Money Talks, And Sometimes Bites, A Little

Abby Zimet

Despite or perhaps because of his billions, Microsoft founder Bill Gates is still trying to do good in creative, pragmatic ways – in this case, to halt the spread of malaria in Third World countries. At a posh California technology conference yesterday, Gates unleashed a jarful of mosquitoes to prod his affluent audience with the no-brainer that, "There is no reason only poor people should be infected."

Of course, what he should have said is that there's no good reason, no morally or politically palatable reason. But still. Despite the economic downturn, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – "Every life has equal value" – plans to increase their annual spending this year to $3.8 billion. About $200 million of that will be used to buy mosquito nets – a ludicrously simple, sensible solution to a scandalous global health problem – and to fund research on vaccines. "I am an optimist," Gates said. "I think any tough problem can be solved."

At the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference, Gates pointed out that malaria is spread by mosquitoes before opening a jar onstage. "I brought some," he noted amiably. "Here, I'll let them roam around." He waited a couple of minutes before telling his well-heeled audience the bugs were malaria-free. 

Alas, there's still apparently a long way to go to raise awareness of the inequities here: When Gates noted that more money is spent on baldness drugs than malaria research, many in the audience laughed. Stop laughing, white people, and give these guys some money.

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