e-Library Nenasala in Aswadduma, Sri Lanka

    More 5th Birthdays Than Ever Before

    To me, one of the best ways to measure progress is to look at the number of children dying from preventable causes. And today, more kids are living to see their 5th birthday than ever before. This year, for at least the 42nd year in a row, the child mortality rate has fallen. And it’s not just moving in the right direction — it’s falling faster than anyone expected. The Economist estimates that the world has saved 13.6 million children’s lives since 2001. It’s hard to think of a better sign that the world is improving.

    The Economist

  3. HIV

    We Hit a Big Milestone in Fighting AIDS

    The world has done an impressive job providing treatment to people living with HIV. But for years we were falling behind: For all the people who began receiving treatment, even more were becoming infected. Not anymore. New data reveals that 2013 was the first year we broke that trend — more people began treatment than became infected with HIV. Why does that matter? Because treatment keeps people alive while dramatically reducing the odds they will pass the virus to anyone else. As epidemiologists say, we can start to bend the curve of the disease. Victory over AIDS is still many years away, but this is a major milestone.

    Reuters

  4. A nurse gives the rotavirus vaccine to a baby during a program to start vaccination against rotavirus.

    Rotavirus Vaccine Reaching More Kids 

    I read an article in the late 1990s about a diarrheal disease that was claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of children each year, and I couldn’t believe that something I’d never even heard of was killing so many. Rotavirus doesn’t get much press, because it’s almost never deadly in wealthy countries. But it was a catalyst for my commitment to global health — in fact, one of our foundation’s first grants supported treatment efforts to combat the illness. Since then, a cheap and effective vaccine has cut the number of children’s deaths nearly in half, and the vaccine is reaching more kids than ever before. In India, where rota kills nearly 80,000 children a year, the government decided this year to deliver the vaccine for free to poor children. And manufacturers there are working on a more affordable vaccine that could reach even more children in the coming years.

    BBC, Gavi

  5. hostages

    Hostages Held in Sydney Cafe, Climate Talks Yield Historic Deal

    20 held hostage, forced to hold Islamic flag in Sydney cafe. (SMH)

    New deal would commit 196 countries to limit carbon emissions. (NYT)

    Haiti’s prime minister resigns after anti-government protests. (BBC)

    Tens of thousands march against police violence in U.S. cities. (NBC)

    Senate approves $1.1 trillion spending bill. (Washington Post)

    Death toll from Indonesian landslide rises to 32. (AFP)

    Oregon QB Marcus Mariota nabs Heisman trophy. (USA Today)

intriguing

  1. book

    Reading for Success Proves Timeless

    Two decades after I first read it, John Brooks’ Business Adventures remains one of my favorites on my shelf. Earlier this year, I returned to it in a review and had a chance to resurrect this compilation of fantastic 1960s New Yorker stories. Warren Buffett loaned it to me back in 1991, and its rules for growing a successful firm and creating market value still hold true today. A particular gem details how Xerox allowed research that led to Ethernet networks and the first graphical user interface — which both Apple and Microsoft capitalized on — slip through its fingers. And, yes, Warren, I still have your copy.

    OZY

  2. nigeria

    Nigeria’s Polio Fight Helped Ebola Effort 

    A lot of the media coverage about Nigeria this year focused on two things: Ebola and terrorism. But the West African nation actually had a pretty good year from a global health perspective. While it’s one of three countries still plagued by polio (alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan), I don’t think it will be on that list for long. Nigeria reported just six cases of polio in 2014, compared with more than 50 last year. What’s more, the infrastructure built to fight polio made it easier for Nigerian health workers to swiftly contain Ebola. The fact that Nigeria is now Ebola-free is a great example of how working to fight diseases like polio better equips countries to tackle other outbreaks.

    WHO

  3. TB

    A Tuberculosis Breakthrough — Finally 

    The world is long overdue for a better treatment. Tuberculosis is still one of the leading causes of death because existing treatments are inadequate, especially against drug-resistant forms of the disease. Improvement efforts have been stalled for decades, so it’s a big deal that earlier this year, scientists announced that a new TB treatment regimen proved effective in early-phase research. From here, the drug regimen must go through a large clinical trial, but if it pans out, it could dramatically reduce the time required to cure drug-resistant TB while saving poor countries billions in health care costs.

    WHO

  4. crops

    Let’s Talk About Sex — Plant Style

    Scientists at top universities are doing fantastic work in plant breeding and cross-pollination in a bid to improve crops. The efforts hold powerful potential to help poor farmers worldwide grow more nutritious crops that are also pest-resistant and drought-tolerant. Genetic research of this sort, as opposed to genetic modification, may hold the key to helping scientists pick the best sexual partners — for plants.

    OZY

  5. Bill and Melinda

    Annual Letter Eyes Progress by 2030

    Next month, Melinda and I will publish our annual letter. We’ll be looking ahead to 2030 and writing about a few areas — including health, farming and banking — where life will really change, especially for people in some of the world’s poorest places. (Spoiler alert: We think there’s a lot more progress ahead.) If you’d like to get an email notice when the letter is out, you can sign up here.