Carter Center: Guinea worm could make a comeback in Mali

One of the "Stories You Missed" we highlighted for 2012 was that the world is on the verge of eliminating Guinea worm -- a painful parasite that was once prevalent throughout Africa and southern Asia -- but has been reduced to just a few hundred cases in four African countries.

But former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose center has been at the forefront of efforts to eradicate the disease since the 1980s, warns that the violence in Mali may be complicating the final push to eliminate the disease:

In rebel-held areas of northern Mali, teams that remove worms and teach villagers how to protect their drinking water have been unable to operate since April, Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, head of Guinea worm eradication for the Carter Center, said during a video news conference with Mr. Carter.

Mali had only seven of the world’s 542 confirmed cases in 2012, but three of them were detected in Niger among refugees from Mali, which suggests that the disease is spreading.

“We have no good sense of what the real case count is,” Dr. Ruiz-Tiben said. In 2006, he said, one infected student walked 250 miles north to the northern Kidal region of Mali and started an outbreak that spread worms to at least 400 others.

Polio, the other disease that along with Guinea worm is closest to eradication, has also received an unfortunate assist from political violence.


Man fired after outsourcing his own job to China

This is not your typical story of jobs being shipped overseas. The Guardian reports that a U.S. software developer working for a U.S.-based company was caught self-outsourcing during a routine network security check:

It was only after a thorough investigation that it was revealed that the culprit was not a hacker, but "Bob" (not his real name), an "inoffensive and quiet" family man and the company's top-performing programmer, who could be seen toiling at his desk day after day and staring diligently at his monitor.

For Bob had come up with the idea of outsourcing his own job – to China. So, while a Chinese consulting firm got on with the job he was paid to do, on less than one-fifth of his salary, he whiled away his working day surfing Reddit, eBay and Facebook.

Here's what he did with all his spare time:

When the company checked his web-browsing history, a typical "work day" for Bob was: 9am, arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours, watch cat videos; 11.30am, take lunch; 1pm, eBay; 2pm-ish, Facebook updates, LinkedIn; 4.40pm–end of day, update email to management; 5pm, go home.

The kicker, of course, is that "Bob" was doing a great job:

Meanwhile, his performance review showed that, for several years in a row, Bob had received excellent remarks for his codes which were "clean, well written and submitted in a timely fashion".

This outsourcing pioneer, who may have been running a similar scam, has now been fired. I would imagine his former colleagues probably don't appreciate him giving the bosses ideas.  

This raises an interesting question, though. Bob had FedExed his physical RSA key, needed to access the company's network, to the Chinese firm -- obviously a no-no. But if his work hadn't required network access, would this actually be illegal? As long as Bob was ensuring that he work he was assigned got done to his boss's satisfaction, would it be immoral?