The UN’s Shame and Haiti’s Suffering

It’s well known at this point that the United Nations brought cholera to Haiti. The worst cholera outbreak in recent global health records, in a country that hadn’t seen cholera in its recorded history. 9700 people died. The UN then spent six years attempting to avoid admitting to its role in the transmission. Finally, molecular… Read More »

Predicting the Weather

A Russia DJ named Dima   Maybe ten years ago, the project I worked for had a driver named Dima. Dima was a rockstar. He was exceptional in every way. Sure, he could pilot you unscathed through bad traffic and worse roads, but that was the least of his talents. Dima could jumpstart a car… Read More »

Paula Deen, Sexual Harassment, and International Development

American celebrity chef Paula Deen is getting sued in a big way by a former employer of Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, a restaurant that’s part of the Paula Deen empire. The Uncle Bubba in question is her brother, Bubba Hiers, and he’s been accused of sexual harassment and racial discrimination in a multi-million dollar lawsuit… Read More »

Three Ways to Spot Bad Data

Warning Sign #1: When government officials use the data to set targets like an increase in vaccination or a decrease in cancer numbers, they always use percentages, not absolute numbers. That’s a sign that people know the numbers are wrong and don’t want to rely on them. (Of course, sometimes it just means that the percentage… Read More »

Starting a Land War in Asia: the Five Classic Aid Worker Blunders

1. Thinking you’re the only one who’s ever tried to do what you’re doing. 2. Brushing your teeth with tap water. 3. Believing all problems have solutions. 4. Mistaking the capital city for the country as a whole. 5. Building a lot of technical capacity without making sure that someone is ready to use that… Read More »

Things I don’t believe in – handicraft projects

I don’t like handicraft projects. They seem to be very popular with private donors and small NGOs, but they’re mostly a bad idea. Here’s why: It always seems to be women who are targeted with these efforts. Do you really empower a woman by sitting her in a room to knit all day? Not every… Read More »

Dementia and other disasters

A couple of people have pointed out that my approach to Alzheimer’s, as I outlined in my TED talk, looks an awful lot like disaster preparedness. That’s not by accident. My job shapes my personal life all the time, and since Alzheimer’s is a disaster waiting to happen to me, I took a disaster preparedness… Read More »